Last week …

unravelling woollen sweater


A couple of years ago, I knitted two sweaters using the Warriston pattern by Kate Davies but because I ran short of wool  they both ended up with sleeves too short. I hate three quarter length sleeves (almost as much as I detest clothes without pockets) so I’m unravelling the sweaters and rewinding the wool so that I can knit one good sweater with proper sleeves.

Have you read how you should soak and then dry your yarn before rewinding it to get rid of the bouncy kinks? Heed that advice. I tried knitting kinky wool and it looked awful. Which meant yet more unravelling.

hand written recipe book


Mum gave me her mother’s recipe books and I’ve been trying to follow some of the recipes. Or aides-memoires as I prefer to call them as many of them are just a list of ingredients with scant instructions.

Some of the recipes are cut from the newspaper with the news on the reverse “a great force of heavy RAF bombers crossed the East Coast early last night heading for the continent” and “Blackout (London) 10.26 – 5.45”. From scribbled notes, I know that Gran “planted bulbs in bowls on 10th October 1938″ and that “rubbing paraffin wax on the heels of your stockings makes them last longer”.

Yesterday I followed a recipe for Adelaide cakes. Tell me, do you know how Adelaide cakes should look? There was no mention of tin size or shape. Fairy cake or muffin sized? Round? Oblong?


My brain

The Seville oranges are in the shops so, as usual I set about making enough marmalade to last us for the year. The kitchen filled with a glorious smell as I juiced and chopped, stirred and boiled. Then, as I ladled the marmalade into the jars, I noticed pips floating around and realised that I’d tipped the juice into the pan without straining out the pips. Doh!

The marmalade tastes fine but every spoonful has to be inspected for pesky pips and believe me, Seville oranges have loads of pips.

a purple phase

artichoke flowerbee on verbena

We are going through a purple phase. The artichokes are flowering, the verbena is attracting the bees alongside the fading lavender and we’re eating purple meals.

The problem is that though the vegetables are growing fast (I turn my back for a moment to find the courgettes have doubled in size and the runner beans are almost a foot long) sometimes there are only a few of each ready at any one time. Rather than make lots of saucepans dirty, I make a  vegetable stew based on Half the Garden Soup from The River Cottage Year book that uses small quantities of lots of different vegetables. Adding potatoes means another saucepan saved too. Not only is this easy to make but it varies as the season progresses.
I made the stew last week. One of our most successful vegetables at the moment is beetroot and I used quite a lot in the stew. Consequently, supper consisted of soft confit of rabbit leg perched atop a purple stained mound of vegetables and then, showing a distinct lack of planning in the visual department, we ate blackcurrant compote for pudding that was an even deeper purple. It was a very purple meal that reminded me of an art teacher we had at school whose wardrobe consisted almost entirely of purple clothes. I wonder if she still wears purple or if it was just a phase. Should you decide to make the stew, purple or otherwise, the recipe is below.

half the garden stewHalf the Garden Stew

For four to six servings, depending on how many of each vegetable you use, fry 500g onions until they’re soft, add the same or more of chopped skinned tomatoes and when they’re soft and pulpy,  pour in 300ml of water. Add a pinch of salt and some diced potato and simmer for ten minutes.

While it’s simmering roughly chop some or all of whatever’s growing in the garden such as carrots, beetroot, courgettes, peas, runner beans, French beans, pumpkin, squash, leeks, parsnips … and throw in the pot.

Simmer for another ten minutes or until the vegetables are only just tender and then add a mixture of finely shredded leaves such as chard, parsley, cutting celery or spinach and cook for two minutes or so, depending on how cooked you like your leaves.

I spoon this into a bowl rather than a plate as there’s quite a lot of liquid.
If I have a joint of cold roast pork in the fridge, I’ll cube it and fry in a knob of butter until crisp and then scatter over the vegetables.