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Lavender, Lovage and #Cook for Ukraine

"she makes – and styles – moreish, comforting food"

Lynn Clark - Ink Sugar Spice

This is one of those other blog/website posts. Mostly because I haven't done one for a few weeks and also because, almost as always these days, I am temporarily out of ideas. Well cooking this week has not been an inspiration because, basically I have either been fasting or we have been eating leftovers, because I don't seem to be able to cook for two. I'm doing a Cook, Eat, Repeat exercise.

So the next on my list of websites that I have been gathering for a closer look is one called Lavender & Lovage. Although I have to say I really don't know why this is its name. Above are two logos - the top one is current and I think the lower one is an older one. Note the complete absence of lovage in both of them, with lavender also disappearing from the first. Sure Lavender & Lovage trips off the tongue, but what does it signify? Englishness? Frenchness? After all lavender is truly big in the south of France. Does it even signify food? After all it could signal gardening.

Lovage is a herb not much known or used these days. I did actually have a plant in my garden but it died, or was eaten by rabbits. It tastes very much like cucumber, which is a tiny bit weird. It's very nice though and ought to be making a comeback. I suppose it is also old-fashioned and perhaps that's why she chose it because at least one aspect of her blog is a focus on traditional/historical British fare.

Her other focus, like many blog writers these days is travel - and from there - memoir - also a current trend I think. At least in cookbooks. And she has produced one of them too - as shown at right. I'm guessing the web logo was changed at the same time as the book was published, because the same artist has obviously done both. The book contains selected recipes as well as selected pieces from the blog. One reviewer said of it:

By interleaving smaller stories and anecdotes between the recipes, Karen’s woven a holistic book, where the recipes only make full sense with the voice, and vice versa." Lynn Clark - Ink Sugar Spice

And the the blog does indeed have a lot more to it than recipes. Of course there are the travel pieces but there is also a lot of memoir and - I suppose - ramblings. A bit like me, although generally she sticks a little closer to either travel or cooking than I do.

The lady in question is called Karen Burns-Booth and she currently lives in Lincolnshire in the East of England. However, she is very well travelled and has lived in a huge variety of different places, from her birthplace in South Africa, to France, Hong Kong, USA, Germany, Cyprus, Wales and England. She is married with two children so I don't know whether it was she or her husband who presumably either had to or decided to move all those times, although some of those more far flung homes were from her childhood and due to her father's job. I know that in at least a couple of her places of residence - the longer term ones I think - she has kept B&Bs, and run cooking classes. The move to Lincolnshire is more recent. This is how she describes herself:

"I am a freelance food and travel writer, as well as a food stylist, and recipe developer, with a passion for art, travel, books, photography, seasonal food and especially cheese and wine."

So her blog is obviously her job rather than her hobby or something to pass the time. It has been much praised and has won a couple of awards, so obviously it has something. The personal aspect of it all perhaps, because, the recipes although pretty good, are not, for me anyway, of the 'got to make that today' kind.

But let me give her a big tick for her latest post - this is a blog which is still going so it is a very recent post - Ukrainian pancakes - Oladky which includes a link and some words about #Cook for Ukraine - an Instagram page that has sprung up in the UK to collect money via various food events for the Ukraine. The money goes to UNICEF which is the big partner in this. As she says:

"I have never shared any political posts on Lavender & Lovage before – I have just done what I can for former conflicts etc, quietly and privately behind the scenes, so to speak. (I don’t actually see my post today as being political anyway, just humanitarian.)

I have watched in utter horror over the last few days, as the illegal invasion by Russia (ordered by Putin and not the Russian people) on a democratic neighbouring country has unfolded."

And so she has joined the #Cook for Ukraine campaign and is promoting it here. As far as I am aware there is no similar campaign here in Australia, but it's maybe just a matter of time. And on the SBS website you can certainly find Ukrainian food & recipes. She chose the pancake recipe because Tuesday was Pancake Day, which, to my shame, I let pass by. Not that I needed to write about it particularly - I'm pretty sure I have done so in the past - but maybe I should have made some pancakes, or at least acknowledged it in some way. And coincidentally, when I was writing about soufflés on the very day and included Maggie Beer's recipe for soufflé crêpes, I noticed that she said that the recipe would give you extra batter for ordinary pancakes, which you should just eat with lemon and sugar - which is how we ate them as children.

At the foot of her recipe Karen Booth-Burns adds a list of other pancake recipes that you can find on her site. Which is useful because there is no other way to search her site. You browse rather than actively search. But then it's not a pure recipe website and another plus is that there are not a lot of ads after every few words which is an enormous bonus for me. Some websites seem to have more ads than content these days.

I browsed her recipes, and, as I said was largely uninspired but I also coincidentally, found this one: Cheese and shallot puff pastry plait.

Why coincidentally? Well the family are coming for a very late lunch on Sunday after a game of soccer. Very late is 2.30 which is tricky. Too late for lunch really and too early for dinner. So I decided to make a cake from some apples donated to me by a neighbour, and some sausage rolls, plus the usual bread and bits and pieces. This recipe was particularly appealing and apposite as I had already started thinking along these lines because my older granddaughter has gone vegetarian. My first thought was spinach and cheese, but I thought that was a bit obvious - how times have changed - and so resorted to thinking about the old English cheese and onion pie kind of thing, only perhaps in a sausage roll form. I don't think I'll do the fancy plait thing, or necessarily follow her recipe, but it did confirm that I was thinking along the right lines. And I liked the idea of the fennel seeds on top.

In spite of all that travel, she does seem to be quintessentially British, well English really. And the photos she mounted on her blog of her new home in Lincolnshire certainly confirm that. She says:

"Our village has a small shop with post office, a pub, a Chinese takeaway, a cafe, a surgery, a primary school and church."

I wonder whether the shop is run by Indians - another modern cliché as well as the Chinese takeaway. Although no fish and chips shop it seems.

Now I am English and a fan, as you have probably noticed of British food, so I did find some of her articles interesting. I probably came across her website when I was writing one of my British food posts. One of her little sections is on wartime rationing food, which is a tiny bit esoteric, but interesting for all that. She sticks very faithfully to the actual recipes and doesn't really make any suggestions as to how you could vary these very basic ration book recipes. Sure there are some similarities to all of those COVID shortages but not really. I can imagine that in the hands of even Delia, there would have been tweaks and twists to make them more interesting.

It's popular though, although I do not know the actual numbers.

Looking at that tea table I must think of something to photograph for today - on the cups theme.

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