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...