Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter.  It should be sunny and warm, but it isn't. Winter is still hanging on in England, so our Easter Egg hunt will have to be in the house.
I made this wreath yesterday to hang on the wall next to the front door. ( It looks so bare once the Christmas wreath is gone.) The wreath was quite easy to make, and if I had been more organised, I could have done a tutorial.

Too late now, but for future reference, it's easy.

 I got an oasis wreath from my florist and soaked it for an hour.  Then Hubby and I 'pruned' the privet hedge for some greenery.  I snipped those into small pieces and pushed them into the wreath at an angle, being careful to cover the whole thing.  Next I pushed some small flowers in, then added the (plastic) eggs with a ribbon to hang the wreath from.  It took less than an hour. Very effective as long as we don't have a very strong wind.

We will be celebrating Easter with our children.  The menu is turkey, chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and broccoli.  (Sounds like Thanksgiving?  You're right.) The turkey was in the freezer, begging to be cooked.
Dessert is courtesy of Marks and Spencer.  Apricot and almond tart and cheesecake.  The pastry chef is having a day off.

Happy Easter

Friday, 29 March 2013

Jaffa Sponge Cake - Just in time for Easter

Jaffa sponge

 I made marmalade in January and we have been enjoying it on toast and in bread and butter pudding ever since.  I thought that as Jaffa cakes are so popular, I could reproduce that flavour in a home made orange sponge with a marmalade filling and a chocolate fudge icing.
 If you don't have homemade marmalade, commercial marmalade will be just as good.
This cake would be great for Easter. You could use orange icing, decorated with mini chocolate eggs

Orange Sponge Cake

8 oz soft margarine (Stork or Flora)
8 oz sugar
4 eggs (medium - large)
8 oz Self Raising Flour
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
Grated rind and juice of one large orange.

Grease, line and lightly dust two 8" round cake tins with flour
In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar until it is pale and golden.
Add the eggs one at a time.
Adde 1 teaspoon Vanilla essence and the grated rind of one orange.
Fold in the flour.
Lighten the mixture with the orange juice.
Divide evenly into the two tins and bake at 350 F or 180 C for 20 minutes.
The cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed in the centre.
Cool and spread marmalade over the bottom layer.
Place the other layer on top.

Chocolate fudge icing
In a small saucepan, melt 2 oz of butter and add 3 Tablespoons of milk.
Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder and stir.
Sift 8 oz of icing sugar and add to the pan.
Whisk until smooth, adding a little more milk if necessary.
While the icing is still warm, spread the icing evenly over the top and down the sides.
Cool and serve.

Here's a slice for you.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Borscht - Beetroot Soup, Warming and Delicious

Borscht - Beetroot Soup. It really warms you up. made

Borscht is beetroot soup.  Delicious.  Sweet, savoury and hearty, it is a staple in Eastern European cooking. When I was growing up we ate it often and my mother's recipe was complicated and included meat, probably a bit of boiled beef.
When I was in my teens, my mother acquired a new and easier borscht recipe and that is the one she used for the rest of her life. We all loved it because it contained tinned tomato soup, which probably made it sweeter.  I have made it many times too, but this time, I tried my niece's recipe. It's more authentic and it is certainly more delicious.

You can find it her recipe along with some other fabulous recipes. This one appeared in November 2011.

Have a look at it. Try it. If you don't feel up to it, you can always make the recipe for easy borscht below:

Easy Borscht
3 or 4  large, raw beetroot, peeled and diced (If you can find them, you can use canned beetroot, but they must not be cooked in vinegar.)
1 onion
4 cups water
1 can tomato soup
2 cups frozen peas
1 stick (4 oz) butter
2 sprigs of dill (dill weed)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper

Peel and dice beetroot and onion.
Put into water, add salt, pepper dill weed and bay leaf.
Bring to boil and simmer about 15 minutes until the beetroot is cooked.
Add butter and tomato soup.
Bring to boil again.
Add frozen peas and cop for 5 minutes.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream in each bowl.
Peel and dice the beetroot and chop the onion.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Jenny's Kimono

 Having promised my friend Jenny a year ago, that I would make her a kimono  I am pleased to say that it was finished and delivered on Friday.  It came out well, even if the pattern was incomprehensible in places and I just had to make it up as I went along.  But that's another story.  Soon I will blog about pattern instructions that are difficult or impossible to follow.  I imagine anyone who sews has had that experience.
The kimono is made of a bright pink and purple polyester cotton.  As it is going to be a dressing gown it will be easy to care for.  I used purple ribbons for the ties and made a matching purple obi.  The finished look was very pleasing and Jenny was delighted with her kimono.

Below you can see the kimono laid out with the purple obi loosely tied around the waist.  Notice the split sleeves.  Once I worked out what to do (no thanks to the pattern instructions), they were not too difficult. An added bonus is that everything was done on the machine.

Kimono with purple obi

A closer view of the split sleeve

Jenny in her kimono

Monday, 11 March 2013

Celery Soup with Stilton and Croutons

Cream of Celery Soup with parsley, croutons and crumbled Stilton cheese.

It's bitterly cold in London (and the rest of England) this week.  Soup is the perfect warmer.  When Hubby and I are at home for lunch (about once a week), I often make soup.
This time I decided to make celery soup, loosely based on a recipe by Delia Smith.  It is fairly quick to make and uses up things found in the fridge. It can be a bit bland, so I decided to liven it up with a few garnishes. The first one was inspired by 'The Barefoot Contessa's' oven croutons. I used two slices of  a big round of French crusty bread and it made delicious croutons.  There was also a piece of Stilton in the fridge so I used that too. A final garnish of parsley gave it a bit of colour.

A garnish of home made oven croutons and crumbled Stilton cheese.

1 oz butter (about a walnut sized piece) and about 1 Tablespoon olive oil
6  stalks of celery, chopped
Celery leaves
1 medium onion
1 medium potato
Salt and pepper
1 pint (2 1/2 cups) water 
1 vegetable stock cube
5 oz single cream
5 oz milk
A little freshly grated nutmeg
Croutons (optional)
Crumbled Stilton or blue cheese (optional)

Gently melt the butter and oil in a large saucepan.
Add the chopped vegetables and sweat them, covered, for about 15 minutes.
Add the celery leaves, seasoning, water and stock cube.
Bring to a boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes.
Using a stick blender (mouli) or a potato masher, puree the vegetables.
Add the cream and milk and reheat gently.
Serve with croutons and crumbled Stilton if desired and garnish with a little chopped parsley.

Home made croutons:
Cut up two generous slices of crusty bread into cubes and put them in a bowl.
Sprinkle over 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and some seasoning.  
(I used ground pepper and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning.)
Place on a baking sheet in a hot oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  
Keep your eye on them as you do  not want them to burn.
Sprinkle them over the soup just before serving so they stay crisp.  The contrast with the creamy soup is wonderful.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Knitted Sampler Scarf

Hubby wanted to borrow something I had knitted today to use as a prop for a seminar he is giving.  He is going to be 'interviewed' for a job on 'Simply Knitting' magazine and present himself as someone who has knowledge of knitting.  (Stop laughing.)
I dug around in my bag of winter scarves in the loft and found this one.  It is made of Alpaca wool and it is a sampler scarf.

I was inspired by the owner of a little boutique in St Brieuc, in Brittany, who had the most beautiful things in her shop.  She sold a few bits of exquisite material including real Breton linen, buttons, ribbons and trims and some wool. Unfortunately, she is no longer there. I came across her knitting a scarf similar to this one one day and decided to try it for myself.
It is called a sampler scarf because it combines several different kinds of stitches.  None of them are complicated and it was the perfect project for me as I am not an accomplished knitter. The stitches, shown below are a combination of basket weave, garter stitch, seed stitch and rib stitch.  I finished the scarf by crocheting a little scalloped edge on each end.  It's a lovely thing, but unfortunately, Alpaca is itchy! Hence, it was still in the winter scarf bag at the end of winter.
At the moment I am attempting to knit a sort of Aran cushion cover with cables.  Watch this space.  I may even finish it.

Here you can see seed stitch and basket weave.

This is a larger basket weave and a bit of stockinet stitching.

A close up of seed stitch and basket weave.

The smaller basket weave stitch - I did two sizes.

The pretty scalloped edging.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Splash of Colour

 I have not done any sewing, knitting or crafting for about two weeks.  I just haven't had the time or inclination and the dress on the left was purchased at The White Stuff at Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth yesterday.  We drove down the Portsmouth to celebrate a friend's birthday.  It was a cheerful visit and just what we needed to mark the beginning of March.
She lives right next to Gunwharf, a retail outlet centre.  It is a ritual that when we go to see her, she and I hit the shops while Hubby sits in her flat and enjoys the view of the ferries coming and going and has a crafty smoke on her little balcony. Then we all meet up for lunch. What a life!
As you can see, the dress is fresh out of the bag, not yet pressed.  The colours are so cool and pretty and it will be perfect for our trip to Rome for a wedding in August.  
 Below is the back view.  It has a straight neckline at the front and a V at the back.  What I love about the style is that it has a high waist and a waistband - good for camouflaging the 'tummy area'. It is also lined and has a zip at the side.  I may just try to copy it at some point, but it would not be particularly easy to make.  Sometimes it's so nice to find something ready made.

The best was yet to come. We scoured the shops for a co-ordinating cardigan for cool evenings to no avail. The White Stuff had one but it did not really suit me.  I kept saying I thought I had something at home - and I did.  Here it is - a cashmere cardigan from Hobbs, purchased about three years ago.  I nearly listed it in ebay before Christmas as it has had so little wear.  Hooray.  A new lease of life for my cardigan and a completed outfit.

Shopaholic?  Me?  Yes. The girl can't help herself.