Monday, 25 February 2013

Home Made Chicken Soup

 I was unwell at the weekend and decided to use up some of the chicken stock in our freezer for Monday's lunch.  It is gentle on the stomach and good for what ails you.
I added a few noodles and a bit of celery leaf to give it more flavour. Normally I would use the stock as a base for another, more robust, soup.  Just for show, I snipped a bit of spring onion green on the top.  You could equally use chives or parsley.
The soup was delicious and 'just what the doctor ordered'.

Chicken stock is so easy to make and can be very economical if you are using up the carcass from a roasted chicken. If you want to make it from scratch, use 4 or 5 large chicken wings.  I always make some before Thanksgiving to add to the turkey gravy.  If you haven't made chicken soup before, here's what to do:

1 chicken carcass (use as much of this as you can - bones, skin and whatever small bits of meat are clinging to the bone.)
(You can use 4 or 5 large raw chicken wings if you like.)
1 onion
1 stick of celery (including a few leaves)
4 or 5 peppercorns - whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
enough water to cover the bones and vegetables

Put everything in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down and simmer for an hour.
Sieve to remove the vegetables and bones.
If you want to eat it at this stage, replace some of the meat and vegetables, taste for seasoning and reheat.
If you want to keep it for later, it freezes well and becomes a wonderful stock for many soup recipes.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Fabric Heaven - A Day in London

I had a delightful day out in London this week. By London, I mean the West End, home of Liberty and other wonderful places. I was amused  by these two phone boxes flanked by a dustcart and some rubbish bags.  They look a little drunken, but that is just the angle of my camera. Not many of these still exist, having been replaced by newer, less aesthetic versions in grey steel and glass.

These newer ones are not very soundproof and trying to make a call in them is like trying to make a call in the centre of a busy station.  Most, of course, have been superseded by mobile phones.

It's only when I have forgotten my mobile and have to make an urgent call, that I have to use a public phone.  It's is not a pleasant experience, but I love the look of the old booths.

My first stop was Liberty, of course.  This is a view of the store from Argyl Street, about level with the Paladium. My photo is probably blurred because I was hurrying to take a picture before someone else stepped in front of me.  Nevertheless, even blurry, it is a beautiful building.

What was required next, was a cup of coffee in the cafe.  Liberty used to have a tea shop, a cafe and a restaurant. Suddenly they modernised and downsized to one cafe. The coffee was good and the pastries looked excellent, but the ambience is not the same. No longer any table cloths, and there is a lingering smell of  chip oil in the air - not very Liberty.

After my coffee, I set off for the fabric department. Here is a view of the skylights from the third floor.

One wall of crafting fabrics.  Kaffe Fassett, Rowan and Amy Butler included.

My downfall - quilting jelly rolls. Must not buy any more until I finish the one I have.

A selection of Liberty print bias binding.  Expensive, but beautiful for finishing off a project.

I adore paisley fabric.  Here is a selection in Tana Lawn. Irresistible.

Shown below, some of their newest Tana Lawn prints.

Mmm... More Tana Lawn.

The flower emporium, just outside the front door.

This lion is only trying to look ferocious.  He is one of a pair.

Some pretty greens. I like the Eucalyptus.

Another view of the lovely woodwork on the front of the store.

Even what would look like clutter in my garden is artfully arranged.

Some laurel branches piled into a tin tub.

After leaving Liberty, I walked through Carnaby Street and down Brewer Street to Berwick Street in Soho.  One end of this street is rather seedy, but after that, there is the market and several fabric shops.  It's hard to choose a favourite, but I think The Cloth House wins.  There are actually two sites for this shop, but the one nearest Oxford Street at 98 Berwick Street has cottons and I love it.

Just a selection of what is inside.

I found these Japanese cottons in a corner.  They would make a wonderful kimono.  
Will think about that for the future.

Pretty baskets filled with rugs and old shoe lasts.

 Finally, hungry after my little walk, I stopped to have a kale Caesar salad.  
Unusual, but healthy and delicious. Isn't it pretty. Real food after food for the soul.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Creamy Cauliflower and Stilton Soup

 Beautiful creamy white cauliflowers are in abundance in England at the moment and I can't resist them.  Teamed up with Stilton, they are divine.
 I first started making this soup in France with whatever left over blue cheese came to hand.
Today I made the soup with Stilton, bought specially for this recipe.  I found three shallots lurking in the bottom of the onion bag and I used them, but a regular onion will work just as well.

Creamy Cauliflower and Stilton Soup
1 Tablespoon olive oil.
1 small or medium cauliflower, leaves and stalk removed, and separated into florets.
1 small onion or 3 shallots.
A stock cube (optional).
Salt and white pepper.

1 oz butter.
2 Tablespoons flour.
A little salt and white pepper.
8 oz (1 cup) milk.
2 1/2 oz (or so) of Stilton, crumbled.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
Chop the onion and sauté gently for about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower florets and enough water to barely cover them.
Add stock cube and salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Let it cool a little then use a mouli or a blender to puree the cauliflower.

In a smaller saucepan or a milk pan, melt the butter.
Add the flour and whisk together.
Add a little salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and stir in the milk, then put back on the heat and whisk until it is thick and starting to boil.
Remove from the heat and stir in the crumbled Stilton.
Add this mixture to the pureed cauliflower and whisk it together.
Reheat gently, if necessary.
Serve with a little bit of crumbled cheese on the top.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Bread, Butter and Marmalade Pudding

Having made marmalade a few days ago and knowing that there were some good marmalade pudding recipes and cakes around, I set about searching for them.  Some were in my cookbooks and in clippings I had saved, but this one, found online, appealed to me most as a good midwinter pud.  It is very easy to make - just a variation of bread and butter pudding.

Not only that, but I had all the ingredients and even some vanilla pods from Madascar, courtesy of my friend's son.
The recipe is by Matthew Drennan, in Delicious magazine. I hope he won't mind my blogging it. You can find it and other recipes on  It serves 6 - 8 and it deserves to be shared.


50 g (2 oz) butter, softened
7 - 9 slices of white bread, crusts removed
9 Tablespoons marmalade
100 g sultanas (about 1/2 cup)
225 ml cream, plus more to serve (about 1 cup)
225 ml milk (about 1 cup)
3 medium eggs
50 g (2 oz) sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lenghways, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Icing sugar for dusting


  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F
  • Butter a dish large enough to hold the pudding
  • Spread the butter on each slice of bread, then spread the marmalade on top.
  • Cut into triangles.
  • Arrange about half the bread on the bottom of the pan in a single layer.
  • Sprinkle the sultanas over the bottom layer.
  • Arrange the rest of the bread on top.
  • Lightly whisk the cream, milk, eggs and sugar in a bowl.
  • Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the cream mixture.
  • Rinse and dry the pod and put it in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.
  • Pour the mixture over the bread and leave it to soak for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Put the dish in a bain marie (another pan with some boiling water in it).
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown on top and lightly set in the middle.
  • Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

So creamy.  I can't think of a better winter dessert.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day.  It's lovely to have a cheerful holiday in the middle of February.
Enjoy your day.


Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Work in Progress

I have three sewing projects on the go and must finish two of them by Saturday. No pressure. I have been publishing lots of recipes lately because we have to eat and I enjoy cooking.  It's not that hard to take a photo and post the recipe. I should be sewing right now, not blogging, but blogging is so compulsive.

The half-finished kimono

1)  The kimono for my friend has been put together.  I need to set in the sleeves and line them and make an obi to hold it together.  Hope to see my friend on Saturday evening and as this is now a late birthday present, must finish it.

The French linen sheets

 2)  I am turning a set of old French linen sheets into curtains for my daughter's new house.  I've seen so many designs in decorating magazines using old French linen.  Occasionally it is dyed a denim colour or a pale pink.  I am so intrigued by this that I sometimes pick up linen when I am in France.  I now have a few pieces, but this is the first time I have done something with it. It can be found in 'Vide Greniers" (empty your attic) and at Brocantes (always more expensive there). You can see the pretty faggoting which I have used as the hem to make a feature of it. It is impossible to take a photo of the whole thing, but they are BIG and heavy.  I have lined them with polyester cotton sheets (more stable than curtain lining) and now must make the channel at the top and work out a way to attach blackout.  I will try Velcro and hope for the best.  The blackouts can then be removed and they can be cleaned professionally.  No one wants to iron these things as they are worse than linen tablecloths; however my daughter has a steamer and I am hoping that will smooth them out. Must be finished by the weekend.

The quilt,  unpicked

3)  I have unpicked the wadding from my 'puffy' quilt and will follow the good advice I have had to re-do it.  There is no deadline, so this is going back in storage until I have time to work on it.

N.B. This is not a moan.  I love doing these things and probably work better under pressure - like most people.  Hope you are enjoying your projects too.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Minestrone - The Monday Soup

If it's Monday, it must her soup day.  This one is quick, easy and vegetarian. Although we love meat, we think it is good to have a couple of meatless days in the week.
Traditionally minestrone has cannelini beans and green beans in it.  I didn't have either this time, so I made it without them. Frozen peas gave it the extra dimension.

To make the soup, gather up whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.  I used onion, leek, carrots, celery, tinned tomatoes and frozen peas.  The carrots give it a sweetness that counteracts the acidity of the tomatoes. The second time I served it,  I added a bit of shredded cabbage. If you have left over corn, you can add that too.
Sometimes I add a cup of small pasta shapes for the last 10 minutes to make it more of a meal.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic (chopped or crushed)
1 leek
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped, plus a few of the green leaves if you have them
1 tin plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Water and stock cube
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup shredded cabbage (optional)
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat the oil gently in a saucepan.
Add the onion, leek, carrots and celery, put the lid on and let the vegetables soften over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Cover the vegetables with water and add a stock cube (if you wish) and the seasoning.
Drain the tin of tomatoes, but save the juice for another recipe, and put the drained tomatoes in the soup.
Add the sugar.
Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the frozen peas and reheat.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Free Giveaway, Fortune Cookie Bag

The bag opened up and lying flat.
I first blogged this bag on 31 March 2012 and now this fortune cookie bag will be a gift to someone who wants it.  It measures approx. 70 cm x 70 cm (27.5" x 27.5") and can be folded up to handkerchief size.  The fabric is a colourful stripe in a heavy cotton. It can be used for:

  • a crafts bag (for knitting, crochet or patchwork
  • a nappy/diaper bag
  • a sports kit bag
  • a shopping bag
  • a carryon for travelling
  • a beach bag
  • an ironing bag 
  • etc., etc...

The bag is used by tying the top two points together to make a handle and because it is deceptively large, it will hold more that you think.  One of my friends described hers as 'a Tardis'.

Below you can see two views of it tied and with just a few things in it.

Here it is with one fold:

With two folds:

With three folds.  It is now about handkerchief size.

To win this bag, you need to do three things before the 1st of March 2012:

1.  Leave a comment on this blog and tell me what you might use the bag for.
2.  If you have a blog, mention my blog on it.
3.  Give me a link to your blog so I can look at it. (I could spend all day looking at other people's     blogs.)
The winner will be chosen by the  Random Number Generator.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Banana Walnut Cake

When bananas get too ripe, I just can't throw them away. I used to try to make banana bread with them, but it always came out either too dry or uncooked in the middle. This banana cake is the perfect solution as it is moist and not too heavy. With or without icing, it is delicious with ice cream.
The original recipe is from Lee Bailey's Country Desserts, a gift from my niece and one of my favourite cookbooks. Lee Bailey's recipe is a layer cake, sandwiched with cream and more sliced bananas and topped with a boiled frosting.  Delicious! I have made the original and served it as a dessert,   but this variation has evolved over the years and we like it because it keeps for a week, if stored in a tin, and it is portable. I used to take it to work as a treat for my colleagues and I was very popular on cake making days.

Banana Walnut Cake
4 oz softened butter or soft margarine (I use soft margarine)
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted Self Rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 2 teaspoons cinnamon (If you don't like cinnamon, you can leave this out.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Cream butter and sugar.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.
Sieve flour and the rest of the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Gently mix flour and bananas into the creamed mixture.
Lighten the mixture with a little warm water from the kettle, if necessary. ( I always do this with cakes as it makes a lighter cake. The mixture should flow smoothly into the pan.)
Fold in the walnuts.
Bake at 350 F/ 180C in a greased and lined 8" by 11" pan for 25-30 minutes.
Do not overbake as the cake will be dry.
Check the top.  It if is a bit springy in the middle, it is done.
Let the cake cool on a rack before icing.

Maple Walnut Icing
2 oz butter (You need to use real butter for the icing.)
3 Tablespoons milk
8 oz icing sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon maple flavouring (If you don't have this, use a little maple syrup.)\
16 - 20 walnut halves

In a milk pan, melt the butter. Watch it carefully!
Add the milk and the maple flavouring.
Using a whisk, add the icing sugar.
If it is too thin, add a little more sugar.
If it is too thick, add a little more milk.
Stir until it bubbles.
Immediately smooth it over the cake.
Place the walnuts in neat rows on top of the icing so each serving will have a walnut on it.

Lee Bailey's Country Desserts. This is a beautiful book, well worth the space on your shelf.  It was published in 1988 by Clarkson N Potter, Inc/ Distributed by Crown Publishers, Inc., New York. ISBN No. 0-517-56515-3.

A generous slice of cake on my pretty Portmerion dish.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Quilting Blues

My puffy quilt

A few days ago, Florence at blogged about wadding.  If only I had seen this sooner.  Her quilting is exquisite, but she was blogging about the problems of not using the right wadding. Ditto.
Having spent an enormous amount of time (and money) on my Liberty quilt, I simply bought the first wadding I came across.  What a mistake.  Instead of the elegant quilt I envisaged, I have a puffy mess.  The wadding is too thick. My sewing machine does not like it.  My quilt is meant to be quite flat and stitched in channels 1" wide. Impossible. You can see the result in the photos.
I spent last evening watching television (to distract me) and unpicking two thirds of my quilt.  I hope to finish this tedious job tonight.
I will replace the wadding with a thin, fleece-type wadding and hopefully my next attempt will be better.  Watch this space.



Oh dear!

Oh dear!

Oh dear!

Better luck next time.