Kitchen sink post

This is what I’ve always called a kitchen sink post; since it feels like everything’s included except the sink.

I keep glancing up, as I type, to look at the long line of beech trees across the road. Their leaves are gently fluttering down and across in a diagonal line to fall straight into our garden. Some are hitting this window with a real ting. They’re not incredibly close by but the wind always seems to blow this way. There’s a carpet of coppery leaves covering the grass now and they’re not even our trees! Pretty though.

Previously I would darn the ends in a blanket on several lazy weekend afternoons; semi-watching a film or listening to an audio book, while the rugby played out on the tv. It got them done and I didn’t mind it too much at all. Hand sewing of any kind has always been relaxing. But this Wave Blanket is not getting darned very fast at all, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. Weekends have been busier lately (in a very nice way, no moaning here, or competitive ‘I’m the busiest person in the world’ boasts) and so no lazy afternoons to sit and focus. Today I’m meeting someone very yarny for lunch and when we were making arrangements last night she clearly instructed me to bring yarn. ‘Anything fibrous’. Does Stylecraft’s acrylic yarn count? Hmmm. Well, I don’t know that I can sit in a gastro pub and darn, that’s a step too far for me. I’m not entirely comfortable with knitting or crocheting in any public place, unless it’s tucked away on a bus, or as part of a knitting and crochet group. She currently carries a spindle and wodge of fleece in the depths of her bag, and thinks nothing of whipping out her knitting while queuing in the bank, walking up a hill or ….. I don’t have that kind of chutzpah, or obsessive compulsive behaviour around yarn. (Fingers and toes crossed she doesn’t read before this lunch. Could be embarrassing.)

So, the long and the short of it is that I’m beginning to feel awkward that this blanket isn’t done. I shall try to goad this feeling into determined action. Aiming for five ends a day would be something. It’s not huge after all, just fiddlier than my usual Ripple pattern. A dozen ends last week was clearly not reaching for the stars. That little baby Winnie needs her blanket.

I have been steadily knitting my Hitchhiker, adding a section at a time, and really like the different shades which are appearing. It’s Lang’s Tosca Light in Sapphire.

It’s all Christmas a go-go isn’t it? I did a double take when I saw the trees in the garden centre on Friday, but I imagine lots will be up and decorated from this weekend, as the first of December looms. I’ve only bought three Christmas presents and feel quite pleased with myself. I don’t believe in rushing these things!

The Soup of the Week here has been tomato and vegetable, with that stunning bowl of plum tomatoes bought on impulse from the market. There were just over a kilo for £1. Bargain! It’s probably the ideal recipe for a summer glut of tomatoes when they’re at their tastiest, but it’s great with feta or blue cheese crumbled on top for added oomph.

~ Sweat onion, carrot and celery in a little rapeseed oil, then add 500g of ripe tomatoes, a 400g can of tomatoes, 500ml of stock, salt and pepper, a little sugar to take away the acidity of the tomatoes and a good handful of fresh basil leaves (or whatever fresh or dried herbs you fancy.) Add a tablespoon of red vinegar. Blend to a smooth consistency and enjoy.

I used up a vintage red pepper in my first batch a few weeks ago and that worked well. It’s a goodie for adding whatever you fancy. I’ve tried it with and without the red wine vinegar, it adds piquancy but is fine without too.

Reading: this week I’ve got four books on the go; one printed, one Ebook, and two audio.

1) I’m enjoying another Laura Ingalls Wilder from my childhood collection. A few chapters are good nostalgic reading late at night.

2) Yesterday’s 99p Kindle Daily Deal Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak reeled me in as I tried the sample and that’s almost certain to hook you into buying. I try not to download them, some days with more success than others! I’m really enjoying it and can almost certainly see a film being made from this one. It’s breaking my own rule about not starting Christmas books before 1st December, but whatever!

3) Bruce’s Born to Run audio book, read by him in that uniquely gravelly voice, which I will still be listening to in chunks next year because it’s over 18 hours long.

4) And finally, The Muse by Jessie Burton which I started on the way to Excel, London on Saturday for the Knitting, Stitching and Hobbycraft Simply Christmas show.

How much do you think I bought there by the way?

Answer…..a Carrot cupcake for lunch pudding! I was so restrained I nearly sprained something. Black Sheep Wools had bags of gorgeousness on sale, another seller had those Swirl cakes and Whirl cakes and all sorts of lovely wool blends. I resisted. Yes, I do deserve a medal, thanks very much, especially as my friend had told me to remind her she’s skint then bought bags of yarn and other fancies!

What are you meaning, cooking and reading this week? If you want to add your own Yarning Along link in the comments go for it. But tell us what you’re up to either way.

This week 

This week I’ve pottered about making-wise and haven’t really done much. It’s been brilliant to feel 100% well again after a rough few weeks. I was concerned there might be something quite wrong. When the GP pronounced my results, and therefore me, ‘normal’, I breathed a big sigh of relief. I’ve steadily gone back to being my usual active self, with a quite a bit of extra grinning. It’s just so good to get your bounce back after feeling awful, isn’t it?

On Wednesday I was out, wondering if I should try to rush home in daylight to take photos for my weekly Yarning post, but decided that was plain silly. It was far more fun to carry on with the five mile walk home I’d planned, in bouncy Tigger fashion as I felt full of beans again. Then I made the decision to have a break from it as I’ve posted YA updates non-stop since April without a week off, even on holidays. It’s time to pause. I let the regulars know there and then, and that happily was that. I’ll still show you what I’m reading regularly; as I like the return comments and links to your posts sharing what you’re making and reading. Do carry on adding yours whenever you feel like it. 

So, this week I’ve made my friend that pot-holder for her new narrow boat, so she won’t burn her hand picking up the kettle. Its a nice pop of pink to go with her scarf curtains too. (Thinking ‘eh?!’ See here.) If you want to make one too click on the My Designs tab at the top of the page for the free pattern. If you do can you let me know, or better still show me your make please? I get regular messages from people saying they’re copying my colour combinations, checking details of patterns or asking for crochet advice etc but frequently I never have an acknowledgement of my reply, or get to see their version. If that’s you: Go on! Show me please! I’m on all the usual social media and Ravelry, so it’s dead easy. 

I finished my bag at Sewing Club on Monday. I guess I don’t need to spell out that I’m not a fan of all the pressing when sewing, especially as the tutor doesn’t use water in her irons. I imagine it’s because she doesn’t want leaky irons in her car but it makes pressing tricky. Sometimes I have sprinkled water from my drinking bottle to steam out particularly irksome creases but this week I lost the will to live iron again, by the bag’s end! That crease line will drop out with use, won’t it? Perhaps if I go out in the rain it will definitely go. That’s maybe an extreme anti-iron solution.

I’m reading Bitter Lemons of Cyprus by Laurence Durrell and I can’t believe how good it is (this to raised eyebrows from Someone who bought it for me in 2014.) It’s funny and written in such an engaging style. I laughed out loud at Frangos and his cattle coming home in the evening, though felt a bit sorry for the one whose tail was being corkscrewed as he ran home.

When adding a few more rows I realised I can’t really decide if the Garter Stitch Blanket is ugly. It’s a stash buster and probably destined to keep someone in need warm, but I don’t want to send a truly hideous offering.

Last night I cooked this Chicken and Orzo one-pot dish but subverted the recipe using a little rapeseed oil, as I refuse to use yucky Fry Light.  It was very tasty, but next time I’ll substitute the suggested spices for smoked paprika, fresh oregano and thyme.

What’s your week been like? Whatcha making, reading and cooking at the mo?

Iced tea 

   
Make a pint of tea, I used Tetley Berry Burst Flavoured Green Tea. Leave to steep till strong. 
Add honey to taste and sprigs of mint. Leave the mint to infuse for a while. 

Double the liquid with a pint of cold water if you’re in a hurry to drink it immediately, but if you can make it ahead it’s better to leave the tea to cool and it will obviously be stronger. 

Add frozen raspberries, a few fresh sprigs of mint to decorate and lots of ice.

Of course you can always omit the raspberries and add whatever fruit you have to hand; such as slices of lemon, orange, lime or other fruit.
Enjoy!

Polenta Bread Recipe

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It’s definitely homemade soup and toast weather at the moment especially with the threat promise of snow which hangs over each day at the moment.

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Back in the summer I bought this huge bag of cornmeal, aka polenta, to make a lemon polenta cake when we had guests here for lunch. Since then it’s sat in the pantry neglected really, apart from the first time I tried this polenta bread recipe. Yesterday seemed the perfect opportunity to bake some more and I’m so glad I did as it’s really delicious.

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This is the bread recipe book I use most. I first borrowed a copy from the library to try a few recipes. This had such good reviews on Amazon UK, and I was still using recipes I’d photocopied, that it seemed daft to ask for any other book for my birthday last year. A good decision as I haven’t had a disappointing loaf yet!

I thought I’d share the polenta bread recipe with you in case you have need for a soup and bread meal too.

Polenta Bread

Makes 1 loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes + proving + 25 minutes
Freezing: Recommended

“Polenta (or maize flour) has a slightly grainy texture and a vivid yellow colour that makes an everyday loaf a little more interesting”

350g (12oz) strong white bread flour
115g (4oz) polenta, plus extra for sprinkling
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
25g (1oz) butter, melted
275-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth. Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size.
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7″) long oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides of the loaf.
5) Cover and prove until doubled in size.
6) Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7 / 220oc / 425of
7) Sprinkle liberally with polenta and bake for about 25 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

From Women’s Institute Bread: Over 100 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Liz Herbert.

** I didn’t have any butter so used a tablespoon of olive oil this time. It worked well, although the slightly buttery taste is best. I use my Kenwood mixer and dough hook, so cut down kneading time by half (to around 5 minutes). To knock back the dough I give it a quick whizz again in the mixer. In the winter the warmest place for proving is the airing cupboard, so put the covered (cling film) mixing bowl there. Typically it takes an hour, to an hour and a half to double the first time. I put the oven on to heat after about 30-40 minutes, while the dough proves the second time, then it’s reached temperature by the time the dough has doubled.”**

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Polenta bread is best eaten fresh, when it’s moist and the knife slides through each slice as if it’s butter. It seems to go stale quite fast, but that’s no matter as it makes the crunchiest, tastiest toast. Perfect with chilli and lentil soup! Here’s the soup recipe.

What are you enjoying cooking and eating at the moment?

Warming Vegetable & Pasta Soup

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The other day I was looking in the pantry for pasta to go with my leftover puttanesca sauce (Recipe here from Nigella) and came across a bag of these little pasta shapes. They look macaroni sized, but are in fact much smaller, absolutely tiny. I bought them in a hypermarket in France last summer.

This morning it was 5oc which is 2oc up on yesterday, but it’s a bitterly cold wind which blows. Time for soup. I had a good Goggle for minestrone recipes, but nothing really grabbed me so I made my own up as I went along. It turned out to be a corker.

The Mister is away working in Stockholm this week and I do intend to save him a bowlful as a warming welcome home, but I’m not sure it’s going to last! He is texting about having rich and delicious moose meatballs for dinner. A couple of weeks ago he was in Toulouse and it was all cassoulet and sausages.

Here’s what I used, because you might fancy making some really warming soup too:

Vegetable and pasta soup

2 tsp olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 onion, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely diced

1/2 red & 1/2 yellow pepper, chopped

3 rashers smoked bacon, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp mixed herbs

1-2 bayleaves

400g tinned tomatoes (best quality the better)

500-750ml vegetable stock (depending on how thick you want the soup)

2 handfuls of small pasta shapes (I have small hands!)

Seasoning to taste

——————-

Serves 4. Or 3 if you’re into really hearty bowlfuls!

::Heat oil in a large pan, cook onion till translucent, add rest of vegetables and cook slowly, covered, until softened.

::Add bacon and cook for a few minutes. Add smoked paprika and cook for a minute.

::Put rest of the ingredients into the pan and cook till vegetables tender. Stir now and then so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Serve. Try not to go back for ‘just a little more’.

** The peppers could easily be missed out, especially as you’re using the holy trinity of onion, carrot and celery as a base for the soup. I just included them because I had a few to use up, and I love pepper. Instead of, or as well as, the pasta you could throw in some lentils, chick peas, cannellini beans or butter beans.**
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Who needs Swedish meatballs or cassoulet?

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Nine Random Things

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I stopped my subscription to Simply Crochet a few months ago because I was a bit bored, I reckon it’s stuck in a bit of a rut. When they asked readers to complete a questionnaire some months ago I requested more garment patterns. I know I’m not alone in feeling fed up of patterns for small items you don’t want or need. However ( a little positivity coming up now!) I really fancied crocheting the scarf pattern I’d seen Heather of The Patchwork Heart posting pics of on IG. So I picked up a copy last week, there was the added temptation of pretty pins too…but oh! They are mostly rusty – albeit silver coloured rust, not rust coloured, but it’s rust all the same. I can’t use them at all. Boo!
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Ooh now this is a good magazine related bit of news – I’ve been given a year’s subscription to this beauty. I’ll turn into a green eyed monster at times (beautiful homes and expensive lovelies to buy) I know, but I am very pleased.
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This is my catch up reading pile. I asked for my birthday subscription not to be continued for a third year to Mollie Makes, again it’s feeling in a bit of a rut. I really can’t face yet more patterns for felt animals and the target audience feels like it’s for young twenty somethings. That’s fair play especially if it’s encouraging them to develop or learn some crafty skills; I just realised that I hadn’t used any of the mini packs, let alone made any items from the magazine for ages and ages.
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Just because I saw this in a gift shop in Broadway, in the Cotswolds, and it made me smile. It’s one of those things you’d love to say when someone’s being all one-sided me-me-me.
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While I was wondering around Broadway I kept hearing yelping and barking. I ducked down an alley to pop into the Sue Ryder charity shop and saw two pens of hounds. They must belong to the local hunt. I’m a baby where dogs en masse are concerned so this is as close I got.
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I’ve seen these chargers in airports etc before, but how handy to find one in John Lewis (High Wycombe) for free charging.
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My friend gave me a bumper lot of thoughtful presents including this lovely tin. It’s my new things crochet tin as the other was bulging at the seams, especially with a new bigger notebook. Isn’t it similar in design to the Cath Kidson tape measure and needle book? It’s such a good match and right up my street.
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Warning. Warning. Tomato talk incoming! I’m still cooking with my home-gown tomatoes, this time it’s a bacon and olive sauce. Yum. I usually halve the olives but this time left them whole. The house is full of bowlfuls in various stages of ripeness. I never imagined eight plants could produce so much fruit (or did QI state they are wrongly regarded as fruit, when in fact they are the vegetable we all grew up believing them to be? Or have I dreamt that?!)
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I’ve been wincing at sightings of the C word; usually in relation to crafting for ………… but look at what fell out of the new issue of Country Living. With the change of weather and the end of the summer holidays looming it doesn’t feel too early to contemplate booking tickets. Are you going?

What have you been up to lately?

Did you see the ice cream debacle on The Great British Bake Off last night?

In my next post I’ll show you the shawl I’ve been crocheting from the current Simply Crochet. It’s sweet, though I do have a shawl related question: there are so many patterns for them at the moment, they seem to be on trend but……have you actually seen anyone wearing one out? Anyone?

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

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I’m happy to class myself as a tomato bore at the moment! I don’t mind if you’re thinking it…

There are various bowls around the kitchen full of ripe and ready to eat tomatoes, alongside those still ripening. It’s fun deciding what to eat them with. We had bacon and vegetable risotto with roasted tomatoes (simply cooked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, nothing else, they are so sweet) last night.

When I got up this morning I really fancied making a light summer soup for lunch. The temperature has dropped by about 10 degrees in the last few weeks, instead of a blissful 28 0c it’s now 17/18 0c at best and feels so cold!
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There are many versions of this soup floating around the net and I’ve made own version; using homemade garlic oil. I always have some on hand for when I’m feeling lazy and use it instead of fresh garlic, or if in this case, I want an extra garlicky kick to a dish. It’s easy: just add 3-4 peeled and halved garlic cloves into a glass jar or small bottle of olive oil and leave to steep for a few days. When it’s all used up I throw away the garlic, wash the bottle and begin again with fresh.

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I love all the bright colours. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in the recipe, when it’s roasted garlic loses it’s stinkiness and just becomes rich and sweet in flavour. I’ve just opened the door for a delivery and the guy didn’t recoil when I breathed over him to sign for the box!

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While the vegetables roasted I hung out a basket of washing, a lot of looking at the sky, muttering and toe crossing went on. So far it hasn’t rained…

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The tray of charred vegetables might not look like much, but they smelt delicious. Ok, so this next bit might not seem a good advertisement; but if you do have a smoke alarm I’d recommend keeping the kitchen door closed while you’re roasting the vegetables. That’s a little tip I’ve learnt when I make my roasted butternut soup in the winter time!

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Make sure you scrape the roasting tray out well;  you want to use every bit of caramelized vegetable that you can, to give the soup as much flavour as possible.

The black specks you see in the soup is ground black pepper.

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Yum, yum in my tum.

Roasted tomato & garlic summer soup

1 tbsp (garlic) olive oil
500g ripe tomatoes, quartered
2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
1 bulb of garlic, divided into peeled cloves
1 red pepper (or 1/2 a red & 1/2 a yellow pepper) deseeded and quartered
600ml / 1 pint hot vegetable stock
3/4 – 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 – 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper
Fresh basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 220 0c/400 of/ gas mark 7

::Put the vegetables into a large roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil and season
::Roast for about 45 mins until the edges are charred. I gently turn them all over after 15 and then 30 minutes. The house fills with a delicious smell.
::Remove the tray from the oven and leave the vegetables to cool
:: Whizz the roasted vegetables with the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce (add quantity to taste, I’d recommend 3/4 tbsp of each) and stock in a food processor or a liquidizer
:: Put the soup through a sieve to remove tomato skins, easing the last of the liquid through by rubbing the vegetable skins etc with the back of a ladle
:: Reheat, scatter with torn basil leaves to serve

If it’s tropical where you are (lucky things!) you can serve this summer soup well chilled with a few ice cubes in the soup.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

Dough!

At the beginning of the week I started to read Little Beach Street Bakery. I’d read The Ghost Hunters and May we be Forgiven and just fancied a really fluffy read. Four chapters in and I was itching to bake some bread from scratch: kneading, proving, knocking back – the whole caboodle. The artisan bread is no effort and all very well but I don’t always plan to make bread ahead. The artisan bread is better left overnight I’ve found, so I haven’t made it as often as I expected.

I grabbed a handful of my many recipe books to compare quantities and decided to use Jamie Oliver’s basic white bread dough from The Naked Chef. This was his very first book, published in 1999, he looks so young on the cover (lots of cheap copies to be had on Ebay I see.) I’ve had it years and never tried the bread recipe. The great thing is that he gives all sorts of variations to make with the basic dough. I decided on two….

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A 2lb white loaf and an olive and rosemary focaccia.

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I don’t know what happened to the end, my shaping obviously needs some refining. The loaf rose SO much that it touched the shelf above; that’s why it has a dark patch in the middle! The bread is so light and tasty.

I cut down the salt to 2tsp overall for 1kg of flour as think the stated amount of 30g is crazy, especially when you’re adding salt to the focaccia top along with a good lug of olive oil.

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I had to take some crochet books back to the library on Thursday and dived into the cookery section grabbing these two. The WI Bread book looks great, it’s packed with recipes.

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More dough, but I didn’t have enough strong white bread flour and also ran short of plain flour so used some wholemeal too. It was probably 300g out of the 1kg total. I added slightly more water too.

I’ve always got SR, plain, strong white and wholemeal but by the end of this week I’d run out of all apart from a sprinkling of SR! I’d made an Hawaiian macadamia cake for Easter Monday teatime and also Herman the German Friendship cake. A neighbour brought some Herman batter to us a few weeks ago in return for a trout. We’ve since passed on batches of the dough and today three family homes are scented with the delicious smell of baking. I’ve had messages and pictures to say how yummy the cake is.  If you haven’t made a Herman – do, it’s worth all the stirring. The original cake recipe with apple, raisin, walnuts and cinnamon is the most delicious treat, especially eaten warm from the oven.

Tonight I found that there’s a website so you can make your own starter and spread a bit of Herman to friends and family too. There are different variations too.
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Herman the German Friendship cake. The cake batter has melted butter and a good sprinkling of demerara on the top which makes for a wonderful crunchy topping.

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My final shaping again needs work, it’s ages since I made bread from scratch, but it’s meant to look rustic huh?

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The rolls were delicious, it’s a great basic dough recipe. I had aimed for mini loaf shapes but will just go for the classic round next time! I’ve shared some of the different breads with family. I’m going to top some with sunflower seeds and others with poppy seeds again next time. I’ve written down some different glazes to try from one of Mum’s bread books too.

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A friend was meant to be coming on Saturday but sadly she came down with a horrible lurgy, poor thing. Chatting with her about the necessity of soup when you’re ill made me realise how much I craved some; so I made a quick batch of lentil and tomato. Homemade soup with a fresh warm roll…..mmmm.

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There really is nothing like homemade bread: the taste, the smell, the process of making the dough is so relaxing and very therapeutic. I’m going to carry on making bread regularly. Although we buy good loaves from the local shop, homemade is definitely tastier.

I was lucky enough to grow up on homemade bread and cakes, homegrown fruit and vegetables. You really can’t beat it, but at the time I could never understand people getting excited about apple crumple, pie, rhubarb fool or gooseberry whatever, to me it was ordinary everyday fare. It wasn’t until I was older that I appreciated how well fed we were.

20140427-195447.jpgI had a strong indication that my dough obsession was being encouraged when I was given this little lot (and 2 boxes of yeast) today! Apparently the checkout woman’s eyebrows were all the way up to her fringe as she heaved the bags across the scanner. When she asked if Someone was planning on doing lots of baking he told her we have a lot of wallpaper that needs putting up. Ha ha..groan…..

The pantry shelf is full: plain, self raising, Doves Farm Rye, Doves Farm Malthouse, Doves Farm Strong White and their Wholemeal too. Woo hoo!

I’m planning on making a Malthouse loaf (recipe on the bag) next week.

Sandwich anyone?

Yet more chickens! / Yummy naughty recipe alert!

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Happy Easter everyone!

These sweet and salty treats are the kitchen equivalent of crack cocaine according to the cookbook. That alone is a hilarious comment in light of recent news. But it is so true. They are extremely naughty and calorific but for special occasions I reckon you just have to do these things.

I’ve made sweet and salty bars for Christmas treats before, as well as Easter, and they’re always enthusiastically received. I remember my sis in law telling me she used to sneakily eat some over the sink when my nieces were tiny and eating a healthy breakfast. That sums up sweet and salty!

If I asked you to guess which celebrity chef came up with this recipe I bet you’d guess from the decadent ingredients alone. I doubled the ingredients as I made enough for eight generous bags, that was a whole block of butter. Yikes, but also Mmmm!

Sweet and salty crunchie nut bars

Ingredients
200g / 7oz dark chocolate
100g / 3.5oz milk chocolate
125g / 4.4oz butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
250g / 8.8oz salted peanuts
6 x 40g Crunchie bars
1 baking or foil tray, approximately 30 x 20 x 5 cm. (if using a baking tin line with foil.)

Break up the chocolates into pieces and place in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the butter and golden syrup. Melt gently under low heat.

Tip the peanuts into a bowl. Break the Crunchie bars into smallish pieces by hand (I put mine into a freezer bag and give them a good tap with a rolling pin – very satisfying!) then add them to the peanuts.

Take the melted chocolate mixture off the heat and stir in the peanuts and crushed Crunchie bars. Mix together well and spoon into the prepared tin. Smooth the top of the mixture.

Place in the fridge for around 4 hours until its set, then cut into pieces. (I use two 25cm or 20cm circular loose bottomed tins – depending on how thick I want it – cut it into slices and then smallish pieces to enable furtive breakfast snacking.)

Yes, it’s a Nigella recipe.

Knitting idiocy, darning idiocy & a bowl of coconut porridge

20140209-195937.jpg I can’t quite believe I blithely said that I would cast on, and take this lace pattern to a new knit group a friend and I visited last week. What was I thinking?! Especially as I’ve said here that I’ve always taken crochet or something easy to knit while I chat and drink. So, I cast on the 70 odd stitches, knitted 3 lines chanting k2tog, yo, ssk, psso etc and realised I’m just going to either knit a cobweb, or seem like an total oddball. I grabbed the rest of a ball of bamboo cotton, my little notebook and knit another waffle knit cloth. I still had to concentrate but it was far easier than doing the lace pattern chant and appearing really antisocial.

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For my usual knit group later in the week I took some Not so soothing (after all) granny squares  and sat darning the ends in for the whole evening, until my eyes felt like they were bleeding. So, that’s 480 – 140 = 340 to go. Never again, NeVeR. It’s a crochet wasteland at the moment here I know. But if I start something new the granny squares will be permanently in my Yarndale bag undarned.

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I’m not (really) going to mention the amount of water that’s surrounding us, and which has the potential to flood the house. There’s no point getting worked up or worried at this point. We were on flood alert over Christmas and it came to nothing. Although the cumulative effect of all this rain means we have fields and fields and fields underwater all around and impassible roads…. I was awake, looking out of all the windows, in the early hours last night just checking that the neighbours weren’t canoeing along the road. We had a huge storm and I think the high wind woke me up, plus the fact I’d checked the flood status (‘on alert’) before bed meant it was on my mind. Anyway, let me share my gorgeous recipe for a warming, very filling breakfast in these rainy times. I keep making it and never ever need to eat before lunch after this bowl of yumminess.

Coconut porridge

45g porridge oats
300ml skimmed milk
2 tsp light brown sugar
1tbsp desiccated coconut

Put all in a pan and cook on low for at least 15-20 minutes. You get the creamy flavour from the porridge with added texture of the coconut, sweetness and flavour of the brown sugar. It is DELICIOUS.

I’ve had banana porridge, apple, cinnamon over the last 4 months, and also eaten it plain, but this coconut version is my current favourite. I was rooting about in the pantry one morning for something different to add to it and came across the coconut. It was leftover from when I’d baked a coconut and cherry cake last autumn. Try it and let me know what you reckon? MMmmm roll on tomorrow morning.

My current reading…

Printed book: Park Lane by Frances Osborne.

Kindle: re-reading (guilty pleasure) The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.

Audio book: I’m really enjoying Red Joan by Jennie Rooney,  narrated by Juliet Stevenson. I’ve listened to other books she’s read and love her style (I keep hearing a cello at certain times as I strongly associate her with Truly, Madly, Deeply but that’s not too distracting!) It’s turning out to be a cracking story with mystery, intrigue and some complex characters.

Thanks for your recommendations last week.

This morning

We’d run out of bread yesterday so I decided to mix up the ingredients for another artisan loaf last night.

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This time I used strong white bread flour and left my Kenwood mixer bowl in the airing cupboard overnight as the residual heat is greater than leaving it in the, unheated, dining room overnight.

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We’ve just tried half a slice and crust. It’s got a crispy, chewy crust and soft texture. Wonderful! But how can I take any credit when you simply mix, leave, shape and bake? I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.
If you missed it here’s my first loaf with links to the recipe.
I won’t go on about my bread anymore. Promise.

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Right, back to the little room where I’m sipping peppermint tea, listening to
The Great Gatsby soundtrack and crocheting. What a nice Monday!

Try this yummy salad

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Tomato & avocado salad

:: Toast some pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat (keep an eye on these, keep tossing them to turn, as they can pop and jump out of the pan after a while!)
:: Use your potato peeler to make courgette ribbons, add halved baby tomatoes and cut up sugar snap peas.
:: Mash half an avocado and toss that in with a bit of salt. Sprinkle in the seeds
:: Enjoy. It’s gorgeous.

Fishy popcorn

Rainbow trout

Aren’t they beauties? We’ll be eating part of one (they’re big beauties) tonight – new potatoes, trout and salad here we come!

S has had such a good year for fly fishing that I suspect family and friends are beginning to smile with decidedly fixed ‘oh-my-goodness-here-they-come-with-more-bloody-fish’ expressions when we visit. There are several in the freezer now, so if you fancy one let me know ;-)

Practice block in Stylecraft Special DK, 3.5 mm hook.

Ok so Popcorns are not tricky exactly, just a little fiddly, but I’m just not a fan at this point. They don’t look very special to me, but I do love a good bobble stitch I’ve decided!

What are you making at the moment?

More importantly: what are you having for dinner?

Crafty treats & birthday presents

>A wander around a new craft superstore20120816-160103.jpg

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20120816-160121.jpg> This is a little different but each to their own! It’s probably more comfortable than being carried in a little handbag…20120816-160134.jpg> A few treats 20120816-160141.jpg> A surprise in the post. But this was a disappointment for the one who collected it from the post office and thought he’d won a fishing reel in a competition! The look was priceless when it turned out to be a subscriber gift from Mollie Makes magazine.  So, I get the magazine for a year of birthday present that keeps on giving, and the Amy Butler fabric! Win, win.

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>Stopping to admire my doorstep20120816-160318.jpg> Greek salad for lunch, not craft or a birthday present but a very tasty meal sitting in the sun listening the Best of David Bowie…..Let’s Dance! We could be Heroes….Little China Girl…..Fashion!….Ashes to Ashes…..20120816-160326.jpg> Trying out one of last week’s birthday pressies – my new slow cooker. I had to use pliers to turn the knob round on my last one and like this red model very much. I’m cooking Malaysian beef and aubergine curry for dinner (smelling good!)

The recipe’s from Ultimate Slow Cooker by Sara Lewis if you fancy trying it.20120816-160332.jpg

A bit of crochet, a bit of baking

We’ve been having lovely weather here in the south of England after what was weeks and weeks and weeks of rain. There’s a bit of a festive looking forward to the Olympic opening ceremony vibe in the air at the moment too.

I had a request to crochet another dishcloth since the one I made in January has now come to the end of its useful life. So, I sat in the garden and whipped up a new one with my stash of dishcloth string. This time it’s rows of alternating doubles and trebles for extra strength and scrubability (new word invented?)

I’ve been making banana bread too….

….Nearly ate the first slice before remembering to take a piccy! Ooops.

Banana bread

300g ripe bananas, 15ml lemon juice, 125g shelled chopped walnuts, 75g unsalted butter, 175g dark soft brown sugar, 50ml walnut oil (I don’t have any so used olive oil) 1tsp mixed spice, 3 medium eggs (I used 2 large since it’s what I had) 325g wholemeal bread flour, 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda, demerara sugar

Line a 2lb loaf tin with non-stick paper, heat oven to 180 oc (160 fan assisted) 350 of / Gas mark 4.

Peel the bananas and mash with the lemon juice until smooth. Stir in the walnuts and leave to one side.

Gently melt the butter in a pan, tip into a mixing bowl with the sugar, oil and spice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, until everything is evenly combined.

Sift the flour and bicarb into a bowl, adding the bran caught in the sieve to the flour in the bowl. Beat half the flour into the egg mixture, fold in the banana and walnut mixture, then fold in the remaining flour gently.

Spoon into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle some demerara over the top and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Dan Lepard recipe: taken from The Guardian…oh ages ago.

This is substancial but surprisingly light in texture.

Sunshine & raspberries

Yesterday we had a properly sunny day; it felt like summer with blue skies and fluffy white clouds and not a raindrop in sight. So Mum and I set off to the local pick-your-own farm (with we’ve-picked-some-for-you farm shop and cafe complete with bouncy castle) to plunder the fruit.

We picked raspberries and black-currants but gave up on the strawberries. To be honest lots were moudy or unripe from too much rain and they are sitting on soggy straw. When I got home I whipped out a couple of bags of sugar from my pantry, weighed them had just enough for a batch of jam. My first ever batch of raspberry jam. It’s incredibly quick to make and very, very easy. I’ve always made various chutneys: apple & orange, spiced apple, apple apricot & peach, apple & rhubarb, marrow chutney etc etc in the autumn because we’ve been lucky enough to have gardens with apple trees. I’ve also made jellies: chilli & apple jelly, mint jelly, rosemary jelly etc but never jam – apart from helping Mum when I was growing up – mainly because I’ve never eaten much. This seems to have changed in recent years and we get through a steady supply of Bonne Maman preserves. Now it’s going to be Bonne Rachell! *cheesy but pleased with self*

Raspberry jam

900g raspberries – wash and put in a heavy based pan, they need to gently cook in their own juice for about 10 minutes until soft

Take off the heat, stir in 900g sugar until dissolved

Add a knob of butter and bring to a boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes or until setting point has been reached. Tip: put a few saucers in the freezer, to test SP put a small spoonful of jam onto the saucer, if it winkles when pushed with your finger a minute or two later it’s ready.

Remove scum. Pot in sterilised jars, cover. Lick spoons/fingers. Clean up. (I also found a splash of jam on my foot last night!)

This recipe made 4 pots of jam though only 3 are shown.

Chilli & Lentil soupyness

It’s grey and rainy today. In the middle of our wonderful summer! Yes. This is irony.
I wondered about salad for lunch and then decided what I really craved was lentil and chilli soup. I just felt the need for something warming. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe that I’ve used time and time again, usually in the winter months!
It’s been a good chance to fill up my new masala tin while the soup gently bubbles away.20120716-133607.jpg20120716-133613.jpg

 

 

Do you fancy making this too?

Lentil & tomato soup

Heat a pan and dry-fry 2 tsp cumin seeds and a good pinch of chilli flakes until they smell nice and pungent.
Add a tablespoon of oil and chopped red onion, cook for five minutes.
Stir in 140 g of split red lentils with 850ml of vegetable stock and 400 g can tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes until lentils have softened.
Whizz in a liquidiser or use a stick blender until its chunky. Put back into the pan and add a few tablespoons of chick-peas. Makes 4 portions. Serve garnished with chopped coriander and a swirl of yoghurt/creme fraiche/double cream.

Yum!

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Sunday

We had a lovely day out yesterday, to a pottery then a pub where we sat by the river in the sunshine (yes! we’ve had some more sunshine!)

Then we took some nutty oat and raisin cookies I baked on Saturday to a friend. That was quite funny. We arrived and were saying what we’d been up to for the day, but honestly it was like seeing Scooby Doo in action; the nose went up, the eyes were fixed on the tin in my hand. “Cake? Is that cake? I haven’t had CAKE for ages!”

I’ve used a gallery setting for these photos, click on the first one to view in a slideshow setting at your own pace….

It’s the weekend

Today for lunch I made Spiced bulghar, chickpea and squash salad It’s scrummy. Absolutely delicious.

• 1 butternut squash, about 1kg/2lb 4oz peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
• 2 red peppers, seeded and roughly sliced
• 2 tbsp harissa paste
• 1 tbsp oil
• 140g bulghar wheat
• 600ml hot vegetable stock
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• juice of ½ lemon
• 150g natural bio-yogurt
• 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 180g bag baby leaf spinach

::Heat the oven to 200c/fan 180c/gas 6.

::Toss the squash and red pepper in the harissa paste and oil. Spread the chunks out on a large baking tray and roast for 20 mins until softened and the edges of the vegetables are starting to char.

::Meanwhile put the Bulghar wheat in a large bowl and pour over the hot stock, then cover tightly with cling film and leave to absorb the liquid for 15 mins until the grains are tender, but still have a little bite.

::In a separate bowl, mix the garlic and lemon juice into the yogurt and season to taste.

::Let the Bulghar wheat cool slightly then toss in the roasted vegetables, chickpeas and spinach – the leaves may wilt a little.

::Season, if you want, drizzle with the garlicky yogurt and serve warm.

Recipe from the BBC Good Food website

***The changes I’d make to the recipe are to roast the garlic with the butternut and peppers, but still have a yoghurt-lemon dressing as this works really well drizzled on top. I’d also recommend seasoning the vegetables before they go in the oven.***

And with the dressing….

This is a really tasty, healthy and filling lunch. Win win!

I’m going to crochet a few more of these over the weekend…

….while I wait for the feather cushion pad I ordered for the blooming flower cushion. The circle for the back is now complete too. It’s just a case of waiting patiently for it to arrive. I’ll post a picture when the cushion’s complete. The part I’m really looking forward to is dc-ing around the edges. Joining using dc stitches is my favourite joining method, so far.

Enjoy your weekend.

Winter cooking & reading

I’ve never been one for chick-lit, but the cover and title of this book appealed to me last week, so I ordered a used copy through Amazon and started it last night…

…the main character bakes something yummy every day and it got my taste buds going; which is why I was measuring out various dried fruits and dark brown sugar at 11pm! I made a strong brew of earl grey tea, then left the sugar and fruit soaking overnight for a tea-loaf….

The oven was on by 8:00 and by 9:00 the kitchen smelled gorgeous with the scent of ground cloves.

As the oven was on it seemed sensible to roast some vegetables to go with couscous, a bit of bacon and a little creme fraiche for lunch…

Then, because it really was cosy in the kitchen with the radio playing and me sipping my new blossum earl grey (lovely orangey flavours) I made a casserole with the contents of my fridge: beef, aubergine, carrots, onions, red pepper, tomatoes and some herbs….

Now all this cosy kitchen stuff has to stop because I’ve got to do the not-so fun stuff on my list this afternoon, but I will look forward to a nice warming slice of tea-loaf!