Thursday, 19 November 2009
Pumpkin, Lentil & Peanut Stew
(Serves 4, or two greedy foxes, with some leftover for lunch with paprika potato wedges)
900g/2lb Squash (butternut, Pumpkin, whatever you still have around) peeled, deseeded & chopped into chunks
225g/8oz red lentils
225g/8oz tomatoes, peeled & chopped (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
1 ltr vegetable stock
2 heaped tbs peanut butter
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
In a large pan, fry the onion in a little oil until it goes translucent (about 5 minutes), add the garlic & chilli & fry for another minute. Add the cumin & paprika, stir and add the tomatoes. Add the lentils and vegetable stock & bring to the boil. Cover (lest the lentil swamp coat your kitchen in tomato goo) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Check on it and give it the occasional stir, even though it will spit at you. Add the chopped squash & season with salt & pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Stir in the peanut putter & simmer for another 5 minutes. You may need to add a little more stock if the mixture is too thick for your liking (Me, I love them thick. If you need to chisel it out in chunks, it's perfect). Serve with toasted peanuts, or a dollop of sour cream, or some chopped avocado & lime juice, or anything else that takes your fancy.
This one is served with slices of Pumpkin Chilli Cornbread.
Om nom nom!
*But that means it's almost December, it's almost - gasp - Christmas!
Saturday, 31 October 2009
So the answer - drop gnocchi! Not 'proper' gnocchi, but teaspoons of gnocchi mixture dropped into boiling water. The results are a bit Cthulhu-ish, but delicious.
500g Pumpkin, cooked & well mashed
1 egg, beaten
2 heaped tbsp plain flour
25g grated cheese (optional, it can be hard cheese, soft cheese, goats cheese, anything you've got lying around)
Ina bowl, mix together the pumpkin & egg. If you're adding cheese, nows the time to do it. Add salt & pepper (about a tsp of each, more or less if you prefer. You can add herbs too if you like, parsley or basil go well with pumpkin, or chilli flakes). Stir in the flour. You may need a bit extra, you're after a sort of stiff cake batter consistency, sticky, but fairly firm.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and drop the batter, one teaspoon at a time, into the water (I like to scoop up a spoonful of batter in one teaspoon, then use a second teaspoon to scrape the batter off into the boiling water so it forms a mostly-roundish shape, and less Lovecraftian Horrors*). Don't overcrowd the pan, and scoop out with a slotted spoon when they rise to the surface & waggle their extremities at you.
Serve warm with some kind of sauce, cheese, lemon or chilli works well.
I baked them with courgettes, mushrooms, onion & chilli. And lots of cheese.
Om nom nom!
*Though what better Halloween recipe than 'Zhar & Lloigor in tomato sauce... I mean, the blood of the nameless. And cheese.'
Friday, 30 October 2009
Here's a recipe for Pumpkin Gratin. You can make it pretty simple, just pumpkin, seasoned & mashed, topped with breadcrumbs & grated cheese & shoved under the grill until crisp & browned, but when have I ever made things easy for myself..?
500g (or thereabouts) Pumpkin or squash, peeled, deseeded & cut into chunks
2 courgettes, sliced
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded & chopped
1 400g pack of passata (or 1 can of chopped tomatoes)
50g sweetcorn (or more, or peas instead)
50g/1 cup breadcrumbs (pumpkinbread crumbs or cornbread crumbs would work well, or anything you have. Panko have a really nice, light texture)
25g hard cheese (I use vegetarian Parmesan, which I insist on calling Parmesain't)
1 tbs parsley
1 tbs basil
Add a little oil to a pan & fry the pumpkin for 5 minutes, turning occasionally. Add the courgette, onion, garlic & chilli & cook for a further 5 minutes or so. Add the passata & sweetcorn & cook until the pumpkin has softened (this can take only a couple of minutes, or as long as ten, depending on how big your pumpkin chunks are). Season & pour into a shallow ovenproof container. Preheat the grill & combine the breadcrumbs, cheese & herbs in a bowl. Scatter evenly over the pumpkin & slap under the grill. When it's toasty & golden brown (should only take 3 or 4 minutes), eat!
Plays well with salad, shredded carrot, salsa, Mexican bean salad, guacamole, chips & potato wedges.
Om nom nom!
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Pumpkin Burgers (makes 4)
500g/2 cups Pumpkin (cooked & mashed. If it's watery pumpkin flesh, you might want to squeeze out some of the excess water)
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp breadcrumbs (I used breadcrumbs from the Pumpkin bread recipe, but Panko also works well, cornbread too if you have any)
1 or 2 tbs Gram (Chickpea flour) or plain flour
1 tbs chives
1 tbs parsley
50g sweetcorn or peas (optional)
In a bowl mix together the pumpkin, garlic, herbs, optional veg & breadcrumbs. Add a pinch of salt, and as much pepper as you like (I like a lot. I mean stupid amounts) Stir in the beaten egg & then add 1 tbs of gram flour. If the mixture is still quite wet, add more gram flour, until you have a slightly stick but shapeable mush. Shape into 4 burgers & fry in a little oil for 5 or 6 minutes on each side, until browned & firm.
Serve in buns with whatever tickles your fancy. I went for Lots Of Cheese but salsa, spinach leaves, onion rings, ketchup, relish, mayo, shredded carrot, jalapenos & sliced peppers all work really well too.
Next time I'll make them with half pumpkin & half cooked chickpeas, with some curry paste & chopped onion...
Om nom nom!
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
So this is something I chucked together a few days ago.
Have you tried brown rice? It's delicious, chewy, nutty & also good for you (which has been compensated for here with the addition of cheese), though takes longer to cook than regular old white rice (which you can use in the recipe instead, maybe even with a bit of wild rice too if you're feeling fancy). There are lots of ways of cooking rice, but I tend to use the absorption method, which is easier than the name suggests (1 cup brown rice, 2 cups vegetable stock or water, bring to the boil & simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat & leave to stand, still covered, for 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Unless you're using the quick-cook stuff, which is, y'know, quicker)
Pumpkin & Brown Rice Bake
175g/1 cup dry brown rice (boil it, steam it, cook it some way or other)
200g-400g (or more, or less, depending on how much pumpkin you're in the mood for) Pumpkin or Squash
1 tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
200g mushrooms (I used chestnut, but any kind you like will do)
200g/1 cup green peas (or sweetcorn)
220ml/1 cup milk
2 tbs water
1 tbs sauce flour (or 1 tbs each of flour & butter or oil, and make a roux. What's a roux? It's fat melted in a pan, with an equal amount of flour whisked in, then liquid is slowly added to make a rich, creamy white sauce that when I make it always goes oily & lumpy)
25g really nice cheese (I used emmental, which was really nice, but cheddar, blue, goats cheese, anything that you think will go well with your pumpkin will work), with an extra little bit for scattering over the top.
Preheat oven to 220C/425F/G7
In a pan, fry the onion in the oil until softened. Add the garlic & bat it about for a minute or two. Add the pumpkin & mushrooms & poke occasionally for 10 minutes. While that's cooking, make a cheese sauce. My really lazy cheese sauce goes like this
In a pan, mix 1 tbs sauce flour* with a couple of tablespoons of water to make a paste. Gradually add the milk and put on a medium heat, stirring constantly while it comes to the boil & simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the cheese, add pepper & a pinch of salt, maybe even some mustard if you're in the mood & put to one side
Back to the pumpkins! Add your peas & cooked brown rice, and stir. Add the cheese sauce & mix thoroughly. Pour into an oven dish & top with more cheese.
Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until it's started to go brown & crusty on the top.
Om nom nom!
*A reeeeally fine white flour that can be used to make really easy fat free sauces. Then you add a honking great load of cheese to the mix, heheh!
Monday, 26 October 2009
I tend to scrape out the flesh of my pumpkin, slap it in a roasting tray with a drizzle of oil & bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes, or until the flesh is soft & browned at the edges. You can leave it to cool & store in the fridge for adding to blended soups, risottos, mash & bakes.
You don't have to go through all that palaver if you don't want to. You can boil or steam your pumpkin flesh before using it in this recipe.
This is really easy if you have a breadmaker, a bit more time consuming if you don't, and a great way of using up pumpkins
200g/7oz cooked pumpkin flesh, cooled & mashed
110ml/1/2 cup milk or buttermilk (I use water & buttermilk powder)
2 tbs olive oil (you can use pumpkin seed oil if you have it, for a richer flavour)
375g/3 1/2 cups strong white flour (or you can use half wholemeal & half plain white)
125g/1 cup cornmeal/maizemeal or polenta flour (it's the same thing, it just has a thousand different names!)
30ml/2 tbs honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
5ml/1 tsp easy blend dried yeast
2 tbs pumpkin seeds
If using a breadmaker, tip all your ingredients into the machine (keeping the salt & yeast separate) & use the medium setting. In 3 hours, you will have bread. Yum.
If machineless, put your dry ingredients in a large bowl & mix, making a well in the centre. Mix your wet ingredients together & pour into the well. Slowly bring the flour from the edge of the well into the gloop, mixing until you have a rough dough (add a little flour if it's too wet, a little water if too dry). Tip out onto a floured surface & knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a firm, elastic dough. Put back in the bowl, cover & leave until doubled in size (about an hour). Punch down (oof, poor abused dough!) & shape into whatever you fancy - rolls, plaits, loaves, flatbread, shoggoths - anything you like, and leave for another hour. Place on a floured baking tray & put in a pre-heated oven (how hot & how long depends on what your making. Pizza dough, bread rolls & flatbread only need about ten minutes in an oven on full heat, loaves take longer at a lower setting, probably 45 minutes to an hour at 220C)
Om nom nom!
There are some delicious squashes out there, from the small & tasty Acorns, Buttercups & Delicatas to the honking great behemoths like Crown Prince (the bestest one of all), Turks Turban & the positively corpulent Musquee de Provence (see how wordy I get with curcubits?). But let's be honest, the big Halloween pumpkins that are in the shops right now? Not so tasty. Bland & watery, actually, and not a patch on squashes in flavour & texture. But that's no reason to chuck all that orange flesh in the bin when carving Halloween pumpkins, there's plenty of ways to make something delicious with them, and not just Bloody Pumpkin Soup (why is that the only suggestion anyone can come up with?)
So for the next week I'll be posting pumpkin recipes. Hopefully. Starting with Pumpkin bead.
Om nom nom!
*What's the difference between pumpkin & squash? There isn't one really. In the UK pumpkins are generally the big orange Halloween things, and squash are, well, everything else.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
So, it's mid-October, and the annual Pumpkin Obsession is in full, terrifying swing (fuelled by farmers markets & roadside vegetable stands selling monstrous orange things for £1.75*).
So far there have been Harlequin, Acorn, Kabocha, Buttercup, Butternut, Big Orange Things Of Dubious Taste, Red Kuri, Sugar Pumpkin & my beloved Crown Prince.
So expect to see some recipes up soon.
*I mean, come on, how can you say no to that?!
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
No, really. I'm not making it up.
Ever since I was old enough to wield a spade without the threat of chopping off a toe* digging was something I loved to do. As a kid it was an excuse to get muddy without reprisals**, but as I got older, and had my own garden, it became a way of connecting with the soil I was working with. Getting my fingers in the dirt & learning the peculiarities of the land. This area is prone to frost pockets, careful what gets planted there, that area gets waterlogged & needs organic matter incorporating into it. Building a relationship with the soil, learning its needs & tending to them. Gardening has always been a spiritual pursuit for me (I heard a theory once that shepherding societies were prone to monotheism, of the belief of a solitary deity that wanders with them, whereas societies based on agriculture were more inclined towards polytheism, and a deity for everything), the contact with the earth grounding & centering, even in my vaguely Pagan crackpot view of the world.
Over the last few weeks when I haven't been involved in the making & selling of beer (which, rather surprisingly, involves a lot of digging), I've been digging. A lot of digging. new muscles have formed in my back & shoulders purely for the purpose of aching (the Random Twinge in the trapezius & the Dull Ache in the Latissimus dorsi are my personal favourites), what started out as a few blisters on the hands have become spectacular calluses. Having said that, if you're doing any digging proper posture & Not being An Idiot should keep any back pain to a minimum. To quote Alice Cooper - back straight, lift with your knees. If you're not accustomed to a spot of digging, take a break every ten minutes or so & do a few stretches, preferably while grumbling within earshot of loved ones.
Tiger balm is a pungent, dark red ointment made with camphor, clove & cinnamon oil in a petroleum jelly base available from Chinese supermarkets & some chemists. It is an excellent, soothing rub that relieves muscular aches & pains, and all the ills that come with overdoing it (there is a milder white version, if the red stuff is too pungent for you. A dab of it on the forehead or temples works wonder for hangovers & tension headaches). A hot bath with a few drops of lavender & tea tree essential oil will soothe aching muscles too.
There is still much more digging to be done, preferably (but not bleedin' likely) before winter sets in. I prefer to dig in the autumn, or early spring. Digging in the summer is a miserable experience. heat, small creatures that find me delicious, sweat & chafing. Ugh. But cold weather means heading out with your shovel & gloves in sixteen layers of clothing, knowing that pretty soon you'll be in your T-shirt and overusing the term 'Soft Southern Shandy' at passers by. Plus there's the occasional break for a cup of tea and quiet admiration (or loud, if there's other people to hear it)
Until next time, which will probably be about parsnips. Or beetroot. Or something.
*And other parental paranoia's experienced when seeing your barefooted, semi-feral youngest child arsing around in the mire
**Any other situation that got me that filthy; falling in the canal (which happened with distressing regularity), hiding in the coal store, attempting to dig a bomb shelter etc all got me called a little diddikai and sent to an early bath.
Friday, 25 September 2009
So it's been a couple of months. Busy months. Cram everything we really need but not necessarily everything we own into a van & head north kind of busy.
So operation Get Out Of Dodge has been a success, and we're now settled in a modest pile of bricks somewhere left of the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields, fields, more fields and the occasional tree. The last month has mostly involved getting the new place (home of the Crazy Scheme*) hauled into the 21st Century (simple things, you know. Hot water, a phone line, a toilet that flushes, a damp course, furniture, a cooker. That sort of thing. And finally internet. Yay!), and working on the garden.
Ah, yes. The Garden. We had a large-for-a-city-garden in Sheffield, but here we have something 4 or 5 times the size (more info will be forthcoming), mostly made of weeds with islands of rubble** at the far end. The place had been empty for a year before we moved in, but the previous owners only had lawn (Grass! Bloody grass! You're in Lincolnshire, with the most gorgeous soil a person could wish for, and you go for a bleedin' patio-and-grass garden!). So the turf is being taken up & put into piles & covered with old blankets. In a year they should hopefully have turned into some good potting compost. Less foolish people would probably employ machinery to do this, but I'm favouring the spade & ibuprofen gel approach. It's a lot slower, but lets me get contact with the soil, and all the beasties within (snails, slugs, beetles & the occasional, rather surprised, toad).
That leaves the question of what to do with it all once it's cleared. MikeyFox has (rather unhelpfully) pointed out that we have room for 24 apple trees (after some negotiations, this became a compromise of 6 or 7 fruit trees, no less than 3 apples. As there are over 7,000 varieties of apple out there, it may take a while to, um, decide on which 3 apple trees), or 14 apple trees & a Really Big Polytunnel. So we're currently flicking through The Polytunnel handbook by Andy McKee & have made a garden plan out of fuzzy felt.
*Lets Leave The City & Steady Jobs To Live In The North Lincolnshire Countryside, Start A Brewery & Be Self-Sufficient-Ish
**Oh how we marvelled at the bathroom extension on the house when we viewed the place, little did we know that the old bathroom was in a pile at the end of the garden under the nettles...
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
So, since plums are cheap at the moment, and TV executives will always cancel the good TV shows in favour of the lousy-but-cheap,*** here is a recipe for
Plum Crumble Pie.
The play-doh pastry for this pie is made with a bit of polenta, which gives it a bit of crunchiness. Om nom nom!
115g/4oz/1 cup plain (or all purpose) flour
115g/4oz/1 cup wholemeal flour
150g/5oz/3/4 cup demerara or muscovado sugar (or golden caster sugar. White sugar will work, but it won't have that toffee-fudge flavour, or crunchy texture. Being a tree-hugging, yoghurt-eating no-good beatnik, I use Fairtrade demerara)
115g/4oz/1 cup polenta (cornmeal, not to be confused with cornflour, is made from dried ground corn)
1 egg, whisked
1 tbs/15ml olive oil
1 tsp/5ml baking powder
25g/1oz/1/4 cup rolled oats
2 tsp demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/G4. Mix together the flours, sugar (reserving 1 tbs sugar & 1 tbs polenta for the next stage), polenta & baking powder in a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the egg & olive oil & enough cold water to form a smooth dough. This dough isn't the kind of dough that you can roll out, it's soft & clay-like. Take about one third of the dough, wrap it up in clingfilm & put it in the fridge to chill. That will, with a bit of jiggery-pokery, become the topping. Grease a 23cm/9" spring-form cake tin.
Take the rest of the dough and pull off little pieces & press evenly over the base & sides of the cake tin. You'll need to make it quite thick, about 1cm deep will do. Sprinkle the reserved polenta & sugar onto the base.
Halve the plums & remove the stones, then arrange cut side down on the pastry base. Take the saved one third of dough out of the fridge and crumble between your fingers into a bowl. Add the oats & mix it up with your fingers. Scatter over the plums and top with the sugar.
Bake for 50 minutes, or until the topping is golden. Leave to stand for 10 to 15 minutes before attempting to separate pie from tin to give the pastry a chance to firm up (it's a bit fragile when hot). There are probably loose bits of pastry rubble that you can pick off the top while you wait. Gnom.
Serve with ice cream, cream, custard, a cup of tea or sneakily out of the tin while no one is looking.
Om Nom Nom
*I can resist many forms of temptation, but never a bottle of wine with Don Quixote on the label.
**There will no doubt be a rant in the future about fad diets & Not Being An Idiot. But basically if you want to lose weight, drink more water & get your arse off the sofa.
***Damn you to hell and back again!
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Despite the Financial Crisis we're all supposed to be in the middle of, great and unexpected things have been happening at the House At The Top of The Bloody Great Hill. The first being the selling of the aforementioned lofty abode, the second being the purchase of a modest pile somewhere in the middle of the wheatfields of Lincolnshire.
Yes, this is a long winded way of saying the house has been sold, and we're moving further north. I am preparing for a future of splendid isolation by planning what fruit trees to plant and listening to Neil Young.
So the last two months have been mostly spent showing bored people around the house, being shown around peoples houses, tidying, filling out forms, not shouting at Estate Agents, phonecalls, photocopying, filling more forms, spending more time in a bank than is reasonable (unless, of course, you're planning a caper) and signing many virtually identical pieces of paper.
Soon the solicitors will sacrifice a rocket & mozzerella paninni to their arcane gods, and we will experience the delights of moving all our stuff, plus 3 cats that don't like being in the same room together.
But we still have Neil Young.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
It's Not A Lefty, Organic-Veg-Growing, Make-It-Yourself Blog Without One Post About Yoghurt (or cat photo's)
Okay, so yoghurt is a bit lumbered with the whole hairshirt-wearing, bean-eating, hand wringing liberal brigade (uh. Such as myself), but making your own yoghurt is really easy, and the results are delicious.
So, on to the technical stuff.
Yoghurt (or yogurt, youghurt or any number of spellings containing an unnerving amount of vowels) is a dairy product made by adding a bacterial culture (usually lactobacillus bulgaricus or streptococcus thermophilous, great words for playing Hangman), Bio yoghurts contain extra bacteria to help keep your digestive system healthy (so if you've been on antibiotics taking bio yoghurt will restore the lost essential bacteria). Yoghurt is rich in protein, calcium and vitamins B6 & B12
Making your own yoghurt is really easy, and doesn't need lots of equipment (people have been managing to make it for 4,500 years). You can buy a yoghurt maker, which does all the work for you, but since I'm a cheapskate, I use a thermos flask. To make yogurt you need a starter culture, which is a fancy term for 1 tablespoon of live yoghurt (live meaning that the yoghurt hasn't been pasturised, and still contains active cultures, not that it's getting frisky.), most plain yoghurts you can buy are live yoghurts, and will state if they are on the label. You'll also need some milk (preferably fresh), what milk you use is up to you, full fat, skimmed, cow's milk, goat's milk, whatever takes your fancy.
Fill your thermos with milk, and pour into a saucepan (if you're doing this in the microwave, pour into a suitable container), and bring to the boil (making sure it doesn't boil over). this will kill off any beasties that might spoil the milk. remove from the heat and allow to cool to 43-50°C (110-122°F). I use my old sugar thermometer, but any thermometer will do. If you don't have a thermometer, stick a clean finger in the milk, it should feel slightly hotter than is comfortable, but won't burn you. Add 1tbs of live yoghurt to the hot milk & stir or whisk in. Pour the mixture back into the thermos (if you don't have a thermos, cover the bowl with cling film & wrap in several layers of dishcloths, and place in a warm airing cupboard), seal the top & put it somewhere a cat won't knock it over for 10-12 hours (I usually make it in the evening, so it's ready in the morning). After the wait, you should have yoghurt! Woo!
You can pour it into a container & bung it in the fridge (hot yoghurt is a bit unpleasant), or you can make some strained (Greek) yoghurt, or yoghurt cheese. To strain your yoghurt, place a colander over a bowl & line with some muslin. Pour the yoghurt into the muslin & leave for 2 hours. If you leave the yoghurt straining for a couple more hours, you'll get yoghurt cheese. Add a pich of salt, a dash of pepper and maybe a few chopped herbs & you'll have a soft, creamy cheese. Yum.
*Oh great tentacled cephalopody beastie, please protect these little green leafy things from mine enemy, the vile gastropod, and smite its squishy body with your many tentacles, so that I may one day know the terror and joy of a courgette glut.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
This shawl took 6 50g balls of yarn, though you could use a couple more, or one or two less, depending on how big a shawl you're after. I wanted a BIG shawl
So now you have your yarn, you'll need the appropriate sized needles. Most balls of yarn will tell you the recommended needle size (I used a pair of 8mm needles). Also, you don't need to knit a gauge for this. Yay.
Cast on 3 stitches. When you start the next row, increase 1 stitch. There are lots of different ways to increase stitches, use whatever you're most comfortable with (there's some clear diagrams & information on increases and lots of other knitting info here).
And that's pretty much it! Just knit to the end of the row, turn & increase the first stitch, and knit to the end of the row. So your first knitted row will have 4 stitches, the next will have 5, the next 6 & so on. Just knit & knit & knit until you think it's big enough. Then cast off, weave in the loose threads, stick in an envelope with some chocolate & put in the mail to anyone you love who is is far away but in need of a hug!
*Damn. Now that song is never getting out of my head.
**Partly because, even if I used fluffy purple wool, a gigantic formerly-fluffy-but-soggy-from-the-swim HugMonster may not be all that comforting. More terrifying really. Also, I'm really slow at crochet.
Thursday, 19 March 2009
Now you just leave them be. You might need to pile a bit of earth around the stems when they get to 30cm (12") tall to stabilise them, or stake them if you're on a windy site. If they get a bit too tall for comfort, you can cut any stems over 2 meters tall back by about one-third, but no more than that. When the leaves die back after the first frost, cut the plants down to 15cm (6") above the soil & dig up as & when necessary. the tubers will be perfectly happy in the ground (they can be stored in the fridge for a week or two, but are happier in the ground). The 'chokes I sowed last year were slowly dug up & eaten over 5 cold wintery months (the last ones were made into soup at the end of February, and were just as fresh & crunchy as the ones dug up in October). They will also grow in large pots too (this year I'm growing some in empty casks).
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Turns out I love bean sprouts, I just don't like Chinese mung bean sprouts (also known as nga choi or silver sprouts) where mung beans are tightly packed together & sprouted in darkness, which is how they get their crunchy texture. Bean sprouts grown on a sunny windowsill are sweeter & more tender, only take a couple of days & are an absolute doddle to make!
There are a few different ways of growing beansprouts. If you're a big fan of eating them, it might be worth getting yourself a 3 tiered sprouter like the one pictured above (a Being Fare 3 shelf sprouter. I have this out on my windowsill all the time!). You can buy sprouting jars, but they are really easy to make yourself. All you need is a large, wide-necked clear glass jar (an old pickle jar will do), an elastic band & a square of muslin large enough to comfortably cover the top of the jar.
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Saturday, 28 February 2009
The most frustrating things was hearing seasoned crocheters cheerfully say 'Oh, it's easy!' as their fingers moved in a blur and doilies (another pointless thing) were seemingly spun out of thin air.
Grrr. Crochet isn't easy. It's simple, but it's not easy.
After several attempts to learn from books, and then getting frustrated at the aforementioned books (insert hook where?), a friend of mine recommended 'The Happy Hooker' by Debbie Stoller (who gave us the novice knitters bestest friend 'Stitch 'n Bitch', which would be the best knitting book on earth if they had replaced that bloody ipod cosy with a good sock pattern).
Huzzah! For now I can crochet. Mostly.
Will be posting some crochet patterns soon, as well as blathering on about seeds.
*Or guitar, if you're more Robert Johnson inclined. And who isn't?!
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Cascabel means "Little bell", rather appropriately, as it is a small (2-3cm in diameter) cherry shaped chile. When dried the loose seeds in the chile rattle when its shaken, hence it's other common name of Rattle chile. Another name is chile bola (ball chile). When fresh, cascabel comes in red or green, though when dried it is a dark red/brown colour.
It's flavour is woody & acidic, with a bit of tannin in there too. It's spicey, but not hot, somewhere along the lines of Jalapeno or Guajillo chiles.
What can you do with it? As with the other chiles I've mentioned, you can deseed & remove the stem, toast briefly in a dry frying pan & soak in hot water until soft, then drain & blitz in a blender or food processor with a bottle of passata or a can or two of tomatoes to make a sauce for enchiladas, chilli or lasagna. Or chuck in a blender with a can of chickpeas, a couple of cloves of garlic & the juice of a lime for a tangy houmous. Or you can chop & fry them with onions & garlic, add a cup of rice & 2 cups of vegetable stock & simmer until the rice is done (stirring in a can of black beans & some sweetcorn at the end of cooking) for spicy rice.
Thursday, 12 February 2009
Thursday, 15 January 2009
But after a few false starts, a considerable amount of cussing & generally resenting all forms of abbreviation (how hard is it to write 'Purl 1, increase 1 in the next stitch'? Why does it have to be 'P1 inc. in next st', it's hard enough creating a thumb gusset** without having to constantly translate the instructions?), gloves were made.
If you fancy making your own bit of Hobo chic, and you have huge hands (these fits hands that are 4 1/2" - 5" wide, excluding thumb) you'll need;
4 (or 5) 4mm DPNS (yes, we'll be dancing with the DPNS in the pale moonlight)
1 ball of yarn (this pattern uses all of 1 ball, so if you're worried about running out of wool before you've finished the thumb, get another ball, it can always be used on something else), anything suitable for 4mm (or slightly larger) needles will do. I used Rowans Classic Yarns (RYC) Wool Tweed (Shetland), which I got in the January sale at John Lewis. Woo!
A stitch holder, or length of different coloured yarn.
Some stitch markers (I just used brightly coloured yarn to make my stitch markers)
A cup of tea
Okay, let's start with the right glove then!
Cast on 52 stitches onto your DPNS (I used 4 of them, having my stitches on 3 and working with the 4th, but if you're more comfortable using 5, do that instead). If you know the casting-on-with-thumb method, use that. If not, then cast on any way you can. Place a marker if you like, so you know when one row ends and another begins. Work in Knit 2 Purl 2 ribbing to make the cuff (so it's nice & stretchy and will go over your hand, but still fit snugly on the wrist) for a couple of inches (whatever is comfortable for you). I did 2" of ribbing.
Now change to Garter stitch (the one that's just knit every row, for by the magic of circular knitting, it will become inside out Stockinette. When you're finished, just turn the glove inside out & you'll have a Stockinette stitch) and when you knit this round, you'll need to increase 4 stitches evenly, giving you a total of 56 stitches (just increase 1 stitch every 13 stitches, that's nice & even). Knit 3 more rounds.
Okay, now on the next row we're doing a thumb gusset** (I know it's puerile, I just can't help it. It's a funny word). Place a stitch marker (unless you already have an end of row marker in place). Okay, you ready? Purl 1, increase in the next stitch, Knit 2 stitches, increase in the next stitch and Purl 1. Place a marker. Phew! That wasn't too bad now, was it? Now knit the rest of the row, and feel pleased with yourself! Knit 2 more rows, making sure that you Purl those two stitches on the thumb gusset**.
Next round, Purl 1, increase in the next stitch, Knit 4 stitches, increase in the next stitch and Purl 1 (see how you're starting to make a thumb. Pretty cool, eh?). Knit the rest of the row, and knit the next 2 rows, making sure that you purl those two stitches as you go.
So, you might be noticing a pattern here, yeah? With increases every 3rd row, right? Keep repeating this process (increasing inside the Purl stitches every 3rd row) until you have 18 stitches Between the 2 Purl stitches. Congratulations, you have a thumb gusset!**
Now things are going to get a bit fiddly, but then it'll be nice & easy for a while. then hard again.
Next round, Knit 1 stitch, then slip the next 18 stitches onto a stitch holder or length of string (I favour the length of string, it's much cheaper, and is also flexible). Cast on 4 Stitches (these will eventually become the rest of the thumb on your glove) and knit around, joining the cast on stitches to the main part of the glove (see how you've made a thumb hole now?). You should be back to 56 stitches on your DPNS now.
Here's a quick tip. If, like me, you're rubbish at picking up stitches, this is a little trick to help you out. Take a couple of inches brightly coloured yarn, something that's a contrasting colour to the yarn you're working with, and thread it onto a blunt ended needle. Pass that needle through those 4 cast on stitches you've just done, and leave the yarn threaded through those stitches. That yarn will sit there patiently until you come back to knit up the thumb, and when you need to pick up those stitches, all you have to do is run your needle through where the yarn is. Huzzah! No hassle stitch-picking-up!
Okay, now all that difficult stuff is done, you can take it easy. All you have to do is Knit rows until you've reached the required length of glove (depending on the length of your hand) before beginning the fingers. If you're not sure, try your glove on & see if it fits!
One things that will make life simple (but you don't have to do it if you don't want to) is place a marker between the 2nd & 3rd stitch of those 4 stitches you cast on (the ones that will make up the rest of the glove). That will come in handy soon.
Okay, next we have another difficult bit, so make a cup of tea (or pour a glass of wine). it's fiddly, but not hard, and pretty soon you'll have a glove. woo!
Remember that marker between the 2nd & 3rd stitch you cast on? Knit until you reach it. You'll be moving some stitches around it. You need the 8 stitches before & the 8 stitches after that marker on your needle. that's 16 stitches. Slip all the other stitches onto a length of string or a stitch holder, and arrange your 16 stitches on 3 (or 4) DPNS. You're about to make the first finger.
Knit all 8 stitches after the marker & cast on 3 stitches (this will be another gusset** and will be joined to the 2nd finger, so I recommend threading some yarn through these 3 stitches, to help with picking them up later), join these up with the other 8 stitches and knit until the finger is the length you require. This is a fiddly process, but won't take you long to get the inch or two of knit that you need. Cast off. Well done, you have a finger!
So now it's time to make the 2nd finger.
Take a DPNS & pick up those 3 cast on stitches from the 1st finger gusset**. Next pick up 7 stitches from one end of the length of string/stitch holder and slip those on after the cast on stitches. Next, slip 8 stitches from the other end of the string/stitch holder and slip those onto the needle before the 3 cast on stitches. Arrange these 18 stitches evenly over 3 (or 4) DPNS and cast on 3 more stitches (again using that bit of yarn to help pick up the stitches later) for the 2nd/3rd finger gusset** to create another fingerhole and knit until you have the finger length you require. cast off, and prepare yourself for the 3rd finger.
Take a DPNS & pick up those 3 cast on stitches from the 2nd finger gusset**. Next pick up 6 stitches from one end of the length of string/stitch holder and slip those on after the cast on stitches. Then slip 7 stitches from the other end of the string/stitch holder and slip those onto the needle before the 3 cast on stitches. Arrange these 18 stitches evenly over 3 (or 4) DPNS and cast on 3 more stitches (again using that bit of yarn to help pick up the stitches later) for the 3rd/4th finger gusset**. You should have another fingerhole. yay! So knit until you have the finger length required, cast off, and rejoice! For it is the final finger!
Pick up the 3 stitches from 3rd finger gusset** & knit 2 together. it doesn't matter which 2. Slip the remaining stitches from the length of string/stitch holder onto a needle & arrange evenly over 3 (or 4) DPNS to make a fingerhole. Knit until you have the fingerlength you want, and cast off. easy!
Now the thumb. Yes, the thumb. It seems so long ago since we were last together, so much time has passed! After all the business with the fingers, the thumb is a doddle. Pick up the 4 cast on stitches (with the help of that strand of yarn) & the 18 stitches from the length of string/stitch holder, arrange on 3 (or 4) DPNS & knit until you have the thumblength you want, then cast off.
Cry huzzah! For you have a glove. Use your blunt ended needle to work in all the loose threads, turn inside out (or rather the right way around), make sure you've removed your brightly coloured threads & wear with pride!
Then realise that there is still another glove to make.
But that's okay, for you are a glove knitting master, and the pattern for the left hand is, let's be honest, is identical to the right hand.
*Knitted Companion Cubes! Eeeeeeeeeeee!