Yesterday it felt like “St Luke’s Little Summer’ —the name given to mild days around St Luke’s Day (18th October)—had come a week early. Here in Gloucestershire, it was sunny enough to be almost hot. Walkers were out in the woods dressed in shorts and t shirts, collecting sweet chestnuts. It was still warm when I reached university at six-thirty last night.
Today, we’re back in the ice age. It’s time to dig out the light-therapy lamp, and think about putting on the central heating. We’re having this brilliant, easy soup (using the last tomatoes from the greenhouse), and home-made bread for tea tonight. There are buds in the Christmas cacti, and the lemons are ripening. Despite the chill, there are lots of good things about autumn!
It was cold, wet weather like this when I wrote my short romantic comedy, My Dream Guy. What could be worse than sitting in my chilly office, looking out on pouring rain? Going camping, I thought—so that’s where I sent my heroine Emma. Her romance with Jack has lost its sparkle. He arranges a holiday in Wales during the wettest summer on record, and Emma can’t see how life in a tent is going to put the fizz back into her love-life… unless the bronzed farmer who bewitched her as a teenager is still running the campsite. He is, and Emma gets a picnic full of surprises!
Whatever the weather, find some summer sunshine with My Dream Guy…
Tartiflette is a guilty secret that should be hidden from the health police at all costs. It’s full of the best-tasting things in life: crispy bacon, fried onions, potatoes, cream and cheese. You know what that means. The dish comes with a health warning in every mouthful – naughty, but extremely nice. In the days before refrigeration, people worked hard on the land from dawn to dusk. When you spend all your time producing food, you don’t want to let any of it go to waste, and this is a delicious way to take in calories and use up leftovers at the same time.
Tartiflette might have been designed with today’s late-night fridge-raids in mind, but as all my family have sedentary jobs I only make it on rare occasions, as a treat. I put it together from scratch, with whatever is to hand. For instance, ham sometimes stands in for the bacon. If I use it, I just add it when the onions have softened as it’s already cooked.
For four people you’ll need:
Half a pound of bacon rashers, snipped into bits
2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
garlic, to taste.
Roughly a pound and half of cooked potatoes, sliced
Half a cup of thin cream
Grated, meltable cheese
Fry the bacon bits gently in a pan with a little oil until they start to crisp. Add the sliced onions and crushed garlic (if used), and carry on frying the mixture gently until the onions soften. Carefully fold in the potato slices – you don’t want them to break up too much. Season with salt and pepper, then carry on cooking until the potatoes start to brown. Stir gently now and then to keep everything an even colour.
Turn the mixture into a shallow tin, and drizzle the cream over the top. Add a thin layer of grated cheese, then toast under a grill until the tartiflette is piping hot all the way through, and the cheese topping is bubbling and golden.
After driving through a plate full of that wicked temptation, it takes will power to get moving again. Here’s some inspiration, in the shape of Daniel Dolan. Daniel shows what dedication and determination can do. Film of Daniel at work is included here
to show a little of what it takes. My own son saw The Nutcracker when he was five years old and from that moment on, he wanted to take ballet lessons. In those days I thought like Billy Elliot’s father, but I soon learned there’s no place for sissies in ballet, whether they are male or female. It’s really tough, but it’s character building, too. Much against my better judgment, I booked my son in for lessons a few years ago and he’s taken to it like a duck (if he was a girl I’d say a cygnet) to water. It’s been the making of him, and thanks to the wonderful Miss Joy, the hours he spends crouched over his computer are balanced by shorter periods of intense but carefully guided activity.
Many places run ballet classes for adult beginners. When I watch Son Number One doing his exercises it looks very restful, but if I try out his movements, it feels too much like a workout. It uses up loads of calories, so it’s ideal for dedicated Tartiflette fans although I think I’ll stick to running!
This weekend I’ll be working on getting my Spring newsletter together. You can sign up for it by visiting http://www.christinahollis.com, and clicking on the link. New subscribers will get my free recipe for French Bread – the perfect accompaniment for Tartiflette.