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Monthly Archives: June 2014
  • Posted on June 27, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend

    Happy Friday everyone! We can’t believe that it’s the end of June already and we’re well and truly into the summer! Whilst the weather probably isn’t going to match up this weekend, we’re dreaming of long, lazy Spanish evenings, spent drinking good wine in even better company. With this in mind, we’re delighted to be able to share with you a recipe from our gorgeous book, Tapas, coming in July!



    Pinchos are little morsels that are usually eaten on an honesty system – you help yourself to the different varieties on display. Generally, they are eaten without a plate, and in some bars you are charged according to the number of cocktail sticks you’ve used.

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    1 garlic clove, crushed

    1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

    leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus extra to serve

    100 g white asparagus, canned or from a jar

    2 tablespoons ground almonds

    1/2 can pimientos, chopped

    8 slices of white bread, lightly toasted

    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    serves 4


    Put the oil, garlic, chilli flakes and thyme in a saucepan, bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Let cool, then strain.

    Put the asparagus in a blender and pulse until smooth.

    Slowly add the strained oil and blend again. Mix in the ground/slivered almonds and salt and pepper to taste.

    Spoon the asparagus mixture onto the sliced bread and top with the sliced pimiento. Add a few thyme leaves and serve on a tray for your guests to help themselves.

    Tapas and Other Spanish Plates to Share is available here.

    We hope you have a lovely weekend and happy cooking!

    This post was posted in News, UK, What's new and was tagged with vegan, recipe for the weekend, vegetarian, 2014, Tapas

  • Posted on June 27, 2014

    Little Quilts!

    Our twitter feed was full of Harry Potter related tweets yesterday with it being 17 years since the first book, so we got chatting in the office about memories of childhood books and stories that we used to (and still do!) love. One favourite that came up was Little Red Riding Hood which made us think of a lovely quilting project in the forthcoming book, Little Quilts.

    As an improvisational piece, the authors Sarah Fielke and Amy Lobsiger have created the most adorable small-scale quilt which summarizes the famous story of Little Red, and in the book they guide you through making it step-by-step. While you may be following their instructions, the quilt you end up with will be entirely unique as you’re not following a template and can use whichever scraps of fabric that take your fancy! So we thought that this project was pretty fitting as we’re all thinking about our favourite childhood stories, so we wanted to share it with you as a sneak preview of the book!

    Grandma’s House

    by Sarah

    Little Red is off through the woods to Grandma’s house but doesn’t know that the wolf got there first! Try your hand at improvisational piecing to make a fun, one-of-a-kind quilt.


    Finished size

    Approximately 211/2 x 151/2 in. (54.5 x 39.5 cm)—exact size will depend on sizes of pieces used

    Note: Seams are stitched with right sides together using a 1/4 in. (6 mm) seam allowance unless otherwise stated.


    Material requirements

    • Scraps of at least four different green print fabrics for trees

    • 25 in. (63.5 cm) dark blue print fabric for background

    • Scraps of brown print fabric for tree trunks and chimney

    • 4 in. (10 cm) white print fabric for house

    • Fabric scraps for windows and door—the quilt pictured includes novelty prints to put a wolf and gnomes in the windows

    • 8 in. (20.5 cm) square of brown print fabric for roof

    • Scrap of green fabric for bottom left-hand corner—the quilt in the photograph has a unicorn in the forest.

    • 6 in. (15 cm) red-and-white polka-dot fabric for cape and word “red”

    • Scraps of white and brown fabrics for Little Red’s face, dress, hands, and legs

    • 4 in. (10 cm) light blue print fabric for sky above house and strips below and at sides

    • 15 in. (38 cm) dark brown print fabric for binding, cut into 3 in.- (7.5 cm-) wide strips

    • Approx 29 x 23 in. (73.5 x 58.5 cm) backing fabric

    • Approx 29 x 23 in. (73.5 x 58.5 cm) cotton batting (wadding)

    • Cotton thread for piecing

    • Crewel embroidery no. 9 needles for hand quilting

    • Aurifil Cotton 12 thread in green, orange, and red for hand quilting

    • Rotary cutter, mat, and ruler

    • Sewing machine

    • General sewing supplies



    For the improvisational piecing technique, pieces of fabric are cut as needed, without using a ruler. This allows each quilt to be a one-off. Suggested cutting instructions for fabric pieces are given in the steps, but remember that these are guides only. Use a ruler to trim each unit straight.



    1. Cut a rough 3 in. (7.5 cm) square from each of three or four green fabrics, without using a ruler. To make longer, flatter tree pieces, cut rectangles instead of squares.

    2. Sew a strip of dark blue print fabric to opposite sides of each square or rectangle (see Diagram 1). Make sure that the background fabric pieces will overlap at the point by at least 1/4 in. (6 mm) or the tree will have a flat top (see Diagram 2). Trim away the excess green fabric behind the blue fabric, 1/4 in. (6 mm) from the seam to reduce bulk. Make three to five of these units depending on the size of the fabric pieces. As long as the units are around the same size, they can fit together in height by adjusting the trunks of the trees.

    3. Trim the top and bottom of each of the units from step 2 so they are straight (see Diagram 3). Sew them together in a vertical strip, one on top of another (see Diagram 4). Trim the sides of the tree strip straight (see Diagram 5).


    4. Cut a 11/4 in.- (3 cm-) wide strip of brown print fabric for the trunk of the tree. Sew a dark blue print strip to the opposite sides of it. Trim the piece straight at the top and bottom and then sew it to the bottom of the largest tree.

    Press the piece and trim the edges square. Make two trees (or three or four if you want to change the quilt—that’s the whole idea). It doesn’t matter at this stage if they are different heights.




    5. From scraps (or novelty prints, as in photograph) cut two pieces approximately 3 x 2 in. (7.5 x 5 cm) for the house windows. Cut a strip of the white print house fabric and sew a piece of it in between the two windows, and two more pieces of it on either side of the windows. If you wish, add a strip of fabric beneath the windows to make the house a little taller.

    6. Cut a piece of scrap fabric approximately 2 x 31/2 in. (5 x 9 cm) for the door. Cut two pieces of white print house fabric roughly the same size as the door and sew them either side of the door.

    7. Trim the edges of the windows and the door and then sew the pieces together. Press the house and trim the edges straight.

    8. Sew a wide piece of dark blue print fabric to opposite sides of the house. Don’t worry about trying to make the strip straight—it is supposed to be wonky. Trim the top and bottom of the house straight (see Diagram 6).

    9. Cut a piece of brown print fabric for the roof, a little wider than the house. Make a pointed or flat-topped triangle with the brown print fabric and two pieces of dark blue fabric in much the same way as the tree triangles in step 2. Add a chimney, if you wish, by sewing it into the piece of background first, then attaching the background to the house roof at an angle.

    10. Sew the roof to the top of the house and trim the whole piece straight (see Diagram 7).



    The word “red”

    11. Cut four or five 11/2 in. (4 cm) strips from the dark blue print fabric and a rectangle approximately 2 x 11/2 in. (5 x 4 cm) from the red-and-white polka-dot fabric. The size of the rectangle will determine the size of the space underneath the “r” and therefore the height of your letter (see Diagram 8).

    12. Sew a strip of dark blue print fabric to each side of the top of the red-and-white polka-dot rectangle, making sure they overlap in the center (see Diagram 9) and trimming the excess from the first strip before attaching the next one. Press the seams toward the letter.

    13. Sew a piece of red-and-white polka-dot fabric to the top right-hand side (see Diagram 10). Trim the excess, and then sew a piece to the left-hand side (see Diagram 11).

    14. Trim the left-hand side of the piece straight; press. Cut a piece of the dark blue print fabric long enough to be the straight edge of the “r.” Add a piece of the polka-dot fabric to the top of this so that it is as long or longer than the curved part of the “r.” Sew the piece to the left-hand side and press (see Diagram 12).

    15. Add some extra strips of the polka-dot fabric around the “r” so that it “floats” in the background fabric. Leave at least 1/2 in. (1.2 cm) of polka-dot fabric on the right-hand side of the “r” so that the next letter can be attached.

    16. Make the “e” and the “d” in the same manner.

    17. When you have made the three letters, trim the right side of the “r,” both sides of the “e,” and the left side of the “d” straight line, 1/4 in. (6 mm) from where you want the seam to be. Don’t worry too much about the letters being the same height. If there isn’t enough room for trimming, just sew an extra piece of dark blue print fabric to the top or bottom. Sew the letters together to spell “red” (see Diagram 13).

    18. Trim a straight line around the edges of the word. The lines do not have to make a rectangle—they just have to be straight. Decide how you want the word to sit, and then sew extra fabric strips to the edges where needed and trim the word square. Sarah’s “red” is approximately 41/2 x 71/2 in. (11.5 x 19 cm).


    If you are concerned about how to make the letters, try writing each one down before you begin to sew it. The letters are sewn the same way as you would draw them, for example with the “d” you would make the round part first and then add the straight side. Don’t be afraid to add extra pieces of fabric to fill gaps—that’s all part of the charm of this project. Your letters may look different to the ones in Sarah’s quilt, but that’s the fun of improvisational quilting!



    Little Red

    19. Little Red is constructed in the same way as all the other components of the quilt—by adding pieces of fabric until the motif takes shape. Cut a face about 11/2 in. (4 cm) square from a white scrap, and sew red fabric around it to make a hood. Sew pieces of dark blue print fabric around the head and then trim the bottom edge of the head (along the neck) straight so it is ready to sew to the body.

    20. Cut approximately 31/2 x 11/2 in. (9 x 4 cm) white print fabric for the dress. If you wish, add hands by inserting a 3/4 in.- (2 cm-) wide strip of brown fabric in the center of the dress fabric, with a scrap of the white print in the middle of the brown strip.

    21. Sew a piece of red-and-white polka-dot fabric on a diagonal to each side of the dress for the cape, and then a piece of dark blue print background fabric on each side of that. Trim the top edge of the dress straight, center the head on top of the dress, and sew the pieces together.

    22. Cut two 1 x 2 in. (2.5 x 5 cm) pieces of dark brown fabric for legs. Sew a small piece of dark blue print fabric between them. Sew a strip of the dark blue print to the outside of the legs, trim the top straight, and then sew them to Little Red’s body. Ensure there is enough dark blue print fabric all around to square the unit, adding more strips if necessary, and then trim the edges straight.



    23. Referring to the quilt photograph, arrange the pieces of the quilt. You may decide to put your house on the other side or have more space above the trees—it’s your quilt so anything goes. Cut strips of light blue print fabric for the sky and a strip to go along the bottom of the quilt.

    24. Sew pieces of dark blue print fabric to fill the gaps between shapes, and add extra pieces of the appropriate fabric to make the trees higher or to make Little Red match the height of the house. The pieces in the quilt will join in straight lines as long as you find the straight lines that suit your design (see Diagram 14).

    25. Sew all the units together and press.


    Backing, quilting, and binding

    26. Using the rotary cutter, mat, and ruler, square the quilt top, if necessary.

    27. Layer the backing, batting (wadding) and quilt top.

    28. Using Aurifil Cotton 12 thread in green, hand quilt lines across the background, spacing them 1/2 in. (1.2 cm) apart. Using green, orange, or red thread, quilt around the outlines of the trees and the house.

    29. Bind the quilt.


    (for more detailed instruction on the backing, quilting, and binding techniques, please see the book)


    Little Quilts by Sarah Fielke & Amy Lobsiger is available here. For more information about the book please check out the details here!


    Have a great weekend everybody, whether you're going to quilt this wonderful design, reminisce about childhood favourites, or pick up that battered old copy of Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone for some weekend reading! Happy Friday!

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with handmade, fabric, 2014, quilting

  • Posted on June 24, 2014

    Embrace Nature: House Gardening Tutorial

    The sun is shining, the plants are blooming and all we want to do is sit out enjoy it! But planning for the worst (as we Brits always have to do where weather is concerned!), we have a house gardening tutorial today which will show you a fantastic way to bring some of that gorgeous greenery indoors! So why not sit outside with a glass of something cold and fresh one sunny evening and plant up your miniature garden to take back inside with you when the clouds draw in!

    Author of The House Gardener and founder of the brilliant online shop, The Balcony Gardener, Isabelle Palmer is here to show you how to plant a terrarium; a wonderful container that creates a mini eco-system for your plants to grow in. Terrariums come in all shapes and sizes and allow you to create stunning indoor plant displays. There are a few simple steps that you'll need to follow when planting it up, so here is Isabelle to talk you through the stages and to give you some ideas and inspiration from her new book!


    Enjoy the sun everyone and have fun with the planting! Feel free to tweet us any pictures of your finished terrariums @CICOBooks!


    The House Gardener by Isabelle Palmer is available here.

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, Videos, Videos, What's new, What's new and was tagged with plants, video, 2014, the house gardener, nature, Isabelle Palmer

  • Posted on June 23, 2014

    Wimbledon Scones!

    Although the footballing hopes of a nation have sadly been dashed on Uruguayan rocks, the advent of Wimbledon brings dreams of redemption! With it comes Pimms, the anguish of whether Andy Murray can possibly reach last year’s heady heights and, of course, strawberries. That most British of fruit surely lends itself to the most British of tea-time treats and we reckon that this scone recipe from Victoria Glass’s Deliciously Vintage will make the perfect addition to any Wimbledon party!


    It is believed that these sweet, quick breads originated in Scotland in the early 1500s, made with oats and cooked on a griddle, much like Scottish bannocks are today. Scones have evolved into light, fluffy rounds served with thick clotted cream and strawberry jam. Whether you insist on cream before jam or vice versa, and indeed whether you pronounce scone to rhyme with ‘gone’ or ‘cone’, a cream tea just wouldn’t be the same without these delicious British bakes.

    325 g/ 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon selfraising/rising flour, plus extra for dusting

    1 teaspoon baking powder

    a pinch of salt

    75 g/ 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into cubes

    75 g/ 1/3 cup caster/granulated sugar

    160 ml/ 2/3 cup whole milk

    2 teaspoons lemon juice

    1 egg, beaten

    To serve

    clotted (thick) cream

    strawberry jam/jelly (see below)

    a 5 cm/2 in. cookie cutter

    makes 8–10

    Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) Gas 7 and place the baking sheet in the oven to heat.

    Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Stir the lemon juice into the milk and add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Combine it quickly with a butter knife – this will help prevent overhandling the dough, which will make the scones tough.

    Dust a little flour onto the work surface and tip the dough out. Scatter a little extra flour over the dough and on your hands and lightly knead the dough. Roll or pat the dough down to make a 4 cm/11/2-in. deep round.

    Dip the cutter into some flour. Plunge into the dough – do not twist the cutter as this can affect the rise. Repeat until you can make no more and squidge the dough back together before patting down and cutting out some more. Brush the tops with a little beaten egg. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and carefully place the scones onto it. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until well risen and golden on top.

    Scones are best eaten on the day they are made, still warm and generously smothered with clotted cream and strawberry jam/jelly.

    Fruit Jam/Jelly

    1 kg/8 cups fresh fruit of your choosing (I use hulled strawberries here)

    1 kg/5 cups jam/jelly sugar

    freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

    waxed paper

    sterilized jars

    makes 500 ml/2 cups

    Before you start, put a saucer in the freezer. Chop a handful of the strawberries into large chunks, or leave whole if small, and set aside. Put the remaining strawberries in a large, wide saucepan and mash with a potato masher into a rough pulp. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice and place over a gentle heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and increase the heat to bring to the boil for 3 minutes before adding the remaining strawberries. Continue to boil for a further 6 minutes, stirring every now and then and skim off any pink scum off the top with a slotted spoon.

    Remove the pan from the heat and put a small dollop of jam on to the chilled saucer. When the jam is cold, run your finger over it and if it wrinkles, the jam is set. If you have a sugar/candy thermometer, the setting point for jam is 104.5°C/220ºF. Decant the jam into the sterilized jars, put a disc of waxed paper on top of each and tightly screw on their lids.

    Deliciously Vintage by Victoria Glass is available here.

    Happy baking and good luck Murray!

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with 2014, Victoria Glass, Deliciously Vintage, strawberry, world cup, football, Wimbledon, scones

  • Posted on June 20, 2014

    Soccer Feasts!

    With flags in all of the windows, adverts for super HD TVs spread across every billboard and supermarket beer aisles stocking up as though there’s a beer shortage on its way; it can only mean one thing… the World Cup is nearly here! Whether you’ll be cheering on your home nation or the random country you picked out in the sweepstake, you’re going to want some good grub for optimum soccer watching fun.

    So here’s a collection of recipes from Dirty Food – a book full of the best worst food you’ll ever eat – because what could be more perfect to eat in front of the soccer, enjoying a few chilled beers with friends (or even to nervously nibble on from the edge of the seat with your dad!) than these Pulled Pork Pretzel Buns with Rosemary Coleslaw? Prepare ahead of the game and leave to finish slow cooking during the first half, ready to devour during the second! Tense or relaxed, excited or scared, (eager or indifferent!), this dish will ignite the World Cup spirit and get you in the soccer mood!


    pulled pork pretzel buns

    Pulled pork pretzel buns are the best thing to make with a pork shoulder. It takes very little work to create an easy and delicious slow-cooked sandwich filling with or without sauce. The secret to this pulled pork is the addition of India pale ale (IPA) and apple cider vinegar to make the sauce.

    2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

    4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced

    120 ml apple cider vinegar

    120 ml India pale ale

    1 fresh sage leaf

    1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

    1 tablespoon chilli powder

    1 tablespoon sea salt, plus more

    as needed

    1 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1 (2 1/4 kg) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder, twine or netting removed

    450 g BBQ Sauce (see below), optional

    6 Pretzel Buns (see below)

    butter, for spreading

    Rosemary Coleslaw (see below), to serve

    slow cooker

    serves 6

    Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker, pour in the vinegar, beer and add the sage leaf.

    Combine the sugar, chilli powder, salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6–8 hours on a high setting or 8–10 hours on low.

    Meanwhile, follow the instructions below to make the pretzel buns.

    Turn off the slow cooker and move the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a medium heat-proof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the sieve and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside and use a spoon to skim and discard any fat from the surface.

    If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the pork, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker and add the BBQ sauce, if using, and mix to combine. Add 60 ml of the strained liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.

    Cut each pretzel bun in half and butter the bottom. Lay a generous helping of pork onto each bun, spoon over the sauce and top with rosemary coleslaw. Serve with yellow mustard.


    bbq sauce

    340 g tomato ketchup

    115 g golden syrup

    125 ml apple cider vinegar

    125 ml water

    1 teaspoon granulated sugar

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon ground black

    Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a cup.


    pretzel buns

    It’s only been over the last 10 years that pretzels have deviated from their conventional twisted pattern to a bun-shape. This recipe is simple, uses just a handful of ingredients, and makes the perfect accompaniment to any sandwich or as a side with any lunch or dinner.

    350 ml water, warmed to 40—50°C (105—115°F)

    1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast

    2–3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil, for coating

    600 g plain flour, plus more for dusting the work surface

    2 teaspoons sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

    1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

    vegetable oil

    55 g bicarbonate of soda

    1 egg, lightly beaten

    kitchen thermometer

    electric mixer fitted with a dough hook

    baking sheet lined with parchment paper, oiled

    makes 6–8


    Tip the warmed water into the bowl of a free-standing mixer (or a mixing bowl if you don’t have a free-standing mixer). Sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside until the mixture bubbles a little, about 5 minutes.

    Mix together the flour, salt and sugar, then add to the yeast mixture, along with the melted butter. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on the lowest setting until everything comes together. Increase the speed and continue mixing until the dough becomes elastic and smooth, about 8–10 minutes. If you don’t have a free-standing mixer, combine the ingredients using a wooden spoon, then knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 10–15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

    Prepare the baking sheet. Punch down the risen dough and knead briefly on a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape into round rolls. Place the rolls on the oiled parchment paper, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

    Preheat an oven to 220°C (425°F) Gas 7. Fill a large saucepan with water, so that it reaches one-third of the way up the sides, and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda, then return to a simmer. Gently lower 2–3 of the buns into the simmering water and poach for 30 seconds on each side. Remove using a slotted spoon and return to the parchment paper, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining buns.

    Brush the buns all over with the beaten egg and sprinkle with a little salt. Using a sharp knife cut a cross in the top of each one. Bake for 20–30 minutes in the preheated oven until golden brown.


    rosemary coleslaw

    Because of its tangy, fresh taste, nothing goes with warm weather like homemade coleslaw. Along with hot dogs, cheeseburgers, BBQ baked beans and potato salad, it’s a great component for a picnic or a get-together.

    240 g green or red cabbage, sliced or shredded thinly

    1 large carrot, roughly grated

    1/4 medium red onion, chopped finely

    1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus additional for seasoning for the dressing

    60 g mayonnaise

    60 g sour cream

    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

    60 ml cider vinegar

    1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped

    1 teaspoon granulated sugar

    1 small clove garlic, minced

    pinch of cayenne pepper

    serves 4

    Place the cabbage, carrot and onion in a large colander set over a large bowl or plate, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Place a heavy bowl on top of the cabbage, then place a heavy can or two in the bowl to weigh it down. Let it sit until the cabbage has released about 60 g of moisture, at least 1 hour.

    Meanwhile, make the dressing. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the sugar, pepper and salt to a large sterilized jar, screw the lid on securely and shake. Add the sugar, pepper and salt to taste. Place the jar in the refrigerator for 30–60 minutes.

    Transfer the cabbage, carrot and onion to a medium-size bowl and pour half the dressing over. Toss with tongs, cover and let the coleslaw sit for 30 minutes, tossing once or twice to redistribute the dressing. Toss once more before serving and add additional dressing if desired. Leftover dressing will keep for over 1 week in the refrigerator.


    Dirty Food by Carol Hilker is available here and for more details please see here.


    We hope you're all super excited about the soccer and all of the feasts we can cook up over the game season.

    Enjoy the recipe and here's to a great World Cup... cheers!

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

  • Posted on June 19, 2014

    England v Uruguay: the perfect snack!

    Tonight’s the night! England v Uruguay! And whether you’re watching on your own, with a hundred of your best pals down the pub or under the duress of a loved one, we all know that having the perfect snack is obviously the most important part. These quick and easy dips from Dan May's The Red Hot Chilli Sauce Book are the perfect side for just about any Mexican dish, or with some lovely fresh crudités and crisps if you’re too on edge to cook! And if the salsa lasts long enough, it’ll be delicious for England v Costa Rica on Tuesday too!

    Classic Guacamole

    If you want a classic dip with a long history, then look no further than guacamole – originally made by the Aztecs in the 16th century. In its purest form, all it contains is avocado mashed with salt, but over the centuries more and more variations have been developed. This is my favourite version of the dip.

    3 ripe avocados, skinned, pitted and roughly chopped

    1 vine-ripened tomato, skinned, deseeded and roughly chopped

    3 fresh green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

    juice of 2 small limes

    a little extra virgin olive oil

    2 spring onions/scallions, finely chopped

    a small bunch of fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, finely chopped

    sea salt and freshly ground

    black pepper

    In a large bowl, mash the avocados, tomato and chillies together with the lime juice. The consistency should be chunky yet smooth – add a little olive oil to help achieve this. Add the spring onions/scallions and coriander/cilantro and mix thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

    I would use this: with tortillas to dip; on nachos; on the side of a spicy chili; or in homemade burritos.


    Salsa Roja

    This is a hot salsa of charred tomato and 3 classic Mexican chillies. If you can’t get fresh De Arbol and Guajillo, use dried, toast them for 2 minutes on each side, soak in a small amount of boiling water for about 20 minutes, then remove their stems and deseed them. Reserve the soaking liquid for the recipe.

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 onion, finely chopped
    4–5 large plum tomatoes, halved and core removed
    2–3 garlic cloves
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 fresh Serrano or Jalapeño chilli, deseeded and chopped
    3 fresh or dried De Arbol chillies, deseeded and chopped
    5 fresh or dried Guajillo chillies, deseeded and chopped
    a small bunch of coriander/cilantro, finely chopped
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Heat a heavy-based frying pan or griddle over fairly high heat. Add a little oil and fry the onion and tomatoes hard until they begin to blacken (about 7–11 minutes), but stir as required to prevent burning. Add the garlic and cook for a further 3–4 minutes.

    Transfer the contents of the pan to a food processor with the oregano and chillies. Add the remaining oil as you blend (and the liquid you soaked the chillies in, if you used dried) until you have a smooth and even paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then add the coriander/ cilantro and briefly blend again to mix this through.

    Place into a tightly sealed jar and allow to cool. The flavours will improve over the next few days if you can wait that long! The salsa will keep for 1–2 weeks, refrigerated. Serve at room temperature.

    I would use this: to spice up sandwiches, sausages and burgers; with nachos or tacos, or in burritos.

    The Red Hot Chilli Sauce Book by Dan May is available here.

    So, grab a cold one, settle yourselves down and C’MON ENGLAND!

    This post was posted in News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with 2013, snacks, Mexican, salsa, world cup, football, world cup recipe

  • Posted on June 18, 2014

    Love Loom Bands?

    Earlier in the week one of our authors popped in for a visit and he was wearing a fantastic brightly coloured loom band made by his son. We all loved the bracelet and it got us super excited for the new book, Rubber Band Bracelets! Author Lucy Hopping takes you through the projects with simple step-by-step instructions and illustrations, and even shows you how to make your own loom. Then all you’ll need are some colourful bands, a hook and a clip, and you’ll be on your way to make tons of fantastic designs, from easy-peasy jewellery and awesome accessories to craftier bracelets and crazy key rings like these!

    So as a bit of a mid-week treat (and because we really want to learn how to make them ourselves!), we’ve got a sneak peak inside the book and one of the projects to share. So go and grab your bands kids, and make this awesome totem pole bracelet in whichever colours you’d like!

    totem pole bracelet

    This stripy bracelet looks really effective in bold and bright colors. Why not try making it in your school or favorite sports team’s colors?



    You Will Need


    47 yellow bands

    22 orange bands

    20 turquoise bands





    Set up your loom in the square format—3 pegs wide x 13 pegs long.


    1. Lay out 24 yellow bands along the two outer sides in the order shown.

    2. Lay a yellow band between pegs A and C, then make a triangle with four orange bands in the order specified. Lay another yellow band between pegs C and F, and then make another triangle with four turquoise bands.

    3. Repeat step 2 all the way up the loom, finishing with two orange bands and a final yellow band. Twist a yellow band four times around the top peg to make a cap band.

    4. Turn the loom around. Insert your hook into the bottom center peg and hook the bands over their opposing pegs in the order shown.

    5. Repeat step 4 all the way up the loom.

    6. Go back to the bottom of the loom and hook the outer yellow bands over their opposing pegs all the way up the loom in the order shown.

    7. Insert your hook into the top peg, pick up the all loops, and gently pull the bracelet off the loom.

    8. Extend the bracelet by adding ten more yellow bands with your hook.

    9. Attach a C-clip to the loops on the hook and then attach the C-clip to the loops at the start of the bracelet to complete.


    So are you crazy about loom bands? Are you excited for the new book? Rubber Band Bracelets is available on Amazon now.


    Have a great week everyone!

    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with Lucy Hopping, 2014, project, loom bands, rubber band, rubber band bracelets, loom, bands

  • Posted on June 17, 2014

    Eat Your Vegetables Day!

    Today is Eat Your Vegetables Day (not quite as fun as Saturday’s World Gin Day – we’re sorry!) and with lots of news recently about increasing our daily intake to 7-10 portions of fruit and veg, perhaps this is the perfect day to start! Soup is often thought of as a wintry meal but Delicious Soups by Belinda Williams from The Yorkshire Provender is full of tasty soups for all seasons. Plus it is an excellent way to get loads of healthy vegetables into even the most veg-phobic diet so why not try this lovely summery soup, packed full of greens!


    Fennel and Courgette Soup with Parmesan and Crème Fraîche

    This delicious soup was inspired by my love of fennel gratin, a favourite of mine to serve with lamb. I wanted to create the same amazing flavour but in a soup.

    I added fresh courgettes, as we had them growing locally and I wanted to link the soup with produce available close to home. The rocket gives a lovely peppery hit and the crème fraîche, although rich, lifts the flavour to a slightly fresher note.

    75 g butter

    1 large onion, diced

    2 potatoes, peeled and diced

    2 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced

    2 garlic cloves, crushed

    1.75 litres vegetable stock

    2 courgettes, diced

    a large handful of rocket leaves

    100 ml double cream

    200 ml crème fraîche

    2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to garnish

    sea salt and ground black pepper

    a small bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to garnish

    Serves 6

    Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, potatoes, fennel and garlic. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat to soften, then pour over the stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the courgettes and the rocket leaves and cook for a further 4 minutes. Draw the pan off the heat and blend with a stick blender until very smooth. Stir in the cream and crème fraîche and the grated Parmesan, and season well with salt and black pepper.

    Ladle the soup into bowls and serve garnished with lots of freshly chopped parsley and a sprinkling of Parmesan on top.

    Delicious Soups by Belinda Williams is available here.

    Happy cooking everyone! Enjoy those veggies!

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with 2013, fennel, soup, vegetables, yorkshire provender, courgette

  • Posted on June 13, 2014

    Recipe for the weekend

    Not only is it Fathers’ Day on Sunday, tomorrow is also World Gin Day. Naturally you’ve had both of these momentous events marked on your calendar for months, but just in case you’re in need of a last minute double-whammy, we’ve got the perfect recipe to help you celebrate in style. Tristan Stephenson’s The Curious Bartender is the perfect present for Dad whether he is a budding mixologist or just enjoys a tipple and we just know that you’ll totally be the favourite if you present it along with one of these fab cocktails!


    Ask any cocktail bartender what their favourite drink is and they’ll probably beat about the bush suggesting different drinks for different times of the day, or simply say ‘a beer’. Ask them what their second favourite drink is and they’ll quite possibly tell you that it’s a Negroni.
    Here is a drink that ingeniously combines herbal aromatics, a bitter-sweet balance as addictive as crack and a decent backbone of booze to make the whole thing worthwhile. The gin provides the bulk of the alcohol content, along with a dry, earthy quality. The vermouth gives a little bit of dilution, some sweetness and a decent herbal flourish. Finally, Campari gives a huge spiced bitter orange sting and a decent glug of sugar to boot.
    The commonly accepted story of the Negroni’s creation takes us back to 1920s’ Florence, and a man named Count Camillo Negroni. He orders an Americano (Campari, Italian vermouth and soda), but with gin in place of soda. The truth is a little more muddy and a matter of some contention. In fact, the debate has raged on enough to have now involved members of the Negroni family and Italian historians. My best understanding comes from the book Sulle Tracce del Conte (‘On the
    Trail of the Count’, 2002) by Luca Picchi, which, backed up by a considerable amount of historical documentation, intimates that the drink is named after [deep breath] Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni, who originally asked Fosco Scarselli, bartender at Cafe Casoni, to fortify his Americano with gin. This happened at some time in either 1919 and 1920. One of the ways in which the story is qualified is by a letter sent from Frances Harper of London to [the evidently unwell] Negroni on 13th October 1920: ‘You say you can drink, smoke and I am sure laugh, just as much as ever. I feel you are not much to be pitied! You must not take more than 20 Negronis in one day!’ Clearly the Count was fond of his own drink!
    Even though the history is not all that clear, making a Negroni is very easy indeed. You might prefer to go slightly heavier on the gin, or drop the Campari down a touch, but the recipe above is widely accepted as the proper way. The garnish can have a big impact on this drink – an orange twist is common, but I also like a grapefruit twist and have been known to put a slice of cucumber in there too. In the US, the Negroni is more often served straight up (in a martini glass), but in Europe we still serve it on the rocks.

    25 ml Tanqueray no. ten gin
    25 ml Campari
    25 ml Martini rosso vermouth
    a slice of lemon (or grapefruit), to garnish

    Stir all the ingredients over cubed ice for 60 seconds, then strain into a chilled rocks glass with cubed ice (or use a large hand-cracked piece of ice). Garnish with a slice of lemon.

    The Curious Bartender by Tristan Stephenson is available here.

    We hope all you Dads out there have a wonderful weekend. Cheers!

    This post was posted in Featured, News, UK, What's new and was tagged with 2013, Dad, recipe for the weekend, Tristan Stephenson, gin, world gin day

  • Posted on June 12, 2014

    Natural Wine

    We’ve had glorious sunshine in London this week and as we get closer to the weekend, we can’t wait to sit down outside with a cold glass of white wine and a good book! (And whatever weather you’ve had this week, we imagine that this doesn’t sound too bad to you either!) So with wine on the mind, we wanted to introduce you to Isabelle Legeron MW, a crusader for the natural wine movement and author of the fascinating forthcoming book, Natural Wine, who might just make you look at that glass of wine a little differently.

    A vineyard producing natural wine in the Veneto, northern Italy.

    While you may be aware of a thing called natural wine, you may not quite realize the distinction, given that all wine is made by lovely, leathery-looking old men in beautiful, nature-filled valleys, right? Well, no, not exactly. Though a sip of a refreshing supermarket-bought Pinot Grigio might conjure this image, we are perhaps not quite so clued up on wine as we’d like to think… and Isabelle (otherwise know as That Crazy French Woman) would love to fill you in. In her new book, she explains the processes, introduces you to some of the growers and wines, and gives you an absorbing insight into the natural wine movement. If you care about what’s in your glass, are keen to support small-scale producers or are simply intrigued by the delicious and unique flavours of natural wine, then we're sure you would love to know more!

    So that’s enough from us. Isabelle, over to you…

    In 2008, when I first traveled to Georgia, in the Caucasus, I was amazed to discover that almost every family makes wine at home and, if they have a surplus, they sell it for extra cash. Sure, some of what I tasted was lovely, some undrinkable, but what is of note is that for rural Georgians wine is simply a part of their diet. Just as they rear pigs to eat pork, grow wheat to make bread, and raise a cow or two for milk, they also grow grapes for wine.

    Unlike most vineyards today, polyculture still plays an important role in natural wine production, as is the case at the Klinec farm in Slovenia.

    While Georgia’s subsistence farmers may be the exception to the rule nowadays, it was not always so. Wine started life everywhere as a simple drink, but then morphed over time to become a branded, consistent, standardized commodity, the production of which is primarily informed by the bottomline, while also being subject to the vagaries of fashion and consumerism. And what a shame that is.

    It means that, often, farming decisions are made, not with the longevity of the plant or its environment in mind, but in terms of how quickly the producer can make a return on his or her investment. Vines are planted in places that they probably shouldn’t be, farmed poorly, and then, once the grapes hit the cellar, dozens of additives, processing agents, and manipulations are used to manufacture a standardized product. Like so many other industries, wine moved from being handmade and artisanal to being large-scale and industrialized.

    A wild Californian vineyard where grapes rub shoulders with apple trees, brush, and native grasses.

    There is nothing particularly remarkable about this except that, unlike in other industries, our impression of how wine is made seems to have stayed put. People still believe that wine is produced by humble farmers with as little intervention as possible—and brands everywhere are happy to comply with this illusion. When you realize, for example, that three wine companies accounted for nearly half of all the wine sold in the United States in 2012, while, in Australia, the top five accounted for over half of the national crush, it’s clear that there is a disconnection between what wine is and what it appears to be.

    Fair enough, you might think; after all, mergers and acquisitions are common practice nowadays. Plus, wine seems a pretty tricky thing to make: you need high-tech equipment, expensive buildings, highly trained individuals... And yet, you don’t. Left to their own devices, organic compounds that contain sugar ferment naturally and grapes are no exception. Grapes are surrounded by living organisms that are ready to break them down, and one of the possible outcomes of this natural process is wine. Simply put, if you pick grapes and squash them in a bucket, you will, with a little luck, end up with wine.

    Old, gnarled, indigenous vines like this are often grubbed because of low yields or for being unfashionable. They are, however, often the most adapted and intimately connected to the land, having developed deep root systems.

    Over the course of time, people perfected this bucket technique. They found places where, year in and year out, vines gave great grapes, and they developed methods to help them understand the magic that makes the grape–wine transformation possible. However, while advances in technology and winemaking science have been enormously positive for the industry as a whole, today we seem to have lost perspective.


    We are so intrigued by the topic of natural wine and could listen to Isabelle all day, but unfortunately we have a blog post limit so we'll have to stop there for today! To read more on the subject, head over to Isabelle's website and the book is available to pre-order on Amazon. Organised by Isabelle, The Artisan Wine Fair RAW is visiting Vienna this weekend (15th June), showcasing natural wine makers from around the globe and their delicious wines. So if you're there by chance then be sure to pop by for a taste (or in the likely case that you're not in Vienna, then have a browse through our photos from the London fair!)

    Enjoy the rest of your week everyone!

    All images and italicised text taken from the book, Natural Wine.


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, News, News, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with sun, wine, 2014, RAW, Isabelle Legeron, natural wine, natural

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