Happy New Year… a new year, a new start

I know… this is hardly the start of the year, is it?  I have an excuse though. Since New Year’s Day I have been suffering with a vile cough and cold, which seems to me to be really unfair. OK, if I was still in the U.K. in the depths of winter… but here? In the heat and the sunshine? I have spent the last two weeks, moaning and coughing but I am finally feeling slightly more clear headed and sounding less like a chesty old pit pony.

Time to start again.

When I look back on 2011, from where I am now… well, it seems unbelievable.  At the start of that year we had no idea that we would  be moving anywhere, never mind half way round the world.  I suppose if I had thought of moving it would have been to a house, instead of our apartment, because I had been longing for an outside oven. I would have thought I’d have carried on cooking things like Beef and Ale Casserole with dumplings. or maybe the glorious Black Pudding and Haggis on Apple Mash (after all, it will soon be Burns’ Night again) or, or of our favourites, Bacon and Apple Risotto with Black Pudding. Everything rich and delicious and sustaining to get us through the cold and the snow.

I’d have been glad of the cold as we tucked into Jansson’s Temptation, my favourite potato dish ever. Maybe I’d have been making slimming soups, like Skinny Tomato Soup , in an attempt to lose weight after eating all of that lovely hearty food…

I would wake up and look out of our windows, in our apartment, down onto the frosty city below

And yet here we are, a year later, living just off the Equator, steaming gently in the Tropical heat. Now I wake up to dawn, over a vibrant city, with the Petronas Towers appearing through the mist.

I’m cooking things like Rendang terlagi-lagi and Sambal santan udang. I’m buying things in markets that I have no idea what they are and then trying to work out what to do with them later.

Some things are the same, though. I look ahead to the rest of the year, knowing that THIS will be the year that I get thin and fit….I’ve had that as a resolution for years. And I haven’t done it.

Maybe I will this time. After all, we are living in a place where I can swim each day (and that means, of course, putting on a swimming costume. Not a good look at the moment, I admit)


The fruit and vegetables here in Malaysia are incredible….. there’s an abundance of fish and seafood. All of which are fresh and tasty. All of which are just waiting for me to try.

And we have a wonderful new space, with a lovely, large dining table so we can invite our friends round….

We can sit ten round there (OK, ten at a push. Comfortably, we can seat eight) and I have two large kitchens to work in. My old friends back home can come out to visit and my new friends here can come round to eat.

It’s all such a change from Nottingham!

If we can go through so much change in one short year, I wonder what can happen in the coming year?

What WILL happen is that I am going to cook more and write more. There are so many delicious things to experiment with here, so many wonderfully tasty recipes to tell you about and, I have to say, so many things I cooked last year and didn’t have time to tell you about.

This year there’ll be a mix of Southeast Asian and British dishes as I look back at what I’ve done and look ahead to new experiences.

My resolutions, therefore, are to explore, remember, taste, experiment, enjoy and, most of all, to tell you all about everything!

Happy Belated New Year!




The big move – Part 2

We’re here… and we are almost sorted. They say (well, Lao-tzu said, anyway) that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A journey of 6,570 miles must also begin with a single step then… and an awful lot of boxes in the container and a car full of bags and suitcases to drag with us.

It was odd, driving through the night to Heathrow and knowing it would be months before we would be back in the UK. Odd and strangely sad. All we had, as we walked into Departures, was each other and those few bags.

The glass of champagne that the Bear insisted we started the journey to our new life with, took the edge of the sadness though and we raised a glass to each other, toasting the start of our biggest adventure yet.

Then, after many hours of flying, there was Malaysia below us. That was where we were going to live… how strange it seemed. We looked at each other and laughed. Our new country!

We got through Immigration with only a few questions, though I have to say I was a bit put out when the Immigration Officer studied my passport, stared at me, studied my passport again and then asked if I was that woman in the photograph. I said I was and she didn’t believe me. Trying to explain that a photograph taken in a booth, when you know that this is the photograph you will be stuck with for ten years, so you’ve taken particular care with makeup, your hair is brushed, you look as good as you are going to get…..well, that photograph is a good one.  It may not, as the Immigration Officer pointed out, look very much like the face that was staring back at her from the other side of the desk. That face, however, did not have the benefit of makeup, the hair had not been freshly blowdried, and travelling from the Saturday night till the Monday morning does wreak its own awful havoc.

Eventually, though, because if I was a criminal I might have made more effort to look like the person in the passport,  she let me in to the country and we grabbed a cab and set off. Our suitcases were jammed in the boot, on the front seat next to the driver and on our laps (Malaysian cabs are quite small) and we started on the trip into Kuala Lumpur.

There’s a smell to Malaysia… a green and sweet smell that makes you smile. The roadsides are green and bursting with shrubs and palm trees. It rains every day so everything grows rapidly and the rain washes the dust away leaving everything clean and fresh. I suppose the smell is rather like a fresh air version of a tropical hothouse, if you can imagine that.

And then we were in the city. We stayed in the rather wonderful Grand Millenium Hotel while we got our bearings and while I started looking for a place to live.

The Bear went straight to work and I spent my time searching the internet and looking for apartments to rent. I sat in the Executive floor lounge, drinking coffee and looking out over the city and wondering where we would end up next.

Each night the Bear would come back to the hotel and we’d sit outside, 20 floors up, with a drink and a snack, talking about what we’d done each day. I’d tell him about the apartments I’d viewed and he would tell me about his work.

One night there was a surprise for him….


It was his birthday and the lovely staff from the Executive Floor and the managers of the hotel came round the corner, bringing him a cake and singing Happy Birthday. If it wasn’t for the fact he is such a shy and retiring Bear, I’d show you a picture of his surprised and beaming face as everyone joined in with the singing.

We went out that night to celebrate, with friends  on Jalan Alor

This is the famous street of food at night in Kuala Lumpur and a must-visit destination if you are ever here. It used to be the red light district but is now the home of what seems like hundreds of restaurants and hawker stalls, where you eat in the street. You get the most delicious food here – there’s so much to see… and eat.

And the best place of all in the street is this restaurant… better known as the restaurant with yellow tablecloths. I think I’ll tell you more about Jalan Alor another time…


When we finally got back to the hotel we thought (briefly) about finishing the night off by going to the nightclub but realised that we were probably too old; too fat;  too full of delicious food and too casually dressed for that. A club where customers routinely have bodyguards was too smart for us. Besides we were exhausted. … and there were going to be many more long days ahead of us as I tried to find us somewhere to live.

We needed to rent somewhere in KL that we’d be happy with for the three years we are going to be here. I had so many things on my wish list and the person that was going to help us was Roopa. Probably the best letting and relocation agent in KL. She spent days with me, rocketing around the city in her car,  showing me condominium after condominium, searching out the best deal possible. The Bear left on a trip to Arizona and it was just me and Roopa. She drove through crowded streets even on Fridays (the worst day to drive in KL) in her attempt to get us the best place to live and we narrowed the search down to one particular condo.


The apartment we were looking at had a large dry kitchen…. in Malaysia it is common to have both wet and dry kitchens. The dry kitchen is usually attached to the living area and this is where the less messy bits of preparing food go on. This one had an induction hob in the central island, a large two door fridge freezer, an oven, microwave, more cupboards than I would have thought possible and a sink.

So far, so good.

Then, behind the sliding glass door was an enormous wet kitchen, with yet another fridge freezer; a dishwasher; a double sink; even more cupboards…and  a waste disposal unit (probably one of my favourite kitchen gadgets – just think how useful that will be at getting rid of peelings and food scraps when the temperature is always over 80 degrees C)


…. and best of all, a gas hob! It was everything I wanted in a kitchen.

And rounf the corner from the wet kitchen was the laundry area and a huge storage room.

It really was perfect.

I could cook and prepare stuff in the wet kitchen and the smell of frying wouldn’t be all over the rest of the apartment. I would have been prepared to sign up for the apartment there and then but Roopa had more to show me….

The living area was huge with windows on two sides and a balcony running the length of the room

There was a massive dressing room, off the master bedroom…


… and the master bathroom had doors that opened onto its own private balcony.

How could we say no to all of that? The kitchen alone swung it for me. And so, the deal was done.

There was one problem though…… we took the apartment unfurnished which meant that we moved in with what I could buy quickly.


Which was a table and a couple of chairs from IKEA and a bed.

All I had in the way of kitchen stuff was what I brought over – two plates; two bowls; two sets of cutlery and two mugs.  I went out and bought the bare minimum of kitchen ware – a pan, a chopping board and a knife – and we settled down to wait for the container.

But I didn’t mind too much…. I had the kitchen I had always longed for.

We were home.




The big move – Part 1

I know, I know… it’s been so long since I last wrote anything. Still, in all that time we have packed up in the UK and moved half way across the world, found somewhere to live and finally managed to get internet access. We have no belongings yet, other than the things we brought with us in suitcases or what I have had to go out and buy, just so we can manage.

The story, so far, then, or at least the first part of it….. those last few weeks in the UK were a chaotic scramble as I worked up until the last fortnight and the Bear was away for most of the time.  I managed to sell my house in the north and we brought the contents to Nottingham. What that meant, of course, was that I then had double the kitchen equipment and friends were given box loads of the spare stuff. I had to empty the cupboards of all my spices and ingredients, all those delicious things I had collected  on my travels and hadn’t used up and still the kitchen was overflowing with plates, cutlery and equipment.








It all had to be packed away…..










 The pile of boxes stood taller than me and filled the kitchen area








And the living space… and that was just upstairs. Downstairs was just as bad. Boxes everwhere we looked and it wasn’t as if we were taking furniture apart from a bed, a desk and a chair. All of that was just things….








Boxes and boxes of things








 That all had to be packed into the sea container, ready for the long journey from the UK to Malaysia.

Eventually it was all done and we could look  around at our empty apartment.








That was my kitchen – so small and yet so much went on in there. I always called it a Footballer’s Wife of a kitchen – pretty to look at but precious little to recommend it in real life.  It was badly planned, with the small fridge and freezer on either side of the oven and the drawers where you would keep cutlery and Stuff at the very end of the workbench, as far as you could get from where you would need it. 

(Everyone has a Stuff Drawer – it’s where you put bits of string in case you need to tie anything up, or where your Swiss Army penknife goes, just in case you meet a horse with a stone in its shoe and where you put the collection of red rubber bands the postman drops outside the letterbox because he can’t, quite frankly, be bothered to put them in his pocket. Stuff. It collects everywhere and needs a drawer of its own. I bet you all have a Stuff Drawer)

When I look at that kitchen I think of how much more I want from a kitchen. I want the space I’ll be working in to be away from the sink which is jammed in a corner. I can’t count the times The Bear has come over and wanted a cup of tea when I was trying to work .  I want a fridge that I can stand at and look into, rather than having to kneel on the floor and practice advanced packing techniques to get the bare necessities in there. To be fair to the planners though, they probably weren’t thinking of me when they did the apartment, they probably thought the people living in there would go out to eat all the time.

When we moved in, the person we bought the place from had left a huge pile of takeaway menus and the oven had never been used.

I really want gas – that electric hob has been the bane of my life because I love the speed and responsiveness of gas. We always planned to put an induction hob in but we just didn’t get around to it. We had just decided to go and get one in the sales when the Bear  got this new job in Malaysia.

I want more storage space – we did build a larder when we moved in, where there was some wasted space at the top of the stairs, but I want more cupboards to put things away easily.

As Bear says, all I’m saying is “I want… I want”  but I was determined that I  would think of all this when I went looking for a new place. The kitchen is probably the most important place for me and while I can, and have cooked quite successfully in that tiny space, if I can get somewhere better then I should.

The apartment looked empty now – well, empty of boxes, anyway










We were leaving our furniture behind and the plan was we would rent out our place and then rent an apartment in KL. On our first trip out we had looked at some condos and a lot of them were available furnished so we thought that might do us. We didn’t have anywhere sorted but at least we had an idea which part of the city we wanted to live in and the type of place that would suit us. Besides, our container wouldn’t arrive for a good six weeks after we got there so there would be planty of time to sort all of that out.








We stood on the balcony and looked out over the city for the last time, wondering what the view from our window would be in Malaysia.










We headed back to the north to say goodbye to the family

and then we turned round and drove away……





A New Year, a new start

Happy, if belated, New Year to you all.

I have been missing for some time now, but I do have some valid excuses.

First of all, as some of you know, I work full time in a university and before Christmas we were extremely busy. I really was working flat out.  I did cook (and what a lot I have to tell you about later) but preparing and photographing, then eating and clearing up took more time than I anticipated and I didn’t get round to actually writing about it.

Then I got bronchitis and two weeks of my life disappeared in a coughing, spluttering haze. A month later and I am still coughing.

Not only that….but there was snow. Lots of snow.

There were days where the only light seemed to be that reflected from the snow. I’d get up and look out of my bedroom window and see that the snow hadn’t melted at all.  Temperatures were regularly -9 or -10° C  overnight and first thing in the morning.

The lake outside my window at work was frozen.

The poor swans would walk across the ice to the only bit that wasn’t frozen solid.

They’d even walk up to the Students’ Union shop in the hope people would feed them.

Anyway, dosed up with antibiotics and Day Nurse,  The Bear and I  headed home to the North for Christmas where I was sure that I’d have time to write up everything.

The thing was, the snow had fallen more heavily in the North and it had been colder. Eight and ten inches of snow had fallen on some nights. I’d heard that the weight of the snow had started to tear down the guttering…..

That was the sight that greeted me at the top of the stairs. Guttering hanging down.

The weight of the snow as it slipped on the roof, without melting, ripped the gutters off and they had either fallen to the ground or dangled, hopelessly across the windows.

Icicles were nearly the length of the windows.

In the kitchen, the pipe from the sink and dishwasher had frozen so we (actually, the Bear did it)  had to wash up in the bathroom handbasin.

The guttering coming down had torn down the telephone lines so the internet connection was lost…. it was all going downhill rapidly.

The bright spot was, of course, seeing my family again and, best of all, my brother and his wonderful wife making Christmas Dinner for us all.

We had a great day….

And there was even a gluten free Christmas pudding for my brother, that was so delicious we decided we never again wanted any other sort of Christmas pudding.  My sister in law is now the acclaimed Pudding Queen of the family.

So. There are my excuses – work, illness, snow, lack of internet and lack of time.

What am I going to do about it? Well, I shall start by getting on with the writing up of the best of the recipes I made over the past month or so and hope that you start to read them again.

Happy New Year!

….and there was ginger beer, lashings and lashings of ginger beer!

It sounds like an Enid Blyton novel, doesn’t it?

Well that’s what it could have been… the Famous Five go wild in 

Sherwood Forest.

And that’s why there has been no real cooking…..

What happened is that  5 friends decided to hire a villa in

 Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest for a girls weekend.

The villa was fabulous with a flat screen television, a real fireplace,

comfy seating for all of us and free internet access.

The living room windows opened out onto that fantastic view.

And at the edge there was a lovely river.

There were ducks and swans and moorhens

Some of them came to stare through our windows in

the hope of getting something to eat…..

Swans appeared and pecked at the windows as we walked past

And those of you who are friends with Omnivorous Bear on Facebook

will recognise one of the victims being pecked!

It was like a Disney movie with all the animals coming up

to the window to ask for food.

There was even a strange dark grey swan.

The Subtropical Swimming Paradise was just that….. with rock pools and spa pools.

We lazed and chatted in the bubbles, we swam outside in the heated pools in

the moonlight…

 …and careered down water rapids, face first.

 And because it was Sherwood Forest, home of Robin Hood ,

we took archery lessons.

Walking through the woods, we  found  toadstools – the Amanita muscaria 

– the sort of toadstools you might expect to see with gnomes…..

Or even small bears…

We hired bicycles and cycled through the woods….


and got something to eat from the pub…..

And raised glasses to ourselves as we made toasts to what was turning out to be

 a brilliant weekend.

And that’s where the ginger beer entered the equation…

Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger Beer to be precise.

Oh it was delicious…and oh, how it made us laugh!

That would be the 4% alcohol, I bet.

And I’m assuming that none of the real Famous Five had THAT kind of kick

from their ginger beer!

And that is why there was no real cooking….

we were too busy laughing and eating and drinking!

Cheers girls! It was a fabulous weekend and you were all fabulous company.

                                                                                                                             Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Remembrance of Things Past… madeleines for an anniversary tea.

One year ago today I started this blog. I can’t believe how many things I have cooked since then. One good thing about writing about what I cook is that I have been forced to cook new things. I know how easy it is to rely on the same old favourites all the time. I have been inspired by reading all the blogs my new friends have written or have pointed me to. I have made things I had just previously read about and discovered that things are never as tricky as they might seem. All it ever takes is a bit of time to read things through so you understand the process and love and determination in your heart. My main inspiration is the Bear – I just want to make good things for him… and after all, this blog is named after him.

When I look back at all the posts I’m amazed that anyone read them or that they continue to read them.

I had to celebrate a full year of blogging and all the friends I have made because of it. I’d love to be able to celebrate with you all here.. maybe laughing and talking about the past year over cups of tea and cakes….

And that made me think of Marcel Proust. And madeleines. Proust talks of eating a madeleine with a cup of tea and being transported back to earlier times….

She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell. And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place…at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory…”

— Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1: Swann’s Way.

What better cakes to bake for a wet Sunday afternoon when I want to look back on the last year?

The rain was lashing against the windows and all over Britain people were staring at the dismal weather and deciding to stay inside. We were going to do the same but I was going to make tea time special to celebrate this special day.

To make madeleines you need a madeleine tin. These have a wonderful scalloped base that are essential for the perfect madeleine. You won’t regret buying one (if you need any encouragement, that is) If you are looking at kinds to buy, avoid the silicone ones – the metal heats better and is  much easier to handle than a wobbly, rubbery tray.

You also need good instructions and the best I have found (after intensive searches) is from David Leibovitz  on “Living the sweet life in Paris”

First of all melt, then let cool, 120g unsalted butter.

You will use most of it in the cake batter but just lightly brush the madeleine tins with a quick wipe of melted butter.

Sprinkle the buttered tins with flour

Then upend the tin over the sink and shake off the excess.

Put the tin in the freezer to chill down properly.

In the bowl of a mixer, put a pinch of salt, 130g of golden granulated sugar and three large eggs (that have been allowed to come to room temperature)

Whisk them together for five minutes until the mix becomes pale and thickens slightly.

Weigh out 175g of fine plain flour – I always use ’00’ (it’s available in most supermarkets now, in the baking aisle) and add 1 level teaspoon of baking powder. The baking powder makes them rise well, giving the traditional (and desired) “humpy” effect on the back of the finished madeleines.

Sieve the flour mix into the egg and sugar bow and fold it in carefully.

Zest a lemon and add it to the melted butter. Remember to scrub the lemon if it is a waxed one.

Once the flour is in, add a little of the melted butter and fold it in gently.


Gradually, add it all slowly and carefully. Don’t overwork it because all that will do is toughen the gluten. Just fold it in as lightly and smoothly as possible.

Pour your beautifully smooth and silky batter into a jug and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. You can make the madeleine batter up to 12 hours ahead, if that will suit you?  What a great thing that would be if you had people coming round!

When you are ready, heat the the oven to 220 degrees C/425 degrees F

Get your beautifully frozen tin from the freezer

… and spoon in a dollop of the madeleine mix

The madeleines will only take between 8 or 9 minutes, so while they are baking, make some  tea.

We love beautifully fragrant green tea and I think the pure, delicate taste would be perfect with the light, sweet cakes.

As the tea infuses the leaves unfurl.

At the same time,  the madeleines are ready.

Beautifully humped and golden.

They are tipped out onto a wire rack to cool slightly. The underside has the gorgeous scalloped markings of the perfect madeleine.

Golden, sweet, warm cakes. Light and delicious.

We ate them with our steaming cups of tea as we looked back over the past year. We used the random post picker button on the main website page (which you can also get to by clicking on the Bear in the top corner) and read about meals and treats and smiled as we did so.

The weather may have been awful but the madeleines were fabulous.

Happy Anniversary to the blog!

Hello! Nice to see you…all 1010 of you!

One of the lovely things about writing all this was discovering that it was read by more than just me, the Bear and those friends who specifically wanted to know what I was doing.

It was a surprise really. When I look back at the early posts, there were comments from my friends and I really thought that would be it. I hadn’t really even thought of the layout of the blog – I’d just chosen a theme that looked like scraps of paper because that’s what my recipe book looked like. There was no need, or so I thought, for anything other than that.

I’d chosen WordPress because when I’d Googled “best blog software” that was what came up. All I can say is that (as I haven’t used any other software) WordPress is quick and easy and has been perfect for me. You can add what they call “widgets” or “plug ins” which put extra information on the blog.

I started by putting on a Tag Cloud – you can see that on the far right – the more often a word is tagged, the bigger the word gets in the cloud. From that you’ll get some kind of idea what kind of cooking goes on in here… butter and double cream seem to be featured quite a lot….

No real plan, you see.

Yet it evolved. Nearly eleven months later there’s been quite a change.

More and more people started reading the blog and I got more and more interested in seeing the growth. I discovered that if you added Feedjit to the blog, you could see where people were coming from.

See that central column, with Live Feed at the head of it? That’s Feedjit. It tells me roughly where people are coming from and what they are reading… don’t worry, it doesn’t identify you, it just says roughly where your internet provider is. I can see when my brother or his wife check in as their home town shows up. Sometimes I recognise the locations of my friends and that is such a great feeling.  My friend Angela moved to the USA well over a year ago and whenever I see Kennesaw, Georgia pop up, I know it is likely to be her. She doesn’t live in Kennesaw by the way, which is what I mean when I say it doesn’t show exact locations.

I can sometimes work out who is looking (or has looked in the time window that Feedjit is showing me) by the locations and the comments posted. My blogging friends turn up regularly and there’s always that little jump of excitement. Sometimes I see the same location pop up and I have no idea who is there. San Antonio, for instance… hello, San Antonio! I’ve seen your location popping up for months but I don’t think you have ever commented.

You can look at it on a map, too… oh the sheer excitement when I saw little flags popping up, first in the UK where my immediate friends were, then the USA and Canada… and then the rest of the world.

If you look at the bottom of the Feedjit column, you can see there’s a menu option.

Go on, go to that and pick Live Traffic Map – you can look at the information, too!

It shows you the daily traffic across the world.

That’s you lot, that is. Well, that’s you lot as I write this. It will change of course.

You can zoom in and see more clearly where people are and if you hover over a flag you can see what people are reading there. Isn’t that fantastic?  I look at the map every day and I’m permanently amazed that people from all over the world call in.  I hope you all like it.

I added a little heart button as a widget so people could click if they liked what I’d written and that changes the Most Liked Posts. If you want to see what they are, look in the far right column. At the moment it is Plate of Beef, the delicious slow roasted hunk of meat that I love to cook for friends. If you read a post you like, click the heart and change the ratings!

Next, I added a Blogroll – a list of links to my favourite blogs. If you get bored reading my blog, look at the list and see if there’s anything there that takes your fancy. I can while away many a happy hour just reading what my friends (and yes, I feel like they are my friends now) have been writing. I’ve had some great ideas from them and maybe you’ll find some there, too.

When I started this, the Bear set up a website to host the blog on and for the past eleven months that’s all it did. There was nothing on the page, it just took you here.

But now, if you go to www.wendall.org  you get to the home page and that gives you links to the blog, to Facebook, to Twitter and even methods of contacting me, if you want to do that. You can save that as a web page and use that to navigate to various sections.

Twitter feed shows up there too as well as the last five posts I’ve written.

The Bear, being a computer genius, even managed to put a random post picker on there… you just click and a random selection of posts, that have been written since the blog started, pop up. If you haven’t been reading since the beginning (or even if you have) give that a go.

I’m really very pleased with it all.

Yesterday, though, was perhaps the best day of all.

There’s another section that covers the statistics. The bit that interested me the most was the amount of unique visitors.

What that means is that it monitors not how many times the pages are looked at but how many separate people come here in each month.

On my first month I was amazed to find there were 200 or so. The numbers crept up slowly and yesterday? Well yesterday, when I looked at Awstats, this is what I saw.

Yesterday, I broke the 1000 barrier! And it’s not even the end of the month yet.

Apparently my squeal of excitement was heard in the next office.

So, thank you. Thank you ALL 1010 of you.

Come and say hello, even if it is just to say where you are from. Explore the pages and share the excitement with me. I wonder how things will have changed by the time I get to the first anniversary?

I hope you’ll all still be here.

Sabrina cracks an egg scandal!

One of the joys of blogging (both writing and reading) is that you get to know so many people and learn so much about food and recipes; triumphs and disasters and the passions that drive people to cook. Blogging provides us with a way to communicate with each other. We can share in what we cook and eat and also what we think.

One of the things I am most passionate about is the use of good ingredients. I buy and use my vegetables as I need them, to make sure they are fresh and local whenever possible; if I eat meat then it has to be from an animal that has been treated well; if I use eggs then they have to be free range. I would never knowingly use battery farmed eggs – I have seen what a battery farm does to hens and it is cruel and disgusting. I love getting my eggs from our local farm and I can always see and taste the difference – the yolks are large and golden and the whites are clear. Whatever I make from them reflects the quality of the eggs.

 The eggs may be different sizes

Some of them are real whoppers… but they are always fresh and they are always free range.

Now, because I cook so much, I rarely buy anything that is ready made. When I do, it is from premium ranges and I expect, from a premium range, that they will be using premium products. I do not expect to find that battery hen eggs have been used in there. I normally make my own mayonnaise but when I don’t I use Hellman’s – delicious and smooth Hellman’s… made with free range eggs.

So it can be done and it can be done on a very large scale… goodness knows how many millions of gallons of mayonnaise are made by Hellman’s but they manage it. A mainstream product using free range eggs. Well done, Hellman’s.

It was, therefore, a huge surprise to read my friend Sabrina’s blog  (she of the famous and delicious Sabrina’s Chicken) and see that she has discovered that Gü, makers of so-called premium chocolate puddings, were using battery hen eggs in up to 90% of their puddings. These are puddings that promote themselves as top end luxury products. You expect the best – you certainly pay the best prices for them. You do not expect to find they are using cheap eggs from hens crammed in cages, producing eggs till they die, still in their cage. Why don’t they make this clear? This lack of transparency makes me look at them in a new light. No longer a high quality company with high quality products… but a disappointing sham.

Please follow this link to Sabrina’s Passions and read about her battle to get Gü to admit they are using battery eggs. I suppose the fact they are owned by a major battery egg producer might have something to do with it……

And just remember – just because something promotes itself as a premium product doesn’t mean they are following through with premium ingredients.

This is all about choice – if you don’t mind where your ingredients come from then don’t look any further. I choose to look and explore for the best option and it is disingenuous of  Gü to try and hide the facts.

The moral of this? Always read the ingredient list if you buy something ready made… or better still? Make it yourself!

High, high above the city – you can still grow your own fruit and vegetables!

Some of you may have picked up on the fact that nowadays the Bear and I live high above the city, in an apartment. We are at the top of the block, which is itself on top of a hill and have the most marvellous views over the city below us. One of the best things about living here is that in the morning the dawns are fantastic

I’ve always been an early riser and I love to make my coffee and look down over the city sleeping below.

Each day the dawn is different… sometimes misty and calm and sometimes outrageously colourful. It probably is the best part of the day.

We have the most incredible views all round because our apartment is on two levels and the top floor has walls of windows on three sides.


… and running the full length of the apartment is our balcony

It’s not a big balcony – it’s quite narrow, really – but I have managed to make the most of what I have. I knew I would be able to grow something – there were so many things I just didn’t want to be without.


There’s a fig tree in a pot with (so far) over thirty figs, ripening nicely.

Who would have thought you could grow figs so high up? It can get very windy up here but Brown Turkey Figs are very hardy (that tree was with me in the far north, in Durham and fruited well up there too) Figs produce best when their roots are confined so keeping it in a pot is the best thing for it.

I even have an apple tree up there – if you buy the single stem fruit trees, specifically grown for containers, it is amazing what you can get away with in the smallest of spaces. Despite being told that I should keep the balcony clear………

Of course, the Bear is forever on at me as I smuggle more and more onto the balcony. I just wait until he is travelling and then I bring something more from the north… Of course he was going to notice a five and a half feet tall apple tree. And as for that fig tree – well, that is in a terracotta pot and it half killed me getting it up to the top floor. Still, he is going to be happy when he can just wander outside and pick a fresh apple or ask for a juicy fig…

I have herbs, of course, there’s thyme and rosemary standing next to a pot of lavender on either side of the french doors and a large pot of sage. When I walk out onto the balcony when I get in from work, I brush past the plants and smell their gorgeous perfumes.

We have herb pots (carefully attached to the railings) all along the top of the wall, so I can go and cut fresh sweet basil, coriander, parsley (both curly and flat leaved), mint, chives, garlic chives, a huge selection of salad leaves that I can cut at and go back for more almost daily.

It’s where I grow pots of chillies, ready for cooking with

or preserving in oil

This year, my brother has given me three chilli plants – Pinocchio, Decayenne and Heatwave, all grown from seed. I really should get some jalapeno chillies going as well, though at this time of year I’ll have to buy a seedling.


And that’s not all I have up there… there’s a bay tree and an olive tree growing there too. OK, I use the bay leaves but somehow I don’t think I will be brining my own olives.

It’s flowering now and it did have fruit on it last year but they were small and didn’t amount to much.

 The top of an apartment block in the Midlands just isn’t the same as a sun scorched hillside in Greece.

My cousin has her own allotment and always starts her seeds off in time and sends me the seedlings… this year her gorgeous french beans and a couple of sunflowers.  I like to snap off a bean and eat it as I water the pots. There’s a sweetness about them, straight from the stem.

My wild garlic grows up there in a pot

and it is the first thing I can eat from my balcony garden.

I’d love to grow more, of course, but what I do grow is pretty good for such a small space. I would love an allotment but the ones nearest to our apartment, St Ann’s Allotments, have a waiting list as long as your arm. I’ve been on the list for a couple of years now and I suppose I shall be on there for a few years yet.

When I moved here, to be with the Bear, I remember thinking there would be so much I would miss and so much I wouldn’t be able to do if we lived in apartment. Do you know what? I probably grow more up here than I did in the north.

No matter how small a space you live in, there is always room for something to grow. And there’s nothing like the wonderful sense of achievement you get when you can just walk outside and bring in something perfectly fresh that you have grown yourself.

What do you grow?  What couldn’t you live without?


You know how some days can go wrong…. and keep on going wrong ? It´s as if the tone of the day has been set.

Well, that didn´t happen to us.

I went in to work, did what I had to, came home and started cleaning and packing… everything was done quickly and my small suitcase shut easily.

I knew things were going to be good when we got to the M1

That is the M1 on a Friday afternoon.

Anyone of you who has driven on the M1 at any time knows that it´s not normally like that. And as for a Friday afternoon? Unheard of.

It´s normally nose to tail traffic and there we were, swooping down to Heathrow. The sun was beating down and the air con kept us beautifully cooled… the radio was on and I sang along happily. OK, so the Bear wasn´t that enamoured of AC/DC but I liked it and that´s what counts, eh?

That is a good omen for our trip.

As was the fact that the hotel, despite its rather faded glamour, had a restaurant with open doors to a decked area and our chilled rose was perfect.

We flew first to Frankfurt and from there to Buenos Aires.

Now the way we were flying involved me taking the Bear´s airmiles to pay for my ticket. He travels so much there was enough there for me to fly out… and what was even better was the fact that there were no economy seats left for airmiles passengers. Just business class.

(See what I mean about things falling into place?)

The fact that his ticket, booked for him for his conference , was economy… well……

Imagine the luxury, I thought, the space… the comfort … the good food served on china plates… the fine wines….

And this is what I ate.

Before you think that Lufthansa business class isn´t worth it, I´d better explain.

The poor Bear was working so hard that it seemed really rotten to cramp him in the back of the plane for well over 13 hours so I gave him my seat. Off he went to the front of the plane and luxury and off I trotted to the back of the plane and the delights of some truly bizarre spaghetti and a luridly coloured jelly topped cake.

Lufthansa had somehow managed to swap the window economy seat that was checked in for us at 4.50am into a middle seat between two large men. That could have been a disaster until I had a word with the airhostess and got myself moved to a lovely window seat with a spare seat between me and Maria – my new friend! We talked for ages about travel and blogging. One of the great things about travelling is you never know who you will meet or what friends you can make.

See? Everything turning out well.

We soared over Europe and down across Africa and over the flat calm of the Atlantic

See how the clouds are reflected onto the sea? Perfect.

I wish I could say the same for the food, though.

That was turkey with mashed potatoes and carrots. Apparently.

The potato appears to have been squirted from some high pressure nozzle and had the strangest taste and texture. Still, it was better than the spaghetti.

That wasn´t  going to keep me fed for the full thirteen hours so when the Bear came back to see me (having had food served on china plates, delicous and dainty starters, main courses, puddings and cheeses) I sent him to get me something

Corny Big.

Not the world´s most appetising snack

Seeds (and I presume corn) covered on the bottom with a thin layer of not very good chocolate with that odd white bloom on it that suggests it has got too hot somewhere along the journey and an overwhelming smell of oranges.

There will be fans of this somewhere, I suppose but it certainly didn´t make me start searching the internet to find suppliers when I got back to the UK.

Maybe they would need to tweak it for the British market.

Like, change the name, the chocolate and the taste of it.

The other thing he brought back for me was

Exquisa snack.…. a European cheesecake. Or that´s what it said on the packet. It also said “mmmmmh”

Maybe I don´t have a European palate?

I ate it though.

Thank God the Bear trotted back from business class bringing me the truffles he had been served with his coffee. I would have taken a picture of them but I was too busy stuffing them in my mouth. Now THAT was chocolate.

I read books on my Sony eReader (surely the greatest development ever for a voracious reader with limited baggage capacity.. I read three books on that flight and I have another 22 in there ready to be read) and looked out of the window

I watched the sun set as we flew over Brazil.

We flew on.

And eventually, there was Buenos Aires beneath us.

We were here. Argentina, at last.

Don´t cry for me, will you?

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