What does Mme DuBarry have in common with a cauliflower? *

Creme DuBarry
Crème DuBarry

Jeanne Bécu, Comtesse (known as Madame) DuBarry was a French courtesan (posh name for prostitute) and mistress of King Louis XV.  She died on the guillotine in 1793 during the Reign of Terror.

Apart from that little historical note, she was known to be inordinately fond of cauliflower and would consume it with every meal if possible.  She would only eat one soup (guess which one!) and became quite irascible if a meal did not start with it.

I came across this soup in one of the ‘Supersizer’ programs featuring Giles Coren and Sue Perkins in which they examined the food and eating habits of the French Revolution.  Other programs in the series have featured roman Times, Medieval and Tudor England, the Restoration, Regency and Victorian Times, as well as the 20s, 50s, 70s and 80s.    Apart from being enormously informative, the programs are also very funny.

As soon as I saw this sleek, velvety, creamy soup being served up at one of the meals in the program, I knew I would have to have a go at it, and, remarkably, it proved to be incredibly simple with only a few ingredients.  What I like about it is that it achieves the heavenly consistency of a potato-based soup without a spud in sight, meaning (I presume) far fewer carbohydrates.

It is like eating silk, velvet or some indefinable combination of the two.  Enjoy it on its own or garnish with some reserved cauliflower florets, crispy fried chorizo, or sautéed prawns/crayfish.  Yum!

  • Both have heads that are easily removed with a sharp knife

Dips, so many, ah!

Monday 9 November 2015

Artichoke dip
Artichoke Dip

As the festive season approaches, one can never have too many good, quick and easy dip recipes so here are three of my favourites, each so different from the others that they can be served on the same table.

Many years ago I was in Texas at a little soirée given by some friends and dipped a little cracker into a bowl of what turned out to be a warm and absolutely gorgeous concoction.  It was divine – possibly, I felt, the best and most flavoursome dip I had ever tasted.

I asked the hostess what it was and she assured me it was incredibly easy to make and told me what went into it.  I have since made it many times and it always seems to elicit the same reaction from people who try it.

Curiously enough, this recipe for Artichoke Dip turned up in a book of Tapas dishes I acquired a couple of years ago so it may in he end prove to be Spanish in origin, but it really doesn’t matter whence it comes, because it is truly divine to eat, and definitely worth the bother.

Chilli Philli
Chilli Philli

This is also simplicity itself to make but again incredibly effective.  A friend introduced me to this some years back and it has been part of the repertoire ever since.  Again not sure of its origin – could be oriental with the sweet chilli sauce and chopped coriander, but not sure how a tub of Philadelphia fits with that, but again, it doesn’t really matter since it is so good, and so quick.


Tzadziki is the cornerstone of many a Greek meal.  It can be served on its own with bread or crackers or served as a sauce with grilled meat.

A dip ‘staple’, Tzadziki is so easy to make that one wonders why anyone would buy it from a shop, particularly if a large quantity is needed for, say, a party.

Requiring little more than a tub of thick yogurt, some cucumber, garlic and mint, it’s a matter of minutes to produce it.  The quantities of everything can be varied to suit individual taste and it’s hard to see how anyone could get it wrong as it’s so forgiving.

Life too short to stuff a mushroom? Never!

Monday 2 November 2015

Chorizo-stuffed mushrooms
Chorizo-stuffed mushrooms

Whoever said ‘Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” had obviously never tried stuffing them this way.

The Spanish have many ways of preparing mushrooms but this has to be one of the best, not to mention easiest.  Serve them as part of a tapas meal, as a starter, or as a canapé at a party, or just sit and munch them with a glass of wine, but make lots as they rapidly become addictive.

Be careful as you bite into them though – if you’ve drizzled olive oil over them properly, there’s likely to be an explosion of deliciously oily juices which just might leave your shirt/top heading for the washing basket.  But don’t NOT eat them because of that – just do it carefully in the knowledge that it may very well happen, so don’t sink your teeth into them until they are well and truly  ensconced inside your mouth.

Life may well be too short for some things but never for stuffing mushrooms this way!