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!”

I’m going on a Food Hunt and I’m going to Catch…

I couldn’t leave New York behind without trying to do it a better service – foodwise, at least. It’s a city that is heavy on shoe leather, being one of the most walkable cities in the world. Once you’re on the grid it’s almost impossible to get lost, almost. Walking through the 843 acres Central Park is a joy, dwarfed as you seem to be on all sides by monumental buildings reaching far up into the sky. After a day’s walking, I was only too happy to rest my exercised feet on the rails of a cocktail bar and sip my way through a few old favourites before attempting the climb to our top floor eerie. Continue reading “I’m going on a Food Hunt and I’m going to Catch…”

Easter and an Extravaganza of Eggs

Polish babka cake
Polish babka cake

My mother was very parsimonious when it came to cooking with eggs. Clearly, her wartime childhood had affected her. The WWII ration allowance was one fresh egg per week, supplemented with dried egg powder from the USA – which she hated. But old habits die hard; even in her eighties, she would use only one egg to make herself an omelette. If I had ever had the chance to bake her this traditional Polish babka cake for Easter, which uses twelve egg yolks, she would have had a veritable heart attack! Continue reading “Easter and an Extravaganza of Eggs”

Foreign Food and Foreign Kitchens

I’ve been visiting New York since the mid 80s, in the days when you were advised not to wear conspicuous jewellery and to keep your ‘purse’ close to you at all times. There were stories of cab doors being pulled open at stop signs and baubles being ripped off the necks and ears of women. Mayor Rudy Giuliani cleaned up the city in the mid 90s and now it’s a safe, vibrant city, teeming with immigrants from diverse cultures. In a city where the game is hustle, those born here could be considered to be brash and pushy, but it is a city driven by service where twenty percent tips are the norm. Like any European, I sigh at this excess, but it doesn’t stop me at jumping at any chance to visit this shiny Big Apple. Continue reading “Foreign Food and Foreign Kitchens”

In Pursuit of Sanguine Pleasures

Beautiful blood oranges in a bowl
Beautiful blood oranges

One of the pleasures of cooking is giving pleasure to other people, and sometimes that means giving pleasure to other people’s taste buds at the expense of your own.

You see, I’m not really a ‘pudding’ person and have always had a set of savoury taste buds – but cooking for my three boys and husband, plus friends who came down to Wales for country weekends, meant that over the years I developed a repertoire of classic British puddings in order to please family and friends. Continue reading “In Pursuit of Sanguine Pleasures”

A Question of Taste

It’s half term week and Grandson no.1 has come to stay. The north wind has blown in and a damp artic chill is hanging over London. Our visits to the local park are therefore curtailed as, no matter how many layers I wear, I am shivering and my fingers are turning a whiter shade of pale.  Neither Boy nor Dog feel the cold and are reluctant insiders unless given something to do. We retreat to the warmth of the kitchen and bake. Continue reading “A Question of Taste”

“Oh, Lardy, Lardy” in praise of fat

It’s cold. It may not have snowed here in London but when the sun disappears in the late afternoon, the chill ices into your bones. Middle daughter and I suffer from bad circulation that materialises in white fingertips when the temperature drops below 10C and white toes when it hits minus figures. Thawing is mildly painful as the extremities turn bruising blue before returning to pink. Middle daughter doesn’t do hot either. She is a temperate child. The family GP, a pragmatist at the best of times, diagnosed a possible mild form of Raynaud’s syndrome where the arteries spasm and blood flow is reduced. His recommendation is that if I didn’t want surgery to cut the nerves in the back of my neck, then I should wear gloves. I do, regularly. Continue reading ““Oh, Lardy, Lardy” in praise of fat”

Galette des Rois – a French celebration of Epiphany

Adoration of the Magi by Monaco Lorenzo c. 1422. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.
Adoration of the Magi by Monaco Lorenzo c. 1422. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

It’s January 6th and the boulangeries and patisseries here in Albi are full of large round tarts, the famous Galette des Rois, which are traditionally eaten on the 6th January to celebrate Epiphany, the visit of the Three Wise Men. The tart is made of buttery flaky pastry with a filling of frangipane (almond paste) though you can also buy galettes with a chocolate filling and even Nutella. Hidden in the filling is a fève – traditionally, a dried broad bean. In the 19th century, the bean was replaced by a tiny porcelain figurine  but now, they are inevitably plastic! Whoever finds the fève is king or queen for the day and they get to wear a cardboard crown (usually sold with the galette). Continue reading “Galette des Rois – a French celebration of Epiphany”

Travels with my Taste

November has slid into December and the barometer has dropped overnight warning of record lows. Snowflakes can be seen on the Met Office forecasts north of the Watford Gap. The High street glitters with red and gold, Ho ho hos and prancing reindeer decorate shop windows whilst sleigh bells tinkle away even in the corner shop. Continue reading “Travels with my Taste”