Women’s Day’ as a protest day is around a hundred years old, International Women’s Day on 8 March is far younger. Far older than either is the tradition of ‘Ziua Femeii’ – Day of the Woman – in Romania. Apart from my ‘feminist’ tendencies, well known to readers of this blog, it has special meaning for me as it was the day I first arrived in Romania. Over the years, particularly as a teacher, I became used to all female teachers staggering home with arms full of bouquets, including Petronela (my wife).

I wanted this year to mark this day in a different way on this blog having in previous years covered all the protests I could think of and the tradition in northern Romania, perhaps only in the Bucovina, of females receiving mărțișori from the men on 8 March, they having given them to the men on 1 March.

Favourite female authors

So I decided to mention one or two of my favourite female authors, two novels I have recently read and one I am awaiting since a blogger friend told me she had finished her second novel.

The Brontë sisters are no surprise as I was born and brought up near ‘the Brontë village’ – Haworth – and went to school even closer, thus being familiar with the Yorkshire moors evoked so well by Emily. She became my favourite of the sisters and later, as a would be writer, I became fascinated with how she evoked the atmosphere of my beloved moors without ever exactly describing them. The whole of her only novel does that, evoke rather than describe I mean. I must mention one of my favourite ‘detective’ writers too, though her only connection with Yorkshire was her infamous ‘disappearance’ to Harrogate, again not too far from my birthplace. Of course I’m referring to Agatha Christie.

Newer literature

Then, to more modern authors, starting with the novel yet to appear. I bought the first volume, ‘Equinox’ (still available on Amazon), of an intended trilogy by my fellow blogger, Kristina Steiner in Slovenia, prompted probably by the fact she was writing a romantic novel from a point of view on equality in a relationship. Anyway, I have great admiration for bloggers who write in a foreign language, English, in her case not only her blog but her novel. I now await the second book in her ‘Alpha series’.

The most read book in my bookcase is written by a woman, for women, “American housewives” the author declared. It’s not fiction. It’s a cookery book which should be familiar to long term readers of this blog – ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’. Despite cooking recipes from this book for 45 years, I was not aware of the film related to it, Julie & Julia, until recently. Via a tortuous route watching that film led me to a review of another book – ‘The Art of Baking Blind’ by Sarah Vaughan – a book based in a way on cooking but not a cookbook. When the review said it was written “by a women for women” I was irritated enough to buy it. Anyway, it’s only 99p on Amazon so worth a punt.

I enjoyed it enough to buy Mrs Vaughan’s ‘new book’, ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ published this year. She didn’t disappoint and I learned a lot about the goings on on the other side of Fleet Street to which I worked, where I often wandered down to the Thames but never got into the innards.

The first book should delight any serious cook if only for the numerous cooking tips for classical recipes peppered among the emotional tensions winding us up. They were reminiscent of Julia Child’s authoritative ‘this is the way to do it’ in ‘Mastering the Art …’.

The obvious diligent research of her subject makes both books fascinating but what I would have expected of a journalist of my era. To find it in a journalist of today makes me want to pick up my pen.

I don’t like flash backs but, a feature of both books, I managed to navigate them without getting too lost. I struggled with so many characters in the first book; I was not alone as one reviewer said they resorted to making lists. I didn’t but I did find myself going back sometimes to clarify.

One feature of both books surprised me as Mrs Vaughan seems to be a happily married family woman with an interesting career path: the women in both books are overall strong women; the men are weak or ineffectual (including a Prime Minister).

Overall, four stars from me for each in my Amazon reviews for a good read.

International Women’s Day greetings

So, on this International Women’s Day I send greetings to all the women I follow or who follow me, especially those with whom I have built a closer than usual blogging relationship. They considerably outnumber the men bloggers. More than that, greetings to all women bloggers; keep up the struggle.

A magical day

Today was my ‘baba’, which won’t mean anything to non Romanians nor sadly to many Romanians but I’ll just say that, choosing to go along with this superstition, today was a great day. Magical snow, a fairy land, this morning, succeeded by a sunny blue sky day. Together with another extraordinary ‘happening’ which took me back a quarter of a century – another post in due course – it’s been quite a day. Basically, it means I should have a good year.


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:


I like the taste of kale but have never liked the texture, the stalks have been too tough for me to enjoy it. I like brussel sprouts as I cook them, and not just at Christmas – halved and steamed for 15 minutes.

Recently I came across kaylettes, a cross between kale and brussel sprouts, and the first time I cooked them I did the same as I do with brussel sprouts. I very much liked the flavour but thought there must be a better way.

The second time I cooked them I took the suggestion of stir frying them, tossing them in butter in the wok. Not a success for me, again a good taste but those stalks just too tough.

Having a few remaining, I thought they would go with a simple prawn pilaf so tried steaming for 5 minutes before tossing for a few minutes in butter in the wok. Cracked it – for me; tasty but no tough stalks (seasoned with salt and freshly ground pepper in the wok).

I think they’ll become regular in our meals. They went particularly well with prawns and I think they will go with other fishy things (which brussel sprouts do not, for me). I made the pilaf a bit spicy with a shake of hot chilli pepper on top of a grating of parmesan. A simple, successful meal.

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.

Halloween borsch? With witches’ noses

I abandoned Keighley library yesterday, visiting my friend Lou who lives with her family in a lovely old farmhouse overlooking the moors close to the Brontë village of Haworth. Her home is not in what you’d call a village, a hamlet would be more correct; there are no street names, the houses just have a number then hamlet name, like many small villages in Romania. I haven’t seen Lou for quite a while for one reason or another so three hours drinking ‘a brew’ (Yorkshire for a pot of tea!) and chatting in her farmhouse kitchen passed very quickly. Husband Stephen, a busy man – farmer, builder and heaven knows what else – popped in for a minute.

Lou runs her graphic design and small printing business from home. I love the fact that at the time her 10 year old daughter Kate is picked up from school business stops for the day. I saw Kate’s first watercolour yesterday, following a school trip to the English Lake District; she’s clearly taking after her mother. Unfortunately I couldn’t wait to say hello to her after school as I had to pick up Petronela.

Keighley railway station


On the way to Lou’s I stopped at Keighley railway station, one terminus of the Worth Valley steam railway, and took a couple of pictures to fulfil a promise. No steam engines there at the time so I stopped briefly in Haworth when I saw two engines in steam.

Borș, beetroot-coloured but without beetroot

I had a brief discussion about borș (Romanian spelling) a couple of days ago on the blog of one of my favourite food bloggers, Gabi in Gură Humorului, România. She’s a superb food photographer too. Part of the discussion was about how borș, the sour liquid added to a ‘soup’ to make it ‘borș’, should be made.

Seeing for the first time ‘purple’ carrots in a supermarket (Sainsbury’s – being sold as ‘witch’s noses’ as it’s close to Halloween – aaagh!), I decided to make a borș using the carrots.


I don’t make the borș (the sour liquid – confusing isn’t it?), I buy it (as Gabi said she does) but mine from Marinela’s Romanian shop in Leeds. As I said, it’s made by fermenting wheat bran.

My ‘borsch’ looks more like a witches’ brew than any borș I’ve seen gracing a Romanian table, but tastes pretty good. Apart from the purple carrots, which have a slightly peppery taste when raw, it has a chicken stock base with proper borș added ‘to taste’ (I like it fairly sour) but what in Moldova at least is considered an essential ingredient – leuștan, ‘lovage’ – potato, some left-over pork sliced into thin strips and, finally, added at the table, sour cream.

Purple is, of course, an original colour of wild carrots, the ‘eastern’ variety originating in Afghanistan. Those I bought yesterday were grown in Scotland, by James Rearie in Fife. I’d never seen one before. There’s a lot more information about them on the web page of the Carrot Museum; yes, there is such a thing.

Returning to Keighley

It looks as though I’ll be returning to Keighley the week after next, after school half-term break, as it seems Petronela will probably will continue teaching there. I’ll likely continue my Keighley sagas now and then.



I’ve said in recent posts that I don’t believe in coincidence and that I’m easily distracted. Venturing upstairs to the reference and study section of Keighley library after my morning double espresso in Wetherspoons next door (see previous posts), I had to confront both.

Philip Snowden and women’s suffrage

First, ‘talking’ about how I began my blog to another blogger earlier this morning (she’ll know who she is) I mentioned one motivation being my desire to air my ire about discrimination, particularly discrimination against women. What first confronted me when I walked along the upstairs floor of the library? The ‘Snowden Library’, that of  Philip Snowden, a tireless campaigner for women’s suffrage. You’ll find more about him in one the pictures.

Proper parkin – again – and other recipes

Then, resisting the temptation to sit down all day with some of his books, I wandered to another section to see what they had about the beautiful Wharfe valley in which I live. A book about Yorkshire dishes almost jumped off the shelf at me. I opened it at a random page and what recipe did I see? Parkin! A proper recipe, almost the same as that I posted a few days ago.  And plot toffee.

I spent much of the rest of my time today with that book and recorded 27 recipes on the iPad. I’m putting some of them here as pictures. I had to include a fish recipe; in Yorkshire you’re never far from the sea and the superb Yorkshire coast. Then there’s a really weird one, ‘Long life’, using whole eggs, shell and all. I just had to include that.

Chicken stew and dumpings? I was taken back to childhood by the recipe for rabbit stew and dumplings. That was a frequent winter meal (rabbit was cheap, the cheapest meat; then chicken was a luxury, for Christmas). Now chicken is cheap and rabbit a luxury, hence chicken stew: chicken legs, onion, garlic, carrot, red lentils, barley, tarragon, parsley, thyme and sage.

Perfect for the cold, miserable, wet weather today, for which I abandoned a planned trip to one or more Worth Valley Railway stations.


Finally, I spent a short time in the Brontë section. I knew if I got immersed in that I’d probably lose all sense of time and get a frantic phone call from Petronela asking where I was when she finished school. I just hope she’ll be returning there after the half-term break; she’s enjoying it having knocked the students into shape in the first two days.

I could spend six months in each of those sections.