Friday, 27 November 2015
I'm a big fan of & Other Stories; there are stores all over Europe, a handful in London and even some in New York, but if you haven't heard of it, it's kind of the cooler big sister of H&M (it's owned by the same company). If you're into understated, Scandi style and sleek, minimalist accessories then you'll love it. Their cosmetics department has a cult following thanks to ultra-cool packaging, unique scents and grown-up makeup. 

I was in the new Kings Road store at the weekend and I picked up the perfume, Arabesque Wood. The scent is really subtle and while the description calls it an earthy oud - which is usually overpowering - it's actually quite light and strikes the perfect balance between masculine and feminine. The bottle is beautiful too, but what I'm really impressed by is the formula; it's an eau de toilette but it lasts a lot longer than most of my eau de parfums and has the presence of something much more expensive (ahem, Le Labo). Unfortunately, it looks like the eau de toilette is sold out online, but if you find yourself in a store then make sure and go have a sniff!


Wednesday, 25 November 2015

I feel like winter got off to a bit of a false start, but now it looks like it's properly here and we're hunkering down with hot chocolates, warming one-pot meals and too many layers. This recipe was on off-the-cuff weeknight supper; I was originally hoping to make a chorizo and potato version, but the supermarket didn't have cooking chorizo. I hadn't tried venison before, but these sausages are hearty and hold up well in a stew, plus they have much less fat than pork sausages. When I decided to make the recipe again for the blog this weekend, I couldn't quite remember exactly what I did the first time around, but it still turned out delicious and I'm quite confident that you could really go off-piste with this and it would still turn out well.

To make 2 - 3 portions
6 venison (or good quality pork) sausages
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red pepper
2 400g tins plum tomatoes
1 400g tin haricot beans
Splash of white wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar
1tsp sugar
1tsp cumin
1tsp paprika
1tbsp tomato puree
1tbsp barbecue sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and fry in olive oil or butter in an ovenproof pan - if you don't have one, use a normal frying pan and transfer to an ovenproof pot before putting in the oven. Finely slice the garlic and dice the red pepper and add to the pan along with the white wine and balsamic vinegar.

Once the onions are translucent and slightly browned, push everything to the sides and add the sausages to the pan. Once browned, tip in the tinned tomatoes and beans. Bring everything to a gentle bubble and add the sugar, tomato puree, cumin, paprika and barbecue sauce (if using). Transfer to the oven and allow to cook for at least 30 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and started to go a bit jam-like in places.

This easy one-pot meal is definitely satisfying enough as a standalone dish, but you could also serve it with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the sauce or over a jacket potato (it is glorified baked beans, after all!).


Monday, 23 November 2015

Over the course of the month I've been trying to give my wardrobe a proper clear out; the first stage was to get rid of everything that was well past its due date, the second was to send everything that was still in good nick, but didn't fit anymore to the charity shop and the third was to identify the things that were nice enough to sell, but just don't suit my style anymore. I've freed up a lot of space in my wardrobe, and while I don't want to just fill it back up again in one go, I've identified a few things that are missing: a well-cut black blazer, a biker jacket, a smart scarf and knitwear. All of my jumpers had gone bobbly and misshapen and nearly all of them had to go in the bin (!!), so it's no wonder I've been pinning pictures of cosy knits like crazy.

When I was at school, a Mufti Day was a no-uniform day, where we could wear jeans or whatever else we wanted instead of our usual kilts and jumpers. At the weekend I just want to hunker down in cosy sweaters, jeans and knitted tracksuit bottoms without feeling like a slob, so I'm readopting Mufti as my word for dressing down with style and investing in good quality knitwear that I can wear for work or weekend. I have a pretty relaxed approach to dressing, so it's important that the things I do wear are the best they can be to make sure I still look pulled together; at work, slouchy jumpers are easy to wear with cropped cigarette pants and pencil skirts, while at the weekend they go with just about everything else.



Friday, 20 November 2015

It's nearly the weekend! This isn't so much a recipe as a serving suggestion, but who's keeping track? I eat a lot of eggs and this is actually a quick breakfast from a weekday morning. I posted an instagram of some eggs I had on a normal Wednesday once and when I got to work my colleague was like, "Your breakfast looked delicious, how do you have time to do that in the morning!?" But a cooked breakfast really doesn't have to take much time at all. The picture above is just something I threw together because I was bored of scrambled eggs on toast (apparently, it's possible!) and I just put a spoonful of sweetcorn salsa* from the night before in a frying pan with some butter - always eggs with butter - cracked in an egg and sprinkled on some salt and turmeric. That's it. 5 minutes to make, 5 minutes to eat. So, whether you're making breakfast on a weekend or a weekday, it doesn't have to be this big thing. Don't overthink it. Shovel it down and you're good to go ;)

*sweetcorn, finely diced red onion, red pepper and a generous helping of coriander.

p.s. my dad once said that it's embarrassing to post pictures of what you had for breakfast. Thanks Dad, but when stuff like this happens it's definitely not embarrassing, IT'S FUN, OKAY?

READING LIST: non-fiction

Wednesday, 18 November 2015
It's actually been a really long time since I read a novel. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but there's something about non-fiction memoirs that grip me in a way that only a perfectly chosen novel can. Here are the ones I've been reading lately:

Without You, There Is No Us - THIS BOOK! I don't care what you have lined up for your next read, drop everything and make it this. Suki Kim manages to perfectly balance facts with heart to offer an insight into a university for North Korea's elite sons. It is at times funny, bittersweet and surprising and captures a moment in time that is completely closed off to us.

Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found - I didn't watch the film of this book, starring Reese Witherspoon, because I just couldn't figure out how a whole movie could be made about a hike. But I picked up the book at the airport and I get it now. Yes, the book is about a hike, but the author, Cheryl Strayed, weaves in experiences from her past, creating an untangle-able picture of her life so far and, actually, it's the parts about the hiking that grip me in a sort of subtle, quiet way. This one is great for reading in the bath or before bed with a nice candle.

Marching Powder - my friend Che recommended this book to me and it is likely something from another world. It follows the experiences of a British prisoner, Thomas McFadden, in the infamous San Pedro prison in La Paz, Bolivia, where prisoners have to buy their own cells and can move their families into the prison with them, open restaurants and run businesses. Thomas McFadden himself was featured in Lonely Planet for giving tours of the prison! It is totally bizarre - would you voluntarily take a tour around a third world prison!?


Monday, 16 November 2015

I refused to get into the whole 'courgetti' craze. IT'S NOT PASTA! But it turns out that if you actually use a spiralizer - I had been making strands using a julienne peeler - then it's still not pasta...but it's not disappointing either. My main bug bear with courgette noodles was that I just didn't want to invest in a spiralizer; they are clunky and expensive and for such a big gadget, they only do one thing. I recently discovered the OXO Good Grips Hand Held Spiralizer on Instagram and I ordered one straight away and I'm an instant convert!

This thing is small enough to pop away in the cutlery drawer, super-easy to use and you get the same exact results as with one of the larger versions. So really, this post isn't a recipe at all, but a big, lovey-dovey shoutout to my new favourite kitchen gadget. Courgettes are perfect as they hold their own in soups and sauces, but here I've simply served my courgetti with a squeeze of lime, plenty of fresh chilli and a thick slab of fried halloumi.


Friday, 13 November 2015

I try not to write about work on this blog, but sometimes it's inevitable. I'm not sure how to introduce this post, so I'll just start with this: I work with a girl who is really inspiring. She is resilient and composed (not to mention super stylish) and when I saw this quote on her instagram, it made perfect sense about the way she is as a person and the purposeful way she approaches everything she does.

I think the idea behind the quote is just that whatever you are doing - whether it excites you or not - you have to approach it in the same way, with the same passion, excitement and attention to detail. Of course, you don't have to love taking the rubbish out just as much as you do gossiping with girlfriends...but on a more macro level, I think it rings true. Treat waiters and ticket office staff with the same courtesy you would show your boss; do a favour for someone as if you were benefiting from it yourself (because you are!); put the same effort into a letter to your grandma as you would an important presentation. I don't want to start using the word intention - ugh - but I suppose it is about that, about doing things with purpose and knowing that everything fits into the bigger picture.

HOMEMADE FURIKAKE (+ a simple japanese meal)

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Furikake is a tasty seasoning that Japanese people sprinkle on rice or roll onigiri in for an extra layer of flavour and texture; it transforms a simple bowl of rice and is widely sold in little shakers in supermarkets across Japan, with plenty of variations - sweet, spicy, fishy, etc. It's one of those things I ate fairly often when I lived in Japan as a child, but had completely forgotten about until it was served with breakfast at our ryokan in Kyoto.

As you can see, the main ingredients are sesame seeds and seaweed. Traditionally, it has flakes of dried bonito (fish), which are very common in Japan, but of course much more difficult to come by in the UK...and also not to everyone's taste!

When I was in my local Tesco recently, they had a huge new section of global ingredients and a big selection of grinders holding different seasonings and salts. It was these grinders that inspired me to recreate furikake at home and I don't think I'll ever rice on its own again!

To make one small jar
2 - 3 sheets nori seaweed
3 heaped tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp seasoning of choice

For the seasoning, look out for ones with chunky crystals and a few different ingredients; I actually went for this pre-ground one. You could also make your own mixture to suit your tastes and what you have in the cupboard - try chilli flakes, pepper, flavoured salts and paprika.

In a dry frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until just browned. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, use scissors to cut the seaweed into super-fine strips. I tried doing this in a food processor - it doesn't work - but using scissors really doesn't take more than 5 minutes.

Combine all of the ingredients in a jar and use liberally in the kitchen. It's not just good on rice, it can be used to season meat and fish or sprinkled over scrambled eggs and salads.

For a super simple lunch, you can't beat salmon and avocado on rice. In the same aisle at Tesco I also found dried mushrooms, which are really useful to have in the cupboards; I bought a mixture of shiitake, oyster and porcini mushrooms which give a lovely, subtly savouriness to the dish. You just have to soak them in hot water for half an hour - I also add a splash of soy sauce - and they're ready to eat. Instead of throwing away the soaking water, keep it in a jar: it's really handy to have on hand to bring extra depth to Asian noodle soups and stir fries.

I ate this on a Sunday and then brought it into work for lunch the following day (with the toppings separated from the rice) and it's really delicious if you microwave the rice with a splash of the reserved mushroom soaking water and then mix everything all together.

I think furikake might be my new thing...I'm already thinking up different combinations of seeds, salts and even some fresh ingredients (lime zest?) to line my cupboards with!


Monday, 9 November 2015

Caroline, the editor behind 91 Magazine - a lovely online publication I've had the pleasure of contributing to - took a break from the magazine to work on her amazing new book, The Shopkeeper's Home. The book is a beautiful ode to independent shops, and the shopkeeper's behind them, delving into both their shop interiors and the places they live to glean decorating ideas for real homes. Here are my 5 decorating ideas to steal:

1. Lift a room with a statement light. Light fixtures are sometimes seen as an afterthought, but picking something to specifically fit your home aesthetic makes a striking difference. It doesn't have to be as big as the IKEA PS MASKROS light pictured above - although I do have it in my own home and it definitely makes an impact. Think about the proportions of the room and what you want to achieve with the light; sometimes spotlights are the most practical choice, and then you can have fun with a few interesting lamps.

2. Go big with a gallery wall. I always think of gallery walls as having lots of small pieces, but I love how this example from the home of The Hambledon owner, Victoria Suffield, shows that a small collection of larger pictures can have the same effect. We have a huge chimney breast with a vintage movie poster (on loan from my Dad!) hung on it. The framed poster is huge, but it still seems to be a bit lost on the wall, so this is an idea I'm definitely stealing for myself.

3. Don't forget the bathroom! Art in the bathroom? Why not! I wouldn't have thought to hang pictures by the bath, but I love the effect they have on the plain wall above. It's a nice reminder not to be too precious with the things you own, and to put them in a place where you can enjoy them every day.

4. Charcoal + colour = best friends. I've always thought that white is the best backdrop for showing off colour, but as these charcoal painted shelves show, they're perfect for setting off both warm and cool tones. We're re-decorating our living room in January and I've left this out for Darren to see.

5. Make use of vertical space. I've always loved the look of cosy blankets hung on a vintage ladder, but I think the picture above demonstrates how important it is to remember to think about negative, vertical space. See how the ladder fills the blank between the bed and the high ceilings, while the bunting creates width to the arrangement? It's an especially good idea if you live in a rental and can't put nails in the wall. Who needs art when you have blankets?


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Looking back: Did we really go to Japan? It almost feels like a dream and of course, everyday life has that way of skimming over anything out of the ordinary. October has passed in a rise and fall of busy workdays followed by slow, quiet ones; fiery sunrises and an extra hour of light brightening up my morning commute; unexpected ideas for Christmas gifts; making time for breakfast (I think I've eaten about a hundred eggs); catching up with friends and staying home, too exhausted by being overwhelmed to do much else than take a bath and go to bed early. The month ends with an exciting opportunity, a stinking cold and a 50th birthday lunch.

Looking forward: Artemis always posts interesting insights around festive times of year and apparently, once upon a time, this time of year was seen as a new beginning and a new year. To be honest, at the minute it feels like someone switched off all the lights. I don't think that's a bad thing though; this month I'm looking forward to another slow few weeks and moving ever closer to Christmas and another trip to Cornwall. Now that we're well and truly on our way into winter, it's becoming harder to cook and photograph recipes; I seem to set up the photo and then suddenly, the lights gone and it's all been a waste! So my recipes might be fewer and further between, but I would expect some restorative, warming meals (and plenty of cheese!) if I were you...