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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recent Events....

Christmas came and went in the blink of an eye this year but here's a brief summary of events ~

Boxing Day brought us yet more (strong) earthquakes and more damage.

I made salted caramels that were so yummy they were eaten in less than 12 hours!

I didn't cook at all on Christmas Day, as promised.

Winter arrived here yesterday ~ just 10 degrees all day and only 5 this morning, I'm sure it's supposed to be Summer.

Santa was very kind to me this year, he brought: The Fry Chronicles, a red leather handbag I have been coveting for the longest time, Alan Bennett's Talking Heads audio book, Thornton's Chocolate, 6 skeins of Malabrigo Lace ~ 3 of Hollyhock and 3 of Azul Profundo, and a new Pandora bead for my bracelet.

I've been playing with my new drum carder and haven't knitted a stitch for more than a week.

I joined a KAL starting very soon and need to dye some yarn for it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Turkish Delight....yum

I made Turkish Delight for the very first time ~ I didn't realise how time consuming it would actually be.

I followed a recipe by Rachel Allen, I still can't understand why it uses both corn flour and gelatin as the thickening agents, all other recipes I looked at used one or the other.

Basically you start by making 2 things in separate pans: in the first pan you make a sugar and water syrup which you cook for around an hour until it reaches 125 deg on a sugar thermometer, the second pan contains a mixture that resembles cow gum glue and smells totally disgusting. In fact I nearly stopped at that point and sink-erated the whole lot. However, I persevered - the thoughts of sickly sweet rose scented and flavoured cubes of pink prettiness swirling around in my mind.

So, after the sugar reaches the correct temperature you throw in a bit of lemon juice whilst standing well back from the pan as the molten lava - like sugar spits everywhere when you do this. Then you slowly add the  boiling hot syrup to the pan (while trying your best to keep a steady hand) of white glue like stuff (which is a mixture of the gelatin, corn flour and water which is cooked until thick) while whisking furiously. It's then cooked for around another hour until it's a deep golden colour. At this point it still smells absolutely awful and resembles wallpaper paste. I then added rosewater and a few drops of pink colouring and voila... Turkish Delight. I tipped it into a well oiled tray (and yes it still stuck!) then left it to set overnight. It had stuck in the tray so I had to slice it in half and loosen it all the way around and underneath with a large spatula, then it got tipped out onto a pile of icing sugar and I hacked it into cubes with an oiled knife, generously rolled it around in the icing sugar and put it into an airtight container.

Here it is:
This is just a small amount in the picture, the recipe makes oodles of the stuff.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Post Lady delivered ...........


I sometimes forget that I will receive a package when taking part in swaps, I become anxious about seeing if the package I have sent has arrived at it's destination and I forget one is on the way to me.

Anyway, my CSW9 package arrived today and it travelled all the way from Ramsgate in England. I loved the contents ~ my spoiler Sharon must have stalked me very well indeed!

My requested colour/theme was way out of my comfort zone this time but I am starting to run out of colours and thought it was time I tried something different to my usual red/plum/purple. I asked for a combination of cream, pale gold and hot pink and either a Cupcake or an Oriental theme if possible.

I received 2 skeins of the most lovely fingering weight yarn, a hand made needle roll with a matching notions purse (funny, I occasionally make these for my shop but have never made one for myself). Also included were Knit Picks DPN's and needle tips (in a size I keep losing/breaking), a great needle gauge, a pretty Union Jack purse containing an English coin, English magazines and recipes, cupcake cases, cupcake wet wipes, Options hot chocolate drinks, hand made doggy themed stitch markers, floral peg clips. My spoiler hit both my colour choices and themes which I was not expecting, here are some of the goodies:

On the knitting front I dyed a skein of yarn I received in another recent swap, this was an organic merino/silk blend from Ellen Norway. I dyed it in deep red/berry tones and have finally decided that I will use it to knit myself a Pettine shawlette that I will cast on today. I seem to have been in a bit of a knitting tiz lately and cannot decide what to knit next. I think my problem is that there are so many things I want to knit I can't put them in any logical order lol.

In my swap package was a recipe card from Tesco's for cheddar & cornbread muffins, so of course I had to make them didn't I? We take our own lunches to work and I think these will make a nice change to wraps or sandwiches. I made a couple of changes ~ I added some finely chopped spring onions, red pepper and sweetcorn kernels which I lightly cooked in a teaspoon of olive oil. I also added 25g of freshly grated parmesan cheese along with the cheddar to the mixture:

Cheddar Cornbread Muffins

50g butter, melted
150g strong cheddar cheese coarsely grated
300g cornmeal or fine polenta
150g self raising flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
280ml buttermilk
175ml milk

Preheat the oven to gas 5, 190 deg, or 170 deg fan. Use a tablespoon of the butter to grease a 12 hole muffin tin.

Put a heaped tablespoon of the cheese to one side for the tops.

Mix all the dry ingredients, including the grated cheese in a large bowl.

Mix all the wet ingredients, including the melted butter together in another bowl or jug.

Pour the wet into the dry and lightly mix together until just combined. Don't over mix. Spoon into the muffin tins and sprinkle with the reserved cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until risen and golden.

Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve split in half and filled with sliced cheese, tomato chutney and salad leaves. The muffins can be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December Already!

I can't believe it's been so long since I last wrote anything here and that it's actually December!
Where on earth did the year go? Today my house smells just like Christmas ~ I'm making mincemeat.

We won't be having a traditional Christmas lunch this year and I won't be making a Christmas cake or a pudding either (shock, horror, screwed up faces when I announced this to my family). The reasons being:

It's too hot here on Christmas Day to have the oven going or to eat a hot meal so I made the decision to order a gigantic Christmas Ham from Mr Heck the German Butcher and I'll make some nice salads to go with it from our veg garden. If the men feel the need to put the BBQ on then so be it but they will be the ones doing the cooking. I will be sat in a shady corner knitting hopefully :-)

Christmas cake ~ this will be the first year in forever that I haven't baked one. After tidying out a storage cupboard after the earthquake where I discovered ~ sealed in a cake container ~ the cake I made last year totally untouched. I seem to remember this also happened the year before when I found half a christmas cake in the back of the pantry in the middle of Winter.

I think because it's the middle of Summer here you don't get the urge to eat things like this, maybe a mince pie is now my absolute limit and I thought I would never say this but I much prefer a fruit platter now ~ the berries are all in season at that time of the year. I can tell you that no one else in the house was happy at these new fangled ideas of mine because for years they have all been so terribly spoiled! Yet as much as I love our traditions I feel that now we live here we really need to try to change some things to fit in with this seasonal topsy-turvyness. 

This will be our 4th Christmas in New Zealand yet each and every one of them have not felt 'right', not Christmassy at all, maybe the lack of family members and the weather have a lot to do with that, I'm not totally sure. I used to love Christmas when we lived in England but now I don't care for it at all because it only reminds me of what I am missing back home. 
However I do have a christmas wish list that goes something like this:

Ashfords Drum Carder so I can work my way through the many boxes of fleece I have stored away.
A new Knit Picks yarn winder
2 skeins of some utterly scrumptious yet frivolous yarn that I would never dream of buying for myself in a colour that I wouldn't normally choose but that I would love
3 Merino sheep
3 Alpacas in Cream, dark brown and ginger colour

So today I tried to get into the christmas feel and made mincemeat ~ a recipe I have owned for many years but have never used. I cannot get suet here (traditionally used in mincemeat) so 2 years ago I made a recipe with no fat and a pint of brandy as the preserving element, nice but a little toooo boozy for my tastes. Last year I found a jar of Robertson's traditional mincemeat in a shop here and stupidly paid an extortionate $20 for it (it was a small one too). This year I decided to used a recipe that was from my Mother In Law (strangely she made it herself for the first time this year too), it's from an old Women's Institute cookery book from Northern Ireland in the early 70's. 

I changed the recipe a little, I like to add dried cranberries and changed the spices by adding a little freshly ground nutmeg, ginger and cloves and reducing the mixed spice. I used a rind parer for the zest, it gives those nice long thin strips which after cooking look translucent and slightly candied. I used a mixture of half brandy and half rum as the alcohol.

Mincemeat Without Suet
6 oz unsalted butter, cubed
24 oz apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped
12 oz raisins
12 oz currants
12 oz sultanas
12 oz brown sugar
4 teaspoons mixed spice
rind and juice of 2 oranges
rind and juice of 2 lemons
4-6 tablespoon brandy, rum or whisky

Mix all the ingredients except the alcohol together in a large saucepan. Heat gently and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the apples are nice and tender and the juice has reduced to a thick consistency.

Add the alcohol and put into sterilized jars (wash jars in warm soapy water, rinse and place in a pre heated oven at 140 degrees c for 15 minutes, fill while still hot and seal carefully). This filled 5 medium sized jars.

This is best if made at least 3 weeks before using and will keep indefinitely if jars are properly sterilized and sealed and stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened store in the fridge.

On the craft front I have recently mailed out my final 2 Ravelry swap packages of the year and have hardly done a stitch of knitting of late! Seriously, I can't seem to get the time at the moment. I knitted a Norrie hat from my new Shetland Trader Book which arrived this week ~ I am so happy with it and can honestly say it's the first book I have ever owned/seen where I know I will eventually knit every pattern in it. I have yarns on order for Shalder and a few other projects which seem to be taking an age to arrive.

On the shop front it's been very busy throughout November, I've been dyeing almost every day. I'm dyeing lots of new floral themes inspired by my garden. Yarns are taking an age to dry because we seem to have had very high humidity over the past week and we have our dehumidifiers on constantly. I have a large order of yarn bases due in any day now including a couple of new ones ~ a new silk sock 50/50 silk/merino blend and a MCN sock yarn (merino/cashmere/nylon) which are both totally gorgeous. I've decided not to continue buying in the sublime sock yarn base I have been using - the last batch I received were rather knotty skeins and I dislike knots and don't like sending them to my customers either.

 Pink Roses
Peach Roses
 Magenta Rose