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”

Spicing up an Anglo Dutch War

Great Britain has a long tradition of being at war with the Dutch. From 1652 to 1784 there were four wars and then more conflicts during the later Napoleonic era. As both nations were sea-faring and had economic policies bent on maximizing their global trade and accumulating gold and silver, their policies led to colonization and then to war, mainly with each other. The Dutch/Anglo relationship therefore has had its share of ups and downs but a strong bond was forged during and after the Second World War. Today, however we seem to be heading for another down after the shock result of the Brexit referendum and the UK’s desire to exit out of Europe. Continue reading “Spicing up an Anglo Dutch War”

Creating Cookie Monsters

How do we learn to cook? I remember my grandmother assigning me a variety of tasks in the kitchen: scraping out the last of the cake mix from the mixing bowl with a spoon –  her adage of “every last bit could feed a starving child in Biafra” – ringing in my head, crushing a clove of garlic and a pinch of salt against the back of a teaspoon on a saucer until it became a puree, and stuffing mint into the rattling hand mincer to make mint sauce for Sunday’s lamb roast. Was that learning? Perhaps, because I was always encouraged to taste but never made to do the washing up until I was much older, kitchen duties always remained enjoyable and never a chore. I learned by osmosis, by tasting and by doing. Continue reading “Creating Cookie Monsters”

My Just Desserts

Let’s get this straight, British desserts rock. Italians maybe the past masters at gelato – read my post ‘Decamping the Ice Cream Myth’ – chased only on the commercial edge by the Americans; the French may claim fruit tarts, custard based crèmes and le soufflé; the Portuguese have heavenly custard tarts and Australians the pavlova; but no one else does ‘puddings’ like the British do. Sticky toffee, suet, bread and butter, upside down and not forgetting Christmas’s ‘figgy’, all hearty warming puddings that smothered in custard stick to your soul and offer comfort.  Continue reading “My Just Desserts”

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”

Our Daily Bread – simple, no fuss bread rolls

Breakfast

Do you feel that bread is ‘the staff of life’, an essential part of your diet? In Europe we’re a ‘grain’ culture, part of the 35% of the world’s population who depend on wheat as a staple food. In other countries with different climates, different grains are used. Continue reading “Our Daily Bread – simple, no fuss bread rolls”

Let Them Eat Cake – fast food from the days of the train

family-fruit-cake2I can’t be the only one to remember when British Rail used to sell rectangles of fruit cake wrapped in cellophane off the trolley to be accompanied by a stiff cup of builder’s tea? Continue reading “Let Them Eat Cake – fast food from the days of the train”