Brutti ma Buoni — ‘ugly but good’ cookies (or, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose)

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Four ingredients and ten minutes later, you’ve got cookies!

One thing that has become apparent in lockdown, especially now that the Twins are doing their schoolwork at home, is that everyone needs a computer nowadays. It’s surprising how much I use mine when I think I’m actually doing something else, like cooking, or gardening, or even just reading; I need to look things up, or write things down, constantly, obviously. After forcing our children to basically live the life of Luddites (no phones until you’re 12 years old, no electronic games until you buy them yourselves, very little TV, and definitely no computers when you don’t need them for school, which up until now they didn’t), we are now seeing the following: Continue reading

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Chicken Noodle Soup (or, Notes from the Pandemic)

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Chicken Noodle Soup is always good for whatever ails you.

I recently learned that the Beaford Archive, in North Devon, is asking for help to document the day-to-day life of people’s experiences during the pandemic. They are looking for photographs which answer the question:  “What are you experiencing right now?”

Everyone’s setting will be different. You may be at home with children, or with your parents, or caring for someone. You may be a key worker, or helping the  neighbourhood, or working the land. All our lives are changing in ways great and small, and whatever you’re experiencing is worth saving and sharing with future generations.

I’m so pleased that they are doing this. The quotidian life is the one that we rarely see in history, but to me it is what makes history come alive. How people manage their day-to-day existence can be fascinating when you realise just how different it can be from town to town, country to country, century to century. Or in this case, month to month.

In our little corner of South Devon, we are more or less into our fourth week of lockdown (the kids, The Author, and I all started on different days), and we have been able to stay isolated and safe very easily. We are very lucky to be living in this beautiful, rural area, but the enforced seclusion has taken its toll on all of us in various ways. Noteworthy events from last week include:

Continue reading

Turkish Bulgur Salad (or, Necessity is the Mother of Invention)

Turkish Bulgur Salad with Poached Eggs

It’s been about two weeks now that my family have been in lock-down. We are hardly social at the best of times, so the enforced distancing, in our very rural neck of the woods, has meant very little to us. In fact, considering what is going on around the entire world, our lives here are embarassingly pleasant and trouble-free.

Oh don’t get me wrong, there have been some problems: the shops are out of the gin that The Author and I prefer, and we have resorted to a gin with fewer juniper notes. (I know!) And the lack of school for the kids (now actually all teenagers in various degrees of hormonal angst) means that The Author and I have to force them to go outside in the sunshine, otherwise I think they would moulder away with their phones in their withered hands.  Continue reading

Homemade Ravioli (or, Some Things Stay the Same, Pandemic or Not)

Unlimited time at home has had me making lists of projects to start (and hopefully finish) around the house. I’ve got plans for the utility room, the kitchen, the living room, the twins’ room, the garden… I also have ideas for how all five of us can productively spend our time, and you can imagine how thrilled the other four people in my family were to hear this.

But, as the saying goes, water seeks its own level, and I find we are mostly just pottering about doing what we always did: a little gardening, a little reading, a little binge-watching, some social media, some dog-walking, and – in my case – a whole lot of cooking. I can’t help myself; it’s what I love and what I do given enough time and a set of ingredients.

In this case the ingredients were 500g grams of delicious salad greens from Sarah at the Walled Garden that were reaching their last usable day, some bits of mozzarella that I had squirreled away in the freezer, and basic pantry ingredients that I always have on hand. Continue reading

Chargrilled Cabbage with Sweet & Sour Dressing (or, How to love January)

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January is the no-man’s-land of the year. It has nothing to recommend it, being – at least here in the northern hemisphere – drab, cold and devoid of holidays. It takes forever to
get to February, when we can start to complain about and/or look forward to Valentine’s Day.

The first of January, on the other hand, comes around way too fast, especially if Continue reading

Turkish Lamb Pizza & Moroccan Pickled Vegetables (or, How We Communicate)

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The Oldest has a penchant for hunting horns. None of us hunt, or even ride for that matter, but the horns have come in handy for one very specific reason: when the kids are outside mucking around, and the noise of the river is drowning out all means of communication, we blow on one of the horns, which can be heard all over the valley. Within minutes, the kids come swarming in from the fields. It’s amazing how well this works, and that they respond at all, being, er, at a certain age of independence.  Continue reading

Cheesy Polenta Chips with Tomato Chutney (or, OMG)

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There’s a lot of OMG at my house these days. One teenager and two tweens leads me and The Author to OMG ourselves into a tizzy at various times of the week, and the children (can I still call them that, despite their protestations of adulthood?) are OMG-ing themselves about us on a regular basis.

Laundry — don’t get me started. Homework — who devised this torture for me? (Er, I mean my children, although one of them in particular ensures that I am as miserable as he is when it’s homework time.) Setting the table. Walking the dog. Emptying the dishwasher. Even watching the telly (or, to be more specific, not only the bickering over who gets to watch what, which has resulted in a rota, but also the time when we will let them watch it, which is only when all the above is done). Everything is fodder for a rolling of the eyes and a declaration of how hard their lives are. On a regular basis, The Author and I sigh and contemplate the liquor cabinet.

But.  Continue reading

Week 42 2016

One of the seasonal menus from this week:

Hearty Cabbage Soup (V, GF)
Braised Cannellini Beans (V, GF)
Devilled Tomatoes (GF)
Light Rye & Spelt Bread (V)
Green Salad (V, GF)

(If the dishes have a link to a recipe, they are underlined.
If they are not underlined, there’s no link, but I’ll do my best to get them on here!)

Chocolate Beetroot Cake (a garden bonus!)

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The family version, with blueberries from our bushes.

One of the many injustices of life is the over-the-top abundance of food from the garden –that you must attend to before it goes bad – which arrives when you would rather be whiling away the brief end-of-summer days by the sea, or a pool, or really anywhere but the kitchen. I love warm weather, and if I am deprived of any of it for the brief time it arrives on this little island, in this particularly rainy village, I get a little disgruntled.

Well, I say that, but I also happen to love the kitchen. Lucky for me that I can earn my living doing what I love, but even I can be a little daunted by 30 or 40 kilos of beetroot arriving in the college kitchen with the gardeners’ pleas to use it all up. My friend Ruth went to work making pickles and chutneys, and we both cracked on with the boiling, peeling, slicing and bagging of beetroot, ready to freeze and to be used later in the year, when the gardens have given up all their bounty for a long winter’s nap.

In amongst all this beetroot madness, we had a call for a birthday cake. I think you may see where I’m going with this.  Continue reading

Small Pavlovas with Lemon Curd & Berries (Darkness & Light)

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Ten years ago, we lived in an old wooden farmhouse in Vermont. It sat at the top of a slope that rolled down to a lazy river, and in the middle of the slope was a huge and ancient apple tree, the variety of which we were never able to establish. Long before we had kids, on one of The Author’s birthdays, friends of ours shimmied up the tree and installed a swing for us to play on. The ropes of the swing were about 20 feet long, and because the tree was on a hill, when you swung even a little bit, you all of a sudden were about 8 feet in the air. If you pumped your legs vigorously, enough to get the swing so high that your toes could touch the dangling apples on the branches above, well, you were very high up indeed. It was thrilling, if not a bit terrifying.  Continue reading