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.