Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blooming Olives: my Ode to the Olive Tree

I had such a treat, when I went into the garden, this morning... my cherished olive tree - which I have nurtured since (her) babyhood - is flourishing and currently adorned with the prettiest, most delicate blossoms.  I love the olive tree for its myriad bounties: leaves, blossoms, fruit... and the wondrous gnarly beauty of its bark and trunk as it embraces old age.  

I also love the silvery green of the elegant, long, narrow leaves - gaining awareness as a natural remedy - with reported benefits for the immune system, strong anti-oxidant properties, healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

I relish the savoury delights of her fruits - black and green, small and large - ranging in succulence, bitterness and piquancy, according to how they are treated once harvested, the variety of tree and country - or region - of origin.  Then, there's the oil - wholeheartedly and bountifully celebrated and enjoyed on a daily basis, in countless ways; now revered in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Praise be to the Olea europaea!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Going to Seed

You might know by now that I'm a fan of healthy eating (with the odd bit of naughtiness thrown-in, for good measure).  So, I was keen to taste test the latest version of Munchy Seeds that came my way recently. I've long been a fan of the company's delicious nibbles and found these at least as good as I had anticipated.
Comprising apricot kernels, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; dressed in a tasty savoury combination of koji, seasalt and soy - they sell at £3.50, for 200g.  They're a brilliant munch, all on their own, but also wonderful for sprinkling on salads and stir fries.  The only downside, for me, is that it's a challenge to stop dipping-in, once I've opened the pack...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unexpected Enchantment on a Faraway island

It's rare for me to feel that I have been truly captivated, and enchanted, by a television programme but the current BBC2 series of Tribal Wives is a treat and a revelation.  Each of the six, one-hour programmes, sees a female Brit being transported (in every sense) to a remote setting, to live her adoptive life, as part of the local tribe, for one month.

Tonight was the turn of 31-year-old Londoner, Becky Camilleri, to spend her four-week escape on the Papua New Guinea island of Kativa.   Instantly, she was accepted as one of the family; she called the parents 'Mummy' and 'Daddy' and was reprimanded when she turned-up for breakfast in a pair of shorts, instead of the locally-accepted female attire of a skirt.  

It was a perfect match - not only were the family warm, giving and nurturing, but so was Becky. There were many endearingly moving moments - from the home-made leaf 'plaster', infused with a herbal antiseptic - made for, and applied to, Becky's infected mosquito bite - to the confessional, deep, sisterly chats with the lovely daughter (and mother-of-three) who shared her room with Becky.

The setting was exquisitely scenic, entirely back-to-nature, complemented by true family values.  Becky's adoptive island father said, as she was leaving to return to London, that her departure would be as if "there had been a death in the family".If you're after a heart-warming hour of thought-provoking viewing, don't miss the chance to see it on the BBC iPlayer.

Tribal Wives photo, shows Becky as she is made-ready to participate in an important tribal ceremony, credit http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes

Strange Fruit

It's the perfect weather to enjoy a piece (or two) of deliciously refreshing fruit.  Why waste time and bore your palate by sticking with the run-of-the-mill?  I enjoyed this quirky little number, earlier - not as flavorsome as I'd hoped but light, super-refreshing and prettily different.
The dragon fruit (in this case) hails all the way from Vietnam (yes, I know, far from locally sourced but an occasional treat); it belongs to the cactus family.  The seeds are totally edible, it's thirst-quenching, has good fibre levels and isn't too high in natural sugars.

It reminds me of the delicious prickly pear I relished in Sicily, late last year.  It belongs to the same family, has many similar properties but is slightly less tasty than its Italian counterparts (pictured centre-back in the frutta dell'etna box).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take It Easy...

Which is precisely what the audience did, last night - enrapt by the rare treat of Jackson Browne's presence, on stage, in the UK.  He opened the annual summer stunner, that is the Hampton Court Palace Festival, held in the regally splendid setting of the Historic Royal Palace's grounds.

In his genial, super-laid-back style, Jackson commented "Quite a spot...!" before launching into the opening lyric from Off of Wonderland: "It was so easy for me, Up so high in my tree..."
His fabulously warm, caressingly mellow voice was just as stunningly beautiful and clear as I remembered, when I first heard his wonderful Disco Apocalypse album, way back in the early '80s, in my bohemian Paris studio - every lyric distinctly discernible.

Browne went on to comment "What an inspiring place... he found the Palace ...to marry a lot(!)"; peppering his whole set with good-humoured anecdotes about his (love) life and the inspiration behind each song.  Self-deprecatingly - when an audience member yelled-out a request for one of his best known tracks - he riposted "you just have to trust me" before enthralling us with an exquisite rendition of the evocatively moving "In the Shape of a Heart".

Throughout, his happy demeanour shone-out, as he congratulated the locals in having "the good sense to live in such a great area" and to enjoy concerts in such a special setting...so different, (as he explained), from many of the other so-called 'palaces/palais', he had played previously!  The performance, showcased in Hampton Court Palace's beauteous Base Court, was bathed in gloriously changing light.
As the evening drew to a close, continuous cheers rang out when - as one - we implored Jackson and his musical entourage - including long-term friend, conspirator and mentor, David Lindley - to come back.  Joyously, he returned, regaling us with much-requested Running on Empty before the show-stopping, standing-ovation finale of Take it Easy, (which, for a long time, he had ceased playing under the assumption that people would think he was doing an Eagles cover - in spite of having written it - before telling us that he was "over that now").

The 2010 Hampton Court Festival continues until Saturday, 19th June; featuring The Gipsy Kings, Michael Bolton, Simply Red, Jools Holland, Van Morrison and Michael Ball.  Catch it if you can!

Photo credits: Stephen Frak

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Festa della Repubblica

Today was a gloriously sunny summer's day in fair London town - so, instead of struggling to get onto a flight to Italy, I celebrated Italy Day, in convivial company, in the elegant setting of Belgrave Square's Italian Cultural Institute.  Piedmont-based, third generation family-run company, Sacla, organised a sparkling event to showcase the festivities and to toast the launch of their Wild Garlic Pesto, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Butternut Squash & Parmesan Risotto.  The lucky guests (including Andrew Neil, Peter York, Jan Leeming and Lawrence Dallaglio) were treated to a stunning (and seemingly endless) array of wondrously delicious canapés - encompassing Sacla's quality products, produced by virtuoso Italian chef, Valentina Harris.

The new risotto products were transformed into delightful (and totally non-greasy) arancini and mini risotti; the classical pesto shone through in tempura-battered sage leaves; the wild garlic pesto subtly enhanced daintily-rustic broad bean and pecorino crostini.  As if that weren't enough, we sipped on refreshingly summery Prosecco rosato and rounded-off the evening with magnificent award-winning Oddono icecream - the pistachio with caramelised figs, chocolate chips and walnuts is a joyously tantalising taste experience. Not to forget the chocolate finale, in the cute themed box, by Baruzzo (pictured above).  Complimenti ed Auguri!