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All posts for the month February, 2015

Appreciating cats appreciating crochet

Published February 15, 2015 by Storm

“Cats sleep anywhere, any table, any chair”, as Eleanor Farjeon’s famous poem cheerfully informs us. Well, at the moment our feline companions mostly sleep on my crochet, even going so far as to climb into my project bag and nest amongst the folded blanket and balls of yarn; every time I put my project down it gains a cat.

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I don’t really mind them sleeping on it, there wouldn’t be much point crocheting a blanket the cats weren’t allowed to sleep on and it does tell me it’s going to be nice and warm.

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Aubergines and lentil stew

Published February 11, 2015 by Storm

I was recently given a few aubergines, they weren’t glossy and perfect but they were perfectly usable if I didn’t mind a bit of waste. This was my cue to get chopping. With a beautiful, new (to me) Dutch oven I wanted to make my first use of a stew type dish was obviously in order. This is an indulgent version with red wine in the sauce and tinned cherry tomatoes but you could easily replace the wine with water or stock and the cherry tomatoes with ordinary tinned chopped tomatoes. Ramiro peppers often look expensive but if you can find somewhere which sells them by weight they tend to work out a lot cheaper than supermarket prices.

Ingredients (feeds three or four)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 large aubergine
  • 1 red ramiro pepper
  • 1 generous teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 125ml(ish) glass red wine
  • 125g/4oz approx’ puy type lentils (or fill the glass you measured the wine in if you’re not then drinking from it)
  • 1tin cherry tomatoes in juice
  • water to cover

Technique

Put the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. 

Roughly chop the onions and sweat in the oil with the garlic.

Dice the aubergine into roughly 1 inch cubes and chop the pepper into pieces about 1/3 the size of the aubergine chunks; add both to the pan, stirring regularly.

After about 10 minutes add the allspice and stir for a minute more. Add the red wine, turn up the heat and bring to a lively simmer until the wine is reduced by about 1/3.

Add the lentils, tinned tomatoes and enough water to just cover all the ingredients. Cover the pan and simmer over a gentle heat for 20 to 30 minutes (until the lentils are cooked), stirring occasionally. I usually uncover for the last 5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. 

I normally serve this with rice, mashed potato, or crusty bread.

Tidying up 2014’s goals, starting 2015’s

Published February 4, 2015 by Storm

Ending my recipe challenge with a flurry of treats

I may not have found time to write about doing so but I did find time to keep trying new recipes throughout December. My final three efforts of 2014 were Turkish Delight, French Chocolate Cake, and Beer and Mustard Bread.

I’ve been wanting to try making the Turkish Delight since being given Gifts From The Kitchen a few years ago, it just took me a while to brave my first attempt. This was a mixed success, it tasted good but I definitely didn’t have the texture right; boiling for longer at the final stage is obviously required but it had reached the point that I was struggling to stir it and was getting blisters. The recipe was reasonably easy to follow and although it is time consuming and wasn’t a great first attempt I probably will try again some time as I do love Turkish Delight. 

The French Chocolate Cake, from the simply titled Chocolate, was a greater success; just as well as I was baking this as a gift. It was more complicated than my usual ‘throw all the ingredients in the food processor then chuck the mix in a sponge tin’ approach to cakes, but the recipe was well written and easy to follow and the results were (so I’m told) good.

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Beer and Mustard Bread, from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking, was very easy to make; using the bread machine still feels a bit like cheating but it’s a nice sort of cheating. I baked this as part of a Boxing Day buffet and I think it’s fair to say it was good as I’ve never seen a loaf disappear so rapidly. Possibly the perfect bread to eat with cheese.

Which leads into

2015 Goals

  1. Try a new recipe from one of my cookery books each month.
  2. Try a different bread recipe every time I bake.
  3. Learn something new with each knitting project I do (the two projects I’m carrying over from last year are exempt from this).

January saw me start all three of these goals!

The recipe I tried was Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin from Vegetarian Classics. I cheated and used a bag of broccoli and cauliflower florets rather than chopping my own, this was a mistake as they weren’t well enough matched in size so I had to choose between extra firm cauliflower or soggy broccoli. I wasn’t particularly keen on the yoghurt and cheese mix used a a sauce either, I think I would have preferred simple grated cheese or a more classic cheese sauce, the yoghurt flavour dominated. Not one I’m going to be making again.

The bread was far more successful than the supper dish. Chickpea and Peppercorn Bread from the same lovely book as the Beer and Mustard Bread. This doesn’t use gram flour (which you might expect) but combines white flour with tinned chickpeas. The chickpeas blend into the dough and create a rich bread with a moist, slightly heavier crumb. It’s delicious and filling; it also seems slow to go stale, I baked it on Saturday and it hasn’t started to dry out yet (maybe that’s partly thanks to the bread bin I was given for Christmas). I will bake this again but will probably omit the peppercorns to give myself more choice what I eat with it.

The knitting was the first of a string of selfish projects, a hat for myself.

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The pattern is Sandra Dee’s Nymandus Draculea and the yarn is King Cole Galaxy. King Cole seems quite a fine DK so I used 4mm needles, not the 6mm called for in the pattern, and put in an extra pattern repeat. The new, to me, technique was cabling; little, baby cables where just one stitch crosses another, but there were quite a lot of them. The cables don’t show as well as they might in a slightly heavier and plainer yarn, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! I know that I was a bit clumsy with my cables at first, though they got neater as I became more used to doing them, so having a yarn that distracts from the slight unevenness of my cabling isn’t such a bad thing. It took me about ten evenings to knit, I might have finished a little faster but I decided not to work on it when I was tired as I didn’t want to risk too many mistakes (feline assistance led three or four dropped stitches I needed to rescue without adding sleepiness into the equation). I’m happy with my hat, I might even knit it again in slightly chunkier yarn, and, having bought more yarn than I needed, I have the next project queued to start using galaxy; the Railway Modeller will just have to get used to me in stripes!

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