Thursday, 17 February 2011

A new cookery blog

So, even though I haven't posted in a long time, I have missed blogging. But I'm still suffering from creative block, so I have nothing nice to post.

I have, however, been baking obsessively. And that is the title of my new blog. Check it out, say hi if you stop by and visit.

This blog will stay here, and hopefully one day soon I'll pick up a pen/pencil/paintbrush/sewing machine again and post something pretty.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Madeleines, and how to lose weight while still baking obsessively.

Since we moved away from London, I have had to drive everywhere, up to three hours a day, and this has made me fat. Now that I'm working locally I am spending a lot less time in the car and all day long on my feet in a hot kitchen, so it's about time I sorted myself out.

I have joined Weightwatchers and I have a copy of this book, which is fantastic. I was very sceptical of recipes that use low fat spread instead of butter but I've made tons of stuff, from banana muffins to chocolate brownies (the brownies use applesauce instead of butter, genius!) and everything has turned out yummy and not at all diet-tasting.

The above photo is my latest effort, some lemon madeleines using my lovely new madeleine tin from Lakeland that I bought the other day while we were in Stratford upon Avon (very pretty place, you must go for a visit). They are much prettier in real life.

Anyway cakes aside, I've really neglected my poor blog again. I really must make more effort.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

I made a quilt!

Well, it's only five inches square and some of the stitching is in the wrong place, but it's still a quilt. It's got batting in the middle and a binding and everything! I like the little boat pattern. It's supposed to be a mug coaster, but I like it too much to spill coffee on it. My lovely neighbour took me to her patchwork class and taught me the basic techniques, it was great fun and now I want to make more quilty things.

Oh, I also made a little hat for an egg. Here it is. I saw the pattern here, and added a little scallop edging. I don't really eat boiled eggs, but this makes me want to eat them just so I can use the cozy with its bright colours. I made it from embroidery floss!

It's a busy few months for me. Every day for three months, my little car Jim is driving me forty miles to Gloucester so I can learn to be a chef. Today is only day four and I'm enjoying it so far but I suspect I'll be exhausted by the end of it! Plus I have Portuguese exams in less than a month... So if I fall behind and don't post for a while, you'll know the reason why not.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Yes, I am eating your bonsai.

Do you want to make something of it?

(Sorry for the poor photo, it was taken sneakily through a window and heavily cropped so the perpetrator didn't have time to run away.)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Lucky duck

When I was a kid, if you got something good like a present or a new toy, my neighbour Jonathan used to say you were a "lucky duck". I always liked that expression :-) Well today I was a lucky duck. I won a contest on Hilary's blog, Let Her Bake Cake, which is gorgeous and which always makes me feel hungry after reading her latest post. Go and visit her and try out some of her recipes - the latest one for rice crispie squares looks fab.

Anyway my package from Hilary arrived this morning and I was pleased as punch with my little haul! She sent me the most gorgeous book about bread, The New Family Bread Book by Ursula Ferrigno, as well as two bags of Allinson flour and a tub of yeast. She also included a gorgeous tea towel which hopefully you can see in the photo, but it's too nice to use for drying dishes so I think I'll turn it into something lovely. Maybe an apron, but if you have any better ideas please let me know!

Naturally I wanted to get stuck in and make something from the book immediately if not sooner, and I was tempted to try a fougasse, but then I was distracted by a recipe for Irish brown soda bread and had to make that instead for a little taste of home. Here it is in progress (look at my kitchen tiles, aren't they hideous?!):

The recipe wanted you to shape it into a round on a baking tray, in the traditional manner, but I thought I'd be clever and stick it in a silicone loaf tin so it'd be sliceable.

Unfortunately the silicone is so flimsy that the dough forced the sides of the tin to splay out and the loaf kind of rose outwards instead of just upwards, but at least I know for the next time to do it in a proper metal tin. And I'm going to scoff some of it right now with some lentil soup I made the other day, and a lump of Bowland cheese!

Oh and I did put the yeast to work straight away too, here's a sneak peak of a milk loaf rising away happily.

Thanks again Hilary, I'm so happy with my new book and can't wait to work my way through all those pizza recipes next!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Late to the granny square party (and other crochet bits)

Image above from Emma Lamb's blog, here.

In the last few years, crochet seems to have really taken off again, and in particular granny squares. I've seen some gorgeous things on various blogs, Etsy and in the Cath Kidston catalogue, but the person whose work I have really fallen in love with is Emma Lamb. There is nothing in her Etsy shop that I wouldn't like to own, and it's traditional and contemporary at the same time which really appeals to me.

Anyway, back in September when we first moved to this house, I bought some cushion pads with the intention of knitting some covers for them. Of course that never happened and they've been languishing in the spare bedroom ever since. So the other day when I came across some sparkly wine and gold yarn that I'd bought in Lidl, I thought I'd add some cream yarn and turn it into some granny square cushions for a previously cushion-less chair in our living room.

One is just a giant granny square, and the other is four squares joined with double crochet. They're lined and backed with beige linen because I couldn't be bothered to crochet the backs - yes I know I'm lazy. And I hadn't used my sewing machine for so long that it took me a while to remember how to sew in a zip, which is shameful. You can't see in the photo (and my camera battery died right after I snapped this so I couldn't take another shot) but the wine and gold yarns are actually sparkly.

Next I have to replace the cushion on my computer chair, which I've had to throw away because Elvis threw up the world's biggest hairball all over my Chinese satin cushion. I discovered this when, having just woken up and being not quite awake, I stumbled into my computer room and sat on the chair and got a big streak of wet hairball right across my backside. I was not pleased, I can tell you. I've started a purple and cream chevron pattern cushion, inspired by one in Erika Knight's Simple Crochet. If you're in London and fancy learning to do something similar, my fabulous crochet teacher Bee is running a chevron cushion workshop as part of her new venture Make Do Mend. Sigh... I do miss the vast array of classes in London.

Image above from makedomend here.

Finally here are some flowers from 100 Flowers to Knit and Crochet, which my mum in law bought me for Christmas. The pattern for the pansy didn't seem to work out, as the back petals came out with big gaps between the stitches, so I just sort of made them up as I went along rather than sticking to the pattern. The one with the pom pom wasn't supposed to have a pom pom (I think it was a dahlia) but I was in a pom pom kind of mood.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Bread, and the awesomeness thereof.

Well I fell off the Thing A Day bandwagon - surprise surprise - but only because my last couple of weeks at work were just too busy and exhausting and I was getting home, having a bite to eat and going straight to bed. But now I'm a happy housewife, for a little while anyway, and am filling my days with domestic things like cooking and sorting out our wilderness of a garden until my course starts. (Incidentally, there's a chance they might not get the numbers to run the course I really want to do, so if anyone is near Gloucester and wants to train to be a chef in three months, you should come along and make up the numbers!)

Anyway, I'd like to share with you one of the newest obsessions in my life. Since I've had a bit more time on my hands, I've discovered the joys of baking bread by hand. People always say it's therapeutic and they are completely right - kneading dough is like squidging the world's best stress ball, and the results are far nicer than anything you buy in Tesco (those awful plastic white sliced loaves... yeeeuch). We bought a bread machine last year and used it constantly, but it's now confined to the cupboard while I get my hands messy.

And like any baking, it's a bit like alchemy. Take random ingredients, mix them together, throw them in an oven, and they turn into something completely different. It's fantastic. You don't even need a recipe once you get the hang of baker's percentages.

This is my latest loaf. The top is a little darker than it would be normally, due to me forgetting to move the oven shelf down a bit, but it doesn't taste burnt and it made for very yummy toast once I'd spread cherry jam on it :)

Go on, give it a try, I promise it's easier than you think. If you're tempted, pick up a copy of the
River Cottage Bread Handbook, which is gorgeous and I've taken to carrying it around in my handbag. Is that a bit weird?
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