For someone who gets extremely over-excited about Christmas (usually in September) I’ve been feeling distinctly un-Christmassy for this time of year. However, after attending a wonderful winter wedding in Devon this weekend I think I might finally have found my festive spirit. And so, it seemed like the perfect time to post these beautiful images from Toast‘s Christmas lookbook. I love the mix of muted jewel tones and earthy hues, the humble materials and the wealth of texture… a lovely alternative to gaudy glitz and throwaway purchcases that give the season such a bad rep. For some reason, they bring to mind of one of my most treasured children’s books, Jill Barklem’s The Secret Staircase, from her beautifully illustrated Brambly Hedge series. In this particular tale, the mice are preparing for the midwinter feast, which culminates in the recital of a poem, my favourite lines from which read: ‘When the days are the shortest, the nights are the coldest, The frost is the sharpest, the year is the oldest… Then polish your whiskers and tidy your nest, And dress in your richest and finest and best’. The perfect way, I think, to sum up our inexplicable urge to resist hibernation and spruce up our homes and ourselves during the darkest depths of winter.
An old friend and I got back in contact the other day, which made me very happy. And once we had caught up on what was going on in each others’ lives, he sent me this - a speech that author Neil Gaiman gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012. It was so inspiring I had to share. If you work in a creative industry of any kind, or wish you did, then I think you’ll agree. In my friend’s words, ‘Listen to it while you’re having your morning coffee, or cooking or whatever.’
I’ve been suffering from excessive wanderlust of late. It’s not an unfamiliar feeling… between the ages of 18 and 25 I wasn’t happy unless I was as far away from UK shores as possible (providing it was somewhere warm). In recent years, I seem to have managed to put down roots and embrace being on home turf, but I’m starting to feel that old longing creeping back – that incessant, insistent nagging desire to go and seek out something new.
This was further compounded when a copy of Aussie super-stylist Sibella Court’s latest book, Gypsy, landed on my desk last week. A follow on from the equally enchanting Nomad, Etcetera and Bowerbird, her latest offering is crammed full of inspiring musings and images, gleaned from her travels all over the world. And, as I’m tied to my desk for the next couple of months at least, a Q&A with Sibella and a peek inside the pages of Gypsy seemed like a perfect way to escape the dreary London greyness and impending cold snap. Enjoy!
How did you get started as a stylist? I stumbled into styling when my bestie Edwina McCann was first working atAustralian Vogue and quickly realised that Vogue Entertaining & Travel was much more up my alley. I worked with Donna Hay on Marie Claire Lifestyle when it was first launching and, with demand in the US for my styling, everything went from there.
To what do you attribute your unique aesthetic? My mother was a textile expert, specializing in Islamic textiles from Central Asia. She travelled the world to find out all she could about textiles and instilled a similar passion in me. My father was a builder and gave me my hands on attitude to life. As a kid, I roamed around my grandparents’ property with my brothers and sister, exploring unchartered territory and beachcombing, going on wild flower expeditions and bringing home all sorts of treasures.
Where do you hunt for inspiration? I am constantly seeking inspiration, it comes from so many experiences: I walk, I read, go to movies and exhibitions, I observe everything around me and write in my brown paper notebooks that I carry everywhere. But my main source of inspiration is travel. I travel for approximately six months of every year. I love to go places I’ve never been before, the sights and scents are different and of course your activities. One day you could be camel caravanning on an old trade route to the oasis of Samarkand, the next you might be bartering in a market in Morocco or casting your eyes over canary finches.
What about your work brings you the most joy? Being able to delve into imagination and create spaces that don’t exist, magical, fantastical, unexampled… All my work gives me joy.
What’s your first thought when you wake up in the morning? I ask myself, “Is it a beach day?” and I wonder whether I can be bothered to get up and see the sunrise.
What can you see from your window? The sky, my geraniums and the garden.
How do you relax? Travel, beach, exercise, reading.
What’s your most treasured possession? My amulets are my most treasured possession. I had them made by an old assistant. They are filled with things to protect you through life & lead the way. They are stitched into a leather bag, to be worn long & on your heart chakra. I now wear my mother’s as well as my own. Throughout my travels I have added other talismans, from an ebony Buddha from Cambodia to a wolf’s tooth from Uzbekistan and a ship anchor (just because I’m part pirate).
Do you have any particular personal rules to live by? Yes, there are no rules.
Find out more about Sibella at the thesocietyinc.com.au… and check out her new book below:
Gypsy by Sibella Court (Hardie Grant, £26.99) Photography: Chris Court
I don’t normally like to blur the boundaries of work and blogging, but in this case I just couldn’t resist. The latest edition of ELLE Decoration Country is here! It’s a standalone, 260 page publication showcasing some of the world’s most beautiful rural escapes, and I’m particularly proud of this one (I’ve worked on two volumes prior to this) as I was lucky enough to be Editor. Sourcing and writing the features for these editions has been so inspiring… it’s amazing to think how many incredible spaces there are hidden away in spectacular, remote locations. So, if you’re in need of a little escapism, go get your hands on a a copy. I could be a tad biased but I think you might like it ;).
Order ELLE Decoration Country Volume 3 online at elledecoration.co.uk/country3, buy it instore at Tesco, Easons, Waitrose or WHSmith, or download the digital edition from Apple Newsstand or Kindle Newsstand. Plus, catch up on Volumes 1 and 2 at elledecoration.co.uk/country and elledecoration.co.uk/country2.
Having had a couple of wonderful holidays in Turkey in the last few years, I was really excited to come across this new cookery book by Turkish-born, Sydney-based chef Sevtap Yüce. It’s been beautifully shot by lovely Aussie photographer Alicia Taylor, and features a ton of delicious recipes. Here’s a sneak preview, followed by a few snaps from my last trip there in September. A little warmth and colour for a dreary November day!
Turkish Meze by Sevtap Yuce (£20, Hardie Grant)
Sigara Böregi / Cigar Borek
These are absolutely wonderful for breakfast or lunch. Serve them hot, while the pastry is still crisp and the feta is all warm and oozy.
250 g (9 oz) feta
2 egg yolks
30 g (1 oz/1 cup) chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
375 g (13 oz) packet filo pastry
Sunflower oil, for pan-frying
In a bowl, mash the feta, egg yolks and parsley into a smooth paste.
Season with sea salt and set aside.
Cut the filo pastry into 20 cm (8 inch) squares. Take two sheets of the cut pastry and stack them on top of each other; cover the rest with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.
Place 2 tablespoons of the feta mixture in the middle of the pastry stack. Fold two sides in, then roll up into a cigar shape, sealing the end closed with a dab of water.
Continue making more borek until all the ingredients are used.
Heat about 2.5 cm (1 inch) of oil in a saucepan or large heavy-based frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, fry the borek in batches for 4–5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
Drain briefly on paper towel and serve hot.
Makes about 12
Lahmacun / Lamb Pide
Here’s a recipe for a classic Turkish ‘pizza’, loved the world over. If you have any dough left over after baking the pide, heat the baking tray in the oven again until very hot. Roll the dough into 20 cm (8 inch) circles and bake them in the oven for 5 minutes, to make little pocket breads. If you are lucky enough to have a wood-fired oven, you can stretch the dough out thinly and make lavash bread, as well as your pides. You can also cook the pide in a pizza oven. Heat the pizza oven until hot. Roll each ball of dough into thin sheets, spread a thin layer of topping over each and bake until golden brown.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
250 g (9 oz) minced (ground) lamb
30 g (1 oz/1 cup) chopped
30 g (1 oz/1 cup) chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
2 long green chillies, finely diced
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste (concentrated purée)
Lemon wedges, to serve
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried yeast
450 g (1 lb/3 cups) plain
(all-purpose) fl our
80 ml (2½ fl oz/¹⁄³ cup)
To make the dough, mix the sugar and yeast in a large bowl with 300 ml (10 fl oz) lukewarm water. Allow the yeast to activate for a few minutes.
Add the flour and a pinch of sea salt and mix into a dough, using your hands.
Knead in the bowl until the dough feels like your earlobe. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Punch the dough down and knead in the bowl for another 5 minutes.
Cover and leave to rise for a further 1 hour.
Roll the ball of dough in the olive oil. Cover and leave to rest for a further hour, until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the topping. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion until golden. Add the remaining topping ingredients, except the lemon wedges. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir together for a few minutes, ensuring all the ingredients are well mixed. The lamb should remain partially uncooked, as you will be baking it in the oven.
Place the topping mixture in a strainer and set aside to drain.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Heat two large baking trays in the oven until very hot.
Punch the dough down again and divide into 12 small balls. Let the dough rest again for 2–3 minutes, then roll each ball out to a 20 cm (8 inch) circle. Spread each one with about 2 tablespoons of the topping and place on the hot baking trays (you may need to work in batches).
Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bread is is golden.
Garnish with extra parsley and serve hot, with lemon wedges.
Karides Güveç / Yamba Prawn GoulashIf you have some small ovenproof terracotta pots, you can delight your guests with individual servings. The Australian coastal town of Yamba is famous for its sweet prawns (shrimp) — both its small school prawns, and the medium–large ones we are using here.
60 ml (2 oz/¼ cup)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 long green chillies, chopped
2 small green capsicums (bell‑peppers), chopped
500 g (9 oz) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) raw Yamba prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined, leaving the tails intact
15 g (½ oz/½ cup) chopped fat-leaf (Italian) parsley, plus extra to garnish
30 g (1 oz/½ cup) chopped dill
150 g (5½ oz/1 cup) crumbled Bulgarian feta
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Heat the olive oil in a flameproof casserole dish on the stove top.
Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until soft.
Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.
Stir in the chilli, capsicum and tomato. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for another few minutes.
Add the prawns, parsley and dill and cook for 2 minutes.
Sprinkle the feta over the mixture, then transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Garnish with extra parsley and serve immediately, with crusty bread.
Dutlu Ve Güllü Kek / Mulberry and Rose Petal Cake
Most of the mulberries I have seen in Turkey are white. The only place I’ve ever seen a red mulberry tree is at the sacred site of the tomb of Haci Bektasi Veli, in the town of Kirsehir. My family are of the Alevi faith, a religious minority with our own spiritual practices and culture, and Haci Bektasi Veli is one of our spiritual leaders with his beautiful poems and his philosophy. We love him and respect his wisdom. So years later, when I came to Australia, I saw these beautiful red and purple juicy babies and fell in love with them. If you cannot find mulberries, you can substitute boysenberries. Haci Bektasi Veli may not be impressed, but he will understand — he is a most forgiving man! This is my cake for him, and for you.
150 g (5½ oz) butter
345 g (12 oz/1½ cups) caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
125 g (4½ oz/½ cup) Yoghurt (recipe on page 72)
300 g (10½ oz/2 cups) self-raising ‑ our
125 ml (4 ‑ oz/½ cup) oliveoil
15 g (½ oz/1 cup) unsprayed red rose petals (or use dried ones from a MiddleEastern grocery store)
250 g (9 oz) mulberries
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Butter and our a 27 cm (11inch) springform cake tin.
In a food processor, blend the butter and sugar together for a few minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Briefly mix the yoghurt through, then the flour, then the olive oil, being careful not to overwork the gluten in the flour. Add the rose petals and pulse for a few seconds.
Spoon half the batter into the cake tin. Arrange the mulberries evenly ontop of the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the top.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.
This cake is delicious served warm or cold. It will keep for 2–3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This weekend was a big one for me – the first module of two year yoga teacher training diploma at Triyoga in London. It was something I agonised about doing for a long time, and nearly didn’t commit to because of many things… self doubt, indecision, money, time, work, life… you name it. Despite knowing how much I wanted to do it, I managed to think up a million reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea. Anyway, now I’m here sitting here with a head full of thoughts about what I’ve managed to learn in just two days, and feeling unbelievably grateful that I’ve embarked on this journey (don’t worry, I’m not going to go too spiritual on you).
On the first morning, after meeting and greeting our fellow students, we were given some passages to read and digest. My favourite, which felt particularly poignant, was a quote by Goethe, which reads:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
As someone who is often plagued by indecision and doubt, I often find it very hard to follow my gut, listen to my heart and take action. This results in a paralysis of sorts… leaving me stuck feeling vaguely discontent and constantly obsessing about future plans. I love the idea that, by being decisive and making one small change, you could set a whole process in motion that could then drastically alter the course of your life. And, that, with every positive occurrence brought about by your own actions, you’ll be further emboldened to embark on new endeavours and make brave choices. I’ll sign off with another great quote by Steve Jobs… a fitting mantra to take into 2014 I think…
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
It might have been a beautiful autumn day that prompted me to actually sit down at my laptop and start typing, but it was the discovery of jewellery brand Wolf-and-Moon that really made me want to get back on the blog. Created by British artist and designer Hannah Davis, every item is handmade in her Brighton studio with help from assistant, Lois Neville. The collection features a mix of humble, everyday materials – such as wood, perspex, copper and cord – that have been artfully put together to form strikingly beautiful statement pieces. Just the thing to add a little sparkle to your cold weather wardrobe.