Archive for the ‘Ideas & Inspiration’ Category
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
We are thrilled to announce that the wonderful chef Shivi Ramoutar has joined the blogger team here at The Balcony Gardener as our resident foodie expert! You may recognise her as one of the talented final 7 in this year’s Masterchef and Shivi is also rapidly carving out her niche cooking area in various pop-ups, food festivals and recipe collections. Shivi is a scotch-bonnet-loving cook and her culinary speciality is contemporary caribbean food, but she also loves to immerse herself in everything foodie (and drinkie). We’re very happy to welcome her to the blog!
“It certainly cannot be me alone, but I am finding that I can hardly take a step in a supermarket without walking into a display of beautiful, stalky green, asparagus! (And it isn’t only because I am the most clumsy clutz in the Planet!). Lo and behold, it is that time of the year, the righteous season of Asparagus.
When the lovely Balcony Gardener asked me to be the resident food blogger, I thought yes, let me impress with the most diverse recipes, using extreme seasonal produce that no one has heard of, let me promulgate the Masterchef-esque smearing of plates, the dishes served “three-ways”, the cascade of extreme jus. But that totally defeats the purpose of creating seasonal recipes for the everyday household. Let’s just make some good food that makes you want to go back for seconds.
So here we are, one of the nation’s favourite produce, with another seasonal goodie, crab, a pairing made in heaven! You may eat this soup hot off the stove, or chilled with a squeeze of lemon. Perfect for when its 23°C one day, and 9°C the next.”
Asparagus soup, hot or chilled, with crab biscotti (serves 4)
For the crab biscotti:
- 135g self-raising flour
- 1 tbsp mixed, dried herbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1.5 tbsp caster sugar
- 56g room temperature, unsalted butter, cubed
- 30g crab meat
- sea salt and pepper
For the asparagus soup:
- 500g asparagus, chopped, (discarding white tough ends, reserving the tips)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 celery stick, chopped
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1l vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 tsp chopped chives
- 100ml double cream
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- olive oil
- sea salt and pepper
For the crab biscotti:
Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.
Mix together the flour, herbs and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together.
To the sugar and butter mixture, beat in the egg until well mixed.
Pour in the flour mixture, a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon, until a dough forms.
Using your hands, bring the dough together, kneading, into a ball, (using flour on your hands to stop the dough from sticking, if necessary).
Flatten the dough into a rectangle, with a length of about 16cm, and a thickness of about 1.5cm.
Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool, then with a serrated knife, carefully slice into inch-thick slices.
Place the slices, cut side down, back onto the lined baking tray, and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden.
Allow to cool completely on a rack. Then serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for later.
For the asparagus soup:
Heat a glug of oil in a large saucepan.
Add the chopped onion and celery and soften for about 10 minutes, do not brown.
Add the chopped asparagus, cover the pan and allow to sweat on a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the flour, then pour in the stock and the chopped chives, bring to the boil and then lower the heat, cover the pan and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and blitz with a hand-held blender, or transfer to a free-standing blender, until smooth.
Place the soup back onto a low heat, stir in the reserved asparagus tips, the cream, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and season to taste.
Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge, and serve as a chilled soup.
You can find out more at www.shiviramoutar.com, or follow her on twitter: @shiviramoutar
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
It was a complete thrill for The Balcony Gardener team to speak with internationally renowned hair colourist Josh Wood, a leading global trend setter in the fields of hair and beauty. Born in Barnsley, Josh has since gone on to colour the hair of supermodels and princesses, and travels regularly across the world for personal colour appointments. He contributes to international campaigns and his work has graced the pages of Vogue, Grazia, Elle and is often seen on the catwalks of Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier and Alexander McQueen. He has also recently been announced as the hair columnist for The Sunday Times Style Magazine.
What we really love though – is Josh’s ingenious approach to his hair salons. Actually less salon, and more an Atelier – a harmonious space and shrine to relax in whilst you hair is tended to. The highlight for us are the walls of living plants surrounding the work stations, living walls to maximise oxygen levels in the salon. We spoke with Josh about his living walls and how greenery inspires his work….
Lush indoor planting feature heavily in your beautiful salons, do you like to be surrounded by greenery? Does this help your work process?
I love nature and I think bringing outdoors indoors is a real way to make a salon feel more calm and tranquil. Any help to hush a salon environment makes for a more enhanced experience.
We love the living green walls, what was the impulse to plant them?
Living walls have been something I have wanted to use and work with for a long time. Having a living wall as an integral part of both of my ateliers interiors is something which will continue to be part of my design concept for future salon spaces.
The Living Wall at Josh Wood Atelier, Lansdowne.
How do your customers respond to the use of greenery in your salons?
They love the fact that not only do the walls look good but they are also great to re-oxygenate the environment.
You’re famed for your work with colour, do you look to nature for colour inspiration?
Nature to me is the starting point for most of the colour work I do –taking tones and hues that are found in nature and developing them to suit someone’s skin tone and eye colour I find both stimulating and challenging.
Do you have a favourite garden or outdoor green space? How do they inspire you? - What are your own favourite plants / flowers?
Gardens: Tuilleries in Paris, Trelissick in Cornwall, Majorelle in Marrakesh, Derek Jarman in Dungeness, Plants/Flowers: olive trees, hyacinths and poppies, grans of any description
How about home – do you incorporate indoor planting and greenery at home?
I have a very small garden but I love planting new colour schemes and watching the garden develop. I have plants or cut flowers in my home all the time – it’s a very important visual to me to have something living and add colour to my day to day life.
Thursday, April 11th, 2013
We were delighted when David Lewi invited us to his North London home to view the remarkable large Ordnance Survey map which adorns the walls of his office. Not only is it a great geographical reference but it’s also a wonderful addition to home interiors and looks great on the walls. Ordnance Survey maps have long been the geographical aid for hikers, drivers, explorers and girl guides and boy scouts. The incredibly detailed maps cover all the streets and geographical locations of Great Britain, and in this time of confusing sat-navs you can be sure that if you have an ordnance survey map to hand you’ll be able to find your way.
David had always wanted to put together a large scale map of London and the South East – all areas close to his own life. He had heard about the large Ordnance Survey maps – and how they create made to order maps based on your own grid references and specifications – which you can then hang as your own custom made wallpaper. So if you live in the Scottish Highlands – you can in theory have a wallpaper printed detailing the specific map of your home area. David had wanted to create his own map, after requesting his specific area with Ordnance Survey – the map took a few days to arrive and then a decorator mounted it for him in his office; it was made to fit and covered the wall perfectly. The map is the standard scale and covers every road in his chosen area meaning he can trace his own routes to his own favourite places – including the South Downs and across the coast.
The history of the Ordnance Survey mapping is interesting; it was back in 1791, during the height of the French Revolution, that the British Government feared invasion and soon came to realise that the South Coast of England needed to be comprehensively and accurately mapped. The Government instructed the Board of Ordnance – the defence ministry of the day to carry out the necessary survey work and thus, the Ordnance Survey was born. A new different revolution faces the Ordnance Survey today – the ongoing digital revolution with web mapping services transforming businesses and web mapping serves. No longer part of the British government, the Ordnance Survey now employs 1200 people including 300 surveyors – and in this digital age they still sell 2.5 million maps each year. But digital mapping now accounts for 90% of their current business.
Look for your own Ordnance Survey map here.
With thanks to David Lewi and Ordnance Survey.
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Sunday, March 17th, 2013
The other evening I set myself a mini-growing project – to create a miniature garden only using what I had to hand: a small wooden picture frame and an old cough lozenge tin.
I firstly superglued the lozenge tin to the photo frame and secured them together, they became the main structure of my tiny garden.
I picked my favourite dark teal paint colour and painted the little structure. After waiting half an hour for them to dry, I placed some gravel in the bottom of the tin for drainage and then picked a few cuttings to plant. After arranging the cuttings to just how I wanted I covered them with a layer of moss, et voila! I had created my new miniature garden!