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Monday 31 March 2014

Gluten Free: Chicken and Potato Croquettes

I come from a long line of woman with a compulsion to overfeed her guests. No matter what the meal is, at some stage in preparation we will look at the mountain of food and exclaim, "there won't be enough!" Someone leaving my house hungry is my worst nightmare. Fortunately, when it comes to roast dinner the leftovers are as much a part of the enjoyment as the main meal itself.

Of all the many wonderful ways to use roast dinner leftovers, potato croquettes are one of my favourites.  They're a way to use up any kind of potato, be it mashed, roast, boiled or steamed. Not only that, you can use any bits of the meal to great effect, especially those veggies that you've used as a trivet for the meat, or stuffed up the chicken's bum. Chop 'em up, add them to the mix and whip up these croquettes for a tasty tea the day after your roast dinner!

Chicken and Potato Croquettes (makes 10-12 croquettes)
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes resting
Cooking time: 10 minutes
You’ll need:
  • 250g cooked potatoes
  • ½ a red onion or a large shallot
  • 75g cooked chicken, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper, to suit your taste
  • 5 tbsp cornflour (or tapioca or white rice flour)
  • 100ml oil for frying
Rolled, rested and ready to fry.
Make it!
  1. Mash the potatoes. If you’re using roast potatoes or ones boiled in their skins chop them roughly first. I tend to crush them with my hands - less washing up!
  2. Roughly chop the onion and soften it for 5 minutes in a pan with a little of the oil. Add to the mashed potatoes.
  3. Add the chicken, egg, salt and pepper (if you’re using leftover mashed potatoes with milk and/or butter, you might not need all or any of the egg) and mix well. The mixture should hold together when you form a ball with it.
  4. Put the cornflour on a plate and dust your hands with a little bit of it, too.
  5. Take golfball sized chunks of the mixture and form into stubby sausage shapes. Coat with the flour.
  6. Pop them all in the fridge for half an hour to firm up. This will help them to hold their shape when you cook them.
  7. Heat the oil over a medium heat in a frying pan. Place the croquettes in the oil and cook for a few minutes before turning. Serve when they’re browned all over.
I serve mine with steamed greens and some tomato chutney, but they'd be just as good with salad or even in a (gluten free) butty.

Excellent Women: Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst

We all know the work of Frida Kahlo, but have you ever heard of Leonora Carrington? Her work was long overlooked here in her place of birth, but in Mexico where she lived for over 70 years, she was considered a national treasure.

Rebellious from a young age, Leonora was expelled from two convent schools before she managed to convince her parents to let her study art in Florence. But whilst she was planning her future as a professional artist, her self-made millionaire parents were setting their sites on her improving their social status, namely through being presented to King George V at Buckingham Palace. Leonora later wrote a fantastic tale that came to her while she was at the ball, about disguising a hyena as herself, dressed in a ballgown, and sending it to the party in her place!

She had no time for society and its restrictions - protesting at Ascot about women not being allowed to place their own bets.

Crookery Hall where Leonora grew up.

An international surrealist exhibition in London in 1936 introduced her to the work of Dali, Man Ray and Max Ernst who she met at a dinner party and promptly fell in love with. After telling her father that she was moving to Paris with a 46 year old, married surrealist painter, he told her never to darken his doorstep again, and that she would undoubtedly die penniless.

Leonora and Max mingled with a hugely influential circle of friends, including Man Ray, Lee Miller, Henry Moore and Eileen Agar, and in Paris Picasso, Dali, Joan Miro and Leonor Fini (some other really excellent women in that bunch).

Leonora Carrington and Leonor Fini

They enjoyed a brief period of happiness in the south of France, before the rise of the Nazi party when Ernst, as a German national, was imprisoned by the Vichy French.

Leonora fled to Spain and suffered a nervous breakdown. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Santander where they forced her to take the drug Cardiazol, now banned, which induced seizures and hallucinations. She later wrote about her experiences in her tale, Down Below. Her parents were worried about her being in war-torn Europe alone, so sent her childhood nanny to Europe in a submarine- as you do!

Leonora and her second husband, Chiki Weisz on their wedding day in Mexico

But once out of hospital, she escaped both the war and her family by marrying a Mexican diplomat, Renato Leduc and moving to Mexico. She found a happy home in Mexico, where she was friends with the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. She later divorced Leduc amicably and remarried, having two sons. She remained married to her second husband until his death in 2007.

Like her contemporary Frida Kahlo, Leonora's work featured many animals, both real and legendary. Leonora's artwork, now considered an important influence on the surrealist movement, features complicated narratives and figurative dreamscapes, often inspired by her interest in mythology and fairytales (told to her by her nanny as a child) and also alchemy and the occult. However she objected to the 'over-intellectualisation' of her art, resisting all attempts to 'explain' her work- she believed the meaning of her paintings was in the eye and mind of the beholder.

Rather than dying penniless in a garret, Leonora died aged 94, hugely celebrated in her adopted home of Mexico - in 2008 the main street in Mexico City hosted a seven-month homage to her work. Her canvases now go for millions and her self portrait hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Which just goes to show, your parents don't always know best.

Play Your Cards Right

Are you feeling lucky? Designers are encouraging us to take a bit of a gamble at the moment, dealing us fashion and homewares that are based around a deck of cards. It's Alice in Wonderland goes to Vegas which - obviously - is wonderful.

Coco Fennell's latest collection includes this Play your cards right dress, almost guaranteed to make you the Queen of Hearts, while cards also deck her new Casino dress. If you are able to go higher, higher with your prices, take a look at Peter Jensen's cute circle skirt in card print.

For an easy way to wear your heart, and your spade, on your finger, ASOS are selling this Alice collection press-on manicure set for £9.

Possibly the simplest way to get the look is on the homewares in stock at Urban Outfitters, based on that traditional deck of cards we all probably used to refine our Shithead Poker technique. This King of Hearts mug is £12. There's an accompanying tea towel too.

This trend can be cute as well as in your face, with something such as this Playing cards collar clip sold by Kirstin Stride on Etsy for £20.

Or the stylish simplicity of these Louche spade earrings, £6 from Joy. For all four suits, pick up the Forever 21 pastel stud set for only £3.15.

Win some, lose some: this Ace of Spades cushion is all win. It's designed by Melissa Wyndham and made and sold through Fine Cell Work for £50.

The playing card suits are used as a fab alternative to polka dots or florals on this Rio playing card top by Vivien of Holloway. It works so well they've used it on everything from halter necks to gypsy tops. This top is £35.

Meal times could become a whole load more fun with these Decked Out table mats. They come from Modcloth and cost around £20 including shipping.

Though if you do like playing with your food, you could do far worse than playing with these Playing card cookie cutters. They're £3.69 from Legend Cookshops.

I've featured this playing card table from Seletti before, but it's worthy of inclusion here, as it definitely trumps all other card tables. It's £145.

There's hundreds of unique decks of cards you can buy too. I'm rather fond of my Elvis deck which I brought all the way back from Graceland, though you can buy exactly the same set (and many more) for £5.25 from Cards4Magic. These Day of the Dead playing cards are rather wonderful too. Order yourself a set for £12.99 from Firebox.

But my favourite kind of card has to be something like this one Tris Tolliday on Etsy. Yes, you are ace indeed.

Sluttery by Post: Parcels for Pampered Pets

We do enjoy the thrill of a subscription box landing on the DS doormat every month. From books to bakes, cheese to coffee, stationery to smalls, there's something exciting for everyone. "BUT WHAT ABOUT CATS? DOGS? GUINEA PIGS? MINIATURE MEDITERRANEAN DONKEYS?" I hear you cry. Yes, there are even boxes for them, too. (Maybe not for the tiny donkeys. Just buy them a carrot instead. It'll last all year.)

Before I proceed - and to save disappointment - you should know that none of these subscriptions include actual cats, dogs, or any kind of living animal, which I agree is a shame. I'll work on a monthly kitten box idea and take it to Dragons' Den, shall I? These boxes are, however, crammed full of treats and toys for your favourite pet, which I guarantee will make you extremely popular for at least three minutes. Who could ask for more, really?

First up, and so new it hasn't even launched yet, is Cat Hampurr. I applaud them for their confident use of the Laura-esque word 'hampurr', and also for this lovely and affordable monthly box of feline-friendly goodies. You can sign up for a one-off box at £15.95, or a monthly one at £11.95, with the option to stop at any time. Each box contains 4-6 cat things - a mixture of food, toys, and health or grooming stuff. Get your name down on the mailing list now in time for the April 11th grand opening. 

While we wait for Cat Hampurr to launch, let's look at the world's most famous box-loving cat trying to get into a series of too-small boxes:

Oh, Maru. What a boy.

Dogs now, and Pooch Pack. Similar to the Cat Hampurr but for, uh, dogs of course, you can choose a cancel-at-any-time monthly box for £19.95; a 3-month sub for £18.95 a month; or commit to 6 months at £16.95 a month, saving yourself over 15%. The contents of the box (4-6 items per month) are tailored to your dog's size, age, and breed - you give all that info when you sign up - and you'll always receive stuff that totals more than the subscription price. I am interested in the doggie patisserie pictured above. FOR MYSELF.

Prices for Fings for Fido's monthly parcels start at £23.99, but what I like most about this company is their one-off boxes for new pups, adopted dogs, and birthday boys and girls. They're thoughtfully put together - teething aids for puppies; a new bowl and comfort toys for adoptees; and a BIRTHDAY CAKE, card, and wrapping paper for your pooch's big day. Another great thing about Fings for Fido: every box includes a dog magazine (you've totally looked at these in the supermarket before, don't lie), so humans benefit too. 

Last but by no means least, let's have a look at Pet Munchbox - responsible for making me cry earlier. Founder and personal munchbox shopper Mollie just seems like the kindest person - she tailors every box to your cat, dog or small pet's needs and preferences. The bit that made me cry was the case studies page, where you can read about the time and thought that goes into making each box. Old girl Willow doesn't have many teeth, and beef and duck make her ill, so she gets plenty of soft, fishy treats. Dudley likes jangly bells. Yogi and Boo like playing with balls and they don't like rawhide... you get it, don't you? You can be REALLY specific and Mollie will listen and send out something fabulous for your pets every month. Choose between small, medium and large boxes for cats and dogs, or even opt for a seasonal hamper for pets (including rabbits and guinea pigs!). Prices start at £10.99.

Will your pet be getting a surprise in the post next month? 

Friday 28 March 2014

Friday Wishlist: Gorgeous things you'll want to buy RIGHT NOW

The perfect dress. £160 from Jaegar at ASOS.

The perfect notebook. £15.95 from Quill London.

The perfect necklace. £432 from Bex Rox.

The perfect skirt. £55 from Oasis.

The perfect desk lamp. £305 from Graham & Green.

The perfect satchel. £29 from Accessorize.

The perfect yellow sandals. £85 from Kurt Geiger.

Let Her Eat Cake: White Chocolate Morello Cherry Cupcakes

Whilst raiding the depths of a friend's booze cupboard the other day, we came across some Cherry B. Cherry B! Who remembers that? Seriously, what is it? Who knows, but it's cherry-ish and boozy which is good enough for me. However, being lumbered with a few bottles, I started thinking what could be done to turn its dubious charms into something delicious.

Cue! White chocolate and cherry. You can't go wrong. These cute little beasts will provide a suitable use for any dodgy cherry flavoured liqueurs you might have hanging around. Left over cherries? Make our gluten-free roulade to go alongside them. Everyone's a winner! Plus, they're super-easy to whip up for a special Mother's Day treat.

White Chocolate Morello Cherry Cupcakes (Makes 12-14 small cakes)
Preparation time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 20-25 mins

You'll need:
For the syrup:
  • 200g frozen morello cherries
  • 25ml cherry liqueur / cherry brandy / kirsch / Cherry B (whaaa?)
  • 25ml water
For the cakes:
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 50g white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate
  • 25ml milk
  • 1/2 of cherry syrup (above)
For the topping:
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • Remaining syrup
  • White chocolate, to decorate
Make it!
The syrup:
  1. Place the cherries, syrup and water in a small saucepan and simmer over a medium heat for around 10 minutes until reduced and sticky. Set aside to cool.
The cakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Lightly grease paper cupcake cases and place in a cupcake tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in one at a time, with a teaspoonful of flour to stop the mixture from splitting.
  4. Sift the flour into the mixture gradually, folding in gently with a metal spoon.
  5. Stir in the white chocolate and the milk.
  6. Swirl half of the syrup mixture through the batter, retaining the rest for later.
  7. Dollop into the paper cases, filling them 2/3 full.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and risen and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Place on a wire rack to cool. 
For the topping:
  1. Mix together the cream cheese and icing sugar in a bowl; you might want to add a little more sugar to taste.
  2. When the cupcakes are completely cool, take a sharp knife and cut a small inverted cone shape out of the top of the cake.
  3. Fill a piping bag with the cream cheese and pipe into the cupcakes, swirling on top in a circle.
  4. Drizzle with syrupy cherries and any leftover white chocolate. 

Sluttery Sales Spy: Collectif, Urban Outfitters & Joy



Nancy dress, £71.20 (was £89), Boden

I visited Boden with serious intent the other day. Usually I just find myself there by accident, chuckling merrily at the photos depicting a lifestyle I'll never have: a life replete with sun-kissed children, learning Mandarin, Russian, Esperanto and Makaton at school, their weekends filled with harp lessons and archery; of husbands for whom thought seems an impossibility, but anoraks are very important; and of women who wear things called towelling hoodies, whose working day consists of simply clutching their throats in awe of the brilliance of yellow pencils. 

This time was different, though; this time, I wished to buy something. I wanted me a slice of Boden life: specifically, the Nancy dress. Named after my very favourite feline (or so I imagine), this dress has made me reconsider my Boden stance, and I'm pleased I have. When you scrape beneath the catalogue-perfect surface, there are some lovely bits and bobs to be had. Plus, there's up to 40% off everything until Sunday, so that's nice. Excuse me while I tinkle my harp for a moment in appreciation. 

Lisa tartan dress, £30 (was £59.50), Collectif
Sales Spy points go to Frances this week, for alerting me to Collectif's excellent sale. I love this tartan dress, I love the model's hair and make-up, and I loathe her shoes, but as Meatloaf would say - and indeed has, at length - two out of three ain't bad.

You probably won't be wearing a faux fur coat much during the day now that the weather has fractionally improved (you'll be needing a spring jacket, my dear), but for cooler evenings, or, say, October 2015 when you finally manage to get a cancellation ticket to see Benedict Cumberbatch playing Hamlet at the Barbican (I already have it all mapped out, you see: catch his eye with a flamboyant fur coat; marry him. FLAWLESS PLAN, non? Absolutely fucking foolproof), you'll need this one from Collectif

(You'll notice leopard print has its own category this week. I am beside myself with excitement.)

Louche Barney leopard print skirt, £20 (was £36), Joy
Joy's mid-season sale is spectacular. There is so much to choose from, but I decided to plump for this Barney skirt ONLY, which is very restrained of me, but apparently other people use the internet, too, and I can't commandeer all of it for the purpose of ranting about things from Joy. I know, it's sad. Maybe next week.

Remember when Katie Price married Peter Andre? Tatty Devine has immortalised that beautiful day with their horse and carriage necklace, a fitting tribute to one of Britain's enduring love affaiOHWAIT.

Me & Zena spiderweb necklace, £24 (was £40), ASOS

I'm getting Charlotte's Web vibes from this Me & Zena spiderweb necklace. Perhaps it's ever-changing? One day, you'll look in the mirror to find SOME PIG scrawled across your chest. Let's hope you don't ever wake up to find Charl's magnum opus hanging there. Shudder.

Anyway, buy this necklace, save a pig. Smashing.


Wilderness string dispenser, £14.95 (was £24), Anthropologie
Every time I enter an Anthropologie store, I pick up this bespectacled dude and LONG and YEARN and WAIL and WOMP. £24 seemed too much for an owl that spits out string, but £14.95? Completely acceptable. HE'S WEARING SCISSOR GLASSES, GUYS. I love him even more than BENEDICT. Gasp. (There's a fox, too, but his scissors confuse me.)

Essenza Aimee double duvet set, £65 (was £90), Urban Outfitters
I can't stop seeing a face in that side table. However, we're here to look at the bed, so wrestle your eyeballs away and concentrate instead on the cross-stitch effect duvet cover and pillows of glory. Also of note in the Urban Outfitters sale: that floral turntable I bang on about at every opportunity. Everything comes to she who waits. 

How are you all and WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN BUYING?

Thursday 27 March 2014

Sluttishly Savoury: Warm Puy Lentil Salad

I am something of a lentil champion-er. They've been good to me over the years: seeing me through my studenthood; through sickness; through health and through financial instability. I won't hear a bad word said about them. They've had a bad rep for a while, but I think (as Bob Dylan puts it) 'the times, they are a chaaaangin'. Lentils are proving their versatility and are popping up on menus everywhere. 

Puy lentils (or poor man's caviar as they're known in France) are the crème de la crème of the lentil world—they hold their shape and texture much better than standard lentils, as they are grown in the hot volcanic climate and mineral rich soil of Le Puy. This warm salad uses them as a bed partner with mozzarella and makes for a lovely, rustic, peasant-y plate.

Warm Puy Lentil Salad with Burata and Mint Dressing (serves 2)
Preparation time: 20mins
Cooking Time: 30mins 

For the lentils:
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g puy lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
For the rest: 
  • a large hunk of white bread (stale works well)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of mint leaves
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar 
  • a big handful of spinach
  • 1 ball of burata (or buffalo mozzarella, or just really nice mozzarella)
  • a big handful of washed spinach
  • baby salad leaves if you want it to look prettier (not obligatory)
Make it!
  • Sweat the carrot, onion, celery and garlic in a big pan until lightly coloured.
  • Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold water.
  • Add them to the vegetables with 600ml of cold water and the bay leaf. 
  • Bring them to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 25 mins or until tender.
  • For the croutons – rip up the bread into large-ish chunks, heat a pan with a good big glug of olive oil and fry them until golden and crispy (you may need to add more oil as you go). Season with lots of salt and pepper. 
  • For the dressing just whiz up the mint leaves with a glug of olive oil, vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. 
  • When the lentils are ready, drain them, season them, then stir the spinach through them so it wilts in the heat.
  • When you dish up – tear the burata and croutons over the lentils and spoon over the dressing.
  • Decorate with baby salad leaves. 

Shelf Esteem: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
Shelf worth: 4/5

"I'm reading a book about Wisconsin," I told my boyfriend smugly. (I have no idea why, but it made me feel incredibly worldly-wise in a way that reading a book about California say just wouldn't.)

That smugness was entirely wiped away after one of the loveliest first chapters I've read in an age. I spent my teens growing up in the countryside, and there was a lot that rang true here albeit in the context of the USA's ridiculously massive country. Hampshire doesn't really compare.

In this first chapter I fell entirely in love with life in the farming country of the eastern USA. And above all, I fell in love with Henry Brown. Handy that, I won't have to change my name when we get married.

Nickolas Butler's book is one of those sickeningly good debut novels that makes you wonder if there is any talent left for anyone else. It's the story of four longtime friends in their early 30s: quiet farmer Henry, a classic "rock" and married with children to his sweetheart Beth; Lee, a superstar musician who always returns to their home town of Little Wing to gather himself; Ronnie, a former rodeo star and alcoholic who lost something in his mind after a drunken fall; and Kip, a city sensation in Chicago who has moved back to Little Wing to marry, and rebuild an old mill.

It's a book about friends, but not one that I've ever read before. There is no "...And Things Will Never Be The Same" plot, just friends who have known each other through ups and downs for years, and who will continue to do so for decades to come.

One of many beautiful moments comes when Lee describes the sunset as a synaesthete would, in terms of music and specific notes for each colour as it falls. Shotgun Lovesong is a synaesthete sunrise in reverse: as the book progresses, you slowly get the full beam of Little Wing, of the characters and of the story as it unfolds. My one qualm was that initially the male characters all rather blended into one, but they soon get unpicked and reveal themselves.

Something I particularly enjoyed was getting to know Beth, and Kip's wife Felicia. Henry initially dismisses them as "our wives and children", like a pack brood of cattle when the focus is on his friends, but both women are drawn terrifically and with significantly more realistic qualities than other literary male writers manage *cough, Franzen*. As much as I love Henry, and am intrigued by the initially repulsive Kip, it was never a let down to come to a Beth chapter - Butler gives his characters rich lives, and quietly unreels plot lines that feel as natural as they do surprising.

This is a warm, gentle book that gathers you up with such calm efficiency that the moments of properly golden writing - of which there are several - leave you slightly dumbstruck. A description of a wedding has some lines that seem destined to last forever. This isn't a book to be smug about, but rather, a book to revel in, and then to share.

Sluttishly Savoury: Spicy Orange and Honey Chicken

Most of the things I create in the kitchen can be described as 'thingy'. As in 'can you make that potato thingy tonight?' or 'I haven't got much in the fridge, I'm going to make a chicken thingy for tea'. Thingy is my favourite thing to cook. This is a cobbled together chicken thingy and it's excellent. It's sticky and spicy and a giant hug of a thingy and it will make your crappy day at work vanish completely. I used drumsticks but you could use breasts or thigh. Keep the skins on, they crisp up a treat.

Spicy orange and honey chicken thingy (serves 2 with rice, but doubles up easily)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

You'll need:
  • 2 tbsp marmalade
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce (use tamari if you want to keep this recipe gluten free)
  • 4cm ginger, grated
  • 2 red chillies, finely sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • Drizzle of honey
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
Make it!
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
  2. Mix up your ingredients and pour over your chicken drumsticks, covering them as much as possible.
  3. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes and then turn halfway through.
  4. Spoon some more of the sauce back over them before popping them back in the oven.
  5. Check them again after 15 more minutes, when the skins are crispy and golden and the juices are running clear they're done.
  6. Serve with a giant pile of white rice, making sure you pour some of the orangey sauce over the top.

Sluttishly Vegetarian: Malaysian Laksa

Dear The Weather: you are too warm for hearty stews, but too cold for me to be satisfied with a salad-based tea. I call this season 'Sprinter' or 'Wing' because it's a weird in-betweeny time that means I don't know how to dress or feed myself. It is a time for layers, an emergency scarf in every bag, and dinners that deliver a warming kick without being carb overload.

So hello laksa, a spicy and fragrant noodle soup that is pleasingly fast to cook and will leave you satisfied but not stuffed. Popular in Malaysia but found all over south-east Asia, it's a noodle soup that comes with a gently spiced broth and your choice of protein. This veggie option uses Quorn pieces, but you could use lightly fried tofu pieces or, if you're not vegetarian, prawns or sliced chicken.

Malaysian Laksa (serves 2)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

You will need:
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 5cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped (or a squeeze of lemongrass paste)
  • 125g Quorn pieces (or alternative)
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 150ml vegetable stock 
  • 100g egg noodles
  • Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime
Make it!
  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan or wok over a medium heat. Add the shallots, chilli, garlic, ginger and lemongrass for 2-3 minutes until your kitchen smells amazing.
  2. Stir in the Quorn pieces and then add the coconut milk and stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and leave to simmer while you cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.
  3. Add the cooked noodles to the soup and stir through. Divide the soup between two bowls and garnish with the chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime juice.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Fabulous Presents For Fantastic Mothers


You know when you stare at a word for long enough and it loses all meaning? That has just happened to me with mothers. MOTHERS! Moth - errs? It's so weird, no wonder people find English strange.

I've been staring at mothers in particular because there is such an array of terms for Mothering (argh! Even weirder) Sunday, Mother's Day and Mothers Day which in case you forgot, is this Sunday. Laura B's astonishing Earl Grey Milk Jam is a complete winner if you want to make something yourself, otherwise come with me dear reader, and mum yourself up.

Bling! This gorgeous family tree pendant can be personalised with anywhere from two to six initialled leaves. It starts at £19.50 from Ellis and Pip's Etsy store.

Tea! I get my borderline obsessive fondness for mugs from my mother, who sadly has had to admit defeat on her cupboards - there is simply no room for further mug acquisitions. This bone china one is a beauty though, covered in names of famous literary mothers from Pauline Mole to Mrs Frisby.

I had to google Kitty Scherbatsky who I thought might be related to Robin from How I Met Your Mother (she is not). The Mothers in Literature mug is £9.95 from the Literary Gift Company.


Scarves are wonderful presents and I love these two long and lovely ones from Isabi. The Paris silk scarf is completely inspiring - lay it out and it's actually the Eiffel tower, vintage stamps and a map of the city - and the pink spotty scarf will zheujzh up any outfit. They are both £40.

BAAAAA-GAIN! (Sorry). This sheep-print scarf comes in two colours and is down to just £6 from Edinburgh Woollens (as my mum always calls it).

Prestat's gorgeous packaging always makes you feel special. Their Best Mother in the World hamper is a good bet for anyone with a sweet rather than overly-chocolatey tooth: rose and violet chocolate cremes, Earl Grey and lemon chocolate, and pink chocolate hearts. Too cute. And £25. Er, not sure about how they're marketing their gin truffles though...

If you are dealing with a serious chocomaniac, you need Hotel Chocolat.

(There will be a short pause while we recollect ourselves at the mere thought of Hotel Chocolat.)

This pocket selection is £9 and comes with delectable chocolate hearts flavoured with Lemon Berry Tart, Gianduja Praline, Raspberry Smoothie and Dark Salted Caramel.


*gathers tatters of dignity and self-worth from the floor*

RIGHT. Hotel Chocolat have a metric tonne of Mother's Day presents, but I love this very neat and nifty goody bag, filled with seasonal treats. It's £19. Eton Mess Slab? Billionaire's Shortbread chocolates? Er, I'll just look after this until Sunday. Mum doesn't eat much chocolate anyway. No. Right.

Something to read? This. It always comes back to Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. Ignore the dodgy film adaptation and give this to your mum, content in the knowledge that she will have the most glorious couple of hours with this Cinderella 1930s story about a downtrodden governess who inadvertently falls into the Champagne and scandal circle of a glamorous young It girl. I've lost count of how many people I've bought this for - perfect dialogue, and filled with heart and wit.

I know I've mentioned it before, but if you can share the cost with some siblings, send off your mum with a friend (or whichever sibling remains after a fight to the death) to make gin at The Ginstitute in Notting Hill. As well as lots of drinks, making your own gin, you get a ridiculously engaging class on the history of gin, plus a bottle of Portobello to take home. It's £100 a ticket. I know. But so worth it.

For something soft (both in terms of alcohol, and the hit on your wallet), I absolutely love Fentimans. Their bottles are perfect if you are planning on making your mother a hamper. I had their rose lemonade for the first time the other night and it's just delicious - I don't ordinarily like rose-flavoured anything, but this was deliciously subtle, with a really good hit of lemons. And it looks a treat. You can get this from £1.50 in supermarkets, delis and places with really nice picture walls.
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