The Wild West

On Friday, Dad and I flew to Phoenix to meet up with Jewels for a week’s road trip around Arizona. Seeing the Grand Canyon has been on both of our bucket lists for a long long time and to say that we’re excited about this is an understatement. We were met at the airport and immediately went to a Mexican restaurant called Blanco. I had visited Blanco in December with Jewels and had happy memories of the ceviche. Ceviche is uncooked fish or seafood which is marinated in citrus of some form. I ate ceviche for the first time in Peru where it was simply white fish, sliced thinly, and lime juice with a little seasoning. Friday night’s was more complex with prawns, crab, avocado, finely diced onion, radish and coriander with lime as the ‘cooking’ agent. I don’t think that either the prawns or crab were raw initially and it’s a dish I’m going to try to recreate at home.

We started the road trip by driving to the Mission St Xavier outside Tucson. This building is beautiful and is regarded as the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the States. The frescoes inside are exquisite and the statues and paintings equally so. It is very much a working church and is set on what is now Indian land, and has a school attached which serves that community. Interestingly when the church was being built, the workers were paid double because of the constant threat from the Apaches, and now obviously it is their descendants who ensure that the church isn’t simply an historical monument.

From there we went to Tombstone. What fun! Dad and I watched a recreation of the gunfight at the OK Corral. The acting was uninspiring and wooden but we have a much better understanding of what happened than before, so it served its purpose!


Just in case you didn’t know where we were!


Doc Holliday talking to Virgil Earp


The aftermath – Wyatt Earp surveys the dead, Billy Clanton, and Frank and Tom McLaury

We were surprised to learn that the entire gunfight lasted no more than a minute and were not surprised to learn that the reasons and outcome still divide people. As we left the recreation of the shootout, we saw a plaque on the wall which read ‘Only the living deserve respect. The dead deserve the truth’. It was signed the McLaury Family.

Later after a snack in Big Nosed Kate’s Saloon (yes she was really called that and she was Doc Holliday’s girlfriend), we visited Tombstone’s Historama, a mixture of a revolving model of Tombstone through the ages and film, all narrated by Vincent Price. It was interesting but so funny. The puppet of Morgan Earp dying as he played billiards will never be forgotten. Afterwards, we went to the Boothill Graveyard, so called because so many of its occupants died with their boots on. It was sad to see so many gravestones (actually wooden but gravewoods isn’t a word) with Unknown written on them. So many people died violent deaths – stoned by Indians, hanged legally, lynched by a mob, shot because of an argument over the colour of a shirt, shot in error, shot because he was too insistent about drinking with someone, and found without identification at the bottom of a mineshaft are just some examples. Tombstone made its money from silver and it prospered for about 7 years. Nowadays it has a population of between 1200-1300 and exists for tourism. It was one of the best preserved examples of a Wild West town and gained National Heritage status. Zealous Disneyfication of the town threatened that status but since 2005 great effort has been made to rein in some of the additions and to point out which are the genuine old buildings and which are reconstructions. It is one of the most fun places I have been to, and really really interesting.


For me, this would have had more impact without the typo!

Back to Tucson for the night and we decided to have Mexican food again, at the Guadalajara Grill which has won Best Mexican Food in Tucson three years running. The salsa was lovely – made at the table. We requested medium and I’m glad we didn’t ask for hot since the scale was slightly different to the one I’m used to! The back bite was interesting to say the least.

So today’s recipe? This is something that I had both at Blanco’s and at the Guadalajara Grill. As with all things popular there are variations of the recipe, and disputes about its origin. The generally accepted theory is that it was first served in a restaurant in Ensenada, Mexico, but there is no doubt that it is the most popular tequila-based cocktail. Today’s recipe is for Margaritas.

Margarita – Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz tequila. I have friends who swear that the better quality tequila you use, the less the chance of a hangover
  • 0.5 oz triple sec / Cointreau
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedge for garnish
  • Salt or sugar to rim the glass. I prefer salt.


Pour the liquid ingredients with ice into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. If desired, salt or sugar the rim of a cocktail glass. Pour contents of shaker into the glass. Some people think this should be with ice, some without – it’s up to you. Garnish with the lime wedge.


Up North Part 2

We drove back down to London via Northallerton, county town of North Yorkshire, birthplace of John Radcliffe, historic coaching town dating from the Roman times, site of the Battle of the Standard, and our family home from 10th August, 1966 till March 1996.  Tom wanted me to take Daisy on a tour of the great metropolis so I happily showed her 11 Mowbray Road (where we lived).  We paused outside and I was busy pointing out which window belonged to which bedroom when I noticed the owner looking out of the window and so felt obliged to drive on.  We passed 17 Mowbray Road (where Gran and Pop lived after they moved down from Kirkcaldy), and went up to see where Nicky (my closest fried) and her family had lived.  Inevitably we drove past The Wall.  Now I know that all of you boys know about The Wall but it has been mocked so much that  I have to explain.  When Nicky and I walked home from school we reached a certain point where she turned right and I walked on.  We always had so much to discuss that it was hard to say goodbye.  So we got in the habit of sitting on The Wall and talking, until one of us looked at our watch and then we rushed home.  The Wall is significant not because it’s a magnificent piece of masonry but because it was about our friendship.  Anyway, I know The Wall is smaller than any of you thought it would be, but as Nicky says, she’s only 5′ 1″ tall so it really couldn’t be that big!

We drove past the Grammar School, saw the prison (which is going to be closed and no doubt the site will be redeveloped), and drove along the High Street.  We saw the Durham Ox (where I worked), the entrance to Romanby Court (where I worked), the shops (Daisy was impressed), the Town Hall (where I saw the Bay City Rollers for 70p) and parked the car so that we could go into Lewis and Cooper.  Lewis and Cooper is a wonderful grocers shop.  It has fantastic meats, cheeses and a superb wine section.  We bought various types of pork pie and some real Yorkshire smoked back bacon for me.  Yummmmmm!!!  We nipped into Betty’s so that I could buy a Fat Rascal,  The Betty’s recipe is of course a secret, but I have found this online together with some information about their history.   Fat Rascals.   I haven’t been to Northallerton for a few years and I was surprised at how prosperous it was looking.  There didn’t seem to be as many banks and building societies on the High Street, and for once I didn’t look around and think how small everything was.  It was really nice to be there again.   We met Nicky and Izzy for lunch and talked for two hours – it was lovely.  From Northallerton we went to Ainderby Steeple for a cup of tea and scones with more friends before wending our way back south.  I hadn’t realised how much I had missed being in Yorkshire.

So to today’s recipe.  Well it has nothing to do with Yorkshire except that Daisy and I were discussing it during the drive.  One of the few things Dad doesn’t like is tinned fish – tuna or salmon – but I like Salade Nicoise, traditionally made with tinned tuna.   Some years ago, I substituted fresh salmon for tuna and it was a hit with Dad.  Since then we have made it with fresh tuna which was even more of a hit with Dad ….. until he gave up carbs.   It’s simple, healthy and tasty – perfect.

Salade Nicoise – Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 450 g / 1 lb cooked fresh tuna or fresh salmon, cooked as you like, or two tins of good quality tuna.  Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  • 225 g / 1/2 lb new potatoes, cooked and cut into bit sized pieces
  • 12 cherry tomatoes – traditionally this should be large tomatoes quartered but I yuck raw tomatoes so this is how I co-exist with them
  • 115 g / 4 oz French beans, topped, tailed, cooked and drained
  • 2 Little Gem lettuces, separated into component leaves and washed and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • 12 black olives
  • 1 tin anchovies, drained

Dressing Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp wine vinegar, preferably red
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper


Whisk together all the dressing ingredients and set aside.

Put the lettuce leaves in a nice shallow bowl.  Add lettuce, onion, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, salmon/tuna, anchovies, eggs and olives.   Make it look pretty and then drizzle the dressing over the top.

Serve immediately.


Up North

I came back to New York City last Thursday after a whirlwind trip to the UK.  I visited the hearing aid centre twice, once to get the hearing aid and once to have it checked.  I went to the dentist and fell asleep in the chair.  I went to Westfield Shopping Centre twice, Brent Cross once and Costco once.  The amount of money spent was frightening and, much as I’d like to say that I was buying things for Tom’s flat in Newcastle, I did also get my winter wardrobe.  I saw everyone I could, from family to Belle.  Belle is my 93-year old friend and despite a problem with one of her feet, it lifted my soul to visit her and hear her stories and swap gossip.  We went out with the extended family to Lemonia, a Greek-Cypriot restaurant, and I have satisfied my cravings for a while.  I even managed to see Whistlejacket do a couple of gigs and proud mummy doesn’t begin to describe my emotions.  And I can’t think of the necessary adjectives even now.

The main purpose of my trip was to take Tom and Daisy and their belongings to Newcastle.  The trip up was lovely, with a break in York to have lunch with friends.  York and Edinburgh are my favourite cities in the world.  As a Yorkshire school child all my trips were to York (until we got old enough to go to Hadrian’s Wall), and I still look at the Minster and think that it wouldn’t be standing were it not for us children collecting stamps during the 60s.  (York Minster’s foundations started to sink and collecting stamps was one of the ways to raise money to preserve it.)  There are a lot of memories in that city for me, and I was tickled to see that The Taj Indian Restaurant is still there.  Forty years ago, I had my first bought Indian meal there with Papa.  I tasted pilau rice for the first time and tried to eat a cardamom pod because Papa told me it would be ok.  I first ate keema naan there and I first tried Indian desserts there.  Papa told me about kulfi and gulabjamon and how much his father had enjoyed them, and missed them after the family left India.  Papa’s office was in York and if convenient during the summer holidays he would take me through, and I’d visit the Brownie Guide shop and then we’d lunch at the Raj.  Such happy memories came flooding back.

Once in Newcastle we unloaded everything to Daisy’s flat.  After I organised my flights, two things changed – one, Tom decided that he really didn’t want to go back to Newcastle that early; and, two, Tom’s flat is being renovated and wasn’t ready.  The area where Tom and Daisy are living is lovely.  Whilst there is lots of student accommodation, the area doesn’t feel dominated by them.  There are some lovely little shops and cafes, and I see budgets being bent because of them.


This sign was found in a cafe called Arno’s – certainly a wee bit less kind than the sign seen in New York!

Tom and Daisy’s breakfast on the Monday was this


and indeed it was this which inspired today’s recipe.  Surrounding this hot chocolate are Maltesers, marshmallows, brownies and tiffin.   The word ‘tiffin‘ brought back memories of Grandma making this, and a French homework assignment Andrew once had.  Tiffin is essentially a chocolate biscuit cake with dried fruit added.  Tiffin closely resembles Rocky Road and chocolate fridge cake.  The tiffin in Arno’s also had marshmallows added – Andrew’s homework recipe doesn’t include these but feel free to add!  Also Grandma added glace cherries which I think are better than the sultanas.  Remember to cut the cherries into quarters.

Tiffin or Petits gâteaux au chocolat – Ingredients

  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 125 g castor sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 125 g sultanas –
  • 250 g plain biscuits, broken into pieces.  Rich Tea or Digestives work well
  • Icing sugar


Melt the butter over a gentle heat and then add the castor sugar.  Add the milk powder, cocoa powder and egg.  Mix well with a spoon.  Take off the heat.

Add the sultanas and the biscuit pieces.  Mix well until all blended carefully.

Put the mixture into a cake tin.  The shape of the cake tin is up to you.  I prefer square, and an 8″ x 8″ would be perfect.

Put the tin into the fridge for at least two hours.

Remove and sprinkle some icing sugar on the top.  Cut into pieces.


Not A Mere Trifle

I have temporarily relocated back to London.  I am here to take Tom back to university – sadly, Tom isn’t here until Friday because he and George are in Ibiza celebrating a friend’s 21st.  The best laid plans, etc., etc.  I arrived this morning and have already acquired a new hearing aid, been to the dentist, visited the community centre where I was a director in a previous life, and had dinner with such family as is here.  I fell asleep at the dentist and so am feeling quite perky which is a bit of a surprise given my usual state the day after I spend the night on a plane.

I am particularly appreciating the lack of humidity.  The last few days in New York have been quite oppressive, leading to me wishing fervently for a storm because the pressure gave me a huge headache.  The UK in the sun is lovely, and the garden is looking wonderful.  The colours are amazing and I realise how much I miss this.  It is great to see the family again.  I miss them all hugely.  I am blessed with four fantastic sons, and last year when Andrew married Hallie we gained a wonderful daughter-in-law.

Now Hallie’s birthday was on Saturday – I didn’t forget – the present was already in London and we Skyped on our Saturday morning.  I was the first person to point out that she was 31 on the 31st (which I thought was funny).  However, I did forget to do a recipe for Hallie, and I am gutted.  My only excuse is that we had visitors and I was being rushed out of the house to take them shopping.  Now that I am in one place I can focus on Hallie’s recipe.  First though, I want to say one thing to her – thank you for making Andrew so content, so happy.  We joke that Andrew brought Hallie over here from the States and in return the States got Dad and me.  Hallie, I know how hard it has been for Dad and me to start over, and it must have been equally as difficult for you.  I would just like to say that Andrew chose well and we are delighted that you are our daughter-in-law.

Hallie is a great fan of The Great British Bake Off and this week was dessert week, and included the classic English trifle.  I cannot begin to top the advice and knowledge of Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood, so I would like today’s recipe to be a regional variation.  Almost inevitably with my heritage this region is Scotland!   A few weeks ago, I did a baking course through Le Pain Quotidien in New York, where we were all discussing our backgrounds.  One lady was delighted to find that I am Scottish and asked me if I had ever eaten Tipsy Laird.  I had never even heard of it.  She told me that her great aunt used to make this Scottish form of trifle and together we googled a recipe.  Scottish raspberries are famed throughout the world, and Papa always said that the best came from Blairgowrie in Perthshire.   He also said that raspberries need some cold to have real flavour.  Anyway, we looked through the various recipes for Tipsy Laird, and I had to laugh at the statement in one that this was traditionally served on Burns Night (January 25th) and includes fresh Scottish raspberries.  Believe me, there isn’t a whole heap of anything growing in January in Scotland!  From the conversations with the lady on the course and from looking at various recipes, this is how I will make it.

Tipsy Laird – Ingredients

  • 300 g / 10 oz trifle sponges or slightly stale plain cake
  • 300 g / 10 oz fresh raspberries
  • 6 tbsp whisky or Drambuie (Hallie, you can use less alcohol and I think you will prefer the sweeter Drambuie)
  • 500 ml / 1 pt custard (home-made is best but if you buy ready made make sure it’s good quality)
  • 500 ml / 1 pt double cream, softly whipped with 1 tsp icing sugar
  • Flaked almonds


Use a glass bowl – it always looks pretty.  Line the bottom of the bowl with the trifle sponges.  Sprinkle the alcohol over the sponge.  (At this point if you wish you can put raspberry jelly over the sponges).

Put the raspberries on top of the sponges (or jelly).  Pour the cool custard over the raspberries.  Allow to set before putting the cream on top of the custard.  Decorate with the flaked almonds – I think I would roast the almonds because the slightly darker colour will look better.  An alternative would be to sprinkle dark chocolate flakes on the cream.  I love the combination of raspberries and dark chocolate.


Remembered Tastes

We have had a wonderful few days with the Ireton-Simpkins family. We have thoroughly explored New York and I have shopped till I dropped. I can honestly say that I have never bought so many things in such a short space of time. I also know why I really don’t like going shopping unless I have a specific need. The frightening thing was that even though I was dropping with exhaustion, it was clear that Jackie and Edie could have gone on for ever! Jackie had a wish list of things to do, visit and try and we managed to do all of them. One particular wish was to have a Long Island Iced Tea. She had last tasted one when we were in Hong Kong and wanted to have another. Dad, John and Jackie went to the Campbell Apartment on Friday evening and Jackie indeed ordered a Long Island Iced Tea. She enjoyed it, but wasn’t sure that it was as good as the one in Hong Kong. Dad and I gently suggested that our taste bud memories fade after 20+ years!

I have definitely found this to be true. I have specific memories of favourite sweeties eaten when I was young, which I was delighted to find on sale again, and then discovered that they were far too sweet for adult me. I have found this too with much-loved recipes. My tastes have changed as I grow up (or should that be ‘grow older’ because I’m not entirely sure that I have grown up). Apart from the oft-mentioned introduction of vegetables, I now opt for Asian or Asian-inspired flavours, and I really enjoy spiced food. Unlike many of my peers, my childhood diet was very varied, with Grandma cooking dishes from many different cuisines, but as I wrote before it is much easier nowadays to buy the correct spices and herbs. Whether this is because the Brits have been travelling more and so have wanted to recreate dishes at home, or whether it’s a result of immigration I don’t know. I do know that it’s very welcome.

When Dad and I took Bapu to Cyprus in May 2011, it was with the intention of going to Rizokarpasso (many different spellings, but this is how it’s written on Bapu’s passport). Bapu hadn’t been there since 1947 when he left for London. Now of course it’s part of Turkish Northern Cyprus, but since the borders have been relaxed it is easy to travel around and Bapu wanted to see his village again. It was a great privilege to be part of this trip and to hear stories and see places which had meant so much to him. The family home was long gone, but the almond tree that Bapu had planted was still thriving in what had been the family garden. It became clear as Bapu told his stories that life had been tough for him and for his family. He never complained, indeed he said that whilst he may have gone to school hungry sometimes, he had had a very happy childhood, and he wouldn’t have changed it for anything. He talked of walking over the hills to the beaches where he swam, often on his own, but sometimes with one of his brothers. We saw the stretch of beach where he almost drowned – an event not unsurprisingly etched forever on his memory. He talked of hunting with his father, shooting and trapping, and foraging for snails, greens and fishing. I asked him what his favourite dish had been, and he licked his lips before laughing and saying ‘Hare stifado’. His father used to make it and it was really, really good. Now I have never seen hare on sale at Waitrose, indeed I’ve never seen hare on a menu anywhere and I haven’t tasted it. Stifado on the other hand, I have made many times. For me, it’s an evolution from the brown stews and casseroles that Grandma made and which warmed me on many a winter’s day. For me, it’s a more grown up stew, the addition of cinnamon making it slightly exotic. For Bapu, it’s the evocation of a happy childhood in north Cyprus, of a place gone forever.

Vodhino Stifado – Rich Beef Stew with Onions – Ingredients

  • 1 kg / 2 lbs braising or stewing steak, cut into largish chunks
  • 1 kg / 2 lbs very small (pickling) onions, peeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 6 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 bay leaves (in the garden)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 200 ml / 1 glass red wine
  • Salt and pepper


Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole and fry the onions until browned all over. Remove with slotted spoon. Add the meat a few chunks at a time and seal on all sides. Don’t overload the pan with the meat or it won’t fry properly.

Put all the meat back into the pan and add the vinegar and garlic. Bring to the boil. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, salt and wine. Bring back to the boil. Cover and turn to a simmer. Simmer for about two hours. Check seasoning.

Add the browned onions. If the stifado looks too dry, add some water. Cook for another 30 mins.

The idea is to have a thick gravy with the meat, so if the sauce is too watery, bring back to the boil and reduce the gravy.

Cyprus potatoes are some of the best in the world and there this would usually be served with very chunky chips. I used to make olive oil mashed potatoes.