Thursday, 10 July 2008

Henley Festival...of rain (and a cookie)

I am a square old so and so, and I have never been to a festival before this summer. Thanks to Eco Sis that is now being addressed, and last night we donned our finery and swanned off to Henley for their summer music festival. This is Henley, so it's not a gypsy dress, wellies and mud festival - or at least it wasn't supposed to be. It's a black tie affair with a floating stage, posh restaurant marquees, and art exhibition. Unfortunately yesterday it rained literally all day. Undeterred, we dressed up (there was no way I was compromising on wearing my beautiful new long black Coast dress, though I did put my long winter coat on top and picked up a hat on the way out. This turned out to be a good idea, even if the dress stayed completely hidden all night). We drove to Oxford in the rain, picked up the Ecos and splashed off.

We'd brought a picnic but it wasn't quite the weather to get the rug out, so we ate it in the car in the best British tradition, parked behind some people in a van with an awning, a brazier, some champagne and proper crockery. They were still wet though. I think that balancing a plastic plate on your knee while passing salad and strawberries back and forth, and trying to fit your wine glass into any dip in the car's interior design is a great way to enjoy a meal, actually :)

Ah, the English summer

We did eventually extract ourselves from our picnic and waded over to the venues. It's such shame it was raining as it was a lovely set-up. There were marquees and awnings arranged along the riverside, with several music venues, a whole range of artwork - some under awnings, and some sculptures on the lawn, and several food outlets from a toastie van, to a posher than posh restaurant. There was also a very effective social classification system which was denoted by the shape of your entry badge. We were Pleb Third Class, with a square tag, but we spied hexagons and shields, and The Scientist was pretty sure he saw some spikey passes which we think were probably for nudging the servants with. At any rate, our Pleb Class passes allowed us to promenade at the main floating stage, but so many people declined to take up their deckchairs in the rain that we did actually get to sit down.

The rain did undoubtedly dampen the atmosphere a little, but this is Britain, and we all rallied well. We particularly enjoyed a jazz trio. They were singing a jazz rendition of Old Macdonald as we came in, which we thought the Munchkin would have approved of. The next concert was a classical one on the floating stage, which we listened to from our socially aspirational deckchairs until we got just too damp and moved to a coffee bar. The last band was listened to was our favourite - a folk duo called Show of Hands, with a guest singer. They were just amazing, playing six or seven different instruments and with beautiful voices. We were sad to leave a little bit early to make sure we could still float the car off the car park field. However, I have since discovered that they are playing on the Sunday of Womad, which is the other festival we're going to this summer. Hooray! In any case, we had a great evening despite the damp, and would definitely go again another year. On a nice evening it would have been nigh on perfect, but even the rain couldn't stop the good cheer and good music.

So, if anyone's still reading in the hope they might find a cookie recipe, here it is. They're chocolate chip and raisin cookies and I got the recipe from this month's Sainsbury's magazine. I actually made them to take round to our new neighbours but then The Scientist got back late from playing cricket and before I knew it they'd come with us on the picnic. They're not quite on the family choc chip cuckoo level, but they held their shape nicely, were good and crunchy, and Eco Sis said she particularly liked the raisins. They were supposed to have nuts in them, but I left them out because they are evil.

PS, here is a baby-enticing charm sent to New Zealand: come on baby, come on baby, come on baby, it's time to arrive.

Chocolate chip fruit and nut cookies (from Sainsbury's magazine, August 2008)

Makes 40

125g very soft butter
185g light muscovado sugar
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
185g plain flour, plus little extra for dusting
1 tsp baking powder
50g shelled monkey nuts [I left these out]
50g raisins
50g dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 170C/Gas 4. Using an electric hand whisk or a food mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale, 3-4 mins. Gradually add the egg, whisking. Then sift in the flour, baking powder and a generous pinch of salt. Mix in the nuts, raisins and chocolate. Bring the mixture together with your hands and form it into a ball.

Halve the ball and cut one half into 20 pieces, then, with lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a small ball. Transfer to lightly oiled nongreased baking sheets and press each one to flatten [they don't spread too much so you can put them relatively close together]. Repeat with the other half of dough. They will need three baking sheets. Bake two sheets of cookies for 12-15 mins on the centre shelf and the shelf below, swapping them halfway through the cooking time. Bake the third sheet of cookies on the centre shelf for the same time.

Leave the cookies to cool for about a minute on the baking tray (no longer or they will stick, then, using a fish slice, carefully transfer them to a cooling rack.


Johanna said...

that made me laugh to hear you going to this festival in the rain and eating your picnic in the car - how very british (esp the levels of passes). Oh and I was all excited when I first misread the title and thought it said Honey festival! But the Henley festival sounded like good fun.

Lysy said...

Ooh, a honey festival sounds like fun too. I'll let you know if I find one!

Ilana said...

oh, we forgot to check whether the tickets were still available on a day before basis, oh well...

we are so unbelievably cultural that we just got a season ticket to Jack Gibbon's piano summer thing in oxford, first one tonight. with the season ticket it is £5 per concert :) tonight is the life of beethoven.

Holler said...

You just have to be ready for any weather here in the UK and sometimes all in the same day! Oh well *sigh* never mind, it sounds like you had a good time anyway :)

Jeanne said...

Oh dear! The British summer weather can always be relied upon to screw up outdoor plans... And re. the tiers of passes, you should see how strictly they enforce this at the regatta itself (which is what I usually attend)!! Woe betide the person who tries to enter the Stewards' enclosure (or, worse, Leander Club) with the wrong shape/colour/year badge. It's hilarious. Last year at the regatta it had rained so much that ladies were officially granted permission to wear their expensive frocks with wellies in the posh enclosures :)

Tracy said...

Oh how wonderfully British! I'm always amazed by how many events are planned for the outdoors in the UK, given that the weather almost never cooperates. Still, there is something charming about the idea of masses of English people listening to an outdoor concert under umbrellas! And chocolate chip cookies make it possible to tolerate just about anything...

Lysy said...

Wow, Eco Sis, you are a culture vulture! I hope you enjoy the concerts!

I'm amused (though not surprised) that Henley Regatta has a similar ranking system! There were times when we wondered if our concert night would have been better combined with a rowing event - the river was practically in the tents as it was! I've never been to Henley but had fun rowing at Women's Henley one year - funnily enough they're not so fussy about posh dresses and blazers at that one!

Does all this remind you of why we're jealous of the CA weather, Tracy?! Mind you, I don't envy you a three-month heatwave. I hope you're indulging in some good old ice-cold-sorbitol

LisaRene said...

The Pacific Northwest has a similar climate to England and we expect cool weather and rain for at least half the summer. Sounds like you made the best of it but what a shame to not be able to show off your dress :(