Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Ox Barn @ Thyme, England

I was so intrigued to see the finished restoration of the Ox Barn at Thyme, a restored historic Cotswold manor and farm and it really is so impressive. Rooted in a passion for the local land, food and entertaining, the Ox Barn is part of a village-within-a-village concept and serves modern British countryside fare under the direction of Head Chef, Charlie Hibbert.

It's the final piece of this incredible destination after fifteen years of restoration to reveal a family story and vision realised by Founder and Creative Director, Caryn Hibbert. 

The 56-seater restaurant will take inspiration from its heritage as a former oxen house, as well as its surrounding land of homegrown fruits, vegetables and herbs, to create a farm-based and plant-inspired menu.

Signature dishes include: Leeks with Fried Wiltshire Truffled Egg, Roast Southrop Lamb with Braised Beans and Salsa Verde and Hazelnut Cake with Poached Pears and Cream – all sourced within just metres of the kitchens. 

Tableware has been made bespoke by John Julian, along with carefully sourced marble and scrubbed elm farmhouse furniture. 

The Ox Barn was originally built to house the working oxen on the farm. In 1843 it was considered state of the art in agricultural architecture with the roof featuring 65ft beams, each one hewn from an individual Douglas fir shipped from Canada. 

The original Cotswold stone rubble walls and huge soaring archways at both the north and south entrances continue to stand uninterrupted with all fixtures, features and decorating standing free of the original building allowing it to stand pure and untouched. 

This contrasts with the modern addition of the state-of-the-art Charvet open kitchen spanning seven and a half metres; one of the longest currently of its kind. Charlie Hibbert, Head Chef at the Ox Barn, grew up amongst a family of hosts and entertainers.

Now having joined the family business, Charlie brings together his love of cooking, the freshest and most flavoursome ingredients and entertaining to create a farm to food culinary experience at Thyme.

I just love the design of the website and the incredible recipes by Charlie including this one for grilled carrots, hummus, tahini dressing and nasturtium and the photography is just wonderful. The Inspirations page has a lovely series of 4 posts all about the renovation and restoration work at Thyme and some amazing photographs of the original Ox Barn. For more information visit the website here.

All images: Thyme, England

Monday, 1 May 2017

Dairy Free Lamb Moussaka

Moussaka isn't one of those dishes I've cooked very often, especially in recent years since I found out I was allergic to milk so it's probably been a good three to four years. And that's all cool I've not really had a hankering for it until Saturday and I just really fancied it which was perfect as I had some friends coming over for dinner.

Since I'm allergic to milk, the recipe below is completely dairy free and gluten free providing you use gluten free flour - I recommend this one it's brilliant.

D A I R Y  F R E E  M O U S S A K A

Obviously this isn't meat free, just dairy free but I'm actually going to have a go at making a vegan moussaka in a few weeks time so if it's any good I'll post the recipe on here.


3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely sliced
500g minced lamb
100ml white wine
1 x 400g tin of tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried mint*
1 tsp hot paprika
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 large aubergine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain flour
400ml oat milk or soya milk (unsweetened)
1 tsp English mustard
Salt and pepper to taste


1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 375F.

2 - In a large saucepan, add the 3 tbsp olive oil over a low - medium heat and add the onions. Leave them to cook out for at least 8-10 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for a few more minutes over a medium heat. Next add the minced lamb and stir around to break up, cooking until well browned. If there is excess liquid remaining, drain off. Then add the white wine and scrape the pan to get all the stuck on bits off the bottom of the pan. Next add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, mint, paprika, nutmeg and about a teaspoon each of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Simmer gently for 30 - 40 minutes.

3 - Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a non stick pan over a medium heat. Turn the heat down to low and add the plain flour - this is the same method as a bechamel sauce so you'll need to really beat the oil and flour together - keep over the heat until it's all melded. Then start adding the milk a little at a time - at first the sauce will be one lump but keep adding and beating with a wooden spoon and you'll soon have a white silky sauce. If you add too much liquid at a time it will go lumpy, to correct this simply reduce the sauce down to one lump again and then start re-adding the liquid. If you run out of milk add water or stock. Add the salt and pepper and mustard and leave over a low heat.

4 - With a sharp knife, cut the aubergine into slices about 0.5cm thick. Place a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and then dry fry the aubergines. I don't add oil because I don't like them all soggy and greasy but if you prefer that go ahead and add oil. Don't overcrowd the pan as they will sit okay on a wooden board while the others are cooking.

5 - Take a oven dish - I do love the 28cm oval ones by Le Creuset but I actually used an enamel bake pie pan from Falcon Enamelware which cooks things like lasagnes and moussakas absolutely perfectly. Also really easy to wash and comes out of the dishwasher gleaming ever time. Anyway, get a dish and start layering the moussaka mix and aubergines until you get to the top - then pour over the sauce. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until it's really nicely browned and all the meaty moussaka mix has bubbled up on the edges.

I served this with stir-fried greens with sea salt and pepper and added a little chopped mint at the end, along with some crusty San Fransisco style sourdough from Gail's bakery in St. Albans.

The First Monday in May

It's the fashion world equivalent of the Oscars, or the Super Bowl, and it happens each year on the first Monday in May - I am of course referring to the Met Gala - an annual fundraising event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which celebrates the Costume Institute’s magnificent new exhibition on a changing theme. It started in 1946, and over the decades has become the party of the year with the biggest designers, models and Hollywood stars who collectively celebrate the new exhibition and embrace wholeheartedly the year's theme.

While I love the fashion and I love to see how guests interpret the theme, the thing I find so engaging and so compelling is the overall process of organising the gala and how the entire event is brought together. In the documentary, The First Monday in May, director Andrew Rossi gives a brilliant insight into the inner workings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

The documentary follows the progress in 2015 of the Met Gala preparing to launch the new exhibition at the Costume Institute entitled China Through The Looking Glass. This exhibition explored the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion and how China has fuelled the fashionable imagination for centuries.

In this collaboration between The Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art, high fashion was juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, including films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.

There's a moment during the documentary where Anna Wintour is discussing the entrance to the gala with her team at her home after reviewing the table settings, and it all seems so effortless and collaborative and then you see the finished effect and it's just completely breathtaking.

The seating plan alone is a massive operation with planning beginning in December of the preceding year and this brilliant article will tell you everything you need to know about what goes into organising the met gala seating chart.

I wish I'd had the opportunity to visit this exhibition it just looked absolutely incredible and completely breath-taking and the glimpses of the actual exhibition in the documentary are so compelling. You can watch the First Monday in May here.

The 2017 Met Gala will celebrate the works of phenomenal Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. The exhibition will showcase 150 of Kawakubo’s most extraordinary designs dating as far back as the early 1980s. It’s a showcase of fashion as told through the lens of our contemporary culture - click here for more information.

Images: 1 & 2 - Eric Bowman, 3 - David Pruden

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Decorating with blue and white porcelain

I always think the best interior design projects layer texture, colour and natural materials in a way that has a look and feel that is as timeless as it is effortless. That said there is always something that gives certain projects an extra wow factor - not in a shouty way, but in a really understated, relaxed way. It's hard to put your finger on it because you only know it when you see it, but one of the tricks I love to use for an instant chic finish is to include some blue and white porcelain. There is nothing more timeless, nor quintessentially English, that blue and white pottery.

I absolutely love this shot of the beautiful home belonging to Paris Alma - follow her on instagram for some serious interiors envy.

For me, this Coopers Beach project by Carrier & Company is just perfect.

The perfect spot for tea in the window seat and although this dining table doesn't have any blue and white porcelain I do love the zinc table top a lot.

Another perfect project from Carrier & Company - this time the Forge River project. I've blogged about how much I adore Carrier & Company before so I won't go on too much - needless to say though I think this room has absolutely nailed the perfect balance of texture, materials and colour.

Burleigh pottery is one of my favourites - I own several different bits of tableware in the blue arden and blue calico - the designs are beautiful but also the quality is incredible. Apparently it takes 25 pairs of hands to create a single piece of Burleigh pottery, and each pot is meticulously hand-finished.

Also love Italian Spode. My mum actually just gave me some lovely plates which I've been using lately...

Perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner...

Here's a little glimpse into our Nickleby kitchen at the Humphrey Munson showroom in Felsted, Essex which has three large white and blue Chinese porcelain vases on the window sill. I love the balance of colours in this kitchen and the painted cabinetry looks so good against the Babington limestone floor tiles.

And last but not least, my friend Geraldine's lovely photograph of Purley Hall in Pangbourne which I spotted on her instagram (if you don't follow her you definitely should!)

I love the cluster of blue and white plates - it's such a striking way to display the collection. 

Have a great weekend all! x

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Making Pici Pasta

While I was in Tuscany last year and staying at the beautiful Borgo Sant' Ambrogio estate, we learnt to make pici pasta.

Pici is a hand rolled pasta and similar to fat spaghetti and originates from the Siena province of Tuscany. It's typically made using just flour and water although there is no hard and fast rule - some add a little egg or olive oil to help with the elasticity of the dough - you can blaze your own trail with this.

If you fancy making pici pasta yourself, this recipe from the Telegraph looks good and so does this Jamie Oliver spinach pici recipe here.

Essentially, you make the pici dough which is then rolled out in a thick flat sheet and then cut into strips. To roll the pasta you start in the centre of the strip and using both hands roll the strip between your palms moving away from the centre to either end. The end result is a sort of fat spaghetti that has a really rustic homemade feel to it.

Once the pasta was made away in the shade from the Tuscan sun, it was prepared the traditional way - Pici cacio e pepe which is pici with parmesan, black pepper and golden garlic. Simple and delicious.

I made this pici pasta pictured above with fresh pesto, parmesan and basil when I got back to England. Full disclaimer - I didn't make this pasta - I bought it in a deli before we left Italy! The dried pici pasta is much more uniform I think than the properly fresh homemade kind but it worked really well and was absolutely delicious. For pici pasta in London, head to Padella Pasta - their pici is the best in town!

Borgo Sant' Ambrogio, Tuscany

Last year I was invited to visit the region of Tuscany, courtesy of Italian Eye as part of their KaleidoTour experience - it was a while ago now, but when I look back at the photographs of the weekend I am whisked back there in a moment.

We stayed at the most insanely beautiful residence called Borgo Sant' Ambrogio - a historic Italian estate that has been in the same family for three generations.

So these are the views from the terrace - literally a breath of fresh air. I went on this trip bang in the middle of an extremely hectic time at work and I remember looking out at this view with a cup of coffee and feeling so relaxed. Quiet, private and remote, these views of the surrounding hills and lake below the estate were really breathtaking. 

The beautiful pool is located just below the main terrace at Borgo Sant' Ambrogio - such a beautiful spot - this is the kind of view you never get bored of. 

Alfresco breakfast - you can't really beat this...

As the day faded into the evening, the buildings were swathed in the most wonderful light during that perfect Tuscan golden hour.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and left on Monday morning, but even for just a weekend trip I felt so refreshed. We flew back into Stansted so I nipped into our Humphrey Munson showroom in Felsted when we got back and remember feeling like I'd been away for a week. 

To see more of this incredible estate, visit the website here or follow them on instagram here