Monday, 13 December 2010

Dipped in Chocolate...

After making my own fruit mince this year, I had so much candied peel left over I wasn't quite sure what to do with it all. I am always looking for delicious gift ideas for Christmas and thought chocolate coated Candied peel were just the thing. The smell of the peel is just heavenly and it also makes the perfect ending to a any Christmas feast.

So I melted 150g Cooking chocolate, cut the candied peel into strips and dip them in, drying them on parchment paper. So now all I need to do is wrap them beautifully, perhaps even in a bowl or on a plate made by Fliff and give as gifts to friends and family.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Prune and Pedro Ximenez Truffles

I love Christmas cooking, the kitchen filling with the most wonderful fragrances of rich sweet spice mixes and chocolate. Last week the smell of delicious fruit mince filled the room, this week it is the rich smell of these decadent Prune and Pedro Ximenez Truffles.

The best gifts of all are those that tell as story, and even better if they're handmade. For gifts this year these are perfect, especially presented in a bowl, such as our own Wobbly Bowls, then wrapped in cellophane - something delicious to enjoy now, and something to keep and treasure.

I first discovered Pedro Ximenez at Fino restaurant in Charlotte Street about 5 years ago. I loved it so much I bought a case, and I'm still drinking my way through it. It is totally delicious, like liquid Christmas. So what better way to use up all the excess than transforming it into these delicious Christmas truffles.

For the Truffles:

10 Prunes, soaked in 3 Tablespoons Pedro Ximenez overnight (or if you can't find Pedro Ximinez delicious Armagnac will do the job nicely)
500 g Good Quality Dark Chocolate (I use Green and Blacks 72% Cooking Chocolate)
1 Cup Cream
Cocoa for dusting

First, blend the prunes and Pedro Ximenez in a food processor and set aside. Then warm a heat proof bowl in the oven until warm to the touch. Take out and break the chocolate into small cubes and place in the bowl. Heat the cream up in a saucepan until just boiling (do not boil though, the truffle mixture will split). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir to combine. If there are still great lumps of chocolate, heat gently over a bane Marie, but for the shortest time possible and no more than 2 minutes. Stir in the prune and Pedro Ximenez mix then leave the mixture out for approx 6 hours or overnight.

Roll about a teaspoon of mixture into a ball then pop into a bowl of cocoa and coat. Place truffles on a tray and pop them in the fridge to set. Truffles are best eaten within 3 days of making.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Delicious Homemade Mince Pies

This year I decided to make my own fruit mince, so, despite looking for inspiration from Nigella and the like, I of course made up my own.

I started with the peel, and as the flavour of bought peel, just isn't right, I decided to make my own. Candying peel, although easy, is a bit of a long process, it take about 6 days.

You will need:

1.8 kg of Sugar
1 kg Citrus Fruit (preferably unwaxed)
1 litre of water
100g Glucose

Start with fruit, I use a mixture of orange, clementine and lemon. Remove the peel from the fruit and cut into strips. Place in a saucepan, covered with water and simmer for 30 min. Remove peel from water and drain.

In a saucepan, place the peel and 1kg of Caster Sugar and cover with water then simmer for about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Then remove from the heat and leave to cool, covered with the lid.

The next day remove the peel from the syrup with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl, In the syrup place 200g of Caster sugar and bring to the boil, making sure all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, replace the peel, and cover with the saucepan lid and leave to cool for another 24 hours. Repeat this process for 3 more days.

On the 5th day, repeat the above, but instead of Caster sugar, add the glucose. Leave for another 24 hours. Then remove the peel and leave to dry completely on a wire rack for another 24 hours, now it's ready to use. So that wasn't so hard was it?

For the Mince Pies:

4 x Quince (if you can't find quince, brambly apples will do)
100g Butter
Zest and juice of 1 Lemon
Zest and juice of 1 Orange
200 g Sultanas
250 g Currants
250 g Raisins
100 g Candied Peel, chopped up into very small pieces
600 g Soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 1/2 Teaspoons Mixed Spice
200 ml Brandy

Cut the quince into quarters and roast in a medium oven for 30 min, along with a 100g brown sugar and the butter. Remove from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Core the quince then grate. I find it easier and quicker to use a food processor to do this.

In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients then add the quince. Place in sterilized preserving jars. The mincemeat will keep for about 10 months in the fridge.

For the pastry:

185 g unsalted butter
100 g Sugar
1 egg
575 g Plain Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of 1/2 Orange
1 egg beaten

This pastry is based on a Skye Gyngall recipe, simply because I always find her pastries always work so beautifully. I added the orange zest just to give it an extra Christmasy flavour.

Place all ingredients, except the egg, into a food processor and blend until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then add one beaten egg gradually until it forms a ball. If you've used one whole egg, but it still needs help, a few drops of cold water should do it.

Remove from the processor and kneed gently. Then wrap in cling film and refridgerate for 1/2 hour. Remove, then roll the pastry out, cut using a round cutter, line a buttered patty cake tin fill with mincemeat then, using either the round cutter or a star cutter, make the top.

Paint the beaten egg lightly on top of the pies and place in a preheated oven, 175 degrees for approx 15 minutes. Remove when golden and leave to cool. Best eaten with a dollop of cream (maybe even with a drop of brandy and icing sugar mixed in).


Roost Living Christmas Sale

The Roost Living sale was a great success, despite the arctic conditions. With Sinatra playing in the background, mince pies (recipe very soon) and mulled wine, we had a flurries of people enjoying shopping in our front room, and I think you'll agree it looked rather lovely...

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


The concept of upcycling, for me, is really exciting.

It's so special to reinvent old furniture, or beautiful old textiles into something truly stunning (probably while I love quilting) and, especially in the current climate, it really reinforcing the make do and mend mentality.

Growing up, my father was forever buying what seemed to be junk, stripping it back, doing it up, adding his own touches and creating something special. I remember my old piano stool, a piece of junk, that my father transformed into something beautiful by upholstering it with a hand embroidered panel. It's still in my mum's house, minus the piano.

There are some wonderful designers out there, reinventing old pieces and here are a few pieces from one of my favourites, Zoe Murphy.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Christmas and Sample Sale

Roost Living Christmas and Sample Sale will be held next Friday 26 November and Saturday 27 November 9.00am to 2.00pm, so do join us. We will be selling not only beautiful products from our current collection, but samples from past collections at bargain prices, as well as sweet treats for Christmas and lovely jewellery by Nicola Hart.

It's also a great opportunity to meet our supporters and friends so do come along, we'll be serving tea and homemade mince pies throughout the day too...

At 39 Laurier Road London NW5.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Quilting Crazy...

I turn into hibernation mode this time of year as the days become shorter and colder. And instead of just staring at the telly (well, maybe a bit, especially with Kirsty's Homemade Home on for inspiration) I've been making a quilt for my little Milly May.

Having read a few Quilting books, and having no idea of what they were talking about, I enrolled in a short three week course at Sally Bourne Interiors in Crouch End, and with the guidance of the lovely Sarah Harper, I finished my first every bit of patch work. Ok, so it's small, and not so perfect, but I'm as proud as punch!

So much so that before the course had even finished I had started on what I really wanted to do, a quilt for Milly May. So off I popped to Liberty for one of they gorgeous Jelly Rolls and got sewing, It's a simple design - here's the almost finished product...

So I think I may have the quilting bug, I'm already planning a quilt for our bed, but for not, perhaps King size is a little too ambitious...

And for a bit of inspiration and eye candy, I have fallen in love with a few quilts in this beautiful book by Jane Brocket...

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

I skipped work the other day...

Last Monday I skipped work (friends staying from Australia. That's my excuse) and did a spot of site seeing.

It is so easy to forget what London has to offer - the history, art and culture, so I always enjoy taking time out to enjoy it.

We started our journey at the British Museum with it's stunning atrium by Norman Foster, skipped straight up to my favourite room, the mummies, before heading to lunch.

Next stop was the National Portrait Gallery and the fantastic photographic exhibition of Camille Silvy, a pioneer of early photography. Silvy captured the society of the time, not only the celebrities and aristocrats of the day, but the uncelebrated people of the streets, with the eerie streets of London as a back drop for many. (Image of a Paris street above).

In stark contrast to the Camille Silvy exhibition, an unusual portrait caught my eye, the Isabella Blow portrait by Noble and Webster (pictured below)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Little Paris...Little Gem!

It's not often I come across a shop that I fall in love with, so I was absolutely delighted to stumble across this little gem of a shop in Crouch End.

Helene, the owner, has hand chosen unique and interesting pieces from the markets of her native France and brought them back to London. The stock is forever changing and her style is simple, elegant and fabulous.

And I just couldn't resist this lovely mustard chair, perfect for my hallway...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Ruth and her Knitting Army

The new Autumn Collection is now online!

Our makers have been so busy getting all our lovely new products made. Especially Ruth Cross and her army of knitters up and down the country, who've been whipping up stunning products, exclusively for Roost Living. They really are the most beautiful blue and each piece knitted by hand.

Below are our gorgeous new Tea Cosies available in both Bessie fit and to fit our own Candy Tea Pot, £27 each.

New for Autumn too is Selina Roses' Bloom throw, £250

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Windfall Apple Crumble

It’s been a great year for apples in our garden. And now we have an abundance on our ground. But these aren’t destined for the worms, there’s still enough to salvage for a crumble or two.

What makes this crumble so delicious is that it uses sweet, juicy very ripe apples, so doesn’t have that slightly tart flavour of cooking apples.


1kg Windfall apples, sliced (carefully removing the worms and cutting out the bad bits)

20g Sugar (soft brown gives a lovely richness to the flavour)

1 teaspoon of Cinnamon

1 x clove

1 Tablespoon water, just to get it started


200g Flour (I use Dove Farm Gluten Free)

75 g Brown Sugar

75 g Butter

3 Tablespoons Rolled Coats

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

2 x Tablespoons gently toasted Pecans, crumbled (optional)


Place sliced apples in a saucepan along with sugar and spices and cook gently until apples are beautifully soft and not too mushy.

Rub butter and flour between your fingers in a bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar, oats and cinnamon (and pecans if you’re adding them too, I give mine a good bash in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, great for getting rid of aggression too...but don't get too carried away or you'll end up with pecan flour), again with your fingers, rub until combined,

Placed cooked apples in a pie dish and add crumble topping. Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve with ice cream, cream or both. I've served mine on Fliff's lovely Lace Tea Set, available online.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Quilty Pleasures

Mughal Quilt, Toast Autumn/Winter 2010

I am so pleased that Quilts are now on trend. And although I am not the most accomplished of sewers, I have always wanted to make my own patchwork quilt. But I think I need a bit of help getting started so am hoping to do a course at The Make Lounge before the year is out.

The history of quilting has always excited me - sewing as a social tool, bringing women together while making something both beautiful and practical, and perhaps as a way of earning money for house wives.

Our modern lives, with lack of time, and the convenience of the high street, have meant the redundancy of these important skills. So resurgence in the handmade, returning to and reinventing the skills of our ancestors, but in a modern setting, excites me. It arouses something in my own creativity…if only I could find the time to devote to making!

In the meantime I'll have to make do with these lovely quilts from the High Street...

John Lewis

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tolarno Hotel

Whilst in Melboure we stayed at the fabulous Tolarno hotel in St Kilda - full of great character, fabulous food and wonderful art.

Playful murals by Melbourne artist Mirka Mora, an eccentric of the Australian arts scene, have adorned the walls since the 60s.

Since discovering her while at school, Mirka has always been a bit of a favourite of mine. Her mythical creatures, with their large soulful eyes, were so playful and inspiring against the rather monotonous backdrop painted canvas. Perhaps it was my discovery of art beyond the 2D form, which really excited me. We even created our own Mirka inspired creatures - mine was half woman, half mermaid. So to experience the originals, and to be able to stay surrounded by them at the Tolarno, and even steal a touch, was brilliant.

Guy Grossi's restaurant, aptly named Mirka, was refreshingly brilliant too. Simple flavours, made beautifully. Perfect.

Monday, 30 August 2010

High Tea with Milly May...

I've been on holiday in Australia for the past month (spending time with family and friends), hence the silence.

We're now back in London, recovering from jetlag. We had a wonderful month - Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cape Tribulation, Cairns, Fraser Island, Stradbroke Island and an outback town called Charleville. It's been a bit of an adventure (an a little bit exhausting!).

Milly celebrated her Birthday in style. High Tea with thanks to the exquisite crockery from Fancy Tea and the help of my mum and her fabulous scones (she's quite the scone connoisseur), meringues and Angel Food Cake, along with my own, mini Blueberry and Lemon Bundt cakes, cucumber sandwiches and the stunning cupcakes made by Chelse. It was quite a spread (photos to follow...I managed to misplaced my camera, but should be reunited with it in a few weeks).

Milly had a great time, completely sugar fueled. She ended the day on a high, covering herself in strawberry jam. I managed to miss the event, but was in charge of the cleaning up. My friend Shae managed to capture it in motion...

Milly wore the ultimate party dress, from the lovely Belle and Boo...

Monday, 19 July 2010

High Tea

This Wednesday is such a special day for me, it is my daughter Milly's 1st Birthday.

We're celebrating in style with a High Tea theme - beautiful vintage tea cups, saucers, sliver tea pots and Linda Bloomfield cakestands, covered in delicious cakes (Ottolenghi inspired).

And keeping to the High Tea theme, the perfect gift, this gorgeous knitted Cornishware tea set and knitted cupcakes from Lark.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

In the Press...

Roost Living products have been making a number of appearances recently...

The Telegraph, 3 July featured Thornback & Peel's lovely Jelly Napkin.

Good Housekeeping, August 2010 featured Linda Bloomfield's Candy Jug and Cakestand.

Homes and Interiors Scotland, feature Wobbly Bowls by Mizuyo Yamashita.

Candy Cakestand by Linda Bloomfield
and Fliff's lovely Gold Bowls, Shan Valla's Milk Bottles and Golf Finch.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Interview with Shan Valla

This week we caught up with designer Shan Valla and found out a little about her creative influences.

When and why did you decide to be a designer?

I never decided to become a designer, it just sort of happened. I never made a conscious decision that I'd work for myself, and make products/objects, I was just always good at art at school and knew I wanted to do something creative. Even though I choose to study ceramics and glass I never really thought about where is was going to take me.

I do however remember at the age of about 13 taking to my best friend in school about what we’d do when we were older. She was really into fashion so we used to dream that we would have a fashion and interiors shop just off Oxford St in London (I grew up in West Wales so I think I’d only been to London once at this time). Now having my studio just up the road from that in Holborn seems bizarrely close to that idea!

What are you main creative influences?

Many of my friends are designer/makers, and my boyfriend and I spend a lot of time talking about interiors and objects.

I’ve got a lot of creative people in my family. My father is a photographer, and my aunt is an artist.

I think that just by being around creative’s make me suddenly feel like creating.

Of course I have studied many artists and designers and other peoples work, which is all stored in my head somewhere and subconsciously it inspires me. There are some pieces of art, or some designs that I just absolutely fall in love with, and they give me a feeling inside. Its this feeling that I want my work to give people….but I don’t quite think I have got there yet.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

Lots of things really. Mostly my ideas come through actually making something. It might be because of a certain material quality that I come across, and want to keep and emphasise, and I may actually end up with an entirely different object than I had planned to make. Some times when things go wrong it brings a new idea.

I frequently think about things to make when I'm just doing everyday jobs, and its often something everyday that has inspired me.

Usually when I'm at my busiest, multitasking, and my mind is racing with everthing that is going on I get about 10 new ideas of things to make.

Who is your favourite designer? What aspect of their work do you most admire?

Lots of people for different reasons.

But if I have to say one…..I love Dutch Design House DEMAKERSVAN.

The simplicity of their designs which are executed exceptionally well. They give a twist to everyday things, making them beautiful. Who would ever have thought a metal fence to be beautiful? It's witty, which I admire.

What aspect of your work give you the most pleasure?

When people fall in love with my work

Where are you most creative?

Anywhere. It depends. Sometimes my studio, but it always takes me a while to settle into a new space….my current studio is only just getting there. Sometimes on the train when I have no distractions. Often when I go home to Wales, and then I may feel creative in my old bedroom. I suppose it used to be my studio as I was growing up. I’d just lock my self in there for hours every evening and draw/paint/make. Mum would never let me have a new carpet as I would always have so much paint and glue all over the place.

What is your workspace/studio like?

I’m based at Cockpit Arts in Holborn, and my studio is in a big room that I share with a jeweller, graphic designer, and ceramicist. I have quite a small space, and seem to keep getting more and more things in it so it is pretty compact. I have 3 work benches, one that I use for ceramics covered in moulds models and porcelain slip, and one for glass that I have my lampworking torch on, and clusters of glass branches all over it, and one for general things. People are always scared of walking into my space with all the glass everywhere, but I sort of forget that its delicate.

I have a desk and big wall for pinning bits on, and loads of shelves for storage. I moved into my studio in October, and it is only just really starting to feel like my space, but week by week it seems to be becoming more me and I start to feel more creative in it.

How do you describe your style?

Fresh, clean, playful, simple, delicate.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working with a several art consultants on multiple glass installations for a new hotel and a new public building, both in London. I’m really excited about these commissions as it enables me to realise some of my far more extravagant and creative ideas, that really need to be in located in large spaces.

I’m currently working with a new ceramic manufacturer, so we are going though the sampling process ready for the first production run. I’m also developing a new glass vase for Hidden Art Select, which I have been prototyping with a glass studio in south London who will be producing it for me.

I'm also starting to work on new ideas for products to be launched in the Autum.

When you first started out, what was the best advice you received?

Have good images. Don’t think too much about an idea, get stuck in.

What advice do you have for other designers starting out?

Learn as much as you can from other people. If you want it, stick at it, its hard work, but when something exciting happens you forget about all of the late nights. Have good images, it makes a product.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

I don’t think I do at the moment! I think you do have to go with the flow at certain times. There are always points in the year that are busier than others, and so you work more. I’ve just have 5 exhibitions in 6 weeks, which means there hasn’t been much time for the ‘life’ part, but then it should quieten down a little and I’ll take a few long weekends. August usually seems to be quiet in design, so I’ll try and fit in a few holidays….i need the sunshine!

What are you other passions?

I love travelling, and always yearn for my next adventure. I love sporty things, a shot of adrenalin. I love cooking for people, but sadly don’t seem to have time for it at the moment. I love Coffee, so much that last year my boyfriend has even started his own coffee business. Now I love it more.

What is your favourite food?

Ripe Mango. Natural yogurt. Granola.

What is your greatest weakness?

I can never focus on just one thing. I always think the grass is greener.

Trousers or skirts?

Dresses….ask any one who knows me!

Shan Valla's lovely Gold Finch and Milk Bottles are now available online.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

John Dilnot

I was once at a friends house and noticed the most intriguing box on the wall, it was only small but was a world of it's own.

Since then I've been wanting one of my own! So I was very pleased to discover that he's having an exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in September.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Inspiring Interiors - Kathy Dalwood

I'm always looking for beautiful interior and, after a visit to artist Kathy Dalwood's house yesterday, I left feeling completely inspired.

Her stunning house captures her style - a mix of the old in a modern context. Paintings adorn the walls and bright splashes of colour invigorate the interiors.

Living in such a beautiful house, surrounded by stunning objects, a life's collection, must be such an amazing source of inspiration.

Visit Kathy's blog for more on what inspires her work.
You can find Kathy Dalwood's beautiful Figurines on the Roost Living website.