Posts Tagged ‘celery’

Back in the days before enlightenment–BE or rather BMbefore Meredithdespairing black moods regularly followed perceived failure, chez-moi.

“Buck up”–my mother used to say—“failure is character building”!

“Don’t make it worse, Ma!”

The first night of the RSC’s  production of King Lear in the 1976 Stratford season was one such occasion.

Donald Sinden (Lear) and Judi Dench (Regan) among the cast.

I was playing Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester.

The famous speech/soliliquy which ends–“Now God–stand up for bastards!” had gone over well during the three weeks (too long) of previews, with some morale-boosting laughs.

Come press night, the first 7 or 8 rows of critics sit stony-faced–they’d seen King Lear countless times.

Not a squeak, not a giggle and no visible smiles–just an aggressive (as I heard it) silence.

I am unnerved and later fluff a line.

The result is–Black Dog!

Poor proud parents have to endure a post-play drink with an inconsolable zombie son.

They do get to meet Judi Dench–ebullient as ever; though I was never sure she enjoyed playing Regan!

Scroll down the years to last night.

I tried out a new dish involving butternut squash and green split peas.


The peas wouldn’t soften and the squash was tough.

The spicy sauce wasn’t bad, but the time it had all taken to cook was demoralizing.

Was I downhearted? Of course not! It’s PM now, I’m forty years older–that would be silly!

I awoke this morning, though, in need for something completely different: lamb chops? Sausages?

I drove to Lautrec’s Friday market.

Sausages–fait mason [made by the butcher]–won the day and here is the result:


A one pot dish inspired by a recipe in the second Riverford Farm cookbook.

Celery and fennel make for good companions with the modest amount of sausage.


Kale or Swiss chard can substitute for the spinach–or you can just  omit the greens.

for 3/4

1 tbsp olive oil

450gm/1 lb good quality pork sausages

50 gm/2oz bacon–diced

2 medium onions–sliced

2 garlic cloves–pulped in a little salt

8oz celery–cut into inch-size chunks

1 large fennel bulb–outer leaves removed, halved vertically and then each half carefully divided into eight pieces. (This helps them become tender quicker!)

2 bay leaves 

a good sprig of fresh thyme

1 tbs tomato concentrate

100ml red wine–a small wine glass

600ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

4 tsp dijon mustard

8oz spinach–washed and thick stems removed

400gms cooked white beans from a tin [can] or jar

salt and pepper

  • Sauté the sausages and bacon in the olive oil for 10 minutes in a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Remove the sausages to a plate.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic gently in the pan until the onions soften and turn opaque; take care not to let them burn on the bottom of the pan.


  • Add the fennel, the celery, tomato concentrate and herbs


  • Turn everything over thoroughly.


  • Add the red wine and mix again, scraping up the good bits as you go!
  • Add the stock, the saved sausages and stir in the mustard.
  • Bring the pan to a simmer and leave it to bubble gently for about 20 minutes.


  • Check the seasoning. I found it didn’t require added salt–the bacon and stock cube were sufficiently salty–but added some freshly-milled black pepper.
  • Spread the greens over the top of the dish and leave them for ten minutes to start dissolving into it. (Cover the pan if you feel the need).IMG_1218
  • Gently stir in the greens and add the beans.
  • Cook for a further few minutes to heat through.


We had the dish for lunch served over half a baked sweet potato each.


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My first posting on this blog was a year ago today–7th of February 2011!

Poaching Eggs–was a homage to one of my food heroines, the formidable Elizabeth David.

I can’t remember exactly the weather that day but it may not have been so different to today’s–which is nose-endangeringly cold.

So a long nod of thanks to everyone that has visited and those that continue to visit and thanks too for  the comments–they are all read and much appreciated.

AND special thanks to my in-house photographer and editor with whom discussion is always lively and from whom I learn a lot!

Here’s a salad to celebrate.

Seasonally crunchy (not much choice from the locals this morning)–with a juicy orange and some sunflower seeds, to put one in mind of seasons to come.

It got the nod at lunch today from Meredith–(though not the mackerel fillet that it accompanied–next time I’ll use less smoked sweet paprika!).

For 2

1 large fennel bulb–outer leaves removed, stood upright and halved through the middle, each cut half laid flat and halved again, then sliced very thinly

celery stalk–sliced thinly

half a small sweet red onion–sliced thinly

1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds–dry roasted in a frying pan on the stove top

1 tablespoon of parsley–chopped

a few shavings of parmesan

1 juicy orange–carefully peeled (lifting off the white pith), halved and sliced thinly

salt for sprinkling

1 tablespoon best quality olive oil for dressing

  • Mix the first seven ingredients together with care in a favorite bowl.
  • Sprinkle with salt and the oil–add more oil if you like.
  • Lightly turn everything over.
  • Check the seasoning and serve.

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I found this in my old paste-in foolscap notebook and have been meaning to try it for a while.

Cabbage has been on my mind since leaving Strasbourg–and pork for that matter!

An example of this brightly colored variety of red cabbage was waiting patiently in the fridge for my return.

So lunch yesterday was a pork chop on a bed of red cabbage.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion–sliced fine

red cabbage–shredded not too fine

2 sticks of celery–sliced fine

1 apple–peeled, quartered, cored and chopped into chunks

10 juniper berries–crushed

Juice of a lemon

Juice of an orange

1 tablespoon cider vinegar


  • In a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, sauté the onion gently in the oil until it is soft–about 5 minutes.
  • Add the shredded cabbage, the celery and apple and turn these over with the onion and oil.
  • Cook this mix for another 5 minutes until the cabbage begins to wilt.
  • Pour over the two juices, the vinegar and the juniper berries.
  • Add a good pinch of salt.
  • Turn it all over carefully to distribute the liquids.
  • Cover the pan and continue cooking for about 20 minutes–the time depends on the toughness of the cabbage–it should be nicely tender to the bite.
The cabbage and apple married well with the pork.
I’ll write up the simple pork recipe tomorrow.
Next time–red cabbage with a slow cooked fillet of salmon.

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Another bean soup–can’t have too many in my opinion!

Interior insulation for the post prandial walk on a chilly winter day.

This satisfying soup is based on one in Elizabeth Romer’s lovely book, The Tuscan Year: Life and Food in an Italian Family.

Her account of the Cerroti family’s daily existence is a good read and full of authentic seasonal recipes.

Serves 4

4 tbsp olive oil

2 onions – chopped small

2 sticks of celery – chopped small

3 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

100 g/4 oz smoked bacon/pancetta – use unsmoked if you prefer – chopped small

4 tbsp parsley – chopped

1 x 450 g/16 oz can tomatoes – drained and chopped

350 g/12 oz tinned/jarred white beans – drained, rinsed and puréed–use the best quality beans you can find–it makes a difference

570 ml/1 pint/ vegetable stock – more if you like (I use organic veg. stock cubes)

150 g/6 oz “short” wholewheat pasta – (i.e. penne or farfalle, not spaghetti)

salt and pepper

freshly-grated parmesan

  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add the onions, celery, garlic, bacon and parsley, and turn them in the oil.
  • Cook them over a gentle heat until the vegetables are tender and the bacon is colouring up – this is the “taste engine” of the soup and needs some time – at least 20 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and mix them in and allow to meld for a good 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans and mix in.
  • Cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • These stages are important for a good depth of flavour and shouldn’t be rushed.
  • The soup should look beautiful now – with a warm glow.
  • Add half the stock and let it meld in.
  • Add the pasta and the rest of the stock and cook the pasta in the soup.
  • It may take a little longer than pasta normally does (I put a lid on at this point to help).
  • Be careful that this thick and unctuous soup does not stick and burn.
  • If you prefer it looser, add more stock and cook on a little to incorporate it.
  • Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste –remembering that the bacon and stock can be salty.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and swirls of olive oil.

(This nourishing soup is included in my cookbook–Delicious Dishes for Diabetics–a Mediterranean Way of Eating.)

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An autumn/winter soup this–with a big presence.

Adapted from Leslie Forbes’ lovely book  A Table in Tuscany.

In the early eighties she had the bright idea of eating her way round Tuscany’s restaurants and watering holes–an arduous task to set oneself.

This soup–one of the best bean soups in Tuscanyshe credits to the restaurant of the Fattoria dei Barbi near Montalcino and the unnamed English cook, married to an Italian, thus providing the important advantage of a Tuscan mother-in-law!  This is 25 years ago mind–things have a habit of changing.

The book remains a gem (used copies available on Amazon for a penny!).

2 carrots--chopped small

2 sticks of celery–chopped small

2 leeks–cleaned and chopped small

6 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 tinned tomatoes–chopped up with their liquid

A sprig of fresh thyme

1 large garlic clove–pulped

Half a green cabbage–stem removed and shredded

The other half of the cabbage shredded thinly–this for a topping (see below)

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 800 gms/24 oz of cooked white beans [canned or bottled or dried, soaked and cooked]–drained but their liquid retained

1 pint/500ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the celery, leeks and carrots until they are tender–about twenty minutes.
  • Mix in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme and let them cook on for five minutes.
  • Add the cabbage, season with salt & pepper and cook on for ten minutes.
  • Purée three-quarters of the beans in a mixer with a little of their liquid.
  • Add the bean water and the bean purée and stir it all together.
  • Cook this thick mix for an hour–stirring it regularly to stop it sticking and burning.
  • Add a little of the stock each time you stir it.
  • This is meant to be a thick soup–up to you how loose to make it–just be careful not to dilute the depth of taste.
  • While the soup cooks on sauté the rest of the cabbage to serve as a topping when you present the soup.

  • Keep tasting the soup as you go (you may find yourself doing that anyway!).
  • Serve with a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

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