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Tortilla, lentils and salad with a little salsa brava

May 4, 2016

This picture was taken in Girona, but can almost be recreated in Devon as instant, microwaveable tortillas (the potato kind) are available in supermarkets. The beloved would rather make his own though. It uses a lot of olive oil.

Heat about 4fl oz of  olive oil in a large frying pan and add 4 large thinly sliced potatoes carefully. The potatoes need to be kept separate – tricky as they want to stick together. Cook them for about 5 minutes giving them a stir every now and then.

Chop an onion (preferably not a red one) and some garlic cloves and add them to the potatoes. Cook gently until the potatoes are tender. Drain the lot into a colander, leaving about 3 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Any remaining oil you can use again next time.

Whisk 5 eggs in a bowl large enough to accommodate the potato mix. Add the potatoes and some salt to the eggs and stir. Leave for a while to infuse. Put the pan back on the heat and then put the mixture back into it, spreading it out evenly. Cook over a lower heat and shake the pan frequently until mixture is almost set, then put a plate on the pan and flip the tortilla onto it and then slide it back into the pan upside down to cook the bottom – make sure there’s a bit of oil in the pan.

Cook till it’s done. Serve with salad, lentils and salsa brava – for which I have yet to find a recipe.

Not sure this will cut it with Carlo for Star Wars day dinner though – I think he’s expecting something more dramatic.



Garlic bread etc

November 7, 2014

Sometimes a post is worth the wait; sometimes not.

Language student season continues. Arnau (sorry, rubbish photo) who was lovely – didn’t say much, but smiled shyly – and discovered garlic bread while he was in England – not only discovered garlic bread, but was keen to learn how to make it too. He was a little overshadowed by Vedran with his daily  banana bread baking though, which was a pity.


I promised that I would post this back in July – so Arnau, if you’re looking – sorry for the delay, but better late than never.

Garlic bread is fairly easy  – chop the parsley and chop the garlic into very, very small bits, dollop the lot into a bowl with some butter and salt if the butter’s unsalted and mix well.


Then cut some diagonal slices not all the way through a baguette, fill the cuts  with the garlic and parsley butter, wrap the lot in foil and bake for about 10 minutes in a very hot oven. Usually I don’t bother with the foil, but for some reason I did this time – it does stop the butter from running all over the floor of the oven.

This principle works well with basil instead of parsley – add a thin slice of tomato to the basil and butter mixture in each cut. Delicious.

At the moment the Aga is off because we are waiting for Richard to service it. We turned it off when we went to Spain for a holiday thinking that we wouldn’t be that cold when we got back and we ‘d be fine if it took a few days to get it back on again.

Temperature is a funny thing. When you’re somewhere hot you can’t really imagine what it’s like to be cold, and when you’re somewhere cold you can’t really  imagine what it’s like to be hot. Well you can, but it always falls short of the mark. And given that I know this, why did I  imagine that we could live without the heat of Aga? Or its cooking powers?

Probably because we thought we’d be still able to eat sardines outside in the sunshine in October in England…

There’s nothing quite as delicious as a salt rubbed sardine (preferably more than one) cooked on a fire on the beach and eaten with some fresh bread and a squeeze of lemon, but you probably have to be in Malaga to really appreciate it – and not Devon. In the rain.


Vedran makes banana bread

July 7, 2014


It’s language student season with a vengeance here and the town is buzzing with different languages. Makes it seem quite cosmopolitan. Pity about the weather.

It’s not often that students want to cook, even though the beloved tries often to persuade them to make their national dish, but Vedran is an exception to the rule. This is because he fell in love with banana bread. Big time. “I will never tire of banana bread” he said – and for two weeks he didn’t. He left for Montenegro via London carrying a freshly made loaf. The rest of us think it won’t have made it out of Devon, but we might be wrong.

Here’s the recipe in case he forgets how to make it, but somehow I don’t think he will. Might come in handy for Arnau though…

banana-for-bakingThis makes one loaf – for a 1lb loaf tin. It’s best to use very, very overripe bananas as they are sweeter and break down more easily, but we were making bread so often that the bananas were almost edible as they were – that is, Katrine and Rella would consider them at a perfect stage of ripeness.

Mash two very ripe bananas in a bowl with a fork. Add 80 grammes of sugar (brown is nice) and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 60 ml of olive oil, 80ml of Greek yoghurt and 1 egg and beat well.


Add 50 g of desiccated coconut and stir. banana-bread6Then add 220 grammes of self raising flour – half white and half wholemeal works well – or all wholemeal if you’re feeling virtuous (or all white if you’re not). Fold this in – don’t stir too wildly.




Line the tin with baking parchment or greaseproof paper (or grease and flour it if you don’t have paper). Pour the mixture in to the tin and bake for about an hour at 180c – until a knife comes out clean.

Eat – it won’t last long! “Almost too good to eat.” said Vedran as he cut a slice “Almost…”




long time no see

July 5, 2014

Liza-Beth emailed me to express concern that I hadn’t written anything here for ages. She was a little worried, I think, but now she ‘knows that it’s just blog laziness rather than something serious, she’ll probably not email me again for ages.

She is moving house though – and Kit is now 15 (happy belated birthday Kit) which is pretty scary.

However, the elderflower is still out (just) and there might still be time to make nice things to drink – and write it down for posterity (with a picture of elderflowers and their leaves for Halo and Manf as they might poison themselves, and quite possibly other people, if I don’t).


A cautionary note to anyone gathering elderflowers: they grow on a tree. Often quite a big tree. With tree like leaves and not lacy feathery leaves.

Often when elderflowers are out, there are all kinds of  while lacy umbellifers out at the same time, including cow parsley, hogweed, hemlock, hemlock water dropwort, but although they may be tall plants, they are not trees. They’re not good to eat either – poisonous in fact – and generally smell nasty.

Halo and Manf gathered what they thought was elderlower, but it turned out to be something quite different – cow parsley possibly or rough chervil. I was a little disappointed especially as Halo has had the benefit of my wild plant identification skills for most of her life, but, like times tables, the knowledge didn’t stick. It has to be said that Halo wasn’t sure her harvest was the real thing, so I suppose that’s some comfort.

The elderflower was early this year.  Usually I can make an instant elderflower drink (put two or three large  heads of nice smelling elderflower heads to infuse in a couple of pints of water for an hour or so, strain, add the juice of half a small lemon and then sweeten with a little sugar) for Rella’s birthday which is May 27th.  This year I would have had time to make elderflower champagne by her birthday and this takes about two weeks (didn’t though – thought she’d be in Cardiff for her birthday so there wasn’t any point – and she was 21 too! sorry Rella!). As I said the elderflower’s early – and it’s still going. Mild winter you see.

It’s best to pick elderflower in the morning I think and before the sun has been shining on it for too long. Don’t pick near roads (pollution). You want heads that are yellower (rather than starkly white) because they have more pollen on them and more flavour. Once the flowers are picked try not to shake them too much. When you get them back home, put them on a plate for a few minutes so that  insects can crawl away. One thing I should mention is that before you pick any elderflower (or berries later in the year) you have to ask for permission from the elder tree witch. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.





Elderflower champagne is nice and naturally fizzy.  You need about 6 large and nicely scented elderflower heads (or more if they’re smaller ones) which you put in a very clean container – glass is good.. Add  gallon of cold water (about 4.5 litres). Add the juice and the rind of an unwaxed lemon, a pound of sugar and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Swirl it around until the sugar’s dissolved, cover and leave overnight – 24 hours really.  (You could dissolve the sugar in a pint of very hot water (taken from the gallon) and add this to the elderflowers when it’s cooled.)

The next day strain the flowers off through a sieve (if you like line it with a sheet of kitchen paper/towel (to catch rogue insects)  then pour into clean strong bottles – pop bottles are good.  Leave undisturbed  for a week or so and it’ll start to ferment. Drink while it’s fizzy – it’s only very mildly alcoholic, but it’s early summer in a bottle.

I’ve made several batches of cordial already and I may just make one more. Put about 15 large elderflower heads in a suitable container glass, china (plastic?) but not metal and add 3 pints of boiling  water and the rind of a large unwaxed lemon. Stir well, cover it and and steep it overnight. Next day, strain off the flowers and the rind and pour the liquid into a large container. Juice the lemon and add the juice. Add 1lb sugar to half a pint of water and heat slowly until the sugar dissolves, stirring all the time. Add this to the cordial mix.  Bottle the cordial. It shouldn’t ferment because the heat should have killed the yeasts, but there’s always a possibility. Keep it in the fridge. Dilute with fizzy water.

biscuits and masks

March 9, 2014

ai-caramba-biscuits-againToday I made ai caramba biscuits with clotted cream, condensed milk and tapioca flour. It’s a variation on a theme. I used clotted cream because I’d bought some so that we could give the Spanish students staying with us a cream tea, but there was quite a bit left over.

Ai caramba biscuits are definitely improved by the substitution of clotted cream for double cream. Simple to make, gluten free too. I’ve posted the recipe before, but you can’t have too much of a good thing – and because I tag my posts so badly, things are hard to find… I’m working on it though.

So, make ai caramba biscuits by dolloping equal amounts of cream and condensed milk into a bowl – it’s a measurement by eye rather than by weight or volume. I think I had a couple of tablespoons of each. Add tapioca flour bit by bit until the mixture’s malleable (I like that word) and not sticky. The packet of flour I had was 250 grammes and I  didn’t use it all. Roll with your hands and make thin snakes (no thicker than a cheap biro) and then roll them into circles, hearts, jumping jacks (firework reference), spirals – whatever looks good – and place on a lightly greased baking tray.

Bake in a not too hot oven (180c?) until they are slightly risen and brown underneath, but not brown on top – 20 minutes? Cool on a wire tray. They have a pleasing snap when you bite into them and the texture’s very close and not at all British biscuit like. Nice with coffee.  Nice to take on a picnic – though you’ll need something to drink with them. Take the Storm Kettle and make a brew?

madque-discoHere’s a picture of the language students who inspired the clotted cream just before they went to a masque disco on their last night. They look a bit scary. I’m not sure it was intentional.

It’s Danny’s birthday today and he’s 20 – actually it was yesterday, Didn’t realise how late it was.

Anyway – happy birthday Danny,  (and happy birthday Brian – because it is his birthday today).

On going to Wales and returning to past their best bananas…

February 26, 2014

It was half term here last week and the beloved and I decided to leave soggy Devon and visit Rella in Cardiff.  We drove there and for the first time in weeks it didn’t rain. In fact the sun shone! It felt as if  a great wet weight had been lifted. bridge

Cardiff was bathed in sunshine. We wandered the city marvelling at the architecture. The castle was looking spectacular, but it was a bit pricey to get in and we were on a budget – and although the weather was warm, it wasn’t quite warm enough to spend long enough in the  castle to justify paying the entrance fee.

So, even though it was sunny, the museum beckoned – mainly because the buildings were so impressive and covered in dragons. When you live in a small town, as we do, which has higgledy piggledy Elizabethan building nestling along the main street,  you get easily impressed by the kind of grand architecture that capital cities boast. We thought we’d just pop in to the museum and see what it was like, but once through the door we got drawn right in and stayed for hours. There wasn’t anywhere near enough time to even scrape the surface – we’ll have to go back soon. It’s a good job Rella’s in her first year at university.


If we’d been thinking we’d have made the most of the sunshine and headed out to the museum of Welsh rural life in St Fagans, or to Barri Island, or Penarth, because Wales is a lot like Devon when it comes to weather – two fine days in a row is unlikely. But instead we did those things in the rain the following day. There’s no helping some folk.  St Fagan’s is fantastic even in the pouring rain and my mother tells me that in one of the cottages (the museum consists of a series of buildings  – cottages, a mill, shops, a school – all representative of Welsh rural life)  there’s an organ donated by her family (a musical instrument that is, rather than a kidney or something quietly rotting).

Dinner was at Wagamamas  in Cardiff Bay. Really nice. I had a prawn kare lomen which is an explosion of taste (coconut,  lime, coriander with a hint of something I couldn’t identify) on a bed of ramen noodles. It looked really pretty as well. Forgot to take a photo which is a shame as it was a very photogenic meal and we were practically opposite the water  as the sun was going down so the waterside was bathed in a pink glow. Have to go there again too.

After a night in an Ibis budget hotel – not as bad as you might think , and quite fun for a 12 year old who got to sleep in a top bunk above his parents’ bed- we headed out along the coast to Penarth. I took a photo of Carlo holding up Penarth Pier – fantastic pier – no amusements or rubbish, just a very reasonable cafe, lovely exhibition space and a cinema. Windy though.


It reminded me a bit of Southwold pier, but without Tim Hunkin’s rather good games.

When we finally made it back to Devon, the bananas in the fruit bowl were smelling very bananary. The whole kitchen smelled of banana. This time I tried baking them. I wasn’t sure it was going to work. I didn’t think I liked cooked bananas, but they were OK when Katrine barbecued them way back – they were good in fact – and I hate to waste food.







Carlo is a bananaphobe, so he wasn’t interested and the beloved was busy finding something savoury to eat, but I slung a banana into the aga for me. The aga was very hot as no one had cooked on it for a couple of days so the banana cooked quickly. It looked brown and speckled when it went in and came out a scant 10 minutes later puffed up and brown – the skin  split, which isn’t really the aim as you get banana all over the oven (unless you put it in a baking dish. I didn’t). Then all you have to do is carefully peel  the banana and then dollop some yogurt on and eat.

It’s heavenly.

plastic coated lunch

January 13, 2014

I’m making a concerted effort to draw something every day into a  drawing book this year. I usually do draw every day, but it’s usually things like birthday cards (happy birthday John) or illustration on a shopping list, or something that I’m working on. So far I’ve achieved my goal, but it is only January 13th. (I’ve posted some of the drawings  on my other blog which you can see here).

This drawing I thought I put on this blog because it’s food related. Loosely. Very loosely.

This is a drawing of the lunch that was provided for the interview panel I was sitting on.  Jane said “You can wait in my room. Lunch has been provided”. There was a look on her face I couldn’t read. I went into the room and on the table, resplendent in cling film was lunch. I didn’t dare undress it, I just drew it.


Later we carried out the unveiling. There were sandwiches: sliced bread, whitish – they were OK ( I was hungry), but egg and tomato really is an unlovely combination; tuna and cucumber, and cheese and cucumber are both too predictable. I think there was ham and tomato, but I don’t eat ham. There was also a bowl of crisp type things – highly flavoured small rice cakes ( I tried one), mini poppadoms also highly flavoured and, bizarrely, cardboard flavoured tortilla chips. And cartons of juice and bottles of water – to wash it down?

The highlight was undoubtedly the cold hash browns cut into small triangles, the cold chicken nuggets (similarly bisected) and the cold sausage rolls – all served with some yellowish dip which had distressing edges (I don’t think any of us tried that) and some packets of tomato sauce. “Looks like the remains of a children’s party” said Rachel.

“It’s a good job you’re not a real visitor” said Jane – who was, it has to be said, strangely drawn to the cold hash browns. ( Institutionalised you see.)

What baffles me still is that someone, with a catering remit, thought this was OK…or were they just having a laugh…


Katrine cooks tagine

January 7, 2014

Katrine returned from her travels for Christmas and the new year. Carlo came downstairs one morning and was delighted to find her sitting by the Aga stroking Peaches. It was as though she’d never left. The house soon smelled of coffee and Moroccan  spices.tagine-spices

I can’t identify all the individual spices involved in each complicated blend, but we have 3 packets of deliciously aromatic spice mixes which I’m experimenting with.

Lentils will never be the same again.

As a Christmas present Katrine gave a very beautiful tagine pot.

tagine-potI was very nervous about using it on the aga (and my nerves weren’t quieted by researching on the internet) but Katrine said it would be fine  (in fact what she said was  “mashi mushki” or something like it). The first thing I did was to immerse the pot and its lid in water for a few hours (the water started off hot), and the second was to make sure that the onions Katrine was chopping very finely were cooked in pans on both cooking plates of the aga so that the heat of each was reduced. After that I was in Katrine’s hands.

All the information I could find out about clay tagine pots suggests that they have to be started on a cool heat and then the heat of the hob is slowly increased. Not really possible on an aga. The suggestion for using a tagine pot on an aga was to get a cast iron one and sling it in the oven – not the most helpful suggestion.

So, once the pot and lid had soaked, I put them in the simmering oven to dry a bit. I don’t know what good this did really as my simmering oven is too cool to simmer anything, but at least it warmed the pot through – I was working on the assumption that the shock of putting a cold clay pot onto a very hot surface might crack it, so any warmth would help.

Meanwhile Katrine had cut vegetables  – potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, courgettes, red pepper, mushrooms –   into appropriately sized pieces (appropriate according to their cooking time that is).  She soaked some dried figs in water and some apricots too and set these aside. Then she fried several chopped onions and a handful of raisins in a separate pan along with some oil and a spoonful of honey for about 30 minutes until the onions were very soft. “Do you have a plan B just in case?” said Katrine.

I stared to make some bread –  2 cups of flour, half a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, 3 tsps quick dried yeast in a bowl, mix, add a cup of warm water,  mix all together and knead until it’s elastic and smooth and leave to rise for half an hour. Then knock it back, shape it into flat rolls place on a greased baking sheet and leave to rise again before baking in a hot oven for 15 minutes – ish.

Meanwhile, Katrine put the tagine pot on the simmering plate…Deep intake of breath on my part. The pot didn’t crack. Katrine put the onion mix in, added a little more oil and waited. After about 5 minutes stirring she said “It’s not hot enough”. I probably ignored her – the fierce heat of the boiling plate is no place for a clay pot.


After 10 minutes (she’s very patient) Katrine repeated her statement and moved the tagine pot to the hot plate. “Don’t worry” she said.

Then she started to layer the vegetables and a couple of spoonfuls of tagine spice into the pot on top of the onions  in the order in which they would cook – potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, courgettes, peppers, mushrooms, with apricots and figs on top and the whole lot sprinkled with chopped parsley (which, as a testament to the beloved’s gardening skills, or maybe the lack of severe frost, is still growing in the garden) and a couple of spoonfuls of water. She put the lid on.



tagine2“Forty minutes” she said.






It was a bit hot to eat with our fingers straight from the pot Moroccan style, but we gave it a go.

Delicious. Delicious, delicious, delicious.

Banoffi pie and treading lightly

December 9, 2013

bananasThere are times when the bananas in the fruit bowl look like this  – all too often in this house of late, but Rella came home a few weeks ago with a recipe for banoffi pie (which I’d never made before) and which uses bananas that look just like this. It was delicious.

OK, so it’s not an everyday way to use up bananas, but as a treat it’s pretty unbeatable (unless of course you’re Carlo, who hates bananas).

We are language studentless at the moment, but the banoffi pie did go down well with Kina and Seyda  – so much so that I made two while they were here! One of them Seyda helped make. Kina licked the bowl.

Seyda-and-Kina Seyda  asked me for the recipe before she left. It’s taken a while to get round to it, but here it is.

It’s loosely based on Ian Dowding’s original recipe although that uses pastry, has the bananas after the toffee bit, not before – nowhere near as good if you ask me – and the butter and sugar is omitted in his recipe because  you have to submerge a can of condensed milk in boiling water and continue boiling for 15 minutes and this makes the toffee. Nowadays there is a warning on the can not to do this because it’s dangerous. I would have flouted the warning, but the AGA can’t keep up a boil for that long…

Banoffi Pie:banoffi-pie1

Base –  either crush 15 digestive biscuits into crumbs with a rolling pin and add to about 100g melted butter and press into a suitable dish (mine’s 20cm by 28 I think ) or make a shortbread using 50g sugar, 100g butter, 150g flour rubbed in and then pressed into the bottom of the dish and baked for about 15 minutes at 180c, or use pastry…

Leave to cool. banoffi-pie2

Mash or chop two or three bananas.

banoffi-pie5Spread them over the cooled biscuit base.

Put 100g butter and 100g sugar in a pan and heat slowly, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

banoffi-pie3banoffi-pie4banoffi-pie4bThen add a 375g can of condensed milk (lait concentre sucre) and continue to stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens. It will take at least 10 minutes. Stir all the time – if the heat is too high it will burn and brown bits will appear in the mixture which you don’t really want.

When the mixture has thickened pour it over the banana and spread it evenly. Leave to cool. When it’s cooled, whip 250ml cream (with a teaspoon of sugar) and then spread over the top. Serve.


My friend Jane’s dad, Lawrence, died yesterday.

I think this is a dish he might well have appreciated, so I’m dedicating this post to him  – and to Jane, Jay and Georgia.

chocolate cinnamon apple cake

October 26, 2013

Yukiko left this morning bright and early on her return journey to Japan with a quick overnight stop in London  to see the National and Tate Galleries. I’m feeling a little sad (and a little jealous). I hope the taxi driver, who tried to reverse out of the lane into the Saturday morning busy main road traffic, got her there in one piece…

26october2013Before she left, Yukiko tried her hand at cake making, English apple-glut style. Rella and Halo are home this weekend so the opportunities for sharing the apple burden needed to be capitalised on, and Sarah (of the lovely shop) has been hassling me to post the recipe as she too has an apple glut. Yukiko rose to the challenge and made the cake.





Here’s the recipe.


You need a deep sided 8″ tin which you line with baking parchment. On to this dob an ounce/25g of butter cut into little bits and then sprinkle with a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and two teaspoons of brown sugar.

Then, peel core and slice two or three apples and put them on top of the cinnamon sugar butter mix and sprinkle with another teaspoon of

Make a cake mix – beat together 4oz/110g very soft butter and 4oz/110g brown sugar until the mixture is a shade lighter than it was.  Separate two eggs. Put one yolk in the cake mix and beat well and then add the other yolk and beat again. Add the whites a bit at a time making sure that each bit is incorporated before you add the next.


applechocolate-upsidedown-cake6Fold in 5oz/150g self raising flour and 2oz/50ml water and then add an ounce/25g of cocoa powder and fold that in too. Spread the mixture over the apples in the tin making sure the cake mix goes to the edges and covers the apple.

Bake for about 35 minutes at 180 c, 350f gas mark 4. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out upside down on to a plate.

applechocolate-upsidedown-cakeEat with cream.


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