Friday, 20 October 2017


“I like chicken a lot because chicken is generous - that is to say, it’s obedient. It will do whatever you tell it to do.” - Maya Angelou

We once had this dish in a restaurant and we enjoyed it very much. A friend gave us the recipe, which we then made at home and it was quite a good approximation of the restaurant dish. 

Chicken Saltimbocca
2 skinless chicken breast fillets
Salt and pepper
2 thin slices prosciutto
2-4 fresh sage leaves
1½ teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup dry Marsala 

Put chicken breasts between pieces of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin or the smooth side of a meat mallet, bash them to a thickness of just under one centimeter (don’t hit so hard that they break up). Season with salt and pepper.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each chicken escalope and put a sage leaf or two on top. Lightly dust the chicken on both sides with flour. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Cook the chicken until no longer pink in the middle, about 3 minutes per side. To check if it's done, stick the tip of a sharp knife into it: the juice that runs out should be clear with no trace of pink. Transfer the chicken to a warm platter and cover with foil.
Add Marsala to the pan and cook over high heat until thickened and reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve the sauce over the chicken.
Accompany with a fresh seasonal salad and some dry white wine.

Thursday, 19 October 2017


“A Béarnaise sauce is simply an egg yolk, a shallot, a little tarragon vinegar, and butter, but it takes years of practice for the result to be perfect.” - Fernand Point 

Mexican tarragon (Tagetes lucida Cav.) is a perennial plant native to Mexico and Central America. It is used as a medicinal plant and as a culinary herb. The leaves have a tarragon-like flavour, with hints of anise, and it has entered the nursery trade in North America as a tarragon substitute. Other common names include sweet-scented marigold, Mexican marigold, Mexican mint marigold, Spanish tarragon, sweet mace, Texas tarragon, pericón, yerbaniz, and hierbanís. 

Tagetes lucida grows 45–75 cm tall. Depending on situation and plant type, the herb may be fairly upright, while other forms appear bushy with many unbranching stems. The leaves are linear to oblong, about 7.5 cm long, and shiny medium green, not blue-green as in French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa). In late summer it bears clusters of small golden yellow flower heads on the ends of the stems. The flower heads are about 1.5 cm across and have 3-5 golden-yellow ray florets. The flowers are hermaphroditic (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects.

Fresh or dried leaves of this herb are used as a tarragon substitute for flavouring soups, sauces, salads etc. A pleasant anise-flavoured tea is brewed using the dried leaves and flower heads. This is primarily used medicinally in Mexico and Central America. The tea is digestive, diuretic, febrifugal, hypotensive, narcotic, sedative and stimulatory. 

Use of the plant depresses the central nervous system, whilst it is also reputedly anaesthetic and hallucinogenic. It is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, nausea, indigestion, colic, hiccups, malaria and feverish illnesses. Externally, it is used to treat scorpion bites and to remove ticks. The leaves can be harvested and used as required, whilst the whole plant is harvested when in flower and dried for later use.

A yellow dye can be obtained from the flowers. The dried plant is burnt as an incense and to repel insects. Tagetes lucida was used by the Aztecs in a ritual incense known as Yauhtli. The Aztecs allegedly used Tagetes lucida as one of the ingredients in a medicinal powder which was blown into the faces of those about to become the victims of human sacrifice and which may have possessed stupefying or anxiolytic properties. The plant was linked to the rain god Tlaloc.

The plant is also used by the Huichol, mixed with Nicotiana rustica (a potent wild tobacco), for its claimed psychotropic and entheogenic effects. In one study, methanolic extract from the flower inhibited growth of Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and Candida albicans cultures. This effect was enhanced with exposure to ultraviolet light. The roots, stems, and leaves also had the same effect when irradiated with UV light.

In the language of flowers, non-flowering sprigs of the plant carry the meaning: “You soothe my spirit”. Flowering sprigs indicate: “Your refusal will be the cause of my death.

Béarnaise Sauce

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs Mexican tarragon, leaves finely minced, stems reserved separately
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 egg yolks
1 cup molten butter
Salt to taste 

Combine vinegar, wine, herb stems, shallots, and black peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until reduced to about one and a half tablespoons of liquid, about 15 minutes. Carefully strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.

Combine vinegar reduction, egg yolk, and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a jug that just fits the head of an immersion blender. Melt butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling constantly, until foaming subsides. Transfer butter to a one cup liquid measure. Place the head of immersion blender into the bottom of the jug holding the vinegar/yolk mixture and turn it on. With the blender constantly running, slowly pour hot butter into the jug. It should emulsify with the egg yolk and vinegar reduction. Continue pouring until all butter is added. Sauce should be thick and creamy.

If the mixture is thin and runny, transfer to a large bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. Whisk constantly and vigorously until sauce is thickened. Season to taste with salt. Whisk in chopped Mexican tarragon leaves. Serve immediately, or transfer to a small lidded pot and keep in a warm place for up to 1 hour before serving. Béarnaise cannot be cooled and reheated.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


“We are all like the bright moon, but we still have our dark side.” ― Kahlil Gibran 

In the Poets United site this week the Midweek Motif theme is Dark Moon, New Moon. My contribution is below:
Mistress Moon

Dark Mistress Moon,
You hide your face tonight,
(In shame?)
For mischief’s afoot
And all sorts of foul deeds need to be done… 

O, Moon, my Moon,
You of the radiant countenance
(So pure!)
You’re kind and gentle
When you shine and leaves with silver shower. 

Harsh, Moon, when you veil
Your beauty in dark crêpe,
(In mourning?)
You hide your sadness
And you let your anger, cruelty and vileness beget. 

O, Moon, my Moon,
Your gibbous fecund glow,
(In pregnancy…)
Generates blessings
When you touch with light caress all womankind. 

Dark Mistress Moon,
With sharpened sickle,
(So deadly!)
Tonight you’ll cut
The thread of life of those who dared offend you. 

O, Moon, my Moon,
Tomorrow night reborn,
(In innocence…)
You’ll smile and heal,
And give back hope and dignity to those wronged.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


“Behind each woman rises the austere, sacred and mysterious face of Aphrodite.” - Nikos Kazantzakis 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Paphos (Greek: Πάφος [Pafos]; Turkish: Baf) is a coastal city in the southwest of Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District. In antiquity, two locations were called Paphos: Old Paphos, today at Kouklia, and New Paphos. The current city of Paphos lies on the Mediterranean coast, about 50 km west of Limassol (the biggest port on the island), which has an A6 highway connection. Paphos International Airport is the country’s second-largest airport. The city has a subtropical-Mediterranean climate, with the mildest temperatures on the island. 

Paphos Castle (seen above) is located on the edge of Paphos harbour. It was originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour. It was then rebuilt by the Lusignans in the thirteenth century after being destroyed in the earthquake of 1222. In 1570 it was dismantled by the Venetians. After capturing the island, the Ottomans restored and strengthened it.

Throughout the ages it has seen many uses. It has served as a fortress, a prison and even a warehouse for salt during the British occupation of the island. More recently the castle serves as a backdrop to the annual open air Paphos cultural festival, which takes place in September. It was declared a listed building in 1935 and represents one of the most distinctive landmarks of the city of Paphos. Several archaeological excavations have taken place to investigate its past.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Sunday, 15 October 2017


"Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics." - Victor Pinchuk


“People need dreams, there’s as much nourishment in ‘em as food.” - Dorothy Gilman 

Renenūtet (also transliterated Ernūtet and Renenet) was a goddess of nourishment and the harvest in ancient Egyptian religion. The importance of the harvest caused people to make many offerings to Renenutet during harvest time. Initially, her cult was centered in Terenuthis. Renenutet was envisioned, particularly in art, as a cobra, or as a woman with the head of a cobra.

The verbs ‘to fondle, to nurse, or rear’ help explain the name Renenutet. This goddess was a ‘nurse’ who took care of the pharaoh from birth to death. She was the female counterpart of Shai, ‘destiny’, who represented the positive destiny of the child. Along with this, Renenutet was also the Thermouthis, or Hermouthis in Greek. She embodied the fertility of the fields and was the protector of the royal office and power.

Sometimes, as the goddess of nourishment, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Sobek. He was represented as the Nile River, the annual flooding of which deposited the fertile silt that enabled abundant harvests. The temple of Medinet Madi is dedicated to both Sobek and Renenutet. It is a small and decorated building in the Faiyum.

More usually, Renenutet was seen as the mother of Nehebkau, who occasionally was represented as a snake also. When considered the mother of Nehebkau, Renenutet was seen as having a husband, Geb, who represented the Earth. She was the mother of the god Nepri.

Later, as a snake-goddess worshiped over the whole of Lower Egypt, Renenutet was increasingly associated with Wadjet, Lower Egypt’s powerful protector and another snake goddess represented as a cobra. Eventually Renenutet was identified as an alternate form of Wadjet, whose gaze was said to slaughter enemies. Wadjet was the cobra shown on the crown of the pharaohs.

Saturday, 14 October 2017


“What really counts isn’t whether your instrument is Baroque or modern: It’s your mindset.” Simon Rattle 

Giuseppe Antonio Brescianello (also Bressonelli; ca. 1690, Bologna – 4 October 1758, Stuttgart) was an Italian Baroque composer and violinist. His name is mentioned for the first time in a document from 1715 in which the Maximilian II Emanuel appointed him violinist in his court orchestra in Munich. Soon after, in 1716, after the death of Johann Christoph Pez, he got the job of music director and as a maître des concerts de la chambre at the Württemberg court in Stuttgart.

In 1717, he was appointed Hofkapellmeister. Around 1718, he composed the pastorale opera “La Tisbe”, which he dedicated to the Archduke Eberhard Ludwig. Brescianello did this in vain hope that his opera would be listed at the Stuttgart theatre. In the years from 1719 to 1721, a fierce conflict emerged, in which Reinhard Keiser repeatedly attempted to get Brescianello’s post.

In 1731, Brescianello became Oberkapellmeister. In 1737, the court had financial problems which led to the dissolution of the opera staff and Brescianello lost his position. For this reason, he dedicated himself increasingly to composition and this resulted in his 12 concerti e sinfonie op. 1 and some time later the 18 Pieces for gallichone (gallichone here means mandora, a type of lute).

In 1744, the financial problems at the court diminished and he was reappointed as Oberkapellmeister by Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg, mostly “because of his special knowledge of music and excellent skills”. He led the court and opera music until he was pensioned off in the period between 1751 and 1755. His successors were Ignaz Holzbauer and then Niccolò Jommelli. 

Here is some of his lute music played by Massimo Lonardi.
Partita in D Minor
Partita for Guitar No I
Partita V in C-major: Aria Allegro Minuetto e trio Giga
Partita XVI
Partita per Colascione: Entree - Menuet - Siciliana - Gigue

Friday, 13 October 2017


“Teatime is a chance to slow down, pull back and appreciate our surroundings.” - Letitia Baldrige 

We love our tea in the afternoon and there is always something in the pantry to accompany the beverage. These coconut biscuits are old-fashioned favourites and the recipe was given to us by an elderly expat British woman we used to know. 

Coconut Biscuits

125g butter
125g sugar
Vanilla essence
3 cups desiccated coconut
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk
Raspberry jam 

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, add the egg and beat well. Add the coconut, flour and baking powder. Pour in the milk little by little while mixing well.
Place teaspoon dollops on a cold greased tray. Flatten a little by gently pressing with your hand or use a flour dusted fork. Bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden. As soon as the biscuits are out of the oven press the centre of each with a small spoon to form a depression, in which you can place a dollop of jam. Alternatively you may use glacé cherry halves instead of jam.
Cool on a wire rack and then store in an airtight container.

Thursday, 12 October 2017


“It is the destiny of mint to be crushed.” - Waverley Lewis Root 

Spearmint, or spear mint (Mentha spicata, synonym Mentha viridis in the Lamiaceae family), also known as garden mint, common mint, lamb mint and mackerel mint, is a species of mint native to much of Europe and Asia (Middle East, Himalayas, China etc.), and naturalised in parts of northern and western Africa, North America, and South America, as well as various oceanic islands. The name ‘spearmint’ derives from the pointed leaf tips resembling the point of a spear.

It is a herbaceous, rhizomatous, perennial plant growing 30–100 cm tall, with variably hairless to hairy stems and foliage, and a wide-spreading fleshy underground rhizome. The leaves are 5–9 cm long and 1.5–3 cm broad, with a serrated margin. The stem is square-shaped, a trademark of the mint family of herbs. Spearmint produces flowers in slender spikes, each flower pink or white, 2.5–3 mm long, and broad. Hybrids involving spearmint include Mentha × piperita (peppermint; hybrid with Mentha aquatica), Mentha × gracilis (ginger mint, syn. M. cardiaca; hybrid with Mentha arvensis), and Mentha × villosa (large apple mint, hybrid with Mentha suaveolens).

Spearmint grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive, spreading rhizomes. The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with abundant organic material.

Spearmint leaves can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. They can also be preserved in salt, sugar, sugar syrup, alcohol, or oil. The leaves lose their aromatic appeal after the plant flowers. It can be dried by cutting just before, or right (at peak) as the flowers open, about one-half to three-quarters the way down the stalk (leaving smaller shoots room to grow). Some dispute exists as to what drying method works best; some prefer different materials (such as plastic or cloth) and different lighting conditions (such as darkness or sunlight).

Spearmint is used for its aromatic oil, referred to as oil of spearmint. The most abundant compound in spearmint oil is R-(–)-carvone, which gives spearmint its distinctive smell. Spearmint oil also contains significant amounts of limonene, dihydrocarvone, and 1,8-cineol. Unlike oil of peppermint, oil of spearmint contains minimal amounts of menthol and menthone. It is used as a flavouring for toothpaste and confectionery, and is sometimes added to shampoos and soaps. Used as a fumigant, spearmint essential oil is an effective insecticide against adult moths. In preliminary research, spearmint essential oil showed potential for antifungal activity against food poisoning pathogens and had no evidence of mutagenicity in the Ames test.

The cultivar Mentha spicata ‘Nana’, the nana mint of Morocco, possesses a clear, pungent, but mild aroma, and is an essential ingredient of Moroccan tea. Spearmint is an ingredient in several mixed drinks, such as the mojito and mint julep. Sweet tea, iced and flavoured with spearmint, is a summer tradition in the Southern United States. Spearmint is also used extensively in cooking, especially so in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. Mint sauce is a traditional accompaniment to roast lamb in Britain and its former colonial countries. 

Royal Mint Sauce 
2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried mustard powder
2 cups mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp boiling water
1-2 tbsp mayonnaise
Pepper to taste 

Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar and reserve. Work the mustard powder and a little oil to form a paste. Add a little vinegar and keep stirring, alternating with a little oil until all is used up.
Add the boiling water to the chopped mint leaves and stir well to wilt. Add the leaves to the sauce mixture stirring well and incorporate the mayonnaise, which will stabilise the sauce. Season with pepper and extra salt if desired.

In the language of flowers, a non-flowering sprig of spearmint means: “You have pierced my heart”. A flowering sprig means: “You are virtuous”.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


“How can I be reasonable? To me our love was everything and you were my whole life. It is not very pleasant to realize that to you it was only an episode.”
W. Somerset Maugham 

After a break from Poets United due to life and work getting in the way of poetic musings, I return with this my offering for the Midweek Motif theme of “Autumn”. 

Autumn Adieu 

An autumn afternoon,
Mellow, golden, crisp;
You and I, smiling, whispering
Our arms lightly touching.

Our glasses full of wine,
Mellow, golden, crisp;
You and I, sipping, savouring,
Our feet entangled below the table.

The garden room deserted,
Quiet, serene, intimate;
We two, the last lunch customers
Make the most of this perfect afternoon.

Our eyes meet and our looks
Quiet, serene, intimate;
The silence between us comfortable
As violet evening approaches.

An Autumn evening,
Cold, dark, drizzly;
The silence broken finally, by your words:
Friendly, logical, final, delivered with a smile.

Alone, now as night falls,
Cold, dark, drizzly;
The silence now, ominous, frightening –
And a long, frigid Winter surely follows a golden Autumn…

Tuesday, 10 October 2017


“I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple, pray in your church. For you and I are sons of one religion, and it is the spirit.” - Khalil Gibran 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Sofia (Bulgarian: София, tr. Sofiya) is the capital and largest city of Bulgaria. 1.26 million people live in the city and 1.68 million people live in its metropolitan area. The city is at the foot of Vitosha Mountain in the western part of the country. Being in the centre of the Balkan peninsula, it is midway between the Black Sea and the Adriatic Sea, and closest to the Aegean Sea. Sofia has been an area of human habitation since at least 7000 BC.

Being Bulgaria’s primate city, Sofia is a hometown of many of the major local universities, cultural institutions and commercial companies. Sofia is one of the top 10 best places for start-up business in the world, especially in information technologies. Sofia is Europe’s most affordable capital to visit as of 2013.

The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Built in Neo-Byzantine style, it serves as the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Bulgaria and is one of the largest Eastern Orthodox cathedrals in the world, as well as one of Sofia’s symbols and primary tourist attractions. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia occupies an area of 3,170 square metres and can hold 10,000 people inside. It is the second biggest cathedral located on the Balkan Peninsula after the Cathedral of Saint Sava in Belgrade.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a cross-domed basilica featuring an emphasized central dome. The cathedral's gold-plated dome is 45 m high, with the bell tower reaching 53 metres. The temple has 12 bells with total weight of 23 tons, the heaviest weighing 12 tons and the lightest 10 kilograms. The interior is decorated with Italian marble in various colours, Brazilian onyx, alabaster, and other luxurious materials. The central dome has the Lord’s Prayer inscribed around it, with thin gold letters.

The construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral started in 1882 (having been planned since 19 February, 1879), when the foundation stone was laid, but most of it was built between 1904 and 1912. Saint Alexander Nevsky was a Russian prince. The cathedral was created in honour to the Russian soldiers who died during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, as a result of which Bulgaria was liberated from Ottoman rule.

The cathedral was designed by Alexander Pomerantsev, aided by Alexander Smirnov and Alexander Yakovlev, as the initial 1884-1885 project of Ivan Bogomolov was radically changed by Pomerantsev. The final design was finished in 1898, and the construction and decoration were done by a team of Bulgarian, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and other European artists, architects and workers.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
 and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday, 9 October 2017


“Let others praise ancient times; I am glad I was born in these.” - Ovid

In Egyptian mythology, Herishef or Heryshaf, (Egyptian Ḥry-š=f “He who is on his lake”), transcribed in Greek as Arsaphes or Harsaphes (Ἁρσαφής) was an ancient ram-god whose cult was centred in Heracleopolis Magna (now Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah).

He was identified with Ra and Osiris in Egyptian mythology, as well as Dionysus or Heracles in Greek mythology. The identification with Heracles may be related to the fact that in later times his name was sometimes re-analysed as Ḥry-šf.t “He who is over strength”. One of his titles was “Ruler of the Riverbanks”. Heryshaf was a creator and fertility god who was born from the primordial waters. He was pictured as a man with the head of a ram, or as a ram. Among his epithets are also “Mighty Phallus,” “Majesty of the Gods,” and “Lord of the Blood”.

The Palermo Stone records that his cult dated back to the first dynasty of Ancient Egypt (the Early period) but the earliest known temple dedicated to him at Hwt-nen-nesu is dated to the Middle Kingdom. However, we know that he was fairly powerful during the First intermediate Period when Hwt-nen-nesu briefly became the capital of Lower Egypt. The Temple of Herishef was expanded during the New Kingdom by Ramesses II who added a number of huge granite columns with palm leaf capitals and remained active until well into the Ptolemaic Period.

Herishef is a god who was exceptionally popular in antiquity, with numerous feast days dotting ancient calendars, and was even elevated to the status of Supreme High God of the unified Egyptian State during the 9th and 10th Dynasties under the Herakleopolitan Kings. Despite his prominence in historical Egyptian religion, Herishef fell into almost total obscurity.

Sunday, 8 October 2017


“The good die young but not always. The wicked prevail but not consistently. I am confused by life, and I feel safe within the confines of the theatre.” - Helen Hayes 

Aurel Băeșu (1896-1928) was a Romanian Impressionist landscape and portrait painter. Many of his works show the influence of Nicolae Grigorescu; an influence that was common among painters of his generation.

Băeşu’s father was a government clerk employed by the prefecture of Suceava. Aurel lost his mother at an early age and was raised by his grandmother. From 1907 to 1912, he attended the “Alexandru Donici Gymnasium” in his hometown, where he displayed an aptitude for drawing. After graduating, he entered the Școala de Belle Arte in Iași, where he studied with Constantin Artachino and Gheorghe Popovici. In 1915, he received an award from the Academia Română for his portrait of the French artist Lecomte de Nöuy, who was then living in Romania.

During World War I, he was mobilised but, at the last moment, was sent to the rear, where he joined several other artists who were documenting the war. Although he escaped being wounded, the harsh conditions there led to a case of pneumonia that left him in poor health. In an effort to improve his artistic perspectives, and with the support of members of the Academia, he went to Italy to attend a free painting course being taught at the Institute of Fine Arts in Rome. He was there from 1920 to 1922.

Four years later, he travelled throughout Slovenia, Hungary and France. For many years, he was enamoured of Lia Sadoveanu, the daughter of novelist Mihail Sadoveanu, but could never propose marriage because of his precarious financial situation. In 1928, he died of tuberculosis, aged only thirty-two. A major retrospective of his work was held in 2006 at the art museum in Bacău. In 2012, his tomb was looted and destroyed. Among the items taken was a plaque by Băeşu's friend, the sculptor Mihai Onofrei.

The painting above is his “Primavara” (Spring).

Saturday, 7 October 2017


“I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things.”― Tom Waits 

Antoine Forqueray (September 1671 – 28 June 1745) was a French composer and virtuoso of the viola da gamba. Forqueray, born in Paris, was the first in a line of composers which included his brother Michel (1681–1757) and his sons Jean-Baptiste (1699–1782) and Nicolas Gilles (1703–1761).

Forqueray’s exceptional talents as a player led to his performing before Louis XIV at the age of ten. The king was so pleased with him that he arranged for Forqueray to have music lessons at his own expense and then, seven years later, in 1689, named him Musicien Ordinaire de La Chambre du Roy a position Forqueray held until the end of his life. To supplement his official income he gave lucrative private lessons to members of the royal family and the aristocracy.

In Louis XIV's later years the normal routine of concerts at the court of Versailles was augmented by Mme de Maintenon. She arranged almost daily performances in her apartments by such musicians as Robert de Visée (guitar), René Descoteaux (flute), Jean-Baptise Buterne (harpsichord) as well as Forqueray.

At the time of Forqueray’s appointment the most renowned viol player at court was Marin Marais, who was famous for his sweet and gentle musical style. Forqueray in contrast became renowned for his dramatic, striking and brash style. According to Hubert Le Blanc Marais played like an angel, and Forqueray like the devil. The Mercure de France of 1738 chided both Antoine and his son Jean-Baptiste-Antoine for writing pieces ‘so difficult that only he and his son can execute them with grace.’ Forqueray’s style was so distinctive that three of his near-contemporaries Jean-Philippe Rameau, François Couperin and Jacques Duphly each composed a piece named ‘La Forqueray’ as a tribute to him.

In 1697 Forqueray married Henriette-Angélique Houssou, daughter of a church organist. Forqueray was often accompanied by his wife on the harpsichord when he played. Their marriage was apparently most unhappy, and after several shorter periods apart, they separated finally in 1710. His relationship with his son Jean Baptiste was just as difficult. He had Jean Baptiste imprisoned in 1719 and exiled by lettre de cachet in 1725.

In 1730, he retired to Mantes-la-Jolie outside Paris, where he continued to draw his salary, and died in 1745. His son Jean Baptiste published his works for the viola de gamba in 1747 (two years after his father’s death) together with a version for harpsichord. Although Forqueray’s obituary notice indicated that at the time of his death around three hundred pieces written by him still existed, the thirty-two pieces contained in his son’s edition are all that survive today.

Here are some of Forqueray’s “Pieces de Viole avec la Basse Continuë” performed by Paolo Pandolfo (Viola da Gamba), Eduardo Eguez, Rolf Lislevand, Guido Morini (continuo).

Thursday, 5 October 2017


“Even just a few spices or ethnic condiments that you can keep in your pantry can turn your mundane dishes into a culinary masterpiece.”- Marcus Samuelsson 

Sumac (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic: summāqāʾ [=red, red shift, turning red], Arabic: سمّاق‎‎ summāq; also spelled sumach, sumaq) is any one of about 35 species of flowering plants in the genus Rhus and related genera, in the family Anacardiaceae. The dried and powdered fruits are used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine. Sumacs grow in subtropical and temperate regions throughout the world, especially in East Asia, Africa and North America.

Sumacs are shrubs and small trees that can reach a height of 1–10 m. The leaves are spirally arranged; they are usually pinnately compound, though some species have trifoliate or simple leaves. The flowers are in dense panicles or spikes 5–30 cm long, each flower very small, greenish, creamy white or red, with five petals. The fruits form dense clusters of reddish drupes called sumac bobs. The dried drupes of some species are ground to produce a tangy crimson spice. Sumacs propagate both by seed (spread by birds and other animals through their droppings), and by new shoots from rhizomes, forming large clonal colonies.

The fruits (drupes) of the genus Rhus (for example, R. coriaria) are ground into a reddish-purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a tart, lemony taste to salads or meat. In Arab cuisine, it is used as a garnish on meze dishes such as hummus and tashi, and is added to salads in the Levant. In Iranian, Afghan and Kurdish cuisines, sumac is added to rice or kebab. In Jordanian and Turkish cuisines, it is added to salad-servings of kebab and lahmajoun. Rhus coriaria is used in the spice mixture za’atar. 


1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons dried marjoram
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt 

Grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle it on bread, dips, dressings, meat, vegetables, rice, potatoes, pasta, soups, and more.

In North America, the smooth sumac (R. glabra) and the staghorn sumac (R. typhina) are sometimes used to make a beverage termed “sumac-ade”, “Indian lemonade”, or “rhus juice”. This drink is made by soaking the drupes in cool water, rubbing them to extract the essence, straining the liquid through a cotton cloth, and sweetening it. Native Americans also use the leaves and drupes of the smooth and staghorn sumacs combined with tobacco in traditional smoking mixtures.

Sumac was used as a treatment for half a dozen different ailments in medieval medicine, primarily in Middle-Eastern countries (where sumac was more readily available than in Europe). An 11th-century shipwreck off the coast of Rhodes, excavated by archaeologists in the 1970s, contained commercial quantities of sumac drupes. These could have been intended for use as medicine, as a culinary spice, or as a dye. Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) is a powerful antioxidant, with ORAC rating over 1500 μmol TE/g.

Some species formerly recognised in Rhus, such as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans, syn. Rhus toxicodendron), poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum, syn. Rhus diversiloba) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix, syn. Rhus vernix), have the allergen urushiol and can cause severe allergic reactions. Poison sumac may be identified by its white drupes, which are quite different from the red drupes of true Rhus species. Cases of allergy involving pure Rhus coriaria have not been documented in medical literature.

In the language of flowers, sprigs of Rhus carry the meaning: “Touch me not”. Flowerheads or seed clusters incorporated in bouquets imply: “If you get to know me, you shall love me.”

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.