Last night I sliced and baked aubergine, red pepper, tomatoes in olive oil and oregano. These fruits don’t need much to bring out their flavours.

My intention was to make Ajvar. It’s a condiment made from sweet red peppers and also sometimes with aubergine added. Chillies can be included if hot is the preference. Tomatoes don’t go in, I just had them to use.

I let the fruits cool then today had them on sourdough toast, drizzled with the olive oil they baked in, accompanied by slices of avocado, cucumber and some rocket to complement the reds and purples with greens – hot with cool.

If you want to make Ajvar ‘extra’ then add some smoked paprika and garlic, but I like it as it is. Today I will mash up the roasted fruits and keep my Ajvar in the fridge for immediate consumption rather than conserving it. It will go nicely with tacos later.

It’s not commonly known in the UK and is found predominantly across Southern Slavic Europe and the Balkans – so from Croatia across and including Turkey. It’s a delightfully tasty alternative to hummus if you want an extra dip or something to spread on bread.

The origin of the word is Turkish from – hayvar, made in the Balkans when peppers arrived.  Like many things  we share its recipe across borders, along with filo, domaca kafa, baklava, burek, cevapi, and so on.

It can be found in Euro and Eastern mini markets here now and  in Holland and Barrett!

Have you investigated Granny’s Secret? It’s a UK-based company run by a woman who makes conserves, preserves, juices – all from fruits.


Check out Granny’s Secret website link above – see what you think, and go get a jar of Ajvar!


And read some more about it on Hindustan Times!

Gold stars for everyone who can pronounce Ajvar correctly!


Learning To Love Cooking and Eating

How’s your relationship with food?

Mine’s been a life time of ups and downs. I’ve gone from battling allergies as a child along with fussy eating, to trying out every kind of omission in my ‘diet’.

And ugh, that word – ‘diet’.

I was raised on basic peasant goodness, some of which didn’t agree with me or I didn’t like – homemade yoghurt and sauerkraut. Oh yowzer I hear everyone shout, fermented food is good for you!

It is for me, now. But around fifty to forty years ago it wasn’t.

As a teenager I learnt to manipulate the art of eating. I was a flakey, moody kinda teen who soon discovered they were polycystic and felt ruled by their hormones.

This hormonal hold was stronger than my resolve, and I went in to my 20’s spending a lot of time in endocrinology, treated, investigated. I maintained good weight though throughout.

Then I slid. Now in my 50’s, and three years post-MI, having lost weight, I’m back to battling with eating food – loving it that is, the weight has absolutely stayed off. I knew I had to tackle this mind/body thing though.

It’s as simple as this, I think. I’m not sure I understand how to love food, or my body.

I accept there have been all kinds of trials in my life from early years, but I don’t like being beaten by food. I acknowledge that the relationship my mother had with my step father and his treatment of her, angered me throughout my childhood and into my adult life. I became a woman whose mission was to rescue women and children from that experience.

My mother’s way of dealing with his beastly words and behaviour was to care relentlessly and this was through cooking sometimes. I on the other hand, was all for poisoning the mad bastard! (Therein lies a good tale of crime to write!).

But I found Italy (again) and started to believe there was an answer in there, somewhere, so I read and read all things Italian.

After seeing a tweet by chef Jack Munro about how Nigella’s book How To Eat transformed her eating and relationship with food I decided to get it out of the library.

It’s one big book filled predominantly with words, which surprised me. I always saw Nigella Lawson as a tv cook who lured people in to watching her programmes with her dulcet voice, as she happily scoffed leftovers of her recipes at midnight.

By eck, the chef can write!

I’ve poured over the book during the last few weeks and soaked in her words, her love for cooking and eating.

Just one quote here from the Low Fat chapter (which is brilliant), there are many I could pull out from the pages:

‘I don’t disparage the shallow concerns of the ordinarily vain, which, after all, I share. What I hate is all this new-age voodoo about eating, the notion that foods are either harmful or healing, that a good diet makes a good person and that the person is necessarily lean, limber, toned and fit. Quite apart from anything else, I don’t see the muscular morality argument. Why should a concern for your physical health be seen as a sign as virtue? Such a view seems to me in danger of fusing Nazism (with its ideological cult of physical perfection) and Puritanism (with its horror of the flesh and belief in salvation through denial.)’

There’s more of course, much more, in this book that is meaningful, healing and full of love about food – a healthy kind of love. Nigella took what was good from her childhood and put it out there. She has also shared her bad times too. We can do both, I believe and come out on top.


Butterbean, butternut squash and red pepper soup.

I made this one up and it is simmering on the stove right now!


1 red onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 stick of celery, 2 garlic cloves – all chopped. Add to the pan of olive oil and saute.

Then add 2 tomatoes, 1 red bell pepper – all chopped.

A few slices of squash.

Tomato puree, vegetable stock, pepper, water, chilli flakes.

Bring to boil and simmer for around 45 minutes. Either serve as it is or blend.

Add a couple of slices of avocado, maybe a small spoonful of yoghurt on top.

Serve with corn tacos.