Category Archives: Food and Cooking

#49 Enjoy a Leisurely Breakfast (every day)

There are breakfast people and then there are others. 

Others need coffee to coax them into consciousness and consider breakfast a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, at least until mid morning. But we breakfast people spring out of bed alert, alive and raring for a three-course meal. And the greatest gift retirement gives us is the ability to

#49 Enjoy a Leisurely Breakfast – every single day

I always found getting to work on time played havoc with achieving this goal. With so many other tasks demanding attention in the morning, squeezing in the full feast was often a challenge and sometimes I’d have to limit myself to two hurried courses or even – quelle horreur – a mere one course.

And don’t get me started on those ‘breakfast’ work meetings that promised the world but delivered a balancing act involving a plastic tub of faux-flavoured yoghurt and a cold, dead croissant.

So turning breakfast into an extended art form has been one of my greatest pleasures these last few years.

It begins with an introductory bowl of muesli (Coconut, Almond and Maple flavour *) with blueberries and yoghurt enjoyed in the garden, before moving onto the main event.

cereal-in-garden* ‘No added Sugar, High in Whole Grains’ – or so they say

Then … Choices, choices.

Eggs! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

•Eggs Florentine

No longer restricted to restaurants, Eggs Florentine enjoyed for breakfast whenever are the new black, and they don’t take too long to prepare.

Okay, making Hollandaise sauce for one person can be a tad labour/butter/egg intensive, but after much pleasurable testing, I’ve decided Maille, the French brand, is an excellent approximation. So it’s now a staple in the pantry.


My supermarket even sends me an email when it’s on special! 

In a mere 10 minutes, you can have this…


Beats me how some people don’t want breakfast

•Coddled eggs

Coddled eggs are having a resurgence, and I can understand why after a friend recently gave me this lovely little coddler in exchange for supplies of small, 40 gm eggs laid by my older chickens. She needs that size to fit into the delicate little porcelain containers.

Who’d have predicted even hens are upsizing these days?

Coddling is a gentle way to soft-boil an egg by simmering it before eating straight from the coddler with toasted soldiers. No fear of the dreaded shell-chips contamination.

Butter the coddler, slide in the egg, add any other ingredients you want to spice up the experience like the cheese and spring onions I used here, screw the lid on firmly, then simmer for 6 or 7 minutes…


                                           (while making your pot of tea)

…and enjoy.

You may have noticed that the coddler pictured here has a slightly different pattern to the coddler my friend gave me (above).

Yes, I’m turning into a coddler collector already.

•Eggs any other way

Omeletted, scrambled, pancaked, fried, baked with beans, in a bun with bacon and relish, frittered. Oh, I could go on…

But for the non-egg lovers, there are, of course

•Other options

Like Danish pastry, toast with an assortment of toppings, crispy, hot croissants with fillings and of course, muffins…


But if you really want to go restaurant style, there’s always

•Grilled Haloumi with Cherry Tomatoes and Smashed Avo on Toasted Walnut bread

My sister first prepared this for me a few years ago when I was recuperating from surgery and it tasted magnificent. It’s stood the test of time so its appeal wasn’t just because I was craving comfort and it was great having someone look after me.


Finally, top off the most important meal of the day with a whizzed up drink made of – well, whatever you want really, but here’s one with cashews, coconut water, prunes, yoghurt and cinnamon.

Just like a delicious milkshake…


(…only thinner)

A picture is beginning to emerge, isn’t it?

A breakfast with NO limits, NO time constraints and, if you’re happy to make it yourself, minimal financial cost.

Could retirement get better than this?


#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period

It used to be that adding the prefix ‘Post’ to any word meant ‘after’. Think ‘post meridiem’ for after noon and ‘post mortem’ for after death.

But then along came postmodernism and suddenly, that harmless prefix took on a deeper meaning. Sure, postmodernism came after modernism, but it came with its own definition too, that is, epistemological and moral relativism, and pluralism. These are apparently rejections of the old-fashioned tenets of modernism like rationality, absolute truth and progress.

And I ask you, is there anything more embarrassing than being caught with ideas that pre-date postmodernism?

So when I heard last week that the Oxford dictionary now includes the term post-truth to mean not lies, but the irrelevance of factual rebuttals in preference to emotion and personal beliefs, it awoke in me a freedom I didn’t realise I was craving. The freedom to:

#47 Revel in a Post-adult Period 

The Post-adult period is the time after your responsible adult years have passed but it also confers an additional meaning whereby you can take on any behaviour or habits you want.

As to exactly when this commences, it begins the day you realise you’ve lost your relevance to society. That moment of shock on hearing or reading in the news that an ‘elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found …’.

When they use adjectives like ‘elderly’, ‘old’ or ‘senior’ to describe people like you, it’s time to fight back in the best way possible. Become a card-carrying member of the Post-adult period and revel in it.

So here’s my list of pleasures that those of us celebrating this special time may now embrace for the rest of our lives. Do feel free to add others.

After all, we’ve earned it.

*Avoid anything that doesn’t give you consummate pleasure.

I’m thinking activities like having a job. Or sitting through a meeting that has minutes and an agenda. Or ploughing on with a book that you realise, by page 20, is boring you witless. Or watching a silly film to the very end.

screenshot-2016-11-22-12-33-16No offence if you loved these, but I might have a mere 30 years left on earth…

*Have a snack immediately before dinner, even if it spoils your appetite. Especially if it spoils your appetite.

Longing for some paté on toast in the late afternoon? Go for it! Can’t resist a whole bowl of guacamole and corn chips at 7.00pm? Be my guest. You’re in your post-adult years. You get to set the rules.

*Discover wicked new tastes you love – and take them up with gusto.

I recently tried fried pancetta as an alternative to bacon. It’s magnificent. Why didn’t I know about its crispy deliciousness before now?

Have an egg and pancetta roll instead. Or try it with tomato on toasted ciabatta:



*Replace bad things with alternatives (that might be worse)

Are you over margarine and the whole worried-about-your-cholesterol chorus? Longing for some cholesterol-rich food? Switch to butter and store it in a stylish dish on your bench top so it’s always available and always spreadable.


Butter’s natural, tastes marvellous and chances are scientists will discover in the not-too-distant future that it has life-prolonging properties. Just like they’ve now realised that toddlers who drink full-fat milk end up slimmer than those given low fat milk.

And take honey. It’s natural too, but for some reason I’ve always found the flavour a little … disappointing. Then I remembered something that tastes the way I’d wanted honey to taste but doesn’t involve any part of it being transported on the legs of insects.

I’m talking Maple Syrup. Now available in BIG, BEAUTIFUL one litre jars, especially for Post-adults.


…and it always flow smoothly, even in winter

*Use buttermilk in recipes

I know, buttermilk sounds evil; probably is evil.

Deliciously evil in pancakes making then fluffy and puffy and soft:


And you’re right. That’s not honey.

Tenderly evil as a marinade for chicken or pork, such as when making your own version of ‘fried chicken with 11 secret herbs and spices’ at home.





almost as good as you-know-what…

*Play with fire

Like running wth scissors, playing with dangerous equipment is also on the agenda in Post-adult years.



So if you’ve always had a hankering for creme brûlée with that lovely crunchy toffee topping, now’s the time. Blast away to your heart’s content. No-one will tell you to be careful.


*Outsource the stuff you don’t like doing.

Post-adults can outsource anything they don’t like.

Here’s why: if you read that ‘an elderly [insert-your-own-age] woman was today found scrubbing the floors’ you’d rightly feel sorry for her. She shouldn’t have to do that any more, poor old thing. So vacuuming, washing floors, cleaning bathrooms and whipper-snipping are out and no-one will think less of you.

But if you say coyly, ‘I like to keep active,’ you’re able to continue using the electric lawnmower, (such fun), gardening (no digging expected), cooking (no catering for more than two; four tops) and exercising the dog (but never undertaking a ‘fun-run’).

And as for the front yard makeover you’ve been thinking of doing yourself for years and years, forget it. Once you hit Post-adulthood, just ask friends who’s the best-priced paver in town (never spend hours organising quotes yourself – only adults do that) and the recommended one will do a far better job than you could ever have achieved.


There’s only one caveat to life in the Post-adult lane.

All things in moderation.

Except maybe chocolate…







#39 Create Your Own Kitchen Rules

It was while watching a popular cooking show recently – one whose name you’d never guess – that I was inspired to run with my next fun and frivolous retirement activity:

#39 Create Your Own Kitchen Rules

One of the contestants was – well there’s no other word for it – boasting that she would be making ricotta from scratch for her zucchini flower stuffing.

That’s the thing about these cooking shows. Apart from all the tinned, processed and packaged goods they’re allowed to buy at the major sponsor’s supermarket beforehand, the contestants are expected to make everything from scratch. And their competitors must then either slam them if they don’t, or state how impressive their culinary skills are if they do.

It was at this point I fell off the couch laughing. Have you ever made ricotta from scratch?

Honestly, it’s about as difficult as boiling an egg.

No, I’m exaggerating, as usual. You have to set a timer when you boil an egg, which isn’t necessary for ricotta making.

All you do is heat full-cream milk gently to just under boiling point, take it off the heat and season it, then slowly drizzle in lemon juice or vinegar:

Ricotta 0

The second that happens, you can watch the curds form before your eyes. Leave for 10 or 15 minutes – the time isn’t critical – scoop out the curds with a slotted spoon and drain them in a colander or cheesecloth. Voila! Fresh, creamy ricotta.

Ricotta 3

This, of course, got me thinking. Might it mean that all the cooking techniques these chefs speak of are, in reality, reasonably simple to do? Might I have been scared off preparing something delicious because of the hubris that some aspiring chefs indulge in?

The answer is probably yes.

So here are a few more dishes that you may have been too intimidated to attempt, but which turn out to be within the capabilities of anyone who enjoys cooking.

Raspberry coulis

Yes, that delicious-looking bright red sauce that all apprentice chefs seem to add to any dessert so they’ll be judged favourably: ‘…you’ve balanced the flavours well with the tartness of the raspberry coulis cutting through the cloying sweetness of the mango.’

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 5.22.24 pm

So I had a go at making this magical sauce that balances flavours so well. It entails pulverising a punnet’s worth of raspberries in a food processor then pushing the resulting mess through a sieve and discarding the seeds. Yes, that easy.

And my conclusion? Well…  Just between you and me, I found it spoiled the mango somewhat. A bit tart, really…


Labneh has become the go-to yoghurt cheese that’s a creamy yet piquant addition to any food served on a wooden platter at trendy restaurants – or your own kitchen – right next to the pile of smashed avocado.

Labne 2

So how difficult is Labneh to make?

Would you believe it if I said it’s easier than ricotta, because no heating is required and no lemon juice or vinegar has to be drizzled in?

Just take a cup of thick, Greek Style yoghurt. Season if desired. Spoon onto cheesecloth, tie the top corners together and suspend over a bowl in the fridge for 2 or 3 days. There’s your labneh.

If you need to store it, you can roll the compacted yoghurt (the whey has dripped out) into small balls, coat with chopped parsley or your preferred herb and store covered in sunflower oil in a jar in the refrigerator. (I choose sunflower rather than olive oil as it doesn’t solidify when cold). It’s yum.


Now ricotta, coulis and labneh have been mastered with nary a sweat raised, maybe it’s time to move onto something more challenging.


Oh yes. Every budding chef peppers their conversation with the word ganache. It’s drizzled on their cakes, or piped into their biscuits or used as a base for their home made truffles. This is sounding a bit more difficult.

Except ganache isn’t difficult at all!

I hope chefs are starting to feel embarrassed.

Ganache involves nothing more than heating thick cream and pouring it over well chopped chocolate. That’s it.  Allow it to sit for a minute or two then blend for a smooth, rich, luscious tasting treat that screams Eat Me!

Ganache in bowl

The only secret to the perfect ganache is knowing the proportion of cream to chocolate and that depends on what you plan to use it for. One part cream to one part chocolate for a pouring consistency and one part cream to two or three parts chocolate for piping between biscuits or rolling into truffles.

Ganache in place

…so deserving of the Royal Albert plate 

Right. Now that creating ganache has been licked (pardon the pun, but wait till you make some and have to clean the bowl…) it’s time to move on to that pinnacle of (alleged) difficulty:

French Macaron

This little morsel has been the death of many a budding cook on TV shows, but if you follow the recipe to the letter it’s not at all impossible.

There’s fear about your piped macarons ending up irregularly shaped or mismatched, but that’s easily overcome by using a pre-drawn paper template under the baking paper while piping, then removing the template before cooking. The template can be reused as often as needed:

Macaron template

Then there’s the fear of getting air bubbles in the mixture that you’ve piped, but that’s overcome by carefully banging the tray flat on the bench before cooking.

The fear of ending up without the all important ‘feet’

Macron feet

…complete with ‘feet’

is a matter of carefully folding your ingredients after reading the amazingly helpful ‘How To Cook That’ page on Google which will cover every question you ever had about making macarons.

And having previously mastered Ganache, filling the perfect cases you’ve just made is, ahem, a piece of cake.


…not as perfect as a french pâtissier might make, but tolerable

It struck me that most of these dishes have an exotic sounding name, which may be what’s given them their reputation.

I can only hope that there’s a parallel cooking show somewhere in a non-English speaking part of the world where the competitors are in awe when a contestant plates up soft boiled eggs with toasted soldiers spread with – wait for it – an exotic thick, black, salty spread that they’ve never seen before and that tastes simply delicious.

#25 A Journey ‘From Source to Sauce’

The idea of creating some sort of Popular Movement as a fun and frivolous retirement activity rather appeals to me, especially if it leads to a truly enjoyable outcome.

So because the following activity hasn’t yet been listed as an Official Movement with a Name, it’s the one I’ve decided to start:

#25 ‘From Source to Sauce’

Think ‘From Nose to Tail’ or ‘From Paddock to Plate’ without the sad connotation of a sentient creature with trusting eyes and a peaceful life about to be cruelly sacrificed for our eating pleasure. (Sacrificed in a respectful way, of course.)

Thankfully, the ‘From Source to Sauce’ movement is about Seed Saving, followed by Planting and Growing, then Harvesting, and finally Cooking and Bottling, all without Sacrificing. Well, as long as you’re happy that picking fruit or vegetables isn’t killing.

So I started with a perfect Roma tomato, The perfect tomato chosen as it’s slightly more resistant to fruit fly – the scourge of our area – and makes a gorgeously crimson Tomato Chutney. Heritage tomatoes would probably be the best choice if you can find and grow them successfully.

Next step is to follow reliable instructions for saving the seeds. The website ‘How to Save Tomato Seeds to Grow Next Year’ gave a wonderful, step by step guide – with illustrations – that really worked. IMG_0686

Can a tomato bush really grow from each one of these?

Then it’s time to sow the seeds into small pots using a good quality seed raising mix. It makes the world of difference when it comes to transplanting them into your prepared garden bed if you have the seeds protected in small saved cardboard rolls (I’m sure you can guess where they come from) as shown: IMG_0708 When the seeds sprout into tiny tomato plants, the whole cardboard roll can then be transferred into the ground without damaging the delicate roots. The cardboard eventually disintegrates in the soil.

To protect them from the cold, add a plastic cloche over each one to provide that mini greenhouse feel. A washed, trimmed and inverted V8 vegetable juice container (love the Hot and Spicy one, mmm…) makes an ideal cover: IMG_0710 Once each seed has sprouted and been planted out and watered, it grows into an entire tomato bush with tiny copycat tomatoes on it before your very eyes. IMG_0899 Then, without having to do much more than add some worm juice if available and await the sun’s magic, you should end up with something like this: Tom bush

I know it looks like it all happened overnight, but several months have passed since the first photo!

Gathering the bounty and saving it until you have enough for a batch of whatever you want to make is the next step. Basket of toms

If at all possible, resist the urge to toss them with grilled haloumi and serve on home-made sourdough toast every morning.

Now comes the serious bit.

Some years ago, a good friend gave me the Best Ever Recipe for Tomato Chutney. A chutney so delicious that in my experience, it’s been coveted by everyone who’s ever tried it.

I have to be feeling über-generous to give away a jar of this ruby treasure.


It should make 8 to 10 medium-sized jars, but the recipe can be halved if enough of your tomatoes haven’t ripened at the same time.

IMG_0910Nearly there…

And if this journey From Source to Sauce hasn’t kept you busy enough there’s always the opportunity to make your own labels for the finished product.

Finished chutney 2

 Starting a Movement doesn’t get any more satisfying than this!

#23 Plan the Perfect Celebration

Although it’s some years until my next major birthday, a recent spate of friends celebrating birthdays-that-end-in-a-zero set me thinking: what’s the best way to organise festivities so that everyone has a marvellous time?

And so to my next activity:

#23 Plan the Perfect Celebration

Many years ago, when it was fashionable, I threw a fancy dress party for a ‘zero-ending’ birthday (honestly, it was fashionable once) and although it seemed to go well and everyone followed the brief, arriving dressed as their alter egos –


and yes, there was a healthy smattering of bikers, good time girls and men in drag – I was aware that the fancy dress theme didn’t appeal to everyone.

This is completely understandable.

Take regular parties. Some people don’t find standing for hours, holding a drink all that …comfortable.

Image: Wikimedia commons 

BanquetIt took the Romans to understand the importance of relaxed, stylish seating

And studies of the frisky little octodon degus, a small rodent who lives a life spookily like humans, and whose circadian activities have therefore been closely followed, tell us that we can be divided into 3 activity groups: morning ‘larks’, the 10% who are up early and ready to roll, but fade quickly;  the night ‘owls’,  the 20% who like to sleep late and party late; and of course, the ever popular ‘hummingbirds’ as they’re called, that lucky 70% who can rise early if necessary and party late.

Image: Wikimedia commons


Fear not. Fewer than 90% of these little critters will keep you up with their late night shenanigans…

So my question is: how do you accommodate lark-like friends for whom the idea of an evening celebration is enough to force them to concoct a really bad excuse, even if their spirit is willing to celebrate?

And what about other personality types like introverts, for whom the mention of the word ‘party’ with its spectre of a room full of strangers all carousing happily and noisily, is as appealing as the idea of being water boarded?

Could not all these problems and more be solved by providing a mixture of variety and choice when planning celebrations?  I’m surprised no one’s done this before.

So when my next big event comes around, I’ve decided to celebrate it in a number of ways, just to accommodate all the personality types of my friends.

I’ll send a list of options to everyone, and let each person decide how they’d best like to celebrate with me. And if this involves three or four separate fun-filled events, well, so be it.

So far, I’ve come up with a number of possibilities that I hope will cover most tastes:

  • A sumptuous breakfast … with a view: 


Of course, I mean a view of the top not from the top of somewhere like Mt Taranaki

  • A leisurely YumCha in Chinatown:

Dimsum Image:: Wikimedia commons

  • A lunch degustation at a very fine city restaurant:


…and they don’t come much finer than Tetsuya’s

  • Champagne and canapés in the late afternoon followed by a fabulous film:

Cinema experience

  • Or perhaps a Gatsby-style party, where the hostess mysteriously disappears at 8pm… but nobody notices.

I can’t wait…




#17 Indulge in Life’s Little Luxuries

What a relief we’re not compelled to believe our Government’s pronouncements.

So if, for example, they were to tell us that the Age of Entitlement is over, we can smile in the secret knowledge that this just isn’t true. Or to paraphrase a classic line from George Orwell’s novel, 1984: ‘They can tell us anything – anything – but they can’t make us believe it. They can’t get inside us.’*

So in retirement, I’m prepared to disregard Government directives and flaunt my sense of entitlement to:

#17 Indulge in Life’s Little Luxuries

TS Eliot may have said ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’ but have you noticed how we’re now expected to measure our life by ‘the cost of a cup of coffee’?  This phrase seems to have entered the language as synonymous with a tiny amount of money, an amount so inconsequential, so piffling that it can barely be considered spending money.  You’ll understand then, if I refer to some of these little luxuries as sometimes costing even less than a cup of coffee.


We have two new pâtisseries in town, Patty’s and Geoffrey Michael’s. Not cake shops. Pâtisseries. They deserve the French title, because they both produce the most exquisite little treats imaginable. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds.

Just look at what I was able to buy on Saturday for a special morning tea with friends: treats

 And each of these delicacies cost a mere 0.75 of the ‘cost of a cup of coffee’.

Then I noticed from my kitchen window that the last of the Apricot Nectar roses were blooming. Why leave them out in the garden to be ruined by the rain? Isn’t a vase of fresh flowers the ultimate in luxury? And all it takes is some gardening gloves, a pair of secateurs and a little time to provide such an indulgence. Flowers

 …Costing significantly less than the ten cups of coffee a florist would charge… 

Now, until Cussons soaps started advertising their Imperial Leather brand as the soap for use in the bath on your private jet  I considered soap was just  – well, soap.

That advertisement changed my view a little, but now, it’s been ratcheted up even further. And hurrah for that. More little luxuries.

Have you heard of Himalayan salt soap? Or SoapRocks® in assorted styles and colours, like Fire Opal™ or Citrene™?

I hadn’t until recently, but now they’re officially on my list of little luxuries. Soaps

Soaps just ain’t soaps any more… but to be fair, these cost more like a cup of civet coffee than regular coffee.

And does this ring a bell with anyone?The Good Set

The imprisoned ‘Good Set’…

Yes, it’s the ‘Good Set’, the one handed down from your grandmother to your mother and now to you, and forever destined to be locked up behind a glass facade, or hidden in a box somewhere upstairs, only to enjoy day release on very rare, very special occasions.

Pshaw, I say to that. Be a devil. Use the ‘Good Set’ just because you can.

And it’s a known fact that tea and coffee tastes better in a forbidden cup. coffee

The one above costs more than the one below!

The good set in use

Is it just me, or is there something seriously luxurious about fur? These days, fur means faux fur, of course, unless we’re talking about a real kitten. But I even love the feel of faux fur against skin, and every time I put on my faux fur-trimmed gloves I feel … special.

I could go on for ages, adding items like sleeping on silk pillowslips, or using bathroom fragrance tapers, or indulging in a glass of Grand Marnier or Frangelico liqueur, because finding little luxuries is very close to my heart.

But the best thing is, I don’t have to sacrifice even one cup of coffee for any of these treats, because the truth is, I don’t actually drink coffee…

* The original quote from George Orwell’s 1984 was said by Julia: ‘They can make you say anything – anything – but they can’t make you believe it. They can’t get inside you.’


Unfortunately, Julia was wrong.

#3 Cook a New Recipe Weekly

With friends arriving every other weekend for a screen viewing at my #2 Create a Home Cinema, the issue of feeding them has arisen. Which brings me to:

#3 Cook a New Recipe Weekly.

Now the logistics of preparing food while you’re simultaneously watching a movie created its own dilemma, until I discovered slow cookers and Sally Wise’s cook book, replete with superb slow cooker recipes. A marriage made in heaven.

I’m trying the Mediterranean Chicken for next week’s screening…

In the meantime, while internet shopping is all well and good (– no, it’s terrific actually -)  sometimes, when you don’t know what you don’t know, a spot of real-life retail therapy can work wonders. Wandering through Target the other day, I came upon a line of cushions that look just like regular cushions, but once unzipped, magically fold out into a blanket to snuggle into as you watch a movie.  They’ve proved to be a big hit with my friends, so here’s a photo.


Is it a cushion?

Or is it a quilt?   

No, it’s a quillow!

Clever, space saving and functional. Love them!