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


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

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



Every book I read seems to have contradictory nutritional advice.  So I follow my own sense of what is correct. What I have noticed, however, is that books, blogs, TV shows, and so on, always seem to concur in recommending the most expensive, and often rare, ingredients.

That’s tricky.  So I try to find the cheap superfoods, the fruit and veg in season, the better alternatives. You can eat well, eat healthily – and not break your budget.

On the foodie front, I have bought dried peas and intend to sprout my own pea shoots – even though they’re so very 2015….



Franz Snyders – Fruit Stall