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Food and Drink

14th Blogiversary!

Oh poor neglected blog. It’s about eighteen months since I last posted.

So a little catch-up: I’m still knitting, but not as much as I used to. I have an inprogress cowl from before Xmas that I haven’t picked up since then. What I am doing though, is reading. I’ve been taking part in the GoodReads yearly challenges for the last few years and last year read over 100 books. This year I’ve challenged myself to read 40 books. So far I’ve read 14 but whether I’ll reach my goal remains to be seen but since I read all of The Expanse series, most of which are over 500 pages long, perhaps I’ve actually read twice as much 😉

I got to spend Christmas and the New Year in New England in the USA. Eric’s from there and his parents invited me to stay for the holidays. The time flew by. I did buy some local yarn while I was there and many books. Oh and there were blueberry pancakes!  🙂

More later…honest…

New blog – Meret

I finished Meret on Thursday


I didn’t add any extra repeats, so there’s no slouch. I’m not sure if I’d add more slouch next time or not


We had monsoon like weather on Sunday morning but I braved it in order to get to the farmers market where I bought lots of cherry tomatos


And here they are with chopped garlic, caster sugar, basil leaves & olive oil just before they went into the oven to be roasted for sauce




They didn’t produce a massive quantity of sauce, well they were only little cherry toms after all, but it was very good. After being squeezed through a sieve the sauce was quite rich so I added some Elmlea to it. Double cream would work just as well.

Raspberries. Baked not blown.

I’ve had a bit of a foodie weekend. On Saturday I went to the St Fagans Food Festival at the National History Museum. I met up with Amy from Grainy’s Garden and her other half Stephen for lunch and a walk around the stalls. It was a fab afternoon but I forgot to take any pictures! In my defence it was boiling hot! I only came away with one purchase, some smoked paprika panchetta. Haven’t decided what I’ll use it in just yet. Possibly a quiche or in a pasta sauce. I love smoked paprika!

Sunday, I made one of my regular trips to Riverside Market. It’s a great little market and it’s the best place to buy cut flowers. So much nicer than the super markets. I particularly like the Pencoed Growers stall and while my flowers were being wrapped I saw that they had some raspberries. I rarely seem to find raspberries in the supermarkets, they seem to concentrate more on fruits like strawberries and blueberries, so I picked up a punnet.

I originally planned to make a crumble but when I googled for Nigel Slater recipes I came a cross a couple of mentions of his Victoria and Raspberry Tray Bake.  It’s a very moist cake requiring almost a full pack of butter and four large eggs.  So moist in fact that it broke in half when I attempted to extract it from the silicone “tin”.



It’s very good but also very rich. I’m going to take one half into work tomorrow and will freeze some of the remainder. I think it would work very well with ice cream.

Last week I mentioned that I was working on a secret knitting project. This is part of it.


I still have more work to do on it, it now looks very different, but it won’t be too long until it’s ready for its recipient 🙂

Pesto and Cookies

No, don’t worry. Not together, that would be gross!

The basil I showed you last week is still too young for pesto but I did pick some up at the farmers’ market on Sunday. To make this.

Mmmm Pesto

It was a public holiday in the UK today but I was one of the unlucky ones who had to work it. But I made a batch of my favourite chocolate chip cookies when I got home.

Milk chocolate chip cookies

I use a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe that works every time.

A new knitting project is underway, too, but pictures will have to wait until next week.

Slightly Delayed Making Monday Post…

I finished knitting the case for my HTC One X and, although I now I have a hard plastic protective case, I’m still very attached to its knitted counterpart so it’ll be staying in there for the time being. 🙂

Knitted HTC One X Sock

I’ll post the pattern later in the week.

This weekend Doug and I went to the Southcoast Slam. It’s an annual pinball show and, as its name suggests, it’s located on the South Coast of England. Now, occasionally at shows I’ve seen a couple of the same types of machines sat next to each other but I’d never seen a wall of Black Knight 2000 before. It was an interesting spectacle to see six of them in a row.

Row of Black Knight 2000 at the Southcoast Slam 2012


I was hoping to knit some more rows of She’s Electric during the traveling back and forth to the show but I realised that I’d misread the instructions yet again and so I ripped out the colour work for probably the fourth time. Now that I look at it I can’t believe I misread it, it seems so obvious! Basically I hadn’t released that although the first and last three stitches are always knit in the main colour, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the stitches are always knit in the corresponding colour. The yarns alternate over the different rows. That’s why my colourwork looked so weird and messy. It wasn’t actually colourwork! I still hope to finish it soon, I worry about getting so tired of revisiting it that it’ll end up percolating in a bag somewhere in my craftroom. I’ll have to try and make a special effort to ensure that doesn’t happen. But I can’t guarantee it….

Plus I’m starting a new sewing project this week. I worked the Easter bank holidays so I have some time off and I’ve decided to spend it making a dress. This dress in fact.

New Look 6723

I’ll be making it in view D in the polka dot and cherries print I bought in the Flo-Jo Boutique

I met for lunch with the lovely Amy today and she brought me some wild garlic. I was so excited to have some to try because I’ve yet to spot some “in the wild”. But I hope to be able to spot it next year. The flowers are edible too.

"Wild? I was livid!"

Brownie points if you can correctly name where the reference in quotes comes from.

I used some of the wild garlic tonight in a pasta sauce – dead easy, heated some regular garlic puree in olive oil with chopped wild garlic leaves, added a tin of chopped tomatoes with salt, pepper and a bit of oregano and then simmered to reduce it. Although the leaves smell strongly of garlic, the actual flavour is more delicate than the garlic bulbs I’m used to. I still have lots left and think I’ll use some in a risotto tomorrow although I’m also tempted to make pesto from it too. Thanks, Amy 🙂

I won the lottery…

No, really,  I did. Sadly it wasn’t the big prize of £4.4 million but I did get an email today saying that I’d won £10. So, what was I going to do with the princely sum of ten pounds? Treat myself to something that was lovely but which I didn’t actually need.

In short, this vintage style mug that I’d admired in a store on Saturday evening.

It has gold detailing on it and a blossom design that also goes inside the mug. It’s made by Pip Studio and they also make matching bowls, dinner plates and tea cups. So sweet!

I don’t tend to go that mad for birds although my favourite mug is a Mexican, earthenware one with a bluebird on it and  I also have a matching jug. This one I’ve christened the Twitter mug for no better reason than it reminds of the logo.

I’m now off to drink the tea that was brewing in the mug while I photographed it 🙂

How’d you like them apples?

Sadly not from my garden, but a colleague was selling 2 kilo bags of apples from his garden for only £1 which was a steal.  I usually make apple crumbles but I might venture out into making a pie.  Depends on whether I can cope with making all that pastry 😉

In other news, this arrived yesterday

A beautifully wrapped package from BackStitch which even had a hand written note.

And what was inside?

It’s the Oolong dress pattern from Colette.  As you may have gathered from the name, it’s a tea dress style  which is cut on the bias.

This is the first Colette pattern I’ve ever had and it’s different from the commercial patterns I’m used to. The instructions appear very clear and detailed and are sewn into the card wallet.

Goodness knows when I’ll get around to making this., always the way!, but it does look very interesting and excellent service from Backstitch.


I sometimes feel as though I am battling against tasks and self imposed deadlines. That my garden should be perfect and bursting with flowers and vegetables, my home should be tidy and organised, knitting projects should be started and finished, I should sew more, cook more etc.

And yet instead it’s usually a bit done on the garden, a few rows of knitting completed, nothing sewn but a pattern cut out and sewing machine dug out.  I decide to cook something from scratch and end up leaving it too late so it’s a dinner of fish fingers and hashbrowns again.

I find myself in danger of not appreciating the little things, of not stopping and smelling the roses – although, I did manage to cut two stems from the garden and put them in a vase last week – of not stopping.

I know that little and often is the way to success, baby steps and you’ll get the job done without feeling as though you’re drowning in it. And yet, despite knowing all of this I fall into the same traps again.

So, today I am having a cup of tea while sat at my new garden table. In a moment I’ll go inside and cut out and start to sew a dress. It would be nice to finish that tonight but we’ll see. I have a couple of days off for my birthday and will spend one of them in the garden straightening it out a little bit. Small steps.

Busy Baking

So, the first non-bank-holiday day of my week off and I’ve been editing this month’s KnitCast and doing some baking.

Cookies on baking paper

For years I yearned of making large, moist, chewy  chocolate chip cookies.They’re easy to find in stores etc. but I wanted to make them at home. A friend of mine went to work in the United States in the early nineties and sent me home a cookie recipe book but of course it was all in American measurements and ingredients. So I was left with questions  like – how much does a stick of butter weigh? I’m still not entirely sure what shortening is, but whatever it is,  you can’t get it here.  I remember having mixed results whenever I tried to bake cookies and then moved onto cakes and muffins which were far more successful.

Last year I decided to bake cookies again and when I googled Chocolate Chip Cookies this recipe came up first in the list. It’s by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and, my dodgey oven aside, it’s foolproof. I’ve had great success with this recipe and it has relatively few ingredients. Nowadays I just use salted butter and thus you don’t need the pinch of salt. Hugh has you use the best chocolate you find and to roughly chop it but I do use chocolate chips and other ingredients. I usually slightly increase the vanilla essence either by accident, slopping too much in the bowl,  or design. I also use my electric mixer to make the cookie dough so it’s even simpler.

Cookie closeup

For today’s batch I used chocolate chips and chopped up some crystallised ginger that I had too. I didn’t weigh the ginger but you can put anything in these cookies. I imagine they’d be good with sultanas or cherries and coconut too.

Two of the cookies mysteriously vanished...

I tried to take some better photos of the Soxie sock today because yesterday’s blurry indoor pic didn’t do justice to the colours in them at all. Although I had to wait for a while because it was raining heavily.

Soxie outside

And some closeups of sections of the sock

Soxie closeup 1

I think this shot of the heel shows the colours at their best

Soxie heel

The colours are just so wild and glorious. I love them!

In search of a good cuppa

Tea, as it should be 😉

I love tea. I grew up in a household where my nan (grandmother) would brew a pot on the half hour. I even had tea in a bottle when I was toddler. We didn’t seem to have any allegiances to any particular brand, but when I was little I remember we had PG Tips.  I used to collect the special cards that they included in the boxes. Sometime in the eighties I think we moved over to Tetley.

How do I take my tea? Strong with milk and two sugars. Oh and leave the spoon in so I can continue to stir the sugar in if necessary. And, no, I won’t take my eye out with it! I’ve had years of practice with this method 😉

I began experimenting with different types of tea in my teens. Some of it came from The Tea House, a lovely shop in Neal Street, Covent Garden, London. I developed a taste for Ceylon first and would have Orange Pekoe. But ceylon is a very mild black tea and it became too light for me after a while. In fact, I can’t drink it at all these days. Which is a bit of a shame since I feel quite nostaglic now when I see ceylon tea. But I turned away from it and moved onto English Breakfast for a while and then to Assam. If my relationship with tea was a love affair then assam would pretty much be my tea life partner since I’ve spent the majority of life drinking it and blends of it. Assam is variously described as a rich, full bodied tea. It was all I would drink up to about six years ago. I had begun exchanging emails with Clara Parkes of Knitter’s Review and we began a yarn exchange. I asked if there was anything else that she’d like from the UK. Yes, she’d like some Marks and Spencer Extra Strong Tea Bags. I’d never heard of them before and certainly had never tried them but when I picked some for her I got some for me too.

They were very strong, stronger than anything I’d drunk before. They were a blend of Assam and Kenyan teas and they grew on me. Nowadays I rarely enjoy anything else. In fact I’m so finicky about my tea that I rarely drink it away from home. Of course I have a stash of tea at Doug’s so I drink it there. But with rare exceptions very few places make tea that’s strong enough for me. Even greasy spoons where you’d assume builders tea would be the average can produce some surprisingly insipid mugs of tea. Almost on a par with the vile stuff that’s served on trains. Urgh!

I don’t just drink black teas, I also like some green and white tea blends. I recently ordered some jasmine pearls. These are whole green tea leaves rolled up with jasmine flowers. I’d previously bought some during my last trip to Berkeley but that was over three years ago, so I was keen to get some that were fresher. I ended up ordering some from TeaPigs as well as some of their chocolate flake tea (an assam blend with chocolate shavings) and some honey bush roobios tea temples. Tea temples are what they call their special tea bags. They use whole leaf tea and after trying it I couldn’t help but wonder if I could find a whole leaf tea that was better than the M&S extra strong. It would mean brewing tea the old fashioned way in one of my tea pots, they’ve sadly neglected since I became hooked on the  one cup tea bags of the extra strong.

More tea is on the way so my tea adventures will continue in another blog 🙂