30 April 2010

Heywood Hill's Bookshop

Heywood Hill

I know what you are thinking...there cannot possibly be another collection of Nancy Mitford letters out there that I don't own. Well...maybe there is.

The Bookshop At 10 Curzon Street may just be my favorite of all the Mitford letter collections. The book features Nancy Mitford writing to Heywood Hill about BOOKS. Oh my! I was reminded of this title this week when I found Frognall Dibdin's Shelves being stocked by his Aunt Helen as Master Thomas is under the weather. (Do hope it is not contagious.) Aunt Helen wrote about Heywood Hill's bookstore which still, by the way, exists at 10 Curzon Street. By the by, if you are in London next week, Alex Maitland will be at the shop on 6th May to sign copies of, and talk about, his new book Wilfred Thesiger in Africa. Another "must have" at Lucindaville, but I digress...

Both Mitford and Hill have gone to that great cocktail soirée in the sky, but thankfully, we still have their letters. I say we pop open a bottle of bubbly this afternoon and have our own cocktail soirée in the library, with our first toast going to Mitford and Hill. Then we can play the Mitford drinking game -- one drink for every Mitford book you have in the library... perhaps not, for many of my gentle readers that could very well lead to alcohol poisoning. OK, just a single glass for ALL your Mitford books.

À votre santé.

28 April 2010

Egg-and-Spinach-Stuffed Meat Loaf

I rarely get a magazine and cook something from it that day, but yesterday I got my copy of Saveur and found a nifty meatloaf recipe from Lobel’s Meat Bible by Stanley, Evan, Mark, and David Lobel. I had most everything I needed to make it, so I set out to give it a try.

It was a detailed recipe to make a "meatloaf" more in the style of a terrine. I was running late so the detailed finesse of the recipe gave way to a rustic twist. Who uses recipes anyway?

Here is the recipe, followed by the lovely Saveur results, followed by a few shortcuts.

Egg-and-Spinach-Stuffed Meat Loaf

3 slices crustless white bread
Kosher salt, to taste
16 oz. spinach leaves, stemmed
12 oz. ground beef chuck
12 oz. ground pork
4 oz. thinly sliced mortadella, minced
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 3 hard-boiled eggs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
Freshly ground black pepper, 
to taste
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup beef broth
1⁄2 cup white wine

1. Tear bread into small pieces and transfer to bowl of food processor. Process until finely ground; set aside. Bring a 4-qt. saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, 15–30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer spinach to a bowl of ice water. Drain spinach and squeeze it with your hands to remove excess water. Set spinach aside.

2. Heat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the beef, pork, mortadella, cheese, rosemary, nutmeg, beaten eggs, garlic, and onions, and season with salt and pepper. Transfer half of the meat mixture to a 9" x 13" baking dish. Using your hands, form meat mixture into a 4" x 8" rectangle about 1" thick. Arrange half of the spinach on top of rectangle in a 2"-wide strip down the middle. Arrange the hard-boiled eggs end to end on top of the strip of spinach, and top eggs with remaining spinach. Using your hands, shape the remaining meat mixture on a sheet of parchment paper into a rectangle roughly 4" x 8" and lay it over the spinach, eggs, and meat. Press the meat gently around the eggs to form a uniform loaf, pinching top half of meat together with bottom half and smoothing any seams.

3. Brush meat loaf with oil and bake for 30 minutes. Pour in broth and wine and continue cooking meat loaf, basting every 10 minutes or so with liquid, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the loaf registers 155°, about 20 minutes more. Using a spatula, transfer meat loaf to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Strain cooking liquid; set aside. To serve, cut meat loaf into thick slices, transfer to a serving platter, and spoon some of the reserved cooking liquid over the top.

I went a bit more rustic, as you can see from the big hunk of onion. I didn't have any mortadella. I couldn't bear to drag out the food processor so I just crumbled my bread, which was a large hamburger bun and roughly chopped everything. When you make the flat layer on the bottom, I find it is easier if you actually pat it flat and then build up the edges so you start with a "troth" for your spinach and eggs. Again, I just patted the top and left out the parchment paper. I have parchment paper, but I was going for the meatloaf of least resistance! So, mine didn't look quite a terrine-y as the Lobe's.

But it was ever so tasty.

27 April 2010

Exiled Collector

William John Bankes by George Sanders, 1812

It is no big secret that I read...a lot. I am a passionate bibliography reader. Why? Because the careful reading of a bibliography is like a treasure hunt. One never knows what truly great books might be found by reading the books the writer read. Of course, it is an addiction, much like gambling, but I don't care.

One such treasure I recently uncovered while reading about Brideshead was this biography of William Bankes by Anne Sebba.

William Bankes was one of those guys who had it all; Egyptologist, traveller, former Tory MP, friend of Lord Byron and oh yeah sodomite. It was that last one that got him into trouble. On 30 August 1841 he was caught in compromising circumstances with a guardsman in London’s Green Park.

In 1841, such shenanigans were punishable by death. So Bankes fled to Venice leaving behind his stately home, Kingston Lacy. Declaring Bankes and outlaw with a vindictive and archaic procedure, the Government was entitled them to seize Kingston Lacy. The seizure, however, didn't keep Bankes' family from living in the house and it never stopped William Bankes from decorating!

Kingston Lacy

Undeterred, William Bankes continued to decorate his house in abstentia. He designed works, commissioned art and architectural designs, oversaw the landscaping and generally ran Kingston Lacy from Venice.

‘The Separation of Night and Day"

The Library features a ceiling fresco by Guido Reni.

The Spanish Room, sometimes called the Golden Room is considered to be the most extravagant room in Kingston Lacy. The walls are hung with Spanish masters, including Velazquez's portrait of Cardinal Massami.

Spanish Room

The walls are hung with gilded leather. The fireplace surround was crafted and shipped in pieces. Many of his architectural designs were commissioned with only a vague reality of size and shape. Many times, designs arrived broken or incorrectly measured, leaving them unusable.

Detail of Spanish Room

William Bankes favorite feature of the house was the 30 foot wide Carrara marble staircase that rises from the entrance -hall to the second floor.


Outside, Bankes planted 731 birch trees as a gift for his mother. The allee features 365 trees on one side, representing a regular year and 366 on the other, symbolizing a leap year. Recently, several of the trees were deemed ill and cut down.

So if you are off to the English countryside and need someplace to visit, might I suggest Kingston Lacy. And yes, grab a copy of The Exiled Collector, you won't be disappointed.

24 April 2010

Guarding Our Egg Inventory

Teddy, having been raised by the chickens, is very protective of the eggs. He watches over them.

Counts them.

And can often be found napping with them.

And, when he is not available, Kitty Carlisle often takes over the watch,
though we have yet to have an egg thief venture into our kitchen.

23 April 2010

Famous Food Friday -- Spécialités de la Maison

Saved from the ravages of discarded cookbook hell, Spécialités de la Maison has been given a new life. Some of us have old, beaten up copies, but if you do not own a copy, you can now get a pristine new copy as the book has been reprinted and featured in the New York Times.

The book was put together in 1940 by the American Friends of France. France had many friends, especially among the rich and famous. Spécialités de la Maison is filled with recipes from Tallulah Bankhead to Vivien Leigh to Katherine Hepburn. The are Hearsts, Vanderbilts and Harrimans and Brooke Astor when she was still Mrs. Charles H. Marshall. Throw in Igor Stravinsky and Cecil Beaton and you have quite a cookbook!

Aldous Huxley's...

Paella a la Valenciana

Pork Sausages
Any fish like fresh cod

This dish is composed of many ingredients. The taste will be richer if all of them are used, but some of them can be omitted if preferred. Cut chicken and pork up small and fry in oil, adding onions, garlic, tomatoes and green peppers. When well fried, add rice (Valencia preferably). Mix well and add boiling water. Cook the fish separately and add parsley, mint leaves and saffron. Add to the first mixture. Add red sweet peppers and peas when rice is half cooked. Artichoke hearts may be added when everything is done. This dish is best cooked in and earthenware casserole, not too deep.

Gogo Schiaparelli's...

La Petite Marmite

3lb.s round beef
Wings and legs of 3 chickens
1/2 lb marrow bone
3 carrots
3 white turnips
3 leeks
A few celery leaves
Salt, pepper, spice to taste

Put the meat and bones in 3 qts. cold water. Skim very thoroughly just before it begins to boil. Add vegetables cut in quarters. Season. Bring to a boil, cover pan, and let simmer very slowly for 4 hours. Take off fat, remove bones. Cut up meat and serve meat, vegetables and bouillon all at once in soup plate.

Noel Coward's...

Filet de Chevreuil

Soak venison filet for 48 hours in a marinade of wine, onions, spices and herbs to taste. Roast it or broil it 20 minutes to the lb.'basting constantly with melted butter mixed with some of the marinade. Reduce the remaining marinade on very hot fire, and add it to the gravy. Bind with yolks of eggs and a few spoonfuls of good mustard.

Let's eat.

22 April 2010

Hamburger Salad

I love hamburgers, but I hate those big slabs of tomato or onion that one often finds slapped on the top. So when I make hamburgers, I like to make a little salad to top it off.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Hamburger Salad

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
4 slices of bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
1/4 cup of mayonnaise

Mix the above ingredients in a small bowl. Top off your burger.

I admit, it is a little messy, but not as messy as when that big ol' hunk of tomato slide off the burger into your hand. Give it a try. You will be a convert!

20 April 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit -- Shaken Not Stirred

Here in Lucindaville, we have been having a James Bond resurgence. Perhaps "resurgence" is the wrong sentiment. Let's just say every time we turn around there has been something James Bond right there in our face, starting with Quantum of Solace which has been on cable pretty much every day for weeks.

Then there was a documentary on Ian Fleming and I must admit I love documentaries more than I love James Bond movies, so I watched it with far more enthusiasm than I watched Quantum of Solace.

Recently, I watched a rerun of The West Wing where President Bartlett made fun of James Bond for ordering his martini, "shaken not stirred" pointing out the shaking chips the ice so Bond was ordering a weak martini.

With all this Bonding going on, it seemed natural that "Cocktails at the Burn Pit" this week would have to be a martini. Those of you who know James Bond know that it was not just any martini that he drank but a Vesper Martini. The Vesper Martini made its debut in 1953 in Casino Royale.
"A dry martini," he said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
"Oui, monsieur."
"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
"Gosh, that's certainly a drink," said Leiter.
Bond laughed. "When I'm...er...concentrating," he explained, "I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."

Bond never patented it. To make one today, you have to be creative as Kina Lillet is no longer made. At Lucindaville, we often rail against the desire to make EVERYTHING sweet and Lillet is no different. In the 1980's the quinine was removed to make Lillet sweeter. If you want a Vesper Martini you will need a skosh of quinine powder to tart up your Lillet.

The Vesper Martini

3 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
0.5 oz Lillet Blanc with a skosh of quinine powder

Shake with ice and strain into a champagne coupe.
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel.

While you are sipping your martini and burning, you will have a chance to ponder the truly interesting member of the Fleming clan -- Amaryllis.

Amaryllis Fleming was Ian's half-sister, whose father was the artist, Augustus John.

Their mother, Evelyn, had a long and tumultuous affair with John and Amaryllis was a grown woman before she found out who her father was. Amaryllis Fleming was a renown cellist. Ian Fleming loved to interject the names of friends into his fiction and his half-sister graced a short stories where Bond muses:

"There was something almost indecent in the idea of that bulbous, ungainly instrument between her splayed thighs. Of course Suggia had managed to look elegant, and so did that girl Amaryllis somebody. But they should invent a way for women to play the damned thing side-saddle."

The "Suggia" mentioned was the Portuguese cellist Guihermina Suggia whose most famous portrait was painted by Augustus John.

Madame Suggia 1920-3 by Augustus John

Today, the New York Times reported that filming of the new James Bond movie was on hold. The article featured a list of things Bond might do during his hiatus, including making crank calls to George Lasenby.

He could always stop by Lucindaville and help burn... we make a great martini.

18 April 2010

Doe Run Farm Three "B" Pancakes

One of the breakfast specialities at Doe Run Farm is Three "B" Pancakes. The 3 "B"'s are:


Yes, we can make pancakes from scratch, in fact, we can make Bisquick from scratch, but on Sunday morning it is just more fun to go with our Bisquick.

Doe Run Farm Three "B" Pancakes

4 slices of bacon
2 cups Bisquick
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy. (Don't burn it! The difference between having all the fat rendered and burnt is the blink of an eye. Be vigilant.) Remove immediately from the fat. Save the bacon grease in a small bowl as you will be using it to cook the pancakes.

In a medium bowl (preferably a batter bowl, a bowl with a spout) mix the eggs and buttermilk followed by the Bisquick and stir till most of the lump are gone. It is pancake batter so there may be a little lump or two, but do refrain from leaving clumps. Crumple the bacon into the batter and mix again, briefly.

Pour the batter into a medium hot skillet as large as you want them, as pancake size is a personal preference. (I use the bacon skillet, but ideally, the best way to cook pancakes is on an electric skillet where you can keep the heat constant and where there is a larger, flat surface. This is recommended if you are cooking for a big crowd. For one or two or three a skillet will suffice.)

You should leave the pancake until bubbles have risen across the surface of the entire pancake. (I must confess, I never wait that long, which is why my pancakes have a mottled appearance instead of a steady golden surface.) Turn the pancakes and give them another minute. Move to a warm plate.

Add additional bacon grease as need to keep the pan lubricated so your pancakes don't stick.

Shortly after this picture was taken, I simply couldn't resist
and turned the pancake before it was truly ready to turn and
it broke because it wasn't ready to turn, but it tasted great.

At Doe Run Farm, we serve our pancakes with homemade jam syrup. Homemade jam syrup is a great way to use that half jar of jam that is cold in the refrigerator and no one want to use because it doesn't spread easily as it did when the jar was first opened. In fact, one of the best ways to start out is to take the jar of jam, fill it to the top with water, recap the jar and shake gently or vigorously depending on how sure you are of the cap. Then just pour the jam water into the pan.

Homemade Jam Syrup

Leftover jam

Take roughly equal parts jam and water. Place in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce until the jam is syrupy. Pour over pancakes.
I love Sunday mornings!

16 April 2010

Dredging the Run

You know what they say, "Life on the farm is kinda laid back..." Clearly "they" never owned a farm. Life on the farm is a lot of work, usually requiring equipment I do not have. So when I needed some dredging of Doe Run, I called on my neighbor, Lynn, who has way more stuff than I have (and who also knows how to keep his stuff running which I often don't, but that is another entry.)

To adequately dredge, the bridge had to be removed.

Not a problem! I was like a big old 5-year-old while all of this was going on. I just ran up and down the bank, watching the big machine dig in the dirt.

After coming up the creek to get to part of the run, there was a minor hose break or leak or something. There is still a bit of dredging to do, but it is looking about as lovely as a Chanel suit!

Even the chicken are loving it.

11 April 2010

The Great Lady Decorators

As I mentioned previously, Friday was a zippy mail day as I received two Birthday presents for last months birthday. The first, from Ann, was a color subscription to Field Notes. The second was from Harry Lowe. It was the new Rizzoli publication, The Great Lady Decorators: The Women Who Defined Interior Design, 1870 - 1955. Oh my, I was so excited. When I opened the box, the book was still in shrink wrap. I must admit there was this moment when I just wanted to leave it that way... but I overcame the desire.

Dorothy Draper

There are the famous and well known.

Ruby Ross Wood

And some interesting but lesser known names.

Eleanor Brown

Great photographs and drawings of interiors.

Rose Cummings

And lots and lots of hats. I propose that more interior designers should sport hats.

Thanks, Harry Lowe! For those of you who don't get birthday presents from Harry Lowe, grab up a copy of The Great Lady Decorators at your earliest. There's Mother's Day and Memorial Day and it is someone's birthday...

Requiescat in Pace -- Dixie Carter

I'm saying this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic.
We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off.
See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people
in your family. They just ask what side they're on.

Julia Sugarbaker, Designing Women

Dixie Carter died yesterday. Carter, like Vivien Leigh before her, brought a great fictional Southern character to life. While Dixie Carter had a brilliant career on the stage and as a cabaret singer, she will forever be remembered as the loyal, compassionate, eloquent, dyed in the wool Southern decorator, Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women.

It was easy to conflate Dixie Carter with Julia Sugarbaker. The portrayal was spot on and a bit unfortunate as Carters effortlessness made the roll seem like no stretch at all. In the hands of lesser actress Julia Sugarbaker might have seems a caricature, but in Carter's hands, she was that woman you always admired and longed, just a bit, to be. In reality, Dixie Carter was not the liberal, enlightened Julia Sugarbaker. Carter's politics would make Sarah Palin look a bit like Jane Fonda. It was said that Carter made a pact with Designing Women creator, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason; she would spout whatever liberal crap Bloodworth-Thomason wrote and in exchange, Bloodworth-Thomason would write a show each season in which Dixie Carter would sing.

On my "Bday" play list on my iPod, I put an audio hijack of Dixie Carter singing on Designing Women. This morning after I heard of her death on the news, I was in the kitchen and instinctively turned on the iPod. There was a brief pause and then, I heard Dixie Carter. Today, she is on the side of the angels.

How Great Thou Art - Dixie Carter

10 April 2010

Field Notes

Yesterday was a zippy day at the Shirley Post Office. Well, for me, anyway. It was cold and rainy and very blah!!! Then I got my mail and found I had TWO Birthday presents... and my birthday was LAST month. So it was zippy and surprising.

The first present and the one I will address today was from my friend Ann. She and I share a common fetish... office supplies. We love office supplies. I will walk past 50 shoe stores to find a great little office supply shop. As for shoes, I have 25 pairs of Converse 'Chucks", which in and of itself might be a bit of a fetish and as for office supplies, those little office supply places have been DECIMATED by the big guys and you know who they are...but I digress...

Anyway... there is this great little on-line office supply place that I adore...

Every season they have a special COLORS Subscription where they make the utilitarian brown Field Notes pads into COLORED ones. These subscriptions are, out of my price range, which is why I was sooooo happy to get a subscription for my birthday (THANK YOU again, Ann.)

So imagine my delight yesterday when a big old cardboard envelope arrived with a Field Notes return address. I carefully opened it and a barrage of office supplies came tumbling out, including....

Two packets of SUNSHINE, the spring color neatly enclosed in two envelopes with the zippyest of string closures that I love. They are getting hard to find because one can no longer send string enclosure envelopes or anything else with string through the postal service. Which I personally believe SUCKS, as there is nothing more fun than receiving a package bound up in lovely waxed twine... but I digress... and I know those big old sorters eat the string and it gums up the works and all that, but still....

Here are the Sunshine booklets with their pale, graph paper interior...

In addition, there were two regular packages of Field Notes including a three pack with plain, graph and lined paper for all your writing needs.

This is great you say, but what shall write in these notebooks with??? Not a problem! Out came a pen and a lovely raw cedar pencil complete with an eraser and yes, AND, a rubber band to keep everything in place.

In addition, there was a Field Notes button and since it was spring, a tiny bag of Marigold seeds for my planting enjoyment. What a wonderful present!

I am off to make notes...

09 April 2010

Requiescat In Pace -- Malcolm McLaren

Another sad day for British fashion... and inventive mayhem!

Malcolm McLaren brought the world the Sex Pistols

Malcolm McLaren was one of a kind... but what kind?

Malcolm McLaren produced my favorite Catherine Deneuve album, Paris.

Malcolm McLaren...Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die.

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