Saturday, 31 May 2014

City Skyline

I'm back and I'm crafting again! My Mum has rallied brilliantly and was even well enough to go out and feed the ducks, so I'm back home and reunited with all my crafty bits.

I bought this city skyline stamp by Art Impressions to remind me of a trip to New York, although it could represent almost any major city, and here the twine and ribbon on the blue band give it a Union Jack feel so today it's representing London. It's a very versatile stamp and doesn't need a lot added to make a striking card. This time I've chosen masculine colours of dark blue and dark red to give the whole card a male feel, with the addition of ribbon, twine and a fabric brad.

I'm joining in with

Cards4Guys - Recipe  - 1 image, 2 colours, 3 words
Casual Fridays - CFC132 - what a catch (male card, no kraft, must include ribbon)
Less is more - week 174 - Lucky Dip - use two stamps

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Simple corn fritters

First of all, apologies for the lack of craft posts  at the moment. My  Mum is poorly and somehow worrying about her has dulled my creativity - I just can't seem to create anything crafty at all. But we still have to eat - and this is the kind of time when quick, easy old favourites come to the fore. And what could be quicker and easier than these corn fritters?

This quantity makes 8 fritters - two each for four hungry adults. However when my daughters were small they would happily polish off an entire batch between them!

All you need is:

1 x 400g tin of creamed sweetcorn (this isn't always easy to find - Sainsbury's have an own label one but I usually stock up on it at the Chinese cash & carry)
2 medium eggs
about 125g self raising flour
a pinch of salt
oil for frying

Tip the sweetcorn and eggs into a bowl and beat together well. Gradually stir in the flour to make a thick batter - the exact amount you need will vary according to how wet your corn is. It needs to be thick enough to just hold its shape when you spoon it into the pan.

Heat some oil about 2-3mm deep in a large frying pan over moderate to high heat. When it is hot, spoon a generous tablespoonful of batter into the pan for each fritter. Keep them well apart; you will probably  be able to cook four at a time. When the underside is golden, turn them over carefully and cook the other side. If you have more to make, keep the first ones warm sitting on a piece of kitchen paper. If you don't eat them all in one sitting, they will reheat well in a low oven.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Black bean and sweetcorn chilli

I think we sometimes get into a rut with chilli dishes. I have  a tried and trusted version that I've been cooking since I was at University, 40 years ago. I can do it almost with my eyes closed, it's familiar comfort food and most of the time I see no reason to change it.

But this time  I fancied a change, and I had a tub of cooked black beans in the freezer (you could use a tin) so this is what I came up with:

Ingredients to serve 4:

1 tin (400g-ish) of black beans, drained,  or around 250g of cooked beans
1 large tin sweetcorn kernels, drained
250 ml tomato sauce - I used a home made sauce from the freezer, but you could use a ready made sauce or the same amount from a  tin of chopped tomatoes (oh, what the heck, use the whole tin, you'll only leave it lurking in the fridge if you don't! You'll just have a bit more gravy.)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano (dried seems to work better than fresh in chilli)

Heat the oil and fry the onion gently until soft. Stir in the spices and oregano and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes. Add sauce, beans and  sweetcorn and mix well. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning - if your corn and beans were canned in salted water and you used a ready made sauce, you may not need any: add if necessary.

I served this with brown rice, grated cheese, green salad, tomato and red onion salsa and a crude guacamole (just avocados roughly mashed with lime juice and salt)

I'm joining in with  the Extra Veg challenge which this month is hosted by Allotment2Kitchen and run by Utterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Flavours

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Channa salad - a Random Recipe

This month in Random Recipes, Dom challenged us to spring clean our bookshelves and donate those unloved books to charity, picking one at random to cook a recipe from.

I knew I had far too many cook books, but hadn't realised QUITE how serious the problem was. This is the pile I picked out for purging - and to be honest there are at least as many again that haven't been opened for years.

The one I rescued is called "30 Minute Indian" by Sunil Vijayakar. I see the publication  date is 2000 - and I have never cooked a single thing from it. The page it opened at was Lobia Salad - a salad of black eyed peas with potatoes, green beans, black eyed peas, spring onions and tomatoes, tossed in finely chopped mint and green chilli with a lemon, chilli and honey dressing.

All was going swimmingly - potatoes and beans cooked and refreshed, tomatoes and spring onions prepped, mint and chilli chopped. Then I went to the cupboard for the tin of black eyed peas..... and at that point remembered the lobia curry we had last week. So a last minute change of plan meant I whipped out a tin of chickpeas and converted this dish from Lobia Salad into Channa Salad.

We LOVED it! It was a very hot, sultry evening and the fresh yet spicy flavours worked perfectly. As the title of the book suggests, it was very quick to make - I could have probably popped out to the corner shop for a tin of black eyed peas and STILL made it within the 30 minutes.  I think personally I would have liked it even more served as a hot dish, but Mark disagreed and thought it was perfect as a salad.

Since the book was to hand, I decided to try a couple of other recipes from it, this time chosen rather than picked at random. The first was Gujarati carrot salad - the spicy dressing of black mustard seeds, curry leaves and chilli flakes is served warm.

The second was a mushroom pulao. I really thought this would turn out a sloppy mess, as time was saved by chucking in all the ingredients - rice, mushrooms, turmeric, spring onions, garlic and ginger - together into melted butter, stir frying for a couple of minutes and adding the water. I pictured broken rice, mushy mushrooms and bitter garlic. I'm so used to adding things one at a time and treating the rice gently. But in fact it worked beautifully.

Well, I have to say the whole meal was spectacularly good. The book is now back on my shelf, and bulging  with Post It notes for  the dishes I want to try.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Thanks - you're a star!

How often do you say that? That's what I had in mind when I started to make my card for this week's challenge at Less is More - the challenge is a one-layer thank you card.

One of the Uniko Studio stamp sets that I chose as last month's Less is More winner is a selection of circular labels and thank you messages - perfect for the job. I decided to combine it with a circle-and-star stamp that was a free covermount on a magazine way back in the mists of time, using masking to create a random diagonal line across the card. However the stamp didn't seem to lend itself to masking - I suspect that being a free stamp, it wasn't very deeply cut - so here, for the fist time in ages, is one of my what-went-wrong pictures.

So, back to the drawing board. I liked the star and the primary colours though, so I decided to use the current sketch at CAS on Sunday as the basis of my next card.
I'm much happier with my card now - sad, though, that the circular label had to go, but I know it and its companions will have many more chances to appear on my cards. I finished off the stars by using a watercolour brush to drag a little of the colour out into the central stars - I would have done this on the first card too if it hadn't ended up on the reject pile.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Age of Elegance

This week's theme at CD Sundays is "Victorian Beauties" - the ideal opportunity to play with my Joanna Sheen "The Age of Elegance" CD.  I was spoiled for choice, there are so many wonderful designs on it! The image, backing paper and frame all came from the CD.

What a hoot!

I made this quick and easy card using the stamps that came free with the final issue of "Get Stamping" (it's just my luck to fall in love with a magazine just as if goes out of print, and it's not the first time it's happened to me).

This week's challenge at Make My Monday is Owls so I'm playing along.

I love to cook with wine....

...... sometimes I even put it in the food.

We've all seen that motto, haven't we? And here is a gentleman who's obviously enjoying cooking with wine! I made this card using the Katy Sue Designs CD-ROM "The Wine Buffs". Making a card like this is definitely craft rather than art - there's very little room for originality - and yet there is still something intensely satisfying about starting with a few blank sheets of card and ending up with something bright, fun and dimensional.

I'm joining in with the "Anything but square" challenge at crafting Musketeers - and I promise you, I hadn't registered that the current sponsor was Katy Sue Designs when I was deciding what to make for the challenge!

m-USE-li #NoWasteFoodChallenge #creditcrunchmunch

A luxury muesli is a real treat at breakfast time, isn't it? Have you ever done that thing at a breakfast buffet of shaking up the dish or pack, looking terribly public spirited, but secretly knowing that instead of mixing it all up it brings all the nice big chunks to the top? Oh, it's just me then.....

Anyway, it's surprisingly cheap to make at home and can be a great way of clearing out the store cupboard because all those odds and ends of packs of seeds, nuts and dried fruit can go into it - the more odds and ends, the more luxurious the end result.

Actually this is more of a toasted granola than a muesli, but I couldn't call it that or the pun in the title wouldn't have worked.

You can use any nuts, seeds and dried fruit in this. Nuts should be chopped, as finely or coarsely as you like. Dried fruit should be added after cooking if it is fully dried - if it is semi dried, like soft apricots, add it when you are ready to eat. I like to add about 5 different ingredients to the base mix, otherwise it all gets a bit too chaotic. But if you have a really big selection of odds and ends, you could make themed mixes - for instance a tropical mix of coconut flakes, dried pineapple and papaya and cashew nuts.

Before you start, preheat the oven to 200C, 180C fan, gas mark 6 and have ready a large baking tray, preferably non-stick.

for the base mixture

250 g rolled oats or porage oats
2  heaped tbs bran (it works perfectly well without, but if you add the bran you can convince yourself it's a healthy breakfast)
3 tbs of some kinds of sweet syrupy liquid - I use Sweet Freedom but agave syrup, clear honey or  even golden syrup would work
4 tbs oil - as flavourless as you have to hand. Sunflower oil, rapeseed (canola) oil or a very light olive oil

Mix the base ingredients together, adding your seeds and chopped nuts, around 2 tbs of each. I used

2 tbs linseed (flax seeds)
2 tbs sunflower seeds
2 tbs sesame seeds
3 tbs chopped mixture of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds

The quantities are not exact - just add all those odds and ends and finish up the packs that have been lurking in the cupboard! But remember not to add any dried fruit yet.

Once everything is well mixed, spread it out on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-25 minutes until starting to look toasted and golden. Stir it carefully half way through to stop the bits around the edge overcooking.

Leave to cool and then mix in your dried fruit, stirring gently so that some of the oaty-seedy-nutty clumps stay unbroken. I added

2 tbs raisins
2 tbs currants

When completely cold, store in an airtight container and serve with milk or yoghurt.

This is such a great cupboard purge that I'm joining in with the No Waste Food Challenge at Farmersgirl Kitchen  and Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary


And because it costs a tiny fraction of  the price of a similar bought product, I'm also joining in with Credit Crunch Munch  hosted this month by Gingey Bites and run by Fuss Free Flavours and  Fab Food 4 All

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Gado Gado - #BettaRecipe

Gado Gado is a salad that is popular in Indonesia. It can be eaten as part of a rijstaffel of many dishes, but also makes a great stand alone meal. This is my version of it, which is my entry for the Betta Living vegetarian recipe competition - you can read about the competition here.

For the dressing:

2 heaped tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 tablepsoon Ketjap Manis (thick, sweet soy sauce - if you can't find this, use Chinese soy sauce and add a teaspoon of black treacle)
½ teaspoon Sambal Oelek or dried crushed red chilli flakes
juice of 1 lime
200 ml water

heat all ingredients together, stirring constantly. As it comes close to boiling, it will appear to curdle, but just keep stirring and after a few seconds of boiling it will come together to form a smooth paste. Set aside to cool. You can make this hotter or milder, to taste, or add brown sugar or treacle to sweeten it, thin it down with more water or thicken it with more peanut butter,  or replace the water with coconut milk - it can be different every time you make it. Tamarind juice and - if you can face it- blachan are interesting additions.  And it makes a great satay sauce or dip for crudités too.

For the salad:

2 free range eggs, hard boiled and sliced
½ block of firm tofu, diced into 2 cm cubes and fried in a little oil until golden then cooled (optional)
 2 carrots, cut into batons about twice the size of a matchstick
100g green beans, cut into 5cm segments
100g Chinese leaves, cut into pieces about 3cm wide
100g beansprouts
quarter of a cucumber, cut into batons  the same size as the carrots
a large handful of watercress sprigs
toasted cashew nuts to garnish

Bring a pan of water to the boil and drop in the carrots. After 2 minutes, add the beans and after 2 more minutes the cabbage. Cook for a minute then add the beansprouts. Remove from heat as soon as it all comes back to the boil, and immediately rinse well in cold water to stop further cooking and keep the colours bright. Drain well and cool completely. Just before serving, mix in the cucumber and watercress, top with sliced eggs and tofu  (if using) and garnish with cashews

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Bright bouquet

For several days this week I couldn't get my craft mojo into action, and one of the things I do when that happens is to fish out a magazine and follow some of the "recipes" in it, to get my crafting brain back into gear.

So there is no originality in this card - it was made from a design in the latest (and final) issue of Get Stamping magazine. The stamp is actually a garden bench but the flower shapes are cut from the back of the seat.

I'm joining in Addicted to Stamps and More's challenge #94 - Clean and Simple

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Rhubarb sauce for roast pork

The other day, I had a piece of pork to roast for dinner and really fancied apple sauce with it, but had forgotten to buy any cooking apples. But I had a brainwave - rhubarb is also tart, and might make a great alternative sauce, and I had a little bit of chopped rhubarb in the freezer.

So here's the sauce I made:

250g rhubarb, chopped into 2-3 cm lengths (if it's frozen there's no need to defrost)
2 tbs honey, agave syrup or Sweet Freedom light
25g butter

Place the rhubarb in a pan with a splash of water to prevent burning, and cook gently until falling-apart tender. This will take 5-15 minutes depending on the age and freshness of your rhubarb and whether you are cooking it from frozen. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't boil dry. Add a little water if necessary but you don't want it swimming in liquid. When cooked, stir in the honey or alternative over gentle heat,  then turn off the heat, beat in the butter and leave to cool.

We had this with roast pork  - I think I'd still prefer apple sauce but the rhubarb sauce was very tasty. I suspect we'll be eating the left overs as a dessert with a splosh of cream!
I've been getting great crackling on pork recently having picked up a tip from the BBC Good food magazine - about an hour before you cook it, stand it in a clean sink, pour over a kettle full of boiling water, pat dry then leave to stand at room temperature until it's time to cook it. Just before it goes into the oven,  rub it with a little oil and sprinkle with salt. And make the first half hour of cooking really HOT!

With it we had carrots, green beans and mushrooms braised in butter and thyme

and halved torpedo shallots topped with lots of parsley and a lump of cheddar that had been blitzed together in the food processor then baked for three quarters of an hour.

Ribbons and lace

The paper and toppers for this card are from the My Craft Studio Click, Print, Go CD "Flawless Florals" - I think it was a freebie from Create & Craft a couple of years ago.

I used gold-edged white ribbon and picked up the gold from it in the layering, with lace either side, and topped the ribbon with a strip of daisy braid. After adding the topper, I stuck a gem to the centre of each daisy.

You can't see it but I layered some of the paper onto gold and put it in the inside as a panel to write a greeting on - dark card needs something to write on, and I think when you can make the inside co-ordinate with the outside it looks smarter than adding an insert.

I'm joining in with

CD Sundays - Ribbon, Lace and Gems
Make my Monday - Seasonal flower colours
The Cupboard Trilogy - #22 - Flowers
Just For Fun - Ribbon or Lace  

Monday, 5 May 2014

Pork, chicken and herb terrine

For several weeks now I've been wanting to have a chance to use my new terrine, and the sunny bank holiday weekend provided an excellent opportunity.

The quantities given here fill a small terrine, well, to be honest they OVER fill it, but I wasn't going to waste any so we have a domed top! The recipe was inspired by one in a Good Housekeeping recipe book about 30 years ago, but is my own version of it.

Note this is best cooked the day before eating. I thought I'd better mention that because of the number of times I've reached "refrigerate overnight" partway through a recipe I was cooking for that evening.


½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs oil (I used sunflower but any lightly flavoured oil would do - not a strong olive oil though!)
100g mushrooms, finely chopped
60ml dry sherry
1 level tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
generous grating of nutmeg
300g minced pork
200g skinless chicken breast
1 egg
about 200g  thin sliced streaky bacon (the exact quantity will depend on the measurements  of your terrine)
4 tbs chopped fresh parsley
50g pistachio nuts - I was lucky enough to get hold of slivered ones, but if you can only get whole ones, they need to be roughly chopped.

Heat the oil and gently fry the onion, mushroom and garlic until soft but not coloured, then stir in the sherry, thyme, nutmeg and seasoning (as tasting at this stage would be meaningless, you'll need to guess the seasoning - be quite generous as it is to be eaten cold), bring to boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 180C, 160 fan, 350 F, gas 4. Prepare the terrine by lining with rashers of bacon, overlapping very slightly and allowing to drape over the edges. Fill in the ends with a couple of bits and keep 3 or 4 rashers back to finish the top.

Pulse the chicken in a food processor until coarsely chopped, or chop by hand - you want the pieces to vary in size from almost minced to about 1cm cubes. Beat the egg.

When the onion-mushroom mixture is cool,  add the pork, chicken, egg, parsley and pistachios, beating well to mix thoroughly. Pack very firmly into the terrine, topping with the reserved bacon,  and place it on a baking tray in the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes.

Allow to cool, then cover and chill overnight.

Run a palette knife around the edges to loosen and turn out onto a plate.

Serve sliced with salads and pickles. We added home made crusty bread, mayonnaise made with hazelnut oil, green salad, tomatoes, home grown radishes and pasta-pesto salad (last night's left over pasta tossed in a spoonful of pesto while still warm then cooled and refrigerated).

As well as being delicious, it looks  so pretty too with the herbs and pistachios studding the meat. And all those gorgeous herbs mean I'm joining in the Cooking With Herbs linky at Lavender and Lovage 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Three Colours

It's a colour challenge at  Less is More this week, and we are asked to use either three colours or three shares of one colour.

I've gone for the rather unusual combination of red, purple and green, using die cuts to create a bunch of flower heads. The greeting stamped and embossed on the label is actually much darker than it looks here, and matches the metallic purple flower beautifully!

Walking the dog

I really don't envy dog owners - the idea of a long walk with a faithful friend is lovely when the weather is fine, but dogs still need to be walked  whatever the weather - as the poor gent on this card has just realised.

The image and background are from the La Pashe CD "Flippin Families".

I'm lin king up to Ooh La La Creations challenge #155 - Faithful Friends


The stripes on this  simple card are made with double sided tape applied to the card then sprinkled with glitter. The topper is a peel off sticker applied to white card and with the separate spaces filled with glue and glittered.

I'm playing along with CAS on Sunday #32 - Sparkle and Shimmer