Friday, 17 September 2021

The resident senior citizen..


...taking his new dri-bag for a test drive.

Being seriously elderly, the four-footed requires much more frequent baths than used to be the case (for reasons which we need not go into, to avoid blushes). And when this can involve the use of a garden hose in the middle of the north lawn, where he can then dry in the sun, stretched out beneath one of the fruit trees, all works well, since he remains in pristine condition until he's dry, once more. If he's bathed in the house, however, his preference is then to go hot-foot to the courtyard, where he scruffs around and digs a hole in the gravel just the right size to lie in....which means that within minutes of escaping the bath, he is completely filthy from all of the dust and general grunge which lies beneath the gravel. Hence, the dri-bag. Which conveniently corrals him while he gently steams dry inside.

He hadn't seen one of these things before, and was mildly thoughtful about it all. 

When he wasn't merely trying to wander off, that is, as I wrestled with the damned thing's zip.

Unlike his great aunt, though, once he was inside, and all properly sealed, he settled down perfectly well to the experience. His great aunt, who was a dog of much character, on the other hand, had decided within minutes of first being put into a dri bag, that what was needed was two neat holes for the feet...which she then proceeded to create, while my back was turned. It was more of a statement of independence, I think, than a practical attempt at escape, as her back legs were still incapacitated in the rear part of the bag. She'd made her point, she so often did.

Tonight's dinner:

Stuffed aubergine

Fegato all Veneziana

Peach and hazelnut tarts

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

Drowning in the scent...

 of the trachelospermum, which currently practically overwhelms the entire house...

Tonight's dinner:

Turkish salad (like Greek salad, but with cumin added to the seasoning)

Navarin d'agneau; celery braised in wine 

Chocolate & Orange cheesecake

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Brochettes of Pike


Delicious, light, and economical. Not a last-minute dish, as the mixture needs to sit for several hours at least before the brochettes can be poached - but, that apart, this recipe takes little time, and the end result can either be a light main course, or a substantial starter. In either case, it is sophisticated enough to present to guests or self-indulgent enough to enjoy on your own. The mixture, once made, freezes well, and so can be taken from the freezer and used in whatever quantity you need at the time.

The TD informs me that the sauce which cloaks the brochettes is a 'sauce aurore' - I'll take his word for it. As shown here, I like to place the brochettes on a bed of buttered spinach, cooked until just tender and seasoned with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg.

For four servings:


400g raw pike fillets, skinned (or any firm white fish; I often use either mullet or a fish we get here called gallinella...which in english is apparently a tub gurnard); 150g softened butter; 300ml milk; 150g plain flour; 6 eggs, separated; 1 tsp salt; generous pinch each of pepper and of nutmeg. 

For the sauce: 2 tbs dry white wine; 1 tsp colla di alici (fish sauce); 1 tbs tomato paste; 150 g mascarpone; pinch of chilli powder (cayenne pepper) ; pinch of sugar.


1. Process together the fish fillets and the butter

2. Bring the milk to the boil, in a small pan, and then add the flour and beat together with a wooden spoon over low heat until the mixture has adhered into a ball (think: choux pastry).Leave to cool down for five minutes.

3. Add the egg yolks and the flour mixture to the butter-fish mixture and process all together.

4. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and then fold into them the mixture from the food processor, along with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once properly incorporated, cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

5. Bring to the boil a large pan (I use a large saute pan) of salted water. Using two spoons, form the mixture into little dumplings, and poach them in the boiling liquid for about five minutes, until they float to the surface.

6. Arrange the poached brochettes (as they have now become) on a bed of buttered spinach, in individual egg dishes.

7. Mix together all of the sauce ingredients, and spoon it over the brochettes (don't bother about the spread of the sauce over the brochettes- it is one of those things which rearranges itself properly in the process of being cooked, and so just heaping it more or less in the centre of each dish will be fine)

8. Heat for 8-10 minutes in a 180 degree C oven.


Friday, 7 May 2021

Roses, roses, roses.....

May - and the roses are completely stunning!

His Dark Lady

Alec's Red

La Sevillana

Margaret Merrill

Mary Rose


Palais Royale

Coral Dawn

Pierre de Ronsard

Cecile Brunner

More Cecile Brunner

Yet more Cecile Brunner

And Cecile Brunner (reverse view)

Mrs Honey Dyson

Climbing Iceberg


Tonight's dinner (after a gardening day):


Hamburgers with Piselli all Romana

Bavarois (vanilla)

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Newly flowering in the garden, this week...

 Wonderful days of glorious sunshine, which fool us into thinking it's here to stay...and then we nose-dive back into drear and drizzle. Oh least the flowers keep on coming, more or less, whatever.

Botticelli (Meilland)

City of York (Climber)

Cassandra (climber)


Clematis Montana Rubens

Pierre de Ronsard

Alec's Red

Iceberg (climber)

Mary Rose

Leatherleaf Vibernum


Tonight's dinner:

Salade tiede of fave beans, prosciutto and peppers

Chicken, seared with garlic & scallions, and finished with dry marsala & sherry vinegar; buttered spinach

Apple Frittata

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Chocolate fondant pudding, with white chocolate sauce

 Simplicity itself. Self-indulgent, luxurious, and deeply satisfying!

For two.

Ingredients: 1 egg; 60 g butter; 60 g soft brown sugar; 50 g flour; 1 tsp baking powder; 15 g cocoa powder; 50g white chocolate; half a cup of cream; 1 tsp vanilla essence; 2 squares dark chocolate.


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease two individual pudding basins.

2. Process together the flour, egg, sugar, baking powder, cocoa, and butter. Divide this mixture between the two greased basins. Press into each one a square of chocolate and cover with the mixture.

3. Bake for twenty minutes.

4. Meanwhile, in the top part of a double boiler, melt he white chocolate along with the cream and vanilla. Stir to blend.

5. Unmould the baked puddings onto dessert plates, and spoon he white chocolate sauce over the top before serving.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Mixed Berry & Peach Strudel

 Served here with bergamot cream.

This is another of those perfectly presentable last-minute desserts for when you have very little time or else have to deal for some reason with the unexpected. And it is delicious.

Serves Four:


2 cups mixed berries, either fresh or frozen (I used redcurrants and blackcurrants, raspberries and blackberries); 1 peach, quartered,and then each quarter diced; 1 cup breadcrumbs; half cup sugar (or sucralose); 50g butter; three sheets phyllo pastry, each one 12" x 18".


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Melt half the butter in a small pan, add to it the breadcrumbs and toast them for a minute or so over high heat. 

3. In a bowl, combine the toasted breadcrumbs with the fruit and sugar. It should adhere, to form a dense mass; if it needs some help to do so, add a tbs or so of milk.

4. Melt the remaining butter and use it to butter each sheet of the phyllo, layering them one on top of another as you go. Leave a spoonful or two of melted butter to use later.

5. Spread the fruit filling over the half of the the phyllo rectangle which is nearest to you, with the shortest side facing you. Leave a margin of pastry of about 2" at the end which faces you, and along each side. Fold the exposed end of the pastry over the filling, and fold in each of the uncovered lengths of phyllo along the sides. Then, starting from the end nearest you, roll the whole thing into a neat cylinder, tucking in the sides as necessary, as you go.

6. Place on a greased baking sheet, and brush the top of the strudel with the last spoonful or so of the melted butter. Bake in the pre-heated oven for twenty minutes or so until golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

For bergamot cream, mix the grated lest of a bergamot (or a lemon, if no bergamot is available) with two cups of mascarpone, and half a cup of sugar. 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

More flowers...

 Azaleas, this time. In their all-too-brief flowering period. Pictures snapped in yesterday morning's sunshine...

Tonight's dinner:

Asparagus a la Parisienne

Salmon, in mushroom and Phyllo, with a puree of creamed leek

Vanilla Bavarois

Portobello Mushroom, roast with Balsamic Vinegar...

...and then dressed with toasted, herbed breadcrumbs and a gorgonzola sauce. 

Simple, quick, and straightforward. And an excellent combination of edgy flavours.

For two.


2 large portobello mushrooms; 6 tbs olive oil; 1 tbs balsamic vinegar; 6 tbs breadcrumbs; 1 tsp dried thyme; salt and pepper; 100 g gorgonzola; 2 tbs milk; parsley (for garnish).


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Place each of the mushrooms in an appropriate sized oven-proof dish. Drizzle each mushroom with 1 tbs oil and 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar, so that the oil and vinegar seep into the gills of the mushroom. Roast for twenty minutes.

3. In a small roasting pan or similar, mix together the breadcrumbs and thyme, and season to taste; drizzle a further 2 tbs olive oil over the breadcrumbs, and add to the oven for the last eight minutes or so of the mushroom roasting time.

4. Meanwhile, combine gorgonzola, milk and the remaining oil and heat gently, stirring, as the cheese melts into the oil and milk.

5. At the end of the roasting time, divide the toasted breadcrumbs between the two mushrooms, and spoon the cheese sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Flowers and stuff

Rosa Laevigata

Always the first rose in the garden to bloom

After three days of rain...the sun came out!

Apple blossom... the last of the fruit trees to
mark the arrival of Spring

One of the few remaining 'old' trees in the Old Orchard



Tonight's Dinner:

Portobello Mushrooms, roast with garlic breadcrumbs, and served with a gorgonzola sauce

Pork Chops, baked with artichoke and tomato; roast salsify

Fresh Pineapple with Mascarpone