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The lovely green spears were in Realmont market today at reasonable prices.

I bought a kilo of straight ones for Friday dinner with our guests, arriving from the USA.

A second of less than perfect (less expensive too) specimens–asperges tordues (twisted)–to make this very simple frittata for lunch.

I have five eggs left in the pantry and a red onion. Add some cheese and seasoning–and there you have the ingredients!

Something different to do with this vegetable with a relatively short-lived season and a use for the cheaper spears with the less than perfect appearance.

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  • 450gms/80z asparagus spears–prepared weight–ie tough ends removed and sliced on the diagonal into smallish pieces
  • 1 red onion–peeled and halved and sliced
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 5 eggs–beaten

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  • 2oz grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

Serves 2 to 4 people 

Soften the onion in the olive oil until it begins to caramelize a little–10 to 15 minutes

Add the asparagus pieces and mix in adding some salt and a twist or two of pepper.

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Cook the mix over a gentle heat until the asparagus begins to soften. I like them to retain a little bite–about 10 minutes.

Let this cool.

Then ease into the beaten egg mix.

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Fold in the cheese and check the seasoning.

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Heat a tablespoon of oil in a 10 inch pan to hot–and fold in the egg mix and spread it evenly.

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Immediately turn the heat down to the lowest and cook for 30 minutes.

There should be just a small pool of liquid left on top.

Finish it under a grill for 30 seconds.

 

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Be careful taking the pan out of the oven–it is very hot, as I was reminded when the pan touched the side of my hand by accident–ouch!

Loosen the frittata round the edges of the pan with a fish slice or spatula and ease it out onto a favorite platter.

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“High on the DING scale!” said Meredith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meredith opens the front door and in with a gust of cold air comes a rush of cats–an explosion of fur–on the move.

Not an unusual sight here at feeding time.

Five out of six make their entry: Beau, Ben, Midnight, Lily and Blackie. (Three blacks, one white and one tuxedo.)

Number six, Peanut, will slink in later when the others have had their fill.

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Peanut

Survival has been Peanut’s game since she first insinuated herself into the group years ago.

Slinker would have been a good name for her.

She convinces herself she’s invisible to the other cats by moving forward in slow motion–one paw imperceptibly lifted in front of another.

“Don’t look at me, I’m not moving–in fact I’m not here!”

She can be bold and hang out in plain sight too, on a radiator or a mantelpiece–staring down a challenge with her unhelpful hooded-eyes.

I’m not alone in never warming to her–none of the other cats like her. She upsets Meredith by stalking birds at the feeder though she has access to plenty of food.

She’s tolerated as an “outsider”–though Ben enjoys terrorising Peanut from time to time, chasing her off.

Having cats is a little like a play by Harold Pinter–it’s all about Power and Control–about ways of maintaining the upper hand.

When their paths cross at feeding time Lily and Blackie (mother and daughter) show no hint of knowing each other.

Never a “Hi there! how’s your day been?” nudge, nudge.

Just a jealous circling of the food on offer.

It’s a tough world–out there.

(It was the same with our late head cat Pippa– “Mother of all cats”–and her offspring Marmalade and Butterscotch, all gingers, of fond memory. When they predeceased her she showed no sign of noticing.

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In fact Lily, new “Mother of all cats” since Pippa’s departure, was a remarkable parent to Blackie and the three litters she brought to us. (Nonetheless after the third litter, we took her to the vets to be sterilized.)

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White cats are always susceptible to sun burn (and often deaf).  And after the hot, sunny summer 2003 Lily’s ears were permanently damaged as she carted her litters from safety point to safety point.

We suspect that Lily has another home, over the way, across the fields, in the blue beyond–but where exactly we’ve never pinpointed. She remains a regular visitor, her white form visible in the evening gloom coming across the green pasture.

She rarely hangs around for long, though lately after supper she stealthily climbs the little ramp into the vacant hen house in the courtyard, for an overnight stay.

Since Pip died, the cat-dynamics have changed.

Blackie used to hang out under a huge topiary bush at the end of the garden.

As a direct consequence of Pip’s absence, she’s becoming less timid and more demanding.

Just this month, at age 13, she has dared to leap up on the bed on cold winter nights and sleep on the duvet with the other cats.

Black  is the new hue, (apart from wretched Slinker, that is);  our GINGER days are (sadly) over–for the moment.

Our Pip was a modest cat, but a BIG presence and definitely Top Cat.

Always found the higher perch–often the kitchen table (the only cat with that privilege)–and would see off any challengers with a long, low, growling hiss that she might have learned from a snake.

She’s buried in the garden now and the pecking order has been rearranged.

Beau wears the mantel now and knows he is Top Cat.

 

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Ben seems content with his modestly elevated position, second-in-command to his adored older step-brother.

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Midnight is happy to be allowed in the same room with these esteemed Giants of the cat world.

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“This is me practising for the day when I’m Top Cat”

And that’s how the hierarchy stands these days.

The males are all young cats and rank is forgotten when there’s a Rumble in the garden.

The sun comes out and the garden becomes an irregular race circuit. Up the Judas tree, down the fig!

Round and round they go, leaping and jumping, a sprint of cats  until someone gets too rough–and it becomes less of a game.

Survival of the fittest–or rather the one who best times his retreat up to the tree top.

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We now take responsibility for SIX cats.

A collective noun to describe them?

A barrel? A pile? A rush? A mew? A herd? A slink? A skip? A stretch of cats?

Certainly not a handful, for the wonder of cats is that they are so good at taking care of themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

We returned last night from London.

Out of the car and into the kitchen to turn on the oven–180 C.

Lightly wash and brush the dust off a sweet potato.

Prick with a fork to avoid it bursting.

Then pop the potato into the pre-heated oven. It’ll take about an hour, depending on its size.

Sit down and have a cup of tea!

When revived a little make the simple Red bean chili, below from my new book Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics.

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Adapted from Rose Elliott’s The Bean Book this is a simple solution for people who don’t eat meat but like the look of chili–leave out the carne!

(Not just for vegetarians either–just as my cook book is not just for diabetics!) 

This recipe is my kind of fast food. Quickly done– tastes even better the next day (except we had no leftovers!).

Don’t forget the lemon!

For two weary home comers:

About 8 oz (a jar or tin [can]) of red beans–rinsed and drained

onion–chopped

1 clove of garlic–chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

8oz of tinned [canned] tomatoes–chopped, with the juice

1/2 tsp chili/cayenne powder (more if you like it really spicy)

juice of half a lemon–or more to taste

salt and pepper

  • Soften the onions and garlic gently in the oil–stirring often for about five minutes.
  • Add the chilli powder and the chopped tomatoes with their juice.
  • Mix together, blending in the tomatoes.
  • Add the beans.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring gently to the simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes.
  • Pour over the lemon juice and mix thoroughly.

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Halve the sweet potato (orange!)on the plate.

Spoon over the beans (red!).

It needed some greenbut couldn’t be bothered to make the Interesting Cabbage from Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics

Found three crisp little gem lettuces in the fridge–halved and quartered just one and shared it between the two plates.

Drizzled olive oil and balsamic on each quarter with a pinch of salt.

Orange, red and green–on the plate.

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Different colors, but back in the land of the Tricolour!

 

 

Walking

Tomorrow (April 7) is World Health Day –and one of the major themes this year is

TACKLING DIABETES!

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Exercise is a key element in the battle.

Walking as part of an exercise campaign has been important to me–doubly so since my three precious stents were fitted four years ago.

I asked my cardiologist, Monsieur Lefevre (the least feverish man you could meet), why the blockage I had in my main artery showed no symptoms–no shortage of breath when out on my walks. “It dulls the nervous system,” he said, thus turning off the alarm mechanism.

“Keep on walking!” he advised, after the procedure.

And I do–every day, for about 25 minutes.

I’ve written three or four blogs about walking, but this is my favorite:

On WALKING:

The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best.
– 
Thomas Jefferson

 

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All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

I was walking six times a week, usually for about 40 minutes. I tried to do a circular route, which suited me better.

[Now I usually limited myself to 25 minutes or so, every day]

 

I am a slow walker, but I never walk backwards.
–   Abraham Lincoln

I liked the freedom of it, and starting from home–no time spent travelling to exercise. And there was no equipment needed—just a good pair of shoes and warm clothing. I usually took the same route–which never felt the same two days running–so to speak!– varying with the weather and changing  seasons.

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To find new things, take the path you took yesterday.
–   John Burroughs

Then one day I overdid it–and my left knee felt bad.

I had to stop for a while and missed it. I used an exercise bike–but it wasn’t the same.

Gradually my knee healed and I started walking again–but less. Now it’s three or four times a week– preserving old knees.

If one keeps on walking everything will be alright.
–   Soren Kierkegaard

 

Thoughts come clearly while one walks.
– 
Thomas Mann

 

It is not talking but walking that will bring us to heaven.
–  Matthew Henry

 

Straw men stretching after a walk…

 

 Type 2 Diabetes is a devil.

It’s a sneaky beast, a lurker and a patient one.

Diabetes UK estimates that there are about 549,000 people in Britain who have diabetes but have NOT yet been diagnosed.

Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has more than doubled–from 1.4 million to almost 3.5 million.

It’s diagnosed with a simple blood test. (I had NO symptoms!)

Wise to GET TESTED.

 

Ben and I had a nap this afternoon.

The wind had got up again and Julien was using the Karcher to blast clean the tiles on the terrace.

We were escaping the noise.

Ben is a rescue cat and gift from a kind cat person who–like Old Mother Hubbard with her children–had so many cats he didn’t know what to do!

Ben is a mover.

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He comes into a room at the fast trot with a sense of purpose–not to stay long, though; often to snack briefly but intently on his favorite dry food, then off at a scamper and a skip to a siesta–like this afternoon.

He can also be perfectly still.

Stillness for an actor is an effective tool, it grabs the attention; Ben’s stillness is innate, no artifice involved, but it is stunning to witness.

When he sleeps he sleeps the sleep of centuries–he does not stir when stroked–asleep.

He got “stuck” on the roof a couple of nights ago–in truth he wasn’t stuck, just being a bit weedy.

The roof in question slopes down to family tombs in the graveyard–the friendly resting places of some of our late neighbors.

The cemetery is a favorite playground for the cats–plenty of places from which to say “BOO”.

Ben used the grandest tomb to leap onto the roof of the dependence, then decided to call the “fire brigade” rather than descend by the same route.

It took our newest arrival–Midnight–to shame him into taking the leap by showing him the way.

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Midnight resting on his laurels

Midnight, or “Fluffernutter” as Meredith often calls him, is normally Ben’s shadow–in awe of him, one could say–following him everywhere much to Ben’s disdain; that night Midnight showed his mettle.

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Ben (left) with his shadow

Young Midnight is long-haired, black and dark brown. He was left after dark (near midnight, in fact) in the courtyard–a small bundle of bones and fur with two anxious staring eyes.

He too was a “donation”–anonymous, this time.

We must be known as a “cat haven”– this is not the first time it’s happened.

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Beau taking his role as Top Cat seriously

Our “Top Cat”, Beau, Meredith found in the garage. Someone had popped him through the catflap–well, better than drowning.

He sat in the palm of my hand, purring for dear life. How could he know then that he’d fallen in the butter dish?

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Young Beau auditioning for doorstop replacement.

So our resident (indoor) three, all relative youngsters, are Beau, Ben and Midnight–in that order of their arrival.

We also have two outdoor cats–a mother and daughter and a piebald, Peanut–whom I have never liked.

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Peanut

(Is it allowed not to like a cat?)

Enough to put on a musical!

 

[A house full of cats Part Two to follow!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artichoke omelette

Described as a Catalan omelette by Patience Gray in her beautiful cookbook Honey from a Weed, I am making this for lunch:

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It’s the morning after we return from the launch fortnight in the UK for my new cookbook, Mediterranean Cooking for Diabetics.

A predictably slow morning–I’m heavy-lidded and creaky.

It will thus be the lazy version–made with artichoke hearts from an Italian jar (bounty from a trip to Tuscany)–surprisingly good!

Patience Gray’s version uses fresh artichokes (a lot more work!).

It reminds me of lunches eaten over 40 years at la Sostanza in Florence–discovered by chance on a trip in 1978.

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I always order artichoke omelette–served flat–and a plate of white beans with olive oil.

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In a beauty contest, Sostanza’s omelette (tortino) wins…

Patience says the Catalan version is served folded.

Chose where you are having lunch–in Florence at Sostanza or a little restaurant on the Spanish Costa Brava (Wild Coast)–folded or flat–it is delicious.

I’m choosing Sostanza and making it as a single omelette to be divided in two.

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For the Look, I might try Patience’s version next time–i.e. folded!

Tasted good like this, though.

 

Serves 2

1 tin/jar cooked artichokes–drained and sliced on the vertical

2 tbs olive oil

2 tbs parmesan cheese–grated

4 eggs

salt and pepper

Gently fry the artichoke slices in the oil.

Season the egg mixture.

When the artichokes are nicely browned, turn up the heat and add the egg mixture.

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Push back the liquid from the rim of the pan, letting the liquid mixture run into the spaces.

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Sprinkle over the parmesan and slip the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate.

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MEDITERRANEAN COOKING for DIABETICS–Delicious dishes to control or avoid diabetes.

Published today in the UK–available from bookstores and on-line and as an ebook.

Here’s a visual tour of some of the recipes you’ll find to cook in the book.

All photos by Meredith Wheeler–(bar one, which she’s in—only fair!)

To know how to eat is to know enough….

~ Old Basque saying

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Robin Ellis Med Cooking 01

 

StuffedRedPeppers

 

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VeganPlate

 

SeafoodStew

SpinachTort

Spinach&RiceTorte

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Chicken

 

Gazpacho

 

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Bon appétit!

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