Normally if I have a day at home on my own there seem to be a never ending procession of chores that I need to catch up with, sometimes though I get a day when all I need to do is whatever I want to do; yesterday was one of the latter. I’ve been wanting to make more use of the mint from the garden so I started the day by finding a recipe for apple and mint jelly, simmering the fruit with a bunch of mint and leaving it to strain for several hours while I did other things.
Next on the to do list was setting the bread maker to work. I only needed to bake for me this week so I decided to indulge myself with Carrot and Fennel Bread from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking. First grate your carrots! Then decide on a couple of tweaks to the recipe; I don’t have skimmed milk powder (or even almond milk powder at the moment) and I’ve not been keen on the texture of other loaves I’ve used sunflower oil in, so I replaced the oil with goats’ butter and ignored the powdered milk altogether. Then it was a case of letting the machine do it’s thing. Four hours later this loaf was the deliciously scented and rather tasty result:
Coffee was my next priority and, as the kitten was sleeping, I decided to spend an hour knitting while I indulged in my caffeine habit. I’ve a couple of projects on the needles to choose from but I’d rather like to have the current scarf project finished to give as a birthday present later this month, though realistically it might end up as a Christmas present. I’m enjoying the slightly crazy yarn I’m working with even though I’m experiencing a touch of mid-point tedium with the project itself. I suspect it’s the type of yarn you either love or hate, I’m fairly confident the intended recipient will love it.
From the sofa back to the kitchen to make bath melts. I came up with the basic recipe for these several months ago, and have enjoyed some myself and gifted others. As I was finishing my coffee prior to making yesterday’s batch I received a hint from the last person I made some for that they might like some for Christmas, I think this is a recipe I should be writing up!
After making the bath melts and putting them aside to set I stopped for a late lunch before doing the dishes. It’s amazing how much easier washing up is when you’re doing it to create the space to do something fun rather than just because it needs to be done! A bit more knitting and some play time with the cats had to be fitted in, then it was time to make the jelly. Chopping the mint that was going to be mixed in at the end took quite some time but eventually I was happy that I had enough and that it was fine enough. Jars went into the oven and jelly making proper began. This was a slightly experimental jelly in that I was using my sugar thermometer to tell me when it was at setting point; normally I test for set using the chilled plate technique but, since it was a relatively small batch and I would have time in the week to reboil it if needs be, I thought it a worthwhile experiment. Initially it did seem quite liquid in but today it looks like it has set properly, obviously the true test will come when we sample it. I have to say, I think it looks rather pretty in the jars, hopefully it will taste as good as it looks.
Sometimes I need to plan better, or not to let myself get distracted from my original plans. On Monday I got home from work at a sensible time planning to make Creamy Potato Gratin with Herbs from the dinner party section of Vegetarian Classics; somehow the evening sped by and I ended up opting for a quicker to prepare option for supper. Last night I got home from work at 10:30pm and decided that, since I’d bought the cream and cheese on Monday, I ought to make my gratin despite the time.
This wasn’t a difficult dish to make but I underestimated the preparation time; I think it took as long to chop and grate ingredients as to actually bake the gratin. If I’d wanted to speed up the process I could have used the food processor to cut the potatoes into matchsticks and to grate the cheese but I tend to avoid using noisy gadgets late at night.
I used a goats’ gouda in place of the gruyère the recipe called for, very flavoursome but not too goaty for the Railway Modeller. My herbs in this instance were a simple mix of parsley and thyme, I had those in the fridge and didn’t fancy going out in the dark and wet to cut anything else from the garden, and I was fairly generous with the black pepper and nutmeg.
We didn’t eat until just after midnight but it was worth the wait. Both our plates were cleared too well for the cats’ liking, I had a second helping I probably didn’t need, and neither of is is objecting to the fact that we’ll be eating gratin again for supper tonight. Although the recipe suggested a wider selection of herbs we both felt the flavour was just right as I’d made it. Some of the potato in the centre was very slightly firmer than would have been perfect; I think cooking it in a shallower dish with a larger base area than the casserole dish I used would avoid that next time.
I’d better not make this too often though, with all that cheese and cream it’s a slightly wicked supper!
5 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking
Still in season, still locally grown, I had to try another asparagus dish this week. The indulgence levels crept even higher this time though, with fennel and baby leeks amongst the vegetables creeping in with some double cream to accompany the asparagus. Following it with strawberries was pure decadence.
Pasta with Spring Vegetables
I didn’t quite follow the recipe as written; Vegetarian Classics would have had me boil each of the vegetables, one after another, in the same pan of water then keep them warm while cooking the pasta and the sauce, instead I steamed them together and cooked the rest of the dish towards the end of the steaming time. My approach worked perfectly well and seemed simpler.
The sauce called for fresh mixed herbs so I raided the garden. In addition to the suggested parsley, thyme and sage I used lemon thyme and oregano. The lemon thyme particularly worked to compliment the fennel and asparagus and even in less extravagant suppers I will be combining those flavours again. Asparagus and lemon thyme omelette is crying out to be created.
As is often the case with vegetarian cookery books, Parmesan was the recommended garnish for this dish; I’ve said it before and will no doubt find myself saying it again but Parmesan is not vegetarian. I have had this cookery book for 10 years so perhaps more recent publications have finally started getting this right! I’d have been substituting on the cheese anyway as cows’ milk doesn’t like me but it does irritate me when vegetarian recipe books specify non-vegetarian ingredients.
3 out of 5 for clear instructions and ease of cooking (too much faffing about as written)