Simple Pleasures

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Today is my 24th Wedding Anniversary, Mechanic Man and I were supposed to be arriving back in Newcastle this morning after a two-night, one day mini-cruise to Haarlem, Holland.  We elected not to go though, as we would have been caught up in the hurricane force winds which battered the South of England, Northern France and Holland in the early hours of Monday.

We were able to reschedule our trip but not for a convenient date.  So, although today didn’t start as planned, it turned out well.  What made it a good day however, was not the fact that it was our anniversary, but the fact that my neighbours and I were able to be neighbourly.

One neighbour has a friend from Italy staying.  He was in her garden this morning doing some pruning so I chatted to him while I hung my washing out.  He said he was making himself useful while his host was working.  I told him I was going to paint my gutter later and he could really help me by holding the ladder for me if he had any more spare moments.  He was delighted to be asked and happy to help.  He wanted to do the painting for me but I had to make a firm stand for women power.

Then, when I was walking my son home from school, another neighbour, who has recently moved to our end of the village, came out of her gate crying. They had just found their missing cat dead on the side of the road.  She was very upset, so I gave her an ear and hugs.

Another pal dropped by later to give me some apples and potatoes from her garden and I gave her some of my pears.  She also gave me a book to read and pass on – it looks good – it’s called WILD by Cheryl Strayed.  Then finally, another neighbour phoned me and asked me if I had any green and brown yarn for a knitting project she is doing to raise funds for the village community trust.  I had a rummage through my stash and will drop my donation of yarn to her house tomorrow.

Then, Mechanic Man came home from work wearing the new hat I crocheted him for Winter 2014 so that made me feel good.  His hat is the one on the right in the photo above – my coordinating hat is on the left.  I will do another post on the his ‘n’ hers hats asap.

Mechanic Man brought me a Toblerone chocolate bar (my favourite) and two of those cute mini bottles of red wine.  I love the mini bottles because they’re just perfect when you fancy a wee drink with your dinner and haven’t the willpower to stop yourself drinking more than you actually want.  He knows I’ll go mad if he buys anything more expensive or frivolous.

Oh, and the sun shone. In fact, it was probably the first nice Autumn day we’ve had this year, it was cold and windy but that meant my sheets dried on the line.  Line dried sheets are in my top 10 all-time favourite things and it’s a bit of a luxury at this time of the year in Scotland.  So, a day filled with simple pleasures and nice neighbours – well, the cat incident was not so good but at least I was able to provide a shoulder to cry on.

Pear, Apple and Date Chutney

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pear, apple and date chutney

I picked the rest of our pears, we have around 50 BIG pears.  They are hard but my kids like their pears extra crunchy.  But, my kids don’t reckon they can eat them all before they get too soft which would still be rock hard to everyone else.  So, I am cooking them up.  Last night at midnight, I decided to make some chutney, I finished around one a.m. which is why I mislabelled the jars (can you spot the deliberate mistake?)  I didn’t want to make too much as I’m working my way through a massive jar of plum chutney a friend gave me last Christmas.

When I was small, my granny kept our family supplied in “granny pickle.”  When she died, when I was 15, I was upset that there would be no more granny pickle.  My Mum reassured me that it was actually apple and raisin chutney and that she would make it for us – which she did, until she died, in 2012.  This is my first stab at chutney since then.  The pear tree is actually in my Mum’s old garden, right outside her kitchen window, and It makes me sad that the pears continue to live while she doesn’t – still, she would go mad if a single one of them was wasted!

So, first the pear crumble, now the chutney, and I have plans for pear/custard tarts and wine poached pears –  watch this space.

I used:

  • 2 chopped onions
  • 4 large pears, cored and chopped
  • about 20 dates chopped (you could about 3/4 cup raisins)
  • 12 fluid ounces vinegar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup apple sauce (or two large raw cooking apples, chopped)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (very approximate)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

I threw everything (except the apple sauce) into a pot and simmered away until it was thick.  I wasn’t planning on using any apple; but, because it wasn’t thickening, I reckoned I hadn’t used enough pears, so I added some of the stewed apple I have sitting in my fridge.  The sugar, I added a bit at a time until it tasted right, so I’m just estimating the 3/4 cup.  The dates, which I chopped small, disintegrated a bit so if I was making this again, I would add them later in the cooking time.  I would say this took around an hour to make from start to finish.

So, If you are using pre-cooked apples, add them towards the end of the cooking with the chopped dates; but, if you are using raw apple, add them at the beginning with the pear.

Needless to say, it is delicious and I am looking forward to our next batch of sourdough bread (tomorrow) so I can have bread, cheese and chutney.  My kids hate the stuff though and came down from their rooms last night complaining about the awful eye watering smell.  I remember I used to complain when my Mum made chutney but at least I liked eating the stuff when it was made.

My First Sourdough Bread – Success!

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sourdough loaf

Two weeks ago I decided to have a go at making real sourdough bread.  I followed instructions on the interweb for making a starter.  I can’t recommend any one source because I think I read everything there is to read on the subject.  All I know is that it took two weeks for my starter to get anywhere near lively – it should take around 5 days.   I nearly gave up, it was taking a lot of flour, love and organisational effort to keep my jar of natural yeast alive and well.  I tried one loaf and it didn’t rise one iota – it went in the bin.  I read more, persevered, and last night decided to give it one last chance.

rustic sourdough loaf

The simplest recipe and technique I found for actually making and baking the bread was by The Stone Soup and can be found here. I found I needed to add extra flour though as my dough was way too wet.  There are lots of different ways to make a “starter”, but I used a method which just used flour and water with no additional “boosters” like pineapple juice or packet yeast.  This could explain why my starter took a long time for the little yeasty beasties to build up stamina; well, that and the ambient (cold) air temperature in an old stone Scottish house in late October.

sourdough loaf bread knife

This morning my dough had risen quite spectacularly!  Given it was Sunday, I decided to go to church, which I do on occasion.  My loaf would have to wait to be baked.  I went to church, it was communion day (also only on occasion).  I took this as a sign that today was a good day for bread.  The sermon’s message was “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  I took this as another sign.  I came home, I baked my bread et voilà. I was going for a rustic look!

rustic sourdough loaf

It’s light and is crusty and sounds very hollow when tapped.  I can’t describe exactly what what I did and why it worked – due to the high degree of “winging it” and Divine intervention.  So, the moral of this tale, if you want something go for it, persevere, have faith, and don’t give up.  Must fly, hubby is drooling and wants us to make a start on the beef, Guinness and veg casserole that we are hoping to mop up with this ‘ere loaf. 

UPDATE: casserole jus duly mopped up with the most delicious bread I have ever tasted.  And for dessert, the last few slices of bread with Scottish butter and home made raspberry jam.  Better make another loaf – quick.

Pear/Date Crumble – Sticky Toffee Crumble?

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pear and date crumble with oatsAutumn, in the UK, is crumble season.  A crumble is a traditional baked dessert made from cooked (usually orchard) fruit with a crumbly flour/butter/sugar topping.  It’s basically a fruit pie without the hassle of pastry and somehow way nicer than a pie. The humble crumble is probably one of Britain’s favourite puds – especially served with “lashings of custard.”

Sticky toffee pudding is another British favourite; and, if you were in a restaurant trying to decide between the two you would be in a “right quandary.”  Well, quand no more, you can now have two desserts in one – this pear and date crumble has the best of both – try it, you won’t believe no one thought of it before.

I wasn’t trying to meld the two, I was just trying to make my home grown pears less boring and accidentally hit on a winner – certainly the best crumble I have ever had.  I really had no idea it would be so good – if this pud was in the Great British Bake Off – Mary and Paul would go weak at the knees.  I have just had some for breakfast!

home grown pears

My family were sceptical about the added seeds but I brushed off their [rude] comments. “Why do you have to add hippy dippy bits?” and “Yummy, bird seed crumble.”  More “heaven in a bowl” for me then.  The hippy dippy birdseed definitely adds to the taste/texture/sophistication so don’t be tempted to skip it.  Plus, the healthy bits make you feel better about the butter and sugar!  I did in fact make the kids a boring traditional apple crumble as well (free apples from the Vicar’s garden).

crumble6

So here’s my extra special pear and date crumble recipe.  If you serve this at a dinner party your guests will want to lick their bowls – I wanted too, but in our house, bowl licking is strictly reserved for my Mum’s flambé bananas with Cointreau and cream – which I never make as my kids hate bananas!

royal worcester 7 inch plum dish with ears

I served our humble crumbles in my Mum’s best – reserved for extra special puddings – Royal Worcester bowls with traditional Birds custard which didn’t thicken for some reason but which, as a result, made for a more sophisticated and fitting “sauce.”

I made my kids’ apple crumble in my antique Wedgwood “crumble” bowl.  Wedgwood call it a “serving dish” but I use it as my special – only for crumbles dish – since the pattern is “Bramble” aka Blackberry.  Blackberries are much loved by us Brits and we forage our hedgerows for them in early Autumn.  The Blackberries’ colour and flavour is a highly prized addition to our crumbles and jams.  When I see Blackberries in the shops in packets it makes me want to weep.

I know blackberries are a special fruit but what makes them special is the Sunday afternoon walk with your granny in the great outdoors to get them, the thrill of the hunt, the fact that for a few short weeks a year you can pick fruit from the lanes surrounding our villages and bring it home and bake a crumble and eat it with custard.  You may need to be a Brit who grew up with a granny in the countryside to appreciate this fully!

Sadly our hedgerows are all picked now and blackberries don’t grow so well in Scotland either, hence my reaching for the dates.  Anyway, it’s a lovely bowl and I treasure it ever since I bought it at a car boot sale at the Oxford (The Slade) Fire Station as a newly-wed visiting my Mum from my new home in California.  So, it’s been around the World and back.

vintage wedgwood bramble serving dish

Pear and Date Crumble (serves 4)

(Double the recipe if you want a bigger crumble or to make two like I did – one apple, one pear/date). Plum or rhubarb are traditional too.)

  • 4 or 5 large firm pears (more if your fruit is normal-sized)!
  • 10 dates (quartered)
  • 50g plain white flour (all purpose)
  • 40g butter
  • 20g dark brown sugar
  • 20g white sugar
  • 20g porridge oats
  • 20g yellow cornmeal/fine polenta
  • 2 or 3 tbsp mixed seeds or sunflower seeds

Method:

To Prepare your Fruit:

  1. Peel, core and cut you fruit into small chunks and pop them into a microwavable bowl full of water so they dont turn brown while you are chopping the rest.
  2. When all the fruit is chopped, pour of the excess water and microwave the fruit until soft but not mush (approx 5 minutes).
  3. Pour of any excess juice.
  4. Add as much or as little sugar as needed to make it sweet but not too sweet as the crumble topping has sugar.  The amount of sugar needed will depend greatly on the fruit you are using and your taste.  My Mum always added to much and she reckoned I never added enough!  Rhubarb and Bramley apples will need more sugar than pears for example.

To Make the Crumble:

  1. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips as if you were making pastry, it will be hard to get to a breadcrumb stage as there is a lot of butter but just do your best to get the butter as broken up as you can.
  2. Add the sugar, polenta/cornmeal, porridge oats and seeds.
  3. Stir with a knife, making sure it is all well mixed.

Assemble (in an ovenproof dish) – I have a lovely vintage pie dish I only use for crumbles.

  1. Add the chopped dates to the cooked pears.
  2. Sprinkle the crumble topping on top.
  3. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 25-30 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
  4. Serve hot with fresh cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

Sock Season – Free adult ribbed sock pattern

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florida orange socks

Sorry, I’ve been off my Blog for a while.  I have been busy making and baking honest – In fact I was doing so many things at once I didn’t finish anything and then I had so many things finished I didn’t know which one to write about – so lets catch up.

Over the last six months I have knitted five pairs of socks (all for me!) and now it’s turned decidedly chilly I’m wearing them.  So here’s one pair – modelled by my foot double – ballet girl!  This is a pattern I’ve been working on perfecting for a while and finally I’m happy with it.

I like to do contrast heels and toes (because I can); but, in this case I didn’t have enough of the orange yarn to knit a whole pair of socks anyway.  I had already used some of the wool for several other projects.  Baby socks, an ice pole cozy and an iphone cozy.  Gotta love mechanic man’s permanently grubby hands – he’s a grafter!ribbed new born baby socks

ice pole cosy

So, for these socks I added blue on the top of the cuff and made the cuffs shorter than I usually do in the hope that I would have enough of the orange yarn. ribby contrast heel toe socks As it happened, I ran out of orange yarn, five rows short of the contrast toe on the second sock – you can just see a few extra rows of blue rib on the sock on the right.  Still no-one will ever notice.  ribby contrast heel toe socksWhat I like most about the sock is the ribbing on the heel and the top of the foot, this makes them a really good fit.  I used a wedge toe with Kitchener stitch closure.

ribbed heel socks

If you would like to knit a similar pair here’s my pattern – it’s not tested, I made notes as I went (and didn’t lose them like I usually do).  If you are already a sock knitter you should be able to follow it. Let me know if you have any problems/questions.

ECOZEE’s Free Ribby Sock Pattern with Contrast Ribbed Heels and Contrast Toes!

Important:  This pattern is free for personal use only – please do not redistribute/sell the pattern in any format or sell socks made using it.

Notes:

I used 2.75mm needles, Regia sock wool and 64 sts for my size 6 UK (size 8.5 USA) foot.  I have tight tension, so if you have loose tension use 2.5 mm needles – you will need to use 64 sts for the rib pattern to work.  I used four needles for most of the sock (with the stitches on three needles and knitting with the fourth).  For the toe, however, I put my stitches on four needles and knitted with a fifth.  You will need to do this too for the instructions to work out and to avoid counting too much or using stitch markers.

Cuff:

Cast on loosely (larger needles is a good idea) and work the cuff in knit 3, purl 1 rib for as long as you like – add a contrast top if you like.

Divide for Heel:

  1. You will need to knit your heel on 33 stitches for the ribbing pattern to work.
  2. When you get to the end of the last round of your cuff, knit 16 stitches from the next round and then slip 17 stitches from the previous round on to the same needle.  These 33 sts will form your heel.
  3. Change to contrast colour.

Heel Flap:

row 1: slip 1, *p3, k1* repeat * to * to last 4 sts then purl to end.

row 2: slip 1, *k3, p1* repeat * to * to last 4 sts then knit to end.

Repeat the last two rows until 32 rows have been worked.

Turn the Heel:

  1. sl 1, k17, ssk, k1 turn
  2. sl 1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn
  3. sl 1, k6, ssk, k1 turn
  4. sl 1, p7, p2tog, p1, turn
  5. sl 1, k8, ssk, k1 turn
  6. sl 1, p9, p2tog, p1, turn
  7. sl 1, k10, ssk, k1 turn
  8. etc – until you have 19 sts left on your needle.
  9. Join main colour and knit the 19 sts on the heel flap.

Divide for Foot/Gusset:

  1. Slip the last 10 sts on to a new needle and leave the other 9 sts on the heel needle.
  2. Using the needle with the 10 sts on it, pick up and knit the 17 slipped stitches down the side of the heel flap, plus an extra stitch in the corner to help eliminate the hole that can sometimes form here. You should now have 18 sts on this needle.
  3. With another needle, pattern the 31 sts on top of the foot (keeping to the k3, p1 rib pattern).
  4. With the third needle, pick up a stitch in the corner and the 17 slipped stitches down the other side of the heel flap (18 sts) and then knit the 9 stitches from the second half of the heel flap.  You should now have 86 sts in total.
  5. Knit one round, keeping to the rib pattern on the top of foot but just knitting the other stitches.
  6. Each round will now start in the centre of the heel (well, one stitch off centre!).

Gusset:

Round 1: Work one round, knitting every stitch on the heel/sides of foot but keeping rinb pattern on top of foot.

Round 2: Work to last two sts on needle one (heel/side of foot), then knit these last two sts tog, k3, p1 across top of foot, then ssk the first two sts on the other side of the foot, then knit to end.

Repeat these two rounds until you have 64 sts again (your gusset is now complete).

Keep knitting the foot (knit side stitches and rib pattern on top of foot)  until it is approx 1.5 inch shorter than to the end of your big toe.

Toe Decrease:

Change to contrast colour for toe and proceed in knit stitch only for toe.

Wedge Toe:  with the centre of the heel (the sole) as the start of the round, arrange the 64 sts so you have 16 sts on each of four needles.

Round 2:

  • Knit to 3 stitches before end of Needle 1: K2tog, K1.
  • On Needle 2, K1, SSK, Knit to end.
  • Knit to 3 stitches before the end of Needle 3, K2 tog, K1.
  • On Needle 4, K1, SSK, Knit to end.

Round 2: knit one round.

Repeat these two rounds until you have 24 stitches left in total (6 on each needle).  If you have especially pointy toes you could work a few more rounds until you have 20 or even 16 sts left.
You will then need to arrange the remaining stitches on to two needles and graft/Kitchener stitch the two rows together.

Alternative Round Toe:

If you can’t graft/Kitchener stitch your toes – you can do an alternative round toe – this tends to be a bit more pointy which suits folk with pointy toes.

Again, redistribute the 64 sts until you have 16 on each of four needles (you will need a fifth double pin).

Shape the toe as follows:

  • Dec Round 1: *K6, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 6 rounds.
  • Dec Round 2: *K5, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 5 rounds.
  • Dec Round 3: *K4, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 4 rounds.
  • Dec Round 4: *K3, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 3 rounds.
  • Dec Round 5: *K2, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 2 rounds.
  • Dec Round 6: *K1, k2tog; rep from *. Knit 1 round.
  • Next Round: K2tog to end.

To finish, cut the yarn, leaving a 10″ (25.5 cm) tail. Thread tail on a tapestry needle, draw through remaining sts, pull tight to close hole, and fasten off on Wrong side.

Avoiding Second Sock Syndrome

Finally, before you get a cup of tea and bask in the glory of knitting one whole sock it is very important to immediately cast on for the second sock and work a couple of rows. Otherwise you may very well suffer from Single Sock Syndrome and your sock may never get it’s mate.

September Sunshine Muffins

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sunshine carrot and corn muffin

My eldest child is 20 today, where did that time go? He always requests a carrot cake and I always use my Mum’s recipe – now officially named Sybil’s Carrot Cake.  After my cake was in the oven this time however, I found a large pile of hand-grated carrots on the counter!   I grated the carrots in two batches and, it appears, I forgot to put half the carrots in the cake! Still, even half the amount of carrots is plenty and the icing will take up the slack (we only put icing on Birthday cakes and fairy cakes).

So, what to do with the remaining grated carrots?

Carrot muffins of course – here’s my recipe – my own design based on the millions of muffins I’ve made and my experience trying to bake healthier cakes recently.

I bought a bag of fine polenta (cornmeal) in the “foreign foods” section of the supermarket to use as an alternative to regular ol’ flour since I’ve used up my bag of besan/chick pea/gram flour and am still on my adventurous kick.  So, this muffin has cornmeal in it – which adds a lovely colour and texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (if you use plain or all-purpose flour, increase baking powder to 1 tablespoon).
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (fine polenta) – my current bag of “alternative” flour.
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (more if you like ’em spicy) I like delicate hints of spice.
  • 1/4 cup healthy seeds (or chopped nuts or raisins).
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 2 cups grated carrot (approx 3 medium carrots)
  • splash of low fat milk/orange juice if necessary

Method:

Remember – muffins need gentle mixing and a few lumps are fine.

  1. Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Add the beaten egg, oil and yoghurt.
  3. Stir gently to incorporate the wet into the dry ingredients – DO NOT OVER MIX.
  4. If necessary, add a splash of milk or even orange juice to moisten and again stir gently – not too much liquid as the carrots will also moisten the mix.
  5. Add the grated carrots and stir gently to incorporate.
  6. Divide the mix between 12 muffin cases in a muffin tray and bake at 200C (400F) for approx 20 minutes or until well risen and firm to touch – do not over bake or they will be dry.

Mine were delicious, spongy, moist, light and fluffy.  A million miles from shop bought muffins which just glue your mouth together with sickly sweet cloying pap.  Mine were fresh, gently sweet and subtly gingery and such a lovely sunshiny colour – which we need here today ‘cos it’s drizzling very gently.  Give ’em a go if your Autumn needs a little sunshine.

sunshine carrot and corn muffin

Photo Competition Time Again

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Tomorrow is our village’s annual flower show.  I usually enter some baking and sewing/knitting but this year I decided to not get involved as I spend way too much time on it and frankly, the judges are a bit old school and there is no room whatsoever for any fun/creativity.    Every year the same old boring categories like “a jar of strawberry jam” – don’t get me started.

They have a photography section though and I have won “the cup” three times now. My entries from last year are here and the winner is here.

This year I wasn’t even going to enter any photos but last night I had second thoughts and started desperately raking through my photos on the computer to find ones which match the titles.  I found I couldn’t let go of my trophy without at least putting up some sort of fight! There are two categories and you can enter six 5×7 photos in total – split however you like between the two categories.

The categories this year are “Spring” and “On the Wild Side”. Overall the categories are slightly more interesting than normal and we have been saved from “local view” again so that’s good; but, given that the categories were announced in early summer, the opportunity to take spring photos was already passed!  My husband said I should take photos of springs (the curly metal kind) – a good idea but, since I wasn’t going to enter this year, until last night, I didn’t take any photos specifically.  Anyway, here’s my best attempt at finding last minute entries:  Mohawk girl is my daughter – the same cutie in the beach photo a few short years ago.

For “Spring”:

black hill, earlston

soft boiled egg

For “On the Wild Side”:

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west coast scotland beach

mohawk girl

kangaroo

Seedy Chickpea Crackers and Cornflower Crackers – Gluten Free

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corn sunflower crackerss

Earlier in the summer I bought a bag of flour made from ground chick peas (gram flour) from an Indian health food shop in Haddington, East Lothian.  We were passing through on our way to the beach at North Berwick – we also bought fresh, warm veggie samosas and paratha bread – yum – fresh Indian food is not something I have seen in Scotland in the eight years I’ve lived here so we were thrilled.  Even though it was cold at the beach, it was worth the trip to find that gem of a shop.  Gram flour is also known as besan flour or garbanzo bean flour in other parts of the World and is gluten free and relatively high (for flour) in protein and fibre.

In my research for recipes using gram flour, I came across a recipe for “besan crackers.”  The Mindful Foodie’s recipe used half gram flour and half almond flour.  I didn’t have any almond flour or almonds to grind so my version uses ground sunflower seeds.  I made a smaller batch than Foodie’s and also added other ground up mixed seeds plus garlic flavouring!  They were amazing.

This week I made some more (and took photos before they all disappeared this time) and also made a second batch using half cornmeal/half sunflower flour and chilli – as an alternative to store-bought corn chips.  Wow, hot hot hot, maybe less chilli or paprika instead of chilli next time!

They do have oil in them but it’s olive oil and not much, they are baked and have no salt added either.  I ate my seedy ones plain or with a slither of good cheddar cheese and ate my corny ones plain as they were spicy!  They would be good with guacamole or a fresh salsa and wine!  A friend popped round yesterday and I gave her some – she couldn’t believe they were home made.

Now, I won’t lie, the dough was easy to make but they were quite fiddly to roll, cut and get on the baking tray in one piece so these crackers are not for the heavy handed.  You will be rewarded for your patience/trouble though – they are delicious.

healthy crackers

Method for Both Versions:

  1. Grind the sunflower seeds into flour with a coffee grinder/blender.
  2. For the seedy ones, add the seeds to the ground sunflower seeds and grind some more, I stopped before the seeds were all pulverised.
  3. Add the ground seeds and all the other dry ingredients to a bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil/water and mix with a blunt knife.
  5. Mix really well and the mix should start to come together like pastry, if not add a tiny bit of oil and/or water and stir again.  Do not add too much liquid as you don’t want the mix to be sticky.  Keep working it until you have a ball of dough.
  6. Divide the ball into two so you are not working with too much dough at a time.
  7. Roll the dough to about 2mm thin on a silicon baking sheet, or non-stick baking paper. I found I had to keep pushing the edges inwards with my hands to close up any fissures that developed.
  8. Cut into rectangles with a knife and carefully lift each rectangle with a pallet-knife on to a baking tray.  You could also use a small cookie cutter.
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes at 180C until lightly browned – be careful not to burn them.
  10. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.

Seedy Chickpea Crackers (the darker ones in the photo).

  • 1/2 cup gram flour (chickpea/besan) flour
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (ground into flour)
  • 1/4 cup omega mix (mixed seeds – sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and linseed)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp water

Corny Sunflower Crackers (the lighter ones in the photo).

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds (ground into flour)
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp chilli infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp waterhome made crackers

Hooray – My Patchwork Quilt is Finished!

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Sorry, I’ve been off the blogging radar for a few weeks.  My excuse is that this is my 100th post and I wanted it to be a milestone! I wanted to show y’all my finished quilt. It’s an English paper-pieced “tumbling blocks” quilt made from fabrics we’ve had in our house since I was a kid.  It’s taken 24 years!

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

Early readers were introduced to my quilt in my Time to Finish the Quilt post.  I finished hand sewing the patchwork pieces together over 20 years ago but couldn’t get past the quilting hurdle.  I tried (several times) – I failed – it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t even tolerable – I finally admitted defeat.

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

When my Mum was alive she was always offering to pay to have my quilt professionally quilted but I couldn’t bear to post it off somewhere – just in case.  Also, a part of me wanted to do it all myself.  However, when I was making my memory quilts (from my Mum’s jeans) I found a local long-arm quilter – a Scottish champion no less.  Kay – aka Borderline Quilter – made such an amazing job of those quilts I wanted her to quilt my matrimonial quilt too.  Unfortunately, I had to undo all my sub-standard hand quilting so she could start afresh and work her magic.

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The back of the quilt is a Laura Ashley sheet which I bought over 20 years ago so it’s now officially vintage.  I dropped my quilt off at her house at the beginning of the summer and got it back a few weeks ago.  I still had to hand sew the binding all the way round and started that tedious but satisfying job yesterday.  Today, I finished the job –  the matrimonial quilt is finally finished.  I wish I could show my Mum but I can share it with my gorgeous husband and hopefully keep it in the family for generations.

tumbling blocks patchwork quilt

Sunflower Seed Chocolate Cake

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sunflower seed chocolate cake

One of my current obsessions is making “alternative” cakes.  I like to be creative and make things up.  In my sewing world, this means I buy oddments of yarn and pre-loved clothes and turn them into new and funky things.  I unpick, unravel, design, and make my own.  My sewing/knitting, however, is playing second fiddle to my getting fit/eating well at the moment – why? because we are having our first summer for at least 7 years!  Knitting and sewing is better for the miserable weather we usually get (although I have knitted a lovely pair of socks which I will share soon).

I have never been a fan of “traditional” healthy cakes made with wholemeal flour, for example, because they tend to be heavy and dry and frankly just not right.  So, since I currently want every thing I eat to be be as good for me as possible, I have been experimenting with other healthy flours – primarily gram flour (made from ground chick peas) and sun-flour made from ground sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds are very good for you and were used by the Native Americans as their flour.  You need to grind your own though – so buy a bag of raw, shelled sunflower seeds and blitz them in a blender, food processor or coffee grinder.  I used my blender and blitzed small amounts at a time – I also did not blend it to a superfine flour I wanted slightly bigger bits in it.  Ground sunflower seeds don’t keep though so just make what you need.

Here’s My Recipe:

  • 1 generous cup raw sunflower seeds (made into flour)
  • 1/2 cup gram flour
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sour milk (or buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp camp coffee (chickory essence) or a 1 tsp dissolved coffee granules.
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  1. Stir all the dry ingredients together well with a fork or hand whisk (I pre-blitzed my muscovado sugar in the blender to break it up a bit).
  2. Stir all the wet ingredients together with a fork or hand whisk.
  3. Add the wet to the dry and mix well.
  4. Pour in a greased tin (mine was 10″x 8″) and bake at 170C until firm (I forgot to time it)!

This sunflower seed chocolate cake didn’t rise as much as the first chocolate cake with sour milk version I made with white/gram flour; but, that’s because, the sunflower “flour” is much heavier than regular old white flour.  It was wonderful though, deliciously moist and dark – very grown up and sophisticated.  The texture was much more like a brownie or perhaps a chocolate corn bread than a “fluffy” cake.   It was similar in texture to a cake made with ground almonds too but without the overpowering taste of almonds – perfect for folk with nut allergies or who just don’t like almonds.  Of course, this sunflower seed chocolate cake is also gluten-free!

I loved it very much and preferred it to the white flour version – I ate mine with a small glass of cold semi-skimmed milk which is my current favourite accompaniment to my “healthy” cakes.  It’s all gone – the piece in the photo was the last slither!  Oh, and I lost another pound – only two to go and I will be my twenty-year-old self, 23 miles on my bike this morning too.