Summer Holidays- first day


Today is the first day of the summer school holidays. We are so excited Chez Gusto. 9 weeks away from school (although not, alas, from work or study for H-G or I) but school hols for Baby Gusto. I am determined to wring every single bit of opportunity out of the summer- no matter what the unreliable English weather holds in store.

Yesterday, the last day of school, was a half day. So as it was impractical to drop off B-G and then go home again I stayed in town. The day started with a banana and cinnamon smoothie at home


Then it was school drop-off followed by trashy food and a trashy book



I still had 2 hours to go, so I went to a new tea shop in Ryde, Hobbs. I really like this place. It is annexed to the very long-standing Hobbs watchmaker and jeweller, and as a cup of tea and a home made cheese scone costs only £2.50, it seemed the perfect place to prop and work on my tax law assignment.

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Today however I left B-G to recover from his busy term and went to the local farm shop. This was my happy haul.


Free-range eggs, cherries, white peaches and glorious blood plums.

For dinner I served grilled steak and kebabs with salad and made my favourite blue cheese sauce. Just a clove of garlic, olive oil and St Agur.



This was followed by vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit from the farm shop.


baby Gusto went to bed and Husband Gusto and I sat and sipped tea and ate our way through the fruit bowl. This was quite literally what was left…..


Good, happy day.

Famous Five picnic

Just this week the Guardian were talking about Famous Five picnic food which reminded me of a favourite post from 2012……

Before Baby-Gusto was even thought of, H-G and I both discussed how we wanted any children we might have to grow up loving the same books that we did. For H-Gusto that included all the CS Forrester Hornblower series, and for me it included all the ‘Jill’ pony books by Ruby Ferguson, ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘The Railway Children’ by E Nesbit and of course ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton.

I must have been pretty food oriented even then, because several of my memories of these books are based firmly around what the characters ate. I recalled Jill and her friend Ann after a showjumping session with their feet up on the Aga eating hot buttered toast and drinking cocoa. How I envied them for having their own ponies and wished that they would be my friends. One of my enduring memories of the Linda Craig series, set in the Wild West, was that they ate something strange called ‘slaw’. It took me until almost the end of the book before I realised that this exotic sounding dish was the rather banal coleslaw that featured in every family BBQ.

But the books I loved most for the sheer fantasy AND the food was the Famous Five series. I was so envious of the Famous Five. For going to Boarding school and having tuck boxes. For having their own Island AND for the endless summer days and picnics that they seemed to have. Those children always seemed to be eating!

After B-G arrived I bought the entire Famous Five series. (Did you know there were 21 books? No, me neither). Then I set about to read the lot. I am currently on number 13, ‘Five go to mystery moor’ and am flagging, I will admit. It is hard to re-read a story you loved as a child with adult eyes. Every time the five go camping on their own I wonder ‘what on EARTH are their parents thinking?’

That aside. The food and the picnics remain as fascinating to me as ever. So after about book 3 I found myself jotting down all their meals, and then a few weeks ago when we realised that the day was going to be the last blast of summer with a 28 degrees predicted, H-Gusto and I thought it might be a bit of fun to have a Famous Five picnic. So, after sustained and committed ‘research’ (flicking through all 21 books while sipping wine) I found out that the Five were remarkably constant in their meals. Those kids ate alot of sandwiches. Despite popular legend, they never seemed to have ‘lashings and lashing of ginger beer’ – good thing too as H-G’s homemade ginger beer is very seriously alcoholic and we approach it cautiously – so the final menu looked like this;

Ham sandwiches
Potted meat sandwiches
Cheese and tomato sandwiches
Fruit cake
Hard boiled eggs with a screw of salt

In other words, a proper, authentic, no frills picnic. H-G flatly refused to believe that it was even possible to get potted meat anymore which I knew to be wrong as certainly the local Co-op has shelves of the stuff. So I went to the Co-op, bought up big and we went off for our very own 50’s inspired, retro Famous Five picnic.

The weather may have been ‘warm’ but it was also very very windy. We went down to The Green in Cowes and sat on the shingle looking out at the sea. We ate our sandwiches, ate our fruit cake, tried to convince B-G that it was fun to shovel up shingle into his child’s bucket, and then went for ice cream. All in all, a nice day. Unlike the Five however, we did not witness the theft of any jewels or smugglers.

Maybe that happens on the other side of the Island.




Asian Salmon

I plan to return to blogging soon, but in the meantime, a favourite post from 2012…

The conversation in the Gusto Household this evening went something like this;

E-Gusta:                 I am going to cook Asian Salmon tonight

Husband- Gusto:    Great! I love your Asian salmon!

E-G :                      Well, it is for the blog really.

H-G :                      Great!


H-G :                      I think you should julienne the ginger rather than just slice it.

E-G:                      [silence]

H-G:                      Well, I think it would look better in the photos. For your blog

E-G:                      Okay

                   .. a little while later…

E-G:                     Okay, you can julienne the ginger, you are better at it than me

E-G  (again):       STOP! I have to take a photo!

H-G:                    [sigh.]

H-G:                    I really think you should put some of the ginger on the side, not  on the top of the salmon

E-G:                  Whose blog is this?!

H-G:                  [silence]

E-G:                  [silence]

E-G:                  [Adds soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and ginger to salmon. Folds salmon into foil parcels. Cooks in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 17 minutes]

H-G:                  [silence]

E- G :                [sips wine]

Oven Timer :       *DING*

Baby-Gusto:       Dinner! Dinner! Yum!

Photos. (Note- ginger on top).

Asian Salmon with asparagus and rice

Super Sandwiches- Basil Tofu Club


Honestly, this was so good that when I finished I wanted to turn around and start eating again. I rarely venture into our local health food shop, as I am a committed Co-op girl, but needed to go and buy some more agave syrup. While there I spotted this vacuum pack of basil tofu and picked it up. Today I used it with eggless mayo, fresh lettuce, tomatoes and Isle of Wight Garlic Farm tomato sauce in a toasted sandwich. I sliced the basil tofu in half and pan fried it for a few minutes.It was really SO good. A definite 10/10 for taste. Even Baby-Gusto had a decent bite. (He has inherited his father’s capacity to bite almost an entire sandwich in one go).


Red Lentil and spinach dahl and coconut rice


Red lentil dahl

1 cup red lentils

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic crushed

1 knob fresh ginger grated

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 litre vegetable stock (may need more as the dahl cooks)

I bag fresh spinach

(I added a chopped carrot that needed using also).

fresh lemon juice

fresh chopped coriander

sautee the onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil. When soft, add spices and stir, add lentils and vegetable stock and simmer until mushy. Add entire bag of spinach and heat through until spinach is wilted. This is best made in the morning or the day before so the flavours can meld. Before serving, squeeze juice of one lemon over.


Coconut rice

two cups cooked rice

1/2 finely chopped onion

1 teaspoon madras curry powder

1/2 tin of chickpeas

1/3 tin light coconut milk

saute onion in olive oil. Add curry powder, cooked rice, chickpeas and stir until warm. Add light coconut  milk and heat gently. Serve!


We ate this with yoghurt, mango chutney and poppadums. It was delicious!


Baby-Gusto and his Bees



Baby-Gusto has conceived a passion for bees. We are lucky to have a garden bed filled with lavenders and budlea, and this summer the bumble bees have been firmly in evidence. B-G loves to lean over the balcony and will stare at the bees for ages. I ask him ‘What are you doing?’ his reply; ‘Looking at the bees’.

So this week I bought him a Little Life Bee backpack. He loves it. He calls it ‘Taking my bees for a walk’. He carefully places his water and his dummy and occasionally his special toy in it, and we go wandering. I love it too, as it has a wrist strap that attaches to me. B-G is always so enthusiastically launching himself into the world that on more than one occasion I have had to do a dive to prevent him from launching himself into the path of a car.

So, we take his bees for a walk.


We go down to the Green and we buy ice cream.

It has been a rather lovely summer.