Thursday, 6 October 2016

pink and gold

Summer has just scuttled away from me like a naughty little rabbit and autumn is here, all pink and gold. We spent the equinox in London meeting Hannah and a friend, listening to lovely Icelandic Bjork lament in her gentle way, like some kind of delicate, transparent insect. As she left the stage, the audience stamped their feet and called for more. She came back to serenade us, then again to thank us all. An awesome way to put the season to bed on a balmy London evening. 

As we left the city and headed for the countryside the thermometer on the dashboard crept down. I woke next day to pink skies and golden bales of hay turning the corner, and reminded myself that holidays are over, and that I must knuckle down and do some work.

...but first just an itsy-witsy little bit of making and baking....

In the kitchen:

  • The easiest non-dairy, vegan substitute for cream Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe for cashew cream, the sweet version with a little vanilla extract and maple syrup. I could eat mountains of it. 
  • Rustic spelt, date and walnut individual pies to serve trickled with a smidgen of maple syrup and cashew cream. 
  • Fresh fruit. An excuse for more cashew cream. 
  • Making a batch of golden turmeric paste.
  • Lovely French onion soup, also golden.
  • Tomato and aubergine risotto with broccoli and cauliflower, 
  • Working on the pattern for my fair isle hot water bottle covers made with vintage yarn...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Autumn Equinox

"Happy Winter Solstice..." (whoops that should be "Happy Autumn Equinox" and last day of summer...I'm wishing my life away here...)

 I have missed this place so much. I got locked out somehow and then couldn't get back however I tried. I couldn't write in the spring, or in the summer but I still took a million photographs and posted some on instagram and still have a trillion in my phone. Busy days took me away and then I came back today on the first day of Autumn determined that I would continue and hey presto no problem. Just like the old times I signed in and started writing. The gremlin that wouldn't let me in must be hibernating... It's like some kind of magical Solstice alchemy is working for me... I'm back with a myriad things to catch up... I'm off to London in an hour but just want to stay and write...

I'll be back soon...

...unless that pesky little gremlin returns...

Happy day

Monday, 21 December 2015

weekend :: Merry, merry

Saturday morning I woke extra early and crept downstairs. I lighted lamps, lit tealights and made tea.  I could smell the Christmas tree's piney smell.  I nibbled  ginger hearts from an old french tin,  got out the rolls of paper and wrapped  gifts (including the Jack Daniels...No it wasn't a breakfast tipple). And I noticed for the first time the decoration of holly leaves and berries, cut out of the little tea light holder. I must have bought those six little candle holders in Denmark, ten or fifteen years ago, but Saturday morning was the first time I realised the pattern wasn't just a random cut-out. Isn't it weird how you suddenly notice something after all that time. 

...Must go help finish decorating before everyone comes for the holidays...We're camped out in Hannah's bedroom...our furniture on top of hers. Even our mattress is balanced on top of her bed. I feel a bit like The Princess and the Pea...

But before I go I just wanted to thank you for all the lovely comments on my last post and let you know how much I value all your friendship. And to wish you a very happy Christmas, the best one yet. The new year too, and that you find everything that you're heart desires. That it's fun and you sing and dance and laugh to your hearts content...all year long...

Merry, Merry,
Love and mistletoe

...see you in the new year...x


joining karen for weekend...

Monday, 14 December 2015

weekend :: All the good things...

It was a jolly pottering catching up weekend. More painting and sorting, a walk to gather leaves for a Christmas wreath to add to those gleaned from the garden. Making chicken stock ready for the Christmas dinner. It's now in a little plastic tub buried away in the freezer. I can't believe how organised I am! We made a flying visit  to a Victorian Christmas Market and accepting an invitation for mulled wine and mince pies from our friendly neighbours. 

We celebrated good news, just quietly. Mostly in our heads with the beaming smiles that we couldn't keep off our faces. I don't usually get too personal here, but it WAS good news. Notification of a clear mammogram result came through the letterbox Saturday lunchtime. Still clear since the one I had three years ago. Following the previous five years  since the first shock discovery. I just wanted to share positive news. Almost eight years, and clear. To give hope to others out there, it's amazing what clever Doctors and modern medicine can do, as well as alternative therapies, and positivity, lots of good friends and family, and trying to eat healthily (well sometimes). Keep your chin up any one out there whose going through those tricky things. 

Now I breathe deeply and can't help saying to myself...THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU...and trying not to get annoyed about silly little unimportant things...Sometimes I need to remember LIFE IS GOOD...and not to take it for go and smell that honeysuckle blossom that amazingly is still blooming half way through December...

Homemade chicken stock 

Ingredients to make half a pint/half a litre:

  • Chicken. I prefer to make stock with uncooked chicken. I think it's more flavourful. I was making a chicken casserole and jointed it into four pieces but reserved the backbone still with a little meat attached to make the stock for a Christmas dinner caramelised onion gravy. There will only be four of us for dinner this year so a pint is plenty as I'll add some wine and other ingredients. 
  • One carrot chopped into chunky slices
  • A small peeled potato also chopped. Don't add too much or it will cloud your stock.
  • A small red onion with the outter leaves removed, roughly chopped
  • A stick of celery, deveined and chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • One sliced clove of garlic
  • Herbs, I used rosemary thyme and sage. I can't have Christmas dinner without sage and onion gravy like my granddad used to make. 
  1. Simply place all the ingredients into a saucepan and cover with about a litre of water.
  2. Season and bring to the boil. 
  3. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover tightly with a lid to conserve as much as the cooking liquor as possible. 
  4. Cook for about half an our or so until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are tender and the liquid has reduced by about half. Check every so often to make sure it's not reduced too much. If so just top up with a little hot water.
  5. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  6. Cool a little and then remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon. These can be used for bubble and squeak or add to soups, casseroles etc.
  7. If not using straight away pour the stock into a clean container and allow to cool.I left it in the fridge overnight before freezing until it's required. 

I'm joining Karen for weekend...
that was a bit of mine, but how was yours?

Friday, 11 December 2015

This week in my kitchen :: Autumn Comfort Food, Buddha Bowls to bring a smile to your soul...

last image via

As we slip towards the winter solstice my craving for carbohydrates seems to increase daily. I long for risotto, brown rice, mashed root vegetables or pasta. The porringer got taken down off the shelf to use and I check out the winter breakfast section of Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights for pancake recipes. Maybe this year it's the comfort needed to cope with the madness going on everywhere, images of refugee babies in crowded rowing boats, shootings, terror attacks, threats of war and there's nothing I can do to help. I'm trying to eat away the misery, or maybe pad it out... 

Curiously whilst I have this seasonal longing for typical cold weather food, simultaneously my head is in spring planting mode when it comes to the garden. We've only just decorated the Christmas tree even though we've had it since the 2nd. (An extreme reaction After last years eleventh hour dash when it looked like we were too late to find one.)  But it was the stolen hour (maybe two) sitting at the kitchen table, carefully spent collecting seeds from pods and seed cases that I'd stored in paper bags hanging up to dry; that proved to be the therapy. The calm that helped a little...

I found a gem of a book for  £1.99 in a charity shop. The Bedside book of the Garden by Dr D G Hessayan author of all those hundreds of 'The Expert' guides. It's beautiful and different. There isn't any expert advice in this one. He introduces us to the historical gardeners who've changed the landscape of gardens all over the world. Those I'd heard of like Lancelot Capability Brown and Gertrude Jekyll He tells their tale but also introduces us to those (I'd) never heard of. Paints pictures of interesting individuals and their plant collecting adventures...It's hard to put down...

Baking has gone out of the window recently since the Christmas cake and the odd savoury pie. We're not big dessert eaters but it's nice to know that at a moments notice I can put together something sweet, when that's what someone's tooth craves and a piece of fruit won't do. 

As long as there's:

Something creamy: yoghurt, ice cream or frozen bananas (whizzed up they make a kind of dairy-free banana ice cream)
Something fruity: preferably berries
Sauces: maple syrup, homemade black current sauce, medjool dates stones removed and beaten  with a little hot water they make a fudgy sauce, espresso, or the seeds of a ripe passion fruit maybe a little drizzle of liqueur...or sometimes one or two together
Crunch:is good too but not crucial. This can be supplied by nuts, flaked or otherwise,a crunchy biscuit or oats or other cereal.   

Buddha bowl

Ingredients for two people: 

  • One cup of Brown rice
  • One ripe avocado
  • Two small spring onions
  • Eight radishes
  • A piece of fresh ginger root, approximately an inch long
  • Fresh flat leafed parsley
  • Soy or Tamari sauce
  • Apple cider vinegar, preferably raw with the mother
  • Sesame seeds
  1. Cook the brown rice as per the package. Basically with long grain brown rice you wash the rice, cover with boiling water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and cook for about ten minutes until ready. Drain and then use as required. With short grain brown rice cook one cup of rice with one and a half of cold water. Cover and cook for ten minutes or so until all water has been absorbed.
  2. Whilst the rice is cooking peel all of the vegetables and de-stalk and chop the parsley.
  3. When the rice is ready place into a serving bowl and add soya sauce and cider vinegar to taste. Add all the vegetables a mix roughly. Top with the parsley and a good sprinkle of sesame seeds. 
This is just one version but the possibilities are endless. They are lovely with sautéed garlic greens of any kind and kimchi or Japanese pickled ginger any other vinegars sauces that you like. It's one to play around with.

You can link to the leek and mushroom risotto recipe over here. Ahmad who has never eaten risotto and I don't think  ever will, made this for me one day when I was really busy. He just asked how to do it, I explained, and hey presto he did. It was the best one I've ever tasted... ( I know, how lucky am I...)

I wonder what's been happening in your kitchen this week... to tell...

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

On the road...

"Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase, it the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things it will come and sit softly on your shoulder..." Thoreau 

There are just thirty five stitches for the needles to work, for the yarn to meander in and out and keep my itchy fingers busy when I'm in the passenger seat. I'm knitting another simple garter stitch scarf. This time in Icelandic Lopi yarn to match Ahmad's Cobblestone Pullover. Perfect timing for Hannah's invitation to help with the move, basement to attic. From up on the hill, down to the creative Bohemian quarter. 

When there wasn't enough room in the car for bookcases and me, I happily inhabited a big comfy armchair and borrowed a copy of Walden from the bookcase. What with Thoreau, knitting, ginger beer and Swedish ginger biscuits it felt like the butterfly was comfortably perched on my shoulder. 

We even had time for a lunch at my favourite friendly Bristolian

I don't have a recipe for crunchy Danish ginger biscuits but this is an old family recipe for fairings which are traditional Cornish ginger biscuits. They are named after the edible treats that were traditionally sold at English fairs:-

Ginger Fairings

  • 6oz of Self Raising flour
  • 3oz of golden caster sugar
  • 2tsp of ground ginger
  • 4oz of butter
  • 1tbs of syrup
  • A pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  1. Prepare a baking try by oiling and preheat the oven to 275-300c/140-150f
  2. Melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients into the melted butter and mix well.
  4. Roll  teaspoons full of the mixture in the palms of your hands to make little balls.
  5. Place on the baking tray and cook for 15 to 20 minutes using the bottom shelves in the oven.

joining ginny and nicole...