Saturday, 29 October 2011

Autumn weekends I

A Northamptonshire weekend just as the air began to feel cooler, and the leaves began to turn. The structurally beautiful arches in St Pancras, leaving the capital past the canal and buildings and glimpses into other people's back gardens. Endless cups of tea. Nigel Slater's double hazelnut cookies, made with hazelnut butter AND toasted hazelnuts, so crumbly and nutty and delicious. An afternoon at the rugby, chips, cider, and a win. Walking with the dogs, blackberries in the hedgerows, teasels by the lake, geese.

A recipe reproduced below for my cookie of choice so far this autumn. I have taken them to WI meetings, to my colleagues at work, served them for dessert crumbled over Green & Blacks vanilla caramel nut ice-cream. They are so good.

Nigel Slater's Hazelnut Cookies, from Tender II

100g butter at room temp
50g light muscovado sugar
50g golden caster sugar
60g toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
100g hazelnut butter (this is like peanut butter but with hazelnuts - I find mine in Health Food Shops)
100g plain flour
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp baking powder

Set the oven at 190 degrees centigrade.

Cut the butter into chunks and cream with the sugars for several minutes until very pale and smooth. Mix in the nut butter and most of the chopped hazelnuts.

Mix in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder, stirring gently to form a soft dough. Spoon heaped tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment (no need to flatten). Scatter over the remaining hazelnuts and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the biscuits are pale gold and just dry on top. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 12

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"What did I do wrong?!"

...wailed my minimalist, modern design loving father when I brought this kitsch beauty home (carnations added by me - but I think they complete the look, no?). It seems opinion is a little split on my latest charity shop purchase...


But, if you are, like me, on the enamoured side of the fence, I've just spotted that Leona has a couple going in her fabulous shop (here and here).

Monday, 17 October 2011

Ice lollies in October

I'm sitting tucked up in bed, duvet on for only the second night, but window slightly ajar as I like the breeze, the freshness. Outside the air is cool, and the days have been crisp, but here, for memory's sake, a post about the Indian summer we enjoyed just a few weeks ago.


The last week of September, lunch time escapes to the park, propped against a sunny wall for an hour, hidden behind a flower bed, reading Murakami. Friday night dinner at a friend's in North London, he cooks us dosas with potato filling, tumeric stained, dollops of fresh coconut chutney. We drink cold beers and enjoy the warm evening air through the open balcony doors, the arches of Wembley not quite visible in the distance.

The first of October, a Saturday, I wake early for a lift to Norfolk to see my family. It's hot, very hot, so what else to do but head to the coast? Lunch in a pub garden, lemonade and lime, peeling paint and panting Labradors. Passing the crab fishers, walking up to the dunes and nestling amongst them with out books and sunglasses. Later, scones and whipped cream in a courtyard garden, sparrows flitting for crumbs. On the Sunday we drive to my sister, the new term has just started. We take her a laundry basket and extra mugs, a spare lamp and a bunch of flowers I've picked that morning from the garden. We go for brunch then on the walk home, because of the heat, succumb to ice lollies from the Co-op. We suck on them in her small walled garden, savouring the sun, our bare feet, knowing it will probably be the last time for awhile.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Provence II

It was a family holiday. My parents, M and I went out first, opening the shutters and ousting the scorpions. My sister arrived a few days later, sleep deprived from volunteering at Bestival, full of tales to tell. Family friends joined for a few days in the middle, and M and my Dad left earlier than the rest of us. So, changing numbers and changing dynamics, and we never truly mastered the hire-car sat nav, but it was lovely to have a much needed week away from work and London, one last bit of sun (or so I thought, until the Indian summer kicked in) before the onset of autumn.


A few visits to a lake in an old quarry, clean and cold, and wonderful to swim in, imagining just how deep the water must be beneath our kicking feet. Lines of plane trees and the light-dark-light-dark flicker of light as we drove between them. The constant creaking of cicadas. The postcard-perfect market in Aix-en-Provence, artichokes, plaits of garlic, glossy aubergines. Haphazard bunches of zinnias, sunflowers, Michaelmas daisies. Stocking up on Sephora products in their chic black and white packaging. Green olives and yellow quinces, hanging from the trees in the garden under a blue sky. On the one day it rained, Almodovar films and our childhood French favourite, Banania hot chocolate.

The scent of lavender, ever present.


Anyone got any favourite quince recipes? I brought a few home with me and am uncertain what to do with them - or rather, which of the quince recipes in Nigel Slater's Tender Vol. II to try...?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Provence I

We seem to have been blessed with an Indian Summer here in England, so it seems timely to get my holiday photos up before the feeling of sun on bare skin becomes just a memory.


France, for ten days, September. A house in the hills of Provence. Blue skies, hot days. Breakfasting outdoors. Ripe peaches, buttery brioche, apricot jam. Snails, bleached white on stalks of grass, plant stems, the cyprus trees. A tea dance in the local village, the smell of candy floss on the air, the sound of an accordion. Olives groves and dry-earthed vineyards, grapes black and heavy. Lying in the sun for hours, reading, dozing, sticky with sunscreen. Lunches in the shade, gazpacho from the Moro cookbook, local goat's cheese, fresh baguette. The anticipated pool, leaking and drained. Sweat behind knees, between shoulder blades. The hose pipe, rainbows in the spray, and iced drinks, clinking, providing much relief. A trip to the coast, swimming in the sea, salt crystals on our skin for the rest of the day. Cassis (blackcurrant) sorbet in Cassis, seemed appropriate. Scorpions on whitewashed walls, or woven bathmats, near misses. A chartreuse striped, mustard spotted caterpillar resident on a fennel plant. In the long grass, one field down from the pool, sections of a discarded snakeskin, translucent, papery, pieced together, over five foot long. At night, in the trees above the outdoor table, an unidentified mammal, spotted by more than one of our group. Tiger striped spiders, and a wasps' nest discovered amongst the lavender stalks. I am fascinated by this all, and feel like I am twelve again, an aspiring Gerald Durrell, devouring My Family and Other Animals with a passion. P├ętanque between the almond trees at dusk. Pigeons in fountains and sunflowers in buckets.

Another set of photos still to come...