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The tip of the spear

Portsmouth, more specifically Southsea, was my home and place of work for 14 years, arriving at the start of the new millenium and living in a vibrant city with the beach and the incredibly busy Solent at the end of the road.

Soldiers embarking from Southsea pier - later famous for burning down at the end of the filming of 'Tommy'!

For someone who loves history Portsmouth was a great place to live, with a heritage going back centuries. As a point of exit (and entry from) for the continent it has seen momentous events. At this time of year it is the commemoration of D-Day that draws people to the city. The ever-lessening numbers of those who were there in 1944 is a reflection of the passage of time. I was privileged to be there for the 60th anniversary when the full pomp of the state was represented but each year the commemoration stone, unveiled by Field-Marshall Bernard Montgomery, at the end of my road was bedecked with remembrances.

In 2004 there were talks and lectures about the events of 60 years before and I learned that the city was the most bombed community in the UK (also claimed by a number of other communities); that churchill visited regularly such was the worry that the city was struggling; some 80% of the city's housing stock was damaged in some way and each street was allocated a couple of sailors to help out where necessary. Bombers would fly along the Sussex coast, line up in the spire of Chichester Cathedral and then fly straight to drop explosives over the city and its dockyard.

The whole area was an armed camp, with troops waiting on the island of Portsea and further inland. There are a number of Canadian memorials in the New Forest and one at Bramshott, near the Hindhead tunnel. The headquarters of the entire operation was at Southwick House just over the hills that sit at the back of the city. It was from here that General Eisenhower issued the message beginning, "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you..." - Portsmouth was very much the 'tip of the spear', the head and shaft of which stretched the entire length of the country.

Having been a military community for centuries, its role in D-day is simply one part of its story - a Roman naval fort, a royal palace, the Mary Rose, Charles II's return, HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, home of the Royal Navy is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is a gentler side to the city and in the pre-industrial period Portsea Island was a collection of villages - the names of which survive today and it was famous for its early crop of broccoli. Having had a very productive allotment down by the sea I can vouch that crops mature possibly upwards of a month earlier than here in windy NN.


I wasn't conscious of broccoli growing up but it has become one of my favourite vegetables and here it is in a tart:

Broccoli & Cheese Tart

Serves 4


For the pastry:

175g/6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting

A pinch of salt

40g/1½oz lard or vegetable fat, diced

40g/1½oz butter, diced

2 tbsp cold water

For the filling:

225g/8oz broccoli cut into small florets

4 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped

100ml/4fl oz single cream

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100g/4oz soft cream cheese

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

50g/2oz Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Make the pastry and wrap in clingfilm and chill until needed.

2. Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gasmark 6 and put a baking sheet in the oven to heat. Grease a 20cm/8” flan tin.

3. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and use to line the flan tin and trim the edges. Keep in the fridge whilst you prepare the filling.

4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the broccoli and spring onions and return to the boil for 30 seconds, remove from the heat and drain before arranging the broccoli and spring onions in the base of the tart.

5. Mix the cream and eggs and season. Pour into the flan case and sprinkle over the Parmesan and bake in the oven for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 190°C/375°F/gasmark 5 and bake for a further 30 mins.

Probably best served warm with a nice crisp green salad and little potato salad.

Word of the Day is ...

"Blateration" - noun: foolish talk; loquacious nonsense.

ps: "I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli."

- George H W Bush

pps: anyone else noticed that the broccoli heads in the shops seem smaller than normal?


"Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less." - Marie Curie
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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1 Comment

Jun 09, 2020

I eat so much broccoli so will definitely try this one and, must continue to avoid blaterating!

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