Tuesday, 22 December 2009

book review - delia

I have always felt a bit hot and cold about Delia. Some people like her 'in charge' approach and certainly she sticks to a simple format - no Nigella-esque red silk dressing gowns raiding the fridge at midnight. But sometimes I do feel she can be a wee bit bossy. For example, in one of her recipes where you need to measure a liquid she doesn't just advocate a jug but a glass one at that. If I use a plastic one will Delia have me sitting on the naughty step?

However, I watched her Christmas TV programme and was inspired to buy her book. The recipes she showed the viewers were clear, not too difficult, and proper traditional fare for Christmas.

I found the book to be simple in layout and very clear in its instructions - not that I would expect anything less from Delia. I think what I liked about it best though is that the choice of recipes is extensive - usually in this sort of book you get several ways to cook and use left over turkey with a dull veggie option and perhaps one or two random 'not turkey' dishes that don't really sit well next to the main act of the Christmas Dinner. Not here.

The first thing is that the contents and planner are extremely helpful in theming the foods and also in reminding you of all those wee items you might forget when in a rush. I usually find other people's planners fairly pointless given I am cooking for two most of the time but I found this one helpful.

One of the features I liked best was the inclusion of snacks and nibbles that will see you through unexpected visitors or where a sit down meal is not appropriate. Parmesan twists, sausage rolls and the tomatoe tart with swiss cheese and rosemary are all easy to do and freezable - good for planning ahead or making up several lots and then using as you need them. I have never made sausage rolls and will be making some for coming home from the Nightwatch service.

The vegetarian section is strong - in fact most of the recipes I didn't identify as 'veggie' - with the luxuriant vegetable pie and oriecchiette and walnut sauce stand outs for me that will be getting a practice.

I also liked the inclusion of a hogmanay section - and one that doesn't offend a Scottish reader. Black Bun, Arbroath smokies, Cranachan, trifle and a haggis pie all feature. I am almost embarrassed to say that it is Delia who has inspired me to make Black Bun for the first time.

I would thoroughly recommend this book for anyone who is doing a Christmas Dinner for the first time, as the recipes are straightforward and without frills, but also for the experienced cook. I haven't really focused on the main event dishes as I am happy with doing a Christmas Dinner - but I found the other recipes inspiring for the rest of the Christmas period.

I usually have my folks over on Boxing Day but as we couldn't all make it that day, it will be on the 4th. And with Delia I have reached my goal of revitalising by repertoire. All of the dishes for my family will be entirely new and from Delia's excellent book. I am a picky so-and-so - so this outcome proves how much I like this book!

christmas planning

This year I have been very bad at organising for Christmas. I was going to be off on leave from the 16th but work issues meant today - the 22nd - is in fact my first day off. I had thought I could do most of my food prep on leave and so because of the changes am now very behind. I am the sort of person that finds being organised quite hard but very necessary to keep my sanity! So I have felt in a bit of a panic. But Andy has made the mincemeat and we are going to my in-laws on Christmas Day - so a lot of the pressure is now off. I will be doing a Christmas Dinner for Andy and I on Christmas Eve and trialling on Boxing Day the menu I hope to do for all my folks coming over on the 4th January.

So, to get my menus together, I have bought Delia's new Christmas book, watched her programme and Jamie Oliver's on TV and written a bunch of lists! I wanted to update my repertoire and not just trot out the old menus I usually do so have been on the hunt for some new dishes.

I am going to try several new recipes:

Chicken Liver Pate
Amazing Garlic Bread
Irish Soda Bread
Red Cabbage
Beef en Croute
Queen of Puddings

I will update as I go along!

taking delight in life

Today I Saw blog...

One of the things that sometimes Andy laughs at (but that I think everyone should try to do) is how much I still retain a childlike approach to life. I get very excited over things most would associate with being a kid - scrunching and kicking through Autumn leaves and splashing through puddles, licking the spoon after baking a cake, and being quite fascinated when I discover something new, running like a mad thing across a deserted beach being lashed by the wind and waves, skipping along a summer sun lined lane etc etc.

Part of this is enjoying all of the little stories that make up your day - the man on the train who has his flask of coffee with him each day that steams up the train window, the chat I share with the guy who I buy my morning cuppa from at the station, the sight of two older women walking down Sauchiehall Street arm in arm discussing where to go for a cuppa.

This is why I like this site - it captures what the blogger sees each day on a postcard and they send it to someone they are friends with. It reminds you of how many small moments make up your day and your life and that you can find something interesting every day. I think it is important to keep that excitement about the world around you - I don't think that being adult should be about being jaded and failing to notice anymore how cool the world can be. In fact, if anything, adults who eschew such a world view to my mind aren't adult at all - they are still stuck in that teenage stage of figuring anything that is fun is 'not cool'. Imagine being stuck there for the next 50 years!!

Friday, 11 December 2009


I love books. I think they are more than just static objects - they get passed down, sold, written in, studied and shared. And there is a blog I found called forgotten bookmarks where a guy posts up the scraps and notes and other ephemera found in the second hand books that find their way to his shop.

Sunday, 6 December 2009


I love bold, graphic and colourful patterns and marimekko do some of the best.

They do amazing fabrics but they also do ceramics. And they don't stick to one design motif - except high quality excellence - and so you can always find a design that is different and funky. Here are my favourites.

In Good Company

When I did art at school I stuck to a lot of ink line drawings with maybe a dash of one bold colour. This was mainly because I am colour blind and I found dealing with too many colours confusing. But while it started off as being about practicality I discovered I like the precision of a clear black line and how versatile it could be. Which is why I love this design.

Pikku Bo Boo

You can get lots of cool kids ceramics these days but I tend to prefer designs that are not 'brands' such as Disney characters etc. This design is bold and unisex - and stands apart from the usual gender specific or latest movie or cartoon character and therefore is timeless too.


From kids fun to serious sophistication, this black and white graphic woudl look great against my dark wood table. Usually I would steer clear of corckery where the dominant colour is black but I think this works.

Fishes [umi]

This is ace - Andy and I do diving so this appeals. This would make a good daily set - fun but still good enough if you get someone dropping by.

And, if all of that wasn't enough, they also do clothes! This dress steers well away from the usual bold use of colour but I think is really beautiful - it is silk and the draping looks exquisite. I can see myself wearing this and floating around the house serving afternoon tea on a set of Serpentine perhaps with the dotty teapot breaking up the Serpentine swirl.

Some other sites that you can get marimekko and other designs from are skandium and funktionalley along with lots of other cool stuff.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

wallpaper couture style

I love Vivienne Westwood - her designs are off the wall but also have a classic appeal. Her pirate designs, corset dresses and use of colour for me are not only beautiful but are also woman friendly - the cut of her clothes does not favour size zero and instead to my mind can be worn by any woman.

So, when I saw that Cole and Son are stocking a range of wallpapers designed from archive patterns from VW I discovered yet another avenue for day dreaming and one day possibly owning a bit of Viv.

the blog is back!

Yes - having moved and got settled and despite hectic workload that doesn't look like it will ever ease up I am back with the blog. So there should now be regular updates on all things food, books, interiors and generally stuff I like.

Friday, 31 July 2009


Blogging may be even more erratic than usual as we are moving house! We will be moving through to Stirling next weekend and I am spending my time packing and organising for the move. Andy and I will be making our favourite dinners though the last two nights we have in Dundee so will blog about them when I get the chance. Saturday night Andy will be making mushroom risotto and his amazing chocolate cake and on the Sunday I am doing roast beef with all the trimmings. I haven't decided on a pudding yet - I think Andy will have a say in that!

Monday, 20 July 2009

carrot cake

A while back I blogged about a recipe for carrot cake that I used and thought was really good but that the timings, for me anyway, were a bit off. So this weekend I gave it another shot and here is the recipe I am now happy with!

150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon powder
150g caster sugar
250g grated carrot
100g shelled walnuts, chopped
150ml corn/vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
1tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
Grease and line a cake tin
Sieve flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon powder in a mixing bowl
Stir in the caster sugar, walnuts and carrots - mix well

Pour in the oil, eggs and vanilla essence and stir well

Beat mixture for one minute
Put the cake batter into the tin and bake for 60 minutes
Remove and leave to cool for five minutes before turning onto a cooling rack
leave to cool completely

For the icing:

50g butter - room temp
75g cream cheese - full fat
Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
100g icing sugar

Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and vanilla essence
Gradually stir in the icing sugar
Spread the icing over the cake

This pic turned out a bit weird - I don't know why - my lack of photography skills perhaps!

If you like you could keep back a handful of walnuts and decorate with them.

If you want to cut the cake in half and have icing inside too - up your icing ingredients by a third. You can do it with the original recipe but I like plenty of icing!!!

sunday baking and cooking

Last Sunday I had a bit of a blast on the cooking and baking - I felt like doing a bit of baking and trying something new for Sunday dinner. So, I made some rock buns, some shortbread and tried out a new recipe for scallops and chorizo for our Sunday dinner.

I decided on shortbread as Andy drew my attention to my rather amazing collection of cookie cutters yesterday - by way of demanding they be put in their own box rather than getting tangled up in the kitchen drawer. I hadn't quite realised how many I have myself. So they now have their own home and they are gonna get used today!

I also decided to cook scallops for the first time. I cooked them with chorizo and sweetfire beetroot salad. I don't know what the recipe was but I saw beetroot and scallops on a plate together on a clip of Masterchef I saw the previous week. So I decided to wing it on the details of the actual recipe and devise what I thought would produce what I saw on the tele and see what happens. Having never done scallops I was a wee bit nervous so had a pizza in the freezer in case it all went horribly wrong.

Anyway - as you will see from the links to the dishes, it all went very well and the dish is now part of my repertoire. I do think though that while the quality of the scallops is paramount and goes without saying, the quality of the chorizo matters too - while the chorizo used was pricier than what I usually get at the supermarket it was really worth it and in fact you could use less as a result.

The shortbread was wolfed down at both our workplaces so felt quite happy with that too. It goes without saying that Andy devoured the rock buns. I am not sure what it is about them he likes so much but if that is what keeps him happy who am I to complain!


I love shortbread - it reminds me of my Gran - both for the shortbread she would often have in the house (bought from M&S - she didn't cook or make things herself - just made sure we all had a good sweet tooth developed!) and for all the coffee mornings she would take us to as kids. My Gran knew in detail all the best coffee mornings in Ayr and we got a good education in how to form a strategy for getting the most out of a jumble sale and how to nab the best cakes.

And shortbread is easy peasy to make and quick to cook - so you can whip up a tray of biscuits really quite easily and take the glory for what your guests will perceive as hours of hard work in the kitchen. You can make shortbread into the traditional round marked out for slices but I like to use lots of different cookie cutters instead. I have a cat, moon, teapot, airplane, butterfly, star, gingerbread man and loads more.

The recipe I use is taken from the Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book - a bible of cooking for our family if ever there was one.

225g/8oz unsalted butter, room temperature
125g/40z caster sugar
325g/12oz plain white flour, sifted

Put butter in a bowl and beat until soft
Mix in the sugar until creaming
Mix in the flour using hands if necessary. The mixture should be firm - like shortcrust pastry.
You can do each of the above stages in the food mixer if you like
Knead until smooth and free of cracks
If you have time, leave it to rest in the fridge for 15-30 mins
Use half the quantity to roll out to 1cm thickness and then use your cookie cutters to cut out your biscuits
With the second half, cut out more biscuits or roll out to a circle 1cm thick, flute the edges and mark with a knife into eight sections to make a shortbread round
Place your shortbread onto a greased baking sheet, pin prick on the surface to let the air out and stop bubbles forming
Bake for around 30 minutes until just lightly golden - to much cooking and the shortbread will turn bitter
When still warm dredge with caster sugar

This recipe is also good for making shortbread fancies to go with strawberries and ice cream.

scallops and chorizo

Andy and I were in Bridge of Allan last Saturday and stopped in at Clive Ramsay's deli for lunch and a look round the shop. I picked up some amazing chorizo and decided that, inspired by a recent Masterchef clip I had seen, to do scallops and chorizo for Sunday dinner.

We got scallops from the Tesco fish counter - a new fishmonger has opened up in Dundee that I will need to try out but bad planning on my part meant we were reliant on what Tesco had to offer.

I also made the Moro inspired sweetfire beetroot salad that I have become a bit addicted to as an accompaniment with rosemary and garlic potatoes and a basic salad. That with some ciabatta to soak up the dreamy juices and we were both as happy as clams (and not as scallops!).

I made the potatoes first and popped them in the oven to keep warm as the scallops and chorizo need quick cooking. The beetroot can be prepared in advance too - just don't add the dressing until the last moment though else it will turn a bit too pink!

I cut up the chorizo and pan fried for about 5 minutes and until the orangey oil that chorizo holds started oozing into the pan. You don't need to have any oil in the pan to fry the chorizo as it has it's own wee store of it and you don't want to dilute the flavour.

I then removed the chorizo from the pan and added the scallops. The scallops cook in the chorizo oil and pick up the smokey flavour and orange colour. They took about 5 minutes to cook and I used five scallops each.

Then, for the last minute, add the chorizo and give the pan a good shake and stir.

To serve, I popped the scallops and chorizo, potatoes and salad on a plate, served the beetroot separate so you get to manage the pinky ooze, and we had pear cider to go with it. Not sure if pear cider would be the suggested tipple but it worked for us.

The chorizo was amazing - sweet and smokey with a tang of saltiness which really enhanced the meaty scallops. The beetroot gave a fresh, light and zingy contrast as chorizo and scallops are really quite heavy - certainly five scallops each was enough to make you very full. The potatoes I just love with anything and the garlic sat well with the scallops. Good bread is a must to soak up the orange juices on your plate - and to scoop up the yoghurt sauce from the beetroot.

To say we were satisfied understates how sated we felt at the end of the meal!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

smart women

It probably isn't something you would pick up in my posts about my favourite cleaning products or my lust for chocolate cake, but I am quite the left wing feminist - and take my feminist politics pretty seriously - but that doesn't mean you can't be light hearted and I have found a company in America called 'smart women' that produces various items, mainly stationary/gift type stuff, that has slogans such as 'smart women get to the point' emblazoned on them.

The website does have a shop but it is for American distribution only. I have found suppliers in the UK though at Tatty Devine (who also do funky jewellery). Waterstones also stock the range in their stores and online - although the online shop isn't great to navigate.

So, if you need some post its and quite like giving people food for thought beyond teh kitchen, then go take a wee look!

oldies but goodies

There are lots of modern devices that make life a lot easier - particularly on the domestic front. But sometimes there are products that, while they may not be hip and cool, do what they promise to do and have yet to be bettered at doing it. I was reminded of this when doing some cleaning this weekend. We will be renting out our flat soon and so there are lots of jobs to be done including shining up all the chrome in the kitchen. Of course, it all gets a clean regularly like the rest of the kitchen but every so often you need to go a bit further than that to get a really good deep clean and sparkling shine. I also had a lot of kitchen equipment that will need to go into storage and wanted to give everything a really good scrub - my thinking being if it goes in super clean then it won't be so much hard work to deal with when we unpack it eventually.

The thing is, while I use things like Flash cleaning fluid etc, they just don't hit the spot when I want to really scrub, buff and shine. When I want to go all for broke I break out 'the pink stuff' which a is a grainy pink paste my Mum introduced me to. Maybe you all have gleaming pots that sparkle and blind you in the sun - me, I have clean pots but every so often like to scrub the bottom of them to return them to shop bought brilliance and I admit to not carrying out this task every time a I use them. The pink stuff is amazing for this, shines up your sink and draining board and is very good at things like cutting through the grease build up you sometimes get on cooker hoods and suchlike.

Today, though, it isn't easy to get a hold of the pink stuff. Old fashioned ironmongers stock it but with ironmongers themselves becoming scarce I was worried about my supply. So I turned to the always reliable internet and found a website that stocks the pink stuff plus a variety of old fashioned domestic products. It is called the Carbolic Soap Company.

They do all sorts of old fashioned bits and pieces including 'lifebuoy soap' which my gran used to talk about - and often threaten us with a good scrubbing with - when we were little.

So I have ordered a good supply of pink stuff and will be browsing their website for other older, but still the best, items for keeping everything ship shape!

Monday, 6 July 2009

coffee table

I like having plenty of surface space - mainly because I usually have a couple of books, magazines and papers on the go at any one time - not to mention needing space for the essential pot of tea and to pile my mobile, pda and diary on. So this table by matthew hilton is perfect - you can have it as one large surface or split it up across a room depending on what you need at any given time. of course, at £1495 it isn't exactly a bargain but I love the lean, clean lines and jigsaw styling.

I found the table on the apartment company site which is american but has cool ideas and suggestions which I then search for to see if there are uk based suppliers.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

sunday dinner this week

it's gonna be take away curry!!!

summer sunday dinner

I love a roast and I love eating big for Sunday dinner but it has been quite warm and humid the past two weeks plus I am trying to eat light and healthy since being poorly, so for Sunday dinner last week I went for something a bit different. I wanted to have some fish and then to have some mezze type dishes to pick and choose from.

The menu is:

Tuna steak with -
beetroot and yoghurt
aubergine and goat's cheese (warm salad)
Pitta bread

followed by the tangy lemon tart I made yesterday.

I made the tuna steak simply by frying the two steaks for about 10 minutes - they were quite thick and so this meant they came out medium.

Click on the links to get the recipes!

beetroot and yoghurt salad

I love beetroot - it is very colourful and the flavour compliments so many things. For years I didn't eat beetroot at all and coming back to it I realised what I had missed. I tend to go for fresh beetroot rather than in a jar - and because I am sometimes lazy - buy it from the veg section in the supermarket rather than cook it myself. This dish is easy to put together and light and fresh. It is great for injecting some colour and the creaminess of the yoghurt is a good partner with the beetroot.

200-250g beetroot
a squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley
sea salt and black pepper
clove of garlic
2tbsp greek yoghurt
splash of milk

Slice the beetroot up how you like it and spread over a plate
chop up the parsley roughly and mix in a bowl with the lemon juice, oil and salt and paper
drizzle the parsley mix over the beetroot - this can be done an hour or so before serving if kept in the fridge

crush the garlic clove into a paste with some of the salt
put the garlic in a bowl and mix with the yoghurt
add a splash or two or milk to thin the yoghurt to a sauce-like consistency
drizzle over the beetroot just before serving

This dish tastes really zingy and fresh - the yoghurt gets pinky tinges to it too. Some warm pitta bread is great for scooping up those last bits of sauce and beetroot. I haven't tried it yet but I reckon it would go great with some lamb as lamb usually needs something that will cut through the richness of the meat. Or as a side salad at a bbq. Just make sure your top is black or you have a major bib on!


This is a really good fresh and light salad. It's great as part of a main meal, or as part of a mezze spread. I got the recipe from the Moro cookbook which is a great cookbook for middle eastern and eastern med food, particularly mezze style dishes.

serves 2
40g bulgar wheat
200g cherry tomatoes
couple of small bunches of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 small bunch of mint, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
two pinches cinnamon
2 pinches allspice
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
3 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper

cut the tomatoes in half, deseed, then chop in half again
prepare the bulgar wheat - go with the instructions on the packet - I usually boil for 10-15 mins then rinse with cold water to serve in a salad
mix the tomatoes with the herbs and bulgar wheat
make the dressing by mixing all of the ingredients apart from the olive oil together - this is because they will mix better without the oil - then add the oil
toss the salad in the dressing just before serving

aubergine and goat's cheese

I just made this up because I had the cheese left over from a salad and the aubergine from a pasta sauce.

half an aubergine
2-3 slices of goat's cheese
olive oil

slice the aubergine up so you have thin round slices
heat a 1cm pool of oil in a frying pan
fry the aubergine slices up and drain on paper towels
you may have to fry the aubergine in batches so once the slices are drained keep them in a warm dish in a warm oven
when you are ready to serve, place the aubergines in your serving dish andthen crumble the goat's cheese over the top
season with some salt and pepper if you like

The cheese will warm a bit being on top of the aubergine and start to melt a wee bit. This is a good warm salad to have alongside cold dishes in the spring or autumn when there is still a nip in the air.


I love the Yves Pinch Design desk the best, but this is also a great desk. In fact, it is more expensive than Pinch so I feel if I ever splash out on it I will be 'saving' money - haha! This is a much more colourful desk and perhaps would be best in a very modern setting. I feel the Pinch desk could look good in a trad or modern setting. I love the use of colour though and the curvaceous legs - maybe this is because it was originally designed by George Nelson as a 'ladies' desk?

It's £3316 and you can take a peak at designshopuk.com.

Friday, 3 July 2009


Wallpaper hasn't been something I have ever been into. I have preferred either plain cream walls or big and bold colours painted direct on to lining paper.

But a french company called 'domestic' has some wallpaper designs that look more like cool, graphic design posters - even the kids ones are amazing - except for your walls.

Elizabeth David - saviour of the British diet and also a sharp critic!

Elizabeth David changed forever the way we eat in Britain. She introduced pasta and olive oil - now everyday staples - to the UK palate and challenged the restaurant trade to move beyond recreations of what you got at home or at boarding school. Some criticise her as being terribly middle class and pursuing a cuisine that was only accesible to the upper and middle classes - and a cuisine that you would only have discovered if you had the financial aently bility to holiday in the Med, which the vast majority of Brits could not. But like her or not, she brought about the most radical shift in how we see, eat and consider our food. But the reason for this post is that recently Peter Ross, a librarian at the Guildhall library in London, has unveiled the annotated notes David made in the margins of the cookbooks she owned and occasionally reviewed. Ross has been carrying out this work for many years and is now ina position to make available the notes she made. Some of them are quite cutting - and blunt- criticising fellow food writers and particular dishes - which of course if you didn't think anyone else would see them they possibly would be. For the full story head to the Guardian where you will find the cuts.


In my continued obsession for round houses, I am often on the look out for interior solutions that involve curves and/or fitting into a round structure. Well, I have found a company called Metris Kitchens who have a range called Peninsula Curve - and their curvey kitchen is just beautiful.

It reminds me a little of 1930s ocean liners and a slight art deco-ish hint - I think it is the sinuous lines of the surfaces. I would probably go for a different surface than what is here but I love the fact that it is curved. After all, who wants sharp edges - cooking and baking to my mind is more subtle than that and therefore needs a more stylish approach and to my mind this is it. I can see shiny, white Mason & Cash baking bowls lined up and ready to be filled with ingredients and mixtures destined for decadent feasts!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

steak baguette

This is a good quick and easy meal to make up and tastes great. This serves 2.

two baguettes
bag of salad leaves
whatever salady veggies you have - tomatoes, cheese etc
packet of roast beef slices from supermarket
whatever sauces you like and have in your cupboard - brown, horseradish etc
two baked potatoes
salt and pepper
squeeze of lemon juice - jif or fresh - whatever you have

slice the baked potatoes into wedges, drizzle with oil and put on a baking tray
pop the wedges in the oven to bake for 25-30 mins
cut up all your salad items and mix up in a bowl with olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, salt a pepper
unwrap the beef and pop in a dish covered with foil and put in th eoven 5 mins before the wedges are ready
pop your baguettes in 2-3 mins before the wedges are ready
when the baguettes are warm, slice them and put them on plates, load up with the beef and serve with the wedges and salad

If you don't want wedges, some crisps are good. If you don't want a full salad, you can put some sliced tomatoe and cheese inside the baguette instead.

This dish looks impressive and my husband likes it but is really more about assembly than cooking - easy peasy!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

tangy lemon tart

I got this recipe from Hello magazine - yes, in between the articles on who got married this week I found some surprisingly good recipes. We had this last night for pudding and it was delicious. What I would say is that you could half the filling - or at least for my flan in I didn't need it all - but it will depend on how deep your tin is.

sweet short crust pastry case, baked blind
2 tbsp icing sugar
9 eggs
400g/14 oz caster sugar
grated zest of two lemons
juice of 5 lemons
250g/9oz greek yoghurt (I used Total greek yoghurt)

Preheat the oven to 130C, 250F OR gas mark 3
Make up pastry case
Whisk eggs, caster sugar and lemon zest in a bowl until smooth
Stir in the lemon juice then add the yoghurt and mix until fully combined
you can do the above two steps in a food processor
Pour the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30 mins then leave to cool for an hour
When ready to serve, sprinkle over the left over caster sugar and place under a hot grill to caramelize

pastry case - baking blind

Last night was the first time I had ever done this. I have done flaky pastry and wee tartlets before - but not something that required 'baking blind' which my tangy lemon tart required. It kind of scared me a bit because pastry can be tricky and also there is nothing worse than a soggy bottom to your pastry pudding. But, I did it and it worked out really well!

I used Jamie Oliver's sweet shortcrust pastry recipe. I found that I only needed half the recipe for my tangy lemon tart although I would imagine if you were doing a recipe with a top over the filling you would need the whole batch.

500g plain flour
100g icing sugar
250g butter
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, beaten
splash of milk

by hand
seive the flour into a bowl, seive over the sugar then cut the butter into cubes and rub into the sugar and flour with your fingers
You should end up with a fine, crumbly mixture
At this point you can add any flavourings you would like to the pastry
Add in the milk and eggs and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough

using food processor
seive the flour and sugar into the processor and give it a quick whizz
cut the butter into small chunks and add to the food processor and blitz until you have a fine, crumbly mix
remove from the processor into a bowl and add the milk and egg and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough

flour the dough lightly, cover in cling film and pop in the fridge for half an hour

You should have nice cold hands for making the dough so you don't start to melt the butter. I am lucky because my hands are always freezing! But if you are more warm blooded - or the kitchen has been very warm with all the cooking you have been doing - run them under the cold tap for a minute or two and that will help.
I left out the lemon zest as the filling was lemon and didn't want overkill - and you can add whatever flavourings you like at the end of the dry stage.
I also only had 200g of butter - so cheated and popped in 50g of stork. It turned out fine though.

To bake blind
I needed to make a case for my tart so needed to bake blind. This is the method I used.

grease your tin with butter (if you have non-stick you may feel happy enough to not need to do this. Even with non-stick though if I am doing something delicate I like to grease!)
roll out your rested pastry to the desired size for your tin
place the pastry over the tin and then press in to fit
trim any overhanging edges

then cut a piece of greaseproof/baking paper to fit the pastry case and place inside your case
then fill the case with either uncooked rice or, if you have them, ceramic baking beans
pop the case into a hottish oven (180C, 350F, gas 4)
bake for ten minutes

after ten minutes, remove the paper and the rice/beans and bake the case for a further ten minutes or until golden

leave to cool and then fill it up!

If your case has sides, make sure the beans'rice reach up the sides or else they might flop over.

funky ceramics and glass

i love homeware that incorporate urban themes - that mix of homelyness, warmth, safety etc combined with grittier images is one that appeals to me - and i found an artist called snowden flood who does just that.

she is an interior accessories designer based in London and her work celebrates urban and rural landscapes through an ongoing exploration of the theme of souvenirs and keepsakes

i love the river series of plates - which picks out bridges and scenes you can see from the rivers in London

i also like the wintery glasses she has done - which are more focused on nature - but the white on black gives it that edge

and the barbed wire cup and motorway plate

and she does t-shirts!

i think the clean colours and lines are really effective and while some pieces are expensive - some of the plates can go up to around £80 - if you had two or three mixed in with plain white then you could still have a slice of the action on a budget.

pretty wardrobe

I spotted this lovely wardrobe (£725) by the French Bedroom Company - I don't normally go for fancy style furniture but what I like here is that it is a pretty and detailed finish but with a simple wardrobe frame -I reckon if you kept everything else in the room simple this could make a great centerpiece to a room. Only problem being I would need about five to fit my extensive collection of clothes and shoes...