Hampshire is the new London (and Emma Watson agrees)

The past two weekends have represented a shunning of our capital – we have spent them both in Hampshire, which is now clearly the new London.

See, even Emma Watson loves it!*

*Please note: this image may possibly have been copied into Paint and fiddled around with a teensy tiny bit. But the fact remains that Emma Watson loves Hampshire.  You can tell by the sad eyes.


It’s not that I have suddenly developed a rampant aversion to London. No; it’s just that this past weekend we had a lovely garden party to go to, and last weekend Alex’s little brother, Tommy, moved to Asia with his girlfriend (L’Ange Francais) and we wanted to spend some time with them before they left!

They are going to spend some time with Alex’s Daddy and we will meet up with them in September when we are sailing Chrysalis up from Jakarta, through Indonesia and past Bali, up to Singapore for the Grand Prix. But, all in good time – let’s concentrate on England first.

The week before last was gorgeous. I spent Monday and Tuesday in Kent with my family, as it was my Daddy’s birthday! (no, I shan’t divulge which one. I will be a good, loyal daughter).

We had a lovely evening together (marred only by the fact that poor Daddy is on the Dukan Diet and thus couldn’t drink or eat birthday cake) but my little sister Wiz made two amazing things:

Dukan-friendly Baked fish for supper:

  …and A CHAIR for Jessica Rabbit.

Isn’t it awesome? I might build her a mini house, so that she can entertain, and have guests over for afternoon tea.

(sorry, just realised that the cat looks a bit creepy. Moving on…)

Upon getting back to London, a black cloud of sadness descended as Nick Brown’s London part of his trip ended, and he departed our flat to go and stay with his parents in Hampshire.

It was an emotional moment, made funny by the fact that he had blagged a huge box from Evan’s Cycles to ship his bike back to Singapore in. Have fun with THAT on the train, friend.

However, the week passed beautifully quickly and before we knew it, Friday evening had rolled around and we were safely aboard the train from Waterloo down to Hampshire! Kat joined us and we drank champagne on the way down so the journey whizzed by.

Upon arrival, we had a drink with Alex’s mummy and cooed over her demented cat, Ziggy:

….then had to rush off – the lovely Stu was back in England, and his wonderful parents had organised a lovely party for him, with – get this – a HOG ROAST.

Oh, my goodness. Now, Stu’s Daddy is the God Of Meat and definitely knows his trade so we were very excited – and it didn’t disappoint. I ate more pork on Friday night than I have eaten in the past month, and I am already having pork withdrawal symptoms.

The party was lovely – and even more lovely when Benjy’s (remember Benjy – our lovely friend in Phuket?) brother turned up and announced his engagement to his gorgeous girlfriend!

We were so excited, and everyone was completely over the moon for them!

The next day was spent farting around and generally hoping that the unspeakably bad weather would sort itself out for the Polo on Sunday. In the evening, we had another party, this time to say goodbye to Tommy and L’ange Francais.

Nick turned up with his lovely lady friend, fellow bloggette Miss P of Hopeless in Heels. He had spent all afternoon at a wedding so was beautifully attired in full wedding regalia.

Tommy had a last dance with his mummy (awwww!)

…and we all retired to bed very happy, hoping and praying for good weather for the polo the next day.

Our prayers were not answered.

This is an actual, unedited picture of Emsworth on Sunday morning:

See? Looks horrific. There was lightening and killer bats, as you can see.

Thus, reluctantly, we decided that the Polo was a no-go, and instead we stayed at home and had a huge big fat leaving lunch for Tommy instead.

(In actual fact, this was a great idea, as Liberty London Girl’s photo shows – the weather was frightful! We definitely made the right call…)

So – a lovely snuggly lunch instead. In actual fact, the cooking was rushed and extremely fraught, as it turned out there were sixteen for lunch, which I think is fair to say posed a nice challenge.

However, it was all fine: after some very clever long-table-making by the boys…

…the lunch went off without a hitch, and Alex’s huge rib of beef was absolutely amazing.

After a quick play with Ted, the most adorable dog in the world…

…we all trooped outside to say goodbye! (sob)

It was really sad after they had gone, so we came back to London and I amused myself (and irritated Alex) by prowling round in a towel designed to look like a rabbit (I find that it makes me feel closer to Jessica Rabbit).

After a week spending working, and getting severely distracted walking to the supermarket and taking squillions of photo’s of the Tower of London (I am currently being a total tourist, flapping around with my camera and getting in people’s way, but I love it)

Before we knew it, it was back down to Hampshire for Kat’s amazing Garden Party!

Her lovely, kind parents had put up a great big marquee in case it rained (it didn’t, this time!) and we all sat down to a lovely lunch of grilled salmon and new potatoes, gorgeous apple tart with lemon mousse, and the most fantastic cheese boards filled with all sorts of gooey deliciusness – sweet cheeks McGee!!

We had a little play with their gorgeous doggy, Milly (who looked much more fetching in my sunglasses than I do)

…and then headed off home quick-sharpish, as we had Kitty’s boyfriend (and Alex’s long-term-boy-love) The Owl’s birthday party!

He loves the Hummingbird Bakery’s Peanut Butter Cookies, so Kitty and I mixed up a great big batch of cookie dough, and proceeded to make him the biggest cookie known to man!

Here’s Kitty with the dough – huge, isn’t it!

We had a lovely evening – although no pictures of the finished cookie, I’m afraid – it all got eaten before we thought to take any!

On Sunday, the boys made the most of a spot of glorious weather to play some good, old-fashioned croquet….

…although The Owl’s croquet style does resemble the new-fangled craze known as ‘planking’, which I am not wholly convinced was intentional.

Well, that’s it for now – hope you’re all well! Sorry for the slightly lightening speed catch up – Kat and I are off to a Rugby & Peller sample sale tomorrow and I’m  a bit too excited to think of anything else (also, Alex is making me homemade pesto as a romantic treat tonight so I probably ought to get off my laptop, as this could be construed as rude).

Lots and lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxxx

PS: I am not a technical lady. If anyone can tell me how to get these silly blue links off my page, i’d be thoroughly appreciative. No-one, apart from his most ardent fans, wants to be redirected to a Wikipedia entry on Nick Brown.

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The Return of the Brown and Too Many Restaurants

The last couple of weeks have been absolutely gorgeous!

Firstly, may I apologise for not posting for such a long time. This is my excuse:

We have had the lovely builders in!

You see: the only thing that marred our beautiful new flat was the blood-red colour of the kitchen.

I have nothing against red – I like red, particularly on my toenails, and also on my mouth during my bi-annual and always wildly unsuccessful experiments with lipstick (I just don’t have the right mouth for it).

The problem with the kitchen was just that it felt a little dark, being all red, and the colour really clashed with all my pink stuff.*

*Amazing Fact: Due to the fact that poor Alex is colour-blind, I have subtly managed, over a period of some years, to acquire an indecently large amount of pink stuff for the house. As long as I keep the colour pale enough, he thinks its cream.

Thus, result: everyone looks at Alex in our apartment surrounded by pale pink accoutrements and thinks: “wow, he’s so modern and metrosexual.” I get to keep all my pink stuff, and Alex happily floats around the flat thinking he’s in a haven of neutral cream.

Everybody’s happy.

So – after much trawling of paint charts (you ought to buy some – they make brilliant loo reading) we (I say we – I mean I, of course) chose a gorgeous pale silvery blue, and between getting this on the walls and re-doing the en-suite to our room, we are slightly in builder world at the moment.

This all means, of course, that we have been looking for every excuse possible to not be in the flat. Also, the fact that our entire kitchen is pretty much on the kitchen table makes it fairly difficult to actually cook.

Sadly, this has invariably resulted in way too much time spent in bars and restaurants, a habit which I must urgently quell before I start sliding under tables in restaurants in the manner of an actual drunkard.

So – in the spirit of stepping back from the booze, the girls and I dragged the boys away from cocktails at the Dean Street Townhouse in Soho and went for supper at the legendary Joe Allen in Covent Garden (thank you, Kat, for that last-minute table-acquisition!)

This place is awesome – a tiny plaque next to a discreet door with emerald awning leads to some steep steps down into a dark basement.

Descend, and you are welcomed into a world of beautifully cooked, simple nursery-style food, fantastic, old-school service, and a barman who can make, and I quote ‘anything you wish’. Amazing. (The boys tested this with a request for Espresso Martinis – they seemed to enjoy them).

My father first took me to Joe Allen when I was twelve, as a treat. I ordered a lump of cheddar with hot chocolate fudge sauce on top…and I got it. What a place.

The food was great, and this is probably one of the only places in London where one can ask for pudding for a main course (I wanted the Pecan Pie and hot fudge sauce so dreadfully, and I really didn’t see the point of sitting through another course to get it) and the waiter didn’t even bat an eyelid.

Kat’s top tip: Ask for the ‘Secret Hamburger’ – it’s not on the menu, but really delicious, and the chips that it’s served with should be famous in their own right. Freaking awesome.

Anyhoo, after eating ourselves silly at Joe Allen, we went to an unspecified local bar (where we used to go a lot a few years ago) which I will not name because the Manager did us a great lock-in with a bunch of fabulous American tourists until 4.00am, which I don’t think he was technically allowed to do….nevertheless, great fun was had by all.

The next few days passed by in great anticipation – because both PR Bunny and Nick Brown were back in town for visits!

PR Bunny popped over to the new place for coffee, and we ended up gossiping away for a good few hours, as girls tend to do. It was so utterly lovely to see her!

After she departed, I felt a temporary sense of loss, but this was restored fairly quickly by the looming presence of Nick Brown! (no-one looms quite like Nick Brown)

He is currently back in England for a couple of weeks, and is staying with us for a few days. So, to mark the occasion, we all headed over to one of his very favourite watering holes – Casita, over in Shoreditch.

(Thank you so much for the image, Google Earth, how very kind).

Casita is a crazy little place. Oskar Klimaszewski and head barman Will Foster continue to pull the punters into this absolutely TINY bar on Ravey Street.

When I say tiny, I really mean it – the interior is about the size of the average garage. You can get about ten people in before you start to feel really cramped – but it’s all part of the charm!

The atmosphere is great, the staff are so incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and the cocktails so good, that this place just completely knocks the socks off the rest of the vastly more pretentious (and expensive) Hoxton hangouts.

So, after a couple of introductory cocktails at Casita, some more people started to arrive – amongst them the ever-lovely Kat and The Barrister.

(Yes, the Barrister is drinking his cocktail out of a jam jar. Told you Casita was awesome).

After a few drinks, Alex and I decided to sneak away for a quick bite of supper. Alex had heard some good things about a little Vietnamese deli in Hoxton, not far from Casita, so we decided to try it whilst we were in the area.

The deli turned out to be a fairly smart and sleek looking place called Kêu! (I don’t know what this means – perhaps one of our Vietnamese friends can enlighten us?).

Alex had heard good things about their Bánh Mì (a sort of Franco-Vietnamese, lightly toasted baguette made with a choice of fillings) so he duly ordered the Classic – which came with Pork and Pate.  It was very good indeed, hearty and extremely filling, though very fatty.

I should have listened to Alex and ordered the same, however I saw Stewed Chicken Broth on the menu, and was instantly seduced by the memories of the exquisite, flavoursome slowly-cooked broth we used to have with steamed rice in Singapore. I made a mistake.

I asked for a little steamed rice with my soup, as the lady had mentioned that the portion was small. Her immediate response was “I don’t know…our Chefs are very strict”.

Um….riiiiight. I could understand if I’d been a total philistine and asked for it covered in cheese or tomato ketchup, but surely a little bit of steamed rice wasn’t too much to ask?

When it came, there was no sign of the rice. Mystified, I started to eat my soup….at which I discovered the rice. There was a tablespoon of it inside the soup.

So random.

I wouldn’t have minded this quirkiness in the slightest if the soup had been any good. It really wasn’t –  the broth was watery and lacked flavour, the chicken was dry and was reminiscent of Bernard Matthews, and the random addition of a spoonful of rice did nothing to help.

As I left, I popped to the loo – and there were no hand towels. I let the lady know on our way out – her response?

“I know. We were thinking of putting some in there, but decided against it.”

I rest my case.

Anyhoo – after leaving, we trotted swiftly back to Casita (or as swiftly as possible, in six-inch heels) where we were just in time for the Tequila con Verditas!

The idea of drinking a shot of Verdita before the tequila was bought back from Mexico by Casita’s Will Foster.

 The Verdita (a weirdly refreshing blended mix of cilantro, fresh mint, jalapeno peppers, and a splash of pineapple juice) is drank in shot form immediately prior to drinking your shot of tequila, and I must say that it is a great alternative to the ubiquitous Lime and Salt combo, which has never really floated my boat.

After more than a few of these, Will and Oscar gave Nick one last man-hug….

…Kat and I had  a last chance to practice our face-hair posing:

…and then we moved on to Calooh Callay!

This fun little gem of a cocktail bar on Rivington Street in Shoreditch has a fabulous, ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ sort of feel.

Based on ‘The Jabberwocky’, the amazing nonsense poem featured in Lewis Carol’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’, it’s a quirky and fun place.

The secret, back room ‘Jub Jub bar’ (where we headed as it is full of lovely private booths) is separated from the main bar by a wardrobe which you open up and climb through. Nice touch!

The cocktails here are very good – we especially loved the fabulous Punchbowl, served in a huge cocktail glass with lots of straws for sharing!

The only downside, however, was that the bar was extremely crowded, and whilst in the back there was good (if slightly slow) table service, in the front I waited forty minutes to get a round of drinks, as the barman insisted on serving more than one person at once.

However, despite this slightly irritating note, it was a very fun evening.

The rest of the weekend was spent hanging out with Alex’s daddy, who was over from Phuket for a bit, shopping with Kitty, and eating perfectly serviceable sushi in Yo! Sushi with Kitty (ok, it’s not Hakkasan or the fish market beneath Great World City but we worked with what we had, damn it!)

I am very excited about the weekend, because not only is it the Gold Cup final at Cowdray on Sunday, but also we have a huge hog roast on Friday courtesy of Stu’s parents….as Stu is also back in the country!

Let the good times roll…

Lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxx

 

PS: Alex is in seventh heaven, because I bought him a special wine rack for his wine.

I highly recommend this move, friends – for the price of a wine rack, you can score major bloke points, and also thus negate any negative repercussions that may or may not have occurred in relation to credit cards and slightly over-zealous shopping over the weekend…

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A Finished Apartment and a Make-Ahead Dinner Party

The last week or so has been gorgeous, and we have slowly been settling into London life.

The move into the new place was very hectic, but the appearance of the most gorgeous rainbow in the cab on the way to collect the keys seemed like a good omen to me!

Our final phase of settling in was helped hugely by the arrival of our boxes arriving from Singapore.

Oh, what a familiar sight: the very same boxes that we so carefully packed up in London to take to Asia, finally arriving back in London once again. Well, at least nobody can say that we don’t recycle…

After a few days of unpacking, putting away and generally trying to make the place feel like home, it was finally done.

I can honestly say that I have now become so adept at packing and unpacking our possessions that I am considering putting ‘Packing skills’ on my CV.

Anyway, now that the place was vaguely resembling a home, rather than a box storage facility, we thought that it would be lovely to have a housewarming party of some sort!

Following my slightly ridiculous purchase of a 9-foot extendable kitchen table…..

…..we decided to make good use of it and invite some friends over for a dinner party.

Now, in order to make things easier, I much prefer to put together a menu that can be made the afternoon or even the night before, and simply finished during the evening. This not only minimises your stress on the night, it also means that you can actually enjoy yourselves with your friends, rather than farting around with an oven and getting all red-faced whilst basting the chicken.

So, we had twice-based cheese soufflés to start, which I first discovered courtesy of the amazing Delia a couple of years ago.

This utterly fantastic staple recipe is freaking amazing and an incredibly easy, foolproof way of making soufflés. It also has the added benefit that, as they are twice-baked, you can get the bulk of the messy stuff out of the way before your guests arrive, and then just finish them off and re-plate them whilst everyone is here.

(I have popped my recipe at the end of this post if you’d like to make them yourself – they are gorgeous I promise!)

For the main course, Alex put together an incredibly delicious dish from the wonderful ‘Two Greedy Italians’ book, by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo.

It was a beautifully simple, rustic main course – chicken with artichokes, onions, potatoes and rosemary. We all absolutely loved it; the flavours were fabulous, the chicken was wonderfully juicy, and the smell of the rosemary made all our mouths water whilst we were waiting for it to come out of the oven.

It also had the added benefit of being another ‘prepare ahead’ dish, so Alex just popped it in the oven as soon as we took the soufflés out, and we served them in their baking dishes – easy!

Here’s a picture:

(photo courtesy of Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio & Gennaro Contaldo (Quadrille £20, hardback). Photography © Chris Terry.)

So sorry again for the stock photo – I never remember to take a picture of it until I have finished eating. By which point, of course, the picture-taking exercise is wholly pointless).

If you would like the recipe without buying the book, its available online here free. However, I feel duty-bound to point out that you really ought to buy the book because it’s awesome.

For our final course, I thought we would try something French. This was because Alex’s brother’s girlfriend, who from henceforth shall be known as l’Ange Français as she is actually a French Angel, was in attendance.

We also had a weirdly huge number of apples as a result of me getting horrendouly overexcited at a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ promotion on bags of apples in Sainsbury’s. (Seriously, we had about six bags of apples).

Thus, what better way to use up a glut of apples and give a nod to our beloved froggy neighbours than making a Tarte Tatin?

(photo Courtesy of http://www.international.stockfood.com).

I have popped the recipe at the bottom for you. It’s a bit of a cheat, but easy. And no, there is absolutely no need to buy frozen pastry – this one is so freaking simple. I promise!

So, in summary – the evening was lovely, it was great to see some of our friends again – and the Tarte Tatin got the French seal of approval.

As evidence, here is l’Ange Français digging in!

I have listed below the recipes fo the soufflés and the Tarte. I hope that you enjoy them – please do let me know how you get on!

Lots and lots of love,

Jessy xxxxxxxxx

 

What you will need:

Equipment:

6 Ramekins or small individual non-stick dishes to bake your soufflés in;

A roasting tin large enough to hold all of your ramekins;

Two large, clean mixing bowls;

A whisk, preferably an electric one (unless you have a very strong whisk hand!)

6 separate small oven-proof dishes to serve on, or one large flat baking tray.

Ingredients:

320 ml of milk (full fat is best for flavour, but skimmed will work fine)

225 ml double cream (get a 250ml pot – you’ll use extra for brushing on top)

170 grams of grated or chopped cheese – use whatever you like, it doesn’t have to be St Agur! A good, full-bodied cheddar is wonderful too – try popping in a teaspoonful of wholegrain mustard if you use Cheddar.

65 grams of butter, plus a bit extra for melting;

65 grams of plain flour;

5 small eggs, separated;

Half a small onion;

About a teaspoonful of nutmeg;

Salt and Pepper to season;

A bit of rocket or watercress to garnish.

How to do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees

2. Butter your Ramekins really well, getting into all the edges. (If they are not non-stick, try putting a little circle of baking parchment into the bottom of the ramekin and buttering that, too.)

3. Start by putting the milk, your onion half and the nutmeg into a saucepan, and heating it up slowly and gently (stirring all the time) until it is just beginning to simmer.  This lets all the flavours infuse into the milk. Once it’s just starting to bubble, take it off the heat, and strain it into a jug. You can get rid of the bit of onion now.

4. Now, heat your butter on a very low heat in the pan until it is gently frothing. Add the flour, and stir gently until it turns into a smooth paste. Leave this on the heat for a couple of minutes, stirring gently.

5. Very slowly, start to pour in your milk from the jug. Make sure you keep stirring – you don’t want to have lumps! (If lumps threaten, use a whisk). When the milk is all incorporated, keep on the low heat and cook very gently for another few minutes, until you have a lovely thick sauce.

6. Take the pan off the heat. Stir in the grated cheese until it has melted (if you are using St Agur or another blue, don’t worry if you can still see little lumps of cheese in the sauce). Transfer the mixture to a large clean bowl (this helps to cool the mixture down faster)

7. Into your second large bowl, pour your egg whites. Now whisk them – this is why an electric whisk is better! – until they are really good and stiff. How to know when they are whisked sufficiently? Just pop your whisk into the mixture and lift it up gently – if it stays up in a little peak once you have removed your whisk, it’s ready to go).

8. Put the kettle on whilst your sauce cools.

9. Once your sauce is properly cool, very slowly and carefully incorporate your sauce into your egg whites. The key here is to do this very gently – you need to keep the air in the whites, as this is what keeps your soufflé light. The best way to do it is with a palette knife or metal dessert spoon, gently cutting and folding the whites in.

10. When your sauce and egg whites are fully combined, divide the mixture gently between the buttered ramekins, keeping the air in the mixture. You want them to go to probably two-thirds full – remember to give them room to rise. Your kettle ought to have boiled by now, so pop the ramekins into the roasting tin you have prepared, and very slowly and carefully pour the hot water from the kettle around the ramekins, taking care not to splash any into the mixture.

11. Pop them in the oven! Let them cook slowly for 20-25 minutes. And – most important of all – DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR WHILST THEY ARE COOKING, or they will DIE.

12. After 20-25 minutes, take them out of the oven. Remove the ramekins from the roasting tin, carefully, and pop them on a wire tray to cool. Do not worry – your soufflés will drop as they cool, but when you bake them again they will rise up beautifully.

13. Once they are properly cool, take a palette knife, or similar, and gently run it around the edge of each ramekin.

14. Butter your individual ovenproof serving dishes, and turn each soufflé out upside-down onto its dish. If you don’t have individual dishes, pop them all (spacing them out well) onto a well-greased oven tray.

15. Put them carefully out of the way in a cool place until you are ready to serve.

16. When your guests arrive, turn the oven up to 240 degrees c. brush the sides and the top of the soufflés with the double cream, and sprinkle a bit more grated cheese onto the top of each.

17. Just before you are ready to eat, pop them in the oven for about 5-7 minutes until they are golden brown and bubbling, and have risen well again.

18. Serve immediately, with some watercress or rocket on the top.

 

This foolproof tarte is a sort of cheat – but only in that I am not French, and I bet a proper pastry chef would squawk in horror at this. However, I promise you that the end result is lovely – sumptuous layers of caramalised apple atop your very own homemade pastry.

And l’Ange Français loved it so hopefully it cannot be too bad.

What you will need:

Equipment :

A round cake tin or pie dish. If your cake tin is silicon, just butter it lightly. If you are using a metal tin or porcelain pie dish, butter it and add a circle of greaseproof paper to the bottom.A ;arge mixing bowl

A sieve

A wooden spooon

A metal tablespoon

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

165 grams of plain flour 

75 grams of butter, at room temperature

A teaspoon of nutmeg 

Half a teaspoon of salt

For the filling:

165 grams soft brown sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

Roughly 1.5 kilos of apples (about 6 standard bags, if from a supermarket)

(Please note: this recipe lends itself perfectly to using up gluts of apples, so don’t worry at all if you don’t have enough  – you’ll just end up with a slightly thinner tarte. I am greedy and so like mine thick, with loads of apple, so the quantities reflect this. Also, don’t worry about the type of apple. A mix is fine – Braeburn and Cox, for example, but it really doesn’t matter that much).

How to make it:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c.

2. Now make the pastry. Sift the flour and the salt into a good-sized mixing bowl. Try to keep the sieve high to make sure the flour gets a good airing!

3. Now cut the butter into small cubes, and add this to the flour. Gently start ‘rubbing in’ the butter  to the flour – so you just literally rub the pieces of butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers. Be patient, and keep at it – when this is done, your mixture will look like breadcrumbs, and will have an even consistency.

4. When your butter is all rubbed in, start to sprinkle about a tablespoon of water into your crumbly mixture. Use a palette knife or metal spoon to incorporate the water, cutting and folding the mixture until the texture is dough-like.

5. Bring the mixture together with your hands and shape to form a smooth ball of dough. If it’s too crumbly, add a little more water – when the dough is done, it will leave the bowl clean when you roll it with your hands.

6. Now wrap your dough in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.

7. Now, the slightly labour intensive bit! (it’s worth it, though, I promise). You want to peel your apples (a potato peeler works fine) core them, and then slice them thinly. The shape doesn’t matter too much, but do try to get the slices nice and thin – this is the secret to a good tarte.

8. Once your apples are all sliced, have a cup of tea, or a cocktail if it is after lunch time. It is imperative that you keep your strength up after all that chopping.

9. Now, cover the whole base of your cake tin or round pie dish with the sugar and the cinnamon. Press it down firmly into the bottom of the tin in an even layer.

10. Start to arrange your apple on top! Remember – the first layer you put in will be the layer on top of the tarte, so try to arrange it nicely and neatly. Use your best slices here!

11. Keep on adding layer upon layer of the sliced apples, trying to keep it dense and any gaps closed (this helps your tarte’s structure). Keep going until you have used up all your apples. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fill the tin, remember you have your pastry to put on top, and even if there is still a gap after the pastry it won’t affect the finished result.

12. When you have filled the tin with the sliced apples, take your pastry from the fridge. Gently and carefully roll it out, on a floured work surface, to the size of the base of your tin (it should be roughly a centimetre thick, but a little thicker won’t hurt in the slightest.) Your pastry might be a little fragile and crumbly, so work with it gently. Neaten up the circle with a knife, and then carefully lift up your pastry circle and pop it on top of your slices apples, patting it down gently and smoothing it down. Trim any overlapping edges.

13. Yay, now it’s ready to bake! The beauty of tarte Tatin is that it is best served cold, with cream, so just bake it now and serve it later on whenever it’s ready. Just pop it in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. When it’s done, take it out of the oven and leave it in it’s tin to cool.

14. When the tarte is properly cold (don’t be impatient and tro to turn it out before this – you will lose the structure!) gently run a palette knife around the edges of the tin, and place your serving plate on top. Carefully, holding the plate firmly on top, turn the tin upside down, and put it back on the surface. Gently lift the tin off the top of the tarte, (and the baking paper, it you have used it) and inspect your offering in all it’s glory.

15. Voilà! Beautiful Tarte Tatin (with homemade pastry – look at you!) Serve it cold with a dollop of cream. Delicious.

 

 

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I Love Cheese!

Meltingly soft Chevre or runny Camembert*; firm, tangy English Cheddar; naughty, sexy Roquefort or piquant Stilton.

The only cheese I hate is FORC – fake orange rubber cheese (you know the stuff – they serve it in McDonalds and it glues your teeth together) but that’s the black sheep of the cheese family and we don’t talk about it. Ever.

Anyhoo – I apologise in advance, because this entire post is about my cheese board at the weekend. Terrifically boring, I know, but please indulge me – after this one post, I promise I will never, ever dedicate a single post to cheese ever again! (Well, perhaps we’ll make it an annual thing.)

Unsurprisingly, cheese was one of the things I missed most in Singapore. I know I mentioned it before, over on English Girl In Asia, but one of the true delights of returning to England has been the availability of a whole host of incredible cheese – some old friends, some new kids on the block.

Is there anything better than a cheese board? A good cheese board can feed you all day – just assemble it late morning, and pick at it until supper time. It can serve as pudding when you don’t want to bake, and easily act as a meal in itself if your oven blows up or something (as if you need an excuse).

On Saturday morning, Alex and I decided to pop round the corner to Borough Market.

Borough, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is pretty much a food heaven! It’s an amazing market just by London Bridge in SE1, and there’s an incredibly array of top-notch produce – everything from meat of all kinds, handmade produce, fresh flowers, great wines, hard-to-find ingredients, a bewildering selection of fruit & veg – the list goes on and on. And on.

Just next to the sanctum of the market itself is an actual cheese-temple: Neil’s Yard Dairy!

This haven of British and Irish cheese was our first port of call.

After waiting patiently in line, inhaling the strange and unmistakable odour of rennet always prevalent in cheese shops, we finally reached the front of the queue, and the lovely counter lady did not disappoint us.

After much tasting and gurgling with pleasure, we decided on our selection – a little unadventurous, perhaps, but a good, well-rounded board of delights to compliment the delicious bottle of red we had at home.

What we had:

First off, we plumped for a hefty wedge of one of my favourites – Keen’s Cheddar.Keen’s is a glorious, award-winning cheddar made by the Keen family by in Wincanton, Somerset (I bet they’re in demand for dinner parties!)

This is an outstanding cheddar – fabulously creamy, with a lovely sharp nuttiness to the flavour. Incredible with a bit of oatcake and some sweet chutney.

Next up was another big wodge of a new favourite – Stichelton.

Superstar cheesemaker Joe Schneider and Neil’s Yard’s very own Randolph Hodgson put their cheese-loving heads together and the result was this gorgeous unpasteurised blue.

Made in Nottinghamshire, Stichelton enjoys a wonderfully punchy flavour without being overly sharp, and a gorgeous, buttery, ever-so-slightly squidgy texture. Pure heaven!

For our next contender, we thought we ought to be a little more adventurous and try something new.

After a few (ok, a lot) of tastings, we plumped for a rather smaller wodge of a gorgeous, goat’s milk cheese from Somerset, by the name of Cardo.

The reason for the smaller wodge was not health-conscious restraint, friends – no, the wodge was smaller simply because it came in at nearly a whopping £50.00 a kilo, and Alex felt very bad spending that on cheese.

The Cardo was glorious, however, and in my mind worth the price tag – wonderfully squidgy, rather salty, and luscious in texture.

It had a washed rind, which means that the rind is literally washed or rubbed down (with brine, usually) in order to encourage the growth of something called brevibacterium linens on the surface. It’s these b-linens which give the cheese the lovely orangey rind and delicious pungency that the Cardo enjoys. Mmmmm.

We paired the three heavyweights above with half a Chevre (Goat’s Cheese) that I found in the fridge – nothing special, just a gorgeously creamy specimen sold in Waitrose under the Capricorn brand.

 

Soft and beautifully textured with just the right hit of flavour, I could eat this stuff all day. Amazing with grapes.

Finally, we plonked a bit of perennial favourite St Agur (a deliciously rich, moist blue-veined beauty from Auvergne) on there as well, just to balance it out…

…and we topped the lot with some thick-cut oatcakes, a jar of caramelised onion chutney, and lovely tart red grapes, and shared it with the wonderful Kat Brown.

The entire thing was delicious, and yes I did get cheese-related hallucination dreams and put on two pounds, and yes it was totally worth it.

Love,

Jessy xxx

 

*True Camembert story: Whilst in Thailand, we bought a Camembert for lunch on the boat one weekend, and by the time we unpacked lunch it had disappeared. Way Nay! We resigned ourselves to the fact that it must have fallen off the rib, and duly made do with FORC.

Next weekend, we’re back on the boat, and the lovely hostess brings us a cheeseboard….with a Camembert standing proudly in the centre.

Utterly confused, we asked where on earth she had obtained it?

‘It was in the bilge’ she proudly replied. For those of you who aren’t sure, the bilge is a manky bit at the bottom of a boat where the water collects.

Here is an actual picture of the actual camembert in the bilge.

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The Great Blog Move – From Singapore to SE1

English Girl in London. Hmm. Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as English Girl In Asia, does it?

Nope. So, therefore – so welcome to my new blog, How I learned To Iron!*

I thought I’d give English Girl a rest for a bit (at least until we are next in Singapore or Thailand) and continue my ramblings in a new and slightly more domestically focused blog in England.

So, as I write, we are in London! We arrived a few weeks ago, and have spent the last few weeks living in a glorious little hotel called The Cranley, in South Ken.

It was, honestly, amazing. I love living in hotels. The lack of washing, cooking, cleaning….ok, after a while, it gets really boring, especially if you work from home, like I do. The staff, however nice, always look at you strangely when you request ‘a big bowl of pasta. Really big, like, in a mixing bowl’.

Also, you pretty much end up spending all day in one room, which is enough to send even the most sane amongst us slightly crazy.

 

Please understand that I do not wish to appear ungrateful. The hotel was absolutely beautiful, and the staff were lovely and so friendly and helpful, and we were very lucky to be there. It was also such luxury not having to do any housework AT ALL.

However, I was very thankful when we found a flat – and, as of three days ago – we’ve finally moved in!

We’re in the same area of London we were in before we moved to Singapore – Borough, SE1. I love it here; we are just by the river and very close to everything in Central London, and there’s always something going on.

I learnt lots of stuff over the two international moves we did, which I will share in upcoming posts in case you are really, really bored at work and want something – anything – to read. However, all I will say for the time being is that we are in, we are happy, and all’s good.

London – here we go!

Love,

Jessy xxxxx

* Grammatical Nazi Email pre-empt: I am aware, literary people, that this blog ought to be entitled ‘How I Learnt To Iron’. However, I typed this in and there were just too many T’s in the URL. Anyway, according to the dictionary, ‘learned’ is still perfectly acceptable. So there.

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