Thank you 2012

Well there’s still plenty of cheese, pate, chocolate and wine about the place, and another couple of days holiday…. so I’m hoping for a happy new year….

To be honest I’ve always thought that celebrating New Year is a bit arbitrary really as the beginnings and endings in our lives don’t fit to any calendar and the important things are moments not years….. but that said I do still reflect on what the year has brought and 2012 has had many lovely moments….

  • My mini holiday to St.Ives was certainly a highlight….

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my first holiday for a long time and such a beautiful adventure….. I hope that in 2013 I might be back :)

  • I mastered sourdough bread and have a great little sour living in my fridge :)

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  • I learned to applique….

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  • I had (I hope the first of many, fingers crossed) my first craft night….

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  • I’ve made and sold lots of toys….

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and started to write my own crochet patterns too :)

  • and much of this wouldn’t have happened without starting ‘Clothmonkey’ earlier in the year….. although I haven’t achieved many of things I planned to, starting ‘Clothmonkey’ has been a really interesting journey and has taken me in all kinds of different directions that I wouldn’t have expected and led me to meet lots of new people (both in person and virtually) who continue to share, encourage and inspire…… how great is that? (apparently ‘Clothmonkey’ has been read in over 60 countries so far…. wowsers!)

So thank you 2012 for that!

and thank you for reading and your comments and encouragement….. it means a lot :) :)

I hope that 2012 has brought you lots of moments of joy and that 2013 will bring us all many, many more………

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Gingerbread practice

So…. that event next month is looming…. my top bedroom has a pile of goodies, waiting to be wrapped, getting gradually bigger (I’ve been trying to spread the load over a few pay days)…. the festive movies have started on the telly today, so I thought it seemed a good time to get in some gingerbread practice.

Last year I baked lots and lots of little glittery gingerbread hearts that I gave in red polka dot cellophane bags tied up with ribbon,with handmade tags…. a nice little token and fun to bake too.

This year I’ve expanded my cookie cutter collection to include stars, houses and of course…. little gingerbread men; and I’ve been wanting to try them out

and here they are!!

I think I’ll ice the ones to give as presents…. but these little fellas are cute too…. maybe like this for adults and iced for children….. we’ll see….

Anyway, this is the gingerbread recipe I use .. if you haven’t got one and you fancy giving it a try….

                             

I roll mine out and cut out shapes after chilling…. and I tend to make mine a little thicker so that they’re still soft and a bit chewy in the middle and bake them on top of two sheets of baking paper to prevent burnt bottoms…..

They don’t have to be perfect though…. all part of the charm of a homemade gift I think! :)

Autumnal eats

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…. oooh I love this time of year…. the colours and smells, the darker cosy evenings, being able to get your woolies out and of course all the gorgeous comfort food.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been enjoying lots of baking and cooking up lovely stews and soups… including a favourite ‘Split Pea and Smoked Sausage Soup’ It reminds me of the pork pie and mushy peas that was always served on bonfire night when I was a kid and was a big favourite of my mums…..  mmmmm a proper taste of autumn for me….. and it’s super simple to make.

  • Take a few handfuls of split peas and rinse thoroughly
  • Bring them to the boil in a large saucepan and boil hard for about 15 mins, skim of the scum that rises during this time
  • Add one carrot, one onion and one celery stick all finely diced, salt and pepper and one bay leaf.
  • Simmer for 30 – 45 mins or until the peas are cooked and work into a smoothish soup when stirred through. (Keep stirring and checking throughout to keep it from catching on the bottom and to add more water if necessary.)

You can blend at this point if you like, but I prefer a soup with chunkier bits in.

  • Once at the texture and consistency you like, add 3-4 thick slices of smoked sausage, chopped into little cubes (I used Polish Krakowska sausage here, but I have used Kabanos before or you could use smoked ham… even chorizo might be good…. I think I’ll give it a try myself!) a pinch or two of thyme and smoked paprika and simmer for a further 10 minutes before serving.

For a veggie/pork free/a bit healthier and cheaper version I often miss out the sausage and add extra smoked paprika and grate a bit of parmesan over the bowl.

Not a very precise recipe… sorry!  And I don’t have a picture of the finished soup either…. rubbish! But I did make this last week and once it was cooked it didn’t hang around for too long :)

And for today’s autumnal sweet treat I made Pumpkin Pie.

I had never even tried pumpkin pie until I went for dinner with the girlies on C’s lovely boat last Hallowe’en and C had made one with the scooped out lantern and ooooooh I loved it! and even took some home with me (thanks C!) and I promised myself I’d try making one this year….

If you’ve never tried one, it’s basically like a rich, spicy, baked egg custard tart…. very addictive! I used this recipe here for the filling http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/4577/pumpkin-pie.aspx

and for the pastry I used this (which is my go to for a lovely crisp, sweet pastry)

200g plain flour

100g chilled butter cubed

40g icing sugar

1 egg beaten

  • Rub butter into flour until like breadcrumbs.
  • Add icing sugar and mix through.
  • Make a well in the middle and add the beaten egg.
  • With a knife cut through until the mixture is quite combined and then press together into a ball with hands.
  • Chill dough for 30 mins.
  • Roll out and line a well buttered pie dish, gently prick the bottom with a fork all over.
  • Chill again for 15 mins before adding filling

In the recipe it says to cover the pastry edges with foil so they don’t burn….. I couldn’t be bothered with it to be honest :/  but they were fine.

The only other change I would make would be to reduce the sugar by a quarter or even half…. sooooo sweet.

Oh and I have heard a rumour that it’s much better to use Butternut Squash…. which makes a lot of sense to me as I like it a million times more than pumpkin in other things…. next time I’ll give it a go and let you know which is best….. Squash off!!!

in search of the perfect homemade humous….

Oh, I’ve been a bit rubbish again recently…. not fed up rubbish (my trip to St. Ives was worth it’s weight in gold…. and I reckon St. Ives probably weighs quite a lot all told!) but I have been a bit scatty (no change there)…. still trying to achieve some focus…  in creative terms, I discussed this problem with a textile artist that I met in St. Ives….. I’ve been meaning to write about it… I will, I promise but not today…..

Humous has been the focus of my attentions this week….  I don’t even know if that’s how you spell it, but everyone seems to spell it differently… humous, hummous, hummus… whatever…. that greek, garlicy, chickpea business that is too addictive….. and the spelling issue is telling because no-one seems to be able to agree on the best way to make it either…. tinned vs dried chickpeas…. skin on vs skin off chickpeas…. added oil vs no oil…. tahini vs no tahini….. added extras like peppers or tomato vs purist humous…. the arguments seem to go on and on.

(apols for the generic chickpeas pic (BBC) I forgot to take a picture!)

Anyway, despite discovering that homemade humous is a hotbed of controversy and despite the fact that whenever I’ve made it in the past it just never turned out quite right, I had decided that I wanted to make some for a ‘fuddle’ aka ‘pot luck lunch’ at work this week because it’s super cheap and everyone loves humous (especially in the voluntary sector :)  )

In the past my humous difficulties have included:

  • too much tahini…. rancid
  • too much garlic…. burny and stinky and temporary loss of use of tasebuds
  • too little salt…. tasteless
  • undercooked chickpeas…. lumpy and horrid
  • not well blended garlic…. erratic tasteless/ultra burny-ness

so I decided to research and master the humous…..

I agree that home cooked chickpeas are best, tinned ones always seem a bit watery and flavorless for me. Nigella apparently soaks and boils her chickpeas with added bicarb to reduce cooking time (because they do take forever)…. I’m not keen on this as I have had run ins with too much bicarb in things in the past… it is accrid and nasty, bleurgh!

However, with all beans and big pulses I now soak at least overnight (24 hours for chickpeas) change the water and boil them hard in a saucepan for 20 mins whilst eating my breakfast, boiling a kettle and heating up the slow cooker….. then I drain the beans, put them in the slowcooker with boiling water and a stock cube on medium until I get home from work…. perfect!

So with about 200g (dried weight) of cooked chickpeas (that I had chilled overnight in the fridge covered in a bit of cooking water to keep them from drying and to use in the humous if necessary) I set to work on the rest…. (ps… skins left on! ….life’s too short!)

I blended together first 2.5 tbsp light tahini, a generous tbsp lemon juice, pinch of sea salt, couple of pinches of ground cumin and the important bit I think was 2 cloves of garlic that had been ground in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt until in a paste….. I reckon this blends better.

When this was blended I added half the chickpeas, with a slotted spoon and blended until smooth, then the other half, until smooth (I didn’t need to add any extra cooking liquid)…. then I added 1tbsp of olive oil and blended again.

After tasting I thought the tahini was too prominent so I added another tbsp lemon juice, another pinch of cumin and another clove of garlic smushed up with a pinch of salt. I blended again lots until it was light and smoothish, then plopped it all in a nice rustic looking dish, evened out the top and covered it in olive oil to prevent it drying, sprinkled over lots of sweet pimenton/paprika and left it covered by a plate overnight in the fridge for the flavours to do that thing they do overnight.

And it was a success…. yay!!  It actually tasted like a good humous and every teeny last bit was eaten!  Humous joy!! I reckon I’ll try it again at the weekend…. next weeks packed lunches sorted!….. I’ll let you know if it works again.

And I took some white sourdough bread (well white bread made with my trusty old wholemeal sour that I resurrected after a couple of months dormant in the fridge) I used this recipe here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/27/sourdough-recipe-dan-lepard but with my own pre-made sour…. and it’s no knead!! A really simple recipe if you have a good sour and know what you’re looking for in a rise…..  and if your tray of water in the bottom of the oven doesn’t spill and put out the oven…. doh!! but I pulled it back I think…. and every bit of bread got eaten too…. joy!

It’s scary cooking for your colleagues…. especially when I’m the one who usually turns up late with a bag of crisps from the local garage :) ….. but it was great and we also had an amazing chilli, gorgeous pesto, cheese, ham and tomato tarts and some lovely cakes….. hurrah for the fuddle!!

Slouchy hat and apple cake

I am still reeeeeally struggling with motivation at the moment :(   but it’s my mini holiday soon :)

and I have finally finished my slouchy beanie hat….. or at least I think it’s finished…. I’m in two minds as to whether I should make it even taller (slouchier) or whether to put a bobble on it?  What do you think?

I’ll sleep on it I think

hehe…. please excuse the scary eyes!  …… I look either demonic or as if I’m concentrating really hard on wearing a hat :D

And (aside from reaching the bottom of the washing basket, which only occurs probably twice annually) the other good thing today was making a glorious apple cake…. mmmmmm

Autumn and apple cake!…. I love apple cake and this one is almondy too, all the better (might be nice with pears too actually)……  definitely the best recipe I’ve tried http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2065836/Recipe-The-best-apple-dessert-cake.html

My sincere apologies for a link to the Daily Wail….. but it’s seriously worth it and yup! it’s another Mary Berry recipe….. I think I’m obsessed, perhaps I should start stalking her in my hat, with my demon eyes :D  I won’t go that far, but the lady can BAKE! I love her recipes…. even though I never properly follow them…. I did half wholemeal flour (love my wholemeal!) and used bicarb and no flaked almonds on the top, but dusted icing sugar instead.

What a lovely cake, crisp and chewy on the outside, light sponge and gooey, tart appleiness in the middle…. I had to actively shut myself out of the kitchen so as not to eat it all :)

In fact…. I think I’ll have a sliver now for my supper