Monday, 23 November 2015

weekend :: Roasted Baby Carrots with Spaghetti and Carrot Top Pesto

It's deep and crisp and even... all crunchy and frosty underfoot. Friday night howling winds squealed down the chimney calling for someone to light a fire, dark skies and icy rain chased away the balmy autumn days. The kitchen smelt of pancakes, cinnamon, star anise, cooked apples and fresh laundry. Saturday the sun came out and in true incy wincy style the rain dried up and the skies lightened to a happy bright sparkly blue. Still cold, but smiley...

It was the first weekend at home for a while and the perfect day to be indoors, except to rescue the onions before they bolted and dig up my baby carrots. They wouldn't feed a family, but the cute little orange and yellow specimens made a tasty pasta lunch. I've written the recipe at the end of the page. 

Pre food-shop, freezer and vegetable basket foraging, produced the ingredients to make a stir-fry supper. A great way to use up the stragglers before restocking.

The first issue of my birthday gift subscription of The Simple Things arrived. I've now learned how to make a hundred wishes bay leaf garland, to keep the Christmas tree pine needles to add to a bath, to make a fragrant salt body scrub, home made teabag gifts and a match box advent calender. But don't think there'll be time to save up enough matchboxes before the 1st. I'll have to try and find some  cool vintage ones like in the article. 

Oh and I was tempted to buy a copy of The Nordic Cookbook until I discovered that one of the recipes requires chopping down and pine tree to make pine bark bread and another needed boiled seal intestines! Eeek...

We did lots of sorting and painting eventually ventured out for food shopping and new twinkly lights, a bit of online Christmas shopping (love Etsy and homemade things) and there was even some time to catch up on TV viewing. The first two episodes of dark Scandinavian Drama The Bridge with the unsociable but likeable character Saga, and colourful episodes of Rachel Khoo's Kitchen notebook and Nigella Lawson's new program, Simply Nigella. I know that she flirts with the camera and has every word memorised off-pat, that inspires a myriad of micky-takers, including Ahmad, who can't resist copying every sheepish fluttering eyelid sideways look that she makes. (I try to watch it when he's not around) But I will always stick up for her, life has given her a lot of hard knocks and yet she always picks herself up and keeps on smiling, not dwelling on the sad things but celebrating good ones. She's actually cooking healthy food with no cream or butter at last. Hence my latest batch of pancake making, Nigella's Oat Pancakes.

I have to admit these are worthy and wholesome even for me, let alone Nigella. But when you feel the need to be very good they work with lots of fruit, maple syrup and plain yoghurt. I cooked windfall apples with vine fruits, honey and a little cinnamon, and star anise for that lovely childhood cough syrup hit. They would never replace Great Aunt Makiris pikelets, but they make an even healthier alternative. I think I'll probably try to make Sophie Dahl's spelt ricotta ones on my next foray into pancake making.

You can watch Nigella making her oat pancakes on the link here

and here's my pasta recipe:

Roasted Baby Carrots with pasta and Carrot Top Pesto. 

Ingredients for four people: 

  • A bunch of carrots as fresh and small as possible with the tops still on
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • An unwaxed lemon
  • Three or four cloves of garlic
  • A handful of pine kernels
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Pasta of choice, about 3oz to 4oz per person. I used dried spaghetti.

  1. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze most of the juice into a jug. Keep the lemon after squeezing and cut into smallish chunks.
  2. Remove the carrot tops and reserve for later.
  3. Scrub the carrots well with a stiff brush. Top and tail unless they are really small and tender and cut into diagonal chunks and place into an oven proof dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, add the chunks of lemon and roast in a moderate oven for about twenty to thirty minutes until tender and a little coloured.
  4. Whilst they are roasting wash the carrot tops. Take of the top feathery bit and discard any thick stalks. Chop roughly and place into a blender.
  5. Add some olive oil, a good grating of Parmesan cheese, a handful of pine nuts and the lemon juice and blend. Season with salt and pepper and adjust if necessary adding more ingredients. 
  6. Cook the pasta, drain and place on a serving dish
  7. Top with the roasted carrots and some of the pesto. Combine well and eat while still warm. 
This was amazingly yummy. Not as aromatic or flavourful as basil pesto but it makes a lovely garlicky sauce for the sweet, lemony carrots. Nice no fuss,comforting bowl food. 

I might try Nigella's brown rice bowls and healthy breakfast bars next...Never thought I'd say healthy and Nigella in the same sentence...

I hope that the weather was doing good things for you this weekend...I'm coming to catch up now...

linking with Karen for weekends

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

yarn along - Free Mittens for Mum Pattern - Erika Knight

"Pappy and my father sat side by side on the swing, it's rusted chains squeaking as they rocked gently. Gran and my mother shelled butter beans and peas on the other side of the old porch. I was lounging on the top step, within earshot of the radio...waiting with the adults for the heat to finally relent. I missed the steady hum of the old fan..." The Painted House, John Grisham

Well my sock plan went a bit topsy turvey. I'd packed the yarn away. All the projects I was working on squashed into my old well travelled leather suitcase, ready for a long weekend in London. Twice as much yarn as clothes. Imagine all the knitting I'd be able to do away from home, with no decorating to even think about. I might even be able to squeeze in a visit to Liberty or Portobello road, or (with a slight ulterior motive) to my sister who lives a stones throw from this amazing yarn shop

Then it happened again. The first day in London, I came down with the flu or some horrible virus and I couldn't do a thing. I tried and kept knitting. But I unravelled as many rows as I knitted. Sitting curled up on the sofa in my sister-in-law's flat with a pounding head and a barking cough, a mug of lemon and honey close at hand, I kept making mistakes and the yarn was dark and the needles tiny. I couldn't see when I dropped a stitch. Eventually after I dropped one too many, I gave up and resorted to plan B and bought socks. I'm so sorry I didn't manage to make them but my brain was a bit addled with the germs and I couldn't get my head round the wrap and turn again...I don't know where that sudden aversion has come from...It's also stopped me finishing Ahmad's Cobblestone sweater...I really need to get a grip of myself.  I've made tons of those socks before...Really deb...Get a hold, and pull your socks up!

For now, it's easy peasy baby steps. I'm making simple fingerless mitts using a lovely free pattern by Erika Knight. They are made in the softest Blue Faced Leicester wool. They take two sweet little 25g balls. Hopefully they are the first of a number of stocking fillers. This pair a long overdue gift. It took me ages to decide on the colour. I did quite a bit of cyber stalking. Checking instagram photos to try and decide. Would my long distance friend favour grey or blue, maybe bright red or orange. Not a clue. Maybe 'milk' a subtle winter white, but it was out of stock. Finally I fell across the perfect colour. It was all in the name. 'Gift' a pale honey colour. 

I'm still on the porch in Arkansas when it comes to books. It's a slow read so far but I know that will change very soon, so I keep on reading. 

I'm joining ginny and nicole this week,

out and about :: Christmas cake, blue eggs and Amaryllis

We've been to London and West Sussex, and I had flu or something. It was my birthday and I had lots of lovely gifts; a magazine subscription, tons of bulbs and garden things,  a hand painted silk scarf and expensive makeup (yes for me) a Persian silver pendant, oh and some of my favourite Burt's Bees products...Lots of nice things and the theatre and meals with sparkly wine, and it was lovely (except the flu bit). And back home we've been decorating again and things are feeling even more like home. We did our first spot of Christmas shopping in Hereford and had supper at my favourite Wagamama's, and don't faint, I've even made the Christmas cake. I've asked Ahmad to secret it away once it's cooled down and parcelled up, or I will be bound to cut just a little slice from it to try, and then it will be down the slippery slope again...

Christmas cake

  • 8 ounces of butter or alternative
  • 1lb of fruit. I use a mixture of green raisins and sultanas, chopped deseeded dates and undyed cherries. I also like nuts in fruit cake so have a handful of chopped walnuts.
  • 5 ounces of brown sugar
  • 1 level teaspoonful mixed spice. I also add ground cinnamon and a little ginger.
  • 1 level teaspoonful bicarbonate of soda
  • 10 ounces of SR flour
  • 2 beaten eggs.
  • 8 ounces of water
  • I add Vanilla extract and a little almond extract too.
  • It's nice if making for a special occassion to add some rum or liqueur or fortified wine to give a lovely deep grown-up flavoured cake.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and add all the other ingredients except the flour, eggs and nuts if using.
  • Simmer gently for about twenty minutes
  • Allow to cool and then add the flour and eggs and nuts
  • Mix well
  • Transfer to an 8inch cake tin lined with 2 sheets of paper
  • Cook at 300f/150c for one hour, plus for fifteen minutes without the paper until nicely browned.
  • Place on a rack to cool.
  • Once cooled decorate to your hearts content...

...Oh and I know Christmas things are in order when it's still November and I've already got a white Amaryllis on the kitchen window sill...Happy days...

How are your holiday preparations coming along?

Love and amaryllis,

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

yarn along

SOCKS...I made so many pairs last year that the pattern was indelibly ingrained in my mind. I've promised to make some for a kind blogger friend whose organised a thoughtful project... I need some too...The first pair is on the needles. I'm using some randomly died sock yarn from here because it's a cool colour and because it's 75% wool and 25% polyamide, nice and soft but won't wear too quickly. I go through tons of socks...all that running about in stocking feet. The pattern is my favourite Quickie Socks in The Joy of Sox (love that title). 

My annabel pullover's almost finished and I can't wait to start wearing it. Just one more sleeve to knit and thread in those pesky yarn ends. Like the annabel cardigan, the garter stitch makes it a little bulky and because of the boxy unshaped body, it's not the most flattering sweater. But it's going to be so cosy and comfy to wear. It took hardly any time to make  and half the amount of yarn I there's lots spare...Just think how many socks I could make...

There's been little time for reading lately except for catching up on friends' blogposts. Oh and Hannah's  latest article about the Bristol school of artists on The State of the Arts magazine where she's the Museums, Galleries and Exhibition section Editor.

I'm proud of my little bean...

Best get knitting those socks in time for Thanksgiving.

I'm joining with ginny and nicole to share projects.
Are you coming along for a peek?