Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Celeriac and Celery Soup

Celeriac and Celery Soup topped with chopped parsley.

Celeriac is in season now.  Whenever I see it perched on the electricity box at the market stall in St Marks Square in Wimbledon (Really!), I know I should not miss the opportunity to cook with it.  Celeriac has a softer, more delicate flavour than celery. It makes beautiful mash when mixed with potatoes and it makes a lovely soup, with or without the addition of celery.

Today, it was warm and sunny in the kitchen and I just couldn't resist staying in there and cooking something.

The ingredients.

With the additions of a potato to thicken the soup a little.

2 small onions.
1/2 a celeriac, peeled and diced.
4 or 5 stalks of celery.
1 small potato.
Celery leaves. ( I save these whenever I can to add flavour to dishes like this.)
1 bay leaf.
Pepper (and salt if needed)
1 teaspoon celery salt or even better, celery seeds
Water to cover
A stock cube (optional)

In a large pan, heat oil gently and add chopped onions.
Sweat them for 5 minutes, but do not allow them to brown.
Add celeriac, chopped celery and potato.
Put in just enough water to cover the vegetables.
Add bay leaf and seasoning.
If you want to use one, add your stock cube now.
Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the potato and celeriac and soft.
Remove the bay leaf.
Remove from heat and use a hand blender or a potato masher to puree the vegetables.
If you like a chunkier soup, reserve some of the celery and put it back in the pan after you have blended the rest.
Serve garnished with a little chopped parsley or chives.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Liberty Quilt - Still working on it...

All the fabric cut into narrower strips.

I've promised myself that I will finish this quilt by Easter.  I was working on it last January, starting with great enthusiasm and descending into  great disappointment. However I arranged the stripes they did not seem right.  The darks stood out too much and the lights seemed insipid.  There did not seem to be an arrangement that would accommodate them.

 Deciding I would never be happy with, I left it for awhile until I could find a solution.

The original construction, which was not working.

Inspired by a quilt I saw on a blog (I can't find the source so I can't show it.), I decided to do something that will look a little like a modern log cabin. I  cut all the strips lengthways to make narrower bands (2' to 4" wide) and stitched them together again, ensuring that they were nicely mixed.

Cutting each strip into narrower bands.

The strips re-stitched.

I then cut them into squares.  I think the 12" squares are too large, so i am in the process of cutting them into 6" squares. All very time consuming, but I hope it will be worth all the effort in the end. 

I cut the strips into squares.

The next step will be using the Kona cotton cream (seen in background) to complete them.  I should end up with squares made of two triangles, one patterned and one plain.  The patterned triangle with be the bottom corner and the plain triangle will be the top. Watch this space.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Carbonnade a la Flamande

 It is more wet than cold in London at the moment, but it is winter and winter is the time for warming casseroles.  This one is special because of three ingredients.  One is beer.  The beef is cooked in beer, not wine or stock.  The second is bread spread with mustard.  This thickens the casserole and adds flavour.  The last is prunes.  They add a lovely sweetness to the beef.

2 lb of stewing or braising steak cut in 1 " cubes.
2 medium onions.
1 clove garlic.
springs of fresh thyme and parsley
2 bay leaves.
salt and pepper to taste.
1 slice bread.
1 teaspoon grainy mustard.
1 handful prunes.
1 bottle beer plus water and (optional) stock cube.

Brown the meat in oil, a little at a time, then transfer to an oven proof casserole dish.

Meat browning.

Soften onions and garlic in the pan where the meat was browned to keep all the flavours.

Add herbs and seasoning.

Spread grainy mustard on a slice of bread and push it down into the casserole. This will melt down to thicken the juices and add flavour as it cooks.

Add the onions and the prunes.

Pour in the beer and water to cover the other ingredients and bring to simmering point.

Crumple up a piece of greaseproof paper and wet it under the tap. Then place it on top of the casserole before putting on the lid. Keep the lid firmly on while it is cooking. This will help to keep the juices in. 

Put the casserole in the oven for 2 1/2 hours on low heat. (150 C 300 F) Remove lid and paper, stir and serve with potatoes or tagliatelli and vegetables. I know.  It's not pretty here, but it looks lovely on a plate. In the excitement of serving and eating it, I just forgot to take the final photo.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Make Do and Mend - Rescuing two jackets with shoulder pads


The red jacket with the addition of shoulder pads.

I have just rescued two much-loved, nearly identical jackets which have never fitted quite right. Neither were cheap and I hesitated to get rid of them. They are lovely colours, warm, made of boiled wool and easy to pack for one of our winter trips.  They dress up a pair of black trousers and look great with a necklace or a scarf.
However, they sagged a bit on the shoulders and were a bit too big across the bust. I thought about altering them, but that would have meant removing the collars and then sewing them on again. Not my idea of a fun afternoon.
Finally, I realised that shoulder pads might just do the trick - and they did! It was worth trying as they cost about £3.00 a pair and were very quick to sew in place. Even if they hadn't worked, I would not have lost much time or money. I could always use the shoulder pads for something else.

Shoulder pads were used a lot in the 80s and 90s, but the look today is softer, more feminine. Most garments don't have them any more.  Using small shoulder pads just gives a bit of definition. They immediately sharpened up the shoulders and raised the bust line so both jackets now fit perfectly.

Back view after adding shoulder pads.

The purple jacket before shoulder pads. You can see how it droops in the front.


A close-up of the front before shoulder pads.


The droopy back of the jacket.

Small set-in shoulder pads. (Cost about £3.00) It is important to buy the right type.  Raglan shoulder pads will not give the same look.

Inside the packet are two shoulder pads and two velcro strips.  You can sew in the strips and just clip the pads to them. I prefer to stitch the pads in.

Pin the pads just even with the top of the sleeve seam, centring them over the shoulder seam.

The shoulder pad pinned in place.

Fold the pad up and hand stitch with large stitches to the shoulder seam.

If you wish, pin the pointed ends to the sleeve seam and tack into place.

The purple jacket with shoulder pads.

Back view with shoulder pads. Much improved.