"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
22 May 2013
Sunday morning market in Estoi a few miles inland from Olhao. It`s hot by 11, I need my hat (a pleasant need it is too) and the breeze carries a richly textured smell of churros frying, horse dung and spring flowers, from the sprawling market site on the edge of the village. Everyone is here: gypsies in black waistcoats with black flat caps and thick beards; farmers from little fincas dotted about the countryside; children; dogs; lovers; groups of men in hunt of jamon and beer from one of the many food stands.
In contrast to the piles of bright kitchen plastics , ribbons and trimmings, and rails of trashy print dresses, the salt cod
bachlau and garlic stall is a sea of cool whites and is the one I head for first of all. Slabs of creamy fish and bundles of papery white garlic bulbs streaked with purple, are assessed by customers who will later cook up a rich fish stew with these staples of the Portuguese kitchen. I like to slice raw salt cod very thinly (after rigorous soaking to get rid of the salt) and serve with thin slices of orange for a simple tapa.
I also gravitate to a van wreathed in baskets. The stall holder employs her mother and others who still know how to weave in the traditional way .I imagine quiet industry with bundles of dried grass on tiled floors in village houses where orange blossom scents float over whitewashed walls. Baskets like these feature heavily in my house- for storing vegetables in the kitchen , winter bedding on top of the wardrobe in my bedroom, and for accessories stowed away under the bed. I shall be looking out for the baskets and the van at one of the other local periodic markets - any excuse to top up my basket supply.
And there`s more: trays of vegetable seedlings, fruit trees, caged chicks, hens, even a sorry looking pair of swans. The highlight for many- including me are beakers of red wine , grilled chicken, jamon, or cheese at makeshift restaurants with dark awnings that give the scene the look of one vast outdoor Arabic souk.
Took these pictures a week ago, and didn`t want to leave it too long before I uploaded to show you all how exuberant the tulip show has been this year. The combination of cold and rain this winter seems to have encouraged particularly lush grown in all areas of the spring garden: the bluebells are bluer and the forget -me- nots more luminous and pale blue porcelain-like than ever.
I had moments of heart in mouth when a shoot came and the child models used the tulip patch as a football pitch. Only lost three specimens (see salvaged Match Point tulip example above) but it`s an aspects of house hiring that brings out the rant in me.
There`s the excitement of the apple tree coming into blossom at least a month late, but oh so worth it for the froth of white and pink petals which may be a harbinger of plump golden apples if frost stays away.
Writing now from Olhao where the final whitewashing, brushing up and dusting down of the house is in progress. Really pleased with a junk bench stained in glum brown varnish that after sanding and painting white reveals its good looks. That`s the fun of tracking down old junk of trying to visualise its potential. Heading home tomorrow and hoping that weeds and snails have not taken over.
My tulips are shooting up with the youthful vigour of favourite children. Foreground: Matchpoint with frilly trim. Background, Lilac Perfection.
"Spring Green` fresh green and with a kind of summer salad look about it.
`Flig Flag`: soft purple flamed and white detail is if from a Dutch painter`s still life.
Petals and buds line up in the garden playground.
`Matchpoint` in full bloom, pink and frilled like a party dress.
So pleased to note that there`s been a nearly 100 percent show from the net sack of bulbs I planted last november. Well done Rose Cottage Plants! I`ll be ordering again this year.
Chive pesto and first tulips
24 April 2013
The Japanese arrive as the cherry blossom froths in next door`s garden. It`s a shoot for Mrs Magazine Japan`s oldest womens` publication. I am Mrs Pure Style cooking with herbs from the garden and sharing my recipe tips with the enviably porcelain smooth face of Mrs Magazine, actress and singer, Miki Imai.
Some things are lost in translation, but east and west over tea and lavender shortbread have a mutual feeling for the simple and beautiful. Photographer Okemi Kurosaka neat and efficient as her glossy black fringe snaps until the shadows are long and we have picked the bones clean from very English spring lamb cutlets with rosemary and garlic.
Chive pesto also goes down well on my Japanese date: chop a handful of chives and process in the hand whizzer with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, grated Parmesan , salt and pepper.
Getting orders for the borders!!! and Press, too... Here`s the latest thumbs up from Living Etc who also feature them on the Editor`s front page of ` Inspiration`
Loading up Richard`s van for delivery to Olhao. I have my first holiday tenants soon, and want them to enjoy crisp sheets and soft pillows, floaty cotton awnings, and lanterns. Seems mad to to be sending mats, chairs, folding beer tables two thousand miles south when you think items as prosaic as these might be found locally. They can... and they can`t if you`re picky, like me and get get stuck on wanting what feels/looks right not what is simply available. Fussy yes, but would you want stacking plastic loungers at Pure Style Portugal? .
Not so much flat calm, but rippling : wavy black and white linen/cotton for another take on the stripe theme
Together with the unfurling of the garden`s first tulip, I receive green fingered excitement from the forthcoming Chelsea Fringe alternative
garden festival. Masses of events: sign me up for a walk on
London`soldest nature trail at the Horniman museum and the drawing and
sketching classes on Hampstead Heath.
Lunch break. A gorgeous painterly arrangement of salads and salmon by location caterer, Laurence Mash has just landed on my desk. The crew downstairs is enjoying the tastiest and most visually appealing shoot grub that has appeared in my kitchen for a very long time.
Clumps of grass between the cobbles and pantiles sprouting wild flowers show winter in Olhao was as extreme in rainfall as in the chill we endured here. So releasing to peel off wool layers and sun bathe under blue sky spring busy with swallows, tweeting sparrows and swooping nets of silvery homing pigeons . We trundle to the market and load the Rolly Rolser with armfuls of wild flowers, eggs, asparagus and oranges.
So good to eat with sun on the face sea in the air. This demands something celebratory like buying a net of
amejoias boa for clam and tomato pasta. I shower and soak the shells in the sink, picking out any broken ones. They feel smooth and cool, with a promising weightiness like solid chocolate eggs.
I chop tomatoes, garlic and fry until soft. Some pepper, dregs of white wine from last night, and then the sauce is ready for the clams. Steam under the saucepan lid, shake frequently and after seven minutes or so the clams open like buds in a speeded up film to reveal tender flesh and juices with a fragrant shellfish taste
We spoon clams and sauce over bowls piled with
spaghetti or any other long type will be right. This is an athletic dish: twirling strands of dripping pasta around one`s fork, sucking the last bits from the shells. It takes me back to being 18 and the
spaghetti vongoles of my first Italian summer.
The wind continues to cut like iced knives, but at least there`s some green shooting going on in my shed. These are the sweet pea seeds I planted last autumn, and I`ve been pinching out the top leaves so that side shoots are encouraged to grow. Look at them stretching towards the light.
Good Friday. I make hot cross buns from the recipe in my book. My version only requires one proving of the dough which means they`re heavier than buns made with two. But less fuss to make, and delicious toasted and spread with butter. The mighty mxing bowl, my favourite , is part of an order to replenish stocks of house kit that has worn out or gone too far gone to repair. The last bowl met a shattering end on the kitchen floor.
A clump of self seeded violets in my vegetable patch is visual treasure. The flowers are edible, too.
It`s all bare branched silhouettes against grey and being stung by wind chilled with the remnants of Arctic icebergs.
Where are the greening buds and bursts of blossom?
If spring is on hold outside, at least I can feast my colour starved eyes on what`s inside. Egg yolk yellow Bennsion linen and pink rhubarb stalks are a mood enhancing combination, visual SSSRI. I spread a length of the cloth across the table for a lunch of roast lamb and the rhubarb baked and fragrant, topped with crumble.
Who isn`t fantasising about the feel of spring grass under bare feet? The
seasonal upset is confused more so by my client Country living who is shooting all things autumnal and mellow fruitful at my location
house. Good to see that they use the Quince border , see below.
If the tulips in the garden are all but a few tentative leaves, it`s good to find buckets with tight pink and purple buds at
Sending out more samples of my Colour Band borders : wrap, stick, label, and pack. Good to keep moving in this draughty old house. Am most reliant on hand cream and bedsocks at night. The cat , of course, has got it sussed stretched like a chocolate coloured draught excluder across the radiator
Warm enough places to discard my top layers are the cinema ( Side Effects, a gripping thriller and Arbitrage cyncial, grim, ) the sauna, and my father`s nursing home where for once the airless fug seems bearable.
The potted hyacinths are visions of the spring pinks that I hope are closer to emerging from their earthy beds for next week will be April and the park gates close at 7pm.
Things I like this week...sources of deliciousness
12 March 2013
Aromatic and comforting, toast and marmalade is good for perusing the first printed issue of The Foodie Bugle . Thus I`m inspired by Charlie Lee Potter`s piece on book and food pairing, fruitcake with Sense and Sensibility, don`t you know? Other rich pickings in this ,matt look, beautifully illustrated foodieodical include truffle hunting in Dorset, the pleasures of Yorkshire cider, and how to cook outside on something called a Kotlich.
Can`t miss my Sunday morning amble round Brixton Farmers` Market. "Yes, you do talk about it rather" you probably think. I never tire of the wholesome market visuals, the chorus and clapping from The church of Divine Light above the Halifax, and my shopping bag laden with deliciousness: plump cabbages, glistening scallops, proper bread. This is my kind of down to earth heaven.
I taste samples of the sweetest biodynamic apple juice from Brambletye Fruit Farm and can`t resist a bottle for the fridge.
Good to know that the eggs come from the hens that peck under the trees from which the apples are pressed to make the juice.
And see how golden and yellow the apple nutrient infused yolks are for lunchtime scrambled eggs.
The psychoblurb where blue equals down, miserable.... blah blah blah is daft, really. When I get the blues, it all feels rather ragged London pigeon grey. Rippling cobalt blue sea or a first day of spring blue sky can only help to lift my mood. So pleased to see on the Style Court blog that although the Pantone colour of the year is Emerald green, there`s much to get excited about blue, too. How about the new blue and white ceramics exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the cobalt blue cover of the new Anthroplogie spring collecton or Cornflower one of my new Colour Band borders - see above ?
More highs: his little pot of grape hyacinths is just as I found it at the local flower shop perfectly co-ordinated with blue plastic pot for 1.50 and, so far, 10 days of indoor Spring beauty.
Cobalt blues on old Portuguese tiles, a street feature in Olhao as everyday as grilled sardines .
Funny, isn`t it that this gorgeous sludgy blue in my sitting room is called Parma Gray? At night it feels snug, along with the heat from the new Morso woodburner. (Yes, yes, yes, pluck me from the Periodic Table of the Middle Class Handbook ). During the day this colour is serene, all very period Dutch domestic interior, like being in a scene from the Girl with the Pearl Earring. Nothing depressing about that.
Email with Silvana of the Foodie Bugle who`s finding it hard to track down artisan kitchenware made in Britain; too much manufacturing has gone East. I`m also on the case for home grown products such as this simple, functional pouring bowl I picked up at Herne Hill Farmer`s market by local potter Jan Pateman. (website coming but I have an email contact) Sheer beauty for 8.00, far too cheap really. Definitely, one for your shop Silvana!
Simple faux tongue and groove panelling painted with white emulsion knocked up by Keith the builder for a new bedroom at my location house.
Emma Prentice is the girl to go to if you want hip sari silk shirts in great colours.
Since writing a recent piece for Elle Decoration on Danish architect Pernille Arends` home with its` covetable retro Danish look I wouldn`t say no to eating my daily toast and jam beneath a classic PH Snowball lamp by Paul Henningsen from Louis Poulsen
Another family birthday, and therefore no excuse for buying flowers and making coffee cake.
`I Like a nice bit of rhubarb` says the barrow lady stuffing a handful of pink and crimson stalks into my shopping bag. I do, too. Especially these vibrant and tender stems- see below - from the `Yorkshire Triangle `. Roughly bordered by Leeds, Wakefield ,and Rothwell, this is an area of long established forced rhubarb growers. Unlike outdoor varieties, forced roots are grown in fields for two years where they store energy and are moved into forcing sheds after November frosts. They are then grown in darkness, and even harvested by candlelight to avoid photosynthesis which would turn them green.
We think of crumbles and fools and other sweet rhubarb puddings, but in Niki Segnit`s Flavour Thesaurus
she writes about an Iranian recipe for thinly sliced cucumber and
rhubarb tossed and left to stand for a while in salt, and then mixed
with rocket, lemon juice and a little mint. I tried it, see, first pic above,
sans mint and rocket , and it`s delicious. Segnit also describes how
rhubarb might work in the sweetly spiced, fatty tagines of north Africa.
Last night I had one of the prettiest fish dishes ever under the railyway arches at Maltby Street
: a row of diced rhubarb perched on a fillet of smoked mackerel. Pink on
amber/brown fish skin a beautiful colour combination, and the
tartness of the rhubarb goes so well with the rich oily fish.
Here`s my favourite take on rhubarb: baked in the oven at 150C with sugar and orange zest for about 20 minutes . Delicious with cream.
I feel starved of colour . The tide mark of mud on my shoes is the perfect shade of Drab for January.
Varifocals magnify the general dreariness: consumptive shoppers under supermarket glare, greasy pavements spattered oil slick black. But a fifteen minute dog trot from home, the florist is an oasis. Dog pokes her nose hungrily amongst cheery buckets of tulips and and I choose bunches of cut hyacinths in brilliant Yves Klein blue.
There`s birthday cake for tea. A chocolate and coffee layered Victoria sponge that looks suitably partyish dressed in day glow orange ribbon. Now that`s a good splash of colour on a depth of winter day The cake stand is one of our best buys declares my son not usually known for complimenting his mother`s choice of purchase. Bought from a shoot, I have to say, said cake stand elevates even a pile of currant buns to greater visual pleasure.
I`ve always liked a stripe or two or three, and thought they`d look good on my new range of Colour Band paper borders. Fiona and I spent happy sessions eating munching home made cake, and messing about with paint before coming up with eight colour ways. The next step was to find someone to hand print our designs so that they retained their chalky handmade quality. We eventually struck lucky and after a few stages of sample tweaking we took delivery of the first batch of Colour Bands.
The idea is that you can give your room a simple colour update by running the striped borders anywhere you please. Whether it`s to make a simple dado effect to break up an expanse of wall or to frame a doorway. Simply paste the border lengths with glue ( each 10 metre roll comes with paste flakes which you mix with water ) and position in place. The borders look great against white, but I will be showing you next how to combine them with other colour backgrounds. Watch this space!
See below: Pure Style Colour Bands reflect the Vogue for stripes in 2013!
Rose Petal: fuschia pink to border a door frame
Not just for walls: Fennel, lime green, Colour Band decorates a side table
Colour Bands in 8 Pure Style colours
Cake tin: a retro blue that makes a simple decorative trim all around a room
rain has taken a bank holiday. New year, new sky so blue, a
sense of optimism in the lst January air. I
trek across the sparkling park and the view is hyper clear. A crow’s eye vision
of London: swooping
glowing needle points of the Shard,
and onwards to the hills of northern Thameslink
My Christmas was as over indulgent and wine
embellished as usual. From rolling out sweet pastry for mince pies and tending
slow roast pork, we were never away for long from kitchen activities. Highlights
were my sister’s hens’ eggs with glorious yellow yolks and the sweet baby leeks
mud caked, from the garden on
No seasonal frost,
more a nuclear
winter grey to accompany the cloudbursts and floods. And the mud persisted. Should have treated myself to
those shortie Hunter wellies ). There was
constant hosing down of the-dog-from–the- trenches and my housewifely
of floors decorated with paw
mud prints . More than timely, though, was the recent purchase of a retro wooden airer with rope and pulleys. Draped over the wood slats like an aerial souk the washing actually
gets a chance to dry like toast.
A relief to come across
some colour, see lichen on Somerset tree trunk below
And hens` eggs: pure, white (decorated with mud) and simple.
more plans for the months ahead: to grow a
rambling scented jasmine in Portugal, to get my Colour Bands out there and on
your walls, to paint pictures in bold washes of colour,
to cook more paellas, to rein in daydreaming
at my desk.
PS I hope that I’ve ironed out all the new
stuff. The comments page is up and running again. I look forward to hearing from you all in 2013. J