Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food

A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way...
A lot of milk and a little rice go a long way…

My mother hated rice pudding. As a young teenager, she was evacuated during the war from a bombed-out Birmingham to the relative peace of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The family who took her in had their own cow, so there was plenty of milk, and a good cheap way to fill up young stomachs during war-time rationing was with rice pudding (it still amazes me how a tiny amount of rice can end up filling an entire pudding dish, thanks to all the milk!). Continue reading “Rich Rice Pudding – my favourite comfort food”

My First Joint

Roast Breast of Lamb

No, not that one. That was decades later.

The Sixties were definitely swinging, or so they said, when I moved to London at seventeen. I was accompanied by two large suitcases, a map of how to get to Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, and a fiver in my pocket. Progress was slow as I made my way, burdened down, along the Cromwell Road. The grey buildings towered above me, a small cog hoping to join the wheel of metropolitan life. Continue reading “My First Joint”

Escaping The Heat – get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the work

Cypresses in the Corbiere
Cypresses in the Corbiere

The heatwave was in full force. Blazing sun and a hard blue sky. Mr T. and I had gone south to escape the confines of my city ‘appartement’ in search of a pool and long views. But there’s only so much swimming and sunbathing you can do when the temperatures are heading towards 40C. And given the heat, there’s only so much cassoulet, confit de canard, and foie gras you can eat before your taste buds also give up. We googled ‘nearest restaurants’ and I spotted the words ‘mozzarella di buffala’. Italian – yes! I love a good mozzarella. The restaurant was only eight kilometres away from where we were staying, so off we went in search of culinary adventure. Continue reading “Escaping The Heat – get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the work”

Rationed Chicken – the three meal bird

My Guiding Hand
My Guiding Hand

My maternal grandmother (Nanna) was born in the 1890’s, and lived through two world wars with their accompanying ration books and shortages of food. When I was born, partial rationing was still in force and ‘frugality’ was well entrenched in Nanna’s mortal soul. Blessings had to be counted – stockings were mended, collars turned, and clean underwear always had to be worn in case you were run over by a bus. This frugality didn’t stop at the kitchen door. Waste was not to be tolerated. One of my kitchen duties was to scrape the cake mix out of the bowl with a teaspoon, on a promise of the last lick. Every last spoonful, I was told, was enough cake to feed a starving African child. We didn’t own a spatula, so I was amused to read in Bee Wilson’s ‘Consider the Fork’, that rubber spatulas were once referred to as ‘child cheaters’, for their knack of removing every last gram of batter. Nanna would have approved of that. Continue reading “Rationed Chicken – the three meal bird”

Tortilla De Patatas – memories of Andalucia

Cooling off
Tortilla de patatas

I have eaten tortilla, that ubiquitous Spanish dish made from eggs, onions, and potatoes, hundreds of times in my life. Some were good but a lot were bad, spoiled by being made with pre-cooked potatoes, or too much potato. Like all the simplest dishes, especially the eggy ones like scrambled eggs and omelettes, cooking a good tortilla depends on the method you use. I learned to make tortillas thanks to my first husband who had studied Spanish and spent a year teaching in Galicia. To my mind, his recipe is the best I have come across and it’s one of the few things I still have from my first short-lived marriage… Continue reading “Tortilla De Patatas – memories of Andalucia”

Grow What You Eat – tales from the vegetable plot

Furry Scarecrow

My vegetable growing career began in Leipzig, Eastern Germany. Man and I lived in a converted leather factory, whose apartments had balconies suspended over the Elstermühlgraben –  an old mill stream. We lived and barbecued on this 1 metre by 5 metre space from late April to early October. To protect our privacy from neighbours intrigued by our foreign cooking smells, I decided to grow window boxes full of climbing vegetables. Now back in urban London, I grow vegetables on a sunny south facing terrace,  utilising a combination of wooden troughs, long window boxes and a variety of pots.

Fiona, on the other hand, has had at least two proper gardens. One in the Welsh Borders, full of raspberries, lettuces, and beans neatly in rows, with chickens grubbing around and probably the odd Peter Rabbit nibbling away. The other was on a French hillside with gnarled and garrulous farming neighbours clucking over the fence at her very English attempts to grow vegetables in their native soil. Continue reading “Grow What You Eat – tales from the vegetable plot”

Petits Pots de Creme au Chocolat – memories of summers on the Normandy coast

Les petits pot de creme au chocolat
Les petits pot de creme au chocolat

Nearly half a century ago, I ate the most simple of chocolate puddings. The pudding itself was delicious but what really captured my imagination was what it was served in – a tiny white pot with its own lid, decorated with gold trim. It was 19th century porcelain and part of a set of eight little pots with a matching porcelain tray. Nicole, my French friend who had cooked the pudding, told me they were called “petit pots de crème au chocolat” and were made specifically for ‘crème au chocolat’. Continue reading “Petits Pots de Creme au Chocolat – memories of summers on the Normandy coast”

The Art Of Eating Solo

Supper for One
Supper for One

It’s the middle of May. In London the sun makes a rare appearance and then disappears off again behind thick white cloud to be replaced by soft spring rain. Man disappears as well, off to the sunnier climes of East Africa for six weeks, leaving Dog disorientated and searching the house for the missing part of his pack. Dog is not the only one a bit lost. After forty years of planning meals for a full house of four children and four (successive) partners, I am not used to cooking for one, never mind eating on my own. Continue reading “The Art Of Eating Solo”

Foraging In Occitanie – wild green weeds

Respounchous in Albi market
Respounchous in Albi market

Spring time is the season for ‘respounchous’ here in the south west of France. There were a few bunches of them for sale in the market last Saturday but it only takes an hour or two of foraging in the wooded lanes to gather enough respounchous for a light lunch. So, in need of a break from my computer, I decided to go hunting for respounchous… Continue reading “Foraging In Occitanie – wild green weeds”

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter – seasonal rhymes and reasons

Autumn pumpkins

Last week’s Proustian post on asparagus inspired us to come up with our own Proust Quiz on seasons and seasonal food. It’s a theme we are both passionate about, but our answers below reveal that we approach the subject from very different geographical points in the hemisphere… Continue reading “Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter – seasonal rhymes and reasons”