16 September 2014

north norfolk

Just back from our annual September jaunt to North Norfolk, where we did all our usual things, like long walks through the salt marshes and by the sea. Our sentimental favorite is still Cley-next-the-Sea...

in all weathers,

but we walked through the marshes and dunes at Burnham Overy Staithe and along the beaches at Holkham, Wells, and Old Hunstanton too:

And as usual, I ate my weight in fresh-off-the-boat crab and lobster from our favorite purveyors: Gurneys in Burnham Market, the Cley Smokehouse,

and the North Norfolk Fish Company in Holt:

And we didn't neglect our intake of fruit and veggies either, with several visits to Wiveton Hall, Farm Shop, and Café,

still one of my best-loved spots for morning coffee despite the construction below (the path and sea defences are being rebuilt following the tidal surge last December).

But lest you think we're stuck in a rut, we made a few new discoveries too. Like the Black Apollo Coffee House in Holt, where they take their coffee very seriously indeed! And Binham Priory. The nave of the original church is now used as a church in itself, while the very extensive ruins are in the care of English Heritage:

So in the end, as in previous years, we did have something old and something new, as well as something borrowed (a friend's new house!), and with sunny skies most days, something very blue:

06 September 2014

birthday cake

Yesterday morning, rather than ordering our usual sugar pretzel and bun at Bageriet, we celebrated with two slices of prinsesstårta (princess cake). With layers of lighter-than-air sponge, raspberry jam, vanilla custard, and whipped cream, all enclosed in a thin layer of marzipan, it is indeed fit for a princess--or a birthday girl!

Princess cake is usually topped with a pink marzipan rose. But why stop with one rose when you can have a whole bunch (spotted outside Liberty)...

and maybe a few scoops of ice cream too, or at least a new book (from the new Foyles) to add to the ice cream-making library:

Because surely there must be some consolations for turning another year older...

01 September 2014

double feature

Our version of a double feature: two movies over two weekends--extending the enjoyment!

The weekend before last, we took the train into London to see Finding Vivian Maier, a documentary about a nanny who took over 100,000 photographs, mainly on the streets of New York and Chicago: 

While her photographs are now being compared to those of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus, her work only came to light when historian John Maloof happened to buy a box of her undeveloped negatives at a local auction in 2007. In the documentary, Maloof tries to piece together her enigmatic, eccentric, occasionally disturbing, and perhaps ultimately unknowable life. Completely riveting and without doubt my favorite film of the year so far.

Then, this past weekend, after a tip-off from Miranda, we popped into the Olympic Studios in Barnes. Our hope was we would find a venue like our beloved Cinema City in Norwich, and it didn't disappoint.

The Studios themselves have an interesting history. Starting as a 'community entertainment centre' in 1906, the building served alternately as a cinema and playhouse until 1966, when it was converted into the Olympic Sound Studios. And an amazing who's-who of stars recorded there: everyone from the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Queen to Madonna, Prince, and U2.

While we sadly weren't joined by The Edge at lunch, we were nevertheless smitten with the Olympic's newest incarnation. I had a very tasty Reuben sandwich in the cafe:

And the cinema itself was chic, spotlessly clean, and supremely comfortable with reclining upholstered chairs and little felt-lined trays for drinks and snacks. Oh and the movie was good too!

19 August 2014

a jolly nice day

We don't get to North London often, but we simply had to visit KERB's Ice Cream Adventure at King's Cross! So we made a complete day of it, starting at Kipferl in Camden Passage, a modern Viennese cafe with the most delicious breakfasts and good strong coffee:

Properly caffeinated, we popped along to Loop, where I resisted the pull of the sock yarn, but did leave with a card of vintage French buttons.

Just past Angel, we stopped by The FARA Workshop, where young designer-makers rework clothing and fabrics donated to the FARA charity shops, upcycling them into new, one-of-a-kind fashions.

The shop's stylish collection includes both men's and women's wear with a modern, minimalist cut--think Japanese pattern books--and all the sewing is done on-site, so even on a Saturday, you can see the sewists at work:

Then it was just a short hop on the Tube to King's Cross and Granary Square for KERB:

We were sidetracked by the House of Illustration's Quentin Blake exhibition, a definite must-see,

but we could only hold out for so long before diving into the ice cream!

We sampled some amazing flavors at Sorbitium Ices: Toasted Rice and Coconut, Fresh Peach, and Rose Geranium...

But our favorites of the day were from Jolly Nice... G had Beer and Bar Nuts to go with his half-pint of lager from the beer tent (!) and my top pick, after several scrumptious samples, was Pineapple Custard--absolutely divine! And the nicest vendors too:

Now that's a jolly nice day indeed!

07 August 2014


This weekend, passing through the Southbank Centre on our way to Waterloo, we unexpectedly found ourselves in a KERB street food market:

KERB runs street food sites across London. The main pitch is at Granary Square, King's Cross, but they also roll up at the Gherkin (very appropriate!) and Spitalfields for regular lunch dates.

I've never felt comfortable eating standing up, or even forgoing plates and cutlery, but after exploring the market this weekend, I see I must overcome my inhibitions. KERB has so many amazing traders offering such a remarkable range--from savory to sweet, familiar to exotic--and with names like Fleisch Mob, Mother Flipper, and Yum Bun, it's hard to resist!

On my virgin visit, I stuck with something I have no qualms eating on the move--an Earl Grey Ice Lolly from Ice Kitchen. Sadly the photo doesn't do justice to its smooth and creamy scrumptious-ness,

but luckily I have the recipe now, so I'll have a go at home, where hopefully I can get a better picture (without all the jostling elbows!).

The next big KERB event will be An Ice Cream Adventure at King's Cross on 16 August, featuring 12 artisan ice cream purveyors. The regular street food vendors will be there too, and I'm planning to try it all--sans a seat!

03 August 2014


This may look like a brighter version of this year's gooseberry jam, but it's actually hjortronsylt (cloudberry jam), my all-time favorite preserve:

Cloudberry jam isn't so easy to come by: cloudberries grow in the wild in northern Scandinavia, must be picked by hand, and are difficult to transport. But luckily, this year, my favorite jam is being made and sold by my favorite bakery, Bageriet, tucked away on Rose Street in Covent Garden:

photo: Bageriet

Daniel Karlsson (on the right) and Sven-Gunnar Appelgren (on the left) bake the most gorgeous Swedish buns, cakes, biscuits, crisprolls, and crispbreads:

photo: Bageriet

The perfect Saturday in London starts with a strong black filter coffee and sockerkringlor (sugar pretzel) at one of Bageriet's two cosy tables:

We keep meaning to come at lunch to try the smoked salmon sandwiches, but we never seem to be able to hold out that long!

01 August 2014

in a pickle

This year, Debbie has been growing veggies in three of our raised beds. Her City & Guilds gardening course seems to have paid off, as her cucumbers are amazing. This is one of her smaller specimens:

But one can only eat so many cukes, and the fridge was rapidly filling up. That is, until Smitten Kitchen published her recipe for Easiest Fridge Dill Pickles. They are indeed easy: just add sliced cucumbers, salt, dill, and vinegar to a 1-liter Kilner jar and shake, and a few hours later you have dill pickle chips:

And they're delicious--indeed, positively addictive--not just on sandwiches and in salads but as a side dish or even as a sneaky snack straight from the jar!

As Deb (of Smitten Kitchen) says, 'Everyone needs more recipes like this in their back pocket, ridiculously easy ways to use mountains of summer produce with a delightfully low effort-to-result factor.' Amen! Now pass the pickles please...

30 July 2014

more gorgeous gooseberries

Last summer, I finally tackled my fear of preserving by enrolling in the Preserving in a Day course with Sky Cracknell, founder of England Preserves. Sky sells her jams and chutneys at the fantabulous Spa Terminus food market in Bermondsey while also supplying some of the top restaurants and department stores in London. 

After a very busy day weighing, boiling, and filling, I left with jars and jars of jam, as well as the knowledge and confidence to try it all at home. But sadly our fruit on the allotment had pretty much gone by then, so I had to wait...

...until now! Our gooseberry standards were so laden with fruit this year, even after thinning, that G had to hammer in extra supports.

Admittedly, gooseberry is one of the easiest jams to make, but I'm so pleased with the result:

I'm also so glad I made it before this heatwave set in--far too hot to be boiling fruit now! Perfect weather for gooseberry ice cream though...

28 July 2014


Saturday morning, we headed straight to the Serpentine to be at the front of the queue for pedalos:

Pedalo-ing has been on my list of things to do in London for ages, and now having had a spin, I'm wondering why it took me so long to give it a go! G remembers taking one out as a small boy, and it seems not much has changed, as he aimed straight for the swans:

Luckily the swans (and geese and coots) were completely unfazed, and G made amends with bits of bread tossed over the side.

An hour later, still fuelled by coffee from the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, we popped into Slightly Foxed for a quick look: 

Because while water and books don't mix, water followed by a browse round a super (air-conditioned) bookshop on a scorching hot day certainly do!

22 July 2014

bodacious blackcurrants

In the past, I've steered clear of anything and everything blackcurrant-flavored, associating the taste with cough syrup (which I also avoid).

But when my ice cream guru Kitty Travers published her recipe for Blackcurrant Ice Cream in The Observer, I began to have second thoughts. And when the temperature in Teddington hit 30°C, I decided it was time to give it a go...

and ended up making one of my favorite ice creams yet!

As G has always like blackcurrants, we have two bushes on our plot. Which was convenient, as Kitty's recipe calls for 5-6 blackcurrant leaves to make an infused custard. The leaves impart the most amazing, yet completely indescribable flavor. So much so, I actually considered making an ice cream from just the leaves, only to discover later that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has published a recipe for Blackcurrant Leaf Sorbet.

So now I've been converted to both the fruit and the leaf. Who knows what's next...!

19 July 2014


This year, we had our first really successful crop of broad beans. The extra-long raised bed G specially built and planted up was a forest of head-high plants. Which then begged the question, what to do with sooo many broad beans? Eeek!

Luckily, once double-podded, the beans came to not-too-much, so the glut wasn't as unmanageable as I'd feared. And in the end, we found a fabulous use for them all--Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Broad Bean Hummus:

Simply whizz the double-podded beans with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Hugh suggests adding garlic (G's preference) but I prefer it without. Absolutely delicious as a snacky dip with plain Kallo breadsticks. We made several batches, and devoured them all. The only problem is that now the crop is finished, we'll have to wait another year for our next batch!

16 July 2014

back to blogging

It's hard to know where to start after such a very long time away...

But maybe it's best to return to an old favorite--Petersham Nurseries,

currently awash with roses:

Because you can never have too many roses...

or too much cake, particularly Petersham's cake:

Some things never change!