The Singer and I are off to London for the weekend. She turned 18 last month and this is her birthday treat. I had one at the same age and I still remember it. We are staying at The Savoy (thank you for club deals…..) going to dinner on Friday evening. On Saturday she, like I did, will go to Stephen Glass for a make up lesson and then we join my stepmother for lunch before going on to Les Senteurs for her to choose a perfume, a present from my stepmother. Dirty Dancing (the musical not us) on Saturday evening and then on Sunday afternoon tea at Browns before we head home.
A weekend that I hope will make as much a mark on her memory as my same weekend did on mine. My perfume was Mitsouko and I still wear it.
However, you will notice that there are no great plans for shopping. Well not for me anyway. The Singer has birthday money and has her eye on a snuggly cardigan and a good pair of boots. But other than window shopping and people watching I just want to soak up the Christmas atmosphere and marvel at the conspicuous consumption that I no longer feel any desire to partake in.
I wondered if the Singer would feel differently but as we have talked about what she would like to do she has concentrated most on dinner, the theatre and the astonishing roof top bar at ME that I suggested we went to for pre-theatre supper and drinks. To be fair, she hasn’t waxed lyrical about the possibility of taking in the V&A or the British Museum – but heck she is 18 and it’s her birthday weekend not mine!
It’s not long until the weekend, and as I pointed out in my last post, not long until Christmas either. Even the most minimalist of families need food, and most of us like to be able to celebrate with something a little bit special at Christmas. Curried tripe is all very well (and pretty much the only way I can eat it) but it is not what I would like to see on our Christmas table. We are fortunate enough to be able to chose what we eat, to have plenty of it and to be able to enjoy a celebratory meal. This post isn’t about how much to spend but how you spend it.
This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. Where are you planning on buying your groceries? Will it be online with Tesco or with the local greengrocer? Some people are fortunate enough to have this around the corner six days a week.
Beautiful isn’t it?
Here is a bit more.
And a bit more.
This is Padua. Even the best British markets and Farmers’ markets cannot compete with this and while envy is not an emotion I encourage I do have some difficulty keeping the little green eyed monster at bay when I see pictures like this. I was brought up in Notting Hill Gate and my mother now lives in Notting Hill (and yes they ARE different!). She has the Portabello Road on her doostep, if anything were to persuade me to live in London again that might be it.
But I don’t live in London, nor Padua. On the other hand I can shop at
- Monty the Butcher, with the loudest voice in the north east and the biggest smile.
- Durham Indoor Market with a fish counter, cheese and game counter, bakers, greengrocers and old fashioned sweetie shop.
- Abundant Earth, a workers’ coperative growing vegetables under the permaculture method
- Robinsons the greengrocers, who have everything I could ever need and go out of their way to find even the wierdest vegetables
- The Golden Pearl, the best stocked chinese and thai supermarket outside Chinatown and a lovely onsite cafe too.
- Humphrey’ family run bakers, you can see them rolling and kneading through the back.
- A good number of farm shops with their own butcheries
There are plenty more and as one of the founders of The Durham Local Food Network I would point you in the direction of our directory if you would like to source produce local to our county.
Yes, it IS easier to book it all online but what are you doing with the time instead? Going to the gym? Running the children to some extra curricular activity? Why not walk down your high street with them. Why not take some exercise, educate your children on where their food comes from, interest them in choosing what you buy and how you cook it, share the cooking with them. Shop local. If you don’t now you won’t have the choice tomorrow.
Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny a farthing will do
If you haven’t got a farthing God bless you.
Christmas is indeed coming, but farthings (a quarter of a penny) are long gone. The man with the hat is sadly still with us. I was speechless to read the news reports about “Black Friday”. With apologies to my American readers, but this is yet another US import that we really could have done without. As I try to gradually rid our house of all the unnecessary stuff that we have accumulated without even noticing (sometimes I really do think that clutter does procreate and at the rate of rats as well) people are killing each other in order to get a discount on something they probably didn’t even know they wanted.
What is our relationship with belongings? Why do we feel the need to own things, does it validate us? We are probably quite unusual in that we have never taken out a loan to buy a car, we always buy second hand and we buy the best we can afford with the money we are prepared to send. Consequently I have never owned an Audi nor a Merc nor a Range Rover. We have to have a 4×4 because of where we live and we have a 16 year old RAV (one careful female owner whose father happened to be a car mechanic and only 80,000 on the clock – private sale for less than £2K) It does what it says on the tin. I don’t need to say who I am by the car I drive.
We do need the basics for life and most of us would like some creature comforts, I am not for a moment suggesting that asceticism is the only way to go but I am staggered by the conspicuousness of the consumption. I like to look good, I like my home to look good and feel comfortable, I like a car that starts and I enjoy my food and drink. I do not need 50 handbags and 20 black skirts. We need only one fridge and as long as it is the right size for our family and keeps the food cold does it matter how old it is?
Age and background don’t seem to make any difference. Is it our fault? Have we brought this upon ourselves? Can we stem the tide or is it too late?
It is the third day of Advent. If you would like to do it a little bit differently you could do no worse than read Stephen Cottrell’s excellent book.
Do nothing – Christmas is coming
I was going to title this post “leftovers” but it sounded so uninspiring I did think of “bits and bobs” (a phrase a friend uses when answering her children’s question “what’s for lunch?”) “endless little bowls and tupperware boxes” (which is what my mother’s fridge is often full of) but as cheese is the decluttering item in question today I went for the one above.
The Boss and I were in Italy a couple of weekends ago. Consequently (a) I filled the fridge with food for the girls lest they should starve (as they are very good cooks in their own right I am sure that was unecessary but hey I’m a Mum) and (b) we bought rather a lot of cheese and salamis, bresola and lardons back with us. Combine that with my inability to throw anything away and the result was fridge overload.
The fridge is now neat and tidy. I have one smallish chunk of once quite nice ham that is now well past its best which will be perfect for the administration of the copious amounts of pills our eldery Springer requires and the following:
- Small amount of spinach
- one leek
- half an onion
- half a packet of feta
- mozarella that needs using
- the heel of some gruyere
- assorted heels of cheeses too small and hard to eat but I won’t throw away
Leftover cooking here I come. First up is a made up cheesey bake. You will note the lack of precise amounts because I just shoved in what I had.
- Leek sliced finely
- onion chopped
- eggs (i used 4)
- double cream (a healthy swig until the consistency looks right )
- handful of cherry tomatoes
- salt and pepper
- Sweat onion, garlic and leek.
- Cook spinach (I put mine in the microwave but feel free to steam or whatever)
- Beat eggs with cream until it looks about right.
- Add crumbled feta and chopped mozzarella.
- Add onion, garlic , leek and spinach
- Pour into oven proof dish (the size depends on how much you have, you want it to be about 2″ deep at least)
- Halve tomatoes and place cut side up in mixture.
- Grate however much gruyere you have over the top.
- Bake in medium oven (about 170, I used the aga on 150 and it was fine) until firm to touch and lightly browned,
Try not to eat it all as soon as it comes out of the oven. I am afraid I had a taste before I remembered to take a photo. By now there is an entire strip missing.
It was DELICIOUS. Obviously you can mix and match to use whatever is in your fridge, most cheeses will be fine and you could experiment with the vegtables. I like the tomatoes because they give a slight edge to what could otherwise be a rather rich dish (in the same way I add tomatoes to macaroni and cauliflower cheese).
Next up is cheesey tear and share bread. Now this is a “proper” recipe as you can’t really guess with bread. It’ from Jo Wheatley’s Home Baking. I am only at the second prove stage so can’t tell you what it tastes like but thus far it feels rather heavy. It was a pain in the neck to knead (I always knead by hand) and never reached the light stretchy stage I would usually expect. Having said that it rose well in proove one, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
- 500 g (17.6oz) strong white bread flour
- 7 g (0.2oz) easy-blend/fast-action yeast
- 8 g (0.3oz) sea salt
- 10 g (0.4oz) caster sugar
- 10 g (0.4oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 handful of picked herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and oregano
- 2 garlic cloves
- 120 ml (4.2fl oz) hot water
- 200 ml (7fl oz) cold full-fat milk
- 1 large egg
- 100 g (3.5oz) mozzarella, grated
- 150 g (5.3oz) Gruyère, grated
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
- Tip the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a free-standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large mixing bowl. Mix together to combine and make a well in the centre. I did this by hand.
- Combine the butter, herbs and garlic in a food processor to form a paste . I did this by hand too – does this woman have an army of people to wash up after her?! Add to the flour mix. In a jug, mix the boiled water with the milk and egg and slowly add to the dry ingredients. Mix until combined, then knead for 6 minutes in the machine or 10 minutes by hand.
- Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for at least 90 minutes or until doubled in size. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 30 seconds to knock back the dough.
- Divide the dough into 14–18 pieces and roll into balls.
- Mix the two grated cheeses together and set aside one third. Make an indent in each of the dough balls, divide the cheese between them then seal up the dough. Place the balls on the two prepared trays: start with the middle rolls and build around them.
- Loosely cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove again for 1 hour
- Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6. Brush the buns with egg wash, sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese, and bake in the oven for 18–22 minutes until golden.
I will not be usuing mozzerlla or gruyere as I used them up in the last recipe and will instead be using a selection of old heels of assorted cheese last seen mooching around the back of my fridge.
Finally Cheese straws. I also happen to have some puff pastry in the freezer so the last of the cheese will be used up.
What is lurking in your fridge? What could you turn it into rather than feed it to the bin or the compost?
for a short personal rant.
I don’t know if you have seen this page on the net. I’m sure if you haven’t yet it will soon turn up in your inbox. The Van Squigglebottoms
On first viewing, what a good idea. On second…. really? I feel I have a slight moral upper hand. My surname, which I willingly took when I married, is somewhat unusual and has the guffaw potential. Smellie is my name by marriage and not by birth but it is my name and it is not a joke. Okay there may not be any Van Squigglebottoms, but there are a whole load of people out there with “funny” names. They are our names and we are proud of them.
I appreciate what the couple are trying to do, but why choose a name that only promotes giggles? If they really want to make a point then what about taking a name that will make people sit up and notice. In the current political climate that could be an overtly Muslim name for example. Are they brave enough to take on a name that doesn’t make people laugh but may make people back off? I suspect not. In the meantime everyone has a good laugh over the Van Squigglebottoms and if there are any genuine Van Squigglebottoms out there they are probably rather bemused.
Good idea. Cheap trick. Sorry.
I was due to have my “colours done” on Monday, for a variety of reasons Monday turned out not to be good for Alana or I so we have rescheduled for next week. A few days is not a long time to wait since I first made contact with Alana way back in June. I spent some time researching who I wanted to see and Alana hit all the boxes. Unfortunately she was in Nova Scotia until September. Aagh. After all my research I wanted them done now. But I wanted Alana to do them more so I waited.
Why was Alana different? Have a look at her website and tell me what you think. Dress Up Cycle. Quite apart from the name, read the first sentance…. slow fashion. Not throw away high volume fashion. Not quick make me feel better purchases that hide in the wardrobe. Slow fashion like slow food appeals. Fashion magazines have banged on about capsule wardrobes for decades, but they still promote the latest trends and must have items for your wardrobe several times a year. Apparently one must have item is a pink coat. Were I in the market for a coat I might consider pink, I have always preferred coats to be, like my handbags, a little distinctive and different. The only black coat I have ever owned was ankle length, double breasted, fitted at the waist with a HUGE fake astrakan collar. I wore it to death. However, I am not in the market for a coat so why would I want to buy a pink one just because it is pretty and on trend.
SInce I did Project 333 I have been much more conscious about my clothes and what I wear. I had always thought I was relatively discerning but as I filled bag after bag I realised that I had accumulated a load of clothes from skirts and dresses to shirts and cardigans that I liked the look of, but crucially, not on me. By the time I had pared down my wardrobe I discovered that I wore a few types of clothes a lot, not only that they went together well, fitted my lifestyle were relatively multipurpose and were a capsule wardrobe.
- Linen trousers in white, black and navy
- leggings in black, navy and dark grey
- Full circle skirts
- straight skirts that come just above or just on the knee
- plain cashmere jumpers (I have a bit of a thing for cashmere)
- button back cardigan tops
- plain white t shirts
- matelot tee shirts
- long white shirts
- tunic tops
- Long cardigans
- Silk squares
- wool (or preferably cashmere!) wraps/big scarves
- Big necklaces/pendants
- Statement ring (one plus my wedding/engagement ring)
- Shift, from cocktail to beach
I have plenty of jackets but apart from a few occasions I just don’t wear them, likewise jeans are worn only for gardening. Fitted shirts, however smart never make it out of my wardrobe. I went through a jersey wrap dress phase but I never felt comfortable so out they went too.
Even if you don’t stick to something like Project 333 forever, just trying it out for three or even six months gives you a valuable lesson in wardrobe and body awareness. I have a much better idea of the kind of clothes I feel comfortable in. I have some idea of the colours that suit me and now I can’t wait for Alana to give me her advice and then perhaps if Father Christmas is looking kindly upo me she may be able to come back next year and look at my wardrobe as well.
My apologies for my absence. Life has been rather busy. First my 50th birthday, then during the following week the Durham Shopping Extravaganza (of which I was chair this year) and my godmother’s 70th birthday followed by a trip down to Oxfordshire to celebrate my oldest friend’s (we were at prep school together 43 years ago) 50th birthday. It has all been wonderful. However, this week has mainly been spent filling and unfilling the washing machine, identifying strange objects in the fridge and reacquainting the dogs with the concept of a walk.
So today I am more or less up to date and contemplating my nice clean tidy kitchen I opted to muck it up rather than attend to any of the extremely dull jobs on my to do list.
How many things can you make out of 4 pints of full cream milk? I am not including the carton (though I held a competition for that once and some of the entries were extremely entertaining. Another post perhaps).
Mozarella. I used this recipe, combined a little bit with the one from Cheesemaking made Easy by Ricki and Robert Carroll. I don’t think I pulled it enough. Actually I really didn’t pull it enough at all. I need more practice (what a shame ) However, I have some perfectly passable white cheesy stuff that is a teensy weensy bit like mozarella.
I fear my friend Gio would weep if he saw it. But he’s safely in London so that’s okay.
Ricotta Not a great deal, but enough for a little starter before supper this evening. It is pretty straightforward to make. See here.
The finished product.
Whey and lots of it. Some of this will be used to make soft dinner rolls. In fact, if we could eat enough rolls I would use it all for this as it really does make the most beautiful soft bread. I’ll mix some in with the dogs supper tonight and the rest I will freeze for more rolls later on. If you are swimming in whey there are some good ideas here too.
I used to make lots of cheese and fell out of the habit when I was working. There are only so many hours in a day after all. There is something magical about watching the curds and whey separate, in fact I think that’s probably the main reason I make cheese at all. I’ve yet to have a go at hard cheese, but I have a press now, so that may be the next project.