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Monthly Archives: May 2013
  • Posted on May 28, 2013

    A simple recipe for French red onion soup from 'A Life Less Ordinary'

    We know, we know... it's almost June and we're posting recipes for soup! But the forecast for the week suggests you might want to make this at home...

    Anyway, here's Alex Legendre on her recipe for French red onion soup which is taken from A Life Less Ordinary - Interiors and Inspirations which Alex co-wrote with Zoe Ellison.

    "I think this is all the comfort food you can get in one bowl. It has been our family favorite for as long as I can remember—my husband and I both ate it as children, and it gets passed on from one generation to another, with each new person adding their own
    personality. What’s so simple about this dish is the ingredients—you don’t really need anything you wouldn’t already have in your kitchen store.

    The soup has become a regular on the menu at the café, served just the way I like it with my dad’s recipe for welsh rarebit used for the cheesy croutons—a delicious combination with the rich dark soup.

    6–8 large red onions, finely sliced
    a pinch of fresh thyme
    7 tablespoons (100g) organic salted butter
    a splash of mild olive oil
    half a teaspoon of sugar
    2 tablespoons flour
    3 cups (850ml) homemade or good-quality
    bought beef stock
    a generous glass of wine that you would drink
    (not an old, half drunk, dusty bottle)
    a nip of brandy
    a baguette, some delicious Gruyère cheese, mustard
    powder, and an egg yolk for the croutons

    Soften the onions in a large shallow pan with the thyme, half the butter, and a splash of oil.
    Stir continuously to make sure the onions don’t stick to the base of the pan. When they have browned and taken on a silky, rich consistency, add the sugar and season. Stir in the flour and keep it moving while it cooks for a few minutes. Now add your wine and stock, and simmer for 30 minutes.

    While the soup simmers, prepare the croutons. Slice the baguette and toast one side. Finely grate some Gruyère and mix with an egg yolk and a generous pinch of mustard powder. Spread the cheese mixture on the untoasted side of the baguette slices and
    broil/grill until golden.

    Add the brandy and remaining butter to the soup and you’re ready to serve."

    A Life Less Ordinary - Interiors and Inspirations by Zoe Ellison and Alex Legendre is out now

    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US, What's new and was tagged with 2013, olive oil, mustard, zoe ellison, soup, thyme, favourite, sugar

  • Posted on May 23, 2013

    The perfect accompaniment for a trip to the beach this bank-holiday weekend!

    It's another bank holiday this coming weekend and if you're like a lot of people, you'll head to the coast. It'll probably be slightly blustery but why have a boring windbreak when you can have this decorative design from the recently published Handmade Glamping...

    It will add a glamorous feel to a day on the beach and will last you all summer and beyond!

    23/4 yd (2.5 m) fabric
    Sewing machine
    Matching sewing thread
    4 wooden windbreak posts
    14 x 20 in. (35 x 50 cm) piece of Bondaweb
    Assorted pieces of fabric for the appliqué
    Templates (*** see below)
    111/2 in. (28 cm) of trim in each of three different styles/colors
    6 in. (15 cm) ribbon
    6 in. (15 cm) rick rack trim
    8 in. (20 cm) rick rack trim or ribbon in each of 3 different styles/colors
    Coordinating embroidery floss (thread) and needle
    12 buttons
    Selection of sequins

    1 Fold the top and bottom edges of the main fabric over twice to make a double hem and stitch in place. Fold over the ends once by 1/4 in. (5 mm) and stitch in place.

    2 Fold each side of the main fabric under by 2 in. (5 cm), or to fit the wooden posts, and pin in place. Machine stitch down to make a channel for the post. Measure 20 in. (50 cm) in from each end and make a 2 in. (5 cm) pleat in the fabric (or a pleat to fit the wooden post). Pin and machine stitch to make the two channels for the remaining posts.

    3 Fix Bondaweb onto the back of the fabric pieces for the applique, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Using the templates below ***, cut three different pieces of fabric for the beach huts, three different pieces of fabric for the doors, and three triangles in different fabrics for the roofs. Peel away the paper backing on each piece ready to add the beach hut design to the windbreak.

    4 Pin the main part of each beach hut onto the center section of the windbreak with a gap of about 2 in. (5 cm) between each one. Pin a triangular roof on each hut. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to bond everything in place.

    5 Cut the three circles for the life rings in different fabrics. Cut a hole in the center of each to make a ring. Cut three small triangular flags from different fabrics. Arrange the rings, doors and flags onto the beach huts using the photograph above as a guide. Bond the pieces in place as before.

    6 Pin assorted trimming along the base and sides of each roof. Use one of the trims to add a vertical flagpole at the top of each roof. Machine stitch all the trimmings in place.

    7 Work a wide zigzag stitch along the raw edges at sides and base of each beach hut. Zigzag stitch around each door and the flag. Work chain stitch around the life rings.
    Add long stitches to create a striped effect on the life ring. Add buttons and sequins to the design as desired.

    8 Insert a wooden post into each of the four stitched tubes. To store the windbreak, simply
    roll it up with posts in place.

    Handmade Glamping by Charlotte Liddle and Lucy Hopping is published by CICO Books and is available now at all good bookshops and online outlets.

    ***The template you will need:



    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with 2013, handmade, fabric, bank holiday, glamping

  • Posted on May 20, 2013

    Mid-week Chat with Caro London and Alison Beadnell!

    This week we are delighted to be joined by Caro London and Alison Beadnell who talk the importance of beautiful nightwear, life in Bali and the Milan fashion scene...

    Babushka Pillows from And Sew to Bed

    1.  Can you tell us a little bit about your fashion backgrounds and how your Caro London Range came about?

    Caro:  After a lifetime of sewing from the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and I studied for my degree at Middlesex Polytechnic. I worked in London for a couple of years but was advised that the fashion capital was in Milan or Paris at that time so I headed off to Milan towards the end of the 80’s and worked at several design houses researching and designing.

    After four years in Italy, I was headhunted to a company based in Hong Kong that was working with huge American brands. The work was totally different – much more mass production, very fast turn around and it was incredibly exciting - with lots of long haul trips to the USA, Taiwan and Korea and coming back with telephone number sized orders-surreal after the hallowed, quiet offices and fashion palaces in Italy!

    Eventually, I became quite jaded with the crazy lifestyle (I call it 'fashion burnout'!) long hours and juggling too many buyer’s accounts so I went to live in Bali for a year where I started making small batch production with carvers and painters making handmade decorative pieces concentrating on colour and pattern  (I still sell my handmade Bird & Christmas decorations for nostalgia). I returned to the UK and began lecturing at the London College of Fashion and eventually ran the womenswear design pathway on the Fashion degree. Although I loved working with the students, I didn’t even keep a needle and thread in the house as I really felt my own days of design and production were over and I loved helping the students to realise their own ambitions.

    I made a chance trip with my boyfriend (now husband) to India in 2000 to source interior products but was totally seduced by a momentous trip to the ancient wholesale market in Old Delhi and the whole adventure we had whilst staying in the city. We went in on a rickshaw-almost impossible to grip onto the seat if you have long legs (which my husband and I have!) and the sights, smells and noises completely assailed us - I fell in love with the ribbons and trims stalls and immediately started sewing little samples back in our hotel room. We were accompanied by a wonderful man who has since become a vital part of my business and his family have become dear friends. We started printing our own fabrics in 2004 and the rest has evolved from there….

    Alison: I have been sewing since a young age, encouraged by my Mum. After studying Art and design at A level and Art Foundation I went on to do Fashion Design at De Montfort University. My forte was in pattern cutting and garment construction, and I worked at various market levels, ultimately as Ally Capellino's pattern cutter in the late 90's. I have been teaching at London College of Fashion and freelancing at pattern cutting and technical consultation for the last 14 years. I have worked at all market levels and at most garment types - womenswear, childrenswear, menswear, wedding dresses etc. I joined Caro London as technical consultant about 6 years ago, and as it's such a great team, I've stayed.

    2. What was it about nightwear and accessories that captured your imagination and prompted you to write a sewing book about the subject?

    Caro: Last year we were approached to produce some of our prints for Japan. After looking through the stack of archive boxes and drawers in our studio, I discovered that we actually have quite a comprehensive back catalogue of Caro prints and also our nightwear and accessory designs. As a designer, I have always found it hard to let go of favourite ideas but you have to keep moving forward…The idea of showing some of these in a book meant that I could keep some of my favourite designs alive! We describe our nightwear as pieces for ‘Dressing up for winding down’ and I think they really are more special than the average pair of pyjamas or baggy T shirts. Gorgeous nightwear makes you feel special when you wear it.

    Now that we have our beautiful soft cotton Caro London branded fabrics, I realised that there is a definite need in the makers’ market for distinctive soft ‘dress/nightwear making’ cotton fabrics as opposed to craft weight printed cottons so we have decided to offer our fabrics too…they are hopefully winging their way off the printing table as I write.

    Alison: I love teaching, and I love making things. Being able to share Caro's beautiful nightwear and accessory designs and to hopefully de-mystify how to make them was a great opportunity.

    3. Which sewing projects in your new book are you coveting right now?

    Caro: I cant help loving the 3 Baboushka pillows. The designs are based on our hand made decorations and I spent a couple of days last summer putting them together whilst listening to all the Olympic races and activities of the day. At the end of the second day (a marathon 17 hours), I felt as if it had been on my own Olympic endeavour - I was really proud of myself when I had finished and I loved mixing up prints, colours and trims and I found Alison's clever 'dried peas construction' instructions to be spot on.

    Alison: I am going to make my daughter the traditional  pyjamas, hopefully in Caro's Japanese inspired Moonlight Watergarden print (as seen on the women's kaftan pj's in the book), trimmed with some turquoise ribbon.

    4. You are both advocates of travel and a good rummage around Flea Markets for fabrics and exotic prints, can you give us some of your top places to do this?

    Caro: I love any second hand shops which sell vintage clothing. I have always been a great advocate and have picked up wonderful scarves and dresses in so many towns and cities-Celia’s Vintage Clothing in Nottingham, Beyond Retro, Cheshire Street & Stoke Newington Road in East London, Past Caring in Holt, Norfolk and quirky boutiques in New York. I try and visit Vintage Costume markets such as at the Hammersmith Town Hall. When I visit India, I like to go to Lajpat Nagar but my first love has to be the ancient wholesale market in Delhi – Chandni Chouwk.

    Alison: I'm more of a book shop rummager - I've found some amazing books on Pattern cutting history, street art, contemporary and traditional clothes from around the world, old garment catalogues, paper dolls and theatre sets, music movements, and my other great love: baking.

    5. With the success of the Great British Sewing Bee, sewing has definitely captured the imagination of a nation by de-mystifying the art form, what do you think it is about this do-it-yourself activity which has sparked a love affair with it?

    Caro: I feel it has come off the back of the recession, the popularity of bloggers writing about their interests and the British passion for cooking shows - especially baking. This ‘homely’ authenticity has inevitably led to sewing. Also I think Kirsty Allsop has done quite a lot for making Handmade chic again. We need more celebrities on the sewing band wagon!

    Alison: The GBSB has shown us the pure joy of creating that all sew-ers share. It has also emphasised that there's room out there for all skill levels, some who take time and create perfection, others who 'run up' creations that they enjoy wearing. Individuals can be creative to whatever level they're capable of, it's all about the joy.

    6.  Do you have any sage words of advice for those moments of calamity when  a sewing projects take a turn for the worse? 

    Alison: Take a breath, take a break, wash your hands. Then go back, assess the 'damage', and decide how to salvage it - adaptability is often the key, rather than unpicking everything.

    Caro: When I was 15, I was asked to make my own bridesmaid's dress for my cousin's wedding. I was more than half way through when the fabric inexplicably ripped the whole way through the Centre Front! After a good cry, I decided to put tiny pintucks across the front bib to give the dress 'added' interest and to hide the problem.

    7. Not only does Caro London seek to produce quality products, you also seek to do it in a way that is ethical. One of the ways you do this is by supporting the charity Karuna, whose patron is none other than Dame Judi Dench, can you tell us a little more about why this is important to you both?

    Caro: When I worked in the fashion industry, I saw such a lot of wastage in the corporate world. No doubt things have changed since then but when I was starting my own business, I felt that I had to work with people who I trusted and respected and whom I felt I could make a difference to.  I only like to work with small production units and it’s really important that I trust the owners and feel that we are helping to provide employment.

    One of my producers runs a breakfast and after school club for disadvantaged children. He has provided them with additional education, IT skills etc… and I really admired his charity work. I decided that I wanted to support a lesser known organisation so I chose Karuna (a London based charity www.karuna.org) which help the Dalit community in India – the so called 'Untouchables' who still suffer so much discrimination. I was really interested when they told me that they were starting workshops to teach women sewing skills.

    8. What is next on the horizon for Caro London, will you be looking to write another sewing book and what exciting things could that cover?

    Caro:  As ever, our brains are full of the kernels of ideas....Apart from running 'Caro London', we are looking into a Sewing Project Blog or even real classes in the Caro studio; launching and designing our new dressmaking print fabrics; perhaps  a follow up book of daywear as we have always loved designing easy to wear womenswear pieces or maybe more embellished pieces for the home – Alison is looking into the possibilities of making pieces with only hand sewing and at the moment and I am helping my daughter to learn cross stitching. We have a biker jacket for Teddy in progress...so maybe that will lead to a book of what can be done with cross stitching!

    Here are a couple more beautiful projects from And Sew to Bed, just to wet your appetites!


    And Sew to Bed  by Caro London and Alison Beadnell is published by Cico Books and is available here.

    For other craft ideas and inspirations, go here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Interviews, News, News, UK, US, What's new and was tagged with fashion, prints

  • Posted on May 13, 2013

    Recreate 1920's Gatsby glamour and make your own classic cocktails!

     'In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.' 

    F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

    The roaring 20s is all the rage with the arrival of Baz Luhrmann's long-awaited epic film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic jazz-age novel The Great Gatsby looming on the horizon. With a star-studded cast featuring the finest of Hollywood's bright young talent Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, the film promises to impress, with its effortless glamour and iconic art deco style.

    The Mint Julep was Gatsby's tipple of choice and now you can make your own! What better way to celebrate National Cocktail Day 2013!


    this granddaddy of cocktails was a favourite among the guests at jay gatsby’s infamous parties. These days it’s a cocktail for the more discerning amongst us.
    • • •
    15 ml sugar syrup
    3 mint sprigs
    60 ml bourbon
    Serves 1
    • • •
    Muddle the sugar, one mint sprig and the bourbon in
    a rocks glass. Add crushed ice and garnish with the remaining mint sprigs. Serve with two straws.

    Gatsby Cocktails is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available here. Check out all our other drink related books here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new

  • Posted on May 9, 2013

    Join Tori Haschka, author of A Suitcase and A Spatula, for a Brunch Workshop at La Fromagerie

    Saturday 18th May 2013, La Fromagerie, 2–6 Moxon Street, Marylebone, 9.30am–11.30am

    Sydney-born food & travel writer and author of the newly published A Suitcase and A Spatula, Tori Haschka, will be holding a brunch workshop at London’s finest foodie emporium, La Fromagerie, Marylebone.

    Tori’s globetrotting food adventures have taken her from New York to San Francisco via Iowa, from Berlin to Bilbao, Cairo, Rome, Reykjavik, Morocco, Bologna, Venice, Val d’Isère to Stockholm just to name a few…not forgetting London. You can follow Tori’s travels through her food blog: www.eatori.com

    The brunch will begin with coffee and a Latte Banana Bread made with Le Piantagioni Coffee paired with deliciously creamy butter from Monsieur Bordier in Brittany. You will then venture to Iceland with Blueberry Skyr – cinnamon & almond crumble layered with blueberries & creamy Greek yoghurt. This will be followed by a Tartine of Roast Red Grapes & Walnuts with Labne made especially for the event. And to round things off there will be Pea, Basil & Feta Fritters with Roasted Tomatoes, paired with a chilled glass of Prosecco.

    Throughout brunch, Tori will demonstrate some of the recipes as she shares her memories, anecdotes and culinary musings from her travels to the four corners of the globe.
 Discover the places that inspired her dishes from beaches, chalets, dappled terraces, souks, tapas bars and tavernas – all beautifully captured in her book.

    Tickets are £35. To reserve in advance please telephone La Fromagerie for further details: 020 7935 0341 or visit www.lafromagerie.co.uk

    A Suitcase and A Spatula by Tori Haschka is published by Ryland Peters & Small and is available here

    This post was posted in News, UK, US and was tagged with 2013, event, Tori Haschka, fritter

  • Posted on May 8, 2013

    Mid-week Chat With...Jenny McCabe

    This week we are very excited to be talking with Jenny McCabe, author of Handprint and make your own Bags, here's what Jenny had to say...

    1.  Welcome to our Mid-Week Chat Jenny, it’s fantastic to have you with us!  Tell us a little bit about yourself?  Where are you from and how did you get into crafting?

    It's lovely to be here, I live in Lancaster in the northwest of England with my husband and 2 children. Crafting has always been a huge part of my life, I can't bear to buy anything as I can usual make it, from knitting booties to fitting a kitchen, I’m a stubborn woman, who won’t have any help! Sewing has always been my best craft skill. When I was a teenager I started making my own clothes and it hasn’t stopped, I love constructing a garment or using the sewing machine to free embroider an artwork. It’s like magic, making 3D forms out of fabric, it never ceases to amaze me and there’s always so much to learn.


    2.  What sort of craft products do you make?

    I make and sell hand printed fabric bags and home-wares through my brand Coo & co. I love to keep it simple and all my fabric designs are simple hand drawn lines on rustic linen. My imagery tends to look at nature, birds, butterflies and trees, this is a genuine love of mine, we have an amazing garden backing onto a local park and woodland and it’s always full of the most amazing bird and wild life, it’s a daily joy to watch and learn about our fantastically varied British wildlife.

    3.  Your first book Handprint and Make Your Own Bags has recently been published, what can people expect from the book and what is your favourite project?

    The book is jam packed with projects, you start by printing your own fabric, using hand printing techniques which can be a simple or as intricate as you choose, then pick from one of the 35 different bag patterns to make. I tried very hard to make sure there were lots of different projects to cover every level of sewing ability, but I also wanted to inspire people to try out something challenging and feel the joy of finishing a project and saying I made that. My favourite project in the book is probably the children’s back pack- I just love the print, it’s so simple to build up the waves with a little shell shape.

    Jenny's favourite project!



    4.  Birds have always played a big part in your designs, how do you make sure that your work stays unique when certain designs become particularly fashionable?

    Birds have always been in my work, even in my primary school books. I am a real twitcher and birds are a big part of my daily life. I’ve tried not to draw birds but I just cant help it! The trend for birds has been around for a while now and some things you see do feel a bit forced, but if the designs have passion behind them,  that always shines through.

    5. Talk as through a typical day for you as a maker.

    I have one child still in primary school so my day usually begins with the school run, out to a beautiful rural school so there always a good bit of bird action on the way there and back. Coffee is the next stop, usually in my home studio with a pencil and paper to make the list for the day. I always have a few orders to make and package, so that would be me sewing and finishing. I try to do my printing in big runs so once a month I will spend the whole day printing 10 metres plus of my fabric, ready for all the order that come in. Whatever activity I’m doing I need a bit of background company to pace my day, I love radio 4 in the morning but by lunch I swap over to a Sci-fi film or vintage British comedy to see me through till the school pick up

    6.  Did you enjoy making things as a child?  What was the first craft item you made, who was it for and did they like it!?

    Wow that’s a great question, I did love making and can’t remember a time when I didn’t, I have jumbled memories of sewing rag dolls as a very young child.  The clearest first memory is the comic and stop frame animations I used to draw with my brothers, all very silly but such a great sense of team work and creativity.

    A Perfect One for the Children to Make!


    7.  Have you ever had a craft disaster?

    Oh many many, some days I spend most of my making time unpicking! I live in fear of sewing through my finger with the sewing machine ( my mum did it when we were little and it has frightened me ever since) I did try to make a tailored jacket a few Christmas’s ago for my husband, I was so pleased with how the front pockets turned out that I neglected to spend much time on the fit, needless to say it has never been finished after the first trying on and realising that it wasn’t even human shaped, it will remain in a bag behind my fabric stash forever more.

    8.  When did you realise that your love for making could also earn you a living and how did you go about setting up your business?

    I spent the first 12 years of my working life after graduating working as a community artist, devising and delivering creative projects in schools and hospitals, helping other to realise their creativity. I loved that work but it could at times be stressful and after having my second child 6 years ago I started to have a desire to make my own art works and started painting and drawing again in my spare time, and soon re-found printmaking, the beauty of being able to repeat an image lends itself very well to selling handmade things because you can make lots. In 2010 I wound down all of my other work and started to make and sell my hand make textiles, I found out about selling online with sites like Etsy and folksy almost right away and learnt quickly how they worked, it took off right away and has been going form strength to strength ever since.

    9.  Who is your greatest artistic influence and why?

    The assistants from Take Hart were my first art love and remain my greatest artistic influence, along with Tony Hart himself- a permanent fixture on British children’s TV through out the 70s, 80s & 90s, he is just the most perfect English gentleman with the most versatile creative skills and knowledge, what’s not to love! I dreamed of being one of the girls who used the staple gun to create massive art works on the wall or show us how to do clever things with pastels.

    10.  What new ventures do you have in the works?

    There is always so much going on in my studio, I have new bag designs nearly ready for sale, a new range of scarves coming out in the summer and I’m about to begin work on the second book! Hand printed fabrics again but this time looking at Homewares- so cushions and curtains and much more.

    Handprint and make your own Bags by Jenny McCabe is published by CICO Books and is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Interviews, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with Jenny McCabe

  • Posted on May 7, 2013

    Mark Dredge, author of 'Craft Beer World', on his love of craft beer...

    I have “There’s a story at the bottom of this bottle” tattooed on my left arm. Those nine words encapsulate what I love most about beer. Every beer has a story made up of numerous interlinking stories: the story of how it’s brewed; why it’s brewed; and the people who brewed it. It’s also about the ingredients that were used and the story behind them: how they were produced and where they originated. Combine those ingredients to create a beer style, and that style then has its own history, whether it has been developed over time or is an innovative introduction.

    Then there’s the story of you, the drinker, who, getting to the bottom of the bottle, are more refreshed and relaxed, and also now involved by adding your own narrative to the beer’s story—that might be how the beer made you feel, where you had it, or who you drank it with. Whatever it is, attaching your story to the beers you drink gives them so much more meaning. Just think about the best beer you’ve ever had: I bet you can remember the moment you drank the beer better than the way it actually tasted.

    Trying to cover the whole world of craft beer has shown me just how exciting, innovative, and inspiring the brewing community is. It’s also shown how history plays a big role in the present. What I’ve come to regard as the most interesting fact about beer is how it’s always changing and always has been changing. The story of India Pale Ale is one of the most of ten repeated, but we know the story as a soundbite of a snapshot taken at one particular moment. We don’t see the wholeevolving biography. Look at it on a larger screen and there are so many changes as it evolves every decade or so to suit new tastes. And that’s still happening: think about American IPAs in 1993, then think about them in 2003, and then again in 2013. And it’s happening with every beer style on the bar; beers evolve with the flavors and inspiration of the time, although style names tend to stay the same.

    It’s that evolution which makes beer exciting and sets the premise for this book: what are the most interesting and best-tasting beers brewed in the world right now? At the same time, though it’s great to see all the new stuff, it’s also important to know what happened before because this very often provides the context or inspiration for new developments, and there are so many classic beers that we shouldn’t overlook while spending a lot of time searching for new tastes. History, too, whether it’s being made, followed, or providing inspiration, is always there and always important. Beer is continuously progressing and
    updating itself—and that’s exciting.


    Craft Beer World

    celebrates the stories of beers made around the world. It celebrates how they are made, where, why, and by whom. It also celebrates the drinking moment and how beer plays a role in our lives. This is a snapshot of the world of craft beer. It shows a small part of what’s happening—too small, in fact, as I’m only sorry I couldn’t get another 350 beers in—and there’s so much more to be discovered: so many new beers, so many classics to revisit, so many new breweries to drink at, and so many more stories to be told.

    Craft Beer World by Mark Dredge is published by CICO Books and is available to buy now, either from Amazon and other online outlets or at all good bookshops!

    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with Mark Dredge, craft beer, beer

  • Posted on May 1, 2013

    Tori Haschka celebrates the launch of her book A Suitcase and a Spatula and whips up a feast...

    Sydney-born food and travel writer, and intrepid gourmet, Tori Haschka celebrates the launch of her book A Suitcase and a Spatula and whips up a feast...

    April arrived in a flurry of snow and ended on a decidedly warmer note with a sudden profusion of cherry blossom cheering the skyline.

    And so it was last week, when we crammed ourselves into a black cab and headed westwards towards the setting sun and Books for Cooks in Notting Hill. Anyone even slightly inclined towards all things culinary needs little excuse to visit what is arguably the finest of all cookery book emporiums, and last Thursday it provided the perfect venue to celebrate the launch of A Suitcase and a Spatula: recipes and stories from around the world by Sydney-born food and travel writer, Tori Haschka.

    When we arrived, our author was already fully ensconced in preparing delicacies for her guests to feast upon during the evening. She had lovingly hollowed out countless cucumber ‘crowns’ to be filled with meltingly more-ish Scottish smoked salmon. Platters of mini crostini awaited their topping of homemade labna and roasted red grapes. While triangles of oven-crisp pitas infused with olive oil and garlic were to provide the perfect shovel-like implement for bowls of freshly blitzed fava dip sprinkled with baby capers.

    Guests arrived to the popping of cava corks and clinking of glasses and soon the shop was packed to capacity. In the manner of a ship’s captain on the calmest of seas, our redoubtable host, Eric Treuille, surveyed the scene from the vantage of the shop’s till point.

    Silence was called and Tori spoke. And what a speech! Glasses were raised for the final toast, and plates of Anzac cookies (the event happily coincided with Anzac day) each with their own hearty dollop of freshly whipped goats’ curd, were passed around.

    Washing up done and all goodbyes said, our author with her husband and companion in travels, Andrew (The Hungry One, to whom the book is dedicated) set off into the night.

    The Hunter Valley

    The vineyards of the Hunter Valley are where we got married. Two and a half hours from Sydney, it’s an area best known for ballsy Shirazes (with their classic notes of ‘sweaty saddle’), pleasant vistas and mildly twee stores stocked with olive oil and nut-studded chocolate. A day of driving around the vineyards traditionally ended with us sharing a bottle of red at the Tuscany Wine Estate and drinking in their view over the valley. This spot has the added lure of being next door to the Binnorie Dairy and their famed labna, a strained yogurt cheese. These tartines transport us straight back to the weekends we spent in the Hunter Valley planning our wedding. On top of the charred bread and labna are blistered red grapes and toasted nuts. As for the labna, you could buy it from the Binnorie Dairy. Or you could make it yourself with the aid of a few hours, some yogurt and cloth. This is best eaten while letting a glass of good red breathe, avoiding finalizing seating charts and musing about whether doing your first dance to Van Morrison’s Brown-Eyed Girl is too much of a cliché.

    Tartines with Labna, roasted Red Grapes & Walnuts

    250 g/1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt

    1 teaspoon salt


    60 red grapes (a medium bunch)

    100 g/3⁄4 cup (about 40) walnuts, roughly chopped

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 teaspoon sugar

    4 slices of good sourdough bread

    1⁄2 garlic clove

    salt and black pepper

    Serves 4 for lunch, as part of a tasting plate-style meal

    Begin the labna at least 6 hours before you plan on eating. Mix together the Greek yogurt and the salt. Line a strainer with 2 pieces of muslin/cheesecloth, or J-cloth/Chux. Set the strainer and the cloth over a bowl. Pour the yogurt and the salt into the strainer, cover the top with the ends of the cloth and allow to strain for at least 6 hours.

    After 6 hours, squeeze the cloth to help the curds separate from the whey. The yogurt should have the consistency of cream cheese. You should end up with 125 g/1⁄2 cup labna. Transfer to a covered container and chill in the fridge until ready to use. Alternatively, you can roll it into small balls and cover them with olive oil (it will last in the fridge for about 1 week).

    Preheat the oven to 220˚C (425˚F) Gas 7. Put the grapes and walnuts on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and sugar. Roast for 20 minutes, until the grapes have started to wrinkle. Grill/broil or toast the sourdough. When it is nicely brown, rub the toast with the cut side of the garlic.

    Spread the slices of toast with a tablespoon of labna, then pile on the grapes and walnuts. Season generously with salt and pepper.

    A Suitcase and a Spatula by Tori Haschka is published by Ryland Peters & Small food books and is available to purchase here.

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