Weekend reading: The Flavour Thesaurus


I picked up a copy of this book for a couple of pounds on Amazon Marketplace, and it turned out to be some of the best money I’ve spent in a long while.

Classic pairings like salmon and watercress and liver & onion, but also some more adventurous combinations like watermelon & chilli and blue cheese & peach. Handy kitchen inspiration when you’re stuck for ideas or when you fancy experimenting.

I’m also enjoying listening to this at the moment, introduced to me by a dear friend. Such a captivating story.

Weekend reading: Paris V New york

I’m completly addicted to this little book at the moment – a really clever series of graphics comparing Paris and New York – culture, food, people, places etc. It’s lovely to flick through and incredibly well-observed.

Take a peek here

Merchant and Mills, Rye.

All photography © Heather Elizabeth Wilkinson 2013

Merchant and Mills first came to my attention when I was given their sewing book for Christmas. Although I’ve not attempted to make anything yet, I was completely won over by the beautiful photography and contemporary utilitarian designs – classic pieces and not a hint of chintz to be found.  In Merchant and Mill’s own words ‘We are here to urge intelligent, independent women to buy traditional patterns and dress well by their own hand.’ 

I was chuffed to bits when I found out they’d opened a branch in nearby Rye, and I couldn’t resist popping along for a little visit. 

The store itself is a design-lovers dream, exposed brick-work, old mahogany cabinets, boxes of buttons and pins, rolls of sumptuous fabrics and the most gorgeously branded, if not a little pricey, products. They very kindly allowed me to take a few quick photos in the shop so I thought I’d share them with you.

Take a peek at their website here

Weekend reading

There’s an abundance of food publications around at the moment, but few are quite as beautiful as Gather Journal, a bi-annual recipe-driven food magazine. Features include, recipes, entertaining, food essays and some simply breathtaking photography.  I’m hooked. 

Visit the Gather Journal website

Celebrating Apple Festival 2012

Brogdale Apple festival 2012 www.hewdesign.co.uk
Apple crate www.hewdesign.co.uk
English apple orchards ©www.hewdesign.co.uk

All photography © Heather Elizabeth Wilkinson 2012

Autumn is my favourite season – the changes in light, misty mornings and the promise that we’ll soon be wrapping up cosily in hats and scarves. But of course Autumn brings with it some fantastic seasonal produce – pumpkins, elderberries, chestnuts, game, pears, and the daddy of English autumnal produce: apples.

Apple Festival takes place on 21st October each year and orchards and farms up and down the country organise festivities to celebrate this wonderful fruit. What great month to be an apple!

Brogdale Farm in Kent is home to the National Fruit Collection; the World’s largest collection of fruit trees and plants and home to over 3,500 varieties of apple, pear, plum, cherry, bush fruit, vine and cob nut cultivators.

Brogdale has been on my list of places to visit for a while now, so the Apple Festival (20th & 21st October 2012) was just the excuse I needed to hotfoot it to Kent. The festival itself is quite a family affair, with various food & drink stalls, crafts and live music (it’s safe to say that some of the bands were an ‘acquired’ taste).

Included in the ticket price is a guided tour of the orchards, each one being led by one of Brogdale’s knowledgeable staff, many of whom are volunteers. For me, this was one of the highlights of the visit. You can quite literally loose yourself wandering up and down the lines of trees looking at fruits of all different sizes and colours. And with names like the: Marriage-maker, Blackbird, Prince Edward it really is a fantastic way to spend a few hours.

And of course, no apple festival would be complete without a generous dose of apple sampling. At the heart of the festival arena was a large tent with over 400 varieties of apple on display and over 200 for visitors to taste and buy. To be honest, this part of the festival was a bit of a free-for-all, and you had to employ some elbowing tactics to stand any chance of trying the apples that had been laid out. Still, I managed to try plenty and came away a mixed bag (quite literally) of my favourites.

I decided not to cook with the apples I bought, preferring instead as an alternative to dessert. When produce is in season and so tasty it’s sometimes nice to enjoy it just as it is, don’t you think?

Book review: Friends at my table by Alice Hart

Friends at my table caught my attention as a cookery book with a difference, offering not only a variety of delicious recipes but a whole host of ‘whimsical’ ideas for entertaining groups of family and friends. With summer approaching, this seemed like the ideal book to give me some inspiration for friendly gatherings.

The recipe pages are lovely and follow the standard cookery book format: recipe and bold accompanying photograph of the dish. The recipes themselves are tempting and relatively fuss-free. One particular favourite was the Lemon and Rosemary tart – two flavours I would never have imagined putting together – but complimented each other perfectly. Her menu suggestions are thoughtful and creative and she bravely breaks with tradition: a beach picnic menu without any mention of sausage rolls was truly refreshing.

The book is spilt into themed sections and each is interspersed with, what the author describes as, ‘whimsical’ ideas for entertaining: games, activities and ideas for themed events. This was a lovely touch and I particularly liked the cloud spotting feature and accompanying watercolour illustrations.

My one gripe with the book is the images. Although the photography was beautiful, for a book with entertaining loved ones at its core some of the pictures often lacked atmosphere. In fact, in many of the sections dedicated to entertaining large groups there were no people in the photographs at all.

The book starts well with a beautiful ‘Vietnamese Bridal shower for 8’, which Hart states is merely a suggested theme for any kind of spring supper. The menu plan is creative and achievable and the accompanying photographs feature a group of young women eating together and enjoying themselves. It was all rather lovely and without doubt helped me easily imagine how I might organise something similar.

However, as the book progresses there is a distinct lack of people in any of the pictures. One particular section titled ‘Beach Cricket Barbeque for 6’ had the potential to be really inspiring. All the recipes and games had been designed, as you would expect, for 6 people and the section provided guidance for how the whole family – even the dog – could get involved in beach cricket. Brilliant. However, the photographs in that section either featured the same two women on a deserted stony beach or a no people at all. It just felt a bit cold and lonely and was crying out for some beautiful shots of people having fun to really stimulate the imagination of the reader.

Overall, I did enjoy Friends at my Table and there were many recipes that I will definitely return to. Hart has a warm and confident writing style and throughout the book reassures readers that cooking for large numbers of people is just a matter of keeping the menu simple, planning in advance and above all, having fun.

Foodie book reviews and some snow business

I took a little time out this week to enjoy the snow in Brighton’s Stanmer Woods. Besides, I’ve been doing so much cooking and eating recently that I needed the exercise!
The woods were deserted when I arrived, and all you could hear was the creaking of the branches weighed down with snow. It was the kind of peaceful tranquillity that makes you happy to be alive. That was until a lady with a voice like a foghorn came stomping through the woods and stood calling for her dog, aptly named ‘Dodger’, non-stop for about 5 minutes. Dodger eventually emerged reluctantly from a nearby bush and I could swear he practically rolled his eyes at me as he trotted past.
Snowy weather is the perfect time to snuggle up indoors and catch up on some reading, and I thought I’d recommend a couple of books I’ve enjoyed recently.
There’s no shortage of cookery books featuring seasonal recipes, but the more I’ve got into seasonal cooking, the more I’ve wanted to know about the history of seasonality. I’m a bit geeky like that.
Seasonal Food is a month-by-month guide, covering veg, fruit and meat. It tells you when foods are in season and a bit of background as to why those foods are good to eat in that particular month. There’s a handy seasonal calendar towards the end of the book too.
There are a few recipes dotted throughout the chapters, but to be honest I found some a little basic and that’s not really what I bought the book for. I think I’ll be sticking with my Nigel Slater ‘Tender’ books for seasonal cooking inspiration!
Anyway, it’s a fab little book, reasonably priced and I’ve learnt loads about seasonality.
The second book is Food for Free by Richard Mabey. No, it’s not a book about shoplifting, but it is a handy little guide to foraging. It was listed in the further reading section of Seasonal Food, so I borrowed a copy from my local library before finding it so useful that I bought my own.
This book really is a marvel and lists a lot of things I’d never even thought about eating, plus a lot of really handy facts for identifying mushrooms, something that does scare me a little. There’s also a guide to seasonal availability and some ‘picking rules’. It’s the kind of book I’ll dip into again and again.
You can pick up a copy of the pocket edition for just over £3 – a total bargin!
S0 that’s it with the book reviews. I’ve got a nice ‘n’ spicy recipe to share with you in my next post, but for now I’m off to make some Rhubarb jam!

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