Lemons in Venice

Well, not exactly. This is a lemon tree in Clifton Nurseries, the garden centre in London’s Little Venice. The name was apparently coined by Robert Browning the poet and referred to the area where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regent’s Canal. It’s a picturesque area with narrowboat cruises, cafés and creamy stucco houses.

Lemons are more often seen growing in Sicily, but for some reason they seem to thrive in cooler climates, indoors. I’ve found a wonderfully illustrated guide to growing lemons with every detail of what you need and how to do it. Click on the photo to get started.

If you are less than committed and you live near Paddington/Maida Vale in London, head over to the bright airy café in Clifton Nurseries and just enjoy the lemon trees there.

Lemons in Venice

Well, not exactly. This is a lemon tree in Clifton Nurseries, the garden centre in London’s Little Venice. The name was apparently coined by Robert Browning the poet and referred to the area where the Grand Union Canal meets the Regent’s Canal. It’s a picturesque area with narrowboat cruises, cafés and creamy stucco houses.

Lemons are more often seen growing in Sicily, but for some reason they seem to thrive in cooler climates, indoors. I’ve found a wonderfully illustrated guide to growing lemons with every detail of what you need and how to do it. Click on the photo to get started.

If you are less than committed and you live near Paddington/Maida Vale in London, head over to the bright airy café in Clifton Nurseries and just enjoy the lemon trees there.

Elephants never forget
This sounds like a cliché but it turns out to be true. Scientific research has shown that during a severe drought in 1993 in Tanzania, elephants could not only recognize one another but could also recall routes to different food and water sources when their usual areas dried up.
Here are some more thoughts on memory:
“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” 
Abraham Lincoln
“Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”
Oscar Wilde
“Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.”
Kurt Cobain
“There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory and I forget the third.”
Timothy Leary
(The picture of the elephant, if I remember correctly, was taken at a festival in Jaipur, India.)

Elephants never forget

This sounds like a cliché but it turns out to be true. Scientific research has shown that during a severe drought in 1993 in Tanzania, elephants could not only recognize one another but could also recall routes to different food and water sources when their usual areas dried up.

Here are some more thoughts on memory:

No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”

Abraham Lincoln

Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Oscar Wilde

Drugs are a waste of time. They destroy your memory and your self-respect and everything that goes along with your self-esteem. They’re no good at all.”

Kurt Cobain

There are three side effects of acid: enhanced long-term memory, decreased short-term memory and I forget the third.”

Timothy Leary

(The picture of the elephant, if I remember correctly, was taken at a festival in Jaipur, India.)

Fun with eggs

Since I have put up a new post every day for four years, I hope I can be forgiven for repeating some of my favourite photos. So this week (and last week) I’ve brought out some from the archive to illustrate current thoughts.

The top picture is a teapot with legs. If someone made you a breakfast of a couple of eggs and a cup of tea like this, you couldn’t resist a smile. Then the lower photo shows one of a set of dishes, bought in the USA, with a ‘square’ egg, made with a special gadget that shapes a hard-boiled egg into a cube.

Food shouldn’t always be taken too seriously. But here is a story about someone still at school who is taking food very seriously. Flynn McGarry is a teenager who is running a pop-up restaurant and serving 8 elaborate courses to privileged customers. His talent is so extraordinary that he has already served apprenticeships in top American kitchens and works happily alongside trained chefs. His aim is not just to become a Michelin starred chef himself, he wants to own the best restaurant in the world. Now that is serious. The New York Times has written a long piece about him. To read it, please click here: http://nyti.ms/1fe7A2v

Indian Sweets

The plateau of Mahabaleshwar, 285 km from Mumbai, is bound by valleys on all sides. Where better to have an ice cream parlour?

Juhu is a suburb of Mumbai. It’s one of the most affluent areas of the city and home to many Bollywood celebrities. The beach is best visited on weekend afternoons and evenings, when it comes alive with children’s rides, carnival-like amusements and food stands.

Bangalore

The first three photos in this set were taken at K.R. Market in Bangalore. The city has the third largest population in the country and is known as the Silicon Valley of India because of its prominence in IT (Information Technology).

For travellers more used to packaged fruits and vegetables in supermarkets back home, the stallholders and the displays in K.R. Market are an immense treat.

Children in South India

The boy in the top picture is too busy eating his meal to notice the cameraman. He’s near Juhu Beach in Mumbai.

The children in the centre photo are in Mahabeleshwar. Nicknamed the ‘land of strawberries’, it’s a hill station southwest of Pune.

In the bottom photo, taken in K.R. Market Bangalore, either the aubergines (eggplant) are selling exceptionally well, or Professor Jackson made the boys laugh!

To see more of his work, please click here: http://bit.ly/1eJ9UOQ



A week in India

I live in London so what I write for the blog is about European food. This week I’m putting up pictures of India. The photos reflect the life in three cities: Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai.

Life in South India is often hard. Yet what stands out from these images is the dignity (and the joy) of the people who make a living from selling what others need to eat. Whether in the countryside, on a beach or in a city, the food on display is fresh, bright and colourful.

The picture shows Kumkuma - powders used for social and religious markings in Hinduism. They are made from turmeric or saffron. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of slaked lime, which turns the rich yellow into red. This is then used for forehead decorations called bindi (meaning a drop or small particle). These are bright dots of red applied to the centre of the forehead close to the eyebrows. Other colours are used with a sign or piece of jewellery, worn in the same place.

The photos were taken by computer scientist Professor Daniel Jackson. He also produces professional work with his camera. You can see his blog on photography here: http://dnj.tumblr.com/

Matzah and yemma

The top picture is matzah or unleavened bread. It’s what we eat instead of normal bread for the whole week of Passover. It’s crisp and dry. At the Seder Service it’s eaten with bitter herbs to remind us of the harsh lives of the Israelite slaves in Egypt.

During the week of the Festival, we eat matzah with butter, cheese, jam or best of all, a Portuguese/Jewish spread called yemma.

Yemma (in the lower photo) is made from egg yolks, fresh vanilla pods and sugar. From the ingredients you can see that this is not a slimming spread. But it is totally, amazingly delicious.

You can also use it as a filling for a flourless hazelnut cake.

If you’d like to know more, and how to make it, please click here: http://bit.ly/1mHd8a0 and it will take you to what I wrote a year ago. There’s also an article about the origins of this unusual spread.

A book is born

For some months I have been putting the finishing touches to my novel SEXTET. Now it is about to be published. It’s not about food. It’s a modern story, set in Europe in the present day, involving six characters whose lives are enmeshed in danger, excitement and disaster.

SEXTET has been included in an exciting book launch to take place later this month. The organisers were seeking 'ten incredibly talented, unknown authors' promising journalists 'good writing and commercial potential'.

Last week they wrote to tell me that SEXTET was one of the first four to be chosen! So I’ll be there, on April 30th.

The book will be available in paperback on Amazon and also on the Kindle. Anyone who wants to read the electronic version will be able to download it FREE on three selected days.

I’ll keep you posted about the FREE copies.

Watch this space for more news.



(The photo shows a floating bookshelf: the work of YOY, a Tokyo based design studio. Click here: http://yoy-idea.jp/works/ to find out more.)

Mille Feuille

Everyone is allowed favourites, and this is my absolute, best ever kind of pâtisserie. It’s a French mille feuille - or thousand leaves. These home made ones are far from the perfectly shaped and finished slices you see in pastry shops. But they taste amazing - custard oozing out through the pastry leaves, and coffee icing piped in a ‘feather pattern’ over the white icing on the top.

If you want an idea of how it’s done (certainly not a detailed, step-by-step instruction) click on the picture to find a video. It lasts about two minutes. It takes a lot longer than that to make mille feuilles so perhaps you want to go and buy them anyway!

Churros

As I mentioned in my post about Passover yesterday, we don’t eat bread for a week during the Festival. But the rules also extend to cakes or anything made with flour. So in preparation this week I am using up bags of flour, so I won’t have any left in the house.

These are Spanish churros - doughnuts that are fried and dipped in coffee in the mornings. My version is slightly unusual in that the piped mixture is baked instead of being fried in oil. They have to be eaten straight away - when they come out of the oven crisp and hot. They are then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. (Please click on the photo if you’d like the recipe.)

Maravilloso - as they say in Spain!



No bread for a week

Coming up next week is the Jewish festival of Passover. Some of you may know that this is to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, detailed in the Bible. For observant Jews this means telling the story at an event called the Seder. Because the Jews had to flee from their captors in a hurry there was no time for their bread to rise and they had to make unleavened bread. So to remind us of this we don’t eat bread for a whole week.

So there’ll be no toast, no bagels, no French bread for breakfast - as in the picture. Could you manage without a sandwich for eight whole days?

A passion for purple

The brilliant colour of some vegetables can be caught on camera or in a painting. Unfortunately it doesn’t last. When the broccoli (in the top picture) or the artichokes (in the lower one) are cooked, they often revert to green. But the taste is still something special.

Here’s an idea to excite any children you know. Put together a selection of dips: mayonnaise with a squeeze of lemon, sour cream with chives, hot melted butter. Then cook the vegetables and invite the children to come and play. Show them how to peel the leaves off the artichoke, sucking the fleshy part at the bottom and cutting the heart into bite size pieces. Let them choose, trying out the different dips, waving the broccoli through the mayonnaise or sour cream, licking the butter off their fingers. I bet after that they won’t be saying “I don’t like vegetables”.

Available books

This looks like a telephone box. They don’t have many of these any more, since everyone has a mobile (cell) phone and they don’t need to search for one on the street.

The glass box is a public exchange book booth along the Rhine in Dusseldorf, Germany. It was posted by bookorithms - via Wordpainting.(http://bookorithms.tumblr.com). I like the idea of walking along the road and stopping off to choose or exchange a book.

For those who are interested in reading, here are some thoughts:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
Groucho Marx

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
Haruki Murakami

Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Stephen King in On Writing: A memoir of the Craft.

There is a row going on in the UK about a ban on bringing in books for those serving time in prison. Many famous authors have spoken out about prisoners being barred from access to books, but here is the really sad thing: the head of the prison service said no prisoner had complained about the ban since it came into force five months ago.

Stilton

Stilton is a blue cheese that is often served at Christmas. Its rich, salty, deep flavour has made it one of the most popular British cheeses. It gets its name from the village in Cambridgeshire where a pressed, cooked cream cheese of that name was first made. It’s not clear how it evolved into a semi-hard unpressed blue vein cheese which by law can only now be made in the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire. It takes 136 pints (78 litres) milk to make one whole cheese which weighs 17 lbs/8 kilos.

It’s certainly a favourite with the Man in the Armchair Kitchen. So when he mentioned to his sons that he’d like some for his birthday, he never expected the size of the piece that arrived in the post. It was, in fact, a quarter of a whole cheese. He began to do a quick calculation of the calories in this 2 kg piece (at 124 calories for each 30g) and made the only sensible decision: not to eat it all at once. So we cut it into pieces and stored most of them in the freezer. Stilton is the only cheese that can be successfully frozen without losing taste or texture. We just have to remember to get it out and put it in the fridge the night before we want it, to let it defrost slowly.