Sep 302014


September began as rather a shock for us- back to school, and for my four year old, the ever first day of school. Whilst I mourned the loss of carefree holiday days, and felt the inevitable wrench as my boy started school, I found myself relishing the clean page, new start and the quiet, still daytime moments when the older boys are away and the baby is asleep.

With the warm weather and the still-light evenings, there have been many opportunities for foraging- perfect for #growforagecook. A gentle ramble, basket in hand, to our favourite blackberry field has been a weekly occurrence: the cupboards are stacked with Bramble Jelly, and the freezer with frozen berries. My kind friend with the apple trees has, as always, been generous with her windfalls, and I’ve been baking endless Windfall Apple Cakes, replenishing the tin as fast as the hungry hordes empty it. I’ll be sharing the recipe over at Weekends Collected in the coming weeks.

I’ve been foraging for berries, blooms and treasures, too- sharing my discoveries as part of Lou’s #natureinthehome over on Instagram. Rose hips, rowan berries, feathers and fading hydrangea blooms have all graced my mantel this month. The central picture above was the collection that represented ‘September’ for me- my contribution to the #stylingtheseasons project.

Whilst Autumn has crept into our days with its misty mornings and flame-bright leaves, we clung to summer until the last, with our final camping weekend at the Good Life Experience, which proved to be exactly what its name promised. The tent, along with the summer, has been packed away until next year, and we move hopefully into October, with all autumn’s glories ahead of us.

As always, I’ve been looking back- to last September’s patchwork - and to the month ahead, with a Pinterest board for October.

October on Pinterest

 September 30, 2014  monthly patchworks Tagged with:  3 Responses »
Sep 262014




My love’s birthday is in September (in actual fact, he and Sabrina are cosmic twins!). Whilst we are rarely short of cake in our house, this is always his opportunity to choose his favourite. He’s a fan of chocolate cake, but it’s sticky pear and ginger upside-down cake which has made the most appearances on his birthday table over the years. The pears for this year’s incarnation were carefully selected from one of the ‘pick and mix’ fruit stalls at the farmer’s market, at their juicy best.

This delicious autumnal recipe is one which I tore from the Guardian magazine long ago, and it has been stuck into my recipe binder, annotated and underlined. The crucial step in the whole process is the making of the caramel- timing is everything: undercook it and it will be anaemic and watery, but leave it for too long and it’s easily burned. I have learned the hard way not to take my eyes off it, and so this time it was cooked to perfection. The cake element is a simple but perfect gingerbread, which is wonderful with the caramelised pears and, unlike most birthday cakes, actually improves after a day or so in the tin.

Pear and Ginger Cake

4 tbsp water

200g granulated sugar

5 pears, peeled, cored and cut into slices

110g black treacle

110g golden syrup

110ml water

75g butter

85g light brown soft sugar

340g plain flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Grease a 22cm cake tin.

Begin with the caramel: in a heavy saucepan, mix the water and the granulated sugar and bring to the boil over a medium hear, swirling the pan to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, raise the heat and boil steadily until the mixture turns a rich amber, swirling the contents of the pan from time to time to disperse the heat. Remove from the hob, pour into the cake tin, and set aside to cool and harden.

Once it has cooled, arrange the pears quarters on top. If you have any spare pear left over, dice it and put it to one side ready to add it to the gingerbread.

In another pan, combine the treacle, syrup, water, butter ad brown sugar, and heat slowly until the butter has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Set this aside to cool. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, pour in the cooled mixture, add the diced pear and and beat thoroughly.

Spoon this mixture on to the pears in the tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the top springs back lightly when pressed. Cool the tin on a wire rack for five minutes, then run a knife around the rim and place the tin base-side up on a plate. Let it sit for a few minutes before unclipping the sides, to allow the melted caramel to set a little.

There have been so many wonderful additions to the #growforagecook hashtag over the last month, and it’s almost time for Sabrina to pick her favourites as part of the September roundup (you can find the August roundup here).  Please do continue to share your own pictures or blog posts about your seasonal kitchen adventures using the #growforagecook hashtag on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, tagging @circleofpines and/or @wolvesinlondon. We can’t wait to see what Autumn brings to your kitchens…

 September 26, 2014  baking, Grow Forage Cook, recipes Tagged with: , , ,  8 Responses »
Sep 242014


I am documenting the year with monthly photographs of my kitchen table. Capturing the jumble that accumulates here, at the heart of the kitchen, is also a way to record some of the domestic stories of our family life.

September is here, and with it, the Autumn. I clung to summer for as long as I could muster until finally conceding when the equinox came on a crisp and misty morning. Instead of flowers, the September table has a jug of plump, glossy rosehips as its centrepiece. These branches of scarlet beauties had been trimmed from the hedge at the local farm shop and left, discarded, in a pile of clippings. Their thorns are sharp, and I was dealt a fair few scratches as I untangled them and brought them home, but their vibrancy made the discomfort worthwhile. They sit in a hand-thrown jug that I picked up for a quid at a local fete, its single chip almost unnoticeable.

The red enamel tea pot has barely left the table since I bought it for a couple of pounds at the Shambles Market in Stroud. It’s just the right size for two small mugs of tea, with a cheerful shine to it, and a classic shape that calls to mind the ‘I’m a little teapot’ rhyme! My heart mug was a birthday gift from a good friend, and it’s the perfect partner for the sweet little pot.

My ‘Daring’ notebook is sister to my much-used ‘Productive notebook, in which I make my weekly to-do lists. They came from Howkapow, a favourite of mine. September is the perfect time for a pristine page in a lovely notebook- a good month for beginnings and for fresh projects and ideas. Now that two of my three boys are at school, I’m finding just a few more hours in the week, and nothing is more satisfying than the opportunity to sit down when the baby naps with a notebook and a cup of tea or coffee.

Autumn is the time when, as a knitter, my thoughts naturally turn to new projects and to gorgeous yarns. I’m making slow progress knitting my socks, but a quick-win speedy knit is just what I need. My brother, who lives in the States, brought me back (as requested!) a couple of skeins of beautiful merino wool from Purl Soho, in beige and teal. I’m planning to make this striped cowl for myself, and just need a moment to bring down my yarn swift and wind the wool. I’ve always found it to be an activity that fascinates the little ones, so perhaps the baby can help me out one afternoon.

Finally, my proudest achievement, the wooden spoon. Rustic and unfinished it may be, but it was carved entirely by my own hand under the watchful guidance of the amazing EJ of Hatchet and Bear in a workshop at The Good Life Experience last weekend. Beginning with a small branch of ash, and ending with a spoon was a transformative experience, and not just for the wood itself! The two hours that I spent, knife in hand, were hugely satisfying and therapeutic, and I loved the magic of seeing the spoon that I had drawn onto the wood, emerge. It’s a lovely souvenir of what was a really fantastic weekend. The whole family went, for our final camping trip of the year, spending the weekend with Lou and Xanthe and their respective families, as well as catching up with Cathy, Nina, Hannah and lots of other lovely folk. We had all manner of fun, and the festival was filled with delights, from the vintage fairground to the bonfires, with delicious food and drink a-plenty and workshops and activities for all of us. It was the perfect way in which to bid the summer farewell.

Red, beige and cream: the September table.

The kitchen story so far:

{the January table}

{the February table}

{the March table}

{the April table}

{the May table}

{the June table}

{the July table}

{the August table}

 September 24, 2014  on the table Tagged with:  6 Responses »
Sep 212014








I was given an old Canon AE-1 film camera, earlier in the summer. Not knowing for certain whether or not it worked, I loaded it with film and commenced shooting, delighting in the weight of the camera in my hands, the metallic click of its shutter. The photographs that I took captured the last few weekends of our summer: walks down wild flower lined lanes; dewy grass in the dawn light; outdoor cooking during our stay in a shepherd’s hut; woodsmoke drifting across a field at dusk; the wispy blond strands of my eldest’s hair, the boys silhouetted against a sunrise glow.

Last week, when I went to collect the packet of developed prints, I had already forgotten what I had shot, savouring the delicious anticipation that only a pack of analogue photographs can bring. I was not disappointed- the camera is in good working order, and the resultant pictures delivered all the pleasures of film photography- light leaks, sun flare, unexpected cuts, tone, texture, and that magical element of surprise.

Summer 2014, you were wonderful. With prints that I can hold in my hand, and prop up on my desk to remind me of those long, dreamy days, I think I’m almost ready for Autumn.

 September 21, 2014  shooting film Tagged with: ,  5 Responses »