C:14 Downhill Racers and Cheese and Egg Mess

If you raid the fridge at three o’clock in the morning and make a Ploughman’s Lunch, that’s a good indicator that your appetitive is returning, right?

Well, not really a Ploughman’s Lunch because I couldn’t find any pickles, the Branston seemed to have taken unapproved leave of absence and I couldn’t get the top off the salsa, but a cheese sandwich and a beer. If you’re on Bali and it’s three ay-em, that’s probably as close as you’re going to get.

Real breakfast was a sausage-egg McMuffin and hashbrowns en route to a marathon court session for child custody, interspersed with frequent nibbles and snacks of sweet bread filled with a Nutella-like substance which tasted yummy.

A delayed yet delicious late lunch was devoured, consisting of crispy duck with a noodle and vegetable soup including broccoli, carrots, bok-choy, corn, and peas. In fact, it was so delicious that I think I ate some of the poor bird’s bones. That just about did me in for the day, but what a step-change from the previous two weeks where I’ve been pecking like a Dodo intent on hurrying extinction.

‘For the day’ is so accurate because at midnight I raided the fridge again for another Ploughman’s. The pièce de résistance: breakfast this morning, one of my all-time favorites and a little known culinary gem handed down by my Master Chef Rochdale Dad. Cheese and Egg Mess.

The name of the dish is mine but the recipe is his, and he really was a remarkable cook. I guess baking was his specialty but he could turn his hand to anything within the confines of a kitchen. It’s a very simple dish but so tasty that it’s not actually possible to have enough. I’ve tried.

First, grate cheddar cheese into a frying pan. Extra mature cheddar is best, the stronger the better. Then spread it around the pan so that there’s a ‘hole’ in the center into which you can crack one or two eggs. Next, drizzle milk, more or less to your taste, around the outside so that it interplays with the cheesy bits. A dash of salt and a generous helping of freshly ground black pepper round off the basic dish but you can also cover the eggs with a little more grated cheese if you wish: it helps stop them getting too hard.

I tend to go overboard with black pepper. You know when you’re in an Italian restaurant and the guy, inevitably a guy, comes round with the bazooka-sized grinder? My instructions are simple: “Go crazy.”

Put the pan on a low heat until the milk starts to get excited and the cheese starts to melt, then place the pan in the oven, or under a grill, until the cheese has acquired a crusty, golden sheen and is begging to be eaten.

Transfer the mixture onto a plate and eat by mopping up the paste with good, fresh bread. The transfer is where ‘Mess’ becomes appropriate. ‘Good’ can be whatever your persuasion of bread is, but for this recipe, I actually prefer white, plastic bread and lots of it, maybe half a loaf! Your taste buds will thank you.

Tonight I plan to make sushi, mainly salmon and tuna maki. Lots of it. So I guess my appetite is back.

Last night’s dream was another strange one. Martini had taken the car off to somewhere distant and I decided to follow her on her motorcycle. That’s weird in itself because I’ve sworn never to get on another motorbike in my life, neither as driver or passenger. Ever. However, off I went. More weird was I was riding through the villages of the Derbyshire Dales. Then I came across a series of major highways but they were all downhill and it was raining. Really downhill. Like 1-in-3 or thereabouts, so the brakes were totally useless and the speed just kept increasing at an increasing rate. Exponential increases. Catastrophe loomed. Then I ran into the back of a bunch of other vehicles. Apparently, I was OK because the next thing was both Martini and I were trying to put the bike into the back of the car ready to drive back to, presumably, Bali. Via Derbyshire. Dreams, eh?

In other news: with the incredible support, compassion, consideration, and generosity of my employers, the Glenmark Aquatic Foundation, we’ve decided to have the next round of chemo in Bali. It’s scheduled for Monday.

The looming flights had been bothering me because, although I am feeling much better these last two days, the past two weeks have been unpleasant, to say the least. I’m sure other chemo recipients have had much, much worse experiences, and that mine have been at the lower end of the chemo spectrum, but unpleasant they were. Even if everything goes to plan the door-to-door elapsed journey time is around 16 hours. Staying here for the treatment is like a weight off my shoulders. A welcomely absent weight.

The sushi got sidelined for a few days. Sourcing seaweed was easy, sourcing wasabi was difficult but successful in the end, and we searched and searched for the slimy pink ginger stuff but couldn’t find it anywhere. Not to worry, I’m sure sushi is sushi, pink ginger or no pink ginger.

There’s a superior supermarket quite close by which had salmon priced at 30,998 Rupiah for 100 grams. As you, my dear readers, are liberally scattered across the globe I’ll leave most of the ‘real money’ conversions to you but there are around 16,000 to the British pound. The fish price research was academic because our real target was the fish market. This is right next to the beach, is vast, and has a zillion types and sizes of fishy and crustacean-y things with googly eyes and big, fearsome mouths and which range from tiny to downright Y-U-G-E. They stare at you with malevolent gaze, and you just know they are not dead but waiting patiently for you to approach so they can snap your finger off in the twinkling of one of their beady, all-seeing eyes.

Whole salmon was 30,000 Rupiah per kilo! And that’s with no bargaining. With a little bit of tenacity, I’m sure it could have been 25 or 27 thousand, less than one tenth of the super-supermarket price and fresher. One whole salmon and one whole tuna were consigned to the double-walled black, plastic bags which do nothing to stop the car smelling for days and off we went.

The recipe for sushi is simple, right? Rice, maybe a veg or two, something fishy, maybe seaweed, maybe not, and, wallah! Soy sauce, wasabi, slimy pink ginger if you have it, dextrous use of chopsticks, and a hearty snack becomes a satisfying meal. Martini had done her bit with the rice, flavoring it with lemongrass, bay leaves and whole black peppercorns, but we declined the usually required rice vinegar, salt and sugar additives for the sake of simplicity and sanity.

I became the itamae of sushi. However, Jiro Ono I will never be. He’s been at it for 65 years and reckons he’s still working towards the perfection of his art. He runs a 10-seater restaurant in a subway station in Tokyo. It sounds pretty mundane, but he has three Michelin stars and charges almost US$300 per head for a meal.

The seaweed behaved itself for the first two sets of rolls. “Ha ha!” I thought, “Maki is easy-peasy.” Pick up a fistful of rice, knead it into a sausage shape, lay it on the seaweed. Simple. Carefully layer avocado on top of the rice. Simple. Gently place strips of tuna on top of the avocado. Simple. Take the edge of the bamboo mat and roll the rectangle of seaweed so that all the ingredients are tightly bound inside. Simple. Take my knife and slice the seaweed roll into four, rather too large, bite-sized pieces. Simple.

And it was. Simple.

… for the first two sets of four maki rolls. After that, the seaweed refused to roll properly and each attempt produced a messy splodge which had to be re-crafted by hand! However, it looked pretty good on the serving plate.

Soy sauce is soy sauce. You can’t go far wrong with it, can you? The wasabi, however, was from the darker side of an evil volcano with a long-felt grudge against humanity. Martini described it as burning her ears. All in all, double yummy. Tell you about the salmon some other day.

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