Jewels: Tatjana heads back to London today, and as usual, I have a massive lump forming in my throat, and tears welling up in my eyes. At least this time I know she will be going back to the loving arms of her boyfriend – who I also got to meet for the first time this trip. He’s intelligent and handsome with a keen sense of humor, and totally adores her. Needless to say, he won my total seal of approval, as well as her fathers’. Since I’m a hot mess today, Alison has kindly written another guest post about her own return to London after 24 years abroad, and her famous kedgeree recipe (we won’t tell Tatjana about that part)!
Alison: After a disastrous end to two years in the Middle East, where I never could fathom how I ended up there, it was my fate to return to London. Visitors to Dubai had been scarce and I pined for cosmopolitan dinner company but I got to share a fabulous Arabic meal with the inimitable Dita Von Teese at the Royal Mirage Hotel (she treated me to pink champagne) and not only took Boy George out to the incredible Al Qasr Hotel, which boats the finest selection of restaurants imaginable, but cooked for him at home too. So although I was anxious about starting over in London after 24 years abroad I was also looking forward to hanging with the queens, something one can’t do openly in an Arabic world. At dinner one night at the busy and chic Buddha Bar in Dubai, I was surprised to learn that George had no idea homosexuality was illegal in the country, even though he’d been invited to DJ there more than once.
His eyes grew wide with shock. ”Really? Are you sure?” he’d asked. ”Yeah. Just be careful, won’t you?” He got that look in his eye and I knew he was about to rebel. As we left the dinner table to thread our way outside to the parking attendants, George, who was well aware he was the centre of attention in the whole packed restaurant, waved to every table and cluster of people to his left and right, while bellowing cheerfully at the top of his voice, Goodnight! I’m Gay! Bye! I’m Gay! You, over there, I’m A Homosexual! Cheerio, everyone, I’m gay!”
Back in London for good with nowhere to live, and all my furniture on a slow boat, George came to the rescue with the offer to stay in his Gothic mansion until I got back on my feet.George’s kitchen is the definite heart of the house where everyone congregates and also where, on the breakfast bar, he stations his giant Mac. Bizarrely (because it’s not as if there’s no room to go elsewhere) there’s no chair to pull up; he perches on the tiled steps that lead up to the dining area. It makes for a numb bum, but it also means that if anyone is at the long refectory table with its oak bench seats or cooking in the kitchen, he’s usually there to keep company and a running commentary on whatever he’s browsing. He was thus engaged one morning when, as I scrambled some eggs for him, my phone rang. Occasionally, because it’s convenient, I store my phone – oh…I so hate to admit this because it makes me look insane – in my cleavage, which is amply accommodating. I pulled the phone out to answer it. George was aghast.
“For God’s sake, Alison! What else have you got down there? I’m half expecting you to pull a step ladder out next.”
George does cook, rather well, but mostly follows a macrobiotic regimen, sometimes with fish but never with meat. I cooked many times for him in that comfortable old kitchen, but I wish Julie Anne had invented the Personal Chef Approach™ by then as I have almost zero imagination when it comes to food. I had but a few things in my repertoire that I could remember, so those went in cycles. For instance, I do a lovely (if I say so myself) kedgeree with smoked haddock and lightly spiced cream sauce, an strange 18th century thing involving salmon, red wine and oranges and lastly, a killer shepherds pie. Er, that’s about it. Clearly the pie was out, having minced lamb in it, and you can possibly see that after two days I might get somewhat repetitive on the food supply front. Dinner would have been so much more fun and easy had I been a PCA™ member back then, as I am today.
I encouraged George to finally make the most of his kitchen and have some dinner parties, which I loved, as we’d combine our specialities and cook together, rounding the evening off with group Scrabble. However, my favorite evenings were just the two of us, with a TV dinner on laps and a couch each, shouting out answers to a quiz show. The Queen of London vs The Trivia Queen. Guess who won?
Alison’s Dead Easy Kedgeree
Enough cooked rice for 4-6 people (Listen, Jewels is the professional, I’m just an amateur)
6 fillets of smoked haddock, microwaved in enough milk to almost cover the fish and 50g of butter (drain milk off when cooked, flake by hand to sift out any fine bones and ditch the skin)
Half a pint of single cream, brought to heat with salt, cracked black pepper, tablespoon of mild Garam Masala powder, pinch of cumin, teaspoon of turmeric, few drops of Tabasco to your taste
Half a cup of golden sultanas
6 hard boiled eggs, quartered
Tablespoon of lemon juice
Half a cup of roughly chopped parsley, (traditional) or instead, if feeling ambitious and exotic, half a cup of Arame Japanese sea vegetable (follow packet instructions to cook)
Combine ingredients, (add more cream and knob of butter if it looks on the dry side) and bake in oven at 220 degrees for 10-15 minutes to let spices infuse. Garnish with quartered lemons.