Archive for the ‘Food’ Category


I went walnutting this morning after the rain.

Beautiful heavy drops plomping straight down into the cats’ drinking bowls with a splash.

The sort of rain that can topple a walnut from the tree before it is quite ready to fall–thus making an early expedition to walnut alley worthwhile.

A big wind blew last night as we went to bed–violently shaking the trees.

Then rain this morning–a perfect scenario for a seasoned walnutter.


Came back with two sacks (five pounds!) of walnuts–freed them from their outer cases–and a good feeling.


Hosed them down and decanted them into a filigreed steel basket to sit in the sun.


Now for lunch.

I made the walnut pasta two days ago for Meredith to photograph for the next book–Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics–due out in the Spring.

We didn’t feel like eating it just then–but I had a plan… (see below)


Here is the original recipe which is beautifully simple.


Spaghettini with Walnut, Garlic and Parmesan Sauce

 serves 4
  • 100g/4oz shelled walnuts – be careful, if you shell them yourself, to avoid any teeth-cracking bits being left in
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped, plus a little extra parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 425g/14oz wholewheat spaghettini or spaghetti
  • 100g/4oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

Put the walnuts, garlic and parsley in a food processor, season with salt and pepper, add the oils and pulse to a sauce of this texture:


Add the grated cheese and mix.


Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water.

Drain it– keeping a little of the cooking liquid– and put the pasta back in the hot pan.

Add the sauce and a tablespoon of the cooking liquid (i.e. hot, salted water) and turn it over thoroughly.

Turn it into a warmed bowl and sprinkle with extra parsley.

Serve immediately with more olive oil and Parmesan to hand.


It’s a favorite pasta for us!

Two days later and…

I’m lightly sautéing half the spaghettini in walnut sauce (half because there are only two of us) to go with a small salad of sliced tomatoes gathered from our garden–another harvest this morning.


Panfried Walnut Pasta (for leftovers!)

(This pasta lends itself to re-use, crisping up nicely for a crunchy bite.)

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan.

When the oil is hot, slip in the pasta.

Cook this over a medium heat for about 5 or 6 minutes. The bottom should be crispy brown.


Turn this over carefully with a spatula and cook the other side to a similar effect.

Halve the pancake (I find scissors work well!) and divide between two plates.


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We discovered this starter in a little chef-owned restaurant in our local town recently.


It came in individual dishes straight from the oven–the cheese melting into the shallots, the pancetta crisp.

A few mouthfuls of bliss!

It was so simple and so delicious, I had to try it at home.

Now we try not to have it with every meal….

for 2

  • 2 to 4 shallots–depending on the size–very thinly sliced
  • 1 goat cheese/chevre, “log”shape (in the hot oven, the outer “skin” allows them to hold their shape as the cheese melts inside.)
  • 4 pancetta slices–halved (you could use prosciutto too, if pancetta is difficult to source.)
  • 2 small sage leaves–optional but fun
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil

Heat oven to 200C/400F

Spread the sliced shallots evenly between the two individual oven-proof dishes–there should be enough to lightly cover the bottom of each dish.

Slice four pieces of about one-and-a-half inches from the chèvre cheese “log”.

Place two pieces in each of the oven-ready dishes, with two sage leaves.

Arrange four half-slices of pancetta around the sides of each dish.


the second two halves of a slice of pancetta to come…

Grind some pepper over the dishes and drizzle with olive oil.


the second two halves of a slice of pancetta still to come…

Slide the dishes onto the top shelf of the oven and cook for about ten minutes. (The cheese should be soft but hold its shape.)


It’s a hard act to follow.

Roast guinea fowl with chickpea mash managed to snatch back some glory at dinner the other night.





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Sweet and savory.

Our friend Helen Richmond in Tuscany tipped us the wink on this unusual combo.

The tang of the lime juice offsets the sweetness of the melon.

The mild bite of the onion complements the saltiness of the feta.

The colors are seductive and the taste suggests…

I shut my eyes as I take a mouthful and I’m on Corfu–and they are grilling the lamb chops for the main course!

Thank you, Helen!

for 8 as a starter


  • 1.5 k of watermelon (surprising how much a big slice weighs!)
  • 250 gm feta cheese
  • a good handful of juicy black olives–stoned and halved
  • a small red onion–peeled, halved and finely sliced
  • a handful of mint–chopped
  • a good handful of parsley— leaves off the stem but kept intact
  • 2 tbs lime juice (freshly juiced)
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper

Release the flesh of the melon by carefully running a sharp knife round the inside of the crescent of rind–take your time!


Lightly steer a teaspoon along the ridge of pips skillfully dislodging them without mushing up the flesh.

Cut the flesh into bite-size squares.

Cut the feta in smaller squares.


Place the melon and the olives in a bowl and add the feta.


Sprinkle over the red onion and the mint.

Mix the lime juice, olive oil and a couple of grinds of black pepper. (A screw-top jar is good for this–add ingredients and shake it all about!)

Pour this over the the salad and carefully turn it all over–hands (washed!) work well!


Add the parsley leaves and refrigerate until you are ready to serve (best served thoroughly chilled).











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Thick slices of in-season aubergine softened in the oven at a high temperature then topped with ripe tomatoes cooked with garlic, a little chili and a slice of mozzarella or grated parmesan.



To brighten a cloudy day…

Summer simplicity–using vegetables bang in season and begging to be used.

Me, sir! Me! Me, sir! Just like at school; eager hands in the air, knowing the answer.

This is a Nigel Slater idea from his book Tender.

I am using:


  • 2 aubergines/eggplants–sliced thickly


  • Olive oil (for brushing the sliced aubergines)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lb/450 grams tomatoes–ripe as can be–roughly chopped


  • 1 tbs olive
  • 1 garlic clove–peeled and chopped
  • a small dry chili–chopped (no need to take out the seeds)
  • small handful of basil leaves (optional)
  • A medium ball of mozzarella–sliced thick
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan

Oven: 220C/430F  (hot!)

Oil an oven tray large enough to take the aubergine slices.

Brush the aubergines with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper–generously!

Put the tray in the top of the oven and cook for about 25 minutes (check at 20 minutes, but the aubergines profit from a little singeing–and they must be soft).


While the aubergines are cooking, heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan and add the tomatoes, garlic, chili and basil (if you have it).


Cook for 20 minutes or until you have a nice mess of tomatoes.


Remove the aubergine slices from the oven and spread some of the tomato sauce on each with a teaspoon.


Top each slice with the grated parmesan or a slice of mozzarella.


Put the tray back in the oven for about ten minutes–long enough for the cheese to melt.


Oh my!


We had small salad with these–using cherry tomatoes from the garden, cucumber, sliced onion and small pieces of feta. (It was intended to be a Greek salad but I forgot the black olives!)


A three CHEESE feast!

An interested guest looked on.


More of her later…






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A mid-summer dish this, when zucchini are zingy and the tomatoes ripe and sweet.


The squeeze of lemon adds the third dimension.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my food heroes, Nigel Slater, in his cookbook, TENDER.

The courgettes and tomatoes should retain their brilliant summer colours.

Resist overcooking, in other words!

for 2 or 3


4 courgettes

3 tbs olive oil

3 medium tomatoes

small handful basil leaves–roughly torn

juice of half a lemon

salt and pepper

Halve the courgettes length-wise and halve them again–then slice them into not too large chunks [see the photo above].

Roughly chop the tomatoes.

Heat the oil in a largish pan and add the zucchini/courgettes.

Cook them gently until they begin to soften–7 to 8 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, basil and lemon juice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover and cook for about ten minutes to allow everything to get friendly.

For lunch it made a pretty picture lying alongside an omelette.


This is going to feature often for the rest of the summer!



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from Minnesotta, North Carolina (via Rome), Rhode Island, California, Virginia, North Yorkshire, Tipperary (Ireland), New Zealand, Brixton (S London)–for the two cooking workshops.

Not quite back-to-back! We’ll be trying that out in September and October. This time we took a few days to fly to Florence to celebrate Brother Jack’s 60th birthday (he’s performing in a show there at Teatro del Sale).

Here’s a short photo diary of the good times we had.


late May Bravehearts with host Dominique on the right.


Mid- June Braveheatrs–looking enthused


Eager aprons waiting to be claimed


Minnesotans–togged up and ready to break eggs


Tossing the salad the Italian way–36 times!


What do we think? A touch more vinegar?


Friday morning coffee break and “food” chat


Friday morning starter–the unexpected curried apple soup


Friday supper (work-free delight)–Chez Valérie


Simone–the essential ingredient, without whom…


“Showtime” Sunday lunch–with Cecile and Polly–first time around


“Showtime” Sunday lunch–second go-around (where’s the hat?!)

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I lost a filling last week–fell out at the breakfast table.

Initial reaction:–Oh no! dentist visit(s), hassle, painful, waste of time–damn!

Then: Ouch! Jagged bit left causing pain, hard to swallow.

So—looking for something that slips down easily—I thought to combine these two recipes for dinner.

Result: Sigh! Temporary distraction. It worked—they melded deliciously and skipped down with ease.


 Leeks in White Wine and Butter (from Delicious Dishes for Diabetics)

Simple and delicious!

Serves 4IMG_0055

4 large leeks (or as above 10 small leeks)–mainly the white part–checked for residue, then cut into cork-like tube-shape

salt and pepper

glass of white wine

3 tbsp water

50 g/2 oz butter

  1. Place the leek pieces in a shallow pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour in the wine and water, then add the butter. Put on the lid and bring up to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes – the leeks should be beautifully tender.

Lemony lentils  (in Healthy Eating for Life)

Meredith tells me the first time she became aware of lentils, was at the age 35. They had not been part of her experience growing up in suburban Chicago! Much has changed–Indian restaurants are commonplace now in the US.

This recipe is hands-on for the first half hour or so, as it builds in the taste.

Then it chugs along on a low heat for 50 minutes as the lentils dissolve and the dal forms.

The finish involves sautéing a small amount of onion, garlic and dried red pepper to stir into the mix to “lift”  it.

It is adapted from a recipe in Ismail Merchant’s excellent and quirky cookbook Indian Cuisine.


8oz red lentils–rinsed until the water runs clear

1 small onion–chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

a short stick of cinnamon

1tsp fresh ginger–grated

250ml/1/2 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

250ml/1/2 pint hot water

1tsp cayenne pepper

juice and the shells of a lemon

to finish

2tbsp olive oil

1/2 small onion–sliced

garlic clove–chopped

1tsp salt

1 small dried red chili–chopped

Cook the onion over a low heat in the oil until it is opaque–about five minutes.

Add the lentils, cinnamon and the ginger and mix in.

Cook these together gently for about ten minutes, keeping the heat low and stirring from time to time to avoid them sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

A nutty aroma starts to rise from the darkening lentils, as they cook.

Add the stock and hot water, cayenne and salt.

Bring to the simmer.

Cook gently for a further ten minutes, then add the lemon juice and the empty lemon halves and stir it all together.

Cover the pan and continue cooking on a very low heat–use a heat diffuser if necessary–for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

In a small frying pan heat the tablespoon of olive oil and add the sliced onion.

Let this color for five minutes over a medium heat.

Add the chili and the sliced garlic and continue cooking until the garlic begins to brown.

Add this to the lentils and mix it in.

I got to see the dentist yesterday and she rounded off the jagged bit and told me to come back for a crown fitting.

Oh no! dentist visit(s), hassle, painful, waste of time–damn!



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