Love your Spices??

There has to be some things in every kitchen that you love, be it the dishwasher ( I loved my first one, but now it is an essential, as long as it is quiet) the refrigerator, ( I really really loved my two “Sub Zeros”, but that was in a former life), the induction hob, that is so easy to keep clean, the Teppan Yaki grill, that himself gives me grief about all the time. No, none of these. I love my SPICE RACK. What? a Spice Rack. Yes indeed. Mine is wall mounted and magnetic. easy to see, easy to use and takes up no space at all in my new relatively small kitchen.

spice rack
The love of my Kitchen!
roses egypt
Rose petals in Egyptian Market
Grass hoppers in Oaxaca Mexico
chilis delhi
Chilis in the central Market, Old Delhi

Scientific American, recently published a report on the “Filth in the Spice Rack” ( Scientific American, March 2014.)( the reading of which is actually enough to make one vomit on the spot. It ranges from including anything from mundane as Mold to Mammalian Excreta!!, a Staggering 20% of Mammalian Excreta found in Fennel Seed (fragments per 100 grams), to a mind-boggling 2,000 fragments per 100 grams of Insect fragments in ground sage..Is it any better buying up market brands, most unlikely, as they all source their products from the same supply chain. A small two ounce jar of Paprika, for example has about 170 insect fragments, or 25 rodent hairs, to be considered adulterated. However, the FDA says they pose no inherent danger to health, and most are just microscopic. But it is certainly food for thought!

herbs and spices france
Herbs and Spices in a French country market

I was intrigued the other day to come across a Vegan recipe for Falafel, which contained no chick peas. Falafel , made with chick peas, I thought , surely must be a staple of the Vegan diet. Consequently, I made these,  for supper,not once but twice. The original recipe called for a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, parsley, dried tomatoes,chopped walnuts,  salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. These were basically ground together and made into a thick mixture with the oil and lemon juice, rolled into balls and eh voila! Ready to eat and not fried. Well, did not quite rock my boat, so on the second attempt I used a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed, chia seeds, sun-dried tomatoes in oil, confit of garlic, Curley leaf parsley , walnuts, lemon juice and olive oil. Were they any better? Were  they any more exciting? Did they titillate my taste buds? Well, the answer has to be NO, not at all, so that is one recipe for the bin!!

I had an American girlfriend once, who was  a marathon runner and a vegan, I always think difficult to combine the two, easy enough to get the calories maybe, but much more difficult to get enough protein. One day, she was munching on some rice cakes ( vegan of course) when someone asked ” What do they taste like”? The answer was ” Cement”!

What are chia seeds, I hear you ask. Well, Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec times. Chia seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium. they are unprocessed and can be easily absorbed by the body, they have a mild nutty flavour and are very often just sprinkled onto cereal or over salads. As with many new food fads, the claim is that eating Chia seeds will help with weight loss, as they will swell in the stomach, therefore making the dieter feel full, however the jury is still out on this one.

Following on , with my vegan, vegetarian theme, Yotem Ottolenghi in his food stores, restaurant and books has many delicious foods that would be good for the vegetarian and he also sells mixtures of seeds to sprinkle over your salads and cereals.

Going on from his idea of rice and quinoa salad I have made my own version.

  • Ingredients, there is no definitive list but include as many of the following as you like
  • chopped nuts ( pistachios or almonds)
  • 1 cup quinoa ( cooked in 2 cups water)
  • 1 bunch green onions, finely sliced
  • 100 mls good olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • cup of dried chopped apricots
  • packet washed and dried rocket ( arugula)
  • a pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into chunks ( great flavour and colour)
  • handful of dried cranberries ( good colour)
  • bunch chopped parsley ( curly leaf chops better)
  • can drained chick peas
  • 1/4 cucumber dice
  • some sun-dried tomatoes chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste.

The above mixture, is good in flavour and colour but can be varied to suit your taste.To cook the quinoa, put one cup quinoa into 2 cups of water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 mins, drain and cool.Then in a large mixing bowl, place all the other ingredients, along with the cooled quinoa and mix well. Serve at room temperature, either on its own for lunch or as an accompaniment for fish for dinner. Will keep for several days, covered in the refrigerator.super food salad

Some people will not really know about Quinoa ( pronounced quin-wah). According to Wikipedia It is a grain crop grown for its edible seeds. It is not a real grass though and is a member of the same family as beetroot and spinach. ( hard to believe)    It is high in protein and lacks gluten. Quinoa was important to the diet of ancient peoples of the Andes. It has been  called a Superfood as the protein content is very high yet not as high as most beans and legumes. In their natural state, quinoa seeds have a bitter tasting coating but in today in the west ,most quinoa sold commercially has had this coating removed. So the bottom line is there are many “new ” Superfoods out there. Try and then experiment and see for yourself.

Ladies who Lunch

Menu from Pieds Nus
Seared Tuna, main course

Last week, the Ladies who Lunch, well Lunched!  We usually meet about 6 times a year and try out the hottest and newest restaurants in town. Last week was the turn of a “pop up” owned and run by the same people who own “Pied a Terre” , a Michelin starred restaurant in Bloomsbury, London and its Sister restaurant “L’autre Pied”, in Marylebone , also in London. The pop up, was also a play on the name as it was called, “Pieds Nus”, and was also in Marylebone.

I arrived to find my friend perched on a very high bar stool at a very, very high bar/table, without my saying a word, she said  “We can’t sit here, I have already told them!” The waitress arrived, and I repeated this, only to be told that they were full and that no other table was available . Umm!  The manager arrived and we repeated ourselves again, he also said, they were full! At this point we decided we would go elsewhere. And then a miracle happened, a normal table was available! And just two men were seated at the Bar and I have to say, they were not full.

The meal itself was unremarkable, and the portions minuscule , there was not a lunch time menu, which is normally a very good deal at good restaurants, when small portions are acceptable. It was only a la carte. Several of us chose the starter with Jerusalem Artichokes, all with the comment” we do not see Jerusalem  Artichokes on the menu that often. Well, these artichokes had never been near Jerusalem and were in fact just small normal artichokes. This was pointed out to the waitress, she just said” oh it must be a misprint”!!

The menu and a photo are here. Just as well it was a Pop Up and has already Popped Down, as we would not be in a hurry to return.

( Having said that, we have eaten well, and been well served at the sister restaurants).

Shrove Tuesday ( Pancake day in the UK) has been and gone. Apparently in Russia and the Ukraine, it is almost a week-long celebration, and of course around the world is Carnival, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, in the USA.

I actually did make pancakes this year, it is something I almost never do, ( except when making them for breakfast for my grandchildren). However, I made Crepe Salé. Savoury crepe, which are usually made out of Buckwheat flour.Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. It is not a grass but belongs to the same family as Sorrel and Rhubarb.Tibetans have long eaten Buckwheat noodles and in France it is known as either Sarrasin, or Blè Noir.

In any case, it makes very good savoury Crêpe.


  • 250 grms/9oz/2 cups of Buckwheat flour ( plain flour can also be used)
  • 6 eggs
  • 900mls/1 1/2 pints  milk
  • 150 mls/5 fl oz cream
  • butter for cooking
  • pinch of salt


I believe in the “all in one” method of mixing, it easy beyond belief, especially if you have a food processor.

Put the flour into the food processor. pour together the milk, cream and eggs into a container. Switch on the food processor and with the engine running pour in the liquid mixture. Switch off and scrap down the sides of the machine, switch back on and process again until you have a smooth mixture. Check for thickness, it should be like thick pouring cream, too thick, will make a real stodgy pancake, too thin it will be very difficult to handle. Many recipes call for resting after making, I never do this, it is not going to rise, as you are using plain flour.

Lightly grease with butter  a flat pan ( 10″), preferably a crêpe pan, I only use my crêpe, for making crepe. I have a cast iron one, which I never wash, just wipe clean. Set over a medium heat and ladle in enough batter to cover the base of the pan, when you tilt it make sure you cover all the pan. Cook without turning for about a minute, or until the top side is just set. Turn over either with a palette knife or by tossing. cook this side for about 30 seconds. Be ready to lose your first crêpe, the pan needs to season a little. If the first crêpe seems a little thick, dilute your mixture with some milk. Repeat this until you have used all of your mixture. Alternatively, make what you need and store the rest in the refrigerator for a few days.. Then you can fill them how you like. This year for my Crêpe I filled them with a mixture of Ricotta cheese, soft goats cheese and cooked drained spinach ( frozen spinach comes in very handy here, but you must drain it well.)

Spread onto a crêpe some of the fillings, and top with another crêpe, repeat the filling process. Repeat this until you have a small stack of 6-8 crêpes. Grates fresh parmesan cheese over the top and bake for 15 mins in a medium hot oven, until hot all the way through.

Serves 3-4, serve with a mixed salad.Crêpe mix cooking crepe

crepe with fillingcooked crepe