Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Cookbook Challenge - Revisited




Some of you might remember my very ambitious attempt at cooking a recipe from each of the cookbooks in my rather large collection at the end of last year. I got off to a good start but after only two weeks, it all fell apart. Several things got in the way of my grand plan, not least a very chaotic and sudden house move. I do however think that the main reason this plan never got out of the starting blocks is the simple fact that I had labelled it as a challenge. For me cooking is something that I do to relax, to clear my mind. Turning cooking into something with deadlines, strict constraints and making it even in the slightest way stressful was never going to work for me.

Since I had my original idea (and took the above picture), my cookbook collection has unbelievably grown. Each time I acquired a new book, I had a very niggly and guilty feeling about all of the cookbooks already sitting on my shelf, unused. So, this week I decided it's time to do something about this, to revisit the challenge and make it work for me.


I started off by looking what I had in the house, rather than looking at which cookbook caught my attention. As always, eggs, butter and cream was to be found, but also a large chunk of cooked ham joint was waiting to be of use. Without even having to think about it, I knew which book will be best to re-start this journey, and that is this tomb of wisdom from Leiths School of Food and Wine.

I bought my Baking Bible many years ago, it was in fact one of the very first cookery books that I had bought for myself. It's also probably my most used book as it holds over 600 pages of the most reliable baking recipes you are ever likely to come across.


It's not the most exciting book to look at, mostly it's just page after page of tiny black print, but it covers everything you need to know about baking and then some. It has more hints, tips and professional tricks than you'll ever be able to remember and explains everything from the basics up to the very advanced. There are a few glossy pictures spotted about the book though.


Again, these pictures are mostly to help you understand the techniques explained in the book and to act as a visual guide for the more tricky stages of a recipe.


Over the years of owning this book, I have only ever used it to bake sweet things. There are some truly delicious and impressive cakes and bakes on these pages, but there is also a wealth of savoury dishes to be found throughout the many chapters. With the ingredients I had to hand, there was a very obvious choice for me to turn to, a classic quiche.


My finished quiche may not look as professional and polished as the authors of the book would have liked it to, but the proof is in the eating, and there I came out a winner. Best of all, I got going again on something that I have been wanting to do for months now, and hopefully this is the start of many more cookbook posts to come :)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Heatwave

Having grown up in a sub-tropical part of the world, where the temperature often reaches well into the thirties (that's Degrees Celsius) and hardly ever drops below 10 degrees, I found adapting to the British weather a bit of a challenge when I first arrived here. I have however acclimatised over the past eleven years and now (quite embarrassingly) I find myself struggling to cope on days when the quicksilver hardly even begins to climb into the twenties!

This week, us here in Old Blighty have been issued with a severe weather warning, a Heat Wave is coming!! I still have a little chuckle to myself when they warn us to prepare for temperatures in the high twenties, (what, that's not a heat wave!), but then as the days grow hotter, my chuckle quickly grows to more of a groan. I don't however like to complain when the weather is nice like this, all too soon it will be cold and miserable again, so instead I use this opportunity to come up with lots of new salads and quick cook suppers for us to enjoy while the heat plays havoc with our appetites.


Little T loves fruit, so we have been eating lots of salads that are just simply fresh fruit cut into bite sized pieces, served with bread sticks and some cold cut meats for lunch. I always make sure that the fruit are very cold and served straight from the fridge, it's a lovely and refreshing meal after a hot and sunny morning of playing in the garden.


For dinner, stir fry has become my new best friend. What could be easier than throwing a selection of chopped veggies into a hot wok, adding some noodles, a few herbs and spices and a splash of whatever sauce will bring the best out of the dish, and within minutes you've got yourself a light and lovely supper for a hot summers evening. My favourite part is seeing Little T slurp down the long noodles and him giggling when they wriggle into his mouth :)


Speaking of herbs, the warm and humid weather has been very good for all of my potted herbs. I am still amazed that I have not just been able to keep all of these plants alive, but that they are growing so well. Soon I will have enough basil to make a pot of pesto for another hot weather favourite dinner of ours, "green spaghetti".



I don't have a whole lot of other plants in the garden as I am not allowed to plant anything in the ground (it's a rental property) and as I have admitted before, I am not very good at gardening. Lucky for me then that this beautiful flower sneaked through from our neighbours in a gap in our fence :)



According to all trusted sources, and from the feel of it this early in the day, today is set to be another scorcher, so for now Little T and I are off to make some fruity ice-lollies for our tea time snack :)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Spaghetti

In my last post about our trip to Poland I gave you a little sneak peek at the yarn that I had brought back with me. Remember this picture :)


While we were visiting my parents-in-law I had a sudden thought that there must be yarn stores in Poland too and that I absolutely can not leave there without visiting at least one. With my mum-in-law not being much interested in any kind of needle work, I wasn't sure she would know where I would find such a store, and so I turned to Google. Very randomly I stumbled across a blog by a Canadian girl studying in the Czech Republic and travelling around Eastern Europe. (I am sorry to say that I don't remember the name of the blog or the girl.) She had very kindly made a list of her favourite yarn stores in all of the cities that she had visited and one of these were in Bielsko-Biała!

The first chance I got, I asked to be taken to this shop and what a little treasure it was! Unfortunately I did not think to take my camera with me, and I still regret this lapse in photographer's memory. For now I can only direct you their website to feast your eyes on all of the goodies that are to be found there - Pasmanteria
After a good long while of yarn smooching, fabric fondling and general store browsing, my eyes fell upon a shelf full of this T-shirt yarn. As I have been wanting to try out this kind of yarn for some time now, and with the price of it being so good and the colour range being just spectacular I very quickly had a selection of it at the tills. As I had to get this back to the UK in a suitcase that already contained clothes for all three of us, I reluctantly showed some restraint and took only four skeins.


 As soon as we got home I (almost) immediately got to work on this beautiful mandala rug. I may have gone of the pattern around round 8 or 9, as I started just winging it after a while :) The hook that I had bought with the yarn is a bit of a monster, 12mm! and as a result I found that my hand got tired and sore very quickly and progress was slowing down. Luckily I soon discovered that if I hold the hook slightly differently (see photo below), this was no longer a problem and soon enough I was whizzing through the rounds again.


With the yarn being so bulky, it really works up very quickly and my rug was done and finished in just a couple of days.


 Here it is, adding some great colour to a rather bland corner of our bedroom.


It's not terribly big, measuring about 43 inches across, but then the space it was destined for isn't that big either. It also meant that I had some yarn left over to make a spaghetti bag. No pattern for this one, I just made it up as I went along and stopped when I had no more yarn left :)


Now, to fill that bag with a new WIP!!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Bloglovin

As always, I am late to the party, but I am finally getting myself sorted with Bloglovin. So here goes...

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Friday, 11 July 2014

Polska!

Well, we are home again after an amazing couple of weeks visiting my in-laws in sunny, gorgeous Poland. I have finally caught up on all of the dirty laundry and house cleaning duties and have now had a chance to sit down and sort through all of the 700 pictures that I took! Here are some of the highlights of our trip :)


My in-laws live in a city by the name of Bielsko-Biała which is, as they say, "in the mountains", and what beautiful mountains they are too. Just a short walk from their house is one of the highest peaks in this area, Szyndzielnia and as a treat we took the cable car to the top. I don't know who had the biggest smile on their face, Little T or P!


We headed out again the next day to take a ski-lift to one of the lower peaks, and despite my initial trepidation, I enjoyed this little ride much more than I should have :)


We did have to deal with a couple of rainy days, but we had planned ahead for such eventualities and so P and I left Little T at home to spend some quality time with his Babcia, Dziadek and their lovely doggie, Raven while we were off to one of my favourite places in Poland.


Wieliczka is a 700 year old salt mine located just outside of Krakow and is one magical place. Your tour starts off with descending 60 meters into the ground down this wooden staircase in an old mine shaft and then you walk for two hours through the winding tunnels and huge chambers until you are more than 120 meters below the ground.


Along the way you will of course see lots of salt in all sorts of shapes and forms, you can even give the walls a lick if the fancy takes you.


One of the main attractions within the mine is this stunning chapel, St. Kinga's Chapel. It was carved from the rock salt by 3 miners over a period of 70 years. It truly is an awe inspiring place.


Everything within the chapel is carved from salt, including these huge chandeliers, each one of them containing hundreds of pure salt crystals.

I was very sorry when the tour came to an end and we had to get into the shiny new lift to take us back up to ground level. There were still so many interesting tunnels, staircases and chambers that we didn't get to see. According to our tour guide there are so many miles of underground tunnels that it will take about 3 months to see all of it! I guess for now I will just have to wait patiently until I can go again, and next time I am definitely doing the miners route...

  

Luckily the sun soon came out to play again and our next trip out was to the famous town of Zakopane, which sits at the foot of the majestic Tatra Mountains. Although this place is quite the tourist trap, it does still have a lot of charm and some lovely things to see.









 After a big, busy day of seeing all of the sights, we were all ready for a good meal and a refreshing drink. Lucky then that P's aunt owns this lovely karczma (traditional Polish pub) on our way home.


With our bellies full of delicious pierogi and a glass of chilled wine in hand, we enjoyed the warm hospitality of P's family while the sun sank below the horizon on our second to last day of holidays.


I usually never like the last day of a holiday, but we decided to head out to the mountains one last time, this time walking to the top, and ended up having one more fabulous day. All too soon though it was time to pack our bags, load up the car and head to the airport and say our teary goodbyes.

Being home again after a great holiday is always a bitter sweet thing. Although I am happy to be home, to sleep in my own bed again and to have all of my home comforts around me, I also dearly miss the family and places we had to leave behind. Good thing then that I had brought home a "small" souvenir to keep me busy and my mind occupied for the next week or so :)


More about this soon...

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lazy/ Busy

In a country where the predominant weather condition is Rainy, we have been pleasantly surprised with a really gloriously sunny summer so far. The days have been long and hot and we have been enjoying every possible second of it.







Our new town is a lot closer to the coast and we have been exploring some of the gorgeous seaside towns that the UK have to offer. Devon is quickly becoming one of my favourite places and I can easily see myself settling down in one of these little towns by the sea.

On the days that P has to go to work, Little T and I have been soaking up the sun either in the park or in our tiny back garden. All sorts of water related shenanigans is our main occupation and of course eating lots and lots of ice creams and summery, fruity desserts too :)


During quieter moments, when Little T will happily play with his toys on the grass, I have been busy emptying my big bag of cotton yarn.


This Drops yarn is still one of my favourite yarns to crochet with. I simply adore the bright, jewel like colours, how beautifully defined the stitches are and how silky smooth and soft the yarn is to work with.


I started making a hexagon blanket, but as the days got hotter and the blanket got bigger, I found that it was just not the best thing to be working on. So I turned my attention to making some more cushion covers, starting off with a fan patterned one.


 The good thing about taking on a small project like a cushion is, that before you know it, you're done!


It even gave me the opportunity to add a block or two to my blanket on the odd cooler evening, so that is growing nicely too :)


Another thing I discovered about making cushion covers, you can't make just one... and soon I was busy making a corner2corner cover.


This one was even faster to make and after just a few hours of garden crochet, another cushion was done!


Thanks to my cotton craze, my window seat is beginning to look like a very inviting place to cosy up with a good book once the warm weather goes, don't you think.


As you can imagine, my yarn bag is very nearly empty now and has (for the moment) been put back into the cupboard. Not before I made one last little thing though, a very vintage looking tea cosy for my lovely Mum-in-law.


This little gift is now packed in my suitcase, along with a few other essentials, ready and waiting for us to jet off to Poland for a couple of weeks. More about our little holiday when we get back xxx