Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm in search of the perfect red vanilla cupcake recipe. I had this delicious specimen on my birthday earlier this year...

... Yes, it was from Magnolia Bakery, so I'm aware I can't compete. Nevertheless, I'm going to do some experimenting. Will report back.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Put A Bird On It

Hilarious commentary on current design trend – "just put a bird on it!" (via Myloveforyou blog)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Purple in print

Purple was my pre-teen colour of the 90's, and whether I overdid it a little there (purple and blue duvet set with matching sponging on the walls may have done it!) I grew out of love with purple. But it's growing on me more and more (yes, I know I may be picking up on this one a season too late, but I had an aversion). Purple can be very striking in print, or worn as a statement colour (my mum has a fabulous signature, rich purple coat). Below, is the print I donned for work today – a mini blouse dress in a sheer satin, with a waisted tie belt picked up on my trip to England in December.

My Mum's purple coat reminded me of a poem she loves that has become one of my favourites, "Warning" by Jenny Jospeh.

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
and satin candles, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
and run my stick along the public railings
and make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
and pick the flowers in other people's gardens
and learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
and eat three pounds of sausages at a go
or only bread and pickles for a week
and hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
and pay our rent and not swear in the street
and set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Today is Super

I found this cute journal in one of my favourite stores, Anthropologie, when I was in New York earlier this year. Whimsical and childish, I hope to make good use of the pages (especially the expenses and to-do list, but also the daily doodles...)

Moreish Potato Skins

This weekend, I experimented with making potato skins. I filled them with guacamole, spicy tomato salsa, grated mature cheddar and sour cream – the effect was a light, delicious explosion of textures and flavours. While a little more work than I expected, they were really seriously enjoyed by guests and come highly recommended. I would definitely make them again!

Here's how to make them:

Slather large potatoes in olive oil, sprinkle with some salt and bake as usual.(Bargain on at least 2 per person.) Once golden brown and soft on the inside (you may want to turn them), remove from the oven and allow to cool for a while so you can handle them. Halve and remove the flesh with a teaspoon (set it aside, I've got another recipe* for it!), keeping the skins intact. Return them to the baking sheet, hollows facing downwards. Sprinkle with some more salt (go easy depending on how much you put on originally) and paprika or a herb of your choice. Brush with a little more olive oil and place under a hot grill. When they look like they've darkened (watch them, this can happen quickly), remove from the oven and allow to cool a little. You'll find they crisp up even more as they cool. Fill with whatever you want, but I highly recommend the Mexican inspired ingredients I used.

Try this simple tomato salsa:

For a salsa for four people, finely chop half a red onion, half a sweet red pepper, and a variety of ripe tomatoes (I like plum cherry tomatoes and larger rosa tomatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste plus real chilli or Tabasco to suit your palette. You'll find it needs some acidity, so add a drop of lemon juice or white wine/apple cider vinegar. Leave in the fridge so the flavours and juices can combine.

* So, you have some cooked spud flesh – and lots of it if you've made the skins for a few people! There are lots of options, from a rough mash that can be slathered in gravy or the makings of a potato suffle, to potato rosties, which is what I made. I sauteed half a white onion until soft and transparent, adding two cloves of crushed garlic near the end. I mashed this into the potato (the flesh of about 8 large potatoes) with some salt, pepper and a teaspoon of mixed herbs. I'm yet to perfect the rosti, so I decided to make one big one! I used our large Le Creuset skillet, oiled it lightly and patted the potatoes down, sprinkling a layer of grated Parmesan on top. I put the skillet on a medium-hot stove top to brown the bottom of the rosti, before putting it into the oven to brown the top. It was delicious, served with marinated lamb chops grilled on the braai, and a rough Greek salad.


Had the most delicious pulled pork sandwich at &Union on Friday night, accompanied by their world-class artisanal beer. Two words: do it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fashion Friday's Florals

I picked up this beautiful skirt on the Anthropologie sale this last trip. They do the most gorgeous prints. The pencil skirt is a great cut, and this fabric has a forgiving stretch.

The vintage brooch I found in a vintage store in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. It's a place you could get lost in – rows of vintage jewelry, crockery, glassware, furniture... This one is vintage Kramer – also known as Kramer New York, known as a leader in making fine costume jewelry. They first used the Kramer mark around 1943, and produced jewelry using quality rhinestones until they went out of business in 1980.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ribbons and bows

This gorgeous large black and cream rosette (from Dorothy Perkins in the UK) can be worn as a brooch or a hair accessory. I wore at the collar of a sheer, black, button-up shirt-blouse.

Do-It-Yourself Braai Toasties

What weekend of warm weather and balmy, still evenings would be complete without a braai? Last weekend, we stopped off at the Kloof Street butcher for some delicious marinated kudu steaks. I made my signature lentil, red onion, basil and tomato salad plus a simple green salad (with superb leaves), some baked potatoes and these: braai pita toasties. Fill a couple of mini pitas with butter, crushed garlic and fresh herbs (optional – I chose thyme, a favourite). Place on a cool part of the grill until golden.

Wandering Long Street

During my lunch-time stroll around town, and general appreciation of the Mother City, I came across a new building I hadn't spotted before. It's located towards lower Long Street, near The Grand Daddy Hotel.

It's wedged between two tatty-looking, off-white blocks...

It's called Merchants. Look at that huge window and gold lettering. An inner-city gem.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fashion Friday's Red-hot Look

While not the bravest colourist, I think a red day dress against tanned skin with classic accessories, looks amazing. (Inspiration courtesy of The Sartorialist's shot.) So I found one for my Friday Lust Look, all from of the fabulous Joy store I mentioned yesterday.

Check out local blogger, Being Brazen's, take on the red dress here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shopping for Joy

I got this cute little hat (plus loads of other quirky, cool gifts and nic nacs) from a gorgeous store called Joy in Soho, London. A lust list to follow soon.

Chicken Soup

My boyfriend has Man Flu. When I was sympathising with his symptoms, saying, "I know, that's exactly how I felt last week." He said, shocked, "Oh really?! I didn't know it was this bad!" Well, no, he wouldn't have known, because I was a woman about it! So last night, I made him hearty, healthy chicken soup. There are so many recipe variations out there, but here's a pretty simple one – recommended by the patient!

  • Pack of chicken breasts
  • 2 Medium white onions
  • 2 Sticks of celery
  • Punnet of mushrooms
  • Packet of mushroom soup
  • Garlic
  • Flat leaf parsley
  • Thyme, fresh or dried
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Egg noodles
  • Salt and black pepper

How to make:
Heat the oven to 180ÂșC. In an oven-proof dish, place the chicken breasts, drizzled with olive oil, salt, thyme and crushed garlic. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender. Set aside to rest. In the meantime, finely chop the onions and let them simmer and soften gently with a bit of oil in your soup pot. Add the chopped celery and do the same. When softened, add two cloves of crushed garlic and mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to soften and release their juices, and add about 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Mix the packet soup with boiling water and add about 6 cups of water (depending on your taste and consistency preference). Stir in the shredded chicken, bay leaves and the noodles. Allow to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the noodles are ready. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir in some more chopped parsley and serve.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homecoming Queen

So I have unpacked (well, almost everything), done four loads of washing, spent time in the garden, napped and acclimatised, but until I'd stocked the fridge and started cooking, I knew it wouldn't really felt like I was "home". I thought my boyfriend would appreciate some fresh produce on his return, so I set to work on a menu.

I baked a vanilla sponge cake with tart lemon icing for tea when his mom dropped him off from the airport. For lunch, we had spicy chourizo and chickpea soup with crispy baguette. A dinner approached, the apartment was filled with the smell of roast chicken and garlic, and buttery roast potatoes. I made the asparagus pictured, drizzled with olive oil, topped with a soft poached egg and sprinkled with Parmesan for starters. A subtle, light taste combination that I highly recommend. The garlic roast chicken was served on a bed of leeks with the roast potatoes and accompanied by a chilled glass of chardonnay. The perfect way to conclude a hot summer day and a happy holiday. Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Coming home

I have returned home from an amazing trip to England and America, complete with snow, new friends, food, shopping and adventure – all the things that make winter travel in the northern hemisphere at Christmastime so magical. I spent time with my family, caught a snowflake in my mouth, ate cake for breakfast, walked the streets flat, drank too much, stayed up late, tried new foods, welcomed the New Year in at a restaurant in New York City, threw snowballs, marvelled at architecture and window dressings, and spent all my money. I would do it all over again.