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Showing posts from June, 2014

The pest in pesto

I doubt I'd have tried if I hadn't been surrounded by forests of basil: one small Tesco growing basil has transmuted into a miniature hedge and two 12" terracotta pots of the stuff that are triffid-like in their enthusiasm. An enthusiasm that needed severe curbing. Five ounces of basil prunings might not sound like much but, trust me, it is. 

Home made pesto seemed easy enough: basil, pine nuts, garlic, grated Parmesan, olive oil. But don't believe any recipe that says a blender can substitute for a food processor. I did. It can't.
'Let me help you,' Tony said as a big wodge of basil on a base of cheese and nuts all ignored the gnashing blades and the overheating motor.  'I'm fine. I just need to do it slowly.' 'Why don't you let me help you?' 'I don't need any help!' 'I can get it going,' he said. 'So can I,' I said, grabbing the olive oil and pouring it in two stages before the recipe recommended. 'I'm…

Made with love

The Welsh poet, WH Davies, captured a simple truth with the opening lines of his 'Leisure' poem:


What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
Simple, and easy to remember too. So how come I need to remind myself of it over and over again? I'm probably not alone.

Recently I stood and stared here:


Malling Abbey is only about two miles from my doorstep, in West Malling in Kent, South East England. It's been home to the same closed order of Anglican Benedictine nuns since 1916, but in historical terms that's cake crumbs: the first recorded mention of a community on this site is 946. Although credit goes to the 'builder' Bishop Gundulf for its development and foundation between 1090 and 1150, one of the first post-Conquest monasteries for women.

The wheelbarrow rest-stop in the above photo is the back of the Norman tower. Gundulf's church once enclosed this area but only one of the nave's walls remain, though the play of sunlight on …

Flavour the Market Deli Way

If you're a writer you're gonna love a man who secretly shows you his notebook. If that notebook is brimming with information about flavour arcs, the provenance of fresh ingredients and food's emotional journey then a 'hungry writer' starts to sigh in a manner that causes the people around her to step a little further away! Here's the notebook in question:

And here's the man responsible: the one on the left, Ben of Walkers, the British snack food manufacturers. Although the man on the right, celebrated British chef Tom Aikens, did a pretty good food seduction job too with his exquisite, cook-off dishes of a re-visioned mac 'n' cheese and a zingy gazpacho.
This was the launch of Walkers' new upmarket premium snack range, Market Deli, at Natural Kitchen in Fetter Lane, London a few days ago where taste buds sang and the perfectly partnered wines shimmied along quite willingly too.
I don't think I've ever bought Walkers crisps: they make me th…

Salt's complications. And love. And chips.

Not big flakes or grains the size of peas. I don't need salt nurtured in an Hawaiian sea-salt farm or mined by hand in the Himalayas and carried down the mountains on yaks. I just want something I can shake over my chips. Something that will cling to their hot crispiness, not run off like marbles or stick in my teeth and demolish the chance of tasting anything else. A bit of Saxo will do. Oh, and yes, I'd like it in a shaker not a finger bowl. 'Disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells'
Hungry Writing Prompt Complain about all the things that bug you in life! The incidental and the gargantuan. Write a list. Exorcise yourself!
Now I've exorcised that particular persona of mine let me introduce you to 'Delighted of Tunbridge Wells', or to be more precise, Delighted with Brasserie des Sources at the Tunbridge Wells Hotel on The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells, steak-meisters supreme, with a little help from a Hereford Cross cow that should be given medals (posthumously) for its…

Embracing the crêpe. And other treats.

It's not that I mind it too much: I'm really not hung-up about getting, or looking, older. It's just that it still takes me by surprise, as if my mind is still running on Windows ME, or even Windows 95, and refusing automatic updates about myself. Other women of a certain age will know exactly what I'm talking about. The regular jolts of realisation that, yes, that is my neck, my forearm, my knees: the skin like the wonderfully crinkled craft crêpe paper of my childhood when I turn my head in the mirror, bend my arm to rest my elbow on the table or glance down at my sandalled feet. I'll have to force an upgrade. 
Today I'm celebrating both types of crêpe, the 56 year old kind and the French one: crêpe from the Latin crispus, which means curled or frizzed, and which has only ever jolted me in delightful ways.
I first tried crêpe suzettes while I was working and living in Jersey between 1978 and 1985 where my love of good food and wine was, at first unconsciously, …