Leftovers – With Marcella #62, #63, #64, #65, #66, #67 & #68 (of 466)

I just ate some of the leftovers of recipe #19. They had been stored safely in the freezer – for those of you concerned for my intestinal well-being.

They were leftovers from Marcella’s ‘Pan-Roasted Whole-Boned Chicken with Beef and Parmesan Stuffing’. Here is a photo from the night it was cooked and eaten. This half a chicken was what was leftover from two stuffed chickens.

boned chicken

Leftovers can be very handy when one is lacking in energy or, as my friend once put it, ‘not full of the joys of Spring’. She said that back in Spring. It’s Autumn now. I’m still hanging in there.

There are days when we feel ready to face any challenge that life throws at us. Like this chicken:

ready chicken

There are days when we feel all plump and full of energy or, in the case of this chicken, beef and parmesan stuffing – all ready to be useful and a delight to others. Like this deboned, stuffed, sewn up chicken:

stuffed chicken

Then there are days when we feel like this:

deflated chicken

Leftovers are good for those days.

I’ve not managed to keep up with the blogging of recipes cooked in the past week. There have been several, as you will see from the title of the post. They have been spread across three comforting meals with good friends.

Now it’s time for a little break. Time for leftovers.

Last week at my friends’ table by the Thames: #62 ‘Basic Bruschetta’, #63 ‘Braised Carrots with Parmesan’, #64 ‘Pork Sausages with Smothered Onions and Tomatoes’, #65 ‘Baked Apples with Amaretti Biscuits’ and #66 ‘Celery Risotto’.

A couple of nights ago: #67 ‘Oven-Roasted Tomatoes’ and #68 ‘Braised Pork Chops with Two Wines’ along with a repeat of Marcella’s Polenta Shortcake for dessert, celebrating Stephanie’s newly acquired citizenship in this country, with Stephanie, Hannah and Isabel at my table.


Dear Critic – With Marcella #60 & #61 (of 466)

Dear Critic,

I’m not really sure if you have the time

To read this post of amateur rhyme.

Please remember me, if you think you can.

You who, some time ago, was a bit of a fan.

I’m not sure, right now, that you’d give me a thought

Nor am I sure that you really ought.

But please spare a moment, or perhaps even two,

To see what I’ve done since I last saw you.

I’ve cooked many recipes from Marcella’s great book.

You can read all the posts, should you care to take a look.

I’ve learnt a great deal and my cooking’s got better.

But I won’t boast about it in this open letter.

Suffice it to say that I’ve left my ‘comfort zone’

Many times, since your words spoken over the phone.

I’ve not done this to prove that your summary was wrong.

In fact, I’ve been outside the zone all along.

Last night, I braved cooking my first ‘whole’ fish!

You’ll see them right here in this rather cramped dish.

fishy fishy

I may well have squealed while handling them uncooked.

But you can see my ‘zone’ has a rather new look!

Last night: #60 ‘Sauteed Sea Bream with Mushrooms’ and #61 ‘Chilled Black Grape Pudding’ with John and Jo, at their table.


Dawkins Sat At My Feet – With Marcella #58 & #59 (of 466)

I had just arrived at the house of long-time and dear friends. I had been warmly welcomed and was standing by the familiar kitchen table when Dawkins, the family dog, came and lay down across my feet.

My friends translated the gesture of this handsome, doggy friend. He was communicating to me that I was most welcome and that I must please stay awhile.

I felt welcomed. I planned to stay awhile.

It has become my custom, while staying with these friends, to cook dinner for them most nights. They are all working or studying. I am simply holidaying and one of my favourite holiday activities – or at anytime really – is to cook.

You may have guessed that I would choose to cook this week from Marcella’s ‘The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’. You guessed correctly. I am used to cooking from the hard cover copy I have at home, but I also have it on my Kindle. So I am free to travel light and cook confidently with Marcella’s company.

Last night, I cooked Marcella’s ‘Beef Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables’ – with only salt and pepper added to the ingredients in the title. It was undeniably delicious!! We all thought so. We all said so – several times. Dawkins enjoyed anĀ appetiser of some fatty off-cuts as I was preparing the chuck steak for stewing. He later enjoyed the rinsed-out gravy from the stewing pot poured over his doggy biscuits for dinner. He knew it was coming and barked very loudly when we sat in a too-leisurely, too-long fashion after dinner.

The stew was accompanied – again deliciously – by Marcella’s ‘Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Mushrooms, Riviera Style’.

My friends live very near a very famous river – though not the Riviera.

Still Marcella-upon-Thames works well for me. It works for my friends. It works for Dawkins. He’d like me to stay awhile.

Last night: #58 ‘Beef Stew with Red Wine and Vegetables’ and #59 ‘Sliced Potatoes Baked with Porcini and Fresh Mushrooms, Riviera Style’ with John, Jo, Tom (and Me) at their table – and Dawkins waiting, not so patiently, at the back door.

With Marcella #55, #56 & #57 (of 466)

At my table, we ate two tablespoons of fennel seeds. That’s right. Two. Tablespoons.

There were six of us at the table. So we shared the two tablespoons between us.

The fennel seeds had also been mixed into a cake before it was baked. So all in all it wasn’t quite as grim as it sounds.

Still! Two tablespoons!

This was yet another occasion where I had to trust Marcella’s good judgement. I did read the list of ingredients a few times, just to check that it wasn’t actually teaspoons that were required…

Marcella was right, of course. It worked beautifully. A shortcake made of polenta, a little flour, an egg, a little sugar, some dried figs, raisins and pinenuts. Even as I cut and served the cake to my guests, I only cut small pieces in case it was awful and I made it clear that they were under no obligation to eat it.

After each of us took our first bite, there was silence as we adjusted to the unusual licorice flavouring. Then we embraced the cake (digestively speaking!) and grew to love it with each new bite. We all chose to have seconds!

At my table that night, there were a variety of nationalities – Moldovan, American, German, Australian – all foreigners living in a land not our own. Each of my guests were all new to our church and so I had invited them to get to know each other – and for me to know them better.

It was a mixture like the mixture of ingredients in the cake we shared for dessert – and it worked just as beautifully!

We experienced some of the comfort and joy that come from being part of God’s family, having left our extended families in other places. All this with another nationality represented in the Italian food we ate that night!

Two nights ago: #55 ‘Pot Roast of Beef Braised in Red Wine’, #56 ‘Sauteed Early Peas with Olive Oil and Prosciutto, Florentine Style’ and #57 ‘Polenta Shortcake with Raisins, Dried Figs and Pine Nuts’ with Alex, Emma, John, Emily and Erika at my table.

A Week of Weakness With Marcella #53 & #54 (of 466)

This week I’ve felt weak. Weak in my thinking, my speaking and in my body. Extended headaches have reminded me of my weakness many a time over the past days. It’s all very well to decide to feel victorious and upbeat, but then headaches have a way of bringing you back to reality.

It has caused me to reflect a lot more on God’s unending, unfailing strength.

I have been reading through the Psalms these past few months, and this morning reached one of the several Psalms that mention God’s wings – and our hiding under them. In Psalm 61, the hiding under God’s wing is associated with rest and safety and relying on his strength. It’s a beautiful ‘feathery’ image. One I have been reminding myself of during the course of today.

If my headache is induced through the tension of feeling and living weakness – then the antidote is likely to be something (everything) to do with resting in someone else’s strength.

A few days ago, a friend came around to take me out for a walk and a coffee with her young son. We sat in the park in the sun and, while the son took great delight in pretending to stumble and fall but managing not to, we minded his toys.

Buzz and Woodie are heroes of mine. I love their different qualities, their vision and leadership. Somewhat ironically that day, I discovered that Buzz’s pop-out wings were no longer working (there was no travelling to infinity and beyond for Buzz that day) and Woody was held together with gaffa tape which made him look like he was wearing a back brace.

Buzz and Woodie

They were little animated ironies, resting on the bench between my friend and I, as we reflected on our weakness and God’s strength.

I shouldn’t be surprised at my weakness. I’m not alone. I follow a Saviour who strong-armed death in weakness – the weakness of facing a humiliating death in my place. Dying and conquering death by living again, so that I could live and find rest.

This evening, and earlier in the week, I had a couple of friends for meals – simple meals. Meals cooked in weakness. Sausages with Red Cabbage, and tonight Fennel Salad to accompany some sausages cooked on the BBQ.

Psalms, Sausages and a Saviour. Just what the doctor ordered!

This week: #53 ‘Pork Sausages with Red Cabbage’ and #54 ‘Fennel Salad’ with an Irish student and an Australian Ambassador at my table.

A Veil of Tears

Awhile back, I was catching up with some old friends over a meal and as I recounted several stories (from different times and different places) they recognised a common motif: tears. My tears.

Me crying as I: opened a box of 40 Birthday cards; heard the news of my boss moving on to a new job; sang a moving hymn in the company of hundreds; wrote an email to friends asking for help with a somewhat delicate matter; fell over on the main street and in the process of falling lost a McDonalds hamburger as it broke my fall (we couldn’t quite work out if it was the fall or the loss of the burger that had produced the tears). Finally, I recounted to my friends the saying of goodbyes to my boss the day before. Or, rather, how I tried to say goodbye. My throat was somewhat constricted.

My friends, understandably, enquired if I was in possession of unusually large tear ducts – and not in a tone that suggested this might be a good thing. You lose credibility if you cry too much. You lose much of your foundation and mascara also.

In the days before seeing my friends, I had been attending a conference with hundreds of others in a similar line of work to mine. I hadn’t expected to see many people I know. But I did. Even the ones I didn’t know all seemed to know my boss and that he was leaving – and they all had something to say.

So, though in my imagination I had seen myself attending this conference in a fairly anonymous capacity and therefore in an emotionally detached manner (a break from the emotions of the weeks leading up to that holiday), it seemed I was doomed to walk around with my emotions very much attached to my sleeve and trailing behind me in a mass of sodden tissues – well, at least a little bundle of them in the bottom of my handbag.

Tears are humiliating – mostly. Crying makes others feel awkward as they watch your eyes brim with tears and then spill over, running down your face, sometimes mingling with the contents of a running nose. Tears make a fool of you as they somehow cause a simultaneous constriction of your vocal chords, rendering you unable to speak clearly. If you do try to speak, the tears fight back with a counter-phenomenon otherwise known as ‘ugly crying’.

I’m fairly certain that in a petite, sweetly fragile looking girl, tears would look endearing and call for rescue and empathy. On the face of a woman with a larger, more robust frame – the kind of women that people ask for directions (I can only guess because they think I can see further?) – tears are a disappointment and look pathetic, weak and just a little ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that, because we larger women are taller, we can be seen from a greater distance as our tears fall.

I spent some time that week with a woman who was suffering grief from the loss of a loved one. She said she didn’t cry until she was alone in her room at night. Ironically, people thought she didn’t care – that she wasn’t really grieving because they couldn’t see her tears. Tears are required of us at times, but only at times when others deem it appropriate.

Mostly tears are just awkward.

And yet they speak words – even when they won’t allow our vocal chords to speak.

They say ‘Something or Someone is gone!’ or ‘Something’s not as it should be!’ or even ‘Something so lovely has just happened that it highlights, just a little, deep inside, the lack of lovely somethings at other times’.

We are moved – or at least I am – when we taste loss or the brief presence of something that’s normally absent. Longing spills from our eyes, often at the most inconvenient and, in my case, frequent and public times.

But I take comfort in the fact that I’m known and understood by a fellow weeper. Jesus wept as he saw grief, saw faith missing, and faced the prospect of death and separation. A death that would ensure a future for his (now) weeping followers – a future of no more crying, or grief, or pain.

As my tears fall these days, I try to remember that they speak, when my voice won’t, of a longing for a tearless eternity – where nothing good is lost.

Though I’m glad the need for tissues will be.


Where Does My Help Come From?

This morning I walked to the bank to pay my electricity bill into my landlord’s account. Apparently I can’t do that anymore. An older lady was standing in the middle of the newly renovated banking room. A room now filled with cubicles where you go and take care of your business. Only it seems there’s not much business you can take care of in those cubicles. Not anymore.

The lady was the only human in sight. She was clearly employed to help me – help me realise that I could no longer be helped here.

I walked on to the local butcher, where I wished to buy three salmon fillets for dinner tonight. I am temporarily reverting to ‘The Hairy Dieters’ cookbook to get some help in the arena of my not-so-defined waistline. The butcher remembered me! He asked how the pork had turned out. I told him it had turned out beautifully. He said ‘See, you just need to tell me what you’re cooking and we know what to cut of meat to recommend!’

The butcher was there to help me. He wanted me to know that.

Later today, I and another listening ear, had lunch with a woman we so wanted to help. We offered help. We asked how we could help. We tried to help by listening. In the end we all agreed that there wasn’t all that much we could do to help. Her situation was a pretty desperate situation and one that wasn’t likely to go away anytime soon.

God, our loving, heavenly Father, was there listening today. We heard words from his song book, Psalm 139, of his intimate knowledge of us and his hand that holds us fast when others cannot, or will not. His hand holds us fast even when other hands may be letting us down, dragging us down, grasping at our life in ways we can’t control.

We could hold this woman’s hand in support but ultimately we were left with just one source of help – and we spoke to him in prayer and trust. We were taking it to the only one who can offer real help.

In the words of another of his songs given to us to sing:

I lift my eyes to the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
The Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed he who watches over Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you
The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm
He will watch over your coming and going
Both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121


A rare treat for those of you who have often wished I included photos in my posts. Please don’t expect them normally. Photography is the last thing I am thinking of when bringing meals to my table. On this occasion – my friend’s 40th Birthday Dinner Party – the Birthday Girl was quite happily snapping away. I have included the photos below.

From Marcella Hazan’s Classic Menu in the Bolognese Style

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Drunk Roast Pork with Pan-Roasted Potatoes and Spinach Sauteed in Olive Oil and Garlic

Pork, Potato and Spinach

Bolognese Rice Cake

Bolognese Rice Cake

The Chef’s Hands in Animated Description of the Cooking Process

Chef's Hands

For more more details about this lovely evening see the previous post.