What’s for dinner Mama? Fish?

Crostini, using home made rosemary bread, demanded something special,  so tonight we are starting with  ChgJohn’s  Baked Brie with Caramelised Onions. This was just divine. The guests just woofed this down. ChgJohn told me to make TWO!

Third Son is grilling Prime Rib on his customised grill which is a pretty jazzy affair!

Because Company was coming  I made dessert! A very rare occurrence.  Apple Tarte Tartin adapted from this gorgeous Tarte Tartin recipe. Afterwards I had to sit down and write the recipe down for everyone!  They picked the plate clean.

And just because we can, here is another shot I took today of a koi, in  a local koi pond. Third son is building a pond and we were doing research..  Imagine just swimming about in a pool all day!


Missing the Farmy

So we have gone in search of some animals. Central California has a few animals.

This is not Daisy.

City Horsies. 

I am sure that Hairy MacLairy would be more than happy to visit here though. This one is the best indication of the air quality out here. The valley has huge ranges on either side and the smog just hangs in here.   I suppose it is a combination of very dry silty soils and the industrial level of  residual spray dusts on the surrounding orchards and fields. Not an easy  place to breathe.

Oh and I must tell you. (you will be so proud..) I have discovered The Food Channel!!! Woohoo, Iron chef here I come!


Steak and Cheese Pie around the pool in the Californian Fall.

My son’s wife, who loves good food, has been patiently waiting for me to cook a Steak and Cheese Pie.  There have been jokes about me using a steel glove in the kitchen from now on. So I sat by the pool for a while. Sitting by the pool in November! When I was feeling brave enough I diced the steak very carefully. 

My son has requested that we cook the meat in the crock pot as he likes the steak to be at the melt in your mouth level. So we are going to do this in a new way. I pan fried the meat first, and added Soya Sauce, Balsamic, Worcestershire and Beer.  Then it cooked in the crock pot for the day!

I made pastry in the food processor the usual way. Freezer cold butter, twice as much flour, a little salt, chilled water. Whizz. Whizz.   Push into a ball. Wrap and back into the fridge to wait.

Caramelised onion with red wine and rosemary. (This is a side dish) 

You all know how to construct a pie. Sfter fter pouring in your meat and gravy into the pastry dot the meat with small cubes of a strong cheddar cheese, then the pastry.  I will not go into details. This was served with rosemary potatoes.

Sorry John honey, but we are eating our steak and cheese pie out beside the pool. It is another stunning  California day. But at least I am not bleeding!.


Scalloped Potatoes and Knives

So I was making scalloped potatoes and using my son’s knives. Can you guess what happened next? Yes. You are right. I cut the finger. Really cut it.  And I am quite the bleeder so I had to call in a Troop.  Who was kind enough to be my hands.  And I talked this very young fellow through making Mama’s Scalloped Potatoes.

As he was dealing with the garlic, I reached for the mandolin to cut the potatoes, I have never used a mandolin before. Surely I could do this one-handed. Wow, what a gadget! They are so sharp and make short work of the potatoes AND another finger on the other hand. Next time I am going to bring my own knives. By now I  had both hands bandaged and needed more help.

Ava was paying close attention.  I am not sure she would have been that useful. Third Son came home and helped the Troop. 

We  rested the sliced potatoes in salty water with the whole garlic cloves and a few twigs of rosemary. 

To assemble  the scalloped potatoes. Grease your dish, and wipe with a sliced piece of garlic.  Layer thinly sliced potato, onion and cheese and pepper ending with potato and cheese.  Half fill the dish with cream. 

Cook in a moderate oven for about two hours, slowly, until tender and tasty.

Ava wants a taste.

We had the Scalloped Potatoes  with grilled lamb chops that had been lightly sprinkled with sea salt. Bowls of Mama Coleslaw.  Now, my darlings, I am talking with limited fingers! Taking off the tips of your fingers is not a comfortable style.  Ow.  So I write again tomorrow.


A Room with No View

A broken window in California.

So, I have relocated.  I am out in orchard country now. Soon we will plant the cuttings I brought from my garden for Third Sons herb garden.  Then I am taking on another supermarket, with a better list. I am getting good at this. My son is a great cook too so he is fun to shop with. The chilli bin/cooler, that travelled across America ahead of me, has been opened and we will be grilling lamb chops this evening. Sorry John, I know it is below freezing and has been snowing out there and you and Daisy are in a winter routine but out here in  California it is a beautiful, calm, clear and sunny day!

Love c

The Last of the Wedding.

Wedding Dress

Jeep Cufflinks


College Girls with Scabby Knees.

Dancing Bridesmaids

That was yesterday and this morning I have a tired brain. Soon Third Son will come and collect me and carry me off to the Central Valley. It is a four hour drive and he is one of those drivers who you have to bribe to stop along the way for photos!  He likes to get into his car and drive to where he is going without stopping!

Tonight we shall commence to COOK!


This is not the wedding car: the Grooms Page

This morning I was taking shots around the property of the absolutely still and reflective pond.

I went around a corner and found the Groom’s Wheels.  I hope this is not the wedding car.


I am sure this is not the wedding car either…


But this is!



Now, time for a wedding!




Up in the hills of Sacramento

I have reached SACRAMENTO and have been gently transported to the Big House somewhere  up in the hills.

We did a lot of this yesterday. 

But today it is quiet and I will soon crank the big empty kitchen into gear. You will be thrilled to learn that  I  have  joined the masses and am forced to BUY my own food.  No gardens and  freezers and cupboards brimming with home grown food. Now I shall have to go out and shoulder my way up a Californian supermarket aisle and find some food in there.  Yesterday was not a big eating day.  This morning has dawned clear and bright and I am in the mood to make a Monster Mama Salad.

So as soon as one of these sleepy buggers gets their sorry arses out of bed (I am still in a different time zone in my little Paddington Bear Brain.) I shall request a driver and a super market and then we will make a Monster Mama Salad with Omelettes  and caramelised onions for brunch.  Tomorrow is the wedding! So I want everyone well fed and ready for the big day.

The garden here is all trees. Beautiful.

It interests me that so many people do not cook. In fact there is a whole generation of people who do not cook. How they sustain themselves I do not know!  However  the kitchen in this house in the hills is huge and purring quietly, in anticipation of a big wake up!


Go West Young Man

Actually it is me who is going out West.  On Wednesday.  The Matriarch and I (in my favourite  role as the Handmaiden) are flying out to California to attend  her eldest son’s wedding and  then I am sloping off to visit my son and his family.  Would you like to come along? Oh? Really?! Cool.  There are some lovely images I want to collect for you on the travels. Plus visiting my Third Son and his lovely wife will be all about the food and the garden. I am FedExing lamb overnight to their place, with honey and lavender jelly. So we will be cooking Mama food every day. And I will have a team there so we can blog much more efficiently.

As you know I prefer not to eat processed foods and  travel is always a whole day – we have a two hour bus ride to the airport in Chicago, then a 4 hour wait for the plane, then we fly to Denver then on to  Sacramento. After all that bananas get kind of boring. So you and I can research the airport food and Celi Diet options. (I tried on  The Dress – a Vintage crochet silk, hope I don’t pull a thread!!- and  it is still just a teensy bit snug).

I actually love airports and planes and travel. I love the anonymity of the crowds. The bustle fades off into white noise and I do some of my best work in the cafes, restaurants (and OK – bars!) in those dark corners of airports.  The Matriarch is a great reader and can sit for hours with a book so we are perfect travel companions. So Wednesday if all goes well I will be writing to you from the airport.

Secondly I am still writing The Big Work  and I think it is important that I do keep adding to it every day, so I am working on ways to write on the move. Taking the lap top is only one part of it. I have to take my scene by scene worksheets and my notes. So much for travelling light.  But taking the laptop means I can take you on my travels. We will see about the packing tomorrow.

The third thing, and probably the first thing you thought of,  is leaving the animals. This takes some organisation. I am not irreplaceable and John will take over. So I am busy making sure that everything is at hand for him,  and especially that Daisy is very secure. I have separated the calves from Hairy M’Clairy so he cannot bully them and steal their food. I have organised it so that they all drink from one big central tank placed in a shared corner of the fields and the barn, which will be easier for John to fill with the new hose. All their entrances and exits are logical and secure.  I have been feeding them on John’s time scale for a while now, so they are used to a very early feed and a very late one.  The birds are all free range with an emphasis on free, so they are easy. TonTon and Big Dog get a dog-walker. She will come every lunch time to take them for a big walk. As long as she carries his frisbee TonTon will follow her anywhere. Who knows what Big Dog will do. John will do the morning and evening walks after feeding out. Hope he can keep up.

So there you are. You are in the loop! TonTon knows something is afoot..


Poor Daisy has a cold. So I have given her a pumpkin.

Pumpkin is Daisy's favorite food.
She only gave me a stick. It is a nice stick though.
Hey ,Daisy those little chicks are looking at your pumpkin!
No talking to that bad cat. You stick close to your Mama. Are you listening?
No talking to that bad cat. I know his type. You stick close to your Mama.
You can't see me, can you Daisy? I'm hiding good aren't I?
Boo! Did i scare ya? Did I?
Daisy, quick, there is an ugly rooster trying to steal your pumpkin. Quick!
That kitty is too big for his boots. Didn't I tell you all to go to bed!
I scarded that ugly rooster away for you. Can I have a bite now? My stick is kinda dry.
I'll just wait here. OK Daisy? Daisy?
Shove over, your brother's coming in. No watching that naughty Mary's Cat. Early to bed the lot of ya.

Hope you all had a great weekend.