Saturday, 24 October 2009

I had to make a copy of this photo when I was housesitting for my parents last weekend. It's my mum in the early 70s, and it made me do a massive grin since, well let's see, cat, sewing machine, fairisle jumper, floral fabric, yes it could be me! I think I'm only realising as I'm getting older what a massive influence my mum has had on me, I'm sure she's the person responsible for all my biggest loves and what I'd like to think are some of my talents, I certainly have her to thank for my enthusiasm for cooking, sewing and all things home made! And she's just pretty gosh darn awesome in so many ways. Hurrah for mums!

I still have to post my recipe for rosehip syrup, I will do that this week. At the moment there just isn't enough time to do everything I want to do, I have about five or six sewing projects on the go and loads more I want to start... This week the theme has been sleep and I've been busying myself cutting and planning my patchwork quilt, making pajamas for a friend and attempting to refashion a charity shop dress into a babydoll nightie, but I'm already losing interest in those and fantasising about woolly skirts, checked blouses and pinafores, I need to learn to finish what I start!

Think the patchwork is going to have to be an ongoing project since there are 324 patches to sew....

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Barley Butternut Risotto

Mmmmm, time for warming, hearty meals! I love barley risotto, it's satisfyingly earthy and nourishing and very easy. You can make it vegan, without the butter and cheese and it's just as good, but it's extra comforting with a good grating of strong cheddar. I'm not too sure on measurements since I made this up and don't really measure,and I tend to use whatever veg I have to hand (squash and mushrooms are essential though!) but I think it's about right. Also nice cold for lunch the next day.


Serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers for lunch!)

olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
half a butternut squash/pumpkin, peeled and diced quite small
1 large/2 small courgettes, roughly chopped

good handful of chesnut mushrooms, sliced
1 mug of pearl barley
good big slug of red wine
tamari/shoyu to taste
2 mugs stock/water & bouillon (+more if needed)

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

large pinch dried sage

very generous handful fresh spinach (sometimes I use a whole bag, it's up to you!)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
freshly ground pepper

1 oz butter

handful grated cheddar cheese

extra seasonal veg (e.g. peppers, celery, leeks etc.)
Dried mushrooms, soaked to rehydrate (you can use the soaking water as tasty stock)


1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan (with a little bit of butter if you like), and add the onion and
garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add the squash, mushrooms, courgette and other veg. The squash can take a bit longer to cook, soI try to chop it quite small. Cover the pan, turn the heat down and sweat for 10 minutes or so (helps the squash get nice and tender).

2. Tip in the barley, and stir to coat with the tasty juices. Slosh in some red wine, followed by the stock. Add the tamari and herbs, except the parsley. Cover, and simmer over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the barley has absorbed the stock and turned lovely and plump and tender, with a slightly creamy/saucey texture (you might need to add more stock). Like risotto, you want the barley to be al dente, thick and creamy but not too runny. Taste, and add more wine or tamari if needed.

3. Roughly tear the spinach and add to the pan in a thick layer. Put the lid back on and steam for a few moments until it starts to wilt, then stir into the mixture to cook down. Add a little knob of butter, the parsley and season well with freshly pepper, the tamari is salty so I don't tend to add any more.

4. Serve, with grated cheese and a little more parsley to garnish if you like.


Hello Autumn! And a seasonal recipe.

It seems that the last post really did signal a 'goodbye' to Summer, and this one a 'Hello Autumn'... There's been a sudden swing towards the Autumnal, leaves on the pavements, windows steamed up in the mornings, blankets on the bed. And this week has been a celebration of the fact, for I have been doing seasonal activities a-plenty!

In spite of my optimistic Monday post I spent most of last week being a grumpy badger for no real reason, but the weekend was just what I needed to fix me up, I visited my parents with my brother and went fruit picking in the field by our house, we spent hours wandering around and ended up with tubs full of sloes, rosehips and blackberries (and scratched hands), there were more than we could ever pick, I think this time of year is when I most miss the country.

SO! The week so far has been a flurry of activity, I've been busying in my kitchen preparing my gathered fruit and filling the freezer for Winter, making rosehip syrup (photos and recipe to follow), and generally feeling very cosy and contented. There is a passage in 'Moominvalley in November' (one of my very favourite books) which sums up perfectly how I feel about this time of year:

"The quiet transition from Autumn to Winter is not a bad time at all. It's a time for protecting and securing things and making sure you've got in as many supplies as you can. It's nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won't find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth, for you have had foresight"

(There are so many bits of that book I could quote! Maybe another time.)

That is exactly how I felt on Monday night, sitting at my little table with a candle, listening to records and topping and tailing rosehips to boil up for yummy syrup. Also I have acquired a lovely blanket which makes me feel very snug indeed, though I swear I won't buy anymore and will learn to crochet my own instead. I think I am going to steal an idea from Argyle Whale's beautiful blog and start a To Do list, my brain is full to the brim of plans and intentions that I need to make sure I follow through on.

I have a seasonal recipe to post but I think I'll leave this all for my rambles and make a brand new seperate post.

* blanket picture from ebay, not me. I'll takea picture of my bed soon.