Sunday, 9 October 2016

Now avocados with a nod to the past

Every year more and more people discover the avocado.Avocados can be propagated by seed, taking roughly four to six years to bear fruit, although in some cases, as in mine, seedlings can take 10 years to come into bearing.
they were not to be
We planted our first avocado tree 10 years ago and eureka we we thought we had our first fruit this year and a serious harvest to contend with.Alas all the fruit fell off the tree when they were very small.Our diagnosis from research was that it was a lack of water.

The variety most common in Portugal is "Bacon."Developed by a farmer James Bacon in 1954. Bacon has medium-sized fruit with smooth, green skin with yellow-green, light-tasting flesh. When ripe, the skin remains green, but darkens slightly, and fruit yields to gentle pressure. It is cold-hardy down to −5 °C (23 °F).
 Most of us have fantasies of strong and spectacular plants surging from a sturdy pip we have saved.For many years in Britain,the avocado pear remained a gourmet fruit, known and loved by the rich and well-travelled,who were used to dining in restaurants. By the late 1950´s it had begun to appear on less exalted domestic dining tables and its aficianados, like my mother, were quick to spread the word of their new discovery.In addition to this the avocado soon took off as the "in" colour for home decorating, paint wallpaper,bathroom suites, glassware, tableware and much more.

I remember my mother serving Avocado vinaigrette as a starter to her dinner guests.My father turned his nose up at it,but for many others like myself, eating this dish may well have been their introduction to avocados.
Avocado Vinaigrette had become a traditional recipe for an entrée, which acknowledges that so scrumptious is the avocado that it is in little need of embellishment. 

The Avocado: Cut the avocados in half lengthways and gently twist the halves to separate. To remove the seed, insert a sharp knife into it, then twist and lift out.  Brush the surfaces with lemon juice and place the avocado halves on 4 serving plates, shake the dressing again and drizzle it evenly over the avocado halves.
Serve with buttered toast triangles (so retro)

Adapted from a recipe in The Readers digest family recipe scrapbook

I thought I would take inspiration from my mothers way of serving an avocado which is now laughably passé and turn it into something more "now", and hopefuly more in keeping with how we like to use and eat avocados today  -an avocado vinaigrette,same  name but a completely different way of serving it.
The avocado in this dressing makes it so silky creamy that you’ll have a hard time believing there isn’t dairy in it. Use your favourite extra virgin olive oil and fresh, bright lemon juice and you’ll have a new "house" dressing. This stuff now lives in a bottle (I like having bottles of homemade dressings) in our fridge. 
I am now quite open to a generous libation of some of that vinaigrette on any one of my standard  green salads
 Avocado vinaigrette
 Makes: 1 cup dressing
(this will leave you with plenty to jar up and store in the refrigerator)
1 ripe avocado
Juice of one lemon 
300ml extra virgin olive oil
125ml white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Flor de sal
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
generous sprinkling of Herbes de provence

Salt and pepper, to taste
Make the vinaigrette by placing all the ingredients in a food processor until well emulsified.
     The inspiration - Restaurant Maison es in Wan Chai Hong Kong
    Thai - ger prawn cocktail 
    loosely inspired by Restaurant Maison es in Wan Chai Hong Kong
    Serves 3
    A modern, lighter version of the retro starter, prawn cocktail.
    The prawn cocktail has been around now for a good 30 years, and has spent most of it coming in and mostly out of fashion.The mixture of lettuce, prawns and Marie Rose sauce has seen countless amounts of tinkering, not all of them well judged, and now tends to make its appearance with something of an ironic wink.In this southeast-Asian-influenced version Chinese leaf replaces the lettuce,french beans are introduced along with sriracha sauce fresh chilli and Thai fish sauce.
    The perfect way to start an outdoor lunch. Now leaving its 70s baggage behind, it can get on with being what it is – a thoroughly delicious salad.  

    60g Chinese leaf or white cabbage, finely shredded
    20g Thai basil, chopped (or half tarragon, half mint if you can't get it)
    9 raw tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined (leave the tail fan on three of them)
    60g French beans, topped, tailed and cut into 1cm pieces
    80g cherry tomatoes, halved
    1 avocado cut into dice
    cayenne pepper
    ½ lime

    For the sauce:
    3 tbsps mayonnaise
    1 tbsp sriracha sauce
    1 tbsp finely chopped fresh red chilli
    1 tsp fish sauce
    juice of ½ lime
    Mix the cabbage and nearly all the basil and put in the bottom of three martini glasses. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Plunge the prawns into the water, turn the heat down and poach for four minutes. Leave them to cool on a plate. Scatter the French beans and tomatoes on top of the cabbage.
    Mix together all the sauce ingredients. Roughly chop six of the prawns (the ones without the pretty tail bits) and stir into the sauce. Divide the mixture between the glasses, then scatter on the last of the basil.
    Top each glass with your presentation prawn and a sprinkle of cayenne, and finish with a wedge of lime and perhaps a cocktail umbrella for decoration?

    NOTE:Avocados do not "ripen" on the tree, that is, they do not get soft while on the tree. Once you pick an avocado, it takes about 7 to 10 days for it to soften when left at room temperature. You can speed the process up slightly by placing the avocado in a bag with some other ripe fruit (like an apple) or slow the process down by keeping the fruit in the refrigerator.

    Saturday, 1 October 2016

    Bata Que Ele abriu outra

     Can you beat it!? He´s done it again.One of the most renowned chefs in Portugal, Jose Avillez, has opened yet another restaurant that is sure to become an instant Lisbon classic.Can you believe it, this 37 year old maestro  now owns seven restaurants, six in Lisbon and one in Oporto.This, his seventh venture, is located in Chiado close to his other foodie destinations, Belcanto, Minibar,Pizzaria Avillez, Café Avillez and Cantinho de Avillez.
    The name of chef José Avillez‘ seventh food project couldn’t be more accurate too; Bairro do Avillez literally translated means Avillez’ neighborhood. It is indeed the beloved neighbourhood of the two-star Michelin chef. His latest food adventure is located in a former convent, the Trindade Convent, which seems to be the perfect place for such heavenly, mouthwatering food, as foodies might agree,or perhaps they might not.
    We ate there for lunch on our last day in Lisbon and we wished we had discovered it earlier! We had, but it was the weekend and we couldn´t get near the place. The punters were being drawn to it like moths to a flame.It was the "the new place" to be seen. A destination for Lisbon ladies who lunch after a fitting or a spot of shopping.Their game given away by the profusion of Paris Lisboa carrier bags packed full of Claus Porto guest soaps on the floor beside the tables. If Eça de queiroz was alive today this would surely be a restaurant frequented by the characters of The Maias.
    I don´t even know where to begin. The menu is full of surprises. First you are given a sheet of paper and a pencil and you basically have to tick boxes to tell the kitchen what you feel like eating. SUCH FUN!!! and like tapas you can repeat this  process as many times as you want.
    Some dishes are rather small but are all quite cheap, very elegantly presented and most importantly, all of them were unbelievably delicious!
    We ordered the Alfacinha de bacalhau crocante, the saladinha de orelha de morcego( bat ear salad more on that story later) steak sandwich,tuna steak with polenta, the aged steak, a selection of Portuguese Charcuterie from his partnership with Manteigaria Silva Espargos e congumelos nas brasas com caviar de beringela fumada molho de iogurte com coentros e hortela ( Grilled asparagus with mushrooms and smoked eggplant. )

    (a direita) Naco de atum com polenta,piso de ervas e pinhões

    (em fundo)
    Alfacinha de bacalhau crocante

    Congumelos nas brasas com caviar de beringela fumada molho de iogurte com coentros e hortela

     The view of the ceiling above

    The view of the ceiling above

    We finished with a selection of Portuguese cheeses 
    and the house chocolate cake baked in its own 
    Avillez branded baking parchment.All these dishes were cooked and presented in ways that are either very interesting or as twists on classic Portuguese dishes.
    On top of that, the atmosphere is  buzzing and you can observe the cooks enjoying going about their work 
    just a pips throw away from one´s table! I can't recommend this place enough, at least for lunch, one of the best meals we have had in Lisbon but not cheap (we didn´t expect it to be ) but for a very reasonable price!
    ( esquerdaBolo de chocolate de taberna 

    Prego de lombo a casa em bolo de caco
    Not everybody it seems was in agreement with us,in particular the Portuguese customers.I doubt this kind of criticism would be levied on Portugal´s national treasure Ronaldo,so why is this outstanding chef who has done more for his country culturally than kicking a ball around been knocked in this way.

    This is what some of the most recent reviews have said about taberna... 

     "Junk food"
    fashion site for tourists. inattentive service, lousy food produced in an industrial canteen kitchen the best style of McDonalds ....

    Buzzy atmosphere, otherwise hit-and-miss

    "The staff are mostly clueless, as if, based on looks or something, they'd been dropped in there at random like in a survival-type reality TV show. The ugliest person there was the only one who seemed to know what he was doing".

    "The customers were better dressed and better looking than the food"

    O atendimento é desorganizado, lento e não prima pela simpatia. Na taberna, as mesas estão tão próximas que quase parecia que tínhamos combinado sair com o casal da mesa ao lado. Fica desconfortável.
     It´s a taberna for goodness sake

    Cobrar 4 euros por dois mini croquetes de novilho é obsceno. Ainda para mais porque a fritura, demasiado intensa, tornou a cobertura do croquete muito amarga.
    O casal da mesa ao lado pediu uma sanduíche de porco em bolo do caco. Ficamos todos surpreendidos com o reduzido tamanho, tendo em conta o preço (9€). De uma forma geral, as doses são muito pequenas.

    What did they expect a whopping great hamburger in an English muffin?

    It appears perhaps we were in a completely different restaurant as I can not identify with any of these complaints.This is a class act of creative modern Portuguese food and I would expect to pay the price for it.We will definitely be returning to continue where we left off and in particular for pica pau and the milho frito and some other great items from this extensive menu.Whats up next Snr.Avillez?

    There he goes! He’s doing again! Opening yet another restaurant that is sure to be an instant Lisbon classic. Popular and respected Portuguese chef José Avillez opens a new restaurant in Chiado, near foodie favorites Belcanto, Minibar, Café Avillez, Pizzaria Avillez and Cantinho do Avillez. The casual venue is aptly named Bairro (“neighborhood”) do Avillez, featuring a variety of areas akin to your local neighborhood.

    Read more at:
    There he goes! He’s doing again! Opening yet another restaurant that is sure to be an instant Lisbon classic. Popular and respected Portuguese chef José Avillez opens a new restaurant in Chiado, near foodie favorites Belcanto, Minibar, Café Avillez, Pizzaria Avillez and Cantinho do Avillez. The casual venue is aptly named Bairro (“neighborhood”) do Avillez, featuring a variety of areas akin to your local neighborhood.

    Read more at:

    Wednesday, 28 September 2016

    A tale of the the Spanish inner sole, an Italian slipper and a Beef Wellington

    What is it with shoes and artesan bread?-Food and feet, if its the shoe that fits the foot I will buy it and wear it. I have to confess that while I won't cram my feet into shoes which are too small, if I really want a pair that are a shade too big, I'll happily pad them out with insoles.When purchasing an inner sole recently I noticed that there seems to be a certain similarity between slippers inner soles and some types of bread.Take for example Ciabatta. It was hailed in the nineties as the saviour of the Italian bread industry, and rocked the sandwich world globally.It soon became the Mother's Pride of the chattering British  classes and by the time Nessun Dorma rang out from Italia '90, it was one of the most popular of the new range of `exotic mediterranean breads´.
     Just take one look at it.For a start it´s a ridiculous shape.It's pointless slicing it as you would, say, a pan loaf for a sandwich - a pair of the resulting bread slivers would offer little shelter for your bacon or cheddar, and most fillings would slop wildly out of the sides.Yet slicing horizontally can be a risky business too, requiring advanced knife-skills to retain one's upper fingers. And then there's the name. If that's the shape of a slipper, then how did  beef wellington acquire its name when it is something I put on my feet when it's muddy outside.
    The inventor of ciabatta Francesco Favaron, a baker from Verona, apparently looked at it and thought, 'What can I call it?' Then  thought that it was similar to his wife Andreina´s ciabatta( slipper ), so he called it 'ciabatta'.
    There is so much you can do with ciabatta sandwich wise and supper-wise, and its great for rustling up a smart picnic item - Pan bagna.While on the lines of pressed sandwiches why not use your ciabatta to make a pressed panini for a quick and easy weekday supper.
    Supper in a slipper -My Cubano Tuna Melt
    400g (14oz can tuna, drained
    1 tablespoon lemon zest
    2 cups grated cheddar cheese
    1 red onion sliced
    2 tomatoes sliced
    1/2 cup spinach leaves
    1/4 cup mayonnaise
    2 large flat breads

    Put the tuna, lemon zest, and onion in a bowl with the mayonnaise and mix until just combined adding more mayo if it needs it. Slice the ciabatta in half  horizontally and make a bed of half the spinach leaves on it. Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the leaves followed by a layer of sliced tomatoes.Top with the rest of the spinach leaves and sprinkle the grated cheddar to cover. Put the tops back on the flat bread.  Heat a cast iron pan on medium low for about 3-5 minutes while you assemble the sandwich.
    Put enough olive oil (you can use butter or veg. oil) in the pan, let it heat for a minute and gently place the sandwich in the  pan. Weigh down with whatever works for you. I use another cast iron pan and a set of weights, a handy tea kettle filled with water would do the same job.Cook low and slow, checking after about 3 minutes. Flip and repeat.
    Eat and enjoy.

    Another example is the artesan  Spanish crackers that look like inner soles.Spanish cuisine offers a wide variety of artisan bread and crackers, from Galician bread with its crisp crust and light, airy interior to classic 'picos' and pipas, to crunchy tortas de aceite and crackers coming in every shape, size and form.
    In bars and cafes across Spain you will almost always find  'picos' , great with a bowl of olives and a glass of wine. These classic snacks are also a great crunchy accompaniment to soups, salads or tapenades.

    Did you know that the first insoles were actually made by innkeepers, not shoemakers? Weary travelers often complained about tired, aching feet, so innkeepers developed insoles for travelers to put in their shoes to alleviate pain. The insoles were like matted pads that were made out of animal hair; nothing like the ones we use today,but looking very similar to the crackers that I spread my dips, jamon, muxama and soft cheeses on.
    Anyone found any little shoe shaped breads ? -I´d love to hear from you.

    Friday, 16 September 2016

    Mango Chutney Goan Style

     Pure unaldulterated Goan mango chutney

    Pickles and chutneys are the mainstay of the cuisine of the Indian sub-continent,unlike in the UK,where they are seen as a relish to be eaten with papadums in restaurants,followed by pickles and chutneys to be eaten with the main meal.
    Mostly the fresh chutneys are eaten with snacks, etc. and used as dips or condiments.I served a fresh avocado chutney spread on crostini as one of the canapés for a recent Goan wedding celebration.I also served a Goan mango chutney which was remarked upon for its authenticity by one of the guests, a gentleman who  loves his food and certainly knows his kale from his Kholrabi.He noticed the colour not being anything at all like the commercially known brand, Sharwood’s, and not like the picture on any body else´s website for that matter either. I’ve got no idea how they make their chutney orange – as soon as I add the vinegar and the brown sugar, it is always blatantly obvious my chutney will be dark brown.But yes, artificial colourants, stabilizers and preservatives aside,its that through-the-roof deliciousness that makes a home made variety utterly chutterney.
    Pickles and chutneys are supposed to add flavour and zest to the food you are eating, and for this most households take huge pride in their own recipes and secret ingredients. 
    It is a tradition in every community to make chutneys and pickles from fruits and vegetables when they are in season,for the forthcoming year.I always turn my nose up at the Brazilian mangos, but today Portuguese mangos made their seasonal appearance in the market telling me its time to get that old preserving pan out again.Ardent cooks are seen making their selections in the raw mango season,for instance, knowing full well that the mangoes they desire will last only a few weeks before they are sold out. Those in the know will also have their eyes set on which carrots to buy for pickling or which radish is best.The art of Indian pickle and chutney making is mind boggling and limitless.Young turmeric,ginger, garlic,onions and several roots and tubers do not miss the scrutiny of the ever watchful chutney mary who will take a batch home to alter their compositions into delicious tongue-tingling and flavourful preserves.Different concoctions from the same fruit and of course that family speciality always to the fore.Their love of preserves is endless and as I said no meal is complete without some condiment on the table
    Mango Chutney Goan Style 
    1500g Mangoes (semi ripe but firm)
    1kg sugar
    250ml cider vinegar
    8 cloves garlic
    6tsp mustard seeds
    4tbsp Red chilli powder
    250g sultanas or raisins
    3-4 tbsp Flor de sal
    Peel and dice the mango
    Put in alarge preserving pan with the sugar and 200ml cider vinegar and boil.
    Pur-ee the ginger and garlic with the remaining vinegar and half the mustard seeds.
    Once the mangoes,sugar and vinegar have come to the boil,add all the rest of the ingredients and continue boiling until the mangoes are soft and fully cooked.The consistency should be thick and jam like.
    Decant into cleaned dried and sterilised jars while still hot or boiling and seal the jars.
    Invert the jars for 1-2 minutes then cool upright.
    Use as desired.Shelf life 2 years. 

    Sunday, 11 September 2016

    Not coconut shy - goan fish curry yesterday,even better today

    Ask any self-respecting Goan what they would like as their last meal,and the answer will most likely be the nation´s favourite,– Xitt Codi,their famous fish curry. Whether Hindu, Catholic or Muslim, every Goan’s favourite meal is the humble Xitt Codi (pronounced as “sheath” and “co-dee”). Literally translated it means rice curry. And when we talk about curry in this context, we specifically mean fish curry, the ubiquitous bright orange curry lapped up across Goan homes and the rest of the world.This deliciously tangy curry is always cooked in larger quantities so that there’s always some left over because, as we all know, it tastes better the next day and the day after.In fact, the Goans love their fish curry so much that while having it for lunch, they are already dreaming of mopping it up with yesterday´s bread for breakfast the next morning. And they usually squabble over who gets dibs in on the “kaalchi codi” (yesterday’s curry).The Goan identity is rooted, among other things, in deep enjoyment of food and drink. A nostalgic Goan usually ends up reminiscing about the taste of their grandmothers' sorpotel (A spicy pork recipe which rightfully has its own fan base and most of the time is the centre of meal-time conversation in any Goan celebration).The pork vindaloo is also said to have been originated by the Portuguese, and Goa carries on the tradition. The Goan cuisine is an interesting mix of varied influences and is undoubtedly one of the most evolved cuisines of India. There are two separate traditions in Goan cuisine influenced by the respective religions of Hinduism and Christianity. Though the recipes and techniques are different, there are some points where they come together to produce culinary wonders.Xitt Codi is to be the focal point of the Goan wedding buffet we catered yesterday.Back in the spring when the wedding couple-to-be visited for a tasting menu of the buffet, the bride- to-be found the masala* a touch too grainy.The recipe I used stated grated coconut or fine coconut cream powder.In hindsight I think my dessicated coconut was not finely ground enough ( like granulated sugar vs.caster sugar), so for my next attempt I used  a coconut cream concentrate,this  produced the smoother more palatable and creamy result that was required.I am really looking forward to my “kaalchi codi” (yesterday’s curry)tonight.

    My version of Xitt Codi - Goan Fish Curry
    500g firm white fish ( monkfish, cod, hake, perch or tilapia) cut into chunks
    if you can get it pomfret is the best
    pinch of salt and turmeric

    50g tamarind pulp
    100ml water ( hot )
    Oil as required
    1 medium onion thinly sliced
    2.5cm piece root ginger, finely shredded
    2 green chillies, finely shredded 
    500-600ml water or stock
    2-3 Cokum or sour plums (if available )

    8-10 red chillies ( select larger varieties with depth of colour )
    1 level tbsp coriander seeds
    1 tsp cumin seeds
    6-8 thin slices of garlic
    3cm piece root ginger
    1/2 tsp turmeric
    250g coconut cream concentrate
    Clean the fish,wash and drain. Sprinkle with salt and a pinch of turmeric. Set aside.
    Grind the masala ingredients with water in the blender until fine and smooth.Add water a little at a time and ensure that it does not become too runny but looks like a thick paste.
    Soak the tamarind in the hot water for 1 hour, then pass through a strainer. Retain the pulp.
    Take a heavy-bottomed casserole pan and add just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
    Heat the pan and when the oil forms a haze add the onion,ginger and green chilli.
    Sauté for a while, but do not brown, and then add in the puréed masala. Sauté until the oil begins to escape from the sides again.Stir regularly to prevent sticking.The oil leaving signals the fact that the masala is cooked and absorbed. Blend the water or stock with the coconut concentrate and add to the masala allowing it to simmer.At this stage add the tamarind pulp and cokums if using.
    Boil gently for 5 minutes or so and check the seasoning.Check the consistency and ensure it is not too thin, more like a pouring sauce. If needs be cook for a little while until you achieve the right consistency.
    Now put the fish in and continue simmering without stirring for 2-4 minutes on a medium flame and bring gently to the boil.Turn off the heat,cover the pan and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes to allow the fish to cook well in the curry.
    if the fish is allowed to cook in the heat of the curry it tends to get a perfect texture and will not break up. 
    * What is a masala?
    a masala is a combination of spices,condiments and herbs, puréed,blended or mixed together to form a basis for any preparation. In short if you were to mix two or three ingredients such as ginger, garlic chillies and cumin it would become a masala.if there is no specific recipe or methodology to follow and the blend is entirely your own,you have created your own masala.In indian cooking therecare several different kinds of masalas for several different gravies, curries and other items.
    If you were to say the word `masaledar´it would mean full of masala.In this case a preaparation might have all fresh ingredients such as green chillies,coriander,ginger,garlic and maybe cumin and other whole spices such as cinnamon,cardamom and cloves.In India,surprise surprise, a chicken tikka masala does not exist as it is seenand know in the curry houses of the West.If  a native was asked to cook a chicken tikka masala,he would cook it with a masala exactly like I have just mentioned,dry and tasty,but with the inclusion of chopped tomatoes and some garam masala.
    This curry masala can also be used for the following curries -

    Chicken or pork (you will have to sauté or the meat separately then add it to the masala.


    Cauliflower and tomato combination with baby potatoes
    This  particular masala is not suitable for red meats

    Sunday, 4 September 2016

    Leslie Forbes,a force of nature

     Leslie Forbes
    18 June 1953 - 1 July 2016
    How often down the path of life life do you get the chance to meet someone quite extraordinary, quite unique and totally inspirational. So generous, so interesting, so funny, so talented, sometimes acerbic,and last but not least, a creative cook.
    When I recall my friend Leslie Forbes the idiom "Force of nature" immediately springs to mind.She had such a strong personality, she was a real character.She was like a hurricane or a tsunami.Full of energy, unstoppable, unchallengeable, unforgettable. In short, an individual to be reckoned with.
     After dropping out of England's Royal College of Art without the Masters in Film and Design she had dropped out of studying physics and politics in Vancouver to get, Leslie won the Vogue talent contest, securing her a place as a designer working in the Vogue art department, which is where I first met her. Aside from day to day layout of the magazine, Leslie was commissioned to produce illustrations for the shopping columns.She reached a point where she couldn´t stand the fashion industry  any more. I remember her returning from a lunchtime shopping spree in New Bond street to regale us with an encounter she had just had with the late Lady Rendlesham ,the feisty manageress of the St.Laurent boutique Chloé. As Leslie casually browsed the rails of designer frocks Rendlesham appoached her with the greatest put down ever "Madam I am afraid the sale finished last week."Not something that Forbes would have taken lightly.
    She moved on to become a designer for BBC-TV (once constructing a life-size working robot out of pasta for the Nationwide programme ) and in 1982 she produced beautiful storyboard illustrations for a documentary about the raising of Henry VIII's flagship The Mary Rose.
     Her unique style of illustration made her the author of four self-illustrated award-winning food/travel books including Table in Tuscany /Table in Provence.The first two books were in her own handwriting from which the publisher designed a typeface for the layout and printing of the books.

    She wrote a regular cookery column for the ''Sunday Correspondent.’' Not only that, from 1990 she had become a regular presenter/writer of BBC radio documentaries on everything from the Indian spice trails to phantom limbs and lost false teeth.
    After the Indian Spice Trail series on Radio 4 her radio career continued with ‘Table Talk’ on Radio 3 (the first ‘food’ series on Radio 3 - Sunday lunchtimes) in which she discussed many aspects of food with scientists, artists, writers, poets etc etc and went on to run for 5 or 6 series.For Radio 4’s Crimescapes’ she explored cities with their crime writers; in her series ‘Paper Gardens’ she examined how landscape had influenced artists. Why did Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey fill a church with a vertical lawn, Forbes asked, and war photographer Don McCullin take pictures of dahlias as well as battles? Such transgressions of boundaries were her speciality.
     In 1995, she wrote her first novel,the internationally acclaimed thriller Bombay Ice, which wove Chaos Theory into a murderous producer’s Bollywood version of Shakespeare´s The Tempest.Chaos theorist John Elgin helped her with this and her earlier brief studies of physics in Canada  played a contributing part too.She dedicated the book to among others her partner Andrew Thomas who ”as always navigated her through all kinds of weather.”
     Winning a Wellcome Trust Sci-Art award with physicist Pete Barham, led her to write her second most mysterious and intriguing book ‘Fish, Blood & Bone’ (long-listed for the Orange Prize).This was probably my favourite of Leslie´s books.Completely different to "Bombay Ice", but perhaps even more exotic. It was CID investigation meets gothic horror meets historical fiction meets adventure.She takes the reader from the East End of London on  a dangerous backpacking trip in India, to lost waterfalls in Tibet in search of a mythical green Himalayan poppy with alleged curative powers.She gives us murder, and fertilizer, and a decades old love story. The way the story is structured is rather unusual, but as you turn the pages, how she weaves travel, botany and photography into an unnerving tale mesmerises you. One of my favorite books of all time and I'm still not quite sure what happened…Does that make sense?
    This, along with her third novel Waking Raphael, engage the ways science and art converse.

    Waking Raphael, a mystery concerning a mute Italian, was the result of Forbes’s work with speech pathologists and Italian lawyers. In 2003 Booker Prize chairman John Carey called Waking Raphael "pretty well perfect”.  She was as involved with political and free-speech issues as she was with the relationship between art and science, and her writing was deeply inspired by her work as a volunteer "mentor" with refugee writers at the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture.
    Since 2003 she helped  torture survivors write about their sense of alienation. Ironic, perhaps, that in 2005 she developed a form of epilepsy that occasionally rendered her mute, and unable to write. This led to ‘ABS NCES’, a book with Oona Grimes, and underlies Forbes’s many stories for other artists about the  play between image and word.

     I am currently enjoying re-reading my way through all her works and even more so the rekindling of the memories from where many of the references she made came from and of times shared travelling with her in Tuscany especially when the flame was kindled in San Gimignano for her first venture into the written word,Table in Tuscany.
     There was another lighter side to Forbes that must not be forgotten, she was a comic if not an actress. I remember the day she was late for work and feigned an excuse that she had been knocked off  her bicycle by a taxi driver inadvertently opening the door of his cab.The facial make up and plasters made the story completely convincing.On another occasion she arrived at work ( on time) but in a tearful state having been evicted by her landlord and landlady who unbenounced to her were drug dealers.She had only in a fit of rage answering an incessant intercom then slammed the door in the face of members of the rock band ELO who were in search of drugs at 3 am in the morning.Having a spare room in my flat I offered her a roof over her head.This was to be the start of a strong bond of friendship.Her opening gambit of "I can only cook three things and they are 3 types of muck, red muck,brown muck and white muck"was extraordinary coming from the mouth of someone who went on to be such a brilliant cook and write so eloquently on the subject.I will never forget going into her room and and like Alan Bennett´s cream cracker under the settee finding a half eaten boiled egg and a mug of tea with skin on it under her bed.I found it rather reassuring, after all we are all only human aren´t we?
    It was on the evening of July 28th 1981 at a picnic in Hyde Park to celebrate the eve of Lady Diana´s wedding that she met the love of her life Andrew Thomas, another forcefully talented graphic designer and partner of the design group Trickett and Webb.They were so born to be soulmates from day one.

    Her final project in collaboration with Andrew was to be an illustrated novel in four parts (unfortunately parts 2-4 aren’t completed!) entitled  ‘Embroidered MInds.’ Working in collaboration with artists, academics and historians its all about the effect epilepsy may have had on the family of William Morris. For 17 years Morris lived in Queen Square next door to the National Hospital (where Leslie was treated for epilepsy) at a time when it was the birthplace of neurology and research into epilepsy in the 1860s. His daughter had epilepsy and yet there is no record of his having had contact with the doctors there - so Leslie decided to write a fictional account of what might have happened, which also investigates the stigma of epilepsy then and now and proposes that William Morris also suffered from it - but it was covered up.
    Our personally signed copy of Bombay Ice

     Leslie was a guiding force in our decision to make a major life change and move to Portugal."Look what has happened to me" she said, "you could be knocked down by a bus tomorrow,you never know what fate has around the corner for you.These wise words cemented any doubts or lack of confidence we might have had about leaving the UK.We were always there for each other and I will continue to be there for her,wherever she is.

    Sunday, 28 August 2016

    A Medieval bugbear

                                                          Do not attempt this at home

    As this years Dias Medievais draws to a close it has not been without its bugbears, and I dont just mean those fearsome imaginary creatures evoked to frighten naughty children. The streets of Castro Marim were alive with plenty of those hobgoblins, and even stalls selling all the accoutrements for evil parents to dress up as Vlad The Impaler and attempt the fantasy at home.No, what I am talking about is the other type of bugbear that is a source of annoyance and soon grows into a bone of contention, baby buggies.The last few days the streets have  been tailbacked with this tiresome form of infant transportation.Who in their right mind tries to navigate one of these around congested narrow streets.
    Some of the designer models in medieval blue or festival fuschia you could expect to pay top dollar for and yet their owners are grumbling about the entry fee to the festival and having parked their car on the pavement to avoid paying the paltry parking fee of €1.50. Then, as we witnessed, making a dash through the gate with their pushchair when the stewards back is turned.It maybe a sweet ride for baby but for the pedestrian it becomes a hazard.Some of them are being pushed empty perhaps with a couple of bottles of water inside but no sight of the wretched ankle biter it is supposed to be carrying.Some of these stylish strollers even Cynthia Nixon would roll around the streets of Manhattan in Sex in the City.I thought I had left all this behind In Stoke Newington ten years ago, but it has returned to haunt me and cause my exposed ankles to be covered in bruises. Having got that off my chest, we have this year seen hirsute topless Scottish lads double somersaulting and cartwheeling their way down the streets in their kilts.When Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, far too much excitement,woops what´s that bush I saw yonder or was it a sporren. It all happened in just a flash.After three days these youths had found themselves some medieval totty and calmed down considerably.Thank god for the lull in testosterone. 
    A new bar,Taberna Medieval had this year come into its own.As you walked into this watering hole you expected to be greeted by Falstaff. images of the Merry Wives of Windsor came to mind. Wenches rushing around sweeping plates of half finished morcela, pork scratchings and other discarded detritus into oversized baskets.But it was the music that provided the background to all this that produced a successful modern take on medieval.First we had the wonderful warbling notes of Jethro Tull´s flautist Ian Anderson "Serenading the cuckoo" from their debut album This Was.
    I was transported back to 1968.This was time travelling at its best, sitting on the raised terrace of a medieval tavern in 2016 listening to some of my favourite music from the sixties. But what came next was a triumph of re-invention.
    The Belarussian band Stary Olsa, whose video of their medieval version of Metallica’s song One was a viral hit came loud and clear over the system with their medieval rendering of the song Californication, originally by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
    From then on it just got better and better.Pink Floyds "Another brick in the wall" and Deep Purple´s "Child in time".We didn´t need no education,oh no. What a great evening it turned out to be and buggy bear free.Such fun.Until next year, I leave you with this....


    O banquete final dia 28