2016. The review. Pt1

Nothing like thinking in November ‘I should check that long-neglected blog’ and seeing the last headline is about New Year’s Resolutions…

I assure you I’ve been writing everything but this thing.

Partly to prove it, and partly because I’ve just put the December magazine to bed, I thought it’d be a good time for a bit of a stock check.

So * insert top of the pops countdown music here* in at January we had…

Learning about fly fishing

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I love how random this is already.

The highlight was managing to catch another hook out of a tree, which I’m still convincing myself take skill. The lowlight was catching my own hair…

February

Has to go to Edible Arrangements

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A brilliant and inspiring company which works to match your table decorations with your menu. Honestly, check it out!

March 

This is a toughie but as much as I loved writing about Truth and Tails – books for children with a social twist – and experiencing the Light Technique in Brighton, there was on topic I featured that has blossomed into a hobby…

Calligraphy, with Kirsten Burke

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Just look at that concentration! And excuse to own quills… (Picture by Stewart Grant)

April 

Being a bit of a random fact fan, it has to be the story which lead me to learn the cut flower industry is worth more than the music industry (average of £36 per person).

Crosslands Nursery

 

 

Recipe book roulette, week 1 – 10

I don’t, generally, do New Year’s Resolutions.

I think I went for about a decade of saying ‘to quit smoking’ every time I was asked during that first day back at school/work conversation people always have. But people soon sussed I was cheating/not taking it seriously as I don’t smoke anyway.

But like usual, I digress.

My point is this year is different, and I have made a slightly different resolution to go with it. The plan is to cook a new meal from one of our recipe books every week.

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And so far, we’ve loved it.

We both enjoy cooking so have been taking it (mostly) in turns. And we’ve both served up highlights for me – my personal one being tackling, triumphantly, a crab soufflé.

While my partner’s plates of Jamie Oliver’s super squid, feta and (veggie) chorizo with mint cous cous make me smile just thinking of them. Mostly because it was delicious and just minutes after his elaborate marriage proposal was revealed.. but I might have to come to the latter another day.

Time for food..

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^ The aforementioned cous cous dish.

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^ A close up of the crab and ketchup souffle from One by Florence Knight

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We are trying to score them as we go, more to keep track than anything, which can be seen HERE on my Instagram.

I strongly recommend it, we just try to plan ahead – pimp the shopping list – and make it on a weekend so we have more time (usually for the washing up).

Maybe I should have started making resolutions a while ago?…

Wrapping up 2015 with a big bow

There is something almost ironic about not having the time to take stock.

Even when I do try, it always seems to turn into a ‘to do’ list making exercise.
What I’ve done being met by, then clouded over by, what I haven’t – yet.

credit Peppercorn Photography

credit Peppercorn Photography

Being busy is something we can all relate to. It is just the reasons vary person to person.
Lately I’ve been learning a lot, including that I didn’t really know what ‘busy’ was.
Aren’t the lessons which come with owning your own house are numerous and broad?

Anyway, rather than talking about rewiring, textured wallpaper and weeds (you can find more than enough of that in my weekly columns) I thought I would take the chance to look at the shiner side of life – quite literally – and do a must overdue update for my magazine section.

June (I know, I know) is a tough month to pick a favourite article from, namely because it is the month of our food special.
I really enjoyed getting to know the Hastings-based Baked by the Sea girls who offer cream teas by post, and meeting the mastermind behind the wasabi vodka and watercress gin of Winchester’s Twisted Nose.

It’s a tough job isn’t it?

credit Peppercorn Photography

credit Peppercorn Photography

Then there was the beautiful fashion of Shoreham’s Sula, beer making in Brighton, spending time at Caroline’s Dairy’s ice-cream empire and being inspired by the hyper-real artistry of Janine Shute.

In the end, I went with the one I find myself talking about the most – partly for its quirkiness and partly because spirits are having a great time of it at the moment.

So for more of my chat with Paul Bowler, founder of Twisted Nose, and his work to offer a tipple with ‘a real home, real roots, local flavour and a local story’ see HERE.

July was a slightly easier task as I fell head over heels for Christmas Cottage in Hampshire. I mean just look at it ..

Picture: Fox & Sons

Picture: Fox & Sons

Fox & Sons

Fox & Sons

And the amazing interior remodel was inspired by a pub.

AND the owner was really lovely and offered me a game of boules next time I was local.

It was just the full package, as you can find out HERE.

Pic: Mi Elfverson

Pic: Mi Elfverson

Pole dancing, arts festivals and illustrator Lauren Child made sure August was far from dull.

But as someone who spends far too long at their desk, a chance to get out into the countryside made for an extra special piece.

The story was about Walk&Talk4Success, which does what it says on the tin really offering business mentoring and support but on the move.

I met the group at Wakehurst Place and spent a lovely walk sharing ideas and solutions.. it was simply brilliant.

If I am being honest September was a two horse race for the title of ‘favourite’, in the running is Amanda Saurin and her amazing company As. Apothcary  who opened my eyes to natural beauty – in the best sense.

Then there’s The Future Kept which isn’t given justice by the description ‘online lifestyle stop’.
I pretty much want to own everything it sells and live in the photos on the website.

The Future Kept JPEE JPE6 Hastings Sept15

The Future Kept

The Future Kept

The Future Kept

See what I mean?

But, seeing as my list has some home but no skincare, As.Apothecary has to be the victor. And, in a job where I get to meet some amazing people, because I openly admit if I had to work anywhere else it would be for Amanda.

AS.Apothecary

AS.Apothecary

Something arty would have to sneak in my list somewhere, and for October and November I was lucky enough to have my two passions come together – seeing me write about amazing creative people.
Kate Sherman captures time passing through the laborious medium of painting – a contrast I just really, really, like…

Kate Sherman

Kate Sherman

Kate Sherman

Kate Sherman

John Napier might be a name you don’t know, but chances are you’ll know his work.
He’s created sets for the likes of Les Misérables, Cats and Starlight Express. The helicopter in Miss Saigon? Also his.
Not bad for someone who admitted to me for November’s magazine, that he once believed theatre design ‘was about drawing rooms, choosing the colour of the sofa – I thought that was pretty much it’.

John Napier. Picture: Julian Napier

John Napier. Picture: Julian Napier

For someone who edited an annual food special this year.. (me).. I feel like we could do with something edible on the list. For December this is a choice between Kyoto Kitchen, a Winchester restaurant giving its own twist to Japanese cuisine, or the Sussex Food and Drink Awards Young Chef cook off – which was a mouthful in more ways than one.

It seems right to choose the one which made me think more about my cooking, and only one made me want to mousse a pumpkin. .

Stephanie's Pumpkin Starter

Sussex Young Chef Grand Finalists, Stephanie Haywood, Michael Sutherland & Ryan Tomkinson

Seems a good a place as any to end this post, and year.

Roll on the next one : )

Cooking with Vikings and other Danish adventures

Pictures by BrknRib Photography

Pictures by BrknRib Photography

I found myself in the forest on the last day of my foodie tour along the coast of North Jutland, Denmark.

Trust me to start a story near the end hey? But I have good reason.

While I will do a post about the rest of the remarkable journey, for me it was not only a stand out moment from the trip but an experience I will remember forever – and as a result it deserves a mention of its own.

I ended up playing sous chef, partly thanks to my fellow colleagues having had a little to much to drink the night before, and what resulted was unlike any cookery programme I’ve ever seen.

As I recall HERE it felt like I was, in a way, fulfilling a role I’ve always felt fit for.

Viking jibes were among the more inventive I got at school for being a redhead. And ones I was quite happy with.

Granted I don’t go in for all of the past times attributed to the bearded seafarers, but I found myself feeling oddly at home gathered around a campfire with their modern day enthusiasts.

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Picking up some skills like fishing net stitching…

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And generally getting very, very hungry

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Laura Denmark Vikings pictures by BrknRib Photography

Picture by BrknRib Photography

Our host Jesper Lynge, aka Kjøgemester Oldfrue – who resembled a giggly Brian Blessed – had a real feast planned.

With salmon smoked over wood chippings, mussels cooked in cider and a mushroom porridge (above left) which was far tastier than the description would make you think.

My main job was chopping veg, but even that wasn’t ordinary, as I was handed a blade with a bone handle – after Jesper had showed us how sharp this ‘knife’ was by shaving part of his arm.

But somehow I managed to play a part in turning the table of ingredients, made from half a tree, into one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever devoured.

Most people I’ve mentioned any of this too have asked ‘what about drink?’ And the answer to that is we supped mead out of a communal horn between raising a toast to Thor. Obviously.

Pictures BrknRib Photography

Picture BrknRib Photography

My full feature, written for etc Magazine, can be seen HERE 

Danish rye bread cake – tastes nicer than it sounds

As my previous post – HERE – reveals May’s ‘diary’ themed cake club meeting saw people share baby news and an insight to busy lives.

While I used it as a chance to recreate an unusual bake I’d eaten when I met Danish Vikings – I would promise my life isn’t always that random, but my job as a feature writer often helps ensure it is.

Anyway. This was it.

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I know. It doesn’t scream Vikings. There’s no long boat, or horns (the latter of which I learnt was a lie anyway) but I promise it did have links to the historic troublemakers.

With the recipe for the Viking crumble cake being sent to me by the lovely Mrs Jesper Lynge.

(He looks like this)

Picture by BrknRib Photography

Picture by BrknRib Photograph

She plaited his beard at one point and it was hilarious, but that is neither here or there.

Hisilicon K3

For the Viking Crumble Cake, you’ll need:

100g (Danish) rye bread
100g finely chopped hazelnuts
6 eggs
200g cane sugar
1 tsp baking soda
Jam, whipped cream and roughly chopped chocolate (for filling)

Start by buttering your chosen tin(s) – I split it into two that I usually use for Victoria Sponges – and prehead the oven at 200oC.

I didn't have a blender..

I didn’t have a blender..

Method

  1. Blend 100g (Danish) rye bread with 100g hazelnuts.
  2. Beat up 6 egg yolks with 200g cane sugar.
  3. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  4. Mix the blended ryebread and hazelnuts with 1 tablespoon of baking soda.
  5. Mix the blended rye and nuts with the egg yolks
  6. Carefully stir the egg whites in the mix
  7. Put the cake mix in a buttered springform pan sprinkled with sugar
  8. Bake in the oven for 7-8 minutes at 200 degree Celsius
  9. Slide the cake in two cake layers
  10. Put jam and whipped cream on top of the first cake layer
  11. Put the next layer on top of the cake and cover with whipped cream and chopped chocolate

It was a weird process, but the result is actually pretty yummy. The rye and nuts make for a great sponge which balances the sweetness of the toppings.

Hisilicon K3

Umm.. appetising! 

Leftovers make good trifles

Leftovers make good trifles

Birthdays and babies at Chichester’s Clandestine Cake Club

‘Are you looking forward to bake off?’ I was timidly asked this morning.

Which would muster a ‘is the pope catholic’ response only sometimes I feel that I my commitment to Mary Berry outshines many religious callings.

Like many followers of the baking way of life, I am a member of the Clandestine Cake Club and you can read about some of the sweet adventures we’ve had in Chichester HERE .

Alas life has seen me miss a couple, for March’s I was HERE  and in May I was on a culinary tour of Denmark.. but I’ll come to that later.

Which leaves April’s Birthday Bonanza to mark member Mel’s 30th.
The theme was very much planned with a party in mind and offered bakers the chance to cook up ‘something you’d want to blow the candles out on’ or ‘something you’d make for a little one’.

For me at least , Ian’s castle creation ticked both of those boxes.

Hisilicon K3

As for the rest of the table, rainbow centres, sprinkles and chocolate also got a good showing…

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May’s event came with a ‘diary theme’ with the idea being to bake something that reflects the month just gone.

The lovely Clare probably had the biggest news to share (her ‘s is third from left in this picture..)

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A baked baby buggy!

Others brought to La Havana’s underground bar, which was our host for the night, marked Mother’s Day, busy schedules and in my case trips abroad.

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Which brings me quite nicely to Vikings.

But I think that deserves a post in its own right…

As ever if you fancy joining in with our club, you’d be more than welcome!
Details can be found HERE

Four days in the south of France

I suppose I should have known I was going to like the south of France.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux.

I certainly like saying the south of France – it sounds like it should be said beside a pool, sipping something with gin in it.

A more rational reason is that is was a favourite of some of history’s greatest artists.
Vincent Van Gogh is said to have declared ‘the whole future of art is to be found in the south of France’. And with a list which includes Claude Monet, Jean Renoir and Cézanne – you feel Vincent was on to something.

We flew from Gatwick to Marseille, hired a car and made our way to the beautiful small hotel La Maison du Paradou which had invited us to explore the famous area.
Driving along we soon realised the road signs read like a ‘Where’s Where’ with Barcelona, Lyon and Nice among the list.
And with the ‘Baby Alps’ framing rolling countryside I knew I didn’t want to leave before I had even unpacked.

 

Day one

Provence France, Laura Cartledge, Nimes, Maiselle, Les Baux

After our refuelling with tea and flapjacks we headed to the nearest highest point – Les Baux – to get our bearings.
This rocky outcrop, crowned with a ruined castle, offered breathtaking views over the plains to the south and out to sea.
As dusk drew in the light changed and we got a real sense of how special the area was.
We turned in early, following a delicious dinner at La Maison, to be ready to explore more in the morning.

Day two

One of my favourite things about our hosts, Andrea and Nick, was that they could turn a discussion over breakfast into a perfect, and printed, itinerary.
Our love of markets saw them suggest driving 20 minutes to Saint-Rémy.
The streets were brimming with a rainbow of produce and products while the lavender, which the area is famous for, filled the air.
We ducked into the quiet and cool Collégiale Saint-Martin Church and took too many photos of the buildings bearing painted signs, before heading to the breathtaking Saint-Paul

Saint-Paul Asylum

Saint-Paul Asylum

Asylum nearby – where Vincent Van Gogh stayed for a year. He was a self-admitted patient, from May 1889 until May 1890, and produced 143 oil paintings and more than 100 drawings here, including some of his most famous work – The Irises and Starry Night.

Back on the road we headed to Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct named after the Gardon River it crosses.
The on-site museum extensively documents both how it was built and how time has changed it, so, along with a spot of lunch, it made for a great stop on route to Nimes.
With the day running out we decided to head straight to the coliseum.
Built around 70AD, it is reported to be one of the world’s best-preserved Roman amphitheatres. It was remodelled in 1863 to serve as a bullring and now hosts other public events.
It is, like Pont du Gard, an astonishing feat of engineering and is a tangible link to the routes of the historic city.
Weaving our way through the narrow streets, where fashion brands and antique shops sit side by side, confirmed it offered a great merging of worlds and interests.

Day three

Aix-en-Provence

Aix-en-Provence

Keen to see more of the city life, and tempted by an array of markets, Aix-en-Provence was our first destination.
Andrea’s description of it being ‘bustling and bohemian’, thanks in part to the universities here, was spot on.
At the same time the streets were dotted with cathedrals, museums and quaint squares – where you find the numerous markets which are themed into textiles, food, flowers and crafts.
The Pavillon Vendôme, a historic house surrounded by a French formal garden, proved a nice spot to while away some time.
On our way back to the hotel we took the opportunity to visit Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux.
The former quarry has been transformed into a spectacular projection show venue.
Regular films are shown, both of historic and modern art. My favourite was themed on the renaissance and saw the drawings of Leonardo Da Vinci grow across the walls.

Provence France, Laura Cartledge, Nimes, Maiselle, Les Baux

For dinner we went to the neighbouring village, Maussane-les-Alpilles, rumoured to have 25 restaurants and only 200 inhabitants.
Our pick was Au Bistrot Marin which specialises in seafood. Half a crab has never been delivered so literally, or been so tasty, and after a feast we retired for the night

Day four

Keeping the momentum going we aimed to make the most of the time before our flight.
We started with the ‘toy town’ of Eygalières. Arguably our most stunning destination yet, with stone buildings spread over the hillside, a quaint church and cafe culture, it really highlights the Provence feel.

Maiselle

Maiselle

In sharp contrast our final port of call was the capital Marseille, second only in size to Paris.
Historically it was the most important trade centre in the region and the main trade port of the French Empire.
Now, thanks to its beaches, history, architecture and culture – including 24 museums and 42 theatres – Marseille is one of the most visited cities in the country.
Being European Capital of Culture in 2013 saw many changes and now modern attractions and architecture nestle among the old.
We just follow our noses and wind up at the waterside before devouring fish and chips, French style.
Then the airport calls an end to what has been a perfect mini break.

For more about my visit keep an eye on http://www.etcmag.net and for details of La Maison du Paradou visit www.maisonduparadou.com