Oh Deer, Oh Deer

There is no law, no rules or regulation that say that you have to love, like or even get on with your siblings. As a mother of four, I would be horrified if my children didn’t at least like, rub along with and support each other. Horrified.

But my relationship with my brother was far from harmonious. Continue reading “Oh Deer, Oh Deer”

An Ode to Carrots

Some of the ingredients for carrot and cardamom pilaf
Ingredients for carrot and cardamom pilaf

Carrots have been one of my favourite vegetables since way back when. As a child, I was never keen on meat, especially beef. I hated all that chewing and would end up with dry indigestible lumps hidden in my cheeks like a hamster. Muttering that I had finished, I would leave the table and head for the toilet to spit out the offending lumps. So my mother wisely compromised by serving me potatoes and carrots covered with the meaty gravy which I would then mash together. For a four year old, it was my idea of the perfect meal.

In those days, carrots were the inevitable pairing with potatoes – mashed, roasted or boiled – for the traditional ‘meat and two veg’. My grandmother sliced her carrots in roundels and boiled them, as did my mother. Generation after generation of us eating sliced carrots… Continue reading “An Ode to Carrots”

Salt and Pepper – Earth and Fire

Fleurs du sel
Fleurs du sel

Having lived as many decades as I have (six and counting), it’s easy to forget how some of the most basic elements of cooking have changed over my lifetime, and you cannot get more basic than salt and pepper. Continue reading “Salt and Pepper – Earth and Fire”

Starry, Starry Nights

In my mind there are three types of campers. The itinerant workers travelling around wherever work takes them, using only tiny tents to sleep in or renting site caravans; those that are looking for cheaper holidays, eating and sleeping in camper vans loaded with bicycles; and those few who enjoy the actual art of camping – the joy of sleeping under canvas, eating under starry skies and enjoying the feeling of being outdoors, far removed from the urban life of bricks and mortar.  I would count myself in the latter category with a few provisos. Continue reading “Starry, Starry Nights”

College Days – cooking my oats!

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford

This is the simplest of recipes, but whenever I make flapjacks, I am transported back to my college days in Oxford at Lady Margaret Hall. One of the first women’s colleges at Oxford, LMH (as it’s called), had a reputation for being a college where the ‘posh girls’ went.

By the mid-1970s, Oxford University was under pressure to admit more state school candidates and I clearly qualified, having gone to the local grammar school in Buckingham. At my interview I was asked which colleges at Oxford had my parents gone to. My heart sank. When I replied that I was the first member of my family to ever go to university, the tutor looked visibly surprised! Continue reading “College Days – cooking my oats!”

An Entente Culinaire – a mere trifle at stake!

Marinading the lemon peel for syllabub
Marinading the lemon peel for syllabub

When I first met Philippe, one of the first laughs he had at my expense was expounding on the terrible food that English people eat: everything was covered in a terrible brown floury sauce; we ate mountains of greasy ‘feesh and chips’; and of course, there was the famous ‘Engleesh triffle’ – a ghastly concoction of green jelly and solid custard. I quizzed him – had he actually been to England and eaten any of the food? His answer was “No”, but he’d heard all about it from his friends.

The reputation of English food in France is both legendary and apocryphal. I have done my best in the thirteen years that I’ve lived here to disabuse my French friends of some of their prejudices – but Philippe has remained sceptical. When I invited him and his wife Nathalie to lunch this weekend, he threw the gauntlet down. “I’ll only come if you make a trifle,” he said. The challenge was accepted. Continue reading “An Entente Culinaire – a mere trifle at stake!”

Night-time tales à la Puttanesca

Chili, Anchovies, & Capers – the essential ingredients
Chili, Anchovies, & Capers – the essential ingredients

There’s something about the end of one of ‘those evenings’. You shouldn’t have gone out, you didn’t mean to go out – certainly not with Him – you’ve drunk far too much and, of course, he’s now back here in your flat saying he’s hungry…

Panic ensues. There’s nothing in the fridge of an edible nature (you’ve been at work all day). There’s plenty to drink, yes, including a bottle of champagne – but nothing that can be turned into a meal. The cheese has gone mouldy and even the bread is stale. Continue reading “Night-time tales à la Puttanesca”

To Market, To Market To Buy A Fat Pig, Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

Le Marché Couvert, Albi
Le Marché Couvert, Albi

I confess I have never bought a fat pig at a market – chops or sausages, yes – but for me, markets are more about fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit. On that front, I have been very lucky – living just around the corner from the Marché Couvert in Albi I have been able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables six days of the week. A real luxury! Continue reading “To Market, To Market To Buy A Fat Pig, Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig”

How Green is my Lunch?

In the 80s I was living in London, pursuing a corporate career with an American telecommunications giant. It was the era of the business lunch. Three or four course meals in darkly panelled dining rooms with silver service, obsequious waiters, smarming sommeliers, and alcohol in abundance. Continue reading “How Green is my Lunch?”