Comfort food in a time of Covid-19 – I

I started revising this 2014 post as we entered month two of lockdown in South Africa.  Although we moved from level 5 to level 4 on the first of May, for many, there was no material change to our lives.  Speaking for myself:  the novelty has worn off.  Reserves – of all types – are wearing thin.  We now approach the end of month two and the promise of level 3 in eight days’ time.  There’s a lot about it we don’t know.  Some we do:  social and physical distancing will continue.


Not knowing when we’ll be able to break bread with friends, let alone give up virtual hugs, is beginning to tell.  Not to mention not being able to trot down the road to extend physical birthday wishes with real hugs and kisses.  I’m feeling it.  For the birthday girl whose birthday it is, as I write, and who lives alone.  I cannot imagine.

For her:

A bunch of brightness and that went with a brief over-the-gate conversation

Autumn is glorious.  I always say it’s my favourite season.  It is. This year, it’s passing us by we must ignore it. It’s the colours.

It’s the odd rain shower that washes everything clean and leaves the last of the summer brightness covered in sparkles.

I am sure that in the Northern Hemisphere, there are folk feeling the same way about spring.  The kitchen, unlike in other households, is getting less.  Although I cook every day, as usual, I’ve not been cooking as much or spending quite so much time in the kitchen.  Also, given the funk, there’s been a lot of comfort food.  I’ve already shared one of my favourites.  Cottage pie is another.

Tatties and neeps

I grew up with tatties and mince.  It was not my favourite meal because it was  always accompanied by heaps of grey, watery, mashed neeps.  Occasionally, they included the odd carrot.  And mashed potatoes.  I’m not fond of them either – on their own.  Actually, I’m not that fond of mash.  Period.  In combination with mince (ground beef for my American readers), tatties and neeps made for a meal of slop.  Only good for invalids.  In my then childish, and now, adult, opinion.

Tatties and neeps – is probably one of the few combinations in my Scottish heritage, that I don’t get.  Neeps (turnips, for the uninitiated….)  Turnips are one of the very few vegetables I dislike.  Also, if you’re wondering, I have eaten, and do, like haggis.  I keep on threatening to make it. We shall see.

Turnips, under the influence of my accidental vegan blogpal, Katie (@plantstoplanks), I’m planning to give another try.  In a guise other than mashed or in copious quantities in soup. Watch this space.

I digress.

So, now I’ve had a mini melt-down, let me get back to cottage pie. (No, I”m not going to entertain the discussion about the difference between this and Shepherd’s pie….)

Tatties and neeps – for grown-ups

I prepare my mince with braised onions and herbs – either rosemary or thyme – not both, and the choice depends on the mood.  If neither is available, a half to a teaspoon of McGregor Herbes de Provence does just as well.  Some would say, better.


Don’t forget to add the essential crushed clove of garlic.  I always include grated carrot and courgette if I have a lot of them – a great way to con those with a vegetable aversion…), and let this mixture simmer for quite a long time.  Depending on how quickly the liquid reduces, add a bit of water and towards the end of the cook, a good glug of red wine.  This last gives your meat a lovely rich flavour.

Topping it off

The topping is not just mashed potato:  I often use cauliflower – with mashed with a generous quantity of salty butter and pepper.

Oh, and that cauliflower is from our garden…before the drought. This year’s crop is planted….

Occasionally, I’ll do a combination of cauliflower and butternut.  This depends on the size of the cauliflower.  Rarely is it just potato which I also usually combine with butternut and ooccasionally add a good dollop of yoghurt.

For mashing, depending on your preference and how creamy, rustic or chunky you like your topping, the toppings can be hand mashed, puréed or creamed.  My choices vary and are often dictated by the day’s mood.

Finally, layer the mince in the bottom of an oven proof dish and then pile the mashed vegetables on top. Spread this over the meat to the edges of the dish. Dot with knobs of butter. Bake in a moderate oven until the top is brown.

Dot this with knobs of butter and cook in the oven until it’s golden brown and beginning to crisp on top.

Covid-19 comfort food served with homemade chutney.

Last but not least, if you want a “proper” recipe, you are welcome to download a printable file here.  If you do, consider buying me a coffee?

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma


Post Script

In yet another aspect of my life, I offer

online English tutoring services

every day conversation and formal presentations
writing – emails and reports, academic and white papers
formal grammar, spelling and punctuation
more information here

And then there’s more:

  • If this post might seem familiar, it’s because I’m doing two things:
    • re-vamping old recipes.  As I do this, I plan to add them in a file format that you can download and print.  If you download recipes, buy me a ko-fi?
    • and “re-capturing” nearly two years’ worth of posts because of this.
  • If you’re interested in a soft entry into the world of crypto currency and monetising WordPress blog, use the fantastic Steempress plugin to post directly to the Hive blockchain.  Click on the image below to sign up
  • I’m still blogging on Steem with the occasional post on Medium.

Variations on a theme: mac & cheese three ways

Not only is the weather turning, but because we’re locked in thanks to Covid-19, we’re looking for comfort food.  I shared these ideas way back in 2014.  I was reminded about them the other day, when there was a “debate” on the merits (or otherwise) of macaroni cheese.  There’s an even split between love and hate.

Funnily enough, this dish rarely appeared on our family table – my father did not like white sauces – a foundation of any good macaroni cheese. The Husband, when I first met him, viewed macaroni cheese with great suspicion: his mother’s version, he says, was bullet proof!  It was that solid.

Variations on a theme

Over the years, I have made various versions, partly because it’s an easy and warming meal to make.  Because one can have too much of a good thing, I have at least three variations on this universal favourite.  None of them actually with macaroni except, perhaps the last, now that I make fresh pasta.

Not negotiable:  Béchamel

All three of the variations have two things in common – pasta, obviously, and a Béchamel (white) sauce. The choice of pasta is personal and depends on the variation. The secret to a really flavourful Béchamel sauce is to infuse the milk with a bay leaf, carrot, clove of garlic and a couple of peppercorns before making the sauce.

Depending on the quantity I need, take 250 – 500ml of milk, and add the bits I’ve mentioned.  Blast it in the microwave for one to two minutes and then leave it to infuse for a while.

In case you need a reminder – white sauce is butter, melted, to which you add flour to make a roux; then add the warm milk and cook to the consistency you want.  Finally, add the cheese and other ingredients.

My Mac & Cheese Epiphany at the Brooklyn  Diner, NYC

A few years ago, on a rainy Sunday in January, when I was in New York City for a conference, colleagues and I were cold and hungry after a day of site-seeing. We needed supper and happened on the Brooklyn Diner, off Times Square.  As we sat waiting for supper, I remember watching the Nasdaq ticker and the constantly rising US debt through the window.


Although a lone South African among a group of Aussies, we had one thing in common: we hated the cold.  Two of us, at least, just wanted the kind of food we could make at home.  There it was: Mac & Cheese!

When it arrived, it wasn’t what we had expected: it didn’t look very appetising.  Tagliatelle smothered in the palest of creamy sauces, slopped on the plate.  It’s not the baked Mac & Cheese that appears on the current menu.  While they say you eat with your eyes, this was just the most delicious, macaroni cheese I had tasted in years – creamy, cheesy and tangy. Just what the doctor ordered. I make my own version and there are two secrets: fresh, egg-rich pasta and the sauce that is made with whole milk, butter and at least three cheeses – and hot English Mustard.

Through trial and error, I have worked out that the best cheeses are cottage cheese, and a really mature, tangy cheddar.  Finish of with some Parmesan or really mature, hard, sharp Boerenkaas to grate over the top. Full cream yoghurt in addition to milk, it adds a certain depth and piquancy to the flavour. In terms of quantities, that’s a matter of taste, and how tangy you like the sauce.  I also help it along with the addition of a quarter to a half teaspoon of hot English mustard powder.


Make sure that the sauce is not too thick – you want it to coat the tagliatelle. This is a saucy meal that is not dry. Cook the pasta, drain it, and serve, generously coated in the rich, tangy, creamy cheese sauce.

Enjoy it either with or without a salad.

Broccoli Mac & Cheese

This is the healthier variation of macaroni cheese.  I make it with a mild cheddar cheese sauce.  Before I made my own pasta, I used penne. The variation, here, is the broccoli and the blue cheese. Break the broccoli (or broccolini in this case) into florets/steam and then toss with the pasta and cheese sauce.

Pile into a large dish so that people can help themselves or into individual bowls. Either way, top with blue cheese.

Fiona’s “famous” baked mac & cheese*2014-02-09 09.53.17-1

This is my “original” recipe “created” before I happened on the Brooklyn Diner or invented Broccoli & Blue.  Of course, it includes white sauce and either farfalatte (bow ties), penne or macaroni, depending on what’s in the cupboard. As with the other two, it takes a good quantity of cheese sauce.  What makes this different is that I usually include sautéed onion and sweet bell peppers (red and green), chopped bacon (optional), a little garlic and some fresh oreganum. If I have onions in the garden, I skip the onion at this stage and use the green leaves and add them later.

So, to assemble this, cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions, drain and return to the pot; add the sautéed vegetables (and the fresh onion leaves if using) and then stir in the cheese sauce. Place all of this into a large oven proof dish. If you like, top with a layer of sliced tomatoes followed by a generous layer of cheese.  End with a sprinkling of Parmesan which will give the top a lovely crunch. Place under the grill until golden brown and serve!

*The “famous” bit is because we have had spur-of-the-moment invitations to supper and taken this along and it turned into the hit of the evening….

If you’d like these ideas and they work for you, buy me a coffee?

Until next time, be well
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa

Photo: Selma

Post script

  • I’m participating in blogpal @tracyork’s April challenge of sharing a post every day during April – on the Hive blockchain.  I succeeded last year – on Steemit from which the new blockchain “hived off”… and…
  • It seems a good way to constructively use the time during a compulsory lock down, right?  For more about this initiative, please check out Traci’s post.

  • If you’d also like to both join the challenge and post from the WordPress platform to the Hive blockchain, sign up here.

Sweet peas…Tiger’s chilled minted pea soup

This year we grew peas.

So what?

PeasOrbsThere is something almost magical about peas that you pick and shell – to pop into your mouth – in the pea patch.  Little can beat the flavour of those little round orbs as they pop with their unique sweetness.

Peas are “up there” as my favourite vegetable.  I remember my mother freezing them – by the ton.  It’s amazing that there were any to freeze:  my sister and I used to sneak out of the house, through the courtyard, past the plum tree, over the lawn to the vegetable garden, where we would fill our faces with the sweetest peas in living memory.  First the peas, and then the shells.

I always have peas in the deep freeze;  besides anything, they’re a great standby.  Every year, I want to grow peas, and have tried, from time to time, over the years.  Tom was never that enthusiastic:  “You have to have lots of plants to have enough to eat,” he said.

Pea_patch2014We hadn’t tried growing peas in McGregor;  somehow this this year, I prevailed and we planted peas.  Just one packet.  The germination rate could have been better, but any way, we must have had about ten plants – more than we’d ever had.

I was delighted.  Even more so, when I discovered that the profusion of pods were filled with tiny peas.  It was all I could do to wait until they were plump enough to pluck and eat!

I suppose that as my favourite vegetable, peas are also a non-negotiable accompaniment of some the meals that are, for me, the very comforting:  egg and chips;  fish cakes….  I also add them to risotto (right at the end), to salads, raw, and always cook them with a large sprig of mint from the garden.  Oh, and the water you drain off those peas, is a wonderful addition to gravy and/or vegetable stock.

Peas are at their best when young, but when you grow your own, it’s inevitable that you miss some and if you’re lucky to have a good crop, you can’t eat them all at their sweetest.  So it was for us, last Monday, when we had our last picking.  Some of the peas were, as my Mum would have said, “rather elderly!”  I looked at PeasInPodsthis lot and thought that they’d not be good to freeze, let alone eat as a side dish.

It had been a hot day, and then I remembered Tiger’s chilled pea and mint soup that we had so enjoyed. I thought that I’d give it a bash.  No recipe, you understand, just Fiona on the fly.  So I flung the peas in a pot, along with some vegetable stock and cooked the up lot.  Not for too long, but longer than if we had been eating them “as is”.  Then I gave that lot a whizz with an immersion blender, and added some fresh mint, gave it another whizz and then put it into the fridge.  As I recall, Tiger’s soup was smooth and refreshing, and although creamy, not heavy.  So, as I didn’t have any cream, I added a little mascarpone.  With hind sight, I should have strained the soup, or cooked the mint in with the peas – fresh mint is a bit fibrous, so it doesn’t give one as smooth a puree as one would like, nor the visual impact, for that matter.  All of that said, the soup was more than edible.

Little did we know, as we enjoyed our Tiger-inspired chilled mint and pea soup, that on Sunday (yesterday), we would have been celebrating a lovely man, and a life well lived.  He, with his beloved Jill and four-legged Denzil, welcomed us to the village, before we were resident here.  They, and he, are integral to not just our earliest memories of McGregor, but the fabric of our community.  I shall make this soup again and it shall, forever, in our home, be known as Tiger’s chilled, minted pea soup.

Tiger's Chilled Minted Pea Soup

Post script:  Tiger was the co-owner and chef at Green Gables at the Old Mill, two doors away from us.  A visit to Green Gables is a non-negotiable part of any visit to our village.  Jill, you and your family are much in our thoughts.

Angel fish – astonishingly versatile

AngelfishA couple of weeks ago, the new season of Master Chef SA started, and I was watching with half an eye, as I was preparing our supper – angel fish.  Imagine my surprise when the first episode concluded with a boot camp – on a wharf in the Cape Town harbour – with the contestants having to prepare a dish with, yes, angel fish!

Before we moved to McGregor, we used to eat fish regularly, and over the last 10 or so years, the range of fresh fish available in the few independent fishmongers (as opposed to large supermarket chains), has shrunk enormously.  The implications of this, beyond availability for home consumption, is profound for both our environment, and for small fishers in South Africa.  However, that’s a rant for another time and place.

Inversely proportional to the reduced choice, is the increased price.  When I first moved to Cape Town some 22 years ago, my adventure with cooking fresh fish began.  I used to ask the lady behind the counter what was nice and how to cook it.  Being cash strapped, decisions were price-driven.  Consequently, and because hake seemed boring (and not always cost effective, and I am not fond of snoek), choices were limited:  Gurnard (shad) and angel fish.  Both, I discovered, are great eating – and very underrated.  In the Western Cape, Gurnard is not frequently available, so angel fish became our usual, and almost most favourite fish.  It remains so.  Even after moving, we still go into our “old” fish monger (Plumstead Fisheries), when we are in Cape Town.  A friend who commutes, also goes into the shop to get fresh fish for us – she has now got to know Desiree who has looked after us so well for about ten or so years now.  However, I digress…

A simple supper

Returning to angel fish – we eat it at least once a week.  Angel fish is moderately flavoured and relatively firm;  the fillets are thin, if you have a medium sized fish, so they don’t take much cooking. Tom is very fond of cooking over the coals (braai or barbecue), and will do so at any opportunity.  Having grown up in a land-locked country, when we first met, eating sea fish was foreign, and the first fish meal I did for him, he ate “met lang tande” (with long teeth), and was pleasantly surprised.  The next task was to get him to braai it:  a typical Western Cape way of eating fish.  Needless to say, some nearly fourteen or so years later, he’s a convert.

All that’s a long way of telling you that nine times out of ten, our angel fish is braaied on the Weber, over a moderate to dying fire, skin side down, regularly basted with a mixture that always includes an appropriate herb, garlic, butter and olive oil.  Recently, I’ve been using my lemon and parsley pesto as a base for what what is commonly referred to as “the paint”.

This is a simple, easy meal accompanied by a garden salad and potatoes (or not) boiled in their skins.  Depending on the weather (or the season, my mood and what’s in the garden) I will make a parsley or tartare sauce or a salsa, so although we eat the same thing, often, it doesn’t get boring.

Cold fish or luscious leftovers?

With only two of us, we often have fish left over, and I’m not one to throw away good food.  Prepared over the coals, the cooled fish has a lovely, light smokey flavour.  We have, on occasion, taken cold angel fish as a contribution to a picnic – the first time, against Tom’s better judgement.  On one occasion, there was quite a quantity and he was certain that we’d have lots left over:  what would I do with that?  “Make fish cakes,” was my immediate response.  But there was none left – no fish cakes!  On that occasion, the “paint” consisted of olive oil, butter, a little garlic and some grated ginger.

Fish cakes

Fish cakes are really easy to make, even if a little messy towards the end, with the egg-dipping and crumbing.  That said, Fish Cakes they are worth it and they freeze well, making them a great stand by.  Fish cakes are also a good way of using up extra potato and parsley sauce, which is what I did when I had a surfeit of fish, a week or so ago.  To make them, break up the fish, and mash the potato and then mix the two together, well.  Add the parsley sauce (if you have it; it’s not mandatory) and a good handful of fresh, chopped parsley.  Ensure this is well mixed in, season and add a lightly beaten egg to bind.

Then divide into cakes.  I’m not a great judge of size by eye and always used to end up with a load of unevenly sized fish cakes.  Now, I prepare a tray, covered with a layer of grease-proof paper, and then use a cookie cutter as a mould.  I press the mixture firmly into the shape and then once I’ve used it all up, I roll each cake in flour, dip it in beaten egg and then roll it in commercial bread crumbs:   fish cakes ready to fry.  At this point you can freeze them if you have more than you need.

Fish cakes - ready

I love fish cakes.  For me, they are a rare but indulgent comfort food.  I’ll eat them with lashings of tomato sauce (ketchup) and peas.  I’m especially comforted when the peas are freshly picked and lightly boiled/blanched with a sprig of mint.

Angel fish paté

Of course, to make fish cakes, you need a relatively large quantity of left over fish.  Often this isn’t the case, and one way of using up little bits of left over fish is to make a paté.  This has become one of the most popular products that I sell at McGregor’s Saturday pop-up market.  As far as quantities are concerned, use your discretion….

The paté consists of the left over fish, a spritz of dry white wine, a dollop of plain, creamed cottage cheese, a sprinkling of chives (or if it’s winter, and the chives have died back, green onion leaves) as well as salt and pepper.  Mix that all together, and you have angel fish paté.   Of course you can serve it with biscuits and/or fresh bread, but I have also served it in a lettuce leaf with a baby salad as a starter.

A last word (or two)

The South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) is a World Wildlife Fund initiative and, among other things, aims to create awareness about marine conservation and encourage people to eat fish responsibly, ensuring not just the sustainability of our oceans, but also, one hopes the re-establishment of stocks.

Both Angel Fish and Gurnard are on SASSI’s green list – at the moment.

I loved what the Master Chef contestants did with their angel fish and am grateful for a slew of new ideas….

Veg-ing out

wpid-20140730_200027-1.jpgI have flirted with vegetarianism on and off for about thirty years, particularly when I lived alone – which I have done, not unhappily, on and off, until I finally settled down with Tom.   One of the first, if not the first, recipe book I bought, was the A – Z of Vegetarian Cooking in South Africa.  And two of our favourite quiche fillings (leek & onion, and spinach & feta) are based on recipes from this book.  I do confess that I work very hard at not thinking about the journey that meat must take to reach my kitchen.

Consequently, entertaining friends who are vegetarian is fun! Well, I think so, anyway.  For some, it’s a challenge, so I thought I’d share with you what I did when our neighbours joined us for a long overdue dinner, a few weeks ago.

It was a Friday evening and Fridays are my day in the kitchen, preparing for the market.  This particular Friday, I was really in the mode, so it was in for a penny, in for a pound.  The broccoli was ready to pick and we had ripe gooseberries, so there were two ready ingredients.

That said, it was cold and miserable and had the makings of becoming even more so, and what is more warming than cottage pie, I thought.   So, instead of the beef mince, I used beautiful green lentils, soaked and cooked, that were added to sautéd onions and mushrooms.  This was seasoned with chopped garlic, some tomato paste, a twig of fresh rosemary and a good glug of red wine.  A lesson I learned, and which I had forgotten, was that it’s really easy to let this mixture dry out – watch it and add water and/or vegetable stock so that it stays nice and moist as the flavours develop.  Transferred to an oven proof dish, this was topped with a potato and butternut mash, dotted with knobs of butter and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes to half an hour.  The butter is what gives you the crispy, caremelised crust on the cottage pie which was served with a garden salad.

100_2974 100_3150So, we started our dinner with broccoli soup, made with the first picking, and discovered to my delight, that not only does Ant enjoy soup,  but particularly loves creamy ones.

For dessert, we had a gooseberry tart with jam I had made earlier in the day.

No meal is complete without wine.  We don’t really do the wine-pairing thing.  Although we do take the menu into consideration, we choose what we like, and what we think our guests will like.  As usual, we chose beautiful wines from our valley:  Tanagra‘s Heavenly Chaos (isn’t that a wonderful name for a wine?), a lovely red blend, which is beautifully different every year, and Springfield’s Life from Stone, one of my favourite Sauvignon Blanc wines.

Pat and Ant, it was fun – we’ll do it again! 100_3151

Waste not, want not – I

Both my parents grew up in the UK in the Second World War: Mum in Oxford, where her mother took in evacuees and then later also billeted soldiers. Dad grew up in Glasgow, and with his Broccoli 2sister, Belle, evacuated to a poultry farm . Consequently, we grew up constantly hearing, “waste not, want not”.  Little was thrown away.

So, last Friday, I was making quiches.  One of the fillings was broccoli and blue cheese. Having cut off the florets, I was left with this beautiful, thick broccoli stem.

Compostbucket2014Too good to put into the compost bucket, I thought; and it was a cold, cold day.

Soup is always a good lunch during winter, and a vegetable soup relatively quick to make. So, why not turn the stem into broccoli soup?

Here’s what I did: chopped an onion and sautéd it in a little butter, and then added about a table spoon of flour (you want the soup to have a bit of body). Covered the chopped stalk with vegetable stock and allowed it to boil. Simmer until the vegetables are soft; liquidise and then add some cheese (because I had some, I used Camembert) and liquidise again to ensure the cheese is well distributed. Re-heat and serve with sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg.


  • I use Ina Paarman’s vegetable stock powder – it’s a useful standby, and is neither too salty, nor has too many preservatives
  • Save some of the broccoli florets – steam them and add them to the soup when you serve it.
  • Of course, you can also add a swirl of cream or a dollop of Greek yoghurt to serve…



Crazy about Courgettes

We have always loved courgettes and eat them in a host of different ways.  Tom will even eat them raw, like an apple.  So, this year, we have successfully grown them, and when Sannie (pronounced “sunny – because she is) Boervrou, a farmer friend of ours dropped off a box of them, I had such fun making all sorts of things courgette – including for breakfast.  So, in addition to pasta carbonara, here are some other really cool ways to cook delicious courgettes – for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner!

Courgette Frittata

Regular readers of this blog know that breakfast is not usually my domain – other than 100_2900public holidays – and we’ve had a few of those in the last month.  The most recent was voting day in South Africa.  With no need to get up early, brunch was in order, and with fresh-from-the-vine courgette, and a beautiful autumn day, I thought that a frittata might be fun.  A frittata is like a Spanish omelette, but is grilled and can be eaten hot or cold.

I roughly grated one courgette and beat together three eggs to which I added a little milk, salt and pepper as well as a good chunk of butter, chopped into small pieces.  In a large pan, in hot olive oil and butter, lightly sauté the courgette and then pour in the egg mixture.  Swirl a little in the pan and then cook over a gentle heat until it starts to bubble.  While this is happening, warm the grill.  When the mixture is quite firm around the edges but “wet-ish” in the middle, sprinkle fresh, chopped origanum and a little finely grated Parmesan or pecorino over the top.   Place it under the grill until the egg is firm and the top is nicely browned.  A frittata can be served immediately or left to cool.  I served our courgette frittata warm, with tomatoes topped with a dollop of cottage cheese and grilled.

Zupa Zucchini

2014-05-09 08.49.08Courgette and Camembert soup makes a delicious light lunch, particularly in autumn.  This soup is quite special to me – the original recipe comes from a school friend who now lives in Melbourne, and whom I’ve not seen since school days – some 30-odd years ago.  We have reconnected through Facebook and now enjoy cricket “together”, continents apart.  So, to make this, you sauté onion and courgette (coarsely chopped) with a potato in a pot and then add stock (ratio of courgette to stock is 1:1).  Bring to the boil and simmer until all the vegetables are soft.  Liquidise and then season, add Camembert to taste and liquidise again to make sure that the Camembert is well distributed in the soup.

You can make this in a vegan, Kosher or Halaal form by using vegetable stock and omitting the cheese.  I have also substituted the potato with a little flour which is added to the vegetables to which you then add the warm or hot stock.

Stuffed courgettes

The last idea that I’m going to share with you is a delicious side dish.  The idea came from a few recipes I’ve used and the inclusion of rosemary was the consequence of a suggestion from a friend in the village.

Select nicely shaped, firm courgettes and, depending on the size, half or more, per person.  (It’s easier to work with larger ones, so I’d recommend large ones).  Cut in half and scoop out the centre and set aside.  Pop the shells into a moderate oven, drizzled with olive oil and bake for about 10 minutes – 100_2907make sure they stay firm.  Then, in a pan, sauté finely chopped onion, red pepper and a clove of garlic as well as the reserved flesh. Season to taste and add a little oreganum and/or parsley.  Remove the shells from the oven and then stuff, placing a sprig of fresh rosemary between pairs of courgettes – the lovely flavour gently infuses into the marrows as they cook.  Put this back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with fresh rosemary and serve as a side dish.

Don’t use dried rosemary, or chop rosemary and add it to the mixture – it is too strong and will overpower everything else.

© Fiona’s Favourites 2015

A twisted Vicheysoisse, among other things…

For the last year or so, I have been making and selling seasonal soups at our local pop-up market.  A soup that I made on a whim, and which we enjoyed, didn’t take off, so I didn’t Spinach and leeksmake it again.  In my recollection, there had been no sales.  Then, imagine my surprise, two Saturdays’ ago, a regular, who has been stocking up on soup, said, “What about that one you made with spinach and sweet potato?”

So, at Jean’s request, I made it again – this time in the height of summer.  Consequently, we tried it chilled:  it was as delicious cold as it was hot.  So, this is my twisted Vicheysoisse:

Roast the sweet potatoes – with onion and garlic if you like – for about 45 minutes.  Add to a large soup pot and then add roughly shredded spinach (including all the stalks – why waste them when you’re going to puree the soup anyway?), followed by vegetable stock to cover the sweet potato.   Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour, until all the vegetables are soft.  Puree with a hand blender and season to taste.  Serve with a swirl of plain yoghurt and a grating of nutmeg.

And, of course, the soup-making was accompanied by more seasonal quiche fillings – this time, with the addition of beautiful peppers from the garden.  Two different fillings – first, leeks with red pepers and then roasted vegetables (butternut, sweet potato, garlic, baby tomatoes, onions and peppers).

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