Absolutely Nothing To Make : Chocolate Brownies and a Pumpkin

I hardly dare admit it but I’d never made chocolate brownies until this weekend so I decided that Halloween was as good as excuse as any to have a go. These are delicious. They contain more chocolate than can possibly be good for anyone but we’re not complaining. And we made them suitably scary with the addition of these ghoulish sticks of decorating joy.

Double Chocolate Brownies from The River Cottage Family Cookbook

by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Fizz Carr

250g good dark chocolate
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
125g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
100g broken walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 160C/gas mark 3. Put 3-4cm water into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Break chocolate up, cut up the butter, and place both in a mixing bowl. Put it over the pan of simmering water and turn the heat off. Stir until melted together and smooth.

In another bowl whisk the sugar with the eggs, using the balloon whisk, until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add chocolate mixture to the eggs; mix thoroughly with wooden spoon.

Sift flour and cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Stir in walnuts if you have decided to use them. Line the baking tin with a piece of foil and pour in the mixture. Oven gloves on. Place the tin on a shelf in the middle of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Oven gloves back on. Take the tin out of the oven and stand on wire rack. Leave until cool enough to cut into squares.


Halloween Brownies


And to accompany my baking we of course had to have a pumpkin who, carved by my husband, looks like he might have overindulged with one too many brownies.


Poorly Pumpkin

Absolutely Nothing To Make or Buy : A Homemade Home…..unfinished

Yes, I’ll enjoy doing some needlework in front of the fire during the cold Winter months. I should have this done in time for Christmas if I do a little bit every night. That was 3 years ago and I’ve done a despairing one line of said Emily Peacock Kiss tapestry and it now sits in a bag on a shelf near the sofa laughing at me. But still I’m determined, and strangely convinced, that I will finish it. One day. Just as soon as I work out the instructions and manage to stay awake past 9pm.

KISS Tapestry by Emily Peacock

I like making things but for some reason I still haven’t learned that I’m not nearly as good as I hope I am and that these crafty things take far more patience than I will ever have. I blame Kirsty and Cath Kidston and all those women I hate to like. I don’t want to be one of them, I’m too busy doing other busy, modern woman about the countryside sort of things.

So, as I get ready for another episode of Kirsty’s Homemade Britain which I shall watch whilst lounging comfortably on the piles of envelope cushions which litter my sofa (they’re addictively easy to make once you get the hang of it) I’ve found something else I want to have a go at. These advent calendar kits from Cox and Cox not only look lovely in the pictures but I reckon they’ll look even lovelier when hanging on the wall and my children will think I’m the best Christmas Mum in the world. My husband says I’ll never finish them and he’s seen a chocolate Lego calendar which they’ll like much more. He’s probably right but I’m going to give it a go. I’ll just try the one – they can share, they’ll like that. Who’d want a chocolate advent calendar all made and ready to go, when they can have a half-finished, homemade one filled with whatever I can find lying around the house the night before. No contest surely.

Advent Calendar Kit from Cox and Cox


Three whole weeks doing Absolutely Nothing….

Absolutely Nothing but COS by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Talk About with Jenny Dyson by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Buy : Blankets and Throws by Samantha Taylor

Absolutely Nothing To Talk About with Alison Edmond by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Stripes by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Buy : The Perfect Card by Mel Moss

Absolutely Nothing To Cook : Pimp Up Your Pies by Cafe Salvation


Cafe Salvation : Pimp Up Your Pies

We’re very excited to have the deliciously clever Helen Creese from Cafe Salvation contributing to ANTW. She will be sharing some of her most popular recipes from their wonderful menu and to start we have everyone’s favourite Winter warmer…..PIES!

“I may well regret saying this but at last, it’s cold enough to get some winter warmers on the menu!  The woodburners arrival in the café is imminent, so to keep us toastie in the run up to its installation, last week we cooked up our tasty Punjabi Pie.

This dish reminds me of my childhood.  My Dad is a fantastic cook and I spent most evenings as a kid whiling away an evening in the kitchen,  chatting to my Pops whilst subconsciously absorbing everything he was doing.  Pops is a fan of spice and loves to experiment with food, adapting recipes to better suit his tastes, and this dish is a prime example of that.

Based on our British Classic, Cottage Pie, the secret to Punjabi Pie lies in the spice mix added to the onion and garlic during the first stages of cooking.  For 500g of beef, start by frying one red onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic (depending on size of cloves and how much you enjoy the flavour).  Add one stick of chopped celery and one diced carrot.  When the onion and veg are soft, add a healthy palm-full (sorry, I don’t use measured devices, but if you cup your fingers to create a well in your palm, you’ll have the right amount) of ground cumin, coriander and half a palm-full of turmeric.  Stir until aromatic, then add your beef to the onion and spice mix.  Season well, add some tomato puree and fresh red chilli (quantity dependent on how hot you like it), and once the beef is browned, add a tin of chopped tomatoes.  Half-fill your tin with water and add this to your mixture.  Taste and alter your seasoning to suit.  Wack in the oven for 30-40 minutes and crack on with your mash topping.

Pops would use a mixture of potatoes and swede; I opted for pots and sweet potato (mainly because I like the colour and I eat with my eyes).  Boil both veg – about 3 good sized potatoes and one sweet potato for 500g beef – in salted water until soft, drain and mash with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous knob of butter.  We like to throw in some grated cheddar (again, it gives the mash a glorious golden colour as well as tasting yummy).  Take the beef mixture out of the oven and pop in to your serving dish, spread the mash over the top (make it nice and thick, there’s nothing worse than an anorexic pie topping), and sprinkle on a bit more grated cheddar.  Pop the dish back in the oven for about 25-30 mins (depending on your oven:  I use an Aga, so in a conventional oven I’d have it on 190 for 25-30 mins).  Once your topping is golden and smelling amazing, your pie is ready!

Why not Pimp Up your Pies?!  You can add a twist to most run-of-the-mill recipes, turning wet, weekday suppers in to dramatic delights, just with the addition of a few spices, fresh herbs, lemon or lime juice….it really can be that simple.  I’m looking forward to taking the Punjabi Pie in to another realm:  Sherpa’s Pie will involve lamb, fresh ginger, chilli, toasted cumin and coriander seeds, maybe some lentils and spinach…I’m undecided on my mash topping – any suggestions?

 Our lovely customers enjoyed their slices of Punjabi with some Glorious Green Beans (Granny Smith’s runners always have been, and always will be, the sweetest runner beans I’ve ever tasted) and a delicious dollop of spicy red lentils.  Hungry, anyone?”


Find Salvation here……
Our opening hours are:
Thursday: 0930 – 1500
Friday: 0930 – 1700
Saturday: 1000 – 1700
Lower Mitchell Barn, Nr Ledbury, Herefordshire HR8 1EG
T: 01531 636380

Absolutely Nothing To Buy : The Perfect Card

I must have appeared rather rude as a child. I hardly ever thanked people in writing for any of the gifts received at Christmas or on birthdays. I’m not sure if I just didn’t see the point, or was just a bit too lazy, or had thanked them in my head and so thought that I didn’t need to actually tell them. It’s no wonder relatives got cross. I’d be furious.

So now, be it as an act of guilt or a reaction to email over kill, I love nothing better than sending hand written cards. I have a drawer full of postcards and notecards which I can dip in to at any time when a “Thank You” or a “Welcome to the World” or a “Happy Birthday” is required. And I have a couple of favourite places I go to time and time again to find the perfect card.

The first is Archivist. A small and perfectly formed printing press based in Oxfordshire who do the most beautiful letterpress cards as well as a Natural History collection (created from exclusive access to the NH archives) and hand printed notelets. You can buy them online or in selected retailers including John Lewis and Paperchase.


Archivist - Strawberry

Archivist - Strawberry


Archivist - Thank You Very Much


Archivist - Tomatoes

The second is Nineteen Seventy Three. An online emporium with some of the most fabulous postcards, greeting cards, wrapping paper, invitations, notebooks and all sorts. With collections from various illustrators and artists including The Good Life, Darling Clementine, Belle and Boo and Sukie, there really is something for everyone. You can buy them direct from their online store or from various retailers.

The Good Life - Stork


The Good Life - Countryside


Belle and Boo - I Like Your Hat


Darling Clementine - Fox


Sukie - Happy Birthday


I could go on and on and on and there will be probably be many updates to this post. For now though, thank you very much.


Absolutely Nothing To Wear : Stripes

I was never really in to stripes for myself until quite recently. I have always been in to stripes for my boys. They just seem to suit them from end to end. Stripes have always been notoriously unflattering, they widen everything – I’m talking horizontal here, vertical is a whole different story and needs to be approached with extra caution. My children were both tiny babies and giant toddlers but regardless I wrapped them both in as many straight lines as I could get my hands on. The stripe – for adult or child –  has to be right though and it’s worth investing a bit of time and money in to finding the ones which really do work.

When it comes to the children I am a Polarn O Pyret addict. They do a stripe better than any other I know. From leggings – which I absolutely swear by for little boys – to long sleeved tees, all in ones, socks, hats and pants, they are the very very best. They have lasted me through two incredibly active boy babies and are still going strong.


Polarn O Pyret - the best stripes for kids


So, after years of telling me that stripes made his “eyes go funny”, my husband recently came back from New York with bundles of stripey offerings for both me and the children. I hadn’t asked for anything apart from a denim shirt from Levis – which he found and is perfect – but I did mention that J.Crew might be worth a visit if he did feel guilty for leaving me for 10 days that I might need anything else. That was as much direction as he was given and blimey did he do well. I am now the proud owner of 4 of the very best J.Crew stripey tops I never even knew existed. Each one a little bit different in colour or style and very well considered indeed. I would never have been this generous on myself. I’m in stripe heaven and I may be here for some time.

So to end this rather self satisfied post about stripes you might be pleased to know that J.Crew have a UK online store now which is very good news for wardrobes everywhere. And there seems to be a bit of a sale on at the moment so definitely worth a look.


Just found this one on J.Crew UK - in the sale. It's lovely.


I Hate My Collection : A fashion film by Oleg Mitrofanov

Central Saint Martins, the best 4 (college) years of my life. Wish I could go back and do it all over again.

Absolutely Nothing To Talk About with Alison Edmond

Yorkshire born Alison Edmond now lives in LA with her husband and 3 children. She is the LA Editor for Harper’s Bazaar UK, Editor at Large for Marie Claire US, Los Angeles Ambassador for the British Fashion Council and stylist to the stars. Alison talked to ANTW about all kinds of Absolutely Nothing……

Alison Edmond with her two boys

Absolutely Nothing To Wear…..

Black, black, black … then I don’t have to think about it.

Absolutely Nothing To Listen To…..

Most of the music I listen to is dictated by my kids playing dj in my car.  So at the moment it’s a mix of Lupe Fiasco, anything by Jay Z, and an amazing new guy called Luke Christopher who’s songs I now know intimately and I have to say he’s really great.  He just turned 18 and was signed to Interscope on his birthday.  Look out Kanye!

Absolutely Nothing To Read…..

I just finished Life, Keith Richards which I loved, although trying to remember that’s only his side of the story and he probably can’t recall the more sordid details.  I also just re-read The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, which was a book on my school curriculum which I remembered loving and wanted to revisit.  I loved it yet again, and envisioned the whole novel as a film starring Jon Hamm and Cate Blanchett (Hollywood Producer yet I’ll be!).  And also, just bought John Irving’s new book, Until I Find You, as A Prayer for Owen Meany is my favorite book ever.

Absolutely Nothing To Watch…..

Have seen a few amazing documentaries recently.  Obviously Inside Job, which is an excellent but absolutely infuriating note on the financial world’s collapse and all the heinous bankers and insurers who made huge sums of money from the rest of us losing.   When the Levees Broke, which is about Hurricane Katrina, and how the ensuing flooding nightmare in New Orleans was in fact caused by governmental contractor’s incompetence in not strengthening the city’s levees.  Bill Cunningham New York is the wonderful piece about the familiar street fashion photographer, whose integrity and honesty is incredibly touching and inspiring.  And the latest recommendation is Dear Zachary, which I have yet to see but I am told is one of the most moving pieces of film work to surface this year.

Absolutely Nothing To Eat…..

I only eat pomegranate seeds.  (Well I wish I did).  I crave them, love them and they are my candy.  Alone, or in my favorite salad – proscuitto, rocket, roasted pine nuts, pomegranate seeds and a little balsamic.

Absolutely Nothing To Buy…..

My new favorite gadget is the YUBZ phone headset!  It’s a retro hand held phone that attached to your cell and reduces 96% of the radiation.  Genius, fun, healthier, and above all nostalgic.

YUBZ Handset in jet black

Absolutely Nothing To See…..

Two great exhibitions – Art in the Streets, at MOCA, LA – unbelievable collection of work by graffiti artists from the 60’s through to the present day – just amazing, inspiring, and fantastic for kids too.  And also Tim Burton’s exhibition at LACMA – what an artist.  And in theatre, I have never seen anything quite like Warhorse.  I was just blown away by the techniques of the puppetry – quite the most beautiful performance art I have ever seen.  The story even becomes secondary to the grace and architecture of the horses.

Tim Burton at LACMA

Absolutely Nothing To Do…..

Go hiking in the hills above Mulholland Drive, LA.  It’s the most peaceful place even though sandwiched by Los Angeles on one side and the San Fernando Valley on the other.

Absolutely Nothing To Smile About…..

Never without a smile in my children’s company.  My daughter especially is, as my mother calls her, a complete tonic.  She radiates sunshine with her ever present happiness and crazy humour.  See below, hamming it up as usual.

To see examples of Alison’s work check out her website.

Absolutely Nothing To Buy : Blankets and Throws by Samantha Taylor

It’s that time of year again. The slightly weird and topsy-turvy time when retail collides with climate. At the time of writing, the UK has recently enjoyed something of an Indian summer (though I hear snow isn’t far behind) and here in Hong Kong it’s still pretty warm which means I’m still open-toed and bare sleeved, but, to be honest, I’m just a little bit over the Summer. Call me cuckoo, but when your Summer consists of 4 -6 months of fairly blistering heat and oppressive humidity, by the time Autumn officially rolls around and the shops are newly stocked with Autumn/ Winter loveliness, it is infuriating to concede that, except for a very few short weeks some time around January/February, most of what’s in store will just not work for this climate, but it doesn’t stop me wanting a piece of the action.

And so begins my annual yearning for knitwear and wool and all things snuggly. I’m clearly not the only person around here that feels this way because at the merest hint of a temperature drop, people can be seen fully Ugg’d and Moncler’d up as if in preparation for a huge snowfall, but when, in actual fact, it’s probably about 23 degrees Celsius. I applaud this blatant disregard for one’s own comfort, when form has won over function. But I know from bitter, personal experience that sticking to woollies whilst failing to layer adequately will result in the kind of ‘glow’ usually only seen on footballers at the end of a very long game, after extra time and penalties.

But this has never deterred me, it merely encourages me to seek other outlets for my woolly fixation and this year I am all about blankets and throws. For the record, a blanket officially differs from a throw on account of its size (usually just a tad larger than the mattress in order to cover a bed) and in that it usually consists of a single layer, and is usually woven. A throw is, technically, smaller, comes in a variety of knits or weaves and is more for individual snuggling. But you probably knew that already. Either way, to my mind, a blanket (or throw) is one of those purchases you probably make only occasionally – a bit like investment dressing –  and therefore should last for generations and have an heirloom quality to it. It’s also a very good reason to help the economy, which also makes it the perfect gift and an entirely justifiable purchase for your own pleasure.

Here are a few that I am drooling over:

The ultimate investment piece, this fine Piece of Scottish craftsmanship ticks all the blanket boxes: Tweedy, traditional and tasseled, all that’s required is a roaring log fire and you’re good to go.

Johnstons Of Elgin

Johnstons of Elgin Lambswool Reversible Tweed Throw in ‘Spey’ 190cm x 140cm £130


The Swedes know a thing or two about keeping warm in the winter, and this lovely Blanket was inspired by Swedish folk art.

Primrose and Plum

Primrose & Plum lambswool grey Bird Blanket 180cm x 130cm £130


Another Scandinavian warmer, this time from Finland. The Asteri wool blanket would work well in a modern scheme but hasn’t forgotten it’s blankety traditions with edging in blanket stitch. And what a great price.

Asteri Finnish Wool Blanket

Asteri Finnish Wool Blanket 130cm x 180cm £65


Sometimes all you need is a really great plain throw to add texture or an accent to a scheme and what’s fascinating about Laura’s gorgeous handwoven throws is that each comes with the kind of provenance that really celebrates everything that is brilliant and thriving about British craft. Made in Yorkshire, the wool is all sourced locally, sorted by Laura in her own garden to remove the “daggy bits” and is then cleaned, spun and dyed locally using only environmentally-friendly processes. Transport miles are kept to a minimum and local business are supported. The ultimate feel-good purchase in every way.

Laura's Loom

Laura’s Loom Howgill Collection Herringbone Throw 160cm x 200cm £125


I’m a huge fan of Donna Wilson’s quirky textiles but this stunning blanket, designed in conjunction with SCP, is something of a departure style-wise, but I am all over it, erm, like a blanket. The wool is all spun and dyed in England and Woven in Wales by a traditional mill that has been in the same family for years. It has the feel of a traditional Welsh Carthenni but with a more modern, geometric feel and is probably at the top of my blanket wish list.

Donna Wilson

Donna Wilson Nos Da Blanket 230cm x 200cm £299.99


Melin Tregwynt have been quietly revolutionising the aesthetics of traditional blanket weaving for years. Originators of the popular spotted motifs that can be seen everywhere now, this Welsh mill combines traditional methods with contemporary designs that are sure to convert even the most die-hard blanket haters.

Melin Tregwynt

Melin Tregwynt Luna Throw 150cm x 180cm £125


If you are looking for the ultimate baby gift then Woodchild’s exquisite vintage inspired fairisle knitted blankets must surely be the perfect solution? Practically perfect in every way, I am completely obsessed with this, and, as the Mother of two boys that is continually disappointed with boy-centric homewares and gifts, it satisfies my inner girly whims too.


Woodchild ‘Connor’ Baby Blanket 75cm x 100cm £89


Another great baby gift, these soft brushed cotton baby blankets eschew the twee and make a refreshing, modern change from pastels, and the red colourway works brilliantly for both sexes.

Cologne and Cotton

Cologne & Cotton Papoose Blanket 65cm x 110cm £15


This supersoft Shetland blanket is fun and would add a great pop of colour to a scheme- particularly a child’s bedroom- but for me it’s mostly about the green fairisle; a little bit vintage, I just can’t get enough of this type of pattern.

Atlantic Blanket Company

Atlantic Blanket Company Celtic Fringe Blanket 143cm x173cm £250


Welsh Carthenni blankets just feel so ‘right’ at the moment thanks to recent trends towards Ikats and folksy geometrics. I’ve been coveting them for years as they seem to bridge the gap between traditional and contemporary so brilliantly. This rather lovely candy pink example from Blodwen is undeniably girly but utterly beautiful and I could happily redesign an entire room scheme just to incorporate it somehow.


Blodwen ‘New Traditional Welsh Carthenni’ Blanket 171cm x 264cm £300


One for the baby girls. The Matryoshka trend keeps running and running but I confess I am still charmed by these folksy little dolls. This Adorable luxurious baby blanket from the completely brilliant Studio Roam comes in a Cyclamen/Satin Pink colourway as standard but can be customised to a colour of your choice, at no extra cost, which makes for a really unique keepsake for a little one.

Studio Roam

Studio Roam Baboushka Cashmere Blanket 80cm x 120cm £159.20

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011