Posted by: lialeendertz | November 27, 2012

Midnight brambling is moving on…


I have a new place to blog. Please come and see it here. If you are an email subscriber to this blog, you will need to come over and sign up there (very easy) otherwise you will never hear from me again. Unless you’re my mum, in which case I’ll be on the phone shortly to see if you could have the kids next monday night…

See you over there!

Lia x

Posted by: lialeendertz | September 6, 2012

Dandelion Wine

In early June of this year, just as the dandelions were fading after that first golden flush (that moment when they are so lush you can almost imagine planting them in your border) and were starting to turn into the first wave of dandelion clocks, Ray Bradbury died. I don’t know anything about Ray Bradbury except that he wrote my favourite book, Dandelion Wine. I call it my favourite book almost out of habit: in truth there are whole chunks of it I can’t remember. I think I cling to it because it is the one whose atmosphere most lingers with me. It is the atmosphere of high summer childhood: that first morning of clear skies and promised heat, when the air smells of possibility and opportunity; brand new pure white tennis shoes on hot pavements; hazy afternoons spent in a ravine on the edge of town, all dust and deep cool shadows.

It is chiefly about a boyhood summer, but the grown ups move through it quite magically too, and there is a passage that I think might appeal to the preservers and bottlers and jam makers among you, as it sort of sums up why we do it. I am just at the stage of taking out my huge jars of  last years damson vodka and brandy. They have sat for a year and soon I will strain them off into little bottles and leave them a few months more to sip surreptitiously on cold evenings in front of the fire, and to give away as Christmas presents. When the jars are empty they will wait for the damsons to be ripe. Not long to go now: they already look ready, so a week or two more and they will be. Each jar (recipe alert!) will be filled about a third with fruit, caster sugar poured on until it fills the gaps and covers them a little, then brandy or vodka poured up to near the top of the jar and the jar sealed, put away and shaken occasionally, to slowly – over all that time – turn into something viscous and rich and boozy, and far more than the sum of its parts. This has become my summer ritual. Here (edited a little for space) is Bradbury’s take on something similar, the dandelion wine at the heart of the book, and it’s just beautiful:

‘Dandelion wine.

The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered. Since this was going to be a summer of unguessed wonders, Douglas wanted it all salvaged and labelled so that any time he wished  he might tiptoe down in this dank twilight and reach up his finger tips.

And there, row upon row, with the soft gleam of flowers opened at morning, with the light of this June sun glowing through a faint skim of dust, would stand the dandelion wine. Peer through it at the wintry day – the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabited with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind. And peering through, colour sky from iron to blue.

Hold summer in your hand, pour summer in a glass, a tiny glass of course, the smallest tingling sip for children; change the season in your veins by raising glass to lip and tilting summer in.

Even Grandma, when snow was whirling fast, dizzying the world, blinding windows, stealing breath from gasping mouths, even Grandma, one day in February, would vanish to the cellar.

Above, in the vast house, there would be coughings, sneezings, wheezings, and groans, childish fevers, throats raw as butchers’ meat, noses like bottled cherries, the stealthy microbe everywhere.

Then, rising from the cellar like a June goddess, Grandma would come, something hidden but obvious under her knitted shawl.  The medicines of another time, the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sound of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver sky rockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through ant countries, all these, all these in a glass.

Yes even Grandma, drawn to the cellar of winter for a June adventure, might stand alone and quietly communing with a last touch of a calendar long departed, with the picnics and the warm rains and the smell of wheat and new popcorn and bending hay. Even Grandma, repeating and repeating the fine and golden words, even as they were said now in this moment when the flowers were dropped into the press, as they would be repeated every winter for all the white winters in time. Saying them over and over on the lips, like a smile, like a sudden patch of sunlight in the dark.

Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine. Dandelion wine.’

Now I dont know about you, but I think this is why I do it. There are practical, sensible reasons, sure, but I think the poetic ones win. Bottlers, wine makers, and preservers, go forth and grasp your last chance to squirrel away a bit of summer now, and when you prise open the lid or pop out the cork come January, raise a glass, a spread, or a pickle to Ray Bradbury, whoever he was.

Posted by: lialeendertz | July 19, 2012

Gooseberry knickerbocker glory


‘I always have a glut of gooseberries,’ I announced, swaggeringly. ‘We’ll use gooseberries for the supper club.’ Gooseberries are no apricots (still no fruit, nor even flowers), they are not even strawberries (reluctantly bearing fruit to get quickly munched by a tsunami of slugs). They are easy, dependable and even a little over zealous, and are one of the crops I always get just a little bit sick of by the time they call it a season.

Not so this year. The crop was small. Really very small. I wont take my tart lovelies for granted again. Im inclined to blame This Pants Summer (TM) but do tell me if you’ve had a bumper crop; maybe my old dependables are just getting old and undependable. I think I’d prefer that. It all feels a bit apocalyptic/2012 if even gooseberries can’t cope with a British summer.

But it turns out a gooseberry knickerbocker glory is the perfect thing to do with a smidgeon of gooseberries. The beauty of your gooseberry knickerbocker glory – well, one of the great many beauties of your gooseberry knickerbocker glory – is that the sharp fruit is layered with ice cream, sweeter stuff, crunchy things, and whatever delights you can think of to make it go further and to complement and enhance it. Here’s what went into mine:

Elderflower ice cream


Gooseberry puree, only slightly sweetened

Chantilly cream (double cream whipped with vanilla and icing sugar)

A few sweet, pink, dessert gooseberries, raw

Crystallised and frozen elderflowers

I wont give you recipes or we’ll be here all day, but you get the idea. All of this was made up in advance and spooned, giggling, into the glasses at the last moment. Fun, fun. The sweet pink dessert gooseberries were the clincher: one in the bottom of each glass (like the gobstopper in the base of a Screwball), a layer of chopped ones somewhere in the middle, and one like a cherry on top. We bought a punnet, but if I’m going to be replanting this is where I’ll start. They were delicious.

The only essential here is the correct glass – it must look like it has been nicked from a 1950s diner – and the correct long spoon, for delving into the depths. Other than that this is more a blueprint than a recipe. Knock yourself out, play around: have fun with your gooseberry dearth.

I love the above picture supper club guest Jason Ingram took of me and Juliet delivering them to the table, mainly because – by dint of lucking into in the fuzzy bit near the instagram border – I look a bit like something from a 1950s diner myself. I think I must be whipping up the crowd by going ‘Ooh!’ as I hand them out, and I am planning to go about like that more often as it has done wonders for my cheek bones. JAS has commented elsewhere that Juliet looks like ‘a hot Bavarian barmaid’, so I reckon she’ll be delighted I’ve reposted it too … Ooh…

Posted by: lialeendertz | June 18, 2012

Summer supper club

Herbs etc…

Hey look, it’s summer! No really…the sun just came out for five minutes and I ran outside and took this picture of herbs and pelargioniums looking summery, so it must be, see? And summer means it’s time for our summer supper club. This is the easy one. Spring was a bit of a toughie and winter will be almost impossible, but we’d have to try pretty hard to make this duff… The idea behind the menu is to try to make some delicious things out of those crops that are at their best in our gardens and allotments right now, but if you’ll humour me a little I am also planning to make summer garden in cake form with some little petit fours soaked in a rose and honey syrup, like bees buzzing around a summer garden in a mouthful, without the sting, or the fuzzy bits.

Not everything you eat will have been grown by us – we just aren’t organised enough for that – but all the little extra tasty bits, the herbs, the edible flowers, the salads and more will be.

The date is Saturday 7th July, 8pm, and the suggested donation is £30. It’s BYO bottle but we will throw in one free cocktail on arrival: a mint julep, THE cocktail with which to sit and fan yourself on a porch in heat of the deep south, while rocking lazily on your porch swing. If the weather is vaguely warm (you never know) this supper club will be held out on my verandah (if – big proviso – we can negotiate my really quite massive dining table out of the back door). You will be surrounded by twinkling fairy lights and spicily scented flowers and eat delicious seasonal food. Without further ado, the menu:


Lia & Juliet Summer Supper Club

Saturday, 7th July, 8pm


Mint julep, served with broad bean pate and mint gremolata crostini


Chilled cucumber soup with dill oil and borage flowers


Mozzarella stuffed tempura courgette flowers with pesto


Roast baby veg tart tatin with allotment veg a la Francaise


Small allotment salad


Gooseberry knickerbocker glory


Mint tea with honey and rose basboosa (Middle Eastern semolina cake) with crystallised rose petals


Email us at to reserve a place or to go on our mailing list, and follow us on twitter @liaandjuliet

Posted by: lialeendertz | June 12, 2012

Finding Jean

I’ve just been reading about Keith Floyd in an old copy of Fire & Knives. The writer, Cai Ross, was saying that part of the beauty of his seminal ‘Floyd on France’ series was the way the producers ‘begged borrowed and conned their way into various French kitchens, domestic and professional.’ Unplanned, these moments required everyone involved to be on their mettle and step up, react well to whatever happened. The result was sometimes chaos, but often magic.

I am just back from visiting Paris, Amiens and Brussels. It was the first leg of a summer-long project which will see me and my lovely/annoying friend Mark Diacono take in nearly 40 amazing allotments and edible gardens, for a book to be published next spring. He’s on pictures, I’m on writing. He wrote about it here (all sorted now, btw, so no more entries please. Unless it’s really, really, REALLY good).

Most of the trip was perfectly planned in advance. Through French friends, google translate and luck we had managed to communicate with the gardeners in Paris and Brussels. Amiens had proved more tricky. We knew there were beautiful, floating market gardens there, but couldn’t find a way in: emails went unanswered, and after a hugely painful telephone conversation in my school-girl French failed to produce any leads, we decided we either give it up or just turn up and chance it. We went for chancing it.

On the map it didn’t look far, and in fact we reached the entrance to the ‘hortillages’ relatively quickly. ‘Phew’ I thought, having worn really stupid shoes, like a girl. But alas, this was just the gateway to the hortillages, which stretched for miles. The path gave glimpses into gorgeous waterside gardens, all reached via little bridges, each one with a locked gate, surrounded by spikes, with perhaps a soupcon of barbed wire for good measure. ‘Take pictures of that one, that’ll do’ I started to say, pointing at vaguely edible stuff far across the water, feeling the blisters form. I was mocked and we walked on, and on.

After that I decided to make like an arctic explorer, pushing through the pain bravely, with a noble look on my face. We started to find little alleyways between houses which led tantalisingly down to open water, close to the bit marked ‘potager’ we had seen on a glimpsed map. We could now reach where we needed to be if we had a boat. We don’t have a boat. Keep walking.

And then finally, joyously, we came upon a hut to hire boats. I arranged the hire, we popped our life jackets on (here I would have inserted a picture of Mark D in a bright orange life jacket for you, laydeez, had he not threatened to also take one of me for similar purposes, and thus stalemate been reached), and puttered out across the water to the area marked ‘potager’. It was nice, very neat, with sweet willow hurdles enclosing weed-free vegetable beds, a little like a museum recreation of the historic market gardens. We were pleased. Mark had already started snapping away when, through a hole in the thick hedge, I spotted a man, perhaps in his 60s, leaning on his fork, once-seriously-good-looking face tanned and lined, eyes twinkly: essentially, everything you want in your French rustic gardener. I took a good five minutes standing by the hole in the hedge to compose my approach, which I believe eventually went [brightly] ‘Bonjour monsieur! Nous prenez les photographs pour un livre…’ [increasingly less sure] ‘um….about… des jardins. C’est possible pour…er…mon ami…um…prenez les photograph a…er…tu – no – vous?’ A gallic shrug, an eye twinkle, a grin and we were around the compost bins at the end of the garden and in.

Jean’s floating market garden was the real deal – weeds, bits of junk and all – as was Jean, a market gardener who has worked this strange, semi-floating patch of earth tous les jours for dix ans. Somehow I managed to conduct a kind of an interview in French (with a few stumbling blocks: if anyone knows why French gardeners might paint the trunks of their fruit trees white, please enlighten me, it was something to do with them getting chaud maybe and…well, I have no idea, though he really, really tried to explain). Jean was relaxed and uncomplaining while having his photo taken, though he must have been puzzled at the whole thing. He was patient and sweet with my rubbish questions, and a bit of a gentle charmer too: when he cut a beautiful soft pink and yellow rose I pretty much knew it wasnt to take to market. It was late in the day after all that walking so the light was soft, with a sort of underwater quality itself, making for some fairly special photos. It was a mixture of tenacity (more Mark’s than mine, admittedly) serendipity, and somehow scraping together the necessary French, and it made for a magic moment. In the book it will seem like it was all planned and sorted beforehand, a fait accomplis (get me. I can’t stop now) but it wasn’t, and I think it will be all the better for it.

Posted by: lialeendertz | May 28, 2012

The trail

I recently threw (with relish) our last vestiges of plastic toys into a skip, and quickly covered them with old carpet before the kids could notice and retrieve them. We have had our fair share of these slowly fading plastic horrors. A red (later pink) ride-on fire engine, a yellow and red car (later primrose/pink): all things for kids to delight in and fight over.

But now we have nothing but a small toddlers’ trampoline, shoved down at the end of the garden. I felt guilty at first but sod it, it’s my garden. Also, guess what? They still play in it. They make potions, to which a few flowers are sacrificed, and very natty snail homes (with gardens and swimming pools) and…actually I don’t really know. They just go off down the end of the garden and I leave them to it.

Yesterday my son was playing computer games indoors leaving my four-year-old daughter out there on her own. She asked me for some chalk, and I gave her two pieces. Then she disappeared. Half an hour later this is what she had done. She calls it the trail:

The start of the trail…

…down the steps…

…across the lawn…

…along the makeshift paths…

…down to the end of the garden, where pots and bits of old benches go to die…

…the end! The payoff was this small pink and blue masterpiece (she’s four, remember…) sketched on a pile of pavers, to be taken with a short bounce on the mini trampoline.

Posted by: lialeendertz | March 26, 2012

Success! and green garlic soup

So we did it! Saturday was our first ‘Lia & Juliet’ supper club and we only went and pulled it off. We took an entire two days off work to chop, blanch, braise, bake and crystallise, and to fiddle with table cloths and napkins and champagne glasses, and to fret over whether our allocation of fairy lights was up to supper-club minimum standard (not, we think, as it turns out. We will remedy). It was huge fun, especially for something we could sort of pretend was work. Some of the things we did were a huge hit, others I think less so. We have learnt plenty of lessons and I genuinely can’t wait for the next one (as well as being mighty relieved that we are only doing four a year…).

But in the meantime I thought I’d furnish you with one of our recipes. One of the real hits, rather than one of the near misses: green garlic soup with nettle pesto and pea shoot shot glasses. The idea of the evening was to link it back to the garden at as many points as possible. You can find green garlic in your better class of greengrocer, true, but it is an ingredient you will mostly be able to track down in your own garden, by plucking your garlic before its prime. You lose a lot of the potential bulk that you would have gained in the coming growing season, but you gain a whole other vegetable and a delicate sweet garlic taste, with none of the pungency of the fully formed version. It’s quite a decadent thing to do, you racy thing you, but you might do it as a little spring treat for yourself, if you’ve got plenty growing. (NB: they really are quite small at the moment. You could leave them to bulk up a little and try this in a few weeks time).

To tease out that sweetness I roasted the garlic low and slow, until the outsides were papery and the innards were soft and gooey. Once they’d cooled a bit those papery parts were peeled away to reveal the insides. I love the look of the thwarted cloves-to-be. Beautiful. Into a vat of stock they went with some waxy boiled potatoes, and all whizzed up. Salt and pepper and a bit of single cream and it was done.

For the nettle pesto we blanched some young nettle tips in boiling water for a minute or so (otherwise tingly tongue will be yours) squeezed the water out of them and chopped, before pestling them up with some garlic, toasted hazelnuts, pecorino romano and olive oil. Each guest got their own little shot glass of pea shoots, to graze over and sprinkle onto their soup. The whole thing tasted – if I may say so myself – like spring in a teacup.

Our second will be in the summer sometime, date to be decided, and it will be even better. Interest is high so if you want first dibs on places, get yourself on the mailing list as the date will be announced there first. See you then…

PS You can also follow us on twitter @liaandjuliet

Posted by: lialeendertz | March 4, 2012

Lia and Juliet’s Supper and Garden Club

One Sunday last August I was walking back from the allotment with Adam, a friend and neighbour we share our plot  with. It was a glorious summer day and Adam started telling me about the festival of Lammas. It occurs at high summer, not mid-summer (which always feels a bit springy to me) but that point where it really feels like summer: long drawn-out days, lazy times, bounty. Lammas celebrates the first wheat harvest and marks the ripening of the first berries of the year, so you eat bread and blackberries and soak up the good times. Something about this food-based link to the seasons made me look around me properly and completely appreciate that moment: the clear, high, blue summer sky; the kids running in t-shirts and shorts on hot pavements; the wheeling, shrieking swifts; the wheelbarrow full of produce. It’s so easy to miss it when you’re in it, and only really see it when you look back, on a cold March day.

It started the germ of an idea, about creating a celebration based on whatever is in the allotment or garden at that time to make myself stop and look around and enjoy: comforting, cosy winter squash and roots in autumn and winter, fresh green shoots and herbs in spring, and that joyful, bountiful excess of high summer. I mentioned the idea of a supper club to my friend Juliet Roberts and she got it instantly, the idea of creating something of our own, a little (hopefully) magical way of marking the moment, several times a year.

So here’s the plan: this is to be a very modest supper club. We will have four evenings a year, one each in spring, summer, autumn and winter. Sometimes it will be at my house, sometimes at Juliet’s. Each evening will start with a little look around the garden and some chat about what we are up to in it, and what you can do to get growing food at that particular time of the year. There will be a cocktail, food, laughs and chat. There will not be big hunks of meat. We are going to play to our strengths and really concentrate on making something special out of the vegetables and fruits of the season. You will bring your own bottle.

It is our chance to have some fun, to meet some interesting people, and to create something of our own. We also want to put our money where our mouths are about growing and eating good, seasonal food, and to show off our gardens. We will do our best to make it a beautiful evening.

Of course we’re starting with the trickiest time of the year, the hungry gap, but we think we can make something special of it. It’s a time of using up the last preserved food and starting to get the very earliest of the year’s produce in. The first date is Saturday 24th March at my house, the cost is £25 per head, and the menu (currently subject to daily change) looks like this:


Primrose cocktail


Onion marmalade and goats cheese nibbles


Green garlic soup with nettle and walnut pesto and pea shoot shot glasses


Herb rolls


Baked ricotta, braised raddichio, potatoes in sorrel sauce, buttered spring cabbage and purple-sprouting broccoli

(The main course will be served on big shared platters on the table, actually there will be other bits and pieces as well as these here. To be confirmed)


Rhubarb upside-down cake with bay ice cream


Email us at to reserve a place or to go on our mailing list, and follow us on twitter @liaandjuliet

Or just wish us luck.

PS It strikes me a little late that I just presumed anyone who might read this would know where I live. It appears they dont. North Bristol.

Posted by: lialeendertz | February 27, 2012


This is not your usual sort of blog post. This is part of a happening. Im feeling very with it and connected. There will be horticulture, but you’ll have to bear with me, as call-centre staff say.

Sarah Salway, an actual bona fide writer of novels, short stories and poems, has written a poem and dedicated it to me. It’s in her new book, which is out now. I’m ludicrously thrilled by this and am planning on dedicating myself full time to my new role of muse. I’ll probably wear something floaty, and drape myself over a chez longue while gazing out of the window, a faraway look in my eye. Over these few days I, along with a group of literary types (An intensity of? An earnestness of?), am hosting a ‘virtual poetry reading trail’. It’s happening all over.  It’s totally like the future or something. So pull on your virtual black polo neck and don your virtual black-rimmed media specs while I pour the virtual red wine and pop on some virtual free jazz. Let’s have a little respectful hush in the room and begin. You may nod almost imperceptibly occasionally, and perhaps close your eyes for a short passage, because you are very sensitive and deep.

I wish I could remember precisely how ‘my’ poem came about, but the essentials are this: we were mucking about on twitter, talking about Sarah writing poetry, and for some reason now lost to the mists of time I suggested she write a poem about cheese and onion crisps. ‘I will’ she said. And behold, a few days later, this appeared in my inbox:


The Interruption


For Lia


When I tell my daughter I’m working,

she nods, pulls her chair right up

to mine, elbows out, breath hot

with cheese and onion crisps.


She chooses a red pencil, starts

chewing, sighs over her blank paper,

tells me to shush. She draws us, stick

mother holding stick daughter’s hand.


Look, she says. I try to concentrate

on my work but she’s learnt

from me too well. Really look.

Clumsy fingers twist my hair


until we fight. I say she has to go now,

to let me get on with Mummy’s work.

Outside she sits so close to the door

I hear every rustle, every sigh so loud


that the note pushed under the door

comes like a white flag. Dear Mummy,

my daughter writes. This is me.


I don’t know how she did it. I realise that it’s also about her own daughter and her own struggles with working from home, but If she’d set up CCTV cameras in our house and monitored us 24 hours a day she couldn’t have captured my daughter more perfectly: crisp love, drawing obsession, clumsy, insistent fingers in hair and all. She takes my face between her two little palms and angles it towards her, so I can’t help but pay her attention. If Sarah and I had sat and drank tea and moaned for hours about the balancing of kids and work she couldn’t have captured that heart-wrenching pull between the two more beautifully. But at that point we’d never met. Anyway, she’s a working mother, who works from home, and so she knew. And she’s an artist. Still, a year or so after I first read it, that last line bring tears to my eyes every time.

It’s a beautiful, beautiful book, full of perfectly captured moments, and as part of this virtual reading trail Sarah will now read us all a specially selected HORTICULTURAL poem called ‘Seeds’. It was meant to embed here in the blog post but I don’t have the technology brain so click here then press on the arrow and she will begin reading. It’s gorgeous.

PS Please do follow the reading trail. It goes as follows:

26th Feb

Tania – Love and Stationery

Danuta – Different Lives

27th Feb

Lia – Seeds

Nik – Dust

28th Feb

Alice – Things To Do Today

Caroline – First

29th Feb

Susannah – The Interruption

Alex – Happy

Ist March

Fiona – Through Carved Wooden Binoculars

BookeyWookeyBook – Dad Plays St George

Scott – Extinction

Stephanella – Dental Examination –

Posted by: lialeendertz | February 18, 2012

Ashton Court

You take Ashton Court for granted. I went recently almost by accident, because it is the sort of place you can go by accident. Gifted to the people of Bristol in [long-ago year] by [posh but well-meaning folk] it has just always been there, on the edge of Bristol, special but not special.

The house, with view of Bristol

It was always the bit of countryside that you could get to on the bus. You could get stoned and do things in the woods there and be very unlikely to get caught out by your mum’s friends (though ridiculously I once was, in all those many, many acres, fag in hand. I wont say who by because my mum reads this, and I believe to this day the friend kept it to herself, after giving me a stern talking to. Gawd bless her). I used to go to the deer park with my dad on Sunday visits. His friend briefly had an ice cream van there, one of those occurrences that is hugely impressive to a young brain, and so still always flits through my mind as I pass his spot. I’ve spent many a chilly birthday picnic there, convinced that it really SHOULD be warm enough for a picnic in early May (it never is). Anyway, it’s a place of many layers, and I view it through a haze of nostalgia. I don’t think a garden could make me more dewy-eyed if it had piped Van Morrison playing from every tree.

But I never really think of it as much of a garden. Council-maintained as it is, I guess any finesse of planting it may once have had has been lost over the years. But on this particular, almost accidental visit the winter light was low and clear, and it struck me what great bones the place has. In particular I have always loved the walls there, particularly the half-crumbled walls in the further flung corners of the estate. There’s no better wall than an Ashton Court wall.

I havent taken the kids for a long time though I can’t think why. Like I said, you take it for granted. But they wheeled about in all that space and gasped at the deer and didn’t complain that they hadn’t actually had any lunch other than a shared chocolate brownie, on account of us being uncharacteristically spontaneous. And of course, them being well-behaved and me being in that Van Morrison frame of mind already, I smiled at them indulgently, and wondered about the other layers that Ashton Court is going to accumulate.

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