Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kitchen a la cherry sauce

I planned to make a special meal – from Raymond Blanc’s Foolproof French Cookery, Duck breast with cherry sauce. I’ve made it before and it is a delicious dish and as there are lots of local cherries about it seemed an obvious choice. But I hadn’t taken into account that I’m not cooking in my own kitchen. First of all my cherry de-stoner was at home along with some of the spices required, not to mention the port. So we had to nip up home and root them out of the packing. I start with the cherry sauce as I can make this quietly in advance. All went well, apart from the last cherry which squirted its stone straight at me. Thank goodness for the apron!
The cherries are poached in a reduction of red wine and port with some spices, so that’s what I did. When ready, you remove twenty cherries, then blitz the rest before sieving. This I usually do in the Magimix or Kenwood liquidiser, but they haven’t come with us to the borrowed kitchen. Well you can’t take everything! But I had seen one of those handheld soup blitzer thingies in a cupboard, and I’ve often wondered what they were like to use. So this was my chance and I got it out, plugged in and lowered it into the pan. This is the moment when it all went wrong – the cherries did get chopped up, but they also got sprayed over the cooker, me and the wall! It was like forgetting to take your finger off the button as you lift the Aerolatte out of the coffee, only I hadn’t lifted the blitzer out of the pan – how could it do that? The finger was off the button in a trice, but the damage was done; my lovely sauce was dripping down the wall, resembling a chain saw massacre. It’s amazing how a little goes a long way!!
It all cleaned up, of course; and there was plenty of sauce left to push manually through a sieve; and the dinner was really tasty. But I wont be buying a hand held blitzer – not to use in my new kitchen!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Our first Prom of 2008

Last night we attended our first prom of this season - Prom 6, which is pretty clever as the proms only opened on Friday. (They do have more than one concert some days.)
We set off to arrive at Carluccio's, South Ken for our pre concert dinner. We ordered the tuna steak with courgette jam followed by the poached figs and ice cream; and to drink there was a glass of Valpolicella each. We were finished in plenty of time to walk up to the Royal Albert Hall to take our seats.
We entered by door 9 and found entrance O, which brought us into the auditorium just beside the righthand side of the orchestra, 5 rows back. What a view! We commented on the unusual arrangement of the orchestra, and read that the second piece of music was for wind, brass and percussion, hence the small number of seats on the podium. This is how BBC describe the concert

"A double opportunity to celebrate Olivier Messiaen's instrument, the organ. Olivier Latry, who teaches at the Paris Conservatoire (as did Messiaen), presents two faces of the French organ tradition - solo Messiaen and Saint-Saëns's much-loved 'Organ' Symphony, a work written for London.
Between the two organ works comes Messiaen's Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, a magnificent memorial to the dead of two world wars, and a haunting exploration of instrumental colour. A leading interpreter of Messiaen's music, tonight's conductor took part in the first performance of Messiaen's posthumously completed Concert à quatre (see Prom 45), of which he is the dedicatee.

Messiaen L'Ascension, for solo organ (24 mins)
Messiaen Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum (31 mins)
Saint-Saëns Symphony No.3 ('Organ') (36 mins)
Olivier Latry organ
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
Myung-Whun Chung conductor "

The organ solo showed the full range of the RAH recently renovated organ; from quiet passages to hugely loud parts that reverberated around the hall. No-one was falling asleep during this piece. It ended with a long, long note, which gradually died away leaving the audience momentarily silenced.
Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum is a piece in five parts, each with a bible quotation as its title. It brings quite a different sound to the auditorium; and discussing it afterwards we were both reminded of the deep sounds of the long horns we have seen and heard in Bhutan. The percussion involved a whole range of gongs - like the temple gongs, as well as three sets of 'cow' bells and also tubular bells. The full range of wind and brass instuments were also played - providing those deep notes as well as the more usual ranges. It is a magnificent piece and the tolling gongs at the end were relentless - even to the point that one of them got knocked off its moorings! The conductor was superb, keeping everything together with a minimum of fuss.
(click here to read the BBC programme notes)
Finally after the interval we heard a great favoutite, the Saint Saens. It was wonderfully played and the orchestra and condustor obviously thoroughly enjoyed themselves. At the end, the audience showed just how much they had enjoyed the performance with customary Proms applause - including the stamping and clapping. Mr Chung made a gracious speech and turned with baton raised. The Orchestra responded by launching themselves into Bizet's Carmen, after which Mr Chung led them from the podium to rapturous applause.
It was a wonderful evening.