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Monday, 17 April 2017

Time waits for no one

My beloved father, Arnie, took this photo of me, age 6, marvelling at nature as always. When I look back at my life, I feel incredibly sad that time has gone so quickly. I might be in my 50s but there is a real sense that I have grown wise before my time. My advice to anyone today is to seize life with both hands, do whatever you feel in your gut that you need to do and embrace every second. Forget fashion, the mainstream and what others think. If you want to live life fully, remember this- the exception proves the rule. The last time I saw my father before he died (I was 42) he remarked that I hadn't changed at all and was the same as when I was a little girl. He's right: I don't think we can ever change who we are or who we were meant to be.




Sunday, 16 April 2017

Challenge yourself

Not content with holding down a full time job, writing articles for The Huffington Post and doing the odd radio show, I have now started an antique business which fills up my weekends. Up at 5.00am is the secret if you're wondering. Energy is learned- get up early, eat properly and keep pushing yourself. Most importantly, don't expend precious energy on people who waste your time and don't appreciate you or teach you something useful. Life is a challenge and we should keep reaching for what interests us while there's still time left.

My little stall. Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Surprise resident in our village

No one knows how he got there but he has been living in our village for years. He is loved, fed and watered by non-terrorist normal humans. He was calling for a mate outside my kitchen window last evening. I hope he didn't have me in mind!

In Greek mythology, the markings on the peacock's tail came about this way: Argus was a man who had one hundred eyes, of which two only slept at the same time. Juno sent him to watch Io but Mercury, at Jupiter's command, killed him. Juno put one hundred eyes into the tail of the peacock, the bird sacred to her.

Photos copyright SvD.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Banana bread in a hurry

My baking skills are not terribly fantastic- in fact I am not very gifted in that department at all. When I cook, I can afford to behave like an artist and re-create a recipe in my own way and not follow it slavishly word for word. Cooking is both a relaxing and cathartic experience- we can create almost any dish we like and the end result reflects our personality. Baking is a whole different animal, so to speak. If you veer too far from the recipe you 'll have a disaster that cannot be brought back from the brink. A savvy cook can rescue a split Hollandaise but no amount of genius can save a cake that fails to rise.

This recipe is easy and takes no intelligence or technical wizardry. Bananas that are slightly overripe work best. Eat the bread while its warm with a splash of double cream. You can even slice it, brown the slices in butter in a pan and serve with a coulis. Everyone likes this bread and it makes my life easier in the baking department.

Mash 4-6 overripe bananas, add a good squeeze of lemon juice and set aside. Beat four ounces of unsalted butter until creamy and pale. Add two beaten eggs and a splash of vanilla essence and 1/4 teaspoon mixed spice. Add four ounces of self-raising flour and combine. Add the mashed banana and gently fold in. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of milk or booze. Turn into a greased baking dish. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees C for twenty minutes then at 180degrees C for a further twenty minutes until risen and golden brown.

PS Add a handful of raisins or sultanas, if liked, pre-soaked in boiling water and drained, to the final mixture. Your oven will have to be pre-heated and very hot otherwise the fruit will sink to the bottom of the dish.
 
 
Photo copyright SvD.

Potage de boeuf for when you're poorly

I was recently quite ill with some strange flu. Three days spent in bed feeling extremely sorry for myself but as always I tried to cure myself with food. I had organic beef in the freezer and I know that onions are good for lungs so I invented this potage. First I tossed the cubed beef in flour mixed with paprika then I added it to foaming hot butter. Loads of garlic, thyme, ginger (which is the perfect partner for beef), ton of chopped onions. Once onions were just brown at the edges, deglazed with large glug of dry white wine then a good grinding of pepper and salt, water to cover. I added lardons for extra flavour and another layer of taste and simmered for one hour. I did not render the lardons first as I find they keep their shape nicely and release their smoky flavour if they are added at this stage. After one hour I then added chunks of red pepper for extra colour and crunch. Simmered uncovered for ten minutes more and ready to eat. The end result was very tasty indeed. And you know what? I think it worked!

PS Anyone can cook if they follow basic principles of French cooking. Really not difficult!

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

My family

My darling doggie has been my family for almost fifteen years. He is getting so old now and like his mum towards the end of her life and who died in 2011, he needs to sit down every so often on our walks. Despite a tumour on his hind leg, he still wants to be wherever I am and can just about manage a short walk. If you haven't had a dog you couldn't possibly understand how wonderful they are. I have had dogs for most of my adult life. People come and go, those who you thought were friends will probably let you down but our canine friends would literally move Heaven and Earth just for the chance to be with you. There is a theory that in the course of  evolution, dogs civilised humans. My doggie and I have done some incredible things- he once sat quietly in the back seat of my car all the way to Brittany, France- a nine hour drive- without so much as a whimper. At the end of that journey, he accompanied me to a restaurant where he sat at my feet and ate one half of a large steak. Dogs are just perfect- they are kind, joyful, full of love - if you leave the room for five minutes they behave as if you have been gone on Homer's Iliad and just returned. I shall be bereft when my darling pooch needs to go to the great big kennel in the sky. Quite simply, I do not know how I shall cope. It will be the saddest day of my life.

Photo copyright SvD.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Mid-week fish supper

I love meat and eat a lot of it but at least two to three times a week I try and have fish. This quick and easy supper is fool-proof. The secret is fresh fish and knowing when the oil is hot enough to fry the fish without burning but resulting in a delicious crunchiness. I place my hand above the heating oil and if it feels really hot but is not smoking, I know it's ready. Cooking is made easy by experience so the way to get better is to practice every day. I coat the fish is flour which is mixed with hot paprika and a good grinding of black pepper. If you want a bit more heat, try slipping a few crushed chilies in the oil but remove them as soon as they begin to burn. My local supermarket had just received these Cornish sardines so I grabbed four which weighed 260g in total.

The idea to roast Brussels sprouts is not mine- I heard about this method from a friend. I've added cubes of poitrine fumée as I've just returned from France and it is the one thing I can't live without.  I slice the sprouts in half or quarters depending on their size, toss in olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried thyme, add the poitrine fumée and roast in a hot oven (200 degrees C) for thirty minutes covered and then fifteen more uncovered. Strong tasting white fish marry well with pork/bacon so go ahead and experiment!

Photo copyright SvD.