Tuesday, 12 May 2015

let's cook: tart tatin

tart tatin

We're on a roll!
I think that's the shortest amount of time between cooking challenges to date.

This time we made tart tatin - our choice of topping. My mum went for apple from this book by her namesake, and I chose to use some of the beetroot we got in our veg box this week.

Here are the outcomes...

tart tatin cook-off

My mum served her apple tart with custard and I've heard from my dad that it went down very well.

I followed this recipe from Simply Delicious which paired the tart with a goats cheese cream (my favourite!) The only difference in my method was that I used fresh beetroot so boiled it for about an hour first, before allowing to cool and removing the skin. Also, I didn't have an ovenproof frying pan so I transferred the beetroot to a shallow ovenproof dish before topping with pastry.

It was quite a simple recipe to follow with only a few ingredients, although I think the real test in this challenge was trying not to get myself and the kitchen completely covered in purple - and I succeeded, just.

beetroot prep
tart close-up

It came out such a nice colour, and was lovely and caramelised, if a little rough around the edges.

Ben made up a delicious Ottolenghi salad to accompany the tart, and the goats cheese cream complimented the sweetness of the beetroot really well I think.

I will definitely be making this again if we get another big load of beetroot.

slice of tart

Now, to the scoring...

Ben gave me an 8/10 (not too shabby) - his main complaint being that he had to make the salad, and that it was beetroot alone. Although I think it was also partly due to the fact that I made him wait to eat it while I took some photos.

It turns out my dad likes tarts more than he likes dips so my mum was onto a winner. He gave it 9/10. Really good. Well done Mum!

beetroot tart tatin

Next time we'll be making gnocchi. As suggested by Rhian and Rosie.

I fear it's easy to get it wrong so it might be a tricky one.
Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

vintage gardening

When we were visiting my parents a few weeks ago my mum offered us a rummage through some of her seeds to see if there was anything we fancied planting.

Little did we know that her seed collection dated back to the 60s!

vintage seed packets

Just look at these packets (from 1968/69). What they lack in freshness they definitely make up for in design. I might frame them.

vintage gardening

My parents really need to have a sort out though. 40 year old seeds indeed.

Oh, and here are some pictures of Jerry, who had emerged from hibernation a few days before we arrived.

jerry's house tortoise shell jerry

He looks a little grumpy. Over tired maybe?

Sunday, 3 May 2015

crochet compendium

I've finished some more crochet squares for the collection.

stitch library

The project was put on hold for a while because my wool was all packed away but now I'm getting back in the swing of things.

The fruit punch pattern is my favourite here.


One I'll definitely use again!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

planting progress

I am well and truly obsessed by growing things at the moment. It's so satisfying to see the weekly progress of the plants we are growing, as well as adding new additions to our indoor and outdoor gardens.

I've been documenting some of the progress around here:


The biggest growth spurt has been with my avocado plant (pictured left). We potted our weird avocado sprouts back in February before we moved, and while there hadn't been much growth over the last couple of months, it suddenly kicked into action over the last couple of weeks.

The leaves are getting visibly bigger by the day and it seems to be enjoying it's sunny spot on the kitchen windowsill. I still have faith that Ben's will get going at some point too - although it still looks like it did back in February. Perhaps a little greener?

On the right above is a Money Plant I was given about 10 years ago by Derek's sister Grace. It's been living with my mum for a while, but she insisted I take it home with me last time I visited. It's grown massively since I was given it as a little cutting, but unfortunately it's got a bit out of control and has grown too tall for it's own good and was struggling to stand upright in the pot.

I decided to take some cuttings to try and grow some mini versions, which I can tend to as they grow.


I've taken a couple of cuttings, and placed one in soil and one in water to see how they get on. Fingers crossed!

Speaking of propagation, Ben has been trying his hand at it too, and is currently trying regrow some celery and pak choi from the bases of old ones. You can see the celery on the right in the image below.


Since this photo was taken some mini stalks have begun shooting up from the base - so it looks like it's working! Our friend Beth told us about this technique, and she's well on her way to some new celery already.

I'm intrigued to know what else can be propagated like this, and how successful it is. Has anyone tried anything similar?

Talking of new shoots, my Italian cucumbers that I got in the seed swap are beginning to grow. Good news!


And that's not all, my little Chuppon is also going strong, and the mint plant is starting to grow from his backpack.


Look at him grow!

There'll be more plant updates soon I am sure.
I really like growing things.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

things I like this March and April...

Columns (L-R):  1  •  2  •  3  •  4  •  5  •  6  •  7  •  8  •  9  •  10  •  11  •  12  •  13  •  14  •  15  •  16

Some spring favourites from Pinterest.
All the colours!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

let's cook: dips and dippers


Cooking challenge time again! This time we decided to venture into dips.

The aim was to produce two different dips, as well as something to dip into them. I was a bit tardy on this one (the house move got in the way a bit) and my mum made hers ages ago but I finally got round to it yesterday. It was nice to spend sometime baking in our new kitchen.

My mum chose to make a black olive tapenade and some houmous, accompanied by cheese straws, as pictured below.

dips by mother

She had never had tapenade before, and wasn't sure what it was meant to look or taste like so I think she did pretty well. The cheese straws look tasty too!

I also chose a black olive tapenade as one of my dips. Luckily, I found this perfect tapenade recipe on the Guardian website so I think I was onto a winner from the beginning.

black olive tapenade

It came out really well. Super strong flavours!

I also made this artichoke and lemon dip from a recipe found on BBC goodfood.

artichoke and lemon dip

I think this one was my favourite. It's full of winners: artichoke hearts, parmesan, pine nuts, garlic. Mmmm....

It was good for the challenge element that we decided to make dippers I think, as dips do not really require that much effort. Just a bit of blending. I decided to try and make some grissini as an accompaniment.

dough twists

I found a recipe here which I used as a base, but wanted to try some different things out, so experimented with adding rosemary from the garden to some of the batch, and salt and black pepper to others.

I also tried out some different sizes, and tried twisting some into spirals. I think they came out fairly well. I had to bake them in about 4 different batches (due to limited baking tray space) so there is some inconsistency in colour and texture - they are all a bit wonky when you see them together. Or should I say rustic?


I think this was one of my favourite cooking challenges to date though, and it was timed just right for a nice spring evening snack.

cooks challenge: dips

Now to the scoring...

Unfortunately my mum only had my fussy dad as a judge, who refused to try the houmous or the tapenade as he "doesn't like dips" so she had to do her own judging. She gave the houmous 9/10, and the olive tapenade a 6/10 as it wasn't as smooth as she had hoped.

My dad helped scoff the cheese straws though and he gave them 9/10. The only negative was that they were possibly slightly on the crumbly side for dipping.

Ben was very kind and gave my dips and dippers full marks. Emily and Beth tried them today too and they agreed. Thanks guys!

I would maybe knock a mark off for garlic overload, but I'd definitely make them again.

artichoke dip

Next time we will be attempting Tart Tatin. I'm excited about this one!
Hopefully my mum can find a better judge...

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Postcard club

Oxalis Triangularis - postcard club

I recently joined in over at the Postcard Club. Here's my first swap with Ed Cheverton.

He sent me a collage play card, and I sent him a paper collage illustration of my favourite houseplant.

If anyone else wants to do a swap with me then do let me know - I really love sending and receiving nice things in the post!

Sunday, 12 April 2015



Some more drawing practice.

Ben and I have been watching the new Planet of the Apes films and I've fallen in love with Maurice the orangutan.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

secret seed swap

seed swap packets

As I mentioned in a previous post, Lyndsey let me sign up as a late entry to the What You Sow secret seed swap last month. I haven't done a swap for a while so I was really pleased to be taking part, especially as I have a new garden to get growing in.

I really enjoyed preparing my package to send out. I picked out radish, rocket and aubergine seeds (some of my favourite vegetables) and added in some Limnanthes seeds too, as it's nice to have some flowers in the garden.

I illustrated each of my packets with paper collage pictures of the plants, and typed out some labels for the back.

seed packet labels
rocket • radish

I hadn't heard of Limnanthes before, but it is nicknamed the 'poached egg' plant because of the appearance of the flowers, which won me over immediately.

limnanthes • aubergine

I was pretty happy with how they turned out. Nice and colourful!

And I received an equally colourful package in return from my fellow secret seed swapper. Just look how cute they are! Thank you Gabriella.

lovely seed swap package

Beautiful packets, and a great selection of edibles, a lot of them themed around Puglia in Italy.
I've since found out that Gabriella has a great blog called Mangia Bene - filled with 'edible stories from a British Italian kitchen', hence the Italy connection.

Cicoria are bitter greens used in Puglia's national dish, and Gabriella described the Cima di Rapa as Puglia's equivalent to purple sprouting. She also included Carosello Mello Lungo which is an Italian cucumber, and some nasturtiums which are pretty and edible too - perfect!

I had a day off work yesterday so I decided to sow a few of the seeds (some nasturtiums and some of the cucumber seeds). Nice to do some gardening on such a lovely warm day.

sowing seeds
pots in the greenhouse

And here they all are, sitting in our mini greenhouse alongside the runner beans (which are beginning to sprout!)

Thanks once again to Lyndsey for organising such a great swap. I'm looking forward to taking part again next year.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

llovely llamas


I hope you all had a lovely long Easter weekend.

It was perfect spring weather on Monday so we went on a drive to the Ashdown Forest and popped into the Llama park while we were there.

pack of alpacas profile llamas

It's definitely worth a visit - the llamas and alpacas are so cute! And really friendly too (particularly if you have some food).

Just look how fluffy they are!

fluff fluff

Their necks are super woolly when you stroke them.


I'm in love.

guinea fowl

There were some other sweet animals too. Some (stinky but cute) piglets, guinea fowl, donkeys, and some super friendly goats. Like this one...



It was great to feel the warmth of the sun too.
I think the spring has finally made a breakthrough this week!