Do you remember those essays you had to write after the holidays at school? I used to love them and then you could draw pictures and stick things into your exercise book too. No exercise books anymore in my life, but the joy of sharing via the blog. Here’s a quick tour of our recent time out with friends and family from Spain to celebrate Big Man’s and my Mum’s birthdays.
May Day in Hastings with (Not So) Traditional Morris Dancing
Hastings Fisherman’s Huts
They’re Changing Guard At Buckingham Palace….
Time for a Reviving Beer
View from The London Eye
South Coast of England (East Sussex) Countryside and Beach – all in one!
We´re back from a hectic but wonderful week in London, catching up with family and friends. We were wined and dined and thoroughly spoilt, drank far too much wine, walked for miles and laughed for the entire week.
We ate broccoli grown in my parent´s London garden.
Best friend Ria made us an amazing Chicken and Leek Pie, and extra marks to her for cooking it in her sister´s kitchen as her heating and hot water weren´t working for a few days.
We spent a day walking through London.
Of course, we stopped for coffee to revive us.
We drank good old British bitter.
We helped our pals Donna and Craig “christen” their new home in style.
Entertainment in their new home village, Lewes, was fun and quirky.
We even managed to spend a few days down on the south coast combining business with a little relaxation. Of course, we had to take a romantic walk along the seafront at night when a sea fog was making everything look very atmospheric. We were in St Leonard´s on Sea, where my parents have a holiday place, and also home of Promenade Plantings.
We spent a wonderful day with my parents walking around beautiful Hampton Court, one of Henry VIII´s amazing Tudor Palaces.
My favourite part of the Palace? Well, the Tudor Kitchens of course!
And last night we arrived home, weary but happy. Our case was packed with goodies….dressmaking patterns and fabric, antique carpentry tools, some vines from my father´s garden to plant here in Spain, salad seeds, a new mini baking tray… so much to look forward to. And guess what? When we unpacked, we found we had a stowaway. Flat Ruthie has come to visit, so we´ll be enjoying some time with her very soon and cooking together!
I believe there is a saying which goes something like “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive” – well I have to say that I can´t quite agree with Robert Louis Stevenson. But I expect he wasn´t heading to London for eight days to visit my family and friends, so I´ll just have to excuse him.
I arrived home late last night to be met by my wonderful Big Man bearing flowers. Lilies…my favourite. It´s been a while since he bought me flowers, (impossible to get where we live) so the surprise romantic gesture was very much appreciated.
Being a canny packer of cases, I always go right to the limit on my baggage allowances. 20kg in the suitcase, 10kg in the hand luggage and the biggest hand bag possible. No, I most definitely don´t travel light! I went out loaded with Christmas presents (can´t tell you much about them though, as I don´t want to give any surprises away). The case was also packed with packs of chorizo and morcilla to make Fabada Asturiana, plastic lid things to “flip” your tortilla, chillies from my garden, wine glass/tumblers, gifts from my recent holiday, chocolates for my niece and nephew, books to entertain young children on a long flight to the States to see their grandmother, Spanish fans for a friend´s mum, olives, biscuits….well, I think you get the picture.
The advantage of this is that once you´ve unpacked and “shared the love”, you have an almost empty suitcase waiting to be filled with gorgeous things to take back home with you. Of course, I wasn´t about to go home empty handed.
I carefully packed some lovely pictures done by the wonderful children I got to spend time with. A very flattering portrait of me done by my 10 year old niece, Lara. Look at that fabulous waist and bust…if only! A lovely thank you card from 4 year old William and his 2 year old brother Matthew.
Chocolate. And then some more chocolate. If you haven´t tried Quality Street, track it down! Lots of lovely chocolate toffee and caramel sweets in a tin. They just take me back to childhood Christmases when these were a very special treat. And then you get to use the tin to put your cakes in!
I had a bit of a mad fabric buying spree. I´m laying some of the blame for this on my new blogging pal Evie, over at Pendle Stitches. I was the very lucky winner of this beautiful shawl that she had made, and it was waiting for me at my parents´ house. Very handy actually, as it was a little nippy last week in London. Anwyay, Evie suggested some wonderful fabric shops for me to look at in London. The fabrics were amazing.
Eventually I bought a huge variety of fabrics in Tooting Broadway, my old neighbourhood in South London, plus an amazing discovery of some vintage fabrics, still neatly folded and never taken out of storage since about 1950. They almost tipped me over the baggage allowance, but as there were only 31 people on the flight home (I felt like I was on my own private jet), the check in girl turned a very kind blind eye to my extra kilo…20 metres of cotton, linen, silk, jersey, viyella, crepe and who knows what else do weigh rather a lot. I also bought a new magazine to inspire me.
And finally, to food. My mother stocked me up with all sorts of odd and bizarre things I find hard or expensive to buy out here.
All spice berries, Golden Syrup, Maldon Salt.
Loaf tin liners and vanilla for my baking.
My mum made me a wonderful beef curry with lots of vegetable curries to accompany it.
Best friend Ria made a fantastic chicken and cannellini bean casserole (recipe another day) even though she was feeling poorly last week.
And talking of food, guess what? I got to meet one of my new blogging pals face to face. It was Mad Dog, who was not in the least bit mad and not remotely dog like! We spent a happy and all too short hour in Bar Italia, in the heart of London´s Soho, drinking coffee and chatting about food, Spain, food, photography, food, ourselves. What a great guy he is, and he gave me a fantastic gift of the film Tampopo, a comedy featuring…yes you´ve guessed…food!
So, now I´m home again and looking forward to getting back into my kitchen. Big Man has already started stocking up on autumn fruits and vegetables.
A neighbour gave us a crate of Membrillo, or quince, so we´ll be making quince jelly this weekend.
Another neighbour gave us some enormous pomegranates (or Granadas) from his tree. I may just have to eat them as is, as I adore them served simply.
I also have a couple of kilos of broad beans, but I think you already know many of my recipes for this gorgeous little vegetable.
So, time to unpack, wash, cook and sew. Sounds odd, but I can´t wait!
PS. Am looking forward to a few days of blog catching up – really looking forward to seeing what you have all been up to.
So, having had a moment of madness slow cooking pork and beans not so long ago, I have reverted to summer style cooking. Phew!
My lovely Fish man, who is soon going to have his own fan club out here in blogland, came up trumps this week with a delicious skate (or ray) for us. He knows that Big Man and I both love it, so if he can get hold of skate, he always saves me one.
They´re odd looking fish, a bit scary looking too to deal with, but actually quite straightforward when you know how.
A skate has two very distinct wings and if you get your knife in between the nodule and the “back bone” it just cuts straight off.
Voilá, two perfect portions.
And the other bits still have a lot of meat on them so pop them into a pot with some water, bay leaves, peppercorns and any vegetables you have to hand and you´ll very soon have a delicious fish stock and lots of bits of delicious skate trimmings to put into a paella or a seafood stew.
I dusted the wings in flour, seasoned them and then fried gently in a huge frying pan in a very little olive oil (although it would be very good with butter). When the skate was lightly browned on both sides I put them to one side and kept warm, turned up the heat and fried some capers until brown then added a good squeeze of lemon juice, a dash of white wine and reduced until just a few tablespoons of juices were left. I poured these over the skate, poured two good glasses of white wine and we sat back to enjoy.
When I was very young my parents both worked in the catering trade, but Sunday lunch we sometimes managed to spend time together. My father´s idea of a relaxing Sunday lunch was to go on a busman´s holiday and check out his pals´ restaurants. This meant I got to visit some really quite nice restaurants in central London from a very early age. No concession was made (quite rightly I still feel) to children by preparing “kids meals”, we all got whatever the chef or manager thought was his best dish of the day. I loved it when we got served skate as the meat slides easily off the bone and there are no tricky bits to get lodge in a small person´s throat. Memories of this dish take me back to Soho, London circa 1975 – hence my retro photo!
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....