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Penguin Books for Cooks

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Justine | 0 comments

This post first appeared on my food blog, The Plain Kitchen. As it deals with books, and ephemera, and my beloved Penguins, I thought I'd post it here too! Enjoy.

As promised a few months ago, part of the Plain Kitchen’s posts will also focus on my collection of cookery books, recipe leaflets and pamphlets, and also on all things food ephemera related. I am kicking things off by examining two Penguin paperbacks- in fact, one of them I do own (The Penguin Cookery Book) but the other I sadly don’t have in my collection. I do however have the Penguin Box Set of Cookery Book Front Covers, a gift from a friend which brings me great joy. I know they are meant to be postcards, but quite frankly I cant bear to scribble all over them and hand them over to Royal Mail, so they have formed the basis for my research into the collection of books- and an exciting little project it has been. The weekly #penguinbooksforcooks post will occur (hopefully) every Monday, and I’ll post updates on Instagram (@justine_wall) too, so you don’t miss them. I hope you enjoy these little forays into our culinary literary past as much as I have enjoyed researching it all. If you’re an Instagram user, why not post your images and Penguin books under the hashtag too? It would be great to see what everyone around the world has in their collections!


American Dishes for English Tables, Ambrose Heath


Of course, you will be familiar with Heath- if not for his food writing, then for the Ravilious and Bawden illustrations and covers which adorn most of his books. If I could amass the entire Ambrose Heath collection I’d be a very happy woman indeed: I adore Heath’s writing, more for his tone and no nonsense approach than anything else. In Open Sesame, 1979, he wrote “The super-snob is the gastronomic snob. One of his greatest Affections is to despise tinned food”, and of course, Heath is right. A good tin of tuna is possible one of modern life’s greatest inventions, sardines are even better, artichokes, as I have mentioned before, far superior to those nasty rancid oiled ones in jars sold for an astronomic mark-up, and, of course, don’t get me started on tinned tomatoes. My grocery cupboard always has a good few tins in it- and I am very wary of any cook who feigns great distaste at the use of tins. I believe these sorts of people to be attempting to be something they are not: that, or they are telling great big fibs.


Back to Heath: this particular little Penguin was published in 1939 and illustrated by James Arnold. Ambrose Heath was a prolific food writer: particularly in the 1930s and during the Second World War He always championed “good food”- and British ingredients, but despaired that many British households had forgotten proper cooking skills. During the war years, heath advised the population on how to make generally inadequate food supplies meet demands. Even though Heath played a huge advisory part in the wartime years, he actually isn’t that well remembered or revered as he should have been. His work spans so much: he was a journalist, and wrote and translated over 100 works on food, including The Good Cook in Wartime, The Country Life Cookery Book, and, of course, Good Dishes From Tinned Foods.

American Dishes for English tables is illustrated by James Arnold. Unlike Ravilious and Bawden, Arnold did not enjoy great fame. He illustrated posters for London Transport (1950) and had his The Farm Wagons of England and Wales published in 1969: beautiful, bucolic interpretations of England’s green and pleasant land. I love the cover, and this is what attracted me to this particular one from the postcard collection: I love the Pop-Art aspect of it, even though of course it was way, way before the Pop Art movement. I love the hand drawn immediacy of the flag- the stars in particular. And, I love the central title: the linked parentheses, which almost double up as slight comic-book speech bubbles, and remind me, in turn, of my beloved Roy Rogers Annuals. I am sure James Arnold did not think of this at all when he designed the cover- I am notorious for looking too deeply into things, but it’s how I like to think of it.

I don’t have this one in my collection: I know there are some out there, but I like to “come across” these things, as it gives me great pleasure. Sometimes, of course, I will buy online from Abebooks or ebay, but very infrequently it must be said. A charity shop find, or a gift from a friend always holds far greater meaning for me.


The Penguin Cookery Book, Bee Nilson


Now, this is one I do have in my collection: given to me by our dear friends the Carpenters. It was first published in 1952, and my edition is the 1954 edition. Bee Nilson writes, “This is a general cookery book designed for the busy woman who wants to serve good food, but who has only a limited time to spend in the kitchen”. The word “housewife” is, of course, also used in the introduction, as it was in most cookbooks of this time.

Bee Nilson was born and educated in New Zealand, came to England in 1935 and settled in London. During the war she was with the Ministry of Food and compiled their ABC of Cookery. She felt that her interest in the good food of other countries was due to her husband who travelled throughout Europe on business, and collected many of the foreign recipes and ideas in her book.


Of course, many of the recipes in the book are simply ideas: for Beetroot and Mint salad, Nilson writes, “Make individual nests of lettuce leaves or line a salad bowl with them. In the centre, arrange thin slices of beetroot. Sprinkle with finely chopped mint and serve with French Dressing”. Other recipes are more traditional in length, and layout. Nilson, like Heath, was a great admirer of the tin: lots of canned herring, pilchards, oysters and mussels appear in her recipes. As a young girl, I ate a great deal of fresh seafood, particularly octopus and mussels, but it was always the tinned smoked mussels which held my fancy: I loved the ring pull on the tin, the amber oil in which the mussels lay, and of course, the overpowering smokiness of the morsels. We would eat them from the tine with a toothpick, and, like most delicacies, they were rationed in our house, so I was always left wanting more.

Towards the end of the book, in “Planning and Preparing Meals”: Nilson lists food groups, and, as I am sitting here at my desk shivering, hot water bottle on my lap, I have had a little giggle: under Foods For Warmth and Energy”, she writes: “These are all the fats and oils, the sugars and sweets, bread, flour, cakes and biscuits, oatmeal, rice, semolina and breakfast cereals.” Sounds just perfect!


The illustrations are thin on the ground, but beautiful: in later editions, the cover included photographs, and I of course prefer the original, although I do not know who illustrated it- and I can’t seem to find out either. My cope is so delicate, that often, turning the pages causes the paper to crack and flake off, so I tend not to use it. I have to be very careful when doing so, and I certainly keep it well away from the actual kitchen area: I am a messy cook- and I’d hate to damage the beautiful little edition.

Until next Monday- goodbye!



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The Plain Kitchen: A Year of Positivity

Posted on May 18, 2016 by Justine | 1 comment

As some of you may know, I also have a food and recipe blog over on www.theplainkitchen.com. I set the website up last year, on the 7th July, and decided to set myself a challenge: posting a recipe a day, each one devised and made by me in my kitchen on Salisbury Plain. The idea had been bubbling away for a while, and I wanted another creative outlet of sorts: being in the studio, sorting out Hector & Haddock orders, and keeping up with running a creative business can be very difficult (and emotionally, creatively draining) at times, and I felt I needed some sort of "other" creative project. I also write, and I teach too: sometimes one's natural inventiveness and love for creating things can be completely swamped by the daily grind of life. I also wanted to mark my 42nd year with something positive: in 1987, my mum died, aged 42, and, as so many of you who have lost parents or family members early on in life will know, no matter how you live life positively, no matter how you focus on the good, there are always dates and times and ages that pop up into your head- reminding you of your place and time in the universe. These thoughts can turn into nasty little numbers; they can overtake your existence, burrow themselves into your every waking hour, and I didn't want this to happen- I didn't want the negativity and upset to dominate, as they so often can do: I wanted a year of celebration, creation, and love, and I thought getting back in touch with mum's old cookbooks, remembering her through the recreation of some of her recipes, and spending time in my favourite place ever- the kitchen- would be  a hugely life affirming thing to do. 

So, I chose to mark the year with just this: and, every day, there has been a new recipe or idea popped onto The Plain Kitchen: sometimes with a lengthy nostalgic preamble, and sometimes, particularly in those hungover or exhausted times, a sentence or two followed by the recipe is all I have managed. Today I posted recipe number 315: I am almost there, with just 50 to go. It's a strange feeling, really, nearing the end of this culinary marathon: I am, funnily enough, quite looking forward to the end: managing a business, a home, teaching, writing, and then the recipe creation and blogging has been quite tricky at times! Every recipe is of course measured exactly and tested, and only ones that "work" go up on the site: there have been very many that have been binned or fed to the dog, there have been many which although utterly delicious, just haven't photographed well, so don't make the cut, there have been even more that I can't pop up on the site because I forgot the damn measurements or baking time, so in fact are no good to anyone. I spend a lot of time anyway in the kitchen, which means I do things automatically, unconsciously: and I have never really measured things in my cooking (except of course for baking). So, in a way, posting recipes has meant some sort of constraint in the kitchen: but in a good way. I am now more exacting, I have learned to describe things (hopefully) in a way that seems accessible to people, and I have also learned to write better recipes. I look  back on some of my first attempts and writing a recipe- and oh my, there are so many changes I would now make. But, that's what regularity does, I suppose: you learn as you go along, you make lots of mistakes, and you improve.

Although it has at times been tricky, I am going to miss the daily blog: I feel, with the end in visible sight now, that I may be losing an old friend. That, like meeting someone for a daily cup of coffee, or having a regular chat with someone, The Plain Kitchen and I will miss each other.  So, I have decided that even though the honeymoon may be over, so to speak, we still need each other, and we still make each other happy. I've decided that come July, when the 365th post has been created, I will post once or twice a week: I will begin to read my cookbooks again, and will be buying some new ones (I've left them alone this year- I wanted to read  just my mum's recipes, and to be inventive with my own ideas, so I resisted the urge to delve into my little library). I will write about recipes I have made from my favourite books. I will visit farms and producers and write about the beautiful British produce we are so lucky to enjoy. I will visit restaurants and will try new ideas and products in the kitchen, and will write about them. I can't wait: the year of daily posts has opened up a wonderful world of opportunities and creativity, and I am so glad I celebrated this year with something life-affirming and productive as this. It may not seem like much to others, but it has meant the world to me. 

If you fancy following The Plain Kitchen, you can do so via Bloglovin or, by subscribing on the site.


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Plain Huts: Designed for Life

Posted on May 09, 2016 by Justine | 0 comments

 The Jacob Hut (photo courtesy Jo Po Photography & Visual Arts)

Our little village in Wiltshire is full of the most interesting and creative people. Living in the middle of Salisbury Plain means that we are surrounded by the open skies and fields of the countryside, and without a doubt this has an effect on one’s creative output. My friend Cath Caesar, founder of Plain Huts, designs and makes the most beautiful Shepherd’s Huts, and, deciding to take a break from both the studio and the kitchen a few weeks ago, I went to pay her a visit at her workshop.

Plain Huts is a family business based on The Plain- hence the name "Plain" Huts. Cath specialises in building bespoke shepherd's huts that are beautiful, functional and contemporary. Embracing the romance of the past through design choices such as large cast-iron wheels and the distinctive curved tin roof, yet combined with modern practicalities of double glazing and closed cell foil backed insulation, means that a Plain Hut, with its use of clean lines and beautiful Western Red Cedar cladding, is really like no other. Cath began making her huts in 2012, and every year since then she has brought out new versions of her existing huts: Cath now builds huts with en-suite wet rooms and bathrooms, compostable toilets, fully fitted kitchens, all still reflecting her contemporary take on the traditional style of shepherd’s hut.

                        Cath Caesar in her workshop, Salisbury Plain

I love the idea of having an extra space or room, particularly a little add-on that doesn’t need planning permission, and can be tucked away in a corner of your garden. The beautiful cedar vertical panels of a Plain Hut, juxtaposed with Cath’s cast iron wheels, glass sliding doors, recessed lighting and woodburning stoves all make for an aesthetically beautiful combination of traditional meets contemporary. It just works. My favourite bit of the huts is the corrugated tin roof: reminiscent of our farm house roof in South Africa, I couldn’t think of anything nicer than being tucked away, wood burning stove going, with that unmistakable sound of rain on a tin roof.

                                                              That roof!

Many of Cath’s customers buy the huts as part of farm diversification. Setting up campsites or glamping experiences is something undertaken by more and more farmers every year, and Cath is able to provide that sort of solution to diversification, in the form of fully built, or flat-pack huts. Many customers order the flat packs- people who are experienced enough to put the huts together themselves often order several flat-pack huts as part of a camping/glamping set up, and assemble them on site. A few years ago we went on holiday to such a farm in Sussex: and it was blissful. We slept on proper beds, we were warm, and safe, yet felt completely as if we were "properly" camping. That’s the other thing I love about the huts: they have all the mod-cons, namely electricity: I’m not one for proper roughing it camping, I did far too much of it in my childhood, I loved it, but those days are over and a few home comforts are needed when I’m on holiday: namely a hot cup of tea, cold vino, a good light to read by, and a bathroom: all of which are provided in the huts. You still get that outdoorsy feeling, without being cold and having to traipse across a field in the middle of the night to the loo. 

 The cedar clad Jacob: beautiful verticals


When I paid Cath a visit, she was in the middle of a build: and it was fascinating to see the hut take shape. I love watching people work, I love seeing their process, their set-up, the space they create in, and it was a real privilege to be able to see a hut being built. 

You can find out more on www.plainhuts.co.uk or contact Cath Caesar on 07903313922.

 Glimpse of the cast-iron wheels and the hand made oak verandah 

 Hand forged cast iron wheels

Tools & Tin

Hub Caps


I love creative spaces...


With thanks to Cath Caesar of Plain Huts for allowing me to interrupt the building of a Jacob with my incessant questions and  snapping away!

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BBC Wiltshire: The Plain Kitchen

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Justine | 0 comments

I've just returned from my first proper holiday in 5 years: and have hit the ground running with work, both teaching and in the Hector and Haddock Studio, but also on The Plain Kitchen, my other creative project. As I have mentioned before, I set myself the challenge of posting a recipe a day, devised and made by me in my kitchen on Salisbury Plain, on The Plain Kitchen blog: every recipe being gluten-free of course. So far so good. I am 242 posts into the blog, and loving every minute of it: the opportunity to be creative under quite rigid parameters is in fact, strangely liberating.  

I was lucky enough to record a series of programmes for BBC Wiltshire and the Sue Davies show, aired every Sunday till mid April, in their feature called Taste of Wiltshire. I've popped the links to the show if you fancy a listen: I am about 1 hr 15 minutes into each programme. I so enjoyed developing these recipes with an extra slant: using local ingredients, from pork, to smoked eel, to lovely local honey from a neighbouring village.

If you fancy subscribing to the blog, you will receive a new recipe every day in your inbox. You can of course subscribe via bloglovin too.


Sunday 14th February: BBC Wiltshire Sue Davies: Introduction to The Plain Kitchen

Sunday 21st February: BBC Wiltshire Sue Davies: Sweetcorn Loaf

Sunday 28th February: BBC Wiltshire Sue Davies: Slow Roast Pork Belly

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Linocut Workshops

Posted on September 10, 2015 by Justine | 0 comments

It has taken me rather a long while to send out a Hector and Haddock Newsletter, and I finally did so yesterday through the fabulous Mailchimp- what an easy & user-friendly system it is. Although, I did have that sudden sinking feeling as I hit the "send" button, that somehow my newsletter would get scrambled in the ether of the internet, and in fact I would bombard hundreds of people with swear words, bad spelling and complete nonsense. I'm pleased to report that, of course, this wasn't the case. Newsletters arrived in inboxes just as I had composed them: the miracle of modern technology.

The newsletter outlined the launch of my Hector & Haddock Linocut Workshops. I had conducted small workshops in the past before, but taking part in this year's Heal's Modern Craft Market spurred me on to conduct more of these in larger environments. I followed up the in-house Heal's workshop with a joint Heal's and Cointreau Workshop this year, for a group of magazine stylists, which was great fun. I have since travelled with the workshops, and taught in homes an schools, and even  here in my own home. I've enjoyed every single one: from very small groups of three people, to larger groups- each one is a fulfilling way to connect with people, and teach them a new skill. That's the beauty of linocutting: you can, in 2-3 hours, draw, transfer, cut, ink, and print your own design: it gets both sides of the brain working, and allows for a bit of freedom and creativity: both sadly lacking in a lot of today's work environments.

I can't wait to visit more homes, schools and corporate environments to share the skill of linocutting: it is a real privilege to be able to see people create something out of nothing, particularly those people who are not naturally creative (or at least don't think they are). Working with a  client's brief is also such fun: the images below were from the Cointreau and Heal's workshop: Cointreau conducted a Workshop in making Cointreau Fizz Cocktails, and I then organised my workshop around designing vintage style labels for the cocktails. Anything can be created: from keyring inserts, to luggage style tags, cards, and larger posters: possibilities are fairly endless.

Read a bit more about the Workshops here or contact me on info@hectorandhaddock.co.uk to discuss requirements. 



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