Friday 30 April 2010

It's sourdough time again....

Anyone who's been reading this blog for a while may remember my somewhat obsessive but ultimately unsuccessful dabbling in the magical world of sourdough.  I wrote copiously about my starter and it's progress and the eventual gleeful baking of various rock like loaves of bread.  Anyway, the time has come to have another go and I've been inspired by a recipe by Fergus Henderson the inspirational chef of the London St John restaurants which uses rhubarb, rye flour and live yoghurt for the starter.  I had previously read of starters using raisins or yoghurt but never fruit and dairy together and I can't resist a culinary challenge!

So today I have chopped up one stick of rhubarb and mixed it with 210ml water, 50g of rye flour and two tablespoons of live sheep's yoghurt and it looks as horrible as you would imagine.  As you can see.

It now sits in all of it's lumpy grey glory in it's traditional spot above my computer so I can keep and eye on it (it's also the warmest place around here as we don't have the heating on any more and it's not really warm weather yet, the temperature should ideally be 26-28 degrees centigrade but it's more like 22 at the moment which means that it will just take longer.)

Tomorrow (day 2) I just have to stir it and dust with white flour.

If you want to look at my previous exploits in the weird and wonderful world of sourdough, click here.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Peace and White.

Textured White

I really like this calming collection of textured whites, it's nice and soothing and much as I love all the colourful Treasuries which are around, it's nice to admire the simple things sometimes.  Thank you to the curator for including my Horseback print with such lovely items.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Handmade items inspired by my morning run.

I've been inspired by my lovely little run this morning to peruse Etsy to see what I could find to fit my mood and here's a handful of great items which do the job perfectly:

iRun Scrabble Tile Pendant by Jesse Janes

iEverything really, iMac, iPhone, iPod and so on, I couldn't do my runs without my iPhone on which I have my new but already much loved Nike+ app, so this sweet little pendant is very appropriate!


The Chase by Painter Nik

I aspire to effortsly running the green and pleasant rolling hills, but until my fitness levels increase dramatically, I'll be staying very flat!  I really like this little watercolour with it's slim and fit looking runners.....


1980s high-tops by Flower on the Wall

How cool are these shoes!  I really wanted some like this in the 80s when they would have broken pretty much all my uniform rules at school (I had black and white leather football boots for lacrosse instead which were also pretty fabulous, unlike my lacrosse abilities!).  I know they're not really running shoes, but they fit my mood.

Recycled iPod Armband by Hen and Chick

How could you resist the fabulous bright and cheery summer colours of this great armband - I couldn't use it for running as it would end up sweaty and horrid, but for more leisurely pottering it would certainly fit the bill and it would go perfectly with the high-tops!  (Edit - Rachel has told me that the armband is washable, so sweaty isn't a problem!)

Running Cufflinks by London Baby Girl

I know they're for men, but I love the bight spring colours and the curvaceous edges, if my partner ran, I'd buy them for him! 


Morning river run and featured in two great Treasuries!

I'm feeling very good this morning as I had a great run along the river in the sunshine, it was only 5km which I still can't manage without a bit of walking and it takes me a pretty epic minutes, but while it's hard work, it's good hard work.  Considering a couple of months ago my right ankle wouldn't let me run for more than a few minutes I'm not complaining and I am finding it easier each time.

So I arrived home from that suitably hot, sweaty and hungry and after a shower and bucket of porridge I went online and found that two of my prints had been featured in these two lovely Treasuries!

Green Tea with Mom
Featuring Love in a Mist

Blueberries and Sunshine

Thanks to both curators for featuring my work in their lovely selections!

Sunday 25 April 2010

New Frock and a little light retail therapy!

I enjoyed a little light retail therapy this morning - a perfect activity for a lazy Sunday.  We popped in to town to meet a chum and I had to pop into Space NK to stock up on a lovely big tub Eve Lom cleanser  which I think is the most perfect beauty product ever, it just works brilliantly and I've been using it for years.

On the way there we walked past Gap and I saw a dress which I just had to have, I thought it would be perfect for my yoga holiday in Crete which is creeping closer and I am aware that my wardrobe is looking decidedly lacklustre and I thought that this frock might just work for me.

Of course they didn't have it in my size so I tried the larger size and it's a bit baggy but I think I like it, there's an awful lot of fabric as well as a floaty lining and pockets so it's not exactly slimming and flattering so I shall have to test it out at home with a few combinations to see if I want to keep it.  I picked up a great pair of white jeans in the sale for just £14 as well as a lovely baggy pale grey and white striped v-neck jumper for about £10 and a couple of long sleeved tee shirts for just £6 each, so a good haul.  

This little session of retail therapy will hopefully lead me to clear out some of the old summer junk which has been building up in my wardrobe for a few year to make way for some much needed linen trousers and some other bits and pieces.  

The next shopping trip will have to be for some nice new yoga clothes as mine are far to black and sombre and I suspect, a little to hot for Crete at the start of June.

Friday 23 April 2010

Shopping List 2 - A bit of an odd lunch with a chocolatey dessert.

This is a bit of a random collection of items, there's no obvious plan here, the person who made it certainly likes their fruit.  And onions!  Perhaps they're trying to loose some weight and the chocolate bars are there as a treat?

If I were to be given the items on this list, here's what I'd do with them (assuming that I have a stocked larder and fridge with all the usual cooking bits and pieces).

As a starter, I think some prawns with a low fat yogert dressing with some fresh herbs stirred through, nice and simply, and served on a bed of shredded lettuce.

I'd bone and skin the chicken thighs, marinate with olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and fry them in a hot pan until nice and brown round the edges.

To accompany the chicken, I'd roast about half of the 20 omon (I'm assuming that's onions) as I really like them this way - remove the skins and cut into half through the stalk and then in quarters still through the stalk so they don't fall apart.  Carefully mix with olive oil and unpeeled cloves of garlic and some rosemary stalks.  Spread out on a roasting tray and roast in a hot oven until browned but still soft.  Turn over a couple of times.  Drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar when they've cooled a little.

I think that I'd melt the dark cho bar - 7% and the cho bar with some butter and an egg yolk to make a nice smooth dipping sauce for the clemtains (clementines?), kiwi and melon - both I'd chop this rather random selection of fruit into nice size pieces and using the 70s style cocktail sticks pierce the fruit and arrange it artfully on a platter with the chocolate sauce - everyone likes fruit dipped in chocolate.  The pomegranate seeds will be served in a bowl to add a little glamour to the proceedings.

The cola will be there for those who have no taste in drinks!

Thursday 22 April 2010

Wednesday 21 April 2010

A spring garden lunch imagined from Shopping List 1

I go food shopping several times a week, I've never been one to do a big weekly shop - I like to make my daily food depending on my mood and I'm often a bit wary of a full fridge.

While I'm at the supermarket or local shops I'm usually on the lookout for discarded shopping lists.  Sometimes there's a couple and sometimes none.  It can be embarrassing to be leaning into empty trolleys or picking things up from the floor, but needs must!  There's something so revealing about them and I find it really interesting to be able to look at a list and (usually) see straight away the purpose of the shopping - an Italian supper, a Thai curry or a summer lunch - a little secret glimpse into someone else life.

I have found that I suddenly have a decent sized collection of lists, so I have gathered them together and scanned them and want to share them with the regular blog posts I plan to make where I'll show a picture of the found list and I'll imagine a meal and/or an occasion from what's written.

Here's my first one:

It looks like it's a weekend lunch for quite a few people to me.  I can see it being out in the garden and hosted by an older couple (the writing reminds me of my grandmother's), from the items, I don't think that they are great gourmets or cooks, more the sorts to buy from the deli counter and with a preference to meat over vegetables and healthy thing.  I think there would be children present, grandchildren prehaps?  I hope they have some good early spring weather for their party!

Here's my interpretation of this list and what I'd do with it 'ready steady cook' style using the standard contents of a reasonably stocked larder and fridge for those essential extras.

New pototoes will be made into a salad with French dressing which I'd mix while the potatoes were still hot so that all of the delicious mustardy, herby garlicy flavours would work their way right it.

A nice simple salad with the lettuce and toms for any health concious guests with just a little olive oil and lemon dressing.

The eggs I'd hard boil, grate and mix with salt, pepper and some mayonnaise and serve on the buns which I'm interpreting as nice bread rolls - if there are children coming I'm sure these would go down well.  I know I don't exactly have much experience with kids, but I recall egg sandwiches being popular!

I'd make a nice platters with the pies and cold meats, I'd cook the crown turkey and thinly slice cold.

I'd make another nice big plate of the pizzas which I'd cut up into slices let everyone help themselves.

The chips I'd keep in the kitchen for emergencies in case any kids are irritatingly picky and won't eat anything else!

To finish with, the gatau's

The Bicardie Breezers would be served on ice......

Toilet/rolls will go into the guest loo and the flash and w up liq will go under the sink in the kitchen to clean up the mess when everyone has gone.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Another wekend of deliciousness.

We'd had yet another big eating weekend. Friends on Saturday night enjoyed bruschetta of roast vine tomatoes and grilled asparagus, followed by wickedly rich mushroom risotto and finished with chocolate tart with raspberries.

On Sunday we said we wouldn't eat out, but after visiting the excellent Don McCullin exhibition at the War Museum North and pottering around the quays a bit and getting cold, we headed back into town for a swift, cheap and very tasty dim sum.

By supper time we were ready to go again and Peter rustled this tasty little number up for us with the mackerel fillets we didn't eat on Friday night, the asparagus I didn't use for the starter on Saturday and some super sweet little tomatoes. Simply served with some lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper. Delicious!

Monday 19 April 2010

Morocco - as found on Etsy.

I've had a bit of an obsession with Morocco for about ten years or so and I've been lucky enough to visit twice. The first time was a week spent in the fishing port/seaside town of Essaouira followed by a three day blast of luxury at La Mamounia in Marrakech.  After that visit I was desperate to return and would finaly do so in 2007 when we went on a photography holiday led by Lee Frost which would take us to Tangier, Casablanca, Fes, Rabat, Chefchaouen, Moulay Idris and Meknes in a very intense two weeks.  It was a brilliant experience and I would still love to return and to stay for a much longer time to really get the feel of the place.....

Here is a selection of items I've found on Etsy which scream Morocco to me:

 At the Market in Morocco by Joseph Aprile

This painting is so true to the exotic markets, the colours and shapes are spot on for me.  When I saw bags like the ones here hanging up on hooks in Tangier, they were full of snails!  I really like the minimalism of the image, you're not overwhelmed by detail, but it's all there if you know what to look for.

Patchwork - by Still Memory

When you look at this photograph and compare it to the painting above, you can see how the colours are so true, if two people from different places, practising different disciplines can get exactly the same colour palate I think that shows the power of the colour in this vibrant country.  I have come across this photograph on Etsy previously and I'm sure that it would be a scene which would have caught my eye too had I been in the same location with my camera.  It's such a typically Moroccan blast of colour and texture, the pebble-dashing, the smooth plaster, tiles, the detailed plasterwork around the door, the rough patch of exposed under-layer and the wood.  It's a sight you see over and over again in every town, but I confess to never seeing such an outrageously colourful painted floor!  I'd love to know where it was!

Ethnic Berber Style Necklace - by 3 Fun

It's those colours again!  The jewellery in Morocco is simply out of this world and when I went for the first time in 2002 I could barely believe my eyes when I saw what was available.  I came home with quite an impressive haul of goodies which were far too good to resist!  We drank mint tea in little shops while we haggled over a rug full of delights, some we had to abandon, but we were still very well rewarded for our patience!  This piece is really interesting as it's a contemporary interpretation of all that is beautiful and typical of Moroccan jeweller - the amber beads, the silver spirals (I bought a massive silver spiral, it's about 12cm in diameter and seriously dramatic!) the overall look is so convincing that when I first saw it I was sure that it was a 'real' piece of Moroccan jewellery.

Marrakesh Lights 3 - by L Jane6

The metalwork souks are full to bursting with men hand crafting the flamboyantly patterned metal lanterns, they come all all shapes and colours with glass and without.  They hang everywhere from the small café of the narrow streets as well as the extravagantly decorated palace restaurants.  This delicate painting sums up the variety and detail of the lanterns perfectly - I love the way that they are all jumbled together with little flashes of colours amidst the metal filigree.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Fish, Chicken Pie, Chocolate Mousse, 1966 Sauternes

It's been another food ruled weekend with two sets of friends over for supper on Saturday which meant much of the day spent in the kitchen for me.  I did manage a nice run in the sunshine in the morning which set me up nicely and my ankle hasn't hurt a bit which is a very good thing!

Here's what I served on Saturday night:

A plate of wild Alaskan smoked salmon, Tsar salmon, smoked trout, king prawns with dressed leaves, soda bread with a crème fraîche and horseradish dressing.

You can't really go wrong with a judiciously bought selection of top quality products!  It was all delicious but I think I overdressed the leaves a bit.......

Rich creamy chicken and mushroom pie, with new potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.

I know that the photograph of my pie looks revolting, but it actually tasted delicious!  It was seriously rich with masses of butter and double cream which is something I don't usually use, as I'm not a fan of cream, the recipe called for morels, either dried or fresh and I could find neither so I improvised with some dried porcini and some fresh chestnut mushrooms with some of the soaking juice added to the (home made) brown chicken stock and white wine.  There were loads of leeks, spring onions, pancetta, tarragon, chives and thyme so stuffed full of good things.  The pastry was a disaster thought, it was, believe it or not puff which you'd never tell from the photo, but at least it was tasty if not puffy so all was not lost.  Usually when I make a pie I cheat and cook the puff separately and just plonk a serving on the the artfully arranged filling.  It keeps it crisp and stops any baking angst.  The recipe was for eight, and the six of us polished it off!

Chocolate orange mousse with caramelised orange zest and segments.

I don't have a great repertoire of puddings, but one which I come back to time and time again is chocolate mousse in the French style.  I use the recipe from the Julia Child classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and it's fantastic and while not exactly foolproof, certainly worth the time and the copious calories.  This time I was seduced by the recipe in the splendid Leon cookery book, I'm not sure why but it just tickled my fancy.  It was a much less complex recipe but ultimately not as unctuous and delicious, but it was very tasty, especially with the addition of the orange segments ad it went down very well.

We were bought a fabulous bottle of 1966 Sauternes which is pretty impressive and it was very good and a great treat - see how wonderful it looks!

A most enjoyable evening!

Saturday 10 April 2010

Chicken Pie Has Begun

Everyone know that you really should make your own stock. I confess to being a little lazy in this department but for my dinner tomorrow night where I want to impress I have done the right thing.

My very smart chicken was butchered for me beautifully at Watirose in readiness for it's destiny in my pie. I roasted the the remaining carcass and bits and pieces along with two packs of wings before covering in cold water and adding leek, carrot, onion, garlic, thyme and celery and simmering gently for three and a half hours.

Here's how it looked at the start.

And here's how it looked three and a half hours later.

Brown Chicken Stock.

It smelled delicious and I was a bit peckish by the time it was done at about 10.00pm so I had a little private feast from the soft and tender meat clinging onto the wings and the delicious soft carrots!

I'm off for a run in the park now with my new Nike+ for the first time, I'll set the timer for thirty minutes and see how I do.  It's been a very long time since I ran out in the real world and I suspect that I'll find it very hard work.  But any calories burned in preperation for tonight's binge will be fantastic!

Friday 9 April 2010

Lunch at Silver Apples on Orchard Street.

We popped out for a quick local lunch with a photographer friend who had delivered to beautiful prints which we'd bought at his latest exhibition.

This was our first visit to Silver Apples and it was very nice indeed. It's lovely and eclectic inside with all sorts of retro posters, photos and books all over the place. There's a mix of furniture with sofas and an upright piano as well. There isn't a menu as such rather a range of blackboards dotted around with lists of sandwiches, salads, pies, hot chocolates and milkshakes.

I had the bagel which you see in the photograph which was healthily stuffed with smoked salmon and cream cheese with a little salad. It was very nice but could have done with a bit of a dose of lemon juice. I couldn't be bothered to ask for some, so my fault really.

The boys had Pieminster pies, one chicken and one minty lamb with a good dollop of mash and mushy peas. We didn't have time for pudding, but there's a very tempting display of home made cakes which may result in a return visit.

Silver Apples on Orchard Street.
Burton Road (corner of Orchard Street)
West Didsbury
M20 2LW
Tel: 0161 445 3130

Thursday 8 April 2010

I was interviewed!

My friend Laura is promoting a brand new drink called Carnaby Brown which is a lightly alcoholic fruit based tipple in two flavours, a melony, muscatty one and strawberry/watermelony one.  Both have a zingy sparkle.

While I'm a dedicated drinker of gutsy Italian and Spanish reds Laura bravely decided to interview me over a glass or two (actually quite a few) glasses of each variety.  During the interview we were chatting about who I thought the drink would appeal to and I thought that it would be a great drink for people who didn't really want to drink too much - perhaps at lunchtime or the afternoon when you still have to be able to function and not have a snooze......Part of drinking at those times for me is to be able to have a nice nibble at the same time - anyone who reads this blog knows how much I like my food and anyone who shares a bottle or two with us at home will be presented with olives from my Olive Pot and some toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Click here to read Laura's interview with me!

I mentioned lemon marinated nuts in my interview which is something I've never actually made as I tend to use spices with nuts.  I've had a go at remembering what it is I actually do when I pop to the kitchen to rustle up a nibble or two for unexpected guests.

Non-marinated nuts to have with an afternoon tipple:

Melt some butter in a sturdy frying pan.
Add to it:
Soft brown sugar and let it melt gently
A couple of handfuls of almonds and cashews - actually any nuts you have will do
Maldon salt to taste
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1.5 teaspoons ground coriander
Fresh rosemary sprigs
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some finely grated lemon zest
Dried chilli flakes to taste if you like

Let all of this heat through in the butter, stirring it all the time with a wooden spoon until the nuts have taken on a healthy colour and smell delicious.  The spices should smell fragrant and toasty, if you smell any burning or acrid, remove the pan from the heat immediately.

When they look delicious and tasty spread the nuts out onto a flat surface, don't heap them on top of each other.  This will let them cool and crisp up a bit.  Eat when cool.

This is one of my favourite things to make when I need to find a nibble, a tried and tested method.

Savoury Seeds in Tamari

Heat a heavy frying pan and add to it a handful of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Move them around constantly until they start to smell yummy, the sunflower seeds will start to jump up at you and the pumpkin seeds will start to puff up.  They will both begin to colour.
When they are nicely coloured but not burnt, remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in a couple of good glugs of soy sauce - I like to use wheat-free Japanese Tamari but I'm sure that whichever type of soy sauce you have in your larder will work perfectly well.
Once the cold liquid hits the hot pan it will steam and will seem to stick, so you need to have a wooden or silicone spoon/spatula to hand to start stirring immediately.
Keep stirring until all the seeds are coated and again, not burnt!
Remove to a flat plate or tray until cool and crisp.
Enjoy with a glass.  Or two.

I have written a blog post about my Olive Pot and here's a link to it: Click here to read about olives.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Featured in three lovely Treasuries!

Thank you to all three curators for including my work in their lovely collections!

Flowers from my Garden 

I'm Back

My Place or Yours

My photos have been used to make some lovely pendants!

I sold a digital collage sheet to a customer a while ago and at the weekend I got a really nice message from her linking to the resin pendants which she has made from them and is selling from her shop!

It's so nice to get some actively positive feedback from a customer especially as I always wonder what happens to the digital collage sheets I sell.

Here are the pendants in Bethtastic's shop on Etsy.  The pendants hang on an 18" silver plated sleek snake chain.  I'm very proud to see my work used in such a vibrant and popular shop.

Here's an example of my Through the Viewfinder Digital Collage Sheets.  They cost just $3.60 and are emailed right to your inbox.  There's a nice variety of image from pretty florals to urban graffiti.  If you like the look of them and fancy using some for your craft projects, here's where you can find them

Monday 5 April 2010

More Easter Food

Here's what our Sunday lunch looked like in the end!

Watercress soup

Roast spring lamb with rosemary and garlic

Rhubarb and ginger brulee

Saturday 3 April 2010

Easter food.

 There's nothing like a long bank holiday weekend to prompt a foodie post and Easter's no exception.

We've got a small gathering for lunch tomorrow, Easter Sunday when I shall be serving:

Vintage pink cava
Smoked salmon on something

Watercress soup with crème fraîche

Roast leg of spring lamb with garlic and rosemary, home made mint sauce
Home made lamb gravy
New potatoes
Chantenay carrots, with butter and parsley

Rhubarb and ginger brûlée

Tea and mini eggs.

I had some time this morning to make the soup and the base of the brûlée while Peter was busy on an Easter egg hunt in the woods next door with his daughter and her four children who were visiting for the day.

It was a nice peaceful hour and a half or so where I did what needed to be done and it was all super easy and relaxed.

Here are some pictures of my progress - if I remember tomorrow I'll take some pictures of the finished dishes and of course, the roast lamb.

The ingredients for the watercress soup - leeks, white potatoes, watercress, butter, creme fraiche.  
Also used was Marigold vegetable stock, freshly ground black pepper

 I know it doesn't look too tasty, but it did!  Here's the soup after about twenty minutes 
simmering and just before being liquidised for the final assembly tomorrow.

Yummy ingredients for pudding - Yorkshire rhubarb, crème fraîche d'Isgny, Greek
yoghurt, stem ginger in syrup, ground ginger, muscavado sugar.

This is how tasty it the rhubarb looks when all the non-creamy ingredients are
mixed together before roasting for twenty minutes or so until tender.

Peter's grandchildren bought us a treat too, at first glance they looked like chocolate cornflake cake, but were actually marshmallow, pecan, coconut and chocolate cakes and were very nice indeed with a cup of tea!

Friday 2 April 2010

A strange place to store salad.

 Here's another revisited old(ish) picture. When we were in Morocco I kept noticing random pieces of fruit and vegetables placed seemingly with care on window sills which I found amusing. This is one of the nicer compositions.