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 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!”

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?”

Chill or Hot with Apricot.

Puddings, Desserts, Sweets or Afters, there’s always been a wide variety of ways as how to end a meal, never mind what to call them. Your choices will in the main part depend on where you grew up. Continue reading “Chill or Hot with Apricot.”

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”