Sunday, 30 January 2011

Fanfare for the bon viveur: Jane Grigson

If anyone deserves a page on this blog it is Jane Grigson. Her enthusiasm and the accesibility of her large and varied body of work inspired the confidence with which I now approach any kitchen and cooker. 

From curing your own hams and salamis to picking your own mushrooms and pignuts, Jane Grigson was - along with Elizabeth David and Magaret Costa - one of the first cooks to re-invigorate British cooking after the postwar slump it had become victim to.

Hers was the food of a lost tradition which had been displaced by the disgusting and ersatz recipes of chefs like Fanny Craddock. Out went rice rings filled with tinned pineapple and angelica and back came hearty stews, filling soups and heavy puddings.

Unlike a lot of celebrity cooks of her period, Grigson understood the value of the countryside and the fantastic produce that it had (and still has) to offer. Living in North Wiltshire - about 10 minutes from Marlborough - she realised what great mushrooms, rare breed pork, lardy cakes, bacon, bradenham ham, Sally Lunns, bath buns, cider, real ale, juniper and all manner of other delicious treats available for those people who were prepared to go that little bit further to go and source them. 

Just to give an example of the real passion that Grigson had for her food, here is a small excerpt from her 1970 book Good Things:

‘some ordinary kippers are passable, I would agree. But if you really want to know what a kipper should taste like, luscious and bland, the surest way is to order them from kipperers at Craster…such small kippering establishments choose the best and fattest herrings at their peak’ (Grigson, 1970: 16)

As you can evidently see, her passion is second to none and her championing of local produce has been vitally important in getting people to become interested in the provenance of their food whilst also reaffirming the the British indeed have a cuisine which deserves some global respect.

Sadly Jane Grigson died in 1990 after a long battle with cancer, but her legacy lives on. Testament to this is her body of work, each one an entertaining if exhaustive compendium of recipes on a different thematic subject. One of the other major reasons for her survival as a cooking great is the accesibility of her recipe and the success and ease with which they can be executed. 

So often cooks are far too ambitious when it comes to writing for the home cook but this is not so with Grigson where simplicity and bold flavour are the stars. Of course this is not to everyone’s taste and if that is so, then I doubt many of the recipes in her (and indeed my) writings will appeal. But there is no denying her great legacy, her inspiration and indeed the savour of her excellent recipes.

Therefore she gains a special place on my wall of fame and easily merits this small appreciation of her acheivements.

Monday, 24 January 2011

A bit of fun on a Monday – Book Review: Cigars of the Pharaoh




It had been a busy weekend and I was feeling knackered so any of you who follow my twitter feed would have been unsurprised when I wrote that I was climbing into a hot bath with a gin and tonic and a copy of the Turgenev book that I am currently reading. The first of these evening activities came true and I was sipping on some delicious artisan gin as a hot bath ran but glancing at my copy of ‘Smoke’ by the great Russian author the words started to boggle on the page and I realised that this was not the night to be attempting to explore the Russian enlightenment! So, returning to my bookshelves I tried to think of something that would occupy my evening without disrupting the course of my journey through serf emancipation, political firebrands and earnest thinkers…Cue Cigars of The Pharaoh.

Perhaps the most iconic of all the Tintin books Cigars of the Pharaoh is a fantastic blend of action, adventure and comedy taking place over a variety of exotic location. This particular annal in the chronicles of the boy reporter sees him tailing a drugs ring from Port Said via Cairo, The Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and finally on to Rajasthan where he temporarily succeeds in smashing the ring ( See my forthcoming review of The Blue Lotus for more details!). As well as putting Tintin into a number of precarious situations such as accidently uncovering a group of gun runners, getting doped and bound in a sarcophagus which is throw into the sea and being framed by his enemies and flung into an insane asylum, this book introduces the reader to two of the best loved characters in the world of Tintin, the bumbling detectives, Thompson and Thomson.

This inept twosome make their debut in Cigars and their comedic antics subsequently provided many of the lighter moments in volumes to come. Whilst a welcome hinderance later in the series, in this book they are an unwelcome presence to Tintin as they have been sent by CID (which I can only imagine is some offshoot of the Belgian police) to arrest our hero on a charge of drug smuggling. In itself this is one of the best plot devices in the film as it opens up the central theme of the book, opium trafficking. However the Thompsons soon provide the reader with the bizarre slapstick that they have become so endearing for, this is coupled with their dismal attempts to blend in with the locale by dressing like the natives – it is often through this that they become unstuck and it is not unusual for them to become tangled in their clothing and tripping up.

My favourite villain is also introduced in this episode, the Greek-American Millionaire, Roberto Rastapopoulus who would (like Dr. Gerhard Muller, Col. Jurgen and Col. Spontz) become one of the protagonist’s arch-nemeses! with his lacklustre henchman, Captain Allen, Rastapopoulus is a fantastic old-school villain plucked straight from the golden age of Hollywood, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a more serious caricature of him had appeared in a Scott-Fitzgerald novel of the same name!

Full of excitement, suspense and adventure Cigars of the Pharaoh is a fantastic caper which defined the early Tintin Adventures where more serious issues were confronted than in later stories! It is my personal favourite and I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone who wants some light relief from the excitement of a manic Monday. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

memorable tipple - Blackwoods 60%: The King of Gins!

Oh but to be a student again! Although I love my life as it is now, I still think back with fond memories to my days as an undergraduate in Leeds (not that they were that long ago) and the copious amount of drinking that I used to indulge in.

My friends and I were real gin drinker and it was not unusual for a litre and half or more to be consumed in any one sitting depending on how many of us there were. The only thing we were ever in danger of holding back on was the tonic!

Along with Port, in fact, even more so, I like to think that I have rather a sound knowledge of Gin. Having tried everything from the utterly repulsive Greenwich Gin brought from an off license in Potts Point, Sydney to the deliciously subtle Van GoghGin from Amsterdam, Holland I reckon I’ve got an understanding of the spirit.

I want to draw your attention to one extremely special variety that is distilled in, of all places, The Shetland Isles. Blackwoods, apart from making their excellent vintage Gin (classified as vintge as the range of botanicals used differ according to availability in any given year) also make a number of batches which reach an eye-popping 60%abv. Now, having drunk this particular gin a number of times, I can tell you that this is not something to be taken lightly. In fact, I would say that it is probably the strongest alcoholic drink that I have ever consumed.

It is also extremely dangerous and I will include these word of caution to sit alongside my praise. Although it is extremely strong, it does not contain this high volume in its taste which consequently makes it incredibly moreish. It is chock full of botanical which mask the kidney and liver bashing effects of the drink. Therefore drink sparingly.

On one occasion this was not the case. I had just handed in the first draft of my dissertation and, without any work to return for two months (and a four week holiday looming fast on the horizon) I was in exceptionally good spirits. Coupled with this promise of some fast times and heady evenings was the case of gin and one bottle of Blackwoods 60 that had arrived on my doorstep that day. 

So far I had been at a loose end and suddenly, as always happens when you are least expecting it, one of my best friends called and expressed an interest in conducting a film session followed by a game of risk. In my rash and youthful foolishness I readily agreed, unaware of the dangerous contract that I was getting myself into.

The evening started off as usual and both of us spent a few minutes admiring the purchase, which I must say, was an eccentric one. Then I decided to offer a sniff of the 60 percent as an amuse bouche of sorts before we decided to crack onto the really heavy drinking, supplied by some cheap rubbish. 

However, things did not go entirely according to plan and after that first herbaceous, cutting and clean sip I felt that one (as it is with most things in life) was never going to be enough. As with most spirits, we started drinking fast and furiously unaware of the levels of intoxication that might hit us as we drank more and more. Raiders of the lost Ark was followed by Rocky III and by the game of Risk we were extremely merry…so merry in fact that we forgot most of the rules and played a most unsavoury form of the game!

After more drinking came the bright idea to crack into some cigars. As luck would have it, I had a couple of Romeo y Julieta Coronas which needed smoking and so soon we were puffing away on Cuba’s finest export! Unaware that this would only make us feel drunker than we already were. Then, like a couple of piss artists from a Samuel Beckett play, we decided to shoot the breeze brushing on such subjects as philosophy (which only the really drunk can talk about sincerely!).

Soon the Gin was gone, every last precious drop had been consumed but still, for some inexplicable reason, our thirsts were not quenched. Then, for some inexplicable and perhaps very drink-influenced decision, we decided to go and buy ourselves a small bottle of brandy and drink the night away.

After a few brandies swilling round my stomach with 35cl of 60% Gin and the smoke of a large cuban cigar, I was feeling decidedly ill and had to excuse myself for the roof. Legging it across the corridor, I only just about made it to the loo in time to projectile vomit across into the bowl…pretty nifty for a young man who shoul have known a lot better. But what a great night.

I spent a very heavy next morning feeling very sorry for myself and had my mate on the other end of the phone bemoaning his fate (he had thrown up in a dustbin on the way home)! Yes this gin is extremely potent and at £25 it is certainly not cheap, however it contributed to one of the best nights of drinking that I have ever had!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Dazzling Dishes - Elegant Sweetcorn Soup



I have always been a big fan of sweetcorn yet it is a vegetable that so many people dislike. Perhaps such disdain arises from its association with the watery muck so often served I many a sub-par canteen or the sugary tinned slop that so many of us ate as students and will never touch again as a result. Often, the nearest one gets to real corn is the sad little cobbette served beside a couple of pieces of fried chicken, which, although tasty, have not seen a field in month if not years – consigned to a cryogenic existence in a walk in deep freeze.

As Janes Grigson points out in her comprehensive Vegetable Book, nothing compares to a young corn-on-the-cob picked fresh of the stalk! Unfortunately not all of us have ready access to acres of cornfields and so are forced to go to our grocers or supermarkets to seek out a perfect specimen. Thankfully the standard that is now available to the consumer is relatively high (that is if you buy in season). For example, I brought some very flavourful and delicious cobs from Morrisons the other day!

I think that the other reason that corn has been relegated to the Conference of English culinary delights might be attributed to it’s modern conception as: animal feed, tinned product and breakfast cereal. I fear that this will not change that much in the years to come and that we will never – at least not in the future – embrace sweetcorn as a Premiership vegetable!

In the meantime I have come up with this killer soup which is easy to make and tastes delicious. It makes an imaginative change to the same old boiled or broiled corn slathered in butter (delicious as that is!).


Ingredients

3 Corn (Stripped from the cob)                        2 shallots (finely chopped)
1½ pints of chicken Stock                                    1 handful of Celery (finely chopped)
Large Knob of butter                                                Slug of Groundnut oil
Pinch of medium curry powder                        pinch of ground coriander
Pinch paprika                                                            Seasoning


Method

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large stockpot and fry the onions, celery, curry powder and coriander until the onions are soft (the celery will still have bite but this is not important as it will be sent through the blender and then sieved).

  1. Add the corn and stock and simmer until the corn is tender.

  1. Remove from heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the pot with the lid on.

  1. Blend the soup until it is of the finest consistency possible (you will never be able to remove the fibrous husks through the blender)

  1. Gradually pass the soup through a fine sieve using a ladle, now the soup should be of a smooth consistency and is ready to serve.

  1. To create a bisque like consistency use the areolator to froth up.

Nb. If you want to thin the soup out, gradually add milk until you reach the consistency that you desire

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Film for Thought - Vanishing Point (1971)


Barry Newman is not a name that many remember. He was an American actor, like Ryan O’Neal, Bruce Dern and Robert Blake, whose heyday finished in 1979! I doubt that many are aware of Newman’s 1974-1976 legal drama Petrocelli. I know I wasn’t until the age of 10 when I was struck with Pneumonia and consigned to my bed for 3 months. In that time I became well acquainted with Ironside, Columbo and Diagnosis Murder but it was Newman’s Petrocelli which struck a cord. Of course this was short lived and it wasn’t long before the eponymous character was confined to the back of my memory and lay dormant for many years. Newman’s bravura performance as the LA lawyer always fighting dodgy real estate dealers was just a tiny recollection useful for trivia in a pub quiz. Imagine my surprise when I purchased Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point is a 1971 film panned by the critics but extremely popular with fans of counter culture cinema. It tell the story of the ethereal Kowalski and his mission to get from Denver to San Fransisco in a matter of hours. We never know why, but he’s got to get there and so sure of his skill as a driver he is willing to make a bet with his drug dealer to prove his point! I was really enjoying the film with its folksy soundtrack, fast cars and charismatic support from Blazing Saddle’s Cleavon Little when I suddenly realised that it was none other than Tony Petrocelli driving the car. A film that had started out well had suddenly turned stellar and, even better was the intense and restrained performance which was miles away from the hammy, contrived but entertaining portrait of a naff lawyer thoroughly out of his depth!

Coming out of a genre that produced Easy Rider, Two Lane Black Top and Electra Glide in Blue, Vanishing Point is a film that I can safely say stands alone from all of these (I can only rely on the fact that I have seen all the others to form my opinion). I have never seen a movie where so little has given so much (except perhaps for Walter Hill’s The Driver). There must be under 3,000 words of dialogue but the decision of the writers to keep it spare pays off and the characters develop through their actions and the impact of the surrounding scenery.

Vanishing Point is one of the starkest films that I have ever seen and it is all the better for it. The great outdoors that Americans are so proud of is used to great effect with sweeping vistas, rocky canyons and bleak deserts used to evoke a journey across the barren heartlands of the Midwest countryside. There is a sense of despair that underlies the film (which I am sure will appear to those who think that The Smiths are the best thing since sliced bread) but to the closer observer there is much more a sense of cool defiance (more suited to a fan of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac) coupled with a slick production. 

It is difficult to write any film review without sounding a bit pompous but I would really recommend Vanishing Point as a fantastic independent film full of brilliant performances by its stars. More importantly it is a beautifully shot film which will shock you with its ending and surprise you with how easily you will sympathise with the hero! 

Monday, 10 January 2011

The venting of Henry's Spleen: The case for space



Every so often I am accused of being stubborn, curmudgeonly and inflexible and I fear that this article will prompt a number of my more free spirited readers to take up arms and challenge this piece. As with anything I write, I hope this will not be the case, but I welcome any debate on the back of this piece. I feel that many a commuter, whether it be by train or by bus will sympathise with the case that I am about to put forward, or rather the complaint I am about to raise against the large number of fellow travellers on public transport.

Over the last twenty years, perhaps even longer, as technology has advanced, the celebrity culture has grown and social networking has thrown open the doors of the private lives of all and sundry (and being a member of twitter, facebook and blogspot I am well aware of my hippocracy!) it seems that we as a nation have sacrificed the great luxury of reserve and personal space. Now, please let me clarify that this is not the reserve which a number of brits regard as a license to be both rude and stand offish to tourists but the consideration of other people’s public privacy.

Again, I feel I must clarify that statement as I know a number of readers might mistake this for a pop at celebrity culture, which this is certainly not. I am not having a go at the tabloid press nor am I criticizing celebrities who feel that their personal lives have been invaded. This piece is about the lost value of personal space. To make this distinction I will use a simple example of something that happened to me the other day:

I was waiting outside a tube station for a friend before going to the cinema when I was approached by a man who was obviously a tourist in need of some direction. Seeing that I was stationary he approached in order to see whether I could make him any the wiser as to the location of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Being an obliging sort of fellow I was only too happy to let him know the location as I knew exactly the right way for him to go. He then made the crucial error of standing right up to me and talking in a very close manner, head on. This made me incredibly uneasy and although he wasn’t threatening I could have done without a stranger’s nose almost touching the top of my lapel. I muttered some directions quickly and hurried him along before I could let out a sigh of relief. What’s so bad is that this fellow would have been totally unaware of how uncomfortable his speaking manner made me and I am sure many other people.

I am sure that many of you have watched Seinfeld and remember a brilliant episode where Judge Reinhold guest stars as Elaine’s boyfriend, the whole joke being that where he talks to anyone he gets right up in their face and as a consequence is nicknamed ‘The Close Talker’. I find this a deeply unattractive and unnerving invasion of personal space especially if it is a stranger who is doing it! However, I would be a petty man if this was the only case that I had of the lack of respect that a number of people have for other space.

Looking back towards public transport, when I was commuting into work during the rush hour I used to become very frustrated with both the volume at which people would play their music with no consideration for fellow passengers and also how many passengers would start reading your book/magazine/paper over your shoulder to compensate for their lack of preparation and forethought before embarking on their journey. There are few things more irritating (except perhaps prolonged periods of my company) than turning round on a packed train to see three sets of eyes squinting carefully to find out just how Sherlock Holmes solved the case of ‘The Blue Carbuncle’! Being a District Line traveller, over zealous Chelsea fans can also be intensely annoying however, I feel that is another gripe for another time!

Finally I want to draw the reader’s attention to an inexcusable crime which short people like myself are continual victims. There is literally no excuse for taller people to pick up smaller people whether it is with the best of intentions. I remember going to a party once where someone picked me up and paraded me round the dance floor, it was both intimidating and highly invasive as if to suggest that I was merely a rag-doll that could be carried around for the amusement of the assembled guests. Some may think I exaggerate but until it has happened to you it can never be understood how embarrassing it is (and I have done plenty more embarrassing things without such a deep sense of humiliation!).

So there you have it, I think that I have more than adequately summed up the problem and it leaves me to plead with society in general to have a little more consideration for the half metre circle of space which surrounds a person so that when in a situation where you are able to give someone some public privacy you ensure that you do! 

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Something Tasty: Henry's Steak Hache


I often look back with fond memories over the family photo albums with snap after snap of my brother and myself  clumsily holding knives and forks in French restaurants trying to imitate our parents. Whilst our hand eye skills may have been tested, we were certainly unadventurous when it came to cuisine. It’s weird to look back, as I tuck into Choucroute Garni, Fried Sweetbreads and Oxtail Stew, and think that the only thing that my brother and would touch was Steak or Steak Hache and chips with a tomato salad. Of course soon enough my parents had enough of taking us to smart restaurants only to eat the most basic of food – we might as well have gone to the Buffalo Grill if this was all we were going to eat and so Steak was banned for one holiday and since then I have never looked back.

However, with hindsight, and out of a certain sense of nostalgia for the simple French Bistro food that I enjoy so much, I thought I would revisit the classic steak hache and add my own little twist. The addition of having my new mincer meant that trying this was to much to resist and so I set to my task with verve and vigour in order to capture the atmosphere of a gascon brasserie!

You must make your own mince for this recipe and you must, must use a piece of steak with a marbling of fat and a healthy coating round the edge – Sirloin is a good bet. From an economics point of view you do not have to break your bank for this recipe, of course if you only by the best then by all means but there is nothing wrong with using a steak which you have purchased from your local supermarket, just make sure that it is of good size.


Ingredients

1 good sized steak (Sirloin is my preferred cut)
Seasoning to taste
Handful of finely chopped fresh parsley
Scant splash of white wine vinegar
Splash of Worcestershire sauce

Method

  1. bring steak to room temperature and set your mincer to the fine setting.

  1. chop the steak into medium sized cubes and turn on the mincer.

  1. Gradually add the meat to the mincer and push through until all the meat has been ground.

  1. Place the mince into a mixing bowl and resist any temptation that you may have to add an egg (all this will do is bind your hache and it will have the consistency of a bullet, if you execute this recipe properly, it will hold its shape!). Add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, chopped parsley and seasoning and mix all together with your hands

  1. When amalgamated take a 4½"" ring cutter and pile the mixture in, shaping round the contours of the cutter.

  1. Lifting the cutter off, the mix should look like a large Steak Tartare. Using a sharp knife, slice horizontally halfway up the patty in order to create two equal burgers.

  1. Re-shape the new burgers with the cutter and then run a fork over the top of the patties as you would a shepherd’s pie (this helps the hache to brown quickly and gives a pleasant browning which complements the meat when served rare)

  1. Heat a drizzle of sunflower oil in a large pan which can accommodate both haches without them meeting in the middle.

  1. Cook to your preference (Personally I think the are a waste of time unless you have them rare!).


Something to visit from the comfort of your desk! (an irrelevant taster for this afternoon's post)

I am a real sucker for the internet and can spend hours immersed in youtube, BBC Iplayer, Wikipedia and google search everything from Chanterney Carrots to the famous Interceptor used in the original Mad Max film! The world of possibilities is endless and it keeps growing day after day as people feel the need to share their useless information with the rest of the world... take this blog for example!

Doing a bit of culinary research and networking for my cookery book, I was rather surprised to come across this most bizarre website which celebrates delights, of all things, in a cornucopia of burnt food. I'm not sure whether this idea was a result of madcap genius, boredom or utter insanity but in some sort of perverse way it makes quite an entertaining distraction from the doldrums of a day at work (whether at home or in the office).

Marvel at the burnt tortillas, potatoes and lemons to name a few exhibits! it has received press from the Food Network and ABC to name but a few American media outlets that have covered this original idea. The museum is curated by the flamboyant Deborah Henson-Conant a Harpist who's musical style is describe in her biography as 'cross-genre, Blues-Flamenco-Celtic-Funk-Folk-Jazz dynamo'. whilst the museum is obviously a sideline to her career as a musician it makes a welcome and highly humorous edition to the plethora of amusing distractions to be found on the World Wide Web.

If you are suitably interested you might like to check out the museum for yourself at:

http://www.burntfoodmuseum.com/index.html

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Christmas 2: Christmas Harder (Part 2)



I fear that I have  been neglecting my blog of late and as such this has probably tried theopatience of many of my most loyal readers who now feel they lack the necessary tools required on their journey to ultimate chap-dom (or chapesse-dom if your are a woman)!

However, fear not my dear chums for I am back this year and the posts this year promise to be better than ever! And where better to start than with the final part of my Christmas adventures…

I didn’t hear the sleigh bells as I fell asleep on Christmas Eve but upon waking I was greeted in the kitchen by my mother with a glass of champagne and the usual courtesies of Christmas Day greetings. And then I saw what I had been waiting for all year…a bag full of beautifully wrapped presents. Now, don’t get me wrong I also look forward to the food, the booze and the company of relationships but there is something magical about the Christmas stocking (or department store bag in my case), it instantly takes you back to your childhood. Although the spud guns, crazy foam, Aladin VHS and sweets have been replaced by books, dvds, alcohol and clothing the sentiment is still the same and before too long I had opened each package and was surveying the spoils of victory!

Sadly there was no time to play with my newly acquired trinkets as I was informed that soon we were both expected at the main house in order to aid my aunt with preparations and to keep my dear granny from interfering in the cooking of the celebratory lunch. So carefully making our way down to the house over the icy drive we entered into the Christmas spirit.

On arrival my uncle thrust another glass of champagne into my hand and were served some delicious canap├ęs by my cousins before my aunt instructed us to keep granny entertained at the card table until the cooking had been finished. So setting up the table and unwrapping a fresh deck of cards cousins and grandmother sat down to a mammoth game of Hearts: a simple game with the objective of getting rid of your cards and scoring as little as possible. I have never been very good at board games despite being quite adept at playing them, whilst I started well I was no match for my cousin’s logical, tactical playing and soon I was trailing with an embarrassingly high score. Taunts, boasts and jibes were exchanged across the table and whilst my granny disapproved of the large number of milder swear words which flew around she took it with reasonable humour and a good time was had by all.

The champagne had flowed all morning before we sat down to a lunch of succulent turkey, salty ham, bacon and chestnut stuffing, sprouts, braised carrots, crisp potatoes, golden parsnips, sweet potatoes, piquant red cabbage, sausages, bacon, gravy and of course lashings of bread sauce. The wine as per was excellent and we had so much that some of the bottles blur into each other although I do remember a seminal 1983 Sauterne produced at pudding and a 61 year old port which I had supplied myself (a I would supply the greater part to my gullet over the course of the afternoon/evening. Of course there was Christmas pudding, dates, tangerines, nuts and some very ripe cheese which we tentatively nibbled after a huge meal.

With the coffee and yet more booze came the moment in which we exchange presents. Having asked most of my friends how they give and receive their gifts at home I am met with the usual hunter gathered tales where presents are collected and ripped open with varying degrees of speed. My cousin and I felt that we would jazz the process up this year and using the card table created a bizarre job interview style of presents where the giver sat at the card table with their gifts calling the receivers up to the table one by one, forcing them to open the presents at the table one by one in front of the assembled guests. I cannot describe some of the priceless looks, faces, underhand jibes and japes uttered by the congregations but they will be fondly remembered and I hope the process s repeated next year.

I got a great haul from my relations and so there was no need for me to be outraged or incredulous. The pop of another champagne cork indicated that the party was not going to end soon and topping up our glasses, my two cousins, my other and myself started on an epic hearts game which occupied us to the rest of the even as we digested our food, picked at leftovers and sang along to a range of Christmas hits before it was implied that we needed to keep down our cat-a-walling as it was 1 in the morning and decent people needed to get some sleep!

Heading back to the lodge I decided to toast what was a fantastic Christmas with a nip of the delicious Laphroaig that I had up at the lodge and settled down to reap the whirlwind of my indulgence! Let me just say that getting out of bed on Boxing Day morning was closer to falling than alighting!