Thursday, 14 February 2013

It's St Valentine's Day!

I'm no romantic (already established here and here) but I do like some of the stuff associated with it.  
So here's my little nod in the direction of topicality - a few vintage Valentines and a quick make for those of you who forgot and want to make your loved one something more before the day ends.

I've been salvaging pages from old books and folding like a veritable Robert Harbin...

These little page markers are so quick to make, you could rustle up about a dozen in the time it would take your loved one to nip out for a bunch of flowers from the local garage!

Here one is in action - saving my current read from the dreaded turned down corner...

And here's how to do them.  I made that many because I was going to photograph each stage for you to follow, but in reality, this video will be much easier.

And here are another couple of makes I finally got round to...

Little Birdy Jars, inspired by this one on Pinterest...

It's a devil of a job to get a good photo!

Happy St Valentine's Day!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Reasons to be glad it's still winter

Snow and ice are returning this weekend, so the forecasters say.

Well, never mind!  Here's just the thing to make you pleased with this turn of events - a recipe for 

The Ultimate Sticky Toffee Pudding,

the perfect winter warmer

(also ideal in spring, autumn, and -  why the heck not? - summer?)

I'm always suspicious of recipes that claim to be 'ultimate' but this one did not disappoint.  I had never actually eaten a sticky toffee pudding before making this for the first time a few weeks back, thinking that I would find them too sweet and heavy, but Mr U-t-B has had them before, and Miss U-t-B is almost a professional taster-of-sticky-toffee-puddings, so she really knows what they're about!  

They both professed these to be the best pudding I've ever made, topping even Dum's Pudding which Mr U-t-B says is the reason he married me!  And what's more I found them neither too sweet nor remotely heavy - in fact, as I spooned it slowly into my mouth, I thought I had died and gone to heaven...

The Ultimate Sticky Toffee Pudding

Makes 7 little puddings (I made 9)
Prep about an hour
Cook 20-25 mins (can be made 1-2 days ahead and left to soak up the sauce - see recipe)
EASY and freezable (if you don't want to eat the puddings all at once (???!) freeze a few in an ovenproof dish with some of the sauce.  Thaw for a few hours and reheat as in step 5)

1.  Stone and chop 225g of whole (preferably Medjool) dates quite small.  

( I actually used the same amount of ready stoned ones.)  Put them in a bowl then pour over 175ml of boiling water. 

Leave to soak for 30 minutes until cool and well-soaked, then mash a bit with a fork.  Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract.  

Butter and flour 7 (metal) mini-pudding tins (each about 200ml) and sit them on a baking tray.  

Heat oven to 180 degrees/160 Fan oven/Gas 4.

2.  Towards the end of the date soaking time, make the pudding mixture.  Beat together 85g butter and 140g of demerara sugar in a large bowl for a few minutes until slightly creamy. 

(It will still be grainy because of the sugar).  Sift together 175g self-raising flour and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, placing it in a bowl for later. 

Beat two eggs and add to the mixture a bit at a time, beating well between additions.

Next beat in 2 tbsp of black treacle...

Then, using a large metal spoon gently, fold in one-third of the flour, then 50ml of milk.  Don't overbeat!  

Follow with another third of flour, and another 50ml of milk, then the final third of flour.  Stir in the soaked dates.  

The mix may look a little curdled at this point and will be a soft, thick batter.  

Spoon it evenly between the tins (I actually used 9 tins as we have that number for lunch tomorrow, and they came out the perfect size) and bake for 20-25 mins until risen and firm to the touch.

3.  Meanwhile, put 175g light muscovado sugar, 50g butter and 115ml double cream into a saucepan.  

Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring all the time to ensure the sugar dissolves properly.  Stir in 1 tbsp black treacle, then turn up the heat slightly and let the mixture bubble away for 2-3 mins until it is a rich toffee colour, stirring occasionally to ensure it does not catch. 

Take the pan off the heat and stir in a further 110ml of double cream.

4. Remove the puddings from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before loosening with a small palette knife.  Turn the puddings out, coat with sauce and serve OR, to make them even stickier, pour half the sauce into an ovenproof dish, turn the puddings into the sauce the pour the rest of the sauce over.  

Squeeeeze in!

Cover with a loose tent of foil and leave - no need to chill.

5. When ready to serve, heat oven to 180 degrees/160 Fan oven/Gas 4.  Warm the puddings through, still covered in the foil, for 15-20 mins or until the sauce is bubbling.  Serve on their own or with cream or custard.

Served with cream - might as well be killed for a sheep as a lamb, eh?

Recipe from Good Food magazine, developed by Angela Nilsen

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

What's-on-my-bookshelf Wednesday

Recently I have been dabbling in a bit of machine applique.

A bit of a well-known design idea perhaps, but it was so perfect for the two recipients I had in mind, both of whom have a passion for VW Campers...

It is a removeable notebook cover, by the way!

I enjoy using my machine for something other than seaming, but know I don't do it 'properly', so invested in this book...

(which you can buy from Poppy Treffry's website amongst other places) order to learn.  Looking forward to diving into its pages very soon, and hopefully back with some amazing pictures!

Thanks for all your lovely comments and for taking the time to read my warblings!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Adventures in marmalade making

When my friend Val gave me a pot of her orange and apricot marmalade last year, I decided after one tiny  morsel that I would have to make a batch myself.  Sadly, I had missed all the 2012 Seville oranges by the time I got round to thinking about getting my preserving pan out, so I was determined not to miss out this year.

So when Val told me that these  were in our local Tesco...

...I had to ask very nicely for the recipe and get on with the job!

The day before you wish to make your marmalade, wash and juice 675g of Seville oranges (or thereabouts) and 1 lemon

Put the juice in a large bowl

Use a teaspoon to scoop out the remaining pulp and pips, putting them into a smaller bowl with a pint of water.  ( I scraped out some of the thicker bits of pith too.)

Cut the fruit skins into thin slivers and put into the bowl with the juice, then add 4 and a half pints of water

Cover and leave the two bowls to sit for a day.

The next day, take 450g dried apricots and chop up quite small

Place a sieve lined with a good-sized square of muslin over the large bowl with the rind and juice in, and pour the pith, pip and pulp  bowl into it.  Tie the muslin securely with string.

Pour the juice and rind into a preserving pan or other large pan, and add the muslin bag containing the pith, pips and pulp.  Val recommends giving the pan a light buttering to ensure nothing catches, but I forgot to do this!

Cook this mixture for 45 minutes till the rind is tender and the liquid reduced by about a third.

Take the muslin bag out and add the chopped apricots and 6lb of ordinary granulated sugar.

 Bring up to the boil fairly slowly, to ensure the sugar dissolves fully.

Then boil rapidly for 20 minutes by which time it should have reached setting point.

I did not actually TEST that setting point had been reached - though I did put my sugar thermometer in and the required temperature of 220 degrees had been reached - and I really should have done, because when I picked up one of the jars this morning, it clearly had not set!  

Looking back, when I poured the marmalade into the twelve sterilised jars I had prepared, the rind was mostly sitting quite low in the jar, and this was probably a clue that this stuff was going to have the consistency of runny honey when cool!

Bad marmalade

So I tipped all the jars back into the preserving pan, and brought it back up to boil, again boiling it rapidly for about ten minutes.  

I had prepared a chilled plate this time and TESTED the concoction regularly for its set - a small amount placed on the chilled plate, then left for a minute and then pushed to see if a wrinkly skin has developed.

When I was satisfied that setting point really HAD been reached I poured it into re-sterilised jars.  The rind is now evenly distributed, which I take as a good sign, and there's no sloshing!

Good marmalade!

Cold toast for breakfast tomorrow I think, and marmalade sandwiches for tea, followed by a slice of Marmalade Loaf, I suspect!