Friday, 31 July 2015

Hanover house numbers

We moved house at the beginning of spring, and now my journey to and from work involves a big hill hike (familiar to a lot of Brighton residents I'm sure). In order to make the hill a bit more bearable and less of a constant climb I started trying out different routes, which often find me winding through the streets of Hanover.

Hanover is one of my favourite areas of Brighton and after living in Hove for a few years it's great to be back in the near-neighbourhood (we are actually even further up the hill!) I love seeing all the brightly painted houses and front doors, and recently I've fallen in love with the great array of house numbers on display.

As a result, I've started a mini photography project to showcase the nice numbers I find (and also to keep me entertained on my commute). I've been uploading them to Instagram under #hanoverhousenumbers if you want to take a peek.


My favourites so far are numbers 7 and 9. In fact, the number 9 was the initial inspiration for the project. Lovely wooden numbering.

Monday, 13 July 2015

weaving

iceland wall hanging

It took me a while but I finally finished my first handwoven piece at the weekend.

I started it way back in January last year using a loom Ben bought me for Christmas. We'd just been on a new year trip to Iceland which provided inspiration for the tapestry.

weaving detail

Weaving is something I really enjoy when I sit down to do it - I just found that I didn't get round to doing it very often. Although I quite enjoyed having a project on the go that I could pick up every few months and add to - slow crafting!

I'm really happy how it turned out though, especially as I feared it would all fall apart when I eventually came to take it off the loom.

weaving progress
tapestry bottom

I'm definitely going to make another. Perhaps inspired by our garden.
Maybe I'll have something for show and tell in 2017...

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

crochet like crazy

more crochet squares

Here are some more crochet squares that have been added to the stitch library over the last couple of months.

I should probably put them all together and see if I've got anywhere near enough for a blanket, especially as I'm running out of different shades of wool to use.

stitch library

I like the blackberry salad stitch the most here. Bobbly!

And I'm really not sure why 'cat's eyes' has that name - any ideas?

Sunday, 28 June 2015

let's cook: gnocchi

lets make gnocchi

This time the cooking challenge is dedicated to gnocchi. A bit of a technical one.

My mum made Gnocchi di Romagna (pictured left) which are ricotta and flour-based gnocchi, and I made a sweet potato version (pictured right).

I found this one quite tricky - partly because I wasn't exactly sure on the consistency I was aiming for with the gnocchi. It's not something I've eaten much of, and when I have eaten some it has rarely been homemade.

I chose this recipe from the Just a taste website as I liked the simplicity of the ingredients, but with the slight twist on traditional gnocchi.

sweet potato gnocchi mixture

It took quite a while to make but a lot of that time is spent draining the ricotta, and baking and cooling the potatoes so it's not all full-on cooking time.

I found that I needed much more flour than the recipe said to make the mixture into a manageable dough - perhaps because I didn't drain the ricotta enough - but once it got to a more solid (although very sticky) state I was able to form them into wonky gnocchi shapes.

gnocchi shapes

The recipe made enough for 4 people so I froze half the batch at this stage.

A tip: make sure there is enough space in your freezer before you do this, as we had to chip a couple off the top of the freezer drawer a couple of days later (told you they were sticky).

The first batch I cooked on the day of making, and followed the recipe for Kelly's brown butter and sage sauce.

Ben really like this when he tried it, although I have to say, I wasn't that keen on it myself. A bit sage heavy for me. The gnocchi really does soak up the buttery sauce though, which is nice.

gnocchi with sage & brown butter

I was quite pleased I'd made enough for two batches as it meant I could try something different for round two. This time I made some pesto with some herbs from the garden, and served it with some roasted asparagus and parmesan.

gnocchi pesto asparagus

I really liked how this turned out, although I was a bit overzealous with the lemon juice (the gnocchi really did absorb it). I cooked the gnocchi for a little longer the second time too and I think they had a better texture when slightly firmer.

Here's the recipe for the pesto I made if you want to follow it - I've reduced the amount of lemon so you should be safe.

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Lemon, chive and parsley pesto
(Makes enough for two)

Ingredients

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
A small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
A small bunch of chives, snipped
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
2 tbsp grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
Zest and juice of ½ a lemon
3 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

Put the garlic, parsley, chives, pine nuts, cheese and lemon zest in a small bowl and mix.

Season well, then stir in the olive oil and lemon juice.

That's it - super easy! Would be great served with gnocchi, pasta, or on a potato salad.

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Back to the gnocchi, my mum made her batch yesterday. She followed a recipe from a 1979 Italian cookbook, which didn't include potato. Controversial? Maybe.

She sent me a message halfway through saying that she'd made a sloppy mess and the kitchen was covered in flour, but I think she must have been exaggerating as the finished gnocchi look quite firm in her pictures.

She served them with a simple butter and parmesan dressing.

mum's gnocchi

Now, to the results...

My dad gave my mum a mixed review: he said the taste was ok, but that they were a bit slimy. He gave them 8/10 though so he must have liked them! Good score.

Ben gave me 7.5, which I was happy with as I didn't really enjoy my first dish that much.

Pretty good results all round I'd say, particularly as this was one neither of us were that optimistic about.

gnocchi with roasted asparagus and homemade pesto

Next time we'll be making jam and scones.
Perfect for a summer cream tea!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

snack thyme

cheese & thyme biscuits

I decided to make some savoury biscuits today, to accompany some post-dinner cheese this evening.

These cheese and thyme mini biscuits were super quick to make with very few ingredients, and the dough can be made in advance and frozen so it would be easy to serve them fresh from the oven when you have guests.

I've written out the recipe I used below if anyone fancies making some. (I will certainly be making them again).

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Cheese and thyme mini biscuits
Make approx. 40 (depending on size)

Ingredients

4 tbsp soft butter
¾ cup grated mature chedder
¼ cup grated parmesan
¾ cup plain flour
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or half the amount for dried thyme)
1 tsp English mustard powder
Pinch of salt

Instructions

Mix the two types of cheese and butter together in a bowl.

Add the flour, thyme, mustard powder and salt and combine to form a dough.

Roll the dough into a thin log, roughly 2-3cm in diameter. At this point I split the dough in half, so I could freeze some for later.

Wrap the log in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge for around half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC and line a baking tray with baking parchment (you may need two if you are doing the whole mixture in one batch).

Slice the dough into 5mm thick pieces, place on the baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool - they taste good warm so make sure you try one while they're fresh from the oven!

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I think this recipe would also be great with rosemary instead of thyme, or if the mustard powder was substituted for cayenne pepper. Oh, and I might add some poppy seeds next time.


biscuit dough
pre-baking biscuit thyme

They're really tasty. I'm finding it hard to resist eating them all ahead of dinner.

evening exploring

poppies


Look at all these poppies! We found them on Tuesday night when we went for a little drive into the South Downs near Falmer.

It's definitely worth popping up there if you live nearby. They look lovely by sunset.

  poppies on the downspoppies up close poppies at sunset path

Monday, 15 June 2015

things I like this May and June...



Columns (L-R):  1  •  2  •  3  •  4  •  5  •  6  •  7  •  8  •  9  •  10  •  11  •  12  •  13  •  14  •  15  •  16  •  17  •  18

A selection of recent Pinterest favourites.
An eclectic mix.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

green fingers

Sorry for my absence. I've been spending a lot of time outdoors and have just arrived back from an early summer holiday. My gardening obsession is still in full force though.

Here are some recent botanical based images from our house and garden taken from my Instagram feed.



Planting out the beans on Ben's birthday // Pest control - collecting the snails for relocation.



African daisies (Osteospermum). I like their purple undersides // Love in the mist (Nigella) - we have these everywhere!



A new pot for a tiny succulent // Aloe vera (I've been meaning to get one of these for ages)



How the garden grows. Our veg patch before and after our holiday // Bringing the garden indoors - a mini bouquet.

Now that we have a lot of things planted outside the garden is looking nice and full. Unfortunately we have already lost our cucumber plants to those pesky snails, but the cabbage, courgettes and beans are growing nicely (despite being a little nibbled). And we have a lot of tomato plants on the go. Four different varieties!

We planted out some more seeds yesterday too. Some wildflowers have been scattered around the garden, and the Cima di Rapa and Cicoria I received in the secret seed swap have been potted and placed in the greenhouse.

I'll keep you posted on how things get on.

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.

crochet

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:

avocado_money

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.

cuttings

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.

propagating

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!

shoots

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

chuppon

Look at him grow!

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