Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Tasty partners

I seem to remember lovely things just being available to eat when I was young. Perhaps it was because I was not aware of the planning and organisation that was behind the food and dishes which stood around ready to feast the eyes and make the mouth water.

My mother was always very busy with her work, and with a florist business in the tropics, from growing to completed displays, it was hard work too. Flowers soon go over, and often there were flowers in the big fridge rather than dishes. She still had time to make cakes, using the Kenwood Chef, which she had managed to bring hand luggage from England....can't see that happening now with hand luggage restrictions!

We also had two lovely maids, gosh that sounds so old fashioned now, who were excellent cooks, producing local delicacies. In Quatre-Bornes in Mauritius, where I grew up, in view of the cliff like Corps de Garde Mountain, we had access to a vast array of exotic foods. In those days we had itinerant vendors, well known to the old families, who came selling door to door, things which they had made, grown or picked that day: gauffes, which were thin crispy biscuits to serve with ice cream; macatia ena coco, sweet bread buns stuffed with coconut and sugar, still warm from the oven; gateaux piments and dhal purris: fresh wild raspberries and guavas picked that morning from the mountains, huge bunches of bananas, leitcheess and mangoes. Most intriguing to us children octopus and huge fresh lobsters, the eyes of which were touched so that they moved and you then knew they were still alive and therefore fresh and good to eat. This was in addition to all the things which grew in our garden and those of neighbours and friends. During the hunting season, often there would be a tap at the door before breakfast, and a gift of a huge slab of venison. As very few people there had fridges back then, it was the norm to share around produce as it was ready to eat, and it had to be preserved or eaten within a day given the temperature and humidity. Those days have now past, and the super markets with their ready packed and prepared meals, their packaged fruit and veg. emulate their European counterparts. For lots of other reasons just as in the UK, food production, preparation and consumption has changed so much.

With a turn towards more activities and outings, I am trying to have dishes ready in good time and which can be eaten over a couple of days, rather than cooking just as they are needed, which is more my usual style. Often Friday I spend time making up dishes, or preparing food ready just to assemble when we come in from gallivanting.

Some russet apples had been lingering in the fruit basket, and wondering how they would be like baked, I popped them into the oven, cored and stuffed with mincemeat, below the Italian lemon and mascapone cheesecake. I had picked up a large bag of russet apples at Kenilworth Market for £1.00, which is a bargain. These apples are only usually available in the autumn, so these must have come out of store, but they were fresh and firm. They baked beautifully and being smaller than granny smiths, were ideal for platting up with a slice of cheese cake, which we had with a good dollop of Greek yogurt, drizzled with some of the juice from the baked apples. They made tasty partners, and was excellent warm and cold. I even warmed the apples through for 10 minutes the next day, so this would make an excellent combination when having visitors, being able to be cooked in advance and then produced when needed.

Playing around with fabric

The bug is starting to bite, and I am waiting for my day class in Warwick. In the meantime I have collected a few bits and pieces and have decided to design and make up a wall hanging. I have already made a few mistakes, so I am learning! I shall use patchwork, quilting and embroidery techniques and play with colours.

Learning easy patchwork with small projects

Having done a small number of sewing projects, I am starting to find them leading me towards patchwork. I have several friends who have started and got much further than me, but I know that for now, I need to develop some basic needle skills.

I had been thinking of a birthday present for a friend, and browsing through a book from the library, I came across a pin cushion. The technique is based on Cathedral Window Patchwork. I looked through my stash and found a beautiful piece of wool, woven in the Cotswolds, and also a lovely old silk tie. Both sides have a inset, and boy is silk slippery. I wanted the silk so remain soft so didn't want to use bondaweb or similar. I ended up having to tact it right across the surface before turning the edges over.

It took me all day...yes no washing up etc, and nearly every room in the house had been used. Half an hour before Mr S was due home, I was still at it, but managed to have a big tidy up in time.

The next day I placed the pincushion on the mantelshelf to admire, and I was tickled pink to hear Mr S say he thought that my friend J had sent it to me, and how nice it was. The reason he thought this, was that it was propping up a postcard from J!

Anyway J now has the pincushion and some special pins, so I can now post this.

Completed Needle Case

This is now floating around, filled with some of my favourite needles. I didn't know there were so many types!

Here is a picture of the many different cases sew at our group. By choosing different fabrics and embellishments they are look different but also familiar!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Admiration at Kenilworth Knit and Natter Group

As I shall soon be washing all the baby things I have knitted, I took the completed baby blanket into this week's Kenilworth Knit and Natter session at the Almanack. The blanket was much admired and I explained the meaning of parts of the design which use traditional Guernsey stitches, and how I knitted and attached the garter stitch border. Someone suggested that I write out the pattern and 'publish' it. I guess once the shawl is out of my hands, this won't be possible, so I shall put my mind to it this coming week.

Should I sell any patterns, then I think it is fit for the proceeds to go to a baby unit somewhere, so I shall have to find one nearby.

Earlier in the week, I went over to Harjinders to pick up my lost needle and tape measure, which she had rescued a couple of weeks back from the table at the Almanack. She showed me some of her quilts, silk painting, and other wall decorations, and I was bowled over by her skill at both in design, execution and choice of fabrics. Harjinder brought some recent sewing projects to this week's knit and natter session, and she had made the sweetest pair of pink corduroy baby dungarees, and also a peg bag and cooking apron. The group is pretty talented and a forum for all sorts of topics and skill sharing.

Its great to see friends knitting projects finished: Mandy was sporting her jacket with the wonderful wooden toggles, whilst one of Mandy's smaller baby jackets was being worn by a cute little lad.

Primrose Fairy baby bootees and hat

In anticipation of the arrival of a new baby, I am knitting and devising patterns for small bootees to use up the yarn, after knitting this cute hat, the pattern for that coming from the knitters favourite site Ravelry.

Banish part pots of food

One of the things I have been thinking about is the question of what to do with part pots of ingredients in the fridge, which sometimes are forgotten about until.......and it is time to bin them!

The solution is to take the weight of the pot of the main ingredient and scale up or down the recipe so as to use up the whole pot. One desert which is much loved here at home is Tiramisu. Lovely after an Italian Style Meal, and requires no 'cooking', being home made there are none of those unnecessary added ingredients. I make it mainly in the summer time, but it makes an excellent desert any time of the year. It ought to be made well ahead, that is in the morning for an evening meal, and keeps well refrigerated till the next day too. Mascapone the main ingredient comes in a 250g tub, so I have devised a recipe to use the whole tub up.

Talking about tubs and pots etc., I really wonder when we are going to get food manufacturers to use same type of plastic in all their containers or bottles or ideally lightweight glass which can be easily recycled. My personal ideal would be to have many fresh ingredients available to buy loose and for people take their own containers to likely is that when I see so many people who can't even be bothered to remember to take their own shopping bags to the shops? This may be a dream, but it does happen in Italy!
Several years ago, I came across these vintage pressed glass dishes whilst on holiday in Norfolk. They are not quite as large as the modern very large individual dishes, but look at old black and white photographs, and compare the waistlines to modern ones, and maybe there is a correlation between the size of portions now and our waistlines.......

Anyway here is my recipe for Tiramisu using 250g tub mascapone

250g Mascapone, this size is available in Sainsbury's

2 eggs

20g sugar from the jar which you store vanilla pods, and the scratching from half a pod, otherwise 1/2 tsp real vanilla essence

200g strong black coffee, espresso preferably, mixed with Kahlua or brandy, about half and half, or less liqueur/brandy depending on taste

10 sponge boudoir biscuits or the proper Italian sponge fingers, broken into halves.


Separate the eggs, and whisk the egg whites till stiff.

In another bowl, use the same whisk to mix the eggs yolks, mascapnone, and sugar, till creamy and pale.

Fold into the cheese mixture about a third of the egg whites, then carefully fold in the rest. I ought to post a warning that as the eggs are raw, people with compromised immune systems ought to avoid this if they are on a no raw eggs regime.

Put a little of the mixture into the base of four small serving dishes. Then carefully dip the biscuits into the coffee mixture, then place carefully on the cheese base, five halves in each dish.

Top with the remaining cheese mixture, and smooth carefully. Chill, and remove from the fridge about fifteen minutes before eating, and dredge with good quality cocoa powder.