Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Snow, Swanson, Seed Catalogues and Stocking stitch

The snow came back. This time properly.  The wind blew drifts that closed the roads and sealed us neatly and tightly into our little old house. It was like a big soft white wooly scarf was wrapped right round it.  The fire crackled, we were warm and cosy and it felt a bit like the Christmas holidays all over again. 

Before you knew it, seed catalogues and reading books were out and knitting needles were dancing again.  Promised half done projects got finished and new ones started.  

  • Bergen cowl by Carrie Bostick Hoge
  • La La Simple Shawl by Laura Linneman
  • Chunky tweedy pullover, copied from an old favourite 
  • Finished long promised leg warmers and mitts
  • Working test swatches with vintage wool 

  • Her Every Fear, by Peter Swanson, 2017... Enjoying this easy to read thriller. The first of his novels that I've read and I like his uncluttered use of words. 
  • Pouring over new seed catalogues. Sarah Raven's is always a favourite even though some edible flower seeds I bought didn't germinate. It's such a pretty one. Chiltern Seeds too... 

are you coming too? debx  (you can link over to her here

Monday, 19 February 2018

January...Where did you go to?

Looking back January was a bit of a blur of feeling ill, and 
mindless tv viewing of a million box sets. Wishing that instead of snoozing on the sofa and drinking juice and ginger tea, that I was in the garden digging and planting. Of knitting a randomly striped sweater inspired by the little urchin in the film about Hugo Cabret. In-between a spot of driving over more than one bridge to visit some of my favourite people. Of making the scrummiest basil and tomato soup, thanks to my very own baby's recipe.

Now it's February and we've had snow and rain and sun and showers. Sometimes all in one day.  The hellebores are blooming and the snow drops are out. We've had  Pancake and then Valentines day, and even Chinese New Year but didn't manage to celebrate any of them.  Soon another month will have flown by and we'll be spring cleaning for Persian New Year...

But I have decided to slow down a bit this month. The second half. To be kind to myself and keep telling that little voice in my head that things don't matter and I can take a few short-cuts. Sort out my seeds and send for those nice seed catalogues that I'm always too late to send for. To sometimes just stop working and make sure that I don't miss the next little buds as they peep out. To go and say hello to the sheep down the lane...

...or just sometimes sit down by the fire and read a book...and not feel even the teeniest bit guilty...


  • The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. A gothic novel set in the marshlands of Essex. Strong women, fossils, folklore, mud and overcoats.
  • Leaf by Niggle, J. R.R. Tolkien. A sweet short story that I could relate to. A late birthday gift from my acorn and her larger oak. 

Making and baking

  • Ahmad made bread and I made pastry
  • A bit of a plum celebration, regular short crust pastry open tart and my new obsession, tarte tatin.  
  • Bagel sandwiches with cold nut roast and homemade cranberry sauce - feeling glad for stock of nut roasts in the freezer
  • Pancakes... somehow they always seem to bring a smile to my face


Hannah's awesome tomato soup


  • Five large ripe tomatoes
  • Two red onions, chopped finely
  • One carrot(not peeled, chopped finely
  • Three tablespoons of olive oil
  • Three minced garlic cloves
  • One tsp of sugar (or alternative e.g. honey/maple syrup
  • One tsp of tomato puree
  • A quarter of a cup of chopped basil leaves
  • Three cups of vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  1. Cook the onions in the olive oil until caramelised.
  2. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, stirring to ensure that they don't burn.
  3. Add all the other ingredients including the hot stock. Stir well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for thirty or forty minutes until everything is tender. Blend and then reheat if necessary     

As February winds it's way home, I hope that you can make a little time for yourself too. Getting ready to say hello to March and  then spring and all the gorgeous things that it promises... dx

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The inevitability of Autumn and orange ...


Summer is multicoloured, until that day it edges the corner and turns. A moment in September when you are in the garden happily listening to the bees buzzing and the chugging engine of  a light aircraft pulling a glider across the blue sky and suddenly you notice it. That whiff of autumn and you know that soon it will be October and full-on halloween pumpkin colour.  It's inevitable. 

Making and baking

  • nut roast
  • apricot flapjack crumble
  • red lentil and tomato soup
  • Loobya chitti
  • Pomegranate and red pepper hummus

Apricot Flapjack crumble


  • 750g fresh apricots
  • 75g butter or alternative, non-dairy margarine  or coconut oil work well 
  • 75g oats
  • 75g muscovado sugar (I substitute with maple syrup
  1. Halve and stone the fruit and place in an oiled ovenproof dish
  2. Melt the margarine in a pan and add the maple syrup or sugar and oats and cover the fruit with this mixture
  3. Bake 180c/gas mark 4 for 35 to 40 minutes until the fruit is tender and the crumble mixture light golden brown
Lovely served with coconut milk yoghurt and custard. I like making mine with almond milk.
I often make more topping for a more substantial pudding. Sometimes I'll add a little ground almonds, desiccated coconut or flour to the crumble. 

Red lentil and tomato soup

  • One medium sized onion red or white will do, or a couple of large shallots
  • Two cups of orange lentils
  • Fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped and a little tomato paste, or passata
  • Sea salt 
  • A couple of cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil or alternative 
  1. Peel and slice the onion finely. Pour a little oil into a heavy base pan, heat and then sautee the onion until caramelised
  2. If using garlic, mince and add to the onions, stir well and cook briefly
  3. Season with sea salt and mix well
  4. Wash the lentils and add to the onions. Stir well and cook for a brief few seconds. Then add the tomatoes and puree or passata. 
  5. Add a couple of glasses of cold water. Stir well, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and allow to cook until the lentils are tender. Check every so often to ensure that it hasn't reduced too much and add hot water or vegetable stock if necessary.
  6. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  7. The soup is then ready. If you like a smooth textured soup blend with a hand blender. We like this soup with the rustic texture of the cooked lentils.
It always feels like I'm cheating when I make this as it is so simple. It's a big favourite though, and depending on the season I make it for lunch, once or twice a week. Using passata cuts down on the work of chopping and peeling tomatoes and the orange lentils cook much quicker than some other varieties, so this takes little work but just needs to cook on the hob for forty-five minutes or so. Great, if like me, you work at home. It's inexpensive to make, substantial and very more-isa. 

Loobya chitti

These are pinto beans, slow baked with water, salt and a big spoonful of tamarind paste for a hit of sour umami. Alternative beans are rose-cocoa. Served with a good squeeze of fresh lemon or lime and a glug of good olive oil. Yummy...   cheap and cheerful... Again very little work but you just need to be somewhere in the house and remember to check them every so often. A good heavy based pan, like cast iron is the best tool for this. 

Pomegranate and Red Pepper hummus

Basically I just use my regular hummus recipe with cooked chic peas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic a little water, roasted peppers, seasoning and spices to taste and blitz in a mini blender but then add a good drizzle of pomegranate molasses, another source of  deep umami flavour. Yummy...

But don't dare blink, or heaven forfend close your eyes for a minute or you'll open them and it's Christmas in all it's ruby red...

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Busy as a Sewing bee...lotta Jandsdotter's, Every Day Style...

A day home alone...Ahmad poor thing, was away again. This time Birmingham. (England, not Alabama.) He left Friday night, bag weighed down with books and rolled up flip chart pages, scribed with foreign looking mathematical symbols that could have been hieroglyphics.   

My Saturday all planned out. New-to-me vintage 1980's sewing machine ready for it's trial run. Pattern book: 'Lotta Jansdotters Everyday Style', tracing paper, tailors chalk, pins, and scissors. 

A length of vintage navy woollen fabric with subtle, almost invisible pinstripes reminiscent of granddad's three piece suit. The end of a roll stamped with golden letters, woven in Scotland, probably fifty years ago. Still with the little brown card label and cursive script. Just enough to make the Esme tunic...but without the sleeves... That would work...A cool masculine pinafore dress. Workware.

I picked up the fabric and saw that it was peppered with holes...As big as speckles of coarse sea salt when the light shone through. Maybe chewed by ancient moths or accidentally pierced by the wayward slip of a hand.  It didn't matter. All part of the wrinkles of a long life. The sheep that was shorn, the fleece that was combed, the wool, washed and spun. Yarn dyed, then woven.  Wrapped onto rolls and cut into lengths. The old gnarled or fresh young hands that had each taken part in the narrative. Pondered how long that piece had been waiting until I found it...and so, it's life begins again...

Easy cauliflower curry

  • a medium sized cauliflower
  • tomato passata or fresh skinned tomatoes, chopped finely
  • a little tomato puree
  • can of organic coconut milk
  • a medium sized white onion or three or four shallots
  • sea salt and black pepper and garlic cloves
  • coconut oil or alternative to cook
  • spice mix, garam masala or your own choice, I like ground turmeric, coriander seed and cumin, with chilli flakes
  • a little hot stock or water
  • fresh coriander or other herbs to serve 
  1. peel and slice the onion. Place a little coconut oil into a heavy bottomed pan and heat up. Place the onion into the pan and begin to sauté
  2. meanwhile wash the cauliflower and divide into florets and chop the tomatoes finely, if using. The smaller you cut the florets the quicker this will cook
  3. cook the onion until it is almost caramelised, add the garlic cloves and cook. Add the spices, stir well and cook for a minutes or so
  4. add the passata or fresh tomatoes and bring to a simmer then reduce the heat 
  5. season with salt and pepper and add the cauliflower floret. Cover and cook until tender, adding the coconut milk after about fifteen minutes.
  6. cook until the cauliflower is tender adding stock or water if necessary. Ensuring that it doesn't dry out.
  7. add a little chopped fresh coriander or other herb
This is lovely served with cooked brown basmati rice, (especially if cooked in half water, half coconut milk mix),  or creamy whipped mashed potatoes/parsnips or butter beans...Yummy...