March Sampler


Thursday, 31 March 2011

March turned out to be unexpectedly bright and colourful thanks to some lovely sunshine and the hefty dose of artificial colouring in my daughter's birthday cake.

We've had some beautiful weather this March. Spring has sprung, the trees are full of blossom. My cherry tree has shed all its flowers now but there is more blossom to come, before April is over I hope to be able to show you pictures of the Quince Tree in bloom.

I am looking forward to April despite the fact that my children are only at school for eight days of it.
 Because Easter is so late this year they break up next Friday and don't go back to school until the 27th April. Then they are off again on the 29th for the royal wedding which is followed by the May Day bank holiday. My daughter asked me the other day if I thought the royal wedding would be on telly. I told her I thought it probably would be :o) Elder son wants to know if we are going to have a day off for Ed Miliband's wedding too.

All my monthly samplers can be viewed if you click on the Sampler Page link under my banner picture.

Cinnamon Toast


Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I've heard that some people make cinnamon toast by spreading pieces of hot toast with butter and sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar, or by mashing butter, sugar and cinnamon together and spreading that onto toast.
I make it like this.

Cut thick slices of bread.

Toast on one side only under the grill.

Spread the untoasted side thickly with salted butter. It must be salted.

Cover with a layer of sugar and  dust with cinnamon.

Flash under the grill. The sugar will melt and bubble very quickly so watch it like a hawk.

 The sugar will form a crisp crust as it cools. 
Eat while still hot.

The perfect thing for those times when you crave something sweet and starchy and there are no cakes or biscuits anywhere in the house. The makings for cinnamon toast are always there.
Try not to get butter on your yarn.

the Quince Tree in March


Friday, 25 March 2011

Well thank you everyone for your input regarding my Ravilious blanket. There were some really interesting comments and they are much appreciated. I know a ripple would look wonderful and echo those waves of hills in the paintings but I just don't enjoy rippling. I already have a blue ripple (scroll down the page) which has long since been abandoned. I have this on the go too. It's lovely yarn, beautiful colours but I'm finding it rather boring work. Long rows of one colour are not for me I have discovered.
 I like granny squares. No long foundation chain, quick to finish, plenty of colour changes. Even if you make a granny in one colour only, they are so quick to complete it won't be long before you can pick up another colour.
So that's what it'll be - granny squares, maybe one colour squares, maybe not. Thinking, thinking.

Compare the Quince Tree today with the photo I took a year ago. This time next month we may have blossom.

I have had a wonderful day today. Charlie has had the day off and the weather has been gorgeous.

Today I have enjoyed.

1) Maria Dahlgren. Fabulous Swedish designer.

Royal wedding tea towel. I'm pretty indifferent to the royal family but I had to have this. It's such a clever design. I love they way the words 'I do' are picked out of the words 'In London'. I like the initials carved on the tree too.

Set of five postcards from Ikea. Bargain eh? The frames were from Ikea too. 

2) This

3) Lunch at a pub with Charlie. We sat outside in the sun.
I forgot to take a picture of my onion and goat cheese tarte tatin, with rocket salad.
But this was my pudding.

Vanilla crème brulée with rhubarb sorbet. Exquisite.

Some of this too.

4) My new picture.

It is a 1950s educational poster. I love it.

5) Colour co-ordinating my laundry drying.

Not intentionally.

Thrifty Kitchen


Monday, 21 March 2011

Thrift in the kitchen isn't anything to do with spending as little as possible. It is about making the most of whatever food you have, be it the best sirloin or a bag of lentils. It means using up leftovers. I really enjoy finding a creative use for my leftovers. It is very satisfying to create a new dish that tastes as good, and sometimes better than the original.

Yesterday a look in my extremely tidy fridge :o) revealed a tub of  beef stew leftover from Saturday's dinner and tub of pizza sauce leftover from my daughter's birthday meal on Thursday. A ferret through my freezer resulted in a tub of bean stew leftover from a meal earlier in the week. Red Soup. I grabbed a tub of  duck stock from the freezer and threw the contents of all four tubs into a pot and heated them gently. Delicious beef, bean and tomato soup for lunch. And there was some leftover for my lunch today. Leftover leftovers.

Lamb meatballs
There was also a tub of leftover mash in the fridge from a sausage and mash meal we had on Friday, which, incidentally, I served with two small tubs of frozen leftover gravy. I had minced lamb planned for dinner yesterday evening so I added the mash to the mince, blitzed some dried apricots, onion and garlic in the food processor, added some spices (cumin, cinnamon and allspice) and some salt.

And made meatballs.

I browned them and then put them in the oven to cook through.

A tub of hummus was two days past its use-by date so I mixed it with some yogurt which didn't have a use-by date on it because I forgot to write one on it when I made it :o) - I don't take much notice of use-by dates. It made a lovely sauce to go with the meatballs. The meatballs were very good.

There were a few meatballs leftover, they have gone in the boys' lunchboxes.

I had some leftover grated mozzarella  (from the birthday pizza). I used it to make little pitta pizzas for today's lunchboxes.

There was quite a lot of rice leftover from our meatball meal. This was intentional. I often make extra rice or mash to use in another meal. I had lots of eggs and some home-sprouted bean sprouts. A little bacon and some more veg and a lovely supper of egg-fried rice can be had for very little effort.

So, there you are, leftover
beef stew 
bean stew
pizza sauce
all used to make delicious meals.

Spring Equinox


Sunday, 20 March 2011

The wheel turns.

Half day, half night.

From today the days will be longer than the nights.

Until the autumn equinox in six months.

Everywhere this weekend
the sound of lawn mowers.

The sun warm on our faces
Coats discarded.

It has arrived.

Just in time

For the first day of spring tomorrow.

'It was a Wedgwood day, with white clouds delicately modelled in relief against a sky of pale pure blue. The best of England, thought Mrs. Miniver, as opposed to countries with reasonable climates, is that it is not only once a year that you can say, "This is the first day of spring." She had already said it twice since Christmas -- once in January, when they had driven across the Marsh to the sea and it had been warm enough to lie on the sand without a coat; and once in February, when she had taken the children for a lunch picnic in Kensington Gardens. The grass had been scattered with twigs from the previous night's gale, and by the next afternoon it was snowing: but while it lasted that day had been part of the authentic currency of spring -- a stray coin tossed down carelessly on account.
But this time, she thought (though she knew quite well that one said that every time), it really was spring.'

From Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther

Is My Fridge Too Tidy?


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Thank you for your lovely comments about the rainbow cake, and of course for all your comments. They are very much appreciated :o) 

I must say I was very pleased with the way the cake turned out. 
Next time, if there is a next time, I would probably halve the cake mixture in order to obtain thinner layers. I would also take more care when filling the tins to level the surface. Creating a bit of a hollow in the middle of the cake may well help prevent it from doming too much. 
The cake batter was an all in one mixture made simply by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and beating well with electric beaters. Not taxing at all. 
The colours I use are these. Paste colours don't dilute the icing, last forever and produce a wide range of intense colours.

I have to be honest and tell you that I did not make the cake as an act of devoted motherhood. I made it because I liked the look of it, because I enjoy baking and because I enjoy creating things in my home. But mainly because I knew it would make a good blog post. 

And now onto the subject of my fridge. I was completely taken aback by the amount of comments I had saying how tidy my fridge was. Not being in the habit of looking inside people's fridges I had no idea that mine was especially tidy. 
I took the picture below this morning. The only tweaking I did was to turn the jars so that their labels faced forward.

Is it particularly tidy?
It is a very large fridge with no freezing compartment so it is easy to keep tidy. 
Cheese goes on the top shelf, coffee (in the stainless steel canister) and yogurt go on the next shelf because they won't fit anywhere else. Leftovers are put in freezer tubs and if, after a couple of days they haven't been used they go in the freezer. I don't as a rule keep preserves in the fridge, but some don't get used up very quickly -marmalade, chilli jelly for instance, so they go in the fridge as they might go mouldy otherwise.
The Le Creuset pot has beef stew in it for dinner tonight and the blue dish has minced lamb defrosting for dinner tomorrow. There's still quite a lot of cake left despite giving some of it away.
The rest of my family don't really interfere with things in my fridge. I'm not sure why, I must have trained them well.

So, how tidy is your fridge?



Friday, 18 March 2011

In Japan the cherry blossom or sakura is a symbol of the brevity of life.

Rainbow Cake


Thursday, 17 March 2011

Today is my daughter's 11th birthday. Time to make a cake.
Something like this from One Charming Party.
My first thought on stumbling across this cake was not 'gosh my daughter will love that' but 'wow, what a great blog post that would make'. I showed the pictures to my daughter and she said it was a cool cake and that I should definitely take photos of it and put it on my blog. So, there you go, two birds and all that.
I made the cakes last week and put them in the freezer as recommended by the One Charming Party folks.

I made 8 layers. Two at a time using 7 inch sandwich tins. I used a two egg sponge mixture (four times) hoping that it would produce thin layers. 

2 eggs
4 oz self-raising flour
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

I divided the the batter in two and coloured each half. My box of colours did not let me down.
The cakes  emerged from the oven all looking  a rather unappetising  khaki. I could see, though, that this was just the outside, the crumb looked much more vivid. 

This morning I made a large batch of vanilla buttercream.

18 oz icing sugar
9 oz soft butter
3 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I removed the cakes from the freezer and stacked them one by one spreading buttercream between the layers. I took several pictures all of which are terrible. This one is the least terrible.

The stack of cakes was considerably taller than the one at One Charming Party. I thought my layers were thin enough, but evidently not. I tried trimming a couple of the thickest cakes. Now the cake was leaning. I toyed briefly with the idea of turning it into a Leaning Tower of Pisa cake, we were having pizza for dinner after all, there was a theme....
I'd used up my entire batch of icing. Another batch later and the cake was covered. I went for a textured effect rather than a smooth finish. For obvious reasons.

I had to remove a shelf from the fridge.

 Taking photos of food under electric lights isn't ideal. The cake looked much more spectacular in real life. 
Astonishment and applause all round. 
We divided each slice into two, we aren't that greedy. Not quite.

The cake was good but I'd much rather eat the chocolate and apricot cake in my previous post any day.

One more edible spectacle in the shape of lollies brought by my sister-in-law who has a talent for finding unusual and original gifts.

Yup, scorpions in lollies. Younger son and daughter have eaten all of theirs. Elder son won't eat his because it is banana flavoured and he doesn't like bananas. He's quite happy to eat the scorpion, but bananas: no way.

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