Birdsong in the Early Morning

The early morning sun reaches down
And touches the few leaves that stay
It shines as if it doesn’t know us at all
Then a small bird sings clearly
Far away in the morning hush
And I know you hear it too

Whether or not anyone else hears
Doesn’t matter.  We hear.
We are here.  It sounds our hopes
Our dreams.  Such as they can be.
Invisible to others, real to us
We wait the birdsong to begin again

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!

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!