Thursday 30 July 2009

It's pesto time again.

I don't have a garden and if I did have, I'm sure it would be full of dead things and weeds as I most certainly don't have a green finger anywhere on my body. One of my regrets in this department is that I miss out on growing edibles, never mind the pretty and useless flowers, I'd use any garden of mine for herbs and veg. I do slightly envy gardening friends at this time of year as they swim in basil and I buy mean little plastic packs from the supermarkets which turn to sludge overnight in the fridge. These packs irritate me so much that I hardly buy the delicious green herb at all these days. But yesterday I was shopping at my local Vegan Co-op Grocery, Unicorn, in Chorlton when I saw the most luscious bunches of basil for only 99 pence each, there was no way I could resist so I picked up two bunches. All I needed to do was to buy some pecorino and some pine nuts and I'd be all ready to make my pesto - here's how

The Ingredients:
2 big bunches of basil
pine nuts
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, grated
(all of one or a mix of both, the pecorino gives a slightly softer taste.)
4 garlic cloves
the best quality extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

The Method
Blend together the grated cheese, raw garlic and pine nuts. This is much better than using a pestle and mortar because, firstly it will stop your arm from dropping off and secondly and most importantly, it lets in much less air and keeps the colour lovely and vibrant.

Fill the mixer bowl to the top with lovely fresh basil, stalks and all.

Mix and inhale the intoxicating scent.

Drizzle in enough olive oil to make a thick paste.


Pour into sterilized jars, and very important - make sure to cover the top of the pesto with more oil and keep it covered at all times, else it will go off really fast. The jars will keep unopened in the fridge for ages, but eat open jars fairly fast. As if you could leave it alone!

If you make lashings of the gorgeous green goo, you can decant into ice cube trays I'm not blessed with a big freezer and I like to keep my ice cube trays fully primed for gin and tonics so I decant the pesto cubes into a bag. It was a bit of a green and messy fiddle as the cubes wouldn't come out easily, so I warmed their bottoms and then lined up on a board and re-froze the melted edges before putting in a bag. Just pop one in the pan with your pasta before serving for long enough for it to melt - which won't be long. Enjoy!

Saturday 18 July 2009

New paper, nice Treasury.

Here's a lovely pale Treasury with the ever popular Love in a Mist print. The mixture of colours here is really pretty and there are some great items and masses of views!

I've been getting quite a few enquiries about larger prints lately so I made a new listing for 30x20" prints but no one seems to notice it and I always get a Convo first, which is fine but to make it more obvious for potential customers I've been going through my popular prints and adding a link to the larger listing which will hopefully point them in the right direction!

I bought some fab new paper for my prints this week as the super smooth Epson archival paper I'd been using for ages finally ran out. The chosen stock is Brilliant Museum Satin Matte White which is satisfyingly heave at 300gsm, has a very slight sheen and a very slight texture and looks very smart indeed. It took me ages to go through my Etsy shop listings and change the technical blurb to reflect the new paper. I've not bothered with the other shops where the sales seem to be totally random as I've a few sheets of the old stuff left which should do for the next few sales.

I'll be off the the Manchester Craft Centre very soon to meet the Manchester Etsy team for a chat, some tea and toast and to give them a sneak preview of my top secret new photo product.....

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Two Treasuries, Three Photos from Morocco

I've not posted any Treasury screenshots for a while, mainly because I've not been in many! But I couldn't resist sharing this one of my favourite place in the world!

There are two of my pictures in it and rather oddly, the lovely Polaroid in the centre top row is a shot which I've captured myself in Tangier. My treatment is very different, but isn't it coincidence that two Etsy people can be in a big and confusing medina and spot exactly the same sign - the pink wall caught my eye, I'll bet that Opart was drawn in by the baskets! My version of it is below.

Restaurant Kasbah

Then there's this lovely eclectic collection with another of my Moroccan photos, it's obviously the place to be at the moment!

Season Ticket
by A Good Vintage

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Hanging around.

We were in Liverpool for a few hours on Saturday and came across these hanging trainers outside the Static Gallery as part of their Trainer Monument installation.

Saturday 4 July 2009

Sourdough 4e - The Disaster.

I followed the Bredtopia No Knead instructions to the letter and I know that the dough was meant to be wet, but mine was a big soggy mass, there was no way that I could shape it into a ball as it just oozed all over the place. I had to scrape it back into the bowl and add lots more flour just to keep it from escaping. I baked it in a Le Pentole saucepan with a lid which is the nearest bit of kit I have to the mysteriously named 'Dutch Oven'. The bread looked fantastic and smelled lovely and sour, but when I poked around inside a big crack on the top I found to my dismay that the inside was not cooked, so I vandalised the loaf a bit by tearing off some of the crust and bunging it back in the oven for another 15 mins. It didn't work......the crust is lovely, shiny, crusty and sour but the inside is a damp mess. There seem to be some bubbles but bleargh.

I don't know how to alter what I did - perhaps my starter was too runny, perhaps making the starter in a hot and humid heatwave wasn't the most sensible thing to do, perhaps mixing one person's starter instructions with another's cooking instructions wasn't a good plan......

So I suppose I'll feed my starter again tonight and start the process again and bake on Monday or Tuesday. This time I'll follow Dan Steven's recipe as I've made the starter his way but I think that I'll cook it in the pot even if I knead it, as I like the contained shape and the perfect round. I like the shiny super crispy top and if it rises more next time it should be lovely.

The experiment continues.

Watch this space for Sourdough 5.

Supper at The Market Restaurant.

I guessed the location of my mystery birthday supper last night as Peter gave directions to the cab driver - The Northern Quarter could only mean The Market Restaurant where I hadn't eaten for years. The Market is one of those restaurants which becomes somewhat of an institution after being around for many years from the days when the now super-trendy Northern Quarter was a seriously non-cool and somewhat sad former rag-trade area. I'd always perceived the MR as a bit of a secret hiding in a dodgy part of town and would frequently hear rave reviews about it. I always used to enjoy reading the prettily illustrated menu which was printed in every issue of the now deceased City Life magazine. I recall eccentric opening hours, a lovely quirky interior and mismatched antique glasses and crockery and a great atmosphere with excellent front of house service and of course splendid food.

So I was delighted at the prospect of my first visit after a very long time, it could have been as long as ten years ago when we had an excellent Sunday lunch. We arrived and sat at our choice of table - it was less than half full I think, it's a very small space downstairs with another room upstairs. The bar is in the middle of the room and I sat facing the bar as I like to see what's going on, I like to see what's happening when the staff aren't interacting with customers - I think you get a very good insight into a restaurant this way....

We started off with Henriot Champagne with raspberry liqueur - rather like Kir Royale, but a bit more subtle. It was £7.50 a glass and came in a very pretty Henriot branded glass but it was minute and definitely not worth the money and I'm afraid that we did mention this to our waiter and he very kindly came back and topped up our glasses when we'd polished them off.

We both ordered Gazpacho with goats cheese and basil tortellini (£5.25) I adore gazpacho, it's one of my all time favourite dished, I love to order it in Spain where you get a whole plethora of exciting goodies to sprinkle on to the soup - croutons, garlicky mayonnaise, chopped cucumber, tomato and and delicious! I also love to make it, it must the easiest soup in the world to make - just fling gloriously ripe tomatoes, fresh green cucumber, red peppers and garlic (some recipes incorporate bread, but I don't like the slimy result) into the blender and add water to the right consistency, either chunky and rustic or sophisticated and smooth. Then you chill it to within an inch of it's life. The most important thing is that it's super cold, I've even served it with olive oil filled ice cubes to make sure that it's perfect when it arrives at the table. That's the whole point of the dish, like crispy roast potatoes, or a melt in the mouth steak. So imagine my disappointment when it arrived without any goodies to sprinkle and shock horror, was actually tepid if not slightly warm. There were three tortellini and I was disappointed and very surprised to find that it wasn't cooked through, and had that nasty raw flour hard-centered bite to it. I couldn't really taste the goats cheese or basil through the flavour of uncooked flour. So once I'd managed to attract some attention, it went back to the kitchen to be 'made again'. About fifteen minutes later it re-emerged looking exactly the same with the addition of three ice cubes. The soup was still tepid and the tortellini were still uncooked. We drank the soup and left the raw pasta. I refrained from mentioning that the soup was tasteless as I thought that might be a bit much.....but there was no garlic, no punch and no zing. It was a bit like a tinned tomato soup left to cool a bit. The starters were removed from the bill.

The first soup - you can tell the pasta is uncooked just by the lack of 'glisten'.

The second soup - spot the ice-cubes!

For the main course I was going to chose the Pan fried sea bass, vanilla mash, butternut squash, hazelnut crusted scallop (£17.95) as I love sea bass and scallops are always a real treat. While I was pondering two portions of this dish arrived at the table next to us and there was the biggest serving of mash you could imagine with two tiny little fillets of bass - it really didn't look like £17.95's worth so I changed my mind and chose instead Hake wrapped in Parma ham, broccoli puree, roasted potatoes, red wine jus (£15.95) which turned out to be an excellent choice. The portion of hake was very substantial, thick, white and flaky. The Parma ham was just the right side of salty and meaty, the broccoli puree which I didn't fancy at all was lovely. I'd ordered new potatoes rather that roast and they were obviously reheated as they were too soft and squashy, but I didn't really want spuds at all, so wasn't too bothered. Peter had duck which he'd been informed would be cooked pink, but it wasn't. He declined to mention it. We drank a very nice bottle of French Voignier (£18.95) which wasn't sufficiently chilled and had to be put in a wine bucket to cool further, this had to sit on the floor as there wasn't room on the table.

For pudding we both had chocolate mousse which was delicious, very dark and with that lovely French texture which comes from not using cream in the recipe, just eggs and butter (I didn't ask, but it's how the mousse I make at home feels). It was rather bizarrely and pointlessly served with stale popcorn dotted around the plate - I don't know if I missed something there, but I didn't get it at all! We had a glass each of delicious sticky wine - Muscat I think it was, perfectly chilled and seriously yummy.

Then there was the birthday 'cake' which was a shot glass of elderflower Eton mess with a very nice raspberry sorbet and a chorus of Happy Birthday from the two waiters!

So not a perfect evening but a most enjoyable one!

Friday 3 July 2009

Thank You Etsy!

No one in my house seems to have remembered it's my birthday, but Etsy has - hurrah for large non-memory loss databases!

Off to yoga now, it's still terribly humid, but seems to be cooler now.

Thursday 2 July 2009


I haven't been featured in a Treasury for ages and was starting to get a bit paranoid, but here today is a change in my luck and it's a real beauty!


Look at this lovely necklace from her shop made from pretty, cool coloured sea glass - perfect for summer!

Sea Glass Necklace - Olive Green And White Sterling Silver Adjustable 25$

I've had a super hot day doing surveys in Lancashire today, there was a converted bleach works, a totally empty wallpaper showroom, a stone merchants and finally a rural garden centre where we measured about a dozen poly-tunnels and for a special treat, a glasshouse in the scorching sun......

A bit later I'll be feeding my Starter so that I can finally get The Bread underway tomorrow as a special Birthday activity.....I'll deal with it when I get back from yoga. Also my first 30x20" print for a customer will be ready to collect from the lab and I can't wait to see how Love in a Mist (it's the one in the Treasury above) looks so big. I've also had three test prints on Fuji Pearl Metallic paper done and I really hope they look as good as I'm expecting then I can add that as an option to all my prints which I think will add a nice new dimension.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Sourdough 4d

This morning I fed my starter in the same fashion as Tuesday and yet again it did nothing much until about 5pm and now it's lovely and bubbly and has risen nicely. Which means that it takes about nine hours to peak.

I've been trying to work out when I can actually make some bread with the thing as it's quite easy to forget that that is actually the aim of the whole performance! I'm out working all day tomorrow and won't have time nor inclination to play with flour before I leave or when I get home. I'll be at my birthday bbq at mum's all Saturday afternoon and no doubt evening too, so the last thing I'll want to do is faff with bread when we get home. So Friday's my window of opportunity. I'll be at yoga from 9.30 - 11.00, and home by 11.30 so my plan is:

Miss the morning feed tomorrow (Thursday).
Feed at bedtime tomorrow so that it's at it's peak about nine hours afterwards which will be about 7.30 so if I'm super organized, at about 8.30 before I go to yoga, I can mix the dry ingredients, cover and ignore for 18 hours which will take me to 3am on Saturday. I'm sure a little longer proving won't hurt and then when I surface on Saturday (9.30ish) I can shape the dough, leave for another 1.5 hours and then bake before we go to mum's to celebrate my 38th.....Then I can eat fresh sourdough bread when I get home!

I'm definitely doing the no knead method as I think that it sounds like a technique which I can actually manage nicely now that I'll be going out and doing a proper job for a change.....

I'm getting excited about it now and keep chattering away to poor Peter about starters, bubbles and feeding schedules! He might appreciate it when there's actually some bread to eat!