Friday, 31 January 2014

East Meets West Duck

I'm not a big fan of fusion food - unless it's really expertly done, it veers more towards being CONfusion food. In a smart restaurant in Vancouver I was once given Moroccan spicy lamb tagine with a side of stir fried mange tout, peppers and water chestnuts, complete with soy and sesame. It didn't work and was an experience I wouldn't care to repeat (neither was the moment when a mouse ran across the table, but that's by-the-by)

I had some lovely duck breasts in the fridge but despite it being Chinese New Year I wasn't in the mood to cook a full-on Chinese meal, so I decided to cook the duck plainly and serve it meat-and-two-veg style but with rice instead of potatoes, and a  stir fry in place of the two veg.

It was delicious, and I thought I'd share the stir fry recipe with you. You will need

1 red onion
½ head Chinese leaves, finely shredded
75 g raw cashew nuts, dry-fried until just starting to colour
1 large clove garlic
1cm x 3cm piece of fresh ginger, shredded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I like to use Chinese peanut oil when I can get it)
dash of sesame oil
1 teaspoon Shao Hsing wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons plum sauce

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and stir fry the onion and ginger for 2-3 minutes. Add the cabbage and garlic and continue stir frying until the cabbage has wilted.

Tip in the wine and when the steam subsides, stir in all the remaining ingredients, mix well and allow to bubble for a minute until  heated through.

Serve with steamed rice and your choice of meat - I used duck breasts that had been started off in a a frying pan then finished in the oven, but a chicken breast or pork chop would work equally well.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Crafting goodies through the post

Do you realise that every single time your postman comes, they may be bringing you crafting goodies? No, I'm not talking about your online and TV craft spending habits, although I'm seriously considering getting my computer to block me from visiting certain sites, but the stuff that might otherwise end up in your recycling bin - the envelopes!

Lots of envelopes have patterns printed on the inside, usually in blue (although if you are with a certain phone company you may be lucky enough to get orange ones)  and these make great craft papers. I keep a selection of pretty and undamaged ones in my craft stash.

I've put together a card using the papers from just two envelopes. I stamped and embossed flowers on one inside paper,  then cut them out

The second piece I cut into rectangles and folded each in half, then cut a half-leaf shape with the central vein of the leaf on the fold. Holding it at an angle, I pit the still-folded leaf through a corrugator. When opened out it produces a lovely stylised leaf.

Finally I assembled a selection of leaf and flower shapes to create my card.
Yet more recycling, so I'm adding this, too, to the recycling challenge at Oldie But a Goodie

What a load of rubbish

I've been busy preparing a guest post for the lovely Claire at Life, Ninja Killer Cat and Everything Else, all about crafting with scraps from around the house and pulled together this odd collection of bits and pieces.

The pink ribbon was off a gift box of smellies and the rather lovely green papers are wrappers from some Italian sweets. They've been sitting in my craft stash for YEARS simply because they looked too pretty to throw away. I added a scrap of lace and some singleton odd buttons, and stamped a lace doyley background to pull all the elements together.

More recycling, so I'm joining in again with the recycling challenge at Oldie But a Goodie.

Simply purple

A couple of years ago I won a huge gift box of chocolate bars, packaged up in a purple corrugated cardboard box.

The chocolate, of course, is long gone, but I cut the best parts of the box off and kept them - a lovely fine-ribbed purple corrugated card was bound to come in handy some time!

And now it has done. The current challenge at CASology is week 80 - Purple and at Oldie But a Goodie it is Recycle so I've recycled some of the purple card. And with the addition of some stamped and embossed flowers and a simple greeting, it really doesn't look like a leftover chocolate box at all!

It's a gift!

I was recently given an iSubscribe gift token - which of course I have used to treat myself to yet another craft magazine with. The token itself came in a very smart card holder, the black and red one that you can see in the photo.

It was far too good to throw away, so I decided to incorporate it into a craft project. Red and black together always make me think of Valentine's day, so here's the card I made with it.

This week's challenge at CAS on Sunday is #25 Lovely Dovey  and I'm playing along.

Budget recipe - Pork and apple plait

This is hardly a recipe - more a simple assembly job, for a cheap and easy midweek treat. It serves 4 and if you shop around could end up costing under £1 a head. Supermarket sausage meat is very cheap, at around £2 for a 500g pack, but can be fatty and make the bottom of the plait rather greasy. I paid almost double that at a good farm shop but the quality of the meat made it into a real treat - and it still came in at around £1.50 a head.

You will need

1 pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (You could save even more money by buying a block or making your own, but the ready rolled is exactly the right size for this and a great time saver)
500g pork sausage meat
1 onion, finely chopped
½ tablespoon sunflower oil
1 eating apple
1 beaten egg (optional - you can use milk but it won't look as shiny)

Preheat the oven to 200 C, 180 fan, gas mark 6.
Fry the onion in oil until soft and golden.
Grease a baking tray or line it with non-stick paper and unroll the pastry on to it. Spread the sausage meat lengthwise over the central third of the pastry, leaving about 4 cm clear at each end, then scatter the chopped onion over the top. Peel and slice the apple and arrange the slices over the pork and onions.
Now take a sharp knife and cut diagonal lines from the edge almost to the filling, about 2cm apart, along each edge. Make sure the lines on each side form a chevron shape, so you'll be able to form a plait, and that you have the same number of strips on each side. Brush the tips of the strips with egg or milk,  then tuck the end pieces over the meat and lift the strips over, alternately, to form your plait.

Brush the finished plait all over with egg and then bake in the pre-heated oven for 35 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to make sure the pastry isn't getting too brown - if it is, cover with a piece of foil, because you want to be sure the sausage meat cooks through.

Delicious served hot or cold. All it really needs with it is a simple salad.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

This weekend sees the Chinese New Year, a festival that goes on for several days. I lived in Hong Kong for several years and it was my favourite time of year - the typhoon season was over and the weather was still pleasantly cool,  the fields were full of row upon row of plum blossom trees (under rows of electric lights to bring the blossom out at just the right time, especially if New Year fell early in the calendar year, as it does this year), shops and villages were adorned with huge red and gold signs, the children were given sweets and red packets in many of the shops and there was an atmosphere of joy everywhere, even extended to those of us who were not part of the celebrations.

Little wonder, then, that one of my favourite crafting themes is Oriental. Among crafters, the theme goes in and out of fashion but for me it's always in fashion.

While rummaging through my oriental themed stamps, I came across a sheet of clear stamps I hadn't used for years, one of several old favourites I got from the now-sadly-defunct Tanda Stamps. I love this depiction of a giant sea turtle. I'm sure it's based on a well known piece of art but I can't place the original.

I stamped it with distress ink then used a water brush to add more colour to the turtle, to make him stand out from the background a bit. The fish are the last two peel-offs from a sheet I bought in a kit from one of the shopping channels many, many years ago, and the borders are from the same set. Those borders have always irritated me because the corner pieces are designed in such a way that it is impossible to make the direction of the twists match up with that of the straight pieces!

I'm joining in with

Make My Monday - Eastern Promise
Craft Room Challenge - Age of Aquarius

Happy Chinese New Year - Kung hei fat choi!

Monday, 27 January 2014

A bit of horse-play

This week's theme at CD Sundays is The Year of the Horse - either a Horse design, or an Oriental one, or both. I've got remarkably little on CD that's Oriental themed - probably because I have so many Oriental papers, stamps and embellishments that my subconscious has banned me from buying any.

So I had to approach it from the horse-angle. I really wanted to use the gorgeous horse designs on "Meadow's Edge, the Next Generation" but although I've only used the CD a couple of times, it won't open on my computer any more. It just makes the drive whirr loudly in a rather alarming way for several minutes then falls asleep. I can use Windows Explorer to view the folders on the disc but it takes about 10 minutes to bring up the menu. I suppose I could then open the image folder and view the files that way, but if it's going to take 10 minutes to open each one it will be NEXT Sunday before I get any images to print! I tried it in my husband's laptop, where it still won't auto run but the files open much faster,  but his laptop won't speak to my printer! Has anyone ever encountered a similar problem with a CD, and if so, is there a fix for it?

Anyway, abandoning that idea, I turned to the beautiful Joanna Sheen CD "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and used the pale, wintery horse decoupage and ploughed field backing paper from that. I love this design, it reminds me of my childhood, when the field behind our house was still ploughed by horses,  two beautiful beasts called Kit and Captain. I was pleased to find that my stash contained some card in the pale terracotta and blue-grey used in the image, which I used for layering and for die-cutting the flowers and leaves.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Less is More - sketch week

This week there's a sketch challenge at Less is More

Here's my take on it. The flower is made from two die cuts, but the top one was put through an embossing folder with a floral design, positioned so that it was centred over one of the flowers. The photo doesn't show the embossing up very well - I highlighted part of it with glitter glue to try to emphasise it, but that made matters worse as the glitter reflected the flash - and on a gloomy day like today, taking the photo without flash just wasn't an option!

So you'll have to take my word for it - this card looks a lot better in real life than it does in the photo!

A little bit Kraft-y

I've had One Of Those crafting days - you know the kind of day when you prepare a complicated fancy fold card and then realise you'd mis-measured the topper and the card is too small? And the CD you really want to use an image from refuses to load? As for trying to take photos, especially of another card I made - well, the less said about that the better!

So in the end I decided to keep things very clean and simple today. I've just used die cuts and kraft card for this card.

I'm playing along with
Make my Monday - a little bit of Kraft
Addicted to Stamps and More - CAS

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A card for a man

One thing almost all crafters - even male ones - seem to agree on is how hard it is to make a card for a man. And it's harder still when it comes to Valentine cards -  pretty hearts, frills and flowers just won't work. So here is my take on a masculine Valentine. You can't see the texture, but the hearts were made using double sided peel offs, with the outer red one coated in flock and the inner white on in glitter.


P-p-p-p-pick up a Penguin #2

Here is my second entry for this week's {PIN}spirational Challenge (sorry I'm not feeling very chatty today, I think I'm starting with a cold, so it's just quick photo uploads from me today). Another Crafts U Print quickie

P-p-p-p-pick up a Penguin #1

This week's inspiration at  {PIN}spirational Challenges is this cute penguin pic

Here is my first entry, made with a design downloaded from Crafts U Print  - I don't buy downloads from there very often, as I find they tend to be very much aimed at making one specific card and aren't all that versatile, but I do keep a few downloaded sheets on my computer for when I need a quick card and am lacking inspiration

Friday, 24 January 2014

Comforting Curried Eggs

Note - this is my entry to The Co-operative Electrical's comfort food competition. If you'd like to enter too, you can find all the details here.

If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that my New Year's resolution for 2013 was to have at least one vegetarian day a week - and I've kept it up for over a year now. I find it harder to eat vegetarian when the weather is cold, wet and miserable though - tonight's planned tabbouleh and vegetable koftas have  been postponed in favour of a steamed steak pudding.

However it really IS possible to eat vegetarian meals that are warming and comforting - think of a hearty butternut squash risotto or macaroni cheese. And of course there's nothing quite as warming as a curry. Here is one I devised  yesterday when we'd reached the day before our shopping trip with little more than a box of eggs in the fridge. It turned out to be perfect cheap, hearty comfort food so I'm sharing it here.

Curried eggs in tomato sauce

 serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

4 eggs
1 x 450g tin chopped tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbs sunflower oil
1 large clove of garlic, crushed
1 cm slice of fresh ginger, grated
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a deep, lidded pan over high heat and fry the mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds until they start to pop. Immediately reduce the heat and add the onion. Cook gently until soft and translucent,  then stir in all the ground spices plus the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in the tinned tomatoes and the same volume of water (measure this by filling the tin with water so it picks up all the tomatoey residue in the tin). Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for around an hour, checking the liquid level from time to time. It needs to thicken until when you pull the wooden spoon through it, it takes a few seconds to fill the space. Don’t let it boil dry, but if it looks too liquid after an hour, either cook it for a bit longer or turn the heat up and bubble it uncovered for a few minutes, depending on how much time you have. Taste and add seasoning at this point.

Now to cook the eggs. You’ll need to add them one at a time,  breaking each into a cup first. Use a wooden spoon to pull the sauce quickly away from the side of the pan and quickly tip your egg into the space. Repeat with the other three eggs. Replace the pan lid and cook gently until the eggs are cooked  - 5 to 8 minutes for soft yolks, 10 minutes for hard ones.

Serve with rice or naan bread.  We added some poppadoms and a tomato and cucumber salad for crunch, and a selection of chutneys.


Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A perfect Valentines Day Meal

Note this is my entry for Superbreak's Valetines Break competition - you can read all about it here. Why don't you join in? You have until February 11th and could win a trip to Paris!

This year, Valentine's Day  falls on a Friday, making it a perfect opportunity to go away for a weekend break.  A romantic hideaway hotel, a luxury spa, a fine dining destination - there is so much to choose from. But what if you decide to stay at home? My idea of a perfect Valentine's Day meal is just that - dinner at home.

But not just any old dinner - I don't want to be slaving away in the kitchen, and getting hot and bothered for all the wrong reasons! I'm happy to spend the whole day cooking, if need be, just as long as there's not much to do at the last minute.

Champagne and oysters are a traditional romantic starter. But my husband is allergic to both champagne and oysters, while I think oysters taste like snot. So that's definitely a non-starter in our household. Instead, I'll opt for another traditional romantic starter, asparagus. But I'll make it extra special by serving it topped with daintily poached quails' eggs, scattering it with candied shreds of pink grapefruit peel and drizzling over a pink grapefruit reduction.

We'll not want a heavy main course, just something we can lazily graze at and maybe even feed to each other. So how about a selection of Mediterranean dishes - a Greek salad, tabbouleh, hummus ( I think I'll omit the raw garlic), fresh juicy melon with feta and some home made pita bread? Every bit can be prepared in advance - and can happily be kept waiting if the asparagus has already done its thing!!!

Now, dessert or cheese to finish? What a tough decision - but having BOTH would be far too heavy. Unless, of course, they are combined into a pear and blue cheese tart!

So what would it be for you? Romantic break, special meal out, or special dinner at home? And what would your menu be?

Monday, 20 January 2014

Time to Celebrate

A very simple card in bold colours, using a stamp that was free on the cover of a craft magazine some time ago.

This week's challenge at CASual Fridays is CFC126 - Colour Blocks and this is my entry to the challenge

Meal planning Monday 20th January 2014

Happy Blue Monday! Today is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, so what we all need is some good warming comfort food!

First of all, a quick look back at last week. I'd planned one Chinese mean and one Indonesian one, but I got so carried away at the Chinese Cash & Carry that we ended up having three Oriental meals instead of two, meaning the meals for the rest of the week, although the same dishes, were eaten in a different order to fit in with time and ingredients available on particular days, and the final meal of the week, the chilli, was held over to this week. Mark's turn to cook on Saturday saw him producing a magnificent guinea fowl dish - the details are on his blog.

Last week was a great week for winning things (in case you don't know me wearing my other hat, I'm a comper, and post about competitions and how to win them on my other blog, ), and among my wins were a hamper of frozen vegetarian dishes and FOUR recipe books:

The Clandestine Cake Club
Allegra McEvedy's Big Table, Busy Kitchen
Cape Wine Braai Maters
Yeo Valley's The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook

I was very surprised by the Yeo Valley book. I'd expected it to major in dairy products but it is packed with hearty-but-healthy dishes of all kinds, with most of them incorporating lots of veg - just the kind of food we like to eat every day, so I've incorporated a couple of ideas from it into this week's plan. I've also been rummaging through the freezer to see what needs using up, so quite a lot of this week's meals use odds and ends I've discovered in there.

Monday held over from last week, Chilli Con Carne  with brown rice and green beans
Tuesday pasta  with meat balls and tomato sauce - the meat balls and sauce are home made and in the freezer, and I've just noticed a home made focaccia in there too which we can have with it, along with some green salad.
Wednesday Cheddar farls with fried eggs and crispy bacon (from the Yeo Valley book)
Thursday curried eggs with dahl and naan bread (dahl and naan from the freezer)
Friday Green tabbouleh (from the Yeo Valley book) and broad bean falafel (from the hamper of frozen foods)

Saturday and Sunday I'm leaving clear for the time being. On Saturday we're going to a potato festival (!) and planning to come home via a farm shop, and on Sunday we're planning to visit a different Farmers Market, as the Fleet one has closed down. I'm rather hoping we can get some decent sausages, I'm in a bangers-and-mash mood.

As well as the dishes planned above, I have a Mystery Dish to use, maybe as a weekend lunch. It is in the freezer and looks like some kind of vegetable gratin. It's not been in there very long and I can clearly remember making something, finding it filled two dishes rather than the one I'd expected, and thinking, "I'll pop the other in the freezer. No need to label it, I'm sure to remember what it is." The snag is, I can't remember what it is at all!

I'm joining in with Meal Planning Monday  - why don't you? Read all about it on At Home With Mrs M where every Monday you will find a Linky where you can add your own meal plan posts or read lots of others for inspiration.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Here Kitty Kitty

This week's CD Sundays challenge is Here Kitty Kitty. I'm absolutely crazy about cats so it was a shock to realise I don't own a single cat-themed CD (I'm sure I'll put that right soon). There are several cute images on The Very best of La Pashe 2012 but I decided to go for an image, background and insert from a CD called "Victorian Ladies" which doesn't seem to have a publisher's name on it. It's very special to me as it is the first thing I ever won in a craft blog challenge!

The overall effect of the image and papers was rather brown so I zinged it up by picking out the turquoise of the lady's bow for the layering and embellishments. I must have turquoise on the brain after last week!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Dotty Birthday

I think at this time of year we all feel the need to go through our stash and see what we can use up. It's a New Year's Resolution/Spring Cleaning thing and also preparation for all the upcoming shows..... I need to make room for the inevitable purchases!

So  I've been having a rummage through my box of part-used paper and card, to see what I can produce from them. When I found this quarter-sheet of pretty dotty paper, I thought it was ideal for this week's challenge at CASology which is #78 - Dot. I was pleased to find that in my Candi collection I had colours that exactly matched the dots on the paper!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

A nice cup of tea

You're probably all familiar with my addiction to tea! I tend to drink it out of big chunky mugs - but it DOES seem to taste better out of a china cup. China cups, however, don't hold enough for me!

I'm still playing around with the Hunkydory kit I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and this time I've come up with a tea themed easel card.

By the way, a tip if you are crafting on a budget. Earlier this week I paid a visit to the local Chinese cash and carry to replenish my ingredient supplies, and found a pack of 250 tiny white paper doyleys for less than £2. That works out at a tiny fraction of the craft shop price! I've used one of them in this card.

I'm joining in with the following challenges

OLLCB #147 - an easel card
Crafty Creations Challenges #254 - Something to drink  


This week's image at {PIN}spirational challenges is this great vintage car and mechanic photo

I've picked up on the wooden walls, the vintage car and the vintage sign - but I'm sorry, ladies, I couldn't provide a mechanic to go with them!

City Skyline

I've been paying around with elements from a Hunkydory kit that I won last  year. Somehow whenever I have a kit of any kind, I feel obliged to always use the items from the kit together, with few or no additions, instead of throwing it into the general pool of stash and opening up more opportunities.

So it felt like a very brave move to me to introduce stamping and other external elements to put together a collage inspired by the photo which is the picture inspiration for the current Craft Room Challenge.

I've used the time, steam punk and the city skyline as my inspiration

I'm playing along with
Craft Room Challenge - picture inspiration
Crafting Musketeers challenge 9 - Grunge

Monday, 13 January 2014

Meal planning Monday 13 January

Last week was a great success - it's taken over 6 months, but at last I'm sufficiently recovered from last summer's e.coli to feel enthusiastic about cooking and eating  again. Apart from the weekend, when, as I expected, Mark cooked one night, we stuck to the plan. The roast goose was the meal that got left out - easy to postpone as it's in the freezer - and Mark made a delicious Cape Malay style curry on Saturday, with the Rainbow Salad being shuffled over to Sunday. Here's a look at what our week's meals looked like:

Now on to this week:

Monday and Tuesday a little bit vague at the moment as I'm off to the Chinese cash & carry this morning, so it will depend on what looks fresh and tasty. I'll buy enough veg for two meals, and it will probably be something along the lines of a chicken stir fry on Monday and Beef Rendang  on Tuesday.

Wednesday this cold weather makes me yearn for macaroni cheese, which we'll have with baked tomatoes and Brussels Sprouts. I have some sprouts-on-a-stick this week which always seem to keep well and produce a huge amount of sprouts.

Thursday Corned beef scone with sprouts and carrots - more cold weather comfort food!

Friday  Roast goose breast with braised red cabbage and apple  and roast home grown parsnips. If there are any sprouts left, sprouts and chestnuts with it.

Saturday  and Sunday I expect Mark will cook one night. Chilli con carne with brown rice, or possibly with some corn bread waffles that I spotted on Pinterest,  the other night.

Join in the meal-planning fun at At Home With Mrs M every Monday!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Tantalizing Turquoise

This week's CD Sunday challenge is Tantalizing Turquoise.

I printed the floral and fabric effect papers from the Funky Hands CD "V. Funky" - I'd not used my Funky Hands CDs for a while and had almost forgotten what a brilliant resource they are! The frame and flower heads are die cuts.

The ribbon is actually exactly the same shade of turquoise as the papers. I was feeling really chuffed at having found such a good match  - but it's reflected the flash  differently and come out looking too blue. And on a gloomy  day like today, taking the shot without flash simply isn't an option!

Big hearted!

This week at Less Is More it's the dreaded One Layer Challenge and the theme is "Hearts". I set to work yesterday and made a card I was very pleased with - then realised it wasn't a one layer one. So it was back to the drawing board and I decided to go with bold simplicity - I had to really, I'm not the lovey-dovey type so I have very little in the way of romantic bits and pieces in my stash!

I sponged the heart shape through a stencil, using red ink, then with the stencil still in place outlined it with a black gel pen  before stamping the words in the middle.