Hello strangers…

I haven’t posted anything for quite some time and I wouldn’t surprised if all my readers have abandoned the silent ship. You see, quite a lot has happened in the last few months and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little bit nervous about returning to the blogosphere.  First up we bought our first house and decided rather than just move in and live a peaceful carefree existence we would completely rip it to pieces and pretty much start again (I’m talking new floors, walls, windows, ceilings, the works) and manage the whole project ourselves whilst also obviously not giving up the – crikey there’s a lot going on right now – day job. Then about a few weeks after moving in we got a dog, the lovely scruffy Margot the miniature dachshund and then about two weeks after that I realised we were going to have a baby.  Yep, full on.  The pregnancy thankfully was pretty plain sailing (despite my continual terror that baby Tovell was going to arrive early and into a world of dust, plasterboard and windowless rooms). The building work finished in mid August and baby Florence arrived a week later. Impeccable timing. She’s continued to be very kind to us and now I’m thinking it might be time to stop neglecting my little blog.

Florence Vida Grace Tovell (formerly known as ‘the plum”)
Margot the short four legged hound

Now I’m not sure what Florence thinks about this blogging malarky. Right now she’s half asleep in a sling on me, snuffling and occasionally grunting but not wailing and clawing at the computer so so far I think we can say she approves…

 

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A massive Cornish walk and a simple brown loaf

brown bread recipeBrown bread recipeHomemade brown bread

I’ve long been a fan of dark and oaty homemade soda bread not least for the ease with which it can be knocked up in less time than it takes to eat it (ideally slathered in butter and smoked salmon).  I’m less offay with proper loaves simply because I rarely have three hours spare at the weekend to knead and prove but whilst on holiday for a few days in Cornwall recently, I decided no more excuses, it’s time to make a good old fashioned brown loaf. Wholemeal bread is apparently more tricky to get right than your traditional white due to the lower gluten content which often results in a rather overly dense loaf.  Whilst it is possible to get hold of wholemeal flour which behaves more like white without sacrificing all the fibre and other good stuff, traditionalists prefer wholemeal bread made with stone-ground flour.  There is all sorts of varying – and confusing – advice out there when it comes to making the perfect wholemeal dough.  Some – such as Delia – advocate a long rise or even making the mixture the night before. There’s the slam dough method favoured by Richard Bertinet, the classic method or the relatively pain free no knead method. But seeing as I’m on holiday and for once I’ve actually got a bit of time to devote to the art of bread making I’ve opted for kneading little and often – Dan Lepard style.  He says that kneading helps develop the gluten which gives a lighter texture and even recommends crushing up a vitamin C tablet and adding this. Unfortunately the only tablets I had to hand were paracetamol so thought best to leave that out. The bread was remarkably easy to make and we left it to prove whilst we embarked on a mammoth walk from our little cottage to Lands End.  It took about 3 hours and we (by that I mean James, Margot and I) rewarded ourselves with Cornish pasties about the size of a small car.  We ate the bread later, slathered in butter and strawberry jam…

Dan Lepard’s recipe (with a few adaptions)

300g strong wholemeal flour
150g strong white flour
2 tsp easy blend yeast
Half a 500mg vitamin C tablet, crushed (if you have it)
2 tsp salt
3 tsp brown sugar
400ml warm water
50g melted butter

1. Tip the flours, yeast, vitamin powder, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well. Add 300ml water, and stir in well, then pour in the butter and work in well. You should have a soft, sticky dough: if not, add a little more water. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

2. Tip out on to a lightly oiled work surface and knead for 10 seconds, then put back in the bowl and cover. Repeat twice more at intervals of 10 minutes, then leave the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

3. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle about the length of your baking tin, then roll up tightly, and put into a greased tin, with the join facing downwards. Cover and leave to rest in a warm place until it has doubled in height (at least 1½ hours).

4. Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Bake the bread for 20 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 200C and cook for a further 15–20 minutes, until the crust is a deep brown, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out on to a cooling rack.

 

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Cornish Asparagus and easy peasy hollandaise

Margot the dachshundHollandaise sauce and asparagusHollandaise recipe and asparagus

    May is the month of many great things: my birthday, bank holidays, some sunshine if you’re lucky and also asparagus.  On our way down to Cornwall last week we stopped at Trevaskis farm shop near Hayle where we stocked up on supplies for a few days at the beautiful little Snugglers Den cottage near St Just on the very furthest edge of Cornwall making it England’s most Westerly town. I’d been hoping for a bit of ‘pick your own’ action but was told this was off the cards due to the particularly long run of rubbish weather. However the farm shop yielded all kinds of loveliness at pretty reasonable prices (we being Londoners and all). Amongst our bounty of supplies there was wild garlic pesto, Cornish yarg, smoked salmon pâté, really good brown bread, local sausages and a bunch of fat asparagus stalks.

As Lucas Hollweg put it in his food column in last weekend’s Sunday Times, when it’s this fresh asparagus doesn’t need much messing around so here is his recipe for a brilliant and very easy hollandaise. It’s recipe serves 4 greedy asparagus fiends…

  • Boil the kettle. In a heavy saucepan, off the heat, whisk together 4 egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of water
  • Add 250g chilled butter, cut into cubes (I used lightly salted), put the pan on the lowest possible heat and whisk constantly until the butter melts, carry on whisking until the sauce thickens and basically don’t stop whisking, as soon as it’s thickened remove the pan from the heat. It really is that simple.
  • If it splits quickly whisk in 1 tsp boiling water from the kettle and that should bring everything back together.
  • Beat in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and pepper, cover the sauce and put to one side somewhere warm until your asparagus is ready
  • Now just cook your trimmed asparagus stems in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes if they’re fairly dainty or 6-7 minutes for the thicker woodier ones like mine, drain them and – making sure you don’t let them get cold – immediately start dunking in your sunny yellow hollandaise
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How to make a simple lined curtain

I had no idea how pointlessly complicated making a basic lined curtain could be until I embarked on making one.  After trawling the web I was quickly confused by conflicting advice about machine stitching versus hand-stitching, how much extra fabric to allow and so on and so on. So here my friends, is the no fuss, straightforward and best of all – quick – way to make a good looking lined curtain. I made this for our kitchen door to keep out nasty cold drafts but this method would work just as well on regular windows.  I got my fabric from the mecca that is Shepherd’s Bush Market – amazing oatmeal coloured heavy Irish linen for £11 a metre. What’s not to love? I’d recommend blackout fabric for the lining if you’re planning to make bedroom windows, it’s very cheap and really does block out all light.  Look for lining fabric which is the same width or wider than your curtain fabric so you don’t have to join pieces and ALWAYS make sure you measure twice…

Simple lined curtainHandmade lined door curtainHandmade lined door curtain

What you’ll need:

Fabric
Lining
Curtain heading tape
Metal measuring tape
Dressmaking scissors
Sewing machine
Thread
Needle and pins
Pencil
Budget

Step One

The easy bit: Measure the width and length of your door to work out how much fabric you’ll need. The total width of your curtain must be at least the width of the doorway plus a half.  If your fabric is patterned make sure you choose one main point in the design and mark off each length at this point so it’s consistent.  Cut this out and then measure and cut the same amount of your lining fabric.

Step Two
If you need to join widths to make up each curtain, pin the fabric pieces together along the selvages (the finished edges of the fabric that won’t unravel) with right sides facing. Sew the pieces together using a sewing machine with a 2.5cm seam allowance. Press the seams open and snip into the selvages (raw edges) at 45cm intervals so the seams won’t pucker when the curtains are washed.  Measure, cut and join the lining in the same way as the main fabric. Trim 5cm from one side of each curtain lining piece.

Step Three
Place the curtain and lining right sides together, with side edges matching.  At this point you’ll see the lining is narrower than the curtain but don’t panic, this is intentional. Machine stitch the side seams with a 2.5cm seam allowance. Press the seams open and snip into the selvages at 45cm intervals so the seams won’t pucker. Turn the curtain to right side out and press flat, so that the lining sits centrally behind the main curtain.

Step Four
At the top of the curtain turn the fabric under 3cm and press. Knot the cords at one end of the heading tape. Pin the tape close to the top of the curtain, fold under the short edges of the tape and hiding the raw fabric edges. Machine stitch along all the edges of the tape. Draw up the tape to fit the window and knot the cords.

Step Five
Undo the side hems at the bottom so that you can turn up and finish the main curtain hem. Temporarily hang the curtain by a few hooks and mark off the desired length with pins. Turn up a double hem in the main fabric to the marked length. Press and hand stitch the hem. Turn up the lining; making it 2.5cm shorter than the main curtain (trim off the excess lining at the bottom to make the hem less bulky). Hand stitch the hem.

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Lime Wood Hotel

Hartnett Holder and Company

Last month Mr T and I were lucky enough to visit Lime Wood, a beautiful Regency country house hotel which started life as a hunting lodge in the 13th century just a couple of miles outside Lyndhurst.  We were there to visit Angela Hartnett’s new restaurant, Hartnett Holder & Co. all expertly arranged by the great team at Angel Publicity.  The restaurant and hotel have had a complete makeover by Martin Brudnizki to wonderful effect. Everything feels extremely well thought out and very English, in the restaurant there’s a mix of Colman’s mustard yellow leather tub chairs and rough linens, antique lights and lovely blue and white mismatched china. It manages to be homely and laid back – the very opposite of your typical hotel restaurant.

Lime Wood Hotel restaurant
Creedy Carver Chicken

Hartnett Holder and Co

Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder

In the kitchen, Angela has teamed up with Lime Wood’s Luke Holder and it is a very happy union indeed.  Together they are producing food which is grounded and informal with a nod to the seasons and to their shared Italian background.  Some of the standout dishes on our visit included a beautifully silky ravioli with soft polenta, artichokes and Dorset truffles, Spaghetti with Isle of Wight lobster, chilli, parsley and crimson red slices of New Forest venison served with red cabbage and apple slaw.

Lime Wood venison

Lime Wood exterior

Also worth trying are some of the smoked meats and fish on the menu ranging from chorizo, smoked salmon and bresaola to salami, pastrami and pancetta which come straight from Lime Wood’s own smokehouse, a small brick house tucked under the brow if the hill close to the house which you might spot on a little wander around the grounds.

Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder

Throughout the rest of the hotel there are lovely touches like the large wooden table in the working kitchen where guests can sit down with a cup of coffee and chat with the chefs about what they’re up to or book it for a rather different kind of private dinner.

Lime Wood
The kitchen table

You can’t really come to Lime Wood and not swoon over the spa – there’s a steaming outdoor hot pool and herb roof garden with views of the surrounding forest. It’s all rather magical. In the bedrooms there are real wood fires and an ‘After Hours’ menu of clever little things you might wake in the night and wish for like Heinz tomato soup with crusty bread or eggs and marmite soldiers.  This is a very happy place to be indeed.

Hartnett Holder & Co (02380 287 167; hartnettholderandco.co.uk)

Lime Wood bedroom

 

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Rainy day soup (and bread from heaven)

Another weekend of soul sapping weather, just as well J and I have three windows to paint, the perfect excuse to stay indoors.  A quick raid of the fridge and a trip up the road to that most wonderful of butchers, The Ginger Pig, has brought to my table a lovely little chicken and ham pie, wild garlic, leeks and potatoes from the fridge so today I’m making a gentle soothing potato, leek and wild garlic soup to have with buttered slices of the rye sourdough loaf I snaffled over at Balthazar’s beautiful little boulangerie earlier in the week. If you haven’t been yet you must, a few minutes in this space makes everything better. Recipe below…

Balthazar London
Beautiful breads as far as the eye can see

Leek, potato and wild garlicleek, potato and wild garlic soup

  • For the soup heat a tablespoon of olive oil and another of butter in a large pan.
  • Gently cook one chopped white onion and two large leeks until softened.
  • Add five floury potatoes chopped in to chunks, 750ml of chicken stock, black pepper and a glug of milk then allow to simmer gently for about an hour.
  • Before serving add a couple of handfuls of washed wild garlic, allowing it to wilt then serve.
  • If you like your soup smooth then blitz it towards the end of cooking with a hand blender

 

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Homemade Nut Butter

I’m constantly buying lovely crunchy peanut butter to spread on my morning toast so lord knows why it has only just dawned on me that I could make my own for a fraction of the price and none of the nasties that tend to sneak in to the shop bought stuff

Homemade peanut butter

This might also just be the easiest recipe (if I can even call it that) I’ve so far attempted.  Plus you can pimp it up however you like with other nuts (cashew, macadamia and almond all grind up well) and even chocolate for your very own homemade nutella.  These quantities will fill a 350g tub…

Homemade peanut butter

  • Tip around 300g of roasted salted peanuts into a food processor (I made a mixture of two thirds peanut to one third almond).  If you’re using unsalted nuts add a good few pinches of salt and 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar
  • Grind thoroughly using the metal blade until the ground nuts crumbs start to form a paste. If it’s looking a little dry, add some sunflower oil (a tablespoon at a time) until it’s come together to form a thick and almost glossy paste
  • Spoon in to a scrupulously clean container and store in the fridge and start spreading on toast, crumpets, carrots and pretty much anything else you can lay your hands on (it’s also particularly moreish with Tiptree raspberry seeded jam)

Homemade peanut butterHomemade peanut butter

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Meet Margot

As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t been blogging much and this is why.  Meet Margot.  She’s two and a half months old, extremely soft, a little bit nippy and thoroughly intrepid.  From here on her adventures will be documented in detail alongside my own. She’s already been to some great restaurants, hung out at parties, been thrown out of Tesco and our local brunch spot (shame on them) and spent her first morning at the office. I should mention we don’t have any revolving doors at Sauce for those of you who heard the sad news about Tatler Alan this week (may his paws rest in peace).  She’s growing fast but she still fits perfectly in my dressing gown pocket (see photo).  Suffice to say, you are going to be hearing a lot more from her…

Miniature dachshund
Margot the wirehaired dachshund

 

 

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A blanket for my Goddaughter – Part Two

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while but what with moving house, finally learning to drive at the ripe old age of 30 and holding down the day job, I’ve been a bit lax. But I am pleased to say that  after many MANY days of knitting (often before the sun was even up) to get it finished, I finally knitted the last stitches of my baby Goddaughter’s cashmere blanket just before Christmas. It’s super soft and cosy (just like her) and if you can ignore the slightly wobbly stitching at the beginning looks rather lovely with its moss stitch pattern. Here it is just before it was wrapped up and given to her on her Christening day…

Cream and beige cashmere baby blanket

 

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Breakfast chutney

I am something of a chilli fiend and lately this lust for fire in my food has gone into overdrive.   I have countless chilli sauces in my cupboard, evidence of my on going search for the Holy Grail of sauces: one that has bite and heat but isn’t sickly sweet and shiny smooth like many shop bought bottles.

Homemade tomato, garlic and chilli chutney

So today, when faced with three quarters of a tin of leftover chopped tomatoes I set about making my own tomato, chilli and garlic relish and it worked out rather well.

I’ve called it Breakfast Chutney because that’s how we ate it this morning – dolloped on a plate of poached eggs, buttered brown toast and a little bit of chopped coriander.  It’s also pretty excellent with a creamy strong hard cheese.  The best bit though is how stupendously easy it is to make…

  • In a large heavy bottomed pan, pour a good glug of olive oil and gently heat a large tablespoon of minced garlic and 1 heaped teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (more if you are a fiery fiend like me).  Stir and allow to cook gently on a low heat until just starting to colour slightly (about 5 minutes).
  • Then tip in a tin of good quality chopped tomatoes, a  good teaspoon of salt and another of caster sugar, lots of freshly ground black pepper then leave to gently simmer and reduce on the hob stirring intermittently.  This will take about 45 mins to 1 hour
  • Then tip the lovely red sauce in to a sterilised Kilner jar or bottle and pop in the fridge to tuck into as you please

Homemade tomato, chilli and garlic chutney

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