Red Velvet cakes

Cola Chocolate Cake

Ration Bakewell Tart

Red Velvet Cake, Odette Toilette 1940s  Perfume event

M.O.F. Carrot Cake

Chocolate Cola Cake

I recently went to another perfume and cake afternoon put on by Odette Toilette and Leonie Sooke at Les Senteurs in Marylebone. This session focussed on the perfume scene in the 1940s with the effects of WWII on the perfume industry with limits to importing/exporting, ingredients, materials, and employees within the industry, the Americanisation of perfume names and the very idea of the luxury of perfume at such a time. The interesting talk was complemented with Leonie’s fabulous cakes taking inspiration from the issues of the time. Vegetables were used in baking during the rationed times of WWII and sugar was one of the most rationed items so the carrot cake was made according to a Ministry of Food (M.O.F.) recipe. Carrot is naturally high in sugar so added to the sweetness and texture of the cake. There was a chocolate and cola cake as a nod to the perfume industry of the US becoming more popular with some European professionals seeking refuge in the US. The cake batter actually had cola in it which made it extra moist and fluffy as it reacted with the baking powder.

The event was peppered with interesting anecdotes, clips from films at the time, and, of course, wonderful cakes and scents! I’d recommend any of Odette’s events for an unusual couple of hours of history, olfactory delights and delicious cakes! Find out about her upcoming events here.

You can read my posts on Odette’s 1920s Vintage Scent Session here and her Rebel Cake and Perfume Club here.

Odette Toilette 1940s Perfume event

Desserts in Provence

I recently spent a very relaxing ten days in Provence, near the Camargue, where I was treated to the most delicious food and wine. Food and wine featured heavily during my stay as three hours after breakfast (where coffee was drunk from a bowl with fresh croissants and fruit) aperitivo was served by the pool, straight after aperitivo and a swim was lunch, followed by relaxing in the hammock and then about three hours after that there was more aperitivo followed by dinner. It was wonderful! I love aperitivo. It varied from drinking pastis, the typically French aniseed liquor (a less lethal cousin of absinthe) served with water which turns it cloudy,  to wine flavoured with truffle to champagne with a hint of liquor from mandarin to plum. The drinks were served with slices of baguette or fougasse with tapenade, a tomato and garlic paste and the most delicious spread which was a blend of melon, mint and a touch of curry powder. These were from a stall at the market at St Quentin La Poterie which has a fantastic Friday market with local produce such as honeys and olives.

Desserts in Provence

Desserts in Provence

Delicious desserts from the local patisserie in Uzès.

Deleuze-Rochetin Vineyard, Arpaillargues, Provence

Vineyard Deleuze-Rochetin where we sampled wines and saw exhibitions in the art space.

One morning we went to one of the local vineyards, Deleuze-Rochetin, to sample wines and stock up for meals and, needless to say, aperitivo. It was such a pleasure going there and sampling wines that are straight from the region and not exported. One of my favourites was Zéphyr, 2011, with a fresh, slightly floral nose but, unfortunately I can’t remember its blend of grapes. The vineyard even has a stark art space upstairs so after sampling everything we could get our paws on we discovered the art of Denis Pondruel, Martine Lafon and Cecile Andrieu.

Thirsty Road

Thirsty Road!

Mushrooms, Provence

A beautiful array of mushrooms cooking in cream.

Tapenade and tomato and garlic spread

Aperitivo by the pool – tapenade and the most delicious tomato and garlic paste. I could eat it every day forever!

Barbecuing prawns

Barbecuing whisky soaked prawns – a Provence speciality! No, not really.

Dried fruit

Dried fruit from the market at Saint Quentin la Poterie.

Figs

Figs in the garden. I had my eye on them every day but only two ripened whilst we were there. Sigh. I could have eaten the whole tree!

Pastis and olives

Pastis and olives for aperitivo.

Howkapow scarf

My Karen Mabon swimmers scarf looked great by the pool. Find it here on Howkapow.

L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard, Provence

A delicious cocktail to start our dinner at L’Artemise near Pont-du-Gard. It was a concoction of whisky, ginger and cubes of mashed basil.

Olive breadsticks at L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard

Delicate olive breadsticks.

Mozzarella cream with sun dried tomato

Amuse bouche – mozzarella cream with sun-dried tomato.

Puree au petit pois.

Amuse bouche – petit pois purée.

Dessert at L'Artemise, Provence

Dessert at L’Artemise – poached apricots, meringue sticks, creme patissier and brioche.

L'Artemise, Pont-du-Gard, Provence

L’Artemise at Pont-du-Gard, Provence.

On our final night we went to a fantastic restaurant: L’Artemise. It is situated on a hill near the Roman aqueduct Pont-du-Gard with sweeping views of the stunningly green countryside with occasional yellow patches of sunflowers. The restaurant is set in a beautiful old house with tables in the garden next to the tomato patches with lights suspended between them and from trees. There isn’t a menu to speak of, you specify whether you would like meat or fish, then the evening of many courses begins. We started with a green cocktail of whisky, ginger and mashed basil cubes, followed by two amuses bouches, a starter, then the main of fish or meat. I don’t have photos of every course as night set in making it too dark but you get a good idea from the photos above. After the main was local cheese served with pickled courgette, goat’s cheese ice-cream which tasted of yoghurt and was surprisingly delicious, a dessert of poached apricots, meringue sticks, creme patissier and brioche, then plates of chocolate pots and madeleines were presented. It was all utterly delicious and the dishes change frequently so you are very much encouraged to go back. Even if the dishes remained the same I would be back in a flash many times!

Pont-du-Gard, Provence

Pont-du-Gard, Provence

Places I would recommend to visit when in Provence are:

L’Artemise

Deleuze-Rochetin

The Friday market in Saint Quentin la Poterie

The Saturday market in Uzes

La Maison de la Truffe in Uzes for truffle wine

Pont-du-Gard Roman Aqueduct 

Rencontres Arles – an enormous photography exhibition set all over Arles

A walk along the medieval fortifications at Aigues-Mortes

Relaxation

Strawberry Jam recipe

Strawberry Jam recipe

I recently went to Norfolk for a weekend escape from London. It was so refreshing! Long walks on the beach, a boat trip to spot seals at Blakeney Point and homemade strawberry jam made for a very good weekend indeed! We stayed in Brancaster which you can drive to in about 2 and a half hours from London. It’s a little village with its own bay and a very good pub, The Ship, which serves local seafood. I made jam the day before for the first time to take on the trip. The reason for finally making jam was that I had bought two punnets of strawberries at Borough Market and they were, sadly, tasteless!

I had always thought that jam making would be a difficult affair with thermometers, pectin, sieves and muslin but it wasn’t! All I did was halve the strawberries and boil them with sugar and water until the mixture was fizzing and almost cascading down the outside of the pan. It was a little looser than bought jarred jam but none the less delicious!

I had been given a book called ‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood (Square Peg) which is full of recipes for jams, jellies and chutneys. It was first published in 1970 and it is full of beautiful little illustrations of the ingredients. It is organised alphabetically by ingredient. The start of the book has several pages explaining the general rules of making jams, jellies and chutneys but the actual recipes have the bare bones of instructions. For example it didn’t say whether to leave the strawberries whole or to cut them. So, I decided to halve them which seemed to be an on the fence compromise! I thought that this would also make them more manageable in the jam if they didn’t reduce much.

What you need:

900g strawberries
600g sugar
A touch of water

Lemon juice (from one lemon) is one of the ingredients but I didn’t have any and the jam was yummy without but do add some if you feel like it. The type of sugar wasn’t specified so I used caster.

What you need to do:

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, then halve them.

2. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed large pan with a splash of water.

3. Put the pan on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Let the sugar melt and form a syrup with the water.

4. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrup, add the strawberry halves and simmer.

5. Keep simmering. The mixture may boil and fizz which is fine! It did alarm me a little though!

6. When the strawberries have reduced and it is starting to look like a jam scoop a little out on a teaspoon a put it on a plate. If it is quite runny it needs to be cooked more. If it is quite dense and sticky it should be ready. You can tell for sure if it is ready by seeing if the surface of the jam wrinkles as it cools.

7. When it is ready let it cool a bit then pour it into a jar or tupperware.

Enjoy with some delicious bread!

Wells-next-the-Sea

Wells-next-the-Sea

Seals at Blakeney Point

Seal spotting at Blakeney Point.

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Seals enjoying the sun.

Cantering in the sea, Norfolk

Riding on the beach – how nice indeed!

Lightning struck tree, Wells

We found this twisted and torched tree in the wood next to the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea and wondered if it had been struck by lightning.

Norfolk Llamas

Llamas being taken for a walk!

Lets Preserve It

‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood full of jam, jelly and chutney recipes.

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The other weekend I was delighted to go to another of Odette Toilette’s Vintage Scent Sessions at Les Senteurs in Marylebone. I blogged about The Rebel Cake and Perfume Club in February which was  a journey through 20th century history in perfumes and cookery, focussing on cakes. What a great concept! I love going to talks and gallery tours, cookery classes and baking so these afternoons are the perfect combination for me and were so for a very enthusiastic thirty or so others.

This scent session focussed on the 20s and our noses sampled perfumes only from France as French perfume houses were very en vogue at the time. Perfume was also taking on a more varied approach as brands started producing scents for every occasion so not just day and night perfumes but sport perfumes, the perfect meeting your mother for lunch perfume, bridge party playing perfumes and any occasion you can think of from the frivolous to the formal. The post WWI 20s was a decade experimenting with new things and beginning to indulge again after years of rationing and upheaval.

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The perfumes we sampled included Tabac Blond by Caron, 1919, which we smelled whilst eating the French Almond Macaron. I have a healthy obsession with les macarons, as featured in Macaron Monster in Paris, and I have to say that this macaron was really dang good! The chocolate centre induced slightly rude noises it was so good! Tabac Blond had a musky talc scent mixed with vanilla and tonka bean. There was also a touch of the tobacco flower. An interesting and utterly bizarre fact that Odette imparted was that in the 20s in the US and UK a woman could be arrested for smoking in public! Needless to say this was ridiculous, yet by the end of the decade Amelia Earhart was endorsing cigarettes by starring in Luck Strikes’ print ads. So smoking went from a crime to the habit of a heroine in the space of a few years.

This brings me to another perfume we tried: En Avion, again by Caron and from 1929. Flying was one of the most exciting things at the time and was becoming within reach of people other than pilots. If you had the means you could take a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii in only…20 hours!! The scent of flying was a combination of orange blossom, aniseed and I sensed violet sweeties. It’s all so personal, just like trying wine, although I find with wine that as soon as someone suggests a scent of whatever, from toffee yoghurt to wet pencil sharpenings, everyone agrees!

P1110033Another Caron was Nuit de Noel with scents of moss, clove and carnation. The bottle was inspired by the flapper style with a gold band around the top like typical flapper headbands. We then moved on to Le Dandy! What a great name! This had boozy and fruity tones as though le dandy had just rolled out of a summer pudding swigging a rum. We learnt about perfume nips which were samples that were available in bars and restaurants often in vending machines. The perfumes came in a glass vial which you had to snap each end off to let out the one application that it held. I think this could make a great come back.

Another rage of the 20s was exoticism making Josephine Baker and particularly her banana dance one of the most famous dances of the time. She inspired the perfume Black Tulip by E. Coudray which has been reissued as Nohiba. This perfume capitalized on the current trend of exoticism with its name and peppery bold notes. There was even another perfume by E. Coudray released as a suite called Perfume Set to Music which had tones of honey, menthol and eucalyptus.

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The cakes we ate were Mint Julep Chocolate Cake, Rose and Pistachio Shortbread, Almond and Chocolate Macaron and Bauhaus Gingerbread. Since the Bauhaus was all about the beauty of an object’s form being dictated by its function the gingerbread biscuits exemplified this at they had no decoration and were simple shapes. These delights by Leonie Sooke were just as scrumptious as last time. You can sign up on her website, The Gossip Bowl, to receive recipes.

To find out more about Odette’s sessions click here.

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PP wine

PP Ice Cream Cone

PP Spoon

PP Pancakes

PP Chocolate Spread

PP dumpling

Pleats Please Happy Anniversary art direction by Taku Satoh and design by Shingo Noma

for a long time so when I saw his Pleats Please line folded and gathered mimicking food and drink for this shoot my heart fluttered and I think I went weak at the knees! Aren’t these photos beautiful?

The Pleats Please range is so clever and endless. From the simple idea of pleating fabric the range encompasses designs that involve gun powder being lit on the fabric to create an image of exploded residue to the image of an astronaut walking on the Moon, maps, Lichtenstein style cartoons, whacky shapes, additions of fringes and faux fur…it goes on and on. But these food images…*swoon*…what I find so clever is that they are yummy! I know they are pieces of material but I want to eat them! Issey Miyake is such a great brand as it is full of surprises – the latest clothes from the mainline are being made from paper threads and recycled plastic bottles – an exciting meeting of technology and fashion.

I have a couple of Pleats scarves and one of the staff once showed me how to roll them up into “apples” which is how the scarves are often displayed in the stores. I should have seen this food shoot coming! See my “apples” below!

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Issey Miyake Pleats Please scarf

Issey Miyake Pleats Please scarf

I have been lucky enough to go to a Miyake show during Paris Fashion Week and last month I went to the press launch of the new Miyake perfume: Pleats Please. The food at this launch was wonderful! Look at these salmon and spinach roulade lollipops on a sumptuous bed of watercress below! A waiter wrote the name of the catering company on a flappy bit of paper and it seems to have fluttered off like a butterfly but as soon as I find it I will update this post with the name and link as the food was so good that everyone [that reads this blog!] must know about it!!

Salmon roulade "lollipops" at the Pleats Please perfume launch

      a recent trip to Berlin we were wandering around the trendy Mitte district and came across Princess Cheesecake. I could leave it at that; the name and the photos say it all!

We found it before we had had lunch so knew to save a lot of room as we would definitely be going back. It was simple and serene inside with a glass counter displaying the cheesecakes like jewellery. They all looked just as good as each other so which to get…? The passionfruit, the coconut, the Russian, the lemon? In the end we had the passionfruit, apple and Russian which has a crumbly texture. They were absolutely delicious, beautifully presented and showed the love and care that went into the recipe and making of each one. You can eat in and take a slice or a whole cheesecake away. There are so many types that there must be something to suit any taste. I loved the final touches on each cheesecake such as the chocolate petal shapes lightly placed at the end of each slice and the chocolate curls. The owner and pastry chef, Cornelia Suhr, has even written a book. Have a look at the website just to see the beautiful still life photograph, in 17th century Dutch style, of cheesecake ingredients amongst flowers, fruit and swathes of fabric and to hear Introduction and Allegro for Flute, Clarinet, Harp and String Quartet, 1905, by Maurice Ravel. It sets the scene for elegant decadence, with cheesecake!

You can find Princess Cheesecake at Tucholskystraße 37, D-10117 in the super cool and sehr fun Berlin!

Apple cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Chocolate cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Apple pie, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Lemon cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Passion fruit cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Russian cheesecake, Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

Princess Cheesecake, Berlin

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I love cooking but sometimes when I get home from work I just want to make something quickly and unwind – preferably with an episode of “Parks and Recreation” which has only just arrived here on the BBC and is so funny! So that’s where having something you can cook in under 30 minutes and simply cut things that are already edible comes in very handy. Cue new potatoes, a pack of smoked salmon and a pack of boiled beetroot.

I love the colours on this plate: orange, purple and the yellow of the ceramic!

This is a pretty healthy dish but then you can see in the photo below that I dolloped creme fraiche on it! Ha! But look how the white highlights the pink of the beetroot juice!

Takes 20 mins // serves 2

What you need:

400g new potatoes

250g cooked beetroot

200g smoked salmon (oak smoked if possible)

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

a few dollops of creme fraiche (optional)

What you need to do:

1. Wash and cut the new potatoes in half or into three if they are big ones.

2. Boil them until tender and you can stick a knife easily into them.

3. Whilst they are boiling cut the beetroot into bite sized pieces, cut the salmon into strips and place them together in a big bowl with the beautifully purple beetroot juice.

4. Drain the new potatoes and mix them amongst the beetroot and salmon in the bowl.

5. Drizzle a bit of olive oli on top with a touch of salt and pepper.

6. Serve and add a couple of dollops of creme fraiche if desired.

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