Ever since the wonderful Wilderness Festival, we’ve become a little bit addicted to the various culinary delights from Ottolenghi and Moro. I always like to think of myself as being a little bit behind the trends, someone once told me I would never be a visionary and so I’ve taken this on board and now store any ideas and discoveries and release them to the world when they think it’s all over…..well that’s what I like to tell myself anyway. So, with that in mind, I am very aware that these two restaurants / cookbooks / deliciousness won’t necessarily be new to many, but if like me you haven’t yet attempted them at home, may I suggest that you do….immediately.
We started with The Moro Cookbook and both Ottolenghi’s, Plenty and The Cookbook and most recently we’ve moved on to the wonderful new Jerusalem from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. We’ve re-stocked our spice cupboard with things such as Zatar and Sumac and made sure there’s enough Cumin, Turmeric, Corriander and Cardamon to see us through every recipe we may attempt. To begin the feast I chose something relatively easy : Chilled Red Pepper Soup and Cauliflower Fritters, both from Ottolenghi followed by Aubergine and Tomato Pilav from Moro. Not all in one sitting, that would be ridiculous….although very very tempting.
And then last night came the best of the best, both from Jerusalem : Pureed Beetroot with Yoghurt and Za’atar and Butternut Squash and Red Onion roasted with Tahini and Za’atar. It was ridiculously good and so easy and really annoying that we had no one over for dinner to
show off to share with.
Pureed Beetroot with Yoghurt and Za’atar – Ottolenghi, Jerusalem
6 medium beets trimmed
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1 small red chilli, seeded and minced
250g plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons Date syrup (or pure maple syrup works too)
1 tablespoon Za’atar
Handful roasted, crushed hazelnuts
2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350°. Wash and trim the beetroot and wrap each one individually in silver foil. Place in a baking tray and cook for about an hour – until you can pierce them with a sharp knife.
Once cool peel the beetroot, cut into wedges and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, chilli and yoghurt and pulse until blended. Add the olive oil, date or maple syrup and za’atar and puree. Season with salt. Scrape into a wide, shallow bowl. Scatter the hazelnuts, goat cheese and spring onion on top and serve.
Butternut Squash and Red Onion, roasted, with Tahini and Za’atar – Ottolenghi, Jerusalem
1 large butternut squash (around 1.1kg), cut into 2cm x 6cm wedges
2 red onions, cut into 3cm wedges
50ml olive oil
Maldon sea salt and black pepper
3½ tbsp tahini paste
1½ tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp water
1 small garlic clove, crushed
30g pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Heat the oven to to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, add three tablespoons of oil, a teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, and toss well. Spread, skin down, on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes until the vegetables have taken on some colour and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions: they may cook faster than the squash, so may need to be removed earlier. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
Put the tahini in a small bowl with the lemon juice, water, garlic and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Whisk to the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini as necessary.
Pour the remaining oil into a small frying pan on a medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and half a teaspoon of salt, cook for two minutes, stirring, until the nuts are golden brown, then tip the nuts and oil into a small bowl.
To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter and drizzle over the sauce. Scatter the pine nuts and oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
The Old Pill Factory was a very exciting pre Christmas find. It opened a few months ago in Witney, Oxfordshire, which I suppose I can now call my local high street town. There’s not a great deal in Witney, there are all the necessary mainstream chains you need and expect and parking is free, everywhere, ALL THE TIME, but aside from that I wouldn’t necessarily have called it a shopping destination. Well not if you’re looking for something a bit different anyway. That was until I discovered The Pill Factory, which has now become my new favourite shop and from where I shall purchase all presents for myself and others from now on.
It’s essentially a vintage emporium comprising a number of different dealers all selling their wares and who, in their own words “are passionate about breathing new life in to antiques and vintage home ware”. My kind of shop. There are a few bits of lingering reproduction – especially in the smaller home ware sections – but if you steer clear of these, there are some real treasures to be found. My two very favourite Christmas presents were courtesy of The Old Pill Factory. This enamel storage tin was reclaimed from a barge and the enormous blue enamel kettle….well that’s just about the best thing in my kitchen.
So if you find yourself in West Oxfordshire, I highly recommend a visit to Witney. There are a whole host of fabulous little antique shops to discover in these parts but this is a very very good place to start.
Treat the dapper gentleman in your life to one of Marwood London’s beautiful lace ties. Perhaps also tactfully encourage him to team it with a bib to avoid dripping the cranberry sauce down it.
This is the time of year for tradition and the tradition in e-commerce is to bombard any email addresses you happen to have with promotional material. In that spirit may I present some seasonal prints for your
evidication edificeat mild irritation.
With snow and whatforth the first 2 are clearly so christmassy that they should put you in a very festive mood indeed. The third one, it may surprise you to hear, is hanging at this very moment in the V&A museum in the heart of London’s South Kensington (red light) district as part of ‘Private Eye : The First 50 Years‘ which runs until 8th of Jan.
These 3 prints, signed and numbered, I am offering, and it breaks my heart to do so (it doesn’t), at the cut price rate of £30.
And this here link should speed you to my cartoon megastore
May your ding dongs ding merrily on high.
A rather late advent calendar offering today – apologies. Been busy stapling off cuts from the Christmas tree together to make decorations for the fireplace, very satisfying indeed.
I bought this Merry Christmas wire garland a couple of years ago and although it’s a bit boring on it’s own it’s lovely mixed in with a few branches and ribbons. I found it in by accident at a Christmas fair but I’m pretty sure you can find them online too.
And if you don’t have a staple gun I strongly recommend you get one. They make decorating so much easier all year round, be it indoor or out. You can transform (or destroy) a room in 5 minutes flat.
I love these books. They are a reprint of the classic Ladybird collection called Make and Do and include 3 books – Tricks and Magic, Easy To Make Puppets and Things To Make
The perfect present for any wannabe domestic goddess or those determined to do more crafts with their children. Not that I’m speaking from experience.
I have one brand new boxed set to give away. All you need to do is answer this question in the form provided below :
Who founded Ladybird Books?
Winner announced Monday 12th December so that I can try and get it you in time for Christmas.
If like me you seem to have more and more children, babies, in laws and out laws to buy for with every Christmas, then you need some of these. The Celia Lindsell lavender home ware collection provides some perfect stress relieving, sweet smelling presents which will please even the trickiest of recipients.
There are the most gorgeous lavender bags and cushions of all sizes for wardrobe, drawers, sofa or bed and some cute as a button offerings for children and babies. There are lavender filled door stops for the chicest of homes and bottled pure lavender oil which can be sprinkled in the bath to soothe away Christmas aches and pains.
All products are available from the online store and gift wrapping is also on offer. What a wonderfully relaxing way to do your Christmas shopping.
For the person who has everything nothing beats bespoke. There’s only a day or two left to customise your own pair of NIKEiD trainers if you want them in time for Christmas.
You can choose from a number of styles and start right from scratch deciding on leather, suede or canvas in your very own colour scheme. From side panels to toe cap to sole to lining, it can all be customised and topped off with a name or initials in coloured stitching. Prices range but are around £75 a pair. Brilliant for anyone really, unless of course that person already has over 200 pairs of Adidas Shell Toes stored all over the house. He can have a pair of socks.
I get very excited when I find a new online store. I had heard of the wonderful Labour and Wait on Redchurch St but never had the chance to visit. When I came across their website – whilst searching for “fishing bags” – it just about made my Christmas. I could have quite happily bought every single thing in the shop. The simplest way to describe it is hardware store mixed with the very best kitchen shop with a little bit of light reading and perfectly designed accessories thrown in.
Here’s just a selection of lovely things. Click on the image to enlarge. They look even better.
You can order all the products online but they state that deliveries can take up to 2 weeks depending. I reckon this one just might be worth the risk.
I almost refuse to believe Christmas is so soon. I’ve only just put the heating on and dug out the woolly jumpers. Surely we’ve months to go. But oh no, it’s almost upon us and I’m reminded of the inevitable every morning when my 3 year old looks up the chimney to check Father Christmas isn’t stuck.
And so it begins, the seemingly endless shopping and the desperate thinking of something a bit different to give everyone this year. The apple chutney is made and jarred so that’s ready for the unlucky ones – just kidding, it’s actually quite delicious this year. Last year was a disaster and aptly named Apple Shit Splodge by way of a warning to recipients that it might be just a little bit special and perhaps best left unopened.
I do the majority of my shopping online. Which is something I do all year round but it gets particularly serious in December. I’m not a good present planner. I decide every year that i’ll be more organised and I never ever am. This year is the same although I do have baskets of things saved all over the world wide web. Some will make it in to stockings and others will probably get forgotten and still be there come the New Year. My largest basket is Amazon which is pretty much a one stop shop for the children. It’s full of books, DVDs, racing cars and marble games – the staple boy toys. They have every chance of ending up under the tree but its the more obscure – and quite frankly far more exciting – baskets which I fear may not be so lucky.
It’s a wonderful thing being able to store things in little online pockets until you’ve made up your mind if you like them. Much more cost effective than panic buying in real life shops. But I’ve discovered a terrible downside in my seemingly foolproof plan. These days online is just as competitive, if not more so, than on the high street with new price battles being launched on a daily basis which means bargains are there to be had but only if you’re quick. I’ve only just cottoned on to this and have seen some of the contents of my Amazon basket rising dramatically in price since I rather smuggly put them there weeks ago. And, whilst Amazon do really great deals on shipping their own stock – generally it’s free if you don’t need things super quick – you have to be wise with other retailers selling on there who aren’t quite as generous and seem to have the strangest rates and times. One quoted £8.95 with an estimated delivery time of 1st – 21st December. A rather expensive risk probably not worth taking.
So now I’ve warned of the pitfalls, I’m compiling a list of some of my favourite places to Christmas online shop. It’s taking longer than I thought due to amount of browsing I’m forced to do so I will post in a few parts.
To start off, I thought this was definitely worth sharing. Gift Genies is a brilliant one stop search engine with ideas for the very best presents for all sorts of everyone. You can search by price, type of gift or even relationship and it will direct you to a whole host of ideas from a selection of brands and link you straight through to their shop front.
They also compile gift guides for Grazia amongst others so these ladies know what they’re talking about. The brand list is pretty impressive with some very well known labels rubbing shoulders with some smaller more quirkier offerings. There is literally something for everyone and they’ve done all the hard work for you.
Part 2 will follow shortly…..