An Ode to Broad Beans – Habas con Jamon

May and June always meant two things for me when we were living on the Welsh Borders: our spring holiday escaping to the mountains in Southern Spain for the May half term; and the first broad beans in my vegetable garden, ready to pick in June when we returned. They are inextricably linked in my mind by one recipe – Habas con Jamon.

The Jamon would be a huge leg of Jamon Serrano, a speciality of the Alpujarras Mountains in Southern Spain. The mountains are famous for their salted air-dried hams, with the best coming from the highest village of Trevelez. While not cheap (even back in those days),  the flavour was excellent. Invariably, we would be tempted and buy a whole leg. Slater would board the return plane with a rucksack on his back containing an entire ham with the pigs trotter gently nudging the back of his head! Continue reading “An Ode to Broad Beans – Habas con Jamon”

Mary Poppins and The Pasta Bake

I am in admiration of all my children working full time, but frankly horrified at the price they now have to pay for child care. Thirty years ago like so many women who wanted to keep their foot on the career ladder as well as raise children, it was my problem. Continue reading “Mary Poppins and The Pasta Bake”

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. 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 relish every aspect of the 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!”

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”