Spring Has Sprung…(Well Nearly!)

With the start of Spring comes the prospect of sunshine, warmer weather, new life and lush surroundings. This year, for those of us in the UK however, it has disappointed and confused thus far- officially 3 weeks in and I  have on as many layers of thermal & wool as I would in the depths of our Winter.

It is at this time of year that we celebrate Easter- the resurrection of Jesus and/or  a visit by the Easter Bunny, depending on which way you are inclined. Easter being a ‘moveable feast’ can fall anywhere between 22nd March and 25th April, on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon– which seems much more complicated than I had ever given it credit for. This year, it fell the Sunday before my Mum’s Birthday and so we decided to make it a family celebration and get together for an Easter Egg Hunt and Birthday Roast Lunch!

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My local flower stall is on the corner of the Portobello Road and Blenheim Crescent. It is always bursting with seasonal bouquets and bunches of brightly coloured flowers. I make up my own posies be it for gifts or special occasions and the lovely lady on the stall is always on hand to give guidance where needed. For this Easter lunch, I knew I wanted Tulips and Hyacinths and with all the incredible colour choices it wasn’t easy. The deep purple hyacinths were really too delicious looking not to go for, so I kept it simple with the fresh & clean white Tulips and a hint of yellow to add the sunshine we were in need of.  To finish I added a few clip-on nests & feathered birds from Graham & Green and placed them in and around the bouquets.

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My sister was in charge of the Egg Hunt with the assistance of our brother, who keenly emptied the packets of Mini Eggs out onto the grass (without considering their lack of wrappers!) They created a Beatrix Potter haven for my nephews to explore and seek out the hundreds of chocolate surprises planted in every nook & cranny possible. Easter Egg hunts were always a big thing in my family when I was growing up and (when the weather used to be glorious) it had a similar poignancy of a Birthday or Christmas Day. Friends from near and far would come over, be handed a little basket then hunt around in the woods at the bottom of the garden, whilst the adults partook in champagne & nibbles, ginormous VHS camcorders out at the ready.

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Today I wanted to keep the table vibrant and fun for the kids so doused the place settings with Easter themed sprinkles. I also used a selection of wools to tie up the napkins. The balls of wool were £1 each from Poundland, perfect for wrapping presents, hand tied bouquets or a decorative touch for a table. Poundland is actually a bit of a gem for finding cheap and cheery accessories, stationary and decorations. I had a really good rummage around in the store and made up two party bags for the boys- yo-yo’s, bubbles and little furry chicks were waiting for them on their chairs (always a good idea to provide kiddy things to keep them entertained at the dinner table).

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For lunch, I cooked roast chicken, roasted beetroots, honey & rosemary carrots, chipolatas, beetroot tops, petit pois, purple sprouting broccoli and roast potatoes (I have to thank Isaac, my boyfriend, at this point who is always a fantastic co-chef and saves me from the typical stresses of tricky timings and hot pans!) For the ‘newly Vegetarian’ Isaac, I turned to the fabulous Hemsley & Hemsley and found this scrumptious recipe for Quinoa and Mushroom Nut Roast. Having never made Nut Roast before I was nervous that I would get it totally wrong but the girls have created a perfectly understandable and totally delicious vegetarian dish, which was popular with all of us.

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What’s a Birthday without a Birthday cake! Red Velvet has apparently been around since  the 1920’s and although I am really only accustomed to Hummingbird Bakeries famously red & exceedingly rich cupcakes, I chose to use a recipe for a three layer Red Velvet Cake from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible. I decorated the cake with mini eggs (I just had to add a little Easter touch) and sugared daisies.

N.B. I used a red food colouring ‘liquid’ for the cake and in future would definitely take Annie’s advice and go for the ‘paste’ which will result in a much deeper red colour for the sponge.

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Making chocolate nests is so simple that it is the perfect treat to make with your kiddies. Shredded wheat, 100g Milk chocolate, 100 g of dark chocolate and 50g butter. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie (a heat-proof bowl over boiling water). I used about 4-5 large shredded wheats crushed up into oblivion. Get your paper cases ready and once the chocolate has cooled to room temperature start mixing into the shredded wheat. Finish with a white chocolate egg or two.

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Having watched copious amounts of sport and nearly digested our rather large lunch…it was time to sit down and enjoy a cuppa, cake and Mary Berry’s Lemon Pavlova, with homemade Lemon Curd- much enjoyed and looked bloomin’ fantastic (all thanks to my mum!) We were joined by these little knitted chicks. Made by a elderly lady that my mum visits, the little darlings also double as egg cosies and caused much oooo’ing and ahhhh’ing across the table.

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When all the food was eaten, all the wine had been drunk and the little ones were in bed, it was time to say Goodnight to Easter for another year.

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Full to the brim of chocolate and love.

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For a Rainy Day…

I woke up bright an early this morning to blue skies, so decided to don some warm clothes and go for a walk. Five minutes in and grey clouds appeared as if by magic. Drizzle soon followed. Back home now and ready for a cosy day inside.

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The books I am browsing through at the moment are particular handy on a day when the weather can’t decided what it’s doing….

1. Drink Me by Matt Walls (see blog post here)

2. Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers; secret restaurants & underground supper clubs! Sounds amazing! Ex-Rock band photographer Kerstin Rodgers was one of the first people to start this dining phenomenon in the UK. This book is full of quirky illustrations and ideas for starting your own ‘Supper Club’, (which I am currently in the process of organising for my friends and I- you’ll hear more about this next month). Along with her yummy recipes and personal photographs it is a really fun book with plenty of hosting and culinary tips polished off with a directory of people doing this in their homes worldwide. So you too can venture into the unknown….

3. Baking Bible by Annie Bell; I love baking but have so much to learn. I make mistakes (often) and get very frustrated when I see the sponge sinking in the oven. Annie Bell was a food writer for Vogue, The Independent & more, who has gone on to write books like ‘The Camping Cookbook’ & ‘Soup Glorious Soup’. This is her ‘bible’ of 200 very trustworthy recipes for cakes, puddings, bread, tarts… the list goes on. It is pretty much fail-safe & easy to understand for beginners, yet still exciting and enticing for the more experienced. Totally delicious.

4. Eat London: All About Food by Peters Prescott & Terence Conran; If you live, or have visited London, then you may have realised that there are restaurants and cafes popping up at two-a-penny. This is the ultimate directory for someone wanting to discover old and new put together by the well-known Terence Conran. Plenty of recipes to keep you entertained in between reviews and a front cover that doubles up as a big map of London, so no worries about getting lost whilst in the depths of Dulwich, looking for a butchers!

5. Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo; Following her perfectly kitsch, Paris based TV show. Rachel Khoo has let us into the secrets of her life, style and recipes. Her illustrations are adorable and thankfully there are no overly complicated methods or long winded techniques to try and follow. If she can make it work, so very well, in such a small and intimate space then there is nothing stopping us all from trying it out….follow her lead. Oh and her ‘madeleines à la crème au citron’, are a must! Mmm.

6. The Simple Things; a glorious monthly magazine of all things home & garden with recipes, crafts and inspirations! A total gem. WHSmith sell the mag, but you can also look on their website to find out about the subscription. January was filled to the brim with pasta making, lantern stitching and home made pizza nights! The February Issue 6 is out now. This could be the only reason I venture into the rain again today!

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A small Arpeggio coffee from my Nespresso machine sets me up nicely for the day ahead. My pastel pink cup is from Ikea, perfect for espresso’s but also for desserts like ice cream, or a mousse! I am not sure if they are in stock at the moment, but a lovely alternative are the Ikea 365+ pastel espresso cup and saucer.


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My candle of the moment is Roses by Diptyque. It is so gorgeous and fills the entire room in seconds. For me the smell of Roses reminds me of my childhood. It is nostalgic, romantic and puts a gentle arm around me in times of need. Diptyque candles are not cheap but they are, in my opinion very, very good. Their standard size are £40 and the mini candles are £20. I got this mini Rose for Christmas, they make a really special present!

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Listening to Classic FM. Yup, tis’ true. I EVEN downloaded the app! This is coming from the same person who used to squirm when anyone (my sister!) put it on in the car, I thought it had to be ‘cool’ music or nothing at all. How things have changed. All I want on a day at home, is to have classical music playing quietly in the background. I find it so unbelievably calming and so does the cat…

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Daffodils are ALREADY in bloom in some parts of the UK. My mum excitedly informed me of such a carpet of sunshine spotted on a walk at the weekend. I decided to get myself a few bunches to have a big, early dose of Spring time in my home! Tesco’s currently have £1 a bunch on offer so forget S.A.D. and treat yourself.

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Right then, I have procrastinated enough. On with some writing!

And have a great day come rain or shine…