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”

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”

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”

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”

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”

Expatriated Desserts

Fresh fruit, unctuous caramel and creamy custard

When I married for the first time and, at the age of 18 left for Africa to join my expatriate banker husband, my small circle of friends was, on the whole, envious. On the face of it there was a great deal to be envious about. In London I shared a hostel room with two other girls; in Ghana I moved into a fully furnished, light and airy apartment, with a house boy to do all the cleaning, cooking and washing. I exchanged a monotonous job for the excitement of travel, and different countries to explore and, although I left good friends behind, there was a ready-made circle of expatriates to fit into. Life was going to be one long round of sun, sand, and cocktail parties. Continue reading “Expatriated 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”

A Tale of Two Picnics

The view from Snowdon
The view from Snowdon

A picnic is ‘an occasion when a packed meal is eaten in an outside setting’ according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The British enthusiasm for picnics is truly the triumph of hope over experience, be it parked up in a lay-by, surrounded by wind breaks on a stony beach, or on rare occasions, lying in long grass contemplating the Magritte clouds passing by overhead in a pool of blue sky. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Picnics”