Monday, 26 March 2012

Crochet, Sunshine and Baking

My latest project is a stripy granny blanket which was originally intended for my middle sons bedroom, but the colours don't work in there so it has now been assigned to my little grandson as it will look so lovely on his little blue bed.

I am crocheting it in Style Craft wool so its a nice cheap blanket to make and the pattern I found on the Attic24 blog which I check regularly!

I have even managed to do a little outdoor crochet as well, the weather here on the hill is just devine at the moment I just couldn't resist sitting out on my still unfinished little courtyard

My little dog Bowie trying to get in on the action!!

My husband even managed to raise the Union Jack up our flag pole. Well it had to be done as its a Jubilee year, if you look closely you will see a plane flying past, we decided it must be the Royal flyover our castle!! Just look at the colour of that sky, you could almost be forgiven for thinking this was a summers day not a March day.

On Saturday morning I did my usual trip into town and had a quick sprint around the collectors market while boys did boy things and to my absolute delight I managed to pick up for the bargain price of £20!!!!! a beautiful little feather filled vintage cotton eiderdown. Now I have been after one of these for what seems an age, I knew my mother had one and I asked her if I could perhaps have it, as I knew she didn't use it and her reply was "what on earth do you want something like that for" she hadn't got it anymore, she didn't want it so she had 'taken it to the tip!!!!!' ahhhhhhhhhh.

My attempts at bidding on any on Ebay were not fruitful as they seem to go for a fortune so, I was at near fainting point when I saw it on a stall. There was another lady having a look at it and I was nearly at the point of snatching it out of her hand and telling her that I saw it first, but as it had a small hole in it with a few feathers escaping she, thank goodness, decided not to have it. Well I can tell you that £20 was out of my purse and in the stallholders hand and quilt removed swiftly from the lady who had looked at it before, just in case she changed her mind.

 I still have to do the repair, which is quite small but I couldn't resist just laying it on the spare bed just to see how it looked, and I was overcome with delight! I know it is only a single size but when I eventually get the lovely little cast iron double we have in there I think it will still look stunning as a foot warmer across the bottom of the bed

My friends daughter has just learnt that she has been accepted into the Army training college that she has been working so hard to get in, so I was in town on Saturday I got her a little well done present, which was a small Rob Ryan notebook and I just love the little verse which is on the front, in fact I think it describes how I feel about my blog:-

 “All of these words and all of these pictures and these small scraps of purpose and intention and dreams will walk along side of me and keep me company on this my great journey and will serve to remind me to savour all my days spent upon this earth”.

I also gave her one of the little key rings I have been crocheting, I just needed a quick project to give me a break from the granny blanket! 

Sunday brought visitors so of course I had to make sure that I had something to offer them to eat and this weekend I did just a few quick recipes:-


which is really quick all you do is melt 4oz of butter with 3oz of golden syrup and 3oz of light muscavado sugar and then add 8oz of rolled oats, a handful of seeds if you wish and then put in a greased tin at 180c (160c in a fan oven) for 30 minutes, leave for 5 minutes, cut up into slices and then leave in the tin until fully cool.

I then went onto Chocolate Brownies, which are an all time favourite:-

250g butter
200g dark chocolate
80g cocoa powder
65g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
360g caster sugar 
4 beaten eggs

preheat oven to 180c and line and grease a 25cm square tin

Put butter and chocolate into a bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. In a separate bowl sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and mix in the sugar. When the butter and chocolate are fully melted add this mixture to the flour and sugar mix and stir in the 4 beaten eggs.

Pour all of this into your ready prepared tin and then bung into the oven for 25-30 minutes until it is crusty on the outside but still slightly sticky in the middle.

I also made some shortbread biscuits, for which I have given the recipe before and a lovely fresh cream and strawberry Victoria Sponge, which lasted for about 10 minutes. This is always a good standby and was made whilst my visitors were here, in fact is was still slightly warm when we ate it!

6oz sifted Self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
6oz caster sugar
6oz butter 
3 eggs
a few drops of vanilla extract

Put all ingredients into a bowl and give a good whisk up then put into two lined sandwich tins and bake at 170c for 25-30 minutes. Turn out and fill with lashings of homemade jam, whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

Of course all this has to be washed up, but this chore is made more bearable by using...................... of course my hand crocheted dishcloth ;)

Have a good week and make to most of the sun whilst it is still shining 

Claire xx

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Way Hay Weekend

Way Hay!!!! my hexagon blanket is finally finished! After a Saturday evening crochet fury session my poor fingers felt like they were about to drop off, in fact by Sunday morning I wondered if they would ever bend straight again!

Here it is nearly there without the border and as beautiful as it is without a border added it does just look like a piece of crochet and not the blanket I had intended

So I added a double border of blue and violet and it just made it into a work of art. It actually looks like it was meant to. 165 beautiful, colourful little cotton hexagons. It isn't as big as I had first intended but it is so labour intensive that my mind started to wander to my next project. I snipped away all the little ends of woven in thread and this is the result.

So it was ceremoniously carried upstairs and placed in onto the foot of my bed and WOW it looked breathtakingly stunning, intact my husband commented that he thought I might faint from hyper ventilating at its beauty.

It lit up my unfinished bedroom and added a happy feeling to the room, a feeling that my youngest son also felt as when I had the entire family on parade in the bedroom to ohhhh and arhhhh at the wonder before them, Caleb said he liked it so much please could be have it in his bedroom.

So reluctantly I said that we could give it a try. I was actually quite surprised that he had taken to it so much because it does have quite a lot of pink tones in it and he is usually adamant that nothing with the slightest hint of girlyness will enter his bedroom.

We put it onto his little cast iron bed and it just looked as though it had been made for it and to see the look of delight on his face and when he threw his arms around me saying that I was the best mummy in the world a lump hit my throat and it was his. It looked splendid and enhanced by the ripple cushion I had made a few weeks before and the little banner with his name on his room looks a haven of homely snuggleness, the room of a boy who is loved and adored.

I even managed to get a photo of him all curled up before he awoke this morning, ahhhhhh

My bedroom returned to is former hand knitted blanket which I just love! There is a sense of comfort from this blanket as it weighs heavy on my feet and is such a luxury to have. 

I must give credit to my friend Helen for designing this blanket, she was making one for her lovely daughter Harriet and it looked so delightful I thought that I should have a go myself and how glad am I that I did! Yet another success. I am very precious about my bed, well this particular bed anyway as it was the bed that I lay on and gave birth to my 2 youngest boys and it is the bed that we all snuggle up in at the weekend and they talk to us about there week.

On Mothers Day morning I admired my flowers from the Children, added my new balls of Cotton to my stock and looked longingly at the pictures in the cookbook Elias had chosen and purchased for me with his own money. After an evening at The Greyhound with family and having eaten a meal paid for by my daughter, I  sat back at home with a glass of wine, a gift from Caleb, and I my heart swelled with happiness at having such a lovely family and marvellous friends

I think the title of this book says it all!!

 Well enough of blogging for one day, I will have a quick tidy up, sort the washing and commence battle with my new project a rainbow like stripy granny blanket for my middle sons bed!

Claire xx

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Visitors and Cooking

I have received my latest purchase from Ebay, a little set of antique pine drawers and it is now sitting on the side in my kitchen looking rather beautiful! I am soooo pleased with them.

Its a lovely day here on the hill the sort of day that makes you feel glad to be alive.

Our garden which is in desperate need of some TLC but with all we have to do on the house the garden will have to wait a little longer

The chickens this morning decided to sit on the bridge just outside my bedroom window and the cocks had a good old crow to wake us up (far too early)

This evening I have guests coming for dinner so have decided to do a very quick fish starter of smoked salmon, poached salmon and prawns in a marie rose sauce, I did this at Christmas and it was lovely!

For the main course we will have Coq Au Vin, which is a great dinner party meal as it can be made earlier in the day and improves during the day as the flavours develop.

Coq Au Vin

1oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
8 free range chicken thighs, I use thighs because I think they have a better flavour and are cheap
approx 4oz of smokey streaky bacon
approx 2oz diced pancetta (optional)
8oz button mushrooms
8 Shallots
2 tbsp flour
1/2 pint chicken stock, I use a Knorr gel stock cube when I don't have any homemade stock
1 pint of red wine
1 bouquet garni, mine is from Waitrose and is especially for poultry
1 or 2 large garlic cloves crushed
salt and pepper to season
chopped parsley to garnish
This serves 4 people

Melt butter and oil in a large pan, add the chicken skin side down to start and brown for about 10 - 15 minutes, remove and put on some paper towels to drain.

Thought I best put this picture in so nobody thought I was eating my own chickens!!

I use this type of shallot as it is a long shape and very sweet

Here is the bacon and pancetta, which I have diced, I am really very lucky as I was given a huge piece of home cured pancetta and it is so delicious!

Remove any excess fat so that you have approximately the same amount you started with and add the mushrooms, bacon and pancetta and shallots and cook over a high heat until golden brown. When done remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Put the wine into a saucepan and boil until it has reduced by half. I used a Merlot and a pint leaves you with about 1 glass left in the bottle which could be the cooks perk but as I am doing this in the morning its probably not a good idea.

Add the flour to the pan you cooked the chicken, bacon etc in and cook for about 3 minutes stirring all the time, gradually stir into this the stock and red wine which should have now reduced to 1/2 a pint (300ml), you may at this point think it has all gone horribly wrong but keep stirring or as I do use my balloon whisk and keep going until it becomes smooth.

Replace the chicken, bacon, pancetta, mushrooms and onions back to the pan and add the bouquet garni and garlic, season, being careful not to use too much salt as the bacon and pancetta are rather salty then cover and put in a pre-heated oven of 160c but mine is a fan oven so in a normal oven it will probably be 180c and cook for about an hour until the chicken is tender when you stick a fork in. You will not believe the smells that will be in your kitchen at this point it is definitely something to salivate at!

Garnish with some chopped parsley and serve. If you are making this for later, I usually cook for 15 minutes less and then give it 30 minutes when I re-heat it later in the day.

I will serve this with dauphinois potatoes and purple sprouting broccoli.

Dauphinois Potatoes

Buttered gratin dish
2lb potatoes
1/4 pint single cream
1/4 pint double cream
1 clove garlic finely chopped
salt and pepper
4oz gruyere cheese

Very thinly slice the potatoes, use a food processor of mandolin if you have one but it can be done by hand.
Put a layer of the potatoes slightly over lapping into the buttered gratin dish, season and sprinkle with some cheese and garlic, and pour a little of the cream over.
Continue to layer until all the potatoes, garlic, cream and cheese have been used.
Pop in a pre heated oven of 140c or 160c if not a fan oven for 1 1/2 hours it will be a creamy, cheese bowl full of heavenly fattening gorgeousness.

At this stage I was going to have put a picture up of the finished products, which were beautiful even though I do say so myself, unfortunately they were spooned into and plated up before I had a chance and as I don't really know one of the gentlemen who came very well I thought he might find it a little strange me taking photos of all the food! But saying that I did manage to sneak a photo of the dessert I made

Almond Tart, I gave the recipe for that in an earlier post, fresh fruits and a raspberry topped Panna Cotta, heaven in a little dish!

Vanilla Panna Cotta

3 Sheets of gelatine
1 Vanilla Pod split with seeds scraped out
250ml whole milk
250ml double cream
1oz caster sugar

Put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water until they go soft
Heat the milk, cream, sugar and vanilla pod with seeds into a pan and heat to a simmer but do not boil., take off the heat.
Remove the vanilla pod, I always give it a rinse under the tap and then plonk into my caster sugar jar and it still imparts a lovely flavour into the sugar.
Now give the gelatine sheets a squeeze to remove excess water and drop into the pan, give it a stirring to make sure that it has dissolved and then although you don't have to I always sieve the mixture before pouring it into little ramekins. This mixture made 6 of the size that you can see or 4 bigger ones.
Pop into the fridge to set, which should take about an hour and then I made the raspberry topping, which was a small punnet of raspberries, with a few saved for decoration, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of water, put all of this into a pan and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries are soft, its about 3-5 minutes, when that is done I added a dash of Rumtopf liquior and half a sheet of gelatine just to give it a soft set and poured onto the little custardy delights.

If you don't want to put a topping on and wish to turn them out, it is easily done by giving the ramekin a quick dip into hot water and then upturning onto a plate, with a little shake it should, fingers crossed plop out as a little quivering mound of calories!

My guests all left feeling very full, well oiled from lashings of wine and port that we had with the cheese and biscuits and I hope very happy.

Claire xx

Friday, 9 March 2012

Aching Fingers!

Well I have been doing more crochet hexagons for my blanket and its coming along nicely! I am really pleased with it, it feels so soft. My fingers are starting to really ache though after a good crochet session and I am wondering if I should be changing to another style of hook??

And lucky me, my daughter has bought me a few extra balls of Rowan handknit cotton to keep my supply from running out. I just adore the colours available and it crochets up perfectly with not splitting.

When I had done my weekly stint helping out in the reception class at our little school with lots of sticking, reading and dressing up, I did a very quick trip into town as it was such a lovely day and I had a few hours to kill.  Of course I had to go into one of my favourite shops.

Bibelot it has the most devine little treasures in and I had to make a little purchase :) Some nice Cath Kidston stationary

Along with a few extra buttons for my button box.  I must confess I do have rather a liking for buttons and this little tin is just the tip of the iceberg I have another two tins which I must say are considerably larger and the last thing I needed was more buttons, but they were just so colourful and shiny I couldn't resist! Isn't the this little tin super, I only got it a few weeks ago and it had a little selection of 'Love Heart' sweeties in. I don't even like the sweets but the tin was just too nice I had to have it.

I had a stroll around the little flea market that comes to town on a Friday and got a few bargains

Five little EPNS coffee spoons, a beautiful silver plate cake slice which was made for the 1937 coronation grand total of £3 a lovely little Royal Winton egg cup plate £2 and a dinky green enamel ashtray which is edged in brass just £1. Cant wait for tomorrow I just hope the weather is good then I can have a dash around the collectors market while my little man has his guitar lesson.

And I had to take a picture of this stand in the town it was just lovely. I really should start to think about my garden, the chickens are making quite a mess of the back and I would love to look out onto something colourful.

Claire xx

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Back Home

After the excitement of the weekend I am back to reality and doing what I love best, BAKING!!!

Things at the weekend went a little astray and I never did get around the that baking session, so today is another day and here we go again!!

I have always made a habit of writing in a little book recipes that I use on a regular basis and recipes I have done and liked as I always forget where I have seen them and can never repeat it.

I have a abundance of lovely eggs at the moment so, I decided to make a lovely Egg Custard Tart. Just look at the colour of those eggs, so orange and bright. I always despair when the chickens go off the lay, shop bought eggs just don't have the same colour or taste, even if I do buy the supposedly 'organic free range' variety.

So with pastry case blind baking in the oven I made the filling and then carefully, carefully poured it into the baked crispy case, and after a quick spritz of freshly ground nutmeg into the oven it went until it was cooked. 

I usually can tell when its done as when I move the case it gives a little wobbly shake.
When it came out of the oven it had shall we say a homemade rustic look, but thats just how I like it! I will leave it to go cold then put in the fridge to chill and later have a piece with pouring of cream over.

Next onto replenishing the biscuit tin. This time I used just a basic biscuit recipe of:-

8oz Softened butter
4oz Caster Sugar
10oz Plain flour
a few drops of vanilla

This is a wonderful basic recipe and you can add whatever you like to spice it up a bit. In the past I have added some grated lemon zest and poppy seeds and dried cranberries and then dipped in white chocolate, YUMMY!!

Cream the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy, then add the flour and mix until it forms into a dough.

Today I divided the mixture up into three and left 1 lot plain, the second lot I added some mixed spice and the third lot I put in some sugary coated little golden nuggets of crystallised ginger which I chopped into small pieces. After a quick sprinkle of flour, a sweep of the rolling pin I was soon cutting away and piling baking trays into the oven. They take about 15 minutes to cook.
When they had cooled on the baking tray I melted a few squares of dark chocolate I had left and dunked some of the little devils into the silky smooth depths of the glistening chocolate and hey presto!

The washing up is done, my biscuit tin is full and I am now ready to do the school run to collect the children.
What a treat it will be for them to come home to the smell and taste of lovely homemade goodies, I feel so good that I can provide them with something to eat where I know exactly what is in them and that only the best ingredients have been used and that there are no preservatives or additives. JOY :)

Claire xx