Love Apples Conquer All. But What About Mothers-in-Law?

“Take the intestine, stomach, and bladder of the yellow fish, shark and mullet, and wash them well. Mix them with a moderate amount of salt and place them in a jar. Seal tightly and incubate in the sun.” 544 AD
Don’t see myself persuading the family of its delectability … despite the fact that it is the original ketchup – tomato or otherwise.
It is, I am assured, the world’s favourite additive, whether on chips (fries), sausages, burgers, eggs, dastardly dogs (as Crocodile Dundee’s girlfriend said, ‘They taste like sh*t but you can live on them,’) chops (chips, chops, peas and tomatoes, or more usually tomato sauce – boring, but sure to tease the eye and titillate the palate with colour, texture and taste.) It’s a useful standby for adding to other sauces – barbeque, for instance. Can work a treat to transform an unappetising gravy. I have seen it added – sacred blue! – to luscious-looking pizzas. Shocking. Anything goes.
But the transition from the mind-boggling, unfriendly concoction described above, to the sweet, cloying, glow-in-the dark, often slimy-textured condiment that decorates cupboards, tables and food worldwide, was put on a roll by James Mease, scientist and horticulturalist, in 1812. T’was he who divined the addition of love apples – tomatoes to the likes of you and me. Although he based it on tomatoes, brandy and spices, the preservative facet of vinegar only came later. As did the bulking agent, sugar, which adds the addictive element. That’s why some children will only suffer a certain well-known brand, though the proportion of sugar has been reduced in acknowledgement (and from pressure) of health, teeth and weight risks.
Move forward a few centuries, and the fish paste element has gone and that well-known company continues to hog the limelight.
Shouldn’t we introduce our kith and kin to some fine-flavoured, all fresh ingredients, ketchup – or catsup. (This incites visions of cats stuffed in cooking pots … maybe it’s their eyes that cause the luminous sticky quality of some brands available?)
Larousse Gastronomique (the version in my possession) states tomato ketchup is a highly spiced, English condiment, available from grocery shops. Highly spiced doesn’t capture sweet, does it? And it is universally considered an American invention. But it seems ketchup’s origins are anything but American. Kê-tsiap is a Hokkien Chinese word, derived from a fermented fish sauce. It is possible traders brought the sauce from Vietnam to southeastern China. Regardless, Larousse’s recipe is worth visiting.
Cup up eight pounds of tomatoes (unpeeled), six medium onions, two sweet red peppers and two cloves of garlic. (Only two?! Ye gods.) Cover with water and simmer till soft. Strain through a sieve – fine enough to reserve the tomato seeds and skin.
Take one hot red pepper, two bay leaves, one tablespoon each of celery seed and mustard seed, one teaspoon black peppercorns, one cinnamon stick, and one level spoon sea salt, size is up to you, depending on your salt tolerance. (Don’t use table salt – it contains aluminium salts to make it free-flowing.) Tie in muslin or a clean linen handkerchief. Add to the strained tomato juice and reduce quantity by half over a steady heat, stirring often.
Add half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of white sugar, two cups of good wine vinegar, red or white, and simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, to desired consistency. Seal in sterilised bottles or jars. Makes approximately five quarts, or eleven-plus pints.
Personally, I’d sling the spices in at the beginning and cook till reduced, then strain. But that’s me.
Sometimes I make tomato sauce in the same vein as Bloody Marys, with all the bells and whistles and vodka. Bloody Shames, actually, when I don’t add the vodka. Tends to be rather popular.
Another favourite is making the sauce with tomatoes and cooking apples – sharp and juicy – works a treat. As does mixing the tomatoes – beef tomatoes, plum tomatoes, green tomatoes, to add an acid balance which dances on the tongue.
If I think aforementioned offspring will turn up their noses, I play sneaky and bottle it in those well-known manufacturers bottles … the labels can be hell to take off and often survive the oven sterilisation. They love to shake out more than they should when I’m not watching.
I am reminded of the wife who struggled for years to master the tomato soup her husband loved. No matter the recipe, no matter the effort, hours, expensive ingredients, he always reiterated that ‘it doesn’t taste like my mother’s’.
After a day from hell, she abandons the home-cooked route, opens two cans of Heinz tomato soup, serves it as though she has laboured long for his delectation.
His response?
‘Now you’ve got it right! Just like my mother used to make.’
His mother obviously forgot that her daughter-in-law is likely to choose the retirement home.

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You Can’t Beat a Good Beet.

Listening to a food programme the other day, an audience member questioned how to stop his wife cooking beetroot for him … he hates the stuff.
I wondered quite HOW someone could hate beetroot: fabulous colour, a blood cleanser, a good source of iron and folate (naturally occurring folic acid). It also contains nitrates, betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants (notably betacyanin). More recent health claims suggest beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost exercise performance and prevent dementia.
And it is so versatile – baked en papillote, coated with horseradish sauce, it is magic with roast (rare!) beef, chicken, pork, a terrific contrast with a cheese omelette. Don’t wrap it in aluminium foil (how did the USA get aluminum? Depriving themselves of the delight of sounding each syllable and enjoying the cadences. Al-oo-min-ee-yum.) – use greaseproof paper or brown paper. Or at least line the foil with greaseproof paper to prevent contact with food. Aluminium foil has too many links to health hazards, including Alzheimer’s.
Beetroot curry with coconut oil and cashews (eschew the peanut – cashews or almonds are easier to digest) and sesame seeds (fine source of calcium) make for a delicious light and colourful lunch or supper. I’d give you the recipe but then I’d have to kill you. Unless you ask nicely and say pretty please …
A beetroot salad, made with grated raw beetroot, finely sliced celery (and the leaves) with a grated sharp and juicy green apple, thinly sliced red onion, toasted pumpkin seeds and a garlicky vinaigrette is wonderful with crusty sourdough bread or Irish soda bread. Add lots of fresh herbs – parsley, coriander, basil are excellent chelating agents and are just delicious.
Juice some fresh beetroots – with the leaves – add fresh parsley, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds, watermelon seeds (packed with selenium: most foods are sadly depleted of this because of artificial fertilisers), some cider vinegar or lemon juice, sea salt (don’t use table salt – contains aluminium salts to make it free flowing), black pepper (freshly ground), and you have a great kick-off to the day. You could add some plain unsweetened yoghourt, if you wish, or some kefir.
Slice some beetroots fairly thinly and layer up with sea salt, fresh black pepper, orange slices (include the peel unless there is a lot of pith) and bake with a spiced white sauce – ginger, cumin, nutmeg – poured over, with a good dukkah sprinkled (well, heaped) on top. You can layer with potatoes and/or sweet potatoes if you wish. Excellent with baked ham or fish.
Don’t forget the leaves. Steamed they are a tasty side. Shredded they provide colour, texture, taste and nutrients to a salad (abandon that tasteless iceberg lettuce! It is slow to grow, slow to digest and often the culprit when ‘marshy gases’ are about, rather than much-blamed cabbage) or mixed cooked greens – yummy with lemon, garlic and black pepper butter.
Cooked and sliced – carpaccio thin – they make a delicious starter. Arrange the slices in concentric circles, drizzle the best balsamic vinegar you can afford and walnut oil, top with some peppery rocket, crumble some feta or goat’s cheese on top, add toasted pumpkin seeds … in fact, don’t invite anyone else, just eat it yourself!
Don’t waste the cooking water – wonderful to use on the vegetable patch to replace of some of the minerals in our mostly depleted soil.
I’ll leave you with this thought, shared with me by a flatmate a long time ago: A guy walks into the doctor’s office. A banana stuck in one of his ears, a asparagus stalk in the other ear, and a beet stuck in one nostril. The man says, “Doc, this is terrible. What’s wrong with me?” The doctor says, “Well, first of all, you need to eat more sensibly.”

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Heaven Forfend! It’s Father’s Day!

Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are the two days of the year when you will be forgiven for wreaking havoc in the kitchen.

It is only right and proper that you should demonstrate how much you appreciate all that Daddy (and Mummy) do for you but whilst breakfast in bed is often the treat of choice, I would recommend that you do not take the cooked breakfast in bed route.  Almost raw fried egg and charred bacon, with pink-centred sausages, ‘glazed’ in a swamp of tomato sauce, accompanied by tea or coffee made with cold water will tax the most devoted parent.

Especially if they have been out the night before.

Much better to make Daddy (or Mummy) some marshmallow lollipops.  Melt some chocolate over hot water (littlies should enlist the help of gran or granpa for this).  Push a wooden skewer into a marshmallow and dunk it in the melted chocolate.  You might want to roll it in your favourite sprinkles before the chocolate sets. Stand in a cup or glass, with the marshmallow at the top, to cool.

The real trick to making these is to make as many as you can – too many for Daddy (or Mummy) to eat, so that you will have to be even more loving and help them out.

You could also make some chocolate marshmallow crunchies.  Melt some more chocolate with some unsalted butter – taking care to ask someone older to handle the hot water – and stir in two or three tablespoons of golden syrup.  Add mini marshmallows (or cut the large mallows into small pieces) and stir again.  Add enough cornflakes to make a thick mixture.  You can add chopped nuts, raisins, candied peel, glace cherries, if you wish.  Make sure everything is coated in the chocolate sauce.  Put spoonfuls into small paper cases.

Again, make sure you make plenty – then your superhero, mega helpful qualities will be called upon.

A very special treat for Daddy (or Mummy) would be to wake very early, tiptoe into their bedroom, jump on the bed and bounce between them, singing ‘I love you!’

Once you have their attention, snuggle down – in the middle, of course – give them both a BIG hug and tell them you love them again. All daddies and mummies need hugs every day, not just on Father’s Day or Mothering Sunday.

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Taboos and Tableware


There. I feel somewhat better now. Not much but definitely feel an improvement.

I love café society and restaurants and eating out. I love trying new places as well as returning to firm favourites. But something that will spoil the experience anywhere is having to ask for clean cutlery when I see the untrained (I surmise) staff handle the silverware by the blade, tines or bowl of eating implements.

My vivid imagination questions whether they have washed their hands recently – even if they have, they should not be touching the parts of knives, forks and spoons which will go into another person’s mouth – or maybe they have rubbed their nose, or  picked it, ferreted in an ear for that elusive and bothersome piece of wax.

Horror of horrors, maybe they have visited the bathroom and not bothered to wash their hands or – dastardly habit – merely trickled water over one or two or three fingers in a foolhardy pretence of being hygienic and sensible.

It used to be that one was cute and did not eat raw foods in certain countries but now, with the rise in hepatitis A, maybe we need to be more canny in more food outlets.(Hepatitis A is a liver infection, passed on by way of food – usually related to unwashed hands handling the food.)

If the waiting staff are not properly informed about hygiene and how to handle cutlery, it is entirely possible that those preparing salads are also slapdash about soap and water.

Plastic gloves are not necessarily the answer either. Health inspectors some years ago found they could be as big a risk as chipped nail polish, grubby fingernails and unwashed hands.

A friend – who shall remain anonymous! – once told me that the staff were reminded EVERY day that whenever they visited the bathroom, for whatever reason, they MUST wash their hands. As the industry was connected to food and cosmetics packaging, all staff were issued with gloves.

One member of staff was seen to emerge from a cubicle, cross to the handbasins, remove said gloves, wash hands with vigour, dry them with care … and replace the gloves to return to work.

Without wishing to be freaky-deaky about hygiene (I have licked the wooden spoon when cooking …), I am well aware that one of finest and simplest ways to reduce, if not eliminate, food poisoning, gastric upsets and galloping gutrot, is encourage everyone to wash their hands.

It’s not rocket science.

N.B. As an adjunct to my whinge about greed and wasting food, UberFacts posted a Tweet recently: more people are dying from obesity than from malnutrition.

24th march 2013

Tilly the Tart

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Cooking Measurements

1 teaspoon = 1/6 fl. ounce 1 Tablespoon = 1/2 fl. ounce 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
1 dessert spoon (UK) = 2.4 teaspoons 16 tablespoons = 1 cup 12 tablespoons = 3/4 cup
10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 2/3 cup 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup 6 tablespoons = 3/8 cup
5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon = 1/3 cup 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup 2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons = 1/6 cup 1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup 2 cups = 1 pint
2 pints = 1 quart 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon 48 teaspoons = 1 cup
1 cup = 8 fluid ounces 2 cups= 1 pint 2 cups= 16 fluid ounces
1 quart = 2 pints 4 cups = 1 quart 4 cups = 32 fluid ounces
8 cups = 4 pints 8 cups = 1/2 gallon 8 cups = 64 fluid ounces
4 quarts =1 gallon 4 quarts = 128 fluid ounces 1 gallon (gal) = 4 quarts
16 ounces = 1 pound Pinch = Less than 1/8 teaspoon

F to C Degrees Conversion Chart

225F = 110C = Gas mark 1/4
250F = 120C = Gas mark 1/2
275F = 140C = Gas mark 1
300F = 150C = Gas mark 2
325F = 160C = Gas mark 3
350F = 180C = Gas mark 4
375F = 190C = Gas mark 5
400F = 200C = Gas mark 6
425F = 220C = Gas mark 7
450F = 230C = Gas mark 8
475F = 240C = Gas mark 9
500F = 260C
550F = 290C

Imperial to Metric
1/4 teaspoon = 1.25 ml 1/2 tsp = 2.5 ml 1 tsp = 5 ml
1 tablespoon = 15 ml 1/4 cup = 60 ml 1/3 cup = 75 ml
1/2 cup = 125 ml 2/3 cup = 150 ml 3/4 cup = 175 ml
1 cup = 250 ml 1 1/8 cups = 275 ml 1 1/4 cups = 300 ml
1 1/2 cups = 350 ml 1 2/3 cups = 400 ml 1 3/4 cups = 450 ml
2 cups = 500 ml 2 1/2 cups = 600 ml 3 cups = 750 ml
3 2/3 cups = 900 ml 4 cups = 1 liter

Weight Conversion
1/2 oz = 15g 1 oz = 25 g 2 oz = 50 g
3 oz = 75 g 4 oz = 100 g 6 oz = 175 g
7 oz = 200 g 8 oz = 250 g 9 oz = 275 g
10 oz = 300 g 12 oz = 350 g 1 lb = 500 g
1 1/2 = 750 g 2 lb = 1 kg

Bar Drink Measurements
1 dash = 6 drops
3 teaspoons = 1/2 ounce
1 pony = 1 ounce
1 jigger = 1 1/2 ounce
1 large jigger = 2 ounces
1 std. whiskey glass = 2 ounces
1 pint = 16 fluid ounces
1 fifth = 25.6 fluid ounces
1 quart = 32 fluid ounces

Cake Pan Size Conversions
20cm springform cake pan = 8 inch
20cm square cake pan = 8 inch
23cm springform cake pan = 9 inch
25cm springform cake pan = 10 inch


Of Memories and Marmalade

Jack Sprat could eat no fat.

His wife could eat no lean.

And between them both, you see,

They licked the platter clean.

The name Jack Sprat was used to describe someone of small stature in the sixteenth century; sprats are small fish. Seemingly, it was an English proverb from the mid-seventeenth century, or before. It appeared in John Clarke’s collection of sayings in 1639:

Jack will eat not fat, and Jull doth love no leane.

Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes cleane.

The saying became well known English nursery rhymes when it appeared in Mother Goose’s Melody around 1765, but it children probably recited it much earlier.

I had always believed this nursery rhyme to be about not wasting food – other sources link it to all sorts of political shenanigans, taxation, and even Robin Hood. My, how that man sneaks into nursery rhymes.

Having spent some time in Europe recently, this rhyme came to mind when I encountered the wanton greed and culpable waste when watching fellow guests in an hotel in Barcelona.

Our deal via Easy Jet was to stay in the Hotel Gothica (nice four-star hotel, friendly staff and very central) and breakfast was included.

I love to people watch and it was fascinating to see other breakfasters take far more food than they could possibly eat – stacks of bread for toast, rolls piled high, croissants, pastries, muffins, yoghourts, fruit, cold meats and cheeses, sausages and tortilla …

There was no way they could consume the quantities taken and they didn’t wrap anything in napkins for lunch, either – and sure enough, the tables were littered with the debris of untouched and partially eaten food. (It was like watching people eat in films; they never eat or drink more than a mouthful before they dab their mouths with a napkin and leave the table.)

Why do they do this?

Is it the ‘must get my money’s worth’ philosophy? Or the ‘it doesn’t matter if I take a bite, leave part or all of it because I have paid for it anyway’ school of thought?

I wondered if those families were the same in their own homes or encouraged their children to take too much and just leave it. I wondered how they felt when visitors wasted food – meals prepared with care in the pursuit of being good hosts.

Having been brought up to not waste anything – food in particular – whilst not a revelation, it was dispiriting to say the least. (My father claimed his garden fork had been in the family for over one hundred years and had only had 94 new handles and 30 new tines …) I remembered an elderly friend telling me that she had been orphaned at the age of four when both her parents died in a car accident. Her grandparents felt unable to take on a lively child and sent her to boarding school, where she was always hungry. She was taken to the cinema as a treat one Saturday morning, to see a typical child’s comedy – slapstick and silly and fun. Unfortunately, custard pies were flying across the screen, to great guffaws of laughter from other children in the audience. Not so my friend: she went beserk, screaming and kicking, beside herself.

She could not understand why people were throwing food around when she never had enough to eat.

On a more cheerful note, I did notice that when the apples on the breakfast buffet were not looking as shiny and inviting as usual, they appeared the next morning as baked apples with cinnamon – a favourite. However, the apples were those horrid, tasteless Golden Delicious so favoured in Europe and, I believe, the USA.

Nowhere tart enough for this tart …

Bakes apples DEMAND an old-fashioned English cooking apple – sharp, juicy, with flesh which falls to a tempting puree within the skin when baked properly. (I wonder if the EEC allows Britain to grow these anymore.)

However, not one to pass up on a challenge, I noted that the little plastic pots of marmalade (horrid but practical) contained real marmalade! With plenty of chunky peel for added bite and texture. None of this peel-free or finely-shredded  or over-sweetened muck! Popped into where the core had been, the apple was transformed.

They’d have been even better baked this way but then, as we tended to break our fast later than the dedicated tourist, they would probably have been piled high and left on tables throughout the restaurant.


March 2013

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Part 2

More meaningless but useful pieces of information regarding cooking, the kitchen, weights and measures and of course manners.

If you have question concerning on any of the above subjects please feel free to comment and we will answer because we really are smart. 

Part 2

1. If you scorch milk by accident, put the pan in cold water and add a pinch of salt. It will take away the burned taste.

2. When boiling milk, first stir in a pinch of baking soda. This will help keep the milk from curdling.

3. Tasty flavored whipped cream: First whip cream then add 2 tablespoons of flavored jello and continue beating on slow until the whipped cream is right consistency.

4. Leftover ham: Lay ham slices in a baking dish then cover with maple syrup. Refrigerate overnight then fry the ham in butter the next morning.

5. Add a slice of lemon to peeled sweet potatoes while cooking. The lemon will help them clear and free of discoloration.

6. Fill a large hole or sugar shaker with flour and use that when needing to dust surfaces with flour or just pour out a tablespoon, as you need it, this is handy way to keep a bit of flour on hand instead of digging in the flour bin.

7. Use pastry wheel to cut rolled cookie dough in squares or diamonds, much less rolling and very pretty.

8. Rinse measuring cup in hot water before using syrup, oil, etc. Will pour out clean and not stick to cup.

9. Canned fruit is much better if opened and removed from the can an hour or two before using to restore the oxygen.

10. A wire cheese cutter is ideal for cutting chilled refrigerator cookie dough.


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Jo Dunlop

Jo Dunlop

Well, y’all coming from the mountains as I have, and loving fresh caught fish. Especially for breakfast, I just had to have Jo Dunlop into my kitchen. You see she started a project called Fish is the Dish and all they do is talk about fish and the various ways of fixing fish. You might say she has an obsession about fish.

After Fish is the Dish became successful Jo when on to found a website just for mummy’s and their families.  Jo having two little boys 3 years and one that will have his first birthday on 1 April, Olive won’t tolerate joking about that angels birthday.  Just sayin’ y’all.

Her new blog will thrill you with the antics of her oldest child, to her families’ favourite food. You might even catch a good deal on her product reviews.

So enjoy the interview and get to know her through her own words and blogs.  You can also follow her on twitter.

1. Earliest memory of your Mothers or Grandmothers kitchen.

My mom’s kitchen was always clean, she was always just concocting something from what she had left over, and she was very frugal. The very earliest memory was that Mom’s boyfriend at the time was asked if he could paint the kitchen, we went out and when we returned he had painted caricatures on the wall of us all, including the dog. We then painted over it in the kitchen paint but when it was a sunny day, you could always see the outline of the caricatures underneath, which as kids we always found hilarious

2. Do you like to cook?

Love it; it’s my favourite thing to do

3. If not why not?


4. What recipe of your mother or grandmother do you make that sends you back in time watching (whichever one) in the kitchen?

Macaroni cheese and weirdly just made that tonight, I can still smell my Granny’s house when I think about it.

5. What is your favourite herb or spice or both.

Chilli and oregano

6. If you could be a ghost in that kitchen and watch yourself as a small child, what would you tell that child today?

Watch, learn and write down as much as you can, once people are gone, so are their little quirky recipes!

7. Outside of your own country/county, which country’s cuisines do you like or prefer.

Italian and we eat it often, recently had master classes in my house by a visiting Italian

8.  What is your families favorite dish.

Hmm, that’s a hard one, probably spaghetti & ragu

9.  Would you mind sharing with my readers and quick and easy recipe that you make for your lil monsters?

Here’s a quick video they might like – this is a firm favourite and I did this for Fish is the dish 

10.   I have a old fashion pantry, larder to you brits… Do you recommend people start one and what would be the most important thing in that larder

Oh, I would love one of these; my old house had a really cold cupboard under the stairs that I had shelving put in. I recommend everyone has one and I’m presently working out how I get this in my new house! The most important thing in the larder is actually not a food stuff but order – you need to had it organised, if you can’t see what’s there you miss things and they go out of date or you go buy some new ones and then realise you already have them. See my pintrest board for more organising ideas.

11. Of all the kitchen gadgets invented OLD and NEW which OLD and NEW are you favourite. (One old and one new)

Old is my slow cooker, I use it a lot

 New is my mixer for baking, I love it

12.   If you could teach cooking to the high school level students today… what would be the most important and the least important thing to teach them?

How to choose fish and how to cook it. It is the easiest food in the world to prepare & COOK – the ultimate fast food and oh so healthy

13.   Having agreed to this interview are you afraid that the men and women of your family members might look at you a little different?

No not at all, they all know I’m food obsessed.

Thank You





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