Wednesday 29 April 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday? Fish, Glorious Fish!

You can smell the Lake Victoria fish market in Entebbe before you see it, but it’s not a nose-crinkling pong. It is the hunger inducing aroma of a heady mixture of curry and herbs on a barbeque, because just outside the entrance to the market there are dozens of men and women firing up their little brick ovens and cooking the most delicious fish kebabs this side of heaven. We’d always buy one or two and eat them right there on the spot before going to check out the fresh catch.

Here is a favourite recipe for one of the more prolific (and smaller) of lake fish, the tasty Tilapia. It’s so quick and easy and can be done either in the oven or on a barbeque. I’ll bet you’ll agree that there just isn’t anything quite as good as the wonderful, wholesome taste of freshly caught fish!

Akiiki's Tilapia

4 x 12oz Tilapia, cleaned and scaled
4 heaped tbsp red curry paste
4 heaped tbsp coconut milk paste
4 limes
4 garlic cloves, peeled
4 spring onions (scallions)
4 banana leaves if you have a tree growing in your garden, but foil works just as well!

Cut several deep slashes into both sides of each fish and place them in the centre of a banana leaf or large square of foil. Mix the red curry paste and coconut milk paste together and rub it into the fish, making sure it goes right down into the slashes.

Cut 2 of the limes into thin slices. Push one piece into each of the slashes along the side of each fish.

Thinly slice the garlic and spring onions and sprinkle over the top of each fish.

Wrap the leaves or foil over the fish to make well-sealed parcels, place the parcels on a baking tray and pop into a hot oven for 15-20 minutes.

Serve each fish straight from its leaf or foil container. Allow each person to open their own parcel, as the aroma is sensational! (If you’re doing this on a barbeque, just remember to turn the parcels two or three times while over the coals so that the fish is evenly cooked through.)

**Do pop over to Shan’s blog where she hosts the
What’s Cooking Wednesday for more delicious recipes!**

Renee's Boy

If I have a monument in this world, it is my son.

- Maya Angelou

The elephant symbolizes power, strength, wisdom and longevity. So, with that in mind, I’d like to dedicate my elephant to Renee’s Nathan. Of course he is a man now, but he will always be Renee's boy! Happy Birthday, Nathan!

Saturday 25 April 2009

IF - Theatre. You say tomato....I say Vive la Différence!

Wild Imaginings

For me, imagination is like a theatre of the mind. Think of the many scenes of wild imaginings our minds have played out over the years. Think, too, of how this theatre of the imagination still continues to give us scintillating previews of life’s coming attractions.

Robert Louis Stevenson

I should like to rise and go
Where the golden apples grow;--
Where below another sky
Parrot islands anchored lie,
And, watched by cockatoos and goats,
Lonely Crusoes building boats;--
Where in sunshine reaching out
Eastern cities, miles about,
Are with mosque and minaret
Among sandy gardens set,
And the rich goods from near and far
Hang for sale in the bazaar;--
Where the Great Wall round China goes,
And on one side the desert blows,
And with the voice and bell and drum,
Cities on the other hum;--
Where are forests hot as fire,
Wide as England, tall as a spire,
Full of apes and cocoa-nuts
And the bravest hunters' huts;--
Where the knotty crocodile
Lies and blinks in the Nile,
And the red flamingo flies
Hunting fish before his eyes;--
Where in jungles near and far,
Man-devouring tigers are,
Lying close and giving ear
Lest the hunt be drawing near,
Or a comer-by be seen
Swinging in the palanquin;--
Where among the desert sands
Some deserted city stands,
All its children, sweep and prince,
Grown to manhood ages since,
Not a foot in street or house,
Not a stir of child or mouse,
And when kindly falls the night,
In all the town no spark of light.
There I'll come when I'm a man
With a camel caravan;
Light a fire in the gloom
Of some dusty dining-room;
See the pictures on the walls,
Heroes fights and festivals;
And in a corner find the toys
Of the old Egyptian boys.

Thursday 23 April 2009

A Coincidental Contrast

Yesterday, on my bloglandia travels through the ether, I read a poem written by Janelle of Ngorobob House and was quite literally gob-smacked by the lyrical and heart-wrenchingly evocative picture she painted so vividly with her word brush. The intensity of the opening lines immediately conjured up an African night and a long dark ribbon of road pricked faintly by the headlights of a distant car.

Contrasts are interesting and Janelle’s poem made me think of some quite disparate lines I wrote after my first trip to London many, many moons ago……

First Visit

I once looked down through
the soft lithograph
of the city in the rain
saying it’s name over
and over again.
Looking up I saw the spires
emptying their light.
mercury falling,
streets draining.
And then some nights
I’d crunch London’s cool gravel underfoot,
and how pleased I was
to be there
in that sodden city.
And how I loved it then,
that grand dimmed conurbation
on the other side of my world.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

"My father is spoiled like a child by my mother" - WCW?

Finally! Stripped of strangling winter woollies, we had our first braai (barbecue) of the year on Sunday. We did have to move the table around from time to time to get out of a frisky wind, but can there be anything more sublime than the sound of food sizzling over coals and the tantalizing smoky aroma that accompanies it? For me, it is epitome of summer and those lingering childhood memories of sun, sand and sea.

While waiting for the flames to die down and the coals to glow white hot, a big bowl filled with a glorious garlicky Levantine dish of eggplant mashed and mixed with various seasonings is a perfect opener for what is to come. An Egyptian friend told me that ‘baba ghanoush’ (or baba-ganouj), translated from Arabic means, "My father is spoiled like a child by my mother". I’m not quite sure if Nabil was taking the mick, but even if he was it sounds fitting!


For the perfectly delicious smoky taste of this heavenly mezze dish, it's crucial that the eggplants are roasted over a flame (on a barbecue) or under a grill until the skins are completely charred.

3 large eggplants
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp yoghurt
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve:
Olive oil to drizzle
1 tsp paprika
Flat bread or pita bread

Heat a grill or barbecue and cook the eggplants until the skins are completely burnt, turning them around every so often. Leave the eggplants to cool then cut them in half and scoop out as much of the flesh as possible, scraping near the skin.

Put the flesh into a food processor or blender with the garlic, tahini and yoghurt, and season with salt and pepper.

Blend until smooth then add the lemon juice and any more seasoning if it needs it. (You can use some chopped fresh chilli if you like it hot, hot, hot!)

Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with chunks of warm flat bread, a plate of crispy crudités or pita pieces (toasted pita bread cut into small pieces.)

**Do pop over to Shan’s blog where she hosts the What’s Cooking Wednesday for more delicious recipes from bloggers at every point on the compass!**

Monday 20 April 2009

Responding to Elizabeth - A Lighthearted 'Meme of the Moment'

Elizabeth of About New York posted this meme on her blog a little while ago and tagged me to join in the fun, but in my current state of Scatterbrainitis, I hadn't got around to responding until today. So here goes!

What are your current obsessions?


And Sushi

Which item from your closet do you wear most often?

My Rock & Republic jeans and Aussie boots

What's for dinner?

Artichoke and Goat’s Cheese stuffed Chicken Breasts

Photo: Pant Mawr Farmhouse Cheeses

Last thing you bought?

A pot of basil

What are you listening to?

Yo Yo Ma’s 'Appassionato'


Say something to the person who tagged you.

Elizabeth, (About New York) after you told me about where you met your husband, I now imagine you and he on that dark balcony in Florence overlooking the Arno many years after Olivia and Kit had stood there together…

Favorite vacation spots?


And Andalucía (because it reminds me of the huge skies and landscapes of Southern Africa)

Reading right now?

'Still Love In Strange Places' by Beth Kephart

'Still Love In Strange Places' is a rich and hugely involving memoir, written with an acute and sensuous observation of memorable characters and evocative settings. I’m completely captivated by the beautifully lyrical quality of Beth’s prose and her astonishing ability to transport the enthralled reader straight into the heart of her artist husband’s exotic, but troubled, homeland.

4 words to describe yourself.

Imaginative, passionate, colourful, shy (I asked Guy, so I take no responsibility for this observation!)

Guilty pleasure?

Chocolate doused Macadamia nuts

Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?

The One... The Only.... Anna Lefler

Photo: Anna Lefler

Anna Lefler at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder is the best place to visit if you’re in need of a laughter fix. Do read Wam. Bam. Mammogram, her post of April 9. Anna reiterates the seriousness of this message, but it will make you laugh yourself clear of your chairs at the same time as reminding you how important it is that all we women have our breasts squished flat for this vital examination every year.

First spring thing?

Getting naked. No, no, just kidding…. A grand jeté!

Jeté - Statue by Enzo Plazzotta - Millbank - Westminster

Planning to travel to next?

The Lycian Coast – Turkey (a tiny cottage called ‘Terra Incognito’ in the hills above Gökova……mmmm…bliss)

Photo: Exclusive Escapes

Best thing you ate or drank lately?

Seared monkfish and scallops on herby lentils produced last weekend by my clever sister!

Flower of the moment?


Care to share some wisdom?

See the header up there? ‘Nuff said…

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.

I’d love to tag the following people, all of whose blogs I follow avidly and enjoy immensely. (Please don’t feel the least bit obliged to do this meme if you don’t feel so inclined!)

Delwyn of A Hazy Moon, Catherine of A Thousand Clapping Hands, Nicky of Absolute Vanilla, Karen of Border Town Notes, Jane of Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman, Val of MonkeysontheRoof, Jinksy of Napple Notes, and Lakeviewer of sixtyfivewhatnow

P.S. You can do the meme without having to include images - I did...'cos I'm a showoff, I guess! xxoo

Friday 17 April 2009

Illustration Friday on FRIDAY! Impossibility.

Well.......girl can dream, can't she?

The Bait

Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines, and silver hooks.

There will the river whispering run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun;
And there th'enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray.

When thou wilt swim in that live bath,
Each fish, which every channel hath,
Will amorously to thee swim,
Gladder to catch thee, than thou him.

John Donne

Postscript: I’m thrilled to bits and pieces that I actually managed to get the Illustration Friday painting up on Friday for the first time in months! I know, I know – it sounds quite mad, but I’m really pleased with myself. It seems that I’ve been careening around like a blue-bottomed baboon recently and not achieving anything of noteworthy significance. Not like you amazing people out there in Bloglandia. Many of you have going-out-to-work jobs, and on top of all that you manage to multi-task with astonishing efficiency. You paint, you write, you create – all of this in addition to everyday life! Gosh.

I look at my blogger dashboard each morning with tingling anticipation to see who has posted and I sit there with my jaw on the floor, agog with admiration. Many of the wonderful people I’ve come across out there in the Blogosphere make me bellow with raucous laughter, or have me nodding in recognition. There are those artists, writers and poets who leave me gasping in awe at their talents and skills. Each day I can share sweet memories or read beautifully told, brave stories of heartbreak and healing. I can gaze at evocative photographs or find a new book to add to my list, discover a great recipe or learn a little more about life in far-off places. It is a wondrous place, this world we share.

I’ve tried, but I just can’t keep up! I want to spend hours reading your wonderful, inspiring, funny and heartwarming blogs and then leave a meaningful and well thought-out comment to show my appreciation. I want to write and paint and post on my own blog so that I, too, can share with all of you, but I don’t seem to be able to catch up with myself because it seems I always hit the ground running like a chicken with a rocket up its nether quarters.

If there is anyone out there who can give me some time-management tips, I’ll be indebted forever! Seriously. I’m sooooooo tired of my blue bottom. And, please, dear bloggy friends, forgive me for stopping by your places for a quick catch-up and not commenting recently, but….well…it’s the blue bottom syndrome, y’know. I have finally finished two - very big - paintings that had to be done to a deadline, so hopefully things will cease being quite so chaotic from now on!

Wednesday 15 April 2009

What's Cooking Wednesday? Soup and A Novel in Progress

An extract from ‘The Ashes of War’ – an unfinished novel based on a personal account left by my father.

Olivia, maybe? (homage to Modigliani)

Austria - May, 1945

During the four days I spent on the farm waiting, I received no message from Olivia. The farmer was busy out of doors and his wife did not speak Italian and since I spoke next to no German we silently went about our business.

I watched the road below through binoculars. The mostly horse-drawn traffic from the south was heavy, but not so great as one would have expected on such an important route. I’d established a good wireless connection with Geordie and sent back routine reports. Very few front-line troops came through. A few Austrian units, a great many S.S. and Wehrmacht police, an occasional armoured car and thousands of carts and trailers, piled high with loot. One could have recognized the column as that of a beaten army from twenty thousand feet above the road. In spite of the loot, there was a dejected lifelessness about the stream of humanity which seemed to affect the entire valley.

On the afternoon of May 8th I had my wireless tuned in to London. I heard Winston Churchill announce victory and I longed to share the news with someone. The house was empty, even the farmer’s wife was out collecting eggs from hiding places around the farmyard.

I went down to the road in the vain hope that I might meet the first of our armoured cars, but I knew that in reality they would come in further to the east. The only thing I saw in a place of surpassing beauty, with the sun shining on the Dolomite spires, was a picture of defeat.

Odd how one’s memory wanders. As I sat on a railing at the edge of the road staring unseeingly at the passing carts, my mind went back to Florence and Olivia. We were standing on the balcony of the house where she was staying with friends. I had come down from the front, in the hills above Bologna. I remember her friends had gone out for the evening and we were alone. The light in their drawing-room was harsh and glacial so we went out on to the balcony which overlooked the Arno from the north bank. It was November and one of the only warm, dry nights that winter.

I remember her making a remark about the electric light in Florence. ‘It is lucky that the light is on at all. Usually it fails in the middle of the afternoon and the opera is cancelled half-way through. Then you have to use candles to read a book and that is never good enough to see properly.’
‘You miss your books, don’t you? I reached for her hand.
‘Yes - of course.’
‘I do, too,’ I smiled at her
‘I know,’ was all she said and then silence.

The night was starless. We could hear the tumbling flood waters of the Arno crashing against the pillars of the broken bridge. There was not a flicker of light from the crazy buildings on the Ponte Vecchio, which we could feel rather than see in the darkness, but there was an endless stream of traffic with pricking headlights crossing into the city over the temporary bridge at the head of the town. Olivia leant back against a window. I couldn’t see her face, so I felt for it in the darkness, holding her hand in mine as she directed me. ‘We could get married here,’ I said. ‘I have four days.’ There was a long pause. I waited. 'Olivia?' She had turned away. Even in the darkness she didn’t look towards me as she spoke. ‘I may never marry - anyone. We must wait until after the war. While the war is on I am not myself.’ Her voice had risen a little. ‘Just now I don’t want the things I would normally want from marriage. I am not sure that you really know me.’ I started to interrupt but she pressed my hand tightly to silence me. Her voice grew husky again. ‘I don’t even know whether I understand myself. Because I see so much suffering, I suffer too. I think I suffer as much - not now when you are here, when it’s dark like this and seems peaceful....’ she took a deep breath. ‘I think I suffer as much as I can stand.’

The roaring of the wide rushing Arno seemed to grow louder as the waters from the drenched mud-cratered hills hurtled against the broken piers. I wondered what I could say to her. After a long pause she spoke again, jerkily. ‘Marriage for me, and I think for you too, is something that needs planning. We know each other only from perfect moments in the Apennines, in places like Positano and on Capri. That is no test. Attraction is not everything.’ I was about to protest, but she reached up and gently put a finger to my lips. ‘We must know more when things are once again normal.’
‘Will they ever be?’ I asked.
‘You don’t know me very well, in spite of everything we have done together. I want you to know me better. You can’t just now because I am unsettled.’
‘I think I know you well enough,’ I protested.
‘You feel upset,’ she said. ‘You shouldn’t. Time is all we want - and peace.’

I didn't see Olivia again for a long time, but I often go back in my mind to that dark balcony in Florence to think. Still now, many years later.

The hot sun and the smell of damp grass on the hillside had made me feel drowsy. I stood up, stretched and turned to climb up to the farm.

Maybe they did get married after the war had ended and they had time – and peace. And perhaps they’d had dinner together that night? I don’t suppose it would have been anything lavish since Europe was engulfed in war at the time. A simple, comforting bowl of Tuscan Bean Soup would probably have been welcome on that November night in Florence. I know I should ask Lola of the delectable Aglio, Olio & Peperoncino blog for advice here, but I do think she would agree that this delicious and nourishing soup would have been just right.

I got this variation from an Italian friend when we lived in Uganda.

500g cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight (or you can used tinned beans)
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp chopped parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 sticks celery, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsp chopped fresh oregano
4 bay leaves
1 litre chicken stock
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan
4 slices toasted ciabatta

Drain the soaked beans and rinse thoroughly, then place in a large saucepan, cover in water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for a further 45 minutes with the bay leaves added. (Leave this bit out if you’re using canned beans.)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the garlic. Cook for a minute, add the herbs and the vegetables, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the stock to the boil and add to the vegetables. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the beans and cook for a further 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning.

Place the toasted ciabatta in four warmed serving bowls and ladle over the soup. Scatter over the extra parsley, sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil before serving

Do pop over to Shan’s blog where she hosts the What’s Cooking Wednesday for more delicious recipes from bloggers at every point on the compass!

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Wondrous Awards & Illustration Friday on Tuesday - Fleeting

“Woman is opaque in her very being; she stands before man not as a subject but as an object paradoxically endued with a fleeting subjectivity; she takes herself simultaneously as self and as other, a contradiction that entails baffling consequences.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Thank you Miss de Beauvoir…. I think.

Awards now, to but a few of my favourite ladies and gentlemen of letters:

* Palabras Como Rosas *

This fantastic award was given to me by one of the most eloquent and inspiring of bloggers, Zumar of Autismo por Inyeccion. To be given an award which, translated, means ‘Words like Roses’ could simply not hold more resonance for me. I’m so honoured, Zumar, con amor y admiración de mi parte.

I would have liked to pass this award onto everyone whose blogs I follow so avidly, but to follow my obligation to give this award to nine people whose words are truly like the lingering and sweetly scented petals of a perfect rose I choose these bloggers:

Beth of
Beth Kephart Books

Lori Ann of
lori times five

Ces of Ces And Her Dishes (Artist and writer supremo - a newly discovered delight)

‘Mr. Cuban’ of A Cuban In London

Mama Shujaa of
Mama Shujaa

Janelle of
Ngorobob House (Whose blog contains not only her rose scented words, but which also resonates with the heat and dust and drama of my Africa.)

* The Renee Award *

This award was created by the collaborative talents of two awe-inspiring artists and writers, Bella and Ces, only a short time ago in honour of my dear friend, mentor and muse Renee of Circling My Head. Renee, whose courage and humour, whose wit, eloquence and generosity of spirit flies in the face of a life-threatening and debilitating illness, hosts a blog which is at once stimulating, provocative, eloquent and laugh-out-loud funny.

The acorn depicted in the award symbolises strength and growth and regeneration - along with all the attributes Renee herself possesses in abundance. I would like to pass this gift on with pride to the following bloggers, all of whom I admire enormously and whose art/humour/prose/writing I love.

Irene of
The Gossamer Woman

Anna of
Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder

Zumar of
Amanecer en la Habana

Polly of
Sotto Voce

Priya of
the plum tree

Adrienne of
Adrienne Trafford Art

Maithri of The Soaring Impulse

Wednesday 8 April 2009

A Long Ago Lantau Moment - 1981

We boarded the big green ferry and made our way to the top deck. The towering monolithic buildings of Hong Kong Island glided past in a kaleidoscope of futuristic shapes and structures, hazy still in the opalescent morning sunlight. Junks with their blood red sails taut in a brisk off-shore breeze, navigated their way past the great thrumming ferry with the skill and precision born of a life on the water. Little sampans criss-crossed the harbour like a busy swarm of water boatmen.

Lantau is twice the size of Hong Kong Island, yet it has only a tiny fraction of the population. Most of the island has been preserved as a national park and is a perfect escape from the pandemonium of Hong Kong. The valleys are filled with lush tropical forests and there are winding dirt roads through the mountains and tiny fishing villages with wooden houses built on stilts above the water.

The ferry bumped to a halt on the ramp in the small harbour and we hitched a lift from a cheerful, wizened old man on his tractor trailer across the island to Cheng Kau Bay. He dropped us outside Charlie Foong’s little waterside restaurant just across the paddy fields from where we would be staying. With its shady terrace festooned in dense clusters of bougainvillea, the rickety wooden building also doubled as a supply store, its shelves stacked high with pots and woks, coils of rope, fishing line and, bizarrely, a matching pair of porcelain lavatory bowls.

Old Charlie was a legend in Lantau. He had been a sous chef at the Ritz in Paris but grew so homesick for his island that he left the glitzy glamour of the City of Light and returned to Lantau to open Tong Fuk - a grocery and hardware store with a small open-air restaurant - where one could dine on incomparably prepared seafood and delectable Chinese dishes. We stopped there and had a plate of dim sum – those tiny steamed parcels of deliciousness – and a pot of green tea before making our way along a rickety, planked boardwalk across the rice paddies to a little wooden cottage on the beach.

While Guy opened the shutters to let sunlight chase the cool shadows from each room, I sat on the wrap-round veranda and watched the waves slap onto the gritty white sand and then swirl away in foamy languor. A water buffalo moved slowly through the rice paddy next to the house, chewing the cud with a lethargic bovine demeanour. When Guy had finished exploring the cottage, we walked back across the paddy field and up a steep, winding road to the Po Lin monastery which stood in isolated splendour on a rocky outcrop right at the top of the hill.

As we puffed our way to the top of the narrow path, there was a strong, spicy smell in the air and we could faintly hear the melodious chant of monks at prayer.

After reaching the imposing gates, we walked slowly across the cobbled terrace with its staggering views over the South China Sea. Across the hazy blue expanse, a tiny junk sailed towards the horizon leaving only a thin, wavy line of white to mark its passage.

Turning, we followed the wonderful spicy aroma that we’d noticed as we’d climbed the hill. We stepped into the cool shadows under a series of archways and I think it was here that we both felt an overwhelming sense of peace. As we stood in the cavernous dining room with it’s rows of plain scrubbed wooden tables and long benches, and looked out through sweeping arches at the courtyard where an enormous 100 foot tall bronze Buddha gazed benignly down on us, a young monk, who looked no more than twelve, came through from what must have been the kitchens and started putting bowls and chopsticks on the tables in neat lines.

‘You eat?’ He made the motions with his fingers. Guy looked at me and then smiled at the youngster. ‘Yes,’ he said, nodding vigorously, ‘yes, please.’

The monks filed out from prayer in swirling rivers of red and saffron and silently took their place at the tables. The young monk who’d invited us to eat with them beckoned us over to a table at the back of the room, smiling and bowing with evident delight. Guy and I ate our vegetables and rice in the tranquil silence and I can still clearly recall the moment; the muted click-click of chopsticks against the green porcelain bowls and the lustrous colours of the monk’s robes, all caught in time like butterflies in amber.


Here is a recipe for a delicious veggie fried rice dish which is a huge hit when the girls and their friends come down from London for a weekend in the country. It doesn't take long and you can plonk it in a pretty bowl in the middle of the table for all to help themselves. Each person has their own little lotus bowl to pile the rice into and chopsticks are obligatory - which can lead to bouts of hysterical giggling as those who haven't practised only manage to pick up one grain at a time!

4 cups pre-cooked long grain rice, chilled
3 tbls vegetable oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 cups finely chopped vegetables (red bell pepper, chives, fresh shitake, extra firm tofu, frozen peas/carrots, cabbage, etc.)
1 tsp + 1 ½ tbls soy sauce
pinch of sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil on medium-high heat. When hot, add tofu cubes and brown on all sides. Remove, set aside. If you aren’t using tofu, then skip this step. Tofu is browned first, removed and added in later so that the delicate cubes do not get crushed in the frying process.

Add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and heat on medium. When oil is hot but not smoking, add ginger and garlic, stir fry for 15 seconds until fragrant. Turn heat to high and add vegetables - one kind at a time - in order of what takes longest to cook. Season with 1 tsp of the soy and a pinch of sugar to bring out the flavors of the vegetables. Fry until the vegetables are just cooked through.

Add the COLD rice. Then add remaining soy sauce, sesame oil, salt & pepper. Fry on high heat until the rice is heated through. Add tofu cubes back in. Taste and add a touch more soy if needed.

Do pop over to Shan’s blog where she hosts the What’s Cooking Wednesday for more delicious recipes from bloggers at every point on the compass!

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Illustration Friday on Tuesday - Talisman

Maltese Luzzu

Most luzzus have the eye of Horus painted or carved on the bow, a talisman said to have been brought to Malta by the Phoenicians as a protection against evil. These Maltese fishing boats, resplendent in their glowing, vibrant colours can still be seen today bobbing gently on limpid waters in the enclosed harbours of the fishing villages of Gozo and Malta. It’s hard to imagine a more tranquil and soul-satisfying scene than that of luzzu out in the bay on a mirror calm sea on a clear summer’s day when the Mediterranean is magnificent and regally serene, deeply azure and seemingly infinite….

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Eating With Alice

Renee of Circling My Head fame, a blog friend whom many of you know and love, wrote about how she perceives our blogland to be rather like a 21st Century salon. You know, the kind of place where like-minded individuals meet to discuss anything from babies to Baldovinetti, from poached eggs to Plato and from marigolds to Mozart?

I love the idea, and reading her post made me think of one of the most famous of 20th Century salons. Presided over by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at their home in Paris with its remarkable collection of modern art, the apartment became a gathering place for many intellectuals, musicians, artists and writers of the day.

Until I was given her cookbook for a birthday present by my mother a few years ago, I had no idea that Alice Toklas was also a fabulous cook. She compiled the book, with its mingling of recipes and reminiscences, while recovering from an attack of pernicious jaundice. It was written, she says, as an escape from the narrow diet and monotony of illness. Yikes, that was brave! I’d imagine it would make one feel even more ill. Not Alice.

Many of the recipes are too rich and unctuous for our modern day sensibilities. For example, this is a menu for lunch party at a house whose chatelaine was a well-known hostess and whose food was justly famous:

Aspic de Foie Gras
Salmon Sauce Hollandaise
Hare à la Royale
Hearts of Artichokes à la Isman Bavaldy
Pheasants roasted with Truffles
Lobster à la Française
Singapore Ice Cream
Berries and Fruit

What deliciousity! But can you imagine even trying to get up from the table after a meal like that?

I found a few rather more simple dishes in this extraordinary cookbook and have adapted them slightly in an attempt to make them a little less calorific.

This one is called ‘Katie’s Capon’ and it’s perfect for a weekend meal with friends and family. I use chicken rather than a capon, and serve it with baby potatoes dusted with finely chopped parsley and a simple green salad of mixed leaves and, if you have them, nasturtium petals to add colour and a bit of zing.


1 medium-sized (about 3½ pounds) chicken, preferably free-range
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup ruby port
½ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Zest of 1 orange, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


When you bring the chicken home from the market, unwrap it and sprinkle it generously with salt. Cover and refrigerate it until ready to cook. Bring the bird to room temperature before cooking and don’t rub off the salt.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large ovenproof pot warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Brown the chicken breast side down, for 3 to 5 minutes then turn it over and brown the other side for 3 to 5 minutes.

Place the pot in the oven and roast the chicken for 45 minutes. Pour the port over the chicken and baste it. Roast for 10 minutes more, than add the orange juice and baste again. Roast for about 5 minutes more.

The chicken is done when the juices of the thigh run clear when pierced with the blade of a sharp knife, or when the thigh comes away easily. Remove the chicken from the oven, transfer it to a cutting board, and let it rest as you make the sauce.

Skim as much fat off the top of the juices in the pan as you can and discard. Place the pan over medium heat and add the cream, stirring up the crispy bits on the bottom. Add about half the orange zest and allow the sauce to reduce as you stir constantly for a few minutes.

Carve the chicken and transfer it to a warmed serving dish. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the remaining orange zest. If you have any sauce left over, transfer it into a small jug and serve it at the table.

Do pop over to Shan’s blog where she hosts the What’s Cooking Wednesday for more delicious recipes from bloggers at every point on the compass!