The Art of Digestion

The joy of being a Londoner is that you never run out of things to do or see. Man and I are often lucky enough to be able to skive off mid-week and spend an hour or two wandering around the capital’s museums and exhibitions. Art in particular, from the medieval to the modern, is high on our list of interests, to admire as well as to buy. Continue reading “The Art of Digestion”

“Un peu d’ail, un peu de persil” – keep it simple

Going to the market in France – especially here in the South West – involves taking a large basket and an equally large amount of patience. Things move slowly, people stop mid-order to ‘faire le bise’ to passing friends, stallholders exchange gossip, and quite often, both stallholder and buyer get involved in a serious discussion on how best to cook ‘les aiguillettes de canard’ or the ‘filet de bar’ or ‘ceps’. In which case, patience is essential! Continue reading ““Un peu d’ail, un peu de persil” – keep it simple”

A Tale of Two Picnics

The view from Snowdon
The view from Snowdon

A picnic is ‘an occasion when a packed meal is eaten in an outside setting’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The British enthusiasm for picnics is truly the triumph of hope over experience, be it parked up in a lay-by, surrounded by wind breaks on a stony beach, or on rare occasions, lying in long grass contemplating the Magritte clouds passing by overhead in a pool of blue sky. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Picnics”

Hydropathic Pudding – once an invalid food, now all that is best about summer

Soft Fruit Simmering

Gone are the days when Doctors visited the sick at home. It was common practice in 1950s Essex. I wasn’t often ill, just normal childhood ailments which weren’t fussed about or vaccinated against.  But when a sore throat turned into tonsillitis and the Doctor was called, then I was worried. Continue reading “Hydropathic Pudding – once an invalid food, now all that is best about summer”

Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food

A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way...
A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way…

My mother hated rice pudding. As a young teenager, she was evacuated during the war from a bombed-out Birmingham to the relative peace of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The family who took her in had their own cow, so there was plenty of milk, and a good cheap way to fill up young stomachs during war-time rationing was with rice pudding (it still amazes me how a tiny amount of rice can end up filling an entire pudding dish, thanks to all the milk!). Continue reading “Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food”

My First Joint

Roast Breast of Lamb

No, not that one. That was decades later.

The Sixties were definitely swinging, or so they said, when I moved to London at seventeen. I was accompanied by two large suitcases, a map of how to get to Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, and a fiver in my pocket. Progress was slow as I made my way, burdened down, along the Cromwell Road. The grey buildings towered above me, a small cog hoping to join the wheel of metropolitan life. Continue reading “My First Joint”

Escaping The Heat – get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the work

Cypresses in the Corbiere
Cypresses in the Corbiere

The heatwave was in full force. Blazing sun and a hard blue sky. Mr T. and I had gone south to escape the confines of my city ‘appartement’ in search of a pool and long views. But there’s only so much swimming and sunbathing you can do when the temperatures are heading towards 40C. And given the heat, there’s only so much cassoulet, confit de canard, and foie gras you can eat before your taste buds also give up. We googled ‘nearest restaurants’ and I spotted the words ‘mozzarella di buffala’. Italian – yes! I love a good mozzarella. The restaurant was only eight kilometres away from where we were staying, so off we went in search of culinary adventure. Continue reading “Escaping The Heat – get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the work”

Rationed Chicken – the three meal bird

My Guiding Hand
My Guiding Hand

My maternal grandmother (Nanna) was born in the 1890’s, and lived through two world wars with their accompanying ration books and shortages of food. When I was born, partial rationing was still in force and ‘frugality’ was well entrenched in Nanna’s mortal soul. Blessings had to be counted – stockings were mended, collars turned, and clean underwear always had to be worn in case you were run over by a bus. This frugality didn’t stop at the kitchen door. Waste was not to be tolerated. One of my kitchen duties was to scrape the cake mix out of the bowl with a teaspoon, on a promise of the last lick. Every last spoonful, I was told, was enough cake to feed a starving African child. We didn’t own a spatula, so I was amused to read in Bee Wilson’s ‘Consider the Fork’, that rubber spatulas were once referred to as ‘child cheaters’, for their knack of removing every last gram of batter. Nanna would have approved of that. Continue reading “Rationed Chicken – the three meal bird”

Tortilla De Patatas – memories of Andalucia

Cooling off
Tortilla de patatas

I have eaten tortilla, that ubiquitous Spanish dish made from eggs, onions, and potatoes, hundreds of times in my life. Some were good but a lot were bad, spoiled by being made with pre-cooked potatoes, or too much potato. Like all the simplest dishes, especially the eggy ones like scrambled eggs and omelettes, cooking a good tortilla depends on the method you use. I learned to make tortillas thanks to my first husband who had studied Spanish and spent a year teaching in Galicia. To my mind, his recipe is the best I have come across and it’s one of the few things I still have from my first short-lived marriage… Continue reading “Tortilla De Patatas – memories of Andalucia”

Grow What You Eat – tales from the vegetable plot

Furry Scarecrow

My vegetable growing career began in Leipzig, Eastern Germany. Man and I lived in a converted leather factory, whose apartments had balconies suspended over the Elstermühlgraben –  an old mill stream. We lived and barbecued on this 1 metre by 5 metre space from late April to early October. To protect our privacy from neighbours intrigued by our foreign cooking smells, I decided to grow window boxes full of climbing vegetables. Now back in urban London, I grow vegetables on a sunny south facing terrace,  utilising a combination of wooden troughs, long window boxes and a variety of pots.

Fiona, on the other hand, has had at least two proper gardens. One in the Welsh Borders, full of raspberries, lettuces, and beans neatly in rows, with chickens grubbing around and probably the odd Peter Rabbit nibbling away. The other was on a French hillside with gnarled and garrulous farming neighbours clucking over the fence at her very English attempts to grow vegetables in their native soil. Continue reading “Grow What You Eat – tales from the vegetable plot”