5 December 2012

DIY Christmas decorations

No sign of the Coca-cola ads yet which means Christmas hasn't officially started, but the street lights are up and the shops are packed with christmas presents and decorations. Last year, I made these delicious dried orange and cinnamon decorations, and here are a few other ideas that I'm keen to have a go at...

- these very pretty paper baubles

- a pine cone garland for an outdoors/indoor look

- something to make your Chrismas wrapping extra special 

- paper doily snowflakes to guarantee a white Christmas!

4 December 2012

Chicken with chorizo and beans

I made this recipe a little while ago, but for some reason didn't post it up. Now that it's heading towards Baltic conditions though, it seems very appropriate to be eating warm, hearty meals, and this one is certainly that.

It's a bit of a store cupboard recipe, so any kind of beans will do (I used haricot). If you don't have any chorizo, you could swap in pancetta or bacon, and if you have fresh tomatoes or peppers that need using up, feel free to throw those in too. 

Chicken with chorizo and beans 
Serves 2

2 chicken legs
50g chorizo, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 garlic cloves
400g tinned haricot beans (or any other kind)
100ml white wine (or chicken stock, if you don't have any wine open)
Couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a medium sized, oven proof frying pan. Add the chicken legs to the pan, skin side down, and fry over a medium heat, turning once or twice until golden brown on both sides (probably about 10 minutes in total). Remove the chicken from the pan and put it to one side. 

Using the same pan, turn down the heat to low and add the whole, unpeeled garlic, the chorizo and the thyme leaves. Fry gently for a couple of minutes until the chorizo is just cooked. Add the beans and the white wine and stir everything together. Season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken thighs on top of the beans and put everything in the pre-heated oven. (If you don't have an ovenproof frying pan, just transfer everything into any oven proof dish).

Bake for about 25 minutes, checking every now and adding a splash more wine if the beans look dry. When it's cooked, the chicken will start to come away from the bones, the skin will be crispy, and the juices will run clear when you test the meat with a knife.

21 November 2012

Braided Rug Company baskets

I know I've already professed my love for the Braided Rug Company, but a recent trip to the Country Living Christmas Fair at the BDC in London refreshed my memory and renewed my obsession. 

Spurred on by my sister who, I'm pretty sure, was somehow brainwashing me to spend FAR more than I had originally planned, I extended my collection of braided furnishings to include one of these lovely, lovely baskets. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'm using it to store the makings of a knitted patchwork blanket which is now stretching into its third (or maybe fourth...) year of assembly. Despite their soft look though, these are sturdy baskets which could easily support something much more substantial. They come in a range of sizes and would look lovely in the corner of a room filled with firewood, or all of those magazines that you never know what to do with.

The Braided Rug Company has a little shop in Aberdovey, in Wales, but you can also buy online or visit them at different shows throughout the year. You can find out where they'll be here.

13 November 2012

Luna Lighting

The Country Living Fair was packed pretty full with lovely things, but some of my favourites were these hole-punched, ceramic lights by Luna Lighting. They're all designed and made by Anna Perring from her studio in Bloomsbury, London (a place made famous by these fellas). Maybe I like them especially because we're heading towards Christmas which is, of course, a time of all things glowy and sparkly, but I think I also love the fact that they're all such simple designs, but created with painstaking detail. 

ps - Anna's studio is part of Cockpit Arts - a self-professed "creative incubator for designer-makers." Most excitingly though, they hold open studio events twice a year which sound well worth a visit.

11 November 2012

Homemade peanut butter

Gosh, has it really been THAT long? It appears to have been just about forever since my last post, but a visit to the Country Living Christmas Fair this morning has put me in a crafty-Christmassy mood and I'm jam packed with ideas for new products to rave about, and new crafty things to have a bash at. 

However, to get myself back on the blogging horse, and as it's getting all dark and cold outside, I'll plump for something quick, easy and comforting to start with. Homemade peanut butter. 

I'd never made this before last weekend, but I have absolutely no idea why. Granted, we do struggle a little bit with peanut butter in our house - an open jar is pretty much an empty jar, so its "healthy" properties are mostly swamped by the sheer volume consumed. But if you make it yourself, well, that's so worthy it has to be good for you, right? And it could not be easier.
The recipe is easily tweakable depending on your taste, but I like peanut butter when it's quite soft with a bit of a salty hit, so that's what I made.

Homemade peanut butter
Makes 1 small jar

200g peanuts (I used raw, but if they're already roasted/salted, you can miss out those steps)
2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
Sea salt

If they're not already roasted, spread out the peanuts on a shallow tray and at 160C for about 10 - 15 minutes. Leave them to cool a bit then blitz them in a food processor with 2 tbsp oil. There will be an almighty racket at first, but just keep the motor running and eventually you'll start to get a paste. Add a little more oil if needed to get the consistency you like. If you haven't used salted nuts, add a pinch of sea salt and blitz again. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. 

Decant into a jar and try not to eat all at once.  

ps - if you haven't tried it, you must try peanut butter on toast with cucumber. My Dad introduced me to the idea, and it's a revelation!

25 September 2012

Bulgar wheat and halumi salad with tahini dressing

Does anyone not like halumi? Surely not! Maybe for some it's a bit of an acquired taste/texture, but it's definitely one of my favourites. 

It's been a complete wash-out for barbeques this year, but if you happened to live somewhere where the sun actually shines then halumi, grilled on the barbeque and served up with a bowl of taramasalata and piles of pita bread (à la Dad's amazing Greek barbeques) is a definite summer-time treat. For now though, dry frying the halumi will have to do, and this robust salad can bring a little summer sunshine to a rainy England. 

The dressing (created by my sis) is a gem which would work well with lots of other middle-eastern style salads.

Bulgar wheat and halumi salad with tahini dressing
Serves 4

150g bulgar wheat
6 spring onions, diced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds*
1 tbsp pistachio nuts*
4 tomatoes, chopped
4 handfuls rocket
250g halumi

For the dressing
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp honey
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*any combination of nuts and seeds will do, so whatever's in the cupboard

Cook the bulgar wheat according the the packet instructions, drain and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, toast the nuts and seeds (including the cumin seeds) in a large frying pan. Combine in a large bowl with the tomatoes, spring onions, and rocket. Add the bulgar wheat and season with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a jam jar, season with salt and pepper and shake well. Dress the salad.

Cut the halumi into 1cm slices, dry fry it for a minute or so on each side (until it goes golden brown) and then pop it on top of the plated salad and you're done.

10 September 2012

Peach and honey frozen yogurt

Whilst we're still in the last throws of summer, it's not to late to dig out the ice cream maker for bit of frozen deliciousness. Although, as far as I'm concerned it's never too late to dig out the ice cream maker. Ever. 

This is a super summery recipe and calls for some ripe, sweet peaches. I know we're not great at peaches in England, but hopefully at this time of year, they're still in the shops and have had all summer to pack themselves full of flavour. If the peaches aren't looking great, you could try the same recipe with nectarines or even apricots or plums. 

Peach and honey frozen yogurt
Serves 6

3 ripe peaches
3 tbsp honey (maybe a little more, depending on how sweet your peaches are)
500ml natural yogurt

Stone the peaches and cut them into chunks. Puree them in a food processor until smooth. Add the honey and yogurt and puree again. Taste the mixture, and add more honey if needed. It should be a bit over sweet at this stage, because the flavours will mellow as it freezes. 

Pour the yogurt mixture into an ice cream machine and churn until set.

7 September 2012

DIY vintage bowl candles

It's been a while since I've posted up a crafty entry, but hopefully this one will get you right back into the swing of things. 

I'm a major car boot sale fan (this one is a regular favourite), and love rooting through to find little treasures. Don't get me wrong, there's always an awful lot of tat, and sometimes it can be near impossible to find the treasures, but if you don't give up hope and keep an open mind you can nearly always find something to make the trip and the early start worthwhile. 

My last visit resulted in a new home for some pretty little bowls, but empty bowls, no matter how pretty they are, aren't nearly as great as pretty little candles. They're super easy and quick to make, and once you have the various bits and bobs you need, you'll be hooked. 

(ps - if I know you and you have a birthday/anniversary/wedding/Tuesday night coming up, you're very likely to be getting one, so look away now.)

DIY vintage bowl candles
Candle wax (you can buy it here)
Short candle wicks, ideally with metal bases (see here)
Small bowls/tins or other pretty containers

Firstly, clean and dry your containers.

Measure out the wax by completely filling the bowls with the un-melted wax. As it melts it will reduce in volume and should leave you with the right amount. Melt the wax according to the instructions (I melted it in a jug for easy pouring), then pour the melted wax into the containers. Carefully place the wicks in the centre. 

Leave the wax to cool completely, then trim the wicks. Don't try and rush the cooling, or the wax might harden with an uneven colour or surface. 

And then enjoy! Obviously whilst remembering not to leave lit candles unattended or on non-heat resistant surfaces. 

(I didn't, but if you like, you can add a bit of essential oil to scent your candles.) 

31 August 2012

Herby meatballs with tomato and spinach

I really try not to be a lazy cook, and mostly enjoy the repetition which comes with a lot of recipes, whether it's chopping things into neat little cubes, or carefully layering and icing cakes, but browning meatballs really bores me. I don't know why, but it does. Maybe it's because you spend ages making neat little balls, which then inevitably get squashed and lopsided when you start to fry them. Maybe it's because I can't seem to stop them from sticking to the pan, and by the time you're on the third batch (I'm careful not to overcrowd the pan, you see) there are little burnt bits stuck to the sides. Whatever it is, I run out of patience. Which is why this recipe is perfect. No browning involved. Hurrah!

There are also no eggs, and no breadcrumbs, so the meatballs are really light, and I like to add a few big handfuls of spinach, to make them even healthier.

Herby meatballs with tomato and spinach
Serves 4-5

500g minced pork (or a combination of pork and lamb if you'd rather)
1 onion
A handful of soft herbs, finely chopped (any combination of parsley, oregano, new thyme leaves, marjoram...)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 - 3 big handfuls of spinach
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Finely dice the onion (I whack the onion in the food processor for a few seconds to get it really small), and combine in a large bowl with the pork, the herbs, and two of the cloves of garlic. Season with a good pinch of salt and lots of pepper, then mix it well, really squishing everything together.

Roll the mixture into small, walnut-sized balls (you should get about 25 of them) then put them to one side.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large, shallow pan with a lid, and add the remaining garlic. Fry it gently until it just starts to turn golden, then add the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Carefully place the meatballs into the tomato, it doesn't matter if they're not submerged, but don't stir them at this point or the meatballs are at risk of breaking up. Bring the tomatoes to the boil again, then turn down to a simmer and put the lid on. Simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes, then gently turn the meatballs. They should be firm and able to hold their shape by now. Put the lid back on and simmer for another hour, stirring every so often.

About 15 minutes before the end of cooking, take the lid off, add the spinach and carefully stir it through until it's wilted. The sauce should be nice and thick, but if you need to, continue to simmer without a lid until any excess liquid has evaporated. Serve with some rice or polenta, and enjoy.

19 August 2012

Links to Love: Sweet treats and sunshine

Finally, finally, the sun is shining (hooray!) and, for once, it's not the weather to be indoors, slaving over a hot stove or crafting in front of a humming sewing machine.

Here are a few things I've stumbled across this week which might tempt you back inside. Enjoy!

-  a delicious looking raspberry and frangipane tart, with honey and raspberry ice cream from Maddy at the British Larder

- just about the best birthday cake ever thanks to Whisk Kid

- a strange, but true cake-icing recipe which will change your life (seriously, I used yesterday it to ice the spectacular Whisk Kid rainbow cake and it was A-MAZING!)

- a neat trick to keep your G&T cool 

- these lovely bottle hurricane lamps, to keep the candles flickering well into the evening.

12 August 2012

The Braided Rug Company

I've been a bit obsessed with these beautiful braided rugs for too many years now, and was reminded about them earlier in the summer at the fabulous Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The day job means I go to the show every year and, without fail, The Braided Rug Company has a stand that's jam-packed full of these rugs in all shapes and sizes and in the most amazing colours. And, without fail, I stop and stare and wish I had a bigger house, and a bigger salary so I could have more of them.

Inspired by the designs and patterns of rag rugs made by early settlers on the east coast of America, the rugs are made from yarns that are spun, dyed and then woven into braids. The rugs can have up to 16 colours running through them, and because the colours are never distributed the same way, every rug is unique. You can buy them here. x

27 July 2012

Gooseberry ice cream

After trip home to the depths of Devon for a friend's lovely, countryside wedding, I headed back to London with a big bag of freshly picked gooseberries. I love gooseberries, but they're pretty hard to come by, so these lovely little things were worthy of a bit of a treat. Gooseberry fool is nice, but gooseberry ice cream is even better! I found this recipe for crunchy almond thins to serve with it, and I'm not entirely sure which the book club girls liked more - a pretty big dent was made in both.

Gooseberry yogurt is also delish, so if you wanted a healthier alternative, you could mix the cooked gooseberries with natural yogurt instead of the custard, then just freeze it in the same way.

Gooseberry ice cream
Serves 6

500g gooseberries
150g caster sugar
250ml double cream
125ml milk
2 large egg yolks

Take the stalks off the gooseberries, then put them in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of the sugar, and a couple of tablespoons of water (you won't need any water if they're frozen). Cook them over a low heat, with a lid on until they're really soft. Take two good spoonfuls of fruit and put them in a bowl to one side. Push the rest of the fruit through a sieve until you've got all of the juice, and as much flesh as you can, leaving just the pips. Let everything cool. 

Meanwhile, make up some custard by gently heating the milk and half of the cream until just below boiling. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until it's all pale and frothy. Pour the cream over the eggs, and whisk together, then return everything to the pan and heat gently until it thickens, stirring constantly. Let this cool too. (To stop a skin forming, lay a piece of clingfilm over the surface of the custard). 

When everything's nice and cool, whip the rest of the cream to soft peaks and whisk into the custard with the gooseberry puree, and fold through the unpureed fruit. Churn it in an ice cream maker for 20 minutes or so, or pour it into a container and put it in the freezer until frozen, stirring it well every hour, to break up the ice crystals.

22 June 2012


Did you know that 96% of people in this country are living with, or have lived with a piece of Ikea furniture in their home? That might not strictly speaking be true (there's a chance that I just made it up), but Ikea furniture is everywhere and there's a pretty good reason why it they sell it by the truck-load. I'm currently trying to make the switch from the quick-fix furniture I bought when I first moved to London, whose only raison d'être was to give you a place to sit and watch ER, to more permanent pieces to keep forever. But the Ikea stuff is going to be around for a little while yet, in my home at least, so why not update it and make it prettier? These Prettypegs style themselves as shoes for your furniture, and you've gotta love that, right?

20 June 2012

Bold & Noble prints

There's something I really love about these prints by Bold & Noble, particularly the ones from their Pattern & Nature collection. All of their prints are really intricate, but still have a clean, simple feel to them.  

The prints are all made using a traditional silkscreen printing process (à la Andy Warhol), and the inks are hand-mixed, so even though they're prints, each one will vary a teeny bit, making it unique. You can buy them online here

19 June 2012

Raspberry and coconut cupcakes

 When we were little, going out and stripping the raspberry canes before the birds or the bugs got to the fruit was a regular summer-holiday chore which resulted in a bit of a raspberry overdose, and to be honest, put me off them for a while. But now I love them, and might even say they'd beat strawberries as my favourite summer berry. 

Raspberries are easy to buy all year round, but at this time of year when British ones are starting to come into season, they start to get much cheaper, and smell and taste a whole lot better than they do in mid-winter.

These summery little cupcakes are ridiculously easy to make and are delicious with or without the icing.  You could even serve them as pudding, warm from the oven with a bit of double cream. If you want to make one large cake, just extend the cooking time for five minutes or so. 

Raspberry and coconut cupcakes
Makes 12

115g self-raising flour
115g unsalted butter, softened
115g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
115g desiccated coconut
115g fresh raspberries

For the icing...
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
50g desiccated coconut

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it's pale, light and fluffy. Add a spoonful of flour and half of the egg, then fold through until it's all mixed. Add the rest of the egg, and mix again. Sift the rest of the flour into the bowl, add the coconut and fold through until it's just incorporated. Finally add the raspberries and gently fold them through until they're fairly evenly mixed in, but trying not to break them up too much. 

Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are golden and spongy to the touch. 

Leave to cool in the tray, then make up the icing by beating the butter and icing sugar in a bowl until smooth. Stir in the coconut and mix well. Ice the cakes and enjoy!

11 June 2012

Jacob Chevron Stripe blanket by Green Grove Weavers

What do you do when it's June, it's freezing cold and it doesn't stop raining? Cave in, admit defeat and turn on the heating or keep warm under a super-cool blanket? I'd go for the latter and these would definitely be top of my list of cosy blankets.

These stripey blankets are designed and made by Green Grove Weavers in Strathspey in the Scottish Highlands, from natural, undyed British wool from the fleece of the Jacob sheep. You can buy them online through SCP and they're lovely.

27 May 2012

Roasted beetroot salad with yogurt

I never used to like beetroot, but since my brother cooked it for me this way I've been a dedicated convert and will now happily tuck into beetroot at any opportunity. I think this recipe was originally inspired by something from Ottolenghi's restaurant, but is something that can be thrown together with very little fuss and makes a super, summery alternative to the traditional veg served with roast chicken. A chunk of crusty bread, some salad leaves, and you're away.

Roasted beetroot salad with yogurt
Serves 4

4-5 medium beetroot
1 clove garlic
200ml natural yogurt
Juice of half a lemon
Small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Cut the beetroot into 1cm thick slices, leaving the skin on and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle over some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together so that the beetroot is well coated with the oil. Cover with foil, and place in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes or until the beetroot is cooked (it's best with a bit of bite, but it shouldn't be crunchy). 

When cooked, remove the beetroot from the oven and leave to cool a bit.

Meanwhile, make the yogurt dressing. Mix the yogurt with the lemon juice, and most of the parsley. Grate or crush half of the garlic clove and add it to the yogurt. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. 

When the beetroot is cool enough to handle, drizzle some of the yogurt dressing onto your serving plate and layer the beetroot on top. Drizzle more yogurt on to the top of the beetroot. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

23 May 2012

Yogurt panna cotta with roasted rhubarb

I always think that panna cotta looks like one of those things that should be complicated to make. Custardy, creamy things often have an element of risk to them which means you have to be ready to follow the recipe to the letter and keep an eagle eye on them in case they start to go lumpy or something awful happens with eggs. But panna cotta is ridiculously simple. It's basically just fancy jelly, but it can be adapted in any number of ways which should make it the ultimate go-to for an easy dinner party pud.

The tangy, creaminess of the yogurt panna cotta is a brilliant partner to some slightly sharp roasted rhubarb.

Yogurt panna cotta with roasted rhubarb
Serves 4

300ml double cream
200ml full fat, natural yogurt
1/2 vanilla pod
50g golden caster sugar
2 sheets gelatin (or enough to set 1/2 pint or 250ml according to the packet)

Fill a bowl with cold water and soak the gelatin sheets  - make sure they're completely covered by the water - and leave for 5 minutes to soften.

Put the cream and sugar into a pan. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds, and add it to the cream. Heat the cream gently over a low heat until just below boiling, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

By this time your gelatin should be soft. If it is, remove the sheets from the water and squeeze out the liquid. Add the gelatin to the cream and stir to dissolve. Leave it to cool slightly.

Pour the yogurt into a large bowl, and add the cream fairly slowly, stirring well to prevent lumps (you shouldn't get any, but if you do, you can always sieve the liquid).

Pour the creamy yogurt into your serving dishes and chill in the fridge for a few hours to set. I didn't bother to turn out the panna cotta once it was set, as I'd used nice glasses, but if you fancy serving the panna cotta out of the mold, just dip the molds in hot water for a few seconds and it should soften the edges of the panna cotta just enough to turn out.

Serve with roasted rhubarb. Delicious!

If you like this, you might like...
Rhubarb cordial

Roasted rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of my absolute favourites. I think it's partly because it's only around for such a short while - it seems to be one of the few things that the gardeners in white coats haven't managed to get on the supermarket shelves all year round. But it's here right now - hurray hurray! And in our house that means it makes frequent appearances on the menu. Some people have been known to say too many, but I don't think you can ever have too much bright pink food, especially when it tastes as delicious as rhubarb.

This works as the basis for rhubarb crumble, rhubarb trifle, rhubarb ice cream... or just in a bowl with a spoon and a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Roasted rhubarb
Serves 3-4

400g  rhubarb, chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp golden caster sugar (or more or less, depending on how sharp you want it)
1" piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the chopped rhubarb into a roasting dish with the rhubarb. Sprinkle over the sugar. 

Cover with foil and roast for 20 - 25 minutes, or until it starts to break down.

If you like this, you might like...
Yogurt panna cotta with roasted rhubarb
Rhubarb cordial

15 May 2012

Stag cushions from Pedlars

If painting walls and hanging new curtains isn't really an option, I think that switching old cushions for new can make a huge difference to a room and give it a new lease of life. And I love the statement that these huge cushions would make. There's a very outdoorsy character to them, which makes me think of roaring fires and toasted crumpets after big old blustery walks. Combined with something a bit more neutral, I think they would look equally good in a London bedsit as in a rambling, country mansion in Scotland.

The cushions (70cm x 70cm) are woven in Flanders and the images are woven into the fabric, rather than being digitally printed. You can get them online from Pedlars.

Delicious doughnut recipes

It's National Doughnut Week this week, and what more could you want when it's grey, gloomy and raining AGAIN, than a little sugary pick-me-up? If the thought tickles your fancy, you can find nine delicious recipes here, from doughnut holes and churros to double chocolate doughnut rings. Enjoy!

13 May 2012

Super quick banana ice cream

This is so easy, it's not really even a recipe. It's just a "how to" for making a delicious, super-quick, fat-free banana ice cream. And it's great for using up those bananas that have gone a bit black and mushy - just peel them, chop them then throw them in the freezer and you're ready to go. 

Super quick banana ice cream
Serves 2-3

4 peeled, chopped frozen bananas
Optional ingredients: honey, peanut butter, toasted crushed almonds

Put the frozen bananas into a food processor, and blitz them until smooth. They'll be a bit resistant at first, but keep the motor running for about 3 - 4 minutes, and they'll come together and get really creamy. And you're done!

It's delicious as it is, but you can add a tablespoon of honey (especially if you couldn't wait for your bananas to over-ripen before you put them in the freezer), peanut butter, or a sprinkling of toasted, crushed almonds.

7 May 2012

Water biscuits with poppy seeds

A cheese board, any cheese board, is pretty great in its own right, but add some homemade biscuits and you're heading towards perfection.

These biscuits are more like the dense, crunchy Bath Olivers than delicate Carr's Water Biscuits, but they're really easy to make, and would make a lovely dinner party gift. Or you could just keep them all to yourself.

Water biscuits with poppy seeds
Makes 25-30

60g lard
250g plain flour
2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
4 - 5 tbsps cold water

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line two or three baking sheets.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl, with the sea salt. Rub in the lard until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the poppy seeds.

Sprinkle the cold water into the mix, and bring everything together to form a firm dough. You might need a bit more or a bit less water, so do a bit at a time, but try not to over-work the dough. Knead briefly until smooth, then flatten it into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for 20 mins.

When the dough is chilled, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, to about 2mm thick. Cut out circles with a 6cm pastry cutter. Lay the cut shapes on your baking trays and prick them all over with a fork.

Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until they edges are pale golden and crisp, then cool on a wire rack. Voila!

These will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

2 May 2012

Terracotta lamps by Hand & Eye Studio

These terracotta lamps, by architect-turned-designer Tom Housden at Hand & Eye Studio, are definitely on the List. The warm colours of the terracotta, combined with the flashy white glaze make this a beautifully modern design that would look perfect in the kitchen. The lamps are all made to order and are also available with neon coloured flexes for a bit of extra stylishness. The large pendant is available in two styles - bottom glaze and top glaze.

Tom set up the Hand & Eye design studio in 2011, to combine the roles of designer and maker, and projects are developed from the drawing stage right through to the making and manufacturing. Tom sells through his website, and will also consider commissions and bespoke products.

1 May 2012

Spicy aubergine and tomato salad

As much as possible I try to make my own lunch to take to work, but coming up with new ideas to keep things interesting can be a major chore. Sandwiches are never quite as good once they've been wrapped in foil for a couple of hours, lettuce-y salads don't keep hunger locked up all day and for some reason the extra leftovers I cook with the desk-based lunch in mind, often don't survive the evening.

But I came across a recipe that I'd squirrelled away months ago. Adapted from a book called Flavours of Morocco by Ghilli Basan, it's packed with flavours of exotic holidays.

Served with chunks of bread, or as part of a tapas spread, it makes a perfect lunch at home or at your desk.

Spicy aubergine and tomato salad
Adapted from Flavours of Morocco, by Ghillie Basan

Serves 4

2 large aubergines
4 large, ripe tomatoes
100ml olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp harissa
Small bunch parsley, finely chopped
Small bunch coriander, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

Heat the oven to 200C. Put the whole aubergines in a roasting tray with the tomatoes. Drizzle half of the oil over the tomatoes, and bake for about 40 minutes until the aubergines are soft.

Remove the aubergines and tomatoes from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Then remove the skins, and chop the flesh of both to a chunky pulp.

Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy-based pan, add the garlic and fry gently until it starts to colour. Add the tomatoes, aubergine, harissa and cook over a medium heat for 5 - 8 minutes until it thickens. Stir in the lemon juice and coriander, and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

30 April 2012

Floral print dishes by Rice

I know that there are only so many oven dishes that you can ever possibly use, but I think they're my Achilles heel. I love this colourful kitchenware from Rice, especially the super lovely oven dishes from the Italian tableware range, which are sponge painted with flowers - perfect to brighten up a table on even the gloomiest of days.

 Rice is a danish firm, set up by it's owner after a  "LONG lunch in the french countryside", and sells a heap of brightly coloured kitchen accessories and melamine picnic-ware.

8 April 2012

Roasted celery soup

After the chocolate overload that is Easter, it's nice to get back to normal with something that feels like it's doing you good. And, this is a great recipe for using up the left-over celery from that other recipe you made that only needed half a stick of it.

Roasted celery soup
Serves 2

8 sticks of celery, cut into 5cm chunks
1/2 bulb fennel, cut into 5cm chunks
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
750ml chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to about 180C. Put the celery and fennel into a large roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss it all together so the vegetables are nicely coated. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft, but before they go brown.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan. Add the potato, and cook until it's soft.

When the celery and fennel are cooked, add them to the chicken stock, and blitz the whole lot with a stick blender, or in a liquidiser.

Taste and add more salt and pepper if it needs eat.

Enjoy with a big chunk of crusty bread.

5 April 2012

Purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy dressing

After a stretch of relatively sparse months as far as veg is concerned, we're finally starting to tip towards spring, but things like delicious purple sprouting broccoli are still around and deserve a last hurrah before we move on to lovely salads, asparagus and all things summery.

Anchovies go really well with lamb, so this could be an option for your Easter feast, or just serve it with a bit of bread for a quick lunch. Delish.

PSB is at its best when it's young and tender, so look for dark florets and crisp stems, no more than about 1cm in diameter. Avoid bendy broc at all costs!

PSB with anchovy dressing
Serves 4 for lunch or 6-8 as a side vegetable

400g purple sprouting broccoli
5tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
4 whole garlic cloves
6 anchovy fillets
Juice of half a lemon

Steam the broccoli until it's nice and tender. This is one recipe where it's better if it's not really crunchy, so it absorbs all of the flavours.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan, and gently fry the whole garlic cloves until they're golden brown. Remove them from the pan and add the chilli and the anchovies. Fry gently until the anchovies breakdown. Season with a twist of pepper and the lemon and remove from the heat.

You can either drizzle the dressing over the cooked, drained broccoli now, or blitz it with a stick blender to make a creamier dressing, then coat the broccoli.