Sunday, 31 May 2009
We scrubbed, cleaned, hoovered, tidied, shopped, cooked and faffed pretty much all day - I even fitted in a lovely 'early' morning run in Alexandra park in the cool sunshine so all was good.
It's one of those meals which is very easy but somehow extremely time consuming to prepare. Friends popped round at 4 for tea and to plan a possible trip to India in September, which turned into g&ts and they didn't leave till after midnight, so that was two extra for supper, but the food was such that it didn't really matter and it was lovely to add them to the party. After a brief rest for g&t time I got back to my kitchen and worked solidly for a couple of hours and then it was all done. The vegetables had been grilled, dressed, mixed and artfully arranged on their platter, the mushroom risotto had been prepared as far as I could without getting to the rice stage, so dried porcini reconstituted, rinsed and dried, field mushrooms, chopped, fried and cooled, herbs chopped and mixed, onion and garlic prepared, home made chicken stock seasoned and measured, Vermouth measured, lemons squeezed, mushroom juices strained, asparagus trimmed and char grilled and Parmesanned, cured meats prettified on platters, radished chilled and de-gritted and mozzarella torn into chunks. I think that was about that for the savoury stuff. Ice cream was doctored - stem ginger chopped, ice cream softened and ginger added, back in the freezer, rhubarb roasted (Peter did that, I don't do rhubarb).
Then the next four guests arrived bringing with them vast amounts of wine and we had the first Pimms of the summer in the sunshine on the terrace. The one extra guest who'd been invited late on in the week, didn't arrive and then continued to not arrive. So we ate the antipasti - every last delicious bit of it, there's not one slice of salami left, and then we moved on to the mushroom risotto. This is always a labour intensive dish and you really shouldn't make it if you don't want a bit of down time in the middle of the evening to do 30 mins stirring and ladeling. So I stirred and ladled and added the delicious mushrooms, an indecent quantity of butter and Parmesan and the delicious Vermouth. I think it was one of the best I'd ever made, seriously decadent. We ate all of it and then our last guest arrived, in fact he had turned into two guests. And there was no food left, nothing, no salad, no antipasti, nothing. Rather awkward and embarrassing for me to have no food for guests, but it was after 9.30, they said they had already eaten and seemed happy with their wine and bits of bread and anything they could find. What we did have was pudding, and they had bought a massive tray of Baklava which is always a great gift for a dinner and a tasty bunch of grapes. Pudding was excellent, the rhubarb rich and sticky and the icecream soft and gingery. Yummy.
The evening was a great success and I hope enjoyed by all!
I remembered to take a photo of the table before it was messed up but forgot to snap anything else - as usual!
We're off to a wedding in the Trough of Bowland in a few hours, two great friends are getting hitched and we're all staying overnight in a beautiful country inn where I've wanted to stay for years, so we're really looking forward to that. It's a gorgeous day and it feels like we're on holiday!
Saturday, 30 May 2009
They're running a competition at the moment where you can win one of my pieces as a canvas print and all you need to do is answer a couple of questions about the website by clicking here
Friday, 29 May 2009
Antipasti to start
Peter's bought a selection of cured meats.
Buffalo Mozzarella - sprinkled with my best olive oil at the last minute.
Marinated grilled veg - peppers, courgettes, aubergine (home made).
I might make bread sticks, I might not make bread sticks. I've never made bread sticks before.
Olives from my olive pot.
Home made sun dried tomatoes.
Possibly some squid - blanched and dressed with lemon and parsley or grilled with chilli? Might be too much - hassle and food.
A sprinkling of pomodorini, basil leaves and Belazu balsamic vinegar.
I like to serve my antipasti on big white square platters so that people can eat exactly what they like. I find that if I plate it up, it always looks like far too much food, and I personally prefer the veg to the meat and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Fantastic mushroom risotto from River Cafe Blue, I've made this loads of time and it's a joy.
Rocket salad, nice and simple with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar.
This is the problem, I wanted to make Angela Hartnett's chocolate, mint and vanilla semifredo, but I've not got room in the freezer, I've only got a silicone loaf tin which might go a funny shape when full of delicious goo, and it will be about 10 million calories and I'll have to scrounge some mint liqueur from a bar. Apart from all these negatives, I really want to make it, it sounds so delicious and it's properly Italian!
But, Peter came home last night with two massive bunches of rhubarb which has set me in a spin as I quite like it but I don't want to just serve a bowl of sloppy pink stuff nor do I want to faff with pastry. So I think I have a compromise, when we had our last meal at mum's she did a great pudding which was roasted rhubarb which means it's quite firm and not the sloppy gloop you get when it's poached and it was served with a cheats ginger ice cream, which is basically a good vanilla ice cream mushed up with chopped stem ginger. It was delicious and I think it's what I'll do.
Too much? I don't know, everyone loves cheese and we have a fantastic local cheese shop and I'd get a big chunk of one cheese, Dolcelate probably and serve with celery, walnuts and grapes.
As well as all that I've got to go for a run in the morning to undo the vast amount I've been eating lately (pizza on Wednesday, Chinese tonight, all of the above tomorrow and then a wedding on Sunday - I am doomed), the flat if filthy and messy, so that's tons of hoovering, cleaning and sorting. Busy busy busy. At least the food is hassle free!
Thursday, 28 May 2009
Here are today's finds!
I shot this classic bent wood chair at the lovely Lowry centre in Salford. I've a real soft spot for taking photographs in art galleries, it's no surprise that they are (nearly almost) aesthetically pleasing, but it's a pleasure to be snapping somewhere so peaceful where people are contemplative and not rushing around being busy and important. Often there are big signs everywhere saying that photography is forbidden, but I always assume that this is to stop people taking pictures of the exhibits and, in the mind of the institution, reproducing them and selling them, making a fortune thus doing the museum/gallery out of major income.....I really don't think that this happens, do you?
I took this a while ago and have rediscovered it and given it a little love.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
If we have people dropping in, which happens surprisingly often, I always search out something to nibble. I know for sure that I never have crisps or biscuits in stock but can always knock up a nice little savory snack. My constant on the spot nibbles are nuts and seeds quickly fried in a little olive oil and sprinkled with some Maldon salt, smoked pimenton and rosemary, a quick hummus from a tin of chickpeas (which takes about three minutes in the blender), some pitta bread thrown in the toaster from the freezer and the easiest of the lot, olives. I adore olives, black, green, purple, big, small but always with their stones in unless they are replaced with almonds or whole garlic cloves, I really dislike olives which have been left heartless or stuffed with a slimy slither of red pepper, I hate the dry wrinkly ones which remove the surface of my tongue and the ones coated in so many dried herbs and flakes of chili that you can't taste any olive.
What I love is my Olive Pot and to be reminded of holidays in Greece and Spain. I've had an Olive Pot on the go for years now, and it's basically a tall Kilner jar filled with tasty olives, extra virgin olive oil and some judiciously chosen flavours. The olives last for a very long time, becoming stronger and more and more fragrant as time goes on, if there are lots of bits other than olive in the jar and it's around for some time, you do get a rather unappetizing layer of olive compost at the bottom and then it's time to replenish and refresh. This time came today!
The pot was almost empty, with just a few green Queenie's sitting at the bottom with some rather sad looking lemon slices and olive cloves. So this is how you bring your Olive Pot back to life.
Line a sieve with a sheet of kitchen paper and suspend over a glass bowl, pour the remaining oil and olives into the sieve and wait for most of the oil to filter through, how long this takes will depend on how much gunge is at the bottom of The Pot.
introduce any foreign bodies to your lovely fresh oil. If the filtered oil looks nice and clear it can go back into the Pot after you've given it a good wash in hot soapy water. So you've got a couple of inches of salvaged oil and some sort of clean olives.
Put your brand new olives into the pot after you've soaked them in fresh cold water for a little while to get rid of some of the residual salt from their stay in brine. I've garnished my new Pot with slices of lemon, squashed peeled cloves of garlic and some big sprigs of rosemary from my mum's garden.
Give the olives (old and new) a good mix up with your seasonings and top up with extra virgin olive oil - it doesn't have to be the best cold pressed single estate oil, but you may wish to do as I do and use the oil in dressings and so on, so you really want something that you'll be happy to eat. Make sure the olives and bits and pieces are totally covered with oil, otherwise you risk fur growing on any poking out bits.
Once your Olive Pot is replenished it will be a thing of beauty in your larder and you'll always have something tasty to nibble when the mood takes you and something impressive for the table. The olives will take a while to pick up the flavours, they'll be yummy straight away if they're nice olives, but wait for a bit to get the benefit of the extras.
Monday, 25 May 2009
We had fun at Eurocultured in Manchester yesterday, breaking with most Bank Holiday traditions the weather was perfect, bright, sunny and hot - too hot for me, but I'm feeble. This festival has been going on for about six years I think, just around the corner from where we used to live. They close off a couple of narrow streets under the railway bridge and fill it with graffiti and street artists, bands, craft stands, food and other cool people. I'm really not a festival type but this is just about my scale, nice and small we saw lots of great live art in progress, some strange men in organge jumpsuits reciting poetry and playing ukuleles and jumping around.....we had a great freshly cooked in front of us cajun chicken wrap and the first Pimms of the season. Most enjoyable!
Friday, 22 May 2009
I’ve always had a go at the favourite photographer’s trick of capturing smooth flowing water and never quite managed it. I don’t actually come across such a set up very often being more of a city girl than one who frequents country rambles and hikes. I also very rarely have my tripod with me as it’s a clunky heavy old thing – and even heavier now it’s got my super-dooper Manfrotto head attached. Needless to say, I didn’t have it with me when Peter, mum and I went for our foray into the Derbyshire Dales last weekend. We went for a very nice (if damp) walk from Dovedale to Milldale along the very pretty River Dove, it’s a nice easy walk of about 3 miles. At the point where I took this picture it wasn’t raining and I managed to sit firm on a rock and hold my came nice and steady at about f22 which was quite a slow exposure as it was fairly gloomy. From this point it started to rain and didn’t stop…..we were feeble enough to get a taxi back to our hotel from Milldale as my boot was starting to rub and mum’s ‘waterproof’ jacket proved not to be and we wanted to have time for a bit of a relax and a hot bath before supper. After sheltering in a National Trust barn for about 90 minutes drinking tea in polystyrene cups and watching the ducks frolicking in the rain, we were rescued by a rather amused chap with a mini-van. We then enjoyed the surprisingly long drive back to the hotel through stunning scenery in the post-rain sunshine. We all survived and I’ve a few decent photos to show for it. And my blister never actually developed!
I was delighted with the loaves, they looked better than Number One, less dark and more shiny, with small air bubbles in the crust. I had to wait till after Juno to have a taste and it was yummy. Still with a nice rye sourness from the rye starter, but the centre was nice and softly chewy and the crust was delicious and crusty/crispy (is there a difference?). It made a delicious post film snack spread thickly with butter and Marmite!
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
I've resurrected an old favourite image which really isn't very appropriate for summer time at all, mind you, with the weather we've been having here lately, it's not exactly inappropriate either!
I've also made myself a new banner for my Etsy shop and my blog - look up! I really like it, I'd been fancying a change for a while now and I like having one continuous image rather than the three separate ones, I've also added it to the bottom of my emails along with links to my website, this blog, Etsy and iCraft. I've not made a new avatar yet, they're much more of a fiddle being so small.
I had a good run at the gym this morning, I'm trying to get back up to speed (I use the term advisedly) as I've let it slip lately and I'd like to get back to it during the 'summer'.
We've friends coming for supper tonight, nothing grand and Peter's cooking for some reason, so I'm off the hook from the pots and pans but I do have the first stage of tomorrow's sourdough to do before I go off to bed.
by Katherine Jewelry
I like this ring from here shop - click and have a look, she needs to make that important first sale!
I've been doing my work as the iCraft Seller's Bootcamp Photography Advisor and answering questions, the questions have been interesting with a couple about lighting which isn't my particular are of interest, I hate using lights, possibly out of laziness so I've been reading up and thinking logically to answer their questions. I think it will do me good to think about areas which I don't usually consider very much.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
2:1:1 ratio of starter:flour:water
It's less than I had this morning which is good as I don't like chucking all that lovely organic rye flour away!
I've just got back from collecting Peter from the station and find that I didn't publish this post and since then (about 8pm I think) this is what I've got:
Some serious bubbles and growth. I think that I'll be able to start the final build up to baking tomorrow. I'm a bit confused bout the timings as the recipe I wanted to follow is asking me to make a 'sponge' tonight, but I've already fed it once and I can't decide if the 8.00 feeding will last to when I get back from the gym at about 11am tomorrow. If I do that, the shaping and proving process will take up to seven hours so I won't be baking until late. Hmmm, what to do?
I've made a new print today to express the more romantic side of the lousy weather! Shot in Parsonage Gardens in Didsbury a couple of weeks ago after a(nother) rainstorm I give you:
In relation to my previous sourdough post, my starter's risen about 5mm above the red rubber band marker. It looks like we're in action!
My starter has been languishing, ignored, in the fridge for about 10 days and it was looking a bit dull with a very thin layer of hooch, that's sourdough jargon for the clearish, yellowish, brownish water which collects on the top of an inactive starter, it's not a bad thing on a refrigerated starter and it can just be stirred back into the starter so long as it's not smelly or moldy.
After consulting many sources about the best way to revive a starter from a fridge this is what I did.
I poured the starter and it's hooch into a clean glass bowl and gave it a good beating with a wire whisk to blend back together and to get extra air throughout.
I added twice the starters' volume of rye flour and twice the volume of warm bottled water and mixed throoughly with a spoon to get rid of any lumps and then whisked again.
Poured into a clean container, lidded and level marked with red rubber band (thank you Mr Postman). It now sits on my shelf at about 22 degrees and I'll watch with interest.
Sorry for the lousy photo, but I used my iPhone....I've angled it down slightly so the top is visable, there are a couple of blips on it which are either residual from the whisking or it's leaping into action already!
Friday, 15 May 2009
Thursday, 14 May 2009
I'd love everyone who reads my blog to click this link http://tr.im/l7ND and become a Fan!
I'll be featuring any Treasuries I'm featured in, any new listings, any news, promotions and general stuff!
by Rozzy Toz
Rozzy's got a great shop with some lovely fresh and clean jewellery but what really caught my eyre were these Appetizer Picks. I've never seen such a thing before, we just use wooden toothpicks or fingers!
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Here's what I did:
Put cold water in saucepan.
Add liberal sprinkling of dashi stock.
Add handful of thin soba noodles.
Add sliced garlic and ginger.
Simmer until noodles are almost cooked - they always take longer than I expect.
Meanwhile - chop any veg you fancy, I had a couple of carrots and a few sugar snaps.
Chop some coriander.
Add vegetables to stock.
When veg are as you like them, put a spoon of Miso paste into a cup, bowl or whatever you're going to eat from and add a ladle of the stock.
Mash until mixed and pour back into the saucepan.
Turn off the heat and leave for a minute.
Decant into suitable bowl, find your chopsticks and long Japanese spoon.
Slurp and enjoy!
The deal is that you can pick any four images from Eyeshoot or Eyeshoot Squared and I'll custom make four sweet little 5x5inch prints for you. Each print has a slim white border around and I'll sign the bottom right corner. The cost is the same as for a print on A4 paper.
Aren't they sweet?
Friday, 8 May 2009
So it was with great anticipation that I launched into action this morning.
The dough sat quietly in it's tea towel lined and covered bowl in the fridge overnight.
If you have an oven thermometer, check the temperature of the oven. You are strongly advised to do this as oven thermostats are surprisingly inaccurate. My oven was hotter than I'd expected, so I turned it down a bit.
When ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge.
When ready to bake, turn the dough out onto a baking sheet covered with polenta or semolina and remove the cloth. It went on to a bread board coated with couscous as I have neither polenta or semolina in my larder. It worked fine and will do for next time too!
Put a pan in the bottom of the oven and let it heat up - this will have water in it for a blast of steam later.
Slash the top firmly with a very sharp knife. Professional bakers use a razor blade on a stick, called a “lame”. I used a scalpel which worked perfectly.
Slash quickly and decisively – it is a slash not a cut. Don’t mess the dough about.
The slashes allow the dough to rise in a defined way, and lessen the resistance to expansion by making weak points in the crust. In ancient times the pattern of slashes identified whose bread it was in the communal oven.
When the bread has gone in to the oven put some already boiling water into the hot pan in the bottom of the oven and then shut the door quickly. Remove the pan after 10 mins.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it is a good colour. You might need to rotate it after 30 mins.
Let the bread cool to warm before you slice it.
I baked it for 30 mins, turning it round after about 20.
I was delighted with my first sourdough loaf, I wasn't expecting to look or taste like a Poilane but it had a definite sourdough flavour and a seriously crispy crust with a nice shine and chewiness. It was delicious with my home made marmalade, it was tempting to keep on eating, but we're out for dim sum in a couple of hours, so must resist!
What's happened up to now:
This is what I've done today.
(Many thanks to Jack Lang for his wonderful instructions which I've followed to the letter - my annotations are in italics, the other words are his)
Just before leaving for my yoga class I refreshed my starter:
1/4 cup water
3/8 cup rye flour
1/2 cup starter
Mix together, cover, and allow to stand in a warm place for 4 hours.
Got back from yoga, had breakfast, sorted out my recipe then got on with the dough:
After 4 hours or so, it should be bubbly - it was, more than twice it's original size - it's magic!
Make the Dough - at last....
1 cup refreshed sourdough starter - I just about had this much, so I'm very glad that I retained my excess starter from last night else I would have to start again from scratch next time.
3 cup Strong white bread flour - Doves Farm Organic Strong White Flour
1 cup water - Manchester Tap
2 tsp salt
The easiest way is to whizz together refreshed starter, flour and water (but not the salt yet) in a food processor for 20 secs - I did this with the knife blade, it was super fast!
Should make a softish dough. The wetter the dough the bigger the holes in the final bread. Different flours need different amounts of water – add more water or flour to get the right consistency. I didn't need to add any more.
If you are making the dough by hand then knead for 10 minutes by the clock. Be rough with it. Lose your temper with it. Take out your frustrations on it. Slam it about. When it is properly kneaded it should feel resilient to the touch. It has been described as feeling like an earlobe, but I describe it like feeling a soft breast or buttock.
You should be able to take a pinch of dough and stretch it so thin you can see through it – called the “windowpane test”. When kneaded the dough will stretch without breaking
You cannot over-knead by hand. It is possible (but quite difficult) to over-knead if you are using a mixer or a food processor, as the dough can get too hot, and if worked too long and hard the gluten will begin to break down.
I was going to use my mixer and bread hook, but it just seemed to be moving it around the bowl rather than giving it a good kneading, so I removed my watch and ring and got down and dirty with the dough for ten minutes. It was a bit sticky so I was adding small amounts of flour on and off, it would be lovely for a bit and then suddenly get sticky which was interesting. Anyway, it was very therapeutic!
This pause, before the salt is added, is for several reasons:
- It lets the enzymes do their stuff. They begin breaking down starches into sugars to feed the yeast to make a better crust colour. Salt tends to retard this reaction.
- It lets the dough (and you) rest and relax after the exertions of kneading.
- It allows the flour to complete its hydration, High levels of salt can interfere with this.
- It allows time for you to prepare your “banneton” to receive the finished dough.
See Preparing Your Banneton below.
After 30 mins add the salt and whiz for another 20 sec, or knead for another 10 mins. Oil, cover, and leave for 2 hours or so in a warm (85F/29C) place. The exact time is not critical – anything from about 90 minutes to 3 hours will work. Temperature is more critical than time.
I use grainy Maldon sea salt so I measured out the two teaspoons which seemed like masses and gave it a scrunch with my fingers to break it down a bit, then I sprinkled it into the dough as I kneaded. It was softer and more elastic and sort of smoother. I had to put a little flour on my hands a couple of times, but it generally behaved very well.
The dough will have expanded a bit. Don’t worry about whether it has doubled or not. I think it's almost doubled!
Turn out onto a floured board.
Now handle gently - don’t knock all the air out. The time for rough handling is over. Take the sides and fold to the centre.
Folding the dough like this (you can also fold top to bottom as well) gently stretches the gluten and the bubbles forming in the bread. Turn the dough over and shape into a ball. As you shape it try and stretch the surface a bit so it is taut.
Put it upside down into a cloth lined bowl. The top of the dough in the bowl will be the bottom of the finished loaf. Don’t worry if the top surface of the dough in the bowl is uneven: it will even itself out. Put into the fridge, covered with a cloth, overnight.
Tune in tomorrow for the final thrilling installment!
What's happened up to now: