Brains Really

Originally published in 2014 Enjoy feel free to leave a comment.

Now, folks, he has done it again. Who, am I talking about, Apicius. That damn ancient Roman. I was going to post a German recipe for Meatloaf and give a tidbit of history. Well, guess what I found out the first recorded recipe for meatloaf is in De Re Coquinaria (On Cooking) written by guess who, Apicius. Damn him.

The modern version (I personally like the German recipe) is far better than what was made in Ancient Rome. You see in Ancient Rome they used Beef and /or Veal brains. Yep, you read that right, brains.

For that reason, I am only posting the German version. It is a bit more modern in that it does not include brains. Of course, you have to have at least half a brain to make it.









1/2 lb. lean ground beef /226.79 g

1/2 lb. ground lean pork / 226.79 g

1 medium onion, chopped

3 tablespoons breadcrumbs /44.37 ml

3 tablespoons cold water / 44.37 ml

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt / 2.46 ml

1 teaspoon paprika / 4.92 ml

1 teaspoon prepared mustard / 4.92 ml

2 tablespoons chopped parsley /29.58 ml

3 peeled hardboiled egg

4 slices bacon (cube 2 strips; cut 2 strips in half)

4 tablespoons vegetable oil / 59.16 ml

1 cup beef broth /236.59 ml


1/4 cup hot water / 59.14 ml

1 teaspoon cornstarch / 4.92 ml

1/4 cup water /59.14 ml

1/2 cup sour cream / 118.29 ml


1 Mix together ground meats, onion, bread crumbs, 3 Tablespoons cold water, and eggs.

2 Flavor with salt, paprika, mustard, and parsley.

3 Blend ingredients thoroughly.

4 Flatten out meat mixture in the shape of a square; about 8 X 8 inches.

5 Arrange whole hard-boiled eggs in a row along the middle of the meat.

6 Fold sides of meat pattie over the eggs.

7 Shape meat carefully into a loaf, resembling a flatbread loaf.

8 Cook cubed bacon in a Dutch oven for about 2 minutes.

9 Carefully add the vegetable oil, and heat.

10 Place meatloaf in the Dutch oven and cook until browned on all sides.

11 Cut remaining bacon strips in half and arrange over the top of the meatloaf.

12 Place in an uncovered Dutch oven in a preheated 350F/Gas mark 4 / 180 C oven for about 30-45 minutes.

13 While meat is baking, gradually pour hot beef broth over the top of the meatloaf; brush occasionally with pan drippings.

14 When done remove meat to a preheated platter and keep it warm.

15 Add 1/4 cup of hot water to the pan and scrape all particles from the bottom.

16 Bring to a gentle boil.

17 Mix cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and add to the pan.

18 Cook until bubbly and thick.

19 Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

20 Reheat to warm (do not boil).

21 Season with salt and pepper if desired.

22 Serve the sauce (on the side), separately


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It’s Mush Damn It

Originally Published in 2015

“In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue…” so they told us in school. What slipped past some history teachers was the return voyage to Spain.  I guess once you have supposedly discovered something comin’ home makes no difference to anyone, especially those same history teachers.

Now don’t get your knickers in a wad I’m not saying all people with Ph.D.’s in history are nuts. Just some of them. Why several of my friends have a Ph.D. in history and they are not nuts… Now, what makes the Columbus voyage home so important? Why boys and girls it was what was in the cargo hold of those ships. Corn, that’s right CORN.  Until then Europe and in particular that country called Italy had never heard of corn.   That by the way was in the early to mid-1500. It still took them a few years to figure out just what to do with corn.

Corn was originally grown in the mountainous region of the northern part of Italy. Yea, I know who knew there was an Italian hillbilly. I guess I will have to leave that for another time. I have far more important issues to deal with.

Someone in one of those mountain hamlets decided to make a favorite Italian dish called Polenta.  Traditionally Polenta is made with ground Barley, linseeds, coriander, and sufficient salt. That is according to Pliny but Apicius, y’all remember him and the fried chicken don’t ya. Well, Apicius stuck his big nose in it the debate and altered the recipe to wheat flour served with honey.

Back to the mountains of Northern Italy. Someone, a Yankee at that decided to use cornmeal and had the nerve to call the final product Polenta.  I am certain that more than one Native American was not happy over that. Why, because Mush, is Native American, made the same way as the traditional Polenta, but with cornmeal same cooking time, in fact, the same everything.

My response to this and to all those T.V. Chefs who insist they are right and the rest of us are wrong is NO. Not just NO but HELL NO, that’s not POLENTA. It’s MUSH damn it.

To prove my point I will give you my grandmothers mush recipe:


3/4 cup – cold water (177.5 ml)

3 cups boiling water (709.8 ml)

1 cup – cornmeal (236.6 ml)

1 tsp – salt   (4.93 ml)

First, make a paste with cold water and cornmeal/salt mixture, then stir in boiling water. Continue to cook (stirring often) over low heat for about 20 minutes, then pour into a small loaf pan and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator, until the mush is set. Slice thinly (about 1/2 inch slices) and fry in oil until crispy brown. (We used lard to fry them in but in today’s world, you may use whatever floats your boat.)


If you have Cracklin’s, that’s the way I remember it but if you have crispy bacon or some dried fruit layin’ around then by all means toss a handful in after the cookin’ is done.

You can serve hot with eggs and bacon or with syrup or sausage gravy, but my favorite is apple butter, preferably homemade.

Now if you see one of those celebrity chefs and you know who they are use this recipe and call it Polenta you can do two things… Scream at the T. V “NO” and then write a proper and polite little note telling them that what they made is Mush. It is of course your Southern duty.


Below is the original from that Apicius fellow I have been fighting with.

Fried Cream Wheat from the Ancient Romans

Accipies similam, coques in aqua calida ita ut durrissimam pultem facias, deinde in patellam expandis.  Cum refrizerit, concidis quasi culdia et frigis in oleo optimo.  Levas, perfundis mel, piper aspergis et inferes.  Melius feceris, si lac pro aqua miseris.

Take flour [semolina], cook in hot water so that it becomes a very firm polenta, and then spread it on a plate.  When it has cooled, cut it as for sweet cakes and fry in oil of the finest quality.  Remove, pour honey over, sprinkle with pepper, and serve.  You will do even better if you use milk instead of water.

The De re coquinaria of Apicius as found in A Taste of Ancient Rome, by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa, Translated by Anna Herkolotz









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Collops, Pancakes, Fish Pie – Lent is here

Well, that’s another year that I forgot about pancake day – Shrove Tuesday. Not popular with the folks and not enough milk and eggs to knock up a batter.

Also forgot about Collop Monday and Ash Wednesday. (Hangs head in shame.) All of which means I feel there is no need to give up wine o’clock for 40 days, excluding Sundays, which would make 46 days.  (Roll on wine o’clock.)

Collop Monday was the last day for eating meat before Lent started, along with luxuries such as eggs and butter.  Any meat in the household would be sliced into collops (Scandinavian word meaning ‘a slice of meat’ – that was a surprise, wasn’t’ it?), salted and preserved until Maundy Thursday, when Lent ends. Collops and eggs were a traditional meal on this Monday.

Beef Collops – serves 4 – 6

1lb/500g steak, thinly sliced

2ozs/40-50g butter (I prefer unsalted)

Small onion, finely chopped or grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed or grated

¼  pint/125ml well-flavoured brown stock

some slugs of red wine – optional

a little flour to thicken – not too much as it can affect the flavour of the sauce

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, fresh parsley and other fresh herbs of choice.

Melt the butter, sweat the onions and garlic (Do not burn the garlic or you’ll have to throw the onion and garlic away and start again – burning makes the garlic bitter.)

Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or so.

Add the beef slices, stock and wine and cook till tender. The time depends on which type of steak you have chosen; fillet will take 15 minutes or less. Season to taste.

Serve with fried, poached or scrambled eggs, triangles of toast and lots of fresh herbs. Carrots and a green vegetable work well with it.

Shrove Tuesday was traditionally a day for fun – after making confession and being absolved, or shriven, by the priest – with football games, truancy, cockfighting, skipping (yes, skipping) and general excess consumption of ale and other alcohol!

Pancakes were introduced as a way of using up eggs and butter before Ash Wednesday kicked off Lent. Pancake races and pancake tossing are still popular games in the UK.


4ozs/100g plain flour, sifted two or three times to aerate

pinch fine sea salt

1 egg

½ pt/250ml milk or half milk, half water.

Generous tablespoon (25+ml) of special ingredient …

Sling the lot in a blender or processor till smooth and bubbly. Or use a whisk and a large bowl to combine the ingredients.

Blend in the secret ingredient – a generous tablespoon of brandy or whisky or sherry or marsala or … this will ensure light, lacy, crisp pancakes.

Make the batter in the morning and leave to rest till needed for the evening meal – or make the day before if you want them for breakfast or lunch. This allows the starch grains to soften.

Use a good pancake skillet or a solid, thick-based frying pan. Heat the pan, melt a little butter till hot. Hold your hand over the pan – when you feel the heat, it is ready to tackle the batter. Pour in a little batter and swirl around the pan to cover. Cook till you see brown through the batter and toss to cook the other side. If you don’t want to toss, use a palate knife to lift and turn. I gave up tossing after wasting umpteen pancakes.

I suggest you have two pans on the go to keep up with demand.

Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze, and sugar. Or anything you like!

These pancakes are also good for savoury dishes. Try them stuffed with wilted spinach and sautéed mushrooms, in a tasty cheese sauce. Lots of nutmeg helps. So does garlic …

Leeks and smoked fish in a white wine sauce are good. As are chickpeas, chorizo, red pepper and a spicy sauce. Leftover chicken and sweetcorn in a well-seasoned white (wine) sauce is good too. In truth, you can make a filling for pancakes from anything that takes your fancy – ratatouille, curry, savoury mince, sausages (skinned and forked down to a mince) with grated carrots, prawns, veal and blue cheese – anything.

Divide filling of your choice between the pancakes, roll up and lay in a buttered/olive oiled ovenproof dish, coat with extra sauce, some grated cheese and bake in the oven. Make lots – there are never enough.

These pancakes are marvellous for crêpes Suzette too. Oro hot cherries and ice cream. Add the ice cream just before you roll the pancakes and serve.

Ash Wednesday signals that Lent has arrived – 40 days of abstinence and fasting. It used to be that only one meal a day was eaten and no meat, eggs or dairy produce. Ash was sprinkled on the heads of penitents, which later changed to the priest marking foreheads with a cross with the ash kept from the burnt palms of the previous year.

Fish pie is the traditional meal for this day. Everyone has a favourite recipe – unless they don’t eat fish!

Fish Pie – serves 4

1lb/500g mixed cubed fish – white fish, smoked fish, salmon or pink trout

6oz/150g shelled prawns – nice and juicy and plump

several chopped cornichons (small pickled cucumbers), depending on size and taste

1-2 tbls/25-50g rinsed and chopped capers

1 tbls green peppercorns, crushed

2 sliced red peppers – either charred and peeled, or use those that come in a jar. Much quicker, especially if you don’t have a gas hob.

Lots of chopped fresh herbs

½ pint/300ml fish stock

¼ pint/150ml milk or cream

dry white or dry rose wine – optional

sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, spoonful paprika (smoked, if you like it)

Some flour or cornflour


1lb floury potatoes, sliced, peeled or not as you see fit.

A thinly sliced onion

Extra milk or cream

Toasted pistachio nuts

Chopped herbs – dill if you like it – to scatter on top to serve

Cook the potato and sliced onion in the extra milk or cream or milk and water till just tender, in a saucepan. Takes too long in the over and sometimes the potato refuses to soften.

Mix the cubed fish with the prawns, cornichons, capers, green peppercorns, red pepper, herbs and seasoning and put in a deepish ovenproof dish.

Mix the fish stock, milk or cream in a pan. Add flour and some butter and cook till thickening.

Pour over the fish.

Cover with the almost-cooked potato slices and onions. Add the cooking cream or milk if there is not enough sauce in the dish. (I like lots of sauce.)

Dot with butter. Grated cheese if you wish.

Bake for 25-30 minutes 200C/400F/Gas 6 – adjust accordingly. Everyone knows the foibles of their ovens in terms of temperature and timing – until the fish is cooked and the potato browned.

Toast some pistachios in a hot dry pan.

Sprinkle the nuts over the potatoes to serve, along with some paprika and herbs for colour.

Good with spinach, broccoli, courgettes, baby sprouts, spring greens, mange tout or beans.

It’s not a traditional plain fish pie but it is tasty!

Enjoy.  And roll on the Easter egg hunt.




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Post Stress Comfort Food – How to Cope When the Partying is Over.

‘After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives.’   – Oscar Wilde

After the excesses of the Silly Season, everyone seems to be jumping on the Dry January bandwagon. Personally, I will fight to the death to keep wine o’clock on the agenda. (‘I drink no more than a sponge.’ – Rabelais.) But it is cold! I love salads and eat one for lunch every day but oh, how I love comfort food when the temperature drops after dusk and I am hungry and snug in the warm sanctuary of my home.

Macaroni Cheese is an all-time favourite – everyone knows how to make this – with the addition of fresh, grated garlic to the cheese sauce and lots of chopped parsley thrown in before grilling (broiling) to crisp the top.  Chunks of sautéed spicy chorizo are good too. Served with a mixed green salad or just-wilted spinach – yum.

Risottos hit the spot  – a colourful one with beetroot will cheer any flagging spirit.

Beetroot Risotto – enough for two, or eat it all yourself …

Bunch of spring onions (green onions or scallions), sliced on the diagonal, using both white and green parts

500ml/1 pint  stock – your choice of homemade vegetable, chicken or beef – hot and ready to use

250g/8oz cooked beetroot, coarsely grated

1 large clove garlic, grated (I’d use more …)

150g/6oz Arborio rice/risotto rice

100ml/4fl.oz red wine

heaped tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan

large handful freshly chopped herbs – dill, parsley, basil, celery leaves – whichever you prefer. Herbs are wonderful chelating agents and should be consumed daily to help counter the pollution we encounter from cars driving past, planes flying over.

50g/2ozs soft goat’s cheese

Add half the beetroot to the heated stock and keep warm.

Heat some olive oil, 1-2 tablespoonsful, and gently cook the spring onions without browning.

Add the garlic to the onions and cook for a minute or so, without browning. (Burnt garlic is horrid and you will need to throw away the onions too and start again …)

Stir in the rice and cook for a minute, stirring to coat the rice – add more olive oil or butter if needed.

Pour in the wine, increase the heat until the wine sizzles.

Lower the heat and gradually add the hot stock, one ladleful at a time, waiting for the rice to absorb each ladleful before adding another.

When you have added almost all the stock, stir in the rest of the grated beetroot.

Add the remaining stock, cooking gently until the risotto is creamy and still moist, without being sloppy.

Taste for seasoning – I prefer to add sea salt when I eat it (I find most people add too much salt), but I do add fresh black pepper.

Stir in the Parmesan and half the herbs, divide between two bowls, top with the remaining herbs, pieces of goat’s cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Have extra Parmesan on the side.


Chicken lends itself to comfort food – try an organic/farmer’s chicken rather than the standard supermarket (tasteless?) alternative.

Chicken in Beer – serves 4

1 free-range chicken 1.5kg/3lbs approx.

olive oil/grapeseed oil  and unsalted butter

50g/2ozs chopped shallots

200g/8ozs mushrooms – small – portabello, giroles, or button, thinly sliced

2+ tablespoons brandy (works with whisky too)

1/3 litre/just over ½  pint of beer, dark is best. Not lager!

teaspoon/5g brown sugar

200ml/1/3 pint double (thick) cream. (I send to use crème fraiche, soured cream or full-fat Greek yoghourt – less cloying on the palate.)

50g unsalted butter, sea salt and fresh black pepper

Fresh herbs to serve.

Oven temperature: 220C/Gas 7/425F/200C in a fan-assisted oven.

When the oven is at temperature, smear the bird with butter and chosen oil, then lay in a roasting dish on its side.

Roast for +/- 40  minutes – basting and turning the chicken regularly – to the other side, on its back and lastly breast up.  Remove the bird to a plate to rest, breast down.

Discard the fat from the pan, add some butter, and sweat the shallots over a low heat. Do not burn.

Add the mushrooms. Stir in and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the brandy or whisky and use a wooden spoon to mix in the tasty bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce to less than half, add the beer and sugar. Reduce again to about half.

Add the cream and reduce again to a pleasing coating consistency.

Cut  50g butter into small pieces and whisk into the sauce to give it a nice sheen.

Season to taste.

Serve the chicken in the sauce.

Scatter liberally with fresh herbs.

N.B. You can also use chicken portions – adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Bird’s eye pasta is a good accompaniment as is a crunchy salad or al dente green beans with toasted, flaked almonds.


Tandoori Chicken – serves 4-6

Prepare 24 hours in advance – or six hours minimum.

Marinade 1

1.5kg-2kg/3-4lbs chicken portions, skinned, and scored deeply.

5g/1 teaspoon fine sea salt

juice of one lemon

Rub the salt and lemon juice into the portions and set aside for 20 minutes.

Marinade 2

450ml/ 15fl.oz plain yoghourt. (I prefer full-fat Greek yoghourt)

I small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, at least, grated.

small green chilli – if you are worried, just use half , chopped

15ml/1 tablespoon cardamom seeds, crushed

thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

thumb-sized length of cinnamon stick

5ml/1 teaspoon cumin seeds

ditto cloves

ditto black peppercorns

1 whole nutmeg

30ml/2 tablespoons yellow food colouring, mixed with 15ml/1tablespoon red food colouring.

Put the cardomon seeds, cinnamon, cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorns and nutmeg into a coffee grinder and whiz till fine. |You could use powdered spices, but the seeds taste so much better.

Use 2 teaspoons/10ml for this marinade; store remainder in a small jar.

Mix the onion, garlic, chilli, 2 teaspoons spice mix into the  yoghourt – or sling the lot into a processor/blender and blitz – and pour into a large bowl or roasting tin.

Paint the chicken pieces with the food colour.

Pour remainder of food colouring into the yoghourt.

Put the chicken pieces into the yoghourt marinade, cover and leave for 24 hours.

Set oven to the highest setting and bake the chicken for 25 minutes – charred pieces are obligatory!

Scatter with LOTS of fresh coriander – remember the chelation factor.

Serve with Basmati rice and spicy cucumber, (cut cucumber into wedges, sprinkle with salt, pepper, roasted cumin, cayenne and fresh lemon juice), shredded lettuce with sliced red onions and lemon wedges.


Whilst I would hope to follow with treacle tart, rhubarb fool, chocolate pie, pear and ginger pie, I wouldn’t, in truth, be able to eat any, more’s the shame. Instead, I’d opt for something light – a fruit salad of fresh lychees, mangoes and blueberries would be good.


Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people get together to eat.’ – Guy Fieri








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Southern What

Authors Note: Jennifer Paterson passed away on August 10, 1999. The show “Two Fat Ladies” is one of the most entertaining cooking shows. The recipes, the locations, and especially the relationship between Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson.

Update: March 17th, 2014 Clarissa Dickson Wright has passed away.

Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Wright are the inspiration behind Olives Place

I have dug this out of my archives and I hope you enjoy it.



Southern What

To be read with a southern accent to achieve full flavor.


Southern Cuisine, now there is a phrase that I would never have thought of tagging onto food. Foods that I thought was called “just shut up and eat it”, “be thankful you have it” was always another favorite of mine, and for Sunday supper it was, “don’t go braggin’”.

It is hard for this southerner to grasp that red beans and rice are now be considered a cuisine, or hoppin’ john, and cornbread cooked in a number eight skillet. Food that raised me up good, proper and safe is now being served in the likes of London, England, way across the way.

How did this all come about you ask? How did those foods among others become a cuisine? Well, if truth be told it was a big city, school trained cooks, chefs I do believe. I mean cooking schools, bless their hearts. It is sad to know that their mammas couldn’t love them enough to teach them “Chefs” the workings of a good winter soup.

How did I come to write this you might be asking yourself? Well sit back, sip some cooked coffee and I will tell you of a night that horrified me to my core.

It all started one Sunday night, nothing special about that Sunday. Dinner was done, wine poured and I was ready to settle in for a good murder.  Poirot, with his little gray cells, Inspector Lewis and his Oxford-educated sidekick, even Midsomer Murders, better yet Foyle’s War what would be perfect to calm the nerves.

But that was not to be. Oh no, nothing but the wine was going to calm my nerves. You see, MasterPiece Theatre was being replaced that night.  PBS was having a fund drive with the same dribble they have every six months.  Performances were given by the same 50’s artist, doing the one hit they are known by.  Specials that were filmed ten years ago with the announcer saying “support shows like this”. Which we only get when they want a handout, mind you!

Running through the channels to see what would be worth viewing. I came across an international cooking channel. Interesting I thought Two Fat Ladies. “Hum” murmuring out loud, “It is British made, and having had no problem with British shows before.” I found myself speaking out loud.

Starting to watch I slowly became entertained by the show until one of the two fat ladies stated that she was going to cook a “traditional southern dish”. Perking up I decided to wait to refill my glass of wine so as not to miss anything. What were they going to make I wondered?

Continuing to speak, Jennifer stated “a wonderful southern dish, Hoppin John”

Watching intently to see how the Brits were going to handle a dish, which was in its infancy the main dish not a side dish. Yes, I know today it is used as a side dish.

First, she fried the bacon, bacon mind you. Now, I know some of you might think bacon would have been used way back then. Now mind you, some of the working people might have a bit of salty bacon in the larder, pantry for you Americans. But I noticed she did not have the one ingredient that gives this dish its wonderful flavor.  A smoked ham hock, yes you read that right, a smoked ham hock.

She did get one thing right, mind you. She did soak the black-eyed peas overnight. It’s really easy, don’t ya know. Just put the peas in a deep bowl and cover with water, you be still with them either in the icebox or on a cool shelf.

The next day, or in this case after the commercial break, she took out the peas and commenced mixin’. First in the pot were the peas, water to cover, and chopped onion, which she had smothered in the bacon grease. So far she was tendin’ the peas right nice.

After cooking the rice separately, which pays no mind to me, however, you wish to do it. Either with the peas when they are done, or as a standalone, don’t hurt my mind none.

She had made a few errors along the way, but not bad for someone not southern born and reared. But as soon as I turned my back, she struck. It was a knife in my heart, she hit me hard.

Mixing the ingredients together she had grabbed a bunch of Cilantro, chopped it up real fine like and mixed it in the Hoppin John.

Catching my breath and still able to hear her say, as she presented the final dish, “This ladies and gentlemen is HOPPIN JOHN, a traditional southern dish.

Standing in my family room I found myself screaming, screaming mind you “NO”.

Followed with, “TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DISH MY ASS BITCH”.  “Cilantro does not and never will be a fixin’ in traditional southern dishes.”

But did she listen? Hell no! She just kept ramblin’.  I needed more than another glass of wine.  Some sippin’ whiskey would calm the nerves but I had let my cupboard go bare of the “good stuff”, so another glass of wine it was to be.

I knew right fast what my lot in life was to be. Teaching people the world over about southern foods.  Not a cuisine, but genuine southern foods. The history, the tales, and of course the right and proper way of fixin’ them, maybe even a picture or two.

What better time to start than now. Using a pad and pencil I started to write. Below are the beginnings of my journal, a diary of sorts.  Recipes and their history mixed with the ways of the southern cook and her kitchen.

First is the black-eyed peas, about 2 cups no exact science needed here. If you have a few more just throw them in with the others. Sort through the peas for tiny pebbles or a bit of dirt, rinse the peas carefully, and cover with water and allow to soak a right nice time, overnight will do it.

The next day, once the peas have soaked up a bit of the water receiving a good night’s sleep, place the peas in a large pot, a smoked ham hock, onion and bring to a boil. On the first boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ maybe 2 hours. Remove the ham hock and cut so as not to fill the mouth too full. Stir in 2 cups rice, return the ham and cook another 20 to 25 minutes. Now that it is done, season with a bit more salt and pepper if needed.

Now mind you there are some modern-day southern ways of making this wonderful dish. Cookin’ the rice separately is one, flavor with red pepper flakes will add a bit of warmth for that cold night. Why if company is comin’ you might chop up some green onions, spring onions I think some call them and sprinkle on top. Just to make it look like you had worked hard in the kitchen. And for the love of everything that is right “LEAVE THE DAMN CILANTRO OUT OF IT.”

Now for the next bit of irritation with the Brits, and their cooking shows please stop insulting the baked beans. Baked beans came to y’all as a gift from America. Enjoy the full body of these wonderfully slow-baked legumes, and for the love of Pete, stop putting them on toast. They are a side dish, not the main dish.

Oh, I do have my work cut out for me. I sorely do.

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Maybe not so mellow,but definitely fruitful.

Okay, so an autumnal chill has settled in – and not just the nip from the the antics of the nutters in government. A parky breeze assailed me this morning – a lazy one that went through me instead of around me – which made me think of comfort food. (To be honest, there is very little in the way of food that I don’t find comforting …)
Toasted soda bread (home-made) or genuine sourdough loaf with marmalade? Cheese scones with damson chutney? Cheese on toast or succulent sausages (see abovementioned recommendations) with grandfather’s relish … Crisp-skinned jacket potatoes with mushroom chutney … Afternoon tea with madeira cake and peach and raspberry marmalade … salivating …
I am rather fond of a simple marmalade made from grapefruit shells and windfall apples. Eat the grapefruit flesh and freeze the shells until you or the windfalls are ready. I love pink grapefruit and use those shells – but you can mix the peel of any citrus fruit – oranges, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, tangerines, whatever takes your fancy.

Autumn Marmalade
2lbs/1 kg fallen cookers/green apples – tart in taste – washed.
4 grapefruit skins ( I add more – love the peel in marmalade.) Or any mix that you have.
Juice of one lemon, reserving the shell
1 tspn/5 ml ground ginger (Depending on what is to hand, I add chopped preserved ginger or grate some fresh ginger into the mix.)
3lbs/1.5 kg granulated sugar
Simmer the grapefruit shells and lemon halves in a pint/half litre of water till tender. It’s easer to slice/chop the peel this way, rather than before softening – and you don’t lose any of the zest. When the skins are softish and cool, slice or chop to your preferred size. I like chunky marmalade, others like the finely sliced version. Return to the pan.
Add the chopped apples, with the skin still on. Check for bruises and ‘visitors’ before you chop! Add to the pan and cook till tender.
Add the ginger and sugar. Cook for 20-30mins.
Bottle in sterilised jars.

Damson Chutney
4lbs/2kg damsons, washed
1.5lbs/3/4kg aples, cored
4 medium onions
1.5 ilbs/3/4 kg seedless raisins
1.5lbs/ 3/4kg demerara sugar
2 tblspns/30 ml sea or kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1oz/25g allspice berries
1oz/25g fresh ginger root, grated
2 tspns/10ml cloves
Blitz the apples, onions and raisins till chopped – not to mush – in the food processor , or put them through a mincer. Or chop them.
Put the damsons, apples, onions, raisins in a pan with the vinegar and sugar, salt, rushed garlic and spices. Tie the spices in muslin if wished.
Simmer till thick. If any damson stones rise to the surface,you can take them out. Otherwise, leave them in, eat it outside and see who can spit the stones farthest. Not to be done in polite company.
Pot and seal.
I like spicy food, so often add some chillies. Fresh or dried, whatever I have in the kitchen.

Grandfather’s Relish
2 ozs/50g butter
½ tspn/2.5 ml dry mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
8ozs/250g grated matured Cheddar
1 tblspn/15 ml whisky – more if you wish, just make sure it blends in properly.
Cream the butter, mustard powder, black pepper.
Beat in the cheese and whisky
Turn into small pots and cover with cling film (saranwrap).
Mature in the fridge for a few days.
Serve with hot toast, tasty sausages, and eat with your feet up in front of a hearty fire.

Mushroom Chutney
3lbs/1.5kg open mushrooms
1lb/500g cooking apples – green and sour – cored and quartered.
1/2 lb/250g onions, chopped
2oz/50g fresh ginger root, diced. You can wrap it in muslin if wished, or throw it in loose.
8oz/250g sultanas
8oz/250g demerara sugar
3/4 pt/450ml white (wine) vinegar
1tblspn/15ml sea salt or kosher salt
½ tsp/2.5ml cayenne powder
1 tsp/5ml mustard powder
Bung all the ingredients in a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer, uncovered, for 90 minutes or so.
All the liquid should have evaporated – without burning the mushroom and apples …
If you wrapped the ginger, remove it. I love ginger, so I chuck it into the mix to enjoy.
Seal in jars/pots and seal with vinegar-proof covers.
Makes approx. 4lbs/2kg

Raspberry and Peach Marmalade
1lb/500g raspberries, fresh or frozen – but not those frozen with sugar
3.5 lbs/1.75kgs peaches, skinned and halved, stones cracked an kernels removed
3lbs/1.5kg sugar
Juice of one lemon (use the skin for the autumn marmalade! Or freeze till you need it.)
Put the fruit in a pan and cook very gently till tender – do not burn. Can take half an hour or more. Include the kernals wrapped in a bag – or chuck ‘e in. I eat them in the marmalade.
Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.
Add the lemon juice and cook gently-briskly for 10 minutes or so. Do not burn! Watch and stir …
Drop a dollop on a cold plate to test for setting.
Rest for 7-8 minutes before potting in sterilised jars.
Should be about 6lbs/3kgs

***Do not mix the Imperial and Metric measures. The metric measures are rounded up for ease of use.***

***I don’t calculate the calorific values – such a killjoy practice! Just remember you should stop eating when you think  you could manage a little more …***

I was about to make some autumn marmalade: I have grapefruit shells and lemons. I raided a friend’s garden for windfalls (our is small – no apple trees) BUT I do not have any blessed sugar …
I will strain and freeze the chicken stock instead.

autumn,  marmalade, damsons,  relish,  mushrooms, peaches, raspberries

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Swoon Like a Sultan. Smoked Oysters Can Make you Do That …

It is legend that the sultan swooned when he tasted the dish imam bayeldi, created in his honour. (Imam bayeldi means ‘the sultan swooned’.) Never mind swoon, I am positively multi-orgasmic when confronted with smoked oysters. Not fresh oysters – altogether too reminiscent of snot, regardless of lashings of Tabasco sauce … the devil take those descriptions of fat, creamy, salty-sweet.
“Oyster, n. A slimy, gobby shellfish which civilization gives men the hardihood to eat without removing its entrails!” – Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’ (1911)
Says it all. But smoked oysters? Luv ‘em.
“I never was much of an oyster eater, nor can I relish them ‘in naturalibus’ as some do, but require a quantity of sauces, lemons, cayenne peppers, bread and butter, and so forth, to render them palatable.” – William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
He had it right.
Delighted to enjoy them in pâtés, dips, soups, stuffings, with pasta … and to prove it, I offer a selection of ideas I have picked up along the way.
Smoked Oyster Pâté (1)
85g can smoked oysters, drained. (Avoid those in cottonseed oil – affects the flavour in a big way.)
125g cream cheese (a good, full-flavoured one!)
100g unsalted butter
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Chopped chives (or tarragon, or coriander or parsley)
Melted butter
Optional extras: Worcester sauce (homemade would be good), cayenne, chopped cornichons.

Chuck it all in a processor or blender and blitz. Divide between ramekins or fill one dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and melted, clarified butter. Will keep for several days in a fridge. Freezes too – but better to enjoy it NOW!

Smoked Oyster Pâté (2)
4 cans oysters, drained (ditto above re cottonseed oil)
2 spring onions (scallions)
2 cloves garlic
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice – or to taste
Melted butter
Chopped parsley, grated lemon rind – the zester utensil gives strands of lemon rind which look attractive.

This is obviously for a larger number of people – or be greedy and eat it all yourself – but the recipe divides quite easily. Just use a small spring onion, a small clove of garlic and half a tablespoon of lemon juice to one can of oysters.
Blitz in a processor and scoop into one or more dishes. Garnish with fresh herbs and the lemon rind strings.
Serve with toasted sourdough bread (preferably stoneground), crudités or interesting savoury biscuits/crackers.

Smoked Oyster Pâté (3)
2 tins smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil.)
A fat clove of garlic – black garlic if you have some.
2 hardboiled eggs
2 small eschallotes (mild shallots – not spring onions)
Fresh herbs – parsley, coriander, thyme, tarragon – mixed or any one
125 – 175 ml of your favourite liqueur – I like Frangelico (adore toasted hazelnuts), but Curacao, Amaretto, port, brandy, scotch, will be good.
Melted butter, clarified
Blitz in a processor or blender. Taste – you may want to add freshly ground black pepper, more garlic, or liqueur.
Transfer to large/small ramekin(s) and top with the clarified butter.
Keeps well in the fridge – if you can resist it. Serve with crudités, breads, biscuits.

Pasta with Smoked Oysters
Serves 4
Tagliatelle, spaghetti, angel’s hair pasta – or fat macaroni, so the sauce can sneak inside
2 cans smoked oysters, drained. (Ditto re cottonseed oil but keep the oil if it is olive oil)
Oil from the oysters, or olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like it. (we eat LOTS – keeps Dracula away. He has never been to our house.)
500g baby spinach leaves
Small head of fennel – very thinly sliced
Small glass of Marsala or vermouth (well, big, if you must …)
Fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon zest (I like it in ‘strings’ from a zester, so they can be seen in the sauce)
Juice of half a lemon
Sea salt to add when served
Fresh black pepper

Cook pasta – reserve 1-2 tablespoons of the cooking water – will give the sauce a gloss and help it to stick to the pasta.
While the pasta cooks, sauté the thinly sliced fennel (can add fennel seeds if wished).
Add the garlic when the fennel is j-u-s-t tender (good to leave a bit of ‘bite’– but do not burn. Burnt garlic is horrid. Throw it away if you do burn it.
Stir in the oysters and marsala or vermouth
Add the baby spinach and cook till wilted.
Add lemon zest
Taste for pepper and lemon juice – I prefer to let others add their own salt. Not keen on salty food but like the zing of sea salt added when I am about to eat.
Mix with the pasta and serve – remembering to add the 1-2 tablespoons cooking water.
Serve with extra herbs and a crisp, varied green salad.
Optional: Parmesan cheese – there are those who say that it should never be served with fish or shellfish. Your choice.

Beef Stuffed with Smoked Oysters
A rib of beef – for 4-6 people.
OR one steak per person – but thick cut, rather than large
2 cans smoked oysters, drained – keep the oil if it is olive oil. Discard cottonseed oil – flavour affects the oysters and the dish in general.
Large handful of chopped fresh parsley – or a mix off fresh herbs
Stick of celery, finely sliced
Small onion, finely chopped
Garlic – lots or to taste …
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauté the celery and onions in olive oil.
Add garlic but do not burn.
Quarter the oysters and add
Add the herbs.
Take a sharp knife and slice between the ribs and the nut of meat, without detaching the meat, to create a pocket.
Stuff the mixed celery, onion, onions, oysters, herbs and garlic into the pocket. Use a skewer or string to close the top.
Roast in a very hot oven for ten minutes, then turn down the temp. and cook till rare, medium rare or medium. Well done would be sacrilege!
If using steaks, make an incision through the middle of each steak, without separating the halves.
Stuff as above.
Use small skewers or string to hold the two halves together.
Sear both sides in a hot pan, lower the temperature and cook till rare, medium rare or medium.
No well-done steaks allowed.
Buttered noodles, broccoli, spinach, mixed green leaf salad go well with this.

P.S. I told a teensy-weensy fib about fresh oysters … I love Oysters Rockefeller. Fresh oysters topped with wilted, chopped spinach, then hollandaise sauce and parmesan cheese and grilled till bubbling. Yum.

#oysters #smokedoysters #pâtés #pasta #beefandsmokedoysters

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Break the fast – fast and leisurely

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” “What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?” “I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said. -A. A. Milne

The BBC History Magazine advises that the Tudors (1600s)invented breakfast (April 2013 issue) – wouldn’t you know that the Brits were responsible? – and The Breakfast Cereal Information Service – History of Breakfast – states that Neolithic Man in the Middle East (late Stone Age 9,000 B.C. to about 3,000 B.C.) used large stones to grind grains to make a sort of porridge.
Roman Soldiers ate porridge – pulmentus – as a staple. In the middle ages, porridge or oatcakes peasants ate porridge or oatcakes in the morning, along with beer, made from barley and hops, though this is challenged by The Morning Advertiser: ‘During the Middle Ages, breakfast was practically non-existent for the masses …’ Unsurprisingly, religion meddled with the pleasure of such feasts – Catholic church leaders believed eating breakfast too soon was a sin associated with gluttony. Spoilsports.
The full cooked breakfast started in the 1920s. The English Breakfast Society says the dish should consist of back bacon, eggs, British sausage, baked beans, fried tomato, fried mushrooms, black pudding ( a must) and toast. This will knock you back some 750 calories, so breakfasting like a king, lunching like a prince and dining like a pauper will be important!
Bacon was included at a doctor’s decree (love that doctor!). Cereals came later, in the 19th century, and like bacon, it was on doctors’ orders. Apart from promoting general health and well-being, there was also a specific medical agenda. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg created granola and cornflakes as part of a puritan diet to suppress sexual desire and lead America away from sin: breakfast cereal was intended to save us from masturbation. But the real advantage of breakfast cereal is its convenience. Cost also plays a part – bacon and other meat products can be expensive. The ‘full Monty’ is terrific at weekends and when one doesn’t have to go to work – oh, the irony, as cooked breakfasts in general were brought about the advent of the 9-5 working routine!
Favourite things for breakfast? Fruit, Greek yoghourt, croissants, scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding(!) and everything else you can think of! Taken later in the morning, with fun company. Try some cream cheese delights or yeast-free rolls to accompany the fruit and yoghourt and eggs, or smoked salmon.
Cream Cheese Delights
3 eggs, separated
100g/3½ ozs cream cheese
Pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp. baking powder/cream of tartar. (Optional)
Oven 150C 300F

Whip the egg whites and salt till stiff.
Mix the egg yolks and cream cheese till smooth. Add baking powder or cream of tartar (or not).
Fold in the egg whites.
Drop medium-sized spoonsful onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes.
If wished, sprinkle sesame seed (packed with selenium) or poppyseeds, sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, on top before baking. Haven’t tried chopped bacon on top, but it’s a thought …

Yeast-free Rolls

I cup/250ml/8fl.oz flour
1 tsp baking powder (or use Self-raising flour)
½ cup/125ml/4fl.oz milk
2 tbls/30ml/1fl.oz mayonnaise – good quality or homemade mayo
Oven 160C/350F

Stir the milk into the mayonnaise till smooth.
Mix the flour and baking powder (if used) and stir in the milk/mayo mix – gently.
Spoon into a greased muffin pan. I line with individual paper cups to save the bother of greasing the tin!
Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Baked egg and bacon is quick, easy and tasty, too.

1 egg per person
1-2 slices lean streaky bacon
Sliced tomatoes
Fresh parsley
Oven 160C/350F

Line each muffin compartment with the streaky bacon, covering the base too.
Put a slice of tomato – or sundried tomato is tasty too – in each base
Break an egg into each compartment
Top with another tomato slice
Bake for 15-20 minutes till the egg is cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh chopped fresh parsley.
Variations: add grated/sliced/chopped cheese – a good Cheddar, blue cheese, Manchego, Brie, Camembert, goat’s cheese – before putting in the first slice of tomato; add fresh herbs of your choice; add Worcester sauce or Tabasco to taste before adding the egg; add chopped (cooked) mushrooms.
Don’t spoil it with tomato ketchup or brown sauce unless you have made it yourself!

For a grander affair, have plates of smoked salmon, cheeses, cold meats. A savoury bread and butter pudding made with stale croissants is a winner too.

4-6 stale croissants, depending on size, sliced lengthways into 3 or 4 pieces
4 large eggs, beaten
¾ pint/12fl.oz/375ml/1½ cups milk
Greek yoghourt
Black olives, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, crisp bacon pieces, cheese(s), chopped spring onion/scallion, sliced (cooked) mushrooms – and anything else you fancy

Mix the eggs, milk, yoghourt together. Season with black pepper. Add salt when eating – the olives, bacon and cheeses might prove sufficiently salty
Arrange the slices of croissant to slant, almost upright, with whatever you have chosen (preferably all the tasties!) for the savoury elements scattered between each slice.
Pour over the egg mix, leave to stand for five minutes.
Bake for 25 minutes or so till risen and golden.
Serve hot with plenty of fresh, chopped herbs.

Fresh orange juice – worth squeezing it yourself (delegate!) – fresh coffee, herb tisanes, a bottle of bubbles, a table in the garden … enjoy. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day The doctor says so.

April 2013 issue of BBC History Magazine
The Morning Advertiser
Breakfast Cereal Information Service – History of Breakfast
MASHED – The secret history of breakfast


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To add or not to add? That is the question. Is it proper tiramisu if you don’t …

At the top of an almost-mountain in Umbria in a small but beautiful hotel with fabulous views, surrounded by olive groves (but not one olive served in the hotel!) a little contretemps broke out in one of the cooking classes. Chef insisted that tiramisu, in Italy, does NOT include alcohol.
Sacred blue!
Reluctant to describe memorable encounters with said ‘cake’ in Rome (brandy), Venice (brandy), Sorrento (Marsala), in an Italian boyfriend’s home (long ago – his mother came from Rome and used Marsala – Marsala all’uovo – which was swoon-worthy), I determined to investigate …
Enter Apicus, The Roman Cookery Book. No mention of tiramisu. Suggestions for sauces to serve with sterile wombs offered under ‘Gourmet’ did little to tempt … but no coffee and chocolate confections.
Next stop, Buon Appetito, Your Holiness. The Secrets of the Papal Table. Surely I’d find the true history of the national treasure there. But no – although the old-style pecorino and walnut pie is on the hit list. And soon. Sounds wonderful.
Gino D’Acampo, author of umpteen Italian food books, reassured readers in fantastico! that the claim made by the French to have invented tiramisu ‘is rubbish. Tiramisu is the ultimate Italian dessert’. Phew.
That gorgeous book, written and illustrated by Sally Spector, Venice and Food – a feast for the eyes as well as the tum – advised that the dessert ‘is not “Venetian” and is quite a recent creation’.
A whirl round Google provided much conflicting information. I had always understood that tiramisu was created in honour of Grand Duke Cosimo III, in Sienna, towards the end of the seventeenth century. This is hotly disputed by the frontrunner, “Le Beccherie” a restaurant in Treviso, Veneto, Italy, which gives the 1960s as the first appearance in restaurants. Meanwhile, food writers Clara and Gigi Padovani, found recipes from the 1950s, for a dessert called “tirime su”, concocted by Chef Mario Cosolo in San Canzian D’Isonzo, near the border with Slovenia.
Bet that went down like cold lumpy gravy.
I also learned that the recipe for tiramisu may have originated as a variation of the dessert Zuppa Inglese, English Trifle, beloved at Christmas and all family get-togethers and loaded with sweet sherry.
So, after trawling numerous books and websites, does tiramisu have alcohol?
Tiramisu is believed by Italians to have aphrodisiac qualities, not surprising given another history of this delectable dessert. Invented inside the brothels in lovely Treviso, renowned for its relaxed mores, attitudes and pleasure-seeking inhabitants, tiramisu literally means “pick me up, lift me up”, or, more literally, “pull it up”. Local dialect offers two more meanings: “carnage” and “cuckold’s lair”. Until 1958 when brothels were closed by the government, the cake was served for centuries to bolster flagging clients throughout taxing ‘conferences’(hah!) to keep them going and the money coming.
This restorative concoction was known as ‘sbatudìn’ and visiting these houses of pleasure was regarded as part of the local colour – Anyone Who Was Anyone was seen there. Those not seen there – gentlemen, merchants, VIPs – were definitely not part of the in-crowd. These gentlemen took to contributing some of the ingredients on the day the brothels were closed, according to their profession or access – coffee, biscuits, cream cheese, chocolate. The ladies and their guests would lunch together and then get down to business … with lots of tiramisu on the side to fortify them.
Happily, after the gentlemen’s clubs were closed, the owners of Le Beccherie rescued and perfected the recipe and to serve it to patrons to this day – probably in smaller quantities! Its effects might be embarrassing after a languorous lunch.
This confection of mascarpone, biscuits, coffee, chocolate, sugar and cream is purported to be given to babies (boys) by Italian mothers to ensure they will grow up to be strong and manly. Small wonder Italian men are regarded as the best lovers.
The dessert is simplicity itself – dip ladies fingers biscuits (langue du chat) in strong coffee (FRESH coffee. Not that coffee-flavoured cardboard sold as instant granules) to moisten. Beat mascarpone – do find a good one, had some awful stuff from a supermarket recently – waxy and tasteless – and cream together, add sugar or honey to taste, and layer the biscuits and cheese mix, ending with cheese. Sprinkle with grated chocolate – again, use a good quality chocolate or chocolate powder. Chill.
If you are feeling more adventurous, you could make zabaglione instead of the cream and cheese. It is delicious and worth the effort. Or use both! Best ever zabaglione is to be had in La Mama restaurant in Johannesburg. Julio creates a truly magical custard – how I miss dining there!
The booze? Your choice but I add Marsala, Marsala all’uovo if I can get it. Lots. But Madeira, rum, brandy, Amaretto or coffee liquor are also acceptable. Frangelico is delicious too!
It rather comforting to know that English trifle (Zuppa Inglese – English soup) was possibly the inspiration for tiramisu. I am sure this will be a great aid to the smooth passage of Brexit – The Great British Break Off.
Apicus, The Roman Cookery Book. Harrap, London.
Buon Appetito, Your Holiness. The Secrets of the Papal Table – Mariangela Rinaldi and Mariangela Vicini. Pan Books.
fantastico! – Gino D’Acampo. Kyle Cathie Ltd.
Venice and Food – Sally Specter. Arsenale Editore, SRL. EBS – Editoriale Bortolazzi Stei



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