"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
The garden beckons
25 February 2014
There`s fun in a
workout with fork and spade in the fresh air . As good as
a punch bag (it has been one of those weeks) .Happily ,weeds growing super fast in the warmth, and infesting
snails are at the receiving end of my energies.
I dig and thoughts come, like how there is sanity in the unpredictability
of nature. Give me this
violet (above) pinging with unseasonal colour and
vigour over a mush diet of commercial uniformity. Bring on the super green alliums bursting
with early green shoots and, over there , a
radical forget met not, glowing with delicate cobalt blue flowers And even though I canít tame nature I can attempt to work
The hazel hurdles are
up. Easy to mount the stakes in the boggy soil and they should make a good backdrop for
garden shoots this spring. Iíve
recycled the worn out willows ones and put them in the vegetable patch (see
below). Theyíll look good with sweet
peas curling up in summer.
I am planning a new shoot bathroom in the attic and to line the downstairs bathroom in tongue
and groove mdf cladding. Iíve my eye on
a cast iron bath with feet for the top room and Pigeon dark grey to give it warmth and
contrast to my mostly white house.
On the fabric side of
things, I have recently seen luscious colours in sleek contract textures
designed by fashion designer Raf Simons for Kvadrat . And there are interesting retro prints in Heals` first fabric collection since the seventies`.
I seem to need more
raw food at this time of year, something to do with winter depleting our
bodiesí stocks of nutrients maybe, or simply a desire for crunch and colour.
Here Ďs a simple winter salad, from my recipe book that you might like to put
2 or three carrots,
peeled and sliced into thin sticks.
200g red cabbage
1 head of chicory
handful of pomegranate
handful of chopped
few mints leaves, to
garnish ( my local Turkish shop has a steady supply all through the year)
for the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
2tbsp Seville orange
juice or lemon juice
1garlic clove finely
salt and freshly
ground black pepper
vegetables, pomegranate seeds and nuts in a bowl. In another small bowl, whisk
the olive oil and orange or lemon juice until amalgamated. Add the garlic and
season. Add the dressing to the salad, mix and garnish with mint.
I am still married to my rubber boots even though the sun is spilling through the windows on a rare dry break in the deluge.
Cat and dog laid out in the warming rays as they spread across the newly made bed and decorate it with the finest of cat and dog fur.
After my rant last week, I must say that the upsides of shoots outweigh the occasional down moments. This week we feasted on leftovers: coffee and walnut cake.etc., made by a young, and starting out cook Charlotte Gardelis, who expertly fed and watered the team in the main shoot space.
Munching the last slice of cake and reading Vogue, I see that my investment in a lightweight mint coloured puffa from Uniclo has been given the fashion bible`s stamp of approval, too. I`m not a puffa person but this is a great colour to go with my pink bits and is really warm which is what really counts.
Dodged the showers and tube strike to see Beckett`s Happy Days at the Young Vic. It wasn`t the most uplifting play to go to with a young person at the start of life and full of fluttery hopes, but Juliet Stephenson `s Winnie showed the female capacity for looking on the bright side when it isn`t ,and she has great hand movements.
Happier days, are spent fielding packets of lovely fabric samples, that drop through the letter box for the new book I`m working on. My heart sings when I come across colours in embroidery like this from Pierre Frey , above. Must tell you too that I`m pleased my borders are part of the collection curated by Silvanna de Soissons in her new foodie bugle online shop.
Days getting a little longer... the garden is beginning to beckon for spring. I am looking forward to replacing worn out and wind damaged willow fences at the bottom of the garden with 3 freshly woven hazel ones that arrived by courier yesterday.
Daughter can`t get to job and assistant stuck on bus for two hours. Poor show, striking Tube people and your big brother boss B.Crow last seen sunning hairy belly on Rio Beach. But this, and ongoing flood/mud/rain/wind/gloom story brightened by lone survivor of my roses, a brilliant John Clare bloom. Also, cheering thoughts of the toasted pistachio gorgonzola tagliatelle taste sensation at Zucca a few weeks ago and, look here, chocolate brownies baked by middle daughter for her younger sister`s` birthday tomorrow. (From Felicity Cloak`s Perfect, and they do taste, just that).
Inspired by a yellow Habitat chair on a shoot a couple of months ago , I thought you`d like to see my paint update on a chipped and worn chair in my office. Off I go to the paint shop to see if I can recreate the same lime green/acid yellow colour that reminds me of all things springlike e.g see the angelica flower head I shot in an Algarve meadow last year. I pick `Tarragon Glory` from Dulux and it works well. I cheated and bought quick drying emulsion which, of course won`t wear as well as an oil based eggshell, but I do rather prefer matt painted finishes all round.
The cat and dog look at me hard as I shut the door to the kitchen. I read their stares as `what is she doing, denying us access to FOOD ? ` But I don`t want them decorating the freshly painted white floor which is wet and drying slowly slowly because it is oil based . The long drying time is worth it because the result is hard wearing, like enamel. And this is good for repelling the assault by the heavy boot wearers and furniture draggers of the shoot world. The chalk-on-blackboard screech as a bed or sofa is grated across the boards propels me out of my hidey office hole like nothing else. Thankfully most people are brilliant and careful when they come to use the house.
It`s as if I`ve gone on holiday to a fresh new space . I`m inspired to invest in a a new steam cleaner to keep it looking that way. Quite sceptical about housey gadgets but this is rather wonderful like a steam iron-with-pad on astick. The thing works well if I apply a firm pressure - in the manner of mowing the lawn. Rather meditative, too, as no interruptions for rinsing like you have to do with a traditional mop and bucket.
PS Cat and dog food bowls relocated so they don`t go hungry.
I also update the central island units with a coat of water based `diamond` eggshell, which does do what it says on the tin but obviously wouldn`t be up to something like a floor painting job.
Number one unreliable gadget, the car won`t start. Into garage and the blissful engine hands of Panos. Bicycle main form of transport and so I wobble off with dog on lead tied to handlebars. I am multitasking:dog gets walk in park and I can get to the market to load up with birthday party ingredients for son turning 25.
As ever, Herne Hill Market is a treasure trove of edible delights : rock oysters from Poole in Dorset and leafy greens to start with. Bicycle basket filling up , but I can`t resist retro jug above, and green retro Pyrex glass below. Makes up for the vintage olive oil jugs I backed out of at Fuseta market the other week. The last stop turns out to be the west country cheese man, whose extra mature cheddar is mouthwatering. I feel the dog tugging and sniffing , trying to get under the stall. Bike , dog and me, almost a heap on ground, when west country cheese man shouts,` `Oi its got my lunch` and bends down to retrieve a half finished carton of curry. Wishing I wasn`t there, I offer replacement and buy an extra slice of goats` cheese . Time to leave.
Incident free on the ride home. I bake a birthday cake involving much chocolate and caramel sauce. The canine, not chastened of course , lurks by my feet waiting for a tasty crumb to drop. .... I have to admire her dogged persistence.
I`m warding off the incursion of the 5:2 diet in our household with a hearty steamed pudding from Pure Style Recipes for Everyday.
You, blog readers will enjoy it too, if you`re faint from more New Year diet nonsense.
Marmalade steamed pudding
(makes 4 small puddings)
This is a delicous combination of the bitter flavour of the orange and the sweetness of the sponge. Substitute the marmalade with golden syrup for an even stickier and sweet comfort pudding.
Inn a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour. Grease 4 individual pudding moulds and put a tablespoon of marmalade at the bottom of each.
Add the mixture and cover with greaseproof paper lids tied with string, or a piece of foil fitted tightly. Stand in 2.5cm of water in a roasting tin and place in an oven preheated to 180C for 50 minutes , until risen. Turn out the puddings into serving bowls.
Heat the remaining marmalade in a pan, pour a tablespoonful over the top of each pudding and serve.
Today I will squeeze into trainers and have a quick jog to the seafront and back. New year, new promises and fabulous colour in Christmas earrings and new green cotton t shirt. Small splashes of colour can be as dramatic as an all out colour assault whether it`s in the wardrobe or for decorating a room.
A trip along the coast. Down cobbled steps fringed by tumbling purple convovulus and cactus plants with paddle shaped limbs green succulent, and deadly spiked. Eating springy bread buns with hunks of sweet tomato and goats`s cheese on the grey wind and rain spattered beach is more Bognor regis than the Eastern Algarve, but we are also feeling the whirling effects of the UK`s fierce winter storm.
I am glad to be off major cooking duties for a few days. But it was hugely satsifying over Christmas to produce Elizabeth David`s, Carbonade Nimoise and La Daube de Boeuf Provencale from French Provinical Cooking. Both essentially hearty stews cooked long and slow, the former involves lamb and potatoes with a typical southern taste and smell , and the latter beef with more rich southern juices flavoured with orange peel and herbs .
At the Saturday market there are mounds of cabbages and greens - rich in winter nutrients and fibre for little more than a few centimos. Wish I could carry back furry quinces for membrillo, but would be at expense of reading matter . No I don`t have a Kindle, but maybe I should for the
Sunday, and it`s Fuzeta fleamarket. No I don`t want a bucket of golf balls or a bobbled polyester dressing gown, but I do have my eye on a couple of retro aluminium jugs for olive oil. Five euros each. Not bad I think, but do I really need them? But do we really need most of the stuff we have. Buy them, says the daughter and dedicated shopper of her generation in my head I go back and have a another shifty look. No. I`ll save my money. In the car on the way home. Regret. I should have bought them. So useful and such great shapes.
Anyone for a hammer?
Pots , pans , simple china and utilitarian junk like these mesh filing trays are what make Fuzeta a rich source of pickings on a sunny Sunday morning.
I have escaped the Christmas hysteria for a long weekend in Olhao. Bathed in warm sun the Saturday market is a rich source of edible seasonal goodies. I can only look and sigh at the honey- it wouldn`t make it past the xray scanner but I load up on piri piri peppers, nuts and figs for simple stocking fillers.
Two small girls are selling chestnuts with their brothers from a barrow with a basic charcoal oven and a box of sea salt for flavouring. They keep their wares tucked up like dolls in a blanket of sacking. I buy a bag for 2 euros and the nutty burnt flavours evoke the Christmases we spent in the Andalucian sierra.
Over coffee and a
pastel de nata I consider more ideas, some practical, some
fanciful for my Pure Style Christmas wish list:
A scented rambling rose for summer blooms.
A pile of warm wool welsh blankets Cashmere socks
A cataplana for making Portuguese fish and rice stew.
Anything from Labour and Wait, especially a pot mat a stout work apron and a shiny new saucepan;
A substantial linen tablecloth
Something simple in pottery
Just about any Aesop products but especially my favourite moisturiser
A new project like this one
The true version of this
rather than my Ikea rip off
A subscription to visual inspiration at the Royal Academy.
A year`s supply of Bendicks bittermints
Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting. Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done. So I take his advice and do it . He does the heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other local flowering spots neat and under control.
You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon grey Hunters at TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to £79 up the road at Morleys. I don`t even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and as with my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.
Away from the screen, solicitor`s letters , leaking sink pipe, and the general impermanence of things, I feel contentment digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips. The afternoon is quiet , blue wash sky going into pink and a blackbird on the fence.
Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think optimistic pleasing thoughts. I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls, a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass warm and herby and the sun setting behind the apple tree
The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family but what I do rage over is the commercial relentlessness which began somewhere back in September with cut price chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op. Out in the garden there`s none of that and I am grateful to all the growing things for that
Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for pork pies. Herne Hill market saved the day when there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham. She worked from the recipe in Pie a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the classroom staff bake off. I`ve been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.
One red onion is beauty in itself don`t you think? It should should be called purple , deep mauve , fuschia even, anything but red. I bring a paper bagful home from the market to make an edible autumn display on the table. This depletes over the week with glossy fried onions for gravy with sausage and mash, stirfry with crunchy sticks of carrot and white cabbage and Sunday`s last beef slivers. I`m addicted to Sharpham Park pearled spelt, and it is just the thing for making a risotto with chopped red onion, beetroot and goats cheese.
Lido blue sky, Jerk chicken on the breeze , and through the park gates a fluttering gold
horizon on the hill , Sunday in Brixton is just
as freeing and refreshing as a walk in country woods. I am a country
girl in my heart but for all the delights of rural beauty and peace my head
soon tires of petrol hikes to the shops and sinister ice on winter
lanes. Give me the people life of urban encounters: a late night war
story from an Eritrean minicab driver, fellow dog walkers
smiling in four legged connection; a close friend and glass of fizz
one road crossing away; or Antonia and Casey at Beamish and Mcglue
who dispense good coffee and local chat. And from the spreading rash of
betting shops in the high street to a potential feast of films in a
new Picture House cinema, these are all elements of my village life in the city.
It`s been a good week for exhibitions: : Whistler`s fog scenes on the river at Battersea; more colour at Tate Modern with Paul Klee and then to Albermarle Street and Tim Wright`s powerful painted figures .
GARDEN NOTE : Apart from a few floppy pink rose heads. colour is leaching from the
garden beds. But the sycamore is flaming and the grass thick and rich
green, a last growth spurt before winter draws it back into the earth
to wait for Spring. Boxes of tulip and allium bulbs are packed in the cool of the larder.I have a weekend earmarked for planting them and putting the garden to bed. NB see great pictures by Caroline Arbour`s in a new book on Virginia Wolf`s garden .
Inspirational autumn colours in the park above, and pink Cosmos, below, growing in the Community greenhouses, below.
QUINCE JELLY: I simmer the dentist`s quinces in water for a couple of hours and let the cooked fruit drip pink juice through muslin into the pan. I add 500ml juice to 600ml of sugar and stir the mixture over the heat until setting point .The hot jelly cools and sets in jars by the fridge. The dog sniffs but doesn`t touch, too hot. I plan to share the jelly out to foodies at Christmas. It`s so good to eat with roast meat or to stir into gravies.
Our Pure Style paper borders are the best things to decorate your life inside, and out. They come in 8 modern colourways and to fix, require little more than a spirit level and a few dabs with the glue brush. We`re selling to clients who want to cheer up kitchens and hallways or give a new look to a bedroom. Great for more temporary nests, too: students can get away with decorating their Cell Block X accommodation, just as easily as any other renter, since the borders can be stripped off at the end of term or lease. Buy one... or two or three... NOW!
See Fennel border , above
Duck Egg border
Rose Petal border
Pure Style borders are available online in our shop
More local finds at Herne Hill market on Sunday: hand dyed green vintage Witney blanket from a stall laden with blankets and throws (every other week )in great colours; a flagon of cider delicious. aromatic and alcoholic from Core Fruits 01227 730589 to go with a brace of pheasants I roasted from the next door but one stall; just round the corner is Lowie, with great handknits and vintage rails amused to see Lady Di -style frilled high - neck Laura Ashley frocks
Cheered by vibrant pink, whether its lipstick or roses (see the last of the John Clares in the garden ) I like the idea that warm coats in pink sorbet colours are fashion themes this winter. Which reminds me, you should go to Vanessa de Lisle`s blog for some of the best fashion wisdom in the business.
It`s good to see the Pure Style borders featured in this month`s copy of the World of Interiors
Simple idea: nature lamps from Dan, who`s looking for stockists. Contact Danartland@yahoo.co.uk.
Simple pleasures: the dentist`s quinces look so beautiful I don`t want to cook them. And I`m reading Rakesh Sarin and Manel Baucells where the `fundamental question ` of wellbeing is happiness equals reality minus expectations. Cool!
The person with a pair of steps, green bag and dog on lead is me going on a crab apple forage. We`re based under a laden tree which spills over the front garden round the corner at Macolm`s house, who`s also a fellow location owner. "Help your self` he generously replies to my text. So I am. Gratefully. The tree is dropping its fruit fast and dozens of decaying pink and yellow crabs decorate the pavement .
I perch on the steps under the fullest and most accessible branches and shake the fruit into the mesh bag. A man approaches and tells me that he knows where wild horseradish root is growing on a patch near a certain local bus top. Would he like me to get some? How`s that for a chat up line? But isn`t it great to know that we have our very urban harvest literally on the doorstep? It seems a waste when you see so many streets round here with damsons, pears and apples , blackberries that go unpicked. Have a look at this website which has been organising urban fruit forays in the US for some time
Soon the fruit is bubbling away merrily in the big metal pan on top of the stove. I am deep in screen hopping when I smell toffee apple. I race downstairs to find the fruit has burnt and stuck to the bottom . Bang goes any chance of the jelly looking pink and translucent . I think of the effort harvesting my crop and decide it`s not worth throwing it away. It will be a darker more mature kind of crab apple jelly I reason.
I make a jelly bag from a piece of muslin , pile in the cooked fruit and hang in the cellar to drip over a basin for a couple of days This is longer than necessary but when there is a lorry load of furniture and pots of paint for spring 2014 in your kitchen it would be unwise to add to the chaos.
After the shoot departs I boil up the juice with sugar, and wait for the magical moment when it sets all wrinkly on the ice cold saucer I`ve prepared in the freeze box. Whether this fruit was lower than usual in pectin, the setting agent, it takes the length of the Archers` Omnibus before it`s set. Jelly that flows rather than plops on to the plate is not an ideal option.
All done, all boiling hot and poured into jars. The taste is not as floral and crab appley it should be, but rather more rich and apple puddingy. No matter, it is delicious, and I have a second jelly chance, with the dentist`s quinces. (Yes, a little quince forage in between gum cleaning) Just heard Diana Henry making quince jelly with star anise on Woman`s hour anise which sounds good. Might try that, or I was thinking of experimenting with quince and mint. Will see when I get there as I have mint in the garden, just, and there`s a bag of star anise in the larder.
Dew grass in the morning and fallen green apple orbs. Got to get there quick before the slug army advances. The tree is pensionable yet manages to bear me a hefty crop this year. No menopause for trees. I lay the fruit out in the cellar - and hope it will keep crisp for a few weeks. The other thing like my mum used to do is wrap them in newspaper, and store throughout the winter.
Worried I`m selling out with the new white retro Smeg (Smug?) fridge replacing the leaky larder one I`ve had for 10 years. Thinking strategically though, because it fits with the location kitchen look, and what with all the baking shoots we need more space for chilling dough.
Balanced out the big spend with a sixities Jaeger tweed skirt £13.,50 from the secondhand shop Triad in Brixton. Can`t quite believe how achingly trendy Brixton has become. Five years ago my girls were wary of the dope dealers on the corner by KFC , now they`re dodging the foodie tours , snaking up the high street to Brixton village.
Back to the apples which I peel and chop at speed to make apple and ginger pudding. Think I`ve given you the recipe from my cook book before but here it is:
For the syrup
4 cooking or large eating apples
juice of l lemon
90g caster sugar
4tbsp syrup from a jar of preserved ginger
for the cake
125 butter softened
124g caster sugar
2 large eggs beaten
125g self raising flour
4 knobs preserved ginger chopped
Peel, core and slice the apples and turn them in lemon juice to stop them going brown. Melt the butter i saucepan.Add the sugar and syrup and stir until creamy and a pale toffee colour. Arrange the apple slices neatly in a greased 1kg bread tin or 23cm cake tin. Pour in the syrup mixture.
For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour with a metal spoon. Stir in the chopped ginger and spread the cake mixture evenly over the apples.
Place in a preheated overn, 190C for about 45 minutes. If the top browns overly reduce the heat.
Test for easiness with a skewer in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, with sticky cake mixture on it , it`s gone.
Cool the cake on a wire rack before turning out. Eat with ice cream or creme fraiche.
It`s the time of year for London`s crop of interior design shows. Last week, much excitement! our Toast wallpaper border, see above and below decorated the World of Interiors stand at Decorex.
I manned the House & Garden stand at the same show, during the eighties` when chintz prints, swags and bows and frilly Austrian blinds were the life blood of interior decoration. The aesthetic today is so much more eclectic, everything from modern textures to retro Cabbages and Roses chic.
My Pure Style eye is caught by tiles in jewel colours from Habibi and Bert&May. Hibou wallpapers and fabrics for children have a Cath Kidston flavour, but in a less sugary palette. David Seyfried supplies among the best small classic sofas that I have seen since I purchased two from him over twenty years ago. And there are beautiful one-offs from Fine Cell Work Fine Cell Work a social enterprise that trains prisoners in paid, skilled, creative needlework.
Back to blogging post the M4 migration and university delivery of youngest. And the back to the everythings of September that I would rather not have to deal with, such as the garden which is looking, let`s say, autumnal. But the apples shimmer on laden branches and next post I`ll show you the first of my apple puddings. It`s no chore, too, to revisit the delicious things I came across this summer.
Puglia ,via Ryanair to Brindisi (some say it`s the new Tuscany- hmmm it would be a great loss) was all gnarled olive trees in baked earth fields like rows of ancient chieftains. And all the chalk white hill towns , strawberry
gelato and beehive
Trullis that you could wish for.
Markets like the one at Cisternino were piled with enough
arugala, pommodori, mozzarella and good bread for a century of al fresco picnics.
We made fava ( broad bean ) humus with dried beans bought in plastic bags from the petrol station , and crunched small round dried bread snacks, (the Portugueuse and Spansih do similar) see below which encourage to you to sip more and more from your wine glass. .
One day we took the coast road swimming off rocks and then to the Taverna da Santos where we sprawled on fold up blue canvas deck chairs by limpid blue sea like extras from
la dolce vita