Needs Must When the Devil Drives

His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. 

Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

It’s fun pet and house sitting for family – the animals are terrific company. Watching the kitten chase shadows is hilarious.

However, challenges exist. Using someone else’s oven. Finding ingredients in another cook’s cupboards – can you believe it, no toasted sesame oil? – has foiled a few suppers.

Olive: Who in their right or left mind uses “toasted sesame oil” and for what?

The local supermarket is very much for those picking up quick meals on their way home from work, so a small range of herbs, spices and other additions to meat, fish and vegetables.

Olive: You are in the city, what did you expect?

However, various jars in the fridge proved oh-so productive. Examples:

Fresh pesto: stuff open cap mushrooms with it and bake in the oven.

Tapenade:  stuff chicken thighs with the tapenade, roll them and top with sun-dried tomatoes. Or top with red peppers (not keen on the green – not ripe and they repeat like billyo. Indigestible …).

Olive: Tapenade is great, but it depends on what the pesto has in it. If it is cilantro you can keep it.

Both are delicious. I confess I did chuck some chopped garlic in with the tomatoes and peppers … and fresh coriander to garnish. (You’d love it, Olive, I know …)

Olive: Oh thank you for thinking of me… it sounds so good.

Tapenade is easy to make – blitz black olives with anchovies (to taste) and garlic – but there are good quality tapenades ‘out there’. Ditto pestos in general.

Olive: Stick with the old fashion recipe and you will have a hit on your hands.

Rose harissa sauce: added a dollop to a sort-of Bolognese sauce and pasta. I’d have liked more, but I like very spicy and hot foods.

Olive: Sounds great, but it would be better without the Rose water.

It was also good spread on sourdough French bread – livened up some indifferent cold ham no end.

Truffle and artichoke pesto: I bought salmon in the local mini supermarket and happened upon a jar of this pesto. Smeared it thickly on the salmon, drizzled with olive oil, and cooked in a hot oven for 10  minutes until it was j-u-s-t cooked – was it good … the aroma was amazing and the combination of fish and truffle and artichoke wonderful. Plenty of mange-touts and roasted baby tomatoes (Italian plum – have a better flavour, slighty tart. No pun intended.) to accompany.

Olive: Let’s hope the Italians have a sense of humor reading that.

I forgot to put the jacket potatoes in the oven, so we had a calorie-conscious meal that evening, because plenty of butter would have smothered it.

Olive: Jacket potatoes????? Explain.

Pity about the bar of Lindt chocolate with orange and almonds we scoffed afterwards!

Basil and chilli pesto: I picked up a big bag of basil in a greengrocers. Blitzed it with some cashews and chilli and chucked it over fresh pasta with plenty of olive oil.

Another evening, I spread it on some white fish fillets (sea bass – but most would work), rolled them and wrapped them in Parma ham. It wasn’t great Parma – should have used streaky bacon – but overall, it wasn’t bad.

Olive: What is Parma ham?

The family returns this evening. Takeaways will be ordered. Hope it’s curry.

Olive: Make your own Curry.

Curry Powder Spice Mix

Makes 1/3 cup / 80 ml

2 tbsp. / 30 ml Coriander powder

1 tbsp. / 15 ml Cumin powder

1 tbsp. / 15 ml Turmeric powder

1 tbsp. / 15 ml Cayenne (mild or hot)

1 tbsp. / 15 ml Smoked sweet paprika (for color)

½ tsp / 2.5 ml Ground ginger

½ tsp / 2.5 ml Pepper powder


Combine all the spices in a small spice jar. Give it a good mix.


“In the end, your creativity — perhaps even your outrageousness — will determine the final result.”

Bobby Flay, celebrity chef, restaurateur



Tilly and Olive

You can get the recipe at:

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