Wednesday, 23 August 2017

West Dean Chilli Fiesta

Chilli Fiesta is almost without doubt my favourite weekend of the year. I look forward to the next one from the moment the last one finishes. West Dean's Chilli Fiesta has been going on for twenty-something years, each year getting bigger and better.

I've been camping at Chilli Fiesta with my friends and family for the last few years and it really ups the weekend game. The calm low-maintenance campsite provides relief from the bustling festival and you can wander back and forth between the two at your leisure. 

West Dean house itself is a 19th century flint manor house. Inside is usually closed during the festival but circle around the perimeter to get a sense of its scale - it's one of the largest flint buildings in the country which, if you're an architecture drop-out like me, may be something worth gawking at.

The Community Samba Drummers were a highlight of the daily music at the main stage. Is there anything more joyful than banging a drum? 

Even if you're not camping, you can stay on site until all the music has ended. The main stage is much better during the evening and it's much easier to dance without the sun beating down highlighting your every wiggle. When the main stage closes there is music in the bar - this year an amazing brother and sister duo Paulo and Giulia played. They were incredible. 

Don't overlook the gardens - you could easily spend half a day wandering around the grounds. The kitchen garden is filled with original glass houses packed with exotic, eclectic plants - and of course, chillies!

There are so many incredible local food stands to eat during the day and even more from which to buy sauces, chocolates, beers, fudge, oils, dressings - all of course with a chilli kick (watch out for the 'hot' labels - they really mean it).

Oh my goodness guys, you have to go. See you next year?



Sunday, 6 August 2017

Broccoli Cheese Baked Potatoes and Roasted French Beans

I am in awe of food bloggers who take wonderful pictures of their recipes. I'm aware of the jiggery-pokery that often goes on behind food photography for cook books but food bloggers? How are you doing that? Don't you want to eat what you've made right away before it goes cold or sweaty or before the new Poldark starts?

Maybe I'm in the minority (and I certainly wouldn't call myself a food blogger) but most of my recipes come from a week night fumble through the cupboards to try to satisfy whatever savoury craving that day has brewed. I swan around the kitchen, rummage in the spice drawers and clatter through the crockery until dinner is ready, and then all I want to do is eat it. If it's something new (like this one) I'll grab my phone and snap a picture of it before it's carried to the table or my lap on the sofa thinking 'maybe I'll stick this on the blog'. Later, at my computer, I'll look through the photographs I took and cringe at the poor lighting and bad plating up. But then I remember: I REALLY wanted to eat it. I couldn't fiddle about with lamps and jauntily lay out a vignette to set the scene because I was hungry! And that's really what all of this is about: easy food that you'll want to cook and want to eat right now.

So here's the latest. Please accept the above two paragraphs as an apology for the following horrendous photograph: 

Broccoli and Cheese Baked Potatoes and Roasted French Beans

This is a simple recipe that barely counts as a recipe. It's perfect for an evening where you physically have the time but don't want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. 

For the broccoli and cheese baked potatoes you'll need:
One potato per person
Two florets of broccoli per person
Cheddar cheese (amount left to your discretion) - leave out to make it vegan, it absolutely still works
Tiny grating of nutmeg
Salt and pepper

For the roasted french beans you'll need:
French beans (or something similar)
Rapeseed oil
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper

See, it's easy already.

As soon as you get home from work, stab some potatoes, wet them, salt them and stick them in an oven at 180C for an hour and a half.  Meanwhile, steam your broccoli. Let it go a little past al-dente this time - you need it slightly squashable. 

Cut the tops off your beans and cut in half. Place them on a baking tray. Drizzle with enough oil to make them all slightly shiny. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Crush a garlic clove over them and give them a toss. Leave them on the side for now.

Walk away from the kitchen. Do something else. I made pom-poms but use your best judgement.

When the hour and a half is up, take out your potatoes. Split the potatoes open and scoop out the fluffy centres. Place into a bowl with the steamed broccoli, about ten gratings of strong cheddar, a small pinch of salt and a big grinding of pepper. Grate in a little nutmeg - we're talking about two or three scrapes down one of those tiny graters - any more and it's overpowering.

Stick the beans in the oven for about 20 minutes or until they have wrinkly skins and crispy edges. 

Mash your potato-broccoli-cheese mixture together with a fork. Smoosh back into your potato skins. Grate a little more cheese on top and place back into the oven on a baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes until they're piping hot and the cheese is starting to brown.

Plate up with some rocket, take a quick snap and go and catch up on Game of Thrones. I hear it's a good one.



Friday, 4 August 2017

Dining Room Reveal

This has been a long time coming and I apologise for the delay but TA DAAH

We finished our dining room. 

When I say finished, what I really mean is that two walls need painting, the skirting needs painting, fresh stuff needs hanging on the wall and we need to find somewhere for the record player but IT'S FINISHED.

In the picture above you can see our New Favourite Thing: our car boot dresser. We got this baby at the local car boot sale for £150 and we nearly bit their arm off. It's got bizarrely wonderful rope handles and is reassuringly heavy and chunky. We got it in this colour and we're keeping it just as it is. I've already started filling it with all the crockery I've been collecting for the last ten years, wine glasses, jelly moulds and a powerful bottle of rum that Tom's parents brought back from the Philippines earlier this year. The drawers are filled with tea towels and candles and at the bottom is a games cupboard. You have no idea how much joy this brings me. 

On the table in these pictures is a completed puzzle that Tom got me for Christmas. It's the first thing I got out when the room was set up. It seemed like the perfect celebration of having a permanent flat surface in the house. Tom and I would sit at the table together, drinking 'Dark and Stormy's putting the pieces together. The second thing we did was have friends over for dinner so we could lay it like Real Grown Ups. I could picture seven year old me creeping down the stairs to pinch a plate of the grown up food and a handful of nibbles. I nearly played Lighthouse Family. 

We got the chairs from a nearby junk shop that is piled to the ceiling with furniture. They were £5 each and I love them. Eventually I will reupholster the seat of the two plain ones. It's on the list.

For those of you who missed how this room used to look, here's a sneak peak below. I think it's an improvement don't you? Find all our house updates here. 


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