Polenta, cornmeal and a lovely pita with tikva

I have been asked many times for cornmeal recipes and what to do with what has been made!

I love polenta (cicvera) and was treated to  the very comforting and tasty salt cod and polenta dish,  Baccala from Venice whilst there, last week. It was something I would often have as a child during fasting periods and have a need for it in the early months of a new year, even now. I use the cornmeal  to coat the fish – be it cod or sprats and bake.

I am no expert in the making of  polenta. It requires patience, stirring and wishful thinking, that, after all the time and effort and a sore elbow – you have an end product you can eat. Over the years I have tried, failed and at times, thrown not just the sturdy yellow mixture in the bin, but also the pan it was made in. Believe me, not even the chickens would touch it!

So I use cornmeal in other ways, and enjoy other people’s perfect polenta when I can.

A big favourite dish of mine at this time of year is Pita sa Tikva. Again it requires some elbow grease, but is scrummy. I prefer it to gibanica, especially when eaten cold.

First – go in search of a good-sized marrow, or if you are growing courgettes, let one become a marrow.

Filo pastry  – greek style is best (or look up my gibanica recipe on this blog)

Cottage cheese or feta – depending on how sour you like to go


A couple of eggs (not necessary)

Olive oil

Go to work on the marrow and get all the flesh from it. Then grate the flesh. Add salt,

Put the grated marrow in a sieve with a heavy weight on top and leave for about an hour. Let the bitter water seep out.

Then put the grated marrow in to a bowl and add the cheese (however much you like).

Add some course or medium cornmeal and stir with a big spoon.

Crack the eggs, beat them and add to the mixture.

Add more cornmeal if the mixture seems a bit runny.

Lay out the filo (2 sheets together) and blob the marrow mixture across. Roll to form a sausage shape and place in your baking dish. Repeat until all the mixture has been used.

Pop in the oven and bake for around 45 minutes (covered) on 160C and 10 minutes with the cover off. Eat when cool  – or hot!

Marrow Green Bush 3 - Smallpak

On making polenta

What the chuff is cornmeal and polenta

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón


Happy birthday Frida Kahlo!

Originally posted on Elisha Gabriel:


‘The great hider-away’

I have wanted to write a little bit about Frida for some time, why she and her art are important to me, and perhaps lots of people.

I think I can recall when I first saw Frida’s work and images of her, I was around thirteen years old.  There was something about her that felt very familiar – her dress style, her moustache, her braided hair and flowers.

I love that she embraced her culture through her sense of dressing, of looking. She carried it off, it was all hers.

She was Mexican, I could relate to this too. Colour, brass bands, violence, cuisine, religion blending pagan and christian, ritual – there were similarities. She straddled tradition and modernity blended with surrealism and dreams – something that I love  – the crossing over, merging, creating something frighteningly new out of an old world.

Frida also depicted her…

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Coming full-circle

It was always a special place to me. Somewhere I went as a young person, to walk and take in the atmosphere.

But they say there’s trouble in t’mill. It’s all to do with tradition versus modernity.

We can have both, can’t we. I like the Chinese interpretation in characters of passages from the Bronte novels.

The Parsonage itself is set in time. It exudes calmness and serenity.

Let me close the door she said so you can take a picture, it looks better. But you can’t take photos inside.

Artefacts and history sit in glass cabinets. Boards tell the story of each room.

The blues and greens of walls, stone floors and stairs, gentle curling banister and long case windows all remind me of a house I once lived in, in the same village.

But the real story wasn’t written on the walls. The one of disease – cholera, typhoid and tb. The life of the mill workers, the murky water which Mr Bronte fought to have cleaned for over a decade.

A graveyard full of children and young people. The Brontes faired well and lived longer because they had their own well. But they were blighted by a family illness – incurable.

Just 200 years ago, the process of the beginning of industrialisation was beginning on the Pennine ridge. This was not a romantic place.

Yet during that time, three sisters wrote stories which are  part of us today. Not just locally, nationally – but internationally too.

Everyone has found a way to fall in love with a Bronte tale. Women who wrote under male pseudonyms didn’t fool us for long.

So what’s stirring. Why the conflict. We can have both tradition and modernity.

I looked around and came away with a copy of Jane Eyre. I’m sending it to a friend in Europe with a letter. The old-fashioned way. I’ve sent her an email to say that it’s on its way.

Here’s my modern slant on the Parsonage and the Brontes:

The Parsonage – Kazumi (beautiful peace)

Emily Bronte – Akira (clear and intelligent)

Charlotte Bronte – Naoki (tree of truth)

Anne Bronte – Hisao (story of life)

I’d like to move back one day – I’m not far at the moment – just down the road. But I feel the need to walk the walks every morning and to have my muse, Charlotte, near by. Oh, and the crows of course. To finish my writing and editing on cobbled streets. To come full circle.



Songs for Hisao


My mother’s sister was caught up in the Balkan war of the 90’s and was displaced several times after her home and village were bombed. She was of an age and along with her disabled son, found herself up in Sarajevo during the siege, staying with another son of hers who was a primary school head there.

We lost contact for a long time – it seemed everywhere she went was being shelled to hell, yet she lived through it all (as well as WW2). She knew real poverty and the toughness of self-sufficiency – nothing got to her.

Eventually we spoke on the phone. I couldn’t really talk for crying. She said ‘Don’t be upset. Sing and dance for me. I can’t do it right now. If I was you, that is what I would be doing’.

Her attitude surprised me. I thought she’d be beside herself with grief and pain. But no, like my mother, it was a message… get up, you’ll do it again, so get up.

Was it simply, don’t let the b*stards get you down?

Or something deeper. Be my voice. Sing for me. So they can hear me. I aint going down yet. Dance til they feel the thunder of resistance beneath your feet – for your feet are mine and your voice is mine too.




Talkin’ ’bout more than my generation of music

It’s Glastonbury weekend and whether you like the big festival or not – there’s music to be heard, to dance to, to talk about.

And that is what has been happening over the last few days. Over half an hour stood in the market gassing about rock bands and songs with old pal today. Checkout operator telling me she’s been to see all the big ones – Queen, Rolling, Bruce and more.

I have enjoyed listening to Mary J, Pharrell, Ronson, the infectious sounds of South Africa and tributes to Amy.

My no.1. 60’s era band is on tonight – The Who. They’re what I call a proper British Rock Band. Am hoping for some Quadrophenia from them.

Whatever your taste, there’s no denying that music is something we create for our pleasure, our posing, our pomposity. Expression through sound, resonating in the steady beat of our hearts,  pulses throughout our body and blood.

Whether you like to listen, dance, make, perform, you know everything is alright when you feel the music within.

Here’s my son’s other band Blast Beat Blues – have a listen to their demo on band camp- they’re creating a rumble already… http://blastbeatblues.bandcamp.com/releases

Every generation has something to talk about.

Enjoy your music!