Saturday, 27 April 2013

Frugal Cooking

I always love a bargain and I found a couple today. We spent the morning at synagogue celebrating a Bat Mitzvah which was lovely. I love the way that everyone always helps out to support the person who is celebrating a special occasion, often without being asked. When there are constantly reports in the newspaper about communities falling apart and people walking by when they see someone in trouble, I am happy to say that this is certainly not the case where I live. I remember a time last year when we were all snowed in. As we were outside shovelling snow,  a lady who lives round the corner from us happened to be walking past and she told us that her neighbour was desperate to get to the hospital to sit with her desperately ill mother but she couldn't get her car out. So everyone who was out in the street walked round to the lady's house and dug out her car. She was able to get to her mother and sit with her as she passed away. That's what makes a community special and somewhere to cherish.

This afternoon, we popped into our local high street. I think it's one of the loveliest high streets in the country. Here is one of the buildings that we walk past on the way to the shops.

This used to be a hospital and now houses the poor elderly of the community. We pottered around the shops, buying supplies for the Duke of Edinburgh Award trips that my children are on next weekend. We also went to the Saturday market and managed to get some bargains - 29 satsumas (yes I did count them) for £1 and 4 punnets of raspberries for £2.

The only problem is that I'm the only one in the house that eats satsumas. I may have turned orange but the end of the week. We're planning to have the raspberries with home made pancakes tomorrow night - yummy.

When I went to put the raspberries in the fridge, I found a block of paneer (a bit out of date). I hate to throw anything away so I decided to make a paneer curry for dinner from my Prashad cookbook. I made the paneer masala and here is the recipe:

Blend together 6cm root ginger (peeled and roughly chopped), 4 cloves of garlic and 3 fresh green chillies. In a saucepan, fry this mixture and one chopped onion. In the meantime, chop 350g block paneer cheese into cubes and fry in some il until browned. When the onion mixture has browned, add 1.25 tsps salt, 1.5 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp ground coriander and 0.5 tsp ground cumin. Cook for 30 seconds then add 1 tin chopped tomatoes. Fill the tin half way with water and add this too. Cook down for 5 minutes then add the cooked paneer and some frozen peas. Cook for a further 5 minutes. You can add some butter to make the sauce creamier but I decided to miss this out. At the end of the cooking time, add half teaspoon garam masala and leave for at least 15 minutes to all the flavours to mix together.

I served this with rice (2 cups rice and 4 cups water covered in a saucepan, brought to the boil and leave to simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed). My children find this curry too spicy so my dd had rice and sweetcorn and ds had egg fried rice. We had a lovely evening watching Doctor Who followed by the Voice. I normally hate these talent competitions but the fact that the decision is made on a person's voice rather than their looks really appeals to me.
Hope you all had a lovely day.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

One of those days

Do you ever have one of those days when you have lots of things to do, places to go and people to see. Today was one of those days. We started off with synagogue lessons for my dd where I managed to complete my marking while I was waiting. Before we arrived at synagogue, I had made a new batch of dukka as I ran out last night. I used the recipe from the Veg book again butthis time I toasted the cashew nuts for linger. Ok, I took my eye off the clock and cooked them for longer than I should have but I think the overall result actually tastes nicer. I also made a batch of pizza dough which I've left slowly rising all day.

On the way home, we popped into the local farmers shop and I made a few purchases.

I have no idea what I'll make with the bag of thyme but it looked so nice I had to have it. I did add some of the thyme to the tomato sauce for the pizza. Chop and fry some garlic, add a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of sugar and some fresh thyme. stir together, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes then blend the sauce. I've made an apple crumble with the Bradley apples and we'll use the broccoli tonight. A crumble is the easiest thing to make. Just peel and chop the apples then cover with a crumble mix made by rubbing in 100g butter or marg into 200g plain flour until it looks like breadcrumbs, then stirring in 100g caster sugar. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for about 30 minutes and enjoy.

Not content with the flapjack and chocolate muffins I made yesterday, I made some jam drops this afternoon. There's nothing better than an afternoon pottering around the kitchen and as the boys are away this weekend, I could potter to my heart's content. I found this recipe in one of my many Rachel Allen books. I doubled the recipe as I wanted to try a number of different flavours. In a food processor, mix 400g self raising flour and 200g marg or butter (as always I use Pure sunflower margarine). Mix in 200g caster sugar and then add one egg (I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract). Mix together until it all comes together. Take walnut sized pieces and roll into balls, placing them on a baking sheet. Slightly flatten each ball and make a thumb print. Fill this with a filling of your choice. I used Nutella, homemade raspberry jam and lemon curd. The mixture made 42 biscuits (the recipe said 60). Bake in an oven heated to 190 degrees centigrade for 10-12 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown. This is the end result.

Packed lunches are looking that bit more exciting next week.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Beautiful Day

The sun is finally out and what a difference it makes to everything. I can feel my spirits rising. The kitchen has been cleaned, clothes washed and dried, with that wonderful scent that you get when they've been dried outside and a new bag has been made. I decided to make another messenger bag but a slightly smaller version as the handle in the first version was a little long. I shrunk everything by two inches and I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.

I used a blue material for the outside and embellished it with a cream ribbon with yellow flowers. The lining is an IKEA material which contrasts well with the plain outside.

I hope you all had a lovely day in the sunshine if you're in the UK and you're probably very used to it if you live elsewhere!

Great British Sewing Bee

It was a busy start to the weekend last night as my dd has so many activities on a Friday night but in between I did manage to watch the third episode of the Great British Sewing Bee. I love it! I'm watching it thinking it's time I started making clothes instead of focusing on easier bags. I find it a scary prospect though. The contestants and judges keep talking about techniques that I've never heard of. Last night was no exception as they talked about French seams and how to make elasticated tops (I can't even remember the proper term). The last challenge was my favourite as they had to make a fitted jacket. This is something I've been wanting to do for a while but haven't had the confidence to try. In particular I loved the hunting jacket that Lauren made. I've got plenty of suit material from my grandparents - I now just need a good pattern and to take the plunge. What's the worst that could happen? I suppose the jacket is completely unwearable. Oh well, worst things happen at sea! As a result of the programme, I'm now following two new blogs - Tilly and the Buttons and Guthrie and Ghani. I'm hoping they will be able to give me some sewing inspiration.

What blogs do you follow? Who do you turn to for inspiration? I'd love to hear from you. Have a lovely, creative day.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Messenger Bag

It's the last day of holidays so I thought I'd go out with a bang. I know that I won't have much time for crafting for the next couple of weeks so I'm trying to cram everything into this holiday period. Even the sun has come out today to cheer me on my way. Don't you just love it when you can get all the washing done and dried in one day. We don't have a drier making our kitchen diner always looks like a Chinese laundry so it's wonderful when the sun comes out and I can start drying everything outside. It looks like this will be the warmest day for a while so I'm making the best of it.

I was searching on the Internet last night for a new bag pattern and I came across this one. I don't have any bright, flowery material but I do have LOADS of suit fabrics from my grandparents and I'm always looking for ways to use them. I'm trying to pluck up the courage to make a suit jacket - I'm saving that project for another time. Instead, I cut out the pattern pieces last night and made the bag today. I've bought loads of thread for 40p from fabricland last Sunday. The shop assistant said that it was as good as the other thread they sold but it was just unbranded. Well, I can tell you that it wasn't the same as it isn't as strong and every so often, would break as I was just getting into the swing of things. With that and the needle breaking twice, then the bottom stitch not working properly (although that was completely my fault as I put the replacement needle in the wrong way round) it's taken most of the day to make the bag. I've also spent some time reading The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. It's a thriller that is full of twists and turns and really keeps you on your toes.

So, here is the finished bag, modelled outside (I wasn't sure we'd ever have good enough weather again for that) by yours truly.

I've also taken some close ups - I've added some purple ribbon under the flap as an embellishment and an inside pocket in the main material.

This is the first messenger bag I've ever made and I'm quite proud of myself. Ever since I started watching the Great British Sewing Bee  I've wanted to get my sewing machine out although I haven't moved onto making my own clothes yet. I've certainly got enough material to make a whole new wardrobe for myself. Note to myself - I don't need to buy any new material or other crafting supplies for quite a long time. In fact, I'm going to set myself a new term resolution - make do and mend. I bought this card from Dover Castle during the week and I think it sums up my new philosophy quite nicely.

Now I just need to think about what to save for (clearly not more material!). Enjoy the rest of your day and I hope the sun is shining wherever you are in the world. Let me know what you've been making

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Chocolate Yeast Bread (Babka)

My Israeli friend made a delicious chocolate bread when she came round last week. She said that it's traditional to have this bread on the Sabbath in Israel but it is so delicious that I think it could be traditional to have it at any time (although I'm not sure my diet can cope with it). Here's her recipe for Babka:

500g strong plain flour
1 sachet dried yeast
1 tsp salt
50g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
125ml milk
100g softened butter

Put all the ingredients except the butter in the food processor with a dough hook. Knead together for 5 minutes. I added a splash more milk as the dough wasn't coming together. Keep mixing and add the butter bit by bit. Keep kneading for another 5 minutes. Put in a bowl and allow to rise.

Once risen, dived into two and roll each piece of dough out into a rectangle.
Cover each rectangle with Nutella (or butter, sugar and cinnamon or a filling of your choice). Roll up each rectangle from the short end and place into a bread loaf tin.

Leave to rise for an hour until doubled in size.

Brush with a beaten egg and cook in an oven preheated to 170 degrees centigrade for 25 minutes. Once out of the oven, cover with icing sugar or a sugar syrup or leave plain. Enjoy.

Day out at Dover Castle

If you're ever in the south east of England I would highly recommend a trip to Dover Castle. We used our Tesco vouchers to get a joint adult membership to English Heritage. To be honest, even though you can exchange your vouchers for many different rewards, I haven't been drawn to anything in particular which is why we decided on the English Heritage membership. My thought was that even if we didn't manage to visit any properties, at least the charity would get something from our membership. I've always wanted to take the family to Dover Castle. I went for the first time over 10 years ago accompanying school children in my first job. I loved it then and it was even more special this time.

This was the view from below the castle.

We went into the secret tunnels exhibition which was amazing.

It was well worth the wait. I love interactive talks and this really brought the history alive. We also went into the underground hospital which was fascinating and showed what it would have been like to work in that environment. I am forever thankful to those men and women who fought for us to have the freedom that we experience today.

We also spent some time in the castle itself - the inside furniture has been recreated by modern day craftspeople.

The sun even managed to come out at various points during the day. It was a lovely day and definitely a great day out for all ages.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Curry Night

The thing I love about holidays is not having to get up early in the morning. My dd arranged a day out today (lunch and skating) so I thought it would be great if I could organise a night in. I'm always looking for ways to save money and cooking for a night in is certainly cheaper than us all going to a restaurant. The only negative is the washing up. I think we are probably the only household in the country that doesn't have a dishwasher, as a result I am starting to have dishpan hands. There aren't many things I like about washing up but I do like the fact that it's immediate and I don't have to wait for the dishwasher cycle to finish. It's also quite sociable when you have friends over.

Luckily, I have friends who were available at the last minute so I've spent the day cooking a vegetarian Indian feast for tonight. My cooking world has really opened up since I bought the Prashad cookbook. I love the look of the book and the stories behind the recipes. I'm the kind of person who reads cookbooks as a way of relaxing. Even last night, I was reading Jerusalem by Yotam Ottalenghi and Sami Tamimi and deciding if I was going to make their Krantz cake. Their version is full of butter and sugar. My friend brought an equivalent sweet bread the other day to feed us after a walk and I've asked her for the recipe as it isn't full of so many bad things. The plan is to make it tomorrow so look out for the recipe.

I've spent the afternoon cooking vegetarian curries. I've always been quite scared of recipes with lots of ingredients, particularly all the spices, but I've realised there was nothing to be scared of.

As long as you have all the spices to hand, it's much easier than it looks. Thank you Prashad restaurant for making me see the light. Here are the curries that I've made - I'll reheat them nearer the time.

Paneer Masala (spicy tomato and Indian cheese) and Vegetable Handi (tomato and chunky vegetable)

Mushroom Palak (Spinach and mushroom curry)

Wattana and Flower (pea and cauliflower curry)

Just got the rice and samosas to make and I'll be ready. Indian banquet here we come. 

Monday, 8 April 2013

Tidy up, brooches and Foyles War

So, my dd and I decided to spend the day sorting out my crafting room (which is really an extra TV room downstairs which I have taken over with all my fabric, felt, buttons and ribbons) and her bedroom. As a result of all the sorting and rearranging, I've realised that I have much more ribbon than I thought (mostly my favourite grosgrain ribbons) which is always a nice thing. I won't have to go shopping for quite a while (note to self to read this blog entry the next time a fancy taking a trip to any craft shops).  In between, I found some time to make some flower corsages (or brooches) which I'm hoping will look nice on my jackets for work. Here is a selection of them. Some are flat with a combination of colours. Others are ruffled and made from the scraps left over when I made the reversible bags.

I've now packed away the sewing machines and cleared up the table in the lounge as a girl can only make so much. It really is time to start selling. Tomorrow I'm planning on spending time cooking (maybe curry from the Prashad cookbook) and baking. As the weather is due to make a turn for the worst tomorrow I'm looking forward to a cosy day in the kitchen with nothing to distract me except hungry kids. With the extra rain forecast, maybe they can stop talking about a summer drought.

I'm now going to watch Foyles War on ITV player. I've really enjoyed the first two episodes so I'm really looking forward to this one. I know I'm really lucky to have the holiday time that I do so I can spend it pottering about the house, although this morning was spent marking. Here's to the rest of the holiday week.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Day out in London

It's been a stay at home week as both children have been revising all week but yesterday we had a day out with friends in London. The weather was lovely (which was a welcome change as it's been freezing for so long) and we spent the day just wandering the streets and taking buses everywhere. The aim was to visit the V&A museum to see the clothes through the ages (there were much less than I thought there would be) so everything else was a bonus. We walked along the south bank in the sunshine with all the other people who had come put to enjoy the weather. We visited Borough Market which is by Southwark cathedral. I've been a couple of times before and it was lovely wandering around and tasting all the produce but yesterday it was full of so many people that you couldn't really get near any of the stalls. I certainly wouldn't recommend a visit on a sunny Saturday if you don't like crowds.

We then spent the rest of the day just walking and bussing - to the V&A,

to a fabric shop on the Old Brompton  Road  which sells Liberty fabric for cheaper than the Liberty store (but the shop assistants were certainly not friendly and I wouldn't go back there again), to the Picadilly Waterstones which is five floors of book wonderland and Fortnum and Mason. It was a day that lifted the spirits - great company and wonderful views at every turn. The only drawback is I'm absolutely shattered this morning.

We decided to go to the V&A to see all the textiles but they only had a small display of clothing. However, they had an amazing glass sculpture hanging from the ceiling in the entrance

and some intricate metal work in one of the galleries

We went to a really cheap fish and chip shop in Covent Garden and saw this egg on the way

It was part of a whole group of eggs that had all been painted in different styles. If you get a chance to get up to London, it's worth a look. Oh, and I managed to finish off another bag in the morning

A crazily busy day but well worthwhile.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Reversible Bag

So, this is what I've been making all day - a reversible bag made from my grandparents material. It has been a long day of sewing, unpicking, sewing again, unpicking again because I still got it wrong and then sewing it in the right way. Here it is...

This is with the plain fabric and then this is with the stripy fabric...

I based it on the pattern from Very Purple Person I didn't print out the pattern so just drew it freehand. As a result, the handles are a bit short. Never mind, I'll have another go tomorrow and this time I'm hoping they're will be less unpicking.

I even managed to have a family and friends walk this afternoon. It was so cold and the wind made it even colder. I can't believe that it's April and this time last year we were experiencing a heat wave. Instead, I'm dealing with rising heating bills as we still need the central heating on. I have turned the thermostat down by a degree as the most recent bill was astronomic. I'm not sure that it will make much difference but at least it might save a few pennies.

Update - I've also added a flower corsage to the bag. Role on tomorrow for more crafting (now that my dh fixed my sewing machine - I was in the middle of sewing the bag when a screw just popped off. All sorted now).

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

New make

I've spent the day making another batch of matryoshka dolls - they're all packaged up now. I've been planning a new make for a while and this is the material I'll be using - it's part of the huge stash I inherited from my grandparents. I've done the cutting out and this time it will involve the sewing machine so that's my plan for tomorrow.