Sunday, 31 July 2011

The simplest Summer Pudding from Nigel Slater's Taste

We have an abundance of summer fruits at the moment - all ripened early due to the April heatwave but you still need to either eat them within a couple of days of buying them or they will mould, even in the fridge. I had a large punnet of raspberries and they were selling off blackcurrents and redcurrants cheap so a Summer pudding was the perfect way to use up the fruit that wasn't eaten this weekend.


I know perfectionists will use a bowl lined with bread and filled with the fruit and weighted down - but I like things simple and easy and that's why this recipe from the fantastic Nigel Slater taken from his book Taste is the one I always turn to.

After washing and carefully removing all the stalks from the fruit, add to a pan with a tumbler of water and about 100g of sugar. For 6 people you will need around 850g of fruit. Bring the berries to the boil and allow them to go pop and release their juices. Cut the crusts off a white loaf of bread and line the bottom of a dish. Cover with the fruit and layer bread and fruit until it is all used up. There should be enough fruit to really soak through while it is cooling and then again when it is in the fridge. It should be in the fridge for at least an hour.

We had it with thick double cream and the bowls were scraped clean.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Get A Tan Without Looking Like Your Gran

This has to be one of the most stupidly named instant tan products ever - but I really like it!
Why? Because it's only £7 which makes it affordable. Also unlike a lot of other instant tans it smells heavenly - lots of fruity top-notes with a hint of vanilla. My skin felt fragrant and clean afterwards which isn't always the case after applying instant tan.
It is sheer and subtle and you can see where you've applied it - and again my skin felt nice and soft and moisturised - and of course noticeably browner!
Buy 'get a tan without looking like your gran' from  ASOS here and even if the sun don't shine and you can't afford a holiday you can still look gorgeous...

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Riding House Cafe, Great Titchfield Street



This restaurant used to be the HaHa Bar and many a boozy lunchtime was spent whenever we had something to celebrate at Handbag.com - it was that sort of place. Nice fat chips, home-made fish fingers, good selection of wines and beers - and they didn't mind catering for large groups of people who wanted lunchtime drinking to turn into early evening drinking and beyond...

Anyway that all went by the wayside quite a while ago now and after a short while as a strange curry house effort, The Riding House Cafe was born. I had popped in for a coffee with colleagues once before shortly after it opened and have to say we weren't all that impressed with the service although the decor was lovely. But someone persuaded me to give it another go as the food was highly recommended, so along with my best friend Julie, I decided to give it another try to see if the initial impression was just teething troubles. To my delight things were much better and the food was as delicious as I had been promised.

Photo: The Guardian

 The menu is perfect for lunch and dinner with a selection of the usual starter, main and dessert but also providing a selection of house plates to share. We opted for these for lunch and chose the goats curd with figs and honey, and the piperade, anchovy and basil, both at a reasonable £3. We also had the baby squid, chorizo, smoked paprika, chilli and olives for £4 the plate and the cod fritter with red pepper aioli for £5. To accompany we had a wonderful chopped salad which was plentiful with avocado, palm heart, radish and dijon sauce - all fresh, crisp and delicious.



Photo: Thewanderingfoodie.com

A bottle of Prosecco came in at under £30 which for this part of town was reasonable so the whole meal including service was £35 per head including coffees.

Photo: quintessentially.com

The decor is all white, wood and tiling with a large central bar and tables either in the windows of the bar area or in the more formal dining area. You can also pop in for a drink at the bar - the cocktail list is fairly extensive too. This is a bit of a find to be honest, far enough away from the bustle of Oxford Street to give you a breather, yet easy enough to pop into, The Riding House Cafe is now on my list of favourite haunts - maybe see you in there one day...

The Riding House Cafe
43-51 Great Titchfield St
London W1W 7PQ
020 7927 0840

 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

New BeautyandthedirtTV video... and a stunning performance from Amy Winehouse

As it's Sunday and I'm off to Broadstairs for the day to celebrate the birthday of my lovely friend Hazel I don't have time to blog...

But I have promised to try to publish every day even if just a small thing - so here was last week's BeautyandtheDirtTV, Keeping Up with BATD where we discuss the latest fave things to come across our beauty lives...



And because I don't want to think of Amy Winehouse in any other way here she is at the top of her game with the Back to Black tour...

I'm not wishing to join in the feeding frenzy here but just to say what a voice, what a songwriter, what a very ill young woman - and once again bi-polar picks off the finest...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

J Sainsbury Welcomes In Winter

Christmas in July also heralds Autumn/Winter collections and one of the hot tickets this week was the A/W and Christmas collections from J Sainsbury.

Beautifully styled by Sally Cullen the range is, frankly, incredible and even if you don't have a large Sainsbury near you with their online store you can order online and pick up locally.

Here are a few of my favourites from the night which had been reserved for Handpicked Media bloggers and websites - once again it was lovely to see everyone!


The first room full of simply beautiful things - loving this bed-linen.
Bathroom accessories are bright and bold and the ceramic dispensers had useful rubber grips - a unique design for J Sainsbury.
A beautiful Christmas table - almost can't wait for Christmas now...
How lovely is this Shaker inspired dresser with classic red and white accessories...
We never knew we could get so excited about knives but after a demonstration I am going out later today to buy one - at around £12 they are a bargain and professionally sharp.
Wish I had the cupboard space for all of these gorgeous bright casseroles and pots...
Boring household chores will be much nicer with these storage ideas...

All these goodies will join the 15,000 online from September - happy home shopping!

All photographs copyright of J Sainsbury.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The return of the Pussy Bow Blouse

Oh I love a blouse - nothing feels quite so grown-up and I am relishing the lot that are about the hit the rails the minute these interminable sales have finished!
The inspiration is from the catwalks of the likes of Gucci and the fabrics are soft and draping.


Think Ferne Cotton at the Cosmopolitan Awards....

Here is a version that is new in now at River Island and a bargain for just £22 - will take you through the rest of the summer and into A/W with ease...

And I am loving this ASOS version by Central St Martin's graduate Polly Siu for her label Nishe - snap it up for £42


And here is a real sixties inspired green number new in at Top Shop for £20

Long in length it will hide a multitude of sins!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

TOMS Shoes - ethical and affordable


I took this snap yesterday lunchtime in Office, Oxford Street. The sparkle caught my eye first of all, and as with all shoes that catch my eye I had to pick them up - they were as light as air. And then the message that for every pair purchased TOMS would provide a pair for an impoverished child and that was it - I was sold!
Wanting to know more I visited the TOMS website and here is what I read...


In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One. Blake returned to Argentina with a group of family, friends and staff later that year with 10,000 pairs of shoes made possible by TOMS customers.

Why Shoes?


Many children in developing countries grow up barefoot. Whether at play, doing chores or going to school, these children are at risk:
•A leading cause of disease in developing countries is soil-transmitted diseases, which can penetrate the skin through bare feet. Wearing shoes can help prevent these diseases, and the long-term physical and cognitive harm they cause.
•Wearing shoes also prevents feet from getting cuts and sores. Not only are these injuries painful, they also are dangerous when wounds become infected.
•Many times children can't attend school barefoot because shoes are a required part of their uniform. If they don't have shoes, they don't go to school. If they don't receive an education, they don't have the opportunity to realize their potential.

The thought of barefoot children in the 21st century horrifies me. So indulging your love of shoes can really help someone in need...
To whet your appetite here are more shoes from the TOMS range...


TOMS university classic with rope sole, £37


TOMS classic in grey and black stripe, £37
If you're thinking 'Blimey they're a bit pricey for what they are..' here's why...



Monday, 18 July 2011

Biotherm Vs. Rituals Skincare

I've been missing my Biotherm body milk - the scent is gloriously citrus-y and my skin feels moisturised and soft after each instantly absorbed application. But all good things come to an end and I finally ran out....



It's also a cool £21.40 for 200ml so it comes into the ' treat when I can afford it' category. So when I came across this Rituals bottle of Sweet Mandarin and Fresh Mint body moisturiser for under £10 I thought I'd give it a whirl.
It's not as fresh smelling as the Biotherm milk because it has a tang of mint alongside the mandarin which in itself isn't as sharp as orange or lemon as a scent. So in comparison it is far sweeter, however don't let this put you off. The lotion is quickly absorbed and my skin felt soft afterwards and the scent, although not the assault on my senses as the Biotherm was still strong enough to leave a linger without being overpoweringly sweet. Worth giving a try and at the moment is reduced to £5.70.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A Day Out... In Cambridge (before the weather got the better of us)

So we were awake early again this Sunday so rather than face the pile of ironing and the sorting out of the spare room (just shut the door I say) we decided to jump in the car and head out on the A10 to Cambridge.

The colleges were beautiful in the sunshine (soon to be drenched in a typical Staycation downpour) and although everywhere seemed to be overrun by parties of either Italian or French teenagers Cambridge has a lot going for it. Beautiful buildings, more excellent pubs with great food than you can shake a stick at and lots and lots of individual shops and boutiques to while away a few hours. Of course it also has all the standard shopping too - everything from Holister and Mac to Jaeger, Carluccio's and Cath Kidson the usual affluent city centre shops are there in abundance, so if you want a weekend with plenty of arts, good restaurants and lots of retail therapy then Cambridge is a good bet.
The Cake Stall in the market which is on every weekend and is worth a visit all on it's own...
Cheeses and meats from the continent...
Fresh and local flowers...
Fresh fudge being made before your eyes.
One of the many individual shops...
We had lunch at The Eagle - a superb Sunday Roast, and sat next to the lead singer of James. The pub was founded in the 16th century and the airmen of bomber crews in the Second World War have signed the ceiling in the RAF bar. These include the crew of the Memphis Belle and those who dropped the bouncing bombs. Poignant as many will never have returned...
Punting on the River Camb.
The Bridge of Sighs - who needs Venice?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Holiday must-haves - Aveda hair suncare

Last night we got to hang out in P Diddy's favourite suite at the Soho Hotel and trial the latest hot products from Aveda who have been ethically producing pure flower and plant essence products for years.


They are an interesting company being the first beauty company to manufacture using 100% certified wind power where their wind energy purchase offsets all the electricity used by their primary manufacturing plant in Minnesota, USA. 90% of their essential oils and 89% of the raw herbal ingredients are certified organic too and they have even raised 11,000,000 US dollars for various environmental and social causes - even their packaging has the hightest possible post-consumer recycled content. So if this is a priority for you and you haven't come across their products before then you really should try them out as they are as good as they sound.

For holidays there is a 3-step Suncare system for your hair containing UV protection while cleansing and protecting from sun and salt damage for up to 16 hours which is impressive. It even smells of holidays containing neroli, ylang-ylang , cinnamon and green tea extract among other ingredients. The Aveda Suncare Hair and Body Cleanser means you don't have to pack separate products and is £14 for 250ml.

The Aveda Suncare Protective Hair Veil which can be sprayed on dry or damp hair is £17.50 for 100ml.


The Aveda Suncare After-Sun Hair Masque which can be left for as little as 2 mins (perfect on holiday when, let's face it we don't want to spend time on our hair) is £16.50 for 125ml.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Mascara wars - L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes vs. Barbara Daly Lash Boost Mascara

Two new mascaras found their way into my bag this week. One from Barbara Daly came via a Christmas in July press launch for Tesco, the other from L'Oreal I bought, so I decided to trial both to see which was a keeper and which a dumper...


Well I'm happy to report that both these relatively inexpensive mascaras have a lot going for them. I had risked looking a bit lob-sided by using a different product on each eye but the effect was virtually the same. Nice, thick, separated and longer looking lashes using both products. The difference was really in the application and initial consistency of each mascara.

First the Barbara Daly Lash Boost. This has a wonderful wand shaped like a shapely woman which makes application a doddle. The slightly angled tip helps with getting to the corner lashes and it wasn't too watery so there was no unsightly smudging even on the lower lashes. It stayed on in the heat all day and was easy to remove as it didn't clump or smudge, at night. Easily a 4/5.

The L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes was slightly more cumbersome as I found the thick rounded brush a bit more difficult to use especially given that the liquid mascara was a bit runny and prone to smudges. Having said that the effect was just as good and the longevity the same - no flaking or runnng off by the end of the day and well separated beautiful lashes. I give this 3/5.

Pricing is key of course and they are pretty similar too - Barbara Daly is around £5 and L'Oreal Volume Million Lashes £4.50 so I would think the choice will be down to availability in the end. Both will give you volume, not clumping and beautiful lashes and both are infinitely affordable.

Check out more Mascaras I've Tried.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The News of the World



So here it is, the 8,674th edition of the News of the World - and one of the last copies on my newsagent shelf by 10 o'clock this morning.

I know lots of people who buy the News of the World. People who normally buy The Sunday Times and The   Observer too. People who during the week buy The Guardian and The Telegraph. They buy the News of the World for a little light relief and a lot of salacious gossip - we've loved gossip for centuries - look at the characters in the average Jane Austin novel to bear this out. So whether we like their methods or not, the News of the World is a British institution, and it'll be missed from the newstands next week and onwards.

When it got it right it was a force for good - they changed laws - remember Sara's Law which they battled to support and finally win through for 10 years? And as proved over the last few years, when they got it wrong they stunk to high heaven.

But who are the winners in this sorry story? Their competitors like The Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Mirror are bound to pick up readers and more revenues. Those who have something to hide like a grubby visit to a prostitute or an illegal exchange for cash will have less to worry about getting caught. And I am forced to admit that anything that cleans up the act of the media in general when it comes to doorstepping and illegal and underhand behaviour is a good thing but I can't help thinking that once the dust has settled things will still be the same.

The editorial from the first issue had these words to say -


'The General utility of all classes is the idea with which this paper originated. To give to the poorer classes of society a paper that would suit their means, and to the middle, as well as the rich, a journal which from its immense circulation, should command their attention, have been the influencing  motives that have caused the appearance of the News of the World. We shall make no apology for those motives, because, we conceive, that in their accomplishment we shall attain an end, that in the present state of England is not only desirable but absolutely necessary. Journalism for the rich man, and journalism of the poor, has up to this time, been as broadly and distinctly marked, as the manners, the dress, and the habitations of the rich, are from the squalor and the dens of the poor. The paper for the wealthy classes is high priced, it is paid for by them, and it helps to lull them in the security of their prejudices. The paper for the poorer classes in on the otherhand, low priced, and it is paid for by them: it feels bound to pander to their passions. TRUTH, when it offends a prejudice, and shows, the evil of passion, is frequently  excluded from both.'

They achieved what they set out to do - to provide a newspaper that was bought by both the rich and poor, and over the years shed light on a wide variety of scandals and cover-ups. They achieved the biggest circulation with some 7.5 million readers a week. It's a scandal in itself that their methods proved as shoddy in recent years as those of the individuals they have long sought to expose. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Tangle Teezer and the launch of BeautyandtheDirt TV

Keeping up with BATD

As we're the sort of team who are constantly sniffing out new products and trends to bring to the ever successful BeautyandtheDirt, a weekly TV update to introduce the team and bring it all to life was long overdue. So Thursday this week saw myself, Editor Krista Madden and Deputy Editor Emma Skipper produce the first episode of Keeping Up With Beauty & the Dirt - think Loose Women when it was informative and watchable, although we like to think it's more akin to The Culture Show (but who are we kidding). Anyway we wanted to prove that you can produce good video content easily yourself without expensive film crews and studio spaces.

Check out our first mini-programme at BeautyandtheDirt - it may not be as high-tech as Harry Potter 3D but you will find it full of new products all tested by the team and not only that but each Friday we will also bring you our take on all the celebrity gossip, looks and secrets and will have a few guests join us too.

My favourite products to land on my desk this week were the latest versions of the Tangle Teezer. If you haven't come across this little beauty yet then you are missing out. I saw them first on Dragon's Den and I have to say have been the saviour of my curly hair which when wet has seen the demise of many a comb and hairbrush. This all plastic brush has two lengths of soft plastic 'bristle' which bend and therefore don't tear the hair but gently get out every single knot and tangle effortlessly. I have had a boring black version in my bathroom for at least two years now so am very happy that there are some exciting colours now added to the range. The bright orange is the latest colour and can we found at Tangle Teezer for £10.20.  Check out the inventor of the Tangle Teezer and how to use it to best effect below...


       

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Lileks - the first blog I ever followed, and what a blog!

Years ago I was working on an online project that never took flight (my own personal little pun which I must apologise for as it was, in fact, for British Airways). Anyway I digress, this project meant that I had to familiarise myself pdq with all things online. Now when I tell you this was over ten years ago you will see that all this internet stuff and working was very shiny and new and really quite limited. We had just got Google (what a stupid name I remember thinking at the time - won't last) and my job initially was to use this Google thing to search and find interesting things on the interweb to inspire me to do something fantastic for airline users (ie passengers) to do with home and lifestyle. So it was on this fact and ideas finding mission that I came across a blog which made me laugh so much I put it in my favourites and returned every day to make sure I worked my way through the archive.

Lileks was the name of the site and blog and it still is as strong and funny today as it was ten years ago. The Bleat is the daily update from US journalist James Lileks and is worth a gander, but what made me crease up laughing was his Institute of Official Cheer which contains The Gallery of Regrettable Food which display pages from old recipe books and journals with his own thoughts added. I didn't know recipe books could be so funny until I read things like this from Lunches and Brunches...


You were up all night scoring the pig testicles, and no one ate them! You slaved for half an hour making that head-cheese-and-blood dip, and no one tried it!


Or this from the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cookbook....


This has a name like "Snowplow-cut Butt Steak," or something. It's one of those attractive meat-meals that brings out the muscle striations to nice effect. You reeeallly want to know you're eating muscle when you tuck into a plate of meat. Muscle: ask for it by name!
Note how they think that shredding the greens and sprinkling them around will get us to try them. Hah! Nice try!


Can you imagine in this world of Nigella and Jamie that such cookbooks existed and were meant to inspire you the rush into the kitchen and put that pinny on.

But James Lileks doesn't just curate the truly awful in cookbooks. No he holds up the worst in science fiction,  comic books and 'male publications' of the fifties and sixties into the harsh light of today. Interior Design comes under scrutiny too with Horrible Homes from the Brass Age of American Design. Here is a taster...


This is a teenaged girl’s room. Toss a modern Goth chick in here and she’d dissolve on contact. The yellow and checked pattern do provide an interesting contrast, but you could say the same thing about a vat of acrid urine and a dozen Krispy Kremes. So what, in other words? What’s so blessedly special about contrasts, particularly if the effect looks like a room for someone overly prone to throwing up six quarts of mustard now and then? 

No unauthorized cameras allowed, says the Old-Timey sign. Oh, don’t worry. Not when this hue and this pattern is described in most technical handbooks as “the lens-cracker.”



I'm not going to give you any more - you'll have to visit Lileks yourself - but give yourself at least half an hour as you will get lost in the fabulous archive and the slice of American living you will find there.

4711 cologne and a rooftop party at The Century Club

.

4711 isn't a cologne I have ever worn - but talking to friends at the launch those who grew up in South America or mainland Europe have very fond memories of this fresh and dare I say it, genuinely timeless fragrance.


We were all invited to the fabulous rooftop bar last night at London's The Century Club and it was the perfect evening to remove the roof and sit outside - so we were very lucky. The cocktails kept coming along with delicious canapes - I must say the food here really is superb so I will have to try the restaurant some day. Here we heard a little of the story of 4711 which goes something like this.

4711 dates back to the 17th century where it was known as an aqua mirabilis or wonder water for its medicinal properties. Created by a Carthusian monk to a secret formula is was in 1794 during the French occupation that all buildings were given street names and numbers and the premises of a street merchant, Wilhelm Muelhens who had been given the aqua mirabilit earlier, was labelled 4711. In 1810 Napoleoan made it illegal to not disclose secret formulas for all medicines and so Muelhens rebranded the water into a fragrance avoiding revealing the secret ingredients.

And that is the early beginnings of an iconic brand which is arguably the oldest fragrance brand around. Perfect for hot summer days, it contains bergamot, lemon and orange plus lavender and rosemary alongside neroli which are all soothing and calming. What I particularly like are the little packets of cologne wipes which are perfect for festivals to keep you smelling fresh! Slip them in your rucksack or give them to your teenagers for their weekends of festival madness! Available from Boots.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Another Sunday lunch and a new barbecue recipe...

So the sun shone again and a Serb won Wimbledon.

Photo Titled Number one!
What was not to like about today! I always plan for rubbish weather at the weekends and had a large chicken sitting in the fridge for a more traditional roast. But with these temperatures and a husband offering to man the barbecue, I decided to divide up the chicken and marinade it first thing.

The breasts which you can see here were marinaded in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic puree and the killer ingredient, fennel seeds. Putting the whole lot under cling-film in the fridge for the entire morning made the chicken so creamy and tender and the mix of flavours so delicious, it beats anything you can get out of a bottle, believe me. I can't lay claim to making my own sausages but these little small babies are from the Asda Extra Special range and are really meaty and not too spicy. Demolished in seconds.

Here is my herb patch which I simply can't live without. Although you can see the earth is pretty typical London clay and a bit stony, the herbs have thrived this year - it must be because of the sunshine and heavy downpours we've been having. The patch includes oregano, mint, chives, sage and of course, my favourite, rosemary which I put into all sorts of dishes.

And here is my veg patch which is a mad mix of curly kale, potatoes, sweetcorn, tomatoes, french beans, garlic, radishes, lettuce - and all in a plot 8ft by 8ft or thereabouts. Can't take credit for any of this, husband does it all, but I do enjoy picking and cooking with it all...

After lunch we wandered down the hill to our local park to support a festival in aid of the Pro-Cancer Research Fund. Although the Wimbledon final was on there was a fantastic turnout with everything from alternative therapy tents to live music and Zumba. This is a splendid example of  what local people who want to make a difference can do and have been doing for a lot longer than the Governments Big Society bandwagon jumping would lead us to believe. This has been going on for a few years now and goes from strength to strength. And they always seem to get good weather so someone is on their side!

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