Tag Archives: interiors

Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

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The Vintage Furniture Flea

Our house is a 1930s semi in the middle of suburbia. You may or may not have noticed me complaining about it being in the middle of suburbia on occasion and it’s really the location I find most distressing –  if you could transport this house to say zone two, I’d never complain. It’s a really good size, we have a huge living space and kitchen/diner and three good sized bedrooms. Apart from the one that looks a little like a prison cell, we should really do some decorating upstairs at some point. And I’ve told you about our garden before too.

We both have a big love of mid-century modern furniture and we brought vintage pieces into the relationship when we met and have bought some pieces together since we’ve bought the house. That’s not to say we always agree on furniture – my tendency is towards colours and fun, he prefers classic and simple. And to be honest, we both like comfort and we both worry about money, so whilst it would have been lovely to get the amazing 1920s marble dining table with silver and yellow velvet chairs we saw at the Midcentury Modern fair a few years ago, we couldn’t quite justify the price. Which I believe was somewhere in the tens of thousands. Eeek. Similarly, I’ve never craved a vintage sofa because all those I’ve sat on, which look lovely, are bloody uncomfortable. Seriously, did people in the 50s and 60s not feel pain? There’s no way I’d be able to have a Netflix indulgence weekender on one of those.

Last week, I noticed my mate Chris had posted about The Vintage Furniture Flea on Facebook and as I’ve not been furniture shopping for a while, I decided to invite myself along. And drag the husband along too, mostly to rein me in from buying plastic things.

Sadly (for me, anyway) Chris is in Milan this weekend, so Neil, Marcel & I met for a full English breakfast at the Natural Kitchen in Baker Street then pootled down to Seymour Leisure Centre in Marylebone. Disclaimer, I didn’t actually pay to get in and I got free tea and cake (thanks Donna!), but I would absolutely pay £2 (or £3 for earlybird entry) if I didn’t have the blog, it’s absolutely worth it. And quite frankly, I would probably give my kidney for one of the cakes, they were AMAZING.

CAKE

The flea takes place in a gigantic sports hall and features about 20-30 traders, all of whom sell vintage furniture, collectables, kitchenalia and electricals and so much more besides. I had my eye on one of the Retromaps before going – these are vintage schoolroom world maps, utterly gorgeous but way out of our budget for today. However, definitely something I’d save for, they’re really striking and would look amazing in our dining room.

Retromaps 2

A little more about our house – when we moved in, there was this shelving unit on the wall behind the sofa. It had been filled with knick knacks by the previous owners (who are my folks). I always hated this shelving unit, it just looked cluttered and messy so we had planned to rip it out. But then in recent months, we’ve taking to carefully ‘curating’ (I’m sorry) pieces to go on to it – starting with framed prints that fit within the different sized holes and we’re starting to love it a little more so it may yet stay. Marcel has been looking for a lamp to put on the shelves so he can read books whilst I indulge in yet more Netflix, but we’ve never been able to find one that works well. I’m also a big fan of symmetry and didn’t just want one lamp, thought we should have two. We are so ridiculous, this has caused numerous rows. And I’ve wanted a vintage floor lamp for ages, ideally one of those cinema style lights, but we just don’t have the room height or the space for it.

But today, we found two beautiful lamps for £125 for the pair at the Flea. They’re quite short lamps, so perfect to have over the back of the sofa for reading, and are a lovely burnished gold colour and they’re a pair, so I get symmetry. We’re all winners. I think Marcel would have preferred them not to be gold, but hell, given that I was about to buy a plastic Toucan light, he knew it wasn’t a fight worth having. Well done Marcel.

the shelves with lamps

Close up on a lamp

We also bought a number of vintage prints – a VW campervan advert from the 1970s and a Warhol print. And I bought some beautiful chocolate moulds for a tenner. A little gutted that we currently don’t have a lot of furniture needs – there was some really nice stuff there, a little bit that had been upcycled (which I’m never sure is a good idea) but lots of tables and chairs in really good condition and relatively good value for money – Neil & Chris are in the process of buying a house so I think I filled it about 16 times over in my mind. Thankfully for them, I’m not moving in with them. I’m sure they’re devastated to hear this 🙂

Upcycling done well

We had a lovely couple of hours at the Flea – it’s not so big that you feel exhausted by the end of it, but there’s enough there that you can find a good bargain. The next Vintage Furniture Flea is on the 31st May in Brixton and then there’s one in Bethnal Green in July. All details are on the website – www.vintagefurnitureflea.com. Thanks to Donna for inviting us along and for the cake, looking forward to seeing you at the next one – we may even come all the way to Brixton for it!

Still sad I didn't buy this
Still sad I didn’t buy this

Fun with hawkers and other top Goan shopping tips

Whilst it’s only been a fortnight since we got home, it feels like a lifetime ago already. Don’t you hate that? When you’re away, you promise yourself that you’ll keep that holiday chill and not let the small shit get you down then a mere 14 days later, you’re freaking out about… well, stuff.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last two weeks arranging the lovely things we bought around our home and I thought that my Goan shopping experiences may be useful to other people so here are some top tips.

The Markets….

Also known as the haven for a lot of tourist tat and a significant amount of MC Hammer trousers in elephant prints

We arrived after our long journey on a Thursday afternoon and were still finding our feet by Saturday so we missed Arpora night market which everyone raves about. Mostly because I hear it’s like shopping at a nightclub in the 1990s, lots of music, drumming, people wearing too much tie dye and looking slightly beatific. Not gutted we missed it as we went to Anjuna Market on Wednesday instead which is basically the same but you go in the day time so rather than dancing to crazy beats, you sweat and sweat and sweat and still end up buying a lot of MC Hammer pants.

The wino wouldn't let me bring one of these home
The wino wouldn’t let me bring one of these home

Anjuna

Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.
Because what you really want to buy in 36C heat is thick woollen socks.


Anjuna

Anjuna Market is a lot of fun. Honestly. I generally hate big crowds and being forced to visit a “lovely shop that sells bangles, even big sizes for you lady”, but as the season has been so quiet due to the collapsing Russian economy, the crowds weren’t that bad so you could simply drift around and not make eye contact with anyone so you don’t get hassled. Amusingly, the ladies hawking their wares have picked up amazing British accents so they go from speaking in Hindi to each other to sounding like traders at Billingsgate Market. “A’righ’ love, come and check out my stall, lovely fings for you and your fella”. They could also hawk in Russian, which shows how dependent on tourism from there Goa has become.

Ice cream trucks at Anjuna

Kids MC hammer pant suit

One of my absolute favourite moments at the market was when a woman, trying to hawk her wares said “alright love, where are you from?” to which I replied, “Sri Lanka” (having bored of telling people London) to which she replied, “oooh, it’s cold there, innit”. So whilst it’s incredibly impressive that they can hawk in many languages, don’t go off script unless you want them to look at you like you’ve lost your mind when you laugh for a good 15 minutes after that.

We made it out of Anjuna after a couple of hours with only three shirts (wino) and one shirt and two pairs of hippy dippy pants (me). Everything is much of the same on every stall but worth looking out for Shoop Doop, which has great shirts in a variety of styles in interesting fabrics. The guy who runs it also has a shop in Ashvem so if you don’t make it to Anjuna, find him there.

You’ll need to get your bargaining hat on though – my MC Hammer trousers started at 700 rupees – I walked away with two pairs for 200.

My elephant print trousers
I am not putting my face to these trousers. But these are the trousers in their natural habitat. If you see me wearing them in London, please feel free to judge me.

Much more interesting and, I guess authentic, is Mapusa Market. This is on every day and is a local market (for local people) but with some tourist tat thrown in for good measure. Mapusa (pronounced Mapsa) is where you can find amazing spices, vegetables, fruit, homewares and all sorts of other things that you never knew you needed. And piles of clothing sky high. It was amazing to watch women making flower garlands from gigantic bags of heads of carnations and roses and other flowers I didn’t recognise. Mr Wino was at the height of his holiday illness so couldn’t smell anything but the scents and aromas – oh my. you go from overpowering dried fish to beautiful fresh flowers to pungent spices and herbs within a few steps. Utterly incredible.

Bangles at Mapusa Making garlands at Mapusa Dried fish at Mapusa market Flower garlands at Mapusa

These bottles were for sale. We couldn't work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?
These bottles were for sale. We couldn’t work out why anyone would buy them, any ideas?

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Other shopping experiences

During our stay at Casa Susegad, we met the lovely Helen and Colin, friends of the owners and part-time locals, spending a significant portion of the year in Goa and the rest in the UK. Helen has a shop in the UK and spends a lot of her time in India sourcing products to sell there (and the proceeds from which goes back to projects in India). As such, if you ever need a shopping tour guide, she’s your woman. We spent a day out in Panjim visiting many beautiful independent retailers and I spent a small fortune in Fab India on cushions and blankets and lovely trinkets. If Helen’s in residence at Casa Susegad, ask her for her tips.

Fab India

For me, Fab India was my stand out shop – it’s laid out beautifully with homewares, clothing and furniture that’s beautifully curated.I had my heart set on bringing home a Rajasthani blanket – I brought one in Kerala seven years ago but two house moves and getting a cat in that period of time has left it looking a little threadbare. The husband and I had agreed that no mirrorwork or embroidery would enter our suitcase (mostly because my 1990s clubbing flashbacks would be constant and never ending should I have that sort of thing in my house) and all we wanted were those simple printed cotton thin duvets. Helen recommended Fab India so off we went – and I somehow came home with four blankets, five cushion covers and a table cloth. Well done Vinnie. That was fun packing, let me tell you. Blankets do not crush down easily. FYI, looking on Fab India site, they ship internationally. Do not tell the wino.

Another newish Panjim shop worth a visit is White Brick Wall – this sells modern clothing with an Indian twist, as well as homewares.  I fell in love with the jumpsuit with the tuk tuk print, but sadly not in my size. Although, to be fair, the owner said she’d get it made for me in my size but I didn’t have time to do that. Sad.

And if you get a chance the paper shop, Chimanlals, is gorgeous if you’re a stationery fiend like me.

To end on a foodie tip, in Loutolim there’s a bakery called Jila, voted the best bakery in the whole of India by the Times of India. If you decide to stroll down there from the town or from Casa Susegad, take water – it’s a good 30 minute walk. You’ll get lost, you’ll pass a dilapidated house that’s been taken over by monkeys, locals under umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat wil laugh at the the tourists, you’ll think you’re never going to find it and indeed, you’ll walk right on by till you reach what feels like a motorway. And then, if you’re like me, you’ll blame the husband for getting you lost and you’ll have a little argument so you turn back to tackle the long walk home… and there’s the sign. On a house. That looks like a house, not a bakery. So you ring the bell, and you’re taken into the lounge and you are brought a plate of cakes for you to choose from. And it makes the long trek so worth while and you forget about the heat and you elegantly fight over who gets the last mouthful of eclair*.

Jila bakery Loutolim

Clearly, I did not take a photo of the cakes themselves because I was too busy a) drooling and b) scoffing. Sorry.

*Me, obviously.

Rainbow shelves

Two months ago, we bought a house. We owned property before, but going from a small one bed flat to a 3-bed house has left us both feeling spectacularly like we’re playing at being grown ups (I don’t think I’ve had to go upstairs to go to bed since I last lived with my folks 12 years ago. It’s very strange, but kinda fun).

The house we’ve bought actually used to be my parents place. They’ve downsized and we’ve upscaled. All in all, it’s been a very topsy turvy house purchase with a world of emotions attached. Thankfully it wasn’t my childhood home so I’m not attached to the green carpets in the lounge or the four different coloured and patterned carpets upstairs (honestly, what is wrong with old people?!) so now we’re in, we’re working hard at changing the bits that need changing and working out how we can afford to do the more extravagant building work (like a brand new kitchen….)

Our weekends are taken up with painting walls, weeding the garden, browsing furniture blogs and websites and visiting antique markets to drool over lovely mid-century furniture we can’t really afford.

One of the things we hated about our old flat was the lack of space to display books and memories. I’m a prolific reader and had hundreds of books (and I’m sure I’ll write a post on my love of my Kindle soon), the husband also likes to read but a bit more slowly than me) and came to our relationship with many books that he’d inherited from family and friends over the years. So we knew we wanted to have a space to display our books and intersperse them with knick knacks and thingiemejigs that we’ve collected on our travels. My lovely friend Kate, who has an awesome interiors blog that showcases her fabulous home, has a bookshelf in her home where she’d colour matched the spines of her literature to form a literary rainbow so in the spirit of interior theivery, I stole her idea.

Using Ikea’s Billy bookshelves as a basis (you cannot go wrong with an Ikea basic!), we built five bookshelves and attached them to the wall in what is now referred to as the library (because we’re fancy). And then the fun started….

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Or at least the organising did. I love to organise everything from making sure that the glasses match when I load the dishwasher to lining up shoes in order of heel height so having a wall of empty bookshelves appealed to the obsessive compulsive in me. And as you’ll see from the below (and my cover image), the result is a slightly dishevelled but rainbow matched shelving unit. I even went so far as to match vases and ornaments and pebbles and pennies to the different coloured sections (this was the point when the husband went upstairs to put his head in his hands and sigh!) It’s not perfect but it’s very much us and it’s probably the only bit of our new home that feels like it’s imbued with our spirit (so far! We’re working on the rest of it).

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