A Midsummer Night’s Dream – at Kentwell Hall, Suffolk

Kentwell Hall MND

Sunday afternoon saw me en route to Kentwell Hall, the delightful Tudor house nestling to the north of Long Melford in Suffolk.  The house and gardens, very much a home and not just a ‘Stately Home’ have been a favourite diversion of mine during the course of walks in the area for some time.

My purpose in visiting this time was not The Maze, the Ancient Yews, or the restored Icehouse but to see an open air production of my favourite Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by the GB Theatre Company.

Kentwell has now a tradition of staging open air plays, mainly Shakespeare and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, using the wonderful house and gardens as both backdrop and “Exit: Stage Right (& Left!)”

Though the forecast had threatened showers, the day held fair; much to the relief of the audience seated around the simple ground-roped auditorium and the Players too!

The usual device of Theseus and Hippolyta playing both themselves and the Faerie King & Queen, Oberon and Titania worked well, thanks to the excellent Jonathan Mulquin and Rosalind Steele.  Doug McRobbie made an excellent Puck, his Scots accent lending an air of quite believable mischief to the part.

My favourites as always were the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ particularly Derek Howard, whose hammy Bottom (hmm that doesn’t sound quite polite does it?) stole the show, and Anil Kumar as both Flute and a reluctant Thisbe, a performance worthy of any great Panto Dame.

Puck’s errors and the ensuing rifts between lovers made for great comedy theatre and the final performance of the Mechanicals in the tragi-comic sub-play Pyramus and Thisbe was hilarious.

All in all a wonderful performance in superb surroundings and the magic of the play was perhaps best reflected in the faces of the many children there.  Clearly captivated by, what was for many of them, their first play it bodes well for the future, which many, I think wrongly, see as children’s imaginations being dominated by computer games.

Lord, what Fools these Mortals be!

Night into Day

The closing of the day
Holds more Autumn than Summer
Low sun hidden by thunder cloud

The light finds that moment at Dusk
When, though you can see,
The luminosity is lost

Its absence turns all colours down
Stealing greenness from the trees
Red from the roses and pink from the sky

Then from the monochrome
A lightning ray escapes and flees
And all the world is reborn

Houses show a rain-clean face
Puddles glister like new coins
The grass shows green again

A herald of tomorrows dawn
The night descends abashed
Knowing that his cloak is torn

All My Own Words?

You can’t be faint hearted and wear your heart on your sleeve
So come what may, though I may have seen better days
Knowing in my heart of hearts that love is blind
I shall not fear the green eyed monster, for goodness’ sake
For the world is my oyster, a brave new world
Not a Fool’s Paradise, but a foregone conclusion
The long and the short of it, though I may have passed
My salad days, and it’s no more cakes & ale for me
What’s done is done, fair play, I have my hearts content
A dish fit for the gods, for ever and a day
As merry as the day is long, pure as the driven snow
With heart of gold, so no more wild goose chase for me
I’ll not sleep one wink, with bated breath, and fancy free
Even at the turning of the tide, the truth will out,
A sea change will lead us to our primrose path,
Under the greenwood tree, to sleep, perchance to dream
Such stuff as dreams are made on, as good luck would have it
Dear girl, the game is up!  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet
In case you get up in arms, I’m not responsible for the Italics here.  Though they may make your hair stand on end,( a sorry sight), don’t be in a pickle, or vanish into thin air, my night owl.  They’re Shakespeare’s fault!
They might be too much of a good thing, but the naked truth is I thought as a piece of work they’d break the ice, but what’s done is done, woe is me, the course of true love never did run smooth……………………………

A Precious Light

Purple Loosestrife posing, waving, in the sun
Meteor, forlorn, its wings so sadly clipped
Bound to Earth and envious of the bounding sky above
Down, down, they go, bright and precious lights passed by
Gone, resigned to earth those stars that once led all our dreams
But not forgotten, tears as always saying more than words.
Loves feed the rose whose fragrance sears the memory
Loves source the taste that echoes in the mind
Love warms the heart that fears the searing cold
A lover’s warmth that comes with a caress
Unspoken longings, wings no longer furled,
Just striving for a love that’s nearly known
The flower sends its scent, beguiling senses
More precious though than any rose
The light of love that filled your eyes today

Baighan Tarkari – Simple Aubergine Curry

This dish combines the wonderful creaminess of Aubergines with a tangy spiciness.  It utilises Paanch Phoran, an Eastern Indian spice mix, which is unusual in that it is used unground.  They’re the first items into the pan, to be fried off until just brown and releasing their wonderful aroma.

As those who have read my previous ramblings will know, I do not believe in using electric blenders to grind spices.  They are however wonderful for making a short cut to a basic paste which can be used in many curries.

Take your onion, garlic cloves and ginger, roughly chop and then whizz them up in a blender.  The resultant paste is usually the number two item to go into the pan and  scoops up all the spices and absorbs them into a lovely blend.

Ingredients for 4:

Paanch Phoran:  One tsp each of the following seeds, mix thoroughly and store what’s not needed here into an airtight container for future use.

Cumin seeds, Nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds, Black Mustard seeds, and finally Fennel seeds.  Those who find Fennel too strong can substitute  perhaps Anise instead.

A nice firm, shiny, unblemished Aubergine.  Slice lengthways first into 15 mm slices and if the centre is too ‘seedy’ or soft slice this out too and discard it.   Cut across the slices to give you about 4 sections from each slice; 1 medium onion, peeled; 2 fat garlic cloves, peeled; about 25 mm of peeled fresh ginger [rough chop all these and blend as above into a paste]; 1 tsp coriander powder; 1 tsp chilli powder; 1 tsp cumin powder; 1/2 tsp turmeric powder; 2 ripe, juicy tomatoes, rough chopped; 1 tbsp tomato puree; 2 tbsp of good quality veg oil;  sea salt if required for seasoning and some fresh Coriander leaves for serving.

Heat the oil in your pan.  Add 1 tsp of the Paanch Phoran mix and fry off ’til the seeds pop and give off their wonderful aroma.  But do not allow to burn!  Add your onion/garlic/ginger paste and stir well so that it picks up all the spices and allow to cook for a few minutes.

Add your Aubergine and stir well and cook for about 5 minutes.  Mix your ground spices is a small bowl and then sprinkle evenly over the pan.  Stir in well.

Mix the chopped tomatoes and puree and stir in next.  Wait ’til the mixture starts to bubble up then reduce the heat and allow to simmer gently away until your aubergine is thoroughly cooked and creamy in texture.  Then test and add a little salt if necessary to taste.  Serve piping hot. Sprinkle the Coriander leaves as a dressing for the dish.

A plain rice or simple Roti is all you need to go with it.

apanē bhōjana kā ānanda!

Dream Time

Awakening I see you lying beside me
Your fine silver hair hides you from my view 

My mind travels back to where it all started
Icy water, red tipped toes, wind blowing the sand

I’d been dreaming that we flew over an ocean
Watching a wave born and speeding away

The same wave is then swirling around us
And dying just as it kisses your feet

I’m thinking, how lucky I am to find you
How lucky to have you here in my arms

Footfall on the stair, the tinkle of china
You stir and blink sleepily at our new day

Someone says, “Tea?” He enters the bedroom
Wearing my face.  I wake. You’re not there

Golden Spiced Eggs

This lifts simple boiled eggs to a new level, and served with steamed vegetables and plain rice this becomes an easy delicious meal for one of those, “What can I cook tonight?” dilemmas.

You probably already know that Eggs do not belong in a fridge!  If you are one of those souls whose eggs live in a dark chilly cave, please, please bring them out and let them reach a normal temperature before using.  Then if you’re feeling brave try leaving the next eggs you buy just in your store cupboard.  You will find that, not only do they taste better, because they don’t pick up the smell and flavours of things they’ve shared their frigid cell with, but they do not go off – well, not unless you don’t use them for a couple of months or so!

Ingredients to serve 4 hungry folks!

8-10 large organic Eggs; 2 x 400 ml cans of Coconut Milk, well stirred; 1 Onion, finely chopped; 2 fat Garlic Cloves, finely chopped; a large, ripe, sweet tomato, chopped well; 2 tsp Ghee or Veg/Rice Oil; 1 tsp Turmeric; 2 dried Red Chillies, crushed; Sea Salt; a bunch of fresh Chives – preferably with their delightful lavender coloured flowers on too – they are perfectly edible!

First boil the eggs ’til they are [just] hard.  Try and get them hard enough to not fall apart when cut in half, but not so hard that you could use them for golf balls!  Pop them in a bowl of cold water to cool down, and then shell and cut in half.

Using a largish, high sided, fry pan warm the ghee or oil.  Gently stir and saute the onion and garlic til golden brown. Add the tomato and continue to cook ’til it has softened.   Add the turmeric to about 600 ml of your coconut milk, then stir it slowly into the mixture.  Then add in your crushed chillies and a small sprinkle of salt.  Bring it to a just bubbling simmer for a couple of minutes, then slide in your egg halves.  Give the whole another 2-3 minutes to warm through then carefully transfer to a warmed serving dish.

Chop your chives to 2/3″ long and dress the golden eggs with them and arrange the flowers around the dish.  It looks superb, but as you can see is ‘easy-peasy’ to do!