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Berry Season

19 Jul

Suddenly there are not enough empty glass jars in the house, nor lids. Those which are pairs rattle around in the dishwasher while that familiar, comforting scent of bubbling strawberries and sugar (so much! one’s teeth!) rolls out the back door and into the garden in great, billowing clouds.

The strawberry is fine. The gooseberry and elderflower, hmmmm, not so much. (Must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone must not make jam while on the phone…)

I am certain this jam is delicious, however. And the tumblr page is nice: London Borough of Jam.

This looks pretty good, too.

A Bird in the Hand

3 Apr

This evening, a simple, local supper.

Leftover pheasant, bought months ago from Paul the butcher and kept in the freezer until last week, cooked with celery, as he advised. Leftover rice. Leeks and winter leaves from the farmer’s market. Wild garlic.  Tossed in a pan. Delicious.

Copyright Earthatwork DSC_8774

Hillside and Water Meadow

22 Feb

Isn’t it fun to follow a trail of websites and pick up things you never knew along the way?

Today, an email from this blogger, designer and shop owner, advertising a fine collection of objet appropriate for Mother’s Day. Since I’ve grown up with Mother’s Day being in May, rather than March, and that at work I am currently considering things for July and even August,  I wondered, wistfully, what I might buy for myself were I to come into a small windfall…

The answer was this: Lascombe, a wood cut by Howard Phipps, in a limited edition of 150.

Lascombe by Howard Phipps from Ben PentreathPerhaps a couple of busy weeks in the office (working through lunch, barely seeing any of the day outside) influenced the choice but, if I concentrate, I can hear water flowing in that stream and I can feel the shade of those trees lining that path. Can’t you feel it, too? Do you also wonder what those clouds will turn into and whether you should have brought a jacket?

I was not familiar with Phipps’ work but he seems to have done all sorts of super things, not least collaborate with the Whittington Press (from whom I have a print tucked away until there is a suitable place to hang it), Bloomsbury and the Folio Society. He is an Academician of the RWA and has pieces in the collection of the British Museum.

Phipps is also represented at the Rowley Gallery in Kensington, London, and it was there that I came upon their great blog, Frames of Reference, which today includes sketches of a water meadow by  Andrew Walton and a related poem by David Attwooll:


For Andy Walton

Blank: the water meadow we both walk across
Is veiled in mist and frost, a screen for time
Stuck between clicks deleting and loading data;
Teaches us to read objects singly, in freeze-frame.
Blink: a bare tree’s film-star silhouette,
A polystyrene lump in a pool’s iced rim.

Damp fog buffers the turf, silt, and river,
Searches textures and densities of white.
Our feet trace the hillocks and ditches of grassed-over
Rubbish dumps, Iron-Age barrows, ghosts of Civil War
Fortifications, a racecourse, the lost aerodrome –
And frosted goose turds like spent cartridges.

You can see the sketches and read the final verse of the poem here.

We are not far off snakes-head fritillary time, when those nodding, mottled flowers turn up in undisturbed water meadows in these parts – perhaps the subject of a future post.

Three Cheering Finds

29 Jan

Three cheering finds to ward off the winter blues today.

If you are a follower of things handmade you may well be aware of a beautiful the new quilting title, Quilt Love, by the talented  Cassandra Ellis. She quilts in the way I would love to, had I the skill, steering the art away from that rather fussy look to something altogether more contemporary. And she sounds so nice:

Making makes me happy, whether it’s a quilt, a lovely meal or a getting my hands dirty in the garden. I love to be the catalyst for special projects for the community, based around helping people to live better

Fortunately, Cassandra takes commissions and offers workshops in South East London and at Charleston House, the East Sussex property once home to various members of the Bloomsbury group (see the interiors painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant).

Cassandra Ellis Quilt Love nap

Once you have commissioned Cassandra to make you a quilt, you may well consider including block-printed fabric from Kiran Ravilious, a Leicester designer and printmaker who draws inspiration from an upbringing in Singapore. Kiran is inspired mostly by plant forms and carves her designs onto Japanese lino before handprinting them onto a chosen fabric. Aren’t these, leafy, tropical motifs lovely?

Kiran Ravilious new3

Finally, a recipe from Nigel Slater for a warming Asian squid dish, taken from Tender Vol 1, p249. I would post the image of the whole squid – with eyes, eggs (?), beak and innards – that I prepared for this in a fit of enthusiasm, but it is not one of those beautifully moody shots in which even the most mundane things are somehow romaticised with a bit of soft focus and vignetting. No. In my snap, the eye stares out as if to question its fate: ‘Are you really going to do this to me?’

West Country squid, caught off the Cornish coast, is pretty sustainable and quick to cook – two very good things. Nigel, admittedly, suggests having a fish monger clean the squid for you.

Chinese greens – 2 large handfuls
large red chillies – 2
ginger – a thumb-sized piece
400g prepared squid – bodies and tentacles
nam pla – 2 tablespoons
soft brown sugar – 2 teaspoons
lime juice – 2 tablespoons
vegetable oil – 2 tablespoons
basil leaves – large handful

Blanch the greens and drain. Open up the dried squid bodies, cut into pieces and score with the tip of a knife. Combine the lemon juice, nam pla and brown sugar. Set aside. Fry the squid for no longer than two minutes in the oil, with chopped garlic and sliced chilli (seeds removed). Pour in the fish sauce mixture when the quid is beginning to brown. Fry a little longer before adding the blanched greens. Toss in the basil, leave to wilt, then serve. (Summarised instructions – do see the book for more detail.)