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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Good Morning Vietnam

Good Morning Vietnam

So the gastronomads have arrived, the Vietnamese culinary tour is well under way and the food and people are fabulous. C’est comme une letter à la poste (it’s as predictable as posting a letter) – the people will always be welcoming, happy and warm and the food will always be zingy and complex. As I write this my coffee is delivered to my room – 'I like your hair Madam... you born like that?' No, I’m a complete fake from top to bottom, even my toenails are not the colour God intended them. 'You very funny Madam, have a nice day'.  Which brings me to my next compliment – the one I always wait for from the frank Vietnamese. It usually happens in the massage room and sure enough... 'you beautiful when you young Madam'.

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Secret Saigon

Secret Saigon

Travel not only broadens the mind, it makes the mind. I made my broadened mind up many years ago (2004) to see what Vietnam was all about and have loved it ever since. The first thing you have to be very at one with the universe about is the heat. You put your lipstick on, leave the hotel every morning, stand up straight and say to yourself, it’s going to be 35 degrees, you are going to sweat gallons and every single person you speak to or even walk past will scream, 'you beautiful hair madam you very modern'. Then they pull the red hair to see if it’s a wig. The Vietnamese engage you immediately – they love fun, are very witty and very direct. 

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How To Control Your Universe...

How To Control Your Universe...

Autumn is the time to get into muscle toning activities such as lifting more red wine to your lips, making rabbit terrines where you chop everything by hand and rip the hazelnuts open with your bare teeth, and pasta and pastry making. The great thing about making good pastry at home, is that you feel powerful and in control of your universe. It’s not easy to make, therefore your friends and family know without a shadow of doubt, that if you turn up with an apple tart encased in home made, hand made puff pastry, you are expressing truly, madly, deeply, how much you love them. 

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The Staff of Life

The Staff of Life

There were some wonderful New Zealanders in the Languedoc who owned a restaurant called Le Mimosa. One day, years ago, I turned up and ordered a terrine of young leeks with hazelnuts, orange and coriander grains accompanied by sourdough bread and fleur de sel, sea salt from the Camargue. I remember the intelligent and fragrant combination of flavours. All cooks love vegetables – we love choosing them, cleaning, chopping, smelling and dreaming while we do it.

Speaking of sourdough, another thing cooks really like doing to calm their nerves and accrue family good points is make bread. None of us have to make bread for sustenance – we make it to save on psychology bills.

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No limits to pleasure...

No limits to pleasure...

Is it true that we are losing our traditional dishes or is it that surveys on changing food tastes are only done on people who eat 2 minute noodles? And if it is true that we no longer subject ourselves to mutton broth, cow’s liver and tripe, does anyone care?

A recent survey in Britain discovered that people under 25 had no idea what spotted dick, brawn and scrag end of neck were. They were repulsed by the idea of offal, haddocks heads and squirrel pie

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