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"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
Pure Colour Olhao
19 November 2015


London`s autumn streets swarm with black ant-like  crowds  dodging and diving from shop to shop as if buying has become as serious as life itself  Of course my well over 50  perspective is skewed but no way is my city as rough and exciting around the edges as it was in the 80s` when my dodgy Molton Brown bob and frilly white New Romantic shirt were cool. No Boris bikes to take me to our broken down Georgian wreck in rather grubby Spitalfields . Our youthful optimism and passion for rescuing beautiful architecture also unwittingly  prepared the scene for  the influx of the current hipster generation; you can hardly move between the foodie pop ups and designer handbag displays.  Thankfully Olhao, remains a  source of  solace and visual inspiration and the Saturday market with its life,  understatement,  colour and fabulous fresh produce beats any West End/East End foray. 


Glossy olives


Figs from the flat capped  owner`s garden - all shapes and sizes none of which would pass the supermarket test for shape and uniformity



Bees wax from a stall with honey, and honeycombs


Piri piri chillies, hot red and firey.



Sweet potatoes


Garlic in light and shade

Tags: autumn, Olhao, market, simple, colour


Market couture
17 March 2015

The Saturday Olhao market is in itself a wondrous gem. Yet amongst the  makeshift counters and shady awnings it`s the one-offs ,a simple woven  basket of glossy fresh white  eggs  or  a bundle of roughly tied  herbs from the seller`s garden that are the most special, at least, for me. A posy of wild flowers, dunked haphazardly in a  plastic washing up bowl is  everyday, yet artful and intimate,  far from the  supermarket `mixed seasonal  bunch` .  The creators of Olhao`s  market couture tend to be the beady eyed older ladies  whose stock is less plentiful, and bountiful  then some  others, but they sure know how to make a few oranges rock on a bed of shiny green leaves.




Daisies, and snails.



Buy a bundle of bay leaves - so good for flavouring meat and fish stews.





Petite piri piri peppers are packed with fiery energy. Be prepared. NB And are even more dangerous if you  buy them in  jars  dried and crushed.

Tags: Olhao, spring, market,


More fruitfulness
11 November 2013

 
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.














Tags: onions, autumn, colour, market


Market notebook
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.


Tags: Olhao, spring, garlic, market


Clams and wild flowers
15 April 2013


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 tagliatelle, although 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.









Tags: Olhao, spring, market, homecooking,


 
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