Category Archives: Fun to do with little people…

Smug Gardening and Dirty Olives

The Pea Thief

The Pea Thief


At this time of year I like to take my time in my kitchen. Actually … scratch that. I like to spend as little time as possible inside my kitchen, and as much time as possible outside in my garden and at the grill on our deck. Thanks to my long-suffering husband, a ridiculously large gas grill, and a table or two; I am now the proud owner of a pretty much fully functioning makeshift kitchen in my back yard. I am about to complete it with an equally makeshift sink connected to my garden hose in order to wash veggies and muddy little hands without ever having to step inside. Cooking and composing a meal from ingredients grown feet away from my back door adds a layer of contended accomplishment to every mouthful.

dot and joshua in pea patchThe joy I glean from watching my two little people cram secret baby salad leaves or wild strawberries into their mouths (especially when they think I am not watching) is immeasurable. J eats Sorrel plucked from his own patch; paired with cream cheese and crispy prosciutto slammed together between slices of Sourdough for lunch (his own invention). If he wasn’t my own child the nauseatingly pretentious precociousness of it all would be unbearable. But he is mine.

And instead, I am smug.


D breaks all the pea vines trying to reach the fattest ones hiding at the back, that the rest of us have missed. It turns out that only skimming three feet in height has its’ advantages. I don’t care that she was too full to even contemplate a proper supper. Her clandestine foraging fills me with pride.

And so I have come to the comfortable conclusion that I am two things:

1. Ridiculously spoiled. 2. Becoming middle aged.

I know that to have a kitchen in your garden or back yard is an incrsecret strawberriesedible luxury. To have produce grow in that garden, that
can then be prepared on the spot, is even more so. It is also a lot of hard work, and one that until a couple of years ago I did not have the inclination (that I can only conclude comes with age) to even attempt to grow food to actually eat myself. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing, which to the trained eye I am sure can easily be spotted. However, perhaps my naivete is a blessing; and I am easily pleased with the results.

peasAny success I put down to happy accident, and the peas in particular seem to taste all the sweeter as I genuinely didn’t believe I would actually be able to grow any! I can highly recommend growing even just herbs with your kids. I defy you to find a fruit or vegetable that they won’t eat if you get them to grow it, prepare it and cook it with you. It is empowering. Confidence building. An adventure in your very own backyard (or even window box). Who knows, perhaps J’s sandwich, or your own 7 year olds’ crazy combo will become the next big thing?

Let’s hope so … someone is going to have to support my new found (officially middle aged) obsession with Seattle Tilth!

Dirty Olives

In case you don’t have the shared inclination or space for a veggie patch, I thought I would share this summer standby that is a bit of a permanent fixture in our family. Anyone that has had dinner more than once in my kitchen will undoubtedly have been subjected to these at one time or another. If you have managed to grow some herbs this is a great way to showcase them, and one that the kids can easily help with making – a great way to bash out the days’ frustrations if you have a decent pestle and mortar too!


dirty olives in copper pot

A good thing to fend off the hoards while you work out what to cook them for dinner!


Buy the best, greenest olives you can afford. Castelvetrano are great. I have used a mixture of Castelvetrano and some cured farmers’ market olives here, for added variety.

 You will need:

2 cups of olives

1 lemon; use a peeler to make a few strips of the peel (about half), zest the other half and then juice it, setting aside 1 TBSP for this recipe

1 clove garlic

2 bay leaves

1 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp pepper corns

½ tsp sea salt

2 TBSPs olive oil

a handful of fresh coriander (or cilantro) and/or fresh flat leaf or Italian Parsley to finish

 How To:

Pound the garlic, seeds, pepper and salt and lemon zest until you create a paste in a pestle and mortar. Slowly add the lemon juice, continuing to smash and stir until as you go, and then whisk in the olive oil with a fork.

Massage the marinade into the olives with your hands, gently bruising the flesh to allow the aromatics to penetrate, then add the slivers of peel and bay leaves. Place in a Ziploc bag or jar in the fridge overnight and then allow to come to room temperature before serving. Throw in some finely sliced fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro, and serve with hot bread and a cold white … or better still … icy beer.



The best lemon squeezer you own … bare hands! You can catch the pips, get into the trickiest of corners and don’t have to wash up the reamer.           C’mon . . . get your hands on your food.










Filed under Everything!, Fun to do with little people..., Recipes, Summer

Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice

6 inches.

6 inches of snow in Blightly.

Families are stranded, it is minus 13 in Notting Hill, and if you live anywhere else you are probably snowed in and wondering how on earth you are going to get the Christmas shopping done…in 6 inches of snow! I am so jealous I don’t know what to do with myself.  The magic of freshly fallen snow in London is a rare and beautiful treat.  Everything goes quiet.  People talk to each other from across the street, and no one goes to work or school.  We take to the streets with tea trays and bobble hats and whinge about the fact that it hasn’t actually snowed on Christmas Day… and probably now won’t. 

Here, in Singapore, I am hot.  And not in a good way.  In a slightly desperate effort to fill my home with at least the tastes and scents of Christmas; I have resorted to making gingerbread by the batch load.  I adore gingerbread… in all its’ forms.  The glittering cookies that adorn the tree but are far too tough to eat; the old fashioned little men with their currant eyes and buttons cheerfully awaiting decapitation; the snap of delicate thin biscuits that adorn coffee cups and the comforting, fat, soft variety laden with icing that no child can resist.

Gingerbread Houses are the ultimate homage to this humble biscuit; and in our house, regardless of the fact that humidity and ‘E’ numbers mean that it is destined to collapse within hours, we have made one anyway.  It is beautiful.  Its’ fragility makes it all the more endearing, and we are still arguing over whether Mother or Son wins the ‘best house competition’! 

The truth is that my son’s house wins hands down.  It is laden with every kind of candy he could lay his hands on.  Red and green painted canes are lined up like little soldiers; the roof is a veritable smorgasbord of multi-coloured tooth-rotting rock tiles; a sugar Father Christmas is groaning under the weight of  a net bag of melting chocolate coins (it is 32C in our living room); and the garden path is bedecked with hundreds and thousands, multi-coloured sprinkles and dinosaur eggs… oh… and of course there is a pile of strawberry laces and Bassett’s Licorice Allsorts (smuggled through customs by a very good friend) for good English measure. 

As I said; his wins hands down.  Mine is of course an anally retentively be-sparkled  rendition, with what an interior designer might refer to as a ‘nod to Scandinavia’.  The restrained red and white icing that adorns the 17 windows is delicate and charming, the front door has a diminutive snowman for a knocker and the house…nay Schloss… is two storey to boot.

But Hansel, Gretel and I all agree – If lost in a snowstorm in a deep, dark forest; it is my four year olds’ cheerful little collapsing cottage that we would run to – the candy alone would keep us going ’til next year, and besides… we probably couldn’t afford the heating at the Schloss.

Gingerbread Biscuits 

Originally from Cooks Illustrated ( a wonderful mine of information) I have tweaked and bastardised this recipe to my own tastes.  It is my version of proper old fashioned style gingerbread, the like of which I imagine Hansel and Gretel digging into on a frosty night.  The batch will make 30 small thin cookies or about 15 large fat, soft cookies.  The dough (if rolled thin and baked until  hard) is good for using as decorations or if rolled fat and cooked for a shorter time (removed from oven whilst still soft) produces lovely chewy biscuits; great for immediate eating, or they will last pretty well for a few days  in an airtight box.  


160g of salted butter – cold and hard and cut into small cubes 

160 packed dark brown soft sugar

1 ½ TBSPs powdered cinnamon

1 TBSP dried powdered ground ginger

400g plain flour

½ tsp table/running salt

¾ tsp baking soda

3/4 cup liquid unsulphured molasses

2 TBSPs water (not always necessary)


Mix all the dry ingredients together in a food processor or stand mixer. If you don’t have one of these you can stir it all together in a big bowl, making sure it is mixed well. Then scatter the pieces of butter over the top of the dry ingredients and either tickle them together or process in a machine until the mixture becomes sandy, slightly damp sand.  If using a kitchenaid; do this using the whisk attachment, then swap to ‘K’ whip for next part. 

Slowly add the molasses to the dry mixture to make a dough, stirring all the time (or with the machine slowly running). Stop adding the molasses when the dough is evenly moistened and thoroughly comes together to form a soft ball; you may not need all of the liquid (especially if making in a hot, humid climate).  However, if you need more liquid simply add a TBSP at a time of extra water until the dough comes together and before it becomes a paste that sticks to the side. 

Roll the dough out to the desired thickness between two sheets of greaseproof paper (no need to use any flour).  Then, refrigerate for a few hours until really firm.  Peel away the top layer of paper and cookie cutter out desired shapes, lay on a parchment paper lined oven tray and refrigerate again until the oven is ready.  You can bring the dough together and roll out as many times as you need to, between the two sheets of greasproof paper, to keep cutting out cookies.  The dough doesn’t toughen because you are not adding any more flour each time you roll it out.  Once you have cut out your shapes they can even be kept in the freezer for a few weeks before baking, as long as they are stored with greaseproof/parchment paper between each one and in a sealed box.

Bake at 170C on parchment lined flat trays straight from the fridge in order to keep their shape and stop them from spreading.  If making thin crisp ones they may only take about 8 minutes to bake hard (remove before the edges start to burn), however if making soft fat ones, they may take a little longer and you will want to remove them when set and slightly risen, but still soft to the touch in the middle.

If making traditional men you will want to press in soaked currants for eyes and buttons before baking, or wait until cool to decorate with cut out fondant icing, royal icing and sprinkles.

Happy Christmas All!

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Filed under Everything!, Fun to do with little people..., Recipes, Sweet, Winter