Sunday, 24 March 2013

Lemon Brioches

I chose this recipe for this weekend's bakes from my women's Institute Bread Book by Liz Herbert, made earlier during the week.  I made 1.5 times the recipe, and it works very well, giving 10 large brioches.  The method is fairly quick and it took me no more than three hours from start to finish.

I seem to have mastered the technique of filling, as I did not have a single one leak.  After I put the spoonful of lemon curd on the round, it was further stretched then carefully brought together, then put into the tins seam downwards.

The brioches have a lot less butter than my previous ones, which is one of the reasons I chose to try this recipe.  The brioches are very good, but not quite as good as the ones with many more times the butter.  Here they are just filled with curd, and in the buttered tins ready for the last prove.

However with the lovely homemade lemon curd filling, they were delicious for breakfast warmed up with a nice cafetiere of coffee.  These have about 6 grams of butter per individual brioche as apposed to 18g per brioches for Paul Hollywood's recipe.  A real indulgence would be the 18g butter per brioche with the lemon curd filling! We had two during the week, and on Saturday the two taken from the freezer were thawed overnight in the bread bin and refreshed quickly in the oven whilst making the coffee.  It was hard to tell that they had not just been baked.

Heartsease stand at Sewing for Pleasure March 2013

I had been approached by the UK Hand Knitters Association to help on their stand at Birmingham NEC, and Friday was the day I had chosen at the time when I could not have thought that we would be having snow.....

The main reason of my visit was to help teach knitting on the UKHKA stand. I had put my coat, handbag, and belongings in store with my camera so had not taken any pictures.

I was asked by Denise the organiser to help on an adjacent stand which they were sponsoring. This has been set up by Ruth & Belinda, who were campaigning to have small heart shaped bags and simple heart shaped bags knitted up to help Children in England who are cared for by Kids Company
There are 1.5 million children suffering from neglect and abuse in the UK (statistic from Action for Children) - sadly these are hidden across the country. Kids Company (the London based charity) works with 36,000 of these young people - 6,000 of them are small children.
The Campaign is asking people to knit, sew or crochet one small heart bag for one of these little people. We had so many visitors to the stand, including two gentlemen knitters, one of whom stayed and knitted a great little blue bag for a little boy. There were many examples pinned up on the wall for people to look at for inspiration, and we were brainstorming ideas for little boys too. I knit the simple two oblong 'purse' using white and green double knitting which I thought would look like grass, with the intention of sewing on some little football buttons.
The Kids Company team will use the heart bags in therapy session with the young people they are working with. The bags will contain messages of hope and the ‘pockets’ can hold small keep-sakes and treasures.
We had spinners and quilters, who went away with details, who were looking forward to creating bags using their particular skills and talents. Some ladies went away with plans to bring this idea to their knitting groups. If you read this and are interested do go to this site which gives the pattern and address to send your knits to.
In addition to encouraging people to knit some bags, I also helped people with their knitting.  In addition, I taught three people who had never knitted...they went away having done their own small piece, with cast on stitches, garter and stocking stitch and cast off.  I feel that all three are going to become competent knitters if they keep on, their standard for a first time was very good, and the look of wonderful achievement on their faces said everything.  We found a nice pair of bamboo needles and yarn for one of the ladies, and I think she has already joined Ravelry.
Inside the huge halls, it was easy to forget what was going on outside.  For a couple of hours after my arrival, I walked around the halls admiring the many exhibitions from contemporary embroidery from the West Country Embroiderers

to a collection a superb Victorian traditional men's smocks

It was great to meet up with an old friend Michala Gyetvai.  She has some of her very big works on view which are just fabulous.  Having been on one of her workshops, and chatted with her in Kenilworth, I understand the skills and the hours which their works take.

and see the projects from recent workshops at the Warwick WI

After a long day, I made my way home by train, calling Mr S as I clambered on the train.  On the other side, I stood in what seemed like blizzard conditions, at a station with nowhere to shelter, and was colder and colder as the snow stuck to to me, and was just about to be swept away by the Ice Queen when my knight in shining car arrived!

Snow in March

A picture can tell a thousand words....

I took this picture Saturday morning on the 23rd March...

This is so unseasonable.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Coventry Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers

I spent an inspiring day with some talented people they spun, and wove, and demonstrated their great talents.  There were beginners there, people with professional interest,and amateurs with years of knowledge and skill.   At the start there was a presentation for their annual competition, then the opportunity to admire their entries, and general chatting, with a great lunch made up of dishes brought by members.  I was made very welcome so thanks for a great day.

Theo had entered a beautiful scarf.  The colours look bleached out so sorry for this, but you could view more of his creations on line.  He has a great selection just right for the sartorially elegant man, and other for ladies.

Angela Pearson had entered some wonderful braids, and she demonstrated Tablet Weaving to me.  It takes about five minutes to complete and inch...ouch!  She makes these for traditional costumes worm by historical enactment societies.

Pam was using gorgeous hand spun Lincoln Long Wool worsted spun, on her little triangular loom.  Her entry for the competition was a large rug made up of small squares woven on a square loom, then sew up.  The brown and butterscotch colours were sublime.

Fennel & Sultana Bread by Peter Sidwell

Fennel is delicious both in sweet and savoury bread, so when I spied this recipe in Peter Sidwell's book: Simply Good Bread, I thought I would try this.  Last Thursday, late at night, I quickly made up the starter dough as given...before I read the recipe in full.  The starter is made up of 1 tsp fast action yeast, 500g strong flour and 475ml water.....but the next morning when I came to read up the recipe again, it said use 500g of starter dough, but I had made nearly 1000g...yet earlier in the book they give an overnight sponge as 250g bread flour, 225ml water and 1 tsp yeast...that gives the 500g starter dough. 

The Fennel & Sultana Bread in the picture in the book was not made with dark rye flour, no way, maybe white rye or maybe with no rye....mine was a little overproven,  I had risked going out do do some shopping!!!!  Never the less, it tastes wonderful, and I shall certainly try this flavour combination again soon.

There is no point in crying over surplus starter, so I turned to a couple of books, and decided to add some of my rye sourdough, and used semolina flour, and made some ciabatta.  I remember the last time I tried making this type of bread, years ago, before I had read Andrew Whitley,  this time I was exceedingly pleased with the results....if it had not been for the surplus overnight starter, I would not have tackled this bread...

Calligraphy Pen Roll

For the past few weeks, I have fumbling around the bottom of my bag for my the best of times I find looking for things a pain, so I thought it was time I put my implements together.  I've looked on line, and in art shops, and just could not find the right thing.   Last Sunday Mr S said, why not make one?

This led to a look through my stash of fabrics, and I found a couple of great complementary fabrics, with some green which I could cut up into a binding for the edge.  I chose a light fabric as I would be able to see my pens, nibs etc clearly, found the wadding and backing fabric too.  I also found a reel of lovely old thread of matching thread which belonged to Mr S's mother.  From just after lunch, to early evening, I was cutting and sewing...and then the following day, I hand stitched the edging.  Its ages since I had my machine out, so had to get used to that again, and had the cutting mat & wheel out to make sure all the sides were nicely square.  All in all well worth while.

I started to learn to sew just over five years ago, and my teacher was a fellow member from Kenilworth WI, so in homage to her, and for her birthday, here is my second card, totally original, incorporating various techniques  learnt during my first term of calligraphy lessons....its far from right, but have learnt a few things along the way too...

Monday, 11 March 2013

Pesto Rolls

Another recipe from Simply Good Bread by Peter Sidwell......Really wonderful tasting rolls made for lunch this Sunday.  I used a little more water than given for in the recipe:  I used 330ml water to 500g flour.  Any savoury dough with olive oil could be used in this manner. 

This time I  divided the dough in half, made some mini pesto rolls, and some focaccia with the other half.  The flavour is excellent, and a good way of using up the rest of the jar when you have some left after pasta.....Mr M even had one of the rolls just on its own for his supper.

Wool Dressing Gowns made by Melin Tregwynt in Britian

Made in Britain....that is what we have been trying so much more to support.  So when we were planning our Christmas last year sometime in September,  we thought carefully about what we would do for Christmas Presents to each other.  We decided no Christmas Presents....but Mr S fancied a new dressing gown, and has been for some time. Thus I started my quest...

It was hard at first to track down the sort of dressing gown which would was for the winter time and now that he is converted to wool, it had to be wool, interesting to look at, lovely colours etc...definetely made in Britain. 

It took me two months before I found Melin Tregwynt...A company based in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  I have often been drawn to the beautiful woven welsh blankets in Museums and in antique shops, and could not believe our luck, when we found that Melin Tregwynt have taken the double sided woven wool fabric and have brought in designs and colours giving a bang up to date image which top designers are now using.  We looked at the fabrics on line, and phoned and spoke to Steven who over the following weeks became a familiar voice.  There are so many different designs to choose from and with different colours, which give a different effect depending which side of the fabric is used, and each gown is made to order.

Steven suggested he send us some samples....and when I saw them, decided I would like one too.  I had no warm winter dressing gown, and we could imagine ourselves sat out in the conservatory having lazy breakfasts, and late evenings snuggled down.  No mobile phones, ipads, electronic gadgets etc for us this past Christmas, but sheer dressing gown indulgence. They will still be functional when most gadgets will have been superceeded. 

When the samples arrived we had fun placing them on each other, and eventually I chose a fabric with some of my favourite colours...and for Mr M a rich warm colour.

The dressing gowns are made for each order, and take three or so weeks to turn around.  I love the intricate design of the fabric in my dressing gown, the sleeves are long with turns ups, which I add an extra turn when getting the breakfast ready, but we are still in the honeymoon period with the dresssing gowns, and no washing up is done as I am keeping mine as new as possible...they are hand washable, but wanting to keep this dressing gown for years and years, do not really want to be washing it too often.

Mr M loves rich tones, and looks great in his dressing gown....he cannot believe how comfortable it is, the wool is soft and very comfortable, even when it is reasonbly warm....

The design and cut is faultless, with a great shape on the collar.

These dressing gowns are a treat, a luxury, a wonderful item to feel warm and pampered in.  Forget the thought of the onesie, these are the elegant, warm, and grown up answer to feeling comfortable during this wintery weather. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Branston Pickle very nearly

I usually write about my preserving exploits on my other blog, but I thought I would post this recipe here!  Its was Tuesday, a sunny and lovely day, one of the few for a long time, so what possessed me to spend the day in the kitchen chopping and stirring, when I could have waited for later in the week, when we are having cold and rainy days.....

Well, I had researched my recipe, and collected several from the Internet, and prepared my shopping list and had gone out on Monday to buy all the vegetables, so I wanted to get on with it. 

There are so many ingredients that I shall have to use to smallest of prints, and the largest of labels for my jars.

The pickle is not quite as dark as the original, but I do not mind.  I didn't want to add food colouring/liquid browning, so instead I used extra dark organic raisins, dark muscovado sugar, and some concentrated tamarind paste.  I used only organic cider vinegar, not the Malt Vinegar given in most of the recipes

Be ready to do lots of very fine chopping!

Since this is not Branston Pickle I have called it

Notsnarb Pickle
(Branston back to front!)


1 small parsnip
1 1/2 small swede
1 Large brown onion
1 Large red onion
2 courgettes
250g carrots
1  cauliflower
1 large apple, peeled, cored
2 lemons, juice only
3/4 of a large jar of gherkins chopped small
4 cloves garlic
1 cup organic raisins
1 heaped tbsp tamarind concentrate
250g dark muscovado sugar
550ml cider vinegar
1 tbs worcestershire sauce
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp cornflour


Everything is chopped up really small, I used a cube of branston chutney to gauge the size, I made mine on the small size as most of the pickle is destined to fill cheese or cold meat sandwiches.  Its less likely to ooze out onto pristine business shirts!

Put everything except the cornflour, into a large pan, stir well, and bring slowly to the boil, cover and simmer gently until the cubes of swede are cooked but still with some bite, so it depends on how small the cubes were.  After half an hour I uncovered the pan, and cooked for another 3/4 of an hour.

At that stage I removed about four tbsps of the juices, and used this to mix the the cornflour, everything was then heated together for about 5 minutes. The chutney then went into hot jars which had been very well washed and sterilised, then covered straight away with vinegar proof lids.

The jars are going to be STASHED away for a couple of months at least for the flavours to blend.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Lemon Curd Cookies

I was leafing through my copy of Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet, when my eye caught: lemon curd cookies......with my own home made lemon curd waiting to be used I thought I would give this a try.

I planned to make this recipe in stages, making up the main cookie dough during a brief spell when I came home for lunch, then finishing them off later that day, ready to have when hubby arrived home or for a sort of sweetmeat in the place of dessert! 

It is Sunday now and we have had a couple or so each day and they are still really fresh.  They are really very different from any other biscuits I have tasted before. 

The biscuit is crisp at the edges and underneath, soft and chewy in the middle, and the lemony tang reminds me of lemon meringue pie.  Sadly Lemon Meringue pie is best the day it is made, but these biscuits last a few, great for a lasting lemony fix. This will become a favourite to be baked many times. 

One of my favourite biscuits when I was little were lemon puffs, they were oblong with flaky biscuits and lemon filling.  They seem to be round they days, so I'm not even sure if the lemon puffs of my youth are still around.

I found it impossible to get the cookie dough to stick together, even though I had left the butter to soften really well during the morning in the sunny conservatory....then I thought if I made ten biscuits they would be far too big, and there were was really too much topping to use up with only the one teaspoon on each disc of dough...

My answer to the dough problem was to add egg.  This allowed the dough to stick together well and it was easy to wrap it into a sausage shape to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours or so.  I cut the dough into 1 cm thick disks rather than the 2 cm disk, and 20 biscuits used up the topping.

50g rolled oats
50ml double cream
100g lemon curd

Combine the topping ingredients and put back in the fridge for use later

For the dough
100g butter softened, I used delamere goat's butter rather than the unsalted butter asked for
100g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
150g plain flour
2 tbps ground rice

The butter and sugar is creamed together well with the zest until light and fluffy.   Incorporate the flour and ground rice with a fork, add sufficient egg to bind to a stiff dough.  Roll the dough on a piece of clingfilm, then roll the clingfilm around the sausage of dough, massage into a long cylinder about 5 cm diameter.  Twist the ends, and tamper the ends on the work surface to 'square' off .  Put the dough into the fridge.

Preheat the oven to gas Mark 4, 180C, just before cutting the dough.

When firm, unwrap the sausage shaped dough, and cut with a sharp knife.  Make sure the round shape is retained - if necessary use a knife to push the dough into shape. 

Place well apart on trays covered with baking parchment, and carefully place a spoonful of the topping mixture on each biscuit, and spread carefully to near to the edges.  Place the tins in the oven, and watch carefully, swapping the position of the tins half way during baking.

They are ready when they are a nice golden colour.  Start checking after 20 minutes, mine took 30 minutes to be just right.  They will still be soft, so wait a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.   They keep well for a few days in a sealed container.