Autumn and Winter Comfort Food

It’s that time of year again, when the nights draw in earlier and I start to crave a hearty dinner sitting in front of the fire. We started off this season with the Jamie Oliver Allotment Cottage Pie, featured in his Meat Free series which is currently running on the TV.

It uses mostly root vegetables, which are cheap and plentiful and it takes a while to prepare but is worth it. It makes a HUGE portion so good if you have a large family to feed, but I found that it needed some gravy after the second day. Mark didn’t like the swede so I would probably use butternut squash instead next time.

I made mine in a large shallow Le Creuset dish, which I use for everything! The dish itself was really expensive but it is really worth the money and will last you forever. It’s just the right size and depth for this recipe.

The second Jamie Oliver Meat Free recipe we have tried is the Scruffy Aubergine Lasagne. I used the last 2 aubergines from the greenhouse and divided the dish into 2, one side GF pasta and 1 side normal pasta. The method again takes a while and doesn’t use lots of oil, so it makes for a healthy meal. The nuts on the top made an unusual finish and gave another texture to the dish.

I think that the dish needed a bit more cheese in it, so next time I make it I will add more Parmesan.

Capsule Wardrobe – Autumn 2019

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It’s that time again! Time to swap my summer clothes over for a warmer set. This Autumn I have decided to use these colours for my capsule wardrobe:

  • Black
  • Purple
  • Cerise Pink
  • Lilac
  • Dark Grey
  • Lime Green
  • White

i decided on these colours a month or so ago so I could start making items of clothing for Autumn. I have also been through all of my clothes that I store away each season and picked out items which I like and which I want to be part of the capsule. I haven’t had to buy anything extra at all. 

These are the items in my Autumn Capsule 2019

Outerwear

Black lightweight jacket – bought from M&S when I was working 

Purple velvet coat – I have had this maxi coat for several years but have only worn it occasionally. I have now decided to shorten it so that I get more wear from it. 

Black hoodie – bought from Primark about 2 years ago 

Grey hoodie – bought from H&M last year

Tops

Black cotton polo – bought several years ago 

Black long sleeved tee – bought last year 

Black and white checked shirt – I made this last year but it’s too short so I am going to lengthen it a bit with some of the leftover fabric. 

Long floral blouse – I bought this from Joules when I had a bit of money and when I was working but I still like it and it has the right colours for this capsule 

White long sleeved tee – bought last year 

White linen top – bought 2 years ago 

Purple and white top – made this year 

Short black tee – bought from Spanish supermarket this year 

Bright Pink Tee – bought from Spanish supermarket this year

Lime Green Tee – gifted from my sister -in- law

Long cerise pink lightweight cardigan – bough a few years ago

Bottoms

Black leggings- bought this year from M&S

Black trousers – bought 2 years ago from M&S

Purple jeans – bought several years ago – can’t remember where from 

Black jeans – Christmas present 2018 

Dresses

Lilac dress – this is the Cinema dress I made – see blog post – cost £25 (fabric, thread and buttons) plus pattern 

Grey jersey dress – made this last week – cost £15 plus pattern 

Black dress – bought last year from Lidl 

Cerise Pink Joni Dress – made this year – cost £32 – plus pattern

Shoes and Boots 

Black ankle boots – birthday present Feb 2019

Grey lace up shoes – bought 2018 – Clarks 

Black slip ons – bought several years ago but not worn much – Dune 

Black patent slip ons – bought several years ago but not worn much – Clarks – they have them back in the shop now!

Accessories

Pink suede clutch – bought from eBay new last month 

Black Crossover Handbag – bought several years ago 

Lime Green Tote – bought several years ago – Sainsbury’s

Jewellery

I have been through my ‘jewellery’ and found some pieces that will co-ordinate with the colours.

 

What shall I do with all my tomatoes?

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Well, we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes. I tried a new variety called ….. .They have done really well and taste good. At the moment we are managing to eat the red ones daily.  Each day there are more. I love going into the greenhouse each morning to see how they are doing. I am still feeding them every week with a liquid seaweed feed diluted with water. I haven’t had any bugs and I think that is because I companion plant the tomatoes with marigolds and basil. Apparently the smell of both deters the white fly. It works for me so I do it every year now.

One of my favourite ways of using the tomatoes is by making a tomato salad.

Ingredients

Ripe tomatoes

Basil Leaves

Red Onion

French dressing

Salt and Pepper

Simply slice the tomatoes onto a large plate in a single layer. Tear some fresh basil leaves over the top, slice some red onions and arrange over the tomatoes. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and drizzle some home made French dressing over the top. Delicious!

French Dressing

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 garlic clove – smashed

Half a teaspoon of mustard powder

Salt and Pepper

Shake all the ingredients in a jar – that’s it!

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As for the rest, I try to be imaginative and think of recipes I can use them in, such as Aubergine Parmigiana, Pasta sauces, Ratatouile and Chilli, but after that I bung them in the freezer to use like I would use tinned tomatoes. I wouldn’t waste any of my hard work.

 

 

 

Linda’s 60th Birthday Treat

Oh Lovely Linda, you keep my body and mind relaxed!

One of my many gifts to myself is to have a monthly full body massage. I believe that it has helped me to keep well over the years. Driving, a stressful job and using a keyboard all day meant that I was usually tense and my muscles tight and sometimes horribly knotted. Having a massage relieves the tensions and relaxes the muscles but is also a very nice way to while away and hour or so, thinking of nothing in particular.

When we  moved to our current house in 2005, I needed to find a new masseuse. Linda came to the rescue. I discovered her through a local magazine and have been going to her ever since.

Along the way we became good friends – we’ve listened to each others moans and groans and laughed and talked a lot too. We have a rule that we can talk up to the point she is massaging my face and then it’s just the soothing music in the background.

Linda has joined the ranks of the over 60’s now so I wanted to give her a special birthday gift. She kindly took me for a spa day and afternoon tea treat for my 60th and I wanted to give her something special for hers.   I asked her if she would like me to make her a handmade piece of clothing. She could, of course, choose the fabric and the pattern and I would make it up.

We trawled through my pattern box to find a pattern that Linda liked. She chose a dress pattern I had used before but wanted a few changes. She wanted the shape altered from an A line to a straight sided shift dress.

So off we went to Milton Keynes to choose the fabric, have lunch and have a nice day together.

After lots of discussion and looking, Linda chose some lovely teal print, cotton fabric. Unfortunately, the John Lewis at Milton Keynes didn’t have enough to make the dress, but store gave me details of the stores which had more fabric. I contacted Reading and they sent me what I needed, freepost!

As I was making changes to the pattern, I thought it best to make a toile first for a practice run. I used some cream curtain fabric, from my fabric stash, for this. After a few changes we were happy with the fit and I so I cut out the dress in the lovely fabric. Once it was cut out I quickly made the dress up and waited for Linda to return from holiday. It fitted in all the right places,  but just needed the sides taken in a little more, the pockets attached and the hem taken up.

I was very happy with the finished article.

I think she likes it too!

 

 

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Minerva Crafts

Recently, I was lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the Minerva Crafts Team. As part of this team, we get to choose some lovely fabric from a selection sent out each month. We then commit to making a garment and a blog post which is then put up on on their website. You also have to commit to completing the garment and the blog within 4 weeks of receiving the fabric. There are many of us in the Team and I think we are from all different backgrounds and have different styles and levels of sewing experience.

The choice of fabrics is a bit overwhelming but in a good way! I decided that my criteria for choosing would depend on the time of the year and any gaps in my capsule wardrobe  for that season. I also wanted to use patterned I had not used before and maybe try out some new fabrics.

For my first project I chose some rayon challis in a teal colour. I made the Buttons Bettine Dress, a casual, easy to wear dress, for summer. This is the one I am wearing above.

I was really pleased with the final product and it went live on the Minerva Blog on 17th June.

For my second project, I chose some micro fleece to make a warm top. I used another Tilly pattern, the Nora top. This one is due to go live in September.

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The Cinema Dress

Don’t you just love it when something turns out just right!

I had admired this dress made up on Instagram but also the pattern photo made me want to make it. It looked so comfortable, stylish and wearable. The pattern is produced by Liesl and Co. I used the paper version and found it easy to use and the directions easy to understand. This relaxed-fit dress pattern features a front and back yoke, V-notch neckline, and back button closure. Both views have easy-to-sew welt pockets and cuffed, three-quarter-length sleeves.

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I bought some lilac chambray from eBay which cost £22.50. I chose lilac because I don’t have anything in this colour and I think it goes nicely with my now grey hair. I thought this could be part of my Autumn Capsule wardrobe if it went to plan.

The fabric was lovely to sew. The instructions were easy to understand. I really enjoyed making it and made sure I took my time.

I originally was going to make the longer length but after reading the measurements I decided that the shorter length at 45 inches would be best.

I wasn’t looking forward to doing the buttonholes as I always panic about the positioning being right, but I practised first and they turned out ok. I bought some lovely wooden buttons from Ebay to finish it off.

I am very happy with the final product and plan to wear it tomorrow!

 

What makes the garden look great in July?

Well, it’s that time of the year again when some of our hard work reaches fruition. We’ve had some produce from the garden and a lovely display of flowers that makes it all worthwhile.

The garlic has now been harvested and is drying out in the greenhouse.

 

We’ve had several meals of our delicious early potatoes. What’s nicer than a bowl of warm herby and buttery potatoes from the garden to eat with fish or salad?

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My first lot of basil didn’t do very well. I wondered if this was because I bought them for a £1 at a cheap supermarket, but I sowed the rest of the packet and its looking great. I will pot them up individually and that should keep us going through the summer for pesto and tomato salads.

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The bell peppers look fantastic and are actually dripping from the plants! I have used one in a stir fry and very good too.

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We have had beetroot, radishes and spinach from the veg patch already. The aubergines have loads of flowers which I am hoping develop into some decent fruits. The tomato plants in the garden and in the greenhouse are all fruiting now. I can’t wait to have those.

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The flowerbeds are looking lovely. Just a few gaps to fill to keep it looking that way. We have dahlias, arum lilies, day lilies, cosmos, jasmine, honeysuckle, alliums, crocosmia, passion flowers, love in a mist, to name but a few.

The wildlife pond is almost covered in lilies and will need some thinning out later in  the year.The newts have done their thing and have now disappeared from the pond again. They’ll be hiding under rocks and stones in the garden.We won’t see them again till spring. There  will be a few little ones in the bottom off the pond growing up. I only know their are there because when I use a net to get the blanket weed out, I sometimes capture a little wiggly newt. I just leave him/her on the side to slide back in. There are loads of  damsel flies about, their beautiful blue bodies shimmering in the sun light. I have yet to see any dragonflies but they will come.

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I’ve tried over the years to have a succession of plants in the garden throughout the year but always find August a bit of a struggle. I’ll let you see how I have done next month.

By then I also hope to have harvested some tomatoes, which I am really looking forward to.

How to make a very good Sourdough Loaf

 

My son gave me some of his sourdough starter so I could have a go myself at making a sourdough loaf. I have tried before but it wasn’t brilliant. I can’t eat it myself as it’s made with gluten flour. My partner Mark loves it though.

I wanted to have the sourdough ready to eat on Sunday so the making process had to start on Friday.

The starter is kept in the fridge so I took it out on Friday morning, as per the instruction from son Marc. I divided it in two and threw one half away. I then fed the remainder with a cup of rye flour and some water. This was mixed together and then left on the worktop for a few hours.

In the afternoon I measured out 100g of the starter. I put the rest back in the fridge for the next loaf. I then added:

  • 300g water
  • 100g-stoneground flour
  • 400g white strong flour

 

I mixed all this together to make dough and then left the in bowl covered with a damp tea towel for 2 hours.

I then added:

10g fine sea salt and 15g cold water

The salty water was pushed into the dough with the fingers. This was left for 10 mins

After 10 mins it was time to fold and turn to get the traditional holes in the sourdough. The dough is pulled up and folded forward, and then the bowl is turned a quarter of a turn.

This is done a 3 further times with 30 minutes between each and a final 15 mins rest at the end.

After this the dough is shaped into a ball and wrapped it in a flour dredged tea towel over a colander and put in the fridge to rise overnight.

In the morning I pre warmed the oven to 220 degrees  for 30 mins.  I put in a Le Creuset casserole dish in the oven to heat up too.  Once it was hot, I also put in a roasting dish with boiling water to provide some steam.

I sprinkled some ground rice on the bottom of there casserole dish – you can use semolina – so that it didn’t stick. I slashed the top of the loaf, put the lid on and cooked it for an hour. After an hour, I took the lid off and cooked for a further 10 mins.

Let it cool as long as you can – that’s not long in our house!

 

 

 

Making Elderflower Champagne

Well, its just as well I picked all my elderflowers before the rain set in. I managed to get the Champagne bottled and its now sitting in the garage getting fizzy.

I made this last year for the first time and art was a great success. I doubled ups the recipe as we were having a family party. It went down well.

Heres the recipe – its a Women’s Institute recipe which I got from a google search. I used some of the last Spanish lemons which I had in the freezer.

Ingredients 

25-30 elderflower heads in full bloom

2kg white sugar

2 litres water

4 lemons – juice and zest

1-2 tablespoons of wine vinegar

Pinch of dried yeast

Method

Boil the water and put onto the sugar in a large bowl or bucket (sterilised)

Stir until the sugar dissolves and then make up to 6 litres with cold water.

Add the lemon juice and zest, the flowerhead and stir gently.

Cover and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days.

After a couple of days – check to see if it fermenting – if not add pinch of dried yeast.

Leave to ferment for a further 4 days.Strain the liquid through a muslin lined sieve.

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Pour into sterilised bottles – the ones with a glass and rubber seal.

Seal and leave to ferment for at leats a further 8 days before serving chilled. Make sure you doing fill to the top, to allow the gas to expand.

I found that it kept to August last year. It may of kept longer but it got shared and drunk!

The champagne is really fragrant and makes a lovely summer drink.

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