British Reserve

How does an American make friends in England?

No, seriously.  I’m asking.  Because I’m still figuring it out.  When you’re Kardashian loud and an oversharer who doesn’t really drink, making friends in the U.K. can be tough.

Which is why I have written a piece about it for The Pool.  One of the biggest challenges for me has been British reserve–i.e. people keeping to themselves and not saying what they mean (unless drunk).  That said, I’ve persisted and made some really lovely friends.  You can read about it here.

What to Watch on Your Sofa . .

FUNNY-FACE-American-Poster.jpeg.pagespeed.ce.zRojtLRAK0 has a culture section on its website called Inspiration Corner.  As you would guess, all the essays are sofa or furniture related.  I have recently written one about what to watch on your sofa with your princess obsessed childparticularly when Frozen has left you cold.  For me, the answer was Funny Face.

Please have a read and let me know what you think.  I would also love to know what you like to read, watch, or listen to on your sofa.


Auntie Marianne

Last Thursday, Auntie Marianne died.  Technically she was was my husband’s aunt, but I felt like she was mine.  The moment I married into the family she welcomed me with open arms.  At the end of every letter she sent or phone call we had, she told me she loved me and I could feel it.  It was genuine.  While her affection didn’t make me forget about my loved ones 5,000 miles away, it did make me feel like they’d be happy knowing I had her looking after me.  She made my life in London less lonely.

I once described her as having the diction of a Mitford and better posture than the Queen.  It’s true.  She absolutely did.  She was extremely grand.  That said, she loved champagne and potato chips on the sofa at home as much as she did high tea and caviar at The Wolseley.

Auntie Marianne was a stickler for manners.  The fact that my three year-old said please and thank you and knew the difference between can and may made her very happy.  The fact that she also knew how to cut her food with a knife and fork made her beam.

Lessons I already knew but were very important to Auntie: 1) Always write thank you letters.  2) Never show up to anyone’s home empty-handed.  3) If you’re going to get pre-packaged croissants, M&S is better than Waitrose.  4) Always take all the small buds off freesias and spray carnations to get better blooms.

Things I’ll miss about Auntie:  1) The way she’d greet us with an enthusiastic “Hello, my darlings!” whenever we reached her flat at the top of the stairs.  2) The smell of her Bvlgari perfume when she’d give me a hug.  3) Sharing a pot of coffee with her in the Spy Room at Durrants Hotel before lunch and shopping on Marylebone High Street.  4) The way she’d get excited about warm flat bread from the Turkish shop. (Also the way she’d get excited when her horse won the races!)   5) Basking in the sun with her on her roof terrace whilst summer breezes carried the scent of her roses down the street.  6) The way she knitted clothes for my daughter and her toys.  7) The smell of her house when she was making chutney.  8) The way she always listened to jazz.  9) The way she listened to me.  10) The way she never considered me anything less than family.

The last time I saw Auntie Marianne, she was in the hospital but I made her laugh really hard.  I am so glad because that’s exactly how I want to remember her.  Happy and laughing.  Always.

Rest in peace, Auntie, and tell Uncle Peter we miss him.  I promise to keep your best recipes alive.  I love you.

Baby Auntie in Scotland.

Baby Auntie in Scotland.

white rose red rose pink rose white flowers

Auntie smiling down at baby Helenaauntie holding marianne  auntie smiling at helena

Auntie's recipe for pickled onions.

Auntie’s recipe for pickled onions.

Auntie's recipe for Armenian lamb stew.

Auntie’s recipe for Armenian lamb stew.

nora mouse and LB button and LB rabbit, otter, and LB

Auntie Marianne and Uncle Peter.

Auntie Marianne and Uncle Peter.

Gypsy Punk Peppers

Yes, I’m talking about stuffed peppers, but if I called them that would you read this post?  Probably not.  I certainly wouldn’t.

Stuffed peppers have a bad rap.  They smack of 1970s dinner party.  Especially when served on brown Denby plates like the ones we’ve got.  And they’re exactly what you imagine a chiffon clad, Singapore Sling swilling, Margo Leadbetter from The Good Life would have insisted her caterers serve after reading about them in The Lady.  Stuffed peppers are démodé.  Perhaps that’s why I love them.

The other day someone I know posted a photo on Facebook and wrote, “You know you have a good Armenian wife when you come home to dolmas.”  Though I’d never heard of dolmas, I knew I wanted a taste.  I immediately started researching and was a bit taken aback when I realized the peppers I was drooling over were indeed very similar in construction to the nasty, season-less, stuffed peppers I refused to eat as a child.

Dolma.  Dolmeh.  Sarma.  Kidonato.  Whatever you want to call it, people have been stuffing fruits and vegetables for ages.  From the Greeks who lived in Constantinople to present day grandmothers in the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Levant, and Russia.

Below is my recipe for peppers filled with seasoned rice, lamb, and beef.  I serve it with a yogurt sauce.  Would I say it’s Armenian, Persian, Turkish?  I don’t know but it sure is delicious and when I eat it it makes me want to whirl around the Wallachian hillside to the sounds of an accordion and a furious violin in between sips of amber Georgian wine.


8 medium sized sweet peppers

1 small green bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup mixed rice and bulgur wheat (the rice I use is Camargue red)

800g mixed lamb and beef mince

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped + some extra for garnish

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more depending on how much heat you like)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

the juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crushed tomatoes

roughly 500ml beef stock

olive oil

Yogurt sauce = 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1 small garlic clove grated


First things first.  Wash, dry, and hollow out your peppers.  Then place them in a large pot that has a bit of olive oil on the bottom.

hollowed out peppers

Sauté the chopped green pepper, onion, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.

sauteed vegetables

When they have softened, put them in a large bowl.  Add the rice and wheat, the parsley, cayenne, salt, pepper, dried oregano, lemon zest and juice, and the meat.  Mix well with your hands.

rice and filling vegetables filling

Stuff the mixture into the peppers.  Fill them about 3/4 of the way before placing the tops back on the vegetables.

Pour the stock and crushed tomatoes around the peppers.  You want the liquid to come halfway up the vegetables, no higher.

pre-steam peppers

Fit a lid on your pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.

When your peppers are cooked, remove them from the pot and place them in a large dish.  Set them under the broiler/grill for a few minutes.  This roasts the top of the peppers and brings out their flavor.  While the peppers are roasting, bring the liquid in the pan to a boil and reduce.

To serve, place the stuffed peppers on a plate, spoon over the reduced sauce, some garlicky yogurt sauce, and garnish with parsley.  Most of all, enjoy.

plated peppers

Ginger Peach Jam

Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring,

and because it has fresh peaches in it. 

~Alice Walker 

Ripe peaches are among my top reasons for living.  Soft, sweet, lightly floral, and full of juice.  They are a testament to the fact that perfection can be found in the simplest things.  First cultivated in ancient China, peaches were believed to have magical properties like immortality.  Emperors loved them.  Thousands of years later, so did western royalty.  Plantagenet King John is said to have perished after consuming a surfeit of peaches.  In T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the main character asks himself, “Do I dare to eat a peach?”  Perhaps it’s a metaphor for taking a bite out of life.  Perhaps it’s a metaphor for having the woman he desires.  No matter the interpretation, Prufrock’s peach definitely represents what my husband refers to as the English danger of having too much fun.  For Roald Dahl, a peach was the vehicle that whisked James away from his two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge.

No matter how you cut it, a ripe peach is magical.  Though perfect on its own, I like to try to capture its fragrance and keep its magic a little longer than just the summer season.  That’s why I have been making buckets of ginger peach jam.  As peaches can be so sweet, I find the ginger adds a bit of fire and also refinement.  It provides structure for what could otherwise be a cloying mess.  Also, I like the idea of adding Chinese ginger to Chinese peaches, even if my fruit happens to come from Kent or Spain.  Below is my recipe.



peaches (I use about 2 kg)

caster sugar

preserving sugar (as peaches have a really low pectin content)

the juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon unsalted butter


Peel and slice the peaches. Weigh them.  Set aside in a large jam pan.

Add 60% of the peaches’ weight in sugar.  I use a mix of caster and preserving sugar–only about 200g of the latter.  Be sure to taste your mixture.  You don’t want it too sweet but it won’t set if it doesn’t have at least 60% sugar.

Next stir in the lemon juice and ginger.

Mash everything lightly. Warm over a low heat.  Once the sugars have dissolved, turn up the heat and stir constantly.

Never let the temperature pass 104F which is the setting point for jam.  Test for a set with the cold plate method.  When the jam has achieved your desired set, stir in the butter (it’ll help keep your jam from looking scummy), and let cool for a few minute before putting in sterilized jars.

Serve on toast, pancakes or over vanilla ice cream for a real treat.  I must say if you want this as an ice cream topping, it’s best to not have a really thick set.  Runnier is better in this case.  Also, this jam is delicious if used in the middle of shortbread thumb print cookies.

2015-08-25 10.38.40 2015-08-25 10.36.55 toast




When I was 6 and first moved to Los Angeles, my mother and I were hungry.  The kind of hungry that qualified me for two free meals a day at school and made her say things like “Sweetheart, I’ve had enough.  You eat it.”  I remember my grandmother sending us a box of food from Hawaii and never feeling more grateful for Top Ramen and Kraft macaroni and cheese.  After my mother’s first proper acting job, she came home with food she had taken from craft service at lunch but not eaten.  She had saved it for me.  Though we were never starving, we were certainly poor and while our hungry days didn’t last long, they lasted long enough for me to remember and always be grateful.

Which is why I just helped #FEEDGREECE.

“Parcel Broker have teamed up with Greek charity Desmos to allow you to send care packages completely FREE. The campaign is designed to enable people to send a package of food weighing up to 10kgs to Greek charity Desmos. The charity will then distribute the care packages to families in need of them. We are sending up to 500 parcels so if you want to take part in this be sure to get your parcel together quickly and follow the steps below to be a part of the project.” 

I am sender #60.  You could be the next.

*I should add this project is only available to those living in the U.K.


Food for a Summer Cold

Being sick in summer is the worst.  Especially if you live in England where blue skies and sunshine are rare.  When my Casablanca lilies are in bloom and the berries out back are ripe, I want to be outside.  Not tucked up in bed surrounded by Kleenex, wearing socks,  and smelling of menthol.

To me, summer means swings on which to swing.  Or if you’re Southern, swangs on which to swang.  A boat pond begging for paper schooners to sail across its surface.  Berries for crumble and cobbler that won’t pick themselves.  Bubbles to blow, daisy chains to make, and roses that I want in my cheeks instead of just in a bedside vase.

That’s why this weekend I said chest colds be damned and made a delicious lunch to heal all the family.

If you’re like me you might not think much of celery on its own.  Sure it’s great for adding depth to things like chicken stock or bolognese, but by itself I’m never tempted.  Unless it’s in a soup.  Which is exactly what I made.  My recipe is as simple as it is savory and equally delicious.

The other thing I made was a drink I call Hot Ginger & Dynamite.  It’s a potent hot lemonade with a fiery kick that’ll burn whatever ails you.  Ginger to heal, honey to soothe, and lots of lemon for vitamin C.  Cold medicine’s never tasted so good.  Except maybe at night when I like to add a splash of whisky to it.

Below are my recipes.  Though they have healing powers they’re also great to make when you just want to eat something good and clean.  I hope you enjoy them.

Celery Soup


2 bunches of celery (with leaves–that’s where the flavor is), washed and chopped

1 onion, chopped

chicken or vegetable stock (or just water)

2 Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp butter

Marigold stock powder (optional)


Heat the oil and butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat.  Sauté the onions and celery until soft.

celeryonion Sautéing

Here is where I stir in a tablespoon or two of Marigold powder for a extra depth, but you certainly don’t have to.

Add the stock or water.  I put in enough to cover the celery by half an inch.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Lastly, blend until smooth then serve.  If you haven’t used Marigold powder, do be sure to season with salt.

simmer bowl of soup

Hot Ginger & Dynamite


the juice of 3 lemons

1-2square inches of freshly grated ginger

2 mug fulls of water

1/4 cup honey and then some to taste


Bring the lemon juice, ginger, and water to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Stir in the 1/4 cup honey until dissolved.  If you want it sweeter, add more 1 tablespoon at a time to suit your taste.

ginger lemon tincture