30 April 2009

lavender biscuits

This is the Lavender Shortbread from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Year:

These were made using lavender from our plot, which G dried in the shed. I've made Hugh's Lavender Shortbread before, but I'd forgotten just how divine it is. Indeed, I'm feeling positively evangelical about these biscuits!

While in the past I've used all flour, this time I replaced some of the flour with cornflour, which Hugh gives as a recipe option and which I'll continue to do. I'm afraid I just can't go back to Mary Berry's Lavender Biscuits now...

29 April 2009

getting our greens, part two

Our new favorite allotment dish is Asparagus White Pizza:

While I make the dough, G harvests the new spears, which we wash and trim and toss in olive oil. When the dough is ready, we roll it out and top it with nothing more than sliced fresh mozzarella and the prepared asparagus.

Baked at 260 C on a preheated baking stone, the asparagus roasts perfectly and the crust crisps nicely. Then we just add a twist of black pepper to finish.

So simple and so delicious!

28 April 2009

perfect pie

While Norfolk has wonderful seafood,

G was most excited about trying a pork pie from Samphire, a shop I first read about in Olive last year: 

Set in the grounds of a National Trust estate, the shop is lovely and homey. All the food on sale is sourced locally from small producers. And all the meat is from rare-breed animals, reared outdoors to the highest welfare standards.

Giles Coren, the infamous Times restaurant critic, described his pork pie from Samphire as 'the most extraordinary pie I had ever known,' and after one bite G was in complete agreement. Not normally a pork pie eater, I consented to just a taste...and I too was won over!

27 April 2009


Cley-next-the-Sea isn't actually next to the sea. It lies next to a broad swathe of salt marshes.

But these are special marshes. Protected by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Cley Marshes is apparently one the best sites in Britain for spotting rare birds. We didn't see any rare birds on our walks...at least we don't think we did. But our powers of observation sharpened by a visit to Pensthorpe, we saw and heard quite a few common species.

Cley itself is a collection of flint cottages, separated by cobbled passageways with knobbly flint walls, some very old and some more modern,

all overlooked by an 18th-century windmill:

After wandering through the marshes, and stopping at Made in Cley (selling handmade pottery, including porcelain) and Crabpot Books (stocking a good selection of natural history and secondhand books),

we fortified ourselves with provisions from Picnic Fayre, the gourmet delicatessen,

and Cley Smokehouse, which makes and sells a divine trout and orange pate.

Cley may not have the sea, but with the wonderful walks, super shops, and fabulous food, we didn't really notice!

26 April 2009

cley coach house

We've just returned from a few days away at Manor Coach House, a restored 1825 brick and flint coach house in Cley, North Norfolk:

The interior was lovely and light and calming,

with pure white walls, subtle brown and gray accents, exposed beams, and pale oak floors.

We found the property through the St. Jude's Gallery newsletter. The dried branch arrangements throughout the house reminded us of those in Angie Lewin's prints (one of which was hanging in the kitchen). And the house is very near the new St. Jude's Gallery in Itteringham:

While G liked the old space in Aylsham, I think I prefer the new gallery. The exhibition space is small but so beautifully arranged. And Itteringham's lovingly refurbished, community-run village shop and café are directly accessible through a door right inside the gallery. Just my cup of tea, literally!

20 April 2009

beside the seaside

We're leaving tomorrow morning for the coast. I'm guessing we won't see any shells quite like these (in my latest puzzle):

But really looking forward to being back beside the seaside! See you Friday...

19 April 2009

brunch with bill

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. So how could I not love Bill Granger, who founded bills, the Sydney restaurant famous for its breakfasts?

When I heard he was hosting a brunch at La Fromagerie, I called and booked straight away:

We started with the lightest and moistest pumpkin muffins. The muffins were followed by a rhubarb and strawberry breakfast crisp, a recipe I can use straight away with our very over-the-top crop of rhubarb! And we finished at noon with a brunchy Alsatian bacon and egg tart, simply dressed greens, and a glass of chilled Prosecco.

Being La Fromagerie, there were lovely cheeses, too. My favorite was Ticklemore, a hard goat cheese, served with the greens. 

Bill also demonstrated dishes throughout the brunch, including banana bread and biscotti, which were packaged up for us to take home:

He was just as lovely as I remembered him (from a brunch at Petersham a few years ago). So funny and friendly and down-to-earth:

He'd signed two of my three books--Sydney Food and Bills Food--at Petersham, and this was my chance to get the third signed as well:

All definitely worth an early morning trip into London. In fact, I wouldn't mind a trip to Sydney...

15 April 2009

fruit and flowers

While the fruit and flowers at Petersham are looking lovely as always...

I must admit I'm more excited about the blossoms in our orchard:

Fingers crossed for a fine crop of cooking apples this autumn.

14 April 2009


Egg dyeing has always been my favorite part of Easter. But I've never managed to find an egg dyeing kit here in London.

Luckily this year Lynn came to the rescue! G and I had a super afternoon with our PAAS kit, transforming ordinary white eggs into ones an Araucana would be proud of:

Almost too pretty to peel and eat...well, almost!

13 April 2009

seed store cafe, part two

The Royal Paddocks Allotments' Seed Store Cafe is back in business!

With the approval of Environmental Health, we've reopened the cafe in a shed by the main gates. It may not have the charm and polish of our lovely old pistachio-colored premises, but Val's bunting really jollies it up:

We had so much fun brewing and serving and chatting. And it seems the cafe volunteers weren't the only ones having a good time:

Note we were very impressed with Susan's industry: she insisted on actually working before having her drink!

11 April 2009


Our first asparagus of the season: nine tender spears...

which just a few minutes later were made into this!

07 April 2009

slightly seedy

Having watched Rachel Allen make a poppy seed cake on Bake, I decided it was time to add poppy seeds to my own baking repertoire.

These are the Orange and Poppy Seed Slice and Bake Cookies from Cookies and Biscuits (Australian Women's Weekly):

The combination of plain flour, rice flour, cornflour, and icing sugar produces a wonderfully light and crumbly cookie that's perfect with tea. So light you can definitely eat two (or more!) without feeling guilty. Just be sure to check your teeth afterwards...

06 April 2009

home improvement

Several notices have been framed and will soon be posted in the Jolly Hockey Sticks clubhouse. The aim is to improve the clubhouse decor...and just maybe the members' habits as well!

Now with an allotment, it's very hard not to do this. But a little reminder over the table couldn't hurt:

I find this more difficult, particularly when trying to make a meal out of all those greens:

A mantra to repeat while listening to the news on the clubhouse radio: 

And finally, our new clubhouse motto:

This will only make sense if you're familiar with Nice biscuits (cookies). G would say they're not really very nice at all. But as we're being nice, perhaps we should concede they are edible in a biscuit emergency...and they do make for a funny print!

all images: Keep Calm Gallery