Thursday, 29 April 2010

Spring soup: asparagus

It's here: English asparagus is on our shelves in bundles and boxes and bouquets. Hurrah!

Yes, I know it's nigh on sacrilege to turn the first spears of the season into soup, but I am positively craving soups at the moment - so comforting not to have to chew. Anyway, as I intend virtually to live on the green stuff from now until the the end of June, there will be plenty of opportunities for eating them en entier over the coming months.

Asparagus soup:

200g asparagus
Half a medium leek, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Olive oil
Cream or soya cream
Vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Fry the leeks and garlic in olive oil until softened and transparent. Meanwhile, cut the asparagus into inch-long pieces. Put the stalk pieces into boiling water, then after two or three minutes, add the tips. After another couple of minutes, check to see whether they are tender, and when they are, drain and reserve the tips. Add the asparagus stalks to the leeks and garlic along with the stock. Liquidise well and stir in a dollop of cream. Season with salt and/or pepper to taste

To serve, sprinkle the asparagus tips on top of the soup. I added a drizzle of olive oil too, but to be honest I was only being pretentious for the photo.

Oops, have just remembered I promised drawings today. Will get scanning as soon as I can summon the energy to leave my bed, I promise... zzz...

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Petite Française

Oops, I did it again. Forgot to blog for a week, that is. But now, one broken heart and a minor operation later, I'm back.

I thought I'd show you my latest charity shop bargain. This Topshop nautical navy and white cotton jumper was just £3.99 from the Heart Foundation shop in Lewes. Quel find!


It's very on trend, of course, but the real reason I bought it (shh) is that I am ridiculously easily seduced by anything that makes me feel un petit peu Fronsh.

More life drawings to come tomorrow after I've scanned them in, but for now, nighty night.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Cheat's raspberry brulée

Tonight I invented this raspberry brulée, which, although quite probably hideously inauthentic, took about two minutes to make and was absolutely gorgeous.

Easy raspberry brulée:

Fill a ramekin with vanilla yoghurt (I used Alpro vanilla soya yoghurt). Stir in a handful of raspberries.

Cover with a generous sprinkling of sugar and stick under a VERY hot grill for a few minutes until browned on top.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Drawings

Okay, here are the only two drawings I did last night that I can bear to show you (I changed my mind about the third one). I have just put another eight straight into the recycling because they looked like Guernica (in the mangled bodies sense, not the Picasso sense, obvs).

Drawing feet = arghhh. Foreshortening = double arghhh. [edit: after talking to MLM, I feel I should make it clear that her foot is in the air, not crossed over her leg. Oh dear.]

 





















I have drawn literally nothing for years, so hopefully I will be able to chart some improvements in forthcoming posts. Madame la Moue says she will let me post hers too, so stay tuned...

Right, must finish the lecture which I am giving at 10am *flinch* tomorrow morning, and which I have only written a third of. Gah.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Shades of nostalgia

Recently I have had an unaccountable hankering after a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers. Unaccountable because I HATE feeling like I've been sucked into a celebrity-driven trend, and this one has been carrying on across the pages of Grazia et al for a lo-ong while now.

Actually, this started when the Beautiful Egyptian *stifled sob* replaced his teenage pair of black Wayfarers and I tried them on, only to discover they were amazingly flattering.

Ray Bans were the height of style during my eighties childhood. Don't you just adore this classic 80s ad? Those girls are too cool for school (although someone should warn them about Gary Glitter lurking in the background).


Apparently it was Ray Ban Wayfarers that completed Audrey Hepburn's iconic outfits in Breakfast at Tiffany's. My goal as a teenager was to emulate this look and I spent years searching for the perfect pair. For this reason, I'm not altogether convinced that they were Wayfarers. What do you think? They look rather bigger and rounder to me, but still...

If I were to sport a pair, they would undoubtedly be the classic originals, not the new, updated version, and they would be in tortoiseshell. Just in case you were wondering. For any reason...

In other developments, since I have been a bit down in the dumps, I have decided to try to get back in touch with my creativity. To my own astonishment I have started writing a novel. I KNOW. More on this story later.

Tonight I also went to a truly gorgeous life drawing class downstairs in the Bee's Mouth pub in Hove. I was not too dismayed by three of about ten drawings I made tonight. I might even show you one if I'm not to ashamed tomorrow (the others I am going to shred immediatement, obvs, as their malformed limbs and torsos would probably give you nightmares).

Friday, 16 April 2010

Spring soup: courgette with fresh and dried mint

Today I have been feeling a bit depressed (shhh), so I invented this soup to cheer myself up. It is mild, creamy and comforting: just the ticket for an afternoon of mooning around and moping.

Courgettes are one of those things that really do seem to taste better when they are organic. Not everything does, I will admit, but courgettes: massively so. Cauliflower too, actually. Huge difference.

Courgettes and mint are a marriage made in heaven, but dried mint is a relatively new discovery for me. The Beautiful Egyptian uses it with courgettes in a tomato sauce, which is absolutely divine. In this soup it adds a depth of flavour to the zinginess of the fresh mint, as well as just a *hint* of middle-eastern flavouring.

My secret ingredient in soups is leek. It seems to add an element of deliciousness that is impossible to put your finger on if you don't know it's there.

N.B. Obvious tip that you probably know anyway, but was a revelation to me: if you slice your leeks or courgettes on an angle they don't run away all over the kitchen like demented rodents. It's magic.

Courgette soup with fresh and dried mint

2 medium courgettes, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tsp dried mint
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
Vegetable stock
Cream or soya cream
Olive oil
Salt

Fry the leeks in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the courgettes, the garlic and the dried mint. Fry for another five minutes or until softened. Add stock to cover, along with the fresh mint. Blend until completely smooth, adding more stock to achieve the desired consistency. Season to taste and stir through a sploosh of cream.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Mimi Berry purses

Madame la Moue and I have been lusting after these Mimi Berry 'Gracie' purses for at least a year, having become fixated by them in the lovely Lavender Rooms in Brighton's North Laines:


In fact it was its resemblance to the Gracie that prompted me to make my recent vintage bag purchase.

The good news is that the Gracie is reduced from £46 to £23 on the Mimi Berry website at the moment. You're welcome mes petites.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Bibliotopia

I took the photo of my vintage handbag below in the newly refurbished Richard Booth's Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye.

Hay is the book capital of probably The World, and Richard Booth is the soi-disant King of Hay, which really should make this emporium the centre of the biblioverse. It used to be a rather chaotic, dusty necropolis - not without its charms, but not the most inviting of places. Until its recent makeover, that is...

My mum and grandma enjoy the ambience.

It has been almost completely reinvented as a cross between a Victorian gentleman's library and a photoshoot from Country Living, with potted palms and abundant sofas and armchairs upholstered in faded linen. They even have weekly film screenings amongst the bookshelves.


And! And! There are cats! What more could you want? Really?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Vintage handbag

I bought this vintage bag from Ludlow market on Easter Sunday for £10. Turns out that, not content with being the foodie capital of Britain, Ludlow is also fabbo for vintage clothes, shoes and bags. Who knew?

Things I love about this bag:

1. The clasp, which makes it work as both an oversized evening purse and an extra-dainty day bag.

2. The strap, which can be worn over the arm or the shoulder, which is rather unusual for a bag of this vintage.

3. The worn, soft, chocolate-brown leather. This is also the thing I hate. Having eschewed all leather for years, I was recently prompted (by clothes swapping) to consider the ethics of wearing second hand. If we want to recycle, shouldn't we recycle everything? I don't know... I am giving it a try. I may yet change my mind about it though...

Any advice?

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Easter afternoon tea

Afternoon tea in front of the fire chez nous on Easter Saturday:


Happy Easter, dear readers.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Country attire

I am currently nestling en famille in Herefordshire over Easter so thought I would take the opportunity to feature some *genuine* country couture on PF. (Although do bear in mind that I say this as possibly the world's *least* countrified country girl.)

Today I found this tweed riding jacket for £6.99 in the Oxfam in Hay-on-Wye:


What better look for feeding our two Shetland ponies, Cocoa and Tinkerbell?*

I bought the knitted tippet (tippet: oh happy word) months ago from the WI market in Tenby for £2. £2 for such exquisite knitting: and you thought Primark used cheap labour. Turns out they have nothing on the sweatshops of the Women's Institute.

So, dear readers, is my new showjumping look destined for rosettes or the knacker's yard? Your comments please...

*You see Madame la Moue, they do exist.