And God Created Capers



Vincent van Gogh – The Olive Orchard

Tapenade: food of the gods. Recipes vary according to taste or regional variations. Use good olives – perhaps use ones you have bought with stones in and then de-stone them yourself.  They are cheapest bought by weight from a Turkish grocer’s shop if there is one locally.


  • 9oz/250g pitted black olives
  • 2-4 tbsp olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp capers (soaked and drained)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • Pinch of thyme
  • 2- 6 chopped canned anchovies (optional – and the quantity is yours to decide)
  • Chili powder (optional) – to taste
  • Salt and pepper


Blend as you with – you can this slightly chunky or very smooth.

Some people add sundried tomatoes or tomato purée, tuna, basil, parsley or other ingredients. As with all such melanges, tapenade is nicer when you have let it settle for a while – or overnight.

Best served with bread of whatever nice sort – maybe toasted – and/or crudités.


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Making Olive Oil – from the Tacuinum of Paris






If you must eat raw carrots, there is no need for this to be a punishment.

A carrot salad consists of grated carrot, cumin, lemon juice, salt and pepper and herbs of your choice – I use mint and tarragon, but fennel leaves, parsley or coriander might be nice. marinate – the carrot will soften slightly.

Here is a cooked version from what was at the time time the ubiquitous travellers’ friend: “The Famous Turkish Cookery“:

  • 500gm carrot (grated or sliced)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • salt
  • 1 dessert spoon olive oil
  • 1 cup yoghurt

Cook the carrots lightly, puree and mix with the other ingredients. Decorate with black olives.


Elizabeth David’s recipe for Carrots Vichy requires them to be boiled in Vichy water or, failing that, a pinch of bicarb. She also mentions carottes rapees, which is similar to the carrot salad recipe above.  The dish consists of finely grated  carrot, olive oil, lemon juice, ‘a small amount’ of finely chopped shallot, salt and a pinch of sugar. Quantities? Nah – this is Miss David writing here.


A large carrot costs 14p. Knock yourselves out.


Image by Jonathunder. Rights here.

Packed Lunches


I have come across this book, by David Pez of .




Mr Pez has photographed the salads he makes in his office every day – one for each working day of the year ( he apparently takes no holidays!), divided into Spring, Summer Autumn and Winter. The dishes are simple and tasty, the dressings look good and each plate is beautifully photographed. It’s an excellent concept.

On Life Not Being Fair

PJ O’Rourke is one of my favourite writers, though I am sort of Left and he is sort of Right.  Here is his famous quote to his teenage daughter, as she is complaining that something – or, indeed, everything- is not fair:


“Honey, you’re cute. That’s not fair. You’re smart. That’s not fair. You were born in the United States of America. That’s not fair. Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.”



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Image by Jonas Satkauskas

Spinach and the workings of the Universe


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Spinach: from the Tacuinum of Vienna

I think that investing in that packet of quick-grow seeds was a false economy, unless feeding my gardenful of snails is essential to my survival.  The snails are also partial to the mint and the basil ( although they don’t go near the sage) but eschew the strangleweed, nettles, dandelions and couchgrass. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

If things get really bad, I suppose I can go for sage, snail and dandelion casserole of some kind.  I have neither forgiven nor forgotten the Dark Night of the Marigolds.

From: Interesting selections from animated nature: with illustrative scenery (London: 1809) by William Daniell

Pea Shoots


The Embryo of the Pea laid open.” Figure 2 from the 11th Edition Encyclopaedia Britannica article “Stem”.


In a bid to stave off beri-beri or scurvy or summat, I am growing my own pea shoots, the beloved ingredient of a thousand foodie menus.  I got a handful of dried peas, soaked overnight in cold water and planted them very shallowly in leftover compost ( well, the sad and reproachful reminder of a failed attempt to fuschia cuttings…).

They sprouted the next day. A small victory over the brutal entropy of the universe….





Image of peas by Betty Cai. Rights here.

Truly Excellent Instant Salad



  • Some spinach/leaves of some kind/lettuce
  • 1 fillet smoked mackerel
  • 1 orange/clementine/satsuma etc
  • 1 cooked beetroot sliced
  • 1/2 tin chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • Herbs to your taste – dill or parsley would be nice
  • Dressing: 1 tsp horseradish, 1 tbsp yoghurt, splash of lemon juice, pepper, herbs if required – mint or tarragon perhaps


Arrange as you desire. Serves two.

Mix and match, add or omit ingredients or change the dressing according to your taste and store cupboard. Smoked mackerel is cheap, delicious and nutritious but you could also use tuna, sardines or…. rollmops! For greenery, rocket, dandelion leaves or watercress can serve instead of spinach or lettuce. Enjoy. Because you’re worth it.



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Spinach and Chickpea Soup


William-Adolphe Bouguereau


There are a million recipes for this soup on the web. This is mine, adapted from the Casa Moro cookbook.  It is vegan, cheap and quite delicious.  You can of course add or take away – this soup is nice with added tomato. For your sanity, used tinned chickpeas ( if you know where to look they can be as inexpensive as 25p a can), frozen spinach if you need to and dried herbs if no fresh ones are available. Be sparing with the olive oil….waste is a sin and so is greasy food.

Serves 2

  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 portion frozen spinach, defrosted or 8oz fresh spinach
  • 1 slice of bread cut into cubes (brown is my preference but stale white bread is the classic ingredient)
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
  •  oregano, fresh or dried
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or any vinegar)
  • a pinch of saffron infused in 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • a small dried red chili pepper or chilli flakes or powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt
  • black pepper


  1. Saute the spinach lightly in 1bsp olive oil
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Fry the bread lightly in the remaining oil, and add garlic, cumin, oregano, and chilli, and cook for 1 minute, until the garlic is nutty brown. Mash this mixture with the vinegar in a mortar and pestle
  3. Return the bread mixture to the pan along with the chickpeas and saffron. Season with salt and pepper. This is thick soup but thin with a little water if needed – it should not be chewy. Add the spinach and heat through. Blend if you like – I sort of half-blend it.
  4. Serve sprinkled with paprika and eat, glowing with virtue.



Giuseppe Costantini

Tomato Jam



There’s a tomato theme going on in my mind, I suppose….


  • Butter (some)
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  1. melt the butter in a small frying pan
  2. saute garlic
  3. add cinnamon and sugar
  4. add tomatoes and seasoning
  5. cook down very very slowly – up to 40 minutes
  6. decant into ramekins or similar
  7. chill in fridge, preferably overnight


Add lemon juice, cumin, herbs, chilli powder, paprika or anything else you might like. Enjoy. You’ve just saved yourself about three pounds.



La Tomatina image by flydime – La Tomatina (25.08.2010) / Spain, Buñol, CC BY-SA 2.0,