Saturday, 3 December 2016

Toasty fires, hot chocolate, Hugge and Halloween squash soup

It was my birthday and it was awesome. A cosy homely one. It began on the 16th with mail and messages...The fast and the slow kind... and surprise visitors from next door...  There were flowers, a big bunch of my favourite lilies that look like mini  trumpets, and books...amazing books, cookery ones from family and friends. A felted broccoli key ring, nice smelly products made with more flowers and herbs from body & birch called 'unwind.' Oh and even the promise of more slow mail to come...  magazine subscriptions...that seem like an eternal gift...

I was working at home, but it was a kind of stop-and-start-to-answer-phonecall or rip-off-wrapping paper-and -pour-over-gift,  kind of day. The best...and then weekend was the real celebration the weekend of hugge...

There were flood warnings and rail closures, so Friday we skived off and drove to the city, to collect my favourite girl from Bristol. We left in sunshine, down lanes that were beginning to flood and were blown into the city with icy winds and torrential rain and twinkly Christmas lights. Back home Ahmad lit fires and I made hot chocolate and we all snuggled up and opened Hannah's gift that had arrived in the post but I'd saved until she came. An amazing recipe book that I probably would have walked past in the book shop. It's more than just a book of recipes, it's almost a way of eating and living...lots of ideas, and tons of pages, so much to drool over...and we did, for hours, planning which things to try out first. 

Saturday we went to the quirkiest village...I didn't want a fancy restaurant or chic town. Just somewhere homely. It's the kind where if Charles Dickens walked past you in the road, you may look twice, but somehow would't be that surprised. We spent hours trying on vintage and antique clothes and rooting round old book shops and exhibitions and yarn shopping. Then ate lunch in a cafe served by Mob capped women in Victorian costume... I swear Dickens would feel happy there.... More hot chocolate and the best soup ever. Squash with lentils and butter beans and home made bread...mmm...   

As it got dark, the town cryer came to call everyone for an outdoor carol concert and Christmas Tree lighting. The dead little village came to life but as the freezing rain came down we sneaked off to a contemporary exhibition in an old chapel. The best of both worlds. 

Sunday definitely was the day of hugge...   cold and frost and fire and food and talking and unwinding...

We've even managed to make our own version of the soup thanks to the Halloween pumpkin. It's definitely the new favourite...

Squash, lentil and butter bean soup 

Ingredients: This is all a bit vague. We've both made this a couple of times and the amounts are pretty random, but it always tastes amazing.

  • Leek or something from the edible allium family
  • Old fashioned orange/red lentils...(not split peas) a handful or two
  • Squash or pumpkin about a quarter of a medium sized one, skinned, deseeded and cut into medium sized pieces. 
  • Either dried butter beans that you've left to steep in hot water for an hour or so, or a can of ready cooked ones
  • Sea salt, black pepper and a little turmeric root
  • You may like to add garlic, or other spices. But I just like this to be mild and comforting like nursery food with not too much spice, as long as it's got plenty of good salt. 
  • Vegetable stock or hot water.
  1. Peel and slice and wash the leek very well. Sautee in a heavy saucepan with oil of choice, until tender.
  2. Add any spices and a couple of handfuls of washed lentils and give a good stir. 
  3. Add the squash and butter beans, plus hot stock, or water. Again stir well. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat. 
  4. Cook until the squash, lentils and beans are all tender. Checking that it doesn't boil dry. (...yes that happened once) Blend, check and adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve. 
This is a lovely hearty creamy soup that is a great accidentally vegan food, loads of texture and flavour with not even a hint of dairy. Pure hugge in a bowl...

Thursday, 6 October 2016

pink and gold

Summer has just scuttled away from me like a naughty little rabbit and autumn is here, all pink and gold. We spent the equinox in London meeting Hannah and a friend, listening to lovely Icelandic Bjork lament in her gentle way, like some kind of delicate, transparent insect. As she left the stage, the audience stamped their feet and called for more. She came back to serenade us, then again to thank us all. An awesome way to put the season to bed on a balmy London evening. 

As we left the city and headed for the countryside the thermometer on the dashboard crept down. I woke next day to pink skies and golden bales of hay turning the corner, and reminded myself that holidays are over, and that I must knuckle down and do some work.

...but first just an itsy-witsy little bit of making and baking....

In the kitchen:

  • The easiest non-dairy, vegan substitute for cream Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's recipe for cashew cream, the sweet version with a little vanilla extract and maple syrup. I could eat mountains of it. 
  • Rustic spelt, date and walnut individual pies to serve trickled with a smidgen of maple syrup and cashew cream. 
  • Baby carrots with carrot top pesto
  • Fresh fruit. An excuse for more cashew cream. 
  • Making a batch of golden turmeric paste.
  • Lovely French onion soup, also golden.
  • Puy lentil and vegetable, farmer's pie with a grainy mustard mash topping
  • Tomato and aubergine risotto with broccoli and cauliflower 
  • Working on the pattern for my fair isle hot water bottle covers made with vintage yarn...