Saturday, 1 August 2015

In my kitchen :: lots of old favourites and up-cycling another little wooden cupboard...

In case you were wondering...

  • sunset through the kitchen window
  • a batch of chocolate macaroons cooling
  • making chicken marinade ready for oven baking
  • broth bubbling on the hob
  • garden herbs and homemade spelt bread
  • baked squash with tangy soft cheese and salad leaves that are still going strong in the veg patch
  • porridge...the vehicle for lots of yummy berries and creamy yoghurt or fruit puree with maybe a trickle of fudgy maple syrup or earthy honey (or maybe all four...)
  • baked Mediterranean vegetables to serve with pan-fried fish
  • seasonal vegetable soup
  • persian horesht with rice and yoghurt
  • gorgeous old Peugeot shopping auction win spied through the kitchen window
  • wine and pickles the scent in the kitchen fluctuates between a winery and a pickle factory...Currently Ahmad's cherry wine made from local big black Morello cherries...I may not be a fan of the aroma but love the gentle rhythmic plopping sounds as the little air bubbles rise up and explode...Until they get too violent and are banished to the shower. 
  • scrumptious rhubarb slowly cooked with honey ready for a flapjack crumble topping...
  • lemon drizzle cake, birthday request and lemon poppy seed muffins
  • food and garden gifts from a kind neighbour
  • sewing. Lots of curtain making, mostly by hand...almost zen like therapy as I work the thread...flowing from right to left like a tiny stream trickling through the woven fabric
  • another little up-cycling project 
Up-cycling a small wooden cupboard
This one was a small cupboard that I bought for £8 at a local car-boot sale. It isn't very old. but well made and sturdy. The drawer was constructed with dove tail corners and it run smoothly. The little doors open easily but close just as well, and hang perfectly when closed...See, I'm learning from past mistakes to check things closely before I buy them. As you can see it had been stained dark brown to look like old oak and had antiqued metal handle and fastener. Not my favourite look unless original but I soon freshened it up with a bit of paint. Here's how:
  1. Remove any handles using a screwdriver
  2. Wash the cupboard inside and out with warm soapy water
  3. Rinse and wipe to remove any excess water then leave to dry
  4. At this point had the cupboard been highly varnished I would have given it a good sanding with fine sandpaper to help the paint adhere but as the finish was matt, this wasn't necessary.
  5. Paint with undercoat or any left over emulsion paint. At the moment we always have a big cheap tub of white emulsion on the go for ceilings and new plaster so I used some of that.
  6. Leave to dry.
  7. Then the fun bit...the actual painting. A small project like this is perfect for using up any leftover paint or sample match pots. I had four small sample pots of F & B estate emulsion paint. It's has a lovely chalky matt texture and ca been diluted with water if you want a more transparent coating.  With a brush small enough to dip into the pot I used No 270 Calluna for the outside and NO 47 Green Smoke (the same little mini match pot left over from this project) for the inside of the both cupboard and drawer. I love the contrast when it's opened up. 
  8. Paint a second coat once the first is completely dry.
  9. When completed put the handles back on...unless like me you decide to use something different. I'm looking for something simple.  
We now have a cute little cupboard to hoard all the coffee we stock up with on trips to Ikea...(I know...but we love it...)

...Just need to find some nice simple handles now...any ideas...

Monday, 27 July 2015

Tree hugging, afternoon tea and twice baked butternut squash

Playing in these gardens again thanks to Hannah having an unexpected free weekend and time to visit. I know there are too many flower photos...but I can't help myself.  The colours were amazing. Some blossoms looked as though they were washed with Day-Glo paints. A bit too bright for me. It's  all the subtle dusty powdery pom poms...and the feathery PINK GRASSES that I love...Oh and the kitchen gardens and tea on the verandah...

...and another thing I love, is when instead of your daughter phoning to ask for recipe ideas, that you phone your daughter asking her for them...Not that I object to the calls and questions (I love them) but it's so nice that I can do the same too...The worm has turned. This is Hannah's twice baked butternut squash recipe :  (requested by the lovely Emily)

Ingredients for two people, or one extremely hungry one:
  • One medium sized butternut squash 
  • A little coconut oil or alternative
  • Garlic cloves...the more the merrier...two or three cloves in each half are perfect
  • Sea salt and crushed black pepper
  • A fresh chilli or dried crushed chilli flakes
  • A couple of spring onions (scallions)
  • Fresh coriander or any other herb/s of choice or whatever's growing.
Filling ideas:
  • Hannah's favourite filling is a combination of grated carrots, diced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and finely sliced spring onions plus salty feta or cheddar cheese. 
  • Seasonal vegetables. This works well with sautéed leeks , caramelised red onions or baby spinach leaves. 
  • Mediterranean roasted vegetables work well too eg tomatoes and sweet peppers(capsicums). It's a great way to use up any left over roasted vegetables, quinoa, couscous or any other tasty ingredients that you have hiding in the fridge. 
  • a little more coconut or olive oil, seasoning and garlic. 

  • Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/g7 (fan 200c)
  2. Halve the butternut squash and remove the seeds and any fibrous bits and put to one side.  (You may like to plant the seeds in your garden. I did and now have little butternut squash plants in the vegetable patch that will hopefully produce homegrown squash...)
  3. Place the squash in an ovenproof dish.
  4. Score the flesh diagonaly. Turn and do the same in the opposite direction making criss-crosses. 
  5. Spoon a little of the oil and seasoning over chopped chives or spring onions, rubbing in well to ensure that the flavour penetrates into the flesh. 
  6. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes or so depending on the size until the flesh is tender. You can test by inserting a knife. 
  7. If like Hannah, you want to use fresh and not cooked vegetables for the second baking, either grate or finely chop or shred them so that they will cook in the time it takes to heat the squash up again.
  8. Whilst the squash is cooking prepare the ingredients for the filling. You may like to roast vegetables in a separate dish at the same time, seasoned well and drizzled with a little oil. 
  9. Alternatively slice the onions finely and caramelise  or cook spinach etc in a saucepan on the hob. 
  10. Once the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool a little. Score inside the flesh about a centimetre from the edge so that it doesn't break up. Scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. 
  11. Mix with the other cooked ingredients. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  12. Fill the centre with the mixture.
  13. If using topping of breadcrumbs/herbs or cheese, crumble this over the top. Return the dish to the oven and cook for a further twenty minutes or so until heated through again and the topping is golden brown. 
Hannah likes to serve these with strips of chicken breast that she marinates in lemon zest, chilli, garlic, spring onion and yoghurt, whilst the squash is cooking for the first time. She panfries these whilst the squash is baking for the second time or it's nice just with a fresh leaf dressing with your favourite dressing. 

If you can't have afternoon tea on the garden terrace at Hergest Croft it's just as good at home, here are some of my favourite bakes:

What's your favourite bake when you manage a sneaky  afternoon tea or coffee?