The weather brought an unexpected bonus yesterday: with the local village coop low on stocks – almost no fresh fruit and veg, no bread and no milk – and an unwillingness to venture further afield, I was thrown back into what is anyway now my favourite way of cooking. I call it ‘what’s in the cupboard cooking’, though I include what’s in the fridge in that (and if needs be the freezer, but that usually means meat or fish and this concoction was for one of our two a week ‘veggie’ days – Friday).

Having been to Leeds Kirkgate market recently I had a lot of avocados (six for £1 – irresistible). I usually eat them uncooked (I just love them with a simple vinaigrette) but on a snowbound day I thought a warming soup was more appropriate. Thinking how well this strange fruit goes with something hot spicey, like in a good guacamole, I decided on a hot and spicey soup. Also, as it was to be a main course, I wanted it really thick and also added a few chunks of separately boiled potatoes.

Petronela, not the easiest person to please with something new to her, declared the result to be a “super soup” so here’s the recipe. We didn’t need anything more for our evening meal except freshly baked wholemeal bread  but you could serve much smaller portions, without the potatoes and even cold, as a starter. As usual, measurements are approximate as I rarely measure anything (vary the amount of the ‘hot spicey’ things, or leave them out, to suit your taste).


2 large avocado, one small avocado (small for decoration)

2 spring onions

1 large clove of garlic

A chunk of root ginger about as large as my thumb

1 small hot red chilli pepper

1tsp of ground cumin

1 tsp ground  coriander

Small amount of oil or butter (I used Yorkshire rape seed oil)

1 litre of vegetable stock

2 tblsp of sour cream


Cut the spring onions, ginger, garlic and chilli pepper really fine and sweat in the oil with the cumin for a few minutes on low heat (taking care the garlic does not burn).

Add the vegetable stock and simmer for five minutes. Add the ground coriander.

Destone, skin and cut the two large avocados into chunks and drop in a liquidiser. Add the stock and liquidise till it’s a smooth cream. Can be left till required at this point.

To serve heat gently till just at boiling point. Slice and skin the small avocado. When the soup is hot stir in a couple of good tablespoons of sour cream. Ladle into hot soup bowls, float the slices of avocado on top and sprinkle a little chilli pepper on top.


To make a more substantial meal cube some potato (preferably the soft floury type rather than waxy) and boil in salted water until just cooked. Put a serving of potato in the soup bowl before adding the soup.

You could try stirring in some cream cheese, or creme fraiche, instead of sour cream.

If you don’t want vegetarian soup, use chicken stock in place of vegetable stock.

Decorate with fresh coriander leaves if you have them; I did not.




Doesn’t look much does it but in my opinion this is one of the best of all soups. This is in fact vichyssoise though we ate a serving hot.

I bought a couple of leeks with the intention of making a leek and potato soup for Friday, one of our ‘meatless days’. Although no recipe is necessary – there could hardly be a simpler soup to make – I had intended to follow (roughly) Delia Smith’s recipe, my go-to cook for unpretentious but superb food of all kinds. For one reason and another I didn’t make the soup on Friday so went for an authentic vichyssoise and as far as I am concerned that means a recipe from a Frenchman or, as it turned out, from a Frenchwoman.

The only major difference between the soup and the vichyssoise is that the first is with a vegetable stock, generally served hot, the second with chicken stock and served cold. I made four generous servings. We had a small serving hot, the rest we’ll have later cold, ie vichyssoise (it will keep fine in the freezer).

Sadly Stéphane seems to have stopped posting on his blog, ‘My French Heaven‘, his most recent post being in June last year where he gave his grandmother’s recipe for vichyssoise, which is good enough for me. I say sadly because this was one of the best food blogs (and much more) around. Nevertheless, although posts seem to have stopped all the old ones seem still to be there. I love his ‘About’ – that alone is worth a read, but here’s his (or grandma’s) vichyssoise with the story behind it.

This is truly delicious.

If you want the vegetarian version I’d recommend Delia Smith’s recipe (don’t be misled by the added complication from ‘celebrities’ like Jamie Oliver – rubbish). Here’s Delia’s:

It’s worth adding that leeks are a wonderful, often overlooked vegetable. This was brought home to me just a couple of days ago when I made a mushroom omelette following a recipe from Latvia which added some leek. I’d never have thought of using them in a mushroom omelette but I’m sure that it was this ingredient which lifted this omelette from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Here’s the recipe:



Picture from Chefclub video

A surprising number of bloggers new to me liked my variation on a recipe for stuffed mushrooms (posted 1 Dec ‘18) so I decided to post this one. First and foremost it was the way this ‘recipe’ was presented which attracted me. Normally I do not like video clip recipes, in fact I really dislike them, I much prefer written instructions. This one was clever enough (and had accompanying written recipe) but simple enough to persuade me to make the recipe – with a change.

A second attraction was the incorporation of small sautéed cubes of potato which recalled Swedish  ‘pytt i panna’, more usually now written ‘pyttipanna‘, which I used to make regularly years ago to use left over roast beef. Now I understand this is to be found in up-market Swedish restaurants, with a fried egg. I much preferred to serve it with the traditional raw egg in its opened shell to be mixed in before eating. This Swedish dish was in turn brought to mind by a ‘breakfast’ cooked recently by my Latvian blogger friend Ilze (which she referred to as “Latvian rubbish food” 😜).

There was one problem: I doubted Petronela (my wife for any newcomers to this blog) would eat anything incorporating cheese looking rather like Brie or Camembert, neither of which she will eat – though I’m pretty sure she’s never tasted either. We’re talking about that wonderful Swiss cheese ‘Reblochon’, made from a second morning milking of cows, so delightfully creamy.

Without Reblochon

So, for Petronela, how to follow the idea without Reblochon? Rememembering how much she liked the ‘stuffed mushrooms’ I decided to follow a similar idea for the cheese: for the two of us, about 200g of cream cheese with about 100g of Parmesan finely grated into it, well mixed then formed into a little round cake, and four eggs. Like with the stuffed mushrooms we ate with half a baked potato with butter.

I would, of course, recommend you follow the original recipe using Reblochon, but if for any reason you cannot here’s a good, tasty alternative. I’d like to try with a small Camembert too. No need for me to repeat the recipe; just go to this neat chefclub clip:

‘Cooked’ condensed milk, the basis of the unbaked ‘cake’ at the end of this post

‘Cooked’ condensed milk, the basis of the unbaked ‘cake’ at the end of this post

I said in my Christmas post that after years of striving to cook classic French dishes (from before the days of nouvelle cuisine) I was tending more and more towards simplicity, to the point of buying some elements of Christmas dinner from Marks and Spencer (branded as M&S now – stupid and probably why they have ‘lost the plot’ in all departments except food! I have always bought my wife a ‘little’ Christmas present from a particular department there, but if for 2016 Christmas it was difficult to find something, last year there was nothing at all appealing).

Back to food; I’ve said before on this blog that I rarely follow recipe’s exactly now, using them as a starting point for ‘doing my own thing’. I do intend to return to an ‘exotic’ – though still simple – starter next Christmas, prawns flambeed in Ricard, learned from the blog ‘My French Heaven’. Unfortunately, as it was one of my favourite blogs, there have been no posts on that since it was back, after a long break, in June last year which explained the absence and gave a recipe for a soup I like a lot in the summer; also simple, it’s ‘cheap as chips’ to make: vichyssoise

Part of the move to ‘simplicity’ in the kitchen has been prompted by a blogger friend discovered early last year who often posts a recipe for Latvian style food which, as she has said, is usually simple compared with, eg, French or Romanian but tasty nevertheless. The final link to a ‘simple’ recipe, for a ‘cake’, below is one of hers. As I had never made anything like it before I did follow her recipe, before making two variations with half the mix.

Something I have not made for a long time, simple yet really tasty, is a soup which, searching for it, I was surprised to find I had never posted a recipe. So here it is:

Tomato and cinnamon soup

Ingredients (for 2 starter servings – double, triple, etc everything for more)

Tomato and cinnamon soup

A can of tomatoes (or use fresh)
A small onion
A few cloves of garlic (to taste)
1 tspn of cinnamon (or more, again to taste)
A dollop of tomato puree
A preserved vegetable/herb mix – dried, bottled or a vegetable stock cube
Extra basil – dried or if fresh also for ‘decorating’.

Chuck everything into a pan (with some water, more if using fresh tomatoes), cook a little (15mins with canned tomatoes, maybe 30 with fresh), liquidise, taste and if you like more cinnamon put it in and adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If a bit sour for your taste add one or two teaspoons of unrefined sugar. Reheat and serve with sour cream (or ‘sweet’ cream if you prefer). A variation: if you have a sweet red pepper looking alone cut that up and add to the tomatoes when cooking.

Cacio e pepe

? e pepe

The second ‘simple’ recipe comes from Corrie, another blogger I often go to for a ‘different’ veggie recipe (we eat ‘meatless’ twice a week though we are not vegetarian). In fact she suggested a variation on a celebrated Italian recipe, associated with Rome, ‘Cacio e pepe’ – Cheese and pepper. The year before last this dish became the ‘in thing’ (just as daft as the craze for Prosecco now being overtaken by fancy – ie expensive – gin).  Corrie’s variation adds cherry tomatoes – I didn’t know whether I wanted to do that as in general I don’t like cooked tomatoes (I know, that’s weird having in mind the recipe above, but nevertheless true). Bought tomatoes in UK are a disaster anyway, usually tasteless or worse, but there is one cherry variety which is acceptable – Piccolo – so I did not follow Corrie’s recipe but after taking the pasta out of the water in which I cooked the pasta I dropped the halved tomatoes in the water and cooked for a few minutes.

Both the authentic ‘Cacio e pepe’ and Corrie’s version are very simple – on the face of it. In fact it is, like spaghetti carbonara, not so simple to make the renowned dish well. It takes practice. However, even if not perfect it always tastes good. Important, stir the pasta occasionally while boiling so it does not clump together; have the cheese at room temperature and grate as finely as possible. I followed something between the authentic Italian method and Corrie’s. You’ll find Corrie’s recipe here:

Dulce de leche cake – no cooking

Four varieties of ‘dulce de leche’

Finally, I wanted to make a ‘surprise’ cake for my wife and took up a suggestion from my Latvian blogger friend Ilze. Very simple, ‘Dulce de leche’ cake is made of condensed milk simmered sealed in the can for 2-3 hours, butter and crushed biscuits. In Latvia they use Selga biscuits but Rich Tea are an excellent substitute here.

I made only a quarter of Ilze’s recipe (half a 397g can of Carnation condensed milk, everything else in proportion). I wasn’t certain my wife would like the taste of the original, which might be too ‘caramel’ for her, so I divided my mix into two and added a good slug of rum to one half. I then added powdered cocoa to half of that (don’t know how much – till I liked the colour!). The other half I also divided into two, adding poppy seeds to one part and grating chilli chocolate on the top of the other. Of course, it’s simpler just to make one and in the future I’ll make the one preferred – with cocoa and rum. The cocoa powder, being bitter, cuts the sweetness. The one with just rum tastes less sweet cold from the fridge.

You can make the cake(s) into any shape you like by forming with your hands. My guess is that children would love making this cake.

You’ll find Ilze’s recipe here:

Dulce de leche cake 


The Carnation can has a warning not to boil in the can. Don’t worry, just make sure the can is well covered with water, adjust heat to be only just simmering and put a lid on it.

There was a good article about the ‘Cacio e pepe’ craze, with good advice for cooking it, in the Guardian the year before last. You’ll find it here:

This is a very simple recipe but my wife has said it is the best ‘vegetarian’ food she’s ever tasted. We are not vegetarian but eat ‘without meat’ twice a week. The recipe isn’t truly ‘vegetarian’ either as it has Parmesan cheese.

I got the basic idea from somewhere but cannot remember where so apologies for no acknowledgement.

This week’s version was slightly different to that of last week as I did not have one of the ingredients – spinach – but I’ll give last week’s recipe because although that of this week was good that last week was better. As usual, I didn’t measure anything so apart from the cream cheese, everything else is an approximation.


3 large flat mushrooms; 1 packet of cream cheese (200g); about 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated, with a little more to sprinkle on top; 3 cloves of garlic; 4 large handfuls of ‘baby spinach’; 1/4 tspn freshly ground black pepper; 1/4 tspn chilli or cayenne pepper; 1 tblspn good olive oil.


Wipe the mushrooms with some kitchen paper. Carefully break out the stalk. Finely chop the mushroom stalks and garlic and fry in the olive oil (careful not to burn the garlic). Allow to cool. Mix together the cream cheese and parmesan, then add the pepper and chilli and mix well. Finally add the fried garlic and mushroom stalks, again mixing well.

Meanwhile heat the spinach in a large pan until it is wilted and allow to cool.

Squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as possible then put 1/3 in each mushroom top. Then put 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top of the spinach. Finally, grate a little more Parmesan on each.

Lay a sheet of non-stick baking paper on a baking sheet then put on the stuffed mushrooms and put in an oven preheated to 200degC for 1/2 hour or till just browned on top.


Goes well with baked potato soaked in butter (has the advantage that this too can be baked in the oven at 200degC, put in 1/2 hour before the mushrooms).

The recipe would probably work with creme fraiche, but I haven’t tried it.

If you don’t like ‘hot/spicy’ leave out the chilli/cayenne.

We’re not likely to do much today as it will be so hot but this evening we will meet up with the former ‘county inspector of history’ who had and has a high regard for Petronela as a teacher and has now become a friend. She wanted to meet in an excellent restaurant “to eat fish”; we agreed to the location but will settle for an icecream or sweet of some kind. As I said on my Facebook ‘diary’ yesterday, I did nothing of note so it seemed a good idea to write another post on grumpytyke after about a week here in Iași.

A picture of some small carp in a bowl, prepared for cooking

Small carp

Today many Romanians will eat fish. A high proportion of the Romanian population are practising Orthodox Christians so follow rules of ‘post’ (ie , fast) laid down by the church and today is a day on which they can eat fish but not meat.

Post (fast) in Orthodox Romania

When I first came to Romania I lived for six months with a Romanian family and although something different would have been cooked for me I preferred to go along with whatever they were eating so became used to not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and for longer periods at certain times of the year (eg pre Easter, and now). As it seemed a good idea, for health reasons, not to eat meat for a couple of days a week, and for longer periods a couple of times a year or so, I’ve followed this ever since and having a ‘schedule’ makes it easier though I don’t do it for religious reasons. In fact, according to the rules of  ‘post’ it’s not a matter of not eating meat but of not eating animal products, so ‘vegan’. We don’t do this; we often eat eggs, cheese etc on ‘post’ days but sometimes ‘vegan’ meals, eg a kind of ‘baked beans’, ‘borș cu fasole’ – bean borsch, or ‘tocănița cu cartofi’ – potato stew, which are three favourites of mine.

Pește, fish

There’s not a day each week when it’s ‘allowed’ to eat fish but in periods of post there are days where eating fish is allowed and today is such a day. So, as Petronela’s mother follows post pretty strictly today we have fish on the menu. However, because most Romanians (at least in this part of the country) will eat fish today it was difficult to acquire it unless you’re an angler. So Petronela’s father stood in a queue for 1.1/2 hours in the market yesterday to buy the preferred fish – carp.

The carp bought yesterday are extraordinarily small (see picture). I’m more used to them weighing several kg but none larger were available.

(As an aside, I was amused when UK anglers were horrified when east europeans expected to eat the carp they caught. Equally, the east Europeans  were perplexed by UK anglers putting back the carp and other fish they caught; it seemed a pointless activity).

In the UK we usually eat fish on Tuesdays. There’s no link with the church in that, it comes from my ‘honorary grandmother’ in the Bucovina, but that’s another story. Again, having a schedule ensures we eat fish at least once a week.

Mujedei (garlic ‘sauce’)

Obligatory with fried carp is a raw garlic sauce, ‘mujedei’ (pron mooj-day’). This can be simple crushed garlic with water, with sunflower oil, with milk, with a combination of the latter two, or other variations. I prefer it simple with oil, particularly as carp, like tuna, is more like a beef steak with little fat.

To accompany the carp we’ll have ‘mămăliga’ – a kind of cornmeal hash similar to ‘polenta’ but far better if made with the cornmeal from the countryside here; I think this is because a proportion of ‘tăriță’ (chaff) is left in it and probably also because it it is grown on the smallholders’ lots so truly ‘organic’ – a ridiculous term but you know what I mean. (Big Romanian food producers or Western invaders have invented a new one, applied to many packaged, branded foods which, of course, have preservatives, etc: ‘Bio’ is now plastered over packets of such products – more crap!)


Crap in Romanian is, of course, carp in English, a source of great amusement to Petronela’s students in the UK and to my fishmonger in Leeds Kirkgate market where I buy it, particularly for New Year when it is a traditional Romanian dish. His come from France so not as good as those from Romania, but OK.

WordPress app “beautiful new editor”

I’ve always ignored the WordPress suggestions to use the “improved” editor or the WordPress app. They have always been crap (in the English sense) compared to the traditional desktop version so I use that on both the Macbook and the iPad (as now). Most recently there was a notification that the app had a “beautiful new editor” (or was it “lovely”?) so I had a quick look.

Again complete crap!

In my experience, apps are almost always rubbish compared with the desktop versions, including Facebook, with the exception of Messenger which works very well. The Twitter app is also good. Of course many of the small specialised apps, for which there is no desktop equivalent, are very good. An example is a thermometer app which I’m using to report temperatures on my daily Facebook ‘diary’ – Dusty2Romania.

If the day ever comes when WordPress withdraw the traditional editor interface, as they once threatened to do but relented after a scream of protest from long-term bloggers, I will look for another platform or cease blogging altogether.

Why so many developers insist on fixing things which ‘ain’t broke’ I don’t know; maybe they have scores of programmers sitting around with nothing to do.

Just about recovered from our marathon trip to, in and back from Romania. I have yet to do the final post on the Facebook group in which I kept an (almost) daily diary and when that is done I’ll do a summary post here with some pictures. In the meantime here’s a quick vegetarian meal which turned out to be really tasty.

Vegetarian cottage pie – sort of

The 'pie' after cooking

No recipe. Just the idea as there are just two of us but we do like fairly large portions so make it to suit yourself.

Slice, 1/4in thick, a quantity of mushrooms. Saute them in small quantities on high heat (I use olive oil as I like the taste). As each batch is done sprinkle some dried tarragon on and a grind of black pepper.

Return all the sauteed mushrooms to the pan on a medium heat and add a chopped small onion, then sift over a quantity of flour while turning the mixture over. Add a good measure of dark soya sauce and then vegetable stock (or water and a veg stock cube or two), stirring all the time until there is a good thick sauce. Ensure you have enough sauce for pouring. Leave aside.

Slice some medium sized potatoes 1/4in thick (don’t peel them), enough to make two layers in the dish you use. I’ve gone over to Albert  Bartlett’s Red Rooster potatoes; they really are good. Put the potato slices in salted boiling  water and simmer till they can just be pierced with a knife point.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into a oven dish with enough sauce just to cover.  Thinly slice some cloves of garlic and arrange them on top of the mushroom mixture.

The 'pie' ready for the oven

Arrange potato slices in a layer on top. Brush with melted butter (I just cut a stick of butter and rub it on each potato slice). Give a grind of black pepper then arrange another layer of potato slices on top. Again butter the potato slices then grate some cheese on top (I used parmesan). Finally sprinkle on some paprika, just for colour.

Bake in a hot oven (I favour 200deg C) until nicely browned on top.

Plated with Savoy cabbage and runner beans

I served it with Savoy cabbage (love it) and runner beans, steamed for 15 mins. Pour the reserved hot sauce over the vegetables.

Not ‘pretty’ but filling and … Very Tasty!

Next Page »