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Books & Blogs/ Equipment/ In My Kitchen/ My Favourites


Desert Island Discs is, as I’m sure you know, an almost mythical BBC Radio 4 programme and I adore it. I tend to listen to it irrespective of the guest, so consequently have learned about all kinds of things that I would not otherwise have heard. I am not keen when it’s what I would call trashy celebrities but even then one can be surprised, and I do love a good scientist!

Listening to this past weekend’s edition got me pondering the concept of Desert Island items and I began to wonder what eight kitchen items I would want to take to a desert island, which food or cookery book I’d take and what would my luxury kitchen item be? Yes, I know, there might not be means to cook on a desert island but can we play by my rules and assume there is a source of fire with matches, twigs and timber for the fire?

This has taken me quite a while to even begin to firm up on, and if you were to confront me with this list in a month or a year’s time, I might change it completely. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my list:

  1. A Henckels knife or can I cheat and say my whole knife block? That’s one item isn’t it? I bought my first one in Düsseldorf when I was working there in 1996 and one knife transformed my whole way of preparing food. I understood suddenly how important a knife – used well – is in a kitchen and how it can replace dozens of useless gadgets that live for a day and then fester unloved in a dusty drawer. I went on to do Knife Skills courses at Leith’s which an investment I have never regretted. It does mean, however, that I find some TV cooks all too hair raising to watch and I sometimes hide behind a cushion when they are chopping.
  2. A tablespoon. I have a silver one, hallmarked for 1764, all worn away on one side and I love it. Wish it could talk.
  3. A teaspoon. Another old piece although a young gun at 1823.
  4. A wooden spoon. I have one that dates back to 1976 (how I know that is a whole other story) and it’s acquired a patina that for me represents years of stirring, scraping and prodding. I will never discard it.
  5. A fork. Again I have an old silver one, a bit big for everyday eating but on this island, it will do double duty as a kitchen fork.
  6. A Le Creuset casserole, not a huge one; I have a 20cm round one which I was given in 1979 and I have cooked pretty much anything and everything in it: soups, stews, puddings, bread, I could go on but you get the picture
  7. My huge steel pasta cooking pot with internal drainer – they would serve many purposes: drawing water, draining stuff, heating water…
  8. A jug; I have a old Spode Blue Italian one and again it has history with me and would fulfil multiple uses in my rudimentary Desert Island kitchen; my other half has pointed out that a metal jug would be more practical as I could use it on the fire but I am sticking with my bit of history

It was interesting to me that many of these items are old friends in my kitchen and perhaps I have chosen them as much as friends as utility items. I will miss companionship on this island, although if I end up talking to a spoon, perhaps I should be left there.

Luxury Item

Please may I have an endless supply of Illy Espresso Dark Roast coffee? No sugar, no milk, just the hard stuff.

The Book(s)

On Desert Island Discs proper, the castaways are allowed The Bible, the Complete Works of Shakespeare and a book of their choice. So, playing this game by my rules when I am washed ashore, Leith’s Cookery Bible and the collected works of Nigel Slater (whose writing about food is every bit as lyrical as Mr Shakespeare) will already be sitting there waiting for me. Actually in the spirit of full disclosure, Nigel’s works are not yet collected into one tome but this is fantasy land, right? So that leaves me one further book to choose…

Oh my, how terribly difficult this was. I have well over 100 food/cookery books in English, French and Italian and while I may not cook from all of them, I read most of them regularly. Over the years, I have learned that not only do recipes have to work for me, but I also need to have good writing in order to really enjoy the book. In modern times, we are lucky enough to have Nigel Slater, Felicity Cloake, Sybil Kapoor, Diana Henry, Rachel Roddy, Anna del Conte, Nigella Lawson…not an exhaustive list by any means.

If we look at departed writers, I become even more confused: Elizabeth David, Richard Olney, Jane Grigson, Margaret Costa, Patience Gray, Marcella Hazan, Florence White, Dorothy Hartley. I give up. I couldn’t even make a choice after half a bottle of a very good Barbera and I have to say, I have usually formulated world peace after that, let alone chosen a book.

So stone cold sober, I have surprised myself by choosing Patience Gray’s Honey From a Weed. She writes so well about having to fashion kitchens in difficult circumstances so will be an endless source of inspiration. Those who know me well may be surprised that I have not chosen Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking; it is a masterwork and I refer to it frequently but Mrs David would not, I fear, be a congenial companion for me in these isolated circumstances. Yes, I will have Nigel for company but I don’t want to live with what I feel would be Mrs David’s frowning disapproval of my efforts.

So, there we are, my Desert Island Kit; I would love to know what yours is?
PS I have just remembered about my subscription to La Cucina Italiana; what about seagull post?

Books & Blogs/ Food People/ Sources & Resources


Turin Epicurean Capital 2017

Writing can be a lonely business, even if one is active on Twitter and Instagram; nothing replaces the person to person contact that can be elusive as we scribble away, wondering if anyone ever takes any notice. It was therefore particularly exciting for me to be invited by Lucia Hannau to the Turin Epicurean Capital Conference. A double hit for me as not only was I going to meet other like-minded food and wine bloggers but it was to be in Turin, my absolute favourite city in the world. When I got her message, I doubt if any message has ever been replied to more quickly in the history of the digital world.

I’ve been back a month now so am dilatory in writing for my own site but did get my act together enough to write for Lucia at
Please do look also at Patti Boner’s post on the same site which gives a super chronology of our time there, and while you’re rummaging, please take a look at Patti’s own site which is full of good ideas and reviews for the foodie traveller.

I’m not going to repeat here the reflections I’ve posted elsewhere, rather introduce to you my colleagues at the Conference, in the hope that you will explore their sites and gain as much pleasure from their writing and recipes as I now do.

The first day’s Round Table was chaired by Chicago resident Margaret Goldstein who can be followed on Twitter here @pizzabianca and if you do, you will be guided through making her fabulous looking pizzas which I am quite sure taste every bit as good as they look. Her lovely husband, Bill Goldstein, is a Piedmont wine enthusiast and expert and I learned so much from him during our time in Turin. His oenophile exploits can be followed on Twitter at @Sassodoro but I do wish he would write a blog – he has so much expertise and knowledge!

It was certainly an American day, that first day, as adding to the panel was the lovely Sanem Lamborn who writes about her Persian/Italian food heritage at from LA – if you like authentic foods, full of flavour, do follow Sanem – and her recipes work! Making up the team that morning was Christina Conte, also from LA who writes about her Scottish/Southern Italian food heritage at

Day Two saw your writer guided by Daniel McVicar (a Turin resident American actor who was Chair that day) through food memories. I was delighted to be joined on the platform by Patrizia Balbo who is an astrologer with a strong interest in food – do check out her website for an eclectic mix Making up the team was Ilva Beretta, the well known Swedish photographer whose beautiful work can be seen at and also in the newly published book “Orange Appeal” by Jamie Schler which I can strongly recommend as an addition to your cook book collection when it’s published in August.

The third day was great fun under the moderation of Carolina Stupino, a Piedmont exile living in London, teaching and blogging about food, health and nutrition at Her team were Patti Boner as mentioned above, and Amanda Courtney, Boston born, Piedmont dwelling wine expert who will organise fabulous wine tours for you through

My memories of the time in Turin were entirely positive and it was a instructive on many levels to meet with bloggers with much more experience than I (not to mention more followers!) and of course, the food in Turin is sublime. Patti has made an excellent job of describing the restaurants we visited, although for me, the highlight was the cookery lesson at Real Piedmont food with real Piedmont chefs – and of course, ingredients. As you will see from my post on, it was fascinating to see another method of making risotto, about which I shall write soon, when I’m happy I can make an edible risotto using this method!

So as a sign off from this non-recipe post, please do take a look at my fellow bloggers’ sites and above all, if you love food, go to Turin!