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Thursday, 30 December 2010

play time

NOW I never thought I'd say this but... I would love for my friends and I to go back to school for a break.

I know. Not your typical idea of fun.

Though I suppose school's the wrong word. I’d like to go to class (excuse the American twang). Not just any class. But Le Classe. A wonderfully restored old village school in Belgium.

La Classe is one of two converted properties by Anne and Jean-Luc Laloux (the other being Les Duves, an open-plan gite not far from Brussels). They are architectural photographers who have travelled the world seeking exceptional homes designed by the best contemporary architects. The outcome of this has been a desire to "create beautifully appointed holiday accommodation which combines both the conviviality of group living with the aesthetic pleasure of great design."

With a home cinema, giant-games playroom, basketball court, Wendy house, table football and Wurlitzer jukebox you have the freedom to play like a kid again. Or even try your hand at playing 'grown-ups' in the underground bar, fantastic entertaining space upstairs and outdoor dining area complete with BBQ.  

Although its suggested use is one of work retreats and seminars, I propose an escape  with a group of friends - in the height of summer - to this idyllic getaway. A capacity of 21 ensuring that there would be more than enough room for everyone. 

With stocks of all the local wine, beer and edible delicacies that could possibly be acquired, a long weekend could indulgently be whiled away: lounging in the large garden, cooling off indoors, moving on from an evening BBQ to late night sounds of the jukebox in the basement bar, and finally flopping onto the crisp white sheets of a bed in one of the  immaculately finished en-suite bedrooms. 

And all this within a surrounding of sophisticated design that does not impose upon the rustic charms of the property - if anything effortlessly complementing them.

My one complaint would be a lack of pool. Though perhaps that would look a tad out of place when the property is in use for seminars and courses. 

Monday, 27 December 2010

and the winner of most bizarre Christmas present goes to...

mleczna : milk (chocolate)

...THIS curiously designed bar of chocolate, from relatives in Poland. Apparently the image is by a well known Polish painter. That is no excuse. I question the mind of a) the person who deemed it a suitable idea to put a woman breastfeeding on the front of a bar of milk chocolate, and b) those who were responsible for bringing the idea to fruition.

Of course I cannot simply judge those who produced this packaging. I am also very much alarmed by the fact that I am related to a person who was clearly oblivious to its disturbing nature. This is one edible gift that I will not be breaking into anytime soon. If ever.

Monday, 20 December 2010

on my plate: butter bean tomatoes

GREAT big fat beefy tomatoes, overstuffed with creamy butter beans. That's what was on my plate today. Well one of them was, I'd have to be a truly greedy bugger to manage two.

I planned ahead with this dish and made the tomato sauce base the night before. Not only was this a time saving plan but also (I thought) a great way to boost the flavours, as in my experience any sauce/soup consumed a day after it was made always bursts with flavour.

Somehow this did not happen. I didn't skimp on the ingredients - even adding extra bay leaves and garlic - yet my tomatoes were not the garlicky dream that Nigel Slater had implied. Take note: when it says 'season generously', season GENEROUSLY. I thought I had. 

It's not that the meal wasn't a success, just that it felt slightly lacking. (As an after thought I would recommend perhaps adding a crumbled beef stock cube to the sauce.) What did make the dish though was it's accompaniment: purple sprouting broccoli with buffalo mozzarella and a chilli, garlic and anchovy hot oil dressing. The saltiness and heat from the topping bringing to the palate a much needed oomph of flavour.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

so what to do on a snow day...?

BUILD a snowman? Sledging? Snowball fight? Frosty midnight walk through deserted silent streets? Or...

Have a barbecue!!

Yes that's right. A barbecue. What the Aussies are currently spending their days doing on a beach; but in a snowed covered back garden. 

I thought my friend ever so slightly insane too. But on an all too familiar Sunday hangover - having just braved the pre-Christmas supermarket crush - a flamed grilled burger with chunks of mature cheddar was calling. And I was assured that the outdoor grill (I'll admit, it's fuel was gas not coals) was the best way to achieve this delectable lunch. So, in quick trips outside we prepared our meal. The barbecue providing heat as well as ice cold drops of melted snow from the trees above. 

And it was worth it. Adding to the mix buns toasted on the grill too, it made for the perfect Sunday lunch. Enjoyed from the comforts of a cosy sitting room of course.

Monday, 13 December 2010

word of the day:

DUPPY noun

plural duppies

- (Caribbean) a ghost or spirit

NEW job, new word. Has your printer ever been possessed by a duppy? The one at my new place of work has. Or at least so suggested the IT guy, which is how I learnt of the word. I think my mum would swear that her computer is frequented by duppies on a regular basis.

How strange that a word which at first may sound benevolent - comical even - in reality holds much more sinister connotations. Originating from West Africa, it is a Jamaican Patois word, and features heavily in Caribbean folklore. Far from a Casper-like manifestation of an other worldly being, a duppy is in fact a malevolent spirit or soul, said to come out haunting at night in a variety of forms, often as a howling or barking dog.

Monday, 6 December 2010

on my plate: aubergine involtini

nd a

OK so my food photography skills haven't exactly improved much, but these tasty little morsels just had to be talked about. Served as part of a picky dinner prepared for friends - alongside butter bean hummous, aubergine turnover pastries and spicy roasted chickpeas - for me these were the success story of the night.

After brushing the aubergine with olive oil and cooking on a griddle pan to achieve those gorgeous blackened stripes, I chose to fill my involtini with feta, toasted hazelnuts, sultanas and fresh mint. I then heated them in the oven to soften the feta slightly, resulting in a dish of incredibly moreish plump little parcels, with wonderful flavours reminiscent of those that my friends and I had sampled in Greece over the summer.

My one word of advice would be don't be afraid of adding lots of mint, as it is essential in balancing the flavours.

Oh, and make lots.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

birds of paradise

male and female : cecil b demille 1919

BIRDS of Paradise is the 3rd Fashion in Film Festival, which started yesterday and is on until 12th December. Screening rare and unseen films from the 1920s through to the 1970s (often with live piano accompaniment) it aims to provide "an intoxicating exploration of costume as a form of cinematic spectacle throughout European and American cinema."

Learning about the previous festivals too late, I'm excited about having the opportunity to go to some of the events this time round. And what a theme. Clips of footage to be exhibited show mesmerising scenes of opulent costumes flitting across the screen, frequently enhanced by painted-in accents of colour. The inclusion of live music will surely only heighten the experience, drawing you in to a world of sumptuous glamour.

I am slightly disappointed that the festival is on for such a limited time as it means an inevitable clash in programming of must-see events. Adding to this that many of these are occurring on Friday and Saturday nights - 'great' planning on behalf of the organisers considering it's currently the party season - means that I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be missing some of the good bits.

However, seeking the best in purely magnificent visuals means that one film I won't be missing is La Revue des Revues, being screened at the BFI Southbank. Not only will it be a non-stop whirl of 1920s dancing, including routines from Folies-Bergere and Moulin Rouge, but it also promises "an audacious and colourful parade" of sets and costumes. According to the blurb "pure spectatorial pleasure" awaits...

male and female : cecil b demille 1919