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Food, glorious food!

Dinner with friends in Normandy
Good food is great, but good food with good friends really is glorious.
It doesn’t get much better than this:
Patricia and me entertaining our two favourite French families at our first ’second home’ in Normandy.

We both love cooking. Unfortunately we both love eating, as well, and if the picture was clearer you’d see just how unfortunately! (I’ve been a seriousa foodie since my early twenties, but I stayed as thin as a rake until I gave up smoking in my forties. I started again at around 60, but the weight didn’t go away!)

We enjoy just eating at home, we love entertaining friends - and we adore eating in really good restaurants. The information about the restaurants we remember with affection has now grown to the point where it merits its own separate home-page, which you can find by clicking the Restaurants button on the left or here.

In January 2007 we celebrated by birthday with dinner at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck (three Michelin stars and voted ’The best restaurant in the world’ in 2005 - not bad with Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in the running). And, in January 2008, we celebrated my 65th birthday at Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham - another truly memorable meal.

You can find some of our favourite recipes and records of my kitchen experiments in The Online Cookbook - and an awful lot of my foodie reminiscences in the introduction..

I recently started trying to improve my bread-making by using sourdough starters - both a home-made one (which was looking promising and then died) and the world-famous San Francisco Sourdough Starter, bought via Ebay all the way from Texas. This has produced some really good bread, so click here for the ongoing saga.

You can also read about my long learning curve with a Gaggia espresso machine. The page about my experiments with hot smoking got lost in the 2013 revision of this site - ironically just after my Abu Roken smoker's bottom burned out! There are my experiments in pork-pie making and my my much more successful 2008 marmalade, following excellent ’vintages’ from 2001 and 2005.

You can limber up your salivary glands by reading The Fine Art of Feasting - the mouthwatering manifesto of the small and exclusive catering business, Partners in Your Kitchen, which we ran until early 2001. I’ve left it on the site just because I’m rather proud of it. (We didn’t make much money out of this one, either, but it allowed the Revenue and the VAT man to help us buy lots of equipment and ingredients!)

Getting good ingredients

Sunday 14 January 2007 We’re pretty fussy about the ingredients we buy, but like everyone else we get lazy and buy meat, fruit and vegetables from supermarkets. Since moving to our village just north or Worksop, we’ve tried to mend our ways a bit. We have monthly Farmers’ Markets in Worskop and nearby Retford, as well as ordinary ones in between. There are also some local farm shops: the Welbeck Farm Shop, one on the A57 between Worksop and Junction 31 of the M1 and the Arrow Farm Shop on the way to Junction 30.

This is such a huge issue that I’m publishing the discussion on a separate page.

Presents from Tuscany

We’ve been getting the most beautiful brochures, and even DVDs, from Fattoria La Vialla in Tuscany, ever since I registered an interest on their website. This is an amazing organic and biodynamic faming enterprise, not too far from Florence, Siena and Arrezzo. They sell their produce internationally, with little or no added cost for shipping. They also let some of the farmhouses on the estate for holidays.

For Christmas 2009 we decided to buy gift boxes for all our family members, and The Big Party Basket for ourselves (over £500-worth in all, but great value and a nice rest for the brain, not having to think of different presents for everyone!). Pecorino (sheep’s-milk cheese), salame, pastas, sauces, desserts, biscuits, wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar...the selection is huge, and everything we’ve tried so far has been sensational.

We’re hoping to spend a holiday there this year. After the last trip I swore I’d never drive to Italy again, but how could you holiday at La Vialla and not bring a carload of goodies home?

Please visit the site, register for information and prepare to be amazed. And be assured from our experience that the web-order service is superb. All the packaging is made from recycled (and therefore recyclable) materials and the food is amazing.

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.