Day 3 - Wednesday arrived frighteningly quickly, the halfway mark of our five days.
Today we all, 13 of us, made it to Morning Prayer at 7:30 before bouncing into the day. We walked out of the village past the castle and had fun rolling down hills and jumping off peaks, then exploring the kilns built below the castle. We could all explore the tunnels, but the tiny stoking holes for the kilns meant the adults had to stop outside whilst we the younger generation explored within.
7:30 Morning Prayer started the day well, a glance down to St Cuthbert’s island, still surrounded by water.
We retreated into the gardens after an excellent breakfast to sing and pray again, then 'twas time to rush back across the causeway to find a boat to take us to The Farne Islands.
Sadly too late for puffins nor guillemots; we did see cormorants, shags, kittiwakes and seals before landing and climbing high above the cliffs to eat lunch in the middle of an ocean.
Back on Holy Island we set off to explore, walking out way beyond the castle to a beach filled with cairns, hundreds and hundreds of towers built from stones and rocks, each a different story, memory. It was here we gathered on the shore, ankle deep in water and each renewed our baptismal vows. For some the first time to rethink vows made on our behalf as babies.
Dusk falling, we walked, sang, danced our way back to MaryGate.
Though I didn’t hear them, I suppose if you had listened hard, 13 sets of snores soon joined the islands rhythmic movement, in and out, in and out, in a…...
All settled at Lindisfarne enjoying the sunset. Dramatic presentation on arrival, history of Lindisfarne – told by three actors in the grounds of the ancient ruins of the Priory Evening Prayer in the parish church. Regulars a bit taken aback by the arrival of our group – some of us a bit taken aback by the strange spaces in the psalms. Skimming stones, jumping on the beach in the sunset, paddling in the sea. Climbing The Heugh at dusk, then up the viewing tower. Singing the fisherman next door to sleep – with a lullaby – he gets up at 3.00 am to go fishing. And so to bed. COMMENTS:
No George, you can't go to Morning Prayer in your pyjamas. Reminds us of Prayer48.
No higher than your knees.(in the water!)
In this the second of our series of Lent study groups, we were shown images of art from the late 13th through to the 14th century. Many were small scale and intended form private devotion. There showed beautiful craftsmanship whether in stone, ivory or wood.The images assisted those in contemplation to imagine that they were in the midst of a holy scene - the historic became the present for the believer.
Particular iconic images were developed and were replicated in many media such as the 'Pieta' and 'The Man of Sorrows.' Some of these became objects of cult status across the medieval world.
I don't want you to get the impression that we're food obsessed, but here are a couple more recipes. The Hariseh, by request of one or two people on Sunday morning. A rather morish gluten=free cake.
MA’LOUBEH (upside down)
370g white long-grain rice (I used basmati – absolutely fine)
2-3 large onions, sliced
3 + 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken breasts (you can do this without chicken for vegetarians)
2-3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 chicken stock cubes (or vegetable)
3 good cups of water
1 head of cauliflower cut into florets
1 small aubergine, cubed
1 courgette sliced
1-2 carrots, sliced
½ cup peas
1 green pepper, sliced
1. Several hours before cooking, cover the rice with water and leave to soak.
2. Fry the onions in a deep pot in 3 tbsp olive oil. When transparent, add the meat and brown it. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Make up stock with the stock cubes and 3 good cups of boiling water and add to the meat. Simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add aubergine, cauliflower, courgette and sauté for five minutes until lightly browned. Set aside with other fresh vegetables.
4. Drain the rice. Pour the liquid off the chicken into a bowl. Reserve for use later.
5. Scatter ¼ cup of the soaked rice over the meat. Put all the vegetables over the top of the rice and meat. Scatter the remaining rice over the vegetables.
6. Measure from the reserved liquid – from every cup of rice, two cups of water – you can add more water. (the liquid should just cover the rice.)
7. DO NOT STIR. Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil. When boiling, cover tightly, turn heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes or so until the rice is cooked, but not stodgy.
8. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for five minutes.
9. Put a plate over the top of the cooking pot and turn over quickly. Lift the pot – ceremonially if you like, et voila! Enjoy with yoghurt and salad or on its own.
(For vegetarian version, just leave out steps 2 and 4. if you wanted some protein you could add some chick-peas. You don’t have to use these vegetables – experiment with what you have. The version we ate in Jerusalem was mainly carrots and peas!)
HARISEH – semolina and coconut cakes.
100g desiccated coconut
150g butter, softened
250 ml plain yoghurt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons water
500ml water, 350g sugar
1. Boil until mixture starts to thicken
2. Add tsp vanilla essence
1. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients.
2. Add the yoghurt and water and mix in.
3. Press the mixture into a large-ish lined baking tray (mine was about 8 ins x 12)
4. Mark diamonds (or squares) and push an almond/ hazelnut/peanut into each diamond.
5. Bake in a preheated oven (175 C) until light golden brown
6. Recut the diamonds (squares). Pour syrup over the top and leave to stand.
TOP TIP – Make sure the greaseproof paper is large enough for you to lift the cakes out in one go – makes it much easier to cut neatly. Seriously yummy, especially with Arabic coffee!
The first session was about “images of the word” - an exploration of images in ancient bibles and sacred books. We were presented with beautiful images from various old bibles and Books of Hours from different European countries.
There were striking images such as the ones from a 12th century Bible moralisée (moralised bible) showing on the same page an image of the creation of Eve (being pulled out of the ribcage of Adam) and just below a representation of the Crucifixion with Christ hanging on the cross and a female figure (presumably Mary) being pulled out of his chest.
Petra explained how typology influenced art in sacred books, Christ being the new Adam and Mary the new Eve and the creation story being echoed in the Crucifixion story. We also noticed that the donors who commissioned the production of these books probably appeared themselves in the book, alongside biblical characters, but in more modern outfits. Petra talked about “being in the book” as spiritual involvement.
The audience especially enjoyed the last image that was shown: a page from the Almogavar Hours (Spanish early 16th century) showing a desolate landscape and three empty crosses. The eye was drawn to the cross in the middle where a lonely crown of thorns was hanging, a powerful image inviting the observer to meditation and spiritual reflection. (NH)
Recommended by a friend of a friend, I have just started Simon Sebag Montefiore's 2011 history epic "Jerusalem - The Biography," and it certainly lives up to the accolades I read on Amazon. Starting at the beginning it presents a history of the city up until 1967. I have got as far as the conquest of Alexander the Great and am finding it hard to put down. Only 550 pages to go but I am looking forward to them. A wide range of journalists, travel writers and politicians have praised the book for its scholarship and its entertaining style.
As the blurb says: From King David to the twenty-first century, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is an epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, the only city that exists twice - in heaven and on earth.
The renovations at the church of the Nativity in Bethlehem have revealed a lost icon.
February 21 2016. The Times of Israel lead article on the political tension over the discussion of the military terms of engagement and self defence when faced with protesters.
Committed to spending a lot of time in the kitchen today with the veal and prune casserole I opted for cardamon rice pudding with pistachios and rose water. I had made something like this a few years ago which probably explains why I still had a bottle of rose water in the cupboard. (Can rose water go off? Perhaps it just loses its perfume gradually). This is another Sephardic tradition; eaten almost everyday in one form or another, it is also common in the Arab world.
400ml full fat milk
120 ml double cream
1 vanilla pod with scraped seeds
8 cardamom pods lightly crushed
120g pudding rice
30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp condensed milk
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp unsalted pistachios (though I used walnuts in the absence of pistachios)
Syrup: 1 tbsp honey and half tbsp rose water.
Put the milk, cream, vanilla pod with seeds and cardamom in a saucepan and place on high heat. As soon as boiling, remove from heat and allow to cool for and infuse for several hours - at least two.
Make syrup by mixing homey, rose water and 1tsp of water until honey dissolves.
Add rice to pan with infused milk, bring to the boil and simmer on low heat, stirring ALL the time for 20 minutes. You may need to add a little more water if the pudding mixture becomes too thick. Remove from heat and take out vanilla pod. (The recipe suggests removing the cardamom pods as well but I thought this was a bit fussy). Then stir in the butter, condensed milk, honey and a pinch of salt. I then put the pan in our unheated storeroom to cool and then into the fridge. Serve sprinkled with nuts and, if you have them, rose petals!
Some of you may be wondering what else we have been eating the last few days. Well, since there are only two of us it takes a while to get through the leftovers but I have again been cooking afresh inspired by the 'Jerusalem' book recipes.
One of the first 'grown-up' meals I perfected as a student was something we called pork and prune stew. Though dead easy to make, I haven't come across many other prune orientated recipes over the years. But this morning when browsing I came across 'Slow cooked veal with prunes and leek' on page 206 and my mind was made up. The recipe itself is part of the Sephardic Jewish tradition, slow cooking and the combination of meat and dried fruit. It did require a quick run down to Waitrose which, at 10 in the morning, is quite seething I discovered. However, they did have the key ingredient, the osso buco steaks, which I had never bought before.
4 large osso buco steaks on the bone (about 1 kg) - oxtail could be used
2 large onions (500g)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
100 ml dry white wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
shave strips of orange rind
2 small cinnamon sticks
Half tsp allspice
2 star anise
Leeks (800g) cut into 1.5cm slices
200g soft prunes
salt and pepper
To serve: 120g Greek yoghurt, chopped flat leaf parsley, lemon zest, crushed garlic.
This dish takes a lot of preparation so I started in the morning. Preheat oven to 160C Fan / Gas Mark 4.
Fry the veal for two minutes on each side in oil in large heavy pan. Take meat from the pan and put back onions and garlic and sauté for about 10 minutes until onions are soft and golden. Add the wine, bring to the boil and simmer until reduced. Add half of the stock, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves,, orange rind, cinnamon, allspice and star anise together with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil and add back the veal pieces.
Put all of this is a deep baking tray, cover and place in oven for two and a half hours. I checked it once during this time to see if I needed to add any water. At the end of this time, lift out the pieces of meat and remove the bone but make sure all the meat and marrow is left behind.
Brown the leeks for five minutes then add to the meat and tomato sauce together with the prunes. Cover and cook for another hour. Serve hot with the cold yoghurt on top, parsley, lemon zest and garlic.
Guardian columnist and Church of England priest in Newington London, Giles Fraser, has just published a fascinating description and reflection on the laws governing marriage in Israel, following his own marriage to 'a daughter of Israel' in Tel Aviv.
Filled with so much information and opinion about the politics of the Holy Land on my return, I decided I needed to to read something authoritative. And unbiased.
Finding books on the history of Israel, Palestine, the whole Middle East situation which are reviewed as fair and unbiased to all sides in the conflict is not easy, but one which seemed to stand out and which I have started reading is Stewart Ross's 'The Israel-Palestinian Conflict' published by Teach Yourself, 2010 edition, £9.99. It has helpful summaries at the beginning and is written in a straightforward and easy style.
If anyone else has read something helpful on this topic please share it with me.
A Christmas present from my daughter which has been sadly underused for over a year is the book 'Jerusalem' by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You may have come across Yotam in the Guardian's Saturday magazine where he has written a vegetarian food column for some time.
Well, my return from the Holy Land made me determined to explore its pages which are rich with detail about the cosmopolitan world of this ancient city. Both authors think of Jerusalem as their home even though they left over 20 years ago. They draw on the recipes passed down through their families. The book tries to convey the tapestry of cuisines that the city represents: Greek and Russian Orthodox, Hasidic Jews from Poland, Orthodox Jews from Tunisia, Libya, France and Britain, Palestinian Muslims, Ashkenazi Jews from Romania, Germany and Lithuania, others from Morocco, Ethiopia, Armenia, Argentina ...... the list is endless! All are now using the plentiful variety of vegetables and fruit that Jerusalem is able receive for most of the year because of its strategic location.
So what did I make on Monday? For starters:
Na'ama's (Sami's mother) Fattoush - a typical chopped mixed salad (with acknowledgement to the authors)
200g Greek yoghurt
2 pitta breads
3 large tomatoes cut in 1.5cm dice
100g thinly sliced radishes
250g cucumber cut into 1.5cm dice
2 thinly sliced spring onions
25g flat leafed parsley
2 crushed garlic cloves
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
sumac to taste
Fatoush is an Arabic salad that uses left-over stale pitta. Every community has its own variation and a wide range of ingredients could be used. Fierce discussion takes place on exactly how small the ingredients should be chopped!
Mix the yoghurt and the milk and leave in the fridge overnight or at least for three hours. Buttermilk can be used instead of this mixture.
Break the pitta up into small pieces, add the yoghurt mixture and the rest of the ingredients and leave fopr ten minutes.
Then spoon into bowls, drizzle on more olive oil and garnish with sumac. What could be easier?
Glossary: Sumac is the ground berries of a flowering plant common in North Africa. I found it in the Fulbourn Tesco's in the section for 'exotic' spices and preserves. It is a dark red powder with quite a mild flavour.