Sunday, September 24, 2006

NUGGET OF USELESS INFORMATION 1: Barbie's middle name is Millicent. In fact her full name is Barbie Millicent Roberts - I bet you never knew that!

On a completely different note, I would like to register my disquiet that a blogger I read regularly may be dooced. Inspector Gadget is a police inspector in England. He has been writing a most infomative blog for some time.
I have huge admiration for our police force, and as a magistrate have had certain contacts with them over the years, I have never found anything in any of his blogs which would have either identified cases or individuals dealt with by his force; nor have I read anything written by him which brings the force into disrepute. On the contrary, as a result of reading his blog I am now much more aware of some of the problems and constraints that our police have to contend with when doing their duties. As a British citizen, I feel he has every right to express himself and I believe it would be a very retrograde step if his superiors over-reacted to his blog and treated the act of blogging as a disciplinary matter.


Because of the business we have, my DH and I read anything and everything about China that we can lay our hands on. His knowledge of Chinese history is much greater than mine, but I am trying to fill the gaps, this book was given to me by someone who knew of our interest.

The Last Empress: The She-dragon of China
by K. Laidler The last Imperial dynasty to rule over China was the Manchu, and the last Empress was Yehenara (Yehonala) who is better known as Cixi (T'zu Hsi) and after her death she was officially referred to as Empress Xiaoqin Xian.
From an obscure provincial Manchu family she became 3rd-grade Concubine of the young Emperor Xianfeng (Hsien Feng) and after giving birth to a son she was elevated to 1st-grade concubine. When the Emperor died in 1861 aged 30, Cixi's five year old son became Emperor and she became Empress/Regent so her rule of dictatorial power began. She was absolutely ruthless, disposing of rivals by having them bumped off, and members of her own family were not spared. She reigned for 50 years, out-living successive Emperors, and dealing with major crises such as the Tai Ping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. She was known as the "She-Dragon of China" and within three years of her death in 1909 the Manchu Dynasty collapsed and China entered a period of chaos.
A frightening despot, her life is absolutely fascinating but I found this book difficult to read. My first quibble is that the author has used the now defunct Wade-Giles system of Romanisation of the Mandarin language rather than using Pinyin, this makes it hard to remember the names and their pronunciation. This means that the reader is continually having to stop and check who it is that the author is talking about and what their relationship is to others. I thought it could have been better edited. Whilst this book is factually very authorative, there are other books which give a better understanding of the personality and power of this dominating woman.

Here's a little something I came across a couple of days ago, at first I just thought it was funny - and of course in one way it is - but then this morning, listening to the self-congratulatory guff coming out of the Labour Party Conference I started thinking about the enormous increases in spending on the NHS since Labour has been in power (We're spending £94bn on the health service this year, compared with £52bn six years ago)... so why are wards shut down, operations cancelled and trusts in turmoil?

Probably because some of it is going on stuff like this, a prime example of the Nanny State gone mad. Does New Labour really think that the NHS should be wasting money producing leaflets and posters to tell the citizens how to have a poo? Have you been waiting years - since you stopped using nappies- to be told how to empty your bowels?
No, I didn't think so, and neither have I.
Next they'll be telling us how to have a pee - and I'm not taking the piss.

Chicken livers are so cheap, and this recipe is so easy and quick that it has become a great standby in my repertoire.


450g chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed (2 x 225g tubs of frozen livers)

225g butter

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 tablespoons brandy

1 heaped teaspoon mustard powder

Salt and Pepper

60g butter, bay leaves or sprigs of thyme to seal and garnish the paté.


First melt the extra 60g of butter in a small bowl in the microwave until it is completely liquid.

Put the melted butter in the fridge to firm while you make the paté.

Using just under half of the 225g butter, sauté the chicken livers in a large heavy frying pan; keep stirring them round so they cook evenly until they are browning, but still pink in the middle. Tip them into a food processor. Use a knob of butter in the same pan to soften the finely chopped onion, and when translucent add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes – do not let the garlic brown. Tip the onions and garlic into the food processor. Deglaze the frying pan with the brandy, and then tip that into the processor together with any remaining butter. Add the mustard powder and season well then whiz all the ingredients together until very smooth and creamy.

Spoon the paté into ramekins or other smallish dish and smooth the surface level.

Take the melted butter out of the fridge. It should have separated into a layer of clarified butter above a white, salty liquid. Carefully remove the clarified butter to another bowl and discard the liquid. Re-melt the clarified butter and spoon it evenly over the surface of the paté. Press a bay leaf and a few peppercorns or a sprig of thyme into the surface, cover with Clingfilm and leave to set overnight in the fridge.

This is great with crackers and a glass of wine; or as a starter, served with warm brown toast and cornichions. You can also have it with crusty bread, salad and soup for a complete meal.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

MY CANDLE BURNS at both ends; It will not last the night; But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends - it gives a lovely light.

Edna Saint Vincent Millay


Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem is a surreal detective story set, you guessed it, in Brooklyn New York. Lionel Essrog is one of four adolescent orphans from St Vincent’s Home for Boys who are taken on by a local fixer/tough called Frank Minna who intends the lads to become “Minna Men”, his sidekicks in the fly-by-night detective-agency-cum-limosine-service he has started. Lionel is known as the Human Freakshow as he suffers from Tourette's Syndrome
and is continually shouting out nonsense and swearwords, compulsively counting things, touching things and twitching or “ticcing” as it is properly called. Because of his condition Lionel’s innate intelligence is discounted by everyone, until one terrible day when Frank Minna is murdered and Lionel is compelled to really become a detective, and to try to find his way through shady undergrowth of Brooklyn’s gangster land and the web of threats and favours that surrounded Minna.

Jonathan Lethem had written Sci- Fi before he wrote this novel, and has obviously been influenced by Philip K. Dick’s writing. What gives the book its USP is the character of Lionel and his daily, even hourly, battle with the behaviours caused by his condition. He is isolated from forming any real relationships by his Tourette’s Syndrome, which is brilliantly described and which I found incredibly moving. I wasn’t sure quite what the author wanted this book to be. As a detective story it is satisfactory but fairly mundane, so was Lethem primarily trying to write a book about someone with Tourette’s?

Tourette’s is a condition which is life-long and there is virtually no treatment for it. People who suffer from it are often shunned in society. I well remember my very first day as a magistrate, 20 years ago. I had to sit in court at Horseferry Road in London. One of the very largest and busiest magistrate’s courts in England. As you might imagine I was nervous, and slightly stunned by the sheer volume of clients who passed before the bench. A case of criminal damage was called on, and into the dock came a man of about 30, f-ing and blinding and throwing his arms around, he paid little attention to the chairman of the bench telling him to be quiet. The chairman was an elderly chap in his late sixties, and he became very red in the face as the man kept shouting “fuckfuckfuckfuckcuntfuck” etc, and he threatened to have the man sent down for contempt of court. I suddenly realized that the man had Tourette’s (although back then I knew it as Gilles de la Tourette’s Syndrome) so I gathered my courage and managed to whisper to the chairman that I would like us to retire. When we did, I explained what I knew of the syndrome – which was not that much – but persuaded my fellows that the Probation service should be asked to get the man an appointment with a neurologist at Guy's hospital, and find him a place in a hostel (he was living on the streets) and that that would be a far more positive outcome than just locking him up. Sadly, I expect he appeared in other courts at other times poor chap, but at least on that one occasion I felt I had achieved something worthwhile, not a feeling I have had very often in my little corner of our creaky justice system.

Are we going nuts as a society? Maybe it’s just me going nuts, but I am getting really irritated with the ridiculous warning labels on packets of food or household goods, I think it is creeping into this country following the US model. Check out this website about idiotic warning signs in the USA

Today I was making my usual weekly dash round Waitrose when I came across the most blatant example of an illogical, crazy warning I have seen .

A promotion was going on in the fruit & veg section. A Waitrose employee was standing at a little table offering customers free samples of a line of produce – you know the kind of thing, a whole lot of little plastic dishes with a tiny taster in each, and a waste bin beside the table for the used dishes. There was an artistically arranged pile of packets of the goods for customers to purchase once they had been seduced by the tasting. Prominently displayed on the table was a large laminated sign reading ‘May Contain Traces of Nuts’ – and what you may ask, was the product being promoted? Why it was Nuts, packets of Waitrose’s own label nuts. Cashews, almonds, brazils, macadamias, pistachios, and some packets of mixed nuts. There was nothing else in the packets, just nuts.

‘May Contain Traces of Nuts’ – I should bloody well hope they did – they WERE nuts and I went nuts. I rushed up to the employee and asked them (very politely) why they had that stupid warning sign up and I was told ‘we have to have it by law* in case someone who is allergic to nuts eats something without realizing it has nuts in it.’ - ‘but’ I said, ‘these ARE packets of nuts, the samples you are handing out are nuts, why would anyone with a nut allergy even consider taking a sample? You don’t need this warning label’ Anyway, there was no point discussing it with her, she was merely following company policy.

I drove home thinking about how stupid our society is becoming – having to be warned about the obvious all the time, why are we letting this happen? Where will it all end?

* It is not true that you have to label for inadvertent traces of nuts, I have just looked up the UK’s food labeling regulations to be sure. Having said that, I can see that it might be sensible to put such a label on a packet of food containing a mixture of ingredients where there is a chance of the food having some nutty component. I just think companies are taking it to excess without looking at logic because they are scared witless of being sued.


After that nutty rant, I thought I would include a recipe that definitely contains nuts. This is a cauliflower salad - well I call it a salad - that has variations across Spain and Italy. I like this Italian version, and presume it came from the town of Rimini. You can make it all year round as it is just as good in winter as in summer. The other good thing about it is that you can prep everything several hours ahead, and just assemble it at the last minute, so it is really good as a starter when you have guests.


Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main course.

1 medium cauliflower, leaves discarded, broken into small florets.

Generous pinch of saffron

75ml olive oil

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

50g pine nuts

50g raisins

Extra-virgin olive oil to dress

Small handful chopped fresh mint

Small handful chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat a saucepan filled with a generous amount of salted water, add the saffron and when it comes to the boil, pop in the cauliflower.

Cook for just 2-3 minutes, so that the cauliflower picks up a little colour from the saffron but stays very much al dente.

Drain well, and spread on a tray to cool quickly.

Meanwhile, put the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. When it is just starting to show wisps of smoke, add the onion. Fry briskly for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the slices start to look crispy and caramelised. Add the pine nuts and raisins. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes (the raisins will swell and the pine nuts should colour a little). Tip into a sieve and drain off the excess oil, then transfer into a large bowl.

To serve, toss the cauliflower with the onions, raisins and pine nuts and season to taste. Drizzle generously with the extra-virgin olive oil and scatter with the chopped herbs.

The salad is also good when topped with shavings of a salty sheep milk cheese such as Pecorino.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

URBAN JUNGLE, not quite, but Urban Woodland for sure, that's our garden at the moment. Although we live in central London, and have a garden that is only marginally bigger than a postage stamp, we seem to have quite a lot of wild life; lots of birds of course - including jays, coal tits, a robin and two wrens, a fox which likes to drink from the pond and used to raid the outside dustbin until I fox-proofed it. Frogs, slugs, snails,spiders, bees, wasps, mozzies, a rat or two (uggh) and some mice (not in the house I hasten to add) we have them all. Now we have a resident hedgehog, he appears at night and makes a bee-line for the dog bowls if they have left any scraps in them. I want him/her to take up a permenant home under the shed and eat all the slugs which destroy my hostas.


From the quotes on the backcover of 'Some Hope' by Edward St Aubyn I thought I was on to a really amazing writer - silly me. To compare St Aubyn's writing to Waugh or Graham Greene is to do them no favours.
The book is subtitled "A trilogy" but if it were published as three novels each would be a very incomplete novella.
This is the story of a young Englishman called Patrick Melrose from the age of five up to his early thirties. Part 1 deals with his early childhood in Provence where he is raped by his father. Part 2 deals with his twenties, where having inherited money, he is a confirmed heroin and crack addict, with the odd dose of speed thrown in for good measure, all washed down with vast quantities of alcohol. The 3rd part deals with his slow recovery from addiction and his opening up about the childhood abuse he suffered. Frankly I thought all the characters were loathsome. There is nothing entertaining about reading about the gory details of having a heroin fix in a lavatory, and when the author goes on and on describing it over and over again I got irritated, then bored, and almost wanted him to OD so the book could end. I really can't imagine recommending this to anyone. It left me with a feeling of absolute pointlessness. I should follow Dorothy Parker's advice "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

St Aubyn has written a follow-on book, "Mother's Milk" which continues Patrick Melrose's life, and this has been short-listed for this year's Booker Prize - I can't imagine what the judges were thinking. After reading 'Some Hope', I would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than read the sequel.


Health and Safety? Health and stupidity is more like it. Yet again a city council has issued an extraordinary edict in the name of Health & Safety – Doormats are Dangerous, yes, you heard it right the first time, doormats are dangerous. Bristol Council has contacted all their council tenants to say that doormats are a danger because someone might trip on one (how many cases of tripping on doormats do you think they have had to deal with?) and also they are a potential fire hazard. Well of course, we all know how easily doormats spontaneously combust. Tenants have been told that their doormats must be removed by 18th September, or they will be “disposed of” by the council.

Whew, that’s a really dangerous situation narrowly averted.

I know that being sarky is just plain silly, but what else can one to do – this is Britain in the 21st Century for god’s sake, and one of our big cities, with many problems to deal with - under-resourced schools, deteriorating hospital buildings, poor public transport, lack of childcare facilities to mention but a few – is busy banning doormats. What is it with this epidemic of Health & Safety nonsense, I can see there is going to be an endless stream of stupidity to rant about, so you can look forward to this kind of nonsense being a regular feature on my blog. I feel so annoyed and depressed I will have to go and have a large G&T.


The season has changed, and I am back in the mood for the sort of food I would not make during the summer. I love a good casserole, and this recipe is great, it is comforting and homely yet smart enough to serve to guests at a dinner party. The cook/housemaid of a school friend in the Cape used to make this and I thought it delicious and eventually got the recipe from her and have made it regularly ever since - for 35 years !


700g stewing or braising steak cut into cubes

2 Tablespoons olive oil

3 onions, roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

200g smoked bacon lardons, or streaky bacon cut into small pieces

300g carrots, scraped and sliced thickly

Long sliver of orange rind (use a potato peeler to remove the rind from the orange in one piece)

2 teaspoons thyme

2 teaspoons oregano

2 bay leaves

200ml red wine

100g stoned black olives

150ml carton sour cream (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 150°C.

Sauté the beef in the olive oil in a large pan and transfer to a large casserole dish.

Fry the onions in remaining oil until golden but not brown, then add them to the beef together with the lardons, garlic, carrots, herbs and orange rind.

Bring the wine to the boil in a small saucepan and when boiling set alight to it. Let flames subside and then pour over the meat.

Cover the casserole tightly and place on a low shelf in the pre-heated oven for 3-3½ hours. Add the olive and cook for a further half hour

You can add a 150ml carton of sour cream just before serving if you wish. Just put it on top of the daube as it will mingle with the juices as you serve out the meat.

Rice, noodles or plain boiled potatoes go well with this dish.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

BLOGGERS seem to be a very mixed bunch.
I have been strolling through the Blogosphere reading a huge variety of blogs, (and thats just the ones written in English).
I have a list of favourites that I have been reading for ages, and I would like to put a list of them on my sidebar, but so far I havn't quite figured out how to do that. One thing seems evident, 99% of bloggers are at least 10 years my junior.


I have heard some people say “I never read fiction” in a disparaging tone, as though novels were akin to comics, and that only reading non-fiction made them intellectually superior in some way.

How foolish and snobbish they are, they miss so much, and this book, given to me by my Australian cousin is a prime example.

I LOVE reading novels, and The Secret River is a really powerful, beautifully written book which is probably destined to become an Australian classic, and may even win the Booker prize this year as it is on the long list. Kate Grenville wrote this book after researching her family history and what a story she tells of the early settlement of New South Wales, based on one of her own ancestors.

The main protagonist is Will Thornhill, a cockney lad, born into a life of poverty and crime in late 18th Century London. Bobbing and weaving, ducking and diving, he learns to survive and becomes a waterman on the River Thames, marries his childhood sweetheart Sal, and is on the way to becoming respectable. An unfortunate turn of events throws him back into poverty and he ends up being transported to Botany Bay for an attempted theft. His wife and young child are able to go too, and they arrive in a new world, so harsh, so brutal, and so remote from everything they have ever known that they might as well have been sent to the far side of the moon.

After he has been emancipated Will, Sal and their children settle on a remote tract of land beside the Hawkesbury River some fifty miles north of Sydney and only accessible by boat.

Will is absolutely in love with the land, and realises that even though he is now a free man he would still be regarded as a criminal if the family returned to England although that is Sal’s abiding dream. Their struggles to clear the land and survive are set against their encounters with the local aboriginal people who roam through the area, and have no concept of ownership of land or growing of crops. Will and the other settlers cannot understand them or their way of life, and have no means of communicating. Clashes continually occur eventually culminating in an incident of such brutality that the aborigines are driven away from the area. However this incident changes Will, who is confused within himself as to how he, a decent man at heart, could have participated in something so horrible. None the less, from then on the family prosper, Sal comes to terms with the fact that they will never return to London, and that their future and their descendants future lies in this new land.

The book made me think of the parallels with the settlement of Southern Africa, and left me with many questions, particularly about how very quickly the indigenous people were subjugated. I am going to have to find other books to read about this early period of Australia’s history.


I don’t smoke any more – I gave up 25+ years ago when my daughter was born. I started smoking when I was about 20 (shared a flat with a friend who smoked like a chimney and got sucked into the chimney myself) and gave up when I was 30. My dear husband has never smoked (what a sensible, goody-goody, smug b*****d he is). I now loathe the whole idea of smoking; I loathe the way the smell clings - to clothes, curtains and in rooms. I don’t like the breath of smokers, and I would hate to sit in a smoky pub or restaurant now. BUT…

I loathe the idea that the state can force people to do things because the state thinks they are good for people. We should all be able to go to hell in our own way.

I particularly loathe the suggestion that we non-smokers should phone a free hot-line and denounce any smokers we may see in a public place.

Is the government lead by a bunch of totalitarian fascists? Do they want us to turn into the Stasi, informing on one another for any perceived misdemeanour? What will happen if the proposed 0800 number comes into use next year as planned, will there be cases of spiteful colleagues and neighbours phoning in to shaft someone? During WW2 in occupied France, many French citizens denounced others to the Germans in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the occupying power. The British have always been particularly self-congratulatory that such behaviour would “never happen here”. What a load of bollocks, of course it would, and this situation with smokers will prove it. We have had a hosepipe ban in southern England for the past few months, and in the first two months, in Sussex, over 1500 suburban spies rang in to the hot-line to shop people.

You can be sure that there will be plenty of self-righteous folk who will do the same for the poor saps who are addicted to nicotine.

What will happen? Some poor bloke is sitting outside a pub on a sunny Sunday morning enjoying a pint and a ciggie, when nee-nah, nee-nah, the Smoking Gestapo will arrive and carry him off.

Why can’t some pubs, restaurants, cafes etc choose to be smoking venues and advertise themselves as such? Then we non-smokers can avoid them, and the die-hards can puff away in peace


We seem to be having a last burst of warm summer weather this weekend, so what could be nicer than having tea in the garden - and of course afternoon tea wouldn't be afternoon tea without a cake. As we are rushing around trying to get the bathroom tiling completed there is not much time for baking, so I have made my default cake, a Victoria Sponge with cream and jam. In this case the jam is Mulberry & Apple, made by my friend A who is a dab-hand at jam-making.


115g soft baking margarine (I use Stork)

115g caster sugar

115g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder

¼ teaspoon vanilla essence

Jam and 125ml double cream

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Grease and base line two 18cm sandwich cake tins

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar, soft margarine, eggs and vanilla essence.

Beat well together for two minutes until thick and creamy, if too thick add a tablespoon of milk.

Divide the mixture between the two tins, use a spatula to spread it out to the edges being thinner in the middle so it rises evenly. Tap each tin on work surface before placing in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, springy to the touch, and pulling away from the sides of the tin.

Cool in the tins for a couple of minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack.

When cool, sandwich together with jam and whipped cream or with whipped cream to which a little chopped fruit has been added such as strawberries, pineapple, or passion fruit pulp.

Dust the top of the cake with icing or caster sugar.

Freezes well either filled or plain (if freezing plain, separate layers with greaseproof paper to prevent them sticking together).

Thursday, September 07, 2006

AKRASIA - that is what I'm suffering from.
I've been wondering what my problem was and now I've found a name for it.
It is the state of acting against one's better judgment. Weakness of will, inability to make myself do what I need and want to do. Apparently it was a state of mind much pondered over by the ancient Greeks, and Socrates posed the philisophical puzzle that defines akrasia - if one judges action A to be the best course of action one can take, why would one do anything other than action A ? I need help, advice on a postcard (or in the comment box below) please.

Dunno by
Peter Inson

I came upon this book completely by chance, and I am so glad I did. In fact I am putting a copy into the Retiring Rooms at both the Youth Court and Family Court where I sit as I think all magistrates who deal with young people would benefit from reading it.

This is the story of six months in the life of a fifteen year old boy called Jon. The only child of a single mother of 32, his life has been one of physical and emotional poverty and abuse. He is a truant from a school system that he doesn’t understand, and which doesn’t understand him. From a young age he has drifted into petty crime, and now cannot see any other way of living. His life is a complete misery as he is caught between a loveless home, a rigid education system, and the threatening attentions of other criminal bullies – his future seems bleak to say the least. However as a result of an injury he sustained when breaking and entering his own home, he has to go to A&E at the local hospital where the male nurse who stitches his wound manages to get through to him, and slowly he finds another way of living through encountering adults who do not threaten or browbeat him. The solutions he finds may well not be what society wants or expects, but they turn his thinking and way of life around sufficiently to move him in a more positive direction where he has some hope of coping with adulthood without becoming one more of those individuals who spend their adult lives in prison or on the dole.

The language is strong and realistic, the tone is never patronising and the author doesn’t offer any hard and fast answers to Jon’s problems, just possibilities.

I see youths like Jon in both the Youth and Family Courts over and over again. This is the first novel I have come across which exposes the lives of those who live well below our radar, the underbelly of our society. The news media has been full of stories of ASBOs, hoodies, feral youths and so on, reflecting the glib comments made by our politicians – Jon is a hoodie if ever there was one, and whilst reading this book I felt moved by David Cameron’s instruction to hug a hoodie. If I could have given Jon a hug I would have done so immediately, he desperately needed one.

A teenage book for adults, and an adult book for teenagers, it may open your eyes.

This book has not had the publicity it deserves, as the author self-published it in 2004 it did not have the PR machine of the big publishing houses behind it. Peter Inson was an English teacher, and eventually Head of a large comprehensive school in Acton, west London. He then taught at an international school in Switzerland for five years.



If you live or work in London you have probably noticed these banners appearing on lamp posts all over the city.

What does it mean? What is it meant to mean? Who cares what it means?

“We are one, we are Londoners”? Or, “We Londoners are as one” ?

This is the latest whiz-bang campaign dreamt up by our beloved Mayor “Red” Ken Livingston, and sponsored by British Gas (I think most Londoners would rather they lowered our gas prices rather than help aggrandise Red Ken and his jammy job). Apparently this is to celebrate how we are now a multi-cultural bunch who all love one another. Oh yeah?

Anyway, if we are, do we need to be told? Surely we know already.

Personally I think this is all a load of claptrap.

Pause for a digression …. I suddenly thought that I didn’t know the real meaning of the word ‘claptrap’ which I have always used to mean bollocks. So I looked it up, and the real, original meaning is, according to my wonderful Oxford English Dictionary is:

1. (with pl.) A trick or device to catch applause; an expression designed to elicit applause.

Well what do you know, claptrap describes this campaign exactly!


Every family has foods that they eat so often they take it for granted that everyone else does so too, and in our household that includes coleslaw. There is nearly always a container of it in our fridge. It is such a useful salad, you can eat it all year round, it is cheap and easy to make and so versatile. Vegetarians and carnivores both seem to like it. Coleslaw can go with braaied meats, or with cold cuts, it can be added to sandwiches for packed lunches, it can be served with a baked potato or an omlette to make a light meal. And what is more, you feel so virtuous when you eat it - after all it is raw vegetables, how healthy is that?

There are loads of different coleslaw recipes in the cook books, but this is my own variation and I can practically make it in my sleep I've been doing it for so long.


Half a white, green or Savoy cabbage, finely shredded

3 large carrots, peeled and very coarsely grated

3 sticks celery, strings removed and finely sliced

6-8 spring onions, trimmed, and finely sliced (including green parts)

3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

A handful of sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

4 tablespns good quality mayonnaise

4 tablespns crème fraiche

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 teaspn mustard powder

2 tablespns olive oil

1 tablespn white wine vinegar

1 tablespn lemon juice

Salt + freshly ground black pepper

Prepare the vegetables for the salad, (a mandolin makes life much easier!)

In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, crème fraiche, and mustard powder. In a separate bowl whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice. Now gradually whisk the oil/vinegar mixture into the mayonnaise mixture. Season well.

Combine all the grated, shredded and sliced vegetables, parsley and sunflower seeds in a big bowl and pour over the dressing and toss with fork and spoon till everything is well coated. Taste for seasoning. Cover and chill before serving.

This salad is very flexible, you can substitute ½ a finely sliced onion for the spring onions, and ring the changes with the amount of carrot and the type of cabbage, and add some red cabbage for extra colour. It keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.