Friday, 27 April 2012

Vegan Curry Recipe

Confession time - I love curry! I've spent years trying to learn how to make a great curry at home. I've used recipes which took hours to assemble, recipes which demand you fill the house with the scent of onion and garlic for days and recipes which promise heaven on a plate but I've always ended up admitting defeat and skulking back to the local take away.

Then a few weeks ago when I only had mushrooms in the fridge, I decided to chuck some curry related ingredients together for something quick. I was feeling too lazy to chop onions so I whizzed them in my little blender with garlic, fresh ginger and whatever spices I had and accidentally discovered I had created curry Nirvana!

Tonight I made it for the third week but this time I wrote the recipe down as I went along so I could share it with you. The list of ingredients looks quite long so I took a pic of what you’ll need because then it doesn't look quite so daunting.

First blend/grind/crush together:

¼ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp chilli powder
Pinch cayenne powder (only if you have it)
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp curry powder
¼ tsp asafoetida powder (again only if you have it, it’s  like a cross between powdered garlic and onions)
Split 6 cardamom pods, scrape out the seeds and add them too (I don’t know if this is how you’re supposed to use cardamom seeds but it’s what I do!)

Please note the quantities and spices depends entirely on your taste, this just happens to be what I did tonight, it'll be different next time I do it! I do think the important thing is to use the seeds, it makes the flavour much more rounded.

Next add a tbsp sized splat of coconut oil to a frying pan and heat.

Add your ground up spices and heat gently for a few minutes. In the meantime, grind up:

a handful of cashews as small as you can get them, powder is great
1 cm fresh chopped ginger root
1 garlic clove
2 shallots or 1 small onion.

Add these to the spices in the frying pan and mix in. Cook for a few minutes then spoon out onto a small plate. This is your curry paste.
Use the same pan and quickly cook your veg. I like the combination of soft mushrooms, crunchy baby corn and sugarsnap peas.

Once the veg is softened, add your paste back in. The aromas at this stage are lovvvverlie! You will need to add water and it’s up to you if you like a thick or thin sauce how much you add. I used about 400-600 mls. Let the flavours combine for about 10 mins,just long enough to cook your rice.

Just before you dish up, add salt to taste, spinach and some fresh coriander. Also for added texture sprinkle in ½ tsp each of fennel, cumin and fenugreek seeds. Serves 2 happy curry fiends! (For a korma use coconut milk instead of water.) It's quicker than queuing at the take away, has much less fat than a standard curry and you know exactly what's in it! This version just happens to be vegan but you could just as easily convert it for meat eaters. It really is worth a go....

Monday, 23 April 2012

Swopping lip balm for eggs

It's been a frustrating few days. I've been unable to blog because my clever little gizmo which transfers photos has broken. No pics = dull blog. However, I've found a part time way around the problem so I can share until I get a proper fix!

Today's happy news is that I have a colleague who has lively chickens and she's willing to trade for eggs. This morning I found 6 freshly laid eggs on my desk and my trade was 2 of my home made lip balms. It's much more exciting than just paying boring money cash! Here's hoping the hens keep laying :)






Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Bunting Tutorial

Tonight, I was supposed to study for a course I'm due to go on soon.  But when I arrived home from work and saw my colourful fabric on the desk, I got completely distracted and have spent a lovely evening in the craft room making bunting :)  The fabric is in Union Jack colours so this will be strung all over the place this summer!

I have a mild (ish!) obsession about neatness and straightness and I really wanted to just cut triangles with pinking shears and stitch them on a piece of tape which is the easiest, breeziest way to make bunting but my obsession wouldn't let me.  So here's my way of making backed bunting.  First fold a piece of paper in half and cut yourself half a triangle off it, open it out and that's your template to draw around.  Place your patterned fabric right side to right side with a piece of plain fabric which will be the back.  Use a silver quilting pencil or light pencil  to draw round your triangle template onto the plain fabric.  Pin in 3 places to secure and make sure your fabrics don't drift apart as you work.
Don't cut the triangles out yet.  Once they're all drawn onto your fabric, sew them down both sides but leave the top open because you'll need to turn them right side out.  When all your sewing is complete, that's the time to cut them all out.  
 Here they are all cut out and ready to turn right side out.
 Once they're turned, give them a light press.
Using tape or bias binding (I happened to have some blue tape) fold it over the still open top of your triangles.  I never measure the gap I want - I just use the triangle template as a spacer.  Play around to see what gap you want and when it's right, chop the top off your triangle.  
This is all pinned in place and just needs to be sewn.  Five meters of splendid bunting from 1/2 meter of fabric in about 2 hours :)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Woodland Walk

We don't often get a weekend to ourselves.  Usually we're trying to juggle domestics, play time, homework, small boy socialising, gardening, hobbies, baking....well, you know.  But this weekend was different, not only did we have it to ourselves, we had no obligations to be anywhere.  Bliss!  So we wrapped up very warmly against a chilly wind and went for a walk in a storm force gale wood.

The signs are all there, that spring and warmer weather is on it's way.  Ladybirds and blossom....
 ...and that perfectly clean limey green of fresh leaves unfurling.  If you look straight up it's like confetti!

Once the sunshine had gone and the clouds returned, we headed into Bath to my favourite fabric shop and bought this snazzy stripey fabric.  With the Jubilee, the Olympics and everything happening in a big UK way this summer, I thought we might need some more bunting!  I'll show you once it's finished :)

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Crochet Workshop Result!

A few weeks ago I went to an Intermediate (note, not "beginner" any more!!) Crochet class at Paperarts. We learned basic flowers then advanced to ....this!
It's a bit of a ta dahhhh moment because having taken ages to make the loooooong scalloped row I didn't pick up the last critical bit about how to pull it all together and had to go back for a quick 10 minute remedial lesson to make - well what is it? A corsage or a humongous flower? Whatever it is, I'm very pleased with it because it's the cleverest thing I think I've made so far. Just don't ask me how I did it or make another one!
Then, flipping through a crochet book I found a simple pattern for a hexagon which had been made into a snazzy looking blanket. I have a plan to liven up the living room of the Week Day Home using a palette of colours based on rose and green so thought the hexagons would make a nice throw. Having made a few to put together to see how it looks, I'm not sure this doesn't look a bit too grannyish. What do you thInk?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Ightham Moat

The third and final reason we went Camping in Kent over the Easter holiday was to visit this romantic old manor - Ightham Moat.  Isn't it lovely?  It dates from about 1330 and was restored by the National Trust after it was given to them in 1985.  We visited on a soggy, wet day so you're probably not seeing it at it's best in these pictures.  It's the type of place you'd want to revisit on a summers day with a picnic.  And Pimms.

The flowers falling over this wall soften the brickwork and gave Himself some ideas for what we could do in the Country House.  (Neither of us are very good at plants apart from potatoes.  We're very good at potatoes.  And mint - to go in the Pimms.)

Below is the courtyard.  It just looks so...English.  You can imagine someone strumming Greensleeves on a lute.

I'm glad we saved this till last.  It was easily the best of our three days.  Hever Castle was a curious mix of historical house and conference centre, The Tower of London was imposing, impressive and busy busy busy but Ightham was peaceful and beautiful.  (With great cheese scones in the tea room too!)

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Tower of London

The second reason we had gone to Kent was so we could take a train into London and go the the Tower. Neither of us had been before and we were joined by my Little Bro and his Lady for a family catch up too. Happy days!
The Tower was all you would expect it to be (after the huge queue to get our tickets but it was a bank holiday!). We joined a tour given by Simon the Beefeater who relished scaring the kids in the group with tales of blood, dungeons, torture, executions and more blood! He insisted on lots of audience participation too with boos and cheers. It was great fun with enough facts thrown at us within the space of an hour to make our heads spin - but not roll. He told us that no one knows why the Yeoman of the Guard got the nickname "Beefeaters" but it may have been because they were in the service of the king and therefore well fed!
Even when we were queuing see the crown jewels there was plenty going on around us, like King Charles II being crowned.
We had to look very, very, very closely at this Guard who was sooooo still we really did wonder if he was real or a waxwork. Then we saw him breathing! How much self discipline must it take to stand so still on a shivery April day?! We were suitably impressed.
London is such a crazy combination of new, old and just plain ancient. This view covering about 700 years of building was taken from the spot where private executions took place within the Tower. Most notably, it's where Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and the 70 year old last surviving neice of Edward IV, Margaret Plantagenet placed their necks on the scaffold. Remarkably, old Margaret gave the executioner a run for his money literally and refused to go quietly. She ran round Tower Green until she was caught and dragged back to the block. (Well that's what Simon told us.). As Himself pointed out, in our two days we had seen where Anne Boleyn started and ended.
It was really interesting to hear all the different languages from all the foreign visitors checking out our heritage. We got chatting to a nice couple from North Carolina visiting the UK for the first time. They were impressed how clean London was. That made us blink! It's good to hear other people's views of our country and notice things we don't think about or appreciate.
The final reason we had gone to Kent was to visit another place which has a reputation for being one of the most beautiful houses in England and it really did live up to expectation but more of that next time :)

Sunday, 8 April 2012

A Tent in Kent

We had planned an easter weekend camping trip to Kent and no threats of snow, frost or rain were going to stop us. So we only had ourselves to blame for a first night spent shivering in temperatures of minus something! But those clear nights result in beautiful crisp clear mornings and that's what we were rewarded with when we unzipped the tent door. It was frosty enough for me to write a little greeting to Himself on the car window.
Before the rest of the world woke up and before the sun rose high enough to melt away the cold, I went exploring our camp site to try for a little creative photography to give an idea of just how chilly it was!

One of the main reasons we had gone to Kent was to visit Hever Castle, the beautiful childhood home of Anne Boleyn. I've read the history of this place for many years and seen photos of it from all angles but didn't know what to expect from my first trip to see it in person. It was clearly very popular and the car park was almost full when we arrived mid morning. Our first view of the castle was stunning. The medieval fortified home seemed to hover above a calm sheet of water.
Confusingly , right by the front entrance was a large white tent housing a brass band. They were very good and churned out a mix of contemporary tunes but they acted as a distraction and filled the air with sounds completely disconnected with the building. Inside it was difficult to work out the history of the Castle and there was an odd mix of items in some of the rooms such as an 18th century wooden dairy bowl sitting out of place on a 14th century carved trunk. The overall impression was one of beauty and grandeur but don't go expecting it to make a lot of sense! Having said that, it is certainly worth a visit for the lovely grounds and the beautiful walk around the lake.
We left with great photos and it had been a sunny day, perfect for exploring new places and the countryside of Kent was glorious as the sun softened and threw out sunset shadows over an Oast house on our route back to the campsite.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Easter Bunny

Some years ago I was asked to make an Easter Bunny.  I got out my Fimo and this was the result.  The eggs are decorated with the Millefiori Technique I discussed here in my Crochet Hook Tutorial and the Bunny is moulded directly from clay.  The little basket was given added texture by mixing a brown clay with very small wool fibers but not too much or it will prevent the clay from sticking.  My favourite thing here are the teeth.  I got the technique for making them from the genius Polymer Clay artist Dinko Tilov  You roll out a piece of white clay, press a knife edge into it at intervals of approx 2mm, bake to harden and then snap off the number of teeth you want to use (2 for Bunnies!) and slide into the soft clay of the mouth.  They simply get re-baked when you harden the rest of the Bunny.  It's much easier than trying to add them while still soft.  And you see how the ears blend from white in the centre out to pink?  Well that's another great technique called a Skinner Blend described here. 

I made a number of these little characters to give to friends and this is the last one I have left.  I think I'll keep him :)

Happy Easter !

March Mosaic

This was how March shaped up....some crochet, some colourful raw food recipe sharing, a little dry brushing, many flowers and some quality relaxation ahhhhhhh....

Monday, 2 April 2012

Fresh Crochet Colours

I've been looking for a fresh colour range to liven up the Week Day Home and after some experimental crochet, I think I've found the mix which makes me smile.  The wool is a slightly variegated cotton from Rico  called Fashion Iro.  I've got a light and a dark green and a dusky peachy/pink in the mix.  I'm now trying to decide if I need a darker or light pink as well so I have four colours to play with.  I found an easy hexagon pattern which I can do and have been churning out these little beauties all weekend :)  I can nearly remember the pattern without having to refer to a bit of paper!  If I make 188 (how many?!?)  hexagons they will make a huge throw, enough to bring BIG spring cheer into the home.  It's an ideal project to carry around with me on my travels because my 6 Ball Blanket has become too large to chuck into a handbag and almost needs it's own overnight bag.  I can't wait to have enough hexagons to piece together to get an idea of how the colours and shapes will work together!