Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Wearing my poppy with pride.

Last weekend was Remembrance Sunday. A time to remember the fallen or injured soldiers and wear or poppies with pride.
When I saw a free pattern for a knitted poppy I knew I wanted to try it http://blog.themakingspot.com/blog/free-pattern-knit-a-poppy-in-november I hadn't knitted in a while so I had to remind myself of a few techniques but it was quite easy to do. I added a felt leaf and did the centre of the poppy with felt too.
Of course the most important thing for me to do was to log on to  http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/ to make my donation. I had so many comments about it that next year I might make a batch of them and sell them in aid of British Legion.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Food for free!

In August purchased a collins gem book called 'food for free'  a guide to foraging. I have always liked the idea of foraging for food but worry about poisoning myself I decided to start with something easy like berries, when we were younger I remember going picking winberries (also known as Bilberries ) from around Entwistle reservoir and enjoying it so much, they start to ripen from late July. So when we went for a walk late August we didn't expect to find many and there weren't very many around Entwistle but we managed to pick lots from Rivington pike. All in all we got about 500g and bright purple hands but it was good fun.

So what to make with them?? I froze half and made a cake from my hummingbird bakery book, Blueberry and sour cream loaf but substituting wimberries for the blueberries and very nice it was. I still have the other batch of wimberries in my freezer which I think I'll eventually make into a small wimberry pie because my mum is desperate for me to make it because it reminds her of her childhood.

Just after we had got Max obviously we were walking more and I kept seeing more and more blackberries ripening so we took a bag out one weekend when we took Max for a walk at the nearby Longsight park. We managed to pick 800g which I washed in salt water to kill any bugs that may have been in them then rinsed them through and froze them until last week when I was off for half term, I found this recipe on the BBC good food website http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/11750/angelas-flexible-jam-recipe it needed 1kg blackberries for the recipe so I added apples to make it up, this meant I had to cook the fruit for longer but it really does add to the flavour. I had made Jam before but this time I treated myself to a jam thermometer which I then went on to reading wrong and thinking that I had let it boil for too long because it went past 105 but I looked at Fahrenheit instead of Centigrade so I took it off the heat. Luckily it must have been at the correct temperature because it set really well. I called it 'Abigail and Mum's blackberry and apple jam.' because we picked the blackberries together and then we made the jam together too.

I made five jars of it all together and it tastes lovely on toast...
..or in donut muffins...yum!
I think we did well for our first attempts of foraging!

Bonfire Night Party

It has become a tradition of mine that every first weekend in November we have everyone from my both sides of the family around for a few fireworks in the back garden. One of the best things about Bonfire Night is the food. You could do a barbecue or a one pot like chilli or pasties, all of which I have done over the years, but growing up we had the same tradition of having fireworks in the garden and we would always have meat and potato pie or corned beef hash, always served with red cabbage, pickled onions and pickled beetroot. This year my mum came around to cook the meat and potato pie and my sister brought a corned beef hash. It is really simple to make and a lovely warming meal.

Meat and Potato Pie
In an ovenproof dish, fry 500g Mince and onion with a sprinkle of mixed herbs in some oil until the mince is browned and the onions are softened, add potatoes, celery and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper and cover with beef stock or gravy, cook for 1hr to 1hr 30 until vegetables are softened, leave to cool.
Make the crust 8oz flour, 4 butter, pinch of salt mixed together with some water to form a dough, refrigerate.( we did all this the day before)
The next day about an hour before everyone comes roll out the pasty and place it on the top of the meat and potato and glaze the pasty with egg. Put the oven to 220c Cook at this temperature until the crust is a lovely golden brown (about 15 mins) then turn down until ready to serve.

Corned Beef Hash
This is such a simple and cheap recipe. Take 1 tin of corned beef cut into cubes,1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 stick of celery (all chopped ) a bay leaf, cover with beef stock and season with pepper. Cook for 1hr - 1hr 30 in oven at 200c. It the veg will soften and the stock will reduce down, so it should be quite mushy. If you like you can put a crust on it.

Another staple of a bonfire night in Bolton is Black peas, as far as I know this is just a Bolton tradition, these are basically peas that are black, you have to soak them over night with a little bicarbonate of soda in the water then you rinse them and boil in water until the are mushy, when they are ready stir one tablespoon of treacle in, then serve in a mug or a polystyrene mug with plenty of salt and vinegar. It might sound disgusting but its actually really good.

Of course you must have treacle toffee, this one was made by my friend Sandra.

And its also customary to have parkin cake, but I'm not keen on that because I find it quite dry so I make my signature bake 'Soft gingerbread cake.' I have been making this cake since I was about 13 and it never fails. You need to make it a few days before you need it because the longer after you make the more stickier and moist it gets.

Soft Gingerbread
Melt together 125g butter,125g golden syrup, 150g dark treacle and 125g granulated sugar then allow to cool.
Sieve together 275g plain flour, half tsp salt, 2tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda.
Pour contents of pan into flour, mix in 1 beaten egg and 225 ml milk.
Pour into a greased baking tin i have a square silicone tray that i use.
Bake at 160C for an hour but check after 50 minutes. Insert a skewer into the middle if it comes out dry its done, let it cool then put in a airtight container for a couple of days. Cut to into cubes or slices, it should be very soft with a sticky top...delicious!

I also like to make
Spicy mulled cider 
Put 3 x 568ml pear cider, 6 long strips of lemon, 1 cinnamon strip, 1 vanilla pod, 250ml clear apple juice, 2 tbsp caster sugar and 100mls brandy in a large heavy based pan , warm over a gentle heat but do not boil. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for at least an hour. Reheat slowly and serve with sliced pear.
This year I did this in the slow cooker and it worked really well.

We had fireworks and sparklers and a good time was had by all, apart from Max of course he hid in the bedroom until the fireworks were over but he was quite happy to come down to play with our nephews before and after and loved all the attention.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Felt craft

Do you like my car keyring? I made it from felt in the likeness of my beloved Maxi. I posted it on Facebook and my sister wants me to make her one and my friend sandra wanted me to make her a cat one. I quite enjoyed doing it which has made me think that I might make a few christmas decorations too, maybe even a Maxi themed one. What do you think?

My dog, Max.

This is Max, he is a 7 year old cross breed I think part Jack Russell but not sure with what else and now he's all ours!
 He used to belong to my sister she had him from being a puppy but her circumstances have changed which meant she could no longer keep him and we are more than happy to have him with us. Don't get me wrong he isn't perfect he hates travelling in cars and isn't the most sociable dog but whats good about him far outways the bad. He has a real personality and he's very affectionate, he loves nothing more than a snuggle on the couch with us.
One of the best things about having him is that it makes us get out in the open air (although going out at 7 to take him for a walk doesn't always fill me with joy but at least it wakes me up). We normally take him down to the country park called 'Seven Acres' at the bottom of our road, its wonderful there you can walk along Bradshaw brook or there are a few fields for a big run. Its been really good to watch the seasons changing from Summer to Autumn and see the different wildlife, we regularly see herons there.