Hello London, I Love You


Ballerina, Queen of Night and Barcelona tulips.

Last Sunday was real sunhat weather.

I sat on the grass weeding, low enough to smell the soft, sweet scent of the orange Ballerina tulips and to enjoy the dazzle of their lily-shaped heads against the fat cups of purple Queen of Night and shriek pink Barcelona. I love to sit on the grass. You see things differently there.


Beautiful shriek-pink Barcelona tulips.

As I pulled out soft-leaved, milky-rooted dandelions and tiny sycamore seedlings, music drifted across the wall, through the trellis and over the roses. Our neighbours are in a bluegrass band. They’re really good. The plaintive sounds of the fiddle, guitar and banjo pulled the hipsters who live on the other side of us from their beds and onto their little roof terrace. Pale chested boys and girls with last night’s mascara smudged around their pretty eyes sat and watched, listened. When they came to the end of their first song, we all applauded.

Gentle wisps of smoke from our Turkish neighbours’ barbecue curled deliciously into the warm afternoon air.

And in that moment, I just fell for London really hard and all over again.




Cherry blossom, before…



…and after the wind.


Apple blossom.


Barney – is it the demise of the blossom, or the bluegrass music that’s making him so mournful?

A Gentle Stroll into the New Year



The soft pink light of morning.

The first week of January and I haven’t cooked very much. This is partly due to annoying tendonitis in my elbow which makes lifting things and chopping things painful. I have decided to call it TenderIsTheNightis, a RSI-type injury caused by lifting too many flutes of champagne. This makes my suffering seem a little more thrilling and glamorous.

In place of cooking, I’ve been sitting by the fire in my mother’s study drinking coffee and reading thrillers, occasionally prodding the dog with my toe to make sure he is still alive. He scarcely moves more than a foot or two from the hearth.

Barney - Fire

‘The heartbeat at my feet.’

Before the fire is lit each morning, I manage to lure him outside to the Bishop’s Park. On New Year’s Day, the light was soft and pink, the sun low in the sky. We wandered through the Scots pines and the Wellingtonia. I threw a few sticks. Barney brought them back. A lot of my childhood was spent in this park – picnics in summer, whizzing down the terrifying snowy slopes on our blue sledge in winter. Fifteen years ago, Sean and I got married in the chapel here.


St Peter’s Chapel, Auckland Castle


The clock tower at the entrance to the park.


The River Gaunless snakes through the park.




The Deer House, built by Bishop Trevor in the Eighteenth Century.


Golden box, bright as Christmas baubles, over the grey crenelations of the castle walls.

One of my favourite activities in the world, to be indulged whenever the opportunity presents itself, is to visit a country auction. Addisons – a proper country auctioneer and valuer in Barnard Castle – always has an auction on the first Thursday of the new year, which is very considerate of them as I’m usually up here then.


This morning we went to the viewing. The hall was full of the merry bustle of people relieved to be out of the house and back into their old, comforting routines. ‘Too long, too long a break John,’ explained one man to another. A young chap in a khaki jacket with a skull and crossbones appliqued on the back slowly examined a long and ferocious Indian sword. A woman in a neat red coat and careful coiffure trawled through a cardboard box of treen. Two elderly men in leather pastie shoes and Christmas scarves rustled around in cardboard suitcases of model railway bits and pieces, eyeing each other not entirely benignly. ‘Happy New Year to you’ ‘All the best!’ they said, nonetheless.





If you know me at all you know I love a bargain, and auctions outside of London are often much cheaper than my usual city stamping grounds. Apart from anything with a dog, a pig, a horse or a fox on it. Then you can expect to pay top whack.


It’s not all foxes and cows and herd books …


Please don’t bid on any of my lots, there’s a love.

A lovely thing happened…

Psychologies picture

I am doing the happy dance this morning. The wonderful people at Psychologies magazine have included Love and a Licked Spoon in Kate McGinley’s feature on the five best blogs. It’s on page 42, along with Daily Eco tips, Mind Hacks, Brit Lit Blogs and The Sartorialist – rather smart company, I’m sure you’ll agree.

When I began my blog just over a year ago, my idea was to create a place where I could record all of my kitchen experiments – so much better, more accessible, less spattered with flour/butter/olive oil than recipes scribbled into countless notebooks and onto the backs of envelopes or grubby paper napkins. I thought my family might like it; I hoped my friends would (if nothing else, because they feature so heavily in my life, in my kitchen, around my table and therefore in my blog), but it has been heart warming, genuinely thrilling, to find that it resonates with others too. I confess to checking my Statcounter and being ridiculously delighted to see visitors from America or Australia or China, as well as those from just down the road. I love it when you visit, I love it even more when you come back and I’m uncool-ly excited when you comment.

So if you’ve been visiting Love and a Licked Spoon for a while, thank you. You’re all angels at my table. And if you’re visiting because you read about my blog in Psychologies, thank you too. I hope you’ll stick around, join in and swap some food stories of your own.

Love and a licked spoon,

Debora x

Psychologies text

And the winner is…


Well, what a delight it has been to read all of your replies to my Canteen: Great British Food competition. A real British banquet. Roasts featured heavily – beef, pork and chicken. There were puddings of all kinds – from Yorkshire (with and without ‘toad’) to shepherds’, bread and butter, sticky toffee and summer ones, pasties, fish and chips and Cromer crab, Anglesey eggs and omelette Arnold Bennett. A real yah boo sucks to those who say we have no real food culture.

I loved Kath’s thrifty description of a roast beef feast which transformed itself into dripping on toast, bubble and squeak, stock then doggy treats. So Kath, I have a nice runner up prize for you, a lucky dip from my cookbook collection.

But then Alex T  stormed in with his trippyfabulous banquet of egg and cress sandwiches, sausage rolls and Texan bars and a fondly remembered family lunch of steak and kidney pie, peas and Jersey Royals followed by strawberries with condensed milk and sugar. Any man who, in a delirious state, imagines himself to be a sausage sandwich, deserves a treat. So Alex T, this one’s for you.

Help Haiti

Since Wednesday, I have been thinking about what I could write about the earthquake that doesn’t sound woefully trite. I don’t have the words. I know that the pictures in the newspaper and on television pull my heart right out of my chest. I am making a donation to Action Against Hunger’s Haiti appeal www.actionagainsthunger.org.uk . Ninety percent of their donations go directly to their field programmes. There are many other charities desperate for anything you can spare. The Times has an excellent list of reputable charities working in the region, including the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal.