Wednesday 20 November 2019

Wednesday morning...

Finally we have a day's respite from the rain - so, I shall spend the afternoon planting the tulip and daffodil bulbs for next Spring: 400, in all.

Tonight's dinner:

Crispy won ton (prawn & pork stuffing) with sweet & sour sauce

Boudins blancs, with broccoli puree

Monday 28 October 2019

Seed Cake

I've never warmed to the name: Seed Cake. It conjures up images of something dry and tasteless, served at uncomfortable victorian tea-parties. This reality couldn't be more different. The cake is light and moist, and entirely delicious.

It's the time of year when I'm starting on the heavy-duty garden tasks - planting and transplanting and pruning and hacking back - and at 4.30 (ish) the char wallah approaches across the lawn with a tray bearing tea and a slice of cake. Often, Seed Cake. Of which the four-footed always begs a piece.
In general, it's perfection. 
And the four-footed agrees.

For 1 x 20 cm circular cake.
225g butter; 170g sugar; 3 medium eggs; 225g flour; 2.5 tsp baking powder; half tsp turmeric; half tsp nutmeg; 2 tsp caraway seeds; 2 tbs brandy.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Grease the cake tin, and line the base with greaseproof paper.

3. In the food-processor, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one by one. Combine the flour, baking powder, turmeric, caraway seeds and nutmeg in a bowl and add them altogether to the processor bowl and mix infor a couple of seconds. Finally, add the brandy while the machine is running.

4. Transfer the mixture to the cake tin, spreading to meet the edge of the tin.

5. Bake for 45 minutes. Let it cool in the tin for ten minutes or so, and then turn out onto a rack.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Mists & Mellow Fruitfulness

Tonight's dinner:

Courgette souffles

Papardelle with smothered onions

Coffee Bavarois

Saturday 14 September 2019


Il barocco? Un lusso con Pinnock e OrliÃ…„ski

Jakob Josef Orlinski, singing Vivaldi and Fago in the Duomo on Thursday evening, accompanied by Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert. It was beyond merely memorable. It was sublime. The very stones of the cathedral resonated to Orlinski's voice. Arguably, the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.

Tonight's dinner:

Ravioli of chicken and herbs

Rogon Josh, Basmati Rice

Pistachio souffles

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Fig fritters

Image result for fig fritters

We have a glut. 
Of everything, pretty much. 
I've bottled pears,and apricots, and nectarines. I've made apricot jam, and, just now, half a dozen kilos of white peach jam. I've made many (many) kilos of apple puree,with sugar and butter and lemon zest and cinnamon, which will do for apple puddings and as the base for tartes aux pommes as we wade into the autumn and winter months. And then, there are the figs.  Thus far, only the green ones - of which we have about six fruiting trees - but the purple ones will be upon us as well by the end of the month. We've been ploughing through them with yoghurt and honey, for breakfast (in tandem with luscious yellow peaches from the weeping peach tree, and raspberries, which I've been harvesting  by the handful every morning for several months now), and they've done service as well in roast fig ice`cream, and in fig tarts.
Fig fritters, though, is a discovery. And an excellent one. Probably the best discovery of this summer, along with chestnut honey ice cream, which is stratospherically good (standard custard base for ice cream of 5 egg yolks, to 50g sugar, to 250 ml each of cream and milk; add to this 2 tbs of chestnut honey when making the custard, and then continue as normal: the result is stellar!)
This recipe comes from Janet Mendel, from her highly recommendable 'Cooking in Spain'. In the same chapter as her recipe for banana pancakes, which is also surprisingly good.

Approx 1 kilo fresh figs; 2 eggs, separated; 150 ml milk; 1tbs olive oil; pinch of salt; grated zest of 1 lemon; 12g flour; 1 tbs sugar (plus extra to sprinkle at the end); vegetable oil, for frying.


1. Halve or quarter the figs, depending on their size. If the fleshy top is merely 'fleshy',then cut it off and discard it.

2. Combine everything else, apart from the egg whites, in a liquidizer, and let stand in the refrigerator for two hours.

3. Beat the egg whites until loosely stiff, and fold them into the mixture. 

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a wide pan - I find a wok is best for this kind of frying, it gives you maximum depth of oil for a relatively small amount of the stuff, and so limits wastage - and once the oil is good and hot, dip the individual bits of fig in the batter and drop them into th oil; if the oil is hot enough, the batter should seize pretty much on contact. Turn them to fry the other side after about six seconds.

5. As each batch is done, remove them from the oil onto kitchen paper to drain. Sprinkle with sugar before serving. Excellent with vanilla ice cream


Friday 9 August 2019

Early morning, August

Tonight's Dinner:

Tuna Tartare

Papardelle with smothered onions

Almond & Hazelnut Tarts with honey ice cream

Sunday 4 August 2019


Crinum Vanillodorum

At the sharp end...

Tonight's dinner:

Caprese Salad

Spit-roast boned lamb shoulder, stuffed with anchovy & garlic
Saute potatoes

Bergamot souffles 

Friday 2 August 2019

Courgette blinis

Image result for courgettes

Excellent on their own... and much better when served with a generous dollop of home-made tzatziki. The secret to getting them right is (1) to have the pan hot enough before you add the batter (2) to use only the lightest coating of oil in the pan, and (3) to leave them for long enough after the batter has first gone in for the blinis to have developed a good firm 'skin' before you flip them over.

Makes 12.

2 medium courgettes; 2 eggs; 50g flour; 20g butter, melted; 1 tbs finely chopped chives or onion; 50g feta; 75g parmesan (or grana); 1 generous spoonful of greek yoghurt.


1. Heat a large frying pan, and drizzle into it just enough oil to film the surface.

2. Using the grater disc on the food processor, grate the courgettes.

3. Whisk together the eggs, butter, and flour. Fold into this the grated courgette, and then use the processor to blitz together the two cheeses, and in turn fold these into the batter, along with the chives or onion. Stir in the yoghurt and season to taste with about a tsp of salt.

4. Making sure the pan is good and hot, spoon the mixture in rounds into the pan - I use a crumpet ring to do this; it's a good size, and makes regular blinis rather than misshapen dollops. In my largest pan I can do six blinis at a time, and so this amount of batter takes two full loads.

5. Allow to cook for about two minutes before gently sliding the edge of a palette knife under each blini, and once you are sure they are firm enough not to fall to pieces, flip them over, to cook on the other side. After about a minute, they're done.

6. Keep warm in a low oven until all are done, and you're ready to serve.

Thursday 1 August 2019

Lemon Cheesecake

Image result for lemon cheesecake

This is the recipe from Stephen Bull where he has you start out by pre-heating the oven to 180 degrees c, and then never has you go back to it again (for the very good reason that this cheesecake requires no baking). I have an image of ovens the world over having been preheated to 180 degrees C, and still sitting there, waiting to be put to some use, many years after the cheesecake itself has been consumed.
Notwithstanding the editorial snafu, the recipe is excellent. Possibly even better the day after it has been made, when the texture has firmed even more. Rarely is there any left for the second day, however, since it is delicious and light and very, very moreish. A favourite with the Technical Dept.

For one 20 cm cheesecake, serves six.

150g digestive biscuits; 50g & 125g butter; 150g sugar; 3 eggs, separated; 200g cream cheese; juice and zest of 2 lemons; 300 ml cream.


1. Melt the 50g butter, and blitz in a food processor along with the biscuits. Press the resultant mixture into the base of a pre-greased false-bottomed 20cm cake tin.

2. Process the remaining butter with the sugar, then add to this the egg yolks, cream cheese, lemon juice and zest. 

3. In two separate bowls, whisk the cream and the egg whites, so that each is stiff enough to hold its shape. Fold the lemon cheese mixture into the whisked cream, and then fold into this the beaten egg whites.

4. Heap the mixture into the cake tin - it should mound generously - and refrigerate for at least four hours.  If feeling festive, you could scatter more grated lemon zest over the top, to serve. Stand back for requests for second helpings.

Wednesday 31 July 2019


Image result for tomatoes

It's that time of year, again. Early mornings working in the garden, afternoon siestas, and dinner al fresco and by candlelight, out in the barn,  long after the sun has gone down. Cold food is the order of the day - well, not exclusively, but a lot more than would be the case otherwise - and gazpacho comes to the fore as it always does  when July comes round.

Everybody seems to have their own version, and many of them are deeply eccentric (watermelon? In gazpacho? I don't think so...). This is more-or-less Paula Wolfert's recipe as given in her 'Mediterranean Cooking', which first found its way onto the bookshelf when it first came out, forty years or so ago. Fortunately, I understand that there's a new edition, which could not be more timely, since mine has got to the stage where the sellotape which holds its pages in place is fighting a losing battle against time and tide. Many happy memories, of dinners around the table in the small courtyard in the Old House in Greece, candles flickering, and the sounds of nightlife from the street outside the gate mingling with the music which spilled softly out along with the light from the living room window.  

For two generous servings:

Ingredients: 400 ml tomato juice; 1 small onion; 1 red pepper; 1/2 medium cucumber; 1 medium tomato; 1 large clove garlic; 4 fl oz stock (or water); 1 tbs olive il; 1 tbs wine vinegar; tabasco. Salt and pepper. Croutons, for serving. 


1. Along with half the tomato juice, liquidize the tomato, onion, and garlic, along with half the pepper (de-seeded) and half the cucumber. 

2. Add to this mixture the stock, remaining tomato juice, and oil and vinegar. Refrigerate for a least several hours.

3. Stir in a few drops of tabasco, and add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve, garnished generously with croutons, and the remaining cucumber and pepper, finely diced.

Tuesday 18 June 2019


An orchard of Annabelles

M.  'Beaute Vendomoise'

M. 'Forever'

M. 'Tri-colore' variegata

A mixed bag of quercifolias

S. 'Rictus Pictis'
M. 'Dr Jean Varnier'
M. 'Nadeshiko Gaku'

Tonight's dinner:

Prawn fritters

Chicken in Marsala sauce


Friday 24 May 2019



Tonight's dinner:

Clafouti of gorgonzola and prosciutto

Pork Loin in Speck, spit-roast; gratin of courgette and tomato

Mousse of chocolate, coffee and banana

Monday 6 May 2019

Thought for the day

Mistrust anybody who describes themselves as 'passionate'. Either in general terms, or with reference to anything in particular. 'Human Rights', and 'Environmental Issues' spring immediately to mind, but the comment holds good more broadly  If they feel the need to tell you that they are, you can be fairly sure that in fact... they aren't.

Tuesday 30 April 2019

Devotions XVII

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; 
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promonterie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; 
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde
And therefore never send to find for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

For my Mother.
8.iv.1926 - 17.iv.2019

Friday 12 April 2019


Ever since I first discovered it, I've always thought Kulfi wonderful stuff. And I had no idea, literally for decades, that it is such a simple thing to make. Research into recipes for Kulfi was prompted by the double discovery of (i) the availability in Pisa of evaporated milk, in industrial quantities, in the ethnic food-shop down near the station (which is a complete time capsule selling tinned goods from sixty years and more ago, when the far-flung outposts of empire required a reliable supply of Spam, and Marmite, and tins of corned beef and other such wonders), and (ii) a range of frozen desserts which suit my Ma's increasingly compromised diet, and which by happenstance come in plastic containers which are exactly the shape and size for re-use as kulfi moulds, in traditional kulfi shape.
This recipe is the simplest form of kulfi that I've found. There are many more elaborate versions, and I expect I might progress to those once I've got bored with this plain version - I can't see that happening any time soon, though.

For four individual  servings.


2 cups (i.e 1 can) of evaporated milk; 1/2 cup of gorund almonds; 1/2 cup sugar; 2 tsp almond flavouring.


1. Combine all the ingredients and stir to amalgamate thoroughly.  Leave in the fridge until properly chilled.

2. Churn in an ice-cream machine until the mixture has visibly thickened, but is not so thick that it won't easily be transferred into the individual moulds.

3. Transfer the mixture into individual kulfi moulds, and freeze for at least two hours until firm.

4. To unmould, briefly wrap a hot cloth around the outside of each mould and ease the kulfi out to stand proud on its plate.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

Digestive biscuits

Image result for digestive biscuits

I can  get digestives in Italy, but I'm not prepared to pay the silly price they ask for them. I started to make these in order to have them for use in making the base for cheesecake (most notably, either the lemon cheesecake from Stephen Bull or else his peanut butter version, either of which is excellent) - the Technical Dept greeted with derision the fact that I was making biscuits merely in order to throw them into the food processor to be crushed to smithereens....but he is possibly unaware that a significant number remain, and are consumed surreptitiously with a cup of tea at the end of an afternoon's gardening. Long may he remain in ignorance!

This recipe comes from the internet - from an irish cook who's name now entirely escapes me - and could not be more straightforward.

For approx 16 biscuits (I use a large cutter, and so the number will obviously be greater if  a regular size biscuit cutter is used)

225 g wholemeal flour; 120 g butter; 90 g sugar; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp salt; 60 ml milk.


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. In a food processor, blitz together all of the ingredients except the milk, and then add the milk once everything else has been thoroughly amalgamated.

3. Roll out the biscuit dough on a floured surface to approx 2 mm thickness and cut out the biscuit rounds. Re-roll the scraps and continue until all the dough has been used.

4. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before removing the biscuits from the baking tray, and then let them sit on a rack for about 30 minutes before storing them in an airtight box.

Monday 8 April 2019

Ginger Creme Brulee

Image result for creme brulee

First class! Light and delicious, and refreshingly surprising for those who have no expectation before they break through the crust of the ginger flavour which is about to assail them. This is one from the ever-reliable Michel Roux. 

For three.

40g ginger root; 250 ml milk; 250 ml cream; 75g caster sugar; 5 egg yolks; 35g demarara sugar.


1. Peel the ginger and dice it very finely. Place the dice in a square of muslin or a small muslin bag and squeeze hard to get as much juice as possible into a small bowl (a surprising amount of juice will be generated).

2. Heat the milk, cream and 45g of the caster sugar in a simmertopf until hot. 

3. Whisk the egg yolks with the remaining caster sugar and pour over this mixture the heated cream. Whisk to incorporate thoroughly, and then incorporate the ginger juice.

4. Pour into egg dishes, and then cook for about 55 minutes in a 100 degree C oven. When they come out of the oven they should be lightly set, but still slightly wobbly in the centre.

5. Allow to cool, and then refrigerate for at least two hours.

6. Before serving, sprinkle the surface of the cremes with demarara sugar and apply a blowtorch. Refrigerate again thereafter for at least ten minutes before taking them to table.