29

Way back in 1991, while enjoying a schooner of Tooheys New in the Granville pub from where, a few years later, Bob would forget to pick me up, I could never have imagined that 29 years later I would be spending the day, in Surrey, cooking a three course meal (plus extras) because a virus had closed every eatery in the country.

My Best Woman, me and my Groomswoman (4 May 1991)

It’s only just occurred to me that both members of my half of the wedding party hated having their photos taken. This means that the above photo is a very rare thing. I shall treasure it forever.

Actually the weather 29 years and 10,579 miles ago was glorious; something it almost was today as well. I went shopping and the sky remained blue. I cooked and the sky remained blue. The gardeners worked away and, you guessed it, the sky remained blue.

Something I don’t remember having 29 years ago was shortbread. I might have done but I don’t remember. This was remedied today as I was requested to prepare a batch of ‘once-tasted-never-forgotten’ Chez Gaz shortbread.

There were many more but this was all that remained when I went to photograph them

Of course, being a special day meant it was an NCD (National Carb Day) and we didn’t waste any time not consuming as many as I could prepare.

Another Chez Gaz speciality from days long gone, was cheese straws. Mirinda loves my cheese straws but I haven’t made them for years. And I seem to remember Farelli (pictured above as my Best Woman) having some at our first UK Christmas in Aldershot. Or maybe the Christmas she spent with us in Alton…or Haslemere…

That’s all beside the point. Naturally I made a batch of very big cheese straws.

But these were mere pleasant nibbles, an amuse bouches, as it were, preparing us for the extravagant splendour of dinner to come.

To say I spent most of the day in my kitchen would not be an exaggeration. Apart from prep and actual cooking, I must have washed up ten times. Apart from constantly clearing space, I don’t have enough utensils to keep going without replenishment by hosing down previously used ones.

But it was well worth it.

Apart from the entree, I’d planned the meal without checking with Mirinda. The entree was something that Mirinda especially requested. Again, it’s something I haven’t made for ages (actually she requested it for her birthday but I forgot) and I was more than happy to make.

Camembert parcels

They are just little filo pastry parcels filled with Camembert and dribbled with cranberry sauce but they are delicious. Famously, years ago I made them when Bob was over and he teased me for serving a shop bought entree. Mirinda assured him I’d made them. I doubt he remembers but he was suitably amazed.

For the main course I went for a Sabrina Ghayour chicken recipe I’d never tried before. She calls it chicken stew but I think that undervalues the dish. It’s very similar to a tagine so that’s what we’re calling it.

I particularly like the ramen style egg

As well as chicken and an egg (the chicken came first) the dish contains apricots, preserved lemons and various spices. It was seriously delicious. Mirinda has insisted it now gets added to the standard Chez Gaz menu. The fact that it takes over two hours might limit how often she gets it.

Then, finally, I made a Nordic dish for dessert. Described as saffron, coconut and pistachio cones, they tasted very much like macaroons but in a novel shape.

The photo above shows the only ones fit to serve – naturally Mirinda ate the three best ones. I served them with a bit of double cream, whipped up with a dash of icing sugar. They were very more-ish.

The whole meal was adequately washed down with my favourite white wine, Auxey-Duresses, and taken al fresco as the sun left us to contemplate 29 wonderful years spent in each other’s company.

Let’s hope next year that someone else can cook.

Furniture? The 29th anniversary present is supposed to be furniture. I was tempted to buy Mirinda a chair but didn’t, for two reasons. There’s no shops open and Emma would have claimed it as her own like she does with all the chairs in the house.

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