Category Archives: General

Tropical storms and a tribute

Sadly my beloved father died in the middle of June. At 83, he was far too young to die; he was supposed to live to 99 like my grandmother.

This is Léo’s tribute to his grandfather: Andante by Mozart, my father’s favourite composer; Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, for his belief in Europe; and from The Planet Suite by Holst, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, because that is exactly what he did.

Perhaps as a nod to my father’s exciting but sometimes extremely perilous life in Africa as Foreign Correspondent, on our return to France at the beginning of July we were catapulted into the deepest, darkest tropics. The mother of all storms caused steam to rise from the grass and the phone lines inside and outside the house to catch fire. It also forced the dogs to take refuge in the shower and brought with it a flourishing tribe of the most noisy, ill-tempered mosquitos I’ve ever experienced.

Getting anything fixed in France during the ‘Grandes Vacances’ is challenging at any time, but even more so when it involves replacing a kilometre of phone cable that serves just one house stuck in the middle of nowhere. Anyway, the upshot was that I spent the month of July bereft, incommunicado, and covered in grotesque insect bites. And to add insult to injury, my Instagram account was hacked by Russian spies.

I hope you are all having a nice Summer. Normal service will be resumed in September (I hope!). xx

Tian’amen Square, 1972

Advertisements

Ditzes in ditches

horseandditch

I spent the better part of the morning of Tuesday 8th September languishing in a deep, sandy ditch. Ten days on, I’m just beginning to see the funny side:  ‘Last Tuesday firemen were urgently called into the middle of absolutely nowhere to save an ‘anglaise’ who had forgotten to apply superglue to her saddle that morning. Her young horse, having been scared witless by a lifting pheasant, took off home at a flat-out gallop, but not before finding the time to rear up, swerve and plunge into a nearby ditch where he unscrupulously deposited his rider.’

My compliments to the firemen who fulfil the role of paramedics in rural France, because just finding me was a challenge in itself; ‘I’m in a ditch next to a cornfield’ is really quite unhelpful when you are surrounded by hundreds of square kilometres of ditches and cornfields. Strangely enough, I spent my time waiting for them to arrive fretting about sunburn, my abandoned breakfast dishes and all the other things I should have been doing had I not been skiving off 2m under. Although totally unable to move, I wasn’t particularly uncomfortable (apart from an irritating mouthful of sand) and it never occurred to me that once I’d been hauled out I wouldn’t be walking back home to make a late lunch.

Arriving at Emergency, the doctor’s first words were ‘bloody horses – they should all be turned into mincemeat’, which I though was a rather insensitive thing to say to a horse lover like me. I’m now at home with four broken vertebrae and exceedingly impressive multicolour bruising. I had a lucky escape thanks to my airbag vest, which did a pretty good job of protecting my upper body. I’m pleased to say that my voice escaped unscathed and is getting lots of exercise barking orders at anyone crazy enough to stay within hearing distance.

Ode to a pea

peas
I eat my peas with honey;

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes the peas taste funny,

But it keeps them on the knife.

Anon.

 

Hugo doesn’t like peas one little bit. In fact, he has a very finely-tuned pea radar in case they have the vulgar indecency to end up in his bowl. Once detected, he takes them in his mouth and spits them onto the floor with OCD-style assiduousness and much disdain. More fool Hugo because the unpresuming garden pea is in fact an exceedingly rich source of nutrition: Just one serving contains as much vitamin C as two apples, more thiamine than a pint of milk and at least half of your daily needs of vitamin K.

Green peas are a member of the legume family and, as such, are a rich and excellent source of protein. They are also particularly high in folic acid as well as other essential B-complex vitamins such as pantothenic acid, niacin, thiamin, and pyridoxine. They also contain many minerals – calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and manganese.

The antioxidants to be found in peas help reduce free radical damage, which in turn slows down the ageing process. Added to this, their anti-inflammatory agents (including Omega 3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid) keep your body healthy and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes (type 2). Their low glycemic index makes them a good insulin-stabiliser.

Lastly, they contain a compound called genistein which has significant cancer-fighting properties and an effective anti-coagulant action, aiding in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

So now I’ve convinced you that you can’t live without them, how best to consume these little gems? Peas are so versatile that they may be mushed, mashed, puréed, added to soups, pestos, risottos, pasta dishes, salads and muffins. They make a tasty addition to casserole or curry dishes or eaten as an accompanying vegetable seasoned with a few leaves of fresh mint. The less water you use when cooking peas, the less vitamin C is lost; steaming helps to conserve the vitamins. Just don’t bother cooking an extra portion for your dog – it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever appreciate them!

Writing Process Blog Tour

I would like to thank Suzanne, creator of the luscious blog,  A pug in the kitchen,  for asking me to contribute to this tour.  Suzanne blogs, amongst other things, recipes passed on from her Italian mother; traditional Italian cooking at its most mouth-watering. Passionate about baking in particular, she is also a developer for Food 52. She writes from her kitchen in Brooklyn, accompanied by her two gorgeous pugs, Izzy and Nando. One of my favourite recipes is her triple chocolate cake which is just pure decadence to be enjoyed with moderation as it could become dangerously addictive!

Other commitments mean that I’m delegating the rest of this post to my ‘pug’, Hugo.

hugotypewriter1by

As you can see, Bossy has relegated this post to me. From what I can see, she’s not too busy with ‘other commitments’ at all – she’s just too busy being bossy (did you like the alliteration? I’m still learning about poetry.) Anyway, I’m always happy to get my paws on the computer, so I’m not going to complain to my union this time. I like Mrs Pug’s blog very much because she cooks real food with proper dog-friendly ingredients. Bossy has a tendancy to use strange ingredients that get stuck in your teeth. (Chia seeds for example. What are they and why do we need to be bothered by them?). I’m rather jealous of Izzy and Nando because Mrs Pug cooks for them every day and I just get the family’s leftovers *tragic doggie sigh*. They live in a very big city – New Yorkie I think. I suppose when they chase deer and rabbits they have to be careful of all the cars. Here are the questions that Bossy had to answer. I think that my answers (in italics) are closer to the truth than hers.

1) What are you working on?

(Hopefully she’s working on being less bossy and organised enough to cook for me every day.)

Bossy: I work on far too many projects at any given time for them to come to fruition. I suppose this means that I should probably work on being more focused.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

(Well for a start she is lucky enough to live with an erudite and exceedingly good-natured dog who does most of her work for her.)

Bossy: Although I am absolutely passionate about healthy eating, I hope that I manage to impart my knowledge and ideas without being too evangelical. I believe that it’s up to each individual to take responsibility for their own well-being. I am a also a great believer in ‘all things in moderation’, which is why I’m not vegetarian.

3) Why do I write what I do?

(Because despite what she says, her bossiness gets the better of her and she thinks that everyone should cook as she does.)

Bossy: See above (mine, not Hugo’s. 😉 )

4) How does your writing process work?

(I can’t wait to see this! *sarcastic doggie snigger*. I have never seen such a chaotic ‘writing process’. I’m far more methodical.)

Bossy: I think that in my case, the word ‘process’ is probably rather inappropriate! How I write is probably better described as a profusion of chaotic thoughts that somehow end up either on paper or on a computer at some point, more or less coherently. I am a big believer in ‘a sound mind in a sound body’ and my best ideas come to me when I’m on the move, particularly walking. I always walk with a little notebook and pen and scribble ideas down between strident reprimands to leave the poor deer and bunny rabbits alone.

Bossy asked me to invite a blogger to participate in this tour and I have chosen the delightful blog 10 legs in the kitchen. At first I couldn’t work out who the ten legs belonged to until I realised that it was two human legs and eight doggie legs. I don’t even like to think how many legs there are in our kitchen sometimes, particularly when the chickens invade. Stacey and sometimes her dogs, Ginger and Buddy, write amusingly about their love for both food and life in general and I’m a big fan.

When life gives you lemons…

lemons

…hoard them! Possibly the most versatile ingredient in the kitchen, the virtues of the lemon extend beyond culinary use. The Ancient Egyptians believed that eating lemons and drinking lemon juice was an effective protection against a whole range of poisons.

use lemons on a daily basis and always have at least half a dozen to hand. I’m a bit of a lemon fiend. Unsurprisingly, neither Hugo nor the hens are fans and make a big show of their distaste with comical grimaces and much foot-stamping. I have actually seen Hugo growl menacingly at a stray lemon slice in his bowl.

Although acid in taste, lemon juice has an extremely alkalising effect on the body. Rich in vitamin C, it also contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, beta-carotenes, vitamin B5 and soluble fibre such as pectin. It has an abundance of flavonoids which, working synergistically with vitamins, have a powerful antioxidant effect. The main flavonoids to be found in lemons are hesperdin, rutin and quercetin. These are extremely beneficial to the blood vessels and have an anti-allergy action.

Lemon juice will even decalcify your cookware and work as an insect-repellant! Lemons have a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect and also increase bile secretion. They help to drain and detoxify the liver and kidneys and cleanse the whole body. I think you’ll quickly come to appreciate the value in drinking the juice of a freshly-squeezed lemon first thing in the morning.

Squeezing lemon into your food lowers the overall glycemic index of the meal. It is a significant digestive aid – citric acid stimulates the secretion of gastric enzymes. In cases of over-indulgence and even food-poisoning its alkalising, antibacterial powers are of great help.

From acne and allergies to intestinal worms and verrucas, the not-so-humble lemon has a multitude of medicinal uses, but it is in the kitchen that the lemon really comes into its own. It may be used in the preparation of sweet or savoury, cooked or raw and hot or cold dishes. Use it in salad dressings as a delicious and healthy alternative to vinegar and in marinades for meat or fish.

Gremolata, an Italian creation, is simply a mixture of equal parts lemon zest, parsley and garlic. It is a tangy, versatile topping that can be added to just about any savoury dish to enhance its flavour. Try selling that to your dog. fruit

<a href = “http://www.naturalnews.com/Infographic-15-Reasons-You-Should-be-Drinking-Lemon-Water-Every-Morning.html”>15 Reasons You Should be Drinking Lemon Water Every Morning</a>

Thank you honey !

leohoney

abeille2014 is the year of the bee as far as I’m concerned (thank you to Léo for the drawing). I’ve just finished reading a book that has convinced me that the value of honey goes far beyond those mentioned in my previous honey post. The book is called The Honey Diet and is written by a Scottish chemist, Mike McInnes. It is touted as a diet book, which I think rather belittling. This is really is so much more. Not only does it contain fascinating information, it is also groundbreaking, agenda-free science combined with good common sense.

Mike McInnes describes in detail the benefits of eating raw honey and clearly explains the way the body metabolises it, which is very different from the way other sugars are metabolised. Honey has a perfect fructose/glucose balance, easily assimilated by the liver where it is then used as a necessary and convenient source of fuel. This easy assimilation also means that honey does not cause damaging insulin spikes.

To put it another way, when you eat a spoonful of honey your body says: ‘Excellent! This is high-quality fuel that I can put to good use so I’ll start using it straight away.’ When you consume a spoonful of sugar or other refined sweeteners it says: ‘What on earth is this and what am I supposed to do with it? I have absolutely no idea so I’ll stock it away as fat until I’ve figured something out’.

Taking a spoonful of honey before bed ensures deeper and more restorative sleep as it effectively feeds the liver overnight, allowing it to carry out the numerous tasks it undertakes while the body is asleep. Like most things, the body can’t operate without effective fuel, which means that having to deal with an unwelcome diet of artificial foods prevents it from being able to carry out even the most basic maintenance work. Properly fuelled up, the body will burn more calories overnight than would be burned during a 10km run and it will do this without having to send ‘help! I need more fuel’ distress signals, which invariably prevent you from sleeping properly.

If you look into the intelligent and efficient way that bees operate, it’s hardly surprising that they create such perfect nourishment. They are the earth’s hardest working creatures and models of efficiency and cooperation.

abeilleabeilleabeille

They have developed a complex communication system to impart information to other bees regarding sources of nectar. They do a little dance to indicate the direction in which the food source may be found in relation to the position of the sun. The amount of waggling involved in their dance indicates the distance of the food from the hive and then a wing-fanning display gives information as to the richness of the source.

Bees give a whole new meaning to multi-tasking!

Baby rabbits

As promised in my previous post, and especially for Suzanne and Azita here are the baby bunnies 🙂

bunny5

bunny3

bunny6

bunny2

bunny1

bunny4