February Sampler


Monday, 28 February 2011

February is over in a blink isn't it? 
Here's February's sampler. As always you can look at all my monthly samplers on the sampler page under my header picture.

I haven't had any crochet to show you for ages have I? I have some today. The crochet that should have been knitting.
 It's my dad's birthday today and I decided to knit him a scarf in the colours of his rugby team. Crochet, I thought, wouldn't be masculine enough. I can knit but I have never actually knitted a complete thing.
How hard could it be to knit a simple striped scarf in two colours? Well, it turned out to be pretty damn hard. First I made the mistake of knitting it in stocking stitch. Of course it just rolled itself together and wouldn't lie flat. Next I tried garter stitch. Several times. There was nothing wrong with my tension but the edges, oh the edges. I just couldn't get them straight. So I took up my hook with relief and  set to to make a masculine looking crocheted scarf. I think I made a fair job of it. I used half-trebles (yarn round hook, hook into chain, pull through, three loops on hook, yarn round hook and pull through all three) half trebles make a fairly dense fabric that grows quickly. Six rows of each colour.
Incidentally, the red is a lot nicer in real life, more tomatoey and less neon looking. The camera doesn't seem to like bright red.

It's Moseley Rugby by the way.

Coconut Ice


Saturday, 26 February 2011

Wartime Housewife posted her recipe for coconut ice the other day. I love all things coconutty and hadn't made coconut ice for ages so I thought I'd give it a whirl. Wartime Housewife recommends a sugar thermometer and so so I.

Just four ingredients are needed. Desiccated coconut, sugar, milk and pink food colouring.
I don't often use my food colouring pastes, they don't exactly fit into my 'real food' mantra, but they are fun to play with now and again.

Only thing is, you can't be sure what the colours are going to turn out like. Most of them look very dark in the pots. I thought 'rose' would fit the bill for my coconut ice.

Boil the milk and sugar until it reaches the 'soft ball' stage.

My coconut ice turned out too crumbly. I made a mistake measuring the sugar -got distracted by a thing. But, if you follow Wartime Housewife's instructions carefully I am sure you will get better results. It tasted delicious at any rate.

The Quince Tree in February


Friday, 25 February 2011

Today is Quince Tree day.
 I wish it had been yesterday when the sun was shining but never mind.
The Quince Tree has had a bit of a haircut today. Probably much too late but never mind that either. A branch has been taken off which, I hope, will mean less quinces in October.
One can have too much of a good thing.

Once the branch had been cut I was able to get some close-ups of the buds.

So many other things budding too.

Flowering currant

Some sort of shrub -dogwood?


Today is also our wedding anniversary. 16 years.
Charlie had the day off so that we could go out to lunch. We had forgotten that it would be half-term so the children came with us. We did enjoy ourselves. My lunch was delicious - beef and oyster pie followed by crème brulée.

Afterwards we went to say hello to the pigs.

Gloucester Old Spots I think. They were very friendly, fairly galloping across their little mud patch to see what we had brought them. We hadn't brought them anything but they didn't seem to mind. When we go back for my birthday in December they may well be on the menu. The pub, The Talbot in Knightwick  produces most of its food including beer, fruit vodkas and fruit jellies. Elder son's lunch, a pork and game raised pie came with a little pot of sauce. I tasted it -quince. The waitress was surprised that we recognised the taste, 'I have a quince tree you see' I said.

Frugal Pleasures


Thursday, 24 February 2011

careful, sparing (of), economical, esp. as regards food; sparingly used or supplied, costing little

So says the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

There was a deeply unpleasant comment on a blog post (not this blog) yesterday which implied that unless one was truly poor then one had no right to blog about frugality. Well I am by no means poor and I say -utter rubbish to that. I practise frugality in many areas of my life, not all, but many and I have as much right to blog about it as anyone.

Here are some things that give pleasure which are either sparing of food, cost little or are completely free.

1) Eating leftovers for lunch. In this case leftover baked lentils with cheese with the end of a homemade loaf.

2) Making a roast stretch to at least three meals. On Sunday I roasted a  free-range duck. It cost £11 and was reduced from £16. Out of many people's price range for sure and not often in mine. I didn't buy any other meat that week.
 In order to ensure the duck was used as frugally as possible I first of all made some stock with the giblets. This was used to make gravy to eat with the roast duck.
 Next I saved all the fat from the roast (being extremely careful not to splash any on my person). Some of the fat was used to roast the potatoes which we ate with the roast duck.
On Monday I stripped the remaining meat from the duck (I only allowed one serving each on Sunday as there is not a huge amount of meat on a duck) and used it to make a stew with some little grey lentils which we ate with mash.
 The carcass went into a big pot to be made into stock. I used some of the stock to make my lentil and duck stew and some to make the lentil dish in the picture above. The rest I froze for future soups and stews. The fat is in a basin in the fridge and will be used for future roast potatoes. It will keep there for a long time.
An expensive food frugally used.

3) Using every last crumb of a loaf. Because I make all our bread the last thing I want to do is throw it away. I wouldn't throw food away anyway.
 The picture above shows some  breadcrumbs I made with the end of a loaf last week . I made them to top some frozen fillets of white fish. First I processed the bread- crust and all until fairly finely crumbed, then I added the last fifth of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes plus their oil, a small chunk of Parmesan and some parsley. I processed it again and produced  rather wonderful flavoured breadcrumbs which, because of the oil crisped up marvellously in the oven. I had too much so I froze the rest for another time thinking they would be good fried up and tossed with spaghetti or sprinkled over chicken pieces and baked, or as a topping for something.
Other things I do with the ends of a loaf apart from simply placing it crumb-side down on a board and slicing it the other way to eat with soup are; cubing it and frying to make croutons and making into breadcrumbs and freezing to use later in bread pudding, treacle tart or to coat fishcakes, chicken, fish or to add to burgers and meatballs.

4) Something from the garden. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden but there are catkins and pussy willow about in the hedges at the moment and they would look lovely in a jam jar or an old beer bottle like the one my forsythia is in.

5) The public library. When I was in my local library the other day not only did they have the latest Jamie Oliver but they also had  the baking book I showed on my last post. Both pristine and new. Completely free. So, to the anonymous commenter who said they couldn't afford the baking book check out your library.

6) Free meat sorry couldn't resist. What I really mean is the pleasure of watching  wildlife. I get enormous pleasure out of watching the birds in my garden and the squirrels even though many regard them as pests. If you sit in our garden long enough without moving you see hedgehogs and woodmice and sometimes frogs.

7) Line-dried washing. Available only to those fortunate enough to have some outdoor space but such a pleasure, for me anyway. The smell of fresh washing, the sight of it blowing in the wind, the joy in simply pegging out each item. I love it.

8) Sex
(unless it results in another mouth to feed).


Half Term


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The band came round for band practice. They have to come here because younger son is the drummer and a drumkit is not something you can just sling in the car. 
I absented myself for a large portion of the morning. First I took daughter to the hairdressers where I paid £9 for her to have an inch of hair cut off. Then we went to the supermarket along with elder son who clearly wanted to avoid the band practice too. We bought two packets of bacon and a dozen large rolls for the band's lunch.
By the end of the day younger son was completely exhausted but very happy with the way things had gone and I was glad it was over.

This morning
They all wanted to go into Worcester to buy stuff. Elder son needed a white shirt for a formal dinner (M&S), younger son wanted new jeans (H&M) and daughter just wanted to buy something, anything, preferably from Primark or Claire's. Primark hasn't been open in Worcester for long and so far I have managed to avoid it completely. Charlie however, has spent quite a few Saturday mornings standing about in there while daughter looks at all the tat. That place has the biggest collection of hideous, tacky, cheap and nasty t-shirts for young girls I have ever seen. I didn't think H&M was much better.

After they had done their shopping I felt I needed some kind of reward so I went to a bookshop. A new cookery book was what I needed, something with healthy, low fat meals would be a good idea.
So I bought this.

A lovely book although I'm trying hard not to be annoyed about the lack of imperial measurements.

Back home with a coffee and my new book I glanced over at younger son and noticed a hole in his new jeans.  Yes, I expect I should have taken them back to H&M but the repair took five minutes. Not as good as new because they were new, better than new, and without the cost of the car park for the second time  in a day.

While I was mending the children made lunch. Beans by older son, toast by younger son and carrot sticks by daughter.

They didn't forget anything.

After lunch
 I christened my new book and baked these.

All Kinds of Things


Friday, 18 February 2011

Things I am enjoying this February.

1) Thing to wear

My daughter's button necklace. A Christmas present that didn't quite hit the mark. It looks great with every single item of clothing I own though :o)

2) Thing to watch

The Rector's Wife is one of my favourite comfort reads. It's a domestic novel, the kind Persephone would publish if only it had been written eighty years ago. I loved this 1993 TV adaptation starring Lindsay Duncan. I just wish it was available as an audio book preferably read by Lindsay Duncan.

3) Things to look at

There's nuffin like a Puffin.

4) Thing to listen to

Simon Russell Beale is marvellous as Smiley.
 My mum was in MI5 you know. At least that was what she used to tell my brother and I when we were children. We used to say 'but if you're a spy you wouldn't tell us', 'Ah, but  you don't believe me, so it's safe to tell you'. 
I was listening to these dramas the other day when my daughter asked me what they were about, 'spies' I said, 'Granny's a spy' she replied. I'd have thought 71 was a bit old to be spook, but there you go, she's obviously too valuable to the service to be put out to grass.

5) Thing to smell

6) Thing to taste

These are blood oranges, not ruby or blush oranges or any other prissy name the supermarkets have dreamt up. They don't taste any different from ordinary oranges but they look beautiful. Grab them while you can they won't be around for long.

7) Thing to resist

Anzac biscuits.
 How authentically Antipodean these are I don't know. The recipe I use is from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book. They are incredibly easy to make.
 I've had one and I'm not having any more. Not one.

That's one tablespoon of golden syrup. I use T for tablespoon and t for teaspoon when I write down recipes.
It's granulated sugar and self-raising flour.

8) Thing to touch the soul.

Do have a lovely weekend.

The Food of Love


Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Day. It's a pile of commercial tripe isn't it? Really.

That said I like to exchange cards with Charlie, though I'm sure he could manage without the whole business. I nag him a bit about getting 'a nice card from the museum and art gallery gift shop and not one of those naff ones from Tesco'. The boy done good this year, his is the rose petal heart.

St Valentine's day is, for me, mainly about chocolate.
Torrone molle in this case. A recipe from the lovely book At Elizabeth David's Table.

 I'm not sure I'd call it an everyday recipe but it is a delicious one, as was the hollandaise sauce from the same book which I made to accompany poached salmon yesterday.

A rich mixture of cocoa, butter, sugar, ground almonds, eggs and biscuits.

We ate only a little piece each and I am going to freeze the rest for another time.

There have been altogether too many cakes, puddings and rich foods in my life of late. There is a change coming.

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