The Lazy Cook’s Dessert: Frangipane Tart

This recipe is all about minimum effort expended for maximum effect. Complicated instructions are all well and good when you have the time or the inclination to use every utensil in the kitchen, but why bother when you can impress with something that is actually dead easy? As a supremely lazy cook (I prefer the term ‘efficient’), frangipane in all its guises has become my fail safe pudding. Anyone I’ve ever cooked for is likely bored to death of these tarts, but they’re so goddamn easy and delicious I can’t stop making them. Here’s how. Continue reading

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Musica a Palazzo: A Venetian Opera Review

I’ve only ever been to a handful operas over the course of my life and I have to say, I’m not mad keen. I’ve tried to understand why so many people are moved to tears by the great tragedies but, opera philistine that I am, I just don’t get it.

I couldn’t wait for Mimi to hurry up and die at the end of La Bohème just so it could be over. I nearly walked out of The Marriage of Figaro in the interval due to the cringe factor of this ‘comic’ opera, highlights of which included some crossdressing and lots of hiding in cupboards. Maybe it was funny in 1786. I almost enjoyed Verdi’s Nabucco and an opera adaptation of Il Postino, but the extended periods of ‘recitative style’ (singing with the rhythms of ordinary speech) made me want to claw my own ears off. I’m all for the arias, the duets and the big choruses, but speech which is sung instead of spoken cuts right through me. I’m not into it. Take me to the ballet over the opera any day. Or so I thought. Continue reading

Far Fom the Madding Crowd: A Film Review

There is no one, in my very humble opinion, who writes more beautifully about the world of nature than Thomas Hardy. Some choose books which allow them to escape to fantasy lands across distant galaxies but my preferred location for escapism is the inside of a Hardy novel. Perhaps not Jude the Obscure, but certainly the green, rolling hills and meandering lanes of Wessex, the semi-imaginary county which features in many of his novels. I do love a descriptive passage about nature, me. Especially when the charming landscape clashes so violently with the human tragedy unfolding within it. I read a Hardy novel every summer. He’s my fave. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Listening to This Month (and Last Month): November and December

November and December seem to have passed in a blur during which, at any given moment, I had a small notebook full of tasks I should have been getting on with. Time seems to be getting faster and the days on the calendar are being eaten up alarmingly quickly. How on earth is there only a week left until Christmas? At least I haven’t had the time to dread an impending birthday…

Horror of the passage of time aside, here for your reading pleasure (or not) is my November and December combined in music. A tiny bit Christmassy and apparently a lot melancholy, singer-songwriter-y for some reason. Happy Christmas! Continue reading

On Self-deprecation: Don’t Believe The Hype

I read recently, in a feature in The Times Magazine about the ladies who work for Tatler magazine (have you seen the trailer for the documentary? It’s on tomorrow night and looks totally brilliant), that one of the supposed ‘rules’ of being posh is the ability to be self-deprecating. Now, I have no clue how to be posh and I certainly don’t claim to be any kind of poster girl for how to behave. In fact, I put my foot in it so often that I might as well leave it hovering close to my mouth at all times. I am, however, quite self-deprecating by nature.

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On Winter and Chestnuts

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the clocks changed a couple of weeks ago. This was great in the immediate short term, because it meant an extra hour of sleep, but upsetting when it began to get dark at around 5pm and I realised that we’re now, inescapably, in winter proper. From here on in, it’s only going to get colder, wetter and darker as we head towards the shortest day of the year on 21 December. Every year I forget just how cold and miserable this country gets in winter. It’s understandable that we have made such a hoohaa out of Christmas. It breaks up the six month slog of sleet, icy gales and grey puddles reflecting grey skies with something twinkly and cheerful.

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