Inspired by my book & more sourdough adventures

Recently I came across The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan, the sequel to The Seaside Summer Kitchen. I first read the book above last year and remember really enjoying it as we travelled around the Highlands of Scotland. Likeable characters, a beautiful setting and heavenly descriptions of locally produced food. What’s not to like? I came across this copy in the library and thought it would be nice to refresh my memory about the characters, and what happened, before reading the next. I’m not saying it’s a complex read; it’s a lot like many of Jenny Colgan’s recent books in fact, but I like the warmth and gentle humour. This is a pretty perfect summer read.

On Tuesday when I read about Flora making oatcakes, I found I had flung down the book, run to the kitchen and turned on the oven before I really knew what I was doing.

“What are you up to?”

“I’VE GOT TO MAKE OATCAKES!”

At Christmas I’d come across the recipe in Nigella‘s Domestic Goddess cookbook, that I’ve owned since it was first published, I had idly wondered about making some, but hadn’t got round to it with the frenzy of seasonal shenanigans and wrapping up of piles of presents.

Now I don’t think I would ever really want to buy them again, they are incredibly easy to make and very tasty, without the somewhat cardboardy texture of shop bought versions. A little bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda) gives them such a satisfying crunch.

I’ve now made four loaves of sourdough bread! Two white and two wholemeal. I’m hanging up my oven gloves for a week or two. Everything in the kitchen is covered in flour and quite frankly we need to eat only salad for a bit. My sourdough starter is lying dormant in the fridge for a little holiday now.

This was a loaf I made on Friday. It’s far too good toasted with honey!

After looking in many shops for crumpet rings I ordered Lakeland’s set of four. It’s good to support your local high street shops, but only if they are selling what you need.

This morning I used up all my discarded sourdough starter on a batch.

I’ve found pouring the starter into a plastic measuring cup is a very fuss-free fast method, rather than faffing about with scales, but it’s easy enough to convert the quantity to ounces or grams if you prefer.

Sourdough Crumpets

3 cups of starter

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp of bicarb

Whisk up the sugar and salt into the starter in a large bowl, then add the bicarb. The mixture will froth up and increase.

Heat an oiled non-stick pan on a low to medium heat. Add well oiled crumpet rings and barely half fill them with batter, it will rise so you need space for them to grow.

When they’re slightly shrinking back from the edges of the rings, with bubbles appearing and look drier on top, lift the rings off using tongs.

If the rings don’t slide off easily give the crumpets another minute or so to continue cooking. Flip them over briefly to colour the tops.

Cool on a rack and toast. Or eat hot right away! They’re better toasted I think, as you get crispy tops and bottoms which contrast nicely with the fluffy insides. Try a few and see which you prefer!

This quantity made about 16 crumpets.

I played with the temperature of the pan as you get more bubbles with a slightly higher heat, but don’t want the bases to burn.

I’ve been reading some tips and it seems you need a runnier batter if you want more holey crumpets. You still start with a 100% hydration starter but play around with the crumpet batter. By the way, that slightly scary mathematical term simply means you’ve fed your starter with equal quantities of water and flour. It’s nothing more complicated. I discard about half of my starter (putting it into a bowl, or loosely covered container, in the fridge to save for making pancakes or crumpets) then feed the remaining with 100g flour and 100g water which is equivalent to 4fl oz on my measuring jug. 4fl oz is the easiest to read and so is fast in the mornings. I know it’s a mismatch of imperial and metric, but whatever works, works!

I’ll get back to you if I find an amazing fail-safe realllllly holey crumpet recipe. Mine came out light and fluffy with enough holes to identify them as crumpets I think. I liked them very much. Too much, if you know what I mean…

The evolution of crumpets

What about you: what are you enjoying reading and cooking at the moment?

Taking Stock – April

Making : nothing still as my hand is very sore, it’s my right and I can’t even crochet; because holding yarn makes it sore too. So zero making and it’s not good. I’m surprised at how much I feel at a loose end.

Cooking: Baked Haddock with chorizo and tomatoes. Put wedges of lemon, some diced chorizo and cherry tomatoes into a tin and bake in a hot (200 degrees) oven for 10 minutes. Pour over a splash of white wine (I used mirin) and add haddock (or cod) fillets, season with freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the fish is done. Delicious with new potatoes and a green salad.

Drinking: don’t ask……nothing except water and jasmine tea. I feel iffy this morning.

Reading: I finished Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson this week, it’s a good read.The National Herb Centre

Wanting: a cooked breakfast.

Looking: a little rough around the edges!

A corkscrew hazel, what a great looking tree.

Playing: I just finished listening to The Girl With all the Gifts by M.R Carey this morning. A 5* audio book.

Deciding: to move very soon; into clothes and a fully upright position.

Wishing: I had just said “No, thank you” to more drinks.

Enjoying: seeing bluebells appearing in woodland.

Waiting: to feel a bit sparkier.

Liking: The Girl with all the Gifts, I’m going to think more about it today; always a sign of an interesting and provocative book.

Loving: M&S Butter Mints.

Upton House and Gardens, NT

Pondering: the themes of those two books: what it is to be human and identity.

Considering: my next audio book.

Buying: a new pasta bowl. I dropped one and five doesn’t work!

Watching: The BBC’s The Woman in White.

Hoping: they haven’t changed it too much, as I only read the book last year.

Marvelling: at the cool temps after a week of ‘summer’.

Needing: something to eat.

Questioning: why we think we’re hilarious when drunk.

Smelling: perfume.

Wearing: scruffs.

Following: The Vegetarian Society for some new recipes.

Noticing: tiny lambkins in the fields around.

Knowing: it’s going to rain on and off all day.

Thinking: this is a cosy Saturday, yes, doing no craft feels like wasted time, but its better to rest and get better.

Admiring: all the Fairisle knitting on Instagram, I like spotting the current trends in knitting and crochet.I tried a bit of crochet one day this week, but decided it’s not a good idea if it causes discomfort.

Sorting: photos online.

Getting: an easier way to import them, by a happy accident.

Bookmarking: recipes for next week.

Coveting: longer finger nails.

Disliking: the way nail varnish looks good for roughly only 6 minutes.

Opening: last year’s varnishes and finding they’re now glue.

Giggling: at Grace and Frankie still, an episode every now and then is the way to watch.

Feeling: spoilt for choice with Freeview, The BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Prime.

Snacking: on raw carrots, as always.

Helping: people needing some encouragement and a little positivity.

Hearing: a little bit of traffic noise.

Mixing: nothing today, drinks last night….

Worrying: about the usual stuff.

Slicing: an onion a day for most dinners, what would we do with an onion shortage?!

Celebrating: birthdays

Forgetting: nothing important, so far.

Winning: £2:90 on the lottery Friday.

Pretending: it’s time for breakfast (at 12:36.)

Sneaking: no sneaking.

Embracing: the special ones.

Taking Stock list from Pip’s marvellous Meet me at Mike’s if you fancy writing one too.

Have a good weekend all! (I feel better post-breakfast.)

Taking Stock – February

Making : Slow Cooked Beef Brisket, recipe here except I added lashings of balsamic vinegar too. Cooked for 8 hours on medium, then sliced the beef and gently reheated it in the sauce, in a heavy based pan on the hob, the next day. I think slow cooked food is always better eaten the day after, to meld the flavours. I thickened the sauce with a tbsp of cornflour mixed into a little cold water. Delicious.

Cooking : the above to eat with potatoes, petit pois and kale

Drinking : lots of jasmine tea this morning, 2 x 1 pint mugs

Reading: I’ve just given up on the rather tedious The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens. To be honest I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to do an Oscar Wilde. He reportedly said: ‘One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter.’

Wanting: to spend my Christmas gift cards, but still haven’t found anything apart from new socks at Fatface. These,these which I’m wearing now and this delicious pair

Looking: at these Dr Who props in the BBC lobby on Saturday. My friend and I walked past and went to peep in the windows. A security guard invited us to come in to look. We watched the last few minutes of the Winter Olympics curling on one of the huge screens. (We lost to Japan.)

Playing: my friend’s Adventure Bus Game on foot, my nifty adaption. You set off walking in a random direction, with no destination in mind and take turns to choose left, right or straight ahead at the next junction. We ended up in the BBC, then Regents Park. After 5 miles we went for a late lunch here.

Deciding: to go to the library for new books soon

Wishing: to meet the UK winner of Friday’s £78 million euro millions win. What did they decide to do first? I had a message when I was walking down Baker Street, London on Saturday morning – “Did you see this news article? (‘Massive Jackpot Split between one UK and one Spanish winner, £78 mil each’) Is it you?! Have you checked?”

Enjoying: lots of winter warmers featuring tasty sauces – lamb hot pot and that beef brisket last weekRegents Park croci

Waiting: for dried mealworms to arrive by post, the Blue Tits can’t get enough of them. The robin doesn’t use the stick on balcony window feeder here, but they do. You look up and see a little blue and yellow thing looking at you!

Liking: the bright blue skies and sunshine, although it’s very very cold. Currently we have wind blowing from Siberia, so on Saturday it was 5 degrees but with the wind chill factor felt like 1. Brrrrr. Also, really liked seeing the first blossom in Regents Park

Wondering: if the media are making a huge unnecessary OTT fuss about the ‘dire weather’ coming this week and next. My friend G just Whatsapped to say the news site is advising people to be home by 6pm tonight in her area. Woah!

Loving: my new slow start yeast, the bread is light and rises like a rocket

Pondering: which colours for the next strip, then realising my tension must have been way tighter so redoing the entire third strip

Considering: whether to sew or crochet the strips together, crochet usually wins hands down

Buying: lamb mince to make koftas

Watching: Grace and Frankie

Marvelling: at the ages of the four main characters, it’s excellent to see seniors leading a successful series

Hoping: I’m still as fit and able at Jane Fonda’s age

Cringing: at my renewed nail biting

Needing: a new book

Questioning: if any of you have read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty? Good? Might have asked this before…

Smelling: Dry Roast Peanuts

Wearing: a head of Crystal Tipps (and Alastair) hair

Following: the dire water situation in Cape Town

Noticing: how dry my skin is in this weather Icicles on the water features at Waterperry Gardens shop

Knowing: there was no way Muller Light yoghurt can replicate raspberry doughnut flavour. Indeed, it’s horrid

Thinking: Ruby Wax’s analogy about thoughts being like leaves swirling past, along a pavement is very apt

Admiring: people’s openness in discussing tricky topics on IG and the respectful, often very supportive comments in reply

A rather deliciously wicked meeting place: Lola’s in Selfridge’s, Oxford Street London

Sorting: out which snowdrop pics to keep, so many taken at Waterperry Gardens yesterday

Getting: down to gently look at the insides of snowdrops. This is something I’ve copied from my Mum, it’s often surprising how much colour is inside these little white flowers

So many varieties: singles, doubles, dwarf, tall, big and plump, fine and delicate. Snowdrops are very special

Bookmarking: new recipes, any meatless recipes you enjoy and can recommend? Variety is good

Coveting: “What am I coveting at the moment?” “Other people’s gin.”

I’m doing Dry Lent once again….

Disliking: The taste of sweeteners

Opening: bird books and many websites, then putting a pic on my Instagram account to ask for help to identify a bird – the consensus was that it’s a female chaffinch

Giggling: at Barty apparently not deserving his new catnip toys. Sunday morning Mum was in her sitting room and noticed a sparrow walking across the carpet in front of the window!

Feeling: thirsty, I always seem to write that when TS

Snacking: on radishes

Helping: motivate a friend, but not taking my own advice

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: tonic water with ice and lime, pretending it’s as good as a G&T

Worrying: well, there’s always something

Slicing: onions for virtually every recipe this time of year

Catkins and beautiful twisty trees at Waterperry Gardens

Celebrating: the busy garden birdlife, since I’ve been typing I’ve seen: a Robin, multiple Blue Tits, a Coal Tit, a couple of Great Tits, a male Blackbird and the female Chaffinch is back

Forgetting: what I need to add to the shopping list

Winning: at life? Urgh, smug expression

Pretending: nothing

Sneaking: extra oddments of nibbed hazelnuts, flaked almonds and walnut pieces into the museli. It’s getting close to being an end of packet dust situation!

Embracing: brighter and longer days, it’s light at 520pm still

For the full list to fill in your own Taking Stock post visit Pip. It’s fun to do.

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?

Lately 


  • With a little help from my friend Trish, of Made by Patch blog, I’ve figured out how to crochet a half hexie so I can finally finish the little blanket off. Hurray! I’d worked it out apart from the beginning; where I was crocheting a chain of 4 and slip stitching them together. Ingeniously she chained 4, but then made the first stitch into the first chain made, making the other 3 into a treble – so no lumpy bumpy circle at the bottom in what should be a half. 
  • Cooking king prawn linguine – so delicious! You want to as well? Roast cherry tomatoes with a teaspoon of olive oil and a teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar. While the linguine is cooking, gently cook the king prawns in another teaspoon of olive oil, some cloves of garlic and red chilli. Top with basil and a shaving of parmesan. What you can’t see is a hungry man with a slight frown on his face and his fork poised, while I make him wait to take a photograph of his dinner!
  • A gorgeous sunny, relaxed Friday with drinks and dinner at Samuel Jones Smoke & Ale House by the river Exe, in Exeter – thoroughly recommended 
  • A return, after about 14 years, to Lanhydrock a National Trust property, near Bodmin in Cornwall. It was just as good as we remembered and still one of the best houses; due to the sheer number of rooms to see. There’s an interesting focus on the upstairs-downstairs lives of the former inhabitants.

I’ve brought my hexies away with me, to deepest sunniest / rainiest Cornwall, but so far they’ve stayed zipped inside my Cath Kidson bag. I think it’s official: I’ve lost my crojo, or my crajo in general. I’m wondering if by putting this out there now it might mean I do some later?! But there are other things I AM doing: walking lots, as usual, visiting the gym to use some of the equipment, doing an Aqua Zumba class and rediscovering my swimming skills (used to be part of a swimming club.) As it was pouring yesterday morning we went to the local leisure centre to swim lengths, then played race and dive for the locker key and I even did a few handstands in the pool. I dread to think what the expression was on the faces of the young lifeguards! I don’t actually care. When I am old I shall wear purple…. (This poem.)

Taking Stock in October

Making : jam! Apple and blackberry, then apple and mixed berries  (red currants, black currants, blackberries, raspberries)

Cooking : my version of my favourite Itsu dish: teriyaki salmon

Drinking : English breakfast tea, whatever the time of day

Reading: Diary of The Lady by Rachel Johnson

Wanting: to find back issues of The Lady magazine 

Looking: at the bird feeeders a lot – it’s pure theatre

Playing: scare the squirrel away, watching him return as soon as the door is closed

Deciding: it’s a pointless game but I DO NOT want to see him hanging upside down, scooping bird seed into his mouth

Wishing: I’d stuck to plan A today


Enjoying: cooking with apples and tomatoes from the garden

Waiting: for a parcel from China

Liking: having 164 episodes of Frasier recorded, it’s comfort telly

Wondering: how many times I’m going to hear “Do you know how many episoodes of Frasier you’ve recorded????!

Loving: the humour of my new audio book although unsure at first (Madensky Square, Eva Ibbotson)

Pondering: serious topics

Considering: buying chocolate flavoured instant cofffee from Waitrose, though only ever occasionally drink filter coffee

Buying: toilet rolls without embossed puppies, much more for puppies – madness!

Watching: the weather change

Hoping: to see more starling murmurations

Marvelling: at the starlings who are coming mob-handed into the garden, even the squirrel is startled
   Cringing: at the things people say (roaring with laughter at others)

Needing: some autumn/winter outfits

Questioning: why? Lots, as usual

Smelling: my lovely freesias

Wearing: ha ha! (jumble sale recluse look today)

Following: witty people

Noticing: how much cooler it is in the evenings

Knowing: it’s time to eat something

Thinking: of appley puddlings

Admiring: colours in nature

Sorting: more books to give away
  
  
Getting: a bit behind on a secret thing

Bookmarking: patterns, always

Coveting: a Thames riverside apartment

Disliking: that you hoover thoroughly one day and it needs doing again the next

Opening: a new packet of butterfly shaped pasta – pretty!

Giggling: at the Man Up film, ‘rewinding’ the Reflex bit

Feeling: cheerful

Snacking: on a variety of apple which taste of pears

Helping: encourage a friend to buy more yarn (naughty!)

Hearing: birdsong
   If you fancy Taking Stock too you can get the list from Pip.

Five things

This looks like pizza doesn’t it? I gave Nigella’s crustless pizza a try at the weekend.  The recipe’s from her Kitchen book. It was revolting; basically cheesy Yorkshire pudding. I ate the topping and a bit of crispy edge then the food recycling bin had the rest. 

Here’s my version of the Slouch and Bobble hat from Kat Goldin’s Hook, Stitch and Give book, sans bobble because I’m getting round to sewing it up. Same old story hey. On me it looks like a tea cosy, but on my friend it will probably look gorgeous! Anyone relate?    I laughed aloud (20th C usage alive and kicking) yesterday to see that behind the garden centre/pick your own/farm shop/fishing lakes/carousel there are llamas in a small field, not the sheep (lambs?) I expected to see. Those llamas are getting everywhere these days! Hurray they sell smoked garlic; I’ve only bought it from the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm before. I love it though my fridge stinks for weeks. A few cloves were delicious in a chicken traybake I threw together last night. Like my fridge I also carried the garlic tang today but it was worth it. 

Five Happy Things type of posts, to be frank, can set my teeth on edge as they are sometimes very syrupy reading, they’re also not the most interesting. Do you remember when the 52 Weeks of Happy blog posts appeared last January? So many gave up writing them by May, if not sooner, because I think people found they were not very interesting to write either. I do enjoy ‘ randoms’ though as they give a bit of snapshot. If you fancy posting your own Five Things add a link below please, so then I can read yours. 

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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Woolly jumpers on!

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It was such a lovely day on Sunday; 17 deg and no need for a warm jacket. We sat on a bench and I was just saying how perfect it was to put your head back and feel the warm rays on your face, when I clonked my head on the back of the bench. I’d like to say this is a rare kind of clonk, but sadly it’s not. At a friend’s housewarming I apparently threw myself down onto her sofa, after unpacking lots of boxes, and hit my head on the bookcase which had been placed behind. I don’t really remember that one. Maybe I concussed myself!

Anyway. the walk, weather and sight of the trees, berries and wild fungi were beautiful. I really LOVE autumn. Always have.

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This is the first one I’d seen this season, on Sunday, but then I stumbled into full-on Christmas yesterday in a ‘room’ in Homebase. I like it in October, that’s when I begin to get little tingles about Christmas, the colourful lights and decorations to come. By December the relentlessness of it has worn me down somewhat, then on the actual few days it’s all fun again. Until the next year…

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The weather’s gone back to typically autumn temps with wind and rain featuring quite a bit this week. But the advantage of autumn and winter blanket making is being able to cosy under them while you crochet! The ripple is over half-way now and I’ve come up with a really cunning plan about the design. More on that another day.

Shotgun Lovesongs - Picador I’m really enjoying my Shotgun Lovesongs audio book. It’s perfect for rippling along to. The four main characters: Henry, Beth, Lee and Ronnie are dramatised by different narrators/actors. I’m loving the the way a couple of them pronounce words like ‘orange’ and ‘mirror’! I’m not sure if that’s due to them aiming to sound like authentic Wisconsinsites, but I likey.

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Tonight I’m making fish chowder for dinner. It’s a Lesley Waters recipe and you can find it here.

 

What are you cooking, eating, making, reading?

Soup days

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Although the weather has been mild and warm lately I’ve already thrown myself into soup making. I really love trying different recipes, and old favourites, every autumn and winter. The week before last I made Curried Sweet Potato from the River Cottage Veg book, last week it was my old fave Chilli lentil and tomato soup. The recipe is here, blogged a few years ago, if you fancy making it. Times flies etc when you’re blogging…

This morning it’s so much cooler that I made a batch of soup for our lunch. It’s Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous from the Good Food website. Spicy and hearty this is a goodie. I used 400g of homegrown tomatoes, rather than a can, as we’re still ripening bowlfuls around the house. (My ipad is on 2% so this post is a race against time!)

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Moroccan tomato and chickpea soup with couscous

By Barney Desmazery

Serves 4

  • 75g couscous
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped into small cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • half a finger of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp ras-el-hanout
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste, plus extra to serve
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas
  • juice ½ lemon
  • roughly chopped coriander, to serve

Method

  1. Tip the couscous into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir through 1 tbsp of the oil. Pour over enough hot stock just to cover and cover the bowl with cling film and set aside.
  2. Heat the rest of the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and carrot gently for 8 mins until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 mins more then stir in the ras el hanout and harissa and cook for another minute. Pour in the tomatoes and stock and give everything a good stir. Season, add the chickpeas and simmer everything gently for 20 mins until thickened slightly then squeeze over the lemon.
  3. Uncover the couscous and fluff up with a fork. Spoon the soup into bowls, top each with a mound of couscous, scatter with coriander and serve with extra harissa for those who want it.

    Recipe from bbcgoodfood.com

    :: I used only 1 tbsp of olive oil for the veg and none in the couscous
    :: I omitted the chickpeas, it was filling enough without
    :: Blended half the soup in my liquidiser as it was a bit ‘skinny’ for me with all the cherry tomatoes, it was a lovely consistency
    :: Used 1 3/4 tbsp of ras-el-honout as it was all I had left, but that was perfect for a good spicy kick with the harissa

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    What are you up to?

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!

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.

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!

Weekend days

20130701-100431.jpgThe hunter-gather came home with a smaller haul than usual, but another good catch from a morning fishing session. Caught with a may-fly which is late for this time of year apparently.

20130701-100439.jpgSunny morning x stitch, starting a kit I bought last year from Liberty of London.

20130701-100451.jpgI fancied a spot of baking and had the ingredients to make an Olive, Onion and Basil scone. It was just baking when the fisherman arrived home with uncannily good timing.

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20130701-100520.jpgInstead of the usual (rather dreary) DJ one of my favourite comics stood-in, while the other was at Glastonbury, on Saturday afternoon. When we saw Rhod at a comedy gig last year I laughed so much I cried. I crocheted with cotton while I chuckled along to the radio.

20130701-100530.jpgAnother walk along the canal, but in a different direction this time, to look for some geocaches. We chatted to a local character who has noticed many people wandering up the nearby lane off the canal to peer into the underground, looking for caches. The we helped a woman with a swing bridge as her husband passed under on their hired narrow boat. In return for answering my quick-fire narrow boat related questions we heard all about her son’s recent graduation and future career plans. Funnily they were from the area of Yorkshire where we should have been for the weekend.

20130701-100537.jpgQuite stunning tree fungus. I imagine there’s a troupe of fairies who live around this ivy clad tree.

20130701-100546.jpgYou may coat the ground with concrete and with gravel, but we shall not be deterred from flowering.

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20130701-100602.jpgAll those heads ready to sprinkle their seed for more poppies next year. I must remember to walk here again.

20130701-100618.jpgIt’s unclear, but through a gap in the hedge next to the canal I spotted a white sofa and glass coffee table. It looks like an outside shoot for an interiors magazine.

20130701-100629.jpgThe lambs and sheep were going bananas in the field opposite. What a din!

20130701-100637.jpgAh, there are a shepherd and his lad shearing them.

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20130701-100703.jpg“Rachel, if you carry on stroking her too much she’ll follow us all the way home.” It’s so hard though, she’s a very young cat with friendly curious eyes, and a funny way of leaping in front of you for more love.

20130701-101350.jpgBack home to finish the last few rows of string bag II. It’s now ready for steam blocking.

Gentle fun, ended with some glasses of Pimms and a meal at a local pub with a friend. Happy days, after the disappointment of cancelled plans.

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.

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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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!

Mr Scrappy (and the Hilton crochet)

I’ve got a stinking cold but have enjoyed doing a bit more of my Hilton crochet for the bag I’m making…

 

 I wanted a smaller thing to make so Mr Scrappy was the project I began yesterday…

 

I really really needed some advice about stitch markers, so tweeted and got some from the ever-helpful Lynne.

The method above works sooo well!

Mr Scrappy seemed like a great way to use up my odds and ends, though as you see I lost the plot a bit last night and used all green for one of his legs or arms! Blame it on watching/listening to Red Dwarf while counting the stitches in the round…

You can also get the pattern here….

Thanks Stacey!

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Finally, here’s what I’ll make for dinner tomorrow…

I love chicken

I love chickpeas

I love sweet and savoury together

So this recipe from my Good Food Magazine, also available on their excellent website will be perfect.

YUM.