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Category: Food & Entertaining

Pollo Tonnato, my first Negroni and Omar Sharif

Posted in Food & Entertaining

Omar Sharrif and Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago
Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago

I first tasted this dish at the Hotel Condotti Palace. It was one of the hotels preferred by our record company in Rome (always, always a fabulous bunch of people with excellent taste) and perfectly positioned at the top of the Spanish Steps for the occasional night off. Camparigirl and I paid it a quick visit when we were in Roma during July – and it is still as understatedly elegant as ever.

One of my favourite things about the Condotti was that they had a buffet table at lunchtime. Loosely themed along ‘cucina povera’ lines – the chef would basically walk to work via the market in the morning and pick up whatever was fresh and seasonal and put six or seven dishes together. Full and robust in the winter, light and fresh in the summer.

That day, Omar Sharif – the Egyptian actor and champion bridge player, was the only other (early) diner in the bar/ restaurant. We met at the buffet and I introduced myself – telling him that my mother (who is a pretty good bridge player herself) had always admired his style. He was delighted and invited me to join him for lunch – treating me to my first Negroni ever (as an aperitif, never with food!) – and introducing me to Vitello Tonnato. It was the most delicious of lunches in all ways. Charming company, lovely food, gorgeous old-fashioned hotel dining room.

Pecan Pie Season

Posted in Baking, and Food & Entertaining

It took me a long time to reconcile my palate with some staple American holiday desserts like pumpkin or sweet potato pies and pecan pie. As much as I love custards, pumpkin is not my go to for a satisfying slice of pie and pecan pie, the way I came to first know it, was a cloying, overly sweet and sticky mess I found downright abominable. The reason for it is that most commercial pecan pies are made with an ungodly amount of corn syrup and, regardless of which side of the fence you sit on when it comes to corn syrup, the end result in a pie is an unpleasant sweetness that overpowers the nuts.

Spring risotto with peas, courgettes and asparagus

Posted in Food & Entertaining

Spring RisottoI love spring veggies – broad beans, baby courgettes and spring petit pois. And try to find all kinds of ways of using them. We also have skinny little green asparagus spears around the moment. The weather turned nasty this weekend – so risotto seemed to tick all of the boxes. And here’s the result.
If making risotto scares the heck out of you – don’t let it. This recipe is simple – 15 easy steps – and if you follow it to the T – you’ll get a great result. The secret is really that you need to stay with your rice – giving it your undivided attention for about 17 minutes. But that love will pay off with a creamy, delectable result. Worth every second.

Back to the Roots

Posted in Food & Entertaining


The latest issue of Los Angeles Magazine has landed in my mailbox. It’s the Food Issue. Last month’s was the Chef’s issue. You would think this city has no more pressing concerns than where to eat, what to eat or to find out who the latest chef on the rise is. Being a chef has been the trendy profession of the last dozen years or so and I am hoping this trend is on the wane.

The Bittercup – a Campari cocktail that’s easy to swallow

Posted in Food & Entertaining

In the next few weeks Pauli and Raymond will be coming for dinner. Pauli threw us a feast, a while ago, that would have made Heston Blumenthal proud. And it is time to respond.  I am no molecular cook – so have promised a dinner from ‘la cucina povera’ as my riposte. Italian home cooking my favourite way of eating – simple, seasonal and (in my case) possible.  Sofabrother will be making the foccaccia, cantuccini and dolce – which I hope will be a Piedmontese Hazelnut Meringue Cake.

Of course there has to be a cocktail – and I wanted something light that would possibly showcase Campari. The Bittercup was Created by Christopher Flett of Uva Wine Bar and Cibo Trattoria in Vancouver.

Mind over manners.

Posted in Food & Entertaining, and Relationships

New Year’s Eve parties seldom deliver on their promise of fun. Most of us want to be at home in bed before midnight these days, and the idea of manufacturing cheer, just because of the date, seems a lot of hard work after a long year. So arranging a shindig for the 31st December can be nerve-wracking.

Last year, my friends decided to bite the bullet and host an event. Their home was newly  renovated and they wanted their pals to see it. Plus 2011 had been tough all round, and it’s passing needed to be marked. The New Year heralded a fresh start and new possibilities. Our health was intact: we had reason to celebrate.

So they sent out invitations, a follow-up prompt, and a reminder before the event. Their home was beautifully decorated, lit warmly against the chilly evening. Food was generous and delicious, every possible taste in cocktails was catered for, there was fabulous music and champagne in all hues.

20 of the 120 expected guests showed up.

No-one called to cancel.

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