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Dulche Dreams

6 Mar


It’s over a week since I returned from a trip to Argentina and Uruguay and I’m mainly dreaming of this dulche de leche spread which I slathered on toast. Every day. For breakfast. In the glorious sunshine.

x Loulou

Bread Bounty

19 Jan


The aroma of freshly baked bread is one of the most incredible smells, especially if you’ve baked it yourself. Having had a go at a few of James Morton’s Brilliant Bread recipes with mixed success, I was really excited to attend the day breadmaking class at Real Patisserrie in Brighton, an amazing cafe/bakery that make the best fruit danish.

Using a sour dough starter, we made focaccia loaves, rye sour dough, white rolls and baguettes, and learnt all the kneading, proving, dusting techniques of a professional. We also had a tour of the kitchens and learnt all about the running of a successful bakery.

Coming away at the end of the day with new bread-making skills, the mystery of sour dough starters revealed – and a little pot of starter to make our own with, and a bag full to the brim of warm bread, was just incredible.

x Loulou

An Italian Christmas

20 Dec

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This year, my work celebrated Christmas by cooking up an Italian feast. We took part in a one day Italian cookery class at Cucina Caldesi, the cookery school attached to Caffe Caldesi in Marylebone. Arriving to the school, down an old cobbled street, felt like stepping into a Christmas carol – the kitchen was strewn with boughs of holy and ivy, nuts and dried oranges.

We were taught how to make fresh tortelli with two types of fillings, stuffed courgettes, pistachio-crusted baked salmon and a dessert of orange and polenta cake, served with baked figs. Once all the hard work in the kitchen was over, we sat down and enjoyed our meal together.

Here’s hoping for a pasta maker in a Pick Me Up stocking.

x Loulou

Venetian Food and Dreams

5 Dec

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Venice is a real special place to the Pick Me Up house and in Venezia: Food and Dreams, Tessa Kiros perfectly captures the magic and beauty of the city that we love. As well as featuring delicious cicchetti and trattoria-style recipes so typical of Venetian dining, the book is an open love letter to the city, splashed with memories and notes written by Kiros. The book is also stunningly beautiful – with gold-edged pages and foil detailed typography, and packed with rich photography of the food and scenery.

Along with Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook, this is my go-to Italian recipe book, not only for the recipes but for the memories it conjures of time spent in the city – evoking those evenings of aperol spritz, pizza in Campo Santa Margherita, and seafood by the lagoon. These books feed us week in week out, satisfying our appetites for food and dreams with staples such as polenta and sausages, crostini, risi e bisi, and any number of tasty risottos. We’re working up to sarde in saor.

Venetian cuisine really comes into it’s own when cooking for large amounts of people. For a recent dinner, held to celebrate the (alarmingly) five years since Grace and I were living in Venice, we cooked a family-style feast for our seven guests, with recipes taken from these favourite books. With prosecco, aperol spritz, homemade limoncello and tiramisu for dessert all taken care of by our Venetian friends, we concentrated on the savoury, serving a selection of anitipasti to start, followed by a deliciously slow-cooked chicken. The antipasti included crostini topped with rocket and walnut pesto and anchovy and chickpea, a platter of italian cured meats and caprese stacks of tomato, mozarella and bazil. The chicken, Kiros’ pollo con pomodoro in tecia, was slow cooked in a large dish with a stock made from blended tomatoes, celery, onion, wine, rosemary and parsley and served with a hearty helping of creamy polenta and roasted radicchio and red peppers laced with anchovy and capers. Va bene!

x Loulou

Pick Me Up in Paradise

28 Aug

20131203-215104.jpgNothing better than a good old-fashioned holiday.

X Loulou

A Touch of Glamping

2 Jul

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We tried our hand at glamping this magical weekend. This tipi in the grounds of the beautiful Barn on the Coast just outside Bridport, Dorset, was ours for one night. It felt so good to be out in the countryside, surrounded by nothing but rolling hills and with the sea just over the brow of the hill. Stay too long in the city and you forget how clearly you can see the stars when there are no street lights around. Returning to our little tipi in darkness, we were guided by the light from the moon and lanterns made of glass jars (my late-night attempt to download a torch app failed despite the wi-fi connection). We drifted to sleep to the hooting sounds of barn owls, slept surprisingly comfortably, and awoke to a cooling early morning mist, before spending the day on the beach in the glorious sunshine.

x Loulou

Field Day

26 May

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I’m all for seizing last-minute opportunities, so when the chance to go to Field Day presented itself an hour before the gates opened, I took it, didn’t I?

I love camping but usually after three nights under canvas the call of my own bed tends to become overwhelmingly strong, which is why day festivals are so appealing to me. The idea that you can dance about in a field listening to live music by bands that you love and still catch the last tube home is just perfect. And the overpriced food and drink (although actually the falafel and arancini were really good) and obligatory queues for the portaloos remain a novelty by the end of the day!

Highlights were Solange, Chvrches, Fout Tet, Stealing Sheep.

X Loulou

Bowieee!

23 May

wpid-20130522_145254Advance tickets are sold out but you can still turn up early, queue and be rewarded with a same day ticket to the incredible David Bowie Is show at the V&A. Boy is it worth the wait. Head sets play you music and voiceovers triggered by proximity to the exhibits as you wander around the packed exhibition so that the experience is as immersive and over the top as Bowie’s work. The head sets also make for the odd amusing scene as visitors forget themselves in their own little Bowie world – a middle aged man obliviously belting out ‘Ground control to Major Tom…’ was met with smiles by everyone. The exhibition is a smorgasboard of the influences on, early incarnations and many metamorphoses of Bowie. I spent two hours wandering round and could have spent a lot longer. The double height screen-packed room is particularly transfixing – how can a museum recreate the spine-tingling power exceptional performers have? The V&A have got as close as possible with the clever combination of costumes, lights and footage innovatively deployed here. The span of generations I saw visiting the exhibition underlines quite how relevant and transcending Bowie still is. Go!

Ellie

Colour Blocking in Pisa

21 May

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An imposingly dark rain cloud was no match for me this weekend in Pisa, when I scared it away with some powerful primary colour blocking. The sun soon reappeared in time for aperitivo.

x Loulou

Food For the Soul (or Some Pretty Lights)

29 Mar

A visit to the Light Show at the Hayward Gallery provided not only ample opportunity to indulge in hand shadow puppets but some uplifting aesthetic indulgence too. Some pieces were frankly underwhelming, I did not get the romance and clarity of moonlight from Katie Paterson’s blue bulb and, James Turrel’s Wedgework V left me bored and numb of behind. But amongst the many explorations of light were some pieces that scored the hat-trick of art goals (in my very sophisticated critical system) by being pretty, cleverly made and thought-provoking. (I’d take just the former, truth be told). My favourite was definitely Model for a timeless garden by Olafur Eliasson – otherwordly and beautiful. The flowing streams and cascades of water frozen in the strobe lighting evoked, for me, crystals, icebergs and b-movie monsters. It was very hard to resist the urge to touch the water.

Walking through the different colour sections of Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Chromosaturation was a visually disturbing experience (in a good way). Winning commendations for pretty, in a yeah, I’d have that in my house way, were Leo Villareal’s twinkly Cylinder II and Jim Campbell’s Exploded View (Commuters).

And the gift shop had cute ‘jars of sunlight’.

Ellie

Lamb Tagine

3 Mar

Yesterday, by a twist of fate – a diverted bus journey followed by a long walk home – we spotted this beautiful tagine sitting in the window of a charity shop and took it home with us. This afternoon, Grace and I picked out a recipe to christen the tagine with – slow cooked lamb with preserved lemons, green olives and ras el hanout.

Grace did the preparation: browning diced lamb in a pan with a chopped onion, garlic cloves, ground ginger, turmeric and ras el hanout. Then I was up (I took over so that Grace could dedicate her full attention to the North London Derby). I transferred the lamb into the tagine, added the flesh of a preserved lemon, topped it up with water and placed it in the oven on a very low heat for two hours. The conical shape of the lid is designed to keep all the moisture in and so, like a stew or casserole, the longer you cook a tagine, the better, as the lamb gets more and more tender and the flavours become more and more intense. After two hours, I added the skin of the preserved lemon, a little more water, and a handful of green olives, and returned the tagine to the oven for another hour or so.

When the returning football fans could wait no longer and the kitchen was filled with the most delicious smells, we served the tagine on a bed of couscous, topped with a little parsley, with a green salad on the side.

x Loulou

Glyndebourne

1 Mar

Pick me up - Glyndebourne

I’d never been particularly interested in opera until I went to Glyndebourne. My change of heart may have had something to do with the beautiful summer sunshine and idyllic countryside setting, chance to dress up pretty, see the men in black tie, and tuck into a tasty picnic complete with strawberries, champagne and a delicious homemade artichoke tart during the interval, or it might even have been the opera itself. We saw a gorgeous production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola, based on the Cinderella story. With the help of Glyndebourne<30, the Glyndebourne programme that aims to make opera affordable for 16-29 year olds, Grace, Ellie and I experienced our very own rags to riches moment.

The afternoon began with a coach ride through the Sussex hills to reach our destination. We arrived in time for a glass of pimms and a little explore of the grounds before the first act. We also managed to stake out a picnic spot for the interval – arguably the main even. Some picnics were more extravagant than others – our picnic rug and tupperware were no match for the Fortnum’s baskets and portable picnic tables complete with white table cloths and candles, but the contents was yummy all the same.

Sign up for news on Glyndebourne<30. Tickets for Summer 2013 go 0n sale on March 11th and top price tickets are £30 for 16-29 year olds. See you there. We’ll be the girls with the candelabra.

X Loulou

Quentin Blake

28 Feb

On a recent day trip to Cambridge, I popped into the Fitzwilliam Museum to see their Quentin Blake exhibition. It included prints, sketches and etchings by the prolific illustrator, best known for his illustration of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. There were designs for hospital murals, French newspaper cartoons and materials from his studio, as well as children’s book covers, of course. My favourite was this series of prints celebrating 800 years of Cambridge University.

I love Blake’s scratchy style. Every illustration looks as though it was completed in seconds – a quick ink drawing here, a swish of watercolour there – and yet the way that personalities are rendered so instantly and recognisably from the smallest of stroke is phenomenal. Perhaps it’s because I was brought up on Blake (I went through a phase of reading and re-reading The Witches, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on loop, and I’ll never forget my brother’s Mr Magnolia fancy dress costume for a book day at primary school), but even his most recent illustrations emanate a wonderful sense of warm familiarity. The original cover illustrations for Russell Hoban’s Rosie’s Magic Horse and On Angel Wings by Michael Morpurgo were also on display in the exhibition. It’s so cheering to think of generations of children discovering and enjoying Blake’s new and old illustrations.

x Loulou

Dreaming of Summer

26 Feb

Loulou and I – a couple of years ago now – went island-hopping in Greece. We had hardly any money, and on the last day I couldn’t even afford to buy a chocolate bar, but somehow we managed it. This was our last stop. Soaking up the sun on beautiful Santorini. This photo is my desktop background at the moment, and its promise of warm weather ahead (hopefully) is keeping me going while London just seems to get greyer and colder…

Grace x

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