Archive for the ‘Food’ Category



We first tasted this dip in Gail Zweigenthal’s apartment overlooking Central Park when we were in New York recently.


She had generously invited us–two strangers–to dinner with our mutual friend, Francia White.


Gail was Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine from 1991 to 1998, where this recipe originated.

Six simple ingredients plus seasoning make this a dip-in-a-flash.

In fact seven–Meredith thought a squeeze of lime or lemon juice would be good.

(The nod to tapinade comes with the capers; caper in Provençal patois is tapinas.)

1 can artichoke hearts (200gm/7oz)–drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove–mashed with a pinch of salt
1/2 cup green olives–pitted 
2 tsps capers
3 tbs parsley–chopped 
juice of half a lime
  • Put the ingredients in a food processor and whizz it to a rough smoothness–i.e., leaving a little texture.
  • Add salt and fresh ground pepper–adjusting the seasoning to taste.
  • Serve as Gail did on the fennel slices or toast with a dribble of olive oil.


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LUNCH today:


A sparklingly, fresh salad to complement and cut the rich oiliness of the stuffed mackerel fillets.

Just one large fennel bulb (outer leaves removed), one large spring onion (outer layer removed), one long celery stick (sliced thinly), several large red radishes (sliced thinly) and some chopped parsley to sprinkle over.

Add some lightly pan roasted sunflower seeds–if you have them and a dressing of the juice of a lemon, some salt and pepper to taste and three or four tablespoons of the best olive oil you have, whisked in.

Turn everything over carefully so the dressing gets to visit all corners!



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The first asparagus spears were on the stalls at Castres market on Saturday at 9 euros /kilo– steep I thought–wait a week or two and down they’ll come.

Then last night Meredith and our friends Tamsin and Stephen–here for a weekend visit–returned from the annual Réalmont Agicultural Foire (fair).


Deciding our garden was on the small side for this magnificent specimen;


they settled instead for a large box of oversize strawberries,


and a couple of bunches of Spanish grown asparagus!

OK–a starter for our hazelnut pasta supper last night!

I roasted all but ten spears–thinking lunch today– with thyme and olive oil.

It was good to have it confirmed that the asparagus season is about to start but the spears from over the border were not as tasty as the locals will be in a couple of weeks.

Lunch today then.

I’m poaching a couple of eggs each and laying them on top of the remaining asparagus for the yolks to break beautifully and Spring-like–yellow on fresh green–over them and make a superb light lunch with a salad.


Heat the oven to 220C/430F

Arrange the spears in a single layer on a shallow oven tray.


Pour a little olive oil over the tips and sprinkle some salt and fresh thyme .

Slide the tray onto the top oven rack and roast for 10 minutes–test for doneness.


Arrange equal portions on two plates.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add a tablespoon of red/white vinegar–this helps gather the egg white.

Break the eggs into the water trying not to burst their yokes.

They’ll be ready to take out in about three minutes–depending on the thickness of the spears..

Carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and drain them.

Place them decoratively on the asparagus and season with a little salt and pepper.


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Cauliflower soup

This may be a difficult sell….

Cauliflower is not everyone’s first choice as a vegetable, let alone as a soup.

This recipe is in my new book, Healthy Eating for Life, and we had it for supper tonight–we liked it.

Well, like is too mild–we adored it and–as we always do–marveled that something SO delicious could have only these five simple ingredients:

Cauliflower-onion–garlic–a smidgen of smoky bacon–a couple of bay leaves

Here is the recipe, reproduced from my new book:


Meredith asked, “What is this, it’s so creamy? It’s not potatoes is it?  It’s delicious.”

Cauliflower soup,”  I replied, somewhat sheepishly. Somehow cauliflower is not a vegetable that’s easy to own!

This recipe is adapted from one by Nigel Slater.

The key ingredient is smoky bacon.

1 large cauliflower--broken into florets

2 cloves of garlic–chopped

1 medium onion–chopped

2 oz smoked bacon–chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

bay leaves

1 litre/2 pints stock

salt and pepper

  • Gently heat the oil in a pan and sauté the bacon bits until they colour a bit.
  • Add the garlic and onion.
  • Cook the mix on for five minutes until the onion has softened.
  • While this happens break up the cauliflower into florets and add to a large saucepan.
  • When ready add the onion and bacon mix to the cauliflower pan with the bay leaves and the stock.
  • Cover and bring this mix up to the simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender.
  • Lift a couple of tablespoons of the mix out of the pan and into a bowl with a slotted spoon letting the liquid fall back in the pan
  • Liquidise the contents of the pan and test the seasoning.
  • Use the set-aside florets to garnish the soup and serve the soup hot.

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Question for Robin & Meredith: What do you guys have for breakfast? The cookbooks don’t mention anything and I’m curious. ~Maire Martello (on Facebook)

Good excuse to re-post this:

“To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.” ~W. Somerset Maugham

“All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.” ~John Gunther

“Oysters are the usual opening to a winter breakfast. Indeed, they are almost indispensable.”
~Grimod de la Reyniere (1758-1838)

“Life, within doors, has few pleasanter prospects than a neatly arranged and well-provisioned breakfast table.” ~Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

“Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.” ~Oscar Wilde

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I’m sure my mother said that a few times!

Breakfast before I set off on my walk this morning was the same as every morning (and no sign of an oyster)!


large organic oat flakes mixed with

freshly cracked walnuts–watch out for rogue pieces of shell that crack your teeth.

a dried untreated apricot–chopped

a teaspoon of linseeds

a prune,

half a pot of low fat organic yogurt

cinnamon–sprinkled on top

and moistened with oat/almond milk–unsweetened.

Two slices of 100% rye bread with a little butter and pear & apple fruit spread (no added sugar)

The same every morning? Yes!


Not for me–I look forward to it–once a day at least!

Maybe we are at our most conservative, most in need of ritual just after waking up, but I find the assembling and eating of this bowl of goodies a daily delight.

Meredith’s version of breakfast heaven:

Porridge (cooked oats–large and small flakes), milk, “no fat” organic yogurt, a prune, seasonal fruit, cinnamon sprinkled over.



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We arrived back home at midday yesterday, after a hair-raising, heart-stopping near miss of our Toulouse connection at Heathrow.

It was always going the a bit tight, but worth the risk we thought, as the next connection left six hours later.

We waited our turn for a hand search after three of our bags were side-lined going through the X-ray machine, then watched the security staff carry out their essential, life saving duties–in aspic, it seemed.

“Last call–this flight is closing!” We made it by a hair’s breath after a long dash.

I’m trying to avoid going shopping today–recovery mode at St. Martin.

But what’s there to eat–the fridge and larder are low on fresh produce after our month long trip.

A look on the shelves…

Red lentils. Yes!

Ismail’s* spicy comfort soup–oh yes!

And a sweet potato on the side–perfectly enough until tomorrow–with a glass of red wine.


8oz red lentils–thoroughly washed

1 onion–chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

12 peppercorns

4 bay leaves

3 small red chilis–left whole

1.5 pints stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

2 tbsp parsley–chopped

1/2 tsp salt

  • Soften the onion in the oil.
  • Add the bay leaves and the peppercorns and cook a further five minutes.
  • Add the stock with the lentils, chilis, parsley and salt and bring up to the boil.
  • Simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils have cooked through.
  • Serve hot–with a sprinkling of parsley on top.

* the late Ismail Merchant–producer half of Merchant Ivory productions–whose touch of genius stretched into the kitchen.








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We sold out of Healthy Eating for Life and Making Poldark–and had a good time besides.


Old friendships were renewed and new ones made in the heat of the March sun this afternoon in pretty Larchmont Village, LA.

Chevalier’s Bookshop is hanging in there, against the odds–as are many independent bookstores here in the US and in Europe, supported by the local community–but will it be enough?

Larchmont reminded me of Primrose Hill in North London–and Chevalier’s of Primrose Hill Books. These small scale enterprises need our support, acting as a buttress against the corporate take over of the High Street.

Tomorrow–16th March–we head for Palo Alto and Books Inc. opposite the Stanford campus.


Monday evening we are at The Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco–come and meet if you are near by!

The Experience You Can’t Download!

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Omelette for one with Russian kale salad

It’s Monday and we’re in Manhattan, nearly half way through our American Book tour adventure.

Meredith ate something last night that didn’t agree with her and is resting in bed.

I made an omelette and ate it alone here in the perfectly equipped apartment loaned us by our generous hosts, Melanie and Bruce, who live in Chelsea.

Yesterday we had lunch with two other old friends at Eataly–(should be pronounced eeeataly!) a newish arrival opposite the spickly span Flatiron building on the corner of 23rd Street and 5th Avenue.

Perfectly described by the ten-year-old son of the New York Magazine reviewer as “not so much a restaurant, more like a circus, with lots of food.”

Eataly, an emporium of eateries, draws its inspiration from Italy’s slow food movement.


Dazed at first by the Sunday lunch crowds and the enormity of it all…


it slowly (appropriately) comes into focus.


Studying American cuts


Portrait of the pasta makers


Fish stall


Wholewheat walnut won out.

We choose Il Pesce, the fish restaurant, out of the six available.

Perfectly cooked Trout for Meredith, Octopus for me; Flounder for Betsy and Porgi for Bruce.

We leave two hours later (slow lunch!) happy and clutching a bunch of red Russian kale (see photo above) and a bag of groceries.

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We are in Washington DC and it’s snowing.


It makes a pretty picture but gives us pause about driving to see our friends Ann and Ray on Chesapeake Bay later this afternoon.

Not a major problem because our generous hosts Irv and Iris are happy to have us stay over an extra night.

Which gives me time to post the intro to the Chicken section in Healthy Eating for Life (now available on Amazon.com by the way).

It describes a way of roasting a chicken which was new to me. It was Irv who tipped me the wink!

He even demonstrated his method last Friday.


Our friend Irv Molotsky in Washington  put me onto a wonderfully carefree way to roast a chicken, developed by America’s Test Kitchen. Simple and hands-off—well the chicken needs a hand getting into the oven, but that’s about it!

Wash a medium size chicken and pat it dry. Brush it with olive oil and season it well with sea salt and black pepper. Stuff a couple of garlic cloves, a sprig of rosemary and half a lemon in the cavity. Put a roasting tray in the oven. Heat the oven to 230c/450f—yes, you are heating the tray.

Take the tray out, wearing a strong pair of oven gloves, put the chicken in it and pop the tray back in the oven for thirty minutes.

Then, WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN, turn off the heat and leave the chicken for a second thirty minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and the pan.

While the bird takes a well-earned rest, covered with foil, for twenty minutes, make a little gravy. Lift all but a spoonful of fat out of the pan and ease the remaining good bits, including the squeezed garlic cloves, into a sauce with half a wine glass of white wine or water. Gently heat this, stirring to amalgamate the gravy.

Hey Presto!

Irv’s Carefree Roast Chicken!


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These knobbly numbers are Jerusalem Artichokes.


They are doubly duplicitous.

The name has nothing to do with Jerusalem the town and even less to do with the noble globe artichoke.

It derives from a corruption of the Italian for sunflower–girosole--which, because of the way it sounds, morphed into Jerusalem.

Also known as sun chokes, sunroots, topinambor and earth apples they are a species of sunflower and originating from the eastern side of North America–their health benefits, especially for diabetics, are explained here.

Duplicitous, yes, but also delicious and especially here when mixed with capers, white wine and pieces of chicken.

Marcella Hazan devised this recipe.

One caveat–they do have a reputation for causing flatulence–but hey!

1 chicken–cut into pieces


2 tbs olive oil

1lb Jerusalem artichokes–peeled and sliced thin in a food processor

2 garlic cloves–chopped

2 tbs capers–drained

2 tbs parsley–chopped

1 glass/6 tbs/4 fl oz white wine

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a casserole with a lid and brown the chicken pieces (five minutes each side)


Park them in a bowl.

Add the garlic and sauté briefly.


Mix in the parsley, capers and wine before returning the chicken to the pan.


Turn everything again and add the artichoke slices.


Again turn everything over a couple of times and cover the pan.

Cook on a very low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.

It’s good to let the condensation moisten and tenderize the artichokes–so resist the temptation to lift the lid too often.

A couple of times is good to check the liquid–add a little water if it is drying out–and turn it all again.

IMG_1519We are seeing a movie tonight with some friends so I made this last night and stored it in the fridge.

I shall reheat it slowly when we get home and before you can say Jack Robinson or Jiminy Cricket, we’ll be sitting down tearing the chicken (and the movie) to pieces!

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