A quick post today, but hopefully none the worse for it. I have a good excuse: as well as working I have been busy cooking, scribbling and snapping for an upcoming Easy Food Gifts For Friends and Family post. After a good bit of thought, and a thumb through some old cookbooks and recipes, I have put together a small but wide-ranging collection of easy to make holiday treats suitable for sharing with foodie friends and family. I will also give links to fabulous ideas from other food bloggers. Can’t wait!
Two weeks ago I was writing a post in bare feet and with a glass of freshly squeezed, tree-fresh orange juice at my elbow. Today, at a sparklingly sunny 5.5 C, I greet you with double layer socks, a woollen under-clothing shoulder warmer thingy, and a ridiculous number of layers. I am also jiggling my legs and flexing my toes to keep the circulation going. With any luck these fidgety movements will also burn a few calories. Don’t scoff: I’ve read that’s one reason slim people are slim. Must be worth a shot.
Across the northerly latitudes many a home-based worker will currently have on some version of my keep-warm-this-winter gear. Perhaps you yourself are sporting a fleecy leisure garment, or even some flannel. I am anticipating serious scarf action and fingerless gloves, a la Steptoe, in the not-too-distant future. And I’ve looked out my stash of jaunty berets and ski hats. I’m not joking.
At this time of year I can forget what a sight I must look, a combination of lost Inuit and itinerate gardener. Not infrequently do I open the door to wide-eyed unsuspecting neighbours hoping only for a small favour or to give me something from their garden. They cover it well but I must look such a wild contrast to how I appear when going out for the day. Or rather I hope it’s a wild contrast. I could in fact be setting myself up for an awful Trinny and Susannah-style makeover from ‘kind’ friends and relatives. As long as they let me keep my shoulder warmer…
After promising from the little box on the right-hand side that I would post this recipe, at last it is here. Just in the nick of time, before the British seasonal courgettes are finished. I know you haven’t been waiting with bated breath, but I can’t believe I have waited so long to post this fabby soup.
I love soup (as any right-minded person would) and this one is one of my most favourite, and easiest to make. Because it is so quick and simple it often features at my summer Maggie’s Centre nutrition workshops, where everyone seems to really enjoy it and want to make it at home. Energy and tastebuds certainly take a hit during cancer treatment so it’s great to have a bung it all together kind of recipe that tastes great, is nutritious and freezes well for another day. I am always immensely pleased when anyone says that they enjoyed their lunch at Maggie’s, but especially so by those whose appetite and taste are affected by treatment. I will be putting more of my easy, Maggie’s Centre-tried and tested recipes up for you and your family to try. In the meantime I really hope you go for this one. If you like Italian tastes but want something ultra-light, creamy-tasting but still filling, this might just do. Continue reading
I hope you all had a fine weekend of doing not very much. Or at least doing something that you wanted to do. Weekends are often the time when busy folk do all the mundane things they didn’t have time to get to during the week – weed-pulling, bill paying, car tinkering,…hen house clearing (me). But, as a discerning and cultured person, I am sure that you are much more interesting than that. While I am cleaning the chicken coop or sniffing and squeezing melons at Lidl, I imagine that you are meeting friends at some smart gallery for a bone-china cup of tea and a peruse of the paintings. Or at least enjoying a good book in the garden.
These are things I enjoy as well, but sometimes a bit of scrubbing, buffing and straightening are fine, too. As it happens, Mr A was away in Portugal smacking a tiny white ball around, and as he is the main instigator/scheduler in casa foodtoglow, Miss R and I were left to our own devices. Did we get all dressed up and go to Harvey Nichols to exclaim at the price tags and nibble sushi? Did we put the top down on my cute little pistachio-coloured Figaro and drive down the coast, hair flying, stereo cranked? Did we heck. Despite visions of girlie bonding time the reality of this past weekend was a homework marathon for Miss R (I know – what’s the rush?) and me on my knees scrubbing floors. And, do you know what? It was good. Sad, I know, but sometimes it’s just what is needed. Continue reading
This morning I realised we are experiencing an inexorable slide to ‘porridge weather’. All summer I have been vacillating between starting the day with berries and yogurt, poached egg with asparagus, and a breakfast bruschetta of chopped cherry tomatoes, olive oil & basil on sourdough. All very delicious and light. But this morning – without any thought behind it – I reached into the cupboard and pulled out a forlorn packet of Scottish porridge oats. Using a half and half mixture of soya milk and water, I simmered this companionable pairing before adding dried goji berries and a grating of apple. And it was heavenly. If that doesn’t say ‘autumn’ I’m not sure what does.
But it wasn’t just the instinctively pre-hibernation breakfast that signaled summer’s end. Although it doesn’t yet feel too chilly, the other omens are abundantly clear: more than the odd brown leaf on the lawn, mystery mushrooms colonising under the oak tree, a lower, moodier sky. But my most accurate harbinger is the two extra bodies on the bed. Today Mr A and I awoke to find our cats nestled and immovable among the folds of the the duvet.
Over the years we have realised that as soon as Max and Mimi pad up from the cool and serene downstairs to warm and cosy upstairs, summer is well and truly behind us. So, barring a freak heat wave (highly unlikely) it won’t be long until we fire up the central heating and start moaning about the cost of it. Until then it is an extra layer and the comfort of cat-warmed feet. Continue reading
I love being away. Especially when it’s to familiar, yet massively exciting London with my family. But, boy do I love coming home. I bet you are the same. There is something about your own bed and bath that is quite primal. Safety and familiar-comforts ultimately trump the unknown – however much fun. But we really had a terrific time, despite some pre-travel nerves at arriving while the situation in London was still volatile. Well I was jittery, Mr A and Miss R were their usual breezy, up-for-it selves. And they of course were right. We had a ball.
Although the riots and the lead up to them were deeply worrying and unsettling, the London we experienced was universally uplifting and positive. Everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful and polite – from the harassed Tube station staff (I was the zillionth person to ask the same dumb question), the stall holders in every market we visited, to the alarmingly young and fresh-faced policemen and women we asked directions. Even when I just about took out an elderly lady with my oversized ‘new’ vintage bag, having spied yet another pop-up vintage market to blow my money in, she just smiled and said, ‘It’s awright, my love’.
We also have the same experience in Paris. It always surprises us that London, and Paris in particular, is perceived as being populated with surly, eye contact-avoiding citizens who would sooner spit on you than help you. A little effort with the language, a show of politeness, and a smile are all we have ever found necessary to get on in these famously bustling cities. Maybe we have just been lucky but I do think that a bit of the old ‘do unto others as you would be done by’ can’t hurt.
Pittenweem, the picture-postcard fishing village where we are staying the weekend, is gearing up for its week in the British cultural spotlight hosting the Pittenweem Arts Festival (6-14 August). This dinky village, so tiny that it doesn’t have a cash machine, or even the ubiquitous Tesco Metro, hosts one of the best, most accessible art shows to be found anywhere. By accessible I mean that the art displayed is wide-ranging enough to please the culture-vultures (my in-laws) and Philistines (that will be me) alike. Gorgeous, colour-soaked abstract canvases jostle with simple pen and ink studies, blowsy floral whimsies and beautiful sea-inspired tapestries in this most egalitarian of art festivals.
Although Pittenweem boosts an unusually high number of galleries for such a bijou place, the ever-increasing number of artists who exhibit over the week means that the ground floors and gardens of many houses are co-opted and hung with paintings, dotted with sculptures and draped with textiles and decorative baubles. The village is always eye-achingly gorgeous, especially the Shore area, with its pastel tied fishermen’s cottages, tumbling gardens and step-gabled roofs, but it really comes alive in August. If you are anywhere near the east coast of Scotland come and have a browse around this uniquely homey art festival.
Even if nothing catches your eye art-wise there are always the home-baking stalls spilling out onto the pavement to tempt you. And the Cocoa Tree, where I use coffee-purchased wi-fi for the occasional blog post, has dangerously addictive chilli cocoa to sup while enjoying homemade crepes and other goodies. Great chocolate shop too. The fish and chip shop a few doors down is also a good find. Anstruther, the next village up, has a famous fish and chip shop (it boasts photos of celebs noshing with the plebes from cardboard trays). But Pittenweem Fish Bar is just as good at two-thirds of the price, with efficient staff to keep everyone in their place as they queue down the street for their portions of crisp-golden fish. And no cardboard tray-plates, just good old paper to unwrap while sitting on the harbour wall watching the fishing boats go out for the night.
Today’s recipe (s) is one that I am really excited about sharing with you. I have had so much fun playing with/inhaling various versions over the past week. I really hope you want to try it. It hasn’t all been plain sailing though: poor Mr A has been pining for hot food (I think I heard him say ‘steak’ in his sleep), but he still cheerfully chomped his way through platters of rolls and sauces. What a trooper. Miss R is away in Geneva so has missed out on most of the concoctions. But because I’m a nice mum, I will make as many summer rolls as she can tackle -
if she brings back the black truffle brie that I asked for. Continue reading
I toyed with what to call these savoury pastries. I was going to call them by their Turkish name, bōrek, but was worried about confusion with the cringe-making, self-christened Kazakhstani, Borat. Can’t have that image popping up in your head when you are making these, now can I? Sorry, shouldn’t have mentioned it. And, then there’s the little matter of these being not in the slightest bit Middle Eastern. So I toyed harder.
Cigars? That would cause search engine confusion for some folks, I suppose. Although they do look like big fat stogies. Oozing, delicious ones. I can imagine Homer Simpson wanting to smoke one.
Parcels? I picture a bubble wrapped, leaden looking something or other delivered by chaps in a brown uniform. Maybe that’s just me. Lots of lovely foods have the word parcel in the title though, most of which involve filo pastry. That’s it, pastry. Job done. You may think of sugar-dusted puffy bits when you see the word pastry, but seeing as this is my blog I hope you’ll let me call them pastries. Naughty, but seasonal pastries. Continue reading
As I am writing this I am also keeping an amused eye on the antics at my bird feeders. The gnarly, old apple tree on which the feeders hang is suddenly alive with over a dozen balls of downy cerulean fluff, cheeping and and chasing as if battery powered. The extra life in the tree is due to a second set of blue tits having just today fledged and joined their older, bolder siblings. I would love to show you a picture of these hyperactive blue bullets but they are too darn fast, flitting from limb to limb with the ease of practised trapeze artists.
Because we have two cats it is with a certain amount of guilt that we hang and maintain bird feeders. One cat is too rotund to prove much of a risk to the visiting bird population, and is taunted by raucous crows who occasionally swoop low and rocket off, cawing loudly. The other cat, a slinky tabby, is another story altogether. Let’s just say that at this time of year it is not a complete surprise to be given a ‘present’. He watches and waits with infinite patience for any clumsy, or distracted, chick upon which to pounce. A large recently fallen oak tree branch is proving a perfect eyrie to espy little ground-based birds as they scavenge for anything knocked from the overhanging feeders. Our cats are well-fed and of relatively advanced years (somewhat like myself) so are not as active in this respect as once they were, but it is still a source of guilt at this time of year. But right now, with the deft acrobatics I am witnessing before me, it’s all good. And both cats are doing as cats do and sleeping. On the master bed of course.
What in the world does this have to do with minestrone? Well, not much (my ramblings rarely dovetail with the accompanying recipe) except they are both delights of late spring. Root-based soups are sustaining and warming in winter, but a fresh-tasting, pesto-infused minestrone makes a wonderful light lunch as spring eases into summer. And even better if accompanied by a pillowy hunk of green stratified focaccia. Continue reading