Straight from the Tables of Disney

Like many of us born in the 50s, my childhood was difficult. People were too traumatised by the war and their losses. It can’t have been easy on any front to return to whatever ‘normality’ was.  Neither of my parents seemed to be able to settle down. They banged around like an out of control bobsleigh on the Cresta run, although not always together. Fortunes went up and down as they careered from job to job and town to town, dragging my grandmother, my brother, and I with them. Continue reading “Straight from the Tables of Disney”

The Legendary Cassoulet

The cassoulet in its cassole
The cassoulet in its cassole

Cassoulet is a legend here in the South West of France. Quite literally. It was supposed to have originated during the Hundred Years War when the English were besieging the nearby town of Castelnaudary in 1355. The story goes that the inhabitants cooked up what was left of their beans, bones, scraps of meat and dried bits of ham, then went out and beat the English!

Like many of my favourite dishes, I suspect it has its real origins in “peasant food”, namely cooking whatever is to hand, but over the centuries, it has become a complex and truly wonderful dish. It takes its name from the large earthenware pot in which it is cooked and served – “le cassole” – hence “Cassoulet”. When it’s cooked for you by my good friend, Philippe Seguier then it is, quite simply, probably the best cassoulet you’ll ever taste. Continue reading “The Legendary Cassoulet”

Oh Deer, Oh Deer

There is no law, rule, or regulation that says you have to love, like, or even get on with your siblings. As a mother of four, I would be horrified if my children didn’t at least like, rub along with, and support each other. Yes, horrified. Yet my relationship with my brother was far from harmonious… Continue reading “Oh Deer, Oh Deer”

The Sage of a Francophile

Growing up it was hard not to learn to love all things French. My father’s family come from Guernsey, an island that is approximately forty-three miles from the French coast, and double that from the UK mainland. Continue reading “The Sage of a Francophile”

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”

A Simple Soup for Sore Throats

The simplest of ingredients
The simplest of ingredients

There’s something about being ill that completely changes your appetite, both in terms of quantity and desire. Today was the first time in four weeks that I ate a fresh green salad – normally a daily habit of mine. But then I’ve been ill with bronchitis and an awful laryngitis and, as a result, my appetite has become that of a child. I’ve been eating nursery food.  Continue reading “A Simple Soup for Sore Throats”

An Italian Con-fusion

I don’t think you ever forget your first trip to Venice. Mine was in March, a melancholy month at the best of times. Dark clouds were blanketing London and the plane trees lining my street dripped water from the tips of their, as yet, sticky buds. At work, I had been assigned to ‘special projects’ whilst seeing out a six month notice period. It was mind numbingly boring and I felt in need of a break if I was to embark on a new career with a spring in my step. Continue reading “An Italian Con-fusion”

Sweet Paprika and Sweet Memories – Family Recipes

My mother in her kitchen - probably her favourite room!
My mother in her kitchen – probably her favourite room!

After many years of travelling – Germany, Kenya, Suffolk, New Zealand, Kent – we finally settled in Buckinghamshire in 1968 when my parents bought an old ramshackle farmhouse, the first ever house they had ever owned.

Looking back, I realise we only just scraped by on my father’s teaching salary whilst my mother juggled raising the three of us, working part-time as a school secretary, growing most of our vegetables and fruit, and making all our clothes. But I never had the impression that we lacked for anything. Continue reading “Sweet Paprika and Sweet Memories – Family Recipes”

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”