1940s Vintage Scent Session: Perfume and Cake with Odette Toilette

Red Velvet cakes

Cola Chocolate Cake

Ration Bakewell Tart

Red Velvet Cake, Odette Toilette 1940s  Perfume event

M.O.F. Carrot Cake

Chocolate Cola Cake

I recently went to another perfume and cake afternoon put on by Odette Toilette and Leonie Sooke at Les Senteurs in Marylebone. This session focussed on the perfume scene in the 1940s with the effects of WWII on the perfume industry with limits to importing/exporting, ingredients, materials, and employees within the industry, the Americanisation of perfume names and the very idea of the luxury of perfume at such a time. The interesting talk was complemented with Leonie’s fabulous cakes taking inspiration from the issues of the time. Vegetables were used in baking during the rationed times of WWII and sugar was one of the most rationed items so the carrot cake was made according to a Ministry of Food (M.O.F.) recipe. Carrot is naturally high in sugar so added to the sweetness and texture of the cake. There was a chocolate and cola cake as a nod to the perfume industry of the US becoming more popular with some European professionals seeking refuge in the US. The cake batter actually had cola in it which made it extra moist and fluffy as it reacted with the baking powder.

The event was peppered with interesting anecdotes, clips from films at the time, and, of course, wonderful cakes and scents! I’d recommend any of Odette’s events for an unusual couple of hours of history, olfactory delights and delicious cakes! Find out about her upcoming events here.

You can read my posts on Odette’s 1920s Vintage Scent Session here and her Rebel Cake and Perfume Club here.

Odette Toilette 1940s Perfume event

Strawberry Jam Recipe and Seal Spotting in Norfolk

Strawberry Jam recipe

Strawberry Jam recipe

I recently went to Norfolk for a weekend escape from London. It was so refreshing! Long walks on the beach, a boat trip to spot seals at Blakeney Point and homemade strawberry jam made for a very good weekend indeed! We stayed in Brancaster which you can drive to in about 2 and a half hours from London. It’s a little village with its own bay and a very good pub, The Ship, which serves local seafood. I made jam the day before for the first time to take on the trip. The reason for finally making jam was that I had bought two punnets of strawberries at Borough Market and they were, sadly, tasteless!

I had always thought that jam making would be a difficult affair with thermometers, pectin, sieves and muslin but it wasn’t! All I did was halve the strawberries and boil them with sugar and water until the mixture was fizzing and almost cascading down the outside of the pan. It was a little looser than bought jarred jam but none the less delicious!

I had been given a book called ‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood (Square Peg) which is full of recipes for jams, jellies and chutneys. It was first published in 1970 and it is full of beautiful little illustrations of the ingredients. It is organised alphabetically by ingredient. The start of the book has several pages explaining the general rules of making jams, jellies and chutneys but the actual recipes have the bare bones of instructions. For example it didn’t say whether to leave the strawberries whole or to cut them. So, I decided to halve them which seemed to be an on the fence compromise! I thought that this would also make them more manageable in the jam if they didn’t reduce much.

What you need:

900g strawberries
600g sugar
A touch of water

Lemon juice (from one lemon) is one of the ingredients but I didn’t have any and the jam was yummy without but do add some if you feel like it. The type of sugar wasn’t specified so I used caster.

What you need to do:

1. Wash and hull the strawberries, then halve them.

2. Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed large pan with a splash of water.

3. Put the pan on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Let the sugar melt and form a syrup with the water.

4. Once the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrup, add the strawberry halves and simmer.

5. Keep simmering. The mixture may boil and fizz which is fine! It did alarm me a little though!

6. When the strawberries have reduced and it is starting to look like a jam scoop a little out on a teaspoon a put it on a plate. If it is quite runny it needs to be cooked more. If it is quite dense and sticky it should be ready. You can tell for sure if it is ready by seeing if the surface of the jam wrinkles as it cools.

7. When it is ready let it cool a bit then pour it into a jar or tupperware.

Enjoy with some delicious bread!

Wells-next-the-Sea

Wells-next-the-Sea

Seals at Blakeney Point

Seal spotting at Blakeney Point.

Seals at Blakeney Point, Norfolk

Seals enjoying the sun.

Cantering in the sea, Norfolk

Riding on the beach – how nice indeed!

Lightning struck tree, Wells

We found this twisted and torched tree in the wood next to the beach at Wells-next-the-Sea and wondered if it had been struck by lightning.

Norfolk Llamas

Llamas being taken for a walk!

Lets Preserve It

‘Let’s Preserve It’ by Beryl Wood full of jam, jelly and chutney recipes.

Odette Toilette’s Vintage Scent Sessions: 1920s

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The other weekend I was delighted to go to another of Odette Toilette’s Vintage Scent Sessions at Les Senteurs in Marylebone. I blogged about The Rebel Cake and Perfume Club in February which was  a journey through 20th century history in perfumes and cookery, focussing on cakes. What a great concept! I love going to talks and gallery tours, cookery classes and baking so these afternoons are the perfect combination for me and were so for a very enthusiastic thirty or so others.

This scent session focussed on the 20s and our noses sampled perfumes only from France as French perfume houses were very en vogue at the time. Perfume was also taking on a more varied approach as brands started producing scents for every occasion so not just day and night perfumes but sport perfumes, the perfect meeting your mother for lunch perfume, bridge party playing perfumes and any occasion you can think of from the frivolous to the formal. The post WWI 20s was a decade experimenting with new things and beginning to indulge again after years of rationing and upheaval.

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The perfumes we sampled included Tabac Blond by Caron, 1919, which we smelled whilst eating the French Almond Macaron. I have a healthy obsession with les macarons, as featured in Macaron Monster in Paris, and I have to say that this macaron was really dang good! The chocolate centre induced slightly rude noises it was so good! Tabac Blond had a musky talc scent mixed with vanilla and tonka bean. There was also a touch of the tobacco flower. An interesting and utterly bizarre fact that Odette imparted was that in the 20s in the US and UK a woman could be arrested for smoking in public! Needless to say this was ridiculous, yet by the end of the decade Amelia Earhart was endorsing cigarettes by starring in Luck Strikes’ print ads. So smoking went from a crime to the habit of a heroine in the space of a few years.

This brings me to another perfume we tried: En Avion, again by Caron and from 1929. Flying was one of the most exciting things at the time and was becoming within reach of people other than pilots. If you had the means you could take a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii in only…20 hours!! The scent of flying was a combination of orange blossom, aniseed and I sensed violet sweeties. It’s all so personal, just like trying wine, although I find with wine that as soon as someone suggests a scent of whatever, from toffee yoghurt to wet pencil sharpenings, everyone agrees!

P1110033Another Caron was Nuit de Noel with scents of moss, clove and carnation. The bottle was inspired by the flapper style with a gold band around the top like typical flapper headbands. We then moved on to Le Dandy! What a great name! This had boozy and fruity tones as though le dandy had just rolled out of a summer pudding swigging a rum. We learnt about perfume nips which were samples that were available in bars and restaurants often in vending machines. The perfumes came in a glass vial which you had to snap each end off to let out the one application that it held. I think this could make a great come back.

Another rage of the 20s was exoticism making Josephine Baker and particularly her banana dance one of the most famous dances of the time. She inspired the perfume Black Tulip by E. Coudray which has been reissued as Nohiba. This perfume capitalized on the current trend of exoticism with its name and peppery bold notes. There was even another perfume by E. Coudray released as a suite called Perfume Set to Music which had tones of honey, menthol and eucalyptus.

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The cakes we ate were Mint Julep Chocolate Cake, Rose and Pistachio Shortbread, Almond and Chocolate Macaron and Bauhaus Gingerbread. Since the Bauhaus was all about the beauty of an object’s form being dictated by its function the gingerbread biscuits exemplified this at they had no decoration and were simple shapes. These delights by Leonie Sooke were just as scrumptious as last time. You can sign up on her website, The Gossip Bowl, to receive recipes.

To find out more about Odette’s sessions click here.

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Issey Miyake Clever and Beautiful Pleated Food Shoot

PP wine

PP Ice Cream Cone

PP Spoon

PP Pancakes

PP Chocolate Spread

PP dumpling

Pleats Please Happy Anniversary art direction by Taku Satoh and design by Shingo Noma

for a long time so when I saw his Pleats Please line folded and gathered mimicking food and drink for this shoot my heart fluttered and I think I went weak at the knees! Aren’t these photos beautiful?

The Pleats Please range is so clever and endless. From the simple idea of pleating fabric the range encompasses designs that involve gun powder being lit on the fabric to create an image of exploded residue to the image of an astronaut walking on the Moon, maps, Lichtenstein style cartoons, whacky shapes, additions of fringes and faux fur…it goes on and on. But these food images…*swoon*…what I find so clever is that they are yummy! I know they are pieces of material but I want to eat them! Issey Miyake is such a great brand as it is full of surprises – the latest clothes from the mainline are being made from paper threads and recycled plastic bottles – an exciting meeting of technology and fashion.

I have a couple of Pleats scarves and one of the staff once showed me how to roll them up into “apples” which is how the scarves are often displayed in the stores. I should have seen this food shoot coming! See my “apples” below!

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Issey Miyake Pleats Please scarf

Issey Miyake Pleats Please scarf

I have been lucky enough to go to a Miyake show during Paris Fashion Week and last month I went to the press launch of the new Miyake perfume: Pleats Please. The food at this launch was wonderful! Look at these salmon and spinach roulade lollipops on a sumptuous bed of watercress below! A waiter wrote the name of the catering company on a flappy bit of paper and it seems to have fluttered off like a butterfly but as soon as I find it I will update this post with the name and link as the food was so good that everyone [that reads this blog!] must know about it!!

Salmon roulade "lollipops" at the Pleats Please perfume launch

Demuths Vegetarian Restaurant and Sally Lunn’s Kitchen, Bath

Truffled broccoli  with cauliflower pannacotta, pickled kohlrabi and tarragon dressing

I recently went to Bath for a little out of London refreshment and had the pleasure of eating at a very well recommended vegetarian restaurant: Demuths. It very much deserved its recommendation and I would return in a shot. Demuths is a vegetarian restaurant opened in 1987 by Rachel Demuth  with food that is mainly locally sourced, organic and fairtrade. It was hard to choose what to go for as everything was so tempting but we knew that whatever we opted for would be delicious. It was and I especially liked the little surprises such as pickled yellow mustard seeds! Who knew that the little seeds could be so moorish and wonderful?! Rhubarb ketchup with the polenta chips was beautifully smooth and sweet and and such a popping pink. See the photos for all the dishes.

Local leeks with hickory smoked potato, hazelnuts, apple and pickled yellow mustard

Polenta chips with rhubarb ketchup

Mike’s beetroots, cooked several ways, with smoked cheese croquettas and a citrus peel puree

Soft ricotta gnudi with cavolo nero in sage butter, thyme pesto and pickled onion squash

Orange posset with lightly stewed rhubarb

Mulled chocolate pot with orange and clove compote and candied pistachios

Next door to Demuths is one of the oldest houses in Bath with a very well preserved Georgian kitchen in the basement. This kitchen was the workplace of Sally Lunn, a French Huguenot who escaped France over 300 years ago and ended up in Bath where she gained employment with a baker and began baking a type of bread like a brioche which had a light and fluffy texture unknown to the Georgians. It was a hit and her buns became the talk of Georgian society. In the house you can visit Sally’s restored kitchen in the basement which had been covered for years and was discovered in the 30s. There is a cosy restaurant in the house which serves food “trencher style” which refers to the style of serving food on a bun or piece of bread when plates weren’t commonplace. So, we ate “trencher style” but on a plate – nouveau trencher style or trencher style with the convenience and luxury of a plate?! The piece of Sally Lunn bun which our food was served on was delicious and soaked up the juices wonderfully. The house itself has a history longer than Sally’s and in the basement you can see excavations showing the Roman and medieval foundations. Some excavations even revealed a hypocaust (the Roman under floor central heating system).

An interesting fact about the Georgians: they raised the street level in Bath so ground level floors in buildings all became basements.

Sally Lunn's kitchen

 

Sally Lunn’s kitchen

Sally Lunn's kitchen, Bath

Stalagmites and stalactites seen from Sally Lunn’s kitchen

Steaming Roman baths

Steaming water at the Roman Baths

Paradise House, Bath

Paradise House where we stayed. Beautiful rooms and great views.

View from Paradise House over Bath

Circus – a circular Georgian terrace with enormous very old trees in the centre. When we went to the Fashion Museum we saw a reproduction of a print showing Circus originally with a paved central area so this lawn and trees were planted later.

Table Crafts: Easy Homemade Lanterns

I love glass in all forms from marbles to Murano sculptures to Victorian medicine bottles. Even glass that is used for everyday objects counts like jam jars, bottles, ramekins and anything with branding set into glass such as the cursive writing on Bon Maman jars. I’m a good recycler but I can also be a terrible hoarder. Every slightly unusual jar will be kept because, of course, one day I will use it for something really useful…like putting pens or dried thistles in it…or painting them to make homemade lanterns! These are so easy to do, you just need to allow a bit of time for drying. They will add a personal touch to your table and look great anywhere in the house. Mine look good in the bathroom next to the succulents and Penhaligon’s bath oil bottles.

What you need:

Jam/ chutney/ pesto/ any jars

Paint – I used sample pots of wall paint

A paintbrush

Mug of water

Newspaper

Paper towel or an old towel to dry the paintbrush on

Tea light candles

What you need to do:

1. Wash and dry the jam jars thoroughly.

2. Lay the newspaper out,  turn the jars upside down and start painting the bottoms. If you want to have the drip effect, pour paint onto the bottom, pick the jar up at the other end (but don’t turn it over) and swirl it around a bit so the paint slides over the edges, then put the jar down again and let the paint drip.

3. For the spotted chutney jar lantern I dipped the paintbrush into the paint then let it drip onto each side. But you have to let each side dry before dripping the spots onto the others.

4. Allow to dry for at least 2 hours.

Putting the candles in can be a delicate affair. I managed to light the candles first, hold them directly over the jar necks and drop them straight in without the flame going out.

It’s fun to paint various patterns on them as when the lit candles are inside the light will play against the surrounding surfaces in different patterns.

If you like this you will probably like Paint Dipped Picnic Cutlery:

Amsterdam and Sprinkles Sandwiches

I first encountered schprinkles sandwiches in Indonesia in ’99. They were on a tray outside my hotel room for breakfast. I took the cover off and beheld before me ….. white slices of bread with colourful sprinkles dotted about on the butter! Sweet, I thought, what a funny thing. It turns out that this is a funny Dutch thing. I do believe that Holland has gained more culinary wise from Indonesia than Indonesia from Holland (cue plug for the Bumbu Pecel recipe). However, I do not knock sprinkles. They are not just for children -hurrah! (Why does all the cool stuff happen for children when you are no longer one? Such as going around a gallery with a special guide for children on a Nintendo! Although I suppose I was pretty happy with my sketch book.) They are known as hailstones or sprinkles “hagelslag” (which sounds like an insult in English, yoooo hagelslag yoooo!), and mice “muisjes” which usually refers to a blue or pink non-chocolate version often offered to guests after a child is born. They come in several forms: plain chocolate strand sprinkles, mini chocolate curl sprinkles, and colourful sugar strand sprinkles.

I recently went to Holland to visit the Dutch side of my family so had sprinkles for breakfast. I recommend heating a croissant, splitting it open, slathering a modest amount of butter in it and shaking sprinkles inside, then devouring. Mmmm! Back home I just use cake decoration sprinkles, they aren’t as good quality though as proper sandwich sprinkles. I love Holland. It is such a neat small country with so many great things in it: stroopwafels (caramel waffle biscuits), runways for bicycles (not half a metre’s width on a busy road full of vehicles as in London), Moooi (I think my favourite product/ furniture design company. I have now learnt the correct pronunciation. It is not “moo-ey” but “moy”), Droog (close behind Moooi for design. I have also learnt the correct pronunciation for this, not “Drooog” but “Drog” – so Amsterdam!),  furry seat covers for bicycles, beautiful bicycles, everyone speaks perfect English in really great accents too, bridges, canals, Rembrandt, blue and white ceramics, rabbits in parks, windmills, you get the picture. To give you an idea of just how small and neat it is, I flew there in 45 minutes, met a cousin at Schiphol airport, got on a train to Alkmaar (45 minutes), then grabbed two bicycles there and cycled to the beach in Bergen (40 mins mainly because of my pitstops for photos) to meet the other cousins and all before 3pm. Wonderful!!

I have a new favourite thing to add to my list of favourite things: my cousins’ uncle’s raft. He is not my uncle in case you think I’m being thick like hot chocolate. He is the brother of my aunt who is related to me through marriage (they are two of fourteen siblings, all the same mother, no twins, triplets or quads. Impressive!) So, during the trip my cousins had been saying that we should go on Uncle Adri’s raft one day. I thought “the raft” was a nickname for a boat. The day of the raft came and I went to the edge of one of the central canals, peered over to see a row of floating planks with a motor at one end. A raft! It really was a raft! It turns out that being on a raft is a lot more exciting than being in a boat. A boat with sides and seats and a steering wheel, how boring! So we spent the whole day motoring down the waterways, Uncle Adri kicking a football over the bridges and collecting it in the water on the other side, then kicking it to people on the banks and having them kick it back. Now I see what the fuss is about football, it really is fun! We collected friends, were told off for mooring at the sculling club (we did not ask in advance!), floated to the widest part of the Amstel and dived in. The water was brown and dull but quite warm and lovely. I also managed to master the art of changing twice on a raft with no one seeing anything to compromise my modesty at all. We made a pit stop to go to the supermarket for food and found a sofa on the street (in good condition, I hasten to add!) so that came with us and was plonked on the raft. We carried on until it became dark and we were stopped by the water police because we had no lights on. We had no lights at all so everyone who had an iPhone downloaded the flashlight app and held it up high. Neat! To finish we found a restaurant with a terrace by the water, moored, ordered hot chocolates and sat on the sofa drinking them. It really was a fabulous day and shall have to become a summer staple.

You can read about some of the Dutch design I saw and loved on my design blog here

The raft.