Monday, July 25, 2011

The Great Culinary Experiment

My enthusiasm for cooking largely depends on what I need to make and when.  Need a cake, I'll make you one any time.  Need something interesting for supper when I'm only 10 minutes through the door from work and I've forgotten to defrost whatever it was I was planning on us having, housewifely enterprise dribbles out the door while I dial up the takeaway.

Part of the problem is that, as with many people, the easiest things to cook are the recipes in my brain, and there's a limited amount of space in the recipe section.  From all of this (and the side effect of having spag bol for the 14th week running) I came up with The Challenge.

I'm not going to do it every week, and I fully reserve my right to deviate from it if there's something in the fridge that needs using up, but basically I'm going back to my cookbooks:
  • Each week all or most of our meals have to come from one cookbook on the shelf.
  • Not the cake books (sadly, but probably for the best).
  • Minor deviations from the recipes are allowed.
  • No more than two meals can be things we've tried before.
In the true spirit of the rules, our first week has started with a bit of a cheat.  I don't own this cookbook. Yet.
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The River Cottage Family Cookbook.  I've got to take it back to the library soon because I've had my three renewals but I may very well check it in and straight out again.  So what have we been eating:
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Spaghetti Carbonara - oh was this good and oh was this fast - we had some freshly made pasta in the fridge so the whole meal took about 10 minutes to make - a perfect work day supper, especially followed by

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Strawberry Fool - the strawbs on top were from the strawberry patch in the garden but it hasn't cropped heavily enough to make a whole pudding.  We left out the icing sugar so that Kitty could have some and the strawberries were sweet enough that we didn't miss it.
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Salmon Fishcakes - another good supper staple and nice to find a recipe without onions.  I made it as the recipe but left out the salt to be baby-friendly and whilst it was nice, I think we would spice it up a little (our preference for tangy food having risen every year we've lived in the Balti Belt). Maybe a little chopped chili, or possibly even some paprika would do the trick.
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Lamb 'Kebabs' - it was raining so we roasted rather than BBQ, but they were delicious.  I added some extra veg to the mix; yellow pepper was great, green pepper was too bitter which was a bit of a shame but tucked into pittas they went down a treat and a nice change from using pasta, rice or potatoes as the evening carb.
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Sag Aloo - this was a Kitty and Mummy lunch and it was really good.  Kitty loved picking up the little potato cubes, and I enjoyed having homegrown spinach - even if a certain someone did seem to be hiding hers under her bottom.
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Kedgeree - when I was little, every Easter we had a Service of Light at church, starting packed together in the dark at the back of church and going out to meet the rising sun.  After the service, we all had a bring and share breakfast (and a chocolate egg hunt in the churchyard) and Mrs Nancy always brought her amazingly delicious muesli and kedgeree. It was good. This was good too, not quite up to my rose-tinted standard, possibly because I turned out not to have any curry powder and subbed crushed cumin seeds instead, but comforting and filling in a good way. 

Chocolate Brownies and Shortbread. Notice the lack of pictures.  This is all you need to know.  Draw your own conclusions on their merit.

All in all, Week One of the Great Culinary Experiment has gone well.  This week we're eating up the freezer and the veg patch but next week we'll be working our way through the Ginger Pig Meat Book - can't wait.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Double Figures .. Again

It's months this time, our little Kitty-cakes has hit double again - 10 months old today.
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10 months? How can she be 10 months? Wasn't it only a month or so ago that a small, warm, mewling, bundle of baby girl, with dark hair and beautiful big eyes was lifted up to me for her very first cuddle?
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They say that the big development milestones hit around the threes and multiples thereof and Kit spent the last month reaching them in leaps and bounds. Literally.

On our birthday she could commando crawl slowly, with some strategic rolling, crossing a room in a gentle zig-zag. One month on and she's got crawling nailed, first commando crawling at speed and now the bottom's up and she's full speed ahead - into the kitchen, down the hall, round and round the lounge.
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A serious reorganisation and the next level of baby proofing is on the cards for the not too distant future.
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I went back to work part-time a couple of weeks ago and Kitty seems to have (finally) settled in to nursery.  I give her big cuddles in the sling all the way from the car, and then pop her into a highchair and pass her her breakfast toast, and I scuttle off as she tuck in.
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Truth be told, it's still hard to leave her, she's just so much fun at this age, so much more interactive than even a month ago; she's all big smiles and chatty noises, and she knows what "clap" and "wave" mean and can match the action to the word.
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This afternoon we sat and chatted in the kitchen as I cooked (I tell her what I'm doing and she says "agooo") and then sat in the garden in her new little tent (a present from her Daddy who knows how much his little girl loves being outside).  We played with her teddies, sang songs, and read Room on the Broom (to an appreciative audience increased by a little boy next door up a tree).
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She is our love, and with H, the centre of my world. Happy 10-month birthday my little love.  Your next landmark birthday is going to be a big one.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Haute Couture and Granite Mines

They don't have much to do with one another at first glance do they? Actually, even at second glance, or a third glance, they don't seem to be even remotely connected. But they are ...

When the Knit Nation schedule was launched there was one class in among all the other temptations that really stuck out, Susanna Hansson's Bohus Stickning, and when the maths added up so that I could go, I was bouncing up and down in my seat.
Needless to say the whole Knit Nation experience was just as fantastic this year as last, a testament to Alice and Cookie's serious organisational skills. Seriously, world peace and the national debt - they'd have it done in a heartbeat.
Rather than try to persuade a clingy little baby that she wanted to be without her Mama for the longest time ever, and given the crazy lack of trains available to get you into London at 8am on a Sunday, we took a chance and the whole family drove down at some unmentionable hour on silent almost empty roads.
We arrived at Imperial and parked almost at the front door to the Sherfield building and scuttled past the raindrops to register and to blag our way into being allowed to buy breakfast at the canteen.  Fortified with a fry-up and a little croissant, Kitty and H set off to explore London and I headed to class.

I can't remember where I first came across a Bohus jumper but it was love at first sight.  They're so beautiful and soft and fuzzy and I wanted one.  And that's how I came to have a Wild Apples Bohus kit sat in my cupboard for the last few years. All I needed was a bit of a kick into starting it.

We started class talking about the history of Bohus, how the closure of the granite mines in Sweden after demand plummeted in the post-war recession led the wives of the men who worked there to ask the governor's wife for help, and the enterprising Emma Jacobssen organised them to knit jumpers from the very best yarn that were sold as haute couture for a price that would reach well into the thousands today.

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My complete failure to count to 72 somewhat slowed down my progress on my little wristwarmer but the fourth time was the charm and we knit and chatted and I went into a little dream world of enchantment with the loveliness of the angora/wool yarn. Actually that could have been genuine sleep (tiny wee madam had been awake from 2am to the time we had to get up) and I was staving off the tiredness with regular infusions of caffeine.
Susanna is a fabulous teacher, and her love of Bohus knitting and the whole concept shines through everything she says. I picked up some great tips to apply to my little kit, especially not catching the floats however long they are.  It's a little counter-intuitive when Fairisle projects stress catching the floats to prevent snagging but the yarn is so fluffy and sticky that a little wear will matt it together nicely.

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The wristwarmers are a part of the Blue Shimmer pattern, now newly added to my ongoing wishlist of Bohus kits on Solveig's site
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And then came the moment we'd all been waiting for, a chance to have a really good look at Susanna's collection of original and reconstruction jumpers, cardigans, hats and scarves.  
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They're so unexpectedly light
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And fluffy with a soft halo.
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H had a marketplace ticket for the day, mainly so that he and Kitty could use the Knitting Parlour upstairs (a sectioned off bit of Imperial's SCR) to have a nice sit down over lunch and to meet up with me at the end of the day.  And of course it was then only natural then that he wandered around the marketplace with me, to hold my shopping of course (as well as a 21lb baby), and we came home with a good mix of things for me to knit for me, for him and for Kitty but more on that another day when I've managed to take some photos.

And for those who read this blog purely for a little Kitty-fix (I'm looking at you, grandparents), a little something to whet your appetite (and enter competitive grandparenting with the assertion that Kitty went to university when she was only 10 month old ..!)

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Monday, July 04, 2011

As English as...

On Sunday afternoon H, Kitty and I took up our duty as English citizens and, for a few hours, fulfilled our national stereotype.  H went to play T-20 cricket at the club and we loaded up with books and toys, a quilt and a picnic and set camp to watch an ancient English rain dance take place.
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Cricket has to be the only game where you have a fry up before you start and a sandwich and a doughnut at half time but it seemed to do the trick; they romped home with two overs to spare and only five wickets down (two back to back when they only needed one more run to win).
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Kitty rolled around and around, tickled her toes in the grass, befriended another baby girl who crawled over so that they could giggle together and read her books (upside down) until she snuggled down in her buggy for an afternoon nap.
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And me, well I had a good book and some knitting but more on that another day.
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When we got home I spotted a flash of red in our front garden veggie beds and underneath the netting were three perfect Florence strawberries, unmolested by pigeons, caterpillars or other nibbly things.
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H said they were yummy, I thought they were fragrant and sweet and Kitty said "Aaaaageee" and ate hers all up so I think they're a success and Florence is definitely on the shopping list for next year.  So we've had spinach and strawberries, the leeks are coming on nicely and if we can catch them, we might even have some potatoes later on. It's an English summer at her best.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling ...

I know, I know, it's July (don't worry, you haven't just slept for five months and woken up in December).

I've been missing in action (again) because I've been hard at work on an actual genuine crafty project.
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With Kitty spending more and more time at nursery in preparation for my return to work, I've had a little time to pull out some projects from the back of the cupboard, and I'm starting with a quilt.  Or should that be re-starting?
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I started properly not last Christmas, or the one before that, but the one before that (I think).  It's a barbed wire quilt using Moda's Let it Snow  fabric which needs a good amount of the contrast colour to make the stars, far more than I had so it got tucked in a bag while I searched the internet for a matching jelly roll, a charm pack and another charm pack.

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I think I'd originally made about a third of the quilt and I had most of the jelly roll (some of it got pilfered for Kitty's stocking) and the charm packs to chop up into 4.5" or 6.5" little rectangles.

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If I'd cut the white to the right size to start with I'd have had enough but for some reason I started cutting them too large - lesson learned, don't watch telly and cut.
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So now I've got lots of little piles of rectangles, just ready for the moment when Miss Kitty has a little nap, and I've got time to abandon the housework in favour of my sewing machine.  I might even finish it before Christmas.