Monday, March 21, 2011

Spring Equinox 2011: awakening, Welsh rarebit, and a soggy LA marathon.

I had grand plans for the 20th of March....Ostara!!

I was going to get up at 3am and walk up to Sunset Blvd and watch the Wolfpack Hustle's Crash Race, to witness and photograph a big bunch of cyclists ride the closed streets of the LA Marathon course (Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica). Then I was going to go off to my local farmer's market on Melrose Place to herald in spring by perusing the fresh produce, flowers and bread, before joining the hoards of locals cheering the marathon runners later in the morning - and maybe watch a band or two at the street parties, and basically get involved in the celebration.

But I woke Sunday morning to the sound of a downpour - that went on for hours. Nearly 2 inches of rain fell in the city, unfortunately keeping me and so many spectators away. The runners persisted - the men's winner (Markos Geniti of Ethiopia) broke the race record. Some were checked for hypothermia while the hunky fire department handed out blankets for those who had finished. Brrrrrrr!

Photos courtesy of Robert Gauthier/La Times
So, instead of being out and about, the day was spent watching a few "Jamie at Home" episodes, pottering about while listening to the rain, and whipping up a couple of serves of Welsh rarebit. This dish is starring on a couple of cafe menus in my home town of Melbourne, a la the continuing fashion for "comfort food" and it's a bit of a favourite of mine. I have a teensy bit of a Welsh background by default (from my dear Poppa), and love making Welsh cakes on St David's Day. But a wet, freezing day requires endless hot tea or coffee, a good doona, and grilled cheese on toast. And this is the best sort of grilled cheese on toast.

My Welsh Rabbit/Rarebit - Caws Wedi Pobi

4 slices of toast (use a good wholewheat bread)
150g good quality British cheddar, grated
1 tsp butter
1 spring onion, finely chopped (about 2 tsp worth)
2 tsp flour
1 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
dash of milk
pepper to taste
pinch of chopped parsley

  1. Put the butter in a small saucepan, and melt over low heat. Add the spring onions and cook, stirring for a minute or so. When onions look cooked, stir in the flour to create a roux, and cook for a minute more. Take saucepan off the heat.
  2. Add the mustard, sauce, and cheese to the onion mix, and stir thoroughly. The heat from the pan will start to melt the cheese in with the other ingredients, creating a paste. Add a dash of milk to smooth out the consistency and make it more spreadable. Season with pepper to taste.
  3. Spread the cheese mix onto your slices of toast, covering toast well. Place under a medium grill, and cook until cheese is golden brown.
  4. Plate up, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Tuck in!!!
The other thing to do when the weather is rotten is head to the movies. Last night we got to see "Jane Eyre" for a bit of Victorian romance with a twist of the Gothic. A brand new cinematic adaptation (let's face it, a lot of people will know the plot), it features another Australian in a lead role - Ms Mia Wasikowska. And a solid performance she does too of portraying the heroine of the title. Sets are beautiful but adequately reflective of the solitude of Jane's posting at Thornfield Hall, and Dame Judy Dench as the housekeeper is a brilliant casting coup. And hasn't "Billy Elliot" actor Jamie Bell grown up? There were a good couple of spooky bits in it too - I know I jumped! - and so it's the perfect flick to escape the cold with.

So, we trundle off into spring and longer days ahead, and I will soon experience my first Californian summer. The signs are already here - daylight saving has arrived, the birds are going crazy, especially the hummingbirds (so TINY and impressive), and there is the smell of jasmine all over the city.  Soon it will be all about the salad, and the roast vegies will be given a bit of a rest. Just one more week of rain to go, I more good cleanse for the City of Angels.