Sunday, January 30, 2011

January's C of Cooking - Rabbit Cobbler - A Rayburn Recipe

This is a slow cook recipe designed for the Rayburn or other wood stove.  For electric equivalent either 120°C for the same number of hours or 180°C for a couple of hours.

Also designed to be cooked entirely in one pot - for those lazy Sunday afternoons.

First take your rabbit - here is one I prepared last year.
Cut him into eight sections, 2 back legs, 2 front legs with rib cage, and the saddle and back into two then halved down the spine.

Brown the pieces in a large oven proof dish - I love cast iron pans because they radiate heat so well for the Rayburn -  TOP TIP - to store your cast iron pans without them rusting, after using and washing, once dry, brush the insides using a pastry brush with a bit of vegetable oil before storing, to reuse, just wipe the insides with a bit of kitchen paper and they are ready to use.

Once the rabbit is browned add a splash more olive oil and 3 peeled and quartered onions and a generous grinding of pepper.  Leave to sauté for a few minutes until the onions start to soften.
This recipe calls for stock, but because this is a one pot recipe and it will be cooking for quite a while, there is no need to create or add a separate stock, just make it in the pot you are using, and it will be full of meaty flavour.

To the rabbit and onions add a couple of litres of hot water, then add in some carrots chopped into large pieces, 2 bay leaves and a couple of stalks of celery.  In France it is practically impossible to find celery in the shops in winter, seasonality is very important here, and nobody in my family including me actually likes celery to eat.  It does however seem to be an integral flavour in stock, so I always grow a small patch then chop it and freeze it to use during the year.  (Alongside lots of other frozen herbs).

Season the stock well then bring to the boil.  Add mushrooms - either frozen, or tinned, fresh or rehydrated dried mushrooms, whatever you have to hand.  You will need a couple of handfuls.

Once the stock is boiling, cover the pan and shove it into the centre of the oven for as long as it takes to cook the rabbit so the meat is falling loosely off the bones - in my old Rayburn at approximately 250°F / 120°C that can be up to 4 hours on wood alone.

To serve the rabbit add copious amounts of either dried or frozen thyme.  Season to taste.  Once the liquid is to your taste, throw over the cobbler.

Cobbler is a thick pastry type top that is very easy to make and is a real alternative to a pie pastry, I usually serve it in place of potatoes as it is quite stodgy.

Sift 100g white flour, 100g of wholewheat flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt.  Using your finger tips to rub together to a bread crumb consistency add two heaped tablespoons of room temperature butter and a tablespoon of herb of your choice - here I am using parsley.

To bind together, slowly pour in about 100ml of milk, maybe a tablespoon more, just enough so that the pastry does not crumble too much.  Don't make it too wet as it will need to absorb liquid from the stew, both to cook the cobbler and to thicken the stew.

Make a soft dough, then with floured hands roughly pat it flat and into the shape of your pan, lay over the stew leaving a small air gap around the edges.  Leave to cook for a further 40 minutes (probably less in the electric oven at 180° C°).

Serve in big spoonfuls into bowls for a tasty Sunday dish that takes 20 minutes to prepare, about 5 hours to cook and is totally yummy bunny.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

spring cleaning the wardrobe

With the sun shining and a rather chilly minus 2 in the studio, I decided cold or no, I was going to light the fire and spend the day shut away in my studio.

It only took a couple of hours to get the temperature up to 8°c, and then I was good to go, coat off and erm........ well a whole load of spring cleaning first actually.

What is it about an unused room that over winter you just get in the habit of opening the door and throwing stuff in then closing the door and walking away?

After battling past the coffee table dumped in the middle of the rug, nestled up against the stool I have promised to someone else but not got round to dropping off, then sidestepping the two bags of donated clothes, the bag of castoffs from Thea's wardrobe; I ended up tripping over the two hangers of clothes needing some attention to make them fit that I had casually left lying on the table that was then used to elongate our dining table for New Year so someone (who shall remain nameless lest I get caught up in finding new swear words to rhyme with husband) had dumped them on the floor and left them there.

By lunch time with the temperature up to a very moderate 16°c in there, I settled in to finally do some sewing, after my machine had defrosted sufficiently to allow the oil to lubricate it.

Two pairs of trousers turned up, two tops with the elastic removed and new hems added, one shirt collar fixed, one jumper seam fixed, two pairs of jeans turned up and one pair of jeans with the waist band adjusted - and for once adjusted in the right way.

Here is my super easy, super fast way of taking in the waistband on a pair of jeans (as long as you are not too fusy and do not require your jeans to be perfect and are therefore happy with a few loose threads - although if you do require your jeans to be perfect you probably iron a crease up the centre of the legs in which case stop reading now and go away you scary person).

Ahem - ok, take a sharp pair of scissors and cut off the waistband. Remove the belt loops from the waistband and the jeans. Discard the belt loops - the object of the excerise is to take in the waist itself and therefore not need a belt to hold up your pants.

Rough cut edges to rough cut edges mean that you have to turn the waistband upside down.

Pin the end of the waistband that has the button on it to the flap of material that covers the zip, then with the zip closed, pin the waistband all the way around, gather if required at the pocket side edges.

If you are doing this to stretch jeans then you won't need to gather because you can stretch the waistband to meet the material.

Fasten the waistband button over the zip to make sure that you have a straight even front. (Because this is where lumps and gathers will show if you are not careful.)

Make sure any slack is pulled taut and pinned in place at the side seams, this is also where the material is at its thinnest and so the easiest place to pin and add any darts if needed.

Then sew in place with a thick cotton thread - either in that gold/cream colour of denim stitching or something more discreet.

This method is also great for taking down high waisted jeans for shorties like me.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week 4 entry - theme - White

I was struck by how much the word white resonates for me along side the image of texture.

Whether it is crisp white cotton snapping in the breeze on a the washing line, the soft fur of Ferguson's belly as he curls up beside me, or the course knobbly feel of the crochet bedspread as I pull it up over the duvet every morning.

So this week I have concentrated on textured macro shots before finally choosing my entry for the group.

the white cotton bedspread

white cotton wool

and finally the entry for 52 images for 2011 flickr group - white beauty cream.

An explosion of feathers....

My new lens arrived by post today, just in time for inspiration to strike for the week 4 themed entry 'White'.

This was another ebay bargain, found half the price of the other lenses of its type because of a typo by the seller in the description line.

I just wanted something that would bring me in even closer to the subject without resorting to macro screw ons, so have been playing around with it this morning.

Experimenting with various ideas took me upstairs - only to find that the kittens had discovered my stash of feathers and had been busily distributing them across the landing, stairs and spare bedroom.  It looked as though there had been a massacre there, several chickens, ducks and even a pheasant liberally spread across the rugs.

Now that is all cleaned up I can get on with processing my photos - that is if I can stay away from my crochet long enough - seriously hooked (pun intended!!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to treble crochet - January's Creative C continued

The main stitch I used to make this bag was a treble crochet - a new stitch for me but as the fabric was quite thick cotton (from some recycled jogging pants) I wanted a large stitch to go with my large crochet hook.

So here is my how to treble crochet

This is the finished treble crochet.

You can see it creates a large-ish gap then has a smalker gap at the top, bisected by a strand of yarn, when working the next row you work into the smaller gap not the larger.

Start by winding the yarn over the hook twice to give you three loops on the hook

push yarn through the next stitch - you will momentarily have four loops over the hook

pull yarn through the first two loops on the crochet hook - three loops left on the hook and the first part of the stitch completed below the hook

pull yarn through the next two loops on the hook, leaving one worked stitch on the hook and the previous stitch's loop on the hook (two stitches in total left on hook)

pull yarn through the two remaining loops on the hook to join the new stitch to the old stitch and viola - one treble crochet

Made a patternless bag - January's C

Sat last night in front of the TV, my fingers started itching to tackle the ball of recycled yarn I made the other day.  So I grabbed the ball and a size 10 crochet hook and started messing around with the yarn, and it grew organically into a bag.  Almost by itself - and I do stress the almost.

I will have to have a bit of a think before writing up the pattern and try to remember how it goes but it is based purely on how much yarn you have as the basis of this idea was to use recycled fabric.

Obviously the kittens loved it and as the bag took shape I was constantly fighting them off because they were both treating it as their personal sleeping bags.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Beginnings - week 3 of 52 images for 2011

This morning walking home from work I ended up rushing back to grab my camera and running back up the road to try to capture the beautiful dawn.

Red skies behind the Puy de Dôme. I love living in France.

This was not originally going to be my entry for the 52 images for 2011, I was going to go for the newborn calf next door.

However the uplifting feeling and the spring in my step that this dawn gave me seemed more fitting for the theme of 'New Beginnings'.

I might just have to go and take some piccies of the cute calf anyway.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Take three pairs of joggers and a pair of scissors

stage one - cut long strips of material from the legs.

stage two - sew the strips end to end in a random colour assortment

stage three - wind the strips ready into a big ball

stage four - find the appropriate pattern and start crocheting

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Friday, January 14, 2011

The unseasonably warm weather continues....

The warm weather continues and it feels like spring.  In fact half the garden is confused and has started to sprout.  Parsley, dill, strawberries, ginger and chives have started to grow and my apple trees are budding.

I would love to believe that this really is the start of spring but generally we have snow until the end of February, so this year is very weird and the delay to winter concerns me.  I don't want anything to start to growing and then end up buried under a metre of snow and being killed off by -16°c nights.

But it is so balmy at the moment that even the chickens have taken to sunbathing.

And those that aren't sunbathing are in the house stealing the cat food.
Ellen I hope that you are paying attention - because the main culprits are your Orpingtons!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

52 images for 2011 - week 2 reflections

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When is man flu really flu

Brendan had a stinking cold that he kindly passed on to me, obviously he spent two days in bed and felt really crappy, but he is a bit bemused how my stinking cold can now be considered to have been a bout of flu and not just 'man-flu'.

OK - the science bit first - I am a woman and therefore I cannot catch man flu!

But here is my quick reference guide for symptoms of real flu:

You don't need to worry about quick starting your diet because you cannot anything eat for about 48 hours.

You can skip the detox part of a diet because all you can manage for 3 days is litres and litres of water and the occasional hot lemon soluble paracetamol drink.

You are asleep for about 20 hours out of 24.

Of the four hours you are awake you are coughing so much you are in danger of depositing a lung on the floor.

When everyone else is hot you are shivering and when they complain of the cold you think you have been magically transported to the equator.

You have LSD inspired dreams without the spooky flashbacks months later.

You see the doctor after 12 hours of flu strength over the counter remedies and your temperature is still 39.7°C.

There you go - if you have those symptoms - you have flu. If you can still manage to pack away some left over Christmas choccies and a sneaky turkey sandwich while snivelling over day time TV - you have a stinking cold.

Ferguson settles in to be my hot water bottle for another 12 hour stint - he is so selfless in his devotion to my care.
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First day of the sales

And I am stuck at home. After last year's new clothes ban I have not attempted the same this year but was going to have a mooch around the reductions. Unfortunately I am starting the new year on a low, having had a rotten cold I now have flu - official flu at that, with a doctor's note and a whole pharmacy's worth of prescriptions to go with it.

Doctors here in France do not believe in minimalism. They are obviously in the thrall of the pharmaceutical companies, and any visit to the doc's will normally leave you with a bag full of pills (including suppositories that the French are unnaturally keen on). So to treat my flu I have been prescribed a large bottle of cough medicine, throat lozenges, antibiotics for my inflamed throat, a nasal spray, eye drops, a 1000mg paracetamol solution and vitamins. wow.

I have lived in my blanket cocoon on the sofa for a few days and today I am feeling a touch brighter, perhaps my fever has finally broken - I have had the strangest dreams. I have also managed to read several books on my Kindle, thankfully it has a huge print setting with about 5 words appearing on the screen at a time which was all my poor sore eyes could manage, as well as staring at various DVDs and sleeping through large amounts of day time TV.

It may be time to emerge into the land of the living again - the red sky this morning was quite inspirational.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

bring on the winter so I can wrap up warm

my crochet shawl is finished and I for one think it looks great.

The pattern is a freebie - link to it here on, another great resource for free patterns.

I have crocheted it on size 7mm hook in Phildar Kadisha 130 75% acrylic/25% wool, 15 balls of which I found on sale at a car boot sale for a couple of euros a couple of years ago and it has been lurking in the project cupboard ever since.

I even had enough wool left over to add the fringing.

A very satisfying crochet project.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Flick entry

My first entry for the flickr 52 images for 2011 group - theme for week 1 - aftermath.

This is my interpretation, the aftermath of plucking a duck for dinner.

This is the runner up.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I posted this on wordpress and then came home to blogspot.

Now I know I said I wasn’t doing a 365 blog and hence have no need to post 365 times in a year – but I have itchy fingers.  Every day I wake up and I do something and I feel the urge to tell the world – yeah I know, peverse isn’t it.

So what did I do today that may be worth shouting about – well nothing major.  Our mains water is off at the moment while poor Brendan drives around the commune digging up random bits of land to try to find the burst pipe.

I watched a couple of episodes of House on DVD – wow Hugh Laurie is fantastic in this, I never saw it on the TV so the series is a bit of a revelation for me.  I spent some time wandering around thinking of possible shots for the 52 images as I only have until the 9th of January to submit something on the theme of aftermath and I just figure that post Christmas wrappings and deccies is a bit obvious.  I tried to get a quarter piece of my delft tapestry done, in between answering umpteen calls from France Telecom desperately trying to sell me some pointless TV package.   But mostly I drank lemsips in an attempt to stave off this horrid head cold.  I have so much work to do now backed up for tomorrow I am going to have to spend the whole day chained to my laptop so I really need a clear head.


Not sure why I can't seem to get on with wordpress but I just miss my gadgets on blogspot - made easier by all the google interlinking.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mastered wordpress

After trawling through pages and pages of formats and themes, I finally seem to have something that works for my blog.

So here I am on word press:

Happy New Year everyone

It has been a bit of an odd start to the new year so far for me.

For one thing, now that the 2010 projects are over, I find that I am scouting around to do something every day and then realising that I don't have to, but missing the hive of activity that the projects created around me.

So the dog has been out for a couple of very long walks.  And I have mastered reading books on my Kindle.

But there is more to life than this, so crochet is once again taking up my evenings, as well as a new tapestry that I have just started.

Added to two new jobs and a stinking head cold.

I have decided on the format for my 2011 project blog (even if I could not master wordpress to load it onto!).

The Three Cs project will work like this.

Every month I will post a complete how to with photos for the first C - Cook something new
Every month I will post a complete how to with photos for the second C - Create something new

Finally, through flickr and to ensure that I actually get around to using all that storage space on there, I have joined a 52 images to a theme group and will be attempting to keep up with this throughout the year.  I intend to post my best Captures here - and so build up a wider portfolio than I currently have.

I had considered a 365 images group - but as I have a tendancy to forget where I plugged the camera battery in for a couple of days at a time, it would not be long before I fell behind on that one.

I intend to try to keep up the momentum started last year through the daily projects and set myself daily goals to motivate me, you just won't have to read about them everyday now though.

And so with no more shilly shallying around this morning, I am off into the sunshine to clean out the animals and start my spring compost heap.