Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A SUMMER LUNCH...



We love to entertain here at home....especially in the summer months, when we can all enjoy the garden too, English weather permitting of course!
  I especially like to mix our children and their partners and friends, with our own friends and just love the dynamics of mixing the generations!

A couple of weeks ago, with twenty-four family and friends due for lunch, it was with happiness and relief that we woke early to blue skies and sunshine!  My plan to seat everyone outside, down one long table was going to work.





With a useful collection of trestle tables that we have to hand, and hired chairs, crockery, cutlery and glassware, lunch on this scale is easily organised....not to mention, the saving on washing up!  (so love our hire company, for collecting everything used!)




Entertaining should be fun and relaxed, especially for those hosting.  Noone enjoys seeing a frazzled host or hostess!   The joy of summer food, especially at lunch, is that it can be served cold and prepared ahead, leaving more time to enjoy the company of guests.  





Having said all this, I have a big confession to make....on this occasion, I cheated!  

Yes, this summer lunch was super relaxing for Mr. W and I, as we enlisted the help of our wonderful daughter Georgie to prepare the food.  As a talented (sorry, proud Mum!) and in demand 'Private Chef' working in London and abroad, (follow her on Instagram @georgies_kitchen) it was such a treat to enjoy her delicious canapés and yummy, fresh and innovative lunch dishes.






Flowers for the table were dictated by what was good for picking in the garden....tall glasses of white Hydrangea and vases of brightly coloured Budlea, Zinnias and  Calendular and a large jug of Lizianthus brightened the table....





White bunting strung beneath the pergola and adjoining gazebo...





A large bucket and jardinieres filled with ice for white wine, rosé and mineral water....relaxed and fun for guests to help themselves.




Simple place cards, attached to freshly picked Rosemary...




For me, the table setting is the fun part!





One of the delicous canapés we enjoyed pre lunch...crab and wasabi mayonnaise with edible violas.





Three of the gorgeous salads to accompany the delicous fillet of beef...











Sadly we were all too busy having fun, to photograph the rest of the delicous food.  I hope to share some of her delicous salad recipes on the blog soon with you though!






We weren't the only ones to enjoy this perfect summer day....there were of course, two very happy dogs who just love having all the family home!

Happy days.....


***

How do you like to entertain family and friends?  Do you have any tips or traditions that you enjoy? I would love to hear!

Wishing you a happy week,

Sophia xx

Wednesday, 24 August 2016





FOR THE LOVE OF.......A FRENCH MARKET!






I am, and always have been, a little obsessed with markets, and especially food markets.

 Since childhood, the array of interesting stalls appearing like magic in the early hours to start market day, has fascinated me.  The gathering of interested shoppers from far and near, the various stall holder characters, the smells and sights and buzzing atmosphere, have all been a curiosity and draw.

Here in the UK, my favourite destination has to be Borough Market in London for foodie heaven and on a much smaller, simpler scale, our little Friday market here in our local Kent market town is part of my favourite weekly ritual, to stock up on beautiful fresh produce, fish, meat, olives, cheese and flowers for the week ahead.   This is of course by far a more enjoyable way to shop than in the supermarket, which I use only for basic essentials, and supports the local community too.  There is a buzz in the atmosphere as everyone flocks to buy from the market, and in turn, our lovely selection of local shops and cafés are rewarded with more custom.


Market square - Aix-en-Provence


When on our travels, the local markets are a priority on my itinerary, even if I don't plan to be cooking at all.  There is so much to be gleaned from local culture by visiting them.  A feel for the people and what they are putting in their baskets tells us so much about their lifestyle. 

Followers of my Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle will know that we have recently been in Aix-en-Provence, visiting my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, at their beautiful home just outside Aix.  
Our few days there fortuitously coincided with market day....perfect timing!







Well, on my 'market barometer' I have to say that Aix's market scores highly indeed!  Stretching out across this beautiful university city, a visual feast unfolds.  A breathtaking array of the freshest produce, brought in from the surrounding Provence region, along with many wonderful local artisan products, including hand made soaps, lavender bags, biscuits, chocolates....I could go on....the list is endless!  Also many clothes and accessories stalls, of which many were selling some very nice quality things, and not just the usual tat!  My lovely neice Zöe (who was our shopping companion) and I, could not resist these fun suede and cotton 'Star' bags!









Aix's beautiful architecture...




Delicious artisan breads....




 A wonderful array of heritage tomatoes...




An amazing selection of different flavoured saucisson...





Oils, vinegars, herbs and spices...








One square alone, showcases the stunning flower market....I could have bought it all,  if my suitcase and BA would have allowed!

We ran out of time on this visit, but look forward to exploring the beautiful city of Aix more in the future.  It is the home of one of my favourite post impressionist painters 'Cezanne', and a visit to his childhood home and studio are most definitely on my list for next time.  

Do you have any favourite markets around the world?  If so, I would so love to hear from you!

***

Bon journée!

Sophia xx





Tuesday, 12 July 2016

A WEEK OF SPECIAL FAMILY TIME IN BEAUTIFUL PUGLIA....




A little over a week ago now, we returned from our visit to the beautiful region of Puglia in Italy.  I had not visited this area before, but had heard such wonderful things about how unspoilt and uncrowded it was compared to other regions.  


Puglia, in the 'heel' of southern Italy, is known for its whitewashed hill towns, many with the most beautiful Baroque architecture.  The surrounding countryside with centuries old farmland growing an abundance of fruit and vegetables, olives and grape vines.  There are also hundreds of miles of stunning coastline.  








Our home for the week was in a beautiful architect designed villa with attached restored historic 'Trulli' which is typical of the area we were in, just outside the delightful town of Martina Franca.  Alberobello and the surrounding Itria Valley nearby is particularly famous for these sand stone or often whitewashed conicular roofed houses, which reminded me of our lovely oast houses here in Kent.





Set amongst olive groves on quiet dry stone edged lane within peaceful countryside, our interesting home away from home for the week, was the perfect place to switch off and relax 'en famille'.  With our three 'grown up' children having left home now, it was a particular treat to get to spend special time with them away from their busy London lives.







Some evenings, but usually lunch was spent exploring Martina Franca's beautiful marble streets, and array of wonderful little family owned restaurants...




...and most evenings at our beautiful villa, where we could all relax and have fun.  The only sound to be heard was of the grasshoppers in the olive groves, our music playing without disturbing a soul, and much chat and laughter and the clinking of glasses!




We are all true foodies in our family, so the lure of the wonderful local markets was irresistible.  Fabulous fresh produce and seafood to take back with us for dinner in the evenings.   Puglia is particularly renowned for its amazing tomatoes and burrata cheese, which we ate in abundance!










We are very spoilt to have a 'Professional Chef' in the family! Thank you to my lovely daughter Georgie for all the delicious dishes you prepared....


...also to my lovely boys who too are very keen and accomplished cooks, and took great command over the bar-b-q and fantastic outside kitchen!
Holidays really are an opportunity to have the time to get creative and prepare uncomplicated but delicious food, especially when it is outside and in such relaxed and beautiful surroundings.   Having said that, Mr. W and I got very little look in on that front, and just sat back and enjoyed the pleasure of being cooked for!









High on our list of favourite places in the region was 'Lecce', just an hour's drive south.  Described as 'Florence of the South' for its numerous examples of baroque architecture, the uncrowded streets brought a beautiful suprise around every corner.  Ending with a fabulous lunch in one of the many fantastic little restaurants tucked down these gorgeous historic streets.










Another amazing place of interest was 'Alberobello' near Bari.  Although a little touristy and busier compared to other areas, we are glad we visited just to see the extraordinary array of 'Trulli' buildings which have made this small town a Unesco World Heritage site since 1996.











A day on the coast at a relaxed little beach bar and seafood restaurant, with swimming off the rocks, was truly magical.  





Our last night came around far too soon, as with any happy holiday....











As Mr. W and I reflected on our happy week, we felt very blessed to have spent such a special time with our brood.   





Puglia lived up to all expectations.  As well as the beautiful unspoilt countryside, coast and historic towns, the people were just lovely....so warm, friendly and welcoming and with an appreciation of the important things in life, which is all about family, good food, and life's simple pleasures.... and I couldn't agree more! 

***


Sophia xx


PS.  For a daily dose interiors, gardens, food, travel and lifestyle, follow me on Instagram @sophiahomelifestyle