A recent discussion about authenticity in food banging about on Twitter got me thinking.
TLC is famously camera-shy, especially when it comes to whacking photos of her up on the interwebs.
Who can blame her. I hide behind a cartoon rabbit avatar, after all. There’s a lot of discussion around about privacy on the net, and how far that extends into how we present ourselves online. Should we be compelled into an internet profile that consists of our own faces, our real names? For the kids growing up with Facebook, privacy seems to be a thing of the past. Everything about you is shared, without a second thought. All your indiscretions, your saddest, silliest moments, those face-pulling pics, the whole shebang. Your life in all it’s wobbly-eyed, crazed magnificence.
If you want to do that, fine. Not my bag. I cringe and run for my privacy settings whenever Facebook roll out a new feature. I know a few people that are moving to Google+ for that very reason, one because Facebook would not allow him to post under an pseudonym. The point is, freedom of expression also means freedom to express yourself as much or as little as you want, and the presentation of your online self is a vital part of that. Identity can be currency in the 21st century, and I think it’s good to be careful.
Your pseudonymous life doesn’t have to be completely fictional, of course. That way can lead to disaster. A carefully chosen avatar, a handle to which you’ve given a little thought, can give a flavour of your character. It’s up to you how much, or how little, you choose to show to the world.
With that in mind, then, here’s a pic which sums up TLC and her sweet, gentle nature perfectly – to me, at least.
Many people extol the virtues of red sauce. Others prefer their sauces brown. I’ve always been partial to a spot of green.
This is the stuff that you can’t get in bottles. The best name for it is the Spanish shorthand – salsa verde. Unlike your red or brown condiments, this sauce doesn’t have a secret recipe handed down from father to son, locked in a safe somewhere. It’s an open source, open to interpretation kind of a deal. It also doesn’t last that long – certainly never long enough to form a crust round the top of the bottle. But as it takes so little time to whip up, that’s not such a big deal.
In basic terms, salsa verde is a herb and oil suspension, livened up with lemon juice and salt. You need a blender or mixer with a bit of grunt to it, unless you’re feeling prehistoric and prefer pounding your food into submission in a mortar and pestle. Which’ll work fine, but you know, 21st century and all that, the machines are our friends.
Green, leafy herbs are the order of the day. My preference is for lots of parsley, mint, basil and fennel or dill. My salsas are heavy on the fennel nowadays as I have a monster of a plant in the herb patch and I have to tame the bugger somehow.
Get yourself a decent handful of fennel and flat-leaf parsley, and about half as much basil and mint. Blitz, along with a few cloves of garlic, then pour in olive oil until you have something with a decently sloppy but spoonable consistency. Add the juice of a lemon, and some salt. You’ll probably need more than you think of each. I’ve taken to throwing in a couple of preserved lemons instead, which do the job in one hit. Taste, and taste again. You want something loud, tart and green, sharp and bright and grassy as the first sip of a gin and tonic on a hot summer day.
Fish and chicken are perfect for this stuff, although I’ve dolloped it on a burger with good effect. In fact, most barbecued meats will snuggle up happily to the salsa. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, although it will thicken up. Once it’s at that stage, stir it into mayo, yoghurt or sour cream to keep the salsa useful as a chippy dip, or a creamy side for lamb chops. In short, this is my go-to accompaniment for the warm months, and one of my principal reasons for growing herbs. A spoonful of summer.
As the weather becomes kinder, I’m finding more excuses to get out into the garden. An unfocused potter, pulling weeds, listening to birdsong, can be useful to clear the head. And, more importantly, to stimulate thoughts of dinner.
The new early spuds are sprouting nicely, which should start to reward us in a month or so. The cauliflower I planted has succumbed to the evil that slugs do, but some of the Italian lettuce I sowed in its stead is ready for picking and eating. Garlic and shallots are waving their flags bravely.
Our herb patch looks magnificent. I mean look at it.
The furry stuff is fennel. We’re both big fans of the sweet aniseed flavour. I love the purple of the seed heads on the chives. Underneath, a lowgrowing oregano, which looked very sickly last winter, has carpeted the ground keeping those darn weeds at bay.
There seem to be a lot of bees around this spring too. Next door have a nest in their roofspace, and every so often they’ll spill out of an air brick and swarm. They sound like a B52 going overhead. That’s a bit unnerving, but in small doses the little fellers are charming. They’re welcome in our herb patch any time.
This is kind of a sauce, kind of a condiment, kind of an accompiment. But it’s all great.
Mix half a cup of creme fraiche with half a cup of yoghurt. Then add a big handful of finely-chopped chives, and about three-quarters of that amount of either fennel tops or dill. A pinch of salt. That’s it.
I’m trying to keep the measurements a bit vague so you can scale it up and down to meet your own needs. The amounts above will give you enough for two, with enough for leftovers afterwards. As long as you keep to half and half yog and creme for a spoonably thick texture, and enough greenery to make it interesting, you could make enough to feed an army.
Tweak it if you like. Don’t got fennel or dill? Maybe some parsley or chervil. Perhaps a little cucumber might be nice to make it more of a salsa.
Goes great with chicken, grilled fish, on a burger or steak, hell, I dunno. It’s your dinner. I’m just trying to help you out a little here.
He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.
It’s a day for planting. The early garlic and shallots that I put into the ground last month will be joined in my little plot today by potatoes, cauliflower and salad crops. I am no gardener. But I enjoy the idea of a deal where a tiny amount of work can be rewarded with fresh food. Esoteric salad leaves in particular are cheap in seed form, easy to grow and infinitely preferable to supermarket pillow packs. A herb patch will give and keep on giving.
A little love now will mean I can harvest great rewards in a couple of months. And planting is a calm and meditative way to spend a Sunday morning. I wonder if Master Lao was a gardener. I like to think that he was.
As always, autumn has taken me by surprise. One minute, I’m hazing out in warm late summer sunshine, the next I’m slipping on wet leaves and trying to remember where I stashed my scarf. It always feels like a switch flip. There’s no buffer zone, no warning. Boom. It’s Halloween season. Time to put the heating on.
The bugger of it is that the cooler weather hit before the bulk of our tomatoes had a chance to fully ripen. This left me with four pounds of green toms. Well, you know how the saying goes. When life gives you green tomatoes, make relish.
So, yesterday’s rainy overcast gloom was cut by the bright sharp fug of cider vinegar, onions, peppers and apples cooking down with the toms to create a tart, fruity little number that will go down nicely with cold meats and cheeses. The remainder of the ripe toms were roasted with garlic, red onions and jalapenos from the garden to create a spicy roast tomato and chili sauce to warm our cockles. We had some of that with sausages for dinner, and it was just the ticket.
And that, oh Readership, is how you deal with a glut.
There’s plenty of relish if anyone wants a jar…