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Bulbs in
02 December 2013



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.




Tags: Tulips, alliums, autumn, baking, colour ,


More fruitfulness
11 November 2013

 
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.














Tags: onions, autumn, colour, market


Fruit fall
14 October 2013


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.




Tags: crabapple jelly, autumn,


Apple autumn
04 October 2013



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 butter
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.






Tags: apples, home cooking, green, autumn


Bulb planting
27 November 2012


 Taking my maths O level three time was as painful as getting the new website up. I have to say that if  I were one of  the sweet and patient boys at  www.ph9.com  I would be hairless after nursing me through a hundred panicked calls in learning how to use the website manager.  But  Hooray! Iím in business.

Do have a look at the new Pure Style  shop, and the delicious colour bands.  (I noticed that White Company shooting here this week, used them as props!) 




  Escape route?  The garden. The place where I can have some control when the uploads donít, the links go nowhere and paste text paste text is like  severe aerobics for  hands and fingers.  





Iíve planted 8 of the 16 beds with  about 125  tulip and alium bulbs Ė Got them this year from  Rosecottage   plants, who  have rather  good deals, and an amazing array of both aliums and tulips





 Iíve got a bit behind with posting this-  so a week ago when I shot these pictures  it was warm and sunny enough to down tools for half an hour and cook up sausages on the bbq. The end of the garden by the shed catches the afternoon rays in autumn  and is a  brilliant  spot for the purpose.




Tags: autumn, garden, homecooking,


 
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