For the recipes go to

It is a free download

Never, but never do research. Chances are you will come across a word or a phrase that will open your eyes and put a smile on your face. Potpourri is just that word. See the definition below.

Tilly: that’s daft talk, Olive. If you hadn’t researched this, we wouldn’t know that it means something quite different from what one might expect!


… pot-pourri, 1610s, “mixed meats served in a stew,” from French pot pourri “stew,” literally “rotten pot” (loan-translation of Spanish olla podrida), from pourri, past participle of pourrir “to rot,” from Vulgar Latin *putrire, from Latin putrescere “grow rotten” (see putrescent ). Notion of “medley” led to meaning “mixture of dried flowers and spices,” first recorded in English 1749. Figurative sense (originally in music) of “miscellaneous collection” is recorded from 1855.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Tilly: Well, blow me down with a rose petal. Mind you, it is entirely possible that many of the meats for the original stews were borderline ‘off’. I have read that curry possibly came about as a way to disguise festering meat when meat was scarce and probably too expensive for most people!

“Rotten Pot”, brought a smile to my eyes. It reminded me of a bowl of stew that somehow got lost in the back of someone’s refrigerator. To be discovered months after a soft and silky green moss had grown over the top. It certainly did not remind me of a glass or porcelain jug filled with dried fruits and flowers designed to make ones room smell like an outdoor garden.

Tilly: ‘Rotten pot’ brings to mind certain perfumes which knock me backwards …

It has been said that Ancient Egyptians had massive quantities of fresh roses placed in crocks and buried for later use. Some say they were the first in trying to preserve the scent of summer flowers. Ha, it was not the scent of summer they were trying to preserve. They were hiding the stench in that pyramid. Reminds you of rotten meat. The French may have been onto something here.

Tilly: I wonder if this brought about the practice of putting wreaths on coffins. Must be connected to pomanders carried during the plague and when bathrooms/bathing were not commonplace. Whatever, it is an excellent idea.

Now, that your sense of smell mixed with the memories of rotten meat have settled in. I want to remind you what Alice Morse Earle said about potpourri.

“There is something very pleasant in opening an old China jar to find it filled with potpourri, even if the scent has wholly faded.”

Tilly: No arguing with this, Olive. Nothing like the fragrance of a good (modern) potpourri. Or the aroma of a good, slow-cooked, well-herbed stew …

Enjoy the recipes below

Olive and Tilly

Old Rose and Lavender Potpourri

1/2 cup rose petals

1/2 cup lavender blossoms

1/2 cup sweet woodruff

1/2 cup pot marjoram leaves and blossoms

1/4 cup mint

2 teaspoons orange peel

2 teaspoons whole cloves

1/2 teaspoon crushed cinnamon stick

2 drops each of lavender and rose oils

1/2 teaspoon powdered orrisroot

Combine the first eight ingredients. Sprinkle the oils and the orrisroot over the dry ingredients and mix well. Place in a covered jar, and stir gently every few days for a month, until the scents have blended and mellowed. Remove the jar’s cover to freshen a room, but be sure to replace the cover between times of use. All potpourris need time to recoup their scents. The above recipe will also work well in sachets.

Traditional Rose Potpourri


4 pints rose petals

2 pints lavender Flowers

1-pint rosemary

1-cup cloves

1-pint lemon verbena leaves or lemongrass

1-cup whole allspice

1/3 cup juniper berries

1/2 cup anise seed

1/3 cup Benzoin gum powder or Orris root preservative

1-cup pickling salt

15 drops Oil of Rose

7 drops Oil of Rose Geranium


Layer Flowers on the bottom of plastic pail. Add herbs, berries, and spices. Top with preservatives and salt, then put drops of oil onto the salt. Mix and cover pail. Continue to mix the ingredients every day, for six weeks. Store in plastic bags until ready for use.

Citrus Delight


1 cup peppermint leaves

1/3 cup lemon verbena leaves

1/3 cup lemon balm

1/4 cup tarragon

1/2 cup rosemary

1/2 cup juniper berries

4 cups dried orange peels

4 pints dried Flower petals (roses, or any dried Flowers you have collected)

1/3 cup Benzoin gum powder or Orris root preservative

1/2 cup pickling salt

15 drops lemon oil and lime oil


The ingredients are layered starting with dried Flowers, herbs and spices (whole cloves or allspice may also be added). Top with preservatives, salt, and oils. The purpose of layering in this sequence is that it helps evenly distribute the preservatives, salt, and oils onto the petals. You are, in fact, pickling and preserving a mixture that you would like to use for many years.

Tilly: If you haven’t the patience to wait for a month or more, you can quickly create essential oil potpourris and bring the fragrance of flowers and fruits into your home.

Floral Air Freshener

Put 4fl.ozs/120ml purified water in a spray bottle

Add the following essential oils:

10-12 drops jasmine

10-12 drops cinnamon

30 drops geranium

25 drops rose

15 drops bois de rose

10 drops clove

Tighten cap, shake contents, and spray into the air. Fragrance intensifies as it ages.

Minty Air Freshener

4fl.ozs/120ml purified water in a spray bottle

Add the following essential oils:

30-40 drops spearmint

15 drops peppermint

10 drops patchouli

10 drops petitgrain

Tighten cap, shake, and spray into the air. Intensifies as it ages.

Citrus Air Freshener

4fl.ozs/120mls purified water in a spray bottle

Add the following essential oils:

30 drops orange

30 drops lemon

20 drops patchouli

20 drops grapefruit

Tighten cap, shake and spray into the air. Intensifies as it ages.

Tilly: Before you create these, you can knock up a potpourri stew … beef with red wine, orange and black olives would be good.


Saute some thinly sliced onions – depends on how many you want to feed.

Add some cubed shin of beef (love the gelatinous end result this cut gives). I don’t bother sealing the meat – it is deliciously tender after a long, slow period in the oven or stove top.

Season with freshly ground black pepper, not too much sea salt, a couple of cloves, a cinnamon stick, one or two bouquet garni, the peel from an orange – and fresh garlic. No need to peel the clove(s) – they will be sweet and delicious when the time comes to eat them.

I often add some anchovies – they melt into the sauce adding a certain je ne sais quoi to the flavour, with no sense of fish present in the dish.

Cover with half red wine, half beef, chicken or vegetable stock (homemade, natch).

Put in a cool-medium oven or on a low light/heat on the hob. Or in a slow cooker if you have one.

Cook for a minimum of three hours, checking occasionally. Add more wine – and a generous slug of port? – to the mix as needed.

Near the end of cooking, check the seasoning – you may like more sea salt than I do – add lots of fresh herbs (chop the stalks too – they have much of the flavour). Cook till you are ready to eat.

Garnish with plenty of shiny, fat and juicy black olives, a generous handful of fresh herbs and the shredded rind of an orange.

Have a bottle of red wine ready to share. If it hasn’t breathed enough – give it mouth-to- mouth …








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Words Matter

Words Matter


In chef lingo, SOS is an acronym for sauce on the side.

Example: Can I get that order made SOS?

Tilly and I thought this post speaks for itself. Enjoy

The first annoyance will arise from the frequent re- currence of poele, braise, godiveau, espagnole potage, consomme, veloute, marinade, fumet, roux, pate a frire,  salpicon, puree, etc. These terms once properly under- stood, practice and regular attention will do the rest; for without method there can be little attainment. Some words that cannot well be left out of the work are added:

Barber, to cover with slices of lard. And you thought it was a place to get a haircut…

Blanchir, to blanch by giving some boils in water.

Brider, to truss up a fowl, or anything else with a needle and pack thread, or tape. Lots of wives feel like this.

Chevretter, to dish in a sort of garland one thing over another round a dish. Or a new style of Car.

Glace, or: demi-glace, a sauce reduced till it becomes a strong or weak jelly. So not ice cream, then?

Marquer, is to dispose properly ingredients into a stew pan. Why bother putting them in a stewpan if you are chucking them out?

 Masquer, is to cover any thing oyer, as with a sauce, Ac

Paillasse, a grill over hot cinders. Hmm … not sure it is sensible to put one’s straw mattress over hot cinders to keep warm.

Puit, , a well, or the void left in the middle, when anything is dished round as a crown.

Sasser, to stir and work a sauce with a spoon. Cheeky …

Singer, to dredge lightly with flour. I’d never do that to my sewing machine.

Vanner, to work a sauce well with a spoon, by lifting it up and letting it fall. The spoon or the sauce? Make a mess dropping the spoon like that?

Entrees, first-course dishes drest. There must always be a beginning.

Entremets, second- course dishes ditto. A middle … now where is the ending?

 Gril a tirage. A grill with close and narrow ribs, used for drying caramel and chemised fruits and flowers Fruit and flowers with nighties on?


Salt Water

Fill a small kettle with water, and put in a sufficant quantity of salt, with some whole young onions branches of parsley, one or two heads of garlic of carrots, thyme, bay leaves sweet basil and cloves; let it boil three quarters of and hour skim and take it off the fire, cover it with a cloth, leave it half or three quarters of an hour to settle ; pass it through a gauze search; it is then ready for cooking fish, or anything that requires salt water.

Also be a good drink for a cough/cold – could add garlic for extra oomph.

Above from:

The Art of French Cookery

By Antoine B. Beauvilliers

Publication date 1827



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Those 11 Herbs and Spices.

Marketing part 2

The executives who run the fast-food industry are not bad men. They are businessmen. They will sell free-range, organic, grass-fed hamburgers if you demand it. They will sell whatever sells at a profit.

Eric Schlosser

Those 11 Herbs and Spices.


 With 22,621 locations worldwide in 150 countries,909  in the U.K. alone, which, by the way, makes the U.K, the largest market in Europe and the fourth largest worldwide. I can rest easy tonight knowing that most of you have heard of KFC, aka Kentucky Fried Chicken.

No, I am not here to discuss the corporate side of this franchise. What I am going to discuss are those 11 damn herbs and spices. So sit back, relax, have a glass of wine and take notes.

First a quick paragraph about the history of this fast food champion. Harland David Sanders, aka Colonel Sanders, began selling his fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky. It was in that roadside restaurant that Colonel Sanders developed his “secret recipe” and his patented process of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer, and the rest is history.

Now, back to those 11 herbs and spices

I am sure by now many of you have stumbled across stories of some person somewhere finding a list of those 11 herbs, but what if I told you they are wrong. Especially the newspaper article that claims it is the real thing.

11 Spice-Mix with 2 cups / 460 g white flour

?2?3 teaspoon / 3.2 g salt

?1?2 teaspoon / 2.4 g thyme

?1?2 teaspoon / 2.4 g basil

?1?3 teaspoon / 1.6 g oregano

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g celery salt

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g black pepper

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g dry mustard

4 teaspoon / 19.1 g paprika

2 teaspoon / 9.6 g garlic salt

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g ground ginger

3 teaspoon / 14.3 g white pepper

Or this one

The Secret Ingredients:

1 tablespoon / 14.3 g rosemary

1 tablespoon / 14.3 g oregano leaves

1 tablespoon / 14.3 g powdered sage

1 tablespoon / 14.3 g powdered ginger

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g marjoram

1 1/2 teaspoons / 7.2 g thyme

3 tablespoons / 42.9 g brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons / 42.9 g dry minced parsley

1 teaspoon / 4.8 g pepper

1 tablespoon / 14.3 g paprika

2 tablespoons / 28.6 g garlic salt

2 tablespoons / 28.6 g onion salt

2 tablespoons / 28.6 g powdered chicken bouillon

1 package Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup mix

Combine all the ingredients in a blender (or Mason jar blender) and pulse until they become nearly powder.

Makes about 3/4 cup / 172.5 g.

Combine all ingredients and seal in Ziploc or vacuum seal bag (or jar) or spice jar.

To use with flour, add 1-ounce mix per 1 cup of flour for coating chicken. Dip the raw chicken pieces in a mixture of egg/water and then dredge in the seasoned flour. Repeat for extra crispy coating. Fry or bake chicken pieces as desired. This mixture also works great for chicken fried steak as well.

Tilly: The Cup-a-Soup is a turn-off…

There are many other recipes some have the key ingredient as Oregano, and some say it is the chicken stock powder.

Neither one is correct. I am not saying that there is not a secret to this great chicken I am just saying it is not in those 11 herbs and spices.

William Poundstone, an American Author hired a laboratory to analyze a sampling of the mixture used on the chicken. What showed up was not the herbs and spices but showed four ingredients, flour, salt, pepper and monosodium glutamate, which is a flavor enhancer.

So, are there truly 11 herbs and spices? The answer is a simple yes. But it is not for the chicken, it was for the gravy. Yes, you can go back and read that line. It was for the gravy.

Are they used today? The company has been sold many times since 1964 and having tasted the original gravy compared to today’s gravy. I would say no.

In the early 1960s, Colonel Sanders sold the company for 2 million dollars and a yearly salary to be their spokesman. That company shortly afterward released the spices and which flour to use.

They are:

1 tsps. / 4.92 ml white pepper

¾ tsps. / 3.69 ml Black pepper

1 tsps. / 4. 92 ml sage

3/8 tsp / 1.84 ml coriander

5/16 tsps. / 1.54 ml ginger

¼ tsps. / 1.23 ml Ancho Chile pepper

3/16 tsps. / 0.92 ml vanilla bean

3/16 tsps. / 0.92 ml bay leaves

3/16 tsps. / 0.92 ml savory

1/8 tsps. / 0.61 ml cloves

1/8 tsps. / 0.61 ml cardamom


¼ tsps./ 1.23 ml  MSG (they even gave the brand they used)

Mix with 1 cup flour / 236.58 ml cake or soft flour

Ingredients to be ground before measuring.

The key ingredient is in the flour, not just for the frying method, but for the gravy as well.

So what is the true secret behind KFC? It is 3 fold. The Marketing, the flour, cake or soft flour, and finally pressure frying.

Pressure frying is not something TILLY and I do NOT recommend you trying at home with a normal pressure cooker. 

Did the vanilla catch your eye, well according to Tilly and Olive’s friend Hulya Erdal, the vanilla will add a level of warmth and sweetness. Which explains why the original gravy I loved was so delicious.

Tilly: I have only tried KFC once, a long time ago. Enjoyed the flavour, but concerned that the chicken wasn’t quite cooked, too much raw flesh near the bone for my liking. Salmonella an’ all. I would suggest that the coating did contain flavourings apart from MSG. Gravy was not mentioned or included. But the ingredients would make for a tasty accompaniment to chicken! Doubt it needs the MSG.


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Heinz baked beans have taken England by storm.

Marketing, is to make goods available to buyers in a planned way that encourages people to buy more of them, for example by advertising, creating a demand for a product or products…

Heinz baked beans have taken England by storm.

In 1886 Henry J. Heinz shipped the first products to the (posh) London department store, Fortnum & Mason. Those products included the infamous “Baked Beans”. The price a hefty nine pence, which is the equivalent in today’s market at 2.15 pounds – $2.70. Hell of a price for a can of pork and beans. You see those “baked beans” having tomato sauce as part of the ingredients is not baked beans… so strike up that win, for Heinz.

Tilly: Pork and beans? Don’t think pork has ever ventured near a can of the blessed beans.

They did well, but Heinz still was not satisfied with the sales numbers so in, 1927, Heinz and his marketing staff came up with the brilliant idea of selling the British populace the idea that they are perfect for Breakfast. Hence the baked beans on toast nonsense…today Heinz’s sells 1.5 plus million cans of their “baked beans” every day in the U.K.

Tilly: Cannot deny it was an excellent marketing ploy. Promoting a second-class protein which was also high fiber as a nutritious, easy meal was a win. The sickly sweet tomato sauce has been modified, I believe. Children were addicted to the sugar content, which was not so healthy …

First off, these are not “baked beans”. You see true baked beans DO NOT have anything related to tomatoes. It is maple syrup, which is the traditional Native American recipe or, molasses… among other ingredients…

Tilly: Both molasses and maple syrup have health benefits and, I believe, were not used in excessive quantities, if only because of the cost.

So just what are Heinz Baked Beans? Here in the states, we call them “Pork and Beans” The ingredients are simple, white or navy beans, catsup or tomato sauce, water, and pork fat cooked together and enjoyed as a side dish for either lunch or dinner. NOT for breakfast on toast.

Tilly: Well, one can be uppity about it, but what is wrong with beans for breakfast? They are nutritious – a dollop of Marmite stirred into them makes them more so. They are also economical and those on restricted budgets are probably grateful for them – with or without the toast. As is porridge which is enjoying a return to the menu.

Now before we get to the recipes, below is the average British Breakfast. Called a ‘fry-up’,

The full English breakfast comprises of 2 rashers* back bacon, fried egg, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, hot buttered toast, grilled tomatoes, accompanied with tea or coffee.

Tilly: Don’t think this is the average British breakfast these days – expensive and time-consuming. Often seen in motorway cafés as a meal of choice, enjoyed in hotels when guests have (probably) more time to relax and enjoy it (and it is prepared by someone else!), and a ‘treat’ at weekends for families. You’ll notice that the selection doesn’t include steak, which I have often seen on menus for breakfast in the USA and South Africa. More likely to see people eating fruit, yoghourt, porridge, croissants, toast in any combination.

*Word of note: Rasher is a thin flat piece of bacon. Total Calories: 1126 with 74.1 of fat so what is the daily recommended intake. For men, it is 2500 and for women 2000. Makes you wonder what they have for lunch or dinner?

Tilly: A rasher is a thin slice of bacon or ham, “1590s, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps from Middle English rash “to cut,” variant of rase “to rub, scrape out, erase.” However, early lexicographer John Minsheu explained it in 1627 as a piece “rashly or hastily roasted.” The original rashers weren’t that thin, either, as they would have been hand cut, rather than machine cut.

So if you have the desire to make your British version of baked beans aka pork and beans. See recipe below.

Ketchup to Heinz UK Beans:

120 ml (1/2 c.) Heinz Tomato Ketchup

240 ml (1 c.) water

1.5 tsp. cornstarch

1 Tbsp. White table sugar

1 tin haricot or navy beans drained

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

The secret is in the beans. When you buy canned beans, the water is super thick, mix that with pureed store-bought tomatoes and add only dry ingredients to keep it smooth.  The sauce is almost perfect. This way you can control the sugar and the salt.

Tilly: Nah – not Heinz tomato ketchup – used to be packed with sugar as a bulking agent and a means to ‘addict’ children and adults to its sweetness. I gather the recipe has been modified to accommodate health requirements. But it is still too sweet – so lose the tablespoon of sugar! The cornstarch is unnecessary, too, just use some of the water from the can or from cooking the beans, if you have cooked them from dried. Heinz baked beans. I don’t see any mention of pork in this recipe, just as I didn’t see any mention of pork in this recipe, just as I didn’t see any mention of pork in Heinz baked beans.


You can try truly baked beans.

Maple Baked Beans


4 cups of water

1 pound dried navy or butter beans

1 Tablespoon butter / or a bit of pork fat

1 medium onion, sliced

1½ teaspoons salt

1 cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon ginger


Preheat oven to 350° F.

Add water and beans to a large pot.

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 2 hours.

Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the liquid. (Add water to make 2 cups, if necessary.)

In a small skillet, melt the butter.

Add the onions and sauté until golden, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the onion, salt, maple syrup, dry mustard, and ginger to the beans, and transfer the mixture to a large baking pot.

Cover the pot and bake in the middle of the oven for 2 hours.

Occasionally check the beans and add more water..

After 2 hours, uncover the beans and bake an additional 30 to 45 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.

Let stand about 10 minutes before serving hot.

Serves 10 to 12.


Olive and Tilly

Tilly: Indeed – enjoy. And at breakfast – with toast, not on it – if you so desire. I bet cowboys ate them for breakfast.



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Southern Cuisine

Southern Cuisine, is a phrase I would never have tagged on to Southern food. Foods that were called “just shut up and eat it” and “be thankful you have it” were a favorite of mine. And for Sunday supper it was, “don’t go braggin’”.

Tilly: Well now – you’ll find the same experiences in good old Blighty. ‘You’ll get what you’re given and be grateful’ was a regular theme at mealtimes.

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

Tilly: For heaven’s sake, why on earth should it not be? London is pretty cosmopolitan these days … just name the food type, you’ll find it.

How on earth did the dishes of the South become a cuisine? Well, it was the big city, school-trained cooks, chefs, I believe. Sit back, and I’ll tell you about a night that horrified me.

Tilly: So many ‘poor man’s dishes’ of my father’s childhood are back in vogue and served in haute cuisine restaurants. Smoked mackerel, fish pie (fish was cheap then); belly pork, kidneys, liver, black pudding (served with scallops and used in stuffing’s), lamb stew made with the cheapest cuts, and many more.

Sunday night: nothing special about that Sunday. Dinner was over, wine poured, 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, which would be perfect to calm the nerves.

Tilly: Ah – I knew you had class. These are all British productions. I can recommend more.  

It just wasn’t meant to happen. Nothing except the wine would calm my nerves. Masterpiece Theatre was replaced that night. PBS was having a fund drive with the same drivel they have every six months. Performances by the same fifties artists, churning out the one hit they are remembered for. Special programs shot a decade ago, with the advertiser extolling us to “support programs like this.” Which only happens when they want a handout.

Tilly: not sure TV here has resorted to that! But endless repeats, with attendant advertising must provide the necessary revenue to those channels not funded by the television license fee.  

Scrolling through the channels to see what might be worth viewing, I came across an international cooking channel. Interesting, I thought: Two Fat Ladies. “Hmm,” thinking aloud, “It’s British made, had no problem with British shows before.”

I watched the show, I entertained myself until one of the two fat ladies said that she was going to cook a “traditional Southern dish”. Perking up, I waited to refill my glass of wine so as not to miss anything. What were they going to make?

In her upper-crust Brit accent, Jennifer stated, “A wonderful Southern dish, Hoppin’ John”

I sat back, full of anticipation, to see how the Brits would handle this dish which in its infancy, was a main dish.

First, she fried the bacon.  Some of you might think bacon would have been used.  Working people might have a bit of salt bacon in the larder—pantry for you Americans. But I noticed the one ingredient that gives this dish its wonderful flavor was missing. A smoked ham hock, yes, you read that right, a smoked ham hock.

Tilly: The bacon was probably a speedy substitute for the ham hock. Maybe if it was thickly sliced and diced, it might not offend you so much? A ham hock is better, I agree, and what I would use for a fuller flavour.

She got one thing right. She soaked the black-eyed peas overnight. It’s really easy. Put the peas in a deep bowl, cover them with water, then place the bowl into the icebox or on a cool shelf.

Tilly: You can cut the preparation time by boiling the black-eyed peas for 10-15 minutes, draining, cooling and rinsing the peas and then carrying on with the process.

The next day, or in this case after the commercial break, she took out the peas and began mixing. First in the pot were the peas, water to cover, and chopped onion, which she had smothered in the bacon grease. So far, she treated the peas well.

Tilly: I trust she rinsed the peas before she mixed in the chopped onion, bacon fat and covered with water. Cooking the onion in the bacon fat will add some of the flavour lost by not using the hock.

After cooking the rice separately, which many families do? She made a few errors along the way, but not bad for someone, not Southern-born. But as soon as I turned my back, she struck. It was a knife in my heart, and she hit me hard.

Tilly: what a waste of time and effort. Add the rice 15-20 minutes before the cooking time is up, depending on the type of rice.

Mixing the ingredients, she grabbed a bunch of cilantro, chopped it up, then mixed it in the Hoppin’ John.

Tilly: Yum. Love the stuff – fabulous chelating agent, too. Probably added for colour.

Catching my breath and taking a swig, and still able to hear her while she presented the dish: “This, ladies and gentlemen, is HOPPIN’ JOHN, a traditional dish from the South.”

With me standing in my family room, shouting “NO.”

Tilly: Hah! Should’ve said it was her take on the dish!

Followed by, “TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DISH MY ASS, BITCH”. Coriander is not and will never be a fixin’ in the traditional dishes of the South.”

Tilly: You don’t know what you are missing … and have missed. And they did ride a splendid motorbike!

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.

Tilly: I’m assured that wine is a gift from God – and I firmly adhere to the maxim that a day without wine is like a day without sunshine. With so many days without sunshine here, it is vital to make the most of the gracious gift … 

I had an epiphany: I knew what my destiny was in life. Teaching people the world over about Southern foods. Not a cuisine, but genuine Southern foods. The history, the tales, and of course, the right way of fixin’ them.

With no better time to start than right then, my pen hit the pad/keyboard. 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.

Tilly: Roll on the history and family stories about the food!

The first is Hoppin’ John as it should be. Measure the black-eyed peas, about 2 cups, no exact science required. 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 soak overnight.

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 shank and cut into bite size pieces.  Stir in 2 cups of rice, return the ham and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes. Now that it’s done, season with some more salt and pepper if necessary.

Tilly: Oh, so you don’t rinse the peas after soaking, either … I usually find it is not necessary to cut the ham off the bone – by the time the slow cooking has done its job, the ham will fall off, ready to be forked into bite-sized pieces.

Now mind you, there are some modern-day Southern ways of making this wonderful dish. Cooking the rice separately is one, then upping the taste with red pepper flakes will add a little heat for that chilly night. Why if company shows up, you could cut green onions, spring onions I believe some call them, and sprinkle on top? Just to make it look like you’ve worked hard in the kitchen. And for the love of everything right “LEAVE THE DAMN CILANTRO OUT OF IT.”

Tilly: Would you have the vapours if fresh parsley was snipped on top for colour? And flavour …

Now, for the next bit of irritation with the British, and their cooking shows, please stop insulting the baked beans. Baked beans were a gift from America. Enjoy the entire body of these beautiful, slowly cooked legumes, and for Pete’s sake, stop putting them on toast. They are a side dish, not the main dish.

Tilly: the blasted baked beans you refer to are the devil’s invention – by a well-known American company. They exported the vile things in cans, packed with sugar (in place of molasses, which is highly nutritious. As for the toast lark, I share this with you: “Heinz claims that an executive invented the dish as a marketing ploy in 1927, but it’s likely the dish is still around today because it was so common as a cheap protein during World War II, for breakfast, dinner, or both.” 

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

Tilly: To quote you: don’t go braggin’.






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Madness, Mangoes and Marvellously Delicious Black Pasta

Can’t think what has possessed the EU to okay the addition of animal parts to animal feed! That’s what caused the salmonella outbreak in chickens and eggs a number of  years ago – feed from Holland contained feathers, combs and other bits … chickens are not carnivores. Insects are part of their diet because of pecking the ground. BSE happened because body parts – brains and other organs – from other animals were fed to cows. Cows are not carnivores, either, although they too digest insects because they graze.

Madness, or what?

On a more cheerful note, I found some excellent black pasta in a new greengrocers – nowhere near enough to visit regularly, but still … It isn’t fresh pasta but beggars and an’ all that. The resident barista encountered a new fish shop and bought some huge prawns. Able to resist everything except temptation, I bought some mangoes – they smell delicious.

In a previous life, we used to visit a tiny family-owned pavement café which served the thinnest, crispest pizzas with a terrific selection of imaginative toppings, and pasta dishes, equally creative. Luca made his own pasta and brought squid ink from Italy to make black pasta and a dish that still makes me drool. As near as I can make, his mother’s recipe is below.

Prawns, Mangoes, Chilli and Black Pasta

approximately 60g dried black pasta per person (fresh is best but …)

300-400g/10-14ozs prawns, shell on, per person (500g/1lb.2ozs per person if you really like prawns!) Shell on makes for juicier prawns.

or 4-6 jumbo prawns without the shell, per person, more if you can eat them.

I prefer to devein prawns; won’t harm you if you can’t be bothered. It’s a visual thing for me.

100g/4ozs butter (I prefer unsalted) – more if you need it, should be plenty to coat the pasta.

4 tablespoons olive oil. Ditto.

Fresh garlic, thinly sliced or grated – as much as you think you want. I think 2-4 (large) cloves should do it.

1-2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced.

1 red chilli, chopped, more if you like a belter of a kick.

Large handful of chopped coriander or parsley.

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt.

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet – I find they vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Melt the butter and oil (prevents burning) and add the chilli and garlic. Sauté till tender.

Add the prawns and cook while the pasta is cooking. The prawns should be a gorgeous pink on either side with flecks of chilli and garlic.

Drain the pasta, put in a heated serving bowl or plate, top with the prawns and sliced mango. Grind black pepper over them, some sea salt to taste and scatter the herbs on top.

Easy way to slice the mango: cut in half on the flat side of the stone. Slice lengthways or sideways in the first half, bend the skin back and cut away. Repeat with the other side of the stone. For the sides, peel skin off and slice away from the stone.

If you wish, you can drop some mange tout into the pasta when it is nearly cooked – the crisp and bright green peas add to the texture, taste and colour.

Serve with a green salad with everything in it except iceberg lettuce! Takes a long time to grow, a long time to digest and often the culprit for ‘marshy gases’, rather than cabbage. And I think it is tasteless – crunchy but tasteless.

A glass or two of wine will aid digestion, as will good company. Have a bowl of hot water to rinse your fingers – peeling the prawns is part of the pleasure. No lemon in the water – that is not comme il faut.





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Paul Watters

Chef and food columnist for various newspapers and magazines in the UK, Ireland, and the USA.

I am currently a chef with nearly 30 years of experience and have worked all over the world such as London, Sydney, Toronto. Even though I am a chef I have also gained experience in sales, tourism, business management, customer service.


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