Orlando Gough. 

This autumn we took a holiday in Lefkada, one of the Ionian Islands. It was a blue holiday – in a good way – dominated by the sea and the seductive surrounding islands (Kephalonia, Ithaca, Megannisi, Skorpios) which loomed in a thousand shades of blue, blue-green, turquoise and grey-blue, constantly changing with the weather and the time of day. 

Skorpios was particularly intriguing – it used to be the holiday home of the Onassis family, and was where Jackie Onassis was famously photographed nude bathing by a Greek paparazzo. Oh, the ordeals of the rich and famous. The family recently sold it, possibly illegally, to a Russian oligarch’s daughter. It looks like the lair of a James Bond villain, with a yacht the size of a large house in the harbour. We lingered offshore in a considerably smaller yacht, partly because we were fascinated, in a Daily Mail-ish kind of way, but mainly because there was no bloody wind – and were seen off by a couple of goons in a speedboat.

With the help of, or, to be more accurate, with absolutely no help from a charming guide book from the 1950s which was devoid of facts but full of the purest poetry, we made a trip to Englouvi, the highest village on the island, famous for lentils, which are grown on the plateau above. ‘The landscape begins to change,’ says the guidebook; ‘on the one hand vineyards and colourful fields, stone huts so expertly made they might be ‘built by a hand divine’, and on the other, the craters of the moon and strange geological formations… The fields of lentils and the persevering growers working in them keep us company for a short while yet…’ We kept company with the persevering growers, and admired the strange geological formations, before visiting a very excitingly abandoned radar station with a spectacular view over the entire island and the mainland. It was like the lair of a James Bond villain several years after he’s been dispatched by the great man. Knackered and overgrown, it was dominated by several satellite dishes on a giant metal grid that could be climbed by someone with the sang-froid of, say, James Bond. We vowed to come back at night with a picnic, but never did.

At the highest point of the plateau (so I suppose it wasn’t strictly a plateau) was an exquisite miniscule monastery. Inside there was a tiny dome painted blue. It was like a James Turrell artwork, making absolutely apparent the idea of trying to come as close as possible to heaven. Outside a young couple, tourists, snogged, smoked and took scenic photos of each other.

The lentil fields themselves were nondescript, consisting of bedraggled rows of shrubs – wrong time of year. We went into the village and bought a kilo of lentils for a slightly eye-watering €12. Back at our house we discovered that they were mixed with a large amount of grit and tiny stones. We set to winnowing. My son Daniel and I were spectacularly bad at it, making the mistake of winnowing negatively (removing the grit from the lentils). We had to be taken off the job, slightly grumpy, and were replaced by a crack team of positive winnowers, who completed the work in about the time that Handel, had he been around, could have written The Messiah. Or Demis Roussos could have shaved his beard. It was a reminder that, much as we might complain about modern methods of agriculture and food preparation, we have got our lives back. The lentils were excellent, rather in the style of the Castelluccio lentils from Umbria, also, curiously enough, grown on a plateau.

The next day, in the delightful Lefkada Town, we found exactly the same lentils in a supermarket, with all the grit taken out, for €5 per kilo. The persevering lentil farmers of Englouvi had taken us for a ride, though it must be admitted that we were the classic marks – keen middle-class holiday-makers in the relentless pursuit of the Holy Grail of Authenticity. Which can only be a good thing for the ailing Greek economy.

The plfs, says the guidebook, cook the lentils in huge cauldrons, and serve them with salt sardines and olives. Sounds good.

Try this method of cooking them (serves 6):

250g lentils (Puy, Castelluccio, Englouvi)

a small bulb of garlic, cut in half horizontally

1 onion, minced

2 mild green chillies, deseeded, finely chopped

grated zest and juice of 3 limes

4 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp chopped mint

Winnow the lentils for several weeks – unless you’ve bought them from Waitrose, in which case immediately…

Put the lentils and the garlic in a saucepan with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until the lentils are al dente. The timing is critical, so keep testing. The window between grit and mush is quite short. Discard the garlic and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Good cold.

 

We’ve published a book of Orlando’s recipes full of similar tales. For more about Orlando Gough Recipe Journal click here.

 


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by TOAST ( 17.01.14 )

A highly personal list

1.
Candy ads: three very short films by Wes Anderson, advertising Prada’s perfume called Candy. The films are pure Anderson – perfectly observed, superbly detailed, delightful and funny. Lea Seydoux stars and is, as always, beguiling.

2.
Peter Doig’s No Foreign Lands exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery. ‘Willingness to take up the challenge still posed by Gauguin, Matisse, Bonnard and Hopper places him in a long line of great colourists, expressive handlers of paint and creators of richly textured worlds’ is what the Gallery wrote – and it’s true.

3.
Dolsot bibimbap: from Korea, the perfect winter food. Served in a sizzling hot stone bowl – healthy, wholesome, delicious, nourishing of body and soul.

4.
Feral, a polemic by George Monbiot that argues for the re-wilding of the land. Monbiot in his columns can sometimes seem strident or self-righteous. Here he (mostly) isn’t – and convinces.

5.
Flower Appreciation Society: wonderful florists, working from a straightforward and exuberant natural love of natural flowers. Created meadowy drifts of colour for the opening of our Marylebone shop in March.

6.
La Grande Bellezza (released here as The Great Beauty): Paolo Sorrentino’s sweeping, poignant, gorgeous, satirical, all encompassing Roman movie. Our film of the year, without doubt.

7.
The Guardian: for great journalists bravely going about producing great journalism.

8.
Keith Francis: bags to last through generations from a third generation leather worker, hand making his wares on a canal boat near Abergavenny.

9.
Kerry Seaton: goldsmith, designing and making quiet and perfect jewellery, each piece a small homage to the world’s existence. See our work with her here,
and her own website here. 

10.
Koya Bar: great udon place on Frith Street in Soho. No better way to start a London day than Japanese breakfast here.

11. 
Jennifer Lee’s show at Erskine, Hall and Coe. Lee creates pots of great purity and presence. Edmund de Waal wrote ‘Lee has managed that rare thing: to own a language of form and tone. She now has the freedom to inflect that language with a subtle and distinctive voice.”

12. 
Longbows: the concentrated looking, the draw, the release, the flight! Any symbolism is too obvious to bother with – but something atavistic was left resonating.

13. 
The Luminaries. Almost too obvious to choose a Booker Prize winner – but Eleanor Catton’s book is good! Absorbing (and lengthy) almost in the way of a 19th century novel. And very enjoyable.

14. 
Manufactum: great German supplier of a wide diversity of household (and more) goods, all chosen with a very keen eye for no-nonsense, thorough-going quality of design and make.
The German site for some reason seems to carry more product than does the UK one.

15. 
Music At Midnight: John Dury’s biography of George Herbert, the metaphysical poet. Most absorbing read of the year. As Herbert’s verse addresses difficult subjects in lucid and elegant verse, so John Dury reveals the poet’s life, times and poetry with equal clarity and sympathy. Not a fast read but deeply absorbing, elucidating, enjoyable.

16. 
Pizzica: wild Puglian variety of tarantella which, through the dark mornings of November and December has been stirring us to life as we drive to work. Listen to Donna ‘Sabella by NCCP (Nuova Compagnia Di Canto Popolare) and Lu Rusciu te lu Mare by Alla Bua.

17. 
The Rolling Stones in Hyde Park – on a perfect summer’s evening. Approached, of course, for all the well-rehearsed, dreary reasons, with some cynicism - all of which dissolved immediately the first great chords of Start It Up rang out across the warm evening air. A great gig!

18. 
Savage and Chong. Romilly Saumarez Smith is a wonderful jeweller working on that boundary where a craft carries so much resonance that it starts to become art. Romilly and her colleague Lucie Gledhill have produced a new line, far more affordably priced than their one-off pieces.

19. 
Edward Snowden: approve of what he did or not, it’s a great thing that – as a direct result of his action – an important and necessary debate is now taking place in the public realm.

20. 
Tate Britain’s wonderful new hang of its standing collection, done chronologically. Such a simple idea – and so brilliant. Like a walk, room to room, through history – revealing so much in both its progression and the diversity within the progression.

21. 
The US is talking to Iran! Isn’t this absolutely the best thing to happen in 2013 – the prospect of some peaceful accord in the Middle East? Why hasn’t it been more highly lauded in our media and by our politicians?

22. 
Wright’s Independent Food Emporium: like a family-run, Carmarthenshire Dean & Deluca – and therefore much better than that venerable New York store. Imaginative and delicious deli food; good coffee and wine; wholesome and well-chosen groceries; warm, welcoming, good-humoured and enthusiastic.

23. 
Toast’s customers & followers: without you we would be nothing.
Thank you! Merry Christmas! And a Happy / Peaceful / Prosperous New Year!

 
Photo: Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in La Grande Bellezza


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by TOAST ( 23.12.13 )

A Tale for Midwinter by John Andrews

“Sing what I heard you chant the other noon,
The Verse I keep, tho’ I forget the tune.
“Cease, Pike, with Perch successful war to wage,
Their weary finns delude your idle rage;
Nor sleep expos’d, lest Frogs your lives betray,
And you unguarded fall an easy prey.”
(Moses Browne 1773)

I have no memory of it raining when I stepped outside and later put it down as you might to bad grains in the porter or the distractions of a pretty bar girl, but whatever it might have been I was soon lost in the streets behind the inn. At first each corner seemed familiar, more familiar than the last so that the feeling that I was lost was momentary until I reached a dead end and felt a sudden terror at being more lost than before. I doubled back, laughing as I did so at my silliness, choking back the brief knot of fear that had climbed into my throat. But doubling back did no good. The iron railed maze grew thicker, and soon I noticed that the houses I was passing had no light falling from their windows. Nor did they have curtains to close upon the world at night. They were empty dwellings.

I did not remember when my walk turned from a scurry into a full-blooded run. The first fall hurt, the skin breaking on my knee and on my elbow. The velvet on my coat tearing as if it had been ripped by something sharper than stone. I scrambled back up and was sure I had seen a face briefly staring at me from behind a window and I called out but there was no reply. Not stopping to look behind me I rushed on and fell again as I turned the corner.

The light had gone from the sky when I awoke, unaware of how long I had been out for and felt the blood drying upon my temple and the dirty water in the gutter cold against my stomach. Pulling myself up I noticed nothing but one thing. How this street was suddenly so different to the others I had run down. It was not as long and it was not as narrow. It broadened out and at its end was a shop from which fell light. A yellow glow, an unnatural projection of warmth. I ran towards it and collapsed through the door. A bell sounded above my head as it did so, it startled me but not so much as the solid thud of the door closing fast behind me. I turned and looked up. Above a finely glazed and polished wooden counter was a long single shelf upon which stood a continuous row of sealed jars with pickled contents lurid in colour and mis-shapen in form, frogs with blistered throats and sticklebacks with mutant spines, outsize minnows and freakish mice, and some jars simply labelled ‘eyes’, ‘organs’, ‘sweetnesses’. Every sixth or seventh label bore a description of a quarry, ‘Christmas Morning Pike’, ‘Moonless Perch’, ‘Whitsun Trout’.   All inscribed by a delicate hand in dark red ink. On the counter standing guard stood a crow, its beak like a thorn stolen from a Bible passage and its glistening black eyes like two drops of poison. It was tethered from the neck by a fine silver collar that appeared to be engraved and which led in turn via a linked chain to a brass loop that had been nailed into the floor.

I could feel my own blood pulsing as it was pressing against my temples.  I was sure somebody other than myself had just entered the room but my eyes told me that I was still alone except for the bird on the chain. I could just make out a human voice, no louder than a whisper in the corners of the room either side of me. I swung round but there was nothing just my own reflection in the glass of the shop door. Oh, I did not recognise myself so mad did I look, so dishevelled, so fearful and reduced. Suddenly in the same reflection a shadow moved past the open doorway in the corner of the room. I turned and called out but my words were like dry sticks in my throat. This time I leapt across the room and through the door but was forced back. Even though the divide was no more than air the temperature was far colder as I forced my frame across the threshold. This antechamber was furnished simply with a table and chair. On the table was a candle that had been recently lit. The light from its flame flickered off the walls but barely reached the hearth opposite, which looked as if it was more a place where eels slept than a place to seek warmth. There was no evidence of what or whom had formed the shadow. My heart was now beating so loudly I could barely contain it. It felt as if I could take it from my chest and set it on the table so free of my body was it. I began to laugh hysterically and uncontrollably at this thought, images of my wife and child passing before me before the smell of camphor filled my nostrils, the light from the candle was extinguished and in the blackness and in the deep cold the eels I had imagined asleep in the hearth began to writhe and silently cross the floor towards me.

 

Able Critch’s shop always remained closed on a Thursday with its door firmly locked from the inside and its blinds pulled down, so that fresh bait could be prepared in private. ‘At the Sign of the Crow’ spelled the legend on his gold edged trade card, and so said all who were asked by strangers where the best place was to buy meats and pastes with which to angle. It was said his recipes came from the annals of an angling club whose identity was so old and so secretly guarded that no one had ever known anyone be asked to join it. Rumour surrounded the whereabouts of its meetings, none of which had ever been reported. Critch’s prepared baits worked better than any other accepted temptation and his disciples, of whom there were dozens across the city, never spoke of empty baskets. It was said that Able had not been seen beyond his shop since his wife had perished in a sudden fire, not even to visit their beloved daughter, a remarkably pretty girl who worked at The Folly Inn on the adjacent street and who had a reputation for her kindness to strangers. No, for all of his fame Able Critch did not fish, and preferred only the company of a crow for whom he had had a silver collar made on which was a simple inscription in the tiniest of hands which began,

‘Sing what I heard you chant the other noon
The verse I kept though I forget the tune’

 

John Andrews is also known as Andrews of Arcadia, for more of his work, click here.

Photo: The Ghost Story by Frederick Smallfield


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by TOAST ( 20.12.13 )


Orlando Gough

Put the kettle on
Put the kettle on
It is the British answer
to Armageddon

Never mind the taxes rise
Never mind the trains are late
One thing you can be sure of
and that’s the kettle, mate.

What ever happened to tea? Once it was a central pillar of our national identity. Probably because for a long time it was a central pillar of our national economy. Tea – opium – silver: a brilliant trade triangle masterminded by the East India Company, using methods that seem, in retrospect, amazingly modern; for example, the off-loading of the dangerous and ethically suspect part of the trade – the delivery of the opium to the Chinese – to intermediaries, enabling the Honourable Company itself to remain apparently squeaky clean. The opium, essentially, buys the tea, which is shipped back to Blighty where it becomes a symbol of a decent kind of Britishness, upright, hard-working, true. A brilliant sleight of hand.

It’s not whether you lose
It’s not whether you win
It’s whether or not
You’ve plugged the kettle in.

May the kettle ever hiss
May the kettle ever steam
It is the engine
that drives our nation’s dream.

Then, gradually, insidiously, tea turned into coffee (while in parallel, almost, the empire collapsed, and cricket turned into football). How can it have happened? It seems to have been part of the Europeanisation of Britain ushered in by Elizabeth David and Terence Conran in the 50s and 60s – French food and wine, Italian furniture, Greek holidays. It was more particularly a Mediterraneanisation, an attempt to deny our climate and live a more carefree outdoor social life (hence those heaters that attempt heat the outside world, a crime against ecology, not to say common sense). And an important aspect of that was the coffee house, with its chairs and tables on the street. Relaxed, sociable. What could be nicer?

Now that innovation has come to bite us. Starbucks, Caffé Nero, Pret a Manger, Eat, Costa etc etc are almost the only businesses left on the high street. Shopping turns into sociability, perhaps. But can you have the sociability without the shopping? I’d like to think you can actually. The high street as a place to meet, and talk, and see stuff together, and do stuff together – it’s a lovely proposition, though one that needs a bit of work.

It’s astonishing that we can drink so much coffee – and eye-wateringly expensive coffee, at that. The standard of the coffee has definitely improved, particularly with the advent of those clever Australian people, with their flat whites, and their enthusiastic obsession with provenance and water temperature. (I went into a delightful independent coffee house recently, and drank a delicious cup of coffee, but had to leave prematurely while the barrista was telling the nth person exactly where the beans came from, how he was planning to make the coffee, and what it was going to taste like: ‘…washed Yirg….updosed….pulled longer….clean and light, creamy body and mouthfeel, strawberries on the nose…’ – a mixture of porn novel and wine-tasting manual.) But what about our health? Are we getting over-caffeinnated? Are we drowning in frothed milk?

And this is where tea might be stealing back into the picture. A suspicion that tea might be better for us, particularly green teas and rooibush teas and herbal teas. (Are those horror stories about herbal teas just rumours, or is there some truth in them?) As we run more half-marathons and spend more time in the gym, are we going to return to the old decent morally upright tradition of tea-drinking?

Long live the kettle
that rules over us
May it be limescale free
and may it never rust

Sing it from the beaches
Sing it from the housetops
The sun may set on empire
but the kettle never stops.

PS The poem is by the great John Agard, who has also written a wonderful poem about coffee – or rather a poem about heaven and coffee – which affirms the coffee dishonourable, tea honourable principle:

You’ll be greeted
by a nice cup of coffee
when you get to heaven
and strains of angelic harmony.
But wouldn’t you be devastated
if they only serve decaffeinated
while from the percolators of hell
your soul was assaulted
by Satan’s fresh espresso smell?

PPS Now, not only has the empire collapsed, tea turned into coffee and cricket into football, but the weather’s changing. Is nothing sacred?

We’ve published a book of Orlando’s recipes full of similar tales. For more about Orlando Gough Recipe Journal click here.


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by TOAST ( 19.12.13 )

“Snipping clipping shearing drilling rolling milling drawing scratching stretching curling scoring scribing torching…”

The work of Savage & Chong is both unusual and exceptional: jewellery that is finely wrought and delicate but not overtly girly, that is at once considered and carefully crafted whilst remaining affordable.

Created by two women as exceptional as their work – Romilly Saumarez-Smith and Lucie Gledhill (the name Savage & Chong is derived from Romilly’s maiden name and Lucie’s mother’s maiden name respectively) – the emphasis of the company is very much on the jewellery itself, on the craft required to make each piece and on the story it tells.

Romilly’s training was a traditional one: at Camberwell Art School she was taught bookbinding by tutors who had done traditional apprenticeships. Her first task there was to make her own toolbox, her second was to make the tools she would use in her subsequent practice. This method of learning may seem anachronistic now but it is one that Romilly credits with teaching her to think through the stages of making. She went on to work at the famed Zaehnsdorf Bindery before starting her own practice. Always interested in her materials – vellum with caligraphic decoration, leather patterned with wax resistant dyes – Romilly was wholly drawn in when she began to work with metal, so different was it from paper and leather. She took a sabbatical to explore jewellery-making and never went back… 

Lucie is just as invested in the making of their work. She trained as a jeweller first at Middlesex, then at Bishopsland, graduating finally from the Royal College of Art in 2009. Her education took in all elements of jewellery-making, from the conceptual to the technical, but most of all taught her to be curious, adventurous and confident, whilst remembering to be self reflective. She describes what they do at Savage & Chong in just a few words: ‘made with simple gestures of the hand, with integrity and simplicity’. Her words capture their jewellery perfectly: each piece is individual, made by their own hands in their own small studio, nothing is cast or plated, everything is solid gold or silver, given colour and texture with oxidisation, heat and a multitude of other techniques (the quote above is from a long, long list of techniques on their website – their wonderful version of an ‘about us’).

Their combined aesthetic is refined and unshowy. Their choices of shapes seem driven by the things they find around them – seeds, buttons, woven threads, parts of a flower, pulses, whisks – as well as by the metal itself. Each piece sits almost weightless against the skin. This is as far from costume jewellery as you can get – to own a piece of their work is to make it a part of your person, part of your life. This is jewellery that has it’s own story to tell, but that will become a part of your tale too.

Savage & Chong jewellery is available online, from a website as rich in art and narrative as the jewellery itself: www.savageandchong.com

  

 

 


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by TOAST ( 13.12.13 )

Lia Leendertz

Autumn is here, and with it comes an urge to step outside despite – or perhaps because of – the chill. For autumn is beautiful. When the photogenic baubles were being handed out, autumn was at the front of the queue. Spiders webs covered in dew? Flame red leaves lying on green moss? Tree branches weighed down with an embarrassing abundance of rosy apples? Yes please, I’ll take the lot. Autumn is a looker alright, and is all the more precious for its fleeting, transitory state. So much of its beauty is the beauty of death and decay: one big storm and all could be blown away, and we will be left contemplating the bare twigs and mud of winter.

If looking for a beautiful place for an autumnal day out, think beyond the arboretum. Yes they are spectacular, and you will admire stunning glades of turning trees in yellow, orange and scarlet, but so will every man and his auntie. Whole fields are put aside for arboretum car parking at this time of year, and that crisp autumnal wander starts to feel a little commoditised and over populated. Anyway, there is more to autumn than leaves, and here are a few places to see the rest.

 

Exotic planting at Great Dixter, East Sussex

There are some plants that wait for the end of the year to explode into life, and Great Dixter is a fabulous place to see a garden designed specifically for this very moment in the year. The Exotic Garden was one of the late Christopher Lloyd’s great triumphs. He tore out an old, diseased, but Lutyens designed rose garden to make way for the hardy bananas, cannas, dahlias and verbenas that grace this garden until it closes at the end of October. A real riot.

Fruit at Brogdale, Kent

For mellow fruitfulness, visit the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale, basically a vast and hugely varied orchard. Home to the world’s largest collection of fruit trees and plants it boasts almost 4000 varieties of fruit including apples, pears, cherries and nuts. Their Apple Festival is held on the 19th and 20th October.

Grasses at Knoll Gardens, Dorset

Ornamental grasses look beautiful in autumn and winter, holding their shape yet swishing about at the slightest breeze and particularly beautiful against low autumn light. Knoll Gardens is the place to see them en masse.

The dahlia bed at Rousham, Oxfordshire

Dahlias are the flower of autumn and Rousham is the place to see them as a grand spectacle. The dahlia bed is 7ft wide and 150ft long and runs along a south-facing wall, and dahlias have been grown in it for 70 years without a break. This makes for a spectacular and hugely colourful show, right up until the first hard frosts blacken the foliage, and the plants are lifted for winter.

Autumn skeletons at Pensthorpe, Norfolk

Garden designer Piet Oudolf is the master of perennial planting that dies beautifully. He uses perennials that last, holding their skeletons and shapely seed heads well into winter. Although the garden he has created at Pensthorpe is at its colourful height in August, it turns into a beautiful, sepia version of itself in autumn.

 

Photo of Rousham dahlias by Alexandra Lehna, via flickr. 


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by TOAST ( 01.11.13 )

The fifth in a series of pieces written to photographs taken by Nicholas James Seaton on our autumn/winter 2013 shoot in Canada. Each focuses on an element, albeit a non-traditional kind.

After staring at the above photograph endlessly, returning to it often, Daisy Garnett‘s mind was consumed by Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s poem Mont Blanc. ‘It feels just plain wrong and fraudulent to try and write my own lines when he has already written everything I want to say, and in a way I never, ever could.’ And so, here Daisy presents the the first two stanzas of Shelley’s ‘wonderful, consummate’ poem Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamouni.

I

The everlasting universe of things

Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,

Now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—

Now lending splendour, where from secret springs

The source of human thought its tribute brings

Of waters—with a sound but half its own,

Such as a feeble brook will oft assume,

In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,

Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,

Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river

Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.

II

Thus thou, Ravine of Arve—dark, deep Ravine—

Thou many-colour’d, many-voiced vale,

Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail

Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,

Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down

From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne,

Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame

Of lightning through the tempest;—thou dost lie,

Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,

Children of elder time, in whose devotion

The chainless winds still come and ever came

To drink their odours, and their mighty swinging

To hear—an old and solemn harmony;

Thine earthly rainbows stretch’d across the sweep

Of the aethereal waterfall, whose veil

Robes some unsculptur’d image; the strange sleep

Which when the voices of the desert fail

Wraps all in its own deep eternity;

Thy caverns echoing to the Arve’s commotion,

A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame;

Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion,

Thou art the path of that unresting sound—

Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee

I seem as in a trance sublime and strange

To muse on my own separate fantasy,

My own, my human mind, which passively

Now renders and receives fast influencings,

Holding an unremitting interchange

With the clear universe of things around;

One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings

Now float above thy darkness, and now rest

Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,

In the still cave of the witch Poesy,

Seeking among the shadows that pass by

Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,

Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast

From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!


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by TOAST ( 25.10.13 )

The eighth of twelve people, men and women, all of whom in their various ways work with food and all of whom are passionate about what they do. It’s a truism to say there has been a revolution in food – but these twelve have all taken fresh approaches: all have a sense of rootedness and authenticity. It was a great pleasure meeting all of them: from the lovely Jeremy Lee working in a down-to-earth way at his grand and history-imbued Quo Vadis to the three artisan producers at Spa Terminus: extraordinary people working enormously hard at what they love. Our great thanks to them all.

Tommi Miers is an English cook, writer and television presenter who studied at Ballymaloe Cooking School. In 2005 she won the BBC TV cookery competition Masterchef and subsequently worked at the Petersham Nurseries Café. She is the founder of Wahaca, an award-winning Mexican restaurant group whose dishes are inspired by the food markets of Mexico, using free-range meat, sustainable fish and recycling everything down to the food waste. Her cooking style uses seasonal, locally sourced ingredients with inspirations from her travels abroad.

Tommi nobly allowed us to photograph her on what should have been their restful Sunday afternoon at home, while her kind and patient husband entertained their two young children in the local park. They couldn’t have been nicer to us, intruders though we were.

Thomasina has generously shared her recipe for Mussels linguine with smoky chipotle cream with us (and you)…

I cooked this dish in the semi-finals of Masterchef and I am convinced it helped me to win. This incredibly quick and easy recipe provides a stunningly simple, delicious plate of food. The smoky, sweet heat and creamy, silky sauce is a wonderful foil for the soft spaghetti and mussels.

 

Ingredients

1kg mussels in their shells

200ml dry white wine

25g butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 shallots, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

the leaves from 4-5 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon Chipotle purée

150ml double cream

sea salt and black pepper

a small pinch of caster super

350g linguine or spaghetti (fresh makes all the difference)

a small handful of coriander, finely chopped

 

Method

Cook this in front of your friends to really impress them and get them to help you clean the mussels at the same time! Clean them under a running tap, pulling off the beard between finger and thumb or with a knife (the beard is the bit of tough fibre at the hinge of the mussels). Discard any open mussels that do not close when tapped sharply against the work surface.

Boil a large pan of salted water for the pasta and in a small pan (or microwave) heat the wine until it is warm. Heat the butter and a tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when the butter is foaming, add the shallots. Turn the heat down to medium so that the shallots do not colour and sweat them for at least 5 minutes. Add the cream, season with salt, pepper and the pinch of sugar and simmer for 5 minutes whilst you cook the pasta and mussels.

Put the pasta on to cook (if you are using dried you will need to cook it for a bit longer). In a large pan big enough to hold the mussels, put the rest of the oil and heat until it is smoking hot. Tip in the cleaned mussels and cover, shaking them over the heat for a minute or two. Add the wine and shake for another few minutes. As they start to open, transfer them to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Discard any unopened mussels. Add the chipotle cream to the mussels.

Drain the pasta when it is al dente and drizzle with a little oil. Strain the mussel juice through a fine sieve into the cream and toss through the pasta, put the mussels on top. Scatter with chopped coriander and serve the pasta in heated deep bowls.

 

Recipe from Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers. Published by Hodder & Stoughton. 

www.thomasinamiers.com


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by TOAST ( 24.10.13 )

Orlando Gough

Well.

 

Saint Delia says that Masterchef is a nonsense because most of us can’t cook an omelette. And a new saint, Saint Felicity, says that that’s nonsense, as we’re not necessarily interested in cooking omelettes, or soufflés, or baking cakes;

what we want to cook is exotic stuff like Chicken Jalfrezi.

Who knows? Judging by the ranks of ready meals at the supermarket, Saint Delia has a point. Judging by the fact that the word ‘jalfrezi’ is now in the English Dictionary – raising the mouth-watering possibility of using it in Scrabble – Saint Felicity has a point; though she rather bizarrely followed up by devoting her next column to a recipe for Victoria Sponge cake.

Omelettes, soufflés, cakes, chickens…… Somehow it’s all about eggs.

It’s a moment to celebrate the egg

as glue

as the inspiration for Humpty Dumpty

as a crucial ingredient in the pick-me-up egg nog

as the indispensible component of a cooked breakfast

as an instant meal: scrambled, boiled, fried, poached, omelette

and by extension, if you have more time, frittata, tortilla, eggah, kuku

 

as a way of elevating something to the status of a meal – for example:

asparagus by itself, not a meal………asparagus with poached egg, a meal

 

as the central component of eggy-peggy language (for anyone outside

the society, it’s a secret language created by putting the syllable ‘egg’ after

every consonant – so for example ‘Felicity’ becomes ‘Feggeleggiceggiteggy’)

 

as a symbol of rebirth – hence Easter eggs, and hence the Easter Day sport of

egg-rolling in the village of South Stoke just outside Bath. You hard-boil your

egg, and decorate the shell (this year’s eggs included Boris Johnson and the Pope).

The eggs are rolled down the steep main street of the village. First to the bottom

is the winner. It’s very messy – the eggs roll under cars and into the gutter, and

the shells begin to come off. The competition is fierce and disturbing, and the

smell is even fiercer and more disturbing….

 

the yolk as a basis for emulsification with oil (what genius discovered that?):

mayonnaise, sauce tartare, sauce rémoulade, sauce verte, not to mention

hollandaise sauce, Béarnaise sauce, sauce Maltaise, sauce moutarde….. magic!

 

the yolk as a partner in liaisons with milk and cream, a basis for custards,

mousses, ice creams…..and as a means of thickening broths and soups

 

the yolk as a binding agent in egg tempura, and therefore a component of

some great masterpieces of Early Renaissance art

 

the white as a rising agent: soufflés, cakes, meringues, choux pastry,

gougère, Yorkshire pudding,….. and as a means of clarifying broths

 

the shell as an example of a perfectly designed container

 

as something not get on your face

as the perfect protest missile

and so on.

 

Try this Pipérade –

it’s a standard Basque dish, but you don’t find it served very often here in Britain.

Chop two medium onions; cut open, de-seed, and slice three small red peppers. Fry them gently together in olive oil for ten minutes. Add four chopped garlic cloves and six chopped tomatoes, and cook gently for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut three thick slices of white bread into cubes. Make croûtons by frying them in hot olive oil till golden. Beat eight eggs, season with salt and pepper, and add to the vegetable mixture, stirring all the time, as if you’re making scrambled eggs. Mix in the croutons, and strew with chopped parsley.

This dish is remarkably similar to the Tunisian Chakchouka, and the Turkish Menemen. Though in the Basque country it’s served with fried slices of Bayonne ham, which is hardly likely in Tunisia or Turkey.

Experiment with different herbs – mint, basil, coriander….

Good with green peppers instead of red.

Serves four.

We’ve published a book of Orlando’s recipes full of similar tales. For more about Orlando Gough Recipe Journal click here.

 


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by TOAST ( 22.10.13 )

The seventh of twelve people, men and women, all of whom in their various ways work with food and all of whom are passionate about what they do. It’s a truism to say there has been a revolution in food – but these twelve have all taken fresh approaches: all have a sense of rootedness and authenticity. It was a great pleasure meeting all of them: from the lovely Jeremy Lee working in a down-to-earth way at his grand and history-imbued Quo Vadis to the three artisan producers at Spa Terminus: extraordinary people working enormously hard at what they love. Our great thanks to them all.

Rachel Khoo is an English chef, writer and broadcaster. Born in Croydon, she studied at Saint Martins and worked briefly in fashion p.r. before moving to Paris where she learned patisserie at Le Cordon Bleau. She has written two cookery books published in French. Her third book, The Little Paris Kitchen, is also the name of her first TV series, famously and engagingly shot in the kitchen of her small Belleville apartment – where she also for a while ran a tiny, two cover restaurant.

www.rachelkhoo.com


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by TOAST ( 18.10.13 )
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