A Right Pain in the Butt


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So it turns out that I have something called piriformis syndrome, where a small muscle in my butt (just under the glutes) has tightened up so much (through sitting) that it’s pressing on the sciatic nerve and causing a lot of pain in my lower back, butt and right down my left leg.  Unfortunately sitting is incredibly painful and seems to make the pain a whole lot worse.

Things are getting gradually better after a lot of acupuncture, chiropractic, deep tissue massage, Rolfing, stretching, hot baths and heat treatments but progress is slow, and as you can imagine, blogging is almost impossible.

So I’ve reluctantly and sadly decided to stop blogging for a bit and just focus on resting my hip and getting treatment, hopefully back at the beginning of January.


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In the meantime I wish you all a very happy holiday season, with lots of love and laughter.  I will miss you all horribly.


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If anyone has had this and can recommend any treatmets that helped you, let me know in the comments.  I’m dying of frustration here.


How To Cook the Perfect Turkey: Advent Calendar Day 3


We’re just coming out from under a heap of Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, but unlike many Americans we’re going to miss those suckers because this year I managed to cook the Most Incredible Turkey Known To Humankind – moist, succulent, and bursting with flavour, with a delectable burnished skin and not a trace of sawdust or cardboard. 


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This was the best turkey, avocado, bread sauce, gravy and mango chutney sandwich in the history of turkey, avocado, bread sauce, gravy and mango chutney sandwiches.

I take no personal credit for this superhuman feat, as all we did was gather advice from Alton Brown, Saveur Magazine, the Kelly Bronze website and various wonderful Facebook friends and squoosh it all together.  It ended up so good though that we made detailed notes for posterity.


Buy the most fabulous turkey you can afford:  TMITKTH was a 14 lb heirloom turkey. If you’re in the UK, Kelly Bronze turkeys are definitely worth the extra expense in my experience and I believe they are now becoming available for sale in the Eastern US.


Brine your turkey:  I know this is not very usual outside of the US but believe me it makes all the difference. We adjusted this recipe from Saveur Magazine to fit our turkey and bucket. 

Make a brine with 2tbsp of fresh sage which has been chopped and toasted in a hot dry frying pan (skillet), 2 cups of kosher salt, 1 cup of brown sugar and 2 quarts (2 litres) of warm water.  Feel free to add other herbs, spices and aromatics, this is just what we did for TMITKTH. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then add another quart/litre of water and leave to cool.

Place your turkey in a clean bucket (we lined ours with a bin liner) add the cool brine and then cover with water and ice. Squash the bird down with the lid of a Le Creuset pot if it’s floating too much.

Leave it overnight in a cool place. We brined ours for 15 hours in the end.


Butter it to within an inch of its life:  Dry the turkey thoroughly.  Soften at least one stick (120g) butter (the Husband told me afterwards that he had used two sticks, which did seem slightly excessive).

Stir a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh sage, thyme or other herbs into the butter, together with 4 fat minced garlic cloves. Feel free to try other herbs. That’s just what we used for TMITKTH.

Slather the garlic and herb butter all over the turkey and smear a ton under the skin of the breast.  Chop a lemon in half and shove into the turkey’s cavities. Tie its legs together. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground black pepper. DO NOT STUFF WITH STUFFING.


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Yeah, I was too drunk and stressed to take a picture of the actual turkey itself. I’m such a crap food blogger.


Roast it on a bed of root vegetables:  Quarter two or three onions, chop some big chunks of carrot, halve a head of garlic horizontally and create a ‘rack’ of root vegetables on the bottom of your roasting pan. Add branches of sage, rosemary and thyme.  Feel free to experiment with other root veggies and herbs, this is just what we used for TMITKTH. Lay your turkey on your bed of veg BREAST SIDE DOWN.


Cook it FAST:  This is what we learned from Alton and the Kelly Bronze website.  Long slow cooking creates cardboard birds.  This is also why you don’t stuff the bird, as this slows down cooking times.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F  (260 degrees C). Essentially as hot as your oven will go. ‘Sizzle’ for 30 mins. Then turn down oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and roast for a further 75 mins. Turn turkey over and roast for a further 30 mins or until the internal temp of the thickest part of breast is 165 degrees F (75 degrees C).  I do love my meat thermometer.  Don’t bother basting as all that does is cool down the oven (thanks Alton) and slow down the cooking time. In fact after turning down the temp we left TMITKTH in the oven and went out to our neighbours for cocktails and appetizers.

When your beautiful burnished bronze bird is ready,  take it out of the oven and rest it for about 45 mins covered in foil.


Make The Most Delicious Gravy Known To Humankind: Strain all the roasted root vegetables and pan juices through sieve. I hoiked out most of the onions as I don’t like my gravy to be too oniony and took out the carrots to serve as an extra side. Pour off most of the butter.  Add the juices back to roasting pan and smoosh the roasted garlic head with the back of a fork so that the super soft garlic puree oozes out into the juices. Remove the papery garlic skins. Warm the juices on the stove and sprinkle over 2-3 tablespoons flour, whisk all the time until smooth.  Add a generous slosh of white wine, dry vermouth or white port and strained home made giblet stock or other good quality chicken stock. (simmer the giblets from the turkey for about three hours in about a pint of water with half an onion, a chunked up carrot, some garlic cloves, parsley stems and peppercorns). Bubble the gravy until thick, whisking all the time to avoid lumps.


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To make up for not having an actual turkey pic in this blog post, here are some gratuitous pictures of the apple pie I made, after working a little bit of paste food colouring into the pastry.  I was delighted with how that turned out.

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Advent Calendar Day 2: Christmas Baking


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I’m finding standing much less painful than sitting at the moment, which means I’m actually up to date with my Christmas baking. 

This year I’m going for the big British three of cake, pudding and mincemeat for mincepies. and thought you might like a reminder of the recipes I’ve used and published before.

How to make Christmas puddings

How to make Christmas cake and how to make Christmas cake part 2 and how to make Christmas cake update 

How to make mincemeat


Advent Calendar Day 1: Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar


Still suffering with back pain (looks like I have something called piriformis syndrome), but I’m going to try a short, sweet Christmassy blog post every day as a little Advent Calendar for you all.




First up you must get your kids (and yourselves) a Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar.  These magically beautiful online calendars feature gorgeous animations, and lovely music, with a new little interactive Christmassy game or a charming little story or scenario every day.  As you open more windows the scene becomes more detailed and beautiful, and it changes through the day to reflect the time and the phases of the moon.  The Minx loves the little games such as decorating the Christmas tree and cutting out snowflakes online and spotting how the scene changes from day to day.  (I’d say this was perfect for 5-10 year olds).




The Minx is now excite to be working on this year’s beautiful Alpine village, but we retain a soft spot in our hearts for last year’s gorgeous London calendar which is still available.


Things I Am Loving: Studio Mela


As it’s Cyber Monday and I’m awesomely well-organised (haha! :- Ed), I’m sitting at my desk gently shopping for Christmas presents for the Minx.


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Since she is now almost eight years old (how the heck did THAT happen?) I ‘m trying to get her a few more things which will still be very much loved and appreciated, but don’t fit into the ‘plastic tat made in China’ genre of presents.


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First up are these gorgeous prints from Studio Mela. I love how artist Shelli Dorfe’s charming illustrations are ridiculously cute, colourful and inspirational enough for any small girl, but never quite make it across the borderline into twee.


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Just the thing for the discerning girlchild in your life.


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Here is the Studio Mela Etsy shop, which is offering free shipping this Cyber Monday.


Quick and Easy Chocolate Mousse


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I’m in a bit of a tizzy at present as tomorrow I’ve been designated as the Thanksgiving turkey provider  – we’re doing a neighbourhood Thanksgiving party crawl, with a different course at a different house.

Obviously and surreptitiously I will be doing my best to make the feast as much like a British Christmas dinner as  I can and will be sneaking bread sauce, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts and honey roast parsnips into the more traditional proceedings. 

I’m not on dessert duty, but if you are, here’s a very unseasonal but quick, easy and spectacularly delicious recipe for chocolate mousse, in case you’re looking for a suitably decadent dessert that you can whip up in double quick time. The best thing is that it only takes four simple ingredients.

This recipe was part of the fabulous Food + Foto course I did last month, which was an extremely fun and delicious way of working on your food photography.  I’m hoping they won’t mind me sharing this recipe.


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(Serves 4)

1 cup (180g)  bittersweet chocolate chips (the Minx said she would have preferred this made with a less dark chocolate, but she wolfed it down anyway)

3 tablespoons honey

1½ cups (375ml) whipping cream (for mousse)

½ cup (125 ml)  whipping cream (optional – to whip for topping)

sea salt to decorate


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Stir 1/2 cup (125 ml) of cream, the chocolate and the honey in heavy medium saucepan set over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

Cool, stirring occasionally.

In large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup (250 ml) of whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold cream into the chocolate mixture in 2 additions. Divide mousse among four serving dishes of your choice. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

If desired, whip the additional ½ cup of whipping cream to firm peaks. Decorate the chilled mousse with a coarse salt (not sel gris).

We loved this served with seasonal fruits.


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For those of you who are celebrating tomorrow, have a wonderful, not too stressful time.  You lovely blog readers and friends are one of the many things I am grateful for this Turkey Day.


People I Am Loving: Lotta Jansdotter


There are some big changes happening round here, of which more anon, and I’m desperately trying to get myself more organised.  My office (in a corner of our bedroom) has been a disaster area for a very long time now, and I’ve promised myself I’ll get it sorted by the end of the year.

I’ve been finding these pics of Lotta Jansdotter’s NYC atelier very inspirational. If you look closely there are so many little organisational tips and tricks in each one.




I love the hanging clipboards in this picture.

And as someone who can NEVER find scissors when she needs them, this picture below is dribblingly gorgeous.







Lotta has been a busy bunny recently.

Last month she launched a beautiful line of dishes and linens at NYC’s Fish’s Eddy, also available online.


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And she’s just announced a range of beautiful fabric calendars, in all my favourite colours.  I may have to order one of each.


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So I’m sort of back. My back is definitely getting better – getting the inflammation down with heat, ice, and Advil is helping; together with chiropractic, stretching out the hip joint, some gentle yoga and not sitting at my desk too much.

Thanks for all your tips and messages!


Leaf Apple Pie


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My back is still killing me, so trying not to spend too much time at the computer. I’ve now tried Rolfing, chiropractic and acupuncture without a whole load of success. If anyone has got any good ideas on how to treat lower back pain then I’d love to hear from you – especially about practitioners in the Seattle area.

In the meantime I made a Bramley apple and raisin pie, and had a little play while making the crust.


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I got a set of four different leaf shaped stamps/cutters at Williams-Sonoma a couple of years back, which I use all the time. Unfortunately they don’t have the same set for sale at the moment, but do have fall cutter sets that include at least one leaf.  And you could always make a pie covered in overlapping turkeys.


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WTF Friday : John Derian


John Derian found and lovingly restored a dilapidated 1850s building in New York City’s East Village and in doing so thrilled me to my very soul.




Hey you guys, that’s not dirt in my house it’s a ‘patina’!

And now I can make a fortune selling ‘Pay Dirt’  – our own particular house-generated brand of dust and grey cat hair to New York City loft dwellers.

I have to admit though, that his house is GORGEOUS.





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Full  before and after slideshow here.

My back is much better today! It’s amazing what lack of chronic pain does to my mood.