Monday, 25 January 2010

Poached Salmon, Colds, Birthdays and Fury.

Location: Library, huddled by the fire to keep warm
Mood: Cold, ill, but determined not to buckle
Listening to: Lately (not convinced. One minute they're like a poor man's Arcade Fire, the next like a drunk Bruce Springsteen. I don't think they know who they are either.)
Reading: Drood (second attempt after losing it the first time), Dan Simmons.
Playing: Haven't been near the PS3 in days. It's too cold in there.

It was Fisher's 31st birthday yesterday, and to celebrate we had the Cheeseboard and Cheeseboys up for the weekend. On Friday night we went up to East Haugh Hotel and had a pleasant pub supper. I was feeling pretty grotty with a cold and sore throat, but it didn't stop me enjoying every mouthful of excellent fish 'n' chips. I was also more than happy to be designated driver, as staying with Phid and Wheeler throughout the week led me to get utterly knocked sideways with a 5 hour drinking session with Wheeler, and being off the booze for a few days seemed sensible to me.

And why were we staying with Phid and Wheeler? Yes, it's our wonderful heating system again. It went off last Monday, and because the inept company has laid of the second engineer for Scotland it means we've had to wait a full week before getting someone in to fix it. And what happened this afternoon? The engineer who said he'd be here this afternoon phoned to say that, no, it'll be tomorrow before he can make it. Look away now if you're offended by filthy language.


Anyway, Phid and Wheels let us stay at the cottage, and very grateful we were too. But back to Fisher's birthday.

Saturday morning saw us tootle in to Perth for a 9 a.m start. We'd booked ourselves a curling lesson! An hour and a half's serious entertainment (who'da thought sliding stones on ice could be so much fun) brought in a bill for £54. That's £6 each. Where else in the world do you get 90 minutes of fun for that sort of price? We all agreed we'd do it again like a shot - so watch this space for a Cheeseboard Winter Olympic medal in a few years.

I left most of the clan to take a walk with the pooches up Kinnoull Hill, while I did some errands in town. Protagoras, who does NOT enjoy walking, chummed me, and we nipped into the fishmonger to pick up a vaaaast salmon and the baker to pick up a selection of French fancies for Fisher's birthday dinner. Then we pegged it back home, dropped off the food, and returned in time to meet the rest at Breizh for lunch.

After lunch we returned home and had an afternoon of arts and crafts. People painted, people drew, people wrote poetry, people stuck and printed and coloured ... it was brilliant. Highlights were definitely Badger's drawing of a Cheeseboard crest, Castor's excellent picture of a roaring fire, and Pro's poem.

Unfortunately, during the day I started feeling pretty terrible. My nose was so blocked I had no ability to either smell or - catastrophe - taste, I was aching, and my throat was all scratchy from having to breathe through my mouth. But I had a hot, hot shower and wallowed as long as I could in a desperate bid to get my senses back (didn't work), then went downstairs feeling refreshed. Luckily the only cooking I had to do was poaching the vaaaaaast salmon (4.5kg - 9.9lbs) which was easy as pie in the fish kettle. This is what I did, foodies:

Fish Kettle Salmon
  • Placed salmon in fish kettle.
  • Covered the fish in as much liquid as made the fish float. I used white wine, lemon vinegar, and the rest water.
  • In the water I added: 3 bay leaves, a handful of pink peppercorns, some lemon slices, and a sprinkling of oregano.
  • I brought the water to the boil and let it boil for 2 minutes only. Then I took the fish off the heat and let it cook in its own juices. This only took about half an hour, and then it was ready to serve.
We also had a whole host of things from the Deli in Dunkeld - ham, cheese, rosemary crackers, antipasti, ostrich paté, venison paté, aioli from the Really Garlicky Company (which was the only thing I could even vaguely taste), delicious stone baked bread from Breizh, and smoked salmon. It was a feast. We finished it off with the little French fancies - some in the shape of mice (timorous beasties), others in little haggises (it's Burns' Night tonight), some fairy cakes and some fondants, and all sweet, sweet, sweet. I didn't have any as there wasn't any point, but there have been more than enough left over for me to sample. Too sweet for my taste.

It was a lovely night. Fisher got lots of great loot from her pals, and I managed to stick it out until 3am with Pro, Badger, and - briefly - Wheeler, playing poker. Badger and I were the last ones standing, but he took the pot of £35 in the end. Ah well. Victoria Coren I ain't.

Sunday was lazy. Everyone but Phid left by noon, so we took the opportunity to take the dogs for a walk, have some lunch at Howie's in Dunkeld, then go to the gym. Yup, the gym. Fisher and Phid did some running, but as I was still feeling rough - though better than the day before - I only used the elliptical machine. Then home for a chill out before heading in for Fisher's final treat - a trip to the theatre to see Stephen K Amos being funny. And funny he was, even though it was pretty much the same show as last time we saw him at Birnam.

Due to a series of unbelievably bad luck incidents with Phid's car, which is currently broken down somewhere in Perth, I gave her a lift into Edinburgh after the show. And what did she learn as we drove into Reekie but that Wheels has just had his Land Rover stolen. Talk about bad car karma ...

Anyway, that brings us up to date. Here I am, huddled in the library, willing the fire to generate a bit more heat, still nursing a sodding cold and now badgered by a nasty cold sore as well, wishing ill upon the stupid geothermal heating company that can't even provide enough engineers to fix the number of busted heaters they've got. Tell me - do we think it's appropriate to leave someone in a house with no heating for over a week in January? Do we think I might just be about to give someone a serious bollocking down the phone? Yes. I think I might just.