Given the distinct lack of activity around here lately, you'd be forgiven for thinking that I have given up eating entirely. Fear not, gentle readers! Luckily for you and unluckily for my hips, this is not the case. All I can say in my own defence is that since about May, my life has been rather upside down with the new house, and combined with the usual busy London summer social life it's just meant that there is practically no time to blog! I cook, I dine out, I photograph food… but after dinner each night, all I can manage is checking my e-mail and dragging myself off to bed.
I fear this general lethargy is going to become habit-forming, so it's probably time to stop faffing about with the house and filling you in on what I've been up to this summer. We've had our housewarming, three sets of houseguests in the 6 weeks of living in our new place, a Pet Shop Boys concert, a Madonna concert, a William Curley patisserie course, a few barbecues and our favourite annual summer event: the Henley Royal Regatta.
I've written before about food blogger gatherings at the Henley regatta, and damn fine they were. There was the year that we hardly knew each other; the year of the Big Bakewell Challenge, the year of the mudbath…
But this year I was too distracted to want to organise a huge event and instead it was a small yet elegant gathering of close friends, including Andrew of Spittoon and Passionate Cook Johanna. Andrew had very kindly invited Nick and me to stay over the night before, so we were able to secure our preferred spot on the riverbank, in the shade of a tree and within earshot of the Barn Bar music.
The day was perfect – neither too hot, nor too cold – and certainly less unrelentingly muddy than it was 3 years ago! We settled ourselves on the riverbank, dealt with a mini-crisis (Johanna forgetting to bring the Pimms!), watched some excellent rowing (including the South African pair of DiClemente and Keeling, who won their heat – hurrah!) and then unpacked our picnic. As usual, my contributions included picnic standbys like my much-loved peppadew & Parmesan muffins, smoked mackerel pate, as well as something new for this year: Brie, fig, Parma ham and rocket baguettes. The secret to these is excellent ingredients: the freshest baguette you can lay your hands on, the ripest figs, the perfectly oozy cheese and the silkiest Parma ham. The sweet, salty, peppery flavours work fantastically well together and because you assemble them at the picnic they look fresh and lovely, rather than squashed because somebody on the train accidentally sat on your picnic basket
Not much of a recipe, but instructions are below – and click on my Flickr album for more pictures of Henley Regatta picnic 2009.
BRIE, FIG, PARMA HAM & ROCKET (ARUGULA) BAGUETTES (makes about 6)
2 x 30cm (12")fresh baguettes, or one long one
4-5 ripe figs, depending on size
about 200g Brie
6 slices of Parma ham
2 large handfuls of rocket leaves, washed and dried
a little butter, if desired
Cut the baguettes into 6 roughly equal lengths. Slice each piece open lengthways, but do not cut all the way through.
Thinly slice the figs and Brie. Spread a little butter on both halves of each baguette if desired. Start by laying 3-4 slices of fig on each baguette. Follow with two or more slices of Brie and a piece of Parma ham, folded to fit the bread if necessary. Finish with as many rocket leaves as you can fit in while still allowing the baguette sandwich to close.
Serve immediately, with Pimms!
And don't forget to check out my latest column over on Food24, all about the decline in table manners.