18 December 2008

berry good, part two

The promised Cranberry-Orange Sorbet from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop:

I’m still an ice cream girl at heart, but sorbet seems like a nice alternative to the rich desserts that predominate (particularly in England) during the holidays.

It’s the most brilliant pinky-red color and incredibly tart. As Adam would say, ‘a party in the mouth!’

17 December 2008

ginger all the way, part two

The ginger theme continues with gingerbread stars:

All ready for packaging and giving...as well as a bit of snacking!

These were actually meant to be gingerbread men, but my cutter has gone missing. I've been through them all--from acorn to zebra--with no luck. A holiday mystery...that will hopefully be solved by this time next year!

13 December 2008

lay-ee-odl lay-ee-odl lay-hee-hoo

This past Thursday, as Persephone Books was offering complimentary mulled wine, mince pies, and gift wrapping, G and I ventured into London for a bit of holiday shopping:

After visiting Persephone, we headed to Marylebone High Street for a peek round the always-stylish Skandium and the quirky, Edwardian Daunt Books, then on down to Moxon Street for a Festive Alpine Supper at La Fromagerie:

In addition to selling cheese, La Fromagerie runs a tasting cafe and hosts a program of tasting events throughout the year. Someday I'd love to attend their annual Thanksgiving Dinner: I imagine it would make being away from home not-quite-so-bad!

The Alpine Supper was delicious: chicken broth with thyme dumplings to start, then sausages with sauerkraut and spaetzle. It was without a doubt the best sauerkraut and spaetzle I've ever had: the sauerkraut had such a lovely mild and delicate flavor. And each course was paired with a gorgeous wine.

Dinner was followed by a tasting of Swiss and Bavarian farmhouse cheeses tutored by Patricia Michelson herself. So I now know a bit about Tilsiter, Boschenkase, Bachensteiner, Alpkase Luven, and Bavarian Blue. Odl lay-hee-hoo!

more puzzling

Another holiday puzzle, this one featuring towers of shiny baubles in blue and green, silver and gold:

I only wish we had a mantelpiece in the Jolly Hockey Sticks clubhouse so we could recreate this oh-so-very-Martha scene:

This is the first Springbok puzzle I've ever done with a decorative border. It made assembling the edge--always my first task--so much easier! 

12 December 2008

ginger all the way

Tis the season for ginger: a warming spice for frosty days. These are the ginger-buttermilk cupcakes from Cupcakes and Fairycakes (part of the Australian Women's Weekly series):

While these little cakes are quite gingery, they're also very light and tender, made with just a few tablespoons of golden syrup rather than the more usual treacle or molasses.

The book calls them Sweet Ginger Aces, and they are indeed ace!

05 December 2008


One of my guilty pleasures, especially when it's cold and gray outside, is assembling jigsaw puzzles. I've loved them ever since I was a little girl, when I used to spend entire days hunched over hundreds, and later thousands, of tiny pieces.

Our new maple floor is ideal for puzzle assembly. Except for the fact I can't hoover until the puzzle is finished. Very difficult as I'm obsessively tidy. And perhaps this is why I like doing puzzles so much. It's essentially tidying the pieces, as this...

becomes this...

becomes this...

This puzzle was meant to the be the 'First in the New Yorker Cover Series' by Springbok but unfortunately seems to have been the only one. A real disappointment, as it's one of my favorites.

And here I admit I'm a bit of a puzzle snob. While I do make the rare exception, I generally only do Springbok puzzles. They're very well-made, with intriguingly shaped pieces and images well above the average. While a few twee cottages have crept into the range recently, I'm still managing to keep my own collection twee-free!

04 December 2008

triple scoop

Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean we stop making ice cream! I once read an article about kitchen organization that suggested putting the ice cream maker away during the winter to clear counter space. I think not!

The reason there haven't been any ice cream posts lately is because the last three ice creams have been, well, beige. So not terribly photogenic. You can see what I mean with the Pear-Caramel Ice Cream:

It's quite tasty, although I think I might use a more intensely flavored pear next time (I couldn't find the two recommended varieties at Waitrose).

The other two beige-y ice creams were Malted Milk Ice Cream in October (G's new favorite) and Cinnamon Ice Cream in November (made using cinnamon sticks rather than ground cinnamon for a more subtle--and really pleasing--cinnamon flavor).

All the recipes were from my favorite ice cream book:

But now with the holiday season here and so many rich treats about, I think a light Cranberry Sorbet could be just the thing...

01 December 2008

winter wonderland

The mornings have turned icy here in Teddington, with thick frost on the ground and more than a nip in the air. So a few days ago, G and I headed out to Petersham, Richmond's very own winter wonderland:

While my Chelsea bun was scrumptious and the coffee was strong and warming, I was far more excited about the myriad baubles, piled high in galvanized buckets and stone pots...

and hanging from every available branch:

Clear glass...

and silvered glass:

Plenty of sparkle to warm the heart on a freezing December day:

30 November 2008

berry good

There were some hits and misses, but the highlight of our Thanksgiving dinner this year was the Cranberry Fruit Conserve from Barefoot Contessa Parties:

The conserve was so easy to make, and after just a few minutes on the stove and several hours in the fridge, it was the most gorgeous jewel-like color and perfectly set:

It was without a doubt the best cranberry sauce I've ever tasted, and I'm already looking forward to having it again next Thanksgiving!

Being in the mood for cranberries, we've also just opened our single precious jar of Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Jam:

If the holidays could be bottled, this would be it: tart cranberries, sweet pears, and orange liqueur. It's best spread thickly on toast, but the thicker we spread it, the more our supply dwindles, so we're trying our best to be sensible with it!

25 November 2008

buns in the oven

Last week I attended my second class with Trina Hahnemann at Divertimenti. This time the focus was on Scandinavian baking, using recipes from Trina's book:

The class was entirely hands-on, which was difficult for me, as I've never been able to bake (or draw or knit or sew) in a classroom situation. But my baking partner Kim very kindly put up with me (!) and we made several recipes, including spelt buns, yogurt and whole wheat bread, kransekage (almond cakes), and Danish butter cookies:

And as an aside, the spelt buns weren't the only 'buns in the oven'. Literally half the women on the course were pregnant!

Unfortunately, we ran out of time for the two recipes I was most looking forward to: cinnamon rolls and brunsviger (a soft, breadlike cake from Denmark). But Trina gave us each some fresh yeast to try the recipes at home, as well as some of her own rye bread starter. So even more yummy Scandinavian treats to look forward to...

24 November 2008


Inspired by a day of Scandinavian baking at Divertimenti last week (more details to follow) and the chilly weather, I whipped up a batch of cardamom buns yesterday afternoon:

Cardamom is a key ingredient in Scandinavian baking. In Sweden, it's more widely used than cinnamon. I absolutely adore the flavor. Rachel G. on the other hand studiously avoids it, having never recovered from eating an entire pod as a child!

While certainly Scandinavian in influence, this cardamom recipe was gleaned from one of my Rachel Allen cookbooks:

Slightly denser than the cardamom cake I usually make, these buns are perfect with a cup of really strong, dark coffee on a frosty morning (or afternoon). So fragrant and warming--mmm...

12 November 2008

more bliss

How did I miss this? Debbie Bliss launched her very own magazine on my birthday:

I only just discovered it by chance in John Lewis today, and it's truly bliss-ful

The lead article features a sleeveless turtleneck sweater, tee, beret, and knee-high socks all in pale gray. Perfect for me, as this pretty much sums up my entire wardrobe! And I think my mum would love the collared sleeveless top in Rialto. Is it too late to start a Christmas project?

I thought I was finally building up an immunity to new pattern books and yarns. Sigh...

bliss-ful blanket

There's been a sad dearth of knitting posts over the past six months. But I have been knitting, specifically the Cabled Throw from Debbie Bliss' Simple Living:

Here's the throw tucked up around the sofa cushions (a look I first saw and loved at Pebblebeach):

The yarn is Debbie Bliss' Cashmerino Aran in silver gray, which not only coordinates beautifully with Persephone books (!) but feels gorgeous and is so easy to knit with.

G thinks we now have enough blankets and throws. But I think we might need just one more--to cover the other sofa cushions of course!

10 November 2008

wonderful wellies

The weather here in Teddington has been miserable. It seems we've had nothing but gray skies and squally showers for days on end. And just when we think it's finally over, the rain starts again...

But when you know your feet will be warm and dry (and looking quite stylish!) venturing outside becomes not-so-bad.

Thank you so much, Cece, for the wonderful wellies and for being the best big sister a girl could hope for.

06 November 2008

a bird in the hand

This little cock sparrow came home with us from St. Jude's Gallery in September:

Last week he could be found perched on Caroline's ladder. But now the hall has been painted, he's settled on a chest-of-drawers to greet visitors coming through the front door. 

He was handmade by Emily Sutton, an artist originally from North Yorkshire, who recently completed her studies at Edinburgh College of Art. Her soft sculptures--whether of birds or people--are all so beautifully detailed, and each has its own unique personality. 

Now we really must think of a name for him.

02 November 2008

pumpkin pie

I love pumpkin pie and look forward all year to Pumpkin Pie Season. It must be genetic, as pumpkin pie was my dad's favorite dessert as well.

Yesterday morning, I made a Pumpkin Custard Pie using Stonewall Kitchen's Maple Pumpkin Butter:

I bought my jar at Redwood Bay in Bath, which carries a fab selection of American food and kitchen products, including some of my favorites from Barefoot Contessa and Stonewall Kitchen.

This pie is quite different from my usual pumpkin pie. It has a silkier texture, more like a custard tart, and a milder pumpkin flavor. G says he prefers it to the traditional version, and I think it makes a nice change.

I discovered Stonewall Kitchen products while living in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The company itself is based in York, Maine, and one of these days I hope to visit their Headquarters and Cooking School:

In the meantime, I'd love to try their Pumpkin Whoopie Pie Mix...

but Redwood Bay only has two left in stock, and I don't think we'll make it back to Bath in time!

31 October 2008

really rosie

Rachel has been much more productive with her River Cottage handbook than I have. Here's some of her yummy Rosehip Syrup drizzled over yogurt:

The River Cottage recipe is based on one issued by the Ministry of Defence during World War II, when rosehips were gathered by volunteers and made into a syrup for the nation's children (rosehips are very rich in vitamins A and C).

While the handbook also suggests mixing the syrup with hot water for a warming winter drink, Rachel thinks it would be even better mixed into a cocktail! Gin and rosehip anyone?

26 October 2008

pinnies please

While we don't have a television, we do watch a few programs each week on BBC iPlayer. My current favorite is Coal House at War, in which three families give up the comforts of modern life to live as they would have done in a Welsh mining community in 1944:

The families experience every aspect of life on the homefront, and the show is so entertaining, as well as educational. But I must admit I'm often distracted by the clothes! I love the floral pinnies, fair isle sweaters and berets (perfect for using up odds and ends of wool), and sensible skirts and shoes.

In September, following a suggestion from Poshyarns, we visited Old Town in Holt, which specializes in just this type of clothing. When you step into the shop, you really do feel you're stepping back in time. This picture doesn't even begin to do justice to the wonderful dark-woody, retro feel of the shop and its fittings:

I'd already fallen in love with the Bungalow Dress online:

Unfortunately, they didn't have the blue blossom print in my size, but they promised to make one up and post it to Teddington (most of their clothing is made to order). And sure enough it arrived yesterday and is just as lovely as I'd hoped. Now I have just the thing to wear (with a nice warm cardi) while watching the next episode of Coal House!

25 October 2008

fat hen

Our Fat Hen foraging weekend started bright and early Saturday morning at Boscawen-noon Farm, where we met ecologist Caroline Davey, chefs Matt Williamson and Claire Thomson, and our fellow foragers over coffee and hogweed biscotti. Following demonstrations of halloumi- and soda bread-making, we headed out on our first foraging expedition through hedgerows and fields...

down to the seashore:

Along the way, we identified and collected numerous edible plants, including Alexander's...

...sea beet...

...and a variety of seaweeds. Our walk was followed by a welcome break on the rocks with warming seaweed broth, which Caroline had toted in her backpack all the way from the farm.

Our baskets brimming...

...we had a quick look at a mussel bed...

...then returned to Boscawen-noon for another cooking demonstration followed by a glorious lunch in the Goat Barn:

We were treated to Alexander's, wild chervil, and dried fennel flower risotto; wild greens salad; and blackberry, rosehip, and elderberry sorbet. But I realized after I arrived home I'd neglected to take pictures of any of the food. Luckily Diana was much more thorough!

Then it was time to head out again, scrambling over boulders and foraging along the coast at Gwenvor and Sennen.

Luckily by this time my rock-hopping skills were improving!

Back at the farm, we watched a slide presentation by Caroline, then enjoyed another fabulous feast: pan-fried mackerel with wild greens salsa verde, followed by a delicate rose carrageen pudding with fennel flower shortbread for dessert.

Although the next day was gray and chilly, we still managed a good morning forage in the hedgerows, fields, and forests around the farm. I tasted sorrel for the first time, learned how to pick and eat a raw nettle, and drank hot meadowsweet tea (G had yarrow) in the Boscowan Un stone circle.

Lunch in the Goat Barn included nettle frittata, wild greens salad, home-smoked mackerel, and potted rabbit. You wouldn't think we'd be able to fit in another feast, but we sure did. Must be all that fresh Cornish air, not to mention the amazing food!

It was very hard to say goodbye, but we were given little parcels of potted rabbit to take home as a reminder, and fingers crossed I'll be seeing Diana (hopefully with some hogweed seed for biscotti making--hint, hint!) and the foragers from the London area again soon!

24 October 2008

go west

Having made a very early start and followed Diana's directions to the letter, we arrived in Cornwall much earlier than expected. So we made a detour to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St. Ives.

Hepworth moved to Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson and their children in 1939. I've had mixed feelings about Hepworth's work in the past, but seeing the studio where she worked and her sculptures in situ was a revelation.

G, having studied stone carving himself, was particularly enthralled by the plethora of tools on display both in her workshop and in the museum downstairs.

The pieces in various stages of completion were intriguing:

And the bronzes in the garden were amazing, each perfectly suited to its unique place in the landscape:

Our second stop, recommended by Diana, was the Yew Tree Gallery near Morvah on the west coast:

The current exhibition 'Full Fathom Five' is stunning. Although the pieces are in many different media, they hang together beautifully, united by a coastal color palette of grays, blues, and greens.

My favorite paintings were by Fiona Millais, who is indeed the great granddaughter of John Everett Millais:

Fiona Millais, Fragments of Coast, 36 x 71 cm

We also met the gallery owner Gilly, who is lovely. When we arrived, she was installing a gorgeous gypsy caravan (which we'd actually passed on the road many miles back!) in the garden opposite the gallery. I wonder if she'd let me come stay?