Thursday 8 April 2021

Celery Salad

 After a period in which the word 'salad' could be associated with any collection of dispirited green leaves, occasionally enlivened by the amusing addition of strange bedfellows such as peanuts or diced pineapple, the dish is once again coming into its own. Helped in part by the ready availability of interesting oils and vinegars to give added depth: caprese salad, with the complicated sweetness of balsamic vinegar , for example, or a classic bean and tuna salad, but with the addition of sherry vinegar rather than a bog standard white wine variety.

This celery salad I found in a collection of recipes by Carluccio. It is surprising, in that it reminds me of no other salad treatment that I know, and there's something about the dish which feels ancient. Carluccio talked about being served this salad as a child, in Calabria, just after the War, and neither the period nor the location suggests dilettante self-indulgence. Rather, one gets the feeling that this is a dish which has been being consumed by peasants over the ages, all the way back to Roman times. Having tried it once, it firmly entered my repertoire.

In cooking both the celery and the onion, it is important to remember that the vegetables are merely being softened, and not cooked to a mush; they want to go beyond being al dente, but still to have some structure to them. I served the salad here on a bed of rocket leaves, which had been dressed in walnut oil and bergamot juice - but that was just because I had all of that to-hand, and those are entirely optional elements. The real hit in the dish comes from the sweet edginess of the vinegar which has penetrated into the softened flesh of the diced onion.

For two servings.

Ingredients: half a head of celery; one medium white onion; 1 tbs olive oil; 1 tbs white wine vinegar; salad leaves, lightly dressed (optional). Chopped parsley.


1. Finely dice the celery, and blanch it for two minutes in a large pan of boiling, salted water. Drain into a colander, and leave to cool.

2. Heat the oil in a small  pan, and in it gently cook the finely diced onion. Do not let it colour, or to become crisp. Once the onion is soft, turn off the heat, lightly salt the onion and stir in the vinegar, which the onion will absorb as it cools. 

3. Taste the cooled celery and add salt, if needed - it probably won't. Divide it between two salad plates, on the bed of dressed salad leaves, and scatter the onion, still warm, over the top of the celery. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top of that, and serve.

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Hazelnut souffle


Five minutes' prep; eleven minutes in the oven, et voila! How to simplify life, in ten easy stages...

For two souffles.

Ingredients: 11g plain flour; 28g sugar + 1 additional tbs sugar; 2.5 fl oz milk (yes, I know I'm mixing imperial measures and metric - it's my age....I'm allowed to); 2 egg yolks; 1 tbs hazelnut paste (I use the excellent stuff that comes from Fabbri); 3 egg whites; a pinch of salt.


1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Grease two ramekins.

2. In the top part of a double boiler put the flour, milk and 28g sugar. Over heat, mix everything together and cook until it thickens (about five minutes or so). When this has happened, turn off the heat and quickly stir in the egg yolks and hazelnut paste.

3. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites, throwing in the pinch of salt as you start. As the egg whites begin to stiffen, gradually add the additional spoonful of sugar. 

4. When the egg whites are stiff, mix one third of them into the souffle base mixture, to lighten it, and then fold all of the mixture back into the remaining beaten egg white. 

5. Divide the mixture between the two prepared ramekins and bake for eleven minutes. 

Tuesday 6 April 2021

More Garden...

 While the sun still shines...

The tulip bed - in the only part of the garden which is cold and shady
enough that the tulips don't bolt

Tulip Bagni di Lucca

Quince blossom

Choisya - finally deciding to bloom properly, after years of merely thinking about it!

Bitter Cherry

Unreachable Cherry

Sweet Cherry

The first Arum Lily of the year

Dinner Tonight:

Celery Salad

Spit-roast chicken, stuffed with Marsala & Lemon; fagiolini

Bergamot souffles

Courgette Fritters, with Tsatsiki

 I first came across a (rather basic) recipe for this some years ago in a collection by Lyndsey Bareham, and I was happy to adopt it as another way of dealing with this somewhat uninspiring but entirely reliable vegetable. This version, however, is adapted from the book of Turkish recipes  by Ozlem Warren which I found under the tree last Christmas, and which I cannot recommend too highly. 

For two servings(about ten fritters).

Ingredients: 2 medium courgettes; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 1 garlic clove; small handful of parsley; 1 tbs chopped dill; salt; pepper; 2 medium eggs; 2 tbs flour; 1 dried red chili, crumbled; 100g feta cheese, finely diced.

For the tsatsiki: 1 cup  greek yoghurt; 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced; 1 clove garlic, minced; 1 tbs fresh mint, minced; salt, to taste.


1. Using the grater disc on the food processor, grate the courgettes, add salt, and leave in a colander for 15 minutes to leach out their liquid.

2. Meanwhile, in a bowl combine the onion, garlic, chili and fresh herbs.

3. After 15 minutes, wrap the grated courgette in a cloth and twist to squeeze out all of the liquid. Add the courgette to the bowl, and mix to combine with the other ingredients.

3. Mix in the eggs, feta and flour. Make sure everything is properly amalgamated, and season to taste.

4. Heat a large flat pan, and add to it about 2 mm of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mixture to the pan in a number of spoonfuls - for this, I also use a 2 " diameter metal ring, to get some kind of conformity to the shape of the fritters; the mixture should spread only slightly as it cooks. Cook over medium-high heat, and use a palette knife to turn them once they are cooked on one side (after about three minutes) briefly cook on the second side and then remove from the pan to a dish to keep warm in a low oven while the remainder of the fritters are being made. I find this amount of mixture cooks in two batches, but it depends on the size of the pan you're using).

5. For the tsatsiki, mix together all of the ingredients in a small bowl, and put to one side until ready to serve.

6. Divide the warm fritters between two serving bowls, and add a dollop of tsatski to each serving.

Monday 5 April 2021

Easter Monday

 Blissful weather - for now, at any rate. Arctic blasts down from the alps are forecast for the rest of this week, and after that, days on-end of rain. Which might be a good thing, as I've already had to be watering the borders on a daily basis..

Camellia Roseball

Straight lines in Nature - very satisfying!

Camellia Kellingtonia

The box hedging, doing its stuff

Loropetalum, in full bloom, poking out from the shrubbery

A tulip - nameless, since I can't now remember what I planted
The S.E Pergola, getting things in perspective

Bearded Iris, limbering up...

Another loropetalum, with attendant four-footed

Quince, showing off its shape

The West Pergola, catching the rays

Four-footed, flaked out, after an afternoon's heavy-duty weeding

Tonight's dinner:

Courgette fritters, with Tzatsiki

Roast Pork, with Salmoriglio sauce; roast salsify

Lemon and Amaretto parfait