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robin-hoodIf you have read many of my movie reviews, you’re probably certain I’m a Russell Crowe fan. And I am, but mostly because I like the kind of movies he does.

Take Robin Hood. It’s a 2010 British-American film by Ridley Scott, based on the legend we all know. It takes place in 1199. Robin Longstride, played by Russell Crowe, is a common archer who fights for King Richard the Lionheart. The story opens during the siege of Chalus Castle. Robin and his comrades are disillusioned and weary of the war. So, when the King is killed during an attack, they decide it’s time to go home, so they desert.

On the way, they come across an ambush of the English royal guard returning to England with the King’s crown and news of his death. Too late to do anything but scare them away. Robin and his men impersonate the dead English knights so they can return to England. He promises a dying knight, Sir Robert Loxley to return his sword to his father in Nottingham.

In London, Robin assumes the identity of Loxley and informs the royal family of the King’s death. He witnesses the coronation of King John, who is swayed by Godfrey, who plans use French troops to stir up unrest and create an opening for Philip to invade England.

When Robin returns Loxley’s sword to his father, the man asks him to continue impersonating his son to prevent the family lands being taken by the Crown. He wants Loxley’s widow, Lady Marion, played by Cate Blanchette, to inherit instead. Robin agrees and in the process, he and Marion fall in love. What I liked about this is the way it happened. A glance, a smile, her hand in his when he helps her up on her horse, they way he studies her when she isn’t looking. They get to know each other and each of them like what they see. It tugs at the heartstrings.

After King John hears Robin’s plea to sign a charter of right and unite his country, a battle must be fought to stop the French marauders from taking over England. It takes place on the beach below the Cliffs of Dover and the cinematography is spectacular.

I enjoyed the movie and the twist at the end, giving us a new take on the story of Robin Hood and how “the legend began”. There’s comradeship. There’s action. And there’s romance. Definitely my kind of movie.

robin-hood-stewMedieval spiced beef stew

1.5kg lean braising steak, chopped into bite-size chunks
3 tbsp plain flour
Oil for frying
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp (small pinch) ground cloves
4 black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 tsp cardamom pods, crushed and green pods discarded
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 large sprigs parsley, stalks and leaves finely chopped, plus extra to garnish
900ml beef stock
50g stale wholemeal bread, torn into small pieces
3 tbsp cider vinegar
Pinch of saffron threads

1 Toss the beef with the flour to coat. Cover the base of a large casserole dish with a thin layer of oil and place over a medium high heat. Add the beef in batches and fry, stirring occasionally, until browned.

2 Return any browned beef to the pan with its juices. Add the spices, onion and parsley with a splash of the stock and fry, stirring frequently and scrapping up the crusty layer from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes until the onions have started to soften. Add the rest of the stock with a pinch of salt and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, until the beef is tender.

3 Meanwhile, soak the bread in the vinegar with the saffron. Stir into the stew and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until the bread has broken down and the stew is thick. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with bread and buttered green vegetables, garnished with chopped fresh parsley