October 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
After an unusually hot few weeks in October, it looks like autumn has finally arrived. Although exciting, preparations for the pop-up shop and taking part in London Design Festival meant that September flew by. I met some really interesting people during the Design Festival week and came away with lots of new ideas, all of which I hope to share over the coming months.
Back in Raw Dice HQ, I am prone to daydreaming of the last few months and years…
It seems like only yesterday, but early in September we were foraging for blackberries in the hedgerows. Cow parsley was still flowering in the fields. Although their main flowering season is April to June, apparently it can also be found flowering sporadically the rest of the year. Such wholesome fun (!) reminded me of our holiday in southern Sicily a few years ago.
Spring is one of my favourite seasons (the other being autumn), burgeoning with new life and vitality. Spring time in Sicily did not disappoint. Having no need to pack for the beach, we were free to roam amongst the almond groves of Greek Temples and follow the footsteps of the Normans and explore the remains of their castles. We were close to Agrigento, where you can find the Greek Temple of Concordia. The views were a sight to behold.
We stayed in a rustic farmhouse Azienda Agricola Mandranova. The owners Giuseppe and Sylvia made us feel very welcome, treating us like guests in their home. I particularly enjoyed cooking the evening meal for all the guests with Sylvia (she runs private cookery lessons). I love food, especially cooking and eating it! The style was very much home cooking, using the freshest of ingredients with lots of olive oil (resort produces its own), prepared without fuss or pretension.
The other vivid memory I have of our Sicilian idyll is of the array of wild flowers that were in full bloom. They were in abundance everywhere, especially on the verges. Now, I am reminded of this holiday and the images of the wild flowers whenever I look at the ceramic lighting and vases we have of Liz Emtage’s. She too draws her inspiration from summer holidays and the beauty of the natural world. Her vases become translucent when lit and never fail to evoke images of a very pleasant holiday and allow me to day dream. Capturing the essence of happy memories, makes life worth living and makes me feel connected to the here and now.
To see the full range of Liz Emtage ceramics we have on offer, go to Raw Dice.
By the way, despite investing in a jam thermometer, I still managed to have a disaster in my blackberry jelly making attempt. First try, it didn’t set. Now it has set too much and is difficult to spread! The crab apple jelly from a few weeks ago is too runny! The raspberry jam is a hit though. They say third time lucky!
July 19, 2011 § 1 Comment
Words escape me when I want to describe the feeling of elation I felt picking cherries the other day. On the grounds of an exceptional nursery (Windrush Nursery for pre-school aged children), I was picking morello cherries in order to make cherry brandy and dried sour cherries.
In an age when most of our food comes from a supermarket, it was an amazing experience to go back to basics and forage for food, like our hunter-gatherer fore bearers. This seems to have satisfied a primeval gene of mine. Happy in the knowledge that I can feed my family when all else is lost! Let’s get real here, I am not harking back to time when I would have had to walk for miles and do back breaking work, in order to put food on the table. Also, there is not much sustenance in cherry brandy, even though it’s jolly nice to drink!
Making dried sour cherries is a laborious and messy process. First you pick the cherries and stone them. Then, in a slow oven (luckily, I have a Rayburn to do this) you dry them. This takes hours and hours, but at the end of it all, you have something that can be referred to as ‘free food’ (as my good friend Clare did not change me for picking them, she wouldn’t even dream of it). Once you have the dried cherries, use them in porridge or making granola or best of all in making Sour Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Chunks (see recipe at the end).
Both my children attended Windrush Nursery, which I cannot praise enough. Clare and her team provide a safe environment for children that is like a home from home, but in reality it is much better. The children learn through creative play and this is all done in a nurturing, caring and intelligent way. Clare is as welcoming to the parents who drop off their kids, as she and her team are to the care and attention they give to the children. Of course, I am totally biased, but I feel lucky that my kids spent the early stages of their lives in such a place. It seems that the kids who go there are a pretty creative bunch. Who knows how many children contributed to the creation of the ‘work of art’ that hangs in the kitchen wall? It’s aptly named ’18 Years of Innocence’!
In case this is beginning to sound like an advert for Windrush Nursey, I do have to admit to a little secret. The funny thing is that I cannot keep away, I still attend the annual Sports Day, even though my kids left 4 years ago and still take advantage of Clare’s hospitality!
Recipe for Sour Cherry and Almond White Chocolate Chunks
(taken from Waitrose Food Illustrated)
Melt 250g broken white chocolate in a bowl. Add a pinch of cinnamon, 75g roasted marcona almonds and 75g dried sour cherries. Stir well and pour into a small baking tin, lined with baking parchment. Chill until set. Turn out of the tray, breaking it into rough chunks. Yummy with coffee or just when you feel like having a bit of chocolate. Who needs an excuse!