Sunday, 28 June 2015

Midsummer Magic

Magical summer evenings heal your soul

Dainty flowers start to close in the dusk
yellow and white roses have more intense perfume in the evening

On a warm Midsummer evening
There is magic in the air
Fairy folk are sprinkling
Star dust everywhere.

Glow worms weave their lanterns
Through the branches hanging low
Snails leave silver ribbons
To show you where to go.

There's a party in the clearing
In the middle of the wood
The crickets play sweet melodies
To create a happy mood.

The bees concoct a potion
With honey, thyme  and dew
They pour it into foxgloves
Then offer it to you.

The roses cast their petals
Sweet and soft they fall
They'll be the fairies dresses
For the magic Summer Ball.

Listen for their music 
As you gently tread along,
Among the ferns and heather
You may hear their summer song.

Breathe deeply in the velvet air
Feel the magic of the night
The world is painted silver
The moon is shining bright.

There's magic in the twilight
You may hear a fairy's bell
A fluttering of little wings
Some footsteps in the dell.


Foxgloves look like fairies' gowns but be careful, some say they are poisonous

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

It Takes Two

 Yesterday I watched a young woman teach her horse to dance to 'It takes two' by
Sonny and Cher. They looked magnificent dancing round a field together, the music blaring out from her stereo, preparing for a dressage competition.
A few days ago we went to a lovely Summer wedding. It gave me such a feeling of hope and joy to see two people so much wanting to commit to a lifetime together, forsaking all others and all that. Everyone in their best clothes wishing them well. In the speeches the bridegroom told us all how lucky he feels to have such a beautiful wife, the bride's father made us laugh with anecdotes and jokes, and the two families looked happy to be merging together to support the new couple.
Then yesterday it was Fathers Day in Britain. Every woman knows what a difference it makes to have a good man beside her to help bring up children. Many times I've heard these wise words, ' the best thing you can do for your children is love their mother, and vice versa.'
It takes two doesn't it? 
Horse and rider
Husband and wife
Mum and Dad
Happy Fathers day !!!


Happy Fathers Day

A horse needs a rider

Someone to treasure and love

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Italy, A poem for the day about my adopted home.


An ode to Italy

I live in a land
Where the lemon trees grow
In the shadow of mountains
Capped with snow

Terracotta pots
On a terrace by the sea
Jasmine, hibiscus
An old olive tree

It looks like a boot
With a frilly crown
Mountains round the top
And all the way down.

The Romans loved to build
Upon this precious soil
And every day we can enjoy
The beauty of their toil.

Villas and arenas
Coliseums, spas galore
Long straight roads that take you
All along the shore.

Invaders tried to come in
Over the mountains high
But they met brave Alpine soldiers
Who wouldn't let them by.

In the South, the Danes and Normans
Lay under the cloudless skies
So lots of the Sicilians
Have red hair and bright blue eyes.

The boot will sometimes kick
As earthquakes bring us fear
A ballerina dancing says
Who's the boss round here.

Cassata, gnocchi, pizza
So many things to eat
Every Italian region
Will offer you a treat.

Lakes and rivers and of course
The vast blue twinkling sea
A fragile land of beauty
That needs lots of TLC.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Chicken Curry For Four

Here's a recipe from a friend of mine for an easy chicken curry.

Serves 4

4 chicken breasts
5 tbsps natural yoghurt

Chop up chicken and put in a glass bowl. Add yoghurt and mix until chicken is well coated. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.

2 tbsps olive oil
3 large white onions
5 cloves of garlic
1 piece of ginger, grated
4 tbsps Korma paste
2 tsps sugar
Pinch of salt
300ml coconut milk mixed together with
200 ml water

Put two tablespoons of olive oil in a deep saucepan, add grated ginger, chopped onions and garlic.
Cover and sauté for about 15 minutes.
Keep giving a little stir.
Stir in korma paste, sugar and salt.
Cook for about one minute stirring constantly.
Slowly add coconut milk and water.
Gently simmer for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
Blitz with stick blender until smooth.
Fry chicken coated with yoghurt in a little oil until cooked, about 15 minutes then add to sauce.
Serve with boiled rice, I used a mixture of wild rice which gave colour.

get everything ready

help yourself

Add some colour with red and yellow peppeers

Coat the chicken with yoghurt and leave overnight

Thursday, 11 June 2015

A Story from a hot land for a hot summer night

Once upon a time an old man was sitting in the dust at the entrance to a city in the desert.
A young man approached him and said,
'I'm new here. What are the people like that live in this city?'
The old man looked at him and answered,
'Tell me, what were the people like in the place you have come from?'

The young man replied with an angry voice,
' They were all selfish and bad, that's why I was happy to leave.'

The old man sighed,
'You'll find that the people here are just the same.'

A little while after another young man approached the old man and asked the same question,
'I've just arrived here, please tell me what the people of this city are like.'

The old man answered in the same way,
'Tell me young man, what were the people like in the city you have come from?'

The young man smiled,
' They were wonderful, honest, welcoming and kind. I had so many friends there and it was very hard to leave them.'

The old man smiled back,
You'll find that the people who live here are just like the ones you have left.'

As soon as the second young man had left, a merchant who had been listening to the conversation came up to the old man and gave him a stern look,
'How can you give such different answers to the same question asked by two different people?'

The old man replied,
My son, everyone carries their own universe in their heart. It doesn't matter where they come from.
Anyone who has never found anything good in his past will find nothing here either...
Anyone who had friends in his other city, here they will find loyal and faithful friends....because people will be to us that which we find in them.'

The whole world smiles in the same language

Matisse, 1910, The dance,

Courgette flowers in a quiche

Whenever I see nice fresh courgette flowers at the greengrocers I can't resist them. They just look so pretty. My favourite way to serve them is dipped in beer batter, stuffed with ricotta or anchovies and lightly fried, but today I had to put the oven on to make a chocolate cake so I made a courgette flower quiche.
Did you ever hear the joke about the two ladies that thought they were going to have a quickie?

Courgette flower and prawn quiche.

1 packet of ready to roll puff pastry
a handful of prawns
12 courgette flowers, remove the stalk and wash and dry carefully.
3 egg yolks, beaten and seasoned
one small glass of cream
salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 180

Line a pie tin with the puff pastry and prick the base with a fork.
Arrange the courgette flowers in the shape of a sunflower and scatter over the prawns.
Mix the cream and beaten egg yolks together and pour over the flowers and prawns.
Bake in the hot oven for about 30 40 minutes.
Serve warm or cold.

Everything ready

No need to cook beforehand, everything goes in raw

Summer flowers

Two in one, oven on for chocolate cake and quiche

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Quick Summer supper, with a touch of Eastern promise

 Sometimes in the Summer it's much better to make couscous than having to boil up pans of hot water for rice or pasta dishes, so I sneak it into my repertoire. The couscous can be put on the table with some other dishes and your evening meal turns into a buffet. When I make couscous I think of my trip to Jericho where I bought a huge tub of saffron and added it to my dishes all the time, a bit like the Coldplay song, everything I made turned yellow. That's because I was told it was good for you.

It's funny isn't it when we're told something is a super food we all rush out and buy it. Apparently the sale of beetroot has soared in just a few days since it was decided it has special powers.

Now I'm not sure about the difference between turmeric and saffron and then again curcuma but they all go well in couscous. Today I used turmeric because I bought it at an Arab market and the aroma feels so full of Eastern promise, and it reminds me of Jericho and the nice people I met there.

Couscous with courgettes, smoked salmon and pine nuts.

Serves 4

1 glass of couscous, about 200g
1 glass of water,
6 courgettes, washed and sliced into chunks
a handful of pine nuts, lightly toasted
200g smoked salmon cut into strips
salt and pepper
olive oil
a pinch of turmeric

Bring the water to the boil, sprinkle with salt and olive oil, turn off the heat.
Add the couscous and stir the cover the saucepan and leave for a few minutes.
Remove the lid, turn the heat on low, add a knob of butter and stir until the butter is melted and the couscous nice and fluffy. Add the turmeric and stir.
Cook the courgettes in a little oil until golden and add to the couscous.
Add the smoked salmon and pine nuts and mix gently.

This goes well with green salad. I had a lovely melon so put some port in my husband's half to compensate for the couscous.

Turmeric comes from the French terre mérite, the Latin terra merita which means deserving earth.

Just a few ingredients so make sure you season well to get a good flavour

gently cook the courgettes until they turn golden

Put the turmeric in the centre of the couscous so it cooks gently in the heat

Three of you five a day here already

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Summertime Pasta dish

When the hot weather comes it's great being able to make pasta dishes that can be made in advance and kept waiting while you open up a chilled bottle of wine and have a relaxing aperitif while waiting for everyone to come to the table.
Anyone who watches the television series Montelbano will sooner or later hear about a wonderful Sicilian pasta dish called Pasta all Norma, which I have given the recipe for in an earlier post. It has smoked ricotta and aubergines among its ingredients.
Here is a Northern Italian version of Pasta all Norma with mozzarella instead of ricotta.


Summertime Pasta serves 4

400g short pasta
1 mozzarella cut into pieces or a packet of mozzarella balls
1 large aubergine, washed and thinly sliced, Zio Lina's tip is to layer up the sliced aubergines in a salad spinner and sprinkle them with salt. Leave for half an hour and then spin to get out excess moisture.
half a red pepper, washed and cubed
fresh basil leaves
5 cherry tomatoes, halved or 3 larger tomatoes cut into quarters
ground black pepper
olive oil

In a large non stick pan cook the cubed peppers gently in a small amount of olive oil for 6 - 7 minutes then take them out and put aside.
Add the aubergines to the same pan and cook gently until golden then remove and add the cherry tomatoes and cook them for about 3 minutes.

In the meantime bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the pasta.
In a large salad bowl put olive oil, salt, ground black pepper and fresh basil leaves.
Add the vegetable mixture and then the drained pasta. Mix gently and check the seasoning.

Gently mix in the mozzarella and then let stand.
Add lightly toasted pine nuts if liked.
Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

Hope you like it, Buon appetito

Everything ready

Prepare the seasonings in a salad bowl

Diced red peppers cook gently for 7 minutes

When the vegetables are cooked set them aside

Add the vegetables to the seasonings in the salad bowl

While the pasta is resting have a glass of prosecco with olive and nuts

Pronto in tavola

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Harmony and me

Harmony and me
We're pretty good company
Looking for an island
In a boat upon the sea..
Elton John

When you look at a map of the world you are aware more than ever just how much of the Earth's surface is covered by water. All those lovely expanses of blue, home to so many weird and wonderful creatures that don't need the air to breathe like we do.
We need water though, our bodies are made up of something like 80 per cent of water.
Not surprising then that we seek it out. Not only to drink it but to sit by and swim in, lakes, ponds, rivers and the vast enchanting sea. It soothes us, it heals us.The sound of the waves is balm to our  souls, like a caress , stroking our heart strings.
It's the sky that gives it its colour of course.
If the sky is blue then the sea is too.
 Air, water, earth and fire- all by the sea together.
The fire's in the sun.
That's where I find harmony.


Some Like it Hot

Whenever I order a cappuccino in Italy I always ask if I can have it bello caldo, nice and hot. If you don't make that stipulation you'll probably get one that is tepid, tiepido. That's because Italians like it that way, luke warm and lots of creamy froth.
My husband is constantly amazed that I want a hot drink on a hot day. He's reaching for the ice bucket while I'm boiling the kettle.
What can be nicer than sharing a drink on a beach on an Italian public holiday, la Festa della Repubblica.?
Buona festa a tutti e Viva L'Italia!!