Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from December, 2014

What matters in the here and now: food and grace.

Last night's here and now was an experiment with Pissaladière, Niçoise kind of open tart, or flat bread, filled or topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and black olives. We've invited our neighbours in for a New Year's glass or two of champagne and nibbles next Sunday and I'm playing around with canapé ideas - the usual meat, fish, vegetarian presentation. I wanted to see if the topping would hold up cooked on a sheet of puff pastry then cut into small squares. It does. But it won't. It's more a 'chomp on that with a glass of rustic red wine' kind of snack than a glass of champagne one.
To be honest, I seem to be thinking too much about this event, trying too hard to come up with little plates of food to welcome people into our home. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's a side-effect of lingering jet lag after flying back from Florida a couple of days ago. Maybe I'm focussing too much on wanting to impress people, some of whom I hardly know. …

The Hunger Trap (and my inexcusable, creativity-barren attempts to escape from it)

I can count the number of ready meal items I buy at home in the UK on one hand. Make that less than one hand: Tesco Finest Prawn and Chili Fishcakes and Four Cheese frozen pizzas. They're quick 'feed me/us now' options. The fishcakes are for me when I'm on my own: baked and crisped up in the oven and slipped onto a rocket (arugula) salad. The pizzas are for us both on a chow down in front of the TV night: we undress them, top them with a selection of fresh sliced tomatoes, char-grilled artichokes, hot and sweet peppers, black olives, maybe a few slices of Waitrose's Italian fennel salami on mine, and wait 15 minutes for the oven to exert its transforming powers of bubble and melt.
So why was I gazing into the icy bowels of a freezer at Publix supermarket on Deerfield Beach, here in south Florida, a couple of nights ago as if it held the answers to my culinary dreams? Some possible reasons. 
Tony wasn't hungry so I was looking only to feed myself. It was late, 8pm…

Sweet life

I'm trying to remember where my school tuck shop was. The sprawling Sandfields Comprehensive School was divided into Lower, Middle and Upper sections of red brick buildings, each with their own assembly halls. I'm pretty sure it occupied a small room at the end of an L-shaped covered walkway behind the Lower School Hall, at the edge a kind of no-man's land yard that joined all three parts but didn't seem to belong to any particular one. Ah, the democracy of the comprehensive system! A system that still marshalled their identified high achievers into an unspoken grammar stream of 3 forms labelled X, Y and L and placed the kids at the other end of the academic spectrum into Form A!
But I can't see beyond the Tuck Shop's split door, or was it a slide-open window? I can suggest a list of chocolate bars and packets of crisps from the late 1960s and early 1970s that might have nudged up against each other on the shelves but I have no memory of handing over money for a…

Small things we love and Blue Mind Science

Everyone has a favourite kitchen utensil, right? Something quite ordinary, maybe, not necessarily a shiny and mind-boggling piece of culinary technology.
I have one. But Tony, my husband, hates it. My mother finds it awkward when she visits. But I discovered, by accident, that a friend shares my passion for it. When I told him I'd written a poem in its praise, he asked for a copy to put up in his kitchen. How deep is our love!
In Praise of Things
Today I want to say something wonderful about my potato peeler – the way the ergonomically designed handle fits snugly in the curve of my palm as if it was made for the valley of my right hand.
I want to tell you how it is soul-mate to thick-skinned vegetables – cloudy tangerine columns of carrot knobbly orbs of King Edwards. How it slides over them as if it might be wrapping them not unwrapping them as if it might be whispering while secretly stealing their skin.
I love the way the steel head swivels gently rocking from side to side accommodating each rid…

Does anything eat jellyfish?

The mornings begin here, on Hillsboro Beach in South Florida, pretty much as they do at home: one of us makes tea and brings it back to bed. But we do not look up at the fickle English sky through the Velux windows or catch the faint drone of the motorway in the distance. Instead we gaze out at the Atlantic, the horizon brightening with the rising sun, the sound of the wind ruffling, or sometimes bullying, the water into white and whiter peaks.
Then our mornings' paths diverge a while for fresh papaya squeezed with the zing of lime, meet again an hour later for coffee made with milk and sweet with brown sugar, then strike off more determinedly for a walk along the beach towards Lighthouse Point, our feet in the shallows, keeping an eye out for shells and coral. And jellyfish. Quite a lot of jellyfish trundled out of a bolshy sea over the last couple of days.
Some are glassy and pinkly luminous in their freshness, up to nine inches in diameter, still pulsing faintly on the wet sand. …