Quick supper – feta, basil and tomato tart


Do not fear, I am not advocating teeny tiny meals. This is just half a portion as a whole one wouldn’t fit on the plate.

This recipe (more like assembly instructions really) isn’t going to win any prizes for originality, but it was quick, tasty and – always immensely gratifying – used up the half pack of puff pastry that was just about to go out of date.

For two good-sized adult portions you’ll need the following:

  • 250g puff pastry
  • c. 4 tsp pesto
  • c. 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 sundried tomatoes, cut into small strips
  • c. 75g feta
  • small handful of fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil


  • preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan
  • lightly flour the work surface and roll out the pastry to quite thin (to use the technical term), then cut in half lengthwise
  • score round the outside of each pastry rectangle, about a centimetre from the edge, making sure not to go all the way through it
  • spread the pesto over the pastry, up to the scored line
  • spread out the halved cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes inside the scored line, then crumble over the feta
  • finish with some basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil
  • bake for c. 15 minutes

We had ours with green beans and rocket with vinaigrette, and pretty good it was too.


Mass production

Bags 1

It was the spring fair today at the little one’s preschool and I made these reversible bags for them to sell. (Apologies for the quality of the picture above. I’m not even sure how it’s possible to blur just one side of a photo.)


I used this wonderful tutorial by Grandma’s Chalkboard for Make It & Love It, and the bags were a pleasure to make. I got to try out some of the fabrics that I bought last week, and also to use up some of my stash .

The tutorial is really clear and well illustrated, and the only problems I had were of my own making. My inability to sew a straight line resulted in such a curved first effort at a strap that it had to be abandoned, and I nearly wept when I realised that I had cut out the hearts and flowers fabric with the pattern pointing down, and so didn’t have enough to make a second bag with it. I went to bed genuinely sad for the Plan B gingham bag – I didn’t want it to feel like the ugly duckling of the four. (By this time I was very tired and possibly, just possibly, a little irrational.) But things were brighter in the morning when I remembered my first rule of sewing – everything looks better with a ribbon, even a slightly skew-whiff one.

Bags 3

I don’t know how much the bags raised for pre-school – hopefully something.

I’ll definitely be making more of these, perhaps with slightly thicker cottons next time. But first I need to practise those fiendish straight lines.


Unintentional fabric haul


Somehow it had escaped me that the market in our nearest big town runs on a Thursday as well as Fridays and Saturdays, and so I was caught with my defences down this afternoon and ended up buying quite a lot of fabric.

The butterfly print was £6/metre, and was the choice of the little person, who has requested that I make “bags and flags” with it, and that I get started right away.

I don’t have anything in mind yet for the floral print, but at just £2.50/metre it seemed a good buy, and could be useful as a pretty lining, possibly of the aforementioned bags and flags.

And finally, deserving a photo all of its own, is this glorious material (£3/metre), which looks like a rather patriotic tea party, and which is going to become a tablecloth.


Harpic and Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre & Harpic.jpg

I recently opened a cupboard, looked inside just a little more closely than usual, and saw to my surprise three bottles of Harpic and two of Mr Muscle. Now, just to clarify, this wasn’t a moment of “bowl me over, it’s the passage into Narnia” amazement, more a mild wonderment that here was a family of cleaning products living completely under the radar.

It reminded me of a long-held dream, where one day everything in my home is under control. No standing in front of the tumble dryer hoping that the clothes inside are ready because they are needed immediately. No nagging guilt about just how long it has been since the kitchen floor was washed. No leftovers lurking at the back of the fridge until it’s no longer safe to eat or freeze them. Or possibly even to touch them. Nope, a perfect home, with a place for everything and everything in its place, run using streamlined systems.

And I thought of the moment in “Jane Eyre”, where our heroine is just about to leave Lowood School and go to become the governess at Thornfield Hall:

“The box was corded, the card nailed on… I had brushed my black stuff travelling-dress, prepared my bonnet, gloves and muff; sought in all my drawers to see that no article was left behind; and now, having nothing more to do, I sat down and tried to rest.”

It had always seemed marvellous to me to have reached a moment where there was nothing more to do. To be up to date with everything.

But Jane Eyre’s world at this point is an incredibly narrow one. She has had no contact outside Lowood for years, and is now leaving because, in her words, she is gasping for liberty.

I continue to yearn after order (and a dry pair of jeans), but I’m also so grateful that my life is not the circumscribed one that Jane Eyre sought to escape.

There is comfort as well in knowing that I am not alone. Nella Last – a superlative housekeeper – noted on 19 December 1941:

“I had a little time to spare this morning and decided to get my Christmas cake and the box of Christmas decorations from under the stairs at the back. When I packed odd bits and bobs in any handy tin, and put them away to save, I did not think of labelling them, and really had some excitement this morning, finding things. I find I’ve two pounds of lump sugar, one of icing sugar, and a lovely tin of mixed chocolate biscuits.”

And what of the rogue cupboard? Reader, I tidied it.

O frabjous day!

Foolproof Cooking.jpg

(The narcissi aren’t actually growing out of the book, they just really wanted to be in the picture)

Look at what arrived today!

I tried to talk myself out of buying Mary Berry’s new book, “Foolproof Cooking”, which accompanies the television series, on the grounds that recipes from the programme are on the BBC Food website. But, like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation.

Not having yet cooked anything from it, any thoughts at this point would be perilously close to judging this book by its cover, so I’ll stop for now. (That said, isn’t it an elegant cover? And the fresh, clean look continues throughout. It’s like springtime in hardback.)

Right, a cup of tea and a stack of post-it notes beckon.