Late Summer in the Kitchen: Figs & Peppers

As much as we might be sorry for summer being gone, this is a good time of year: it’s a rewarding combination of abundant produce and moderate temperatures. Truth be told, with all the raging heat waves this summer (four? five? I lost count.) I didn’t get to cook much. Too hot is simply too hot.

A plate of trimmed and cut figs ready to adorn the galette
Figs getting ready for their perfomance in fig galette

When the heat persists it’s best to resort to ice cream or slush, cold drink and dreamy shade. And spare your energy. Continue reading “Late Summer in the Kitchen: Figs & Peppers”

Colour Me Happy

Discovery of the day: I miss the colours. This is why at the beginning of February it seems to me the winter lasts forever. It’s no easy task imagining a near end to it when there are only the greys, browns and dark greens around. It’s easy peasy getting through January, although long, after the festive hysteria but once February takes to stage it’s no consolation it’s the shortest month of the year.

Photo gallery featuring lots of cerulean

 

Well, let’s not get too pessimistic. It’s not that bad after all. I only have to flip through my photos to feel better. Continue reading “Colour Me Happy”

Let’s Go Crazy

Yeah, let’s!

We watched Love Actually last night for the first time this festive season and it breaks my heart Alan Rickman left for good. One of my favourite actors if I ever had one, his super responsive face made all the impact. And his voice, deep and warm, man, what a voice. And his English, well, to a person feeling shivers down her spine by spoken British English, it was just perfect. He needn’t speak anyway.

Can someone please tell Him to conduct the 2017 with a bit of a lighter touch? We could all do with it thankyouverymuch although we’re pretty much all aware of the obvious and not so obvious.

I promise I’ll keep paying attention, reasoning and questioning, reading books and columns throughout the New Year. I can’t do otherwise anyway. I hope to get absorbed in exciting stories, travels and food. Speaking of food, just recently my man and I hosted two dinners at home. We approached the planning and preparations with lots of care, good will and joy and were working hand in hand throughout. We seem to have had everything going for us: great guests and truly smartly selected courses. Everyone was delighted. Bravo for us!

On both occasions I was asked for the recipes and voilà, my darlings, here they are, all included in the links below.

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Christmas Dinner Menu

The Leftoverist’s Thai Carrot Soup, a fantastic warm-up dish (minus broccoli and rice, plus tomatoes)

Sabrina Ghayour’s Citrus Spiced Salmon from her lovely book Persiana (minus rose petals and lime powder; used a 1,5 kg side of salmon, one piece not filets)

Nigel Slater’s Green Olive Pastries as a side dish – it’s the last recipe and shares a photo with the third one (I used a mix of Ligurian olives not the green ones)

Puy Lentil Salad as a side dish no. 2 from this helpful book (minus goat cheese and peppers plus feta and double on soaked dried tomatoes)

Photo of a recipe in a book Healthy Eating to Reduce the Risk of Dementia by Margaret Rayman et al.

The Delicious Days’ Chocolate Heaven served with whipped cream, the safest, the most delicious and certainly the most popular chocolate cake in our household.

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Post Christmas Dinner-for-friends Menu

Nigel Slater’s Brussels and Butternut Custards It’s the fourth recipe, you’ll have to scroll almost to the bottom (I used hokkaido instead of butternut – no peeling needed).

Rachel Roddy’s Spaghetti with Lemon, Parsley, Garlic and Chilli It might seem too vegetarian a selection especially for the main course but it was supposed to be a bit more relaxed after the Christmas binging for everybody.

Quince and Marzipan Tarte Fine An exquisit dessert. I poached and preserved the quince slices some two months beforehand to save them for this dessert.

Some additional points regarding the menus: every course was planned as to require minimum involvement away from the guests. Most of the food could be prepared in advance, some of it at least up to a certain point. It was completely no-fuss doable and non-exhausting. Several amuse-bouches can be served (and are not listed) and a variety of petit-fours or other sweat treats to accompany the main thing. In my opinion it’s very well worth it to serve one-bites, think cookies, kumquats, dates for instance, as they add even more vibrancy to the festive table.

Nevertheless, the rest of the holiday is for resting and enjoying it.

Happy New Year everybody!

 

After the Break

If I could offer you one tip for the future (paraphrasing Baz Luhrmann) reading would be it. But I can’t, can I? Offer just a single one that is, so I’ll just add two more: travel and pay attention.

One of the beauties of holiday season is you get to read a lot more. You know, staying in bed having your usual morning cup of coffee between the sheets, all cosy and warm and not rushing anywhere, and catching up on the newspapers of the past couple of weekends. Well, catching up on old news that is, old indeed. The lucky fact is that by this time you’re not looking for news anymore, you’re beyond this point, you’re on holiday, for heaven’s sake, so you engage yourself in some in-depth reading, a good old fashioned one, brain gym of some kind, collecting other people’s thoughts, ideas and insights: a regular Sunday morning treat but extended throughout the holidays.

I was kind of unawarely, at first at least, hooked on by this article by Simon Kuper titled How to be a 21st-century dad in FT. I enjoyed reading it as I almost always do all his columns and I thought I’d forgotten all about it but then noticed how it shadowed over me all the time. I caught myself applying the author’s remarks to the people I met, the colleagues, and friends, trying to check the plausibility of his writing. How modern times’ dads are willingly and consciously putting their children and family before their ambition and work. I’m glad the author and his sources can see the change (well, it’s backed with some research, it’s not pure speculation) because I must admit I don’t. This has surely to do with where I live where the trends tend to arrive with a decade or so of delay. (There’s some exaggeration in this last statement just to prove the point.)

It’s high time the fathers got a lot more involved in parenting and housekeeping (those two go hand in hand on numerous occasions) but is it not just another self-worth thing that’s going to get all soggy in the end? On the other hand, mothers are traditionally still obliged to understand the demands of their spouse’s ambition before their own. Hopefully, the Western societies will endorse daddy hens and not marginalize them. It’s a happy, heart-warming thought. Let’s all of us do our best to keep the trend for the sake of our future well-being. We do all strive for the better place for everybody, the healthier relationships, the prosperous future, don’t we?

To spice things up here’s another one that caught my eye and mind during the festive season. True, it’s the title that got my attention at first, Time to spice things up, and the drawings of the glass containers.

I thought I might get some info on ginger syrup as well as I was looking for some suggestions on how to use up the ginger syrup save in cocktails and simple fruit salads (it’s delicious with pomegranate seeds) but no, it’s not that kind of article. Nevertheless, it’s interesting enough if not intriguing how the spices trade brought the critical change in economical development. What I found intriguing though is the implication of where this limited liability thing has brought us. Impatient shareholders of the world: slow down a bit and think again. To all: happy New Year!

 

Note: This text was written on January 2nd, 2016 when I decided to start blogging and was meant to be my first post. Hence, the belated best wishes.