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.)

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!

Fruit smoothie 

 This is the nicest smoothie I’ve made, apart from the watermelon based ones when I added vodka last summer, but that’s another story!

Fruit Smoothie 

Serves 1 

50g frozen raspberries

1 banana 

1 175g strawberry muller light yoghurt

150ml skimmed milk

Put all in a blender and whizz until smooth.

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You can use fresh fruit but I much prefer using frozen as it makes a deliciously cold smoothie. If you use ice it melts and dilutes the flavour. 

If you use less yoghurt adjust the milk ie: 120g yoghurt, 200g milk. 

Play around with the yoghurt flavour or use plain, and try different fruits. Grapes are a bit weird as you get bits of skin and it doesn’t look so appealing!

If you have any good smoothie recipes, using fruit or veg, or both, please let me know.
 

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?

Polenta bread

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I baked my usual couple of loaves last Friday and decided to also pick a new recipe to try from my Bread book. (I can’t recommend this book enough, I’ve made quite a few different loaves and they’ve all turned out well.) I’d ordered some polenta, aka fine cornmeal or maize flour, for a lemon polenta cake for dessert on Sunday. There was only the option of buying a 1kg bag so using some for a loaf seemed like a good idea!

I put this photo on IG and had a request for the recipe – so here goes:

Polenta Bread

From Bread by Liz Hebert, this is a Women’s Institute recipe book.

Makes 1 loaf. Can be frozen.

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
275g-300ml (9-10 fl oz) hand-hot water

1) Combine the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the butter and water and mix to a soft dough.
2) Turn out onto an unfloured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth (I use a dough hook on my mixer and knead for about 5 minutes.) Cover and prove in a warm place until doubled in size (Up to an hour but depends on warmth.)
3) Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with polenta.
4) Knock back the dough and shape into an 18cm (7 inch) oval. Place on the baking sheet. Using a shape knife, make deep cuts on alternate sides.
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.

This loaf has a really nice texture and flavour. Family ate the rest of the loaf – so it’s definitely a tried and tested approved recipe.

Happy Friday everyone!

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.

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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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.

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.