Adrift In The Doldrums

Are you in the doldrums? I am, metaphorically speaking because although also a shorthand term for inaction and stagnation, the doldrums are an actual place. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone or ITCZ (apparently also known as “the itch”) is a belt round the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator. Continue reading

A Coronavirus Christmas #2

My great-auntie Gertie, she of the rabbit-skinning speed record (Portly passim), used to keep a drawer full of gifts in her dressing table. Not ones she had bought in advance, the sort of thing you stash away on the off-chance you’ll match it to a suitable recipient, but ones she’d been given. It was not uncommon to get back the Christmas present you’d sent her a year or two earlier, neatly re-wrapped. Continue reading

A Coronavirus Christmas #1

Regardless of any lockdown, the coronavirus pandemic means few of us will be enjoying an extended family Christmas this year, and opportunities to meet up with far-flung friends and relatives ahead of the holiday are getting harder to organise safely. I suspect a lot of presents will be ordered online and delivered via mail or courier and it’s entirely possible that our Christmas dinner ingredients will be arriving the same way. 

What follows is pretty much what I’d love to be given as gifts if I hadn’t already cracked and bought them for myself because of my out-of-control web-based buying habit. (Many of us have explored new hobbies during lockdown and it seems this is mine.) Continue reading

Mrs Portly’s Time Machine

I‘m lucky enough to live in an old and rather beautiful home. It’s Tudor, with the oldest part dating back to around 1500, although like most houses of its sort it’s been altered and added to over the centuries. We have witch marks on the beams, elaborate Elizabethan chimneys and parchment-written deeds which, sadly though responsibly, the previous owner donated to the county records office for their preservation. 

Living here has increased my interest in historical recipes and I thought it would be good to recreate some in a way that reflects the house and the periods it has lived through. Continue reading

Easing Lock-down

I understand the economic imperative, as one sarky journalist put it, of getting businesses with rateable values back up and running. I understand the joy of some of my friends in the restaurant industry, who’ve been struggling to make ends meet behind locked doors, at being able to earn a few quid at long last. I also understand the ones who’ve said: “Re-open? In these circumstances? Not likely!” Continue reading

Lock-down

My get-up-and-go has got up and gone. The irritating thing is that I can’t go with it. Lock-down affects us all in different ways. I don’t actually mind staying at home but I do miss the creative kick in the pants that cooking for friends gives me. It’s all too easy to default to beans on toast when there’s only two of you. Continue reading

Cultural Collisions in the Kitchen

I try to avoid treading on anyone’s toes when it comes to fiercely guarded cultural and culinary traditions, but when you’re trying not to waste food during lock-down, some strange combinations can result. If I was a famous chef there’d be people with pitchforks and firebrands at my door, or writing angry letters to newspapers, at least. Continue reading

Freezer Diving

What’s in your freezer? Probably less than there was a few weeks ago, thanks to coronavirus and shortages of some foods. You perhaps only have a tiny icebox at the top of your fridge but if you live miles from the shops like I do, the chances are that you have a fairly big freezer and you are unearthing a few surprises, especially if the label’s fallen off. Continue reading

Cabin Fever and Cooking With Kids

As I lay in bed yesterday, serenely drinking my fourth cup of tea, I pondered what recipes I could share with parents struggling to cope with having the kids home 24 hours a day. The answer? I can’t. I have no clue what special hell you’re going through. Continue reading

Don’t Tell Me To Keep Calm And Carry On, I’m Liable To Thump You

Frankly, if someone gave me a “Keep Calm” mug right now I’d probably feed it them. Forcibly. And I might not be fussy about which orifice I chose. I’m so cross about the hoarding, panic buying and general stupidity, I’m done with being polite about it. Continue reading