‘Dragobete’ spoons carved in the Bucovina, Romania

Today, 24 February, is the ‘day the birds are betrothed‘ – the most beautiful, for me, of the traditions associated with this special day in Romania. It’s called ‘Dragobete‘.

As regular followers of this blog will know I do not ‘celebrate’ St Valentine’s Day which has just become a massive commercial event which, like Halloween, has displaced the true tradition in many western countries. Dragobete has not yet become tainted in the same way; rather it is just forgotten in much of the country and by many Romanians, but still celebrated in some country districts, particularly in areas where tradition is best retained, like the Bucovina and Marămureș.

Were I a young, unattached, young man I might be chasing my love through the forest and, if she returned my love, she’d allow me to catch her and give her a kiss. Before this we would have been, with other young people, collecting together the first flowers of spring – perhaps snowdrops pushing their way through the snow.

According to Romanian myth Dragobete was the son of Baba Dochia, but more of that on 1 March, when the return of Spring is more celebrated in itself.

The spoons, carved in the Bucovina (more precisely near or in the small town of Rădăuți) celebrate Dragobete; some carved by Călin Danila, others by Viorel Marian, I’ve had them for about 20 years. They are rather like Welsh love spoons.


Paul Hudson, for those not in the BBC ‘Look North’ tv area, is the much maligned weather forecaster. The stone probably is more reliable!

Yesterday (Tuesday) was one of those wonderful Yorkshire days which hauled itself out of the gloom of the majority of days here this winter to show a part of Yorkshire at its beautiful best. I’m lucky enough to live in the Wharfe Valley but beautiful as it is where we live a day like that cries out for a wander further afield, heading towards Upper Wharfedale.

We didn’t go far, lingering a while in the village of Appletreewick, passing Bolton Abbey, crossing the River Wharfe by the side of the Barden Tower to arrive in this wonderful traditional Yorkshire village. It has two pubs, one of which is not open so often but the other, the Craven Arms, a historic inn, has always been open when we visited and no exception today.

Excellent beer and, new to me, Appletreewick cider, brewed in the village I understand. Cider is Petronela’s usual drink so if she says it’s good it’s good. I had a taste and can back that up but I couldn’t resist one of my favourite Yorkshire beers – Theakston’s ‘Old Peculier’, a really tasty dark beer but very strong so only 1 pint if you’re driving. The food is good too and we’d usually have a soup but as the soup of the day was something with goats’ cheese, Petronela will not eat anything with goat or lamb, we passed on that this time. We had brought food with us – schnitel (chicken breast) and pork pie so no problem.

I’ve tried to put the gallery in order of time from leaving home till arriving back, taking a circular tour around part of the River Wharfe, through Ilkley to Barden, crossing the river to the north side there and traversing Appletreewick to reach Burnsall then crossing back across the river at that pretty village to return on the south side to Barden again then up over Barden moor, descending towards Skipton in Airedale before turning again to pick up the Wharfe again at Bolton Abbey till home in our village of Menston.

One egg chocolate cake

Haven’t had a ‘grump’ for a while but yesterday gave me cause to live up to my name. Up and down the UK yesterday there were ‘celebrations’ for the centenary of women being given the vote in Britain. Celebration? Surely it’s a day of shame that 100 years after passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, allowing women (but only those aged 30 and above who owned property) to vote, women are still treated unequally in so many areas, not least in equal pay for the same job. Then of course there’s the ‘glass ceiling’ preventing women taking so many top jobs. And abuse of women is still rife in the workplace and other places. Young women are still being forced to marry men they have never met and millions still suffer female circumcision.

I’ve batted on about this so much in the past that, having made the point, I will not continue here but to say that yes, things are getting better but we’re still a long way from a reason to celebrate. Let’s make 6 February a British ‘Day of Shame’, starting in 2019, until such practices are cleared completely, at least from the UK.

My celebration

I did, however, have something to celebrate. On the 6 February 1999 I went to a birthday party, so did the young woman who was to become my wife a year and a half later. Both of us identify this occasion as that at which things ‘became serious’. So, we don’t celebrate St Valentine’s Day, which sadly has become yet another commercial nonsense, but we do remember this day.

I wanted to make a chocolate cake but I had a busy day so needed something simple, something taking less than an hour to make and, as we had only one egg in the fridge, requiring only one egg. I found this:


The cake itself is good but the simple chocolate icing makes it too sweet for our taste (and American icing sugar must be different to ours as 2tbsp of water does not make that amount of icing sugar ‘spreadable’). It would be better for me with a ganache made with high cocoa chilli chocolate.

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:




I put my first ‘writing doodle’ up on our writers’ club page and one reaction was that it was “courageous” to put these ‘doodles’ up for examination. I’m not sure about that but I thought I’d begin to put them up on this blog as they have so often been forgotten. They could be useful when I’m bereft of ideas. I’m thinking of making a sub-category under ‘Short stories’ and putting them there. The first one stood as a ‘short short story’. This one is clearly unfinished. You have three options: ignore it, think about how you would finish it, or even ‘nick it’ and finish it. 

I haven’t seen you in here before.”
I hadn’t noticed the person standing next to me until she spoke. I turned to look at her.
“Let me buy you a drink.” My surprise was evident as she continued, “You look sad.”
I could not prevent my look wandering from the soft brown eyes to the rest of this beautiful young woman, no more than half my age, dressed smartly as if for the office rather than as a lady of the night looking for business.
“I recently lost a good friend,” I found myself mumbling, half to myself.
“I’m so sorry – were they ill or was it an accident?”
“Oh, she didn’t die; she just suddenly stopped answering or returning my calls. I know that sounds pathetic but we chatted briefly every morning before.”
“Maybe she’s ill, or just too busy. Were you in love with her?”
“Oh it was nothing like that, we are both in happy relationships, just very close friends I thought. She’s not ill, I was able to check that through a mutual acquaintance. And how can someone be too busy just to say hello?”
“You didn’t tell me what you’d like to drink; let me get that and then you can tell me more if you wish.”
“I’d like that. I’ll have a scotch please then I’ll buy you one. Let’s find somewhere more comfortable to sit too if you’re not in a hurry.”
“I’ve all the time in the world,” she said, gesturing to the barman, “let’s sit over there by the fire. You go, I’ll join you in just a minute, then ….”

Doodling – can’t think of another word which means idly scribbling a few words, rather than shapes or pictures, while the mind is occupied elsewhere, or unoccupied. The result, a ‘little story’ as one blogger calls them.


I wasn’t surprised to see my grandmother when I opened the front door on a balmy summer evening, though some of you may think I should have been. She’s been dead for over 50 years.

You are looking peaky,” she said. “I heard you playing that Schubert Impromptu; a few wrong notes and a bit erratic in places.”

I looked for the ruler in her hand, the one with which she rapped my fingers at each wrong note when I was a boy. Nothing.

Are you going to invite me in?” she asked.


“Well you come out for a walk then,” she said, extending a hand.

“No, it’s too cold out there, and I’m not ready yet,” I said as I firmly closed the door.


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: