Yarn Along – January

Today it’s a dark afternoon and steadily growing colder. I made spicy lentil and coconut vegetable soup for lunch and read some Yarn Along blog posts while it cooked. After taking this photo I swapped the peppermint tea for hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. That’s my treat.

I don’t know about you, but after Christmas I always want to eat more veggie food than usual. I think it’s an intuitive thing to find more of a balance after quite a few meals with turkey, sausage meat and ham. If you can recommend any recipes, please do. Hugh is off my bookshelf ready and waiting too.

I’m desperately trying to ignore the fact that I have Hotel Chocolat goodies calling me. Today is Day One post-Christmas and epiphany (which is when we take down all the decs.) Monday and Tuesday were also Day One but ended with less success than planned chocolate.

Ignoring the total craft ban I optimistically tried again for 10 minutes of crochet during the Crimbo Limbo week, that gorgeously lazy time between Christmas and New Year. Of course it turned into 30 minutes, because I’m desperate to be making again after months of nothing, so I had to admit to stupidity and run for an ice pack. I won’t tell the Hand Therapist when I see her at the end of the month. My hand is definitely improving, but it’s a painfully slow process. Still, the upside is I have a legitimate photo to share for Ginny’s monthly Yarn Along. Hurrah!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was ready to be collected from the library a few days ago. It’s an absolute brick of a hardback. Actually, hang on while I go and weigh it….blimey, it’s nearly a kilo, at 982g! This is not going to be a book to read in bed. I won’t be able to hold it. I’ll rest it on a cushion on my lap and read it downstairs instead.

I know, the plant above (a goose foot?) needs some R&R after being popped down somewhere inappropriate to make room for the tree at Christmas. Luckily it’s always very forgiving and seems to bounce back with glossy leaves and a perky demeanour. This poinsettia’s much happier…

What are you making and reading?

Happy New Year!

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

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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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Harvest Festival

I’ve had my own harvest festival this weekend; as I’d been offered the chance to help myself to anything in a relative’s garden while she’s away. Woo hoo!

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I thought it was silly to bring the beetroot and carrot tops home with me, so cut them off and went across to the compost bins in her garden. One lid I couldn’t pull off, so I decided to try the other, quite forcefully yanking it off. A tangle of worms flew off the bin lid, scattering onto the outside of the bin, sliding down my jeans and onto my boot. Knowing my pro gardening relly these worms will have been flown in for their special composting services – so I’m there with a large crinkly leaf scooping them up and putting them back into the composter. Argh! I did take a quick photo of some, but it’s rather blurry as they are pretty fast wrigglers and I didn’t want them to get away.
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After that mini episode of The Great Escape I took a bit of time out to stare at the flowers.

I can’t describe the sweetness of the crisp carrots, we munched a couple raw and had a few cooked for dinner. It’s like having your own kitchen garden just ten minutes away! I hope she goes away again next summer, just when the vegetables are ripe for the picking.
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The tomatoes and peppers are my own. The yellow tomatoes are stacked up like a pyramid now as I gathered more this morning, ready for using. The bowlfuls around the house are multiplying as I’m picking more every day. Even I’m surprised to find a pyrex dish full of them on the windowsill in The Little Room when I draw the curtains! It’s a good job we love them isn’t it?
I cooked a couple of the green peppers and made Balsamic Chicken, one of my favourite easy peasy recipes, last night. We tried a slice of raw pepper first, just to taste it. I’ve grown chilli peppers several times, but not pepper peppers (capsicum.) Tonight we’re having a yellow tomato greek salad, pitta, taramasalata and other delights as we’ve had a return to summer today. I’m really enjoying thinking of tomato based meals to enjoy, it’s so much more satisfying to use homegrown. It will be salmon with cherry tomatoes and couscous tomorrow and Nigella’s tomato curry with coconut rice from Kitchen later in the week. Mmmmmmm.
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Are you having your own harvest festival, or heading into Spring and dreaming of all that to come?

Kaffe Fassett: A Life in Colour

Natasja of crochetime and I met yesterday at The Fashion and Textile Museum in South London to ogle Kaffe’s designs and use of colour. I used to be a huge fan of his tapestry (aka needlepoint) and have owned a copy of Glorious Needlepoint for a long time. Mum reminded me, over Sunday lunch, that she has several of Kaffe’s knitting books and heard him talk in the early 1990s.

It was great to see my favourite tapestry designs in 3D, especially the vegetable cushions. Radish anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer a beetroot?

I know that many of you are not near London, or even in the UK (if you are then the exhibition is on till 29th June) and so here is a good selection of what I loved. If you like tapestry you’ll probably be swooning along with me.

Click on any image to view a larger version.

“Colour themes that run throughout his textile work include the historical hues from early-medieval and Renaissance decorative arts, traditional pairings of blue and white, and the rich inspiration of China, India and international travel. In 1992 Fassett visited India as part of a charity delegation to explore what handicraft might be produced there to sell in Britain to raise money. The experience was profound and sparked a shift in his use of colour.

‘India proved to me that colour is a vital ingredient in life.'”