(You can always contact John Murray personally at john@writinginkythnos.com)

Is it possible to dazzle your friends, and even mollify your numerous and perfectly justified enemies, and seduce your wife’s husband’s wife’s husband’s wife, with food that takes but a few scant minutes, and which any fool could do?

Yes, yes it bloody well is. Although usually it is quite impossible to cook something very good in a trice, and with minimal preparation, here are two delicious dishes that really are a piece of katoura to quote the Greek (hint, the last four letters convey the English scientific term in contracted form).


I made the name up, but my wife Annie used to make a special request for this dish about once a month. I have never met anyone who doesn’t lick their lips after finishing it…aside from my fastidious  animals, who will not tolerate any vegetables at any price, not even exquisite mushroom-stuffed aubergines with a savoury wine and tomato sauce, as favoured by the artist Monet.  Incidentally  I thought this animal qua carnivore status was a universal rule, until around 1986 I met a young proprietor-chef in South Cumbria, a posh tousle-haired genius of 25, who gave his massive 2 year-old hound only spare cooked veg to eat. The problem was when the dog wolfed down scraps of meat or fish, there was this hellish problem of, decorous puckering of 25 year-old’s very handsome face in the presence of my politely smiling wife, the wind you know, the wind


Melt some butter in a small pan. Add a very generous sprinkling of soya sauce and stir in. Add a tblsp of tomato puree and ditto. Then add about a tsp of sugar and stir. Juggle with adding more of any of the items, if it is too dry or too wet. And no, don’t ask that stupid and redundant question, just use your common sense. It should be a nice smooth sauce.

Now lengthways divide a nice ripe avocado (not rock-hard nor ripe to blackness and hence horrible). Remove the stone and discard, or plant and make a tree out of it, if you are pitifully deluded and live in the monsooning UK or Eire. Simply fill the hole in each avocado half with the sauce, and you have a gourmet starter for two. If you fancy her/him afterwards, and you get anywhere worth going, tell them you learnt about it through this bloody old blog whose previous post was about the rancidity of the UK news media, the Greek Fascists, and other allied subjects.


Next a dish I will never make in Kythnos, and I doubt even in Athens you can buy the fennel vegetable (not the herb). Fennel is a lovely thing and there is a  great pasta sauce you can make with it involving fried pistachios and luscious cream (and yup, that is one son of a gun of an aphrobloodydishyache rocket-launch I can assure you, squire, madam). They can also be boiled and stuffed with cheese and olives plus the softened fennel flesh, then browned under a grill. Easier than those though, and again a gourmet and easy-as-pie procedure is the following. I found it buried in a cookbook so good it wasn’t even there as a recipe, just hiding in the bulk of the text, as, for this master/mistress chef lady, her stray afterthoughts were as interesting as her main preoccupations. She also included enjoyable literary quotes with many of her recipes, and you can’t do better than that. Refer TROUT A LA JEAN GIONO, and the writer I’m talking of is of course, Elizabeth David.

Take one large fennel bulb or two small ones meaning enough for 4 people. Cut and discard the bizarre celery style excrescences at the top, or give them to your kitten to play with, if you want to see it truly baffled for once in its exhaustingly inquisitive life (an interesting aside here. I have a Russian friend, a writer with perfect English, but once in an email she got her gears wrong and instead of writing ‘baffled’ wrote ‘buffled’. Isn’t that such a better and absolutely buffling word altogether. And wouldn’t ‘the buffle’ be a perfect name for a new dance, even better than the rumba or the shake?)

Then lay the fennel on its side and remove with a large v-shaped incision the central hard and inedible portion. Do not give this to the poor and indigent or they will be painedly incredulous and fling it in your face. You now have all the edible fennel, and you chop it into rough bite-sized portions(rough and aphrodisiacs, geddit?). You then shake them with flour to coat them all over(easiest in a plastic bag, which must be dark  olive green and strictly no other colour permissible). You put them carefully in a large frying pan/skillet, add plenty of olive oil, stick on low heat, and 90% cover with a lid or plate. Let them slowly brown, and turn them when they need turned. ( When is that, asks an inspired idiot-savant  from the back, the same one who think the obligatory olive green carrier bag really is obligatory. Oh, when the Moldovan economy picks up, darling, or when you get fixed up after 40 years as a bachelor, and possibly fancy a culinary aphrodisiac into the bargain, or when they start putting world cinema on mainstream TV rather than that excremental  rubbish called Reality TV. Because if that is their notion of Reality, darling, I’d sooner be a full-blown Stranger to Reality and teach myself to fly and to see in the dark.

Once browned, serve them on small plates  alongside a nice bowl of expensive chutney or home-made torshi  pickle if you know how to do it. Anything with so called ‘curry powder in it’, avoid like bubonic  plague. Alas, its principal constituent, powdered fenugreek, is responsible for many a tragic amatory detumescence.

OK, I’m lying there. It is actually watching Reality TV gives you impotence and frigidity, not curry powder which merely makes your mouth smell like a pair of very antique but valueless 18th century underpants. It’s just that I don’t like curry powder, and Indians will laugh at you when you talk about it. Subcontinent chefs make individual masala mixtures of multiple spices, herbs, garlic, nuts, dahi yogurt, buttermilk etc, for individual dishes. Some of these masalas have as many as ten ingredients, and they don’t always stop at that, and sometimes use for decorative purposes Edible Silver Foil as well.

Vegetable shah jahan for example.

Well what do you expect, if you are cooking for a mighty Indian shah?

POSTSCRIPT. To soften i.e. detumesce  a rock-hard avocado, do as follows. In a paper bag not a plastic one, put your granitey avocado. Also put in either an apple or a banana and shove the bag in a dark place. The fruits give off a hypnotising and exquisite gas and that does the miraculous softening.

I could give the biochemical equations involved in the ripening process, but won’t. Here for alternative diversion is the proper chemical name for Biomin as used in many an anti-dandruff shampoo. It is:

2:4 sulphosuccinatedundecylenicmonoalkylolamide, or ‘sulph’ for short.

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