Monday, October 29, 2012

Seasonal Meringues

Meringues are always a favourite in our house; this Pavolova recipe always goes down well.  I absolutely love the billowing clouds of white as you whisk them up, soft cushions that crumble, melting-in-the-mouth heaven!  I usually serve mine with summer berries, but this recipe makes them more sesasonal; I'm loving the crimson juices against the white dusty meringue.

Pomegranate Meringues

*makes about 5-6 meringues

For the meringues

•6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

•1 + 1/2 tsp cornflour

•1 or 1/2 tsp red food colouring (depending on colour strength desired)

•A pinch of fine salt

•1 1/2 cups sugar

•2 pomegranates, seeds only

•1 1/2 cups whipping cream

Pomegranate and orange blossom water syrup

•Juice of 3 fresh pomegranates

•1 1/2 tbsp orange blossom water

•5 tbsp sugar

1.Preheat the oven to 140° C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

2.In a large glass bowl, whisk the egg whites (I use a pair of electric whisks) and salt on a high-speed until frothy – try to keep the whisk position as horizontal as possible. Add the cornflour and sugar (1-2 tbsp at a time) gradually and continue whisking. You should add the sugar in small quantities until the end of the process.

3.When the egg whites form stiff peaks (this usually takes about 10-15 minutes), gently fold in the red food colouring, creating swirls. With the help of two large slotted spoons, spoon the egg whites onto the parchment-lined baking tray. The meringues should be about 10-12 cm large and 6 cm high. ‘Twirl’ your spoon around and finish off with a spiky peak.

4.Bake for about 1 hour. Switch off the oven, and leave them to cool inside the oven with the door slightly open for 15 minutes.

5.For the syrup, squeeze the juice of the 3 pomegranates. Heat in a saucepan, add orange blossom water and sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until thick and glossy. Leave to cool and set aside.

6.Serve meringues with whipped cream, a handful of pomegranate seeds on top and drizzle with the pomegranate and orange blossom water syrup.

images: via

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to pick up the pieces...

It's been a while since I posted on the blog and in the interim I've done a major dash up north for a funeral and just generally tried to keep on top of things; without much success I might add!  Do you ever get those times in your life when events just overwhelm you, and when one thing goes wrong, the rest of your life follows domino-like?  Couple that with exhaustion and there's a really good recipe for 'stuck in a rut' and that horrible feeling that you need to shift things, but just haven't the energy to do so.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Well, this is me, just slowly easing myself back into normality.  I came across this list whilst browsing the internet during a sleepless night.  I could do worse than tackle some of these things over the next few weeks...
If I can get to the end of each day and say I've managed at least one of these, then I guess that's progress..

What's your 'pick-me-up' when life gets tough?

images via

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Rene Chaplin - 'My Little Granny'

My lovely little Granny,
So it seems you finally got your wish - one that you expressed with regularity - "I just want to go to sleep and not wake up".  In death, as in life, your wishes were not easily ignored!
I didn't get to say 'goodbye'; not officially anyway, although maybe it could be said that we said our real farewells just over a year ago.  Do you remember?  I came to stay for the weekend before you moved into Abbeyfields; we had dinner with Mum and Dad and then you and I went back to the quiet of Kimberley Gardens.  We sat in the kitchen, just the two of us, the old grandfather clock ticking away the minutes and then the hours as we sat and talked.  We talked about family, those living and those dead; We laughed about the antics of your great-grandchildren but mostly we talked about your wishes for the future; the things you wanted and of course, the things you didn't.  It was our last 'real' conversation I guess, for although we talked afterwards, in person and less so on the phone, that really was our last intimate discussion,
My very first memory of you is watching you walk up the steps of Kimberly Gardens with Granda Sid.  I was clutching a doll and the steps seemed too big for a small girl of three or four.  When we moved back from Keyna you were the sun and moon around which I orbited.  You made me feel safe (unless you were wielding that wooden spoon of course - but I could run faster than you!)and you told me repeatedly, even as an adult, how much you loved me.  My memories of you are so many, where to begin, but let me remind you of my favourites:
 Food:  For you, feeding people, family, was the way you showed your love, and something I like to think I've inherited.  I remember the cakes you made for me every birthday, with their intricate and beautiful icing cages that usually contained something that Granda had found in the old pit heap down the road; the meringues that found their way into family folklore and to every birthday party I ever had and let's talk about the sunday dinners!  All the family together, we'd put the dining table diagonally across the room to make way for everyone, especially as more grandchildren began arriving.  I see you now, in the kitchen, making your own mushy peas and giving Granda Sid his own bowl before lunch began, and what about your infamous yorkshire puddings! We'd fight over those towering piles of batter. You bought each grandchild their own teasets that you brought out whenever we went for tea.  Each year you made a batch of Christmas cakes, even sending one to me when I was at university.  Even now the smell of bacon transports me back to your kitchen after I'd had a sleepover; there you'd be, bent over the frying pan, spatula in hand, directing me out on a walk with Granda. 
You loved shopping almost as much as you liked to cook.  We had many trips out together and Fenwicks tearooms was almost always on the agenda. 'Meet me by the clock' you'd say and then off we'd go and it was always tea with cheese scones. Always. When I was old enough it was a cheeky glass of wine somewhere, and when the Champagne Bar in M&S opened, well, we began a completely new tradition!  Then the shopping began - and you knew how to do it in style.  You knew how to put an outfit together and accessorise it perfectly - you were always simply elegant and as a child I loved to lie on your bed as you got ready, watching you at your dressing table applying your makeup and finally your rings - these were always the last thing you put on.
When I had Tom and Martha, you loved them fiercely, although I seem to remember you giving me a certain amount of grief that I was pregnant!  When Martha was born, you didn't particularly like her name to begin with (you let me know in your own inimitable style), but a few days later it was as if you'd invented the name yourself!  I loved to watch you with your great-grandchildren, your love, patience and obvious pleasure in them made me so happy.  One of my very favourite memories involves a family day out; we were off to the coast and you were in the front seat of my car, children in the back.  We were listening to a CD when an Andy Williams song came on "you're just too good to be true" and you and I began to sing along.  You sang so loudly and with such pleasure, turning to Tom to sing to him the line "I love you baby...". 
You were not afraid of death.  I know this from our conversations. I know that you will now be enjoying a rather large 'welcome home' party, wherever that may be.  As for me, there is a huge crater- like hole where you used to preside over my life; but, I take with me, the joy and love that I had for you, and you for me, and that is more love than I could ever have imagined...
“I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
"There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, "There, she is gone!"
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
"Here she comes!"
And that is dying.
                                                               Henry Van Dyke
Rene Chaplin 1920-2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mulberry Lust Haves

I've been eying up the new Mulberry collection and two things have especially caught my eye...

Fabulous wedge bootie; great to wear with skinnies, maxi skirts or jeans £665

This gorgeous Flame snakeskin Alexa - a minted £1100, but would finish off an autumnal outfit with class and style

What's on your wish list for Autumn?

Monday, October 08, 2012

A Fall List

My love of lists is well-known and so as Autumn pops it's fiery head over the garden wall, I'm beginning to plan some things that I want to do throughout the Autumnal period.

1.  Make sure I get out and about in the fresh air every weekend; a good brisk walk (hopefully in the sunshine) always makes me feel better; if it's in the countryside, common, or a park even better.  There's nothing more rejuvanating than putting on a scarf, woolly jumper and wellies and taking a hike.
2. Try out some new recipes; comforting stews with robust flavours; warming soups and gooey puddings.  I've never been great at producing puddings, but I'm up for the challenge.  I'm thinking about pear crumble, French Onion soup (this recipe from Mon Plaisir hits just the right note between sweet unctious onions, and gooey gruyere crutons)and beef and ale stew with dumplings.
3. Catch up on some serious tv watching! Yes, really.  I think I'm the only person alive that hasn't watched Homeland.  It's now onto series 2, so guess that means some catching up with a box set!  I'm also hooked on Hunted, a new version of Spooks.
4. Create some autumnal displays in the home.  I like the idea of this one.

5. Sit outside on chilly autumn nights, wrapped up in blankets, roasting chestnuts, slathering them in butter and sharing with friends.

If you'd like to make your own list there's a really sweet free printable available from here.

Image no 1: here

Friday, October 05, 2012

Friday Fiction

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

 I missed the hype about this book first time round and only discovered it because a friend raved about it to me one weekend.  I downloaded it onto my kindle and it sat there unread for a few weeks because I got distracted with other things and actually forgot it was there!  Trawling through my titles one evening I re-discovered it and I have to say that it's one of the most fascinating books I've read for some time.

The plot is based on the true story of an ancient Jewish codex saved from the fire by a Muslim librarian.  In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding - an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - she begins to unlock the book's mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book's journey from creation to the present day.
In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-si├Ęcle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. In Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

I loved the history and realism that Brooks intertwines with her plot; the back stories of the book drawing you in and the final realisation that everything has a history and a story attached; even such a humble object as a book. 

Any suggestions for my next read?

images via Google Images

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Creative Displays

Whilst I do like my home to be clutter free and organised, I also like to collect things; china, books, shells, beautiful stones and more.  Over the years, it's entirely possible to build up a HUGE collection of  'stuff'; some of it useful, some of it beautiful and most of it stored away in a cupboard somewhere.  Creative Display by Geraldine James guarantees to help you solve the dilemma about what to do with your treasured collections.  The tag line says 'Inspiring ideas to make every surface beautiful' and that's enough for me!  I spent a wonderful few days browsing its pages and have begun to try out some of her ideas.  One of the best ones for me was using books as plinths for other objects - as I have a huge library of books this idea has made the piles seem more like art than clutter!

"To me and those in my world, displaying our treasures or collections comes naturally.  All of us have things we love that we want to display for our enjoyment and for that of others.  We also have stories to tell about them and want to explain our choices.  This is what defines us" Geraldine James, Creative Display.

Splitting her book into sections including Display, Work Spaces, Celebrations, Outdoors, it's easy to navigate depending what room you want to tackle.  She gets that it itsn't always easy to transform objects into interesting displays but comes up with inventive ways to rearrange your treasures.

Buy it, read it and then just enjoy playing with different ways to display.  Get creative and let your treasures tell their stories...

Monday, October 01, 2012

Mermaids and Mermen

There are some things in folklore that I really wish were true and real; unicorns, talking lions, fairies and hobbits.  As a a child these creatures were my staple bedtime companions, and as I got older I became completely obsessed by Greek mythology, including the Sirens; their haunting voices luring sailors to their death and so began my love-affair with mermaids (although technically the Sirens are not mermaids);   I remember when I first read The Little Mermaid  by Hans Christian Anderson :

'Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass. But it is very deep too. It goes down deeper than any anchor rope will go, and many, many steeples would have to be stacked one on top of another to reach from the bottom to the surface of the sea. It is down there that the sea folk live.' 

My childhood delight and wonder about these 'seafolk' has never truly gone away. 

Over the years there have been a number of sightings of Mermaids - most notably in the Disney adaptation of The Little Mermaid, and of course Daryl Hannah in Splash.  In reality most mermaid sightings happen in areas of the country/world where there is a deep tradition of 'other-worldly' beings; Ireland, Cornwall and Scotland.  Cornwall, is a county deep in superstition, and boasts it's very own Mermaid of Zennor, who reputedly visits the local church and steals away locals.  It also lays claim to Mermaids Rock, Lamorna, upon which a beautiful mermaid is said to sit, combing her hair and luring the local fishermen to their deaths.

The realisation that Mermaids only ever existed in my books and my imagination, was more of a blow than finding out that Father Christmas was my Dad dressed up!  To this day, I'm still guilty of wistfully gazing out at sea, looking for the splash of a sea-green tail and the trail of long hair as the Mermaid makes her escape.