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The Art of Spontaneity

This may sound like a contradiction, but I've always found that true spontaneity works best when you are magnificently prepared: the thermos flask that delivers steaming hot tea after a wintry walk, or the bottle of bubbles that's perfectly chilled and ready for any impromptu celebration. It may seem like a superpower, but that 'Ta da' moment is eminently achievable without a magic wand. Here's a few shortcuts to being brilliantly spontaneous:

  • Reserve a large thermos for hot water only - so that it doesn't becomes stained with tea tannins, and only needs a quick rinse after each use.
  • Keep a box in your car boot stocked with enamel (ie: indestructible) mugs, as well as teabags, hot chocolate and instant coffee (I'm not usually a fan, but there are times that even this is welcome). I often supplement my supplies with a tin of marshmallows and some biscuits. Then all you need do, as you run out the door on a hastily planned outing, is fill your thermos with boiling water and grab some milk from the fridge - or from a handy shop en route
  • A spare bottle of white wine and/or Champagne / good Cava / French Cremant (but please no Prosecco!) kept in the fridge at all times is a no-brainer. But it's also a good idea to keep some non-alcoholic mixers in the fridge, either to offer to non-drinking drivers, or for impromptu cocktails, with a quick injection of rum or vodka. Ginger beer and cranberry juice are both great options that fulfil both purposes.
  • Which leads me neatly on to the next essential: always have a bottle of vodka in the freezer, and at least one fresh lime lurking about, at all times - a squeeze of juice or flourish of the zest can make all the difference to an otherwise mundane mix. Even when you're being spontaneous, it's the details that elevate the perfunctory to the fabulous!
  • A hip flask, filled with something strong, sweet and warming (damson vodka or sloe gin are delicious choices), is a useful accessory to most outdoor adventures.

Now for the food: you need enough decent store-cupboard ingredients to throw together more than just a sandwich for any friends who drop in for a cup of tea...and stay for supper.

  • My favourite store-cupboard/fridge ingredients for a speedy supper include: good tinned tomatoes (Italian plum tomatoes have the best flavour IMHO), anchovies, capers, garlic, virgin olive oil (I like Greek oil), parmesan, Halloumi cheese, dried pasta (spaghetti and penne), oatcakes or other cracker-like cheese platforms, Brie and/or Stilton, and, of course, a bar of good dark chocolate. With these basics, you can whip up a flavoursome pasta puttanesca, simple snack of fried halloumi in caper butter (serve with salad leaves if you happen to have any in the fridge), a basic cheese platter, or instant dessert.
  • For al fresco feasts, it's useful to keep one of those ready-made barbecues and a box of matches in the car (skewers and some tongs are a useful addition to your emergency stash). Then, if your day at the beach stretches into the evening, all you need do is supplement with a pack of sausages (easy to find at even the smallest local store) and whatever version of bread you can lay your hands on and, Ta da, supper.

And there you have it, all the ingredients you need to be stylishly and instantly spontanteous!

Last updated 11:51 on 1 March 2018

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