Léo and I went to London in June, leaving Luc in the company of a couple of deer that appear to have moved in. The lady deer, who Luc calls Georgette, is quite pally with the horses and they graze together in the sun every morning and evening, but the male, Georgio, is noisily territorial and barks at Luc if he approaches ‘his’ field after 9.15pm. For some reason, 9.15pm is the time at which time it becomes ‘his property’ and trespassers will be barked at, throatily, hauntingly, and incessantly. You can almost see the testosterone cloud descend to thicken the night air.
On our return from London, where poor Léo spent five days spluttering in semi-isolation with a covid-not-covid virus, my phone clock proved resistant to reverting to French time. This meant that I spent a couple of days after my return arriving an hour late for every single appointment. The worst thing was the length of time it took for me to realise that my phone had gone rogue.
Léo is becoming increasingly concerned by his father’s extravagant use of emojis. We went shopping a few days ago and received a message to buy chicken feed. Léo, from beneath furrowed brow, said ‘but we don’t have chickens; we have pigeons’. He went on to say that what he found even more worrying was that Luc had compounded his error with several chicken emojis🐔🐔🐔. That evening, Luc wrote to the notary who is currently handling a property transaction for us, adding a 👩🏻 when alluding to the seller (on a positive note, at least he’d got the right species; The mind boggles at the possibilities for misinterpretation and offence had he not.)
Ending on a very sad note, the punishing heat we endured a couple of weeks ago proved to be too much for Hugo, our gorgeous black labrador, who was a contributor to this blog (here is a selection). Forty-five degrees is very distressing for an elderly dog with respiratory difficulties, and we made the harrowing decision to help him on his way. He is now resting in a peaceful corner of our grounds alongside other departed friends. I imagine them wryly exchanging ‘at least we can have some peace and quiet here’ sentiments. RIP darling Hugo❤️; your endearing but authoritarian ways will be greatly missed, as will your blogs
These fritter are divine. Of course, the courgette flower season is short, so make the most of them while you can. Because they’re eaten so fresh, they contain fair amounts of vitamins A , C, E and K and also minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
Recipe for courgette flower fritters (serves 4, although probably fewer!)
- 12 courgette flowers
- 80g flour
- 150ml sparkling mineral water
- 1 soup spoon olive oil
- Pinch sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 6 basil leaves, shredded
Gently rince the flowers, and set aside to dry on absorbant kitchen roll. Combine the flour, water, olive oil, seasoning, egg and garlic well to form a homogenous mixture. Cover the base of a large frying pan with olive oil and heat. Dip each flower into the mixture, coating generously, and then place immediately in the hot pan, and fry both sides. The fritters should be golden-brown, but not burnt. May be served alone with salad, or as an accompaniment.
I apologise for my lack of blog posts lately. I’ve taken on a full-time nocturnal job keeping the wild boar at bay, which means that I sleep all day, and don’t have time for my more intellectual pursuits. Many people — I would say fans if I were immodest — have asked after me, so here I am slaving away at the computer, and not snoring on the sofa. I just hope my return doesn’t break the internet.
Bossy was absolutely hell-bent on skiing in the Pyrenees this winter, although the odds were heavily stacked against. Due to the human pandemic, there aren’t any ski lifts this year, which means that cross country is the way forward (see what I did there? I’m delighted I haven’t lost my wit). She spent weeks studying the likelihood of further lockdowns, the best places nearby for cross country skiing, how to cross country ski (she tried it once before and ended up in a river), the necessary gear, and The Noisy One’s availability. The Tall One doesn’t buy into Bossy’s hair-brained ski trips anymore. Once was enough for him; he’s a sensible man.
Flapping and no chains
On the morning of departure, Bossy started to flap like one of those awful pigeons her husband fawns over. All because she’d forgotten to buy chains for the car’s wheels. She decided to risk it anyway, and, thankfully, off she and Noisy went.
I’m not an unkind dog, and certainly not one that takes pleasure in other people’s misfortune, but when they came back exhausted and covered in mud and not snow, I confess that my inner laughter gave way to uncontrollable outer laughter. She’d ‘closely monitored’ many things before departure, but ‘snowfall’ hadn’t made it to her list; they arrived to sunny 15°C and stark naked green mountains.
They went for a nice hike instead and managed to get thoroughly lost (there was talk of ending up at the top of the wrong mountain). On the upside (I did it again!), at least they hadn’t needed to worry about snow chains for the mountain pass *snigger*…
Thankfully Bossy’s courgette fritters are better than her organisational skills. I’m not a fan of vegetables (I spit them out for Java to eat), but these are light, crispy and succulent all at the same time.
Recipe for courgette fritters (serves 3-4)
- 150g chickpea (gram) flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli or curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 150ml lukewarm water
- 4 medium-sized courgettes
- Olive oil
Sift the flour, seasoning and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl, and add the water, mixing well to form a batter. Leave to rest for about 30 minutes. If the mixture thickens too much, add more water.
Top and tail the courgettes and peel if the skin is tough. Cut in half and then slice lengthways, quite finely (1-2mm). Coat well with the batter and fry in olive oil until golden.
Just a few words from me today because I’m busy proving a point. If you saw Bossy’s last post, you’ll know that she’s gone all hippy dippy on the animal communciation front. I was sceptical about Bossy’s insect repellent story and asked Jojo whether her claims were true. It turns out he had just played along so she would shut up; insect repellent was, it seems, the lesser of two evils and far preferable to listening to her jabber on.
So I set out to prove to Bossy that her new-found ‘talents’ are but a figment (see what I did there?) of her overactive imagination: I block access to cupboard doors in the kitchen, stay out late into the night, steal food from the worktop, growl at Java and sleep on the sofa. Bossy can dog whisper explanations as to why she isn’t loving my behaviour all she likes, I won’t be influenced. I just hope she doesn’t discover my invaluable new tool: industrial-strength ear plugs.
Figs are in abundance at the moment. We are giving them out to everyone we know, but they are still getting the better of us. Figs are rich in fibre and vital vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B1, B2 and K, manganese, potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, iron and phosphorus. They also contain antioxidants.
Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)
125g coconut oil, softened
150g buckwheat flour (normal flour will work fine too)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g cane sugar
60g ground almonds
6 fresh figs, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the coconut oil in the mixer until well softened. Add a spoonful of flour, beat again, then add the eggs, beating further until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a little more flour to prevent curdling. Gently fold in the rest of the flour, baking powder, sugar, ground almonds and milk. Lastly, fold the chopped figs into the mix. Spoon the mixture into muffin trays and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Bossy is currently embracing her inner sloth (her excuse is that she has the flu). I would like to say it makes for a peaceful house, but I’d be lying. She screamed at the Tallish One (you may remember I can’t call him The Tall One anymore because The Noisy One has overtaken him by 10cm) this morning to ‘call the doctor and order him to get rid of this f**king bullshit virus’. So that was reasonable; silent, or even gracious, she is not. Apparently she has very low blood pressure (not that you notice, mind you), which gets worse when she’s ill, which amusingly enough means that when she tries to stand up she collapses. This has the advantage of shutting her up momentarily, although it doesn’t make her any less stroppy. I wouldn’t like for her to actually hurt herself collapsing (she has quite a lot of form with collapsing and broken bones), but needs must.
It is a well-known fact that when you’re ill, you need a sturdy dog to sit on your feet to keep you warm (and give you pins and needles and cramp). As I’m sure you’re all aware, I take my duties very seriously and carry out this role to the fullest, however time-consuming and unpleasant it may be. The trouble is, Java thinks it might be her duty too (when it suits her and when she’s not off doing things of little consequence). This means that we both end up sitting on Bossy who gets thoroughly overheated and panicky and red in the face and I have to throw Java off and we all end up in a growling, feverish heap on the floor. I’m absolutely wrung out; I hope we’re back to business as usual soon because this flu malarky is getting on my nerves.
Oats contain beta glucans which are very beneficial for the immune system (ha!)
Ingredients (makes about 12 oatcakes)
225g rolled oats
60g chickpea flour (or any other flour)
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60ml olive oil
Large pinch of salt
80ml hot water
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Combine the oats, flour, bicarbonate of soda, olive oil and salt well and then gradually add the hot water until you have a thick doughy mixture. Roll out the mixture and use a cookie cutter (or upturned glass) to make the cakes. Place the cakes on a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool.
Bossy’s chronic disorganisation means she’s in her usual pre-Christmas frenzy, so I doubt you’ll be hearing from her any time soon (you lucky, lucky people). As improbable as it sounds, she and her blog have been chosen to feature in Brandballot’s top 150 food blogs for 2018. I suspect it’s thanks to my help, although I’m obviously too gracious to point that out to her. Anyway, in case you’re interested, you can find her blog, and other far superior food blogs here
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy christmas because, as usual, I shall be moving out for the festive period, hopefully before the vulgar tree monstrosity appears. They insist on installing it right next to my bed, flashing lights and all, just to annoy me. The flashing lights play havoc with my already shredded nerves, and the tinsel and glitter make me sneeze; I’m allergic to tasteless bling. All in all the general ambiance becomes unbearable: Gaudy decorations make Java even more hyper than usual (I’ve recently decided she’s really just a barking cat), and Bossy just needs to glimpse a glass of champagne from across the room to become even louder and more tiresome than usual.
Despite my mini sabbatical, I’m not averse to presents. I know that Bossy thinks it’s a bit extravagant, but I’ve asked for a new iPaw; it’s more than justified, what with my ever-increasing workload – which obviously includes piles of fan mail – to deal with.
First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a very happy new year. I know a number of people who had a tough 2017, so I wish them all the best for 2018. I have made only a couple of new year resolutions (it’s hard to improve on perfection): to be nicer to Java, and especially more understanding and tolerant of her limitations, which are apparently inexhaustible. And to make fewer catty (doggy?) comments about Bossy in my blog posts. Believe me when I say that it’s tough on both counts.
Bossy showed me these photographs this morning. The first photo shows (left to right) Wookie, Frank and Baby Cecil, and the second me and Java. Feel free to admire our handiwork.
Bossy said that Java and I came off very badly when the photos were compared, and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. She went on to add that at least Baby Cecil had the grace to look contrite, although as all we’re showing the camera is our bottoms it’s anyone’s guess as to our expressions. And the other two dogs, Wookie and Frank, look thoroughly shocked and disapproving, but in an indulgent, unpatronising way. She said this rather pointedly – I’m not sure what she was getting at.
Anyway, I think Bossy’s been confusing ‘contrite’ and ‘really pissed off at having been caught red-pawed’. She said that Baby Cecil probably had the excuse that he was teething and asked me what our excuse for The Great Cushion Massacre was. She then started to rant about the fact that we take advantage of her good nature (disorganised sloppiness more like) and that, contrary to popular belief, she’s not running a dog borstal, which I thought was a bit far-fetched, even coming from her.
I don’t buy the ‘teething’ excuse for a moment; Baby Cecil looks like a bit of a tinker to me. An adorable tinker, but a tinker nonetheless. Wookie and Frank are wearing the most disapproving expressions I have ever seen on dogs. In fact, unless you’re in the habit of frequenting particularly uptight spinster librarians, you rarely even see such disapproving expressions on humans. One wonders if there isn’t a slight hint of hypocrisy. After all, they could have warned Baby Cecil that he ran the risk of forfeiting his flavour of the month badge.
And as for Java and me, we were simply trying to help sort the house out a bit. I recently read a very enlightening book about feng shui which said that, to achieve a good yin-yang balance, you shouldn’t have too many cushions lying around. Quite honestly, Bossy should have thanked us, not scolded us. She can be very short-sighted sometimes.
Thank you Hugo for your take on these revealing photos. And good luck with your ‘resolutions’ – it looks as if you’re off to a shaky start.
I got the recipe for this cake from the mother of a friend of Léo’s who made it for lunch after a volleyball match. It was meant to be for the whole team, but Léo devoured the lot in one fell swoop.
Ingredients (serves 8 normal people, or 1 greedy volleyball player)
3 eggs, beaten
100g olive oil
80g cane sugar
100g buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
6 apples, peeled and diced.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare a medium-sized loaf tin. Beat the eggs, olive oil and cane sugar together until thick and smooth. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate soda. Finally stir in the diced apples vanilla essence and transfer the mixture to the greased tin. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool before serving.
I’m so glad Bossy doesn’t have my mobile ‘phone number; it’s the only way I’ve found to avoid being the irritated recipient of one of her inane texts. Earlier this week she was fretting about whether Noisy had caught the right bus home. Admittedly his grasp of logistics and time management are, at best, very shaky. But, despite spending much of his time with his head in the clouds, he is still a 15-year-old with an above-average IQ who can usually remember where he lives. Last school year, he was lucky enough to find a very efficient PA who took up the organisational slack and kept him on track. This year, he and the friend are no longer in the same class, hence Bossy’s fretting.
Anyway, Bossy’s irrational folly got the better of her and she sent a short text to check he was travelling in the right direction. As the bus doesn’t stop, I really didn’t understand the point; either he was going in the right direction, in which case the text was an annoying waste of time, or he wasn’t in which case it was too late anyway. So I can only commend his reply: ‘No. Peruvian mutant turtles, having made a lucky escape from a Congolese fruit salad, recruited me for the Norwegian-Chinese mafia. I am currently in a underwater aeroplane with subatomic engines, carrying out biochemical experiments on hamster volunteers. Don’t worry: the Montparnasse tower is not in any immediate danger, and I should manage to finish digging the Dax-Rion tunnel with my Christmas tree. I will be in touch again once I’m within 15 lightyears of your town of residence.’
Obviously his reply begs the question: ‘what does she sprinkle on his breakfast cereal?’, but still: Kudos. Maybe she’ll think twice before sending silly texts again, although somehow I doubt it…
Ingredients (serves 4)
200g salt cod
2 bay leaves
1 onion, peeled and sliced
250g potatoes, peeled and boiled
2 cloves garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly grated parmesan for topping
Soak the salt cod in cold water for 24 hours, changing the water once or twice. Drain and place in a pan with the bay leaves, onion and 500ml of milk. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for five minutes and then drain, removing any bones and skin and breaking the flesh into coarse shreds. Reserve some of the milk for the purée. Cook the potatoes until soft then drain and purée together with the cod, garlic and seasoning in a food processor, adding the olive oil to create a soft consistency (you may need to add a little of the reserved milk to achieve the desired consistency). Place the purée in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle with parmesan. Put in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
This is sometimes served as a dip with toast. I like it as a standalone dish with a crispy green salad. Hugo likes to lick the bowl, although he pretends otherwise.
I read in the paper that President Macron and his wife had adopted a black labrador. His name is Nemo, he’s two years old and almost as handsome as me. Obviously I suspect he has neither my gravitas nor superior intellect, but he looks like a reasonable chap nonetheless. I sent an email to Emmanuel (we’re on first name terms; he calls me Hugo) saying that I would be happy to offer my services if he felt Nemo needed coaching in the sort of behaviour expected of the First Dog. I haven’t heard back yet – I expect he’s quite busy with other matters, although he usually replies to my emails as a matter of priority. Obviously Emmanuel offered me the job of Top Dog, but I had to turn it down due to my loyalty and sense of duty to Bossy. I think he was particularly keen on me for the position because, aside from the obvious reasons, I’m bilingual and well-versed in the international scene. The problem is I know that pandemonium would break out if I were to leave here. I tried to explain to Java why the President had chosen a black labrador and not an English Setter. This entailed a lengthy explanation as there are so many reasons I didn’t know where to start: severe insubordination, acute inconsequentiality, fear of loud noises, general neurosis and goofiness, loud snoring, inherent psychological instability… She was all huffy and put out for about three minutes until something far more interesting came along to distract her: a falling leaf. I rest my case.
Bossy made this cheesecake. Whatever.
Ingredients (serves 8)
150g raisins, pre-soaked in rum
3 eggs, beaten
1 ripe banana, mashed
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons’ crème fraîche
3 tablespoons’ desiccated coconut
3 tablespoons’ cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a greased, medium-sized baking tin. Cook for 50 minutes and chill and sprinkle with coconut before serving.
After the fiasco that was Bossy’s attempt to film her dogs’ ‘obedience’ (it still makes me chuckle just thinking about it), she has been trying to capture us next to flowers, which naturally fills me with an overwhelming and unfettered joy. Not. I’m concerned that the very hot weather we’ve been having has fried her brain: I mean seriously, do I look like a dog that enjoys the company of pale pink girly flowers? At least it’s quite entertaining when she lies down on the grass on her tummy to get a better angle, especially when she struggles to get up. What’s the point in a good angle if the subject has got bored with the tediousness of sitting still and wandered off? This photo is apparently a testament to my compliance, although it feels more like a punishment to me. At least nobody could mistake me for a dog happy to be caught next to a flower. She tried to photograph Java a number of times, but all she got was a dirty white blur. And Bossy considered the ‘flattened to the floor in a stranglehold’ look to be unflattering because it made her eyes boggle (Java’s, not Bossy’s). I really hope she loses the camera enthusiasm soon; in the meantime she’s the gift that just keeps on giving…
Ingredients (serves 4)
100g tinned whole water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
500g lean pork mince
5 spring onions, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon grated root ginger
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Chinese spice
1 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon cane sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 tsp olive oil or peanut oil
Combine all the ingredients together well in a large bowl and form about 16 patties. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry for about four minutes on either side until cooked through and slightly caramelised. Delicious served hot or cold with fried rice, noodles or crispy Chinese cabbage salad.
Noisy has been teaching me to use acronyms because I’m having problems with my rather cumbersome paws on the small keyboard of my new ‘phone when I text and tweet. I found LMAO particularly appropriate when Bossy recently decided to make a ‘Dog Obedience’ video to put on YouTube. Who is she kidding? I worry about Bossy sometimes – it’s as if she lives in la la land. She took us for a walk and wanted to capture various ‘examples of canine obedience’ (you see what I mean?). Usually I just slope off and do my own thing when we go for a walk so as not to be irritated by incessant jabbering (Bossy’s) and hyperactive insanity (Java’s), but I decided to hang around a bit for this because I thought it might be amusing. I wasn’t disappointed. She had planned on filming Java’s perfect recall (I say this not without irony) just as Java picked up the scent of an UFFO (unidentified feathered flying object), so that was a non starter. When Java finally returned 20 minutes later, she resembled a panting, dribbling, filthy, sodden dishrag and, as such, was not at her most photogenic. This was a shame as her looks are her only asset. Undeterred, Bossy carried on filming while walking through the woods and Java went off to find a long, sturdy stick which she then rammed into the back of Bossy’s knees. The shock was enough to catapult Bossy through the air, camera in hand and still filming. I think she’s going to have to rethink the title of her video. I’m thinking ‘Delinquent Setters’ might be appropriate. LOL.
Ingredients (serves 4)
120g potatoes, peeled
60g carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
chickpea flour (or plain flour) for coating
Olive oil for frying
Boil the potatoes and carrots together until cooked. Drain well, add the olive oil, crushed garlic, cumin seeds and salt and pepper and mash well. Stir in the egg and then make round ‘patties’ coated in flour. Fry on each side until crisp and golden brown. Makes a delicious accompaniment to any main course, or may be served with a poached egg and green salad.