Monday, June 27, 2011

Today's harvest

Poor Brendan, as the weather hots up and food finally starts to appear in the garden I feel another supermarket embargo coming on.
Today's harvest gives me: 5 quail eggs, 4 chicken eggs, some raspberries, 1 yellow tomato, a clump of swiss chard, some patty pan squashes and some courgettes - of course!

Tonight's menu based on my harvest and store room staples:

Courgette and tomato tart (on pre rolled flaky pastry) - thinly sliced peeled courgette and ripe red tomatoes arranged on pastry then seasoned with salt and pepper and a drizzle of sun dried tomato flavoured olive oil
Crab and grated carrot salad in homemade mayonnaise with garlic and ginger
Tuna and cucumber with home made mayonnaise with paprika
Courgette bake - thinly sliced courgette with bechemal sauce made with some frozen pheasant stock, topped with hamburger cheese - because that was all I had in the fridge, and some dry bread toasted and whizzed up for breadcrumbs mixed with dried parsley
Silesian sausages - a polish deli treat courtesy of my lovely mummy :)

To make mayonnaise, take a small bowl with a narrow base so that you can whisk into the bottom easily, and separate two egg yolks (discard the whites or freeze into ice cube trays for use in meringues or something).   Add a teaspoon of dried mustard powder, salt and pepper and start whisking - if you are using an electric whisk support the bowl on a teatowel because you need two hands for this.  Very very very slowly add about 250ml of oil, not oilve as that is too strong flavoured but a grape seed oil or similar, whisk each drop that you add into the egg and mustard powder emulsion, don't be tempted to rush or it won't work.  Just before the last of the oil goes in, add a teaspoon of vinegar, not malt but any pale vinegar, I use apple cider or raspberry because it adds another depth of flavour to the mayo.  Then trickle in the last of the oil, at no point stopping the whisking, and you should end up with a lovely thick yellow mayonnaise - which I should have photographed but had dumped into my tuna and crab bowls before I remembered.

And as for the raspberries - well I scoffed them with some yoghurt and cereal for my breakfast.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 25 - HOT

and it certainly is.

By the time I was back from my walk this morning at 10, it was 27°C, and now we are hiding in the house because the temperature is up to 38°C.

Hence today's photo for this week's theme of hot - my poor tomato plants in the greenhouse, struggling to cope with the heat in there.

River seems to be enjoying the heat, adopting her favourite position of belly up in the sun on the doorstep.

June's C of Creation - Crochet Baby Blanket / Lap Throw

Finished the baby blanket that I have been crocheting for my friend's imminent delivery.

I used a thin grey lambswool in conjunction with a thicker cream wool to create a neutral toned chunky blanket.

This is a super easy pattern, that crochets up very quickly in pretty much any sort of wool you would want to use, just adapt the size of your hook to the wool as required and keep going until you get the size you are after.
I used 400g of each wool to create a chunky blanket 120cm by 150cm.  Gauge is not vital, just sit back and crochet away in front of the TV and a couple of evenings later you will have a lovely textured throw.

Shell Rripple Throw

Stitches used : SC = single crochet, DC = double crochet, CH = chain
Shell pattern : work 2 DC, ch 2, 2 DC in next stitch

Chain 112

Row 1 : (DC, ch 2, 2 DC) in 4th stitch from hook (the first shell - the first 3 skipped stitches count as the first DC in the shell pattern), * Chain 2, (skip next 2 stitches, sc in next stitch, ch 3) 7 times, skip 2, sc in next stitch, ch 2 skip 2, work shell in next stitch, repeat from * to end, working shell in the last stitch.  Ch 3, turn.
Row 2 ; Work shell in chain 2 space of the first shell, * dc in next ch 2 space (ch 3, sc in next ch 3 space) 7 times, ch 3, dc in next chain 2 space, work shell in ch 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end.  Ch 3, turn.

Rows 3 and 4 are the main pattern rows, repeat these until you have reached the size you are after or run out of wool, finishing on a Row 3.  At the start of each row the chain 3 acts as the first DC of the shell.

Row 3 : Work shell in chain 2 space of the first shell, * (ch 3, sc in next chain 3 space) 8 times.  Ch 3, work shell in chain 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end, Chain 3, turn.

Row 4 : Work shell in chain 2 space of the frist shell, * dc in next chain 3 space, (ch3, sc in next chain 3 space) 7 times, ch 3, dc in next chain 3 space, shell in chain 2 space of next shell, repeat from * to end.  Ch 3, turn.

The shell pattern creates a thick ripple the length of the blanket.

I did not add a fringe as I intend this for a baby, but it does lend itself to fringing in the chain 3 loops at the ends of each row.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Week 24 - People

Struggled with finding something to photograph that wasn't actual people.

I was going to do graffitti but didn't have time to go and find any, so had this idea instead, and found the perfect name.

How cool would it be to be called Mrs Cupcake?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pickling walnuts - part 1

I don't actually like pickled walnuts, but we do have friends who do, so if you are reading this, guess what you are getting for Christmas!

Pick walnuts while very young and green, before the shell has formed within the green outer skin, so normally before the end of June.

You will soon know whether they are too advanced because you won't be able to prick them through the shell.

Start by rinsing the walnuts clean.

Then kit yourself out with some rubber gloves and a steel BBQ spike or a long tined fork.

Prick each walnut a couple of times at least, quite far in.  If the shell has started to form you won't be able to force the skewer in further than about 5 mms, and they won't pickle.

Don't be deceived by the clear liquid that seeps out.  It will stain your fingers a most interesting nicotine colour if you don't wear gloves!

Mix up a brine solution of one part salt to six parts water and pour over enough to ensure the walnuts are fully covered.

Weigh the walnuts down with a plate to keep them all immersed, then cover and leave for a week.

The best thing about these plastic bowls is the plastic lids.  I can just write the instructions on the lids and tuck the bowls away in the back of the pantry.

As per the instruction on the lid, after a week, make up a new brine solution and leave for a second week. 

Stay tuned for the next installment in pickling walnuts!

Another succesful car boot day and a bit of foraging....

I like a good car boot as I am sure I have mentioned before.

Sunday's car boot was in Volvic, and yes the water does come from there.  You can visit the source itself, but Volvic itself is mostly water bottling factory.  But it does have a good car boot.

This week, I bought a beautiful 50's mustard yellow casserole dish, and a set of copper pans.

I know I don't actually need any more pans, but they were a bargain, and they do look lovely hanging up in the kitchen in place of the 70s brown enamel ones I had before.
While we were out, we initiated our friends into the fine art of foraging, starting with a bag of immature green walnuts and some red sour plums.

Another happy afternoon of jam making ahead then, and the first stage of pickling the walnuts.
River is enjoying herself being a naughty puppy, there is something so very cute about the way she runs around like a loon, pouncing and bouncing, then just collapses for a snooze.

Not sure what the sleeping with the tongue stuck out like that means, perhaps a way of thumbing her nose at the cats by managing to claim a bit of living room floor to herself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Another shawl finished

Added the fringed finish to this last night.

Another shawl finished. I am not going to be cold this winter and no prizes for guessing what everyone is getting for Christmas this year!

This shawl is adapted from this pattern by Caron:

but I used a thicher thread and bigger hook size to create a denser feel throw.

As I like the pattern, I may give it another go in a different yarn, but for now I am moving on to my next crochet project.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Am I a vintage girl or not......

After last year's ranting about Alys Fowler and her vintage style, I have been having a long running debate with myself as to whether I am a vintage girl or not.

As I am not a person to consider that I have a great deal of personal style, not now my goth days are long behind me, and being as I am mostly clothed in items sent over from the UK bought at charity shops and car boots by my mum, I struggle to dress myself.  Literally some mornings.....I have been known to go to work in my PJs with a knee length baggy jumper thrown over the top - just admitting that makes me feel bad - unfortunately it is true.

Anyway, when watching this last year I developed a real yen for vintage clothing, but considered it to be something for the less clothing size challenged, and now that I have lost a bit of weight I am reconsidering my position on vintage.

But am I vintage girl or not?  How do you tell?

I couldn't wear it and ascribe ironic post modernistic tendancies to myself, because quite frankly most of my elderly neighbours are still wearing items lovingly handcrafted in the 70s.  So I would just fit right in.  From a distance in fact, bent over my hoe in the garden I would simply be another piece in the rural mosaic here.  And indistinguishable from my septegenarian best friend. 

Not sure if that is a good thing or not?

Alongside issues of size there is also the issue of cost, vintage clothing and fabric is at a premium, and loads of it has made its way from ebay to specialist on line retailers, putting it way out of my price bracket.

But today, at my favourite car boot of the year I found these little treasures:

2 hand made floral dresses with button through bodices, in simple A-line styles, 1 handmade pinafore dress with big white buttons and white edging details on the front pockets, and a hand crocheted white jumper.

I also picked up an orangey tweed jacket with faux fur cuffs and collar, but forgot to take a photo of that. 
As it is dry clean only, I have popped it outside to hang to air it out a bit, it looks like new and is not really dirty just musty.

Now I just have to try to find the courage to wear these things, but at 3 Euros for the dress and jumper and 5 Euros for the jacket, at least I am not out of pocket to the tune of a small fortune.

Week 23 - Weather

What do you do on a rainy Sunday afternoon - why curl up with a good book.  
Week 23 - Weather, 52 images for 2011 flickr group

River settling in

Arthur was the only dog I have every owned, and River is the second, he was a dog and she is a bitch.  Is this why she sleeps like this?  Arthur never did.  Cute though.

The biggest problem for River is getting used to the fact the cats want to share her blanket at night.  Mr Pink likes to curl up into her tummy and Ferguson and Pond swiftly follow suit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A day in the life of my Rayburn

Got up to another showery day, with gaps between the showers too brief for a walk, and the flue on my fire requiring a bit of attention so a studio day out of the question, all leaving me a bit loose endy feeling.

So I reverted to my default setting for a rainy day, I lit the Rayburn and spent the day cooking.

I started by playing a little game I like to call  'Deep Freeze Tease', which basically involves finding random unlabelled packages in the chest freezer and cooking something out of the contents.

Today I found:

2 duck breasts
1 small joint of shin of beef
1 handful of chestnuts
5 hot dog sausages

which translated to:

1 spicy chinese duck with noodles
1 beef curry
1 mediterranean beef casserole
6 spicy beef kebabs
10 sausage rolls

So here are my recipes for June

Spicy Beef Kebabs

500g  lean beef 
3 slices of bread
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons of dried parsley
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of tomato puree

I started by piling all the ingredients into my food processor and whizzing them all up together.

If you are going to barbeque these, then make sure you soak the kebab sticks, but as I am going to grill mine I haven't bothered.

Flour your hands and take a golfball size of mix and roll between your palms to create a sausage shape, then push the stick up through the centre.  Coat with flour and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour before cooking.

 This the joint I found in the freezer, as you can see it is not that big, but it was half price, and that is always a selling point.

After taking the bit required for the kebabs, I cut the rest up into little chunks and spread them out between two further dishes, a curry (on the right) and a light summery mediterranean casserole.

Mediterranean casserole

2 large onions roughly chopped
1 kilo of tomatoes roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic
500g of lean beef cut into small cubes
1 large courgette cut into chunks
12 pitted black olives

Fry all the above in a little olive oil, then add a litre of water and a veggie stock cube and leave to cook overnight in a Rayburn or 4 hours at 150°C, season and serve with hot crusty freshly baked bread.

Spicy Duck Noodles

Marinade ingredients:

2 cm of fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 fresh red chilli
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
2 limes
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of chinese 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Blitz everything up together in a food processor.

2 duck breasts
1 small glass of wine
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
250g of dried rice noodles

Take 2 duck breasts or chicken or pork or whatever meat you have, and cube, then stir over the marinade and leave for about 4 hours in the fridge.

Scoop the meat out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry.

Once browned add back in the marinade juices and leave to cook for a couple of minutes. 

In the marinade dish break up the dried noodles and pour over enough hot water to just cover the noodles, cover and leave for 5 minutes, enough time for the noodles to swell and soften and absorb most of the water. 

Add the noodles to the meat pan, pour over a little glass of wine and finally add a teaspoon of brown sugar to thicken and sticky up the sauce.

And finally, what are you supposed to do with 5 random hot dog sausages and a handful of chestnuts.....

....well sausage rolls of course.

Chestnut Sausage Rolls

Whizz up some hot dog sausages with a couple of teaspoons of whole grain mustard and a handful of blanched and peeled chestnuts.

Roll in some pastry, either filo or flaky, whichever you have or whichever you like to make, I like to make neither but usually have a roll of flaky in the fridge for tarts and the like.

Bake in the oven at 180°c for 20 minutes and eat either hot or cold. 

Well - that's the rainy day cooking over, just enough residual heat to make me a pot of coffee!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week 22 - Glass

This week's theme was glass and I was overwhelmed with inspiration - or at least I would have been if I had looked at the right week, instead of skipping ahead to next week's theme.  On the bright side, I have lots of ideas for week 23 - weather!

So today before heading off for Sunday lunch with friends, I took this:

the dusty tops of a couple of kilner jars of last year's produce, tucked away in the corner of the barn.  

Every year I try to find ways of preserving as much of my veggie harvest as I can, and kilner jars are one of my favourites.
There is something about the heavy glass lids and wire catches that just evokes authentic homegrown produce.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Today is bought to you by the letter B

......and the letter B stands for buttons.

Today I am getting my hands mucky with some air harding clay and making buttons.

With a multitude of thick chunky and cosy crochet and knit shawls awaiting the autumn months, it is time to get those finishing touches on the way.

Thick chunky buttons are the way to go.

Just cut a 1.5cm square of the clay, roll into a ball between your palms, then press your finger into one side to create the dip. Wet your finger in some water and smooth the hollow out, making sure to smooth out any creases or cracks with a bit of water, then punch out the button holes with a toothpick, wiggle to enlarge them enough to take a woolen strand rather than just cotton thread, then leave to dry.

The clay needs one day per centimetre thickness to dry fully.

Once dried, they can be painted and varnished, you can stick beads, dried flowers or sequins and glitter into the clay while hardening, or press out a pattern using lace, then use a resin or varnish to set the button and the decorations.

Now I just have to contain myself to ensure they are fully dry before playing with them some more.