Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kale Crisps

Kale crisps had been hovering around in my peripheral vision for a little while - winking at me from the shelf in Whole Foods, popping up in my favourite food blogs. The other evening I found myself home alone with a bag of kale and decided to take the plunge.

I followed THIS recipe and I would recommend it to anyone. My New Roots is an inspiring, delectable and beautifully presented blog offering mouthwatering and nutritional vegetarian recipes.

I'm on pretty good terms with kale in general - I like it whizzed round a hot pan with some garlic, ginger and chili as an accompaniment to fish or softened in a little butter in place of cabbage with sausage and mash. Kale crisps are definitely a level up and I couldn't imagine how baked greens could in any way be as nice as kettle chips or even skips! How wrong I was.

Try the recipe for yourself - I substituted the maple syrup with honey and the tamari with a dash of soy sauce. I also added a generous sprinkle of chili flakes. As soon as the baking tray was cool enough to pick up I stood in front of the oven and ate the lot.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Home Made Tomato Ketchup

Last week I found myself with an abundance of pallid, winter tomatoes lurking in the back of the fridge (they arrive unbidden in our vegetable box each week). The tomatoes of summer - red, ripe and fragrant, are sacred objects and can be enjoyed with only the barest minimum of olive oil and black pepper to accompany them. Their winter counterparts however are cold and sharp and fail set my heart on fire. In an attempt to clear this backlog I tried my hand at making home made tomato ketchup. I'd never attempted a ketchup before so knew I'd need an expert to guide me. I turned to Pam the Jam, author of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook.

If you're a fan of jam (which I am) and get a giddy thrill out of turning gluts of plums, apples, pears and vegetables of all kind into fiery, spicy chutneys to set aside for Winter then I recommend this book to you.

I started by making a passata: First I cut the tomatoes in half and laid them out in a baking tray. I then sprinkled them with sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper before slowly roasting them until they were soft and the whole house smelt delicious. I then whizzed them up in a blender before forcing them through a sieve and bottling the resulting puree as per Pam's instructions. At this stage the passata can be left in the store cupboard for up to 12 months and dipped into for ketchup making, pasta sauces and the like.

The second stage was to make the ketchup itself....

I simmered the passata with cider vinegar, lemon juice, celery salt, mustard powder, ground ginger and ground cloves for 25 minutes before pouring into a sterilised jar. The ketchup smells delicate and delicious, completely different to the bright red sauce that we have come to know. I can't wait to try it this evening!

Pam recommends buying tomatoes in bulk when in season (in July and August) and making a year's worth of passata at once. I'd like to do a couple more mini batches before then so that I've mastered this preserve and then perhaps I'll add it to my preserving calendar.

Monday, March 26, 2012

At the weekend...

I took part in a knees up in honour of a friends up-coming wedding and visited Lauren in Hastings.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Photo of Beachy Head in Eastbourne via Pinterest.

I'm off to East Sussex this weekend - I'll be attending a fun, outdoorsy hen do in Eastbourne and visiting good friends in Hastings. I hope the weather holds out for both! I'm looking forward to glimpsing the sea for the first time this year.

Next week I'll be back with the taste testing of my first attempt at home made tomato ketchup. Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Still knitting...

There hasn't been much knitting news around here for a while but let me assure you that this jumper is continuing apace. Winter is well and truly on it's way out so it's likely that this beauty will be confined to the bottom drawer for several months once completed but I'm still very excited by this project and pleased with how it's looking.

As I mentioned in my previous post featuring this project (you can refresh your memory here) I have used the Rowan British Sheep Breeds DK undyed in mid brown Bluefaced Leicester. Even after 6 months of on and off knitting with this yarn I still get a feeling of glee working with it - the colour is soft and natural and (presumably because of the un-dyed nature of it?) has loads of depth. It smells really sheepy which might not be everyone's cup of tea but is most definitely mine.

Now that I've turned the corner with this jumper (knitters will know what I mean) I can start planning my next project. The below design is the Fair Isle Yolk pattern from A Stitch In Time by Jane Waller and Susan Crawford. My Mum whipped one up for herself a couple of years ago and it's as pretty in real life as it looks in the pictures below. I love the nubbly Shetland wool and think I'll use exactly the same colours as they have suggested (made by Jamieson & Smith and available to order online here). I'm tempted to make the sleeves slightly longer so they hit the arm just past the elbows. Watch this space!

Photos from A Stitch In Time via Ravelry. The book contains many more lovely vintage patters all re-worked to fit modern figures, you can purchase the book on Amazon.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Poppy Print

I love the Yves Saint Laurent resort SS12 Poppy print! Especially in red and yellow. It makes me think of a British caravan holiday in the 1960's or of sunbathing in the back garden with my feet in a paddling pool. I stumbled across this amazing nail art tutorial last night and might have to have a try myself!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring is just around the corner...

We walked to Battersea park at the weekend and fed the ducks. It was lovely to feel the warmth of the sun again!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Red Velvet Layer Cake

I am planning on making our wedding cake myself so this weekend my good friend Anna came to stay and we spent Saturday baking a trial run. We chose a two tiered red velvet cake covered in fondant icing and I’m so glad we tried this as I learnt so much! As with most things in life, making a fondant covered cake look neat and professional turned out to be a lot harder than it looked. We used this Lorraine Pascal recipe (she is the queen of making difficult things look easy!) but made the top two tiers only.

We followed the recipe for the small and medium tier and got the two cakes both in the oven at the same time. Whilst they cooled down we whipped up a big (too big!) batch of vanilla butter cream icing. We sliced each cake in half before sandwiching them back together with a layer of butter cream. We then covered the cakes completely in butter cream before popping them in the fridge for ½ hour. This was the trickiest part as you have to get the buttercream layer completely smooth with sharp, neat corners in order for the fondant icing to sit on top smoothly. When it came to the decorating we had ambitious ideas let me tell you (sugar roses featured heavily in my imagined version) however, we looked at the time and realised that we only had 10 minutes before our taxi arrived to whisk us and the cake out to Anna’s Birthday dinner. Hence the swiggly wiggly lines of icing running down the sides in the photo below. Don’t laugh!

Happy Birthday Anna! 

If you would like to try this recipe you can find it here.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Unfortunately I cannot take any credit for the information being relayed in today's post. The following gems were brought to my attention by my good friend Lauren. Check out her inspiring blog Lamb Likes.

Do you know why wedding cakes are traditionally made in a tiered formation? The inspiration is said to be the steeple of St. Bride’s church in London’s Fleet Street. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1672, the steeple has a distinctive ‘step’ pattern that really does look like a modern day wedding cake!

Lauren is in the business of architecture and often has interesting anecdotes to do with buildings. The conversation turned from wedding cakes to cakes in general whereupon Lauren revealed that as part of a work event she will be commissioning this artist to construct two architecturally pertinent buildings out of cake! This is some next level sugarcraft and highly recommend you take a look at Michelle’s website Michelle Sugar Art..

Final word on cakes for today - are you familiar with the work of Peggy Porschen? Her shop (and in fact her life) is the stuff dreams are made of. Cake dreams. All the above photos of cakes are from her current collection!