Monday, June 27, 2011

Loving it...

This week I have been loving...
...broad bean and pea dip (I know! Broad beans - how I dislike thee)
...Louise cake made with damson jam (I know, mum, its really called raspberry shortcake, but I think Louise cake is prettier).
...Oxford Kitchen Yarns beautiful floor quilt
...starting new projects
...foxy fabric
...Felix's meta pinterest board

Hope you all had a great weekend

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Climbing the walls

 When we moved into our place a year ago (!), we spent considerable amounts of resources (temporal and financial) acquiring furniture that we actually liked, would remain functional after more than 6 months and look the part in this 1930's semi. We largely solved that problem. However, the blank walls were crying out for some decoration, and turns out that frames are about as expensive as furniture. So I bought a two lovely pieces of screenprinting from Helen Rawlinson on Etsy. She has lovely stuff, and works out of London. The pieces turned up so quickly, and I got some canvases and glued them on. The ABC one didn't fit a standard canvas size, so I sewed a little linen bias binding on two edges, which looks ok I think. So now the big boy's room is a bit brighter...
 and our room is a little less empty looking.

I also decided we needed a new duvet cover. I had a lovely piece of blue and white fabric in my stash, enormous and bought for a song second-hand a few years ago. But it wasn't quite enough, so I found a lovely piece of 'very vintage' Irish linen online.
 I know, it just looks like a sheet in this picture. Trust me, it is gorgeous. Cool, smooth, clearly used as it is lovely and soft. It has a hand stitched seam up the centre that is done with the most minute stitches, and the hems are so beautifully sewn, all by hand. Someone spent a lot of time on this piece of fabric. It also had a weavers mark on it:
One day I'll remember to take a picture of the finished duvet cover, but I managed to keep the centre seam and some of the hems. It had a few tiny pieces of wear, but these were easy enough to fix. I also have enough left to make some cushion/pillow covers (one day!). I love having this treasured old piece as my treasured new thing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

summer meals

So with the veg box and the veg garden both providing us with assorted delicious things, we occasionally end up with significant amounts of veg. For example, spinach/chard/cavalo nero/leafy greens. I have always loved the idea of spinach & feta pie/tart, but I am the first to admit that they can be bland, mushy old things. So I started on a quest to make my perfect S&F tart. It took several goes, but I think I'm nearly there. And, surprise!, S likes it too. So here it is - my Spinach & Feta tart recipe. Well, its not really a recipe, more like broad guidelines. See what you think.
1. Leaves: you need a lot of leaves. As much as you can get your hands on really. The best tarts come from a blend of chard and spinach, I think, but you can really use almost anything. Baby spinach leaves from the supermarket will do, but they are the least tasty (maybe better for those spinach-shy folks). Anyway, chop some shallots, fry them off gently, add some garlic if you like, then put your leaves in, turn the heat right down and put the lid on. Turn them over a few times, until they wilt down. I usually add them in a few goes, to fit them into the frypan. It is essential that you squeeze your spinach out as much as possible before you put it in the pie - you want as little liquid in the pie as possible.
2. White sauce: You need a small amount of white sauce, made to be quite thick (butter, flour, milk). You can put cheese in if you like, or some mustard, or something else, or nothing.
3. Feta: the better your feta, the better your tart. Have a taste of it before you finish the filling as it seems to vary a lot in saltiness and you might need to adjust your seasoning.
4. Flavours: Here you can be flexible, but I think it really needs the following - herbs (ideally fresh dill and parsley), a little grated lemon zest, and pine nuts. You could also add almost any 'soft' herb, really - basil, oregano, new thyme leaves, chives, and things like capers and olives are also good.

So mix all your components together, except the pine nuts if you're using them.
roll out some pastry. I used to make my own, but actually \I prefer shop puff pastry for this. Half a block is fine. Roll it into a square. Put your filling in the middle, in a sort of flat lump. Sprinkle over your pine nuts. In the picture above I just folded the two edges over, but it works better if you pull the four sides up, with corners out, then fold the corners in. This makes it almost sealed, but not quite. Juices stay in, but it allows some evaporation without the filling getting too dry. Sesame seeds on top is nice too.

So thats it. Nice with a little pinot grigio.
If you are a 'nap cooker' like me (as in, while the kids are having a nap you get most of your dinner cooked so that at 5pm witching hour you can focus on children not sustaining injuries, rather than the evening meal), then this is great - just make as much or as little of it up until you roll out the pastry, then finish it off and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes when you have a few seconds.

Friday, June 03, 2011


While we were on holiday, the garden kept growing. And blooming. Turns out those scrappy old leaves I'd been wondering about, dotted around the garden, were irises. Out of focus irises, but still pretty :) And the roses are turning out to be pleasantly old fashioned and wonderfully smelly.

This is my favourite view from inside at the moment. The pot is fresias, but I think the leaves are rather lovely. Outside is the mock orange, which is carpeting the grass in white. Its all very crisp and springy.