Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Do you know what to do with it?

My significant other was working for some VIPs last week and when they left their hotel suite, they gave him two bags of tropical fruit.  Not being very keen on fruit in general, except for citrus fruit, it seems a shame to waste it all.

The problem is what to do with it.  I googled various fruits to see if the pips were edible and got busy with a sharp knife, making a fruit salad.  The star fruit were a little complicated to peel (no idea if they should be peeled) and after taking out the pips, I sliced them into, guess what, star shapes.  It took over an hour to peel and chop a large bowl of fruit, but I am sure the vitamin content will be well worth it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Havana Brown Cat Article

Pedigree Cats - Havana (Brown)

The Havana Brown noted for its warm, chocolate brown colour originated in Great Britain.  Brown cats have been known for centuries.  Their origins were probably from South East Asia as a branch of the Royal Cats of Siam.  They first arrived in Britain in the 19th century along with the importation of the Siamese.  The Havana is loving, lively and an extremely clever cat.  The original name for the Havana is Chestnut Brown Foreign Hair, which also describes the colour of its fur.  They are very sleek cats with coats as smooth as glass (requiring minimum grooming), long-legged and swift. Their eyes are bright green or possibly chartreuse, oval shaped and close to their noses and their large ears appear to be transparent.  With eyes that twinkle with curiosity, glow with mischief or narrow to pure contentment, they can captivate you with their permeating, discerning gaze. Havana kittens sometimes have white hairs mixed into their brown coats which disappear as the kittens mature.

The Havana Brown not only has a unique appearance, but also a truly unique personality.  They are gentle and affectionate, people-oriented, soft voiced cats and are very loyal and loving toward people. They remain playful, even when adult cats and are very active and energetic.  Sometimes they have the unusual habit of using their sense of touch to investigate strange objects, instead of relying on their sense of smell.  One of their endearing qualities is their typical greeting of stretching out one paw to touch their owner.  They are perfect for people who want an affectionate and intelligent feline friend.  This breed is known to take well to a harness and lead.  They are very playful, stealing pencils, pens, jewellery or whatever they can get into their mouths, much to the amusement and frustration of their owners.  Most love to play with wads of paper and some have learned to retrieve.   Havanas seem to be natural shoulder sitters; fortunately, claws are rarely used.

The Havana Brown cat was developed in the 1950s by crossing a British Seal Point Siamese with another black shorthaired cat of Siamese descent.  An accidental breeding between a black shorthair and a seal point Siamese produced a self-chocolate male kitten named Elmtower Bronze Idol, the first Havana Brown to be registered in England and the forerunner of the present day breed.   In the mid-1950s in the USA, Mrs. Elsie Quinn of Quinn Cattery, imported the very first Havana Brown from England, a female named Roofspringer Mahogany Quinn, bred by Baroness von Ullman in London. She was bred to Laurentide Brown Pilgrim of Norwood, also an import, and produced the very first Havana Brown (Quinn's Brown Satin of Sidlo) to achieve grand champion status in CFA.  All Havana Browns in North America today can trace their heritage to this cat.

Once American breeders started developing and raising these cats, the British and United States varieties began to take on different characteristics.  In England, the Havana has followed the Siamese type by breeding back to the Siamese and the word "brown" has been dropped from the breed name. In North America, the breed is medium-sized and muscular and has retained the original look of the early imports.

There is recorded history of solid brown cats in "The Cat Book Poems" dating back to between 1300 and 1767 from early Siam (now Thailand). These ancient manuscripts were written in the city of Ayudhya, between the time the city was founded and before the city was burned by invaders.  Ayudhya was Siam's capital for 417 years (three dynasties and 33 kings) and was finally a glorious, opulent city of more than a million people. This rich centre of palaces, temples, and libraries was razed to the ground by the Burmese on April 7, 1767. Nearly all books and records were burned. However, a few treasures were taken to safety, among them books about cats, dogs and birds, and, although the identity of the artists who created these books will never be known, their work remains to give us knowledge and the joy of their observations.  Seventeen "good luck" cats are described including solid brown cats, which the Thai's considered very beautiful and had the ability to protect them from evil.

Several theories exist as to how the breed got its name.  Some historians insist it was named after the rabbit of the same colour; however, most Havana fans choose to believe that the breed name refers to the colour of a fine Havana cigar.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Pedigree Cats - Devon Rex

If you are unsure which breed of cat to buy and take care of, I have written the A-Z of breeds.  Below is the unusual Devon Rex




In 1950, a curly coated kitten was born as one of a normal litter to a normal-coated female cat in a farmhouse in Cornwall.  At first the owner, Mrs. Ennismore, thought that the waviness of the coat was due to birth fluids, but when it dried out the kitten’s curls remained.  Her veterinary surgeon suggested contacting some leading geneticists.  Hair samples were examined microscopically and found to be similar to those of the Rex rabbit, and so it was suggested that the cat be described as Rex.  When he grew up, the Cream male, christened Kallibunker was allowed to mate with his mother, and this union resulted in a litter of three kittens, two of which were curly coated.  The mating was repeated and more Rex kittens were born but sadly Kallibunker died at a young age.  He left his son Poldhu to carry on the line.  Poldhu sired a superb female called Lamorna Cove, who was exported to the U.S.A. to found the breed on the other side of the Atlantic.

Ten years after the discovery of Kallibunker the Cornish Rex was well established and received a lot of publicity.  The Devon Rex originated in Devon, and is distinct from the Cornish Rex, though the coat mutation appears similar.  Beryl Cox spotted a curly coated tomcat living in an abandoned tin mine in Devon. Miss Cox also happened to take in at this time a tortie and white pregnant stray who gave birth to a litter of kittens. In the litter was a curly-coated male kitten which she kept as a pet and named Kirlee.  At puberty, Kirlee was mated with some Cornish Rex queens and the resulting kittens, to everyone’s surprise were flat-coated, not curly and it was concluded that Kirlee’s curls were due to a different gene.  The gene for Cornish was labelled Rex gene (i) and the gene for producing the Devon Rex gene (ii).  The two Rex breeds were developed along separate lines.

Devon Rexes are strange-looking little cats, adorable in a homely sort of way. They have high protruding cheekbones unusual heads and extraordinarily large ears. Their huge eyes are set wide apart, whilst their bodies are slim and elegant. Their chests are so broad that their front legs looked bowed. Like Cornish Rexes, Devons have curly or rippling hair. However, the Devon's coat is softer and more velvet-like than the Cornish Rex's. Hair is usually sparse on the Devon's ears and forehead. Sometimes, these cats have little hair on their chests, necks, and stomachs. Their whiskers are short and brittle and break easily. Bald spots are common.   All Devons today should be able to trace their ancestry back to Kirlee, the first Devon Rex.

The Devon Rex is alert and active, and shows a lively interest in its surroundings. They love to be with their humans and enjoy playing fetch or other games. They are also extremely agile cats with an inquisitive nature and will explore every corner of their homes. Devons, like dogs, follow their humans from room to room.  Even though their body temperature is the same as other cats, many Devons are surprisingly warm to the touch due to a lighter, less insulating coat. Not surprisingly, Devons tend to be "heat seekers," and are often found lounging on televisions, computer monitors (not so easy with flat screens!) and heater vents. On chilly nights, Devons make superb bed warmers, often sneaking under the covers to stay warm and share body heat with their favourite people.

The Devon Rex is also a good potential choice for people who are allergic to cats. While no cat can be truly hypoallergenic, many people with allergies to cats discover they can live comfortably with a Devon Rex but anyone with allergy issues should arrange to handle a Devon before considering acquiring one.

Mediterranean Style Recipes

Recipes enjoyed in Spain

Having spent three weeks in Benahavis, a village full of gourmet restaurants just North of Marbella, I got to thinking about the food I used to cook in Spain, taking full advantage of the fresh produce available.

One of the favourites was the North African dish Ajja which can be adjusted according to what is available in the store cupboard. It was a favourite of the workmen who spent many long hours laying tiles around the garden.  They started at 8 a.m. and stopped for a packed lunch of chorizo, cheese and tomato in a large baguette at 10.30 a.m. on the dot.  This "snack" would be accompanied by a glass of red wine or a bottle of strong lager.  Then they would work through until 2 p.m.  Sometimes, I would make Ajja and give them a plate to enjoy with more wine on a table under the massive rubber tree, providing shade from the midday sun.

Recipe for Ajja


4 coloured peppers (green and yellow perhaps, but any ones will do) sliced
half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
salt and pepper to your taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
2/3 crushed garlic cloves
2 chopped tomatoes (with skin removed if you can bother)
some cold water
6 beaten eggs
chopped onions (optional)

Pour the olive oil into a non-stick frying pan and add the chorizo sausage.  Stir with a wooden spoon occasionally and when the red coloured oil comes out of the sausage, it is time to add the cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper, garlic and fry for two minutes. Add the tomatoes, a dash of water, followed by the beaten eggs. 

Now is the time to add the sliced peppers if you want them not overcooked.  However if you prefer them a bit mushy, you could add them right at the beginning with some chopped onions.

Stir the eggs and mess it is more scrambled than omelette.

You can vary this according to taste.....swap the chorizo for minced meat, change the cayenne pepper for harissa paste (just a touch) or tabasco sauce, or if you like HOT food, use all three!

Recipe for ENSALADILLA RUSA (Russian salad, spanish tapa style)

The name for potato salad in Spain is ensaladilla rusa, or Russian Salad. Why? It is said that a Russian invented the salad.  We don’t know what the original Russian salad was like, but the Spanish have made their own version and eat it as a tapa or a side dish.

Ingredients:  for approximately 6 servings

  • 6 potatoes
  • 2 roasted red peppers (bottled is fine)
  • 1 x 16 oz can of peas and carrots, drained
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 x 6 oz can tuna, drained
  • mayonnaise
  • 4-5 spears white asparagus for garnish


Scrub the potatoes to clean off any loose dirt.  Pour water into a large pot, cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Place potatoes in the pot and boil them with skins on until they are cooked, but not too soft. Test the potatoes by pricking with a fork to make sure they are cooked, but still firm. Don’t overcook the potatoes or when mixing the salad, you’ll end up with mashed potatoes!
Drain the water from the potatoes and add cold water, covering the potatoes. Change every few minutes until the potatoes are cool enough to handle with your bare hands.  Refrigerate for a few minutes to cool further. Remove from refrigerator and peel potatoes. Cut into small (approximately 1/2") cubes. Return to refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.
Boil the eggs until hard then leave them to cool.
Put approximately 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise into a bowl. Slice one of the roasted peppers into chunks  and add to bowl.  
Drain tuna thoroughly, then crumble with a fork and add to bowl.  
Drain carrots and peas and add to bowl.
Peel an egg, chop and add to bowl. Mix all ingredients together.
Add the mayonnaise mixture to the potatoes and mix thoroughly. If necessary, add more mayonnaise. Place the mixture onto a pretty plate.  Smooth the top of the potato salad, preparing for decoration.
Slice remaining red pepper into thin strips and arrange on top of salad. Drain the white asparagus and slice hard-boiled eggs carefully. Use both to decorate the salad.

Recipe for King Prawns in a Wok

Extra large uncooked king prawns with shell on
Potatoes, peeled and cubed
Spring onions (chopped)
Garlic (crushed)
Piri piri….dried chillies
Lemon juice
Soy sauce
Chopped parsley
Yellow pepper (sliced in chunks)
Olive oil to fry or sesame
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry potatoes in olive oil in wok.  Add spring onions and garlic, chopped parsley, piri piri, salt, pepper, soy sauce and chopped peppers.  Cook for about 8 minutes, then add the prawns and lemon juice for about 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle more parsley on top.

To be served with fluffy white rice and lemon finger bowls on the side.....get stuck in.

If serving to children, it might be better to take the shells off, before cooking the prawns.

28th January, 2013

This is an adaptation of a Claudia Roden sofrito.  I call it

Lamb in Yellow Sauce


Splash of vegetable oil to fry
Large leg of lamb
2 large tablespoons of turmeric
Juice of 2 or 3 lemons
Salt and pepper
A cup of water, depending on the size of the cooking tray....just enough to let the lamb steam, not stew
Large size potatoes sliced into rings

Seal the lamb in oil, just to stop the blood escaping from the joint.  (Use a flat tray which is suitable to use on the top of the hob and in the oven).

Then add the turmeric, salt and pepper, lemon juice and a little water just to cover the bottom of the tray, so the meat cooks in steam rather than stews in water.  Cover with tin foil to allow the lamb to cook inside with steam, very slowly for at least two hours, but preferably three hours.  Open the tin foil and if the lamb is falling off the bone, add the potatoes to the juice, reseal with foil and simmer for a further 20 minutes to half an hour until the potatoes are tender.  The meat should be falling off the bone.

Serve with rice and a chopped salad, (tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce).

21st September, 2012

This one isn't strictly Mediterranean:  It is from Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Lamb Stew
3 fl.oz. Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
14oz tin tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
Half tsp hot chilli powder or harissa
1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp salt
2lbs leg of lamb, cubed
8fl. oz dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Seal the lamb in a frying pan with a little olive oil.  Take the lamb out to rest on a plate and then add the onion and garlic together with more olive oil to the pan.  Fry for 6-8 minutes.  Place the meat back in the pan with the onion and garlic.  Then add tomatoes, chilli, coriander seeds, wine, salt and stir.  Simmer 30 mins at least.  Add peppers last of all and cook a further 20 minutes.  Decorate with the coriander leaves and serve with pure white Basmati rice.

Cubed lamb, either fillet neck, or a whole leg deboned
Tbsp paprika
2 medium sized onions chopped
2 tbsp flour
6fl oz white wine
10fl oz veal or chicken stock
Bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaf)
Tomato puree
8oz mushrooms
10fl oz double cream
Chopped fresh parsley for decoration

Brown lamb in butter; add onions, salt, paprika.  Sprinkle with flour.  Pour on white wine and boil for 5 minutes.  Add stock, tomato puree, bouquet garni and simmer for 30 minutes.  Fry mushrooms in butter.  Remove lamb with slotted spoon and pour in cream and cook till sauce reduced.  Return lamb and mushrooms and simmer for a further 20 minutes.  Serve with chopped parsley and buttered noodles or other pasta.  Also goes well with white rice and a mixed chopped salad.