Monthly Archives

October 2016

Seasonal Stomach

3 Different Things To Do With Apples

October 30, 2016

Cake, crumble, pie. These are the first things you think of when cooking with apples, because obviously they are the best tasting puddings in the known universe. However, if you are one of those lucky people with an apple tree, or you know someone who does, no doubt you’re sick of them by now.

So during this bountiful apple period, whether you’re inundated or just love them, what else can you do with these most English of fruits?

Savoury bake

Everyone knows that pork and apple go together like roast and beef. If you’re feeling gastronomic, some smooth apple puree with a lovely pork belly would be perfect. For something easier though, cube them up and throw them in with a sausage tray bake for an extra piece of sweetness, or use them to cut through the richness of your sausage and mash.

Stewed compote

Chop your apples up as finely as you like, and stew them in a pan with some cinnamon until their nice and sticky. This will be perfect on top of ice cream for an easy dessert, or top your morning porridge or yoghurt with them. Once stewed, they’ll last in the fridge for a while so you can batch of your breakfasts ahead of time.

With cheese

All I want to eat this time of year is blue cheese, and apple is the perfect thing to cut through that richness. Pair them in a lunch time salad, bake them in a tart or on a flatbread, or layer them in a burger. If you’re not a fan of blue these things will work just as well with another rich cheese like gruyere or brie.

Are you lucky enough to have an apple tree?

Seasonal Stomach

5 Flavours Review: The Whitebrook

October 27, 2016

On our escape nearly 3 weeks ago (boo!), Dan surprised me with a dinner booking at The Whitebrook, a Michelin star restaurant on the Welsh side of the border. In our relationship, romance always comes with food.

Head Chef Chris Harrod is an old boss of Dan’s, and The Whitebrook’s ethos is all about foraged, local, to-the-second fresh and seasonal food. They have “forest findings” on the menu, which is more or less the cutest menu item ever. All the crockery is made in the village pottery and is so beautiful you want to lick it clean and put it in your bag.

(The only downside was that I was sat directly underneath a spotlight which made it extremely difficult to take photos!)

Rather than a slightly boring FOMO restaurant review, I’m going to tell you about the five best flavours we ate…

Whitebrook amuse bouche

Pine capers

These are painstaking to make – the little kernels from pine cones salted and pickled for weeks to become little pockets of bursting flavour to cut through a creamy cauliflower amuse bouche.

Whitebrook scallop

Miso and turnip

Three things you might not put together are scallop, miso and turnip. But the two different types of miso went perfectly with the earthy turnip, and was Dan’s biggest surprise.

Whitebrook venison

Smoked beetroots

So, I want to have all my beetroots smoked from now on. I love smokey flavours, and it really brought out that lovely earthy beetroot flavour and complimented the venison it was served with.

Whitebrook violets

Violets

A cheeky extra dessert was a parma violet sorbet which took me straight back to eating the sweets at my grandparents (and made me feel all decadent eating flowers too).

Whitebrook pear

Pine with Pear

I’m all about a fruit dessert – no chocolate for me, give me fresh, fresh flavours. The pine granita in this dessert adds an almost savoury flavour that is distinctive but blends so well with the pear. I’ve not tried anything like it before and it was the perfect end to the meal.

Mid Week Eats Seasonal Stomach

Mid Week Eat: Blue Squash Gnocchi

October 25, 2016

It’s easy to eat seasonally with a whole lazy Sunday and 6 hours to roast a joint ahead of you. It’s more difficult when you get in from work late and all you want to do is order a pizza. My Mid-Week-Eats recipes are all quick, really easy and made mostly using ingredients you’ll already have in your cupboards. No trailing round various health food shops to source a weird paste anymore.

Although this one isn’t much of a looker, I promise it tastes a lot better than it photographs!

This is one of Dan’s recipes, so it’s slightly more technical than than some my previous more ‘bung it in’ Mid Week Eats, but it can still be done in half an hour. The most important thing is that these flavours (squash, stilton, gnocchi) are da bomb together, so however you do it just get it on your taste buds.

Makes 2 portions

Half a butternut squash, peeled and diced into bitesized pieces
Onion/shallots (optional)
Chopped bacon (optional)
Gnocchi
Creme fraiche/Quark (approx 250ml tub)
Blue cheese (as much or as little as you like)
Lemon juice

  1. Start your gnocchi boiling – keep an eye on it and take it off the heat as soon as it floats to the top
  2. Heat oil in a pan until it is piping hot. If you think it’s hot enough, give it more time – this is vital for stopping your butternut squash becoming butternut slush
  3. Fry off your squash with garlic for about 10 minutes. Keep it moving so it doesn’t burn – you want it nicely caramelised on top
  4. Set your squash aside and fry off your bacon and onion (if using). Mix with the squash when ready.
  5. If you want to be chef-y, drizzle the gnocchi with oil and gently fry it in the pan. This firms it up and stops it sticking together, but it isn’t a vital step.
  6. Throw your squash, bacon, onion and gnocchi back into the pan with the creme fraiche and blue cheese and heat gently until it simmers
  7. Finish with seasoning and lemon juice (it adds a lovely bit of tartness you won’t want to go with out)
Seasonal Adventures Simple Self

How To Create Your Own Escape

October 23, 2016

There’s something powerful about an escape, right?

Last weekend we had our long awaited weekend away in the Forest of Dean. We were using a Christmas present to stay at Forest Holidays in a cabin in the woods (with a hot tub!). Given our recent run of bad luck it was much needed, although the bad luck did follow us and my car broke down on the way. But the main thing is we got there, we had some great food (more on that in a future post) and we reconnected and just chilled. Something I’ve not done much of lately.

And it has been so valuable. I now feel so excited and inspired to write and take pictures and connect with you guys. This feeling is so infectious that I wanted to give you my tips for how to create it with your own refreshing escape…

 

Rule number one of the Simple & Season escape is that you don’t do, or even think about, anything you’re ‘supposed’ to do. You don’t work, clean, go on social media or catch up with blogging (if you want to do that I’d recommend reading Flourishing Freelancer’s post on creating your own writer’s retreat). The time needs to be spent stewing in your own thoughts, luxuriating in simple decadences and feeling like the best you.

Whether you have a few hours, a day, a weekend or more, there are lots of options for your own escape….

 

Get wet

I’m no anthropologist, but there is definitely something about water (preferably hot and in a tub), that is undeniably attractive to humans.Hot tub in the woods

In a few hours…

One of my favourite ways to pass an hour is swimming. I love the rhythm of the strokes and letting your mind wander into plans and dreams as the water streams past you. And there’s no beating that unique roaring silence that you only get under water. If that’s a bit more activity than you’re looking for in your escape, then run your perfect bath – piping hot, bubbles of choice, drinks (is it just me or do baths make you really thirsty?!) and your current read. There is also something so decadent about having a bath in the middle of the day if your escape is at the weekend.

In a day or weekend…

Check out local hotels for any spa deals and plonk yourself down in a hot tub for as long as you’ve got. you don’t need to be in the water for a relaxing escape. Check out river cruises where you can sit out on the deck with a book listening to the water or watch it slip gently past.

 

Reconnect with nature

The great outdoors has medicinal properties (according to me). Fresh air, vitamin D, beautiful things and fellow life. There’s nothing like reconnecting with nature to reground you, which makes it such a perfect escape.

Handfuls of chestnuts

If you have a few hours…

Go for a walk. It could be somewhere new, it could be your local park. Go with fresh eyes, ready to notice every little thing and collect stories or photos. Let the rhythm of your steps lull you and listen to the wind in the trees and other people’s conversations. Take a flask with you, or grab a coffee on the way, and find a spot to sit and read and imagine your in a film.

If you have day or a weekend…

Maybe like us you’ve got time to hire a cabin (or a secluded Airbnb), close the doors, light a fire and play scrabble, catch up on conversations and eat heartily. Time to spend days walking the woods or the coast and head into little cafes in little towns for breakfast.

If all you’ve got is a day head out on a day trip – you’re only a drive or a train away from anywhere. Head to the coast and crunch along a beach, combing for the prettiest pebbles and running away from the creeping surf before steaming up the car with fresh fish and chips. Explore one of our National Parks or come and see me and I’ll take you to my favourite haunts…

Have an adventure

They say change is as good as a rest, and I subscribe to that. I’ve never been one to spend a two week holiday laying by a pool, but always feel well-refreshed after climbing rocks and exploring on my holidays.

Wellies in the woods

If you have a few hours…

Be a tourist in your own town. Go to that place you’ve never got round to, visit a gallery, have lunch at that new restaurant. Lose time browsing in a book shop and adding to your ‘to read’ list or visit a farm shop or market and spend the afternoon experimenting in the kitchen.

If you have a day or a weekend…

Go to the place you’ve always wanted to. A weekend in the Lake District, a scenic railway journey, a day out in a new city. Spend time doing your kind of exploring, just forget your thoughts, learn new things and make sure you drunk every single detail in.

 

Do what makes you happy

Most importantly, whatever you do, however long you spend doing it, make sure it makes you happy. Whether it’s working out, reading, walking, eating or walking the bloody tight rope, just make sure you do. Banish your practical thoughts and recharge those batteries ready to kick ass once you come back to the real world.

 

For more photos of my escape, follow me on Instagram.

 

What would you do on your escape?

Seasonal Adventures

How To Force Yourself Outside

October 13, 2016

I am writing this wrapped in a blanket next to the radiator watching the rain drizzle down outside and the droplets race each other down the window. So I get it. In the autumn and winter going outside can feel like the last thing you want to do.

But you really must. Autumn is the last time you’ll see leaves until spring, it’s an opportunity to drink in all of nature’s bounty before she goes to sleep for a few months. Going outside at this time of year is the cheapest and easiest way to feel invigorated; cheeks pink from the wind and hair sticking to your face.

So to help you heave yourself off that sofa, here are my best suggestions.

Go on a mission

Give yourself a task that you can only do by getting out into nature. Maybe you want to forage the last of the autumn berries or some nettles. Maybe you want to collect conkers to fix your spider problem without resorting to the hoover. Maybe you just want to take some totally Instagrammable pics of autumn leaves. Give yourself a mission and you’ll have to make it happen.

Change up your coffee date

Or, rope in a friend. Rather than just meeting for coffee or a browse round the shops, go out for a walk. Walking with a friend is a great bonding exercise – you talk about real things and you take some awesome selfies. Also if you arrange to meet there (whether that’s the park, a woodland, a National Trust site) you can’t exactly not go. (Note: the photos in this post are from an autumnal wander and a cream tea with my best friend at Basildon Park).

Basildon Parkland

Bribe yourself

Maybe this is just me but I can basically make myself do anything if I promise myself food. Plan your walk to incorporate a nice lunch or a pint at a quaint pub and it not only gives you the impetus to get out the house but also keeps you motivated. You can even just get the marshmallows in and promise yourself a sumptuous hot choc afterwards.

Make it a road trip

It can feel samey going to all your local spots that you go to all the time. So do something more than groceries and X Factor on a Saturday. Get a train to the coast and walk along a windy beach, finishing off with a cone of chips on the front. Drive somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Visit a woodland or an arboretum, or explore some National Trust parkland. This Forestry Commission map shows you which of their sites are turning golden. Give yourself something interesting to talk about on Monday.

What outside adventures do you have planned this autumn?

Mid Week Eats Seasonal Stomach

Mid Week Eat: Sausage and Root Veg Tray Bake

October 11, 2016

It’s easy to eat seasonally with a whole lazy Sunday and 6 hours to roast a joint ahead of you. It’s more difficult when you get in from work late and all you want to do is order a pizza. My Mid-Week-Eats recipes are all quick, really easy and made mostly using ingredients you’ll already have in your cupboards. No trailing round various health food shops to source a weird paste anymore.

 

It doesn’t get much more autumnal than this – juicy sausages, seasonal veg in all the autumn colours, a sticky heavenly mess. This is perfect mid week or as a post-walk rejuvenator on a Sunday.

As with all our Mid Week Eats, you can adapt the ingredients to fit whatever you have in the fridge, but I must insist on using seasonal root veg to really get the autumnal feels. As well as or instead of the veg I’ve used, you can have swede, parsnips pr potatoes. Equally, you can choose your juice. I used honey and mustard, you can use gravy/stock, or tinned tomatoes for a stewier dish.

Makes 2 portions

Half a butternut squash, peeled and diced into bitesized pieces
1 large red onion, cut into eighths
1 large betroot, peeled and chopped into bitesized pieces
3 or so carrots, peeled and chopped into bitesized pieces
A couple of cloves of garlic, split with a knife
4-6 sausages (veggie or meaty)
Honey and wholegrain mustard / honey and mustard dressing (or your choice of sauce)

  1. Throw all your veggies and the sausages into a baking tray
  2. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil and your sauce
  3. If using honey and mustard, daub the honey over the sausages so they get a nice sticky glaze
  4. Bake at a medium temperature (Gas Mark 6 or 7) for about 40 minutes, checking and shaking regularly
  5. If your sausages start to burn on top, cover them over with the vegetables
  6. Turn the heat up for the last ten minutes or so to thicken up the liquid the vegetables have been giving out
  7. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar just before serving to cut through the richness a little
  8. Serve and enjoy
Seasonal Adventures

Get Involved: Blogger Christmas Gift Swap

October 11, 2016

I’ve been putting off this post because I felt it was too early to start thinking about Christmas, but I just can’t hold it in any longer! I’ve had my first mince pie, the shops are slowly filling with red and I’m starting to get booked up with December do’s – the holidays are most definitely coming.

One of my favourite things about Christmas is giving presents. I’ve always been an awkward receiver of presents and refuse to open a gift in front of the person who’s given it to me. What are you supposed to do with your face in that situation?! But I love that feeling of finding something that you know will absolutely blow the recipient away and that they’ll love so much. I love choosing the paper and tying it with a ribbon. I  basically just like to win at Christmas.

Which is why the #apovgiftswap was basically just made for me. It’s a beautiful way for bloggers to discover each other and to send a gift to a stranger who will become a friend. Obviously we want as many people as possible to sign up, which you can do over on A Piece of Viola. The deadline is 1st November, so go over there now!

Simple Self

A Letter on Not Giving Up

October 9, 2016

My friends, I’m writing to apologise. This last week I’ve been neglectful. Not only of this blog, but of our shared goals and dreams, and of what I set out to do with Simple & Season. I’ve not been out walking, I’ve not been writing, I’ve not been updating my Happiness Planner and I’ve certainly not been eating seasonally. I’ve had Dominos pizza more than once the last 4 weeks when I should have been making lovely Mid Week Eats for you all.

The fact is I’ve been busy and away with work and we’ve had some not-serious-but-nevertheless-bad-news. And, to be honest, I’m tired. I’m so tired. Three months of burning the candle at both ends with a flamethrower has taken it’s toll. I’ve been sniffly, had some bad back pain and have just been generally under the weather. And all that could comfort me was a box of grease.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because sometimes it’s inevitable to feel sad and lost. To feel like giving up and doing what’s easy. I don’t want this blog to be all perfect pictures of succulents and never letting ourselves off the hook. Over here we do our best and sometimes we fail because we’re busy people trying to make a go of life.

The important thing is to acknowledge it. To say ‘yes, I’m tired, so now I’m going to sleep till noon and then do something about it’. D and I are going away next weekend for a much-needed break in a cabin, during which I think I’m mainly going to lie down and watch as the leaves change colour. I have a few posts to share with you this week, but hopefully after next weekend I will come back refreshed, reinvigorated and ready to get back on the Simple & Season train with you all.

In the mean time, I just wanted to let you know that it’s ok to struggle as long as you get yourself out of it. I also wanted to reassure you, and myself, that I hadn’t given up.

 

Lots of love x

Interiors Simple Pleasures

Getting Our Home A/W Ready

October 3, 2016

It’s that time of year where it gets dark really quickly and you have to remember where all the light switches are.

The blogger buzzword for autumn seems to be ‘hygge’, and I think it’s because it’s a concept everyone can get fully on board with. Who doesn’t love cosiness, soft light, blankets and love? It’s clearly a word we’ve been lacking in our own dictionary.

Now I’m thinking about getting our home all ready for Autumn/Winter, I’m not exactly following the Hygge rulebook – largely because I’ve not chosen the book I want to buy yet. These are the things that I am naturally drawn to in this nesting time – an English Hygge.

 

Textiles

I’m kind of obsessed with texture. I’m very tactile, so love things you can stroke and that feel lovely and soft next to the skin. Plus, when you rent, layering up fabrics is one of the best things you can do to personalise and cosy up your space.

I’ve been using some light Ikea blankets for summer and to protect our stone-coloured sofa against muddy paws. For Autumn/Winter though I’m looking to refresh our blanket situation with thicker materials and chunky knits.

Kicking us off is this blanket from Koeka which I found in our showroom at work. Even though it’s designed for children it just about covers me (and I’m not exactly petite) and has a lovely fleecey lining – plus it is completely dog claw proof.

Blankets and textures

Greenery

As lovely as autumn is, this is the time of year where the natural world dies off and goes to sleep. I have natural things (pebbles, driftwood) in the house anyway, but as the outside becomes more bleak I like to bring something living into my home.

I have evergreen (and crucially, easy to care for) succulents to add low maintenance pops of green and life, and recently invested in a pot of heather for the mantlepiece. As much as I love cut flowers, they are a pricey habit and many are cut outside of their natural seasons. My lovely heather feels rustic and autumnal and brings life to my home.

Mantelpiece Heather

Smells

During the summer we have all the windows and doors open for about 20 hours of the day, so we get a constant flow of fresh air and the scents of the summer breeze. Now it’s chilling off the windows are clamped shut and the air inside can grow stale.

The obligatory candles have come back out, with some being Christmas gifts I hadn’t got round to burning. I also hate ‘wasting’ candles so I have quite a few dotted around with little black wicks, half full with wax. I’ve also got a fresh-smelling plug in by the back door so we can waft the smell through without it overpowering the living room. Come December 1st I shall also be sticking a lovely Christmassy scent in there too.

Hygge candles

Going outside

Cosy nests filled with red wine and the smells of cinnamon-y baking are 100% better when you’re coming back to them from a chilly Autumnal walk. What is more English than tramping through the rain in wellies with hair stuck to your face and a huge smile? What is more Hygge than coming home, shedding layers and curling up under a blanket with a bowl of soup while your socks steam on the radiator?

Succulents

What else would you include in English Hygge?