Tag Archives: at home

shanghai fabric market

20 Apr

Since my parents moved to Shanghai, my sister and I have visited them regularly, and quickly sniffed out the fabric market just south of the Bund. It is a pretty overwhelming place, and there is a lot of very shiny fabric, but there are definitely some treasures to be found.

Just last weekend I was there and bought some beautiful Liberty fabric to line a parka. (Some Liberty fabric is imported from Japan, and a lot seems to “fall off the back of a truck” in Shanghai on its way over to Great Marlborough Street.) I also bought loads of patterned cotton to make sundresses for summer – we have a week in Greece planned for early June and I need to get kitted out. I will show you the fruits of my sewing labours as they emerge…but don’t hold your breath. I am very, very slow at sewing (ask George, who’s been asking me to hem his jeans since last February).

My sister, Felicity, was in Shanghai a few weeks ago and bought some fabric to make cushions. I love big floor cushions as a way of brightening up a room and providing extra seating when surprise guests arrive, and Felicity has done a beautiful job here. I love the crazy combinations she has put together. (This picture is slightly misleading as these cushions are HUGE.)

Now…to sneakily stow them away in my suitcase when I fly back to London!

Shanghai South Bund Fabric Market: 399 Lujiabang Road, Shanghai

feeling fresh(er)

23 Mar

If you’ve been so kind to read my posts across the last 5 days, you’ll have probably realised I haven’t been the bastion of healthy living.. large doses of late nights, red meat and food that could make a calorie counter cry.. in fact at one point during the week I’m pretty certain there had been more meals that had included a variation on fried potato than not.

When this scenario arises, I make a grab for what I class as my “want to eat something vegetable based & healthy, but its got to be easy” recipe book, (shorthand for I’m tired and generally hungover, and picking leaves off 5 different bunches of herb isn’t going to happen I’m afraid Mr Ottolenghi).

Nearly nine times out of ten the book of choice is usually our foppish friend from Dorset, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall and his book “River Cottage Veg Everyday”

The staple in the His and Hers repertoire from this collection is the leek and cannellini bean soup with chilli oil.

For me its the perfect soup, with a light base stock and plenty of flat leaf parsley, it gives the whole dish a really fresh feel. Best of all its really quick to make, and for all those thrifty chefs out there it freezes really well, perfect for tackling the onset of a bout of gout at a later date.

Here’s the recipe, and with only a month or so of the British Leek season left, now’s the perfect time to try it.. enjoy!

Leek and Cannellini Bean Soup with Chilli Oil

(The chilli oil takes a little extra time, but it really makes the soup and keeps well)

Serves 4-6

4 x medium leeks (white and pale green bits only)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 x bay leaf
3 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.3 litres vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
Bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chilli oil

200ml olive oil
4 x red chillies, deseeded and sliced
2 x sprigs of fresh thyme
1 x garlic clove, squashed

How to:

  1. For the chilli oil warm the olive oil in a small saucepan, adding the chopped chilli, thyme and garlic. Heat on a really low heat until the olive oil begins to simmer. Keep on a really low simmer until the chillies have softened, about 20 minutes. Set aside and leave to cool.
  2. Wash and clean leeks well under running water then half lengthways and slice thinly.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter on a med/low heat. Add leeks and stir. Add thyme and bay leaf, stir and cook gently for about 15 minutes. basically gently softening and sweating the leeks in the oil and butter. Add the garlic, stir and leave for another one or two mins.
  4. Next add the stock cannellini beans, oregano and half the parsley. Bring it to the boil and then gently simmer for 20 minutes. Check salt & pepper.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rest of the parsley.
  6. Serve with a trickle of chilli oil.

a birchin’ breakfast!

13 Mar

Ottolenghi is a deli around the corner from me which has been responsible for my passing off many a successful dinner party as ‘obvs all my own work’.

Yotam Ottolenghi, who runs it, is a pretty dab hand in the kitch and we are lucky enough to have a couple of his cookbooks to decorate the kitchen refer to when cooking gourmet meals.

By far his greatest gift (yes, even more than those hyperinflated meringues I drool over on my cycle home), has been this Bircher Muesli recipe. I make up a big batch of this on Sunday nights and it keeps brilliantly for the work week.

(It should look like this – thank you guardian.co.uk):

  Serves 4-6 (or lasts five days)

200g rolled oats
200ml cold milk (full fat, low fat, soy or rice milk are all fine)
80ml apple juice
150g yoghurt (low fat or normal)
1 large granny smith apple, cored and roughly grated
70g agave nectar (I use honey – I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow)
60g raisins (I use sultanas)
½ tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lime

1. Put the oats in a large mixing bowl and add the milk and apple juice. Stir and leave aside for 10 minutes to soften. You can leave them to soak overnight in the fridge, which will soften them up a bit more, but it’s not necessary.
2. When ready to serve, add the yoghurt, grated apple, honey, sultanas, vanilla and lime juice.
3. Stir and transfer to serving bowls. Top with whatever you like.