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"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
21 December 2014

 Festive greetings and wishes for a healthy and happy  New Year  to all my blog readers .
 I haven`t forgotten the recipe for the cheesiest biscuits ( in the taste sense )to rustle up over the holiday. Adapted via Prue Leith`s Cookery Bible (every kitchen should have one) the recipe is easy on kitchen skills.  If made a couple of days in advance and stored in a tin, it is useful to  crisp the biscuits in a warm oven for a few minutes to bring out the flavour . Or chill the  biscuit dough in the fridge, ready for  rolling out and baking  some  tasty  snacks for a last minute get together.
225g plain flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
225g butter
225 gruyere , pecorino, or  strong cheddar, grated
2 tablespoons English mustard
beaten egg
3 teaspoons paprika

Preheat the oven to 190C. Line a couple of baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
Put the flour and into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
Add the cheese, salt, pepper, mustard, paprika and egg to bind. Make a paste and roll into a ball.
Roll out on a floured board, or, for less mess,  between two sheets of greaseproof paper to a 5mm thickness. Cut into squares, ( or rounds, or rectangles or whatever shape you want)  and brush the remaining egg.

Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Tags: winter , homecooking, christmas, white,

Pure Style out and about in winter
08 December 2014

Two hours in the seething crowds on Oxford Street and its environs: I`m spent.  The frisson of buy- it -now mania has brought on shopper`s block . Gimme a pink  rose from the garden and a box of Chocolate Bendicks  mints  for sanity.

Wake up in Somerset  to the first frost whites. Spend a happy half hour at Kimber`s farm shop  stocking up with current  cheese  passion Godminster  organic cheddar and a  food parcel with local minced lamb for student daughter, who later posts the moussaka she has rustled up. Tres resouceful of her.

An uplifting  shoot at the house with  beautiful crafted made-in-Britain pieces.  I would so very much like to kidnap the ash and chestnut   Shake cabinet by Sebastian Cox  and keep  it in  my bedroom for ever.

Thinking about christmas baking which will include the usual  chocolate and chestnut cake, and my new favourite savoury: crispy gouda biscuits from a recipe in Prue Leith. I will post a shot next week from an up and coming batch if they haven`t been gobbled up.
Chocolate and chestnut cake
400g peeled chestnuts chopped;125g caster sufar; 125g chocolate min 70% cocoa solids; 100g butter
for icing: 125g chocolate as above; 15g butter; 15ml fresh orange juice; 15m; grated orange rind
Process peeled chestnuts and sugar until smooth. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan. Add chestnut/sugar paste and mix until smooth. Turn into a greased cake tin and chill in the fridge overnight.

Tags: winter, frost, homecooking,

Coffee cake and saving Olhao
13 November 2014

My mother’s coffee cake was as much a part of childhood as the roast on Sunday.   She died fifteen years ago   and I haven’t been able to pin down the coffee-flavoured memories and textures  until last weekend when I downloaded   Felicity Cloake’s Perfect coffee and walnut cake. Apart from my mum`s touch,  I think the light brown sugar element is what was missing in my  previous attempts.    Here is the recipe with a few tweaks, and sans walnuts because I prefer my coffee cake without . It  was the  pudding queen at a family get-together  in my `secret shed` glowing with candlelight at the bottom of the garden.  Basically I dressed up  the garden shed with candles and tea lights in jam jars,  spread the table with  a white cloth  and  unwound a cable from the house for a heater.  It was snug and good to  be semi-outsde on a dark autumn evening.

The cake

Heat oven to 180C and grease and line the bases of 2x20cm cake tins

Mix the coffee with ltbsp boiling water and leave to cool.  

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg mixture. Once incorporated  sift in the flour , baking powder and salt and fold in with a large metal spoon, adding the coffee, too.

Divide the batter between the tins, if very stiff add a little mili. Bake for 25minutes . Cool for 10 minutes in the tins and put on a wire rack to finish cooling.

 The Icing

Mix 2tbsp coffee with ltbsp boiling water and leave to cool.

Beat the butter until soft, sift in the sugar, salt and add the coffee and cream. Stir until fluffy and smooth.   Spread one cake with   just under  half of the icing, and place the other cake on top. Spread the remaining icing on top.

Save Olhao
Olhao council has some grim proposals for  `modernisation`  including the removal of calcada cobbles, see below, in  favour of shopping mall style smooth grey  slabs and  seafront lighting all football floodlight bright. It is easy to destroy centuries worth of beautiful  detailing when there`re millions in the bank combined with inappropriate architectural  plans and ill-informed Council types.  I have sent my objections together with everyone in the Olhao community who  wishes to keep it`s visual spirit  which is what  makes this little town so  human and special.

Tags: autumn, homecooking, shed, olhao,

Spring break
18 April 2014

Up with the lark. 4.30am actually. Ring at the door bell. Dog barks loudly and wakes me from dream where a shoot is submerging the house in folds of paper. Stagger downstairs and peer through the knobbly glass door panel. Vague outline of  man in motorbike helmet. Panic. It`s a smash and grab raid?  "Who is it ?". ``Pizza". "Pizza, pizza who? "  I say.  "It`s paid for " he says, and hands over  a box from a thermal bag. "  " It`s 4.30, I didn`t order this, and it`s stone cold"  I say, and stagger upstairs.  Someone has messed up at pizza HQ.

Wish  the  `instant` of nocturnal fast food delivery , could be applied to building work.   One thing leading to another is what building is all about. The  attic bathroom project would have been  done and dusted but for this week`s discovery of a wasps` nest,  parts missing,  and paint colour  mixed with the wrong base. Plus the soggy fallout from the unfortunate incident in  the downstairs bathroom when X and X removed the lavatory as part of the panelling job, and flooded the ceiling below. `You`ll have to get in your plumber` they try.  Hmmmm. "You did say X and X  were competent at removing bathroom fittings" I remind the contractor.  And on, and on  it goes.

Oh well. There`s always the garden. My touchstone of sanity. Spring is at least a  month earlier than last year and we are  soaking up the scents of bluebells and frothy blossom like  parched drinkers.  Best job of the week has been raking  bag of grave  in the relining of  the pathways between the parterre beds.  They look refreshed, almost like clean linen. 

  Unsurprisingly, I`m longing for the weekend. I think that spring lamb will be on the menu for our  Easter feast. This recipe with roasted artichokes and spring greens is  from my book .

Tags: spring, colour, garden, homecooking,

Chive pesto and first tulips
24 April 2013

The Japanese arrive as  the cherry blossom froths in next door`s garden.  It`s a shoot for   Mrs Magazine    Japan`s oldest womens` publication.  I am Mrs Pure Style cooking with herbs from the garden and sharing my recipe tips with the enviably porcelain smooth face of Mrs Magazine, actress and singer,  Miki  Imai.
Some things are  lost in translation, but  east and west  over tea and  lavender shortbread have a mutual feeling for the simple and beautiful.  Photographer  Okemi Kurosaka neat and  efficient as her glossy black fringe snaps until the shadows are long and we have picked  the bones clean from very English spring lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic.

  Chive pesto also goes down well on my Japanese date: chop a handful of chives  and process  in the hand whizzer  with pine nuts, garlic,  olive oil,  grated Parmesan , salt and pepper.

Getting orders for the borders!!! and Press, too... Here`s the latest thumbs up from Living Etc  who also feature  them on the Editor`s  front page  of ` Inspiration`

Loading up Richard`s  van for delivery to Olhao. I have my first holiday  tenants soon, and want them to enjoy crisp  sheets and soft pillows, floaty cotton  awnings, and lanterns.  Seems mad to to be sending mats, chairs, folding beer tables  two thousand miles south when you think  items as prosaic as these might  be found locally. They can... and they can`t if you`re picky, like me and get get stuck  on wanting  what feels/looks right  not what is  simply available.  Fussy yes, but  would you want stacking plastic loungers  at Pure Style Portugal? .

Not so much flat calm, but rippling : wavy black and white  linen/cotton for another take on the stripe theme

Together with   the  unfurling of the garden`s first tulip, I receive  green fingered excitement  from  the forthcoming Chelsea Fringe  alternative garden festival.  Masses of events: sign me up for  a walk on London`soldest nature trail at the Horniman museum and the drawing and sketching classes on Hampstead Heath.

Lunch break. A gorgeous painterly arrangement of salads and salmon by location caterer,  Laurence  Mash has just landed on my desk. The crew downstairs is enjoying the tastiest and most  visually appealing  shoot grub that has appeared in my kitchen for a very long time.

Tags: spring, homecooking, tulips. Japan. location shoots

Clams and wild flowers
15 April 2013

Clumps of grass between the cobbles and pantiles sprouting wild flowers show  winter  in Olhao was as extreme in rainfall as in the chill we endured here.  So releasing to peel off  wool layers and sun bathe under  blue sky spring busy with  swallows, tweeting sparrows  and swooping  nets of silvery homing pigeons . We trundle to the market and load the  Rolly Rolser with armfuls of wild flowers, eggs, asparagus and oranges.

So good to eat with  sun on the  face sea in the air. This demands something celebratory like buying a net of amejoias boa  for  clam and tomato pasta.  I shower and soak the shells in the sink, picking out any  broken ones.  They feel smooth and cool, with a promising weightiness like solid chocolate eggs.

I chop tomatoes, garlic and fry until soft. Some pepper, dregs of white wine from last night, and then the sauce is ready for the clams. Steam under  the saucepan lid, shake frequently and after seven minutes or so the clams  open like buds in a speeded up film to reveal  tender flesh and juices with a  fragrant shellfish taste 

We spoon clams and sauce over bowls piled with tagliatelle, although spaghetti or any other long type will be right.  This is an athletic dish: twirling  strands of dripping pasta around one`s fork, sucking the last bits from the  shells.  It takes me back to being 18 and the spaghetti vongoles of my first Italian summer.

Tags: Olhao, spring, market, homecooking,

Spring break
04 April 2013

The wind continues to cut like iced knives, but at least there`s some green shooting going on in my shed. These are the sweet pea seeds  I planted last autumn, and I`ve been pinching out the top leaves so that side shoots are encouraged to grow. Look at them stretching towards   the light.

Good Friday.  I make hot cross buns from the recipe in my book. My version only requires one proving of the dough which means they`re heavier than buns made with two.  But less fuss to make, and  delicious  toasted and spread with butter.  The mighty mxing bowl, my favourite , is part of an order  to replenish stocks of house kit that has worn out or gone too far gone to repair. The last bowl met a shattering end on the kitchen floor.

A clump of self seeded violets  in my vegetable patch is  visual treasure. The flowers are edible, too.

New  white towels, are almost as exciting.

A  friend back from Fogo  has saved my toes from  more destruction by chilbain with a gift of  slippers  handknitted by islanders

Hoping that this won`t be the last of the rhubarb!

Tags: spring, natural fabrics, homecooking, garden,

Ice Ice Ice
05 December 2012

White crunch outside. Crystalised petals and leaves piped with ice. Wouldn’t mind a pair of fur lined boots to go with digging in the last bulbs. Frozen toes, frozen ground, not fun to hack at with spade but good for strength.

As was ….boogying, Yes I Can, to Seventies’ band ‘Kool and the Gang’. Played at every rubbish wedding disco I’ve been to it was a revelation to hear the authentic Live beats of ‘Celebration’ and ‘Ladies Night’. Found very odd that many people viewed the stage through smart phones, arms stuck up in the air and blocking the view. But rubber beer bottles v. good idea.

In town and eyeing Christmas presents I’d like to give: Rococo sea salt chocolate; striped cotton pyjamas from Toast;  Diptyque  woody scented Feu du Bois candles. And, if no limits, a Hans Wegner oak and corded seat armchair,  inspired by the story I have written about Danish architect Pernille Arends, in this month’s Elle Decoration. You will love the retro Scandinavian  white and wood features  of her fifties’ home.

Going local I think a hyacinth vase with bulb is a perfect present, see this from Alleyn Park garden It comes in clear, green, and lilac, too.

On the homemade front I’m giving jars of quince jelly boiled up from fruit I picked from a friend’s tree in Somerset. I have an open pot which as well as dolloping on toast with butter I spooned into gravy with white wine and juices from the pheasants I roasted on Sunday. Only a fiver for the brace from Brixton farmers’ market – brilliant value and tasty.

Tags: winter, homecooking, garden

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  I would be hairless after nursing me through a hundred panicked calls in learning how to use the website manager.  But  Hooray! I’m 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 don’t, the links go nowhere and paste text paste text is like  severe aerobics for  hands and fingers.  

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

 I’ve 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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