When the seasons change, I find it takes a little while to get in sync food-wise. And how miserable to find on your plate something which though delicious in the dark days of February, feels somehow like punishment when the sun is shining on a beautiful April afternoon.
But deliverance has arrived and it came in a cardboard box. See, a kindly soul wondered if I'd care to review a veg box from Abel and Cole.
Delighted! Even if it was ever so slightly embarrassing to be caught by the neighbours piling produce into bowls in the middle of the lawn in order to take pictures. Well, they were very good looking fruit and veg. It's that clean organic living.
Now these don't claim to be the cheapest products you can stock your larder with. But in a way, the fact that they are a bit more expensive made me all the more determined to derive maximum value from them. Because it is so easy to treat cheap food in a careless manner. These babies, on the other hand, are first class all the way. We even fancied up the potatoes:
Rosti is one of those things that I don't make for ages and them make and wonder why not. Peel spuds and par boil gently for 5 mins. Drain and allow to cool a little. Coarsely grate, season with salt and pepper and pour in some melted butter. Mix around, then fry in a non stick pan with a little olive oil and another knob of butter. Use a plate to flip it halfway through cooking - you're aiming for cooked through with a lovely crunchy surface. Mine took around 15 mins on a fairly gentle heat, but obviously it depends on how thick your rosti is. Very moreish. You can stop licking your lips now. We're meant to be reviewing produce, not salivating.
Somehow, the idea of a mystery food parcel appeals to me - the creative challenge of feeding everyone from what lies inside. And not wasting it. Which is not a problem with fruit, which gets hoovered up fairly swiftly round here, with no fancification required. But the cauliflower was in danger of languishing, so ended up becoming Sarah Raven's Cauliflower soup with ground almonds for supper later on in the week.
Based on my sample box, the fruit and veg were excellent quality. I'm not sure I would get a box every week, because I like to go to support our local farm shop and inevitably a box will not always cater to your specific larder requirements. But as a once in a while, and particularly as an injection of inspiration, it was a brilliant thing. And Abel and Cole delivered exactly when they promised and have an easy-to-use website, complete with very good recipie ideas.
I like this product reviewing thing.
When Alice does one of her 'Just for the Record' posts, I get all excited. Because I know I might just get a glimpse into the world of her Department. I have an enduring love of Geography departments. There are always plenty of slightly strange things going on. Like this:
That's not me, by the way. If it was, my fists would be clenched because I used to find stereoscopic aerial photographs fiendishly tricky blighters. My ability to make them pop into glorious 3D seemed to re-set itself each time I blinked. This meant an hour long practical in which I tried to blink as little as possible and hence emerged at the end with frazzled eyeballs and more often than not a pounding headache.
But through the paracetamol haze, I retained a passion for aerial photographs - if you like them too, then you must take a look at Rhett Dashwood's work. He's collected an alphabet of google images from the air. My Dad is going to love it.
Success criteria for a retail event are clearly not the same as those for a normal birthday celebration, but if you judge our recent Very Hungry Caterpillar Party on the basis of having fun, eating cake and making things then we had such a blast on Tuesday! Twenty four caterpillar fans and two rather over excited booksellers.
From rather small beginnings, our own hungry caterpillar grew and grew and has now taken pride of place in the shop window. Everyone who came brought a paper plate which they had decorated with a green design to make the body of a great big caterpillar.
And then we made threaded pasta caterpillars and some rather fetching bookmarks.
If you want to make your own, here's how. We used some light cardstock, washable stamp pads and a single hole punch for those all important nibbled holes. Child's play (quite literally).
And the highlight of any party, the cake. Baked by Alison (maker of all the delicious cakes we serve in our courtyard garden), who truly outdid herself with a yummy cupcake caterpillar. Inspired by this one.
And the only element we couldn't organize in advance, the weather, turned out to be the most perfect we could have hoped for. A sunny spring afternoon. Happy days.
It was undignified to run into the 'antiques emporium' and ask to destroy their pavement display. But a demi-lune table has been on my wish list for over a year. And when this beauty was only ten pounds, I wasn't going to let the tower of bric-a-brac on top deter me.
Just very grateful that I volunteered to get the extra milk my Dad needed from the shop next door. And that we got it in the boot for the homeward journey.
Now I just need to decide if we're going to paint it, or leave it as it is.
Shaun the Sheep was Johnny's hero, but now he has discovered Timmy, who is , whisper, *possibly even better* and has his very own show.
Strangely, I feel myself often in need of a coffee and 10 minute break at around the 9am mark. Nothing to do with watching his antics. Oh no.
Inspiration from Waitrose freebie magazine, faces from marzipan, cakes are my cupcake standards and buttercream wool swirled on with a fine nozzle. Child's play.
When my mother asked me to bring a cake for Easter, I'm not sure these were what she had in mind. But they are very spring-like! The flock is headed south for the long weekend. Enjoy yours.
Picnic, that is. We are big fans of outdoor food and mix it up with a playground, oodles of children, chums old and new to chat with, chocolate eggs and a handcrafted goodies swap and it's the recipe for a very good day indeed.
I am an absolutely hideous event reporter, due to my giant inattention to detail problems. But the occasional snippet does lodge in my fuzzy head, so in no particular order, some impressions from the day:
Wish I could bundle up the warm, fuzzy feelings that a get-together inevitably creates. I even have the perfect spot to keep them. A quilted project bag, from Kate - thank you so much! And as if that wasn't enough, I had to swipe her photo of it, because it is too dark to take my own now.
Lucy, you are a star for organizing everything. Don't suppose you'd like to sort out my summer holiday dilemmas too would you?
40 is a milestone birthday, and we're getting ready for a party at the bookshop.
It's no secret that I am partial to planning the odd children's party. Particularly ones involving crafty activities. So it shouldn't really be any surprise that I jumped at the chance to dream up a bit of fun for this one. Time to channel my inner Eric Carle - and make a caterpillar head.
Slapping paint on in a haphazard fashion is so liberating! But my feelers do require re-inforcement so as to avoid embarrassing droop. And there's the small matter of several pairs of legs. Clearly, the body segments were going to be a big job, so everyone coming into the shop over Easter, gets the chance to decorate a paper plate in green in some inspired fashion. Hopefully we'll have a suitably impressive caterpillar by the end of it.
And the party goers? They'll get to make thumbprint caterpillar bookmarks and string pasta caterpillars. Oh, and eat cake and listen to stories. Which all sounds very blissfully idyllic.
So fingers crossed that the sun will shine so we can do it all in the courtyard. Otherwise there are going to be some slightly stressed booksellers squeezing a quart of fun into a pint pot of a shop.
Reading blogs sometimes encourages risk-taking behaviour. See, Diana is a bit of a forager, and so when I saw her post about nettle soup, I wasn't surprised. Unlike the boys, who were downright horrified when I announced were going to eat the products of our after school weeding session.
Nettles? Noooo way!
But when they tasted it, they loved it. So much so that there was a quick chorus of "Nettle Soup, the best you ever tasted. None of this soup is going to be wasted." Which will only make sense to you if this book is part of your library.
If you've got fussy eaters, I highly recommend it (and the others in the trilogy A Pipkin of Salt and Pumpkin Soup). You can read some excerpts on Helen Cooper's website.
Fairly early on in the process of feeding my offspring, I discovered that the perfect response to the whiny 'ewww, what's that?' suppertime refrain, was to come up with the most unlikely, disgusting names for food. A swift reply of 'boiled bats brains' - a delicacy, don't you know' usually produced enough giggling to get the first forkful of mashed potato past their lips. So perhaps they thought I was kidding when I said nettle soup. But it truly was delicious.