Tag Archives: vegetables

If it’s dreich, try pot to plate

Dreich  ~ yes,  dreich, that’s the right word to describe today.  Dismal, dreary, bleak, a winter’s day at the end of May.  Outdoors, the colours are first dulled by the grey wash of sky, then smeared by the gloom of the atmosphere. Dreich, it is; maist dreich.

What’s a body to do but wrap up warmly and take a solid meal of soup, served without fuss or finery, straight from pot

Pot of barley vegetable soup

Pot of barley vegetable soup

to plate. Slop and dollop.

Plate of soup to cheer the dreich of day

Plate of soup to cheer the dreich of day

A dear friend showed me how to make this soup-stew. There isn’t a defined recipe. What goes in, aside from the barley and broth, depends on what is in the cupboard. In this case I have potato, pumpkin, two kinds of sweet potato, peas, broccoli stalks,  parsnip, carrot, onion,  celery, and bacon. The flavourings are salt, bay leaves and tarragon, and lots of black pepper.  The soup takes time to cook but time = very satisfying fodder. Even more satisfying, as an accompaniment, would have been a wee dram of that other time-dense barley concoction,  whisky.   Alas, there was none of that in the cupboard. 😉

© silkannthreades

More flowers, more guests, a birthday, and beguiling mysteries

Continuing the story of my blogcation….( Will it ever end? Yes, but not quite yet.)

 

More flowers

New Zealand Cranberries in pink glass

New Zealand Cranberries in pink glass

for more guests

More guests :)

More guests 🙂

and for a birthday….mine!

Birthday Flowers

Birthday Flowers

Update:

The sun was shining when I took these photos almost a month ago but, today, our city’s land and rivers are trying (and failing) to cope with 70mm of rain (in the past 24 hours), with more to come. My garden is a mud puddle which makes me feel that it’s an appropriate time to confess that I am a little bit of a  stick-in-the-mud type, when it comes to my literary tastes.  I like my  “Diary of a Provincial Lady” or my Rumer Godden, and many things quiet and genteel, and gently humorous. Adventure is not my middle name (it’s Amanda, actually 😉 ) when it comes to books. But, every now and then, someone, like my good, well-read, sister-in-law, gives me a nudge and sends me  books like  Two for SorrowThe Sunbird or  The Distant Hours or The Luminaries;  and I have a blast shaking loose from my usual reading habits.

The other day, I was given a similar, small nudge from blogger Vickie Lester at Beguiling Hollywood.   She entrusted me with her precious manuscript for her soon to be self-published novel,  IT’S IN HIS KISS,  with the idea that I might blog about it. I wasn’t sure, at first, but, once I started reading, I was hooked. Once again, with just a teeny step out of my comfort zone,  I am having a blast. How could I not? The main character is witty,  believable, and has my last name, Anne.

So, now, you ask, what is my first name?  I’ll leave you to guess. And I may not tell you even if you guess right because, like Ms Lester, I enjoy keeping a few secrets and a little mystery about myself.  Life is more beguiling that way 🙂 .

© silkannthreades

Praise Be

The  swan plant I ordered to replenish my monarch caterpillars’ food supply came yesterday, just in the nick of time. It has been planted,

Praise be for more food

Praise be for more food

and my remaining caterpillars are now busily chomping on their fresh greens. Hopefully, the caterpillars will  have enough food to take them through their fifth  instar and into their chrysalis stage.  Most of them look big enough to be close to their final and complete metamorphosis.

Is this the 5th instar?

Is this the 5th instar?

Whilst the caterpillars are nourishing their bodies in preparation for change, I thought we might do the same. Would you care to indulge?…..

in a taste of the last of summer in this delicious, spicy rhubarb cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

Spicy Rhubarb Cake

or, perhaps, in a little something that speaks of cooler mornings and the colder days to come; a gingerbread cake.

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

Joy of Baking; Gingerbread Cake

But, if you are wanting a lighter indulgence, may I suggest a serving of the apple, instead of the cake.  Again there are two choices; Cherry Gala apples lightly cooked with a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of sugar and a handful of rose petals;

or Royal Gala and Eve  apples , sautéed gently in a sliver of butter and a sprinkle of sugar.

Mmmmm…How was that? Delectable? Are you feeling suitably indulged and ever so glad that we are not limited to one food type like the monarch caterpillar; that we are able to experience so many taste sensations; that we have such variety in our menus.

Praise be to the  butterflies  and bees that make that possible.

~

At 12.51pm today we marked the  third anniversary of the  February 22nd earthquake. At the memorial service in the Botanic Gardens, the Mayor said “Let us unite as we did after the earthquakes. For those of us who have been able to move on, let us reach out to those who are still struggling. .. For those who cannot move on, please do not be afraid to ask for our help… We can get through this together.”

In caterpillar terms, ( because I have this essential life form so much on my mind 😉 ) most of us have made it through the first instar; some of us are almost ready to be butterflies; indeed, may already be  flying freely. Some of us, such as myself, are still  ambling along in the third instar. But there’s no rush. With nourishment and nurture, we will, eventually, be transformed.

( I think I will make a good  butterfly, don’t you?  🙂   Better keep my feet clean, though. Butterflies taste through their ‘feet’! )

© silkannthreades

Meal of the Moment minus the Moose

Laila, on  tableofcolors , prepares the most beautiful food for her family and friends ( and others besides, as part of her work). In late November, despite the difficulties presented by a  blackout ,  Laila, ( with help from her husband, I think )  made a meal of roast moose and roast vegetables  with spinach crepes.     It looked delicious on her blog post but, not having access to a supply of moose,  the only part that I could try to copy was the spinach crepe. So try  I did,  and then I tried  more  and more….. until I was quite *roly poly gammon no meat and some spinach* and very well satisfied.

Since then we have had several meals ( hot, cold, warm ) of delectable spinach crepes and I am pleased to report that they are my new favourite  meal of the moment, food.

Thank you Laila. Your recipes are inspirational, but so practical, and, whenever I make them, I feel as though I have brought a little bit of your lovely home, and a little bit of Finland, into my world.

Spinach Crepes for Lunch

Spinach Crepes for Lunch

© silkannthreades

Hodgepodge

I am in a disorderly, unruly mood today, for no reason, except ‘just because’. And ‘just because’ that is so, I have decided my post is going to  be a hodgepodge; a veritable stew of unrelated subjects; a mingle-mangle, a gallimaufrey, an omnium-gatherum and a farrago, as well. It may even be a salmagundi too, although I don’t propose adding a recipe for that.  I will, however, tempt you, later, with another food item,  Boarders’ Favourite……..which I am planning to make for supper tonight. 🙂

So let’s begin with my menu of  hotchpotch, in no particular disorder.

From Felicia Dorothea Hemans,  she of ‘the boy stood on the burning deck fame

“For man can show thee nought so fair,
As Nature’s varied marvels there;
And if thy pure and artless breast
Can feel their grandeur, thou art blest!”

These words and photos are  in support of Silvana http://tinasca.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/nature-is-victim-again-yasuni-itt/ who, with friends, is trying to save the Yasuni in Ecuador. The photos, which I have chosen, ( two of which are Japanese  Mon), represent, for me, the unity of life on earth and how our ecosystems are intimately connected, no matter where we live on the planet.

The leaf Mon, also represents my first teeny-tiny attempt at using the paint tools on Gimp. And the amount of hand/eye coordination, and fine motor skill control, that programme required of me,  leaves me in awe of all my followers  who paint and sculpt and craft. You are amazing!

One such sculptor/blogger is Virginia at Muse-ings.     In her latest post she wrote of using the self-timer on her camera, and, immediately, a little light pinged in my head, and I remembered that I, too, have a timer on my camera.  And this is what happened, as a result; an old-fashioned, unruly ‘selfie’….

Unruly and Disorderly

Unruly and Disorderly

and, then, it was such fun using the timer, I tried it again and again. Later, encouraged by Heather in Arles, http://lostinarles.blogspot.co.nz/ I tried to photo edit one of the images, which created much bafflement for me, because, as my daughter says, Gimp requires ‘counter-intuitive’ thinking, of which, it seems,  I have very little. Hey ho….can anyone intuit what I did, or did not do, with my editing? As you can see, I am thinking upon it myself, hand to chin, lost in thought 🙂

Now, as a reward for sampling the hodgepodge menu, here’s some  chocolate deliciousness in

BOARDERS’ FAVOURITE!

Fair Trade Chocolate

Fair Trade Chocolate

and one of my favourite songs from New Zealand’s  own Bic Runga

© silkannthreades

Rhubarb Rhubarb

In my previous post, I mentioned eating rhubarb compote with my rice bread. https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/rice-bread-and-blossom/ The rhubarb was fresh, young, spring rhubarb  from my garden. And the very first rhubarb I have  grown.

The growing season before last,  a good friend gave me a corm from her beautiful, bountiful rhubarb plant.  I planted it in a big, blue pot in sweet spot near my back door and let it be, as one should, for its first season.

Big Blue Pot of Rhubarb

Big Blue Pot of Rhubarb

This past weekend, I noticed that a few stalks on the rhubarb were ready for picking; only just ready, but I was so anxious to try my own home-grown rhubarb that  I couldn’t leave them on the plant any longer. I harvested a few stalks,

Spring Rhubarb

Spring Rhubarb

cooked them the merest amount( and even that was too much because the stalks were so tender!); added some sugar and there it was …..rhubarb compote, (aka stewed rhubarb 🙂 ), to be tasted one careful teaspoon at a time. Delicious, if over-mushed.

Rhubarb compote

Rhubarb compote

Now for a few fun facts about rhubarb.

Rhubarb is a vegetable. It’s true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb

Rhubarb is the word actors utter repeatedly and  softly to emulate background conversation. Its use is “Attributed to the practice by Charles Kean‘s theatre company c1852 at Princess Theatre, London of actors supposed to be talking together inaudibly, repetitively saying the word rhubarb, which was chosen because it does not have any harsh-sounding consonants or clear vowels. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rhubarb

Rhubarb is the title of a 1969 film by Eric Sykes where the only word used is Rhubarb. The film was remade in to a short television comedy in 1980 called Rhubarb Rhubarb.

So there you have it. Who knew a spring vegetable in a blue pot could be so much fun?

Rhubarb  Rhubarb

CUSTARD (what actors say when they are bored with Rhubarb 🙂 )

CUSTARD

CUSTARD

© silkannthreades

Feasting

In recent weeks, when I was feeling ‘under the weather’, on account of my cold/cough, my desire to eat and cook was as lacking as my tastebuds. Now that I am all better, my appetite and interest in cooking have returned and, yesterday, my meal seemed like a feast; it tasted so good!

First up, we had brown lentils and mushrooms in pasta sauce. This is a dish I  created using a combination of different ideas and recipes. It is an authentic mish mash rather than anything elegant with a specific and identifiable origin. Here is a small sample of the finished product.

As usual, my recipe  for this dish is fairly carefree and easy but, for those of you who are interested, here is an outline of the ingredients and cooking method:  Roughly chop one onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 celery stick and 1 carrot and place in the blender and blitz. Place a little olive oil in a large pan and add blitzed mixture to the pan. Cover and let mixture sweat for about 10 minutes. Add a half teaspoon of dried oregano, and about a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of canned, chopped tomatoes in thick juice. Stir and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Add one tin/can of drained and rinsed brown lentils (about 400gm) and stir. Then add one bottle of thick pasta sauce. I use Bertolli Five Brothers Pasta Sauce, large size, in the summer tomato and basil flavour.  Stir again and cover and simmer gently for a few more minutes. Lastly add about 200 gm of quartered, button mushrooms and 3  Tablespoons of bulghur wheat.  Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the bulghur wheat is tender. Before serving add freshly ground pepper and 2 or 3 Tablespoons of cream to the pan.

The textures of the ingredients and the smooth richness of the sauce are wonderfully hearty  on a winter’s night. I served the sauce on creamy mashed potatoes with steamed carrots and steamed broccoli stalks. And ,because the recipe makes a large amount, we will be having the sauce again tonight, but this time with polenta.

To follow the main meal, I made a scrumptious fruit crumble, using an absolutely excellent crumble recipe from blogger Valerie Davies; excellent because it is  both delicious and makes a large amount (which means at least enough for two fruit crumbles in my house). For the fruit component of the dish, I used freshly sliced cooking apples and a good handful of less than perfect grapes which I blanched and peeled and sprinkled with lemon juice.  The results were so good that I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping. Thanks Valerie 🙂

If you would like the recipe take a look Here.

While you are there, check out her other delicious recipe for Convent Eggs. http://valeriedavies.com/2013/07/13/the-real-dalai-lama/ 

I am sure it was the Convent Eggs that finally set my tastebuds on the road to recovery. Food has been tasting superb, since the day I made those delicious eggs.

Finally, what’s a feast without something for the eyes as well. I am so thrilled to have these three lovely books on my table today. The two Virago books arrived by post this morning, via Amazon.  The  third  book, With Bold Needle and Thread by Rosemary Mcleod  is on loan from the library. It is subtitled Adventures in Vintage Needlecraft, and so it is, so it is; a very lovely adventure.

Books of a Vintage

Books of a Vintage

A Visual Feast

A Visual Feast

© silkannthreades

Down to the basics

Once upon a time I was an avid viewer of Martha Stewart’s TV series. Yet, despite my avidity, I think I have only  incorporated a couple of Martha’s ideas into my household ways.

The first idea was Martha’s method of stacking cups and saucers.   (http://www.marthastewart.com/275482/kitchen-organizing-tips/@center/277007/kitchen-design#end )   Although my cup and saucer collection is paltry compared to Martha’s, her system worked exceptionally well for me…..until….. the earthquakes, when I decided that stacks of cups/saucers were not the way to go. To be fair, my small monuments to Martha’s organizational genius didn’t even teeter in the first big earthquake. They remained rock solid, but I thought they looked too precarious to survive any further assaults on their structural integrity, so I deconstructed the stacks and rearranged my cups and saucers in a plain and simple fashion. Like this.Plain, simple, secure

Very bland, and hopefully very secure and safe. (Particularly safe if I remember to latch the cupboard door. Before the earthquakes, I had a reputation for leaving the contents of kitchen cupboards fully exposed. I have improved my lax ways.)  I am sure Martha would give me points for clean and tidy, but  would she be compelled to roll her eyes over the uncoordinated nature of my china? I fear so.

The second Martha ‘idea’ to enter my life was in the form of her recipe for Potato Frittata. As with the cups and saucers, I have adapted the idea/recipe to suit my circumstances but it is a frittata that I make regularly.  It is completely delicious and completely easy. I love it.

Here’s Martha at work on the frittata ( http://www.marthastewart.com/254051/potato-frittata), and here is my handiwork. Not bad, if I say so myself.Fantastic Frittata

Four ingredients; onions, olive oil, potatoes, eggs; a pinch of Martha and me and there you have it; a good basic meal. A salad, and a crusty loaf of bread on the side, make for mouth-watering perfection. Hungry?

© silkannthreades

In thrift gear

Every now and then, when the large figures on household bills loom larger than any figures have a right to loom, my brain shifts in to thrift gear. It determines, with complete and utter disregard for reality, that, if I save a little money by making, say, my own soap powder or fabric softener, this will magically  translate in to a less overwhelming invoice. No matter how many times my little forays in to thriftiness are squashed like a fly under a swat, the thrifty portion of my mind refuses to die quietly. Thriftiness is engrained, engraved, stamped and imprinted deep in my being; it’s inescapable and, when thrifty thoughts power forth, I find them irresistible. Such was the case yesterday.

I had barely swigged my morning coffee (yes, I swigged it,) before I was off to the garden to gather fresh thyme and sage for a room freshener and a scented drawer sachet, the inspiration for which came from ‘Household Wisdom’*  .  I dried the herbs in the microwave, crushed them between my fingertips, tossed them into some baking soda, and seasoned the mixture with a few drops of lavender oil. And there, in a trice, was a lovely fragrant powder for a dainty dish, with enough to spare for a sachet.The sweet smell of thriftinessPlease note that, whilst searching for something to use as a sachet, I realised that my brown paper package,  pink tissue paper and green ribbon from my Lizzie Rose purchase was the very something required. It was the ideal receptacle for home-made freshener. And ‘Household Wisdom’ informs me that by wrapping dried herbs in tissue paper I  will always  have scented paper on hand to enfold a special gift. How wise 🙂

But onwards with my day of inspired thriftery… (sorry,  but I was getting tired of the words thrift and thriftiness and I didn’t want to be a penny pincher, which sounds mean.) Next step was to gather up the runty and disfigured early season apples from the front yard and transform them in to stewed apple and apple cake……..Cake + Apple = Apple Cake

but, wait, that’s not all …I  then took the apple peelings and added a few  handfuls  of Chilean Guavas aka New Zealand Cranberries from the hedges by the door, Guavas or Cranberries, take your pick.

and simmered them together in a little pot of lemon flavoured water. After some minutes , the resultant slush was strained to obtain a pearly  pink base for a delicious fruit cordial ( yet to be made!)Pink Lemonade?

What next? Why a thrifty supper, of course. One of my favourites; mini meatloaf muffins. Meatball muffins

The recipe I use is related to a basic meat loaf recipe but my version includes grated carrot and zucchini and plenty of my home-grown herbs for flavouring.  I make small individual meat loaves by baking the mixture in muffin pans. Why? It’s nothing to do with being sparing.  It’s a visual thing. I prefer the look of small portions. Yes, weird, but I digress.

We ate our meat with home-grown corn, tomatoes and beans. We did not have to eat the string or herbs. There are limits to how far my thrift extends.

So, that was my day in full thrift throttle. I am sure I saved cents by the dozens. Yet, despite my best efforts and enthusiasm  those fat, fulsome figured bills remain determinedly fixed and undiminished. They haven’t shed a penny.  Might have guessed. SWAT! SPLAT!

Footnote: I started this post as an idle exploration of life fueled by thrift. However, it has raised a more serious question, and that is, no matter how thrifty and hardworking we are ( and thrift requires a great deal of hard work and dedication), saving money real enough to pay bills can only happen if we have the opportunity to earn, at the very least, a living wage. If that is not possible,  either through personal, unavoidable circumstances or because economic models prohibit full employment, how do we, as a just and moral society, ensure that  non wage earners are provided with a decent living.  I find these articles written from an Australian point of view, very thoughtful and interesting.  http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/payrise-for-dole-makes-sense-20130315-2g5oo.html and http://newmatilda.com/2013/01/30/stand-welfare-state

I don’t know what the solution is but I do know that, as it is on the road, so it is in life. To make the best of the conditions before us,  we  need to change gear from time to time or we will grind to a horrible halt.

*’ Household Wisdom’ by Shannon Lush and Jennifer Fleming

© silkannthreades

Mrs Cockalarum’s surprise outing

This is Mrs Cockalarum, who arrived last Christmas complete with name.  She is, in her regular domestic life, a decorative paper weight, only, most of the time, she decorates a chest of drawers and no paper comes near her. A dull life

She has a few animals to keep her company, including some of her own kind. However, every now and again, even a paperweight can do with a change of scenery and a new point of view, so I decided to take Mrs Cockalarum on an autumnal excursion.

Starting indoors, we tried out the floor,How's it down there?

then a higher perch, At the High Table

but her view was obscured so we went outside, where she dusted her feathers with the scent of alyssum andSweet Alyssum

pecked at the sweetest red berries. Berry Good

After which she looked at the world from a seat made of corn and silken tasselsA sweet corn spot

and took a swing in a hanging basket.Swinging along

Today, the world was full of surprises for me and Mrs Cockalarum, not the least of which was finding this in the tree outside my house!How surprising!

Footnote: The berries are called New Zealand cranberries. They are delicious but are not much like any  cranberries that  I have ever tasted. Their real name is Chilean Guava ( Ugni molinae (Mrytus ugni)). Apparently the berries were a favourite with Queen Victoria. Mrs Cockalarum and I have given our unroyal seal of approval too.Chilean Guavas

© silkannthreades