Sunday, 29 September 2013


Good Afternoon to you,

I have checked the preserved lemons, which I made here, and they are ready and waiting to be used.  When I opened the kilner jar, containing the preserved lemons, my senses were filled with a heady, lemony, salty, aroma.

I am looking forward to cooking with preserved lemons today, as for some reason, I have had to wait a little longer than usual, for these lemons to mature.  I'm not sure why, but that is not important now, as these yellow beauties are ready and waiting to be used.

The reason for my excitement is, I used my final preserved lemon, a couple of months ago, so my palette is patiently waiting, to be treated to these lovely, slightly salted lemons.

I know you are waiting to see which meat I have chosen to cook this tagine with today,

and here it is, my version of a Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Kalamata olives.  Sorry, I know this is a North African dish, but for me, Kalamata olives work beautifully..... and as you know, I am a little biased towards Greek olives. 

Now you have to admit, this does look delicious, but just before we start, I want to mention, that if possible, marinate the chicken overnight, as this will enhance the flavour of the chicken. Preparing the marinade is quick and simple and I find the simplest method for covering the chicken with the marinade, is to pour the marinade over the chicken and then use a pastry brush, to make sure every part of the chicken is covered.  If you want to enjoy this Tagine of Chicken on the same day, then  marinate for at least four hours. 

I can't wait to start cooking, so it is on with the apron and the music I have chosen to listen to today is,

Gerry Rafferty.  This whole album is special and I enjoy listening to every single song, but if I were pushed to choose my favourite song, I think it would have to be "Don't Give Up On Me". Sadly Gerry is no longer with us, but his wonderful music is with us forever.

So, if you have your choice of music playing, pop on your apron, and we will begin.


1 tsp of turmeric
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
(use 1 tsp of ground ginger if you do not have fresh ginger)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp of chilli flakes
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix the ingredients together to form a paste
and set aside for a moment.

Oh yes, before I forget to mention it, I had better mention it now,
be very careful
when using turmeric, because as beautiful as it's colour
is, you do not want bright yellow fingers, as this
spice does stain.


1 kg of chicken pieces
2 medium sized onions
285g of Kalamata Olives
3 tablespoons of olive oil
pinch of saffron threads
1 cinnamon stick
1 preserved lemon
1 tablespoon of lemon oil (from the preserved lemons)
8 fl oz water or chicken stock if you prefer

Pre-heat oven to 180C

Place the chicken pieces in a bowl and
pour the marinade over the chicken.
 Using a pastry brush,
cover all the chicken with the marinade.

Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge to 
marinate overnight.

Slice the onions 
Add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan
and brown the sliced onions.
When the onions are brown,
remove from the pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
 Heat the oil and add the chicken to the hot pan,
skin side down.
Add a couple of pieces of chicken at a time.
 Cook until the skin is golden in colour,
turn the chicken pieces and brown the other side.

Be careful, if you have a splatter guard, please use it,
if not stand well back, as the chicken will sizzle and spit.

When the chicken is browned, place into the base of the tagine 

Boil 8fl oz of water 
and add the saffron threads.
Leave for 5 minutes until the water has turned a
beautiful golden colour.

Whilst you are waiting for the saffron to develop,
remove one preserved lemon from the kilner jar

remove the pulp
finely slice 

If the Kalamata olives are in brine, then rinse well
in cold water.

Add the browned sliced onions,
the sliced preserved lemon
and Kalamata olives
to the chicken

Add 1 tablespoon of lemon oil (from the preserved lemons)
to the saffron water and mix together.

Pour over the chicken
and the final ingredient to add,

is the cinnamon stick, tuck this in between
the chicken.

Place the lid on the tagine
and cook in the oven for 45 minutes 
or until the chicken is tender

Honestly, this is as delicious as it looks.

I serve this Tagine of Chicken with either couscous or Bulgur wheat or sometimes just with bread.

You will have noticed that I have not added any salt to this Tagine of Chicken.  The reason for this, is, the preserved lemons are salty, as are the Kalamata olives..... and for me that seasons the dish perfectly.

Now I can hear you asking, what if I don't have a tagine? This is not a problem,  use a shallow casserole dish, with a tight fitting lid.

Often you will find recipes for tagines of lamb, which include dried fruits, such as apricots, sultanas and prunes and I have to say, I do enjoy lamb with dried fruits added, especially apricots..... it's because of that sweet tooth of mine.

In case you do not know what a tagine looks like,

I thought I would show you mine.  Tagines come in different sizes, but what they all have in common is the shallow dish.  The reason for this, is that food cooked in tagines have a small amount of liquid added, enough to cook the meat, but with a little sauce remaining at the end of the cooking process.

In Moroccan households, it would be traditional to cook a tagine over an open fire.  As lovely as this sounds, I am happy to make mine using  an oven.

I do hope I have inspired you, firstly, to make your own preserved lemons and secondly to make a tagine of chicken..... trust me, you won't be disappointed with the outcome.

Oh yes, one more thing, before I go, remember to remove the cinnamon stick before serving!

So take care and I will see you later in the week.

This week I will be joining,


Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Good Afternoon to you,

Yesterday is gone.
Tomorrow has not yet arrived.
We only have today.
Let us begin.

Mother Teresa

Tick, tock, tick, tock, where is the time going, it seems to be moving on so very quickly.  I think you will agree, when I say, how quickly the month of September has sped by.    The nights are certainly drawing-in now, and do you know, here in England, it is dark by seven o'clock in the evening. Gone are the wonderfully light evenings, when I could garden until nine thirty at night, when the fancy took me.

But, on the plus side, we have warm, cosy nights to look forward to, with the curtains drawn and lamps and candles lit. We have warm fires to create a beautiful warm glow in our  rooms and we have comforting Autumnal food to make and enjoy during these colder months.

Now, after saying all of this, and painting an Autumnal picture for you, you will never believe it when I tell you, we had the most gloriously, sunny day yesterday.  After a couple of weeks of really, miserable, cold weather, we woke up to the most wonderful sunny day. So I listened to Mother Teresa's words, "We only have today. Let us Begin" and I am so glad I did, as I had the most wonderful day. I enjoyed the garden and I pottered around doing a little of this and a little of that.    I managed to catch up with all my washing.... my laundry bin is empty, which is always a good thing. My washing was blowing in the breeze and was dry by 3 o'clock in the afternoon......  I do have a pile of ironing to finish, but I won't dwell on that now.  

When you live in a country where,  in one day, you can experience all three seasons, when the sun shines unexpectedly, it is always such a wonderful treat and I am glad I heeded Mother Teresa's words, as today, we have returned to our cold Autumn weather.

.... and talking of treats, the meal I am making today, is a meal I consider a nice little treat.  It has red onion, bacon, mushrooms which I love, and my favourite soft cheese Boursin.  Ordinarily I would spread Boursin on a cracker or some fresh bread, but occasionally, such as today, I will use Boursin to create a nice creamy sauce.

So this is our treat today,

Spaghetti with Boursin Cheese.  This dish is full of flavour and so satisfying and I would think it fair to say, quite a quick meal to make.

So, if your ready, pop on your apron, and the music I have chosen to listen to today, I know, you will absolutely love,

Madeleine Peyroux.  Natasha, introduced me to Madeleine's gorgeous music a few years ago. That is one of the fabulous things about our daughters, they both love music, and if they hear music, which they think I will enjoy listening to, then they will always let me know.  We were living in Cyprus at the time and Natasha sent me this Cd, as she thought I would love it and she was certainly spot on, as I love Madeleine's bluesy voice. I have to say, I think there is a hint of Billie Holliday in Madeleine's voice. Take a listen to "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go", and also "Dance Me To The End Of Time" and let me know what you think.  I will be amazed if you don't rush out and buy this Cd yourself.

Oh dear, I do wax lyrical about the music I enjoy, don't I,  so I had better stop and get on, otherwise you will never get to cook Spaghetti with Boursin Cheese.


2 cloves of smoked garlic
(normal garlic will be fine if you cannot find smoked)
1 red onion
125g button mushrooms

4 slices of bacon

150g Boursin Onion and Chive Cheese
2 tablespoons of Parmesan Cheese

1/4 packet of dried spaghetti

2 tablespoons of olive oil


Place a large pan of salted water on the heat
and when it comes to a rolling boil, add the spaghetti
and cook in your usual way.

Cut the bacon into bite size pieces
(I use a pair of kitchen scissors, which I keep just for this,
purpose, as it is so much easier than using a knife)

Slice the onions

Slice the mushrooms in half or into quarters,
 however you prefer

Crush two cloves of garlic


Cook the bacon in a dry pan until slightly crispy.
Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.

Remove any of the bacon fat.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook the sliced onions,
over a medium heat, until the onions are translucent

Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further minute

Add the mushrooms 
and cook

Add the cooked bacon and mix together

Add the Boursin Cheese

Add the grated Parmesan Cheese

and gently mix the ingredients together
Please do not bring to the boil, this is important,
you just want the cheese to melt into the other ingredients.

At this point, do a little taste test, you might find that
you need to add a little salt, but my bacon was
a little salty, so I did not use any salt.

When the spaghetti is al dente, drain, but reserve five
tablespoonfuls of the cooking water.
This is a fabulous tip from Jamie Oliver.
When the spaghetti is drained, return the spaghetti to the pan
and add a couple of tablespoons of cooking water
to the spaghetti, it stops the spaghetti
from sticking together. It may seem strange and I have to say I
had my reservations, but it works beautifully.

The three remaining tablespoons, I add to the Boursin mixture
just to loosen it a little.  If you prefer, add 4fl oz of milk.

Toss everything together,
and as always, there is that final flourish of
grated Parmesan Cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

I have to say, I am partial to spaghetti and I will let you into a little secret, I  have been known to use Philadelphia Cream Cheese, if I don't have any Boursin in the fridge.  I also sometimes cook spaghetti then toss some Philidelphia Cream Cheese through the hot spaghetti and sprinkle with black pepper..... now that is a quick meal.

There are days when I am happy to spend hours cooking and other days when I want to make a quick meal, but it has to have flavour and this Spaghetti with Boursin Cheese certainly does hit the spot.

.... and by the way, I have check my Preserved Lemons and they are ready and waiting to be used.  So on Sunday, I will be making a tagine..... George can't wait.

So until then, take care and I will see you later in the week.

This week I will be joining,


Sunday, 22 September 2013


Good Morning to you,

Memory.... the dictionary tells us that memory "is the process of retaining thoughts and sensations".  So our memories are there, waiting patiently, for us, to access them.  

..... and today, I have certainly accessed mine. Have you ever listened  to a piece of music, then experienced an unexpected memory,  something you have not thought about in an age. You remember where you were, who you were with and the feeling overwhelms you. 

Today, I experienced a double whammy as the memories came flooding back when I listened to the music, which I have chosen today, and also when I baked today's cake.

Before I tell you about the memories, first let me tell you about the cake which we will be baking today, 

this fabulous Apple Cake..... doesn't it look good.  It is slightly different from the usual apple cake as it has a lovely crumbly topping and also you will find juicy, fat, sultanas, just waiting to tantalise your taste buds.

So if you are ready, we'll get on. I am popping on my apron and the music I have chosen to listen to today is,

Tracy Chapman.  The first time I heard Tracy's music was on the radio and the record which was playing was "Fast Car".  I loved the sound of her voice and I loved this song the moment I heard it.  Do you know, when I first bought this LP , I played it so often, that I could sing every single word.

In 1988, after living abroad for many years, our lives, as a family, took a totally different direction, when we returned to England to live.  We had to settle back into a totally different way of  life, to the one we had been used to.  It was not easy, but we  took every challenge in our stride. It was also 1988 when I first heard "Fast Car" so the music and our life change are inextricably linked. When I listen to Fast Car, I am transported straight back to 1988. I remember how I felt, the difficulties which we faced, but which we overcame, and I look back with a sense of pride, when I think about how we all coped, as a family.... we were all amazing.

Fast Car is playing as I am putting on my apron, so it is time for me to leave my memories behind for a moment and gather together the ingredients to make this Apple Cake.


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F
Butter and line the base of an 18 cm spring form tin
with parchment paper.

75g of self raising flour

40g of salted butter
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
40g of granulated sugar


Sift together the flour and the cinnamon

rub in the butter
the mixture resemble breadcrumbs.

add the sugar 

and mix together, then set aside.


50g salted butter
75g of granulated sugar
1 large egg

115g of self raising flour

2 medium sized cooking apples

50g sultanas


Beat together the butter
the sugar until light and fluffy

add the egg and
beat into the mixture

sift the flour and add to the cake mixture,
beat for 2 minutes until thoroughly incorporated.
You are probably thinking, that normally, you would cut the flour
into the mixture, but not on this occasion, trust me,
it works fine.

Place the cake mixture into the buttered and lined cake tin

Peel, core and quarter the apples

Working quickly, as you do not want the apples to oxidise.
Finely slice the apples and arrange on top of the cake mixture.

Sprinkle over the sultanas

Spoon  over the crumbly topping

Bake in a 180C oven for about 1 hour
until the cake is baked and the topping is golden brown.

I find this apple cake only takes 45 minutes
to bake in my oven, so check after 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool 
in the baking tin for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the tin and allow to cool

Well, that is as long as a certain someone allows it to cool!

Here you can see the layer of cake, apple, sultanas
and crumbly topping.

and here is the missing slice, well actually, this was the second slice, which that certain someone, cut and was beginning
to pour caramel sauce onto the plate.

I managed to rescue it for a few seconds and decorated the
 Apple cake with blueberries,
before the cake was demolished by that certain someone,
who I know, you know, is George.

Just as a thought, I have made this cake before with blueberries instead of sultanas, as Danielle is not a lover of sultanas and it works beautifully.  I added the blueberries on the top of the cake as a little decoration.

Now, to tell you about my memory of this Apple Cake.  Believe it or not, it was the same year as my Tracy Chapman experience, 1988. We were settling into our new house,  and I had just started a new job.  I had experienced a very hectic day, you know, one of those days which you wish would end, but which seems to go on and on.  I had a meeting in the evening, so I would be arriving home quite late.  I was really tired, and even though I had eaten, it really was not enough, I was still hungry.  I knew what the problem was, my body telling me to stop and rest, as I was tired.  I arrived at the meeting, to see the Chair of Governors had brought in this Apple cake. The cake was large enough for everyone to have a slice. When I received mine, it was like nectar, it was delicious, it gave me just enough boost to keep me going through the meeting and the person who baked the cake (who shall remain nameless as she is shy) became a lifelong friend.  Now I know, years later, that the cake gave me a bit of a sugar rush, to see me through those couple of hours, but I console myself with the fact that the cake was fabulous and that it contained dried sultanas and apple which is good for you...... I am not thinking about the butter!

Every woman at that meeting asked for the recipe and I have to tell you, even a couple of men asked for it.  The recipe is written on a sheet of notepaper which is a little scrappy now, so I really must make the effort and write this recipe into a book, along with all those other scrappy pieces of paper which contain recipes which I have collected from friends over the years..... the trouble is, I think about it, but never seem to get around to it.

Next Sunday I will be using the Preserved Lemons which we  made about six weeks ago to make a tagine..... as yet I have not decided which meat I will use.  So check that your preserved lemons are ready and I will see you later in the week.

This week I will be joining,

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