Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Goodbye, blogger...

Check me out with my dual residency!

I shall now be based here mostly:

Not for Monaco-style tax purposes, but I think something or other to do with navigation?  Anyway, I'll be mostly over there, sitting in the sunshine, drinking pina coladas and listening to Go West.

Adios, my pretties.


Goodbye 2014

Not my favourite year by any stretch of the imagination.  Nonetheless, plenty of good things kept me going (along with the obvious - friends, booze, family, food.)  Here are some of them:

On screen
Game of Thrones - funny, ludicrous, panto meets porno meets soap opera - relentlessly entertaining.
House of Cards - an unremitting exploration of power and cruelty.  Sickeningly brilliant, classy TV.

Shia LaBeouf by Rob Cantor
I saw this retweeted on the marvellous Sam Binnie's twitter feed and it has given me much joy ever since.  As life affirming as a Bread Ahead custard doughnut, less fattening.

Despicable Me 
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Artist is Present
In A World

On stage
A Streetcar Named Desire, with Gillian "Girl Crush" Anderson
King Charles III

On the page
I read about 40 books this year and my favourite, hands down, was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  Original and funny and moving and unexpected.

Also awesome were:
Emma Brockes - She Left Me The Gun
Bad Blood - Lorna Sage
Vacant Possession - Hilary Mantel
Good Behaviour - Molly Keane

Most played, according to my computer:
Clean Bandit - Rather Be
Arcade Fire - Here Comes The Night Time
Go West - We Close Our Eyes.  I wouldn't tell you this fact if I wasn't ok with sharing it.
Jeremih - Don't Tell 'Em.  Strange, I actually thought this song was about anorexia for the first 10 listens - I thought he was singing 'you ain't eating' - instead of 'you ain't even'.  I actually hated it when I first heard it, yet found myself repeatedly drawn back to it.  Lorde's cover is interesting and sounds, to me, quite menacing.
The National - Pink Rabbits, Fireproof, Demons

Favourite lyrics
Every song on The National's Trouble Will Find Me is filled with gems, too bountiful to reference. So
I'll go in the other direction and just put down my favourite dumb, tautological, ridiculous lyric, again on Jeremih: On my late-night thirsty, because it was late-night and I was thirsty.  I suspect it means something filthy, given the lines preceding it but whatever - for sheer dumbness, I applaud it.

Best gig
Arcade Fire in Hyde Park.  On a perfect summer's night I cried, laughed, ate chips, danced like a pagan who thinks they're a really good dancer and then was nearly sick on the up-in-the-air merry-go-round - what more joy is there in this world?

Most over-rated
I don't like it when people write mean things about me online.  I try not to do it either, so I'll just say that I SERIOUSLY don't know what all the fuss is about with this little list:

Kurobuta restaurant
Chiltern Firehouse
The Missing
The Fall, season 2
Serial - podcast

I mean I understand why people have frothed at the mouth in delight at the above - I just don't agree with them.  I don't agree with them at all.

Here's hoping 2015 is more Tyrion Lannister and less Kim Kardashian's arse.

Happy New Year.


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas gifts for foodies...

If you’re looking for a gift for a food-lover/yourself, then check out my list of top foodie presents.  I would get almost as much pleasure from giving these gifts as receiving them.


Is an average brownie better than none at all?  Not according to Sophie in Pear-Shaped and I heartily concur - so thank goodness for Blue BasilBrownies, a fabulous brownie maker based in Oxfordshire. They sell award-winning mail-order brownies, all wrapped up and delivered straight to your door in a box tied with string, and an old fashioned luggage tag - a perfect gift for any serious brownie lover. 
Their regular flavours are marvellous (Chockwork orange, anyone?) but at Christmas they surpass themselves.  My favourite is Rudolph’s Rumnut – an intense combo of dark rum, chocolate, brazil nuts and Christmas spices – in fudgy, smooth brownie format.   
It’s a winning combo, as is Coffee and Irish Cream, Cranberry and White Chocolate, Toasted Almond and Amaretto and the ultra gingery Dark Chocolate and Ginger. 

Order before 10am on Friday 19th December for delivery on Monday 22nd.


In one of my many previous lives I was an olive oil taster.  When I’d recovered from drinking an awful lot of oil (correct - not fun – but then again neither is drinking fish sauce neat, but that’s a whole other story) I came to the conclusion that for day to day use any regular high-street branded extra-virgin olive oil is good enough.  But for special occasions even a tiny drizzle of great olive oil can elevate a dish.  My favourite is this Sicilian oil from Planeta.
It’s so fruity and fresh and clean, you could actually drink it quite happily without gagging.  Every time I buy it, it seems to have gone up in price.  (I only treat myself to a bottle twice a year, and even then I feel guilty.  Still, it’s about the price of a cinema ticket in central London, and I’d argue offers more pleasure than many a Richard Curtis movie.)

Available at Carluccio's, nationwide.


To say I’m mildly obsessed with Bread Ahead’s custard doughnuts would be an understatement.  
In fact they star in my new book, The Dish (out next year, hurrah – but you can pre-order on Amazon today…) But it’s not just about the doughnuts - frankly these guys can do no wrong.  Check out these beautiful breads!
For Christmas, swing by their stand in Borough market and pick up some mince pies - made to master baker Justin Gellatly's mum's recipe.  

They are entirely delicious: thick, crisp pastry that you almost can't tell is sweet until your teeth hit the magical sparkle of crunchy demerara on top.
And then the filling is a luscious, not too sweet, not too sharp mincemeat - perfectly in balance with its surroundings.  (Though I'd eat these pies even if they had air in them, the pastry is that good.)

And if you can’t make it down to Borough, you could always buy Justin's brilliant book, Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding - or better yet, buy your loved one vouchers for Bread Ahead's Bakery School so they can learn to be a master baker and make you wonderful treats such as doughnuts and bread and croissants and pizzas all year round.


I once was so in love with a man I bought him almost half of Neal’s Yard as part of his Christmas present.  (Well, a good £30 worth of lovely Stichleton which it turns out was far more than he deserved.  He gave me a necklace that came from a cracker, then dumped me on Boxing Day.  Still, the moral of that story is – buy yourself nice cheese / don’t date mean men).
Neal's Yard Covent Garden and Borough stores are mini-temples to cheese, where everything looks beautiful - for example, look at these Cheddars and then tell me the British aren't the best cheesemakers in the world.
More importantly, every cheese tastes amazing.  Plus staff are super-knowledgeable and friendly and positively encourage you to try before you buy.
You can pre-order or buy for delivery on their website, or get in line at a store, along with a lot of fellow cheese-lovers, right through until 2pm on Christmas Eve.


If I were rich, I'd buy one of everything in Fortnum & Mason's foodhall.  Seriously, what is not to love about angry chocolate owl?

Or cutesy snowman?
A debonair bear?
Or a daily sponge pudding?
Cocktail chocolates?  Obvs.
Clearly a hamper wouldn't go amiss either...
But realistically, I can only buy one thing - and that one thing has to be under £20 - so therefore it has to be the greatest biscuit of all time, the heavyweight champion of chocolate, ladies and gentleman, open your mouths, wide, for THE CHOCOLOSSUS!
Modelled here by my lovely friend Lexie, who is herself six feet tall - so that should give you an idea of the scale of the thing!  It is an epic, super sized macadamia biscuit, dipped in ultra thick dark chocolate.
The Chocolossus is just so on the borderline of being almost too chocolatey, if such a thing were ever possible.
It is FULL ON, UBER chocolatey – you need a cup of tea with one, if you go for two, in my experience you then need a little lie down, but what is Christmas for, if not over-eating and sleeping?

They're not cheap - but I've found you generally get what you pay for in this world - and if you can't spoil the ones you love (that includes you) at this time of year, then really, what's the point?

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

My ideal Christmas dinner party...

Christmas is that time of year when dreams can come true, apparently.  So I thought I’d write down my Dream Christmas Dinner Party Guest List, in case Santa is taking note.  I know I haven’t behaved perfectly this year, but perhaps not as imperfectly as some (Tesco finance department, anyone?)

I only have seven chairs in my flat, two of which are wont to break if someone heavy sits on them – so I can’t invite my family (not because they’re too heavy but because there aren’t enough chairs – and besides, the Newmans have spent many a Christmas together.)

Instead, here’s my list of guests for the perfect Christmas celebration: 

1.     My friend, masterchef Marianne Lumb, who could cook for us.  She now runs her own restaurant in West London, but even cheese on toast made by Marianne tastes better than a lot of things I’ve eaten in restaurants this year.  
2.     Jamie Dornan, for obvious reasons – as long as he promises to leave his balaclava at home.

3.     Michael Fassbender – Eye Candy part II.  Well it’s my dream Christmas so I’m allowed more than one piece of Eye Candy, as well as real candy.

4.     Tina Fey – who manages to do funny and feminist better than anyone.
5.     George R R Martin – I would get him drunk on my friend Anna Potts’s homemade Sloe Gin - and force him to tell me the secrets of what’s in store for all my favourite Game of Thrones characters.
6.     Justin Gellatly of Bread Ahead – creator of the most extraordinary doughnuts in the world – and author of my favourite cookbook, and favourite titled book of 2014 – Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding.
7.     Gillian Anderson – my ex adores her and I used to get a bit jealous about that.  But then I saw her in Streetcar earlier this year and now I bang on about how amazing and talented and luminously beautiful she is far more than he ever did.

That sounds like a pretty fun party, right?  I’m willing to stand for the duration of the meal if it means I can invite all seven - though if Jamie or Michael wanted me to sit on their laps at any point in the festivities, I suppose that would be ok too. 

A Pear Shaped Christmas...

My first proper job was working in an advertising agency, Bates Dorland, on the Woolworths Christmas campaign.  This was in the late ‘90s, the year Keith the Alien starred in our campaign.  (The fact Bates Dorland and Woolworths both subsequently went out of business is not my fault – honestly, it isn’t.  I wouldn’t even blame Keith – he was endearing, in his own way, though no John Lewis penguin.)

But right from the start, my choice of day job seems to have messed with my Christmases.  Working on Christmas every day of the year might seem like a great idea – like eating chocolate at every meal – but inevitably you sicken of it far quicker than you’d think.

The last job I had, before giving up day jobs altogether, was the anti-Christmas job of all anti-Christmas jobs: looking after turkeys for a supermarket in the run up to Christmas.  I shall spare you the details  – I don’t wish to ruin your Christmas dinner too – but suffice to say: not a single bite of turkey has passed my lips since.

So anyway – there are lots of lovely, romantic Christmas short stories out there on the internet for you to download and enjoy.  As the title might suggest,  A Pear-Shaped Christmas is not really one of them.  Nonetheless I hope it brings you a small slice of festive cheer, and an idea of what really goes on behind the scenes in advertising.

Happy Turducken!