Friday, 6 July 2012


Strawberries are in season now, the small, sweet, locally grown variety. There are lots of ways to use them: how about some strawberry lemonade? How about fruit salad with strawberries as the star ingredient? Or, how about just popping them in your mouth, one by one? Then there is another way to serve luscious sweet strawberries, and that is to scatter them on top of a salad. With feta cheese. There is something about feta that truly compliments summer fruit! If you're wondering, yes, salad dressing, if it's the right type, does go well with strawberries. The dressing for this salad includes balsamic vinegar, lemon, honey, and mint: It's a perfect sweet-tangy blend! Greens, feta, strawberries, and toasted nuts. Just four ingredients and the dressing. Simple and perfectly delicious! 

Make the dressing: 

1 tablespoon  honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped mint
1/2 thyme leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • In a small bowl whisk the lemon juice with the lemon zest, honey, balsamic vinegar, mint and thyme. 
  • Whisk in the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.

a few raspberries scattered here and there add a wonderful accent to this salad.  

For the salad: 

feta cheese, crumbled
strawberries, sliced in half
spinach and lettuce leaves 
sliced almonds, toasted
pine nuts, toasted
  • Arrange the greens on a serving platter and mix in the pine nuts.
  • Top with strawberries and feta, sprinkle almonds on top and drizzle with the dressing. 

Monday, 2 July 2012


Charlotte Brontë
by George Richmond
chalk, 1850
National Portrait Gallery, London
Brontë's publisher, George Smith, commissioned this portrait of the novelist from George Richmond as a gift for her father. 

What am I reading?  For this edition of Novel Food, the literary/culinary event hosted by Simona from Briciole, I am rereading "Jane Eyre."  Then, I am cooking porridge, a nice version of porridge, and nothing resembling the stuff poor Jane had to eat during the Brocklehurst regime at Lowood.  Consider this porridge as my present to little Jane, who suffered much but never gave up her quest to find independence and love. 

Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" is just about my favorite novel.  I read it for the first time when I was still a child, living in Greece.  It was the Greek translation I read back then.  Reading the beautiful Brontë Victorian English came later, about a year after we had moved to the US, after I had become fluent in English. I've picked up and read the novel many times since, most recently just a few weeks ago when a friend mentioned to me that she was also reading it.  

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question. I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed."

This is the opening paragraph of the novel, which right away describes the melancholy mood of Jane Eyre, the main character.  We understand the loneliness and unhappiness she feels living with the Reed family.  They neglect her and torment her.  Eventually her aunt Reed ships Jane off to Lowood, a school run by the cruel Mr. Brocklehurst.  He is so stingy that he nearly starves his students.  During Jane's first day at the school breakfast is a ration of badly cooked porridge.  It is burned and inedible.  Brocklehurst is eventually removed from his position, and Jane grows up to become a teacher at the school.  She then finds employment as a governess at Thornfield, where she falls in love with the master, Mr. Rochester.  He loves Jane as well, and proposes marriage to her.  The problem is that Mr. Rochester already has a wife, albeit one who is quite insane and violent.  Unbeknownst to nearly everyone, the nutty wife is locked up in the attic at Thornfield.  Jane discovers this while she is standing at the altar, next to Edward Rochester, ready to marry him. He suggests that they run away together, but Jane is able to reign in her passion and resist the temptation of becoming his mistress.  She leaves Thornfield in secret and begins a long voyage that eventually leads her to happiness.  Bertha, the nutty wife, sets fire to Thornfield.  Mr Rochester is injured in the fire and becomes blind (temporarily).  He also becomes a bachelor, free to marry.  Jane still loves him desperately, and her passion is rewarded because destiny brings them back together.  Jane and Edward marry.  At the end of the novel we find her enjoying the love that he is offering her.  She has children, and she is enveloped in the warm family atmosphere that she sought since childhood. 

I'm sure that Jane and family had porridge for breakfast often, just as I am sure that it was a well cooked offering, and nothing like what Jane had to eat when she was a child.  You can find my recipe for porridge here.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


PORRIDGE!!!  A dish made by cooking oats in boiling water and milk.  Add some type of sweetener, maybe a little fruit as well, and you're in business.  You have a super breakfast.  In England this is porridge.  In the US it's oatmeal.  Here are some quick facts about porridge or oatmeal:  Eating a bowl of oatmeal every day can lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.  That's because oats are high in complex carbohydrates and water-soluble fiber.  They also contain more protein than any other cereal.  
Oats ready for harvesting

Oats are processed by de-husking oat grains to get to the oat groats, the seed inside the husk.  The groats are then milled to produce oatmeal. To make rolled oats (also called old-fashioned oats), whole oat groats are steamed and flattened.  Quick oats are rolled oats that have been cut into small pieces.  Instant oatmeal is oatmeal that is pre-cooked and dried.     Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats), are whole grain groats which have been cut into pieces or have been broken during the de-husking process.  They are chewier and have a nuttier flavor.  Gruel, is a thinned-out porridge made by mixing oatmeal (or other cereals) with cold water. The oatmeal is then strained out and the water is heated and sipped.  Gruel was used for medicinal purposes and was also a staple food during hard times.     

I have oatmeal for breakfast several times a week.  I prepare it much the same way as in this recipe.  The difference is that time doesn't permit me to add the apple topping every day.  Instead, I top my oatmeal with a splash of milk and a dash of cinnamon.  It's a perfect breakfast to start my day with. 
Recently, I read a study which convinced me of the importance of breakfast. Research presented at a scientific session of the American Diabetes Association, showed that there is a relationship between morning eating habits and development of type II diabetes.  The research revealed that people who ate breakfast 5 times or more per week had a 31% reduction in type II diabetes risk.  They also gained less weight.  So make sure you eat breakfast, and choose oatmeal often.  Breakfast, and oatmeal for breakfast have too many healthy benefits to pass up.  
Here's my recipe for PORRIDGE or OATMEAL with RAISINS and FRUIT:


1½  cups 2% lactose free milk (I am lactose intolerant, Lactaid brand milk is lactose free, available in most all supermarkets.  I recommend it)

1½  cups water

Some salt to taste

1/2 cup steel cut oats

1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)

1 tablespoon honey

1 banana, chopped in small pieces

stewed apples


Make the stewed apples:
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup water
a pinch of cinnamon
a few raisins 

Mix all the ingredients and add them to a medium sauce pan.Cook on low heat stirring frequently.  In about 20 to 30 minutes the liquid should be absorbed, the raisins will be plump, and the apples will be soft and done.
Now cook the oats:
Into a medium pot add the the water, the milk and salt to taste.  Bring to a simmer, add all the oats and lower the heat.  Cook the oatmeal for 20 minutes, maintaining a slow simmer and stirring frequently.  Near the end of cooking the oatmeal will start to thicken and bubble.  That's the time to add the banana. Mix until the oatmeal is cooked, and turn off the heat.  Add the honey and mix again.  Spoon the porridge into bowls and let it sit for about a minute.  Add the stewed apples on top and drizzle with a little more milk and some cinnamon to decorate. Ready to eat! 
*One tablespoon of honey is enough for me, but then I don't really have a sweet tooth (I have more of a potato-chip tooth). The fruit and raisins will provide additional sweetness.   

This is my contribution to NOVEL FOOD, the culinary/literary event hosted by Simona from BRICIOLE.  For this edition of Novel Food, I reread Jane Eyre, and decided to cook a porridge that little Jane would be happy to eat on a cold morning in Lowood school.