Cooking with Soap


We did not go over the top for Christmas…moules mariniere for lunch was about the high spot, though haggis and black bun made their appearance for New Year.

Nor did we go to friends for New Year’s missed out on the cauldron of boiling lard and the deep fried potatoes, plantains and crisp cubes of belly pork  which are dredged from its bubbling depths to be accompanied by salads and ice cold beer.

It was a real miss. I  love the huge gathering of family and waifs and strays like ourselves perched on chairs, benches, logs and upturned crates watching football on two huge screens while the radio blares from the house and kids and dogs run around until midnight when everyone sings the national anthem and the fireworks start up.

But there comes a time when we just can’t sit up any more, so we stayed at home with the dogs who have now decided that they don’t like fireworks since the new neighbours moved in and set them off under our noses.

Yet although food did not figure greatly over the holiday period it is always there…the running sore of the household.

And why the running sore?

Because Higher Authority, now in a wheelchair and thus less able to get out and crack the whip over the whole finca, has taken over responsibility for the menus….

And when I say taken over, yes, it is a real coup d’etat.

My idea of cooking is to see what’s in the fridge and make something with it. When the fridge is empty I go shopping and buy what looks good on the day.

No more.

Shopping is now an entirely different exercise.

Organised. Disciplined. Controlled.

There is a list.

And that list is based on whatever food is being consumed in the foreign soap operas he watches on the computer when he can’t sleep.

We have gone through several phases…..

The Latin American one, while extremely trying on the nerves from the point of view of the soaps themselves which featured women screaming fit to bust, was fine on the food front. I enjoyed that phase.

Then came the Korean phase….a fridge full of kimchi and the dogs looking nervous…..

The Caribbean soap was cut short when he discovered that unripe ackee could poison you, which was a shame as our ackee bush was by then in full production.


The Scandinavian series gave rise to a vast purchase of varying fish to be pickled and smoked, all to be found to be unsatisfactory as not matching the dream. All I can say is that Costa Rica does not have herring or salmon of its own and its version of mackerel leaves a lot to be desired on the preserving front.

‘Marseilles’, featuring Depardieu, was all right on the cooking front…..


As was a similar series about corruption in Rome….I have recipes from an Italian friend which it was a pleasure to try again. I could buy trout to make her recipe whereby it is floured, fried in olive oil and then marinaded in orange juice and vermouth. I even found vermouth. At a price.

Currently it is Israeli…..luckily yesterday’s special gave him indigestion all night so with a bit of luck he will look for something else. If not he is in grave danger of circumcision by  secateur.

Success! We now have a soap about life in an Argentinian prison. We still have screaming women (what are they doing there?), but here comes the locro and the chimichurri! I might even be able to smuggle in a salsa verde with the tomatillos I found when briefly let off the leash…I know it is Mexican, but it’s green and I might get away with it!

There is collateral damage too. When looking for recipes for the on screen food he is led into byways….which is how I ended up making a cake with a tin of fruit salad, flour and vast amounts of sugar.

It was so sweet your teeth would fall out just looking at it, its bottom was soggy, and it burnt itself onto my good cake tin. It is said to be Australian. If so, it accounts for the current state of Australian Test cricket….they must be force feeding it to the players.

Then we have flan.


I have various recipes…one for a flan in a pastry crust made light with whipped white of egg, the traditional ones…and now another has joined the repertoire.

It involves sweetened condensed milk, and vast amounts of cream. The recipe given cooks it at too high a heat, resulting in a lightly scrambled egg with caramel, and unfortunately it was greeted with delight, which has involved making another of the buggers, this time using yet another internet recipe for making your own condensed milk….

I cooked it on a lower heat and it is now in the fridge, awaiting the verdict of Higher Authority.

I was tempted to let today’s stew…a bastard version of moroccan cuisine trawled from the internet – fall into it, but I would only be faced with making my own condensed milk all over again…

Thank goodness  that the Belgians are visiting shortly! Back to proper food and no more cooking from soaps!








37 thoughts on “Cooking with Soap”

  1. Oh,no! Poor Leo .I hope he’s not going downhill. (That’s not a euphemism – I know what men can be like with wheels!)
    And poor you. Poor, poor you…

    That Australian concoction sounds awfully like something called “Nanna’s Upside Down Cake.” Things have improved here, but there are still people who boil cabbage for 30 minutes and think adding pineapple to anything makes it Hawaiian.

  2. Is it possible to find a soap based on aesthetic monks?
    The bread and water diet might help lose weight and save a lot of cooking.
    A bit fish now and again and some local fruit and there you go.
    While out shopping you could pop into Jose’ cafe and eat properly of course, he would never know.

    1. Whoops, got my replies in a tangle!
      My idea of delight would be a soap based on Trappist monks existing on a diet of bread and water… more screaming women and a very short shopping list.

      This being a very small world…he would know two minutes after I crossed the threshold!

  3. He has two vehicles…the ordinary wheelchair for round the house and the electric version which is good for travelling on a road, which takes him over the more accessible parts of the finca. He can walk….but his breathing is so poor that he is exhausted after ten metres or so, thus finding a new empire to conquer…that of the kitchen!
    I am frantically trying to clear some space for a new garden to switch him on to that, before I declare domestic UDI!

    If that horror is Nanna’s upside down cake then nanna should be upended in a vat of it!
    Here we have horrors of our own…the Costa Rican lasagne which comes with a choice of red or white sauce….

  4. Oh dear, you appear to have your hands full; presumably you have to search for the ingredients? Don’t men normally take over household tasks (well, not take over, just organise them + you) when they first retire? There must be an awful lot of cookery programmes on your national TV. You may have to find other ways (kindly ones, of course) to curtail consumption of them. I can’t imagine soaps giving a lot of recipe ideas, at least they don’t here.

  5. We missed the retirement stage, I suppose because he had not been able to work for years before retirement age proper….it is the inactivity which has driven him into taking over – as you so rightly say – the organisation of the kitchen and its occupant.
    He doesn’t like cookery programmes…but when he sees food on one of his soaps and it looks appetising he writes down the name of the dish, and looks it up on the internet….then passes it on to me for execution.

  6. He’s a very imaginative man!
    His great hobby was renovating houses….resurrecting them from neglected shells.
    Gardens too….
    So I suppose it was inevitable that now he is less mobile he would turn to another activity….and food it is! There have been some good discoveries….and others….and all from soap operas!

    1. When Leo was young the grannies were known for their specialities…including flan. They would never give up the recipes so he experimented to find out how they did it and came with a pastry case and a flan mix made fluffy and light with the addition of whipped egg whites- We have looked in all sorts of cookery books but can find nothing like it, though this is how he remembers it. Mark you, we can use our own home grown vanilla these days!

    1. So, ceviche or bust, yes?
      Leo’s father showed him how to cook two dishes…prawns in garlic butter and fillet steak. If the woman doesn’t fall for either of them you are on a loser and have to cut your losses…
      Otherwise he lived on baked beans on toast.
      My mother did not want me underfoot in the kitchen so as a student, once pushed out of halls of residence into a shared flat – the Flattleship Potemkin – it was cook or die as we could not afford too many Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies and boiled eggs became monotonous. In desperation, we lived, sharing family recipes from China, Africa and darkest Wales.
      Then, years later, Leo became keen to recreate the food he had had in Belgium as a child…we moved to France…things took off-

      1. Ah, the Flattleship Potemkin. My version has moved about the country for decades now, but the galley remains as unappealing as ever.

        Love both Leo’s father’s philosophy on women/cooking and the fact that Leo took it upon himself to make the food he enjoyed in his younger days. Looks like you had the good sense to like either prawns in garlic butter or fillet steak, or possibly both.

  7. ‘Sabotage!’ Isn’t that French for ‘putting the boot in’? Let some air out of his tyres – it will be like moving through treacle and will keep him occupied and sleeping more.

    1. Looking forward to seeing them very much…especially as one of the young ones is going to propose to his girlfriend while here.
      I must say that I am looking forward to the chocolate too…

  8. Helen, I am beginning to wonder … are you a fictional character?
    I am reminded of the two women in French and Saunders’ old comedy routines – one cuts her finger off and says something like ‘oh damn, never mind, better feed it to the dogs.’
    As for the soap inspired food – I wouldn’t have tried half of the things you mention, especially the home made Scandi pickled fish…
    This has been a much better Christmas than usual for us for food. We didn’t try too hard and I didn’t allow the prof to make any recipes by Jamie Oliver. But… the credit for the best recipe has to go to Booths supermarket (northern England only ha ha) for their slow cooked (3.5 hours) braising beef in mulled wine. Best use for shop-bought mulled wine I have ever come across. Onion, tomato puree, star anise, cloves and quite a lot of the wine. Delicious. Best Christmas day meal since our first goose many years ago.

  9. Helen you have a knack of making me laugh when I am feeling very low, thank you.
    FIL (Leonard oddly enough) is at this moment heading to the RUH in Bath for a head scan, in the past week he has had 3 ‘fits’ of some sort, at 97 we cannot cope and need the right answers. Hopefully, we will get some very soon.. Take care and enjoy the Belgian menu 😉 All the best to you both, Diane

  10. So, basically the menu options increased when a male took over kitchen management? I’m really not surprised. Tip of the hat to Leo for his initiative and organization and clear direction on culinary matters at the finca. Hopefully he will not tune in to that new National Geographic special “Edible Creatures of the Kalahari.” Or worse, demand a Keto Diet.

  11. He hasn’t yet followed a Japanese soap….so has not been obliged to visit the Itchi Butt or its local equivalent….
    I am trying to find a soap which features the two day fast per week – but as men rule the roost in the film world there is not much chance of that.
    As far as I am concerned ‘edible creatures of the Kalahiri’ equals film crews…I think I can cook long pig.

  12. Keep your fingers crossed there are no Philippine shows on and you are obliged to cook balut, or the fragrant Norwegian surströmming. I wonder how he assesses the success of your creations if they are based on something he hasn’t actually tasted previously? There must be a magic formula somewhere.

    1. Don’t give him ideas!
      I suppose the grading goes by whether he likes it or not….
      I had thought of making him watch ‘Shetland’ and propose that local delicacy of fermented fish heads but your Norwegian suggestion sounds one hell of a lot worse!
      If he is not careful i shall look for a Papua New Guinea soap and make long pig….I have candidates……

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