Tag Archives: the Good Life

Be More Margo

margo

“Come and judge the Best Dressed Margo and Barbara”, she said.  How could I resist such an honour, dear Reader?  Especially when the fabulous talent that is Viv Groskop was in town to preview her new Edinburgh show, Be More Margo.  I whooped at the invitation when the delightful Donna of Sulky Doll stylist fame tweeted me.  As you know well dear Reader, I never need an excuse to don a floral kaftan and spend an evening drinking Prosecco accessorised with obligatory maraschino cherry.

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In a sneaky charity preview of her new Edinburgh Festival show, the rather masterly writer (Sunday TimesThe Independent, Independent on Sunday, The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times (Weekend), the Observer, the Guardian, the Spectator, the London Evening Standard, Red, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, High Life and The Pool ), comedian, presenter and all-round amazingly talented woman, Viv Groskop, brings to life all that is brilliantly middle class about The Good Life’s Mrs Margo Leadbetter.  Wafting about in floral maxis and keeping up with the Jones (or should that be, the Goods?), Viv highlights the virtues of Margo as middle class role model.  I fear she may have hit the jackpot as the audience offered their best in tales akin to those shared on ‘Overheard in Waitrose’ from performing yoga in orchards to bringing Ayah from the Far East to nanny in the UK.  Who knew that Winchester could be as much of a spiritual home for Margo as her beloved Surbiton?!!  I’m not sure when I have laughed so much at the mere mention of quinoa.

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With my judging duties over, plenty of knicker-wetting laughter and lots of cash raised for the marvellous Kos Kindness – Winchester and Andover Collection run by the wonderful Roshi and her team, the evening was a huge success.  HUGE thanks to Sulky Doll for organising and inviting me, to Viv for putting up with my gushing over meeting her and to my fabulous friend Siobhan who told me she was simply going to throw on a kaftan when I asked her to come along and ended up greeting me in a floor-length silk number from India which totally trumped my chiffon flowers and turban!  If you are up in Edinburgh for the Fringe then DO get tickets for Viv’s show – if she’s half as funny as she was at her preview, I promise you’re in for a brilliant night out.  I intend to take her advice and channel more of my inner Margo.  If that’s possible, dear Reader.  Got to dash, I’m in the middle of arguing with the Ocado man.  He’s substituted a bottle of Prosecco for my Bolly……….

"After 3, let's repeat after Margo......Awful"

“After 3, let’s repeat after Margo……Awful”

(On a rather more serious note, Roshi and her team coordinate refugee donations at Kos Kindness.  The work they do sees that essential items are shipped to Kos, Samos, Chios and Lesvos for direct distribution to the refugees arriving there daily.  If you can help by donating items, time or a bit of cash, then please get in touch with Roshi at roshihudson@yahoo.co.uk This is such an important cause – what Roshi and her team do really does help those in desperate need).

 

A taste of autumn

Autumn 2015

The last few weeks have seen me rather busy, dear Reader, with one thing and another.  Flat tyres on a dark, foggy night (HUGE thanks to Megs, owner of gorgeous pub The Woolpack for rescuing damsels in distress), funerals and our usual countryside chaos all rolled into one.  Prudence, our bossy hen departed from the coop and the arrival of two new hens (Cora, a Rhode Rock, and Lady Agatha, a very flighty Cream Legbar) caused quite a stir with the three remaining hens.  I have to say, dear Reader, that hunting for escaped hens in my neighbours’ garden for 2 hours is something I had not expected when we decided to add to our flock.  All seems well now at least and after some considerable wing clipping, Lady Agatha is choosing to stay in the garden rather than masterminding the next breakout.  She had better start laying those green blue eggs soon!

autumn leaves

In all the mayhem, we have found time to kick up the leaves in the last throes of autumn though.  I even caught myself humming The Byrds’ Turn, Turn, Turn strolling along the bridleway with Monty.  Don’t worry, I was drowned out by Monty barking at a partridge, dear Reader.

We finally bid farewell to dear Cumberland, our porker, fostered for us at the marvellous Parsonage Farm and then trotted off to attempt a considerable amount of butchery and sausage making all in one day.  Far from squeamish, Poppy and Primrose really enjoyed making sausages and salami and John and Sarah Mills from Parsonage were on hand to make sure that all was done correctly!  A huge thanks to them!  Only my second attempt at butchery, I think that I did pretty well considering and we had a chest freezer full in no time.  I won’t go into how I ended driving a pig’s head (minus body) around half of Hampshire one Wednesday morning.  I promise it wasn’t anything sinister or some sort of Cameron spin-off gag, dear Reader.  Suffice to say, said pig’s head went to a good home and returned as a natural history specimen which Primrose insisted on taking into school for ‘show and tell’.  You can only imagine her teacher’s joy…….

With the bacon cured on a hook in our boot room/laundry room/general dumping ground and a ham for Boxing Day on the go too, we are well on the way to being prepared for all porky goodness for the ‘C’ word.  Certainly put me in mind of a scene from Badger’s sett in The Wind in the Willows.

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With Christmas on the brain and fizz for the day firmly in my mind, I popped over to see the first pickings of this year’s Harvest for a new English sparkling wine which will soon be gracing our vintners, Raimes English Sparkling.

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Looking for ways to diversify the family farm, Augusta Raimes and her husband Robert, turned over 2 large plots on the farm to the planting of the classic champagne combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier in 2011 and with a course at Plumpton College under her belt, Augusta began her winegrowing journey.  Talking to Augusta, her enthusiasm for winemaking is infectious.  As she turns over the harvested grapes all crated up for the next stage of the process, her excitement is palpable, not only for how much the vines have produced thus far but for how their wine is taking shape under the guidance of Hattingley Valley’s Emma Rice, who is already known for creating Hattingley’s internationally recognised and award-winning wines.

Augusta Raimes

From grape to glass is a fascinating process and at Raimes, it’s a real family affair too with everyone lending a hand to get the harvest in.  As lovers of a good drop, Jerry and I have long dreamed of making our own wine so it was a morning full of inspiration for me!  One day, dear Reader, one day.  In the meantime, I shall be very excited to taste Raimes English Sparkling when the time is nigh – definitely one to watch, dear Reader.  Lovely, local fizz – what could be better?!

Raimes

Never a dull moment here at Margot HQ, last week saw a little stint on the radio too.  Monty was a marvellous addition to the recordings of 4 foodie segments for BBC Radio Solent’s The Good Life when the lovely Becs Parker came to record from the old cottage.  He even managed to sneak the black pudding off the kitchen worktop when I answered the door to the postman.  Ever the model of perfect spaniel behaviour, dear Reader…..  Still Confit duck leg with smoked lentils and balsamic roasted beetroot made it onto Sunday’s programme untouched by hound (you can listen again here).  Tune in for the next 3 Sundays to hear all sorts of treats….and some more of Monty no doubt….from Margot’s Kitchen!  I’ll leave you with a sneaky peak of something to warm the cockles after a windy walk.  Anyone for Venison Pie, dear Reader?

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Marvellous marmalade

 

snowOn a cold and frosty morning with a touch of the white stuff just kissing the ground, there is nothing better than a large pot of tea on the kitchen table and the delicate fragrance of oranges wafting through the house.  Cold days were meant for making marmalade.  The end of January and the appearance of Seville oranges simply cannot be a mere coincidence (there seems to be no reasonable logic as to why we don’t have them in the summer but somehow we don’t).  Those beautiful sunshine orbs of culinary delight were designed to bring joy to even the gloomiest of January days.  After an awful week of writer’s malaise and then being struck down with the worst case of tonsillitis I think I’ve ever had, I certainly needed their orangey cheeriness to tempt me back into the kitchen.

marmaladeWe are huge fans of marmalade at Margot and Jerry HQ.  Marmalade on toast, marmalade in cakes, marmalade on ham……  I think that perhaps we have smeared it on almost everything, hence we are down to the last pot from last year’s marmalade marathon.

It would seem that we are not alone either with our love of dear old Paddington’s preferred preserve either.  Did you know dear Reader, that each year in Cumbria, the World Marmalade Awards are held, with entries flying in from all over the place?  Staggering, isn’t it?  One day, I may even be brave enough to bubble wrap one of my attempts and enter the Amateur categories just for a bit of fun!  I can only imagine that it is every bit as fierce as our annual village show where the judging is tighter than a sprinter’s jock strap and entries receive short and to the point critiques, next to their tiny tasting spoons.

With so many marmalade recipes out there (believe me half the village swear that their family recipe is the best), the key is to find one that works for you.  Something tried and tested and easy in my case!  I use the wonderful Pam Corbin’s (River Cottage preserving queen) ‘whole fruit’ method – so simple to follow and has marmalade made in an afternoon.  Always keen to turn my hand to a bit of a kitchen experiment though, this year I thought I might tamper with the recipe a bit and add some ‘alternative’ flavours of my own to enhance the zestiness of the Seville oranges.

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First up, a lavender marmalade using culinary lavender from Hampshire lavender farm, Long Barn in Alresford.  Adding the lavender at the end of the marmalade cooking stage is the key – too much and the results will end up tasting rather like a zingy pot pourri!  You have been warned, dear Reader!  A teaspoon of culinary lavender between 3 small jars of marmalade is plenty –  tiny flecks of purply blue peeking out between the shreds when you look at the jar.  A good spoonful of the lavender marmalade added to a simple madeira loaf cake recipe or classic Victoria sponge mix is pure afternoon magic with a cup of Lady Grey.

marmalade cake

Running out of Sevilles, I thought that I might try ‘marmalading’ some of Jerry’s other seasonal favourites, blood oranges.  Using the same ‘whole fruit method’ and simply swapping the Sevilles for blood oranges, I then added a little something special when the marmalade had completed its unctuous molten lava simmering stage.   GIN!  Well, if you can have whisky marmalade, dear Reader, then why not gin marmalade….?  As you know, gin is never too far from my thoughts.

Twisted noseChoosing a local favourite (lovely Twisted Nose gin who I’ve told you about before, dear Reader), I added 3 tsp of gin for each medium sized jar and stirred through before popping into jars.  The gorgeous pink grapefruit notes of the gin really went well with the blood orange overall flavour of this batch of marmalade.  Not a buttery toast sort of marmalade (gin at the breakfast table being frowned upon by most, dear Reader…) but a brilliant little number for using as a glaze.  Something I tested out with my latest recipe.

Sticky marmalade pork

Sticky marmalade pork (Serves 4)

6 thick cut pork belly slices

2 tbsp. blood orange gin marmalade

3 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar

a small pinch of mustard powder

juice of half a lemon

4 star anise

salt and pepper

Begin by preheating the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade/ gas mark 7/ 425F.

Pat the pork slices dry and place them in a large ovenproof dish – season with salt and pepper.  In a bowl, mix the marmalade, sugar, mustard powder and lemon together.

Spoon the mixture over the pork belly and coat the slices on both sides before sliding the star anise between the slices.

Place in the oven for around 40 minutes.  Keep checking the pork and basting with the sauce regularly.  After 40 minutes, the pork should have crispy edges and a slightly charred, barbecue look.

Sticky, messy, sweet and savoury – something a little different from the usual marmalade on toast.  Served with a red cabbage and carrot coleslaw with a mustard and cider vinegar dressing, it’s the perfect supper to drive away any wintry blues and any lingering tonsillitis….

Before I sign off dear Reader, just to say that I shall be talking all things marmalade with the lovely Georgie on BBC Radio Solent’s programme The Good Life on Sunday 1st February just after 1pm – do tune in.  Pretty please.

A year on

wild flowers
There we have it.  Our first year of living in the countryside.  It’s simply bizarre to think that a year ago we left the Big Smoke and moved to Hampshire to begin a new life in the country.  WHERE has the time gone, dear Reader?  So many wonderful, funny, strange, downright mad things have happened to us in that time.

To name a few, we got some chickens……..we took on some orphans…….Jerry brewed his own beer and I foraged from the hedgerows with a good deal of trepidation – Primrose and Jerry telling me, rather helpfully, that I was destined to poison the whole family with my concoctions.  Continue reading