Travel the world from the kitchen, through time, trends and tastes. Like food? Join the club.

Friday September 9th, 2011

Eating the Sun.

Autumn is tearing strips off Summer this week and we all know that inevitably Summer will surrender to the attack.  The blustery days have a storybook charm. Dark evenings will soon make the pavements twinkle and street vendors selling caramelised nuts will lace the air with a fairground vapour. But I’m not ready to submit to the season change just yet. 

Defiant, I am donning my apron and inviting sunshine into the kitchen. The weather outside can do what it likes. Greek food is made of sun. The tomatoes grow enormous and juicy on it, lemons ripen in it as do deep green olives, and oregano grows wild under its canopy. I can but feel sunny when I eat Greek.

I worked as a cook for a short while on the island of Crete.  The taverna was based in the small, touristy town of Aghios Nikolaos. Authentic cuisine was often not what the punters craved after a night of clubbing. In fact it was in Greece that I mastered the art of the English Breakfast, although we fried the eggs in olive oil - try it if you haven't already, it’s delicious. But on quiet days food was mainly served up for the family and staff (me). Here are a few of the recipes we would make and eat outside on white plastic chairs facing the Aegean Sea. It is what I eat when I want to taste the sun.

Care to join me?

When I was a child I vowed that when I grew up I would only eat food with my fingers. These dishes satisfy the rebellion. Resign yourself to the mess and stuff it all in a pita with the souvlaki (Greek meat kebabs). They can be made with chicken or pork too.

I love the zingy lemony flavours found in Greek food. There's nothing like a table of different dishes to keep the taste buds dancing. If you can squeeze any more in, here's a recipe for Greek baked vegetables, it does go really well with the souvlaki, but could easily be a veggie option...

Thursday September 1st, 2011.


Many of my recipes take inspiration from other countries. I try and recreate them using local stuff where I can to maximize flavour without losing authenticity. This recipe needed no globe trotting though. Inspiration was right on my door step, ready for the taking and making.

Although the melodrama of gushing rain sets the tone today, only a few weeks ago in joyous sunshine my eyes chanced upon three laden cherry trees by the roadside.
Nothing tastes better than a freebie, especially when said freebie fetches a premium in the supermarkets.

Elsie and I were cocooned in the hot car on a fast road, when I saw the lipstick coloured globes, copious and apparently free for all. Resisting the urge to screech to a halt cartoon style, I clocked the location and raced home to get a cherry picking kit: tall wooden stool, basket, walking stick, Chris. 

It’s really surprising when you start looking just how much food can be found in our hedgerows and kerbs, blackberries, hazelnuts, cobnuts and rosehips to name a few. All can be turned into delectable perfumed delights to provide highnotes on low days in the kitchen.

We gathered two and a half kilos that day, and they were the ones that didn’t make it into our mouths during harvesting. We looked like we’d returned from a gruesome massacre. But cherries must be the sweets of the Gods and worth the gore. These were as deeply flavoured as their colour and sweet with a sour note to keep things sparky.  Without wishing to improve on perfection I cooked some with sugar and a drop of almond extract and they hit dizzy new heights. The taste reminded me of those jars of bright red morello cocktail cherries that I lusted over when I was a child. Replacing the almond extract with ameretto liqueur is the adult version and tastes even better.

Here’s the recipe for the cherry compote that I ate with scones and clotted cream, so naughty as to push the boundaries of niceness into divinity.

I also made a cherry clafoutis, the recipe was given to me in France by my friend Laure. It originally came from her mother Marie who had a small restaurant in the French Alps that was so exclusive you could eat there by invitation only.
Let the clafoutis turn golden brown before removing from the oven and don’t be worried if it sinks in the middle, be charmed.