Monday, 14 January 2013

Not completely gone

What do you write when you've been away from your blog this long? There's all sorts of posts that rattle around in my head, But I start to feel like I need a big introductory essay to set me off again, so it's not some blank page where the latest post is a year old.

There's so much to show in the house renovations now that I don't know where to start with that either; but I don't want to give up this space that I've made so many friends from, so I've got to start somewhere.

So while I think about that, here's my first mark on the page, to say I'm back, or at least, not completely gone.

Monday, 30 April 2012

my reading corner.

One of my favourite spots in the house so far is one that happened quite accidentally - the best bits often do don't they - and that's my reading pile. The book pile started forming after a particularly good Christmas, and then the lamp just appeared on top of it. Eventually I have plans for a different reading corner, in a different bit of the house, so all this will change but hopefully there'll still be a pile of books waiting to be read.

This is one of the things I want to work through this year, I'm awful for buying books, or asking for books as presents, and they seem to be coming in at such a volume that I don't get through them, especially now I'm in Blook club too. Its not a big challenge, but one that will give me satisfaction to be able to tick of my mental list.

A lot of the books in the pile are reference - gardening, sewing, cooking - but I don't want to put them on the shelves without at least learning whats in them should I need to find the information on how best to prune a raspberry/cook shin of beef/sew a zip. so although I love this corner, I'm hoping that by the end of the year some different books might be in this pile! (yes, there is a book on composting in there, I'm not the proud owner of a compost heap - James found me that book for christmas - who says romance is dead?)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Eat: tasty weekend lunch

Aka 'what to give your parents when you're just back from holiday and have nothing in the house and have ten minutes to pick up supplies in a corner shop in Edinburgh'.
Any of these recipes are great on their own, I make the brownies regularly and I've yet to find a recipe to beat them, but the bread does go really nicely with the soup.

Spicy sweet potato and butternut soup
- from the new Covent garden soup co book 'soup and beyond'
serves 4 - I tend to work off the weight of the butternut I've bought, and multiply everything accordingly as it freezes well.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
1 tsp each of cumin and coriander - roasted lightly and ground
2 tbsp sesame seeds - roasted lightly
1cm fresh root ginger - peeled and finely grated
1 green chilli - seeded and finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp runny honey
340g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2.5cm dice
340g butternut squash - peeled and cut into 2.5 dice
1.2 litres vegetable stock
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
handful of fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Heat the oil and cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes without letting them colour.       
Stir in spices, sesame seeds, ginger, chilli, lime zest and honey and stir for 30 seconds.
Add the sweet potato, butternut, juice of half the lime and the stock. Cover and boil for about 10 minutes or until veg is almost tender.           
Add the drained chickpeas and taste for seasoning. Simmer for another 10 minutes, then add the rest of lime juice to taste.
Cool a little then liquidise. Reheat gently, sprinkle with coriander, and serve.

Feta Bread
from Delia Smiths 'how to cook book one'
Since Delia has such a comprehensive website, I'm just going to link to the recipe here. Ive never tried it with the goats cheese, but I'm sure its just as nice if fetas not your thing. the sharpness of the feta just really works with the sweet soup above. this bread is equally nice on its own, warm from the oven spread with butter - my mum has often made it for a lunch. Its very easy, and needs no proving. because of the potato in it it is meant to be moist, and won't increase in size in the oven.

Rich Chocolate Brownies
If you have any room left after, I made hummingbirds brownies. I've put blueberries in these before now and it was lovely, any berries would work. they last well in a tin too.

33 x 23 x 5-cm baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper (I find the greaseproof doesnt come off the cake well, and I spend ages peeling it off the bottom - I've had more success in a silicone tray without lining it.
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
175g unsalted butter
325g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 eggs
icing sugar, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Finally, stir in the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until flaky on the top but still soft in the centre. Be careful not to overcook otherwise the edges will become hard and crunchy. Leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, to decorate.

Aaaaaaaaannndd eat.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Garden: clearing part 1

We have a front and back garden, for this year I'm going to concentrate on the front garden as it's got less to do to it and is easier done. Firstly it need some severe pruning to get things under control, and we're taking a few of the trees down to let more light in.
In all that lovely weather we had I went out with loppers and started taking things down/out in one corner, there were a couple of shrubs in one corner growing through an orange blossom tree, and strangling it, not to mention cutting out the light to the garden.


(see? There's a tree and 2 shrubs there!)


Excuse the big pile of crap on the ground, that be the shrubs! Why is it when you garden the amount of rubbish looks 4 times bigger than it did as a plant?! I know it doesnt look much different, but I'm rubbish at taking photos.

As always happens when I start something like thise, the same evening I got out all my gardening books and started planning. Lists have been written, and a VERY rudimentary plan made. We have a pond in the middle of the garden which cant really move so I'm working around that mainly, and the idea of trying to get plants into the garden that really wont work up here in the wet. Oh well, a girl can dream...of plants...

It's only a small area of the garden done but it feels really good to have done something positive, at the moment on the house it's pretty much all up to James, as it's plumbing and heating before anything else, so I'm feeling a bit useless.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Bookcase: Paul torday

I'm just going to say to go read anything by this man. You'll probably know him best because he's the author of 'Salmon fishing in the Yemen'. That book is soon to come out as a film - something I'm excited and worried about in equal measure, since they seem to be billing it at as a romantic comedy, which I don't remember being the central theme of the book.
Anyway. Back to the books. I read 'Salmon Fishing...' a couple of years ago, it's one that I picked up from a charity shop on the basis of the name and cover (do you do that too?) and loved it. I need to reread it soon so I'm not going to refer to it too much as its hazy in my head now but I was left with an almost spiritual, uplifting feeling from the book, while it still had a healthy dose of dry humour.

Recently I noticed in my local waterstones that he had a new book out, so just after Christmas I treated myself to two more - 'the girl on the landing' and 'more than you can say'. The latter I think I read in 24 hours - these aren't complex taxing reads but they are very enjoyable and interesting.
I took two more on holiday with me, one a short story which is the only one I wouldn't search out to read again, but was interesting nonetheless, and 'The hopeless life of Charlie summers'.

One of the points I love most about these books is that the characters are often in some small way linked, yet you aren't reading a series. Someone who may be a small incidental character only appearing in one chapter of one book may be the main character in a later book. I've only just realised - from watching press clips about the 'salmon fishing...' film - that one of the characters from that reappears in a later book too. Yet unlike a series like 'the no1 ladies detective agency' (purely as an example-I have nothing in particular against that series) you aren't reading about the same characters in different situations over and over again. And each book covers different topics, for example gambling or mental illness, but at their heart, for me anyway, they are studies of the foibles, faults and traits of the human character. most of all they are fun, and very enjoyable to read. Im just waiting now for his newest to come out in paperback, as the cover designs seem to be following a theme which the hardback one isnt following!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A break in France

For the last 9 days we've been here again, in our friends house in France.

A thoroughly relaxing break of sleeping, scrabble, coffee, patisserie and sunshine.

And lizard watching (yes, in march! It was freakishly warm). And napping, and more scrabble.

Now we're back, it's back to work, and the house, and to blogging hopefully! I have loads of posts in my head, it's just getting them published.
(while I was away Imagine it published a blog post that I had managed to write for them-they blog about moments, big or small, and I wrote about the first time working back on my loom. It's here, if you want to see)

(apologies for the quality of pictures, all on my phone)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Eat: salmon and cucumber dill salad/goats cheese & onion bruschetta

I've done quite a bit of cooking trying out recipes I've saved over the last few weeks. I go through phases of being stuck in a rut where all I can think of is pasta, to being really adventurous and trying out tons of new recipes. A few weeks ago I had a week like that, and since most of them were good, I thought I'd share them. we did eat them all before i'd taken photos, so its a pictureless post.
I found this salmon recipe on pinterest, it's so easy! It's not really so much a recipe for salmon as a dressing you could put with any fish, possibly even meats. It's very summery, it wasn't really the right time of year for it but i know if I don't try things out straight away I'll forget about them.
We roasted some new potatoes in olive oil and rosemary to go with this, our only complaint was that the dressing was possibly slightly runny, but that could be easily amended by adjusting the quantities of the wet ingredients. I'm a bit slapdash with quantities unless it's baking, so it's probably my fault! I also couldn't find fresh dill when I was shopping, so used chives instead. It would be a lovely side dressing for a BBQ, or as it is here for a summer meal.
While I was shopping for the ingredients for the dressing above, I saw goats cheese, and wanted it. So I decided to make bruschettas with goats cheese and caramelised onions for a starter (I really went all out that night!). I don't know about any of you, but I've never been able to make really nice caramelised onions, just sort of burger onions. So I googled it and found this I really only used this recipe for the onions part, I just toasted some French stick under the grill, smooshed the goats cheese (minus rind) on the top, and then put the caramelised onions over. They were scrummy.
That may have been completely unnecessary, I may be the only numpty in the world who doesn't know how to make good caramelised onions, but hey. You live and learn! More recipes coming soon.