Day 238

Level 2 Chi Kung.

When I called last week to arrange a tour of a sixth form college we are considering for Jack, I was caught out by the head of sixth form, having deduced we were from NZ, asking if I thought we would win the world cup this year. Unfortunately, we have so little interest in sport that I couldn’t immediately guess whether he meant rugby or cricket. So I responded: ‘I’m sorry – we aren’t really interested in sport.’. There was a sharply indrawn breath on the other end of the phone, then: ‘But everyone in New Zealand loves rugby.’. Or, as Nick pointed out when I related the conversation to him that evening ‘And then there are the ones who leave!’. In spite of this inauspicious start, when we met Charlie, the head of sixth form, for the tour this morning, I immediately took to him. The school seems spacious and well-equipped and is not yet up to capacity. Our only real concern was how Jack would cope with the larger class sizes. The school is in Brockley and, since Nick had been obliged to use a half day’s leave to do the tour, we had decided to have lunch at a local restaurant after the tour. We hadn’t been able to find much in the way of restaurants (Brockley is up and coming has yet to actually arrive) so we had a sandwich at a trendy shabby-chic cafe. As we left, I spotted that the cafe next door actually looked more interesting, in particular the sign in the window advertising ‘Hot white Russians’. It was freezing cold, so, with visions of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing in my head, I went in and ordered one to drink while we had a wander down the high street. The barista said she hadn’t made one for ages, which might explain why she proceeded to drown a single shot of espresso with a double measure of vodka, and a double measure of tia maria and the merest hint of steamed milk. She asked hesitantly if it tasted ok. It tasted bloody marvellous! – but I was half-cut by the time we got back to the car.

I had arranged to host another post-trampoline party this evening – partly to welcome Monique back from Thailand, partly just because several of the mummies seemed a bit down and I thought I would cheer everyone up. Having been given a cocktail shaker the Christmas before last, which has never been used in anger, I thought it would be fun to serve cocktails so, on the way home from our tour of the school, I got Nick to drop me off at the shops and popped into TK Maxx to see if I could find some cheap cocktail glass. I got a set of six – cheap as chips – then picked up various other bits and pieces and headed home. Catering is complicated by the fact that Estelle is dairy-intolerant and Sinniqua is a vegetarian. I am tempted to offer Estelle the allergy process. Sadly there’s no cure for vegetarianism, as far as I know. 🙂

I had already made dairy-free chocolate chip and ginger cookies during my multitasking marathon yesterday, so this afternoon I just had to make a large tortilla with bacon and a small meat-free one with mushrooms, and a couple of dozen cupcakes for the kids. And of course I needed to do some prep for the cocktails…

As sometimes happens with TK Maxx, having paid next to nothing for the cocktail glasses, I was surprised and delighted to find that they were in fact exquisitely fine Czech crystal. Really beautiful. I immediately decided that there was no way I was going to follow conventional wisdom and put the glasses in the freezer! Instead, I froze some lychees, and put the gin, lychee liqueur and lychee juice in the coldest part of the fridge. Everyone duly arrived and the lychee martinis went down a storm – for about 2 minutes until poor Monique knocked one to the floor, where the glass smashed spectacularly on the quarry tiles. She obviously felt dreadful, so I had to hide my dismay at having one of my beautiful new glasses smashed before anyone had managed more than a couple of sips out of it.

Anyway, if you want to try it, here’s the recipe, my attempt to replicate one I had at Browns. Serves 4.

1) Open a tin of lychees, remove four lychees and put them in the freezer, arranging them so that they will freeze separately.
2) Puree the remaining lychees and their juice/syrup with a stick blender and then pass through a fine sieve.
3) Chill all ingredients until guests arrive.
4) Place a frozen lychee in each glass.
5) Tip a good handful of ice into the cocktail shaker, then add
– 5 parts Hendriks gin
– 5 parts lychee juice
– 1 to 2 parts lychee liqueur.
6) Shake vigorously and pour immediately.

These proportions make for a proper strong cocktail with a real kick – it was a bit too much for Monique. The mummies yummed it down though. The original Browns version also included a sour green apple liqueur but I haven’t been able to find any I like the look of. For me, it would benefit from just a tiny bit more sharpness though. So next time, if I still can’t get the apple liqueur, I might add just a squeeze of lime or lemon.

Meanwhile the children had a great time. Katie led them on a torch-lit ‘forest walk’ in the back garden, then they used the special effects app on Katie’s phone to make movies of each other teleporting, shooting lasers out of their eyes etc.