Monday, 31 December 2012

Vivi's Continuous Commitments

Well New Years Eve is upon us and tends to be a time when many of us take stock, reflect on the past year and decide what to keep, what to kick to the curb and what to introduce into our lives. I am a real fan of self improvement but I must admit I stifle a yawn when the New Year arrives and people reel off a list of clichéd intentions that they know deep down will go out of the window within a week.

Personally I believe that to constantly keep an eye on your goals is the way forward rather than annually. I would never knock anyone for a new year new you attitude but I think it puts pressure on them and by having a set of intentions that is close to your heart, that reflects what YOU want rather than what you think you should do really helps. And also throw in a bit of fun. It's all of this hardcore morbid discipline and stifling "must do's" which squeeze the fun out of life and send one heading to the nearest shop to buy a big cream cake. Every year when someone asks me what my resolutions are I always answer "to have more fun." To me that's what life should be about.

So below here are my ongoing commitments while a few new goals are chucked in there. Some food related, some not.

1. Health
Ok let's get this one over with. Weight loss and exercise are the top of the list for most people I imagine and I'm not exempt. I'm a fan of healthy eating and while 5 a day isn't a challenge for me my portion sizes of healthy meals have grown a bit too big. That's no surprise as I laugh loud, love hard and wear big accessories and lots of makeup. Less is more rarely features in my life. Previous blog posts have discussed my curves morphing into a round and while I'm all about body acceptance whatever shape one is, for me personally, my health is important to me and  keeping my curves in check while still enjoying good healthy food is the way forward with plenty of fun exercise in there. Plus I simply can't afford to replace my wardrobe, I have some gorgeous dresses there which require a Vivi/ Monroe wiggle and I refuse to let them go. As I say this is ongoing and I need exercise also for glowing skin and a happy mind. Whatever size I am I always ensure glamour at all times and work it like a moviestar.

I can't tell you how many recipes I have seen and thought "I'm definitely making that." And then another recipe comes along and the same thought pops up and in the end none of them are made. Earlier this week I found a Nigella chilli jam recipe via Twitter. I committed to making it and goddam it was good.

I'm also trying to be more adventurous with fish dishes and I've been recommended a great fish monger whom I shall be visiting this week. On that note I also want to learn how to prepare a whole fish as it's a dream of mine to catch and cook a fish. I love the whole back to basics thing and being a vintage lover I know our war time sisters would have had the skills. I want them too.

On a boring note, I've made a start on sorting the Vivi pantry as I couldn't find a ruddy thing in there and it was tainting my cooking experiences. I loathe organising and admin but it got to crisis point. The pan and roasting dishes cupboard are done and the next (daunting) task is sorting the spice drawer. All random bags of spice shall be decanted and labelled to ensure a stress free cooking experience

3. New experiences
I love trying new things and one thing I've done this year has been photography. I booked Mr V and I on a couple of courses via Groupon just for the hell of it and I've found a new hobby and learned new skills (food photography is a bitch and I really need to nail this one!)  I also went on a secret vintage teaparty afternoon which was delightful and and hope to do more of them for sure! Windsurfing is next on my list
Looking ahead to 2013
4. Following My Heart
When I was little I used to always write. Whether it was stories, top 10's or profiles of my favourite things (horses and Madonna back then still on the list now) Then I grew up and became an adult and the only thing I would write were birthday cards and emails. I had a real craving to create and my writing was reborn in the form of this blog. As much as I'm thrilled if people read it I'd still do it if I had no readers as I enjoy it so much. The icing on the cake for me (I love foodie puns!) is that Vintage Life magazine are publishing a couple of my recipes. I'm so thrilled as it's my favourite magazine and a real achievement for me. I can't wait to see it and I had a wonderful photoshoot with my fave blogger Betty Bee so now have a set of great pictures that when I'm old and wrinkly can think "Gosh I was hot!" So by following my heart lovely things have happened and I've met some cool people along the way. I shall commit to keep on doing this.

5. Having More Fun
As I said earlier I say this every year. 2012 certainly has been fun for me (plus a few hardships thrown in there for good measure as that is life and I've dealt with them) I'm a believer in the law of attraction so if I focus on fun and happiness the more I shall attract. I also wish this to you all for 2013, wish you lots of luck pursuing your goals and send you lots of Vivi love from my big heart.


Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Cooking

Happy Boxing Day dear reader and hope you all had the merriest of Christmases. I adore Christmas and this year really loved the chance to do more cooking especially making some naughtier and indulgent foods! So I thought I'd briefly share some of the things I enjoyed the most. It goes without saying Christmas dinner was heavenly but I imagine you get the gist hence no write up or pictures of that so thought I'd mention the less ambitious but no less delicious items in the Vivi kitchen.

1. Get Ahead Gravy
Jeez Louise - this had to be the highlight for me and I will most definitely be doing this again for futures roast dinners. It was a fair effort time wise but my Lord it was so worth it. The addition of port and cranberry sauce transformed it. It's a Jamie recipe so get it here.

2.Sausage Rolls
Mr V informs me that it's not Christmas without the above. I thought this year I would try my sort of own -that is the sausage meat not the puff pastry as I needed a bit more time to perfect the PP. I used pre made. I gave it a twist and added a smoked chipotle salsa inside the rolls, onion chutney in some and pear and apple chutney in another. That sweetness combined with the pork was to die for. My first batch were driven by sheer greed and were more of a sausage pasty. They were to die for seriously. If you fancy doing your own then I just mixed 500g pork mince with 1 rasher of streaky bacon, sage leaves, onion, garlic and salt and pepper. Easy and yummy.

3. Roast Ham
Smeared in mustard, studded with cloves and sprinkled with sugar (thank you Delia) this badboy was sugar and spice and bloody, ruddy nice. Melt in the mouth it accommodated a Christmas Eve buffet and is going in a pie with it's best mate chicken. I shall ensure that this gets a look in throughout the year and not just in the festive season.

4. Mince pie/Christmas cake ice cream
I cannot get enough of this. Forget Ben & Jerry's - this is sheer indulgence. Just mix in smashed up mince pies or add pieces of Christmas cake to vanilla ice cream and you have a dish of decadence. I used a Jamie idea of making it into a float by dissolving a few teaspoons of instant coffee and a couple of sugar lumps with hot water and pouring around the ice cream. For aesthetics serve in a vintage teacup. The choc sticks are mikados.

So there you have it some very simple and easy ways to make Christmas even more delightful. Roll on New Year  - I have a goose on order!


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Why Having A Punk Rock Attitude In The Kitchen Rocks

I had a decent stint of cooking at the weekend and I was determined to experiment with an impulse buy that had been sitting in the cupboard for a while. A few weeks ago I was picking up the staples during my shop; vegetables, bread, eggs, dried juniper berries...I know - not a staple item in one's basket but I do like to buy at least one unfamiliar item to add pazazz to shopping. However I usually have a dish in mind but I had no idea where I'd start but I wanted them like most women want chocolate or shoes.

The JP's lay dormant in my cupboard until Sunday. I was looking for something new to cook. Game isn't something I've ever really dealt with and rather fancied trying it when a flash of inspiration came to me - could the JP's make their debut? Would game and the JP's be a match made in heaven? Or would it be hell? So I bought a mix of pheasant, goose, venison and pigeon and raced home to get going.

Attention! Vivi says throw away the recipe book!
I was so determined to make a really delicious game casserole but didn't really want to follow a recipe, I wanted to come up with my own but I was halted halted with thoughts of "will it work?" So I sent a tweet asking fellow foodies what they thought. No response. People were busy enjoying their weekend not fretting over game and berry combos or probably not even interested. Sometimes we're overwhelmed and saturated with cookery shows and books to the point we don't experiment. We're too busy trying to make our Jamie 15 minute meals the best ever and lose the ability to use our skills, follow our hearts and just mix it up Georges Marvellous Medicine style.

So feeling all Siouxie Sioux (and wearing Vivienne Westwood from head to toe in my mind) I just went for it. And blow me down it was blooming delicious! The sweetness of the juniper berries was a welcome presence with the rich gamey flavour of the meat. All I did was sweat down some onion, garlic, celery and carrot and set to one side. I then coated the meat in flour and browned it in the pan and re-added the veg and stirred. I added a glass of red wine and let the alcohol cook off then added about 300ml of beef stock, the juniper berries, a handful of mushrooms and 3 bay leaves. I seasoned with salt and pepper, covered with a lid and let it bubble for a couple of hours on the hob.

Gamey goodness
I served the sweet goodness with celeriac and potato mash, roast parsnip and carrot and some lovely sweet sprouts. The punk rock paid off. But I still listened to Classic fm throughout. The juxtaposition added to the anarchy in the kitchen.

Had to add a close up of the JP's!
So my call to you is throw away the recipe book, embrace your inner punk culinary godess and create something unique and special just like you.


Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Eat Like A Goddess

I first came across the beautiful and talented Lisa Clark in the summer when she had a guest spot on Betty Bee's blog. I completely fell in love with her writing style. When I was a teenager, magazines such as Just Seventeen were my second parents and those journo's taught me not only how to apply liquid eye liner but how to be assertive, remain individual and just, well, rock quite frankly.I actually depended on their weekly words of wisdom. LC's writing catapulted me back to those days as she writes for teen mags and I felt a lovely warm hug of words envelope me. She doesn't stop there either - she is spiritually rich which always floats my boat, she is an author and publisher, she coaches gals on writing and is the goddess and innovator of SASSYology too - I know! SASSY stands for Spiritual, Authentic, Sensual and Sensational You with the emphasis on being the mistress of your own reality which is so up my street. When she published a book earlier this year SASSY - The Go For It Girls Guide To Becoming The Mistress Of Your Destiny I was thrilled to high heaven. I'm now on my second read and I'm convinced I have taken my own goddess powers up a notch or two.
Goddess SASSY
Being a food, nutrition, eating and self esteem lover I was impressed and interested about the SASS Queen's views on the importance of eating well for overall health and not just weight. One blog post in particular talked about emotional eating which really struck me as brave, it's not easy to share such things. As well as reading the book I wanted to ask her more and almost vomited with excitement when she agreed to an intervivi-view! Rather than read about celebrity diets in trashy goss mags we should be listening to the likes of Ms (soon to be a Mrs!) Clark. I'm sure you'll be inspired getting to know this fabulous lady.

VV: I love your philosophy of enhancing the SASSY factor by nourishing the body with good food and exercise and happy that you’re empowering  sistas to make positive changes. You were really brave sharing with readers on your blog your journey to good health talking about the link between emotions and eating. Tell us what made you embark upon your journey and where are you now?

LC: I’ve always been a voluptuous/curvy/fat (delete as applicable) girl, but two years ago, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, and for the benefit of my health, I was told I had to lose weight. Now, I feel like I’m on X Factor - they love talking about the ‘journey’ don’t they?!! But my relationship with food and getting to know my emotional attachments to it has been my biggest learning, ever. In fact, I think I’m still just scratching the surface really. The thing is, once you start exploring your relationship with food, it opens up lots of ‘stuff’ about the rest of your life, in my case, I’ve found that my slightly fucked up relationship with money and worth has been intrinsically linked to my relationship with food, I mean, who knew?! So where am I at now? I’m still doing a lot o’ learning – but we seriously need to be teaching this stuff in schools, all I learned was how to make an apple pie, we should be learning about nutrition and what our body needs to fuel it efficiently…

VV: I totally agree. During your journey did you hit any stumbling blocks and how did you overcome them?

LC: Yep, most definitely…the biggest one is the fact I live with a 6ft 6 Viking so my view of portion size is slightly screwy. There’s nothing small in our world, but we’ve changed up to small plates, and the other big thing we’ve done that’s made life so much easier is that we’ve adopted an ‘eat clean’  diet, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on food!

VV: Good plan! You write books, magazine articles, coach aspiring writers and run workshops. With a busy life how do you achieve your health goals?

LC: It takes practice, that’s for sure. It’s all about the planning. The Viking and I have got pretty regimental with writing menus on the fridge for the week, ordering our grocery shop online so we’re not tempted by sweet treats and making sure I’ve always got things to snack on  - I love apple and peanut butter – yummo!

VV: I'm obsessed with the PB at the moment. Sometimes it can be scary changing habits. If someone wanted to be healthier where do you think they should start?

LC: Start really small, I think the big mistake people make is to go for a complete overhaul and that can simply be so overwhelming that you slip straight back into old habits. The same is true for going on the all or nothing diets too, if you take everything away, it makes sense that you’ll crave absolutely everything you’re no longer eating, so I’d just pick a few things like if you snack on chocolate which I used to do at least once a day, then swap it for the apple slices with peanut butter. Li’l steps for long-term results – if that’s not a saying, it totally should be.

VV: It should!You have a hot man in your life who is also your soulmate – good on you! Who does the cooking in the household?

LC: The Viking comes from a really big family so is used to cooking big portions, I am REALLY new to the cooking lark, and literally only started to follow recipes when we moved in together – the good thing is, I can only cook good-for-you food, The Viking however is all about winter comfort food like lasagne and roast dinners. He does make the most amazing home-made bread that I do indulge in the eating of at least once a month – it’s incredz!

VV: It sure sounds it! Do you have a signature SASS dish?

LC: I make an amazing eat clean Pad Thai – it’s my absolute favourite dinner. I’m also pretty good at quorn dahl too

VV: I'm drooling. God forbid you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

LC: Ohmystars…that’s so difficult…chicken korma and rice – ahhh I LOVE that…

VV: Fantasy dinner party – who would you invite? (dead or alive)

LC: Ohhhh I LOVE this question…Frida Kahlo, Nigella, Sophia Loren, Mae West, Alicia Keyes and Oprah – quite possibly the most delicious goddess circle EVER.

VV: I ADORE Oprah.And Nigella. A brief detour from the culinary – you’re a very funky looking lady. What inspires you fashion wise?

LC: I am obsess-o about 50’s/rockabilly stylin’, they dug the curve. I love leopard print, over the top accessories and shoes. I LOVE shoes.

VV: Gotta love the lep. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

LC: My nan told me any time that life gets a bit dark and sucky – my words not hers – ‘this too shall pass’ and it’s true, whatever challenge shows up, as they inevitably do, it WILL pass and you may be changed, it may have hurt, you may grow, you may have learned something new, but it does pass.

VV: Nans are so wise. What’s next for you, have you plans to write any more books or do you have other projects in the pipeline?

LC: I’m marrying the hot Viking on the 21st Dec which makes me so happy I could burst, next year I’m working with a global brand to tackle self-esteem globally, I’m launching a brand new programme called Write Your Freakin’ Heart Out working with gutsy girls to tell their stories through heart riffin’, journaling and life-living, and I’m writing a new book: The Happy Ever After of a Turned On Woman – I also plan on doing lots of kissing and shoe buying.

Gadzooks! This woman is a pure ball of feminine super hero energy isn't she? Get some yourself too and buy her book, it's fabulous. As a bonus - order from her website and you can get a signed copy and goodies or also from Amazon
A Must Read

Lastly let's all wish our SASS Queen lots of love and happiness for her future with her Viking beau.


Thursday, 6 December 2012

My Veggie Week

I had to share with you my latest veg discovery. Previous blog posts have included me getting overly excited about beautiful coloured vegetables and that excitement never wanes. Apart from the nutritional benefits, I see veg in the way that others see beautiful ornaments and objets and I just wish that the rotting process didn't happen to veg as given the chance I would lovingly display them in my home alongside candles, pictures and other homewares!
Vivi Veggie Queen
Where possible I like to shop locally to support the surrounding farms and do tend to mix and match my supermarche and independent food retailer visits. I do find supermarkets a bit soulless yet I admit they are convenient and sometimes cheaper unfortunately.  I was absolutely on cloud nine last week when I popped into my local Morrisons for some foodie props for my photoshoot with Betty Bee. I thought I was going to burst with utter joy when I discovered the abundant stocks of weird and wonderful looking veggies. I made small talk with an old dear next the the blueberries just so I could show her what was eventually in my trolley as I had to share my excitement with someone. She was very polite god love her but I think she wanted to run away and hide behind the fish counter in all honesty. A little bit scared.
Check Out The Chard
There were leafy varieties of all colours especially the chard found in vibrant shades of red and yellow and a beautiful radicchio. I found mini peppers and orange and yellow tomatoes. I have an unhealthy obsession with jalepenos and have only ever had them from a jar so I was thrilled to find a fresh variety. I stumbled on a new salad leaf called mizuna which was lacey, spindly and pretty. The mushroom selection was also diverse and abundant so I filled a bag with all sorts of strange looking funghi.

 My favourite creations from the produce were a delicious and earthy mushroom and tarragon soup and last night I had the mini peppers roasted with spaghetti, chorizo and chicken. Heaven! The rest were donated to the Betty Bee Towers kitchenette and I believe a stew was made from that. I'm definitely going to go back and experiment with some other delights as there were a few things in there I hadn't even heard of so I'll look forward to another shopping trip. This time I'll try not to freak out the old dears!

Mini roasted peppers with pasta.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Follow Your Heart

I must share with you my wonderful day yesterday and why following my heart with my food love has been such a good decision. I'm very excited to say that I have a couple of pieces to be published in a magazine next year. Prior to this and writing my blog I had a real creative void which I desperately wanted to fill but wasn't sure how. I couldn't draw, paint (apart from my face and nails!) or play an instrument so I felt I had no role in expressing creativity. It was only earlier in this year that by starting my blog and writing a couple of pieces I am filling that void and almost bursting with excitement daily. It has forced me to learn more about photography (work in progress!) which is a new area for me and forcing me to learn new skills, get the hell out of my comfort zone and grow and evolve which is just how life should be.

I decided I needed to invest in myself and get some really decent photos taken for my magazine piece so called on the beautiful and talented Betty Bee. I've been following her blog for a while so it was great meeting this lovely lady in the flesh as well as Lilly Von Pink and Mr Bee since I had read about them in Betty's blog. Betty did my makeup, Lilly did my hair and throw Mr Bee in the mix with his camera, this talented trio transformed me into a modern Monroe. It was such fun but that aside, being around creative people who take life by the balls and make it work for them by following their passion was a sheer inspiration. I just loved it and the place was rocking with such a fantastic energy. Yes I was there for the photos but sometimes the experience is just as good as the result. And the results I'm sure you agree are bloody brilliant and forgive me for bigging myself up but I think I look the nuts!

So what I'm trying to say is that following your heart is an essential journey; you're being authentic, you learn more and get to meet some brilliant people along the way.


Monday, 19 November 2012

Speedy Healthy Pizza

Well being true to my previous blog I attended my spinning class tonight and I worked my butt off to the extent it felt like I had an out of body experience; ie beyond pain. So when I got home it was imperative that I refuelled correctly post traumatic event but I needed something quick easy and of course healthy so as not to counteract the positive effects of my mammoth efforts.
Maybe my spinning class isn't as painful as how these ladies feel in the saddle!
One meal that always comes in handy is my godsend pizzas whereby the base is a tortilla wrap with tomato puree topped with yummy and colourful peppers, chicken, ham and a dusting of cheese. They take about 5 minutes to warm through in the oven. They're not as heavy as normal pizza bases and for me making an effort to watch my hourglass physique they're an ideal choice. More than that it provides a grand opportunity to increase the old portions of veg. Check out the pics, they're bursting with colour so from an aesthetic POV pleasing on the eye also.

Now I admit I'm not a huge fan of processed food but a girl can't have it all - working FT, rushing to the gymnasium then making a meal from scratch. So I used pre cooked chicken. Not the thin Bernard Matthews style but chunky pieces of chicken breast. In an ideal world I would have used fresh but given what I've just said it was the best of the situation since the rest of it was top notch nutritionally. I served up a mighty salad with rocket, spinach, tomatoes and more peppers. Oh and I forgot to add - over the pizza I drizzled my all time favourito Peri Peri sauce by Wildly Delicious and it lives up to it's name. It's bloody gorgeous.

Eating a rainbow
So give it a whirl and experiment with different toppings. Let me know the result.


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Getting Real

As much as this blog is about tasty food, nutrition and health may pop up occasionally since it’s of my favourite subjects as well as all things vintage, music, spirituality, hairstyling, Vivienne Westwood clothes and home interiors. Yup a real mixed bag!

 I've slowly put on a fair bit of extra bulk over the last couple of years.  These days I travel a lot and work quite long days and finding that the “odd treat” makes up for the days mayhem. However my treat to exercise ratio has been somewhat imbalanced. I accept this isn't sustainable should I want to work it like Dita Von Teese. Yes I fully embrace my curves but when the curves begin to form into a round shape then alarm bells ring.

As a spiritual bird who has read a heck of a lot of self development books, being less than my best is unacceptable. Living at a higher energy means raising the bar in all areas of life. I deserve the best. Aqua aerobics? Pah! I'm all about serious training and if it’s not at least an hour and I'm not drowning in my own sweat then I’ll not bother. And that’s the problem. I haven’t bothered. 
Boxercise is one of my faves
Because my current lifestyle doesn't allow the same room for the same amount and frequency of exercise compared to the past, I've been hard on myself for coming up with excuses  - no time, too tired etc. Waiting for “things to settle down” so that I have a chunk of time to really devote to hard physical activity graft just isn't going to happen like a couple of years ago when that was more achievable.

But beating myself up also beat up my confidence so it was time for a mental shift. I was so caught up in who I used to be and what I used to do and applying old methods to a new situation.  What worked then doesn't work now for a whole host of reasons.

I considered whether might have to lower my standards to make progress. It really made sense but it was tough to come to terms with. Like I said I'm all about the heroics and the big stuff. I want to play big in my life so “rubbish” things like taking the stairs instead of the lift was for people who hadn't exercised in 20 years, I wanted to train like an athlete! For Vivi to gain victory with health goals it was time to get real.

So here’s the plan. Of course treats have to be kept to a minimum. But exercise will have to follow when it can. Not an unrealistic rigid structure of 5 x per week wedged into an erratic and chaotic week. And guess what? After one week of applying this mindset I've managed to achieve more exercise than before. I've been to a spinning class and plan another tomorrow but apart from that I've squeezed in a couple of brisk walks, jogged up and down the stairs in a hotel I was staying in, and more importantly, making peace with my situation instead of fighting against it. It might not be enough to fit back into my Mad Men Joan style dress just yet, but for now it’s good for my mind and my overall health and better than nothing.

Busting a few moves while waiting for the kettle to boil ain't an intense workout but it's better than nothing!

Ditch the role models - be your own! But copy their style!
It’s easy to look at others for inspiration and try to live their life.  But sometimes we lose our own inner wisdom in doing that. No-one knows you like you do. You know the difference of when you’re being lazy or genuinely stuck for time.

So the message really is to make peace with your situation as fighting against it can keep you at stalemate. This doesn't mean to stop trying to be your best. It’s just choosing your battles wisely. Follow your own mission and do what works for you.

Love Vivi.x

Monday, 22 October 2012

Woman After My Own Heart

The WI rock. Seriously. For lots of reasons but especially how during the war they all came together to help to grow and preserve food while rationing was enforced. It didn't matter what class they belonged to. Lady of the Manor mucking in alongside her maid - totally unheard of prior to this cool movement.

I was looking at their website and doing a bit of research, I stumbled upon a fabulous looking book titled "Vintage Teatime" by Jessica Simmons (now Jessica Johnson - a lucky chap married this lovely lady) The book is packed full of wonderful cake, biscuit and bun recipes. This book alongside my WI research inspired me and realised that the WI embody a lot of the cooking principles I believe in. I wanted to know more about the lady who wrote the book - where did the recipes come from, what inspired Jessica, what does she like to eat? So I found Jessica's website.

A must have
Expecting to see a real homely mature woman on the website I was shocked yet delighted to see a beautiful, classy and really young lady. Who said the WI was stuffy?! I discovered Jessica is a freelance food writer. Even more inspired I had the idea of asking her whether she would do an interview for the Vivi blog (hoping I didn't look like a web stalker) and god love her she said yes! Cooking, Classic FM and vintage capes - a woman after my own heart and I kind of want her to be my best friend. (don't freak out Jess, I'm kidding! Sort of...)
Oh so pretty!
So allow me to introduce the gorgeous and talented Jessica Johnson:

VV: Thank you Jessica for partaking in the first Vivi interview. Firstly,What made you decide to become a food writer?
JJ: I love the history of a recipe - it can tell so many stories and offer a wider social perspective of the time it was written. Working at the WI, I started researching old recipes from the archive on my lunch break and then decided to start a blog to bring some of the classics alive.

VV: What is your earliest memory of cooking?
JJ: I did a lot of baking with my Grandma. She had an allotment and was always putting the crops to good use in pies, crumbles and puddings for all of the family. I had my own little rolling pin and she had infinite patience, helping me to roll out the pastry and make my own jam tarts.
Jessica pouring her sis a cup of tea

VV: Have you always cooked and baked?
JJ: Not really. It was only after university that I started getting interested. I lived in Madrid for a year and I guess it inspired me to be more adventurous with my cooking, and my ordering of restaurant food. The Spanish have such a healthy attitude to mealtimes – it’s very ceremonious, with all the family sitting down and sharing some wonderful dishes. The baking was really inspired by my time at the WI – as their staff writer I got to meet some of the most wonderful cooks and bakers across the UK. Always very modest with it!  

VV: How fantastic! So who are your cooking heroes?
JJ: Real home-cooks. Top of the list would be my good friend Sue Ashworth. She’s a first-class home economist and cooks with panache, humour and precision - what she can’t do in the kitchen isn’t worth knowing.

VV: Ooh I wouldn't say no to an invite at chez Sue! Tell us about your involvement with the WI.
JJ: I joined the WI in east London when I moved to the capital in 2007, and days later applied for a job as Staff Writer for their membership magazine. I worked here for over three years, started the blog which then led to the inspiration for the book. Although I’m freelance I continue to be a WI member – after moving south of the River a few weeks ago I’m looking forward to visiting my new WI early next month. It’s a wonderful organisation; steeped in history but going through a really exciting time as more women get inspired to start their own WI and bring traditional skills like sewing and baking back full circle.

VV: I agree wholeheartedly. Your book Vintage Teatime is wonderful. Where did you collect the recipes from?
JJ: Thank you! All the recipes are sourced from the archives of the Women’s Institute including WI cookery books, recipe pamphlets and federation (county) recipes going back to the 1930s. Some were tweaked slightly to bring them in line with modern appliances and measures – it was great fun to research. I decamped to the Women’s Library which holds all of the WI archives and loved every second creating the perfect set of afternoon tea recipes. I wanted to reflect the regional specialities that each federation is famed for, so there’s some Guernsey Gache, Devonshire Splits and – one of my favourites  -the Lincolnshire Plum Bun. Fabulously fruity!

VV: Do you listen to music when you’re cooking or baking, if so what?
JJ: A bit of Classic FM sometimes – but I quite like the peace and quiet!
Doing what she does best 

VV: Me too! God forbid you were on death row, what would your last meal be?
JJ: Fish and Chips from the Magpie Café in Whitby – drenched in vinegar!

VV: Excellent choice - my mouth is watering. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
JJ: Be true to yourself.

VV: Wise words there. Authenticity is a must. A brief detour from the culinary – you’re a very classy and stylish lady. What inspires you fashion wise?
JJ: I used to live in second-hand clothes but now I like to mix it up with contemporary pieces. Autumn is pretty inspiring as I love layering up in tights, dresses, boots and scarves. I also own too many coats so it’s a good time to get some wear out of them. My favourite is a 1920’s tartan-lined ‘nanny’s cape’ from an antiques market in Lincolnshire, complete with toggles and a big hood. I love a hood!

VV: Sounds amazing, I'm very jealous of the cape. So what do you think are the challenges are in a modern world regarding home cooking and have you got any tips for us to overcome this?
JJ: The market is saturated with recipes, TV shows, and book-shelves now heave with new baking and cooking books which can sometimes be a little daunting. I would say don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try out the dishes that really interest you. Cooking or baking one new dish a week – or even month – is a great way to start. Jot them all down and create a little notebook of recipes. My mother-in-law, who lives in Cape Town, has the most gloriously battered book of home recipes – a lot of them have been in the family for quite a few years and they are really cherished.  

VV: Excellent advice. As you say it can feel overwhelming. So what’s next for you, have you plans to write anymore books or do you have other projects in the pipeline?
JJ: My mind is always brimming with ideas and projects - another book would be the literal cherry on the vintage cake!
Who else is drooling at this? Vintage heaven.
Well I don't know about you but I can't wait for another book from this inspiring lady. Read more about Jessica here and follow her blog.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

My Guilty Secret

I won't bore you with the whys and wherefores but quite honestly at the moment I am utterly shattered and have zero energy;  to the point of wallowing in self pity. It's not cool I know and not my usual style but it's had an effect on my weekend cooking. I got around this a couple of weeks ago by cooking in bulk and freezing various meals. Then they ran out.

Just how I feel!
Spending all of Saturday feeling like a zombie and good for nothing I decided I couldn't face the kitchen. Eating out was dismissed since all I wanted to do was curl up on the settee and watch films, a takeaway would have added to the grottiness I already felt and I just craved nice home-cooked comfort food.
No chance of the above happening
So I have something to confess. Deep breath...I bought a ready meal.  This is something I never thought I'd do since I've always thought eating a limp meal from a plastic carton is a dire way to nourish oneself. However this little saviour was a freshly hand made chicken and mushroom lasagne by a company in Kent called Cook. You can buy online but mine was from the Hollies farm shop, Little Budworth, Cheshire. All of their ingredients are fresh so I was happy that I wouldn't be missing out of any energy boosting vits and mins. It even tells you who made it. Lee Plles made mine. I loved the Lord Byron quote on the packaging "Since Eve ate the apple, much depends on dinner."

I just popped it in the oven for an hour and relaxed with a full bodied glass of red whilst watching Strictly (Jerry Hall - hath remained high glamour at all times over the years and never lets us down on that front. I'm sure she's sans surgery too - LOVE HER).

My Saviour
I took it out of the oven to rest for a couple of minutes while I threw a salad together in a bowl. I was mightily impressed - this lasagne was utterly delicious and the texture was a sheer delight.The combo of a crunchy crumble of breadcrumbs and cheese while the oozy white sauce and soft pasta melted in the mouth. Winner. So a top notch nourishing meal with that homecooked result. A bit on the pricey side for your usual ready meal at £6.99 but I'd rather pay a bit more for something that is delicious and good for me rather than a chemical cocktail. Plus its cheaper than a meal out or a takeaway. Of course I shall return to the Vivi kitchen pronto but should I need to have a night off from the stove, I shall purchase again in an emergency. Thank you Lee Plles for making my Saturday night a real treat.
Get on the crumbly cheesy goodness
Sigh. Wish I could eat this again

What's your emergency meal?

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Kitchen Razmatazz

They say we eat with our eyes. Obviously not literally, that would be a bit freaky. Think of the last time you were in a restaurant. Apart from deliberating over the menu, I bet you scanned the room looking at what the other customers had ordered and your pupils dilated with love once you clocked somebody's juicy looking lamb chops and announced "I'm having that!"

I personally believe that the visuals are really important when cooking and eating. I don't mean it has to be of Parisian patisserie artisan standards - if you've cooked with love that will suffice. But some great tableware will really enhance the experience and make your heart all big and fat with happiness when you serve your concoctions.

I have developed a real obsession with bowls recently and wanted to share 3 new additions to the Vivi table. As much as I love vintage china I really don't want to overdo it. I also have a strong penchant for the country home look and find that a fusion of country and vintage works a treat. Or if we're being totally rebellious and doing away with genres and labels basically I love anything colourful and pretty.

I bought the following 2 bowls from Sainsbury's in the sale for £5 each and I'm thrilled to bits with them.

Oh So Pretty

Country Chic
 Stick a chicken/cockeral on a product and I'll whip my debit card out as quick as you can say cock-a doodle doo. The other one is just so feminine and the florals are so heart warming.

The other was a purchase from The Hollies farm shop in Cheshire and HAD to have it since I adore chillies, strong colour and just the whole rustic and Mediterranean vibe.

Feeling hot hot hot!

What's your favourite piece of tableware? Post a comment and share the love.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Fishy Dishy

I'm so loving the autumn so far. Crisp sunny mornings, cosy fires on an evening and lots of lovely seasonal produce to look forward to in the guise of pumpkins, squash and lovely root veg.

The mighty fish pie. It was a real winner
I was looking to make a real heart warming dish yesterday and was toying with the ideas of a casserole or stew but really fancied a fish pie since I realised I hadn't cooked one for months. My oh my, I must admit I was loving my own work! Click here for the recipe but what I think really added to this badboy was the addition of dill, some small pieces of bacon and lime zest and juice.

It's a great dish to make as you can prepare the sauce and mashed potatoes in advance if you're having guests then when they arrive assemble and pop in the oven for 40 minutes.

Oozing dill tastic flavour
I've been known to be bigging up the farm shops on previous blogs since they are really the dogs but I'm not a food snob and sometimes have to rely on le supermarche. Tesco do a mighty fine frozen bag of fish pie mix and I also bought mussels and prawns. The beauty is that you can half the quantities and put the rest in freezer bags and keep for another meal.

So try not to be too sad we've waved bye bye to the summer and get excited for the A/W season of belting produce.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Feed Yo Man

By Thursday that thirst for the weekend is approaching and it has been said many a time that Thursday is the new Friday. Given this situation, Mr Victory was in the mood for something a tad more celebrational. I messed with his heart yesterday as I was toying with the idea of providing a juicy steak but opted for last week's mussel and pasta dish instead.

Mr V in search of real food. The mussels were inadequate

The face of sheer disappointment was crushing so to try and make amends with my gorgeous caveman I threw in some pieces of bacon. It was a lame attempt to correct my faux pas since Mr V adores a steak and I could almost see a cartoon bubble above his head featuring a meat carcass. He's so happy with a meat and bread combo rather than me enthusing about ideas of puy lentils and julienne beetroot.

That's more like it
So I came home armed with 3 ingredients; sirloin steak, a baguette and a bottle of sweet mustard ketchup. While the griddle pan was heating up I chopped an onion and softened it in some olive oil and cooked them until they were caramalised. I then placed the steaks to sizzle in the griddle pan on the highest heat and cooked for about 7-8 minutes as we like them red inside still. I sliced the steaks and piled in the meat, onions and mustard into the baguette and held it shut with a knife for full carniverous caveman effect. Ok I nicked that idea from Jamie Oliver's 30 minute meals.

It felt like a real treat and it was so quick and simple. Yes a bit pricey with the meat and ketchup but cheaper than a takeaway or meal out. Not that us vintage gals need reinforcement that we are the bees knees but making yo man a steak just confirms you're the best thing since sliced beef in his mind.
Meat and bread construction awaiting it's lid
The mustard ketchup is quite simply the nuts. Seriously get some. it's by a company called Tracklements and they sell the most delicious range of sauces, chutneys and pickles. I've got the chilli jam and the dill sauce which is simply divine. You can order online and I'm hyperventilating now I've discovered smoked chipotle salsa which I shall be ordering ASAP. Not to mention pumpkin chutney with orange and chilli. You know it makes sense. Get on it.

Happy weekend.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Vivi's Kitchen Wears

Recently I was with having lunch (roast pork mmmm) with my friends, one of whom provided some feedback on my blog. One of her friends, a fabulous foodie lady mentioned that she's like to see some ensembles from the Vivi wardrobe; showing what I may don whilst cooking, entertaining or shopping for culinary treats.

I always feel that it's important to be receptive to feedback so I have delighted in catering for this request as it gives me the opportunity to talk about another of my loves - dresses and aprons! So here it goes.

This apron makes me feel like a glamorous 50's domestic goddess and enhances the cooking experience tenfold. Feeling cooking your evening meal is a chore? Channel 50's domesticity with one of this pretties and transform the experience! I bought it from the gorgeous Lotty Blue who stocks a wonderful array of aprons which took me hours to decide what to pick. I eventually went for this one and plan to increase my pinny collection in the future.

The dress was a donation from a wonderful  friend of mine and I've worn it to death but feel it complements the apron beautifully. So if there is anything else you'd like me to blog about please let me know. Either leave a comment or you can email me. I'll look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

This week make it your mission to step outside your culinary comfort zone. It can really open up a whole new world. Yesterday Mr V and I had such a wholesome day, Doris Day would have been proud. We went for a lovely bikeride and stopped at my favourite farm shop of all time; Riverside Organics, Whatcroft Farm, Cheshire for Sunday roast bits n bobs. I'll blog about that lovely little place soon but I realised that with a Sunday roast I've been playing it safe by having the same veg as I always do and the beauty about eating seasonally is that you're forced to eat what is provided.

This is why I always get a tingle of joy when I visit R.O because I never know what I'm faced with and I do love a challenge. My eyes twinkled upon the sight of beautiful pumpkins and squashes and I would have bought them to sit on my windowsill as they looked so delightful. However there was only so much room in Mr V's rucksack so we had to get the essentials.

Bow your head in respect of the mighty Romanesco Brock

So to avoid being a bore, I chose 2 new vegetables to tantalise my tastebuds and revive them from complacency. One was a Romanesco broccoli looking mighty and regal and I also chose the real funky kohlrabi. I hadn't a clue what we would do with it but that's half of the fun and really when it comes to cooking the options are mainly to roast, boil, steam, grill, fry or poach. Either choice can't be so bad so after selecting a juicy looking organic beef joint and some soily carrots and spuds we cycled home and whacked on the oven whilst I consulted google for kohlrabi advice. I was none the wiser post research exercise in terms if decision making but thought I'd roast it and see what happened.

Funky or what?
It was really delicious and tasted a bit like a sweet fragrant parsnip. The broccoli looked so pleasant on the plate and the experience made the whole Sunday roast feel like a first date of the meal kind. So this made me realise how abundant our planet is in all of these wonderful offerings and that we should take full advantage of it.

Look at her luscious lips - reminds me of the Munchbunch!
Now I'm not saying you can only achieve this by visiting a farm shop; all supermarkets have cottoned onto the fact we're seeking out more variety and when I lived in a multicultural city in the North I had even more choice as there were some mental looking veggies which made shopping and cooking so much fun.

Sunday Roast - total heaven

So make it your promise you will step outside of your comfort zone, pick something you've never had before and see where it takes you.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Healthy Convenience

So the week continues to be very busy which is again reflected in a once a week blog. This isn't usually how I roll as a twice to thrice a week blog makes my heart happy ideally. Nonetheless I wanted to share with you another speedy meal idea.

I just love mussels and seafood and found a cheat meal for tonight but jujed it to make it an acceptable standard. I bought Sainsbury's Scottish cooked mussels in garlic butter sauce and the beauty of this is that you just boil the pouches in a pan for 5 minutes and sling them in a bowl and dip bread in the sauce. However I fancied a mussel and pasta combo so linguine was the carb of choice.

This retro lady puts me to shame collecting mussels - no  Sainsbo's for her!
I gently cooked finely chopped onion and garlic in olive oil while the pasta was cooking and had a couple of proscuitto ham slices crisping on the grill. I added mushrooms with the onions and 1 tbsp cornflour and stirred until the flour had cooked off then poured the sauce from the mussel pouches into it. The cornflour thickened it a treat and then I added the drained linguine and made sure the sauce coated it all. I chucked in some spinach and  topped with the mussels and crisped up ham. Bit of black pepper and it was a true delight. The mussels are on offer at the moment - 2 for a fiver - get on it!