Saturday, 17 November 2012

Buy fresh, buy local

For today's blog we want to think about the food we buy, and whence it comes. We are lucky enough to live near a local farmers' market, where we shop for our fruit and veg. Not only do the staff know the farmers where the food is produced, but the carbon footprint is tiny compared to supermarkets, and it is actually cheaper. Just look at these beautiful garlic bulbs, all locally grown

Not only are they much bigger than some of the muck you find in your local supermarket, but the taste is just sensational. Try garlic in more of your cooking, it will help to ward off a cold, which is great at this time of year. We use it not just in pasta, but with all sorts of dishes, including this gluten free quiche.

Another very versatile staple from our farmers' market is beetroot. You really can do a lot with it. We like it roasted with some butternut squash and sweet potatoes. Or you can juice it, as we did with some carrots and a little grapefruit.

Just look at the colour of that! All totally natural, and naturally sweet too. Lastly we want to think about the food which is all around us, if only we would look. We took the children blackberry picking a few weeks ago, and managed to collect about two kilos in less than an hour. We made a crumble that day and froze the rest. This week we got some out and tried Nigel Slater's recipe for blackberry marinated pork. Delicious.

Though burnt on blackberries are a nightmare to wash up!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

World's Tallest, Smallest Upcycled Table

We had an annoying gap beside our new cooker (the old cooker having blown up the first night we moved to Brighton!), barely nine inches wide. And although I had hung a shelf on the wall above, which is a useful place to keep oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, etc.,

what we really needed was a little bit of kitchen worktop just beside the cooker. So off I went to possibly my favourite place in Brighton, The Wood Store ( to find a suitable piece of wood.


Lo and behold, scaffold planks are the perfect size, give or take a millimetre. I chose a piece with the hoop iron (or nail plate) still attached. Used scaffold planks are 70p per foot rough and £5 per foot sanded, so I chose a fairly decent piece of rough wood and sanded it myself by hand. I also found four spindles from an old staircase at the Wood Store which looked about right for a pound each. 

I nailed the spindles in place, and replaced a couple of missing nails through the hoop iron. The spindles were exactly the right height for the world's smallest, tallest table to sit perfectly next to the cooker. I then glued it to the wall and sealed the side and back with some waterproof sealant to make it extra strong, and finished the surface with three layers of Danish oil.

The total cost of the project was under six pounds. The wood is such a lovely texture and colour now that I really am tempted to go the whole hog and replace our mismatched kitchen worktops with more scaffold planks!

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Bog Blog

These days, more often than not, we are told to decorate simply, with a plain backdrop, usually white, and only to go for boldness on one "feature" wall. Well I think differently, particularly in the smallest room. In the toilet you can go for it.

Having collected ephemera for years, I finally found a use for it. With designer wallpapers fetching hundreds of pounds, here's a relatively free option (all I paid for was the wallpaper paste!)

Strangely for a one bedroom council flat, I discovered there was room for a small shelving unit in the toilet too. I picked one up for a song at the Brighton Flea Market, and thought I would upcycle it with a bit of paint.

But when I got it into place I thought it fitted quite nicely with the decor. It sits next to a piece of "bookcase" wrapping paper I have also used as wallpaper.

Now I have a quiet place to sit and read some poetry, or peruse my small collection of Observers' Books.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Remember, Remember

Well, October is over and November's here. But what to do with the pumpkin flesh you hollowed out to make your Jack O' Lantern? Well...

Here's our Jack O' Lantern, and very scary he was too. And here's what we did with the rest:

A recipe from BBC Food. Made very much like carrot cake, but tasting more like my nan's bread pudding, and very delicious. Here's how it turned out:

On the subject of cakes, we've been baking mad this week. Not only have we made the Christmas cake and the above mentioned Pumpkin Cake, but it was my son's birthday today, so the third of this week's cakes was a simple chocolate sponge. And you can't get much simpler than Delia's recipe for "All in one sponge cake" from her Complete Cookery Course.

You really do just bung it all in together and mix it up. So simple, but so effective. Some whipped cream for a filling and topping, then some more chocolate (and candles as required). 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Finders Keepers.

We like to mix up our finds. Natural objects, picked up while beach-combing, sit well alongside home crafted items, like this tapestry, made by my aunt.

They all sit upon an upcycled shelf, made from some recycled Victorian floorboards. The jumble of natural objects with family photographs and mementos makes for a lively display.