Could we have had a more quintessentially English afternoon on Sunday. We invited James, Henry, Lucy and Hannah over for lunch and decamped into the field to laze around on the bales, gazing out over the Elysian fields of Bedfordshire.
Dad built our trailer decking when I was doing my finals 4 years ago. They now look like they have been there since the days of Zeus. I remember helping out thinking that I really should be doing some revision instead. Dad got all the wrong screws and it took 5 times longer than it should have!
We pottered around under the poplar trees chatting mainly about food. By mainly I mean, completely. At one point someone mentioned something non food related and they got scowled at!
Mum had been to our brilliantly named local butcher, Browns, and come back with a vast array of BBQ friendly meats. Sticky BBQ ribs were fun.
As were the orangey chicken pieces.
Mum's lavender and garlic chicken slithers that tasted like Provence after a bad forest fire. Perfect! It's just a shame I didn't get a chance to photograph it as it was delicious, as well as being a really original idea.
Cowie loved the roasted vegies...
But the star of the show was Mum's special rose petal ice cream. The flowers had been picked from from the garden - Gertrude Jeykel I think - and lobbed straight in Mum's new ice cream maker. 25 minutes after Mum popped inside she emerged with a metal churner and the world's most gorgeous ice cream.
Absolutely perfect with strawberries. If I was Waitrose or M&S I would be beating down our door to sign Mum up to make her own range of Kathy Brown Edible Flower Ice Creams. I'm sure she's got a few more recipes up her sleeves!
I love England in the Summer. And I feel so lucky to be able to pop back to Stevington and feel like I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the whole world.
I am a huge Mr Scruff fan having fallen head over heals for his cartoons and quirky breaks whilst at uni in Nottingham. I remember a night at the Bomb vividly where he had choreographed his cartoons to his eclectic mixing. It was awesome.
A few years ago I bought myself a matching Mr Scruff teapot and mug as a self congratulatory Christmas present. I had sent out hints and links to websites but no-one had cottoned on. It was all very dirty and underground buying things from his bizarre website and not really knowing whether it was all a joke.
Well you can imagine my shock last week when I found a selection of beautifully boxed Mr Scruff teas in Selfridges! There they were minding their own crazy business on the shelf next door to up market teas from Tea Palace, Twinings and a variety of up their own arse single estate chaps (which I am sure are lovely!).
I snapped one up and lovingly brought it back to the office to wheel out on special occassions. Oli has become quite attached to them and has insisted that I mention their new name: "scruff bags". Oli, you should really work in advertising... so creative!
As with all of Mr Scruff's kit, his cartoons are all over the box. And I love them. There is something so quirky and English about the whole thing. I can see him DJing whilst having a nice cup of tea to take the edge off!
Here are the photos of the box:
In terms of quality of tea, it's probably best to take a look at a proper tea review.
Here's some highlights from Nice Cup of Tea:
"Although not one of the highest scoring teas we have tested I think its qualities are far more personal than our test provides, the new method of production works very well with this tea. We tried the new method with TeaDirect teabags and it didn't come out right at all. To balance that we tried Grandad's Choice bags in a teapot and that came out to gritty. The method compliments the tea and for what it lacks in strength it makes up for in its unique taste and aroma."
My tasting notes would be. Great box. Strong taste. Incredible cartoons. Great conversation starter. Can't wait for the next blend. He should create some music designed specifically for drinking tea to!
In the marketing and social media world the Age of Conversation project has caused quite a stir. Last year 100 marketing bloggers each contributed a 400 word essay on the subject of starting conversations and the implications this has for marketing. This co-created book has been a huge success. So much so that it is evolving and growing into a bigger project this year.
All of the articles are fascinating. And it is great to see a book walking the walk as well as talking the talk. All the books were available from Lulu.com which is an on demand publisher. This meant there were no problems with print runs. You never have the problem of being either short or long on books.
I think it would be a great idea to organise a similar project for food bloggers. What would it look like?
Maybe we form a blog specically for this project with the working title being completely up for debate - but bascially meaning Food Bloggers Recipe book.
We could then set the agenda of who writes which recipe and then go about looking for submissions. If we had 30 starters, 40 mains (veg, meat and fish) and 30 desserts we could create quite an impressive book.
Photography could all be done by bloggers too. And we could put together an introduction and preface written by a few well known bloggers. It could get great PR and make us all a little bit of money.
Please let me know if you think this is a terrible idea... hopefully you'll think it words and want to get involved. If so leave a comment and we'll start something fun!
I'd read about Dinings in the Metro ages ago and suggested to Ed that he should go there with Erin. So when the opportunity came up to go to Dinings with Anne I got very excited.
It's hard to find, which is the mark of a good Japanese restaurant according to Jay Rayner, tucked away on Harcourt Street at the business end of York Street in Marylebone/Edgeware Road. Close enough to work to be feasible but also far enough away to be relaxed!
We sat downstairs in what felt a bit like a smart concrete bunker. Concrete screed covers the floor and plain wooded latice divides the closet sized space up. Warm sake made us hungry whilst the edamame made us thirsty. Clever!
We chose wildly hoping that if we through enough mud at the bare white walls that it would stick. None of it disappointed. It all clung to the walls as it were...
Tuna and avocado rolls were beautifully simple. King crab sushi was heavenly. Shrimp tempura was brilliantly light and crispy, but also enormous! Sea bass with yuzu and ponzo dressing was the highlight. Really light and delicate. Tuna tataki was great and the sea weed salad was refreshing.
Cake Law tagged Cowie and me for a Meme ages ago, but I have only just found time to answer the questions.
Here are the rules...
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.
So thank you Cake Law for the tag. So here are our 5 facts about Cowie and me...
1. We both call each other by our surnames. Cowie and Brown(y). But our real names are Sarah Cowie and Jonathan Brown.
2. Our favourite movie is True Romance. I love the theme tune and Cowie loves Christian Slater.
3. Cowie is the best amateur dressage rider in the Uk and used to compete for Great Britain. I have become well versed in the world of dressage and must be one of only a handful of straight men who don't ride to know what "passage", "piaf" and "flying changes" are.
5. My favourite artist is Shepherd Fairey, who recently did an awesome screen print of Barack Obama which I managed to get a print of. I am a big fan of stencil and street art which often gets referred to as grafitti.
I have thought long and hard about who I want to pass this Meme onto. If you're not into this sort of thing, then don't worry about it. If you are then get stuck in.
1. Beef Afficianado: I love your beefy blog and check in regularly. As a Londoner I am very jealous because we just aren't in the same league as you guys.
2. Flutephobia: I am so jealous of your cartoon ability. So much so that I am about to sign up for an online cartoon drawing class.
3. Hannah's Country Kitchen: Hannah is the legend that almost won Master Chef a couple of years ago. She is fantastic and her blog is doing brilliantly. Looking forward to having you over for dinner again soon with the rest of the family!
4. A Forkful of Spaghetti: We really must meet up for a coffee in Balham very soon! There are restaurants opening up and closing down left right and centre!
5. Matt Bites: It's the most beautiful food, travel and photography blog ever. I love it and one day hope to get somewhere close!
Thanks Cake Law for the Meme. I hope this was what I was meant to do and that it is of interest.
I remember my Mum once told me that nettles with flowers on them don't sting. So when I had a friend around I remember showing off and jumping into a vast clump of flowering nettles in my shorts and t-shirt to prove to them that nettles in bloom don't sting.
That was a lesson well learnt at an early age. What Mum had failed to mention was that she meant that nettles with white flowers don't sting. The ones with evil purple flowers prime time stingers!
So with trepidation, some very fetching gloves and 2 whippets Cowie and I went out nettle hunting... 4 cowpats later we had a Waitrose bag full to the brim with the tips of our nettles, ready to be sweated down and enjoyed.
We rinsed them, and removed any grass and grit. Meanwhile we sweated down and onion, a potato in some oil and butter and then added the nettles which wilted rather like spinach, albeit more slowly. When they were soft and gooey we added some chicken stock and left it all to simmer away.
David put the mixture in the blender and then passed it through a strange mangle like contraption that is designed for taking the pips out of jam and creating baby food which left us with very smooth nettle soup.
A dash of cream and some agressive seasoning yielded a very fine late spring soup.
Now I know why the Romans brought nettles with them from Italy!
After a long week with work in France, Cowie and I zoomed off to Pembrokeshire for the bank holiday. I slept. Cowie drove. I got told off for farting. 7 hours after being picked up from Reading we arrived having exhausted all of the 49 junctions of the M4 and then some!
The journey to Wales is all about the road signs. From the civilisation and high brow English signs with one language and clear directions... to the multi language gobble-de-gook of the Welsh ones. Best of all near Carmarthen there is a brown road sign for McDonald's. I rest my case.
Without going into too much detail we had signed up for a weekend of cooking with James and Henry, experimenting with easy to eat foods. James and Henry had slaved over a fabulous hunk of pork belly which made me feel like I was having a picnic in an Elysian field. Soft, warm, salty, oozey and so moreish and naughty! Well stuffed and still exhausted we slept with a view over the coast towards Ireland and America and woke to see the sea crashing against the rocks.
Saturday brought military precision and military drinking. After a well paced breakfast started the cook off. I was despatched to the second kitchen to make a leek and bacon quiche. Armed with Thomasina and a big fat reliable cook book I went to work. Bacon, onion, leek and garlic got sweated and reduced to a satisfying filling. At no point did it look like I had got the quantities right. It seemed like the contents in the frying pan would overwhelm the pastry case and splat all over the floor. With the pastry case blind baked with gravel on top and the cream, milk, eggs and cheese whisked up, all I had to do was pour. And remarkably it all fitted! There was room left for me to place an egg yolk in the centre for artistic effect! If all else failed at least we'd have an egg in the middle!
Astonishingly it worked. I might be able to rival Tamysn's medium rare quiche afterall one day!
Meanwhile the chaps and chapesses were busy cooking, peeling, soaking, drinking and generally being what my Mum would call good "doers".
Henry made a trout and potato cake...
Which emerged, quite incredibly, looking like this.
So far, so camp!
Henry's tortilla was a little less gay and tasted delicious.
By this point we had burnt our way through the Welsh parsley quota, so our garnishes started to take a less prominent role.
As the gin and tonics started to flow from our charming yellow watering can...
... and Willy's jokes began to seem funnier...
... and the drinks began to take their toll...
... everything was perfect.
Before we knew it it was time for afternoon tea. Henry, Lucy and James laid on an incredible spread of chocolate tiffin cake, fruit cake, macaroons, cookies and flapjack. All of which was fantastic. The highlight being James's moist flapjack which got thumbs up from everyone.
Henry's fruit cake was a little overdone. We worked out that this was because Henry had cooked it for 4 Pimms rather than 3 - which works out in everyday language to be 15 minutes too much!
Post tea we larked around playing extreme boules.
Before settling in for dinner which involved us being overwhelmed with bulgar wheat, cous cous, chick peas and a vast array of delious dishes. Highlights included a mackerel and beetroot salad, grilled haloumi and apparently, my quiche!
The day's activities soon started to take their toll. Cowie couldn't move for fear of farting from all the grains and pulses, Willy had a brief snooze on the sofa and James seemed to go all blurry!
We chatted well into the early hours with our creativity rising as the wine stocks plummeted. If only all of creative sessions at work involved a cook off and a small cellar of wine, we would be winning awards left right and centre!
Thank you James and Henry for a wonderful weekend. Cowie and I are in love with Pembrokeshire and can't wait to return with more time and a surfboard!
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: