September 19th, 2010 by Ali

Nigel Slater’s newest book Tender Volume 2 was released this week and I managed to get my hands on a copy.  I already own and love reading and cooking from Volume 1 along with most of Nigel’s other books, so I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this one…

As always, Nigel’s writing is beautiful. The photography (by the brilliant Jonathon Lovekin) is just as lovely and is not overly styled. Nigel’s recipes sound delicious. I’m looking forward to ‘A casserole of parsnips, chestnuts and mushrooms’,’A Sunday roast of pork, perry and pears’,’A casserole of apple and rabbit’ (although I might just replace the rabbit with chicken!) and ‘Wholemeal apple and marmalade cake’


Apologies for the quality of the photos, they were taken on my phone, with the book balanced on my lap, in a bookshop in town. My copy is coming from Amazon but alas, has not arrived yet.

Ali xox

Hope and Charlie Shop Is Open!

September 15th, 2010 by Ali

Ok, I admit it, this is shameless self promotion.

My little Etsy shop Hope and Charlie, is finally open! And there are things to buy! Ok, two, but there’s more to come.  I’m rather chuffed with myself for having managed get Hope and Charlie up and running (with just a little IT support from Mr) and who knows they might even get bought by someone!

Gail brooch

Pippa Brooch

Ali xox

Ikea Cats

September 13th, 2010 by Ali

This has to be the  best and sweetest advert that I’ve seen for a long time… It makes me smile every time I watch it.

Ali xox

Slow food

September 10th, 2010 by Ali

I have a new(ish) gadget lurking in my  kitchen cupboard. Can you guess what it is?

Oh yes! a slow cooker!

Now, up until about 2 months ago I had no interest in slow cookers and regarded them as something from the seventies that ought to stay there.  Hmm… Then I had my road to damascus conversion.  Or rather I had ‘roast’ chicken from a slow cooker.   Oh it was good. Very good.  Not as good looking as a traditional oven roast bird however, and lacking in the crispy skin that I love, but nonetheless the most delicious and moist chicken I have ever had.  I subsequently grilled my friend about recipes – roast chicken, bolognaise, chilli and pork and olive stew are her family’s favourites.

This tale gets better.  After mentioning this to my mum, she disappeared into her loft and  lo and behold, emerged with a slow cooker! ” You didn’t want this when you got married so I saved it!” she said (yep, ’till I came to my senses you mean). I then hot-footed it off to my favourite cook book store (The Library) to get myself a slow cooker cookbook. And this week we have had chilli! And yes it was good.

Ali xox

Plant Love: Alliums

September 10th, 2010 by Ali

I love the Allium.  Tall and assertive,  rather like an upside down exclamation mark, it demands to be looked at. Like a butterfly, the Allium takes it’s time to emerge  from it’s papery case, but it is well and truly worth the wait.

My (current) top 3 are:

1. Allium atropurpureum – dark and delicious

2. Allium multibulbosum – makes a lovely contrast with the darker toned Alliums

3. Nectaroscordum siculum – not really an Allium but treated as one

They are always in my garden and I buy more each year – mostly because I either forget where I put them and end up spearing them when digging or, I forget to label the ones I have lifted, and then of course one Allium bulb does look pretty much like another…  Oh well, and that’s the other reason I always buy more, just because I love them so much and can always find another pot to fill…

I buy my bulbs from www.peternyssen.com and  www.sarahraven.com

Ali xox

Photo credits: panoramio.com, edenbrothers.com, prod.bulbsonline.org

Two went Sloe-ing

September 6th, 2010 by Ali

Last week-end, Small girl and I went to do  one of my very favourite things – Sloe picking. Although not that keen on Gin generally, I love Sloe Gin and look forward to autumn when there are bottles of Gin and Sloes gently infusing in the cupboard.

We both dressed for the occasion boots, trousers and zippy tops to avoid nettle stings on exposed parts and so we could fight our way through the hedgerows to get to our golden, or rather purple prize. This was her first trip Sloe picking and she was rather excited about it – especially dressing for much nippier weather on what was a lovely late summer afternoon.

We bought bread at the nearby mill before setting off on our Sloe hunt.

This was the lovely view across the Hertfordshire countryside  from the top of our climb.

Small girl turned out to be an excellent assistant – she gleaned the lower branches while I reached the higher ones. she was also rather good at spotting the bushes and their fruit.

Part of our haul.  It is now sitting washed, weighed and bagged in the freezer awaiting my return from Sainsbury’s laden with bottles of Gin. I try not to think what the till assistant will think of me with 3 litres of gin in my shopping basket, and think rather of the lovely Sloe Gin and Tonic I shall be enjoying just in time for Christmas.

Ali xox

Breakfast cup

August 24th, 2010 by Ali

I found this cup and saucer in my local charity shop last week, and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s a great size and I love the print.

Ali x

Glorious Kew Gardens

August 22nd, 2010 by Ali

This last week I visited Kew Gardens on what turned out to be a beautiful summer’s day. We caught the train to Kew Bridge station and walked across Kew Bridge and then along Kew Green to the Main Gate.  We had  the small girl with us so the first port of call was the Princess of Wales Conservatory to see the Butterflies bugs and beasties exhibition.  Small girl loved the butterflies flying all around us.

Lunch at the Orangery restaurant was next as the small girl was already wilting.  Peyton and Byrne are the new caterers there and very nice it was too! Her lunch came in a reusable heart shaped lunchbox. It has already been reused for storing her  beads.  After refreshments we headed off to the other priority of the day – the new PLANTastic play area. This is onthe far western side of the gardens so was a long walk but well worth it.  On the way over we collected seed pods from the Monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) and  met this fine chap.

With tired legs we then headed for treats – an ice cream for the small girl while we had a cup of tea and one of Peyton and Byrne’s yummy fig rolls and then a look around the shop at the Victoria Gate. I also found a lovely looking Salvia for future use.

At 5pm, after 6 lovely hours mooching  it was time to head back across the bridge towards the train and home…

The food of love

August 19th, 2010 by Ali

Today I cooked dinner for a lovely couple with a new baby. The mother was so grateful and yet all I had done was cook an everyday meal for her.

I often cook a meal for new parents and it is something thay gives me so much pleasure.  Feeding someone is so much more than simply giving them something to eat. For new parents, it is a good (hopefully!) homecooked meal at a time when all their energy and time is taken up with their new baby, and dinner is an after thought.  It  is a simple and easy way of supporting people, that needn’t cost much, and for me, it is an opportunity to give something back.  Friends and people I didn’t know cooked for us when our daughter was born and it was a true blessing.

Ali x

Busy busy…

August 13th, 2010 by Ali

I’ve been making little button brooches to sell in my new etsy shop Hope and Charlie. Here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come…

There’s more to come, just need a little (ok, a lot) of help with the techy side of things.
See you soon!
Ali x