On the Table and In the Garden in January

carrot-soupHow did it get to be February already? Every time I wander into the garden I see more signs of spring, the bulbs are peeking through and the early snowdrops are starting to flower. I know that we might still see snow, but just for today I’m thnking we might be at the tail end of winter.

January on the table was mostly about soups, hearty stews and substantial puddings. We needed “stodge” to see us through the cold, dark afternoons. I stuck pretty close to my January meal plan and it has definitely saved us money (a household bill of £193). Scroll down to the end of this post if you’re interested in what we spent and how we could save more. The highlight was Diana Henry’s book Simple, which has fed us well. Our favourite has to be the Red Lentil and Pumpkin Dal, which also wins the prize for “meal that most looked the picture in the book”. We also swapped out the pumpkin for sweet potato a couple of times, equally delicious.

diana-henry-dal

You can pop over here to Diana’s website for a list of her books and some great recipes. It’s hard to recommend just one of her books, I love them all. She “sits” on the shelf between Nigel Slater and Sophie Grigson. I like to think of it as the  “hope they are as nice in real life as they write and appear on tv” category! Talking of Nigel Slater, his easy  Hot Chocolate Pudding from Appetite has appeared on the table more than once. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche it doesn’t photograph well, but it’s so easy and delicious. The recipe is available online on the Telegraph website, so why not pop over and give it a try. It’s the perfect last minute bake and gluten free, which is a bonus.

hot-choc-pudding

As we move into February, I’m starting to think about plans for the veg plot. Last year we stuck to “old favourites” like peas, onions and potatoes. This year I’d like to be more adventurous again. Of course the fruit bushes and artichokes look after themselves, giving regular crops. This makes me a bit lazy and I must learn not to rely on the perennials. We still have a few leeks in the ground and onions in storage, and I’ve noticed the herb pots in the greenhouse are starting to look more “awake”. The parsley has seen us right through the winter and it looks like the chives and oregano I hid in a corner have fresh growth. I wish we had put more potatoes in pots, it was such a joy to have home grown “new” potatoes at Christmas, but they didn’t last long.  The daffodils and early bulbs are making strong growth, and the woodpecker is still visiting daily. The Goldfinches are still perching on the fennel heads, in the vain hope they might have missed a few seeds, and they sulk if the bird feeder gets too empty. The robins (we still have two regular visitors) are so bold now, they hop at our feet every time we venture out. Sometimes I oblige them by digging over a small patch of earth or pulling back a few dead leaves, which seems to make them very happy. I know it’s wrong to give them human characteristics, but they do seem to puff up and look so pleased with themselves when they root out a small grub from the freshly dug soil.

Indoors, I have been working hard on new designs. I still haven’t got much to share as contracts insist I keep things a secret, but work is steady and that’s a good thing. Don’t forget, if it’s mostly the knitting and crochet you’re looking for, head over here for updates on my latest pattern releases.

So, that was January. Dull, damp and gloomy it may have been. But our house was filled with laughter, good company and great food. That has to be a “win” surely?

Happy making x

 

What we ate and what we spent in January

Mostly, we stuck to the meal plan for January, and our household bills came to £193. I think that’s pretty good, especially as we both work from home, that works out at about £6 a day for all our food, cleaning products, toothpaste and toiletries. Of course we’re lucky that a well stocked freezer and larder mean we always have access to  herbs, spices and every day essentials. And, it certainly helps that we have garden produce. I did think about ways we could cut down this bill if we had to and came up with a few things I’m just not prepared to compromise on. When Mr T was made redundant many years ago, we mostly lived on value ranges –  bread (10p a loaf), beans (3p a tin) and tinned tomatoes (7p) – I feel so lucky that we came through that scary year unscathed and still able to live well. I also believe (perhaps wrongly) that supermarkets are still led by customer demand, so if I keep buying Fairtade or British products they’ll respond by offering more and better choices.

So here’s my “no compromise” list

Local meat, often from the farm gate or butchers I trust – supermarket own brand would be cheaper I know.

Decent coffee, usually Fairtrade – we only drink one cup a day and even buying top of the range is still cheaper than I’ve seen people pay in “Costabucks for a latte!

Organic, local, fresh in season veg – using what we have definitely saves us money – but I won’t give up my Fairtade bananas!

Tinned beans and pulses – yes, dried are cheaper.  After a busy day it’s so much easier to reach for a can of lentils or chick peas, these are my “ready meals”.

Indulgences we could do without

We’re still working our way through the dozen bottles of wine we bought at Christmas – dry January? Not in this house!

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Homage to Manchester Tart

jammy coconut thumbprintsAs a child I loved Manchester Tart, the combination of sticky sweet jam, pastry and the exotic coconut on top  was hard to resist and I always had second helpings.

These biscuits were developed to satisfy my craving for this school day favourite and Mr T has already requested a second batch be baked this weekend, so join me in the kitchen, set aside 20 minutes and pop a tray of these in the oven. Best of all, they’re gluten free and dairy free so I can indulge my sweet tooth and remember all those delicious, stodgy school dinners.

You’ll find the recipe here

If you’re looking for a modern take on the traditional Manchester Tart, there is agreat recipe on the Great British Chefs website.

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Friday Bake: Choc Chip Cookies

plate of cookiesThis simple recipe meets all my requirements in a cookie. They’re crunchy on the outside, but still slightly soft and chewy in the centre.

Using orange flavoured chocolate drops adds an element of surprise to the unwary; it’s never a bad thing to elicit an “ooh” over the tea pot!

Of course, they’re gluten and dairy free too – but that’s an aside – first and most importantly they taste great. If you need a quick recipe to make with your little ones, these are ideal. From start to finish, you can have a batch on the kitchen table within half an hour.

You’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard. Do look out for the Beyond Dark chocolate drops, they are great quality. The taste is delicious and they hold their shape well for baking which is very important in a choc chip cookie.

This recipe makes 12, just enough to nibble a couple while still warm from the oven and then serve to friends with a pot of tea!

You can find the recipe here. Along with a few rather “under par” photos taken on my phone!! Believe me when I say my baking is far superior to my photgraphy skills!

Recipe: Salads with a Twist

I love beetroot, jewel colours, tiny globes of sweet flavour which brighten up winter mealtimes. Yet, for most people, mention beetroot and their first thought is the vinegar steeped slices bought from the supermarket. If you can get hold of fresh beetroot it’s truly delicious, easy to cook, versatile and very good for you. You can even eat the tiny young leaves in a salad.

LOWRESthenaturalvegmen_3143Earlier this week, I picked up a bunch of tiny, overwintered beetroot from the Veg Men (I wrote about them here). I decided to make a salad for lunch, using up a few left overs from the fridge, added some slivers of Gabriel Blue (a ewe’s milk cheese) bought from my favourite Cockermouth deli last weekend and a few slices of baked beetroot. Looking for a bit of added “crunch” I made some candied nuts as a gluten free alternative to croutons. Here’s how you can recreate your own version. Mix and match your flavours to suit what you have. Think of it as a twist on the classic goats cheese salad you find on so many restaurant menus and experiment.

sliced beetrootThe Basics

150g of mixed salad leaves (either home grown or find a local producer)

100g candied walnuts or pecans (see below for instructions)

75g goats cheese (I used a blue ewe’s milk because that’s what I had – and I didn’t weigh it – a small handful should suffice) chopped into small cubes.

3 or 4 small baked beetroot (see below for instructions)

A simple dressing made with 3 tablespoons  walnut oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

Whisk together the oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Shred the salad leaves, slice the beetroot and combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Leave to stand for a few minutes for the flavours to develop beofre serving.cheese and walnut salad

Candied Nuts

The ideal nut for this salad would be walnuts –  the eagle eyed among you will spot I used pecans – that’s what I had in the cupboard! To be honest, that’s what I’d use again, the flavour of cooked pecans worked really well with the blue cheese.

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

3 tablespoons of water

100g nuts

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and stir until well covered in the syrup.

Pour onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper or baking parchment and cook at gas mark 6 for about 5-7 minutes. Start checking after five minutes, you want the nuts cooked, but not burnt. Leave to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight jar for about a week. They make a great snack too.

As a variation you could substitute maple syrup for the sugar, add a little ground ginger, plenty of sea salt and perhaps even a little paprika. Combine with a small bag of mixed nuts and make the perfect gluten free nibble to serve with drinks. These may take a little longer to cook, in my oven I give them 10 minues.

Baked Beetroot

Wash the beetroot, but don’t scrub. It’s important not to break the skin or the colour will “bleed”. Trim off the leaves, leaving about 1cm of stalk and  then trim the roots. Place in a shallow baking dish and add a little water (as a general rule I add a tablespoon for each beetroot). Cover with foil and bake at gas mark 2 for about an hour. The baking time depends on the size of your beetroots, “golf ball” size take about an hour, larger ones will take longer).

Once cooked, leave to cool before trimming the stalks and roots. You can then peel them if you wish and add them to salads, make a delicious dip or make a puree.

Veg Men salad

When I was a little girl, a “salad” meant a slice of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and if we were really pushing the boat out, slices of hard boiled egg. This would be smothered in Heinz salad dressing. Today, we eat some kind of salad almost every day. Even if you only have  a small plot or a window ledge, it’s easy enought o grow a few salad leaves. Even during the winter you’d be surprised what will grow.

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Recipe: Almond Biscuits

plate of amarettiFew of us can resist a biscuit, and after a morning hard at work in the garden (boy, it’s chilly out there) I came in to make a nice cuppa and indulge in a biscuit, but sadly the tin was empty. It seems I have been neglecting the baking this week!

If you need a quick biscuit fix, these definitely fit the bill and they fall into the category of “store cupboard standby” as I always have the ingredients to hand. You can have a batch ready to serve within half an hour of switching on the oven, which is just what I needed today.

I am reluctant to call them Amaretti, the ones I’ve eaten in Italy have a more bitter almond taste to them, At best, these are a soft, chewy version similar to the soft Amaretti Morbidi you sometimes find in Italian restaurants. Crisp and brown on the outside they hold up well to a quick dunk. They are also great to serve with ice cream or as the basis for a trifle.

You can find the recipe here. Best of all they’re naturally gluten and dairy free and low in fat so please most people.

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  • Pretty!
 Took Mr T to Chester Maker's Market today. Ho got pie, I came home with pretty yarn from @joannawoodpaint (oh and cheese, curry sauce, cake, more cheese, smoked salmon and secret presents for lovely friends oh and cheese -with rioja and caramelised onion - have you guessed we love cheese!!)! Really hope you make this a regular @_makersmarket xxx
#knittersofinstagram #handdyed #indiedyer #sockyarn #madenotmanufactured #100daysofwool Gin! Not just any old gin - Scottish gin from @inshriach now available. Sorry Walter - photo shamelessly nicked from your feed - but oh my - how fabulous! Go check this one out ladies (& gents) I just know it's going to be fabulous!
I'll be pouring myself a large g&t later and raising a glass to everyone who read or commented on my last post. We're definitely stronger together. Have a lovely weekend everyone xxx

#knitterslovegin #gin #scottishgin #gincredible #ginfriday #ginoclock #inshriach #madenotmanufactured Ruby chard, freshly picked. Going to saute it with chorizo for tea...
In other news I've got a new blog post up (link in profile) if you want to know what it's like living with a chronic illness start here...going to a bit more honest about my real life from now on.
#slowlived #thisthingcalledslowliving #bakingandmaking #ediblegarden #mygardenrightnow #permaculture #plottoplate Sometimes the best view is the one right on your doorstep. Just before I hung the washing on the line I decided to sit down, drink my coffee & be grateful... #bakingandmaking #thisthingcalledslowliving #slowlived #theartofslowliving #morningslikethese #mygardenrightnow #permaculture Old socks, new socks. Can't resist trying on newly cast off socks. On the left "old" socks in @kingcoleltd zig zag & on the right "new" socks in @coopknits Socks Yeah. 
#operationsockdrawer #toeupsocks #socksyeah #igknitters #madenotmanufactured #makeitwearit #toeuptuesday #toeupsocks #100daysofwool Weathered and worn... Beautiful, even in the rain... No knitting, just walking & enjoying the view xxx The sun is trying to come out. Wool in all it's natural undyed glory. Local, breed specific wools are the best! 
#100daysofwool #britishwool #britishyarn #herdwick #hebridean #choosewool #britishsheepbreeds 100 days of wool ... Found these lurking in my stash left over from one of last year's designs. I love all @thefibrecompany yarns, but this one is my favourite, it's a blend of wool and mohair (even a bit of British wool in there) soft to knit with, washes well & comes on all my favourite colours. Now I'm off to visit my favourite coffee shop & plan some Easter knitting...
#igknitters #100daysofwool #britishwool #lovewool #madenotmanufactured #shoplocal #notjustlakes Waste nothing. Even the tiniest bits of leftover wool can make stuff that is useful & beautiful. Collect your scraps, follow your favourite sleeve pattern and make arm warmers! 
#lovewool #loveknitting #lovewoolhatewaste #choosewool #madenotmanufactured #makersgonnamake #choosewool #zerowaste #permaculture #reloved #repurposed #upcycle #100daysofwool A good day to dry socks! I love wearing wool & knit most of my own socks (toe up, fleegle heel because I'm too lazy to graft toes or pick up stitches!!) My favourite yarns are Eden Cottage ayarns Milburn 4 ply, Sirdar Heart & Sole, Patons Kroy & West Yorkshire Spinners sock wool.
#100daysofwool #toeupsocksrock #toeuptuesday #fleegleheel #choosewool #igknitters #sockknittersofinstagram #makeitwearit Sunday blues. A gorgeous blend of merino & cotton called Coast, bought from @tangledyarnuk . I love wool / cotton blends, especially when they come in such fabulous denim shades. 
#100daysofwool #choosewool #yarnlove #tangledyarnuk #doubledenim #denim #sundayblues Hands wearing handmade things holding little things... pattern for the Cavendish beanie & wristwarmers now up on love crochet & ravelry (follow link in profile). Credits: yarn is gorgeous @westyorkshirespinners beautiful styling by @clairemontyknits & photo  @mavricphotography
#crochetaddict #britishwool #100daysofwool #makersgonnamake #lovecrochet #horgolás  #uncinetto #crochetconcupiscence #crochetgirlgang #choosewool Frivolous flowers! I loved using @bordertart 's indigo yarn for this design. It has such gorgeous sheen. The pattern first appeared in @insidecrochet & is now available to download online (link in profile). I just love everything about this beautiful photo!
Credits: photo @lucymakesmyheartskip styling @clairemontyknits 
#lovecrochet #indiedyer #choosewool #crochetaddict #uncinetto  #insidecrochetmagazine #indigo #naturaldye  #merino More garter stitch love. Stripes & garter stitch are perfect partners. Knitted on the bias using simple increases & decreases makes a perfect draping wrap.Knitted with 1 ball each of Wendy Ramsdale & Louisa Harding's Grace hand dyed from my stash.
#100daysproject #100daysofwool #wipwednesday #britishwool Playing hooky! I'm suposes to be working on a crochet commission (a huge cabled blanket that's taking forever), but I am giving myself the afternoon off to enjoy this gorgeous blend of natural fibres.  I've just ordered more because it knits & crochets like a dream.
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