Monday, 21 December 2009

Sheepskin booties

Mad-but-brilliant boots for this snowy weather, from Rocket Dog... and some inspiration for how to wear them.

Sessun on sale

I know, I know, you're not supposed to buy anything for yourself just before Christmas... but I am finding it exceptionally hard to stick to that rule now I've spotted these two Sessun shirts that Amy and I hankered for in Paris in October, now on sale at Urban Outfitters.

Pears poached in mulled wine, ginger cream

Serves four

6 comice pears
Bottle of red wine
Cinnamon stick, broken in two
Vanilla pod, slit in two lengthwise, with a sharp knife
5 cloves
Peel and juice of an orange
Two large mugfuls of sugar
Half a teaspoon grated nutmeg
One star anise

For the cream
Crystallized ginger in syrup (you buy it in a jar)
one knob of fresh ginger, peeled
Half a pot of single cream

Half the pears, top to bottom, and carefully peel them, cutting out the stalk and root. Using a teaspoon, neatly scoop out the core and discard. Pour the wine into the largest saucepan you have. Drop in the cinnamon, sugar, star anise, nutmeg, vanilla, cloves, peel and orange juice. Stir very well. Lower in the pears. Put a plate on top, to keep them submerged. Bring to a simmer, put a lid on and allow to poach for 20 mins, turning once. Carefully take the pears out, arrange in a pretty bowl. Scoop out the cloves, orange peel and cinnamon stick, then bring the mulled wine to an aggressive boil and reduce by half. Pour the liquor over the pears. Serve warm or cold, with a bowl of ginger cream and a plate of Almond Thins to pass around.

For the ginger cream:
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Grate in a knob of fresh ginger and a knob of crystallized ginger, adding a large tablespoon of the syrup from the candied ginger. Fold together and keep in the fridge until you're ready.

Inspired by a recipe from The Kitchen Revolution. Picture from Apple Pie Patis and Pate.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


Apparently "fashion doesn't do jumpers anymore," but when it's icy and snowy, like it is now, I want to pull on the thickest, hand-knitted jersey - the kind you can't fit a coat over. The kind that keeps the wind out and even moths can't contend with. Archie's jumper came from the Isle of Aran itself, bought when we had a holiday there, years ago. It's always had a strangely evocative smell of woodsmoke about it, and, I've learned, the trellis-look knit was designed to emulate the look of the dry-stone walls that edge the fields in the crofting communities of the west coast, which only make me like it more. My knitted cardi surely once belonged to a Cornish granny - and grannies know better than most how to keep the chills at bay. I bought it for £2 from a charity shop in Bude, smitten by its silver anchor buttons.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Roast chicken with garlic and tarragon, Puy lentils and roasted tomatoes

A large organic chicken
A bunch each of chives, parsley and tarragon, all chopped finely
Juice of half a lemon, plus the zest
3 cloves garlic, sliced finely
A third of a pat of butter - softened to room temperature, plus an extra knob
Salt and pepper
For the lentils
250g Puy lentils
Half an onion, very finely diced
Olive oil
Pint of chicken stock
Thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped
For the tomatoes
Two "branches" of vine tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put the chicken in a large, ceramic ovenproof dish. The tricky bit: gently loosen the skin from around the neck, and gently (remove any rings that will snag the skin) separate the skin from the flesh all over the breasts. It's fiddly - don't tear the skin. In a small bowl, mix the herbs, lemon juice and zest, pepper, salt and garlic into the butter, to make a paste. Now, using your hands, push the butter underneath the skin you've loosened, smoothing it all over the flesh of the breasts as evenly as you can. Then neatly truss the bird up. Melt the extra butter and rub it all over the outside of the bird, sides and all, season it very well, and then roast it in a hot oven for 15mins. Turn the oven down to medium and then roast for a further hour or so. After half an hour's cooking time, cover with foil. After cooking, the bird should rest under the foil for about 15mins.
Meanwhile, the lentils... Sweat the onions in the olive oil for ten minutes. Add the lentils, stir, then pour in the stock. Stir and bring to a gently simmer for about 20mins, until the lentils are tender. Stir in the thyme leaves, plus a couple of teaspoons of cooking juice from the chicken.
Meanwhile the tomatoes... Keeping the toms on their vine, place in a small ceramic dish so that they fit snugly but not overlapping. Drizzle with oil, scatter with salt and pepper and roast in the top of a hot oven for about 8 mins, until tender but not too coloured.

Inspired by a recipe by Rick Stein. Painting of garlic by my sister, Amy.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

First outing for the 18th-century smock

Bea was not at all sure when I showed her the 18th-century smock I bought from Red House. It was meant for a shoot - but I knew it was destined for my wardrobe. She's used to my penchant for peasant-chic, but even she thought perhaps this was a step too far. Calf-length, completely shapeless, sewn from the coursest linen hopsack, with a mysterious B & A embroidered in red crossstitich at the neck... but it had potential. So I hemmed it shorter (are you allowed to do that to antique things? Well, too late) and wore it layered over a white long-sleeve t-shirt from Jigsaw, thick grey tights from Falke, my Swedish Hasbeens clog boots, and belted it with my new red snakeskin Nicole Farhi (sample sale scored) belt. On top, a knitted waistcoat bought from a Bude charity shop for £1.

Pumpkin soup with walnut bread

A whole pumpkin
Olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
Salt and pepper
One onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
An organic chicken stock cube dissolved in 2 pints of hot water
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
A glug of single cream

Half the pumpkin, and scoop out the seeds. Half it again, and once again (eighths) and peel with a potato peeler. Chop the flesh into large chunks and tip them into a baking tray. Scatter with the cumin, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with enough olive oil to coat everything. Toss together, using your hands, and roast in a hot oven for about 20 mins. Meanwhile sweat the onion and garlic for 10 mins. Add the potatoes, season well, and cook for a couple of mins. Pour in the stock, followed by the roasted pumpkin chunks - which should be charred in places and soft. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Then blend until smooth. Stir in the cream, season again, and gently reheat. Serve with slices of walnut bread, spread thickly with butter.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Cecile Askov

Cecile writes her blog, Bakerby, from Copenhagen and I really love her style: wooly scarves and smocks and checks and tweed and thick tights. It's funny how fascinating it can be looking at complete strangers' outfits...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Folksy dresses

I like these folk-inspired tunics from Plumo - lovely worn with thick tights.

The White Ribbon

We saw Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon last night and I am in awe. It's an extraordinarily immersive film set in 1913 rural Germany, telling a chilling, eerie story of fear and guilt in a small, repressed village community. I can't remember ever seeing an era so scrupulously recreated on film. The details were so precise: the crumbling walls, rickety gates, creaky floorboards, cloudy spectacles, buckets of gnarled turnips, rusty scythes, course linen nightshirts... even the faces of the actors seemed to come authentically from another time. How is it possible that it was filmed only last year? And the fact that is was shot in black and white - but brilliantly cleanly - made it all the more atmospheric. I completely loved it.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


A couple of weeks ago I bought a frill-collared, brown-checked Kenzo shirt for a few pounds from a charity shop, sort of imagining it was a label that didn't really exist anymore. But now I see they've just launched an online store, with some rather nice cosy-looking things on it.


I made a delicious discovery at lunchtime: Polpo - a small, newish restaurant on Beak Street. I had been walking past it for weeks, admiring the vintage lace curtains and zinc-topped bar. But today I actually ate there: lots and lots of small, salty treats on tiny plates which they crowd onto your table. Fritto misto of squid and prawns; tiny crostini topped with anchovy and chickpeas; slices of rare steak and wild mushrooms; courgettes topped with fried breadcrumbs. I was really trying not to be greedy, because it was a work lunch and that would look wrong, but I kept loosing track of what he was saying because it was all so delicious. And when I have to do "sharing" plates I get low-level panic that I might have to fight for the last fried potato or roasted beetroot. I loved the interior, too - bare bricks, chipped tiles and stripped floorboards with lovely old school chairs and a few relaimed hooks for coats. It was full - packed, in fact - with unbelievably chic people who clearly eat there every day. I now want to be one of them.

Ewa i Walla

Swedish label Ewa i Walla make such romantic clothes, in keeping with that fresh-faced, peasant-girl look I like. I absolutely love her braided hair, too. And that bucket. And her cushion.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

SNS Herning

One of my favourite Christmas prezzies ever is the stripey SNS Herning fisherman's jumper Archie gave me last year. It's the warmest jumper in the world, wind- and waterproof as all fisherman's kit should be. It's the kind of jumper that will last for 100 years, not showing any signs of age. All SNS jumpers are made in Denmark in the town on Herning, in the exact way they always have since 1931, on ancient mechanical looms operated by four elderly gentlemen.

Friday, 20 November 2009


The brilliant, always inspiring Chelsea blogged about Ellenitza, and I have to agree - the girl's got style. Woolly tights, Swedish Hasbeen clogs, Liberty print, a cosy cardi... she's a sartorial kindred spirit.


Everything about this top screams Buy Me! Wear Me! - except the price.

Chez Marcelle

Last night we ate at Chez Marcelle on Blythe Road. We got there at 8.30, starving. I'd had a puncture and had to do a death-defying drive across London with a flat back tire. I'd dropped my scooter at the garage and then walked - three miles at least - to the restaurant, wearing impractical clog boots. Archie cycled and we both turned up more or less as the same time. The restaurant was almost empty and looked so unpromising. Too brightly lit. The menus were laminated. There was a vase of plastic flowers on each table... I was feeling tired and hungry and grumpy. Marcelle took our order and we drank some Lebanese wine and waited and waited - 40 minutes probably. I was on the verge of demanding we leave, when the food arrived. And Oh! - was it worth the wait. First a huge bowl of fattoush, very, very finely chopped and freshly dressed like I've never had before, with sumac and radishes and crunchy toasted pita. We had about seven different small dishes: plump, spicy Lebanese sausages; smoky, smooth moutabal; fried halloumi - everything was made completely from scratch (hence the wait), and everything was totally delicious and extraordinarily cheap. We agreed it was one of the best suppers we'd ever had in London.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Chinti & Parker

I was thrilled to discover Chinti & Parker, two cousins who make the most lovely cashmere and cotton things for adults and children from a workshop in Dorset. Their cardigans have hand-sewn elbow-patches, and - almost hidden on the back - two tiny stitched initials of your choice.

Pea puree

Last night we had chicken and waxy new potatoes roasted slowly with lemon zest and olive oil, with scoops of pea puree on the side. My recipe for pea puree is unbelievably moreish and works brilliantly with frozen peas.

Into a food processor tip a tablespoon of live plain yoghurt, half a garlic clove peeled and choppped into chunks, a tablespoon or two of parmesan flaked into shards, a couple of good glugs of olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Tip half a bag of frozen peas into a sacepan of cold water, bring to the boil and immediately drain. Tip the peas into the blender and blitz to a chunky paste. Return to the saucepan and very gently reheat it before serving.

Picture from here

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Vintage Wedding List

Because we've already got plenty of practial white sheets and towels, we're thinking of having our wedding list at the VintageWeddingList, where you can have things like floral eiderdowns, Welsh blankets, bone-handled knives and Cornishware jugs on your wish list.

Laura Long

I'm not sure what I'd do with them exactly, but Laura Long's knitted dolls, inspired by fairytales, are completely charming. The miniature clothes are particularly adorable - I'd like a human-sized version of Little Red Riding Hood's skirt and Gretel's dress please.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Couverture and the Garbstore

Emily Dyson at Couverture has such a good eye - there are always things I like in her shop. She champions small designers and often has stuff you can't find anywhere else, like Mocuin or Virginia Johnson... Her husband's shop, Garbstore, downstairs, sells some of my favourite sorts of clothes for men: cagoules and Nordic jumpers for urban dwellers. The homewares are mostly too minimal-Scandinavian or Sixties-graphic for my taste, but I have really taken a shine this tweedy purse and throw.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Zadig & Voltaire

After a whole week suffering miserably with the flu, this top was my got-well treat.

Wrapping paper

Inside could be the most mundane present imaginable, but just think how thrilled you'd be to get a parcel wrapped in this Italian botanical paper from Manufactum.

Friday, 6 November 2009


It's been on my mind for some time now that I have need for a pair of plus-fours. I live in a flat in Shepherds Bush (with not even a garden) so I don't, in reality, have either the need nor the right to equip myself with shooting attire, but I often find myself hankering after country clothes in the city. A lovely tweed hunting jacket with red felt under the collar, long shooting socks, a deerstalker: proper clothes with both style and purpose. I have just taken possession of this fabulous pair of tweed breeks - high-waisted, silk-lined - and I'm smitten. I'm sporting them with a knitted cardi, the thickest woolly tights and (looking a bit like a mad person, probably) these shoes.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Polish painted eggs

Precious painted eggs from Poland, from the brilliant Selvedge shop.


Kew is not really on my list of go-to shops, it's a little mumsy for my taste. But I do like the way they style their catalogues.