Sweetness and Light

Sweetness and Light

Honey is an elixir of sex. Flowers use bees in their surreptitious sex dance. They can’t get together and hold hands themselves and sometimes the wind doesn’t prove a very good carrier of pollen so bees do the job. Flowers produce nectar to attract the bees who, while diving into the flower to suck up the sugar, get pollen stuck on their hairy bodies and transfer it to the next flower, thus fertilising it to reproduce. The reason flowers are colourful and beautiful in shape and form is not for your dining-room table, it’s all for the bees – to attract them. Just as in a café, a woman will wear a pretty dress and lipstick to attract the male, flowers do the same thing.

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Perfect Puglia

Perfect Puglia

Another Puglia tour has sadly come to an end. The gastronomads started weeping and gnashing their teeth from day two at the terrible thought of leaving Puglia. As soon as they saw Lecce they said, but surely we are in Baroque heaven? Our fabulous manager Ali directed us through sunshine, ancient olive groves, Susumaniello vineyards, sailing on the high seas to Monopoli and wandering around the cave dwellings in Matera. 

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Chez Bob

Chez Bob

‘Chez Bob’ is a very famous restaurant in the Camargue – land of marshes, mosquitoes, pink flamingoes, bulls and white horses. This area is rather romantic and steeped in staunch fusion gypsy/Spanish culture. They have a particular style of cooking which is simple but strong, colourful and uncompromising in its nature. You’re not going to get anything subtle or sophisticated – you’re going to be drinking Pastis and sucking on dark salty/sweet olives. The restaurant was created in 1971 by Bob whose two passions in life were friendship and partying. When he died, Jean-Guy (pictured with Peta) and his wife Josianne from Arles took it over...

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Banging on...

Banging on...

Snarlers. They are just one of life’s basic, non-negotiables like lipstick, sex and shelter. The secret to making a good sausage, like a good terrine, is in the perfect combination of meat, fat and salt. I like bangers coarsely not finely minced, they should have a bit of fat, some onions or shallots, maybe some spices and herbs if you want and crispy skins made from gut.

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Perfect Peugeot

Perfect Peugeot

When I’m in France I drive a Peugeot which I lease from Peugeot EuroLease in Auckland.  I have been doing this for years so this is a shameless plug for EuroLease and the lovely Delwyn who is the person you call in Auckland, should you fancy zipping round Europe in a Peugeot of your own. If you're going to be in Europe for any length of time, I honestly can't see why you wouldn't lease – so much more convenient than public transport and so much cheaper than hiring a car, the cars are practically brand new and most of all the service is so fabulous, should you need it.  Think seaside, sunshine, oysters and fast cars!

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Hola Barcelona!

Hola Barcelona!

Keeping in mind that travel doesn’t merely broaden the mind, it makes the mind, my friend Petra and I jumped on the train to see what we could see and eat what we could eat in Barcelona, capitol of Catalonia. We went mad and strolled (dripping with sweat in the heat wave right now) to cooking classes, food tours, fashion tours, cheap tapas bars and expensive starred restaurants.

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'Tis the season...

'Tis the season...

It’s hard these days to actually know what a vegetable’s true season is, as lots of our food is imported. The best way to find out which vegetables are in season in New Zealand is to go to a farmer’s market because they only sell what they are growing or making themselves. Why bother to eat seasonal food? Because it tastes better if it is eaten in its true season e.g. carrots taste best in autumn, tomatoes taste best in late summer, strawberries taste best at Christmas and all the great vegetables like pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, silver beet, swedes, cabbages and onions taste best in winter.

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Why I Like the French

Why I Like the French

‘Bonjour Messieurs/Dames’. ‘Au revoir Messieurs/Dames’. Or in most cases, just 'M’sieurs/Dames’ on entering a shop and the same on leaving. The French, especially provincial French, would rarely walk into a small shop like a boulangerie without politely greeting everyone there.  Shop assistants in large shops expect you to greet them correctly and not just launch into ‘do you have any red frocks?’ If you make the mistake of forgetting your manners, they will restart the conversation properly by answering you with, ‘Bonjour Madame’. This not only forces you back into the place you belong but teaches you how to be Francais.

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The Heart of Darkness

The Heart of Darkness

I love chocolate and the best chocolate guy I ever came across in New Zealand was Murray Langham of Schoc Chocolates. Talk about Schoc therapy. You walk into this deceptively quaint chocolate shop and the place is a den of iniquity for crying out loud – a haven of good vibrations, a sex shop of pre-traumatic chocolate syndrome. Schoc chocolates are not only the best and the most unusual chocolates I’ve tasted in NZ...

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Blessed Be The Cheese Makers

Blessed Be The Cheese Makers

Living in France for ten years in the 1980s and still spending half my time there each year, I have developed a love of cheese. It is culinary sabotage to serve cheese as finger food before a meal because anything high in protein cuts the appetite. In France, all the liberal people who voted for Macron serve cheese as a course between the main meal and the dessert, the reason being that you don’t go from savoury to sweet then back to savoury again. The problem with this system is that by the end of the meal I am losing the will to live and am too full to appreciate cheese. 

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The road less travelled

The road less travelled

Travelling is like being in love – you’re under the influence. The normal rules don’t apply ... you’re more open, more tolerant, more reckless. You have no past and no future because no-one knows you. You can reinvent yourself. Travel cracks you open and pushes you over all the walls and low horizons that habits and defensiveness set up. The best way of discovering things is to get lost, a technique I have cleverly taken advantage of many times. Oliver Cromwell said, a person never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.

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Marrakech Madness...

Marrakech Madness...

Correct me if I’m wrong but I just think there is not enough bowing and scraping in our lives and that one can never go past a tall dark handsome man in a Pierre Cardin suit. There are some things in life that just don’t matter – like mint tea where they’ve forgotten to put the mint in, gin and tonic where they forget to put the gin in, people being rude to you – you just flick it and move on like a velvet tractor. Last night Sarah-Jane, Tanah, our adorable driver and I ate at Yacout. Yacout is the most famous and beautiful restaurant in Marrakech...

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Uzès

Uzès

So here I am with my students in Uzès, cooking and eating as usual. Diligently we tramped our way around the Wednesday farmer’s market touching, tasting and smelling everything. I like this market as it’s much smaller than the Saturday one and only has produce. It is bereft of tasteless trinkets, dove coloured linen clothes, special vegetable slices that will cut anything and everything till you die and thirty thousand kinds of soap.

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I Love Paris in the Springtime

I Love Paris in the Springtime

Parisians still rock in spite of all they have to put up with and so does Paris. Unless I’m mistaken (and I’ve visited 6 countries this year so far) it is only in Paris that people in the street make comments on your clothes. The Eiffel Tower is where you get your first French kiss. No not that kind – a kiss from a Frenchman. C’est comme ça in Paris – lovers embrace passionately everywhere.

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Fat Chance

Fat Chance

Can we talk? We have been sold a lemon – fat is not bad for you and eating fat does not raise your cholesterol level and does not give you a heart attack. My parents, siblings and I were brought up on cheese, full fat milk, cream, butter, lard (pork), suet (beef & lamb) and ice-cream. My parents lived till their nineties and none of us has heart disease or free-range arteries.  ‘Low-fat’ and ‘non-fat’ foods and drinks are tasteless nonsense and now my pig and sheep farming colleagues are forced to breed ‘low-fat’, lean animals.  Fat on an animal shows it is healthy. 

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April News

April News

The Vietnam tour was really wonderful and I do believe I have 15 gastronomads to back that up – they were, to a woman and man, exemplary, harmonious and remained standing in spite of some warm temperatures. As Vietnam is long and skinny it gets hotter as we travel from the North to the South.  It was agreeable in Hanoi and Hué then hot in Hoi An and sweaty in Saigon. With the help of gallons of water and beer, we handled it. I have started writing weekly blogs on my website and dedicated two of them to the Vietnam tour so I won't bang on too much here. Suffice to say that street food and inexpensive family restaurants are, hands down, the best eating across the whole country. My next tour to Vietnam is April 2018 and bookings are open!

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Au Revoir Vietnam

Au Revoir Vietnam

The party’s over but what a party. After Hué the gastronomads and I spent a few hot days in Hoi An, possibly the cutest, prettiest town in Vietnam. When I first visited Hoi An in 2002 I met a young woman called Ms Vy who taught me my first Vietnamese cooking class. Back then she had a couple of restaurants and now she has five in Hoi An, a big cooking school and a hotel. She basically runs Hoi An, travels the world and looks just the same all these years later.

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