Friday Foodie: The Vanilla Bean Blog


I really love sourcing these Friday Foodie posts. There are so many fabulous cooks out there making such stunning and creative efforts with the food they’re cooking, the images they’re snapping and the words they’re penning. Or typing! The Vanilla Bean Blog is a case in point. Once a professional but self-taught baker, Sarah Kieffer left work to be a full time mother, which, you know, happens. In doing so, she slowly came to the realisation as she herself surfed food blogs, that she was lacking a culinary story, a kitchen journey.

There were no family recipe books passed down, filled with recipes known, made and devoured with love by those who had tied on apron strings and leaned over simmering pots before her, and before, and before. So Sarah decided this would start with her and that her children would have family food to turn to, and familiar recipes to make. There’s not much to beat that and I for one salute her efforts!

Kieffer also encourages guest posts which really shakes things up and some of the ideas that come via her internet-working are truly delicious as well. There are great quotes to read and ponder and I know you’ll love it.

As always I try to find food that would work just as well around a campfire, over hot coals or camping stove. These are my favourites:

This peanut butter granola with cacao nibs and bittersweet chocolate, recipe here, would be great to make ahead and take for an early breakfast!


Warm lentil salad with cherries, pistachios and goat’s cheese, recipe here. Can you imagine this alongside some BBQ’d chicken or a side of salmon?


And to seriously inspire your fellow campers to get into the day, try this einkorn dutch baby with maple-bourbon peaches, recipe here. I mean, how enticing does that sound?!

And I love a nutty wild rice salad, recipe here. They’re great to make ahead and are ready to go as soon as all the tents are up, the campfire lit and the sausages are cooked. Visit Kieffer’s blog. I know you’ll become fans.


All images via The Vanilla Bean Blog, with thanks.

Camping Gear: Wooden Spoons, Boards & Knives by Ariele Alasko


Obviously, when it comes to choosing what to take on a camping trip, most of us are seriously tempted by the convenience of employing paper plates, foil platters and plastic cutlery. Pretty understandable really. But I detest eating off paper plates and as for cutting into a delicious steak with a teeny, plastic knife? Hmmmm. As I’ve done more camping over the years and got better at packing less, I’m also getting good at carefully choosing some more weighty cooking kit that is much more of a pleasure to use. Like my favourite enamel platter which can carry a whole BBQ-load of steaks and sausages from campfire to table; or my hefty folding picnic knife. Even a wok-shaped pan which can handle more bacon than you would ever think possible at breakfast time, and then heat enough curry to feed 10 adults at dinner. These things are now packed each and every time we head off camping.

The niceties of taking things that actually work when you’re camping, despite the space they might take up, speak for themselves. What I didn’t realise is that it kind of works in reverse too. When I use those bits of kit at home on a rainy London Monday, my mind wanders off to the time I held on to them while standing next to a crackling campfire knowing I was about to make lots of hungry campers happy. I get a smile on my face every time I pull out the two steel cake cooling racks that enabled me to make the best BBQ’d salmon with crispy skin ever. It’s these kinds of moments that get a girl through Winter. Seriously, they’re needed. And as I build up my collection of kitchen kit and try and invest in smart, long-lasting bits of kitchenware that will work for years, I can even stretch to thinking about how much joy they’ll also bring my boys when they get older, as they too remember all the adventures we had together.



And that brings me to Ariele Alasko and her ridiculously gorgeous spoons, knives and boards. Alasko is a Brooklyn-based furniture builder and woodworker and she sells her pieces via her online shop. She works with plaster lath, the small strips of wood that come from the old walls of hundred-year-old brownstones in Brooklyn that are constantly being gutted. She collects the materials, cleans it, and uses the wood’s natural coloration and patina to create intricate patterns in her work, without the use of any stains. Every piece is hand carved by her in her little studio.


So highly prized are her pieces, that when you do visit her online store, you’ll likely find everything has been sold already. But follow her on instagram and read her blog and you’ll know as soon as there is a spoon or a butter knife up for grabs. Or try your luck in one of her numerous, generous giveaways!

These are pieces that will last you a lifetime and land a smile on your face every time you toss a salad or spread some butter on a piece of warm damper fresh off the campfire. And for a long, long time after that too.


All photographs by Ariel Alasko


Camping Gear: Barocook

You know how when people start sentences with, “In my day …..”, what they really mean is that we’re all useless wimps. We’d be without a chance of survival in their day, because we simply can’t tough it out through life without all the little gadgets and gizmos that have swept the net (and yes, we require that now too). And I agree! Honestly. These wonderful innovative goodies we all have to have just improve morale, don’t they? I mean life is hard enough, why make it as darn hard as it used to be?! It’s called evolution.

And so to Barocook. Made for those times when all the usual charms of camping and trying to light soggy firewood with frozen fingers have appeared as they really are. When all you want to do is to click two tent pegs together and find yourself back at your local, glass of wine in hand.


Barocook is a cooking system that doesn’t require well, cooking! Some seriously clever Koreans have come up with a system capable of heating water just shy of boiling. Without fire.baracook-3

A BPA-free plastic exterior houses the interior stainless steel container in which food is cooked. Between these two containers is where the magic happens. Combine water and one of Barocook’s heating packs to start the heat reaction. You’ll have boiling water in between five and 10 minutes—depending on the weather. The heating packs are non-toxic and the cooking is done by steam, so it’s healthy for you and the environment. You can order Barocook from Amazon in the US. Prices start at $US58.

And that’s how it’s done in my day.

Camping Gear: Enamel Camping Cups by TMOD


It’s been a while since I posted, I know. But I’m swinging back into gear for a great 2014 of camping inspiration for us all so do stay tuned! I decided to kick start the year on campfirestyle with these great camping cups by TMOD. Designed in Australia by Sydney artists Georgie Swift and Milenka Osen, just one look at them made me want to throw the camping stove in the back of the car and head into the wilds of wherever for a cup of tea.


TMOD stands for Turn Me On Design, as the original idea was to design lighting. But they were soon distracted with plans for interactive stationery and jewellery pieces that have now developed rather a cult following. Before long, there were other lifestyle pieces as well. But I love the idea behind these dual-purpose mugs. Once you’ve polished off your coffee or hot choccy, you can follow the instructions and pop up a teepee, make a daisy chain or whip up some damper.

daisy.conceptcup.daisychain.frontcup.daisychain.backThink about what a great gift they would make for a camping buddy. A mug and everything they need follow the instructions on the sides. Nice.


There’s also one with a guide to the Southern Cross, another with instructions for tying a reef knot and a great one for spotting a rip off the beach. Possibly things you’d need more on an Aussie camping trip, but hey, they’ll sure make you look like a tough, well-travelled camper wherever you light up your campfire. Check out TMOD for more. The cups are $AUD14.50 each. Love them!

Thrifty Thursday: Cocktail Hour with The Mason Shaker by W & P Design


It’s time to bring cocktail hour to the campsite. And seriously, why the hell not? The days are long and busy and what better way to fill that funny time after lunch and before dinner than with a cheeky cocktail or two? And this Mason Shaker is the perfect piece of cocktail kit. Designed by W&P Design, a Brooklyn-based firm run by two Southern boys who happen to be best friends. Together they create products inspired by their combined love of vintage Americana, southern sensibility and New York industrialism.


It’s these “sensibilities” which led to the creation of their fabulous Mason Shaker – a product that naturally came about when Josh’s obsession with vintage kitchenware collided with Eric’s “uncanny ability to fashion impromptu drinking tools at a moment’s notice”. Love it! So, as the story goes, “after one too many mint juleps poured from a poorly-modified Mason Jar one summer, the idea for a better (and cooler) cocktail shaker hit us like a double shot of bourbon.”

masonshaker_1masonshaker_2It’s $US29 and you can order yours from here. Just promise me you’ll check out the fab cocktail accessories here too!

And even though it’s Thrifty Thursday, you could quite justifiably convince yourself to stretch to their divine Cocktail Kit, perfect for cocktail hour around the campfire.

cocktailkit_1cocktailkit_2The Cocktail Kit has everything you need for shaking up drinks on-the-go, all packed in it’s own custom W&P Canvas + Leather Mason Bag (in navy or white) to carry it all.  The Kit includes the bag, a Mason Shaker, a Muddler, Jigger, four Linen Cocktail Napkins and four Glass Picardie Tumblers. It’s $279 and you can order it here.

Hey, it’s always cocktail hour somewhere …     

Breakfast: Campfire toast with Tomato, goat’s cheese & honey

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast. It’s a big deal. Especially now, when we’re all girding our loins and building our energy levels in time for Back-To-School-Wednesday. This one may help. I literally just finished these and had to jump straight online – they are that delicious. And super simple. And very fetching!

I saw these on a lovely foodie blog called Love & Lemons. She used feta though, but ever since I had my kids, that cheese and I don’t seem to like each other so much. Weird I know. Anyway, slice the best tomatoes you can find (I used red heirloom and yellow cocktail tomatoes) and top with goat’s cheese and fresh basil. Then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, honey and a little black pepper. I’m planning one more camping expedition this month as we’re apparently in for an Indian Summer (fingers crossed) and these are definitely on the menu.


mini cooper goes camping

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Mini Cooper has joined the European Summer fun by exploring the idea of a range of camping concepts designed with music festival fans in mind calling them “premium home-from-home options for the enthusiastic traveller”.

The first is the Mini Countryman All4Camp. A nifty pop-up roof-top tent that sits atop an all wheel drive SUV.

My favourite is probably the Mini Cowley caravan with it’s rather sophisticated wood-lined interior, double bed, fan, television, stereo and sliding windows for taking in festival views. It’s also got a kitchen in the back with a twin-burner cooktop, power points, sink and fridge. Classy stuff. I could be seriously comfy in there. The other option in the series is the Clubvan Camper which has a single berth sleeper and a slide-out kitchenette with a bar fridge and cooker that I’d happily slide in the boot of my car.

mini 6mini 5mini 4mini 9mini 3mini 2

Currently this is nothing more than a very indulgent conceptual excercise for Mini. Shame, for all of us who would be happy to snap one up for this hottest of Summers!

A Little Camping Inspiration


©FetePressIMG_5258-1Winter camp-outs in the UK are unthinkable to fair-weather campers like myself. I mean I can take rain, a little wind and I’ve even survived sub-zero nights on a few of my camping trips. In Australia things are never brutal enough to completely cure one of the lure of a campfire. [In fact Winter down under can be relatively similar to Summer up here… but I won’t complain after the sunny weekend London finally pulled off!!!]

Anyway, this call-of-the-campfire is beautifully brought to life by Jane Cameron in fête magazine. Once a graphic designer, Cameron left to establish her own stationary business before following her creative heart and launching her lifestyle publication in collaboration with event planner and stylist Annabelle Kerslake. They’re ideas are wonderfully inspiring, money-mindful and exquisitely executed. Enjoy their take on on a charming chilly camping trip. All recipes are in the current issue of  fête. 




01instagramAs someone who started life in magazine publishing, I have greeted the move to digital with some hesitation. Does anything really beat the smell of newsprint, the joy of flicking pages in a newly delivered magazine, relaxing by a campfire with a book in your hands, or going through old photo albums? I have loads of photos I barely look at because they’re all on my iPhone or my iPad or my iWhatever …. Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted about an Australian company who will print your Instagram images in gorgeous retro-style prints, Origrami. Well, I’ve just discovered an American company, Artifact Uprising who are doing the same. Inspired by the “disappearing beauty of the tangible”, the options they offer are just stunning. Hard and soft cover books, print sets and calendars. Sophisticated, elegant and beautiful, they’re a gorgeous way to keep your Instagram images out in the open. My favourites are the wooden boxes made with Colorado Beetle Kill wood. This means only wood from trees that have fallen due to nasty pine beetles is used. It’s a beautiful greyish-blue colour which serves as a soft backdrop for your images and keeps healthy trees safe. And the boxes hold all the books they make too. Prices start at just over a US tenner. Aren’t you tempted?