Tuesday, 23 August 2011

If you see me, say hello!

Phew. What a week it's been already! How can it only be Tuesday? (but oh, thank goodness it is).
This week is the start of two weeks where I will be spending Thursdays at Covent Garden Real Food market! I will be there from 10am-6pm hoping it doesn't rain, that people want to buy my preserves, and maybe even squeezing in a bit of knitting and nattering with my Mum, who is amazingly dashing down from the North tomorrow night to help out. (Isn't she wonderful...slave labour at it's best!).
As a result I have spent the last two days not only processing huge bags of generously donated fruit and making the first of the autumn jam and chutney, but also desperately trying to get everything ready for Thursday. Today I have spent six hours standing over a stove, and at every moment that I haven't needed to be stirring, checking and stirring again I have been labelling and organising and making lists and wondering what I've forgotten.
Now I am going to stop. I'm not finished, I just can't stand up much more today. So I made cookies, and am about to pour a glass of cider. Not a traditional cookie accompaniment, but today it just feels right.
If you're in the Covent Garden area on Thursday, pop by and say hello. I'll be in the corner of the piazza nearest the London Transport Museum, being excited about jam!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

St John.

On Tuesday I found myself with time to kill in London. It's been a long time since this has been the case. Despite the fact that I travel up to London for work twice a week, I never have time to just wander about, it's always a dash to work and then a dash home again.

So upon realisation that I had almost three hours to myself before meeting a friend for lunch, I felt both excited and at a loss. I didn't really know what to do or where to go (and having a ridiculously large rucksack on my back full of posh dresses and toiletries meant I didn't really want to be walking around the whole time.)I struck upon the idea of pottering through Spitalfield's and then onto Brick Lane. Then I got distracted, because on the way I stumbled across St John Bread and Wine. How had I missed this on the countless other occasions I've been to this area of London? Seriously, sometimes I amaze myself with my complete lack of awareness!

Now, I know it might seem odd to be so excited about a place famous for it's offal, given that I'm a vegetarian, but the whole reason for the St John Spitalfield's location is to show off their baking. I went in with the notion that I was just going to have a coffee, but the sourdough smell filled my nose and of course toast was inevitable.

So I sat, for an hour, peacefully sipping my coffee, munching my toast, reading my book, and very much enjoying the chefs sitting down to a brunch before the second round of hard graft began.
It was the perfect start to a very perfect day; first breakfast with a friend, second breakfast in a newly discovered place, lunch with another friend and then a chance encounter with my parents on their way back up north after a holiday in the States.

I only wish I hadn't been carrying so much as I would have bought bread. If you get a chance, go. Have coffee and the toast with honey. It shows off the sourdough, and the griddle lines on the bread are beautiful.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The Farmer's Market Exchange.

At the beginning of the summer I signed up to Siri's annual Farmer's Market exchange. It's always been great fun, and I love not only trawling my own farm shops, markets and deli's for inspiration, but also seeing what is on offer across the world when it arrives on my doorstep.

This year Siri couldn't have picked a better exchange partner for me, our similarities are just uncanny. A preserver, knitter, and all-round lover of local food and produce. What could be better? And in a really selfish way I knew this would mean a wonderful box of goodies, particularly in the jam department, and we all know that I'm nuts about jam!

Alas, I don't have any photos of my box before I sent it, but you can head on over the The Redhead's blog Handcrafted with Altitude and see what I sent. To my complete embarrassment, two of my jars had rather a rough trip and didn't arrive intact. But don't worry! Replacements have been sent, and hopefully they will have a better time of it.

As for my parcel. Well, I don't really know where to begin, it was packed to the brim with the most perfect (and utterly delicious) things. What's more, it arrived on the day we got back from holiday and was waiting on the porch. How perfect!
The homemade preserves got devoured first. A delicious Peach, ginger and vanilla was slathered on toast twice it was so tasty. I was supposed to save the blueberry, peach and Grand Marnier for the weekend to share with N, but I couldn't resist and had it as an afternoon snack on some crumpets. Both have been tucked into almost every day, carefully rationed, since the parcel arrived. They flavour combinations were totally new to me, and I've really enjoyed how they work together. Yum! However, the real delight for me was the Peach and Habanero sauce. Words cannot do justice to this amazing preserve. It's the perfect combination of clear sweet peach flavour, followed by the most wonderful warmth. I'm secretly hoping if I'm nice enough I might get another batch of this next year, as one small jar is not going to keep me sated!
Again, to show just how similar we are, we both put yarn in our packages, despite it being a little out of the requirements. I sent some special squishy British yarn, and when I opened my package the first thing I saw were four hanks of handspun (and award-winning, I now know!) yarn. How impressive is that?! Laceweight alpaca, heavy laceweight silk and some wonderful novelty black and white, which is screaming out to be my winter hat. Exactly what I needed to drag me away from obsessive sock knitting. I just hope I can do it justice.
Today I finally opened the other jar in the parcel. Honey from a friend with an organic farm. I love how much honey differs from area to area, and this has a lovely clear floral flavour and you can really taste the influence of the mountains and clear air of Colorado. I think this will be used pure on toast or in yoghurt. It's too special to mix with anything.
Perhaps the most unusual thing I received was some dark chocolate balsamic vinegar. Not something I've ever come across. I was intrigued, and I have to admit slightly sceptical, but over the weekend we had it straight out of the bottle drizzled over some home grown strawberries and it was divine. I can see this being a wonderful addition to late summer Eton Mess or over ice cream. Yum!

One thing that doesn't appear in any of the pictures is the mint and rosemary soap. I'm afraid it smelt so good that I opened it and used it in my shower before I could get a chance to take a picture. I don't know how the Redhead knew that I have a real weakness for rosemary, but this soap really hits the mark. It has a slight exfoliating element too, which is perfect for gently removing the dirt after being in the garden.

Hmmm...what have I missed? Oh yes, I got flowers and salad! Not literally, but little packets of seeds so I can grow my own. Isn't that a wonderful idea? I'm totally going to steal it. And I got granola (save that for when we have yoghurt so I can try it with the honey), plus a whole host of inspiring local magazines, and a farmer's market bag to put it all in, which has already had a outing into London!

I cannot thank the Redhead enough for her lovely and incredibly generous package. I hope that my second lot of jams makes it's way safely so that she finally gets to enjoy them.

And a huge thank you to Siri for matching us up so well, and hopefully providing me with another new blog friend.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

He's just such a willing subject...

...that I can't resist an afternoon in the garden with Gatto!
I'm back, and slowly wading through emails and trying to motivate myself after a weekend in sunshine and humidity. Having failed to take a single photo the entire time I was away (the camera didn't even make it out of my bag, which is pretty shocking really...it was just too hot and I felt lazy), I thought a few snaps of Gatto might keep you going. He and his big brother (not such a willing subject, alas) have had a lovely weekend being pampered by Lady K, and seemed distinctly disappointed upon our return yesterday. Although not so much as to refuse food or strokes, but they wanted to let us know it was accepted begrudgingly.
In my next post I'll tell you all about the amazing box of goodies that was waiting for me upon our return. Yep! The Farmer's Market Exchange parcel arrived, and I'm one very luck blogger indeed!