Greek Lunch


The Greeks are on our minds this week.

I have a vague memory of lunch in a taverna with a view of Cap Sounion in Greece–must have been in 1966. I was 24.

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 I had gone there with a friend, after a punishing 18-month-stint at the old Playhouse in Salisbury. (We squeezed into a Fiat 600 and drove all the way.)


We ordered lamb chops and salad and started on the retsina.

Out came a large serving plate completely covered in lamb chops–grilled with olive oil and rosemary with feta cheese sprinkled over.

The generosity of the serving was memorable.

This was followed by another large plate of tomato and onion salad.


for 2

4 lamb chops

sprigs of rosemary

2 garlic cloves–crushed and peeled

juice of a lemon

olive oil

for the salad

4 tomatoes–ripe as can be–sliced

1 large spring onion–sliced

olive oil

2oz feta cheese–broken up

Bathe the chops in two tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice; add the garlic and the rosemary.

Turn it all over and marinade for a couple of hours.

Heat a grill pad to hot.

Remove the chops from the marinade and season well with salt and pepper.

Place them on the grill pad and turn the heat down a little.


Cook them for 3 minutes.

Turn them over and repeat.


You can cut into one of the chops to check “doneness”.

“Doneness” is down to personal choice–we like it pinkish.

Arrange the chops on a favorite platter and sprinkle with feta and olive oil.


Assemble the salad on a serving plate, season with salt and pepper and bathe in olive oil.


We ate our fill of lamb chops and tomato and onion salads that trip and drank a vat of retsina–at sixpence a litre.

(It is remarkable that I remember anything!)

This is making me feel like booking flights and heading off to support the Greeks, search out  that taverna and have lunch…



…naughty Lord Byron scratched his name in the ancient stone of the temple of Poseidon.

If you look carefully to the right of Byron, you’ll spot an equally naughty namesake of mine.

Not guilty, M’lud–honest!




Yesterday the audio version of Making Poldark became available for download via Audible, Amazon or iTunes.



Below, I’m re-posting my account of recording it way back in January.


Just back from UK where I recorded my memoir of Poldark as an audio book–with an extra chapter about taking part in the new BBC/Mammoth version–40 years after doing the original!


Two days in a small, soundproof booth in a basement recording studio in Hove in Sussex, while the wind and the rain raged above ground.

I was fortunate to have three helpmates in the studio running the show–and keeping my nose to the microphone.

Chris Daniels, sound engineer, owns the studio and is a member of that fraternity of calm console operators who are never flustered.


They have seen it all before–and behave as though they read the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF, before sitting down to work:

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And you’ll be make a Sound Engineer, my son!
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling.)
My old friend, Constantine de Goguel Toulouse-Lautrec–his grandmother was in St. Petersburg in the October Revolution of 1917 and survived–sat in the producer’s seat and guided a rusty performer through the sessions with grace and years of experience.
He’s a fine actor and an experienced dialogue coach for movies.
He also runs Spoken Ink–subtitled “The Home of Short Audio“–well worth checking out.
Meredith made up the triumvirate as back-up producer keeping a beady eye on the script and an ear out for things that could be better (like the American pronunciation of “Potomac”!).
Her occasional ripple of involuntary laughter was a morale boost for The Man in the Sound Proof Booth!
The project is in post production now. When complete, we’ll announce it here.



I’m speculating, of course, but with my insider knowledge I would guess that the Reverend Dr Halse–magistrate at law–looks forward to every quarter sessions with beady anticipation.

I picture him, sitting in splendid isolation, at the breakfast table in the hotel in Bodmin Town in the county of Cornwall on the morning of the first day of the Assizes, involuntarily rubbing his hands together at the prospect of another opportunity to punish wrong-doing.

“And punish severely!” he’s muttering under his breath.

“Order must be maintained if  “Society” is to survive and the status quo maintained.”

“Some would consider these harsh decisions, but a court of law is no place for sentiment–the law is the Law. We must make an example of those who flout it for their own gain and expect to get off lightly.”

No” and “No, again!”

Without thinking he brings his fist down on the breakfast table with the force of a gavel (a favorite gesture of his in court) sending his coffee cup flying out of its saucer, spilling its contents over the pretty tablecloth, threatening his newly-pressed gaiters.

The boiled egg–sitting so smugly in its eggcup (three-and-a-half minutes precisely) catapults from its moorings and lands its neatly-opened side on his crisply-ironed clerical necktie, spilling yellow yoke down its considerable length.

An expletive seldom heard in polite society–let alone from the lips of this earnestly reverend gentleman–explodes into the air, stunning the animated company into silence.

No-one moves a limb as the Reverend Dr Halse rises from his chair, his normally chalk white face a sweaty ruby red and holding his napkin close to his chest, he strides from the room.

It is destined to be an uncomfortable session for any unfortunate defendant later this morning!

You can see what happened next tonight on PBS’s Masterpiece–episode three of POLDARK.


“Grumpy” doesn’t cover it!






A slow drive back from Castres and it feels like summer used to feel–a season fully committed.

Flaming June, going on July, bursting out all over!

The sunflowers are showing thick and healthy on the ground this year.

Green and medium build at the moment but growing fast. I spotted one in flower but shy–just peeping out in the clump.

Rain and sun in equal measures have made them strong.

They’ll be a picture in a couple of weeks just as the Tour de France moves south–days to go before “the off “.

It’s always great to see the TV shots of the pelaton, a multicolored snake strung out along a stretch of road–half hidden behind a field of yellow tops, enjoying their moment of fame.

Garlic gath’rers pass,

 Leaving the scent in the air;

 It’s that time again.




Men stripped to the waist (as if that’s going to help)–why not wait until the sun retreats? It makes no sense to labour thus in a sweltering 30 degrees.

The workers’ cars compete for shade under the fully-leafed walnut trees, already ladened with green fruit.


(I shall be ready in early October and on the prowl–but hunting walnuts rather than hares and rabbits.)

The youngsters, Ben and Midnight, lie full length in the shade beneath the fig in the courtyard–their black coats soaking up the heat–just too much effort to move indoors.

Young Midnight jumped from a first floor window into the driveway this morning–startled by a sudden human presence. He hesitated a nano second, Meredith says, then decided there was no alternative and leapt.

Cats can do such leaps, she says, and land on their feet uninjured–and I have to believe it. Nine lives and all that–but just writing about it gives me vertigo.

But there he is under the fig–no worse for wear, more bothered by heat than heights!

I need him in the kitchen. Just spied a tiny mouse sheltering from the heat. He spotted me at the same moment and disappeared into the fireplace.

Not a safe place for mice here! Stay put, Mr. Mouse–there’ll be a quiet time later when you can  move on safely.

Cats generally don’t fly in the dark–though one shouldn’t second guess a cat called Midnight!

* “back in the days”

Father’s Day


Dad with my brother Jack

Dad was tall (6′ 3″), handsome and difficult to know.

I never heard him talk about himself–but then I probably never asked him.

He had a raffish mustache, grown just before the Second World War, which prompted mention of David Niven and Errol Flynn.

He laughed easily–which revealed his devastating smile.


We’d egg him on to tell his favorite joke–about a soldier on his way to Aden in the war who started his journey in the north of England on a troop train heading south.

The compartment was sealed and the journey was non-stop–there was no access to a toilet.

By the time he got to Portsmouth he was desperate.

Going up the ship’s gangplank he shouts to a sailor, “Where the nearest toilet, mate?”.

“Portside!” came the reply.

Then we’d all groan–and repeat the punch line with him:


(The soldier thought he’d said Port Said in Egypt.)

He was good at maths and loved music; he played the ukelele and piano.

He’d stand in the living room conducting classical pieces playing on the gramophone with huge commitment and knowledge–his version of the “air guitar”, I suppose.

The gramophone was his pride and joy–and was state-of-the-art then in the fifties; we had no TV.

Anthony Gerald Ellis was born 4th November 1915.

He would have been a 100 this year.

“Tony” was adopted by my grandmother, who’d been widowed in 1912 at age 40.

He grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London with his sister, Mary–also adopted, but not a blood relative.


They fell into the butter dish!

My grandmother came from a middle-class Birmingham family. Her brother was head of the Civil Service. She married into a family of wealthy Leicester coal merchants.

They lived modestly, but photos from Mary and Tony’s youth show them thriving.

He went to private schools and always gave me the impression of being bright (he completed the Guardian cryptic crossword every day)–but there was a diffidence about him that made me think he’d never fulfilled his dreams.

Perhaps that diffidence had its origins in his adoption–not knowing where he came from, never feeling completely comfortable in his skin.

Perhaps he’d wanted to be a doctor or a musician–but the war got in the way.

He married my mother, Molly, in April 1938.

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I was born in 1942. The the commitment to a growing family meant he had to stick to his day job as an administrator with British Railways.

He was a good and present “dad” who loved to be on the touchline at school football matches and in the audience at first nights.

He gave me an appreciation of music, an understanding of right and wrong and the obligation of doing things to the best of one’s ability.

He was firm, but not stern and never stuffy.

In 1944 he’d spent a year in America training to be a fighter pilot in Arizona.


He came back with an enduring love of the United States and its people and culture. He received Arizona Highways magazine for years. He enjoyed American country music and Broadway musicals. Roy Acuff and Jimmy Rogers often featured on the gramophone along with South Pacific and My Fair Lady.

He was outward-looking and open-minded–and by example encouraged these qualities in his three sons (two of whom married Americans; my late brother Peter settling in Los Angeles).

He took advantage of concessionary rail tickets to take the family to Europe on holiday and instill in us a love (rather than a fear) of “a world elsewhere”.


With brothers Peter and Jack (a babe in arms) and me (age 13) in 1955. Dad was 40.

In his mid-sixties, he lost an eye to cancer and wore his eye patch with characteristic élan! Sadly the disease moved to his liver and he died in November 1983 at age 68.

With my brother, Jack

He’s buried in the churchyard at Brill–the Buckinghamshire village where he and my mother spent their final years.

Thinking of you, Dad–who never knew your own father–on this Father’s Day.















Sardines for lunch. Well, it’s summer–almost.

Tomorrow is the Solstice.

I was in Castres market by 7h30 this morning, as it came alive.

Late arrivals still unloading last night’s pickings–manoeuvring their vehicles between the early punters, bantering with their neighboring marchands, already set-up and selling.

It’s the best time to go on a Saturday–before the throng chokes up the passageways.

Peaches, raspberries and strawberries confirm the season–only one stall now of asparagus.

Green beans are in–but expensive.

Courgettes and shiny black aubergines! Tomatoes look tempting but are bound to disappoint. The sun hasn’t had time to do it’s magic. Still with a swirl of best olive oil, they’ll complement the sardines and help us with the gear change into the new season.

Officialy summer–but who knows these days…?

Two weeks ago it felt like August in Florence–32C/90F.

To filet a sardine (not for the squeamish, perhaps!)

[Video versions below]

You’ll need a chopping board and plenty of kitchen paper.

Have a pair of scissors to hand and a plate to receive the fillets.

The fishmonger scales the sardines. Check that there are no scales left on the fish, then with the fishhead in your left hand and the body in your right, gently pull the head off–drawing out as much of the innards as possible.


Use the scissors to snip along the belly,


then with your left thumb coax out the rest of the innards.


Place the fish, belly down, on the board and press gently up and down the backbone with both thumbs.


Flatten the fish.

Lift and snip off the small fin, discarding it.



then snip the backbone at the tail end…


…and, with the left hand, peel it gently away from the body, taking care not to take too much of the filet with it.


Voila! You have a butterfly fillet!


12 firm and fresh sardines–butterflied

The stuffing:

100gms/4 oz wholewheat breadcrumbs

Mix in:

1 tablespoon parsley–chopped

2 garlic cloves–chopped fine

1 tablespoon of capers–chopped

a pinch of dried oregano (optional)

1 tbs olive oil

salt and pepper

set oven at 180C

Cover a shallow oven tray with foil and lightly brush it with oil.

Lay out the butterflied fillets.

Cover them not too thickly with the stuffing–a teaspoon lends a helpful guide.

Bake on the top shelf of the oven for ten minutes–less or more depending on the size of the sardines.

I like to finish them under a hot grill for about 30 seconds.









And now here’s the video version of how to butterfly a sardine:

And Part Two illustrates how to stuff the butterflied sardines:

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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