Immunohistochemistry, Strimming and Autumn Stew

Autumn is the time of year for the root vegetable. I have been preparing these for tonight’s beef stew. The wife has had her first go at bulgur-wheat dumplings and the 30-year-old Migros Swiss wok is now bubbling away.

This morning we finished off clearing around the lake and it is good to go now for February or March. My shoulders and hip are aching from a full tank of gas strimming session. I have ordered some new spark plugs because the darned thing is getting difficult to start. It looks a tad bald head around the pond. At lunch time I saw the heron, the cormorant and the two “familiar” ducks. The cormorant has a perch on a concrete block in Le Jaudy. White guano marks the spot. So, it is getting to be a regular chez nous.

This afternoon I have been researching the immunohistochemistry from the wife’s biopsy. In France they are thorough. I have been very busy getting my head around it. I now know a lot more about various cancer markers and what the stains show up. Someone must have nimble fingers to do all that work with a tiny sample! I am about 90% prepared for any visit to an oncologist next week.

There is a general feeling that most of the Brits around here are not all that smart simply because they do not speak French.

Depending on the circumstance I might need to lower my spectacles down my nose, shift into Ph.D. viva mode, peer over them and ask, and ask.

Even though I only ever eat roast beef, I might have a few surprises up my sleeve.

Good news is that there is a proton radiation therapy facility only three hours’ drive from here.

Based on what I have read and attempted to understand I have few suggestions apropos of diagnosis which I may or may not offer.

What a weird day!

Hard physical labour followed by trying to get my head round an entirely new field, immunohistochemistry

You can’t make this shit up…

Vegetable Tempura Night…

Eat hot out of the pan….
spring oninions and shallot
red pepper, cauliflower, pumpkin and carrot

Asparagus, courgette and aubergine not pictured.

making the batter with iced water in an ice bath, sometimes a degree in chemistry can be useful…
feeding the fryer…with tongs
frying nicely

Photos taken by the wife…

Sicilian-Vegetarian-Homosexual Inspired Pasta

Many moons ago when I was a practising vegan, I attended a conference in the village of Erice, perched high on a hill/mountain in western Sicily. The conference handed out meal vouchers which one could exchange for food at any of the restaurants in the village. In the main piazza there was a restaurant called something like Edelweiss which had outdoor tables. It became my go to lunch place. I explained to the waiters that I was a vegan and a vegetarian, and they concluded that I must therefore be a homosexual and perhaps a rampant homosexual to boot. I did not agree with the diagnoses and suspected that it was wishful thinking on his part. There is a bit of a thing for “bears” amongst the gamine boys.

Anyway, they served me some pasta dishes that I have never had before, drawn from a palette of Sicilian lemon juice, pine nuts and the Arab inspired almonds. I have just knocked up some Sicilian inspired pasta, the wife reckons that she would have it again, or something roughly resembling it.

You will need for two people:

~340g of freshly made egg-based tagliatelle

One small red onion finely chopped.

One clove of garlic finely chopped.

A handful of fresh basil, lovingly grown in your greenhouse, rinsed and coarsely chopped.

Four medium sized vine tomatoes.

Sniff those puppies…yum

Put them is some boiling water and boil them a little until the skin pops. Add cold water to the pan until the tomatoes are cold. Take them out skin them and remove the green bits, near where the stalk was. Chop two into quarters and two into eighths. Put them in a bowl and capture that juice from the chopping board and add that to the bowl.

About a quarter of a tube of double concentrated tomato puree.

~ 50g of uncooked pine nuts and 25g of flaked almonds

Put these in a pestle and mortar and very roughly grind them up. You want some texture, so big bits and little bits. The little bits will thicken the sauce.

You will need a pinch of sea-salt

A teaspoon of sugar

And a good squirt of Sicilian lemon juice.

Oh, and by the way a good glug of some top notch Italian extra virgin olive oil.

Put the kettle on to boil ready for the pasta.

Now with as much panache as you can muster, add the olive oil dramatically to a small deep sided non-stick frying pan.

Put in the onions.

Turn on your induction hob under the pan and listen to the space age alien sounds it makes as you soften the onions over a medium heat.

When you think the onions are soft bung in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.

Now chuck in the tomatoes otherwise that garlic will burn.

Stir gently and turn down the heat a tad.

Soon you should have a nice bubbling pan, smelling fine.

Cook the tomatoes for around three minutes. They should start to soften but the idea is to keep intact juiciness. You want a lump of tomato explosion.

Add the tomato puree and stir.

Like all good cooks you will no doubt have a glass of wine on the go. Take this and add a good slurp to the pot, it does not matter if it is red or white.

Have a well-earned sip of wine…

Add the nut mixture and stir well


It probably needs some sugar and some salt.

Bung these in.


Ok, maybe it needs some more acidity…

Add a squirt of lemon juice.



If not add a little more.

The mixture should thicken slightly.

Read the instructions of the tagliatelle.

Put it onto cook, mine said 3-4 minutes.

When the pasta is boiling add the basil to the sauce and stir.

Test the pasta. OK?

If so turn off the sauce drain the pasta and dress it with the nutty-tomato homosexual Sicilian inspired sauce…


Cooking “Haiku”

it is snowing outside

peeling sprouts,

the layers of a season


bashful potatoes blush.

their red faces

surrender to nakedness


twelve sausages

now in a pan

oiled with summer’s scent


these slippery elvers

flow over the weir.

an olive branch bows


the world needs

an ointment, a salve

something virgin, and new


soon they will marry

the butters, now churned

with a little pepper


peasant fare

on a winter’s night

a sample of, the simple


the log store

understands emptiness

and so replenishes


now for some fire

to make a meal

handsome out of it


the alchemist stirs

and out the cauldron

there is food!!

Tropical Harissa Lamb “Tagine”

This is another one of my variations on a theme. You will need some good quality Harissa paste, preferably made in North Africa and not Wigan. Harissa pastes vary from warm to volcanic, so you need to source one that matches your tastebuds.

You will need for two people:

Stage 1

About 400g of lamb, strangely here lamb is not easy to get hold of, so I am using lamb leg chops, trimmed and de-boned.

Cut the lamb up into bite size pieces and add it to a Pyrex bowl. Take a level-ish tablespoon of Harissa paste add it the bowl and mix, making sure that the lamb is covered. Cover the bowl with cling film and put this in the fridge. If you do this at lunchtime for an evening meal the marinade will have had enough time to work. I am about to do this now.

Stage 2

1 ripe mango

1 honey dew melon

1 orange

1 lemon

A finely chopped red onion.

Some olive oil.

2 cloves of garlic finely diced.

A two-inch piece of ginger cut into matchsticks.

50g of uncooked pistachio kernels

50g of flaked almonds

50g of dried apricots, cut in half.

50 grams of sultanas

3 carrots peeled and chopped into “coins”.

A tin of finest quality chopped tomatoes.

A glass of red wine

500g of lamb stock

Maybe a little cornflour

A casserole with a well-fitting lid

A pot of Greek yoghurt

Some cucumber

Some mint

Some Sicilian lemon juice.

A pinch of salt

A sprinkle of paprika

A mug of three grain rice.


Take the lamb out of the fridge. Put a large pan on your newly fitted induction hob, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, turn up the welly to about 11/15. Remember this hob is a lot more powerful than you think! When the oil starts to swirl add the lamb and brown slightly, taking care not to burn the harissa. If it looks like it is too hot, put your finger on the darned slider control and drop the heat to 8/15. When the lamb is browned add it to the casserole. Pour the glass of wine into the pan and de-glaze it. Add the wine to the casserole making sure that you get all the lovely harissa in too. If there is any left in the Pyrex dish add this to the casserole.

Peel the mango and chop it into thumb sliced slices, add these to the casserole,

Cut the honey dew melon in half. Wrap one half in cling film and put it in the fridge. Cut the other half into three lengthwise pieces. De-seed the pieces and extract cubes of melon off the skin. The cubes should be about an inch in size. Don’t stress if they aren’t all the same size. Add these to the casserole.

Add to the casserole the onion, the garlic, the ginger, the pistachios, almonds, apricots, sultanas, the carrots and the chopped tomatoes.

Put the kettle on to make the lamb stock.

Peel “skin grafts” off the orange and the lemon, about 1mm deep. Slice these into match sticks about half an inch long. These will give a lovely zesty aroma and taste to the “Tagine”. Add these to the pot.

Make up 500ml of lamb stock and use some of the boiled water to rinse out the tomato can, add the tomato juices to the casserole.

Stir the contents of the casserole. Now add the lamb stock until the contents are covered such that there is about 1cm of liquid above them. During the cooking the apricots and the sultanas will absorb some of the juices. You may need to top up with boiling water as you go.

Put the oven on at 180 Celsius. Close the casserole off with a lid and bring to the boil in the oven at 180. The moment it is bubbling, turn the heat down to 150 Celsius and cook for at least one and a half hours. The longer the better. Check the casserole every half hour and give it a stir. If needed add a drop of boiling water.

Now finely chop some cucumber into 1 cm by 2mm by 4mm mini chunks. You will need about a quarter of a medium size cucumber. Finely chop some mint until you have about a tablespoon of it. Put the cucumber and mint into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add about 150ml of Greek yoghurt. Stir well. If you think it needs it add the lemon juice to taste. I personally like the combo of lemon yoghurt and a hint of salt. When you are good to go sprinkle some paprika decoratively on the surface of the yoghurt mix.

Put the kettle back on and boil some water.

Do your last casserole check and then cook your three grain rice according to the instructions.

Just before nose down elbows up, get the casserole out of the oven and check its consistency. If it is a little too runny add some cornflour in water. A teaspoon of flour to a tablespoon of water, is about right. Stir this into the casserole and return to the oven for about 5 mins. If not, don’t do this…

Go to the CD player put on some North African music at dining volume levels.

Now serve the rice and tagine in as artistic a manner as you can manage and offer the yoghurt as a cooling side. {This is important if you have used volcanic harissa.}


Oh yeah, watch out for the mangoes and apricots they retain the heat of the sauce and can burn the tongue….

The Spice Must Flow…

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.”

― Frank Herbert, Dune


No not that kind of spice, this kind:

The first part of my “replenish the spice” Amazon order arrived today, it contains a kilo of Bulgarian ground coriander and two 250g packs of Hungarian paprika, one smoked, one not. They come in lovely little bags that can be used later for other things. I have a kilo of ground cumin on the way. This is all to replensish similar quantities bought last June. So I get through about half a kilo of paprika a year, smoked and unsmoked.

Buying spices in large quantities and storing them in Kilner jars is an economic way to go.

Out here in the wild west it is not culturally all that mixed, so finding big bags of spice is hard, hence Amazon. One of the benfits of the UK was the multi-ethnicity, which means widely varying types of food can be found easily, not so here.

I would in particular reccomend the Hungarian paprika, it is vivid in colour and subtle of flavour.

Looks like some paprikash is in the pipeline…I can’t wait to open up those bags and inhale….but I will have to finish off my older stocks first.

Exotic Tropical Pig in a Pot

This dish, currently in the oven, stems from my exposure to Cape Malay cooking in Zambia as a child. This cuisine was imported by the various South Africans working on the smelters and mines. There was always more fruit than vegetables. In the garden we had six banana trees, two guavas, one avocado and half a dozen papaya trees. We would trade the avocados for mangoes. Because of the French overseas territories, we can get tropical fruit here.

Fruit is an underrated “savoury” cooking ingredient.

The idea behind this one pot recipe is chuck it all in a casserole and let it cook on a slow heat for at least 90 mins. It doesn’t matter over much which fruit you use, but you must have a good-sized mango. This is because the juices from the mango tenderise the pork as it cooks.

For two people you will need:

1 good sized mango.

A small papaya.

{Today I am using a small pineapple instead. Pretty much any melon can be substituted for the papaya. Have a play and see what works best for you.}

Any fruit from: nectarines, plums, apricots, peaches, apples, grapes.

Citrus makes this a bit weird so avoid them.

Today I am using a gala apple and six sliced dried apricots. {Sultanas also work well.}

A word of warning this dish helps you keep it regular.

One onion

Two cloves of garlic

A 2 inch piece of fresh root ginger

About 100ml of Thai Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

{Healthy Boy was the one I used in the UK; Blue Dragon is also good}

About 300-400g of Pork Filet Mignon cut into 2.5cm pieces and cleaned of any fat.

200g of coconut cream {You add this to taste, not everyone is a fan of coconut, but it does finish this nicely}

A heavy casserole with lid.

I have a bashed about Le Creuset casserole that has acquired something of a patina. It works a treat.


Chop the onion into twelve wedges separate the wedges into slices and add to the casserole. Finely dice the garlic, add to the casserole. Peel and chop the ginger into pieces consistent with your liking of getting a “hit” of ginger. The wife likes fair sized lumps. It is up to you. A good ginger hit clears the nasal passages. Add to the casserole. Add the pork and pour on the chilli dipping sauce, stir. The casserole should now be about half full. You are aiming for a 50:50 mix.

Peel the mango. I try to do this in one peel as something of a Zen and the Art of Peeling Mangoes theme. Try not to drop the slippery blighter on the floor. Cut into thumb sized chunks. Add to the pot.

Prepare chunks of pineapple / papaya / melon add these to the pot.

Chop the apple into chunks, skin on, add to pot.

Add the sliced dried apricots.

Fill the casserole up to near the top with freshly boiled water. Don’t overdo it or the casserole will boil over and muck up your brand-new oven!

Set the oven to 180 Celsius chuck in the casserole, lid on, and bring it to the boil, about 15-20 mins. Turn the heat down to 150 and cook so that the total time in the oven is greater than 90mins.

Every half an hour or so, get the casserole out and give it a stir. The emanations may make you start to salivate, which is a good thing. Can you hear that rumble?

When it is getting near time cook some Basmati rice. If you look carefully you can buy 5kg bags of this which are way, way cheaper than the buy per half kilo method.

Just after you have put the rice on, take the pot out. Add half the coconut crème, stir and taste.

If you are feeling all Kid Creole and the Coconuts (I’m a wonderful thing baby) add the rest. If not, no worries.

Make a nice mound of rice in a ring like a volcano and using a ladle add the Exotic Tropical Pig in a Pot, make sure there is enough juice.

You are good to go.

A word of warning the mango chunks will be hot in temperature so watch out. The pork should be juicy and soft and tender.

Enjoy 😊