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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)!

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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!

Dull?

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.

 

 

Red Lentil Soup

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

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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!

A singular lunch

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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.

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

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it slowly (appropriately) comes into focus.

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Studying American cuts

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Portrait of the pasta makers

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Fish stall

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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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Sunrise over Chesapeake Bay–Wednesday morning.

Birds squabble round the bird feeder–many varieties, searching for food while the snow still lies on the ground.

Cardinals, Blue Jays, Grackles, a Red Headed Woodpecker, Sparrows, Finches.

In the bay, close to the house, a pair of Herons and four majestic Tundra Swans in stately procession.

A single gull knocks on the door.

“Any spare scraps ‘dbe welcome,” then circles away when there is no response.

Canada geese called by yesterday–a rare visitation we are told.

A host of black birds swirl in from the side and threaten to sweep the smaller fry off the picture.

Our indignant host gets up and the invaders retreat, to bide their time in the trees a little to the side.

“This is the eighteenth snowfall we’ve had this winter.”

“Is that standard?”

“Normally we have two or three!”

No wonder the bird feeder is popular!

We are in Washington DC and it’s snowing.

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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.

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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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Forty years on…

and Ross Poldark remounts…

Today the BBC announced the name of the actor who is to play the lead in the re-working of the series  first screened in 1975.

Irish actor Aidan Turner has bagged it.

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Just needs to add the scar and he’s away!

Congratulations to him–I hope he has as much fun as we did filming this wild and wonderful saga written in 12 books over a sixty year period by Winston Graham.

Forty years ago this November I went for the first of three auditions for the part, knowing little about Winston Graham and less of the books.

A brief glance at the first book of the saga, Ross Poldark, was enough–I seriously wanted him to be me or vice versa.

I had to go through two more nail-biting sessions in front of producer and directors before finding myself in the position Aidan is in today….

…Cast to play Ross Poldark.

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Now–two generations on–this great piece of storytelling will be enjoyed again by millions on TV and in book form.

The time is right. The wheel of fashion turns and Poldark, an unashamedly romantic tale, can be told again with a straight face.

The new series has the advantage of being adapted from original books written by an exceptionally gifted storyteller–Winston Graham.

The characters develop at their own pace and seem responsible for their own destiny.

No visible puppeteer, no obvious manipulation–just the telling of stories through the characters involved.

Aidan and I share a common debt to Winston, for giving us the chance to play a difficult, contrary, complex man often out of his time.

It’s a roller coaster of a ride!

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