I was all set this week to write about the usurious Warwick Castle after a pleasant but costly recent day out there with friends, but Madame Tussauds has been spared the brunt of my ire. The company’s unlikely saviour is an unknown number of oiks, possibly an individual but I suspect a brace, living somewhere within the vicinity of my home and, one night last week, temporarily to be found within the confines of my home. Without, I should say, my express permission.
Before I move onto said oiks (I shall presume two from here on), I will still dispense a note of caution in the direction of anyone thinking of visiting Warwick. A brief look on Tripadvisor.com should quickly make clear that the only country producing visitors who don’t seem to think that entry to the Castle is breathtakingly overpriced is the US, who presumably think everything in the Old World is expensive because it’s so old and therefore costs more to maintain. I ought to point out that it is a pretty place to visit, the castle is very well kept and the copious shows are enjoyable. I ought to point these things out, but I won’t, because the first thing that will leap to mind whenever someone mentions the place will be how much poorer I was when I left.
Back to the oiks. You will have deciphered by now that, following my trip to Warwick, this was the second time in two days I’d been robbed. (My learned friend who works for Essex Constabulary points out that technically, this constitutes burglary rather than robbery, but artistic licence shall prevail here.)
It appeared that the oiks had entered the kitchen by the unorthodox route of the window, having levered it open and shattered the locks as if they were made of peanut brittle. They carefully removed the contents of the window sill and sideboard – two wine glasses, an ornamental bottle and a plant pot – and placed them on the lawn, where I discovered them, intact, the following morning. We believe they were after the handbag left accidentally in the hallway, in sight of the letter box, in order to avail themselves of one or both of the (in our opinion) splendid black hot hatches in the driveway.
Imagine their frustration then (and I do, frequently, with a sense of wry satisfaction) when, having done the tricky bit of affecting quiet access to the kitchen, they found their egress to the hallway thwarted by, unbeknownst to them, a mere metal hook, of the sort one often finds on a garden gate. You see, this is not the first time we’ve been invaded during the night: last time our four month old burglar alarm was disturbed and starting wailing, wanting his night feed. On that occasion the levering open downstairs (this time of a door instead of a window) was heard by both my wife and I, and the felons, upon hearing our approaching footsteps, retired quickly through our less-than-robust garden fence. Thus warned, we took to bolting all the internal doors downstairs so that any unauthorised access would be restricted to the room accessed.
I love it when a plan comes together!
And so, despite our continuing slumbering on this occasion, the oiks could not get what they were after, and had to content themselves with pinching a DAB radio which was in less than out-of-box condition. Unfortunately, because of the damage to the window and door, the financial impact is the same: our insurance excess. We are taking it on the chin as an expensive lesson, and finally having our alarm overhauled (we didn’t get a manual or code when we bought the house) and a kitchen blind fitted.
In an attempt to link this story to the general food theme of this blog, I tried to think of some sort of recipe-based pun, but the best I could do after some consideration was “Burglar Wheat Pilaf”. I’m sure you can do better.
Burglar Bulgur wheat pilaf
• Bag of dried mixed/wild mushrooms (we usually use Merchant Gourmet porcini, oyster and shiitake)
• Handful of button mushrooms, sliced
• Half an onion
• Clove of garlic, chopped finely or crushed
• 150g of bulgur wheat (a.k.a. cracked wheat)
• Pint of veg stock
• Handful of flaked almonds
• Handful of chopped hazelnuts
• Handful of chopped fresh parsley
• Big knob of butter
• Olive oil
• Salt and fresh ground black pepper
Soften the mushrooms according to instructions (hot water for 15 minutes). When soft, drain and place on kitchen roll to dry off a bit.
Chop the onion nice and small and soften it with the garlic in some oil. Add the wheat and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring continuously. Pour in the stock and cover, leaving to simmer for about ten minutes, until the wheat has absorbed the stock. You may need to stir occasionally to stop it sticking.
Meanwhile heat some oil in an oven-proof frying pan and fry all the mushrooms for a few minutes, then season, melt the butter into it and transfer to the oven which you’ve preheated to 200 C (400F, gas mark 6 I’m told). Roast for six minutes.
When done, take the lid off the wheat and add the mushrooms and the chopped parsley. Using the frying pan now put all the nuts in, place back on the hob and stir until browning (about three minutes). Add to the pilaf, stir through and serve. (You can add more butter at this point but I’ve been barred from doing so.)
Makes a nice veggy main or can be used as an accompaniment to meat dishes.