Monday, 31 August 2015

let's cook: jam and scones

cream tea

Another cooking challenge - this time we made jam and scones. Mine are the ones with the blueberry jam on the left, and my mum's are the raspberry ones on the right.

I really enjoyed this challenge - it was nice to have two different elements which were then brought together for a nice cream tea feast. Perfect for a mid-summer challenge.

tea in the garden

So, how did we get on?

Let's start with the jam...

My mum probably deserves a bonus point as she went fruit picking and collected her own punnets of berries to use in the recipe. And she ended up making two different jams with them (one raspberry batch and one blackberry).

The jars of raspberry jam look great!

mum's jam

I found this recipe from Angela of Oh She Glows for blueberry, vanilla and chia seed jam which I was really tempted by, both because I hadn't used chia seeds in any recipes before and because it uses the natural sweetener of maple syrup, rather than white sugar, to sweeten the recipe.

I thought this might appeal to my no.1 judge (Ben) as he's always claiming he's not into super sweet things. Turns out I was wrong, as he voted it not sweet enough. Oh well!

my jam

It's nice to have a jam that contains a superfood though. The chia seeds were the magic ingredient that thickened up the jam a treat, and it has a really nice consistency.

Both me and my mum ended up with a few jars of jam so we've kept one aside to swap when we next see each other. I expect she'll agree about the sweetness though, as I found myself with the same opinion as Ben. A touch more maple syrup next time maybe?

blueberry, vanilla & chia seed jam

Now to the scones...

We both opted for plain scones (in fact I think we may have both used the same recipe from Mary Berry). I think we both wanted to keep it simple so as not to clash with the jam too much. I'd like to try some cheese scones soon though.

My mum was a bit disappointed that hers came out a little on the flat side, but she said they tasted good and they look like they've got a nice colour to them.

mum's scones

I ended up making some heart-shaped scones (it turns out I don't have a circular pastry cutter) and I was really happy with the results. They had a nice height to them and were pretty tasty.

I ended up with quite a large batch so we enjoyed them with cheese and chutney for lunch for a few days after. Mmm...

♥ scones
scones

The results

I think my scones outdid my jam - Ben gave me a 7.5 overall which I think was a fair score.

My mum said that her jam was better than her scones but she scored very highly with 9/10 from my dad and full marks from her friends. Very good show!

afternoon tea

Next up, we'll be making stuffed breads. I've started adding some recipe inspiration over on Pinterest.
I think it's going to be a tasty one!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

things I like this July and August...


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

Some summer Pinterest favourites. Lots of lovely things.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

sussex prairie garden

For anyone living in the Sussex area I would definitely recommend a trip to visit the Sussex Prairie Garden this summer. We went last Sunday and for nature and plant lovers it is such a treat.

The garden has been designed in a naturalistic free flowing style, with interlocking arc shapes mixing areas of open lawn with plant-filled borders. There are loads of little paths that you can follow through the planted areas which I really loved.

Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens

I couldn't believe how peaceful the garden is. It's nestled in a quiet bit of the Sussex countryside, so at times all we could hear was the rustle of the wind in the long grasses, and the sound of hundreds of bees hard at work.

Gosh, there were a lot of bees and butterflies! They were loving it.

Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens

There are loads of sculptural pieces in amongst all the plants too - and a great eclectic selection of birdhouses at the entrance to the garden. There are a few more photos over on my Flickr page.

Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens
Sussex Prairie gardens

We had a good explore, and then treated ourselves to a visit to the teashop before we went home.

The garden is open until the 11th October this year and I'd wholly recommend taking a trip down there. The sooner the better, while there are so many flowers in bloom!

They run a lot of events too, and I'll be heading back for a weekend Shibori, Sashiko and Boro dyeing and embroidery workshop in September. I'm really looking forward to it.

And I'm extra excited about eating my packed lunch in the garden.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

a rainbow chair

rainbow chair

It was Brighton Pride last weekend and I decided to decorate my desk chair to celebrate, after noticing that the holes in the back were perfectly placed for a rainbow shape.

It was a really quick little project, and nice to make use of some of the underused (very bright!) colours in my wool stash.

rainbow

I'm really pleased with the end result - I keep turning round to look at it. And it's nice and tactile too.

embroidery

I'm now thinking about whether to take it one step further and decorate the seat of the chair...
A project for a rainy day maybe. The perfect time for a rainbow.

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.