Tuesday, 17 January 2017


PUPPY LOVE...


Happy Tuesday everyone, and I hope your week is going well?

Firstly I have to say that today's little post comes with a warning....it contains rather an overdose of doggie cuteness!

ALL PHOTOS: SOPHIA HOME


Followers of this blog, will know that there are two important members of our household, namely Rocco our 14.5 year old Labrador and Kiki our 13 year old Cocker Spaniel.  Both quite elderly now, but pleased to say, still in reasonably good health and enjoying life.


We have been toying with the idea of getting a new little addition to our canine family for a while, and somehow now seems the right time.  Quite what our doggie pensioners will think of a puppy in the house, well who knows?  Hopefully after the initial shock, they will grow to love her? Fingers crossed!
A miniature smooth haired Dachsund was our choice.  Small, manageable and loyal with big personalities and the energy to enjoy long walks in the countryside seemed the perfect characteristics. Stubborn with training also cropped up...but ask me again in a few weeks!  

What we hadn't appreciated, was just how fashionable these little dogs are, and a combination of being very particular on breeder and litter, proved an intensive search and we had to be vigilant to available puppies being advertised. The Kennel Club came up trumps though, and I would recommend to anyone, to always go down this route when choosing a pedigree puppy.


ALL PHOTOS: SOPHIA HOME


So here is where our search took us....to these gorgeous little bundles of joy.  Two chocolate and tan girls and three black and tan boys, just five weeks old.  I think you can tell that daughter Georgie and I were fairly besotted to say the least!







We were particularly impressed with 'Mum' Rosie...such a sweet, friendly temperament and she seemed only too happy to show off her beautiful babies to us.  This along with the background and conscientiousness of the lovely breeder Lyndsey,  made us all the more happy about this particular litter.  All very important factors to take in to account when choosing a new puppy.


What wasn't quite so easy, was actually choosing which puppy?
  Quite honestly, we could have very happily taken them all home with us!








Here she is though....this is little 'Delilah', who will be coming home to live with us in just three weeks time.   



Such a sweetie, and we can hardly wait to welcome her.  No doubt you will be seeing plenty of her in the future!

***


Have a lovely rest of the week...

Sophia xx

Friday, 13 January 2017

SNOW CALLS FOR SOUP...


MORNING VIEW - PHOTO 'SOPHIA HOME'



What is it about even the slightest sprinkling of snow, to bring out the child in us?  It was with much excitement that I opened the shutters this morning, to see a light dusting of snow covering the garden and fields beyond.  Mr. W was less impressed with the thought of possible disrupted trains to London, but for a home based designer and blogger like myself, a day working at home was going to only be enhanced by being surrounded by this pretty winter wonderland.


KITCHEN GARDEN - PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


My poor kitchen garden and greenhouse looked a little cold and sad this morning, and it is hard to believe that in just a few weeks, it will be all go in here with much preparation and planting to do.  

However, look a little closer and there is life in here!  We have leeks and kale to enjoy at the moment, and these beautiful 'Marveille de quatre saisons' lettuce.  Whether the latter will stand up to this snow and cold temperatures I'm not sure, but they are incredibly hardy and as their name suggests, they really are a marvel to grow all year round!



PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME




Another great success this year has been growing Brussel Sprouts, which is encouraging as it is the first time I have grown them. Love them or hate them?  Personally I love them!  If you are not so keen, just try and think of them as 'mini cabbages' and roast them or stir fry them with bacon or chorizo and maybe chestnuts or pine nuts.....a complete revelation! 


PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Like a number of winter vegetables, sprouts benefit from a cold snap and this brings out their sweet nuttiness beautifully.  



PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Followers of my instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will know that last week I tested out a delicious recipe for 'Brussel Sprout, chorizo and chestnut soup' which I can confirm was SO delicious!  It is the perfect winter warmer, and bar the small amount of chorizo (an essential addition!) which adds a wonderful rich and spicy kick, it is super healthy and perfect for all those good intentions for the new year.                                                                                                                                                                                                 




PHOTO: SOPHIA HOME


Sadly I forgot to take a photo of the end result, but trust me, it's delicious, so do try it!


INGREDIENTS:

400g Brussel sprouts, trimmed
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 bay leaf
100-150g cooking chorizo chopped
1 tsp group cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
Leaves from 2 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, in two equal piles
2 large tomatoes or 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
500g cooked peeled chestnuts, vacuum-packed 
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


METHOD:

Separate the sprouts into two equal piles.  Cut one portion into halves and finely shred the other and keep separate.

In a large saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the onion and carrots until they start to brown.  Add the bay leaf and chorizo and continue frying for another few minutes.

Now add the halved sprouts, the cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika, rosemary and half the garlic and stir for another minute.  Next add the tomato, chestnuts and stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Use a hand blender or food processor to blitz the soup but don't make it too smooth - some texture is good.  Reheat in the pan, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  When the oil is hot, throw in the remaining garlic and the shredded sprouts and stir fry for a minute or two until the sprouts are just tender and bright green.

Stir through the soup just before serving, saving a spoonful to garnish each bowl.


****


Bon appétit!





With more snow forecast, do stay safe and warm.   I have a new delivery of seed catalogues, and shall be doing just that, and dreaming and planning for Spring, which really is not too far away.

Happy Friday!

Sophia xx

Thursday, 29 December 2016


A LOVELY POST CHRISTMAS LULL....




I am writing this last blog post of 2016, in the lovely post Christmas lull before the New Year weekend.  Christmas has been a very happy time, with all our brood home for some, if not all of these days, and the house has been filled with music, laughter and fun.  




These few in between days have always been my favourite.  A nice mix of seeing friends with their families, easy meals with the delicious leftovers, plenty of walks in the fresh air, and time to just kick back with good books and films.




This is also a time to reflect on the past year, and to plan projects for the new year to come.  I have much that I want to share with you all in 2017, and along with my design work, I plan to spend more time working on the blog.  It has been a little neglected, particularly due to our travels (Thailand post coming soon!) so watch this space!









I do hope you have all had a very happy Christmas, and that you too are enjoying the last few days of 2016?





So from my home to yours, may I wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year, and thank you so much for reading 'Sophia Home'.





With love,
Sophia xxx



Thursday, 24 November 2016


FORAGING FOR TREASURE...








On a beautiful sunny and crisp Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, Mr. W and I made our way to a 'secret location' in Sussex to meet foraging expert Melissa and her two truffle hounds Zeb the Labrador and Ella the Cocker Spaniel.





Our treasure hunting was of course for Wild Truffle!  While French and Italian truffles are famous, English truffles are less well known but still prized for their culinary value.  It was black truffles that we were searching for, and this beautiful beach forest with its chalky soil, promised a good chance of success.





Truffles are a type of fungus that attaches itself to the root systems of certain trees, with both truffle and tree relying and benefitting from one another.  




Melissa explained to us the importance of respecting the ecosystem and not over foraging any one area.




These beautiful dogs have been trained from first born, to recognise the smell of truffles.  Within no time, they were both enthusiastically sniffing around and obviously loving their environment.




After a short while, Zeb the Labrador was concentrating on one spot and pawing the ground. We were told to be quick to stop him before he ate any prized truffle....apparently his favourite treat!






Carefully scraping the earth away, we could not believe what was there....an exciting moment to find that first treasure.





This one was a beauty and a very good size!





Next was little Ella the Cockerspaniel, who had a different style of hunting.  When on the scent, she would dig enthusiastically and then look towards her mistress to signal having found something.  It really was fascinating to watch!







A happy few hours passed, walking in the winter sunshine, and taking in a lunch time picnic.   




Happy dogs enjoying their day too.









An informative and fun day in beautiful countryside and feeling close to nature...






And as we made our way back to the cars, thoughts turned to what we were going to cook with our tasty truffles.  Quite a haul which was divided between the five of us.




A day in the fresh air with plenty of exercise, certainly builds up the appetite!  It was a treat to put my feet up and watch my boys cook for me.... 




And the mushroom and truffle pasta was absolutely delicious!


***

Sophia xx

PS.  If you are interested in joining Melissa on one of her truffle or mushroom hunting courses, she can be contacted via the website at www.truffleandmushroomhunter.com

Thursday, 3 November 2016

CANAPÉ INSPIRATION...


Cucumber, horseradish, crab and pickled daikon




With Christmas and the festive run up to it just a few weeks away, many of us may be looking for  food and entertaining inspiration.

Whether for the big day itself, or if you plan to have a few friends and neighbours in for drinks in December, it is always lovely to make guests feel welcome with a little something delicious with drinks, other than the standard bowl of crisps or nuts!  I personally always feel particularly welcome when a host has made that little bit of effort with something yummy and appealing to the eye on first arrival.  It keeps hunger at bay over drinks, and certainly sets the tone for what is to come.


Watermelon and miso prawns with edible viola flowers. 


With a daughter who works as a private chef, I am constantly inspired by the food she produces.  Every time I get in a 'cooking rut' (does anyone else feel like that at times?!) I call her up to inspire me and get me out of my predictable cooking zone and try something new or that little bit more imaginative. 

Canapés are Georgie's favourite things to prepare for client parties and certainly my favourite thing to eat.  In fact I could possibly live on them!

Delicious little morsels of one bite heaven that look visually lovely too.  Here are a few ideas, created by Georgie, to whet your appetite....




Crab and chipotle tacos. 


 I shall certainly be incorporating one or two of these gorgeous ideas on the big day itself instead of a starter.  (or maybe just cheekily cheat and get 'darling daughter' to whip them up?)  Perfect of course with a glass of something cold and bubbly!



Sweetcorn frittas with guacamole and seared sashimi tuna, with red amaranth.



Crab, horseradish and cucumber gazpacho toasts.




Truffle crostini with celariac remoulade and lightly seared fillet of beef.



Mini poppadums with sweetcorn chaat, tandoori chicken and micro coriander.





Beetroot macaroons, goats cheese mousse and micro mint.



Here below, Georgie has passed on the recipe for these delicious 'Carrot and cumin frittas' with goat's cheese, pine nut and dill.  Thinking about it, they would have been perfect for recent Halloween, as they remind me of little mini pumpkins....next year!





Ingredients:

3 carrots
1 egg
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp plain flour

Dip:
1 log of soft goat's cheese
1 tbsp greek yoghurt
50g toasted pine nuts
1 handful chopped dill


Method:
Grate carrots or shred in a food processor.  Mix carrots with all other ingredients and mould in small rounds.  Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and cook until golden, turning to cook evenly.  Mix the dip mixture in a food processor and place a small amount on each of the warm fritters.  Garnish with a little dill and edible viola flowers.


Healthy and delicious...
Bon appétit!

Sophia xx


Ps.  For more food inspiration, or to make an enquiry, check out 'G's Kitchen' on Instagram @georgies_kitchen



Monday, 24 October 2016


EMBRACING THE NEW SEASON...





As wonderful as this past summer has been, I am loving the change in the seasons.  Autumn to me is one of the loveliest and I am embracing all that it brings.

We have been working hard in the garden, generally tidying and putting things to bed.  The fun part for me is always the change of planting in my pots and planters, bringing a new theme for the time of year.  Beautiful 'Crown Prince' Pumpkins and pink and white Heathers are always an October favourite, along with squashes and colourful, decorative gourds.















White cyclamen too make their way in to both inside and outside planters ...






This month we have been harvesting the wonderful glut of red grapes from our pergola vine and enjoying them particularly with yoghurt for breakfast each morning....leaving plenty of course for the birds to enjoy.






Onions and chillies have been in abundance!  This is just a small selection of what we have grown, enough to last us all year.  All keen cooks will know how many one can easily get through...the basis for many a recipe!  Onions are stored in airy baskets in the cool of the shed, and chillies I have dried overnight in the warming oven of the Aga.





Aubergines were the surprise at the end of the summer!  Having thought that they were going to be a complete disappointment due to late planting, hidden below the leaves were a lovely crop of medium sized aubergines with the most wonderful taste and texture.  I shall definitely be growing more next year.





The last of the courgettes, beetroot, carrots, and beans have been enjoyed, and we are now looking forward to enjoying the next crop of all year round lettuce, kales, purple sprouting broccoli, spinach, celariac and brussel sprouts.  In previous years the winter veg has been slightly forgotten, but with a new effort in planning and planting earlier this year, I have high hopes for this winter!



The dogs and I have been enjoying the most glorious daily walks. Blessed with many sunny days recently, our lunch time walks are a welcome break in the day, away from my desk working and daily routine.  



We are very fortunate in our little corner of rural Kent, to be surrounded by beautiful unspoilt countryside.  





Our favourite walk is through the ancient woodland that borders our land...















A haven for wildlife and the perfect place to switch off and reflect on the changing season...














A change in the weather calls for a change in meal planning here at home.  Who doesn't love the chance to indulge in warming, healthy soups and casseroles.   Local game is bountiful too, and I am keen to try a few new recipes this Autumn which I look forward to sharing with you soon.




Friends and family over for relaxed meals is always enjoyable....




... as are cosy nights in with no plans,  in front of the fire or with a good book or movie.  













The clocks may be changing this weekend, but the earlier darker evenings won't be dampening my spirits!







Tell me, do you love this time of year too?  What do you enjoy especially to welcome in this beautiful time of year?

Wishing you a happy week ahead...

Sophia xx