Friday, 18 February 2011

tipsy bookshelves

When you blog about one type of thing you have never seen before often you then see several examples one after another - so following on from the parallel world bookcases I posted about a few days ago I spotted Malagana Designs new Equilibrium bookshelves. They come with the tagline 'say goodbye to your bookends'. I think they would make a great home for my Jasper Fforde 'Thursday Next' books.

Monday, 14 February 2011

messin' with your eyes

Pic from design milk

The new collection by Samal Designs includes quirky shelving that looks like it is disappearing through the wall. It is quite surreal and you wouldn't maybe want to have to navigate it after a couple of glasses of wine but I like breaking out from the norm. The pieces have special wall brackets to create the illusion and still have usable shelving that won't fall over.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

precious things

I love good design-led shelving for books and the objects - a vase, cup, picture etc - that are special to us. champions young designers and gives them a space to showcase their designs. The Polygon collection by Luca Stepan is simple but stylish and my favourite piece is the white oak bookshelves.

Very functional but the shape of the wood and the pigeon hole style is visually arresting while not overtaking their purpose - to keep your treasured possessions safe, sorted and accessible.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


We have never had to buy carpets - our old house had original wood floors so the only flooring we have ever had to decide upon was the wee bit of floor in our bathroom and kitchen. So we have had to enter the world of carpets - which to a newby is quite bewildering.

We went to Sterling Furniture Warehouse in Tillicoultry - on recommendation from friends and the people doing our house. And thankfully when we arrived we found a guy who could explain all the different types of carpets. He was good because he didn't steer us towards the most expensive and try and get us to shell out wads of cash but also didn't just abandon us because we probably wouldn't be after hand-woven-by-maidens floor coverings. He picked up that that given we will be outlaying for a whole house at once we wanted good quality and nice but not to the point where we will be gazing at our amazing carpet from makeshift furniture made out of cardboard boxes while eating beans on toast. We also want it to work with the building - a church conversion.

We learned about the different wool mixes and types of carpets - what carpets are a pain to hoover [important for us - safe to say hoovering isn't a hobby of ours] and what carpet is better for hardwearing areas and what is better for looking smart and posh.

Being colour blind is always a challenge so I have to rely on Andy making sure that what we pick matches our planned interiors but also that it looks okay to my eyes as well as to everyone elses.

We like simple modern interiors but with splashes of strong colours. All the walls will be paint - no wallpaper - and will be in very neutral colours except perhaps for a feature wall or two. The 1st floor will be wood - maple - and any other flooring will be pattern free - so we reckoned we could go for something a bit stronger in colour for the carpets.

So it looks like olive green for the guest bedroom, aubergine for our bedroom, a grey that apparently has purples through it that I can't see and blueberry for the mezzanine! Here are close ups of the samples -

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

cashmere and cupcakes

The cashmere and cupcakes blog covers the three things I like to dream about most - food, fashion and interiors [I know, how shallow, shouldn't it be world peace?].

However, it also made me unfairly jealous - a photographer husband and previous career in fashwan probably help though to set yourself up as a blogger and actually earn a living wage from it.

And her walk in wardrobe is just unfair too - but I do quite like the tips for being organised - though knowing me I will probably stick to 'piles of clothes in order of when I last wore them'.

Anyway - despite the jealousy it is a good blog to check out and has really lovely pics and plenty of nice stuff to look at/read about...

Sunday, 6 February 2011

in my larder - broad beans

Interesting thing about broad beans - they are rich in L-dopa, a substance used medically in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

L-dopa is also the drug used by Dr Oliver Sacks to 'awaken' patients who developed encephalitis lethargica which followed on from the global flu pandemic that killed millions after the first world war. The use of the drug had unintended consequences - the patients were 'awakened' but in the process developed tics and spasms and strange activity patterns to the extent that many asked to be taken off the drug even if that meant reverting to the catatonic state they had been in before.

This story is also the basis of a new dance piece by Rambert Dance which I read about in the Herald this week - which prompted me to think about how much I love broad beans and in eating them associate them with feeling healthy and strong - which given I have M.E. and Lupus is an important part of the link between what I eat and how it affects my health.

There is also apparently a link between L-dopa and the human libido - some use fava beans as an alternative to Viagra - but I couldn't possibly comment further.

Broad beans can be bought fresh in their pods, dried or canned. I am quite impatient and also not very good at remembering to soak things overnight so I tend to use canned beans - preferably in water - as you can just crack open the tin and use them.

My favourite broad bean recipes include -

Chorizo and broad beans

Egyptian beans [ful medames]

Take some cooked beans and add oil, garlic, lemon, salt and cumin and mix together - then eat with good bread

Pasta and broad beans
pasta of your choice
broad beans, drained
olive oil
parmesan - grated
mushrooms - chopped
red pepper - chopped

Cook your pasta as per the instructions

In a pan fry the garlic and oil for 2-3 minutes

Add in the choppped peppers and cook for 5 minutes

Add in the chopped mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes

Add in the broad beans and cook for 3-4 minutes

Add the contents of the frying pan to the pasta and stir together

Other options

At this point if you wish you could also add a cooked tomatoe based pasta sauce - but I like it plain with a good seasoning of pepper and grated parmesan

You could also add fried pancetta as a topping - the broad beans will compliment the salty meat.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

in my larder - chorizo

Chorizo is one of my favourite things and when I would have it in restaurants I assumed it was some kind of tricky ingredient that required a lot of chef-y knowledge to use. But it isn't. It is basically a fermented and cured sausage and requires very little work at all to make into a tasty bite.

There are lots of different types of chorizo. You can actually get fresh chorizo that requires cooking before eating but it is much more common in its cured version.

Spanish chorizo and Portuguese chorizo get their smokiness and deep red colour from dried smoked red peppers. Mexican chorizo is usually made with chile peppers because the paprika used in Spainish chorizo is expensive to import. In Spain and Portugal the sausages are usually encased in intestines but in Latin America they are usually encased in artificial casings.

Chorizo can be eaten as it comes - it is lovely sliced up and served with bread and dips and cheeses or in a sandwich - and you can also fry it. It can be simmered in alcohol - particularly apple cider.

You get chorizo described as 'sweet' or 'spicy' - usually thin chorizo is sweet and short are spicy - but as this isn;t always true you should check the packaging or ask the staff.

Chorizo is made with pork - so remember to check with any dinner guests if this might be a problem.

My favourite chorizo recipes include -

Chorizo with scallops, beetroot salad and rosemary potatoes

Chorizo stew

Chorizo and bread
olive oil
balsamic Vinegar
goat's cheese
cherry tomatoes
2 small dipping/nibble dishes

Take two small dishes - with the first fill with a slug of good olive oil and a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and with the second fill with some olives

Take some freshly baked bread - or some ciabatta or other tasty bread from the shop - and either slice up thickly as it is or, if it is a cold day, slice and toast under the grill

Take your tomatoes and slice into small quarters

Take a small frying pan, slice the chorizo thickly and fry gently in some olive oil. The slow fry will release the lovely orange oil from the chorizo meat

Take a slotted spoon and tranfer the chorizo slices to a small dish. Do not discard the oil

Take out the bread and pile on a plate - scatter the chorizo and the goat's cheese over the top and then drizzle with the oil from the pan

Put the tomatoes around the edge of the plate

Serve with the olives and oil/vinegar alongside. And a nice bottle of red!

I always find that the chorizo oil itself, while gorgeous, isn't usually enough for me and so I like the oil/vinegar combo to dip any left over bread in. This dish is good as either a snack for lunch or as a starter to a more elaborate evening meal. It is also sometimes good if you are in late and want supper - but not something too labour intensive. Of course, if you can't be bothered at all - skip everything apart from the chorizo and bread and make an even quicker bite.

Chorizo and broad beans

I love this. I love the contrast beween the smokey, spicy, fatty meat and the fresh green beans.

glug of olive oil
can of broad beans, drained
chorizo sliced up thinly
garlic - crushed with the back of a knife
red onion sliced thinly [for some reason I like the onion half moon shaped rather than finely chopped]

In a large, shallow frying pan heat up some olive oil and add the garlic - allow to cook for 2-3 minutes

Remove the garlic - you just want to flavour the oil - and add the onions and cook gently until they are translucent - you don't want them singed/burnt

Add the green beans and cook gently for 5 mins

Remove the beans and onion and keep warm

Add the chorizo and cook gently to release the lovely orange oils

Take the pan off the heat and add the beans and onion back in and stir

You can then serve this three ways -

Over thickly sliced and toasted ciabatta or your bread of choice

With plain cooked pasta - the chorizo oil is enough of a dressing

With rosemary fried potatoes

Chorizo and pasta

tinned tomatoes
basil - a handful of chopped leaves
garlic - crushed
olive oil
pasta of your choice - I like chunky pasta for this
bread - to mop up the juices
some kind of green vegetable e.g. peas, broccoli

In a small pan cook the garlic in the olive oil then add the tomatoes and basil - this makes a basic pasta sauce which can be frozen - for best results make the day before

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onions gently - when they are transulcent add the chorizo and fry for 4-5 minutes

Put your pasta on to cook - if you are using broccoli or peas add to the pasta pot towards the end to cook with it [if you are using broad beans, fry with the onion and remove while the chorizo cooks]

Drain the pasta and plate up - ladle your pasta sauce over it - then top with the chorizo and onion mix - lovely!

Mop you plate with bread and accompany with a nice glass of red.