Friday, December 17, 2010


The following is about my father’s part in the First World War – more specifically, his part in the Mesopotamia (now Iraq) campaign, described in his letters home to his mother.

Freddy Page-Roberts’s family lived in the 18th century Rectory, Stratfieldsaye, where his father (the great rosarian) was vicar to the Duke of Wellington. Freddy went to Marlborough, thence to Wye Agricultural College and on to Egypt as an employee of the British Government (Egypt was a Protectorate) to irrigate land with Nile water for agricultural purposes. In 1914, when working on these projects, war with the Germans seemed inevitable. So he returned to England as a Territorial to join his regiment, the 1st/4th Hampshires (although he had played cricket for the neighbouring county of Berkshire). After training on Salisbury Plain he was commissioned and sent to join the Indian Army in India.

In 1915, when the British army was engaged with the German army in trench warfare in France, and the Turks, in league with the Germans, ruled Mesopotamia, it was thought that to protect the allies’ oil supplies in the Persian Gulf, and to rule the Mediterranean waves, a force should occupy just southern Iraq. The Indians, who were to provide the soldiers, on the other hand, had in mind to conquer a Mesopotamia that had historically been a veritable Garden of Eden, colonise it with mass emigration, and return it to its productive state. And a conquered Mesopotamia would be a distant protection of its borders. Anyhow, the army were to beat back the Turks in this sector, about the same time as armies were to strike the Turk in the Dardenelles (where the Black Sea is linked to the Mediterranean).

To gain this foothold in southern Mesopotamia, an expeditionary force (IEFD – Indian Expeditionary Force D) was dispatched from India with mainly Indian soldiers and British officers (of which my father, now Captain FW Page-Roberts (age 25), was one).

The campaign was to be run from both the Empire’s HQ in London and the government in India, who provided the troops. With this divergent command structure and of separate national interests there was bound to be confusion and trouble.

After general chaos, without proper maps or understanding the terrain (mostly mud, water, many extremely vivid mirages and mosquito-infested reeds (let alone it being very cold by night and scorchingly hot by day), it came as rather a surprise that after some difficult fighting the Turks retreated northwards. Danders were up. Advance was almost unstoppable. Generals needed victories and glory.

The Turks were one thing, the indigenous Arabs quite another. The Turks fought like seasoned soldiers and were clearly the enemy. The tribal Arabs, on the other hand, whose allegiances were needed by both sides, resented occupation by both, and took advantage of both. Their method of fighting was to skirmish with stealth, shoot accurately, grab, and run. They were much feared as thieves, even causing the soldiers to sleep on their rifles for fear of them being stolen.

So it came about that my father was part of a force detailed to advance up the River Euphrates to take the strategic town of Nasariyah (sometimes spelt as Nasariyeh). This was to protect the western flank of the proposed operations. Maps and charts were useless, local boats, commandeered and weighed down by armour and guns, drew more than the general depth of water, so were a burden. Thick reeds had to be pushed through, scorching heat caused sunburn, no mosquito nets were available, the marsh Arabs skirmished, killed and stole, not to mention the wily Turk who defended from well-constructed positions and then retired strategically.

It is during this part of the campaign that my father wrote two letters home to his mother.

Near N……. (Nasariyah)

July 21st 1915

Just had mail of June 13th.

My dearest Mother,

It is some time since I wrote, but no boat has gone down from here, so it doesn’t make any difference.

We’ve had a very strenuous time. We went to the advanced trenches about a week ago. We went up by boat at night, landed, and after sundry jobs, got into the trenches at 12. p.m. Next morning we got up at 3.30 a.m., and they started shelling us at 4.30 and we had five or six hours under pretty heavy fire. My Company lost 2 killed and 3 wounded. We were in a very bad spot, as the night before one of the barges got stuck in the mud, and had to be left. This of course drew the enemy’s fire, and we happened to be in direct line about 50 yards short. It really wasn’t at all pleasant, especially as the third shot killed two. I thought we were in for a pretty bad time. If they had had high explosives, we should have been blown to bits, so the gunners say. We can’t dig trenches here, as water is just below ground. Meanwhile the 24th had gone out in boats on the left flank with some mountain guns to attack some sand hills, and had an awful time, five out of 13 officers killed and a hundred and thirty casualties.

Turks much stronger than expected, and hoards of Arabs. As a matter of fact, we all but went on that expedition, and if we had been a little stronger we should have gone. We buried a man called Birkbeck of the 24th Pujalies. Ask the Knights if he is a relation of the Farnham ones. Next day was quieter, but dreadfully hot, and we had to stay in marching order with no shade and no breeze. (I got a touch of the sun). In the evening at eight, we relieved the 76th in the advanced trenches, 600 yards from the Turks. We were lucky, and not fired on, till we settled in and were digging hard to improve cover, then they let loose.

Next day. Stood to arms at 3.15 a.m. and then started absolute torture till 7.39 p.m. Couldn’t move, not a breeze, and awful heat. Time goes very slowly, and we had severe heat strokes, one died. We had to dig for water, which was beastly. At 8.30 we were relieved and went back under a pretty heavy fire: got back all right, sweating like anything.

Next day I was feeling pretty rotten, and had a bit of temp., so came down here (hospital) at night, and am getting on all right. It’s only really an ambulance, with no attendance, and no food arrangements, but we get tents (double fly ones). Today it’s been 110 in the tent, so you can imagine what it was like under one waterproof sheet.

We may not be undergoing the hardships of France, but I should like to get the people who say we are having a picnic here. And put them out in our trenches.

More reinforcements have come up, and one aeroplane at last, which says the Turks are retiring to another position.

Hope we shall soon do something.

Love to all,

Your loving Freddy.

The next letter is headed Nasihirah, and dated July 27th, 1915.

My dearest Mother,

At last we are at Nasihirah, after nearly five weeks hard work and beastly heat. I believe the Indian Mutiny is the only other time that operations have been undertaken in an Asiatic summer. I am very disappointed, as I did not take part in the charge that turned the Turks out of their trenches on one side of the river, being still on the sick list. Three of us who were in Hospital joined the Battalion the night before the show, but were sent with the half-fit men in reserve on a barge, so missed the great show of this war. It was very annoying, but we were not fit, and wouldn’t have been much use for 24 hours of solid work. We started the shelling about 5 a.m., and about 7.30 we (only 120 strong and 9 officers) and the 7th Gurkhas left our advanced trenches for the enemy, and had a very hot time of it, and came under very heavy shell and rifle fire, and had to wait a bit, three quarters of an hour, under a wall before getting on. Meanwhile an iron barge was taken up to the creek we had to cross, about 200 yards from the Turks with sappers and miners and one of our companies. They had a very rough time, and the barge got practically blown to pieces and eventually sank. These men got off and lined the creek, covering the advance, while the sappers made bridges. The creek was supposed to be five feet deep, but turned out to be only three and quite fordable. Two of that Company were killed and most hit.

The Battalion and the Gurkhas then advanced and crossed the creek, cheered by the sappers and miners, and rushed to the trenches, from which the Turks were beginning to bolt, and by the time we got there were in full flight. Only about 20 of us, and 40 Gurkhas were up at first and cleared them out, 500 of them.

The W. Kents on the other side had gone like anything, straight at the trenches, and took them, but with pretty bad casualties. There were about 5000 Turks, and we had about 3000 at the most, our reserves were never used. Besides this they had a very strongly fortified position and excellent trenches. We got about 500 prisoners, and killed about 700, and took 16 guns. Not so bad.

Our casualties were about 350 all told.

We had Officers: 1 killed, 1 died of wounds, 3 wounded. Men: 8 killed, 1 died of wounds and 31 wounded. 44 in total.

Barton, our Adj. from the 2nd Battalion was killed soon after the start. He was one of the very best, and only married last August to an awfully nice girl. He will be a great loss to the Battalion.

Paul Simmons, of Basingstoke, died in the afternoon, hit through the liver. He was quite conscious about five minutes before he died. He was also one of the best, and I am awfully sorry about both of them. The Colonel was wounded, and rather lucky, as it just missed his lung, Osborn in chest, poor old fat Parsons broken arm.

This took place on the 24th of July (1915). We and the un-fit men spent the morning on the barge, and had shells pitching around. In the afternoon I did what I could for the wounded, and saw about burying the dead. At night the barge was towed up to the enemy’s trenches, where the men were, and next evening we came on to Nasihirah, and bivouacked, everyone tired out. Next morning I took 60 men to the barracks on the opposite bank to attend the salute of 21 guns, and the unfurling of the Union Jack. It is still very hot, but we can get some fresh meat and vegetables here, which is a great blessing.

The General came last night, and said we had done, with the Gurkhas (both very weak, 300 about) what a whole Battalion should have done, and we had done quite as well as regulars, and said we might be sent to India to join the rest, and recuperate a bit. I hope we shall go, as we are only about 100 strong, and rather worn out, and have had a good show. We’ve just heard Turkish reinforcements are about seven hours march away, but it’s not verified yet: we ought to give them a pretty warm time if they come.

Haven’t had mails for ages. Many thanks for chocolate. It’s rather melted, but when we get to ice, it will be all right, It’s very nice to be going strong, but I do wish I had been in the charge. Only 4 officers got there. My Company had 13 casualties out of 40.



Now comes a large gap when either letters did not arrive, or they were lost, I will fill in the rough details as I know them.

This next letter concerns the headlong push north up the Tigris toward Kut, where the advance army was besieged by the Turks. Later, in an attempt to raise this siege, my father would be badly wounded in the Battle of Hanna. The fighting now described was chaotic, partly due to the speedy advance outstripping the length of available telephone cable back to Headquarters, and an almost complete breakdown of communication between those in command on the battlefield.

Indian Expeditionary Force D

Jan 11th 1916

My dearest Mother,

I am still going strong, and as comfortable as can be expected under the circumstances. Have left Amarah by boat, on the 13th of December (did not see the New Year in) arrived at Ali Gharbi on 1st Jan. Joined up with D Coy (Hugh North etc) all quite fit.

We stayed there until the 6th and then had orders to march. We did a forced march to Calel (?) past part of the force that had gone on in front about 20 miles, and arrived in camp after dark, which made things very difficult. It rained in the night, which didn’t add to the comfort. We had seen shells bursting all morning and next day we went on again about five miles and caught up the first force. Waited for orders, crossed the bridge and advanced towards our right flank to represent heavy reinforcements. We came under rather heavy shrapnel which burst all round. Luckily we only had 5 casualties in my Company. We went on for about one and a half miles and then retired. Got into camp near river and then had orders to march at 9 p.m. to a point of concentration preparatory

to a night march round our right flank. We waited from 11 to 4.30 with no blankets. Bitterly cold. At 4.50 we started again and marched about 6 miles down stream, but eventually found no trace of Turks, and came back to the bridge.

Directly we got back we had to go out again to take up a position on our right flank. We again came under heavy shrapnel, which luckily burst too high. We then dug some good trenches. In the evening it rained and made the trenches perfectly beastly and cold. Next morning it was misty and damp and we found the Turks had gone in the night. About 1 p.m. we returned to bridgehead and thought we were going to advance but got orders to cross over and look after a hospital there. We crossed by boat but didn’t get off, and we slept in the saloon in some comfort and had the first wash and shave for about five days. Yesterday we crossed over again and came up river about 7 miles and joined up with the rest of the force. It took us from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. to do it as we had a lot of cow guns and carts to get along over a very bad road. Then we had to wait to 3 a.m. for our valises and men and blankets. There was a very heavy dew and it froze in the night, so it was pretty beastly. Good day today and I think we rest here for the present. The casualties were very heavy about four thousand five hundred on our side, some of the regiments just arrived got it very badly. At present we don’t know where the Turks have gone.

We’ve had no mail for some time now. Hope to get one soon.

Cheerio. Hope you’re all well. Freddy.

I.E.F. D

Jan 16th 1916

My dearest Mother,

Just a line as I hear mail goes out in about half an hour. There’s nothing much to say except that we are having rather an unpleasant time but no more casualties as yet. I think I last wrote about the 11th. We are not yet in Kut owing to the Turks putting up a very good show in the way of a rear guard action.

There was another scrap about 3 days ago, which just missed being a great success. We hovered about in reserve and on preparing for action advanced to find the wily Turk had gone. We had some very cold wet nights without bedding or covering of any sort. But I’m glad to say we are again at the river and water will give us a chance to get at our parent boat and tents.

The troops from France are beginning to find this not such a picnic as they thought, especially the little things like medical comforts which of course one can’t expect to be as good here, as there.

We had a service on the boat this morning.

We got a mail three days ago, which had been done a long time and dated Dec 7th (latest). While on treck it would be very nice to receive food and chocolate. Mess stores are not very plentiful.

All the officers except Foster are fit and well and full of life.

Glad to hear you’re all going strong. Please thank father for his letter. Love to all

Your loving Freddy.

Hospital, Basra.

Feb. 2nd 1916

My dearest Mother,

I’ afraid you haven’t had a regular supply of letters lately, but we have been wandering about all over the country, and I really haven’t had any letters between the 9th and 27th of December. One is somewhere up river and the other went down on the Persia. I hope Nan (?) Crane wasn’t on it.

I hope you got the telegram about me being hit all right. After being in reserve the lst two shows and only coming under shell fire, we were supporting the attack on 21st over an absolutely open piece of ground with a long way to go, and the poor old Regiment got cut about badly, all the officers except I were hit and about 90% of the men. A good many are missing as we got into their trenches but couldn’t stay there. Next day there was an armistice but a lot were not found.

I expect (SS Varela, Feb5) you saw the casualty list so I won’t write them all over again, but the Turks managed to pick out the very best of the bunch. All my friends in the Regiment are gone or else up in Kut and now the Colonel has gone. I don’t know about what will become of us. Absolutely the very best of the officers were killed or missing, and I’m afraid there’s not much hope for the missing.

Poor old Hugh was killed instantaneously which is better than it might have been.

I am very glad to hear you are going strong and had a successful operation at last. You seem to have been well looked after by all the doctors. I expect that by the time you get this you will be about again.

As to my wound, I got hit about 200 yards from their trenches high up on the left thigh and couloid (?) nerve. They potted at me all day but luckily didn’t get me again. I was hit about 8 am and lay out that day and night till about 3.30 next morning when some stretcher bearers luckily came along, and after a very adventurous journey (as it had been raining all the time and the place was a mass of mud and ditches full of water) I got to an ambulance about 7 am. I lay in the mud there after having some rum till about 10 am, and got onto a boat at about 12 pm and into some dry blankets.

On the 24th I got onto another boat going down stream, full of British casualties who made a beastly noise all night. Of course it rained and the water poured onto my bed. We dined on bully and biscuits most of the way down and eventually got to Basra on the 28th and into a bed in hospital and had a decent meal.

On Feb 3rd we got onto the hospital ship Varela and are now on our way to Bombay, thank goodness.

I think after 11 months of Mesopotamia one wants a bit of a change.

The bullet must have hit the bone but very luckily didn’t break it, but cut the nerves. And I can’t at present move my left foot or leg below the knee much.

I don’t know if it will be a long job or not. If I get any convalescent leave I shall try to get to Cashmere for a bit. I’m afraid there’s not much chance of getting to England.

The food on board is top hole and I’ve had the first decent meal since we arrived in this country 11 months ago. Quite a change after picnicking for so long, and very hard not to overeat.

They’ve got some nursing sisters out now from India at Basra which makes a lot of difference to the running of the hospital, as the orderlies are only picked up from regiments in the country. We have got a lot of men doing orderlies who’ve had practically no training. A few RAMC men did come with the troops from France.

Colaha Hospital. Bombay Feb 10th 1916

We arrived here last night after a very good trip with only one morning at all rough.

We got off Bombay Harbour about 11 am, took some time to get into docks and I eventually got into an ambulance at about 6.30. And so to the Hospital about 20 minutes run. It’s a very fine hospital on the sea, but unfortunately I can’t see out.

My ward is quite nice and high and airy. 18 beds, not all full.

The Major examined me this afternoon and says they’ll explore the nerve (sciatic) to see what’s wrong, and that I shall probably be sent to England as it will be rather a long job.

It will be top hole getting back for a bit.

I heard from Mrs. Bowker who is at Poona and of course very upset about the Colonel. I am sorry for her. I think she’s nursing at a Poona Hospital. If I do stay in India I hope I go there.

I can’t hear many details about my Company. A lot got down river before I got in, and are now all over India.

I believe I was reported killed in the Indian papers. I hope you got the wires I sent all right.

Well I hope I shall soon be home and find everyone fit.

Love to all.

Your loving Freddy

My father doesn’t mention the blood loss, pain, being left for dead among the dead, building a coffin of mud around him for protection and the rain filling this coffin with bloody water, twice falling off the stretcher on the bearer’s three and a half hour treck to an ambulance station, or the unsprung cart that then transported his wounded body to the river Tigris. But he was lucky to have escaped death at Hanna, where 3,600 of his comrades were killed.

He never really recovered from this dreadful experience, living his life as a barely successful chicken and mushroom farmer through the great depression, and with his foot held up by a spring connected to a collar around his leg.

Desperate for good health, he took the great elixir of the time discovered by Madame Curie – radium. This destroyed his blood, and he died in 1938, aged 48.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Christie's at Chelsea

Perhaps it was because of my past association and future connections with Christie’s auction house that I was invited to be one of their guests at an entertainment suite in Chelsea Football Ground.

I had not been to a match there since 1954 when painting a pair of 2’ x 4’ canvasses on board of the Shed, and of Sillet’s penalty goal (the former being sold at Christie’s in 2006 for £33,600 and the latter for £5 “wet from the easel”.

So the invitation was accepted eagerly, though poor Margreet was unable to go as she was recovering from a recent hip replacement operation.

The occasion would have been considerably more enjoyable had I not suffered from food poisoning the night before and had to retire six times during the night.

I took my proximity to the ground as an excuse to leave a reproduction of a self portrait (also 1954) at 430 Fulham Road. This had been done in my studio at the bombed-out house of that address by the football ground’s perimeter wall. I had rebuilt and restored it soon after the war. The place is now an infant school. So I thought it might be of interest to them, as in the background was a large mural of my interpretation of Rubens’s Peace and War. This might still be there behind wallpaper.

My fellow guests, all with a Christie’s connection, were young, smart, and personable.

We ate in the dining section of the suite, or rather I tried to, but did manage to enjoy a glass or two of a delightful white Burgundy.

It was an extreme coincidence that I found myself sitting in almost the exact spot from where I stood on a terrace to paint that 1954 picture of the Shed End (with the actual shed, then standing, but now long gone). And it was an even greater coincidence that on that very day, when Sillet scored the penalty goal in their Jubilee year, Chelsea were also playing Wolves.

Having only watched football on television since those early days, I was astonished to find the pitch appearing to be much smaller than expected and the players much larger.

The crowd, who bayed, chanted, encouraged and discouraged with much noise and animation, created quite a different atmosphere than “as seen on television”. But there was no commentator to give me the players’ names as they received or passed the ball, but then everyone there probably knew exactly who was who.

A young Italian lady sitting next to me became so excited by the action that she would have entered the fray at the drop of a (Chelsea) hat.

At half time we were offered coffee and cakes. And at full time (Chelsea 2, Wolves 0) there were lots of drinks available to dally over as we waited for the crowd to disperse.

By this time I was feeling particularly weak, so, thanking my host and bidding farewell to our friendly bunch, I left – to pass many policemen, at the ready for trouble, on my way to a bus stop.

The bus, chock full, made such slow progress that an elderly neighbour and I decided to walk the few miles back to Hammersmith. He knew the short cuts, being a steward for both Fulham and Chelsea football teams and often experiencing these after-the-match traffic jams. Travelling with supporters in the UK and Europe, he would seem to have been well suited for the job, being a scoutmaster (for keeping order), bowls player (for creating calm) and a model train enthusiast (for being one of the boys).

We shook hands having reached our destination (with traffic still deadlocked), and I reached home in a state of complete exhaustion.

But it had been a grand day out.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Real Lemonade

In days of yore (actually the early 1930s when I was a boy) my family lived in the country. We were almost self-supporting during the depression. We had a chicken farm (all free range, obviously), so had eggs and fowls to eat. We grew our own vegetables and fruit, preserving the surplus in one way or another to feed us through the winter months.

We had no electricity, so no refrigeration. Food was kept in a larder on the north side of the house near to the kitchen. Home-made gas gave us light in the dark evenings. It all sounds a bit primitive by today’s standards. But, except for being poor, we children were very content with our lot.

Our parents entertained with dances on our sprung drawing room floor in winter and tennis on a grass court in summer where, if any of us three children could find a weed, we were rewarded.

My father, having been badly wounded in the ‘14-’18 war, was somewhat of a health freak (which in fact killed him when trying radium, Madame Curie’s new invention). So fruit featured in our diet quite often.

For liquid sustenance, our guests were offered home-made lemonade. And memorable it was, being simple to make and delicious to drink. I make it to this day – more in summer than in winter.

The ingredients for this family lemonade were lemons (they were not waxed then) brown sugar (then known as pieces) and water. It is best made as an essence, and nowadays kept in a bottle in the refrigerator, to be diluted with water (which came ice cold from a well in those days), sparkling water, or even bought fizzy lemonade. Rum, vodka or other spirit will also turn it into something quite delicious.

Take four unwaxed lemons of a decent size. Halve them, and squeeze out the juice. Place this juice, pips and roughage in a bowl.

Cut up each lemon half into about three pieces and add these to the bowl.

Now add (for a sharpish essence) a table spoon of brown sugar.

I then press it all down in the bowl with a potato masher before and after adding most of a kettle full of boiling water. This releases some oils from the skin.

Allow the contents of the bowl to cool and, with a large funnel and sieve, strain the lemonade essence into a bottle – clear, plastic, glass, juice or water bottle will do.

Refrigerate this concentrate and use it diluted to taste with ice and what you will.

You will be drinking something pure and delicious – and with not an E-number involved.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


If broad and climbing French beans were a bit of a disappointment, runner beans were a huge success. Since coming into fruition (if that’s the word), we have harvested a handful about every other day from some six plants grown in sacks of soil (sacks that had been useless for other vegetables). We have harvested the beans when still very young, before they formed stringy edges. We have eaten them either raw, or boiled for five minutes, dried in the saucepan, and then coated with melted butter, sea salt and garlic (an Argentinian garlic recommended for fish and salads). As an accompaniment to evening drinks in our garden or shed, the beans have been a delight. And searching for them among their foliage has also contributed to the start of the evenings’ pleasures.

Another delight obtained from these beans (Scarlet Runners) has been that their flowers have made a lovely addition to garden colour, and that their bright scarlet has attracted bees and bumblebees.

Next year I will construct a larger bamboo and string frame for them to spread over.

The tomato crop has been adequate, a crop that I think would have been larger had the plants not been partially shielded from the sun by runner beans.

The grape harvest was divided into two parts, with us going to Dieppe for a break in between. The result was 5 1/2 gallons of wine, one gallon of that being rosé. The sugar content of each harvest was around 15%. This was increased by the addition of sugar to make 22%. That will create just over 13% alcohol in the wine. The result of whether it has been a good vintage or not will be known shortly before Christmas when the bottling begins and the wine tasted.

From our “orchard” (one pear tree in a pot and an apple tree in a pot) we enjoyed some excellent fruit (and they looked nice, too). But a few pears were ruined for us, but not for a blue tit who acquired a taste for some when still unripe.

Summer background colour has been provided by our regulars of pelargoniums, impatiens, Bolivian begonias and roses (the Rev. P-R doing well for its age and weak vigour, and Typhoon spectacularly well – as always).

Our robins chose to nest elsewhere, but great tits brought up a family in our nest box.

Overall, it has been a good summer.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

2010 Vintage

There is something very satisfying about harvesting in late summer or autumn for winter consumption.

My son brought us damsons to turn into pulp and damson gin. My sister gave us apples and blackberries to be cooked down and then frozen for winter pies.

But our very own harvest, besides home-grown beans and tomatoes, has been our annual creating of wine from the vines in our small garden.

Ripening of grapes this year was a little uneven. So we harvested the ripest bunches of red Triomphe d’Alsace grapes on the 29th of August. Later we will vinify the later-to-ripen white grapes and the remaining bunches of Triomphe d’Alsace that will then be ready. Together these will be vinified to make rosé.

Two of us harvested five buckets of grapes, and de-stemmed them. Bunches of red grapes were stripped of their stems into two fermentation bins. The contents of the bins had sugar and yeast added, although the extra yeast was hardly necessary due to the bloom on the grape skins.

Fermentation started quickly and built up in vigour over three days.

It is necessary to keep forcing down the cap that rises to the surface during fermentation to prevent noxious moulds from forming on it. For the same reason, both inside and out of the bins have to be kept scrupulously clean.

Refusing to add sulphur to the wine (as more or less everyone else does) I rely on the alcohol produced as my preservative. So the higher alcohol content is contrived by the addition of a little more sugar than is normal.

Vinification takes place by ladling the fermenting must into a straining bag placed over a funnel in the demijohn. Some juice will run through the bag, and more after much squeezing and pummelling of the bag. Pips and skins are discarded, though in countries on the continent they might be turned into spirit.

There seems to have been a high proportion of pips and skins this year. So that five gallons of must produced only three and a half gallons of juice.

Because of the fear of bacterial contamination by not incorporating sulphur, I choose to strain the juice into the gallon demijohns when fermentation is still reasonably vigorous, hoping that nasties will not be able to invade the wine. This means that a certain amount of wine will issue forth from the gallon jars’ fermentation locks.

Then, when those locks have been changed regularly and washed clean, comes one of the joys of vinification. A regular stream of carbon dioxide bubbles plop forth from all the locks, making a noise rather like a chorus of croaking frogs. This lasts for as long as the yeast is turning sugar into alcohol. So the noise may continue when the demijohns are stored in the loft to be forgotten until shortly before Christmas. Then it is time to bottle the wine and see if 2010 has been a good year.

vinification St Peter's Grove

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vinification 2010

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Daily life is enlightened by a series of small incidents that are hardly worth mentioning. But that is what makes living so interesting. Perhaps I am about to “twitter” if I record a few.

We went to a funeral in deepest Hertfordshire where the grandchildren of the deceased, who lived for his garden, threw bouquets of flowers into the grave after the coffin had been lowered into it. It made a touching scene.
Afterwards we spoke to a lady, wearing a wide-brimmed hat, who was trying to hide a large sticking plaster on her forehead. She had been to hospital to have a cancerous melanoma cut away from above her eyebrow. When at home she discovered that they had removed a mosquito bite instead – with the melanoma still there.

There was a clattering outside our house at two o’clock in the morning. Official-looking, yellow-coated men were lifting drain covers and probing beneath them.
At eight o’clock the following morning, several policemen tried to gain entrance to a house. They shouted that they had a search warrant. It was not until they started to break down the door that entry was granted.

My sister was given Italian courgette seeds to grow on her allotment. They grew splendidly but took on an exaggerated phallic shape, over two feet long and with a bulbous end. She gave me one, which drew incredulous glances from bus passengers as I returned home with it. The flesh was firm, and excellent to eat.

Returning on a number 27 bus from Marylebone, in London, the driver took a wrong turn and found himself, and us, returning in the direction from which we had just come. He realised it by the time I had descended from the top deck to tell him. The foreigners aboard had no idea what the fuss was about. But the rest of us, who were quite aware of the error, had a good laugh and much jovial conversation about it and other things.

An old artist friend, on holiday in Majorca, nearly drowned in a swimming pool. People thought that he was enjoying himself in the water, but his daughter heard his faint cries for help, and he was saved. It did not exactly spoil his holiday after only one day in a most expensive hotel, as his subsequent 10 days were spent in hospital, surrounded by and tended to hand and foot by pretty Spanish nurses, and all for free. I am glad to say that he is regaining his strength, and after a good Sunday lunch with us, his sense of wellbeing, too.

A local dog, liable to yap for hours when his mistress is out, might be cured from making this disturbing noise when the anti-dog-barking electronic collar we have ordered for it is attached.

A blue tit has acquired the taste for an unripe pear in our garden. It pecks away, almost eating its own weight of fruit at each visit. We do not mind at all as we have five other pears on this tree-in-a-pot.

I have a good eye injected every so often to retain its sight. Last time out the needle struck a blood vessel as the eyeball was pierced. Now I walk around with a wife and a black eye.

If this is twittering, it’s quite good fun. But blogging is better.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Birds singing strangely

Some years ago, I was in my small London garden in the dead of winter when a male blackbird landed on a vine post near me and started to sing.
Blackbirds do not sing in wintertime, but this one was not technically singing.
It went through its entire summer repertoire, quietly and under its breath. I stood transfixed at this quiet cascade of notes pouring out from a blackbird that did not even bother to open its beak.
Now much the same thing has happened with a robin.
We know our two robins well. They come into our shed to eat maggots and small morsels of Cheddar cheese, sometimes from my knee if I feel like it. Now they are mostly away, seldom appearing as they obtain new feathers in the annual moult.
In their absence a new robin has appeared on the block. He is a bright, upright robin, who wants company more than food.
He has taken cheese from flagstones beneath me as I crumbled it into small pieces and let them fall. He dashed in to eat them so close to my feet that I dared not move for fear of treading on him. He is brave.
Two days before writing this, Margreet and I heard what sounded like young birds singing in the distance, possibly all in line on a TV aerial, or so we imagined. We accepted these distant songs and took pleasure in them.
Then our new robin came to sit on a wooden sculpture a few feet away from where we were sitting. And, like the blackbird in mid winter, this robin was singing under his breath - in mid summer. The notes might have come from a long way away.
His repertoire of songs must have lasted for 15 minutes, and stopped only when a nearby blackbird shouted out her warning signal call.
A friend arrived the following day to witness and hear the same robin singing the same songs from the same perch.
I passed close to the bird to fetch cheese bits, which he declined to eat, not moving, and singing all the while.
Our own human conversation ended as we watched the bird and listened to his song – for perhaps five minutes.
The new robin is clearly very friendly, wants company, is fearless of people, and has songs to whisper that he wants us to hear.
We dearly love our regular pair of robins, but we also hope that this songster comes to stay. But robins are very territorial – ours particularly so. I imagine that there will be fighting before the winter sets in.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Glorious Goodwood

I’m sure that I have written before on Glorious Goodwood, an annual horse racing meeting in Sussex that attracts the famous and infamous. But I can’t resist it, even if I am about to write much the same description.
Margreet and I had once more been invited to attend by my cousin (aged 88) who is now much in demand for wreath laying in Normandy, being among the first soldiers on D-day to land by glider near Caen and still be able to drive a car to France.
We met near Chichester and reached the racecourse slowly in his membership-badged/invalid-displayed car.
There, in sunshine and shade, we drank and ate in the open and watched the crowd. And what a fascinating crowd it was.
Among the male participants were elegant gentlemen in tropical fawn suits, polished shoes, and Panama hats with coloured hat bands displaying the colours of Goodwood membership or their club – sporting or otherwise.
Other men seem to lean more toward the fringes of society. Their suits were flashier, more pronouncedly striped, and of shinier material. Their shoes might be of patent leather or related to trainers. Generally speaking, the men’s clothing was fairly drab and mundane. Women, however, sparkled.
There were plenty of old trouts to be seen, some elegant and underplayed, others recalling, especially to themselves, the days of fashion in their time when they were in greater demand and more youthful in appearance.
Skirt lengths varied enormously this year, with some long, some of medium length, and some so short that most of the leg was on show, undercarriage that often would have been far better concealed.
There were many bared cleavages with breasts well flaunted, and bouncing to display their full worth.
In many an instance there were the dolly-birds, dressed as if in rather cheap Christmas wrapping paper, and tied with string, soon to be undone by their often much older and pot-bellied escorts.
Hats for the ladies were worn to enhance and attract – the most resplendent probably to attract the TV cameramen rather than for punters and their partners. These crowning glories varied from the odd feather to a fully displayed hand of them, to the short-brimmed pill box, to those with huge floppy brims – the latter flapping around uncontrollably in the notorious Goodwood wind and having to be held on by one hand.
A few sensible women chose to wear low or wedge-shaped shoes, sometimes shiny silver, or gold. Those dressed to the nines sported high stilettos, which sank into the grass aerating the soil, no doubt much to its benefit.
The three of us each wagered on every race until the last when we left to avoid the crowds.
Margreet’s theory was to pick horses that were not favourites but which our newspaper pundit reckoned to be a danger to the favourite. She lost a bit on the day – but not much.
Our host bet only on horses that had previously been the winner of at least one race. “They know about winning and the pleasure it gives.” He also favoured the nags that had been sent to the racecourse from afar, on the assumption that it would not have been worth the trouble and expense if it had no chance of winning. He broke even on the day.
My own method was to select the fourth favourite (or thereabouts) and bet on it each way, especially if the horse had an unpleasant or difficult name. The result was a good profit over and above the wager money. It was enough that when we returned home tired and hungry it enabled us to eat out on steak tartare and freezing vodka.
The gods had looked kindly on us all, showed us their bounty, and made it all a lovely day out.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Positive Aspect of War

One of the great outcomes of a major war is that people of all classes and from various strata of life are thrown together in a common cause.
This means that the lavatory attendant and the Lord must live together closely and have to get on with it.
In the last war, certainly, the self-important, mother-spoiled and pompous of any class, soon had it knocked out of them. So all were quickly seen as being of their own worth. The good and the bad came from all classes, sects, professions, religions or whatever. In the eyes of their comrades, superficiality was soon stripped from their outer surfaces and they were revealed as humans, humans with much the same aspirations and ambitions in life as those of their comrades.
Initially, one’s part in a war with its drill and be drilled gave little time for personal thought. It was not much fun. But you survived it. Then there was more time to make friendships as people developed their own maturing wartime characters.
Those of us who trained as pilots in the RAF and survived, eventually were demobilised and released from service life to go our own way. A few had jobs to return to. Because of our age, most of my contemporaries, who left school life to fight, had then to decide how to contend with the future.
Our war experiences had taught us that rich or poor, famous or not, opulent or pauper, we were all much the same as one another. And we had learned to speak to our fellows as equals. For this bit of free and major part of my education I was extremely grateful.
Some of us who flew together are still bonded by our wartime past. We meet before Christmas in friendship, and to celebrate the fact that some of us are still alive.
One of our number, a Bishop, has just died. We were friends as airmen in war, seldom, if ever mentioning religion. With one being a devout Christian and the other becoming a staunch atheist, our friendship continued in peacetime with me an artist and writer, and he a Bishop.
We will miss the Bishop, even though he became too frail to join our recent get-togethers.
But he has died and, no doubt, in his earthly Christian mind he will have gone to heaven.
I just wonder if having passed through the Pearly Gates he will be thrown together with a disparate bunch of characters, just as he was with us in wartime.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A marriage of Mustards

Many of us have heard that the Colman family made their fortune not with the consumption of their excellent mustard but with what was left on the plate.
They would not have been so prosperous had their customers, like me, usually had a soup on the go.
Any mustard left over from the table and about to dry out and become useless and a nuisance to deal with, may be diluted right away with a little water and added to an on-going winter – or even summer – soup, to its considerable advantage.
Now it so happens that in our household I use Dijon mustard (bought in France cheaply in jars) mainly for sauces and English mustard powder turned into mustard for the plate. My wife, Margreet, on the other hand, uses Dijon mustard as an accompaniment to meats, and English mustard hardly at all.
So I wondered whether the combination of the two types might be to both of our tastes. And it was.
In a small pot, blend together about 1/3 Colman’s mustard powder with about 2/3 Dijon.
Any left over from a meal can go immediately into a soup or sauce and not be wasted.
Mustard harmony/marital harmony.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Melting Chocolate Bars

In the early part of the ‘39/’45 war, when I was a refugee in America waiting to be old enough to return home to become an RAF pilot, I much enjoyed eating a chocolate bar, called OHenry.
Being then entirely dependant on the Killorin family who very kindly took me in, I earned my pocket money (for such as OHenry chocolate bars and ice cream covered in liquid marshmallow and chocolate shot), by selling subscriptions to magazines and garden work (avoiding the nasty poison ivy, which is prevalent in Connecticut).
Move forward to just after the war, in the late 1940s, when TB had destroyed my start in medicine and when I had become an art student.
In England we were still suffering from winning the war, and subject to severe rationing.
In France things were different. Food there was so plentiful that a war might never have happened (I suppose there’s a moral there).
So, in Paris, while drawing at La Grande Chaumière and the Ecole des Beaux Arts, I met up with friends made in those refugee times in America. Several were now in their Foreign Service. Among them was Jeremy Hodson, who was one with whom I kept in touch afterwards.
Move forward once more, now to 1959 and Vietnam, before America’s disastrous war there.
Jeremy Hodson was based in Saigon in the employ of the U.S. government, and living within the kind of compound of American life and artefacts that suits them when abroad.
He wanted to escape those confines and see what was actually happening outside Saigon, and to understand the feelings of Vietnamese people.
He managed to obtain permission to travel a long way north toward the 49th parallel (the border between North and South Vietnam) and to take me along. We were to see, among other surprising things, many South Vietnamese troops being trained to fight their fellow countrymen in the north (crazy) should those in the Communist north encroach on the American-run south.
Armed with food aplenty in ice-boxes, including OHenry bars, we headed north, a journey about which Jeremy wrote a report for his government (ignored) concerning the feelings of the Vietnamese people toward their northern countrymen and of the Americans.
Back in Saigon, and now knowing of my enthusiasm for OHenry bars, he very kindly gave me a whole box of them.
The room in which I lodged had a fan in the ceiling for air-conditioning. In the extreme heat at that time, the chocolate bars melted – to become a thick liquid. To consume flowing chocolate in a steamingly hot climate is not a particularly appetising prospect.
Move forward again to now, as I write, in a period of hot English summer.
With OHenry bars unobtainable, my wife, Margreet, kindly surprised me with a gift of its near equivalent – a bar with a fudgey centre, surrounded by roasted peanuts with a coating of milk chocolate.
The bar was beginning to melt like the OHenry bars in Vietnam. So I shoved it into a freezer drawer of our refrigerator.
What came out, hard, cold and crisp, was quite delicious – and very different from the bar that went in.
It was not the first time that I have frozen chocolate bars and greatly enjoyed the result. I recommend the procedure – even in cooler weather.
Belgian-type chocolates were not a success. So it is probably only run-of-the-mill chocolate bars that respond well to this freezing treatment.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New potatoes in buckets

In early summer, when new potatoes are not yet obtainable from greengrocers or market stalls, those grown in buckets outside at home form a special early summer treat.
After my abject failure to grow potatoes in the plastic sacks much advertised for the job, I experimented with growing them in the black plastic buckets now on sale almost everywhere.
It is necessary to drill holes in the bottom of these buckets, then to cover the holes with broken crocks to aid drainage,
Obtain seed potatoes of an early variety and allow them to chit (grow small green/brown sprouts in the daylight), and put 3 on a 3” layer of the compost covering the crocks. Then cover these with perhaps 3” to 4” of compost or sifted soil mixed with compost.
When the green leaves (haulms) appear, add more compost to almost cover the leaves (leave some greenery showing).
Again, allow the leaves to grow, almost covering them with compost.
Leave a couple of inches of the bucket unfilled to make room for water (spuds like plenty of it).
This year (2010) I planted 3 Arran Bard potatoes in each bucket on the 9th of March, harvesting a small crop (a good dish) of small potatoes after 66 days from one bucket. The second bucket was emptied 77 days after planting, and provided 10 walnut-size potatoes from each seed potato (two dishes).
This was well before English new potatoes appeared for sale in the shops.
So, from the buckets, resting on a shelf in the garden, we enjoyed two early potato treats.
After boiling them for about 16 minutes I like to serve these delicacies in individual bowls into which I put salt, a lump of butter and a splash of vinegar. On top I sprinkle a little chopped fresh mint.
The hot potatoes melt the butter and all the potatoes can then be coated with the butter/vinegar/salt/mint mixture before being eaten – as a course on their own. If eaten cold, a vinaigrette or thin mayonnaise is the better coating, and the spuds are then best peeled.
Our harvesting is done by cutting off the haulms for compost, and then upturning the bucket of soil and potatoes on to a marble topped garden table.
The potatoes are then extracted to be washed and eaten (skin on), the spent seed thrown away, and the roots with enmeshed soil composted.
This home grown treat makes for a lovely and exciting annual, springtime ritual.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Fusker again

I am rather devoted to the name “Fusker” because many of the hits coming through the ether to our computer arrive by that name.
Well, “Fusker” is, I believe, something Swedish. It may be a computer programme or even something a little more risqué. But hits come in.
I speak of hits without much authority because my own computer is not connected to the net, being an old-fashioned machine that I feed with 3 ½” floppy disks if I want to transfer anything from it to my wife Margreet’s very up-to-date edition of modern technology.
I suppose that many of these Fusker hits relate to neighbour James May’s cat of that name, an animal of considerable character but somewhat of a villain.
I recorded in this blog a fight that I once had with that cat which sent me to hospital for repairs and injection after a bloody conflict on my territory, which I won. Since when, the cat respects me as “top cat” and keeps his distance.
Many of us love cats. We just want to stroke them and hope for their friendship. That is why they are so popular as pets.
When newcomers come to live nearby we warn them of possible trouble if playing with Fusker.
Now Fusker loves houses more than people. Leave the door open and your back turned and Fusker is indoors – slipping in often unnoticed.
When inside he investigates the house from top to bottom, sometimes finding sympathetic hosts who allow him to stay – and even people who will feed him choice morsels (I believe smoked salmon to be one of his favourites).
But Fusker poses danger.
As we are frightened that he might turn on a child, we warn those who do not know him of potential danger. So we warned two new neighbours who have a young boy.
True to form, Fusker infiltrated their newly acquired home, prancing up and down stairs sizing up the place and its inhabitants.
The new master of the house managed to apprehend him and was pleased to stroke the quiet miscreant - as one is wont to do.
Then Fusker sank his teeth deep into the man’s hand.
At least the child was safe, who witnessed the attack and thought that it was hilariously funny.
Fusker is a villain of course. But at least he can make a child laugh.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Garden update Spring 2010

As spring turns to summer it is a chance for me to write a garden update.
From a large pot we harvested – and ate raw – half a dozen spears of asparagus. They were delicious – tender, sweet and juicy.
This brings me to almost conclude a theory.
I have tried several times to grow two or more varieties of a perennial shrub or plant of the same genus in the same pot. And each time, after initial apparent success, only one has survived.
The most recent example of this has been in that asparagus pot of ours.
In it I had planted, over several years, crowns and seedlings of several varieties. They all started well, but beneath the soil a battle was taking place, leaving only the strongest to survive.
This fight between roots beneath the soil in pots has occurred in this London garden between two types of viburnam, two varieties of lavender, and now asparagus. The strongest wins each time. The others die. I won’t bother to try this double or multiple planting again. Nature has taught me a lesson. She has spoken.
In the winter I dug out a pot of mint which had noxious weeds in it, and its plastic was, anyhow, beginning to break up. I replanted a few of its young, rooted strands in a new, strong, drained, black plastic bucket, filled with crocks at the bottom and clean soil above.
This has produced plenty of healthy mint stems, and is the happier for its regeneration. (In tipping out the old mint, I noticed that its roots spread out quite near to the soil surface, and not much downward.)
A success has been in the strawberry pot of geraniums (pelargoniums). From its top are growing three colourful varieties, and from the holes in its side grow the trailing kind. And from one aperture sprout the thin pointed leaves of a thrift plant that was given to us and had no other appropriate place in which to live. It looks a bit odd as it sticks out – rather like hair, favoured by modern youths.
Unable to keep the corms of the Bolivian begonia throughout the winter, I now have two young (gift) plants of its “Bonfire” variety growing well and flowering early.
I have written about my disappointment with plastic sacks for growing potatoes, and the lack of success when using them the following year for Swiss chard (not bad), carrots (poor), and beetroot (very poor).
Well, this year I constructed a frame of bamboos and string and, in the sacks with replenished topsoil planted broad beans (The Sutton) and climbing French beans. These are doing splendidly, with the broad bean plants now in full flower and the climbers climbing.
As for potatoes, I continue to plant three seed potatoes in each of two black plastic buckets (crocked and drilled for drainage). This year I chose the variety Arran Bard.
After 66 days we harvested one bucketful and enjoyed a feast of small, new potatoes (last year we harvested after 77 days). As the spuds were still quite small, we will wait another 10 days before harvesting those in the second bucket.
Potato harvesting is done by first composting the haulms, and then turning the bucket upside-down on a marble-topped table in the garden. Spuds are sorted out from the light soil, which is either to be rejuvenated in the compost heap or spread on the small areas of garden not covered by flagstones.
There should be apples and pears aplenty this year. Herbs do well, and the pieris continues to please. Roses are fine (Rev P-R and Typhoon), and our robins, having brought up young, continue to land in our shed next to us to eat morsels of cheddar cheese and dried maggots.

Friday, June 04, 2010

French Toast

This simple dish is ideal for breakfast, a snack, or child’s tea. It was certainly popular in my childhood. Yet now I find it to be a little dull. So, besides adding any leftover mayonnaise to the mix, I have been experimenting by spreading either Marmite or Bovril on to one side of the bread before dipping it into the egg/milk mixture. I have also been adding a shake or two of Tabasco chilli sauce as well. All these additions have been successful in invigorating French toast. The amount of milk to be added to egg in this recipe is a matter of experiment. With the texture of my home-made bread being denser than bought loaves I use a little less milk than the volume of egg. The recipe below is for about two slices, perhaps three.


You will need:
Slices of bread (with or without crusts)
Tabasco sauce, possibly
Marmite, possibly
Bovril, possibly
Pepper and salt
Olive oil
Cinnamon powder or grated nutmeg, possibly

Break an egg into a soup plate. Add pepper and salt. Whisk with a fork or whisk, and add about the same volume, or a little more, of milk. Whisk again.
To add taste, consider spreading either Marmite or Bovril on one side of the bread, and adding a shake or two of chilli sauce (like Tabasco) to the mixture.
Soak slices of bread in the whisked liquid and fry them in olive oil on both sides until golden. Some then sprinkle over a little cinnamon powder or grated nutmeg.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Roquefort beurre

You will bless me for this information


You will need
Roquefort cheese

When I was in Paris as a student in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the offered items of restaurant and café food were still peasantly simple – staunch and traditional favourites of the natives.
Both radishes and Roquefort cheese were offered with a pat of butter. Why?
I never quite saw the reason why the taste of radishes would be enhanced by the addition of butter. And just how should that combination have been eaten anyway?
But I was soon to notice that customers used a knife to blend the Roquefort with the proffered butter. So I did the same.
The result was delicious. The salty astringency of the cheese was transformed into a blend of softness and creaminess – retaining all the wonderful taste of the cheese.
Roquefort may still be served with butter in French eating places. In Paris, the only restaurant that I know of that still serves that “traditional” menu, and at a reasonable cost, is the enormous and fun Chartier, 7 Rue de Faubourg Montmartre.
The last time that I ate there, Roquefort was not on the menu, but Blue d’Auvergne was, and it was offered with beurre. Radishes were not featured.
So I recommend that for a cheese treat you put a lump of butter in a bowl, allow it to soften, add twice its volume of Roquefort cheese, and mash the two together with a fork.
Place the bowl in a freezer bag if keeping it in the refrigerator.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ice-cream sauces

The STOP ME AND BUY ONE ice-cream man on his tricycle cart of old, served blocks of ice cream, wafers, cones and water ice in a triangular stick that you pushed out of its container as you sucked or bit. I do not believe that anyone thought of adding sauce to the blocks of plain vanilla made for home consumption. But there are lots of sauces for ice cream in the kitchen that are normally used for other purposes. They need no further preparation, or very little. So should you have dull ice cream to use up, have a good look around the shelves and cupboards.


You will need:
Any of the following:

After the most popular chocolate sauce (see below), a fine sauce is golden syrup, straight from its can or jar, or heated. When blended with melted butter it is even better. Chocolate spread is another potential sauce. Jams and marmalade, straight from the jar or heated and diluted with a little water are other ideas. Grated chocolate, nuts, sultanas, currants, green raisins and peanut butter (worked in and excellent), all make good sauces on their own, or mixed. Crumbled plain digestive biscuits may not strictly be a sauce, but the crumbs are delicious on ice cream. But top of my list comes hot or cold chocolate sauce, made simply by melting some butter, adding plenty of sugar, half its volume of cocoa powder, a little vanilla essence and water to form the consistency required. Whisk it all together as it heats through. If too much water has been added (it won’t need much) and the sauce too thin, just whisk in more sugar and cocoa powder. I let the mixture rise in the pan three times over heat – only to make sure that the sugar has melted completely. Put what you do not need to use right away into a screw-top jar, make sure it is cold, and refrigerate until wanted to enhance ice-cream at other times.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

a French bathroom

A room contains, in the normal run of things, four vertical surfaces (walls) and two horizontal surfaces (ceiling and floor).
On a recent trip, our bathroom in France had 22 vertical surfaces, 13 horizontal surfaces (where dust could lie) and one angled surface.
It was a conglomeration of surfaces, mostly, or partly, blue tiled (ceiling part tiled).
Pleasingly held in my affection are the arrays of bathroom pipes and pipe work that can resemble a complicated knitting pattern.
With general upgrading, these open knots of copper tube have been much reduced over the years in which I have been to France, but still offer enough wonky pipe work to intrigue.
Beautifully exposed in that same bathroom (brought up to three star standards) were six horizontal pipes and eight vertical ones (some large to very large), all plain to see when lying in hot water.
And nearly always there is a little hole somewhere at floor level – presumably to please mice.
The surfaces, pipes and mouse hole contrive to create bathrooms of infinite enjoyment to the interested observer. And for that panorama of fun the French don’t even have to try.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

String and a blue tit

Outside and near to my kitchen window are three plastic sacks of soil into which I am planting beans this year.
Broad beans are already growing well there.
To accommodate the climbing beans (Climbing French and Blue Lake) I have constructed a bamboo frame, giving each plant either a bamboo or a vertical strand of green, garden string up which to climb.
Looking out of the window one early morning in late April, I saw a blue tit struggling and swinging round at the top of one of these strings.
I witnessed its distress for a short time before planning to go outside and free the poor fellow.
Then I noticed that it was sliding downward. Perhaps the string had become wound around its leg.
Then, apparently still struggling, it fell lower still.
It was about to be saved when I noticed that the bird was not attached to the string at all, but holding on to it.
Lower it went, pecking at the string all the while.
By the time the blue tit had reached the bottom of the string it had harvested a beakful of short green strands, made of jute, sisal, hemp, or whatever garden string is made from.
Then off it flew to add decoration to its nest.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Rice salad

Rice was used in England’s past mainly for rice pudding. It was also added to soups and stews – especially in poorer households. Then the Indians and Chinese came.
Rice salad does sound a bit boring. But with a bit of imagination it can be turned into one of the very best of dishes as a first course or main one for vegetarians. A large bowl of this salad will make a summer's day feast - and be economical and easy to prepare.
You could boil rice especially for it, but why not cook more than will be wanted for, say, a curry or whatever you normally eat with rice. Then you could start to prepare the following day's salad with the surplus. Add oil right away and stir it in, otherwise the rice will dry out and some grains will revert to their hard state. I favour brown rice for this salad, although it takes almost double the time to cook.


You will need:
Pepper and salt
Various additions

Let us presume that you have cooked more boiled rice than wanted for a meal. Put what is left over in a bowl and add oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), pepper and salt. Give it a good stir. If the rice is still hot or warm, so much the better. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it when cold.
The next day, add some capers, possibly green peppercorns (I soak black peppercorns in vinegar for a month or more and use a teaspoonful of them) and a chopped gherkin or two. That's a good start - and finish. But there are other items you might like to add, like chopped nuts (I favour pre-roasted cashews, pounded), pine nuts, chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped parsley or coriander, chopped fresh or dried herbs, chopped fresh chillies, a dash of chilli sauce, pounded coriander seeds, chopped hard boiled egg, diced cucumber, chopped green, red or yellow peppers, chopped cumquat pieces, green raisins, sultanas, olives and on, and on, and on - though not all together.
Whatever you choose to add, you can hardly go wrong. But start with a simple few ingredients - like nuts, capers and chopped gherkins. These give the salad some “bite”. Nuts and peppers will give it added colour and texture.
From plain and simple rice you will now have made a delicious salad. For a main course, decorate it with halved hard-boiled eggs, tomato quarters, sardines or anchovies. Add a few stoned black olives to delight the eye.
To elevate the salad to a much higher plane, skin a small knob of fresh ginger root. Cut this up into the smallest of morsels, or grate it. Add this and stir.
Before you have turned cooked rice into a salad, you might consider saving some as the stuffing for vine leaves, when in season. Soften the leaves with boiling water. Mint will be your main addition to the rice as stuffing, with cooked minced lamb.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dieppe Travel 2010

It’s an age thing I suppose. Travel enlivens and freshens the mind and, when in France, fills the stomach as well. Travel means change, and change is a restoring stimulative.
But having to use airports is “out of bounds” for travellers like us if humanly possible. I find nothing at all to recommend them, despite having flown and still being fascinated by aeroplanes.
Which leaves holiday breaks in the UK as a possibility. But here, good restaurants tend to be over-expensive and their cooking often still horribly Nouvelle Cuisine. And English hotels and B&Bs, when last we tried them, would charge per person, not per room. The French are more sensible in this respect, and thus encourage return visits.
This leaves long voyages on liners as a possibility, where you might not like your fellow passengers (or those who want to make friends with you), put on weight, and possibly contract whatever virulent viruses are doing the rounds.
At least we are lucky to have France, Belgium and Holland in mainland Europe near at hand. All are foreign and well worth a visit without too much hassle or difficulty.
The tunnel to France, despite the occasional blockage or fire, is an ideal way to experience “abroad”. But Paris is now becoming prohibitively expensive, as is the more restrictive Brussels.
By ferry to reach nearby mainland Europe leaves Dover as the quickest crossing port. But it’s a long drive from London, and we are not enamoured with Calais.
Crossing to mainland Europe via Portsmouth and ports beyond, involves much longer sea crossings.
Which leaves “our” crossing from Newhaven to Dieppe as a good, all-round, best bet.
Formalities in Newhaven are minimal. There are no “Micky Mouse” approach roads to contend with, and four hours later you are in France – in an ancient port (which we once flattened and where we were flattened in turn more recently by the Boche). It is a port/seaside town where one hardly has to proceed further.
This maritime town is “walking” size. The restaurants are plentiful and good – with fish dishes superb.
The hotels are comfortable and far cheaper than in England. (I have written extensively on most aspects of Dieppe earlier in this blog and try not to repeat myself.)
So, in a word, that’s where we go – for short breaks and the re-stocking of larder and cellar.
Now, this wine re-stocking is not, as you may think, with French wine (though we do buy our “house”, Pays d’Oc, wine there) but mainly bargain-priced New World wines which the French discount, thinking that by being produced outside France they are undrinkable. These wines are often distinguishable on the shelves by the layer of dust on them.
We also return with cheeses and other foods, though with the present exchange rates, this is becoming less financially beneficial. But many foods are cheaper than in England. Endive is one. Dijon mustard is another. Smoked chickens are good value and delicious. Paper goods are to be recommended. Garlic and shallots are always on our list, but were very expensive the last time we bought them (out of their season). Fruit and vegetables are so fresh that we invariably “top up” the car with them for our return journey.
We were there in the spring, and will return in the early winter (when scallops are in season once more) when children are in school again and the tourist season has subsided.
And anyhow, where in the world in 2010 can one eat a splendid four course meal with aperitif, unlimited cider and red wine, with coffee included. Of course you will lunch at shared tables with newly scrubbed-up workmen, and eat in a shed. And all this would cost you £10.80 per head. Where in the world could this happen? Surely only in France.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cheese and garlic pancake for drinks

Margaret Costa, the well-known cookery writer at the time, was coming to dinner and my then girl friend decided to make a gougère. It was not a success, being rather flat and solid. But our culinary guest loved the result. There must, I thought, be an easier and quicker way of making such a delicious failure. A taste-alike, quick-to-make equivalent was needed for times when people were invited for drinks on the spur of the moment. The following was the result. Everyone loves it - especially children. It is not just a Shrove Tuesday treat, but one to be enjoyed at any time of the year.


You will need:
Plain flour with baking powder or self-raising
Salt and pepper
Egg or eggs
Dijon mustard
Chilli sauce (like Tabasco)
Cheddar cheese (or a stronger kind)
Olive oil

Sieve some plain flour with baking powder or self-raising (say 3 ½ heaped dessert spoons) into a large bowl. Add pepper, salt. Stir.
Break a large egg or two small ones so that their contents fall into a depression in the centre of the sifted flour. Add a good dollop of Dijon mustard and a shake or two of Tabasco sauce (or another kind of chilli sauce).
Break the eggs with a whisk and start to stir from the centre outwards, adding milk (1/4 pint). Keep stirring and beating until the mixture is thick, yet smooth and free of even the smallest lumps. Or I’m sure a blender would do the same job.
Add some grated Cheddar (done beforehand), or blue cheese to make a stronger taste (too much cheese may make the pancake oily). Stir again.
Put olive oil in a frying pan to coat the bottom and sides. Add at least a couple of garlic cloves, squeezed from a press. Spread these morsels evenly around. Cook them until they are about to brown.
Now pour in the mixture to coat the bottom of the pan evenly. Reduce the heat to very low and wait until the bubbling mix begins to dry out on its upper surface. This will take about 20 minutes (depending on the heat and the pan),
It is now time to toss the pancake - or turn it over as best you can.
Tossed, with its brown and garlic side now uppermost, with the point of a knife cut slits in the surface to allow moisture to escape from within.
Lift a corner to inspect the under side (cooking will take a further 10 minutes or so). When cooked and golden brown, turn the pancake on to a board. Offer it to your guests cut into small sections.
With my frying pan and gas heat source at just above its very lowest, the whole cooking process takes 30 minutes. So half an hour before guests arrive for drinks I start to cook the pancake.
It is a good idea to make quite a lot of the mixture if guests for a party will be arriving over the period of an hour or two. Then, as you leave the kitchen with the first hot pancake, add some more garlic and mixture to the frying pan - and so on. The success of this delicious pancake will surprise you, and delight your guests. Children love it, too. But don’t tell the young about the garlic, as some don’t like the sound of it.
Get children to hand around these pancake squares. Reward them. Like dogs, if given a job to do, they (and you) are happy.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Winter Socks

As with most people in cool climates, I like my feet to be warm in winter.
Ever since visiting Holland some years ago and discovering socks, called SKI Socks Extra Soft, my feet have been as warm as toast throughout the cold months.
Being woven in a soft, wooly kind of way, made for skiing and not daily walking, they are inclined, after a while, to get thin at heel and holey at toe – two pairs (darned a bit) surviving one winter.
Discovering in early springtime that I was now almost out of these miracle socks (sort of stockings, really) and finding my last two pairs to be near the end of their days, with next winter’s warmth in mind, I wrote to my sister-in-law, Henny, who lives on the Dutch/German border, asking if she would kindly look in at a Hema store to see if there were any left in my size.
Her husband, Bert, found that none were available, so contacted the manager of the shop, who very kindly telephoned the supplier (United Sox of the People’s Republic of China – with the slogan “We Knit for Europe”) to assess the position. Having obtained the number in China, the telephone was handed over to my brother-in-law.
The English/Chinese spoken from so far away was somewhat difficult for him to understand, but the gist was clear.
These particular socks were bought by some of their most revered Dutch customers, one by the name of Pates Lobbels (which, funnily enough, sounded a bit like my name) and also an Honellable Clown Plince, who used them the year round at his lodge in the Alps during the European winter and the mountains of Patagonia in summer (their winter).
Unfortunately, annual production ceased on Chinese New Year’s Day, leaving only four pairs available, as His Loyal Highness the Clown Plince had bought the rest. He was velly solly.
But because we were velly honerlable customers, the cost of these four remaining pairs would be – nil.
This was wonderful news, tempered only by me noticing that the date of my brother-in-law’s email was the 1st of April.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Beef, Coriander and Carrot Stew

This simple but very distinctive and tasty stew demands shin of beef and long slow cooking (three hours anyhow on top of the stove). In a cold winter its coriander taste offers a hint of spring. I believe that two Oxo cubes are better than a beef stock cube, and chopped coriander stems better than its leaves. But that’s a fine point of judgement, the differences being slight. This is as good a beef stew as any.


You will need:
Olive oil
Shin of beef
Oxo cubes (2) or beef stock cube (1)
Pepper and salt

In a saucepan or iron casserole fry chopped onion and garlic in olive oil. When this is just turning brown, add chopped up shin of beef.
Carry on cooking, stirring all the time, until the meat has turned colour (but just whether this browning makes any difference in sealing in the goodness I don’t know, and somehow doubt).
Now sprinkle over a dessert spoon of plain flour, some pepper and salt, and two crumbled Oxo cubes or one beef stock cube. Stir well.
Add water to well cover the meat. Then put in plenty of cleaned and chopped carrots.
Lastly, add chopped coriander stems (wash them well) or plenty of chopped coriander leaves.
Bring the ingredients to the boil, stir well, and leave the pan on the lowest heat for three hours.
Then eat, or leave the stew until the next day when it will taste even better.

Note. To add a small chilli or a shake or two of Tabasco sauce may be to your taste. And if using a stock cube instead of Oxo, add a little liquid gravy browning. The depth of colour the browning imparts is much to the benefit of the look of the stew.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Acting Career

Now that there is a new Peter Greenaway film out (“Nightwatching”), I am reminded of my (distinguished) career as an actor.
For the Greenaway film, “The Cook, the Thief etc.”, I was invited by friends to join them and to act as a restaurant customer.
Driven to enormous studios in the suburbs, I spent much of the day at a table pretending to eat a pink crayfish. That would not have been so bad had the crustacean not been stinkingly rotten.
There was action around me as tableware was thrown about with explosive force and, I think, a fork shoved through someone’s cheek into their mouth. The latter action was contrived, with fake blood in full flow, by the visual effects and make-up departments.
At the conclusion of a long day’s acting (the whole day produced but five minutes of finished film) we were given fish and chips as payment and thanks.
When the film eventually reached the silver screen, I was, obviously, anxious to witness my skills as an actor. But sadly, I think, only just think, that I saw the back of my head. And I’m not even sure about that, either.
But I really have had a career as a serious actor.
My first job, having been to art school (The Central), theatre design school (The Old Vic) and the Covent Garden Opera House (as scene painter), was set designer in repertory theatre at High Wycombe.
Presenting a new set weekly, with reading the play, working out a floor plan, constructing a model, painting the scenery, installing the set and furnishing it with hired and borrowed items, was an onerous task, made tolerable by applause for my hard work as the curtains opened. Pay was minimal, but experience great.
Our cast was limited in number. In one scene of a play, two ambulance men were required to cross the stage with someone on a stretcher.
Our number could run to only one ambulance man, but not two.
So there I was, a genuine actor for a week, with my name in the programme – as second ambulance man.
So when I see a television drama or stage performance, I think to myself that I, too, was once an actor.
If I am ever asked to act again I will demand a better part – first ambulance man, perhaps.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Luck in France 2010

In life you need luck on your side – pre-ordained or by absolute chance does not really matter, as long as it is good luck, and preferably plenty of it.
We had just spent three nights in France, mainly to re-stock our wine supply, which gets depleted at some speed with our daily consumption, along with some generous entertaining.
And we also go to France to eat well, breathe in sea air, walk off excesses, buy food of various descriptions, and generally absorb a foreign way of life. Theirs is another culture with those in-built identities that seem as nature to them but of a separate past and present to us.
Our first stroke of luck this time was to find that our favoured “house” wine was “on promotion” – six bottles for the price of five. And it was cheap enough already.
With an anniversary celebration meal in mind we headed for a favourite restaurant, to find it closed for their annual holiday. But another place nearby – almost if not absolutely in a shed, was open.
We lunch early, which was fortunate as there was only one sitting, where clients (mostly workmen) arrived to eat at between mid-day and 12.15.
Here we were given a house aperitif (cider/cassis) and told to take as much as we felt from a most interesting spread of hors d’oeuvres.
Already we were clearly in luck.
We were then offered a choice from three main courses.
On our table stood a bottle of cold and delicious fizzy cider and a litre bottle of red wine. They were there to be drunk as we might see fit – and at no extra cost.
A lovely cheese board of local produce followed the main course, then a dessert and then coffee – total price £10.80 a head, with service, all inclusive. What luck!
We lunched there every day, feeling that we could do no better elsewhere – even in favoured old haunts.
There was still room in our car for more wine, the kind we buy at a separate supermarket, obtaining there old favourites for a modest sum as they are “foreign” wines to the French, and so not to their liking. It was lucky that the ones we wanted were available.
I have used the same hotel in France for probably 65 years or so, knowing the grandfather founder, son, and now daughter. They are as friends.
It so happened that recommending this hotel to neighbours in London at one time, we heard that they were given a discount on the price of their room – something that had never happened to me, and probably being their most long-lasting and faithful client.
So I jokingly made this clear to the management. When leaving for England, we were given a fine discount. I’m not sure that this was luck at all.
We were very early arrivals at the departure terminal in Dieppe, so were positioned in the front of a particular row of cars that were about the same height.
After some time, the overseer of boarding order pushed aside the lightweight bollard in front of our car and waved us aboard. Margreet switched on the motor to start and go. From beneath the bonnet came not the noise of a starting motor but one of angry ratchets.
General consternation broke loose as French port officials passed judgement on our mechanical failure and decided to hit the starter motor with a sizeable hammer to free the mechanism within it - without success.
Well, telephone calls were made to all and sundry breakdown services, and we were pushed aboard – last.
On the way to England I wondered why only twice in some 15 years of use had our splendid Toyota RAV 4 let us down – and each time the circumstances had been almost identical. It happened before (unsolved) in Santander when about to board the ferry back to Portsmouth, and now it happened again when waiting to board the car ferry in Dieppe to carry us back to Newhaven.
I solved the problem when lying down during the smooth crossing to England.
In both instances we had arrived well before the departure time. And although on each occasion the engine had been switched off, the electronics were still on and working, in the form of dashboard lights, radio, window-winding motors and such. And during that wait the battery had become drained of its charge, with not enough power remaining to engage the starter motor with the engine.
Others might well take note of this possible state of affairs.
Shortly before arriving at Newhaven I asked the Purser of our vessel to see if someone aboard could connect up our car’s battery with jump leads. If successful in starting the car it would save us from having to be towed off the ship or engaging the services of the now waiting AA breakdown man.
Being the last and lonely car in a dark corner of the vast car deck, jump leads were brought, connected, and the engine started. We were on our way.
So were we lucky to eventually get home unscathed, or unlucky, after such a spell of good luck, to suffer the indignities and embarrassment of mechanical (electrical) failure?
Perhaps good luck is always tempered with a little bad.

Mushroom Soup

Here are two methods of making mushroom soup – the first with dried mushrooms and the second with fresh. Both are excellent, the fresh mushroom one being the easier.


You will need:
Mushrooms, dried or fresh
White sauce or plain flour
Pepper and salt
A chicken stock cube

Dried mushrooms impart, for less cost, more taste to a soup than the fresh variety, though if using the latter their taste will be enhanced by turning them into soup.
Buy a small handful of dried, sliced mushrooms (porcini are best). Shake them well in a sieve to rid them of sand. Soak them for 24 hours. Extract the mushrooms and, with knife or scissors, cut them into small pieces. Keep the (brown) liquid, but decant it off any sand that has fallen to the bottom of the water.
Now make a white sauce using butter, flour, milk, water and the liquor in which the mushrooms were soaked Add the mushroom pieces.
You will want to add extra liquid in the form of milk, or a dissolved stock cube or two, to give the soup the desired consistency and extra taste.
Season as thought necessary - and serve. This soup, like the one below, which uses fresh, white, button mushrooms, is even better the following day.

Using fresh mushrooms:
There is hardly a simpler or more economical way to make a glorious soup than the following way when using fresh, white, button mushrooms.
Cut up a good size onion as finely as possible. Then do the same with fresh mushrooms – say as many as you can hold in cupped hands (or 250g). Both of these operations take time – but it is worth it.
In a saucepan melt a good lump of butter, and into it stir your chopped onion. Cook this slowly until the onion is transparent. Now add the mushroom bits. Continue stirring the mixture over heat, sweating them all together. Add pepper, salt and a sprinkling of flour – a dessert spoon at the most. Stir this. The mixture will now be quite tacky. Crumble in a chicken stock cube. Now add plenty of milk (1 1/2 pints will do), stir, and allow the soup to boil very, very slowly for, say 20 to 30 minutes. That’s it. And the result will be quite delicious, taste as if you have used cream, and be even better the next day. So make it the day before wanted if possible.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tomato and ginger sauce for noodles

This is my simplification of Singapore Noodles, being a lot easier to make and much quicker, too. In fact, the sauce can be made well before wanted and heated up as the noodles are being boiled. So it is a convenient dish to serve up at a dinner party.


You will need:
Root ginger
Pepper and salt
Chopped tomatoes
Chilli sauce (like Lingham’s)
Noodles (preferably when sold in one portion squares)

In oil fry chopped onion until cooked, but not browning. Add to it plenty of chopped garlic and a good quantity of finely chopped root ginger. Then add pepper and salt.
Now tip in the contents of a can of chopped tomatoes and some chilli sauce (like Lingham’s).
Cook the sauce through for 5 minutes. Now add cooked prawns – halved if too large.
Boil the noodles in salty water as directed (3 to 5 minutes, probably). Drain them in a colander, cutting through them in the shape of a cross (with kitchen scissors) to make serving and eating them easier.
Add the noodles to the sauce (or vice versa). Stir and serve.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Chicken in foil

As foil is an insulator of heat, I seldom have a use for it. But here it is put to great effect – even though the foil is tending to keep the heat away from the chicken in its package.
From a Halal butcher buy two roasting chickens (quite cheap). At home cut off the four legs and bag them for the freezer and later use. Do the same with the wings, and then the thighs. Use these off-cuts for Indian or Thai curries at a later date.
Now cut off the double breasts (on the bone) from the carcasses. Use one or two for this dish (one double breast is more than enough for two people). Pressure cook the carcass bones for soup stock, should you feel like it.
Now we are ready.


You will need:
Pepper and salt

Lay out a sheet of foil, and on it place a double breast of chicken (on the bone). On this put two knobs of butter, pepper and salt, garlic (squeezed from a press), and a small branch of thyme and one of rosemary (these herbs both grow well in pots in the garden, on a balcony, or attached to an outside window sill).
Make a parcel of the chicken, folding over the foil to seal in the contents.
Lay the parcel in a baking tin, and cook it in a fairly hot oven for an hour.
Undo the hot parcel, and slice the chicken from the bone. Serve it with mashed potato, and possibly another vegetable, or salad, or what you will.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Patés and Terrines

When I lived and entertained in the country it was commonplace for me to make patés. (Terrines are much the same but I tend to call the rougher editions terrines and the smoother ones patés.) These were first courses, served with hot toast, or put on to biscuits to be served with drinks. Patés are most convenient dishes, cheap and easy to make, cater for the ideas of an experimental and imaginative cook, and keep well in the refrigerator or deep freeze. Having left the country for the town, I continue to make them for meals, drinks and as gifts.
If new to cooking these delicious and most useful dishes, start with the basic recipe – more or less. A “handful” is about 250 grammes. Other amounts are up to you.
Just why I failed to add paté-making to either my “Dockland Cooking Past and Present” book or “The Oldie Cookbook” I have no idea. So here it is – with variations.


You will need (roughly):
A handful of minced, fatty pork (the fat is essential)
A handful of minced beef, veal or lamb (veal is best)
A handful of minced or finely chopped liver from pigs, lambs or chickens (lambs is best I think, and chicken liver, though excellent, tends to look red and raw in the finished paté)
A few anchovies
A beaten egg
A dessert spoon of sifted flour
Pepper and salt
Herb or herbs (I favour just thyme)
White wine
A spirit (to give the paté a little extra punch and individuality)
Lard (or butter) for greasing a container before adding the ingredients
Thinly cut rashers of smoked streaky bacon (especially for paté made in a bread tin)

Either make your paté in a handsome receptacle, like a lidded china pie dish shaped as an animal (my favourite is a sleeping duck), or in a bread tin.
Line the containers with lard (or butter). If using a bread tin, from which the paté can be turned out on to a flat surface when cold (by heating the exterior of the tin with hot water), apply thin overlapping strips of smoked streaky bacon stuck to the inner surfaces. Any bacon hanging over the sides can be folded over the paté before it is cooked.
In a large bowl put the minced meat and liver. Add a few pounded anchovies. On to it put a dessert spoon of sifted flour, a whisked egg, pepper and salt, herbs (thyme alone for preference), with white wine and spirit – like brandy, calvados, whisky, etc. to make a fairly sloshy mixture. It must be sloshy, when you have used your hands or wooden spoon to blend all the ingredients together.
Fill your greased containers with it, folding over the bacon if that has been your method. Cover them with foil, held securely by elastic bands or string.
Now place the container/s in a bain marie (a baking tin containing a small depth of hot water). Bake this in a medium oven for about 1 to1½ hours, depending on size. Make sure, once in a while, that there is enough water in the baking tin. If low, top it up with boiling water.
Take out your paté/s to cool. This may take a fairly long time. If using the bread tin method, put a weight on top of the foil to flatten the upper surface. This will make the paté more stable when it has been turned out to be sliced. Another bread tin weighted down with stones or filled with water will do this job satisfactorily.
That is the basic paté. And excellent it is.
You may want to make a “house” paté by giving it individuality. There are countless ways to do this. I have used just sausage meat successfully, and added green Chartreuse. I have made an excellent “Indian” paté with minced pork, chopped fresh chillies, chopped ginger root, dried methi leaves as the herb, and the usual egg, flour, pepper and salt. And sometimes I have added chopped cornichons (small gherkins), pressed garlic, capers, and now, nearly always, green peppercorns (that I have had soaking in vinegar for some time) and shelled pistachio nuts, both soaked in wine or spirit overnight. As another addition try stoned and chopped black olives (they look like truffles) or stoned prunes. A nice one, for instance, involves 1 lb. of minced pork, a beaten egg, some of those green peppercorns, black olives stoned and chopped, walnuts, shelled and broken up, and salt. Stir it together, cook in a bain marie for an hour, press and refrigerate. On it goes. A more complicated one would involve minced pork, lamb’s liver, chicken liver and lamb’s kidneys. Add to this some fried onion and garlic, a chopped chilli, some rosemary leaves, crushed juniper berries and peppercorns. Now add a dash of sherry or calvados. Finish with a beaten egg, salt and lots of chopped parsley. Then cook as usual. Finely chopped ginger root adds a kick to paté. And some lime juice sharpens it up. Liquids, like egg, lime juice and spirit might make the mix a little on the liquid side, so be careful not to overdo them. It should all firm up when cooked and pressed. I believe that thyme is always an excellent herb for patés. Combinations of meat and spices are really all up to you. Making patés is fun. Patés are economical, too – especially if you have many mouths to feed.
Once, when I was in Paris, a slice of foie gras was served with a small pile of what appeared to be dried green peppercorns and salt. So good was this addition that I have now often served it with my patés and terrines. To make the mixture, grind up or pound together about ¾ of dried green peppercorns to ¼ sea salt.

To keep my hand in after a spell of paté-making inactivity, I have experimented recently with various combinations of ingredients, each added to the above, basic, uncooked paté mix. They were: shelled pistachio nuts (available shelled and salted in Indian condiment stores); milled pepper and oregano; garlic, chilli and pickled peppercorns; olives and anchovies; capers, cornichons and pine nuts; horseradish and mint (extracted from mint sauce); foie gras (gift); and one made with leftovers from all these experimental mixes added to the basic paté. Each was of interest, with the mix of all probably the best.