"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
02 December 2013
Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting. Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done. So I take his advice and do it . He does the heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other local flowering spots neat and under control.
You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon grey Hunters at TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to £79 up the road at Morleys. I don`t even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and as with my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.
Away from the screen, solicitor`s letters , leaking sink pipe, and the general impermanence of things, I feel contentment digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips. The afternoon is quiet , blue wash sky going into pink and a blackbird on the fence.
Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think optimistic pleasing thoughts. I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls, a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass warm and herby and the sun setting behind the apple tree
The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family but what I do rage over is the commercial relentlessness which began somewhere back in September with cut price chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op. Out in the garden there`s none of that and I am grateful to all the growing things for that
Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for pork pies. Herne Hill market saved the day when there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham. She worked from the recipe in Pie a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the classroom staff bake off. I`ve been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.
One red onion is beauty in itself don`t you think? It should should be called purple , deep mauve , fuschia even, anything but red. I bring a paper bagful home from the market to make an edible autumn display on the table. This depletes over the week with glossy fried onions for gravy with sausage and mash, stirfry with crunchy sticks of carrot and white cabbage and Sunday`s last beef slivers. I`m addicted to Sharpham Park pearled spelt, and it is just the thing for making a risotto with chopped red onion, beetroot and goats cheese.
Lido blue sky, Jerk chicken on the breeze , and through the park gates a fluttering gold
horizon on the hill , Sunday in Brixton is just
as freeing and refreshing as a walk in country woods. I am a country
girl in my heart but for all the delights of rural beauty and peace my head
soon tires of petrol hikes to the shops and sinister ice on winter
lanes. Give me the people life of urban encounters: a late night war
story from an Eritrean minicab driver, fellow dog walkers
smiling in four legged connection; a close friend and glass of fizz
one road crossing away; or Antonia and Casey at Beamish and Mcglue
who dispense good coffee and local chat. And from the spreading rash of
betting shops in the high street to a potential feast of films in a
new Picture House cinema, these are all elements of my village life in the city.
It`s been a good week for exhibitions: : Whistler`s fog scenes on the river at Battersea; more colour at Tate Modern with Paul Klee and then to Albermarle Street and Tim Wright`s powerful painted figures .
GARDEN NOTE : Apart from a few floppy pink rose heads. colour is leaching from the
garden beds. But the sycamore is flaming and the grass thick and rich
green, a last growth spurt before winter draws it back into the earth
to wait for Spring. Boxes of tulip and allium bulbs are packed in the cool of the larder.I have a weekend earmarked for planting them and putting the garden to bed. NB see great pictures by Caroline Arbour`s in a new book on Virginia Wolf`s garden .
Inspirational autumn colours in the park above, and pink Cosmos, below, growing in the Community greenhouses, below.
QUINCE JELLY: I simmer the dentist`s quinces in water for a couple of hours and let the cooked fruit drip pink juice through muslin into the pan. I add 500ml juice to 600ml of sugar and stir the mixture over the heat until setting point .The hot jelly cools and sets in jars by the fridge. The dog sniffs but doesn`t touch, too hot. I plan to share the jelly out to foodies at Christmas. It`s so good to eat with roast meat or to stir into gravies.
The person with a pair of steps, green bag and dog on lead is me going on a crab apple forage. We`re based under a laden tree which spills over the front garden round the corner at Macolm`s house, who`s also a fellow location owner. "Help your self` he generously replies to my text. So I am. Gratefully. The tree is dropping its fruit fast and dozens of decaying pink and yellow crabs decorate the pavement .
I perch on the steps under the fullest and most accessible branches and shake the fruit into the mesh bag. A man approaches and tells me that he knows where wild horseradish root is growing on a patch near a certain local bus top. Would he like me to get some? How`s that for a chat up line? But isn`t it great to know that we have our very urban harvest literally on the doorstep? It seems a waste when you see so many streets round here with damsons, pears and apples , blackberries that go unpicked. Have a look at this website which has been organising urban fruit forays in the US for some time
Soon the fruit is bubbling away merrily in the big metal pan on top of the stove. I am deep in screen hopping when I smell toffee apple. I race downstairs to find the fruit has burnt and stuck to the bottom . Bang goes any chance of the jelly looking pink and translucent . I think of the effort harvesting my crop and decide it`s not worth throwing it away. It will be a darker more mature kind of crab apple jelly I reason.
I make a jelly bag from a piece of muslin , pile in the cooked fruit and hang in the cellar to drip over a basin for a couple of days This is longer than necessary but when there is a lorry load of furniture and pots of paint for spring 2014 in your kitchen it would be unwise to add to the chaos.
After the shoot departs I boil up the juice with sugar, and wait for the magical moment when it sets all wrinkly on the ice cold saucer I`ve prepared in the freeze box. Whether this fruit was lower than usual in pectin, the setting agent, it takes the length of the Archers` Omnibus before it`s set. Jelly that flows rather than plops on to the plate is not an ideal option.
All done, all boiling hot and poured into jars. The taste is not as floral and crab appley it should be, but rather more rich and apple puddingy. No matter, it is delicious, and I have a second jelly chance, with the dentist`s quinces. (Yes, a little quince forage in between gum cleaning) Just heard Diana Henry making quince jelly with star anise on Woman`s hour anise which sounds good. Might try that, or I was thinking of experimenting with quince and mint. Will see when I get there as I have mint in the garden, just, and there`s a bag of star anise in the larder.
Dew grass in the morning and fallen green apple orbs. Got to get there quick before the slug army advances. The tree is pensionable yet manages to bear me a hefty crop this year. No menopause for trees. I lay the fruit out in the cellar - and hope it will keep crisp for a few weeks. The other thing like my mum used to do is wrap them in newspaper, and store throughout the winter.
Worried I`m selling out with the new white retro Smeg (Smug?) fridge replacing the leaky larder one I`ve had for 10 years. Thinking strategically though, because it fits with the location kitchen look, and what with all the baking shoots we need more space for chilling dough.
Balanced out the big spend with a sixities Jaeger tweed skirt £13.,50 from the secondhand shop Triad in Brixton. Can`t quite believe how achingly trendy Brixton has become. Five years ago my girls were wary of the dope dealers on the corner by KFC , now they`re dodging the foodie tours , snaking up the high street to Brixton village.
Back to the apples which I peel and chop at speed to make apple and ginger pudding. Think I`ve given you the recipe from my cook book before but here it is:
For the syrup
4 cooking or large eating apples
juice of l lemon
90g caster sugar
4tbsp syrup from a jar of preserved ginger
for the cake
125 butter softened
124g caster sugar
2 large eggs beaten
125g self raising flour
4 knobs preserved ginger chopped
Peel, core and slice the apples and turn them in lemon juice to stop them going brown. Melt the butter i saucepan.Add the sugar and syrup and stir until creamy and a pale toffee colour. Arrange the apple slices neatly in a greased 1kg bread tin or 23cm cake tin. Pour in the syrup mixture.
For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs and fold in the flour with a metal spoon. Stir in the chopped ginger and spread the cake mixture evenly over the apples.
Place in a preheated overn, 190C for about 45 minutes. If the top browns overly reduce the heat.
Test for easiness with a skewer in the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, with sticky cake mixture on it , it`s gone.
Cool the cake on a wire rack before turning out. Eat with ice cream or creme fraiche.
Taking my maths O level three time was as
painful as getting the new website up. I have to say that if I were one of the sweet and patient boys at
would be hairless after nursing me through a hundred panicked calls in learning
how to use the website manager. But
Hooray! Iím in business.
Do have a look at the new Pure Style shop, and the
delicious colour bands. (I noticed that
White Company shooting here this week, used them as props!)
The garden. The place where I can have some control when the uploads
donít, the links go nowhere and paste text paste text is like severe aerobics for hands and fingers.
Iíve planted 8 of the 16 beds with about 125
tulip and alium bulbs Ė Got them this year from Rosecottage plants,
who have rather good deals, and an amazing array of both
aliums and tulips
Iíve got a bit behind with posting this- so
a week ago when I shot these pictures it was warm and sunny enough to down tools for half an hour and cook
up sausages on the bbq. The end of the garden by the shed catches the afternoon
rays in autumn and is a brilliant
spot for the purpose.