If at first you don’t succeed!

Success at last. For several years, whilst in the French Alps I have tried making bread, with or without a prepared mix, with very much mixed results.

When we first came here, about 13 years ago, the bread man came on by every morning, but with so few residents here it proved not to be worth his while and came no more.

For many years Himself would then drive down the 7 hairpins to the Boulangerie, The trouble with this was a) in the winter, 7 extra hairpins in the snow before the snowplough had been and b) baquettes go stale very quickly.

Finally I resorted to a bread machine. I made bread using standard ingredients and dried yeast or I made bread with a ready prepared mix. But with mixed results. What to do, what to do? It was a bit of a conundrum. Buy bread on a weekly basis, pop into the freezer and defrost when needed.

Last summer I spent extended periods, making sourdough starter. All seemed to go well until cooked and then disaster. But then I discovered in the UK Sourdough bread mix! Ok not exactly the same and cheating to boot, but how would it work in the mountains.

With all of this bread making attempts in the mountains, I learnt a very valuable lesson. Baking at altitude is not the same as at sea level. Adjustments have to be made.

Lower air pressure at altitude causes air bubbles trapped in the mixture to rise at a faster rate. When this happens the cake/ bread rises very fast and high, and then collapses, result disaster, dense and dry. Cakes and breads with yeast, rise quickly, so proofing times need to be reduced as well. Only fill tins, if cake making half full as they can easily overflow.

Our Mountain home is at an altitude of almost 4000 feet and so several adjustments have to be made.

  • For cakes:-
  • Reduce Baking Powder by 1/8 tsp for each tsp needed
  • Reduce sugar by 1 tablespoon for every 4 oz
  • Increase liquid by 2 tablespoons for every 200 mls
  • Increase oven temperature by 25 F

The higher you are the more adjustments have to be made.

So today, using my English sourdough mix and a bread maker ( just for the kneading process,) I tried again and YES! It worked. I increased the water, and I used olive oil instead of butter. The machine kneaded for about 1 hour 30. I set the oven at 220 put in the cast iron pan to reheat so that it was hot and ready to go as soon as the bread machine beeped. Popped the dough in the hot pan, put on the lid, waited for about 20 minutes, removed lid and returned to the oven until the bread was a beautiful shade of brown !

Cheating Yes! Easy Yes! Way forward, Yes, here for sure !

Pea Soup

This is really weird, I read the other day a short recipe from the award winning restaurant chef, Skye Gingel. It said, that she had always made pea soup, the same way that she made other soups, cooking peas in stock until tender, purée them etc etc. Well that is exactly what I have been doing, it seems like since forever! Now she puts forward the idea of just using frozen peas and blitzing them, before adding stock etc.

As Himself has been poorly, soup is the lunchtime answer. BUT, I had no soup in my multiple freezers. He had “gone off “ soup in recent times, even through Lockdown # 1, Lockdown #2 and Lockdown #3, soup was not on his agenda. But now he is more or less confined to Barracks, No Golf, No Driving and the worse of all No Housework ( as if !) I had thought of making the simplest of tomato soup, using canned tomatoes, but then I thought, Umm, pea soup! A quick trip across the road, bypassing the myriad of Deliveroo, Just Eat, ( the market leader in food delivery) and Uber Eats, there the cycle, electric cycle and moped deliverers amass. Why do they amass near where I live? Baker Street is full of fast food outlets, some better than others, but there are residents here in my building who order, breakfast, lunch and dinner from these outlets. (And for many of them, it is Maccy DJ’s morning noon and night)

To make this very simple but oh so delicious soup is ease itself, I deviated from her suggestions, but the basic idea was worthwhile. This quantity makes enough soup for 6-8 and once cooked ( reheated and cooled it maybe frozen for future use.)

  • 1 kilo of frozen peas ( petit pois are best)
  • Up to 1 litre of vegetable stock, I used the above above, so easy
  • A large handful of fresh watercress
  • A small bunch of fresh mint
  • 300 mls plain yogurt
  • Crème fraîche and basil leaves to serve.

This is simplicity itself.

Start off by semi defrosting your peas, much easier to process if marginally soft. Tip the peas into a food processor and process on high until it is a purée. This is made easier by adding some Luke warm stock. Add the yogurt ( or cream if you fancy). Blitz some more add stock and or cream, / yogurt until you reach the consistency you desire. Add the watercress and mint. Blitz some more.

For serving, it can be served hot or cold but for storage ( and I’m needing freezer snack type foods) cook first, leave to cool before bagging for the freezer.

My original version of Pea Soup included Baby Gem Lettuce but not watercress but I am fine with this version, it is worth giving variations a try.


More Indian Food ….. Parsi Omelette

Himself has been a bit in capacitated this week and so haven’t been cooking. I become a bit of a slob and just grab something, or nothing as the case maybe. Which makes me think of my Mother. She was a widow for 34 years, but standards never slipped. She would always cook for herself and set the table, always do the dishes ( no dishwasher). She would always peel her new potatoes ( didn’t like skin) as well as her tomatoes ( didn’t like skin), this puts me to shame. Mental note to oneself……. Must do better.

I have a new cookbook ,well two or three, or maybe even four, but the one I am currently in love with is Chefs at Home. This is a compilation by 57 chefs in aid of Hospitality Action, a charity which supports the hospitality industry.

There are many recipes and ideas in this book which have piqued my interest, so much so I must have bought Amazon’s complete stock of sticky page markers.

There are a couple of recipes/ ideas that I have been salivating over for the past few days, namely JAMSHEDPUR -STYLE EGG ROLLS and PARSI OMELETTE.

The Parsi omelette led me on a quest to find out more about Indian spices and their concoctions. The recipe called for Garam Masala ( already in my store cupboard) and Dhansak Masala, ( not heard of before ).

I am absolutely not an authority on this subject, but have been reading a lot. There is an Indian supermarket, a very large one, not far from Heathrow airport ( this area of London has a large population from the Indian sub continent). Unfortunately I haven’t been there, since Covid struck but have every intention of visiting again, armed with my various books to try and fathom out the vast array of ingredients, fresh, dried, canned or frozen !

India is approximately 13 times larger and has 1.46 BILLION people. The UK is on the whole fairly densely populated but comes in at 64 million. Thinking of regional cooking, in what is a fairly small country the UK has a lot of regional dishes, so going on from that, just imagine the differences in a country like India .

Masala, is the generic word for various mixtures of spices. Each region has its own special blend, so in the north, where winters can be cold, it is Garam Masala, meaning hot spice. It has a rich warm fragrance and tastes hot and aromatic.

In Maharashtra, the capital of which is Mumbai, and sits on the Deccan Plateau. It has a tropical climate and good vegetation, hence lots of fruits and vegetables. The Masala that is used here is GODA MASALA and is not usually found commercially but made in the home and contains coconut, whereas in the Punjab it is TANDOORI MASALA, it rich in colour, is fragrant and spicy. And then I found GUNPOWDER MASALA and DHANSAK MASALA.

Moving on to the Parsi Omelette, it calls for Dhansak Masala, and had no idea where it could be bought, hence I had to make it myself.

I used half the quantities of spices suggested and even so made a fair amount, which I have stored in a jar. I started out grinding my spices in a pestle and mortar, but it was seriously hard work, moved onto a hand grinder ( now discarded) and finally a high speed jug blender. A small coffee grinder, will work well.

  • 100 grams coriander seeds
  • 25 grams dried red chillies
  • 25 grams cloves
  • 15 grams green cardamoms
  • 15 grams black cardamoms
  • 25 grams stick cinnamon
  • 15 grams black peppercorns
  • 15 grams dried bay leaves
  • 15 grams star anise
  • 15 grams mustard seed
  • 15 grams poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg.

Very simply grind and blend all of the above together. Store in a jar.

I made my Parsi Omelette using

  • 3 eggs beaten
  • A small red onion chopped
  • A green chilli chopped
  • A teaspoon of Dhansak masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric,
  • some grated cheese
  • Some chopped coriander leaves
  • A chopped clove garlic and some chopped ginger
  • Pinch salt

Gently fry the chilli, the onion, garlic and ginger in either ghee or oil, pour in the eggs and agitate so that the eggs can fall to the bottom of the pan to set, do this a couple of times until almost set. Add the cheese and coriander, salt and pepper and turn over to finish cooking . The easiest way to do this is, to place a plate over the pan, invert the pan so that the omelette tips onto the plate, then gently slide it back into the pan to finish cooking. Fold in half and serve with some salad.

You might want to adjust the seasoning second time around. I think basically one can call this an omelette curry, but the flavours are very subtle. I would have liked it to be a little stronger.

As a footnote, the Parsis migrated from Persia to India in the 7 century. There is a distinct community in Mumbai.

Crab Cakes and Crab Scotch Eggs

I love all things Crabby, from dressed Crab, which I think is very English, to anything to do with crab, cracking the claws, sucking the claws, crab cakes, crab on toast and the latest Crab Scotch eggs!

My all time favourites are Soft Shell Crab and when in New Orleans, Soft Shell Crab Po-Boys! Ok, I’ll have to stop salivating and tell you about Crab Scotch Eggs.

Well, these are OK, but about to be put down as experience., rather than something I would have again, and in fact, having eaten them two nights running, the remaining ones will go in the bin. This is very much against my philosophy, of Waste Not Want Not, but Enough is Enough!

We went to a restaurant the other week, called Kricket. There are a couple of them in London and this one was at the Old Television Studios in White City. I was interested because the owner travelled around India and decided to open an Indian restaurant. I think I have said previously that I was not really impressed, especially when I looking at some of his recipes and found that he used tons of Ghee.

However, I am so glad that I haven’t bought his book and I quote here” the publisher needed my book so I didn’t have time to proof read it “ OOOPS!

But never mind, I had two tubs of crab meat which need using. Himself was under the weather ( much more serious than Man Flu) , but once defrosted it needed using. In the UK crabmeat tends to be claw rather than lump so we have to work with what we have.

I chopped, celery, coriander, shallots, chillies , ginger, garlic, ( I also added some avocado and mango ) and made two piles, one for my crab cakes and one for the Scotch eggs. Soft boiled the eggs. Prepared my beaten eggs and panko breadcrumbs. Divided my crab mixture, formed my cakes, dipped them carefully into the egg and then the breadcrumbs into the frying pan, perfect! Onto the Scotch eggs. Moulding a slimy mixture around a slippery soft boiled egg is not the easiest task in the world and dipping it into the egg followed by the breadcrumbs is even more difficult but I persevered. Finally success, quickly into a pan of hot oil to deep fry.. Done!

Was it worth it? Absolutely not! Will I try again? Most definitely not!

Shame sounded a good idea!

YEAH! We have had guests!

For the first time we have had GUESTS at home for dinner! That is apart from Kids and Grandkids who have been here on and off , in and out of Lockdown! How lucky are we that they all, now live nearby ! BUT REAL LIVE PEOPLE, came to dinner and how nice was that!

I was rather naughty in giving Himself the job of cooking dinner. I ordered from a company called Banquist. So this was not a Heat up and serve type of dinner, but more “ You have to cook”!

The order arrived the day before, ( all in various types of recyclable packaging) Unpacked, sorted and put into the refrigerator. Himself scanned a barcode in order to watch the required Video.

Dinner came courtesy of Merlin Lebron Johnson. He has worthwhile credentials, good training and Michelin Stars.

The Menu du Jour was

  • Chickpea, Amalfi lemon, rainbow chard, Burrata and Basil.
  • 28 day aged rib eye of Wexford Valley beef, with walnut pesto tropes onions and potato al forno
  • Ewes milk Panna cotta, olive oil crumb, macerated strawberries with lemon thyme

Merlin might be a magician in the kitchen but sorry folks he won’t be the number one hit on YouTube nor on TikTok. For me, watching him was like watching paint dry, however Himself dutifully watched it all.

The starter baffled me, especially when we opened the box, in it were three cans of Chick Peas. Three cans is an awful lot of Chick Peas! And so it was, with the finished dish, there were a LOT of Chick Peas. The Burrata was good, but within the whole dish, too many chick peas, not enough greenery ( we added spinach) and sadly lacked flavour ( we added, some pomegranate molasses). There were only clean plates afterwards, so I guess people liked it, or were they just being polite?

Next up was the main course. This required a fair amount of prep, if not cooking skills. The package came with pickled walnuts fresh Basil, walnuts, Tropea onions potatoes, parsley watercress and beautiful looking ribeye steaks.

Tropea onions look a bit like red shallots. They are from southern Italy are very sweet and have wide uses in Italy, such as raw in salads, on pizza, great for grilling , frittatas, for marmalade and even Ice Cream ! It looks like I will have to make a trip to Borough Market ( London) and find some.

His instructions were to fry the onions cut side down so that they were almost charred. Upon serving they were deconstructed and made to look like petals. The plain walnuts were grilled and finely chopped and mixed with the pickled ones, along with Basil to make a pesto. And the steaks which were supplied by a London butcher HG Walter, were very good indeed.

Dessert, needed much less on hands time, except for hulling and finely chopping the strawberries, otherwise the olive oil crumb was supplied along with the Ewes milk Panna Cotta. The video, showed the chef, using a spoon to make quenelles of the Panna cotta and I suggested that Himself use our Ice Cream scoop. Unfortunately the Panna Cotta, perhaps was not firm enough it was more like a thick custard. However that did not distract from the overall result as the flavours were very good.

From the standpoint of food, ( apart from the chickpea overload) it was good. For Himself, it was good, he obeys the rules and watches the video, without any interference from me. The next challenge is for Himself to plan a menu, do a shopping list, do a work plan and start it all from scratch? Am I asking too much, maybe but little steps!

And finally, a family of swans! Last year they had 10 babies, but the fox took 7, this year they had 8 and still have 8! Go anywhere near or not even near and Daddy swan comes a hissing and a flapping !

Dining Out on the 53 rd Floor

We ventured out into docklands at the weekend, somewhere which is not on our radar. About the only other time was to cheer for my Willowy girls in the London Marathon, as they wove their way round the sky scrappers. This time it was for dinner, a quick leap on the Jubilee Line and we were at Canary Wharf. Now where to go? Thank good ness for Google Maps, it directed us over a foot bridge to The Wardian, on the Isle of Dogs! It was a bit of land surrounded by the river Thames on three sides, it was marsh land and grazing land, land that flooded. Records show it as far back as 1448. It was only in more recent times that it became part of the Dock Lands, in the 1800’s with the building of the West India Docks and then the East India Docks.

During World War Two, the docks were heavily bombed but it was shipping containers that became its downfall. However in the 1980’s the London Docklands Development Corporation began to redevelop the whole are into what it has become today. An area of East London that employs over 93,000 people, in Banks, Offices, Shops and restaurants. It is well served by all forms of transport as well as being a residential community.

And so it was that somehow or other we were going to have dinner in a new residential tower block.

We live in a large block of flats, apartments and penthouses, on the 6 th and 7 th floors, and we have a lift which for the most part is on slow side, therefore, a bit of a revelation to enter a lift that zoomed up to the 53 rd floor in less time than it takes ours to dawdle up 6.

The Wardian describes itself as a residence like no other. Amid the skyscrapers and waterways of Canary Wharf, an immersive sanctuary is revealed. Two iconic towers offer the rare stillness of nature in the heart of the bustling metropolis. ( I suppose that is the Sales Pitch).

So, up on the 53 rd floor we were greeted by a concierge and a barman, cocktail given and out onto the wrap around terrace and Oh ,what views, maybe I could live in a penthouse on the 53 rd floor, but then again, maybe not. Every couple of minutes one could hear a train, be it a real train as in the London Overground, or C2C or Thames Link or the Underground as in the Jubilee Lone, or even the Docklands Light Railway and this is the one that truly trundles between such interesting named places such as Mudchute, Island Gardens, Poplar, or Pontoon Dock, or perhaps one of the River boats and River Taxis that chug up and down from Westminster to Greenwich.

But, we were here to eat dinner, an almost private dinner party, we were just twenty lucky guests all sat at tables of 2.

The chef who was apparently hired to entice us to eat and to buy a flat ! But no one even showed us a brochure. Disappointed? No not really. Alyn Williams was the chef, formerly of the Westbury where he held a Michelin Star for 8 years.

Dinner was nice, not very exciting but the views were amazing, choose for yourselves

Eating Out

We have ventured out a couple of times recently, though we are still not really in the mind set.

Firstly we went with friends to a restaurant called Kricket. This came about as I had read a lot about this small chain and the subsequent cookbook by the same name. A lot of criticism, as the book seemed to have been rushed out without much if any proof reading. For me, half the time it is the inspiration, rather than the exact recipe, but for many, a recipe is followed exactly. Himself is very good, now at following a recipe ( and not too often breaking free and doing his own thing). In cooking breaking Free is fine, after all these recipes are either created by someone being creative or being passed down through generations. Baking, is a different Kettle of Fish, there are rules which need to be followed.

I bought the book on Kindle ( not a massive fan of such books on kindle and am on the lookout for one, on the cheap somewhere.) The first mistake I found on a quick skim was for making Laal Maas, one of favourite Indian dinners. Normally it requires about 3 tablespoon of Ghee for about a kilo of lamb. In Kricket he says 400 grms! This is almost a whole can of ghee!

So off to Kricket we went, which I chose just out of curiosity. We had really nice evening with some indifferent food. Served “Tapas” style, which for me means something along the lines of “ we just cook and serve it, regardless of how the customer would prefer it!”

We had Bhel Puri, which is an Indian Street food, a kind of mixed up salad ( delicious by the way) , Kerala fried Chicken ( read upmarket Kentucky fried chicken) but then it went down hill. Himself ordered Goan sausage with squid , kind of squid wrapped around a sausage ( didn’t work) and I chose some fish dish which was so nondescript that I can’t even remember it’s name!

So from the sublime to the ridiculous, or actually the other way round. Angler restaurant. A Michelin starred venue where we have eaten a couple of times pre pandemic. As it’s name suggests it is a fishy kind of place. The food as usual was lovely and maybe the service was not quiet up to scratch , but nonetheless the good evening.

Willowy daughter took us out to lunch ( well kind of, she forgot her wallet) and I booked it, as somewhere local. I booked because it had a really nice looking terrace only to find out it was Vegan. Judging by it’s name Wolf and Lamb, I was bemused. However I would go again, she and I chose the TexMex salad, which was right up my street, others chose, creamy linguine, served with broccoli , jackfruit hamburger and spicy burger and even young Sam liked his Non Burger burger. So a hit all round.

And finally we headed to Soho, the first time in 18 months. We actually went to a world famous Jazz club, having just recently reopened its doors. Capacity was limited to just 50 %, so the atmosphere was somewhat dampened but what actually amazed us were the people out eating. The streets had been transformed into a huge open air restaurant. Maybe life is returning, I hope so.

Do You Like Mussels ?

Having lived in Brussels for over thirteen years, the capital of Moules we as a family love them ! Mostly, served in a casserole, à la something or other , marinière, au vin blanc, au curry, au gousse d’ail ( garlic), à la crème and many other variations on a theme. Normally the portion is one kilo of mussels and served with, what else? Crispy French Fries!

I say the portion size is 1 kilo, which sounds a lot, but actually this is the weight with the shells, so in fact not that much meat.

When we first moved to Brussels about 40 + years ago, we discovered a small, almost hole in the wall type of restaurant with maybe 10 or 12 tables. No reservations and closed at 10 pm. The trick was to roll up and if you had to wait, you had to wait, outside, come rain or shine.( they now perhaps post Covid take reservations).

Of course they serve other foods along with Moules, but it is predominantly Moules. The very first time we ate there, was , of course after a Rugby match….. Brussels British versus ? I don’t remember. We were very hungry, so we ordered a starter of Moules, followed by steak frites, followed by Crêpe Soufflé, which had to be ordered well in advance. The waiter did indeed give us the most amazed look and then we understood! NO ONE in their right minds would order all of this, and Belgians did not do “Doggy Bags”.

We learnt very quickly and it soon became one of our favourite casual haunts. One of our favourites was the mussels cooked in white wine, cream and lots of garlic. The restaurant was manned by almost characters of real people, gnarled, wrinkled and overweight, hairnet on hair and a quick smoke outside the door and with a take it or leave it attitude. And to top it off, and gentleman of Asian origin would occasionally open a trap door in the floor, gather up the dirty Moules pans and disappear back under to wash them.

Himself has taken to cooking on a Tuesday. This is post Lockdown as it is my golf day. On Monday night he wondered what he should cook. I commented that I had 2 kilo of mussels arriving the next day. That spurred him on but not to cook the normal steamed in a pan pan with wine, garlic tomatoes etc. He scoured my books and came up with Moules en Croustade with leeks and white wine.

A quick trip to buy some sourdough bread, as the croustade is a loaf of bread, actually for two people, 2 loaves. Everything else was in the refrigerator.

According to himself the worse part of the whole meal was shucking ( does one say shucking for Moules?) the Moules, which he said took an age. However there is always a bit of a downside to Moules as they always have to be debearded before cooking.

For two generous portions

  • 2 crusty loaves
  • 4 Oz butter
  • 2 kilos of mussles
  • 75 mls dry white wine
  • 2 smallish leeks washed and finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup crème fraiche
  • Salt and pepper to taste, beware taste well before seasoning.
  • 1tablespoon cornflour mixed together with 1 tablespoon soft butter
  • Some chives or chopped parsley to garnish
  • Cut off the top of each loaf and scoop out all of the bread inside ( keep to make some breadcrumbs)
  • Brush the inside of each loaf and lids with some melted butter and pop into a a hot oven 400C for about 5 minutes or so until they are crisp
  • Heat the wine and tip in the mussels, cover and cook for only a few moments until the shells have opened.
  • Tip into a colander and keep the cooking juices.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove the mussels from the shells.
  • Strain the cooking fluid through a mesh sieve to remove any grit that might be there.
  • Melt a knob of butter in a pan and add the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, do not let them brown, but they do need to be soft.
  • Add the cooking liquid, boil and then simmer until it is reduced by half. Add the remaking butter, the cream and the butter/ cornflour mixture. Continue on gentle heat, stirring to avoid any lumps and the sauce thickens a little.
  • Reheat the loaves
  • Carefully add the mussels , taste, adjust seasoning and serve on the hot crisp loaves, garnish with chives and or parsley.

Absolutely delicious, forget the calories! And of course this can be easily adapted, using chicken, other seafood, or even an assortment of fish pieces, as in fish pie mix.

Indian Street Food ( PAU BHAJI )

I’ll start of by saying that I do not want to do an injustice to Indian Street food. However, whenever we visited India , many times over a period of 4 years ( my eldest grand daughter was born in Delhi) we were constantly warned ‘ Not to Eat Street Food’. My #1 daughter ventured forth just the once ( she is a travel journalist and as such thought she should) and ended up in hospital with severe dehydration from gastroenteritis . What had she eaten? A simple baked sweet potato with lime squeezed over. However, the standard of cleanliness leaves much to be desired, for the street dwellers there is no such luxury as somewhere to wash their hands, have a bath or even go to the loo. Hence why we were told, not to eat the street food.

However there have been numerous recipes handed down over the years, many of which obviously stem from Indian Street Food or home cooking.

One such dish is PAU BHAJI.

Pav bhaji is a a fast food dish from India consisting of a thick vegetable curry (bhaji) served with a soft bread roll (pav). Its origins are in the state of Mahrashtra, which is home to Mumbai.

For me it is the equivalent of my Refrigerator Soup, as it uses up all sorts of odds and ends from the refrigerator. I decided today that I would have a little sort out of the refrigerator and this is what I had, which needed using. 2 soft Parsnips, 2 wilted red peppers, 2 soft sweet potatoes, a large handful of green beans and then from the freezer some peas and half a packet of broad beans. Along with onions, garlic and ginger.

This was absolutely Perfect. Why? Simply because generally speaking the quality of produce is not high in India, #1 daughter lived in what was considered an upmarket neighbourhood, her nearest shop was across a busy road to Honey Money Top. It equated not even to my local Indian Stores here in London. Given the vast size of India, the poor transportation, roads are terrible, trains , lots of them, overcrowded and always late. Refrigerated trucks, not so many, it is hardly surprising that but the time goods get to market they are not at their best !

I will start by saying that all quantities are whatever you have, more or less, no matter.

  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 or 3 white onions, sliced and chopped
  • 400grm can of tomatoes ( or fresh)
  • 1/4 tube tomato paste
  • 2tsp each of the following, ground cumin, turmeric, Garam masala
  • I also added some crushed chilli flakes and some crushed Kashmiri chillis for their wonderful colour.
  • Some salt
  • 100 grms butter ( or more to taste
  • Some cooking oil

And also

  • Any of the following vegetables
  • Cauliflower cut into florets
  • Green, red or yellow peppers, chopped,
  • Sweet potatoes peeled and chopped
  • Parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • Pumpkin or other squashes
  • Beans, peas and carrots

Put all of the vegetables from the second list into a saucepan along with water or stock to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until really soft. Using a blender ( here I use a stick blender rather than a food processor, just to save on washing up) mush all the vegetables to a pulp.

The potatoes and sweet potatoes along with the onions, sauté with some oil until soft. I usually precook them for speed in the Microwave for about 5 minutes, and then sauté them. Add all of the spices along with the tomatoes and the tomato paste. cook for another 5-10 minutes

Then mix all of the above together to make a wonderful mushy vegetable mess! Normally it would be served as street food with a soft bread roll, but we have it alongside, some grilled chicken or fish.


Food Fads come and Food Fads go. Avocados might have seen their day, as the food of the moment. Chia seeds were very much in vogue for a while. I brought bags of them from Mexico,where they were as cheap as chips, but then wondered why? I seriously didn’t like the look of the little black specs on my food. Quinoa, didn’t rock my boat either and neither did Tofu.

Sourdough bread, however you chose to make it, was the hit of the pandemic season, and baking. ( my personal favourite… Bagels). At the beginning of Lockdown #1 finding flour of any sorts proved to be a challenge.

My crowd farming Avocados

So here we are almost free. We have been out to eat now just twice.

Once was relatively warm, albeit outside. A chunk of the Taxi drive through had been partitioned of at a local Hyatt Regency and a Japanese garden full of cherry blossom had been recreated. Along with mega powerful heaters, it was nice. Nice not wonderful, the food was nice, the location was nice, ( we could walk there), all in all just nice. The menu was small, in fact almost tiny, but all in all, it was nice !

The second time was just this week, after a round of golf in Surrey. My own golf club has for whatever reason not yet opened the terrace, so there is no dining apart from a snack at the halfway house. Whereas, where, we were dining was in full swing, but am not sure that I saw any heaters, though snuggly blankets were supplied. And so it was more than nice, we were with friends after a round of golf. Life was almost normal. Dinner was more than nice albeit just a TAD chilly !

During our various Lockdowns I have been supporting Spanish farmers, small time artisan farmers. I have had the most wonderful Avocados, Mangoes, Lemons and Olive oil. Delivered to my door. I have had 2x 2 litres of olive oil, 2x boxes of Avocados and one each of Mangoes and Lemons.

The Avocado comes from a tree which originated in South Central Mexico. The oldest discovery of an avocado pit dating as far back 10,000 years ago. Today, it is grown in most tropical and Mediterranean climates. It is a fruit and technically a berry, contains just one large single seed. Commercially avocados are picked before they are ripe, which makes it perfect for buying from the farmer and allowing to ripen at home. Mexico is by far the biggest producer of avocados, producing several times more than the second producer which is California.

Nutritionally, Avocados, are classified as a super food, rich in monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin and fat. It is the only fruit that contains fat.

There are numerous recipes for Avocados, but generally speaking all are cold in some form of Guacamole, smushed, salsa and salads. But how about Avocado fries with a parmesan crust? Or Avocado cream sauce for pasta? Yes you can do it! Now I’m currently eating my way through my last delivery. They arrive rock hard, I put most in the refrigerator and two in the fruit bowl, they ripen fairly quickly. Once ripened, one is ready to eat and one goes back into the refrigerator, another goes into the fruit bowl, and so on and so forth. I often have them for breakfast, smushed with lemon juice, sriracha and a pinch of salt. On a home made bagel. My other favourite is of course Guacamole.

On our numerous visits to Mexico, we ate some amazing food and lots of Avocados. We went to some wonderful restaurants and some very fun ones. One such restaurant is Arroyos south of Mexico City. It is the worlds largest Mexican restaurant and at peak times has over 1,000 staff! Along with Mariachi bands, certainly a fun place to go. This was after having even more fun on a Party boat in Xochimilco, one of the 16 boroughs of Mexico City. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the name comes from the Aztec language ( Nahuatl) meaning Flower Garden.

For Crispy avocado fries ( which are actually baked not fried) you will need :-

  • Perfectly ripe avocados, Goldilocks like, not too hard, not too soft, but just right! Cut them into wedges.
  • lightly crushed Panko Bread crumbs mixed with finely grated parmesan cheese, along with some salt, some cayenne pepper and maybe chilli powder or Piri Piri
  • A beaten egg
  • A hot oven

Sorry quantities are hit and miss, depending on how many fries you are going to make, I had a handful of panko and the same of cheese, I used two eggs.

Simply, peel and cut the avocados into wedges, dip in the egg and then the breadcrumb mixture. Place on a baking tray drizzle some oil over ( not too much and obviously Avocado oil would be the best) and pop into a hot-Ish oven and bake for 5-10 mins until golden.( Keep an eye on them, don’t want burnt).

And I have just read that the skins of Avocados can be toxic to certain animals and birds and therefore can act as a deterrent! ( I am trialling to keep Pigeons away !)