Red spaghetti… and a grumpy old woman’s take on the rest of my Chelsea Flower Show 2012 piccies

Kicking off the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in style!

Part food post, part flower show

As I’d already posted some of the food-oriented images from our trip to the Chelsea Flower Show, I originally set out to focus this post on a staple recipe that has sustained both my husband and I during these last few turbulent weeks. The idea was that I would post my recipe and throw in the rest of the pictures I’d taken at the show; that was until I went through my iPhone and realised I had 60 photos of the Chelsea Flower Show to share, and they don’t even include the ones I’d already posted!

The towering garden in the sky. Shame you weren’t allowed to enter!

So, basically, I’m doing an about-turn and will make today’s story more about the show than about the food, which actually seems quite fitting since food hasn’t really been our priority for a bit.

That said, that will change – I have spent the day (Saturday) at Godalming’s village fete (in honour of the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations) and with 3 more days of holiday to go before we return to work, I’m planning a BUMPER baking session in the kitchen over the next few days and I can’t wait to share what I’ll be cooking.

Firstly, to the food…

Red spaghetti – my take on a basic italian tomato sauce 🙂

These were growing at the base of the towering garden in the sky. I don’t know what they are but they were very purdy!

Red spaghetti

As you know, I haven’t had much interest in food or cooking recently. However, we have still had to eat and this dish has really been the staple that has kept us nourished and satisfied. In four weeks, I’ve made at least three batches because I’ve given lots of it away too, and this recipe is basically my take on a basic italian pomodoro sauce. I use it as a base for our home-made pizzas or we’ve added additional ingredients – everything from roasted peppers to minced beef – to turn it into different pasta sauces.

I love it best as it is, with freshly cooked al dente pasta, with nothing more added other than extra fresh basil torn over the top and freshly milled black pepper. The best thing about it is that it freezes so well, so you’ll have plenty left over to save away for a rainy day. My husband loves it chunky whereas I love to whizz it up with a hand mixer – it turns the most vibrant orange colour when you blitz it, making it look exactly like Heinz cream of tomato soup!

Making this red sauce really couldn’t be simpler plus it’s healthy and delicious!

Here’s the recipe:

800 gram tin of chopped tomatoes

500 gram tin/box of passata

1 large red onion, finely chopped

3-4 large shallots, finely chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

3 tablespoons of dried oregano

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon of chilli powder

3 tablespoons of regular olive oil

3-4 teaspoons of sugar

1 tablespoon of sea salt

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)

25 grams butter

3 large handfuls of fresh basil (keep 1 large handful for garnishing)

Fresh black pepper

This is one of the reasons why I can never, ever go carb-free!

Saute the shallots, onion and garlic in the regular olive oil and butter over a gentle heat for 10 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add your tinned tomatoes, passata, vinegar, salt, dried oregano, chilli powder and sugar and stir well (after a generous addition of freshly milled black pepper too).

Simmer this for at least 50 minutes over a medium/gentle heat, stirring occasionally. Add two handfuls of roughly torn basil and your three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste (adding more salt/sugar if needed). Stir well and allow the sauce to simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes.

Now let’s turn our attention to a different kind of red… and blue… and green… and purple… and orange… and yellow…

Serve with freshly cooked pasta or use this as a base for other sauces or a base for pizzas. Garnish with whatever you like – more fresh basil, grated parmesan etc.

A Grumpy Woman’s take on the Chelsea Flower Show 2012

Now I say again, I have about 60 photos to share from the Chelsea Flower Show so you’d best be sitting comfortably if you’re planning to go through all of the pictures… I seriously didn’t realise I’d taken that many.

We had a great day out that day; the sun was shining and I was fulfilling one of the biggest wishes of all time to go there but there is a but, a big BUT, because on the whole, I was slightly disappointed by the whole experience.

Sponsored by L’Occitane, this was one of the prettiest gardens on show, modelled on a typical Southern-France perfumed garden.

I think this little lady thought I was taking a picture of her. I’m not really sure she was aware that she was standing in front of a giant sculpture of a spider… wonder if she would have stayed so smiley then…

It had nothing to do with the fact that anyone under the age of 50 genuinely stuck out like a sore thumb, that was actually quite funny, but the sheer number of people at the show almost did my head in.

Isn’t this beautiful!?!

We went on an RHS day that was only open to members of the Royal Horticultural Society and even then, it was rammed! Mind you, don’t think these little grannies are push overs, they were quite merciless and even vicious (mind those walking sticks!) in pushing their way to the front of the displays 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, the Chelsea Flower Show IS beautiful and the mind boggles at the work the landscape architects, designers, nurseries and gardeners must endure to pull it together. But what really irked me was that no one from the public was actually allowed to enter the actual show gardens at all!

See??? Bit like being at the zoo looking in at an enclosure but with no animals running about.

Each show garden is cordoned off so you end up with this mob of people that are only allowed to gather at its peripheries – it’s just a bit odd that basically your £25 ticket (and that’s how much each ticket costs!) only gets you to the edge of each garden. As many of them are about the designs of both the hard and soft landscaping, you’re only allowed to look at it from a distance. I think it’s a real shame because I know many people like me actually miss out on seeing some of the small details that are part of each design because we’re not allowed in to see the gardens. Shame really.

Look at this sweet tree lined avenue cos there’s not much else you can do apart from look down it.

Plus, after being seriously elbowed, pushed aside and even stepped on quite a few times by many grumpy OAPs, I gradually didn’t even bother trying to get close to any of the main show gardens – it was far too dangerous! 🙂

A slightly bigger water feature than normal…

The other thing I noticed was that almost every single show garden seemed to have a water feature. It seems no garden is perfect without a water feature.

On a sunny day like the day we had, I can understand the beauty of a water feature but let’s face it, we live in the UK and really only get about two weeks of sunshine every summer. The rest of the time it’s grey, wet, rainy and more wet. I know they can be beautiful but I really don’t think every single garden has to have one…

I really wanted to be able to walk down that avenue – the pebbles had been laid vertically instead of horizontally – imagine the amount of work!

I so wanted to get in there and see how this garden was laid out but this was pretty much all I got to see… I couldn’t even see if that was another round water feature at the end or some kind of well or seat. Who knows!?!!  Booooooo!

Yet another garden we weren’t allowed to enter. It would have been nice to see how the water feature looked from inside the garden house, sigh! BTW, the people you see in there are the designers/gardeners of each project or reporters.

The deliberate sort of ‘wild English garden’ is exactly the kind of style I like.

There were however some real gems though, and I fell in love with this design. It was on one of the smaller plots and featured a shiny but small caravan parked in a typically classic and slightly wild-looking English country garden – delightful!

But what I really loved was the splash of contemporary design thrown in because sitting amongst the lovely planting was a really modern looking bench, and for once, I really liked this simple water feature though I think the garden would have looked just as nice without it.

I said to my husband that if I could have a dream garden, it would look something like this. Then my husband had to burst the bubble by whispering in my ear:

“Darling, it looks great now but you won’t love it as much when it turns into a rust bucket at the back of the garden.”

And he’s probably right though one way it wouldn’t rust would be if he helped out in the garden and kept it in good nick, hah!

It was odd to see this touch of modern design in a typically English-styled garden but it looked amazing!

Yes I’d really love a giant, hand-beaten, mirrored, rotatable disc to adorn my garden… actually, no I really wouldn’t. It is lovely if you have a structured garden like this one but people who do live in houses and gardens like this are waaaaay beyond my imagination and income bracket 🙂

And now we come to some of the slightly more ornate features that I think only truly rich people can indulge in.

I said in my last post that another rather disappointing feature (for me anyway) was the sheer number of artists that were there to display sculptures. It’s not that I don’t appreciate sculpture and art but the vast majority of people cannot possibly afford to own any of these things!

I’m all for garden furniture too but I’d also like garden furniture one can really sit in.

I think these chairs look fantastic, but they’re just like some of the millionaire-dollar interior-designed houses you see in flash magazines – beautiful yet totally impractical. Why is that??? I guess it’s because I just don’t operate in the kind of income bracket that allows one to buy furniture and things purely for looking at, LOL 🙂

The theme was lovely – all types of white flowers and then this set of beautifully designed swinging chairs. I couldn’t tell you whether it was comfortable or not (I doubt it) because yet again, mere mortals were not allowed anywhere near it.

Totally beautiful but I think totally impractical too.

This was really innovative and beautiful but seriously, how many people can afford to put something like this in their gardens? Plus it’s normally so cold here at night, even sometimes in summer, how often would you get to enjoy this?

To prove my point further about how some of these  gardens really are only for the incredibly wealthy, here’s a picture of another display – it features moving animation projected onto the rear of a specially designed wall. My husband loved it (he would because it requires electronics and computers etc) and it was really beautiful – the project had fluttering butterflies and fairies and so forth, but c’mon! Seriously, how many people can put up a screen and projector in their garden, especially in generally wet England!?!!

A QR code for the show set against a living wall and water feature. Nifty idea.

However, still on the whole electronic wizardry theme, I did think this QR code wall created against a living wall was kinda clever 🙂

But then I saw this garden, and I’m sorry but nothing can get me to like it.

It looked like some kind of giant worm had decided to eat Jason’s technicolour dream coat, along with a 1,000 disco balls and 10 tonnes of skittles before deciding it had eaten too much and needed to bring it back up again.

Still, each to their own, eh?

This garden certainly caught my attention but not in a good way for me. It however certainly did sparkle, a lot!

Hmmm, would you think twice about going to someone’s garden BBQ if you knew they had this in their garden? :

Then we come on to the weird and wacky gardens and things

There was this beast, which I thought looked more sad than scary.

I know that everyone has their personal taste when it comes to any art form but for me, gardens are restful places, even the wild ones can be pretty, so I find it a bit odd that anyone would consider putting sculptures like the skeleton to my right into theirs.

Frankly, I’d be a bit afraid to sit in someone’s garden if they had art like this displayed, LOL!

Needless to say, animals featured in a lot of the sculptures and some I loved, like the fish swimming through a sea of grass. I also really loved the sculpture of the wild boar below.

Has anyone seen Nemo?

Here little piggy!

I know you can hardly tell the difference but I choose natural grass any day. I used to play tennis on astro turf and trust me, it’s no fun when you fall (at speed) onto astro turf because it grazes and burns like hell!

And before I finally take you into the pavilion to where all the pretty flower displays were, I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the astroturf display. The car is covered in fake grass but the base is made from real grass. Cute, huh?

It was ironic that their stand also happened to be opposite the guys that were selling ride-on lawn movers and this little robot lawn mover for the chronically lazy.

The laziness of man, hahahahaha!

Inside the pavilion

And finally, we get towards the end of my photos from the Chelsea Flower Show.

The pavilion houses just as many elaborate displays as the outdoor show gardens but it also holds all of the flowers and plants that are judged.

For someone like me who loves colour, it’s a real treat for the eyes!

This stand reminded me so much of coral displays you normally see under water.

Whoever designed this stand has either been growing up on a diet of teletubbies or has popped one too many scraps of funky paper, LOL 🙂

BRIGHT NEON COLOURS!!!! I did love it though.

Then I stumbled on this amazing stand that featured nothing but orchids. They created two orchid ‘trees’ which consisted of LOTs of individual orchids set in test tubes which they’d hung onto a tree frame. I mean, the amount of work that went into this display was totally awesome!

So many people were taking pictures of this orchid tree. I waited for ages to get a clear shot and then just as I snapped the shot, the lady on the left stuck her arms in to do the same. Gr-eat!

Here’s the yellow version of the orchid tree that they’d created.

The miniature canal boat and lock looks just like the real lock we have behind our house in Godalming 🙂 The mythical beast on the top doesn’t really help though…

Then I stumbled upon a very cute display. The designers had tried to recreate a traditional English canal boat and lock, complete with water leaking through the lock. It was very, very cute. The only problem was that the canal boat they built wasn’t quite long enough, which made it look a little bit like a floating coffin…

Complete with leaky lock…

This picture on the right makes the whole display look a lot better but I still think it looks like a floating coffin.

I also came across a display that warmed the very cockles of my heart because it made me think of my family – the Thai temple display. It reminded me of home, only I’m not from Thailand and I’m not Thai. It just made me think of South-east Asia, which is where I come from, if you get my drift.

So I’m not Thai or from Thailand but this display still made me think of home.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of this lantern. I am Chinese after all!

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, this wraps up my very, very long post today. I’ll leave you with the last of the photos I took. I actually have quite a few more but even I’ve had enough of pretty floral pictures for now!

There are also two Chelsea Flower Show videos that my husband shot below.

For those of you in the UK, I hope you have a brilliant Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend.

I’m spending it making some good old fashioned English party fare, namely sausage rolls, a Victoria sponge and maybe some scones thrown in as well if we can find room in our tummies.

For everyone else not with us in the UK to celebrate this special occasion, have a lovely weekend anyway.

Lots of love


Here’s the video my husband shot of some of the show gardens he liked:

Here’s the other video my husband shot of the pavilion displays:

I have this thing about irises – I absolutely adore them!

Given the very special weekend for all of Great Britain, I couldn’t help but end on my favourite plant/flower of all time – it’s what I associate English gardens with more than roses – and that’s hanging wisteria!

6 Responses to “Red spaghetti… and a grumpy old woman’s take on the rest of my Chelsea Flower Show 2012 piccies”
  1. noirciplume says:

    Awesome photographs of the Chelsea Flower Show! I was there last week with my camera as well.

  2. sybaritica says:

    Try ladling a bit of the sauce into a separate pan over moderate heat then add your drained pasta and stir so that the pasta absorbs the sauce… then plate and add the rest of the sauce. It really makes it nice!

  3. I’m with you on pureeing the sauce — I do not want to find detectable pieces of onion in pasta sauce.

  4. The image of the sparkle garden is my favorite.

  5. Loving your post – beautiful, gorgeous photos – thanks for sharing:) Happy Sunday!

  6. billpeeler says:

    All the flowers look so breath-taking – but I’m with you, it does seem odd that all those gorgeous displays were so inaccessible. And to have to pay as well – Booooo, indeed!

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