I do like to be by the seaside

As a Channel Islander, wariness of the sea has been ingrained since childhood. Regular three hour ferry trips from Weymouth to visit my family in Guernsey taught me that the English Channel was not always calm. Neither was the sea passage between Holyhead and Dun Laoghaire when we moved to Dublin for a year in the late 50s. Continue reading “I do like to be by the seaside”

An Ode to Chard

Ingredients for Chard with Parmesan & Lemon
Ingredients for Chard with Parmesan & Lemon

This is in praise of the humble chard – a vegetable that I never tasted until I was in my early twenties. Despite my mother growing vegetables and always keeping an eye on the costs, for some reason, chard never turned up on our plates. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed when I first tasted this dark, green leaf in a meal cooked in Andalucía by my formidable future mother-in-law. Continue reading “An Ode to Chard”

Salad Days

My salad days. When I was green in judgment, cold in blood.” Anthony & Cleopatra, William Shakespeare.

Salads in the 50s meant lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers with the occasional spring onion thrown in. Once a week, nursery tea was a salad accompanied by tinned pilchards or tinned pink salmon – red salmon was reserved for special occasions. Sardines, well sardines as Fiona’s post describes, were to be spread on toast. Continue reading “Salad Days”

Canned Sardines – A Family Affair

Sardines (the canned variety) are a bit like Marmite – you either like them or you don’t. My father and his mother were fans and my mother and her mother weren’t. Tea with Granny ‘Kenzie (a meal that took place in the early evening), often involved sardines on toast, mashed up with butter and put under the gas grill. My mother’s mother, Granny Hughes, didn’t like the oily, fishy smell – her house smelt of bleach, Vim cleaning powder, and furniture polish – but the strong sardine odour clearly didn’t bother Granny ‘Kenzie. I suspect the fact that sardines were, and still are, so cheap, was another reason Granny ‘Kenzie liked them. Continue reading “Canned Sardines – A Family Affair”

One Step, Two Steps – Peas In A Pod

Peas in a pod
Peas in a pod

Back in 2012, I was asked to test this recipe for pea and courgette salad by my step-step-grand-daughter Niaomh, who was editing and publishing The Deptford Community Cookbook. Since then, the salad has become a spring-time favourite of mine. But before we get into peas and their pods, I suspect you’re trying to work out what is a ‘step-step-grand-daughter’? Let me explain… Continue reading “One Step, Two Steps – Peas In A Pod”

“La Tuaille de Cochon” – Part 1

Albi
Albi

I have now lived in the south west of France for nigh on fourteen years, and have made many French friends here in Albi. Most of the good times I have shared with them revolve around food or drink – an invitation to ‘boire un apéro’, ‘faire un barbecue’, or simply ‘boire le café.

But one invitation that made me feel I had really become ‘une Albigeoise’ was an invitation to the annual family pig kill – “le Tuaille de Cochon”. Continue reading ““La Tuaille de Cochon” – Part 1″

Emergency Rations

As an eternal optimist I’m not risk adverse, but more of a calculated risk taker. In the late 90s I was offered a year’s assignment in Northern California. I jumped at the chance. It was America, what could be risky about that?  There was much muttering from my two younger daughters because they were being uprooted from friends and family, but the muttering didn’t last long as they soon adapted to the world of yellow school buses, western saddle riding and friends living on ranches. It wasn’t until the day before we left London that the husband of a friend professed his shock on hearing that I was planning to take the children to live on the San Andreas fault line. First, I had heard about it. The wooden deck house in Portola Valley we were renting was cute, airy and situated in a beautiful valley with seven other houses.  Sour grapes, I thought, until my children started to return home from school with stories of regular earthquake drills and the fact that other parents kept store cupboards stocked with emergency rations. The 1989 earthquake that had rocketed the Bay Area had been a lesson in preparedness for all. Continue reading “Emergency Rations”

The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas

My father died when I was 12. Christmases were a little less perfect after that. Grandmother did her best to make the holiday special, but her heart wasn’t in it as she watched my mother slide into alcoholism. My brother left home. As soon as school ended I headed for grimy, raw edged London determined to create my own life and Christmases. Continue reading “The Charms of a Not So Perfect Christmas”

Christmas Eve Oysters – the time has come….

Fines Claire No. 2
Fines Claire No. 2

My first memory of oysters comes from a day spent on the beach near Auckland in New Zealand. I was nine years old and happily crouched over a rock pool tickling the fronds of anemones when I noticed my father prise a knobbly shell off a rock. He then split it open with his penknife, tipped his head back, and swallowed the contents. I was amazed. “What was that?” I asked. “It’s an oyster,” he replied. I was none the wiser. “But you ate it just like that… raw?” I was horrified at the idea. “Yes, even better raw,” he replied. “I love it when they wriggle going down my throat.” My response was to scream. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Oysters – the time has come….”

Wood Hedgehogs and Meadow Mushrooms

Sherry and Mushrooms - a classic combination
Sherry and Mushrooms – a classic combination

Sometimes, the best meals start without a recipe but with a question – what is in season? Four weeks ago this Saturday, the weekly outdoor market in Albi was an autumnal cornucopia: butternut squash, pumpkins, gourds, and plastic ‘barquettes’ filled with pieds de moutons, girolles and ceps. Girolles are two a penny at this time of year, ceps cost a small fortune, but pieds de mouton rarely make an appearance – I was tempted but saw the price. €5 euros for a small barquette. Far too expensive! Continue reading “Wood Hedgehogs and Meadow Mushrooms”