Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Spice Jars

 Its only right to end the January Kitchenalia blog posts with spice jars.

I saved up for these stackable Tower Spice Jars when I got my first job after graduating.  I have had many other jobs before.  Jobs before going to University, jobs during University, but none of them fairly paid until I acquired my University degree.   Ah those were the days, when I had some disposable income, now the University degree seems ...well not worth being considered as employers want additional qualifications.  

Back to these stackable acrylic spice Jar Tower. They came in six. I purchased 8 sets all together. The spice containers hold up 100g. They came with labels that were pretty useless as you can't see to read them properly. Click on image and you'll see what I mean, so in some cases I've hand written the labels myself.    Oh I should point out that you can't get a teaspoon into them, but that okay as they come with sprinkler lids. 
As well as these everyday spice jars, I do also have larger glass jars, kilner jars such as these that hold masses of spices. and stay out of direct sunlight.  The ones above grace my kitchen.  You may recognise from seeing them in my video of my tiny kitchen early this month. 

I dry some of my own hardy herbs: sage, tarragon and thyme.  The one that does not work so well is rosemary. I do prefer to use fresh rosemary, but sometimes I bring it up for Rosemary and Chilli Popcorn and it dries naturally in the warmth of the kitchen, so I reserve it in one of these jars - but when I come to use it - its disappointing - dry and flavourless like twig.  Sadly I won't be taking my rosemary herb plant with me, or any other herb plant with me when we move to Wales.  I am a little disappointed about that, especially having watch them grow and thrive.  The only plant that D will bring back on his return will be the Blueberry plant that has begun to flourish in the past two years.  There is no way I am leaving that.

Talking of spices, I've made a 'Garam Masala Infused Black Bean and Roasted Butternut Squash' for tonight.  This is an attempt to use up ingredients in the cupboards.  No photograph to share, but here is the recipe.  Its a bit like a Vegetarian Chilli but with South Asian spices. And don't laugh, upon serving it I decided it needed a little green, well having no fresh coriander or parsley in the fridge, I decided to finely mince up some lettuce leaves.  I think it did the visual trick if nothing else.

Garam Masala Infused Black Beans and Roasted Butternut Squash
Serves 4 -6 with plain Basmati rice
200g dried black beans, soaked and drained
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and chopped into bite size cubes
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 pint water or vegetable stock
1 x 400g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the beans in plenty of water to cover in a saucepan and cook over low heat for about 45 minutes to1 hour until tender. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the squash on a baking tray with a teaspoon of olive oil and roast in oven at gas mark 6 for 20 – 25 minutes until tender. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the onion and garlic. Saute for about 10minutes or until tender. Add the spices and allow to infuse with the onions, then stir in the tomato paste along with the water or stock if using and season to taste.  Simmer gently for about 20 minutes on medium low heat for the flavours to infuse, then stir in the black beans, chickpeas and squash and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally

Monday, 30 January 2012

One Sifter and Many Colourful Spatulas

I know the flour sifter shown here is presented a little awkwardly.  I wanted to show you what it looked like on the inside.

D got it for me on his way back from University one day - how romantic, not flowers or chocolates, but a sifter - ah the man knows me pretty well.  I was pretty chuffed it.  I do have a traditional flour sieve, one that my mother gave me.  However every time I picked it up, it reminded me of a tambourine.  I wasn't able to find it up until recently whilst packing for the move. 

So this manual sifter has been handy over the years for aerating flour, especially for muffins.  MMm muffins, I quite fancy some Coffee and Walnut Muffins today.
I have to point out though, its not particularly friendly if you have arthritis in the hand. as you have to squeeze the steel handles to release the flour, but touchwood I don't have to contend with those health issues like my mother (yet).  

I also have those stainless steel flour shakers for flouring the rolling pin when rolling out pastry.
When mixing, I do like to use a wooden spoon for stirring, but I have also taken a liking to spatulas.  Here are just three, though I have six or eight in various colours.  Many came my way free, namely through cooking magazines. 
Its good not just for stirring, but also for removing every last bit of Beetroot Muffin batter from the bowl.  Even for thinly spreading Meat-free Pig Free 'Facon' Bacon mixture onto the tray.

How many spatulas do you have tucked away in your kitchen drawers?

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Peelers and Mashers

One gadget I would not now be without in my kitchen is a peeler.  Its not just good for peeling potatoes, but carrots, parsnips, swede, apples, pears and even butternuts squash too.  There is no waste with this peeler, peeling off only the tough skin.

D often moans about some of my gadgets not being left handed person friendly like the tin opener or a manual whisk, but not this good grip peeler that peels effortlessly.  I didn't buy this.   I acquired it when I was a student still living in student accommodation.  Well that's been over 12 years now and this still works well, the blades still sharp as the day I inherited it.  
After peeling the root vegetable ( and cooking) comes the masher.  I have a number of mashers: plastic ones, metal ones and even wooden ones.  I've never liked the standard metal handle ones.  I always seem to assert too much pressure on them and they bend and the plastic ones are always a nuisance to clean.  I do however adore my vintage (or is it retro) wooden masher and use it a lot.  Sometimes to make mashed potatoes, even chickpea hummus.   
The last time I used it was for the Baked Carrot-Parsnip Quenelles.
The masher is also good for pounding cooked beans - for refried beans.  The small dark one in the middle is often used for mashing soft fruit.

How many mashers do you have in your kitchen? 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Salad Spinners, Colanders and Strainers

Not the most interesting of kitchen gadgets, but necessary: a salad spinner and a number of colanders.

I remember my late father-in-law laughing at us when we said we wanted a salad spinner.  He hushed pretty quickly when my husband (his son) demonstrated the wonders of washed homegrown salad leaves spinning off excess water, enabling you to make soggy-free sandwiches.  This particular Salad Spinner was a little on the pricey side, but I managed to get mine in a sale.  I like it for two reasons, its one handed spinning operation - you press down on the black rubber knob and it spins effortlessly and secondly, its non slip.  My only qualm about it, smaller salad leaves sometimes gets stuck in the basket, so you have to work a little to clean it.  Otherwise, its been an excellent buy, I've had it now for over 8 years I think.    
 I also have a variety of sized colanders, or are they called strainers. 
Indispensable in the kitchen for draining cooked potatoes, pasta, rice, beans - oh lots of things.   The smallest one on top is often used for draining canned chick peas and making chickpea hummus.

I also have a very post colander hand-made from pottery.  Its designed specifically for strawberries, but I've decided to share that with you some time in the future.

Friday, 27 January 2012

An Orishigane and Other Graters

I have a number of odd graters.

The first and most reliable is obviously your bog standard box grater.  I am fussy with the way my  cheese sandwiches are made.  I don't like cheese slices between my wholemeal bread, I am a grated cheese sandwich kind of girl.  D often rolls his eyes at me, but i find grating the cheese accentuates the flavour more, whereas slices just offer texture.  I also use it for grating vegetable, namely carrots for Carrot cake or parsnips for Parsnip Cake.  So this box grater has seen lots of use, sadly the handle has come loose, so I'll be looking out for replacement. 
The ceramic one is known as a Orishigane (or Oroshigane). Its a Japanese grater, very different from the European ones.  First is has very fine tooth like spikes dotted over the surface and secondly, they are not perforated.  The grated vegetable: whether its diakon (radish), garlic, ginger, nutmeg, or wasabi  (horseradish)  is not pressed through the holes, but is rubbed over the spikes in a circular motion and thus remains clinging to the surface of the grater so that it can be turned into a very fine paste.  If you are ever fortunate to visit Japan, I know you can purchase some novelty shaped Japanese graters.  The only drawback with an Orishigane is cleaning it, a bit like a garlic presser, but I have since learned that a bamboo brush would sort that out.  
I have a small grater designed solely for nutmeg.  And a a couple of fancy microplane graters - that cost me a fare bit at the time.  Its good for finely grating a Parmesan style cheese over pasta or chocolate over a really indulgent Chocolate cake. 

If you don't mind me asking, how many graters do you have?  I do hope I am not the only one with a drawers full.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Whisks and Tongs

The very first whisk I ever owned was a hand held manual one (see the middle one).  I rarely use it now.  I have to be honest I do have an electric one too that comes out when whipping cream, making meringues or for souffles, though its been a while since I made souffles.  I think the last one I made and blogged abut one was a Feta Souffle .  Long time...
The duck blue whisk one (above) came free with a cooking magazine many years ago.  The one next to it is a mini whisk that I adore using for hot chocolate.
I also have a lot of tongs.  I must admit many of them have over the years been from my mothers kitchen. 

The one time I find myself using them is for serving spaghetti pasta.  I can make such a mess of it otherwise.    I also have a wooden set designed specifically for salad leaves, I promise to showcase that with my homegrown salad leaves next time.

Update: I am feeling much better - health wise and feeling more like myself so have started packing boxes for our move in two weeks time. Sadly the flat has not been sold, and though it is very unlikely, we have reduced the asking price of the flat by quite a lot, hoping for a sale sooner than later.   This means that D will still have to come up a few times until the place is sold. 

Anyway, right now, I am both excited and overwhelmed at all the stuff coming out of my cabinets: gorgeous plate, serving platters, cups and saucers.  I am amazed at some of the kitchen stuff that I am hoarding and has never seen the kitchen lights.  This is certainly going to change.  I don't know why I am keeping them hiding, time to use them, show them off and enjoy them. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Vegetarian Haggis Roti for Burns Night

The haggis roti also known as chapatti that I will be making later tonight will not fare well for photos so you will just have to take my word for it and wait for me to blog post about it next time. It is simply a wheat flour roti stuffed with homemade spicy vegan haggis and then cooked over a tava, a South Asian disc shaped griddle and then coated in a little butter for moisture.  As a way to use up pulses and pinhead oatmeal in my flat, I've made my own vegan haggis, but you can also purchase vegetarian haggis at some supermarkets, though they cost a fare bit these days.

As I am unable to showcase my vegetarian haggis roti at this present time, I thought I would share a link to some other roti recipes on my blog.  But imagine a veggie meaty spicy stuffed pizza. Mmmmm is right. 

There is something called Katlama in Pakistani cuisine:  a flatbread stuffed with keema (spicy minced lamb) cooked on both sides and then coated in full fat butter.  I used to indulge in katlama also known as Desi Pizza in my early teens.  My father would bring it back from his trip to Birmingham.  It was the one time we would be treated to eat something that my mother had not cooked.  So this idea of stuffing haggis (or meat) into a roti is not completely original.   
Stuffed Haggis Mushroom with Curried Neep Chips

I know its a bit late, but if your still wondering what to do tonight, I also have some ideas for a fusion Burns Night cuisine - Just check out the link.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Double Boiler and Steamer

I have two double boilers.  You may know double boilers by another name - Bain Marie - a stove top cooking pot used to cook delicate sauces such as beurre blanc or to melt chocolate (for brownies), which is how I use it. It consists of an upper vessel containing the substance ie chocolate to be melted over the lower pot of water. When brought to a boil, the steam produced in the lower pot transfers heat to the upper pot and gently cooks the sauce or melts the chocolate.  

Both double boilers are second-hand.  I purchased the one below from Barras Market in Glasgow in the late 1990s while still a studen for £5 from an elderly couple who were selling a variety of used kitchen pots.   
Here is the link to the other double boiler that is made from pyrex.    I managed to bring it safely from Essex to Glasgow, now it has to be transported from Glasgow to Wales.  Will it survive the ride?!

I also have a steamer, that could do a similar job with a bowl suspended over it. 

But the steamer comes in handy for a number of things, not just steaming veg of course, but also making steamed puddings. Savoury ones such as Vegetarian Suet Mushroom Puddings and Leek Suet Pudding, also Sweet ones such as Steamed Lemon and Rosemary Pudding.

Do you have a double boiler or are you content with doing it the old way?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Egg House

I dream of having wandering chickens in my garden one day, pecking away at the garden slugs, snails and bugs- natures pest control.  The landlord of the house that I am moving into has given me permission to dig up and grow things, but he wasn't quite sure of granting us permission for keeping chickens.  The house is on the corner of a busy road that leads to the motorway, so I don't know if it would be a good idea anyway.

Right now though I give you full permission to laugh out loud at me.  I have no chickadees, and no chicken coop, but what I do have is a egg house.  Yes you read right an 'egg house'.  I saw this stylish wooden egg house, otherwise known as an egg holder - ooh maybe eight years ago in the now closed Woolworths.  I think it cost me £4.99 and holds 18 eggs.  It conjured up memories of High School.  I remember making an egg rack and a bookshelf in Woodwork.   I was quite proud of them both. 

I have also taken quite a liking to those ceramic ones that a shaped like a hen, but I don't trust my husbands clumsy hands.  He has been known to drop and smash things, by accident of course.
I know some people put their eggs in the fridge, I prefer to put them keep them out of the fridge, so that they are always at room temperature. I can't always afford organic, but the eggs always, always have to be free-range.

Here a couple of egg based recipes from my blog in 2009. The Vegetarian Scotch Egg and Baked Mexican Eggs in Tortilla Cups.   By the way, what kind of egg holders do you have in your kitchen?

Sunday, 22 January 2012

American Cups and Measuring Spoons

Alongside my kitchen scales, I also have some American cups that come in handy for making  recipes from my American cook books and for making muffins.  For those of you who have been reading my blog a while, will know that I prefer muffins to cupcakes.  So these plastic measuring cups have been used a lot!

I also have steel cups, but I am not so keen on them. 
Unfortunately after years of good use, the plastic¼ cup and the1 full cup eventually snapped.  If you look closer (above), you will also note that the remaining cups are held together with jute string.  So you can imagine my delight when I was contacted by find me a gift, an on-line retailer to review Russian Doll American-style Measuring Cups, a perfectly timed and a quirky replacement.
These Russian dolls measuring cups come in 6 sizes from ¼, 1/3, ½, 2/3, ¾ and 1 cup.  They are made from food safe, long-life and heavy duty plastics.  I was at first a little bemused at the measurements.  When pulled apart - both parts: the head part and the body part served as measuring  cups.    I like how they stack up inside of each other, saving space in a small kitchen.  My only qualm with these are that they don't have handles, so your hands will get covered in a little flour, but hey that's part of baking isn't it?! So I won't grumble too much.

If you don want to use these Russian Dolls for cooking or baking, I think they can look pretty simply displayed and can easily hold some spices like nutmeg, cloves; or even some jewellery, like ear-rings and rings.
Psst I think these Russian Dolls would make a lovely Valentine gift for the baker in your home.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Tipping the Scales

Most things in my kitchen have a little story behind them.  So how did I acquire my Kitchen Scales.  Well, after three years in the same job with no promotional opportunities to move forward. sideways or upwards, I decided to leave my job at the Law Centre for one in the voluntary sector that would allow me to develop and travel more.  It was certainly a good move, in fact it turned out to be my dream job with my new role now covering the whole of Scotland and visiting some wonderful Scottish attractions.

My colleagues at the Law Centre who I got on extremely well with gave me some High Street vouchers as a farewell present.  Of course, it had to be spent on kitchenalia.  I never had a good scale, only those plastic ones that served well when I was a student, but now with my first flat I wanted proper things that made it a 'home'. 

I liked the look of the old fashion Antique tipping style ones, rather than digital ones.  I am sure the digital ones are accurate, have benefits like putting the bowl straight onto it and all that, but I just liked the look of the Salter Staffordshire Kitchen Scales.  The cast black iron body and the tear shaped golden steel pan for scooping and pouring.  I also liked the metric weights varying from 5g, 10g, 20g, 50g, 100g to 200g.  I do however sometimes wish it also had a 500g option.
I use my kitchen scale mostly for baking or for making pastries such as the Welsh Laverbread, Mushroom and Puy Lentil Pies featured in my new blog header; Rainy Day Cabbage Pies and Uchiki Kuri Squash and Broccoli Pie.

Do you have a weighing scale in your kitchen? What kind?

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Motion Rocking Mezzaluna

Now this is not a kitchen essential, but like many people when I saw Nigella rocking the one she acquired quite elegantly in Nigella Bites, I knew I had to have one too.  Well I actually have two now: a single blade and a double blade, but its the double blade one that i use often for chopping herbs finely and sometimes chocolate.  I know this task can easily be acquire by the rocking of a good knife, but I do like my mezzaluna and cannot imagine my kitchen being without it now. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this Italian gadget, I'd describe a mezzaluna is a rocking- chopping knife with handles that consists of either a single or double curved blade.  You may already know this but mezzaluna translated in Italian means 'half moon', named so because of its crescent shape. 
My mother had something similar when I was a child that she would use for chopping mustard leaves, spinach and other greens.  It had a curved blade and only one handle. I asked her about it recently and she can't remember what happened to it.  

Do you have a mezzaluna in your kitchen? Or are you content with just using your knives?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Salt Pots, Salt Pigs

Now I don't know why they are called 'Salt Pigs', but I do have a thing for them.  I can't quite put my finger on what I like about them - whether its the pottery (I think there is a hidden potter in me wanting to come out).  The individual style; the appeal of the burnished brown colouring; or just the pure charm of them - but whenever I walk into a craft market,; a thrift shop; or an antique market, I am always attracted by the salt pots on offer.  So much so that D has had to pull me away, literally.  I think I own five, also a French style wooden one that was hung in the kitchen and now packed away.  

The smallest one in the picture was the first one I ever owned.  I got the potter who was working at Kelburn Castle and Country Centre to make me and my best friend Leah one.  I still haven't sent hers to her and its been a good ten years.  To be truthful, I am too afraid to post it to her in case it arrives shattered.  I can speak of this from first hand experience, as I once bid on a salt pig on ebay, never again will I buy ceramics online - I dare not open the box when it arrived hearing the rattle and smash.  I left no feedback for the person concerned. More likely it was the postal service that damaged it, but still...I was disappointed.  
Now admittedly, I don't have sea salt in all of these. 

One of course does contain sea salt, the others, hold dried chillies and sometimes even fresh ginger.

Do any of you have salt pots in your kitchen?!  I'd love to know.  

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Onion Storage Pot

After graduating, one of my very first jobs was at a Law Centre in Glasgow city centre.  During my lunch hour, I would spend time either flicking through cookbooks or admiring kitchen things and making a mental 'wish list'.  It was always for small things, but even they cost a fair bit. 

So at the end of the month when I got paid. I would treat myself to either a cookbook or something for the kitchen.  
Next to the garlic keeper, I have I guess what you would call an Onion Store Pot.  I got it from this  shop at a reduced price, because it had a small chip in it. See the brim of the main body. It doesn't bother me. I still liked how the onions were illustrated on the base and on the lid. This terracota pot stores about up to 6 - 7 medium onions.  I've been told by my mother, that I won't need to buy any onions (or potatoes) when we move down to Wales, as they buy in bulk from a farmer.  Ah I foresee lots of benefits coming my way.   

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Garlic Baker and a Garlic Keeper

Over the years, I have collected various kinds of containers to store all manner of food related things, but today I will share the one designed specifically for garlic bulbs and garlic cloves.

There are many names for this garlic pot.  Its also known as a garlic keeper jar or garlic container. Its not just functional, but also quite smart to be displayed. 
The terracotta garlic pot ( on the right hand side) is the one I use to store my fresh garlic.  Of course, if it was homegrown, I would have no need for this, as it would have been strung like onions. 

The garlic baker (on the left) of which I have two (see here) have actually never ever been used.  One I admit is for display purposes and it sometimes holds excess garlic bulbs, but the other is functional and can actually be used in the oven.  Ah maybe I'll use it when I down.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Garlic Presser or is it a Garlic Crusher?

I've mentioned before that in my kitchen, you will always find three fresh ingredients: onions, ginger and garlic. 

And these days in the modern kitchen, where there is fresh garlic, there is often a garlic presser or is it a garlic crusher?!  Whichever it is, I know its not an essential gadget, but I assure you once you find a good one - there is no going back.  I've never been that apt at mincing or crushing garlic by hand, my efforts are limited to slicing it thin.  So when I acquired this garlic crusher, I was completely sold.  I use it almost on a daily basis.  I've had it for over 10 years now.     
I actually won this while I was still a student in Glasgow through a food magazine.  In fact it was the first thing I had ever won.  I now often wonder how I ever managed without it in the kitchen. Here are a couple of recipes that make the most of garlic -  Garlic and Shallot Risotto and Jalapeno, Garlic and Kale Stew. 

An Update:  I think you will seriously need to get your violins out.  For the past five days I have been stuck in bed with a chest and throat infection.  It was so severe that my mother made an emergency appointment to go and see her GP, who prescribed me with antibiotics.  Unfortunately, this illness coincided with my job interview and presentation to a panel of 6.  In short, I did not get the job I had applied for.  I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with this outcome and haven't stopped crying to myself for the last two days.  My parents keep telling me 'to take heart and be strong', but the thought of going back to the Unemployment centre for very little financial support and a lot of nonsense fills me with dread.  All I have encountered from the heartless workers there is total unhelpfulness.  They treat you like a number and try to assert their piddly authority over you, and make out that your not trying hard to find a job.  I've worked all my adult life, the last thing I want is to be unemployed. 

The best scenario for me now is to hurry and move to Wales.  Being physically on the ground here, I can then sign up with a few employment agencies and perhaps get some temporary clerical work, as the work I am qualified and experienced in is just not coming my way.  For now though, its back up to Scotland on Saturday to make proper plans for moving our stuff down. 

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Presenting 22 of my favourite kitchen things

As I won't be cooking, hence food blogging much, I thought this month I would showcase some of my much loved and used kitchenalia.
So lets start rolling, yes literally with rolling pins.  I have about 5 rolling pins, I know how many rolling pins can a person use at one time.  But over the years I have accumulated a lot of things for my kitchen.  I picked up the marble rolling pin above on one of my first visits to Ayr, Scotland from a 'Help the Aged' type of Charity shop.  I have to admit I haven't used it much, its serves more for display on its wooden cradle stand. 

The rolling pin below starting from the left, is not actually a rolling pin per se but one for making gingerbread cookies as it has patterns embedded on it.  Its either Austrian or German in origin.  I bought it a couple of years ago when I was in Brittany, but have not yet had the opportunity to use it for Christmas cookies.  The skinny rolling pin, second from the left was purchased on my first holiday to Turkey.  Its known as a oklava and is rod style.  The last two are ones I use often for rolling out shortcrust pastry: one is just simply a rolling pin - no handles, and the other a roller with wooden handle s.
Here are a couple of recipes that have seen some rolling pin action: the shortcrust pastry for this Carrot-Fennel Souffle Flan, Chilli Flecked Pastry and Beetroot Shortcrust.

Garlic Crusher or it is a Garlic Presser
Garlic Baker or Garlic Keeper
Onion Storage Pot
Salt Pots and Salt Pigs
Weighing Scales
Measuring Spoons and American Cups
Egg Holder: Egg House 
Steamer and Double Boiler
Tongs and Whisks
Cheese and Nutmeg Graters and a Orishigane 
Salad Spinners, Colanders and Strainers
Mashers and Peelers
The Sifters and Spatulas
And finally the Spice Jars

An update: Just when we think to ourselves things may be getting better for us, we are again confronted with further bad luck.  D returned back to the edge of Glasgow yesterday afternoon, only to find that the 100mph winds had damaged our recently repaired roof.  He went into the flat and found a hole and water coming through three different places. He rung the roofers who did the repairs in Spring as its those slates that have come down.  They are being absolutely unhelpful and say they cannot come out until the end of the month.  D is desperate and rung another roofer who say they will be able to come tomorrow, they asked who did the original work and when D told them who it was, they informed us that they are cowboys.  We did not choose them, as the roof work was carried out jointly (after much pursuing on our side) with the landlady who owns the flat downstairs.  It was the company they used.  D rang the Let/Rent Agency to encourage them to push these roofers to come out.  They too were being unhelpful and said to him to do the leg work/find another roofer and they'll pay up their share.  D is finding is hard to locate a roofer at this time and has unfortunately out of sheer desperation flagged down a Roofing van that was passing through the street.  They looked at it and quoted him a couple of hundred pounds.  D's hands are tied, no other reputable builders available, so has gone ahead with the work that took about 15 minutes and 15 slates!  D says he is not at ease and fears that these workers were 'cowboys' too, but he needs something done to stop further damage being caused inside our flat.  The roof of this flat has been an issue from day one.  It was sold to us leaking and our surveyor had not picked up on it.  Anyway, this has definitely damaged our prospects of selling the flat at the recommended surveyors price.  On top of that, the fencing that separated our garden from the neighbour's is knocked down too by the winds.  You know what this means - wandering dogs - see here for further explanation of this if your interested.   The harder we work to make this flat look nice to sell, life - in this case nature, conspires against us and chucks more crap at us. I really can't wait to turn my back on this place now, but its digging its claws in us for money and love we haven't got.  Life eh!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

My Tiny Eclectic Kitchen

Many of my readers understandably have assumed that I have a mighty big kitchen, especially as I tend to cook from scratch a lot.  The fact is it is quite a small flat kitchen  Its about 6 foot by 6 foot.  When there are two people in the kitchen, it’s a bit of a squeeze shall we say. There have been many times, when I have been frustrated by the lack of space and its restrictions.  D has understood many of my frustrations and has done his utmost to make the kitchen space as functional as it could be. He utilised the space - height wise, so that I've been able to store cooking pots and jars, although I do need a step ladder to reach these.  However even with all his efforts, there are indeed still limits that hinder the experimental cook in me.  I've never been able to bake large cakes, decorate them with fancy piping and then leave them on the side to look pretty, as they would take up the only available surface that is used for food preparation. Also I cannot display the gadgets that I have accumulated over the years, moreso use them - such as the food processor, hence the reason I end up making shortcrust pastry by hand often...well you get the point I am trying to make - its a tiny kitchen. 

In spite of its size and my grumbles, this cooking space has served us well over the years and I have come to appreciate its individuality.  I made this short video about of my eclectic kitchen about 3 months ago.  Since then I have had to remove some of the decour.  The food related artwork, as well as the dangling things, such as chilli lights that may look messy to potential home buyers, but for me they have made the kitchen quirky and personal.    
Still like many homely cooks, I dream of that big open space (or even a country kitchen), when I will be able to leave out my kitchen gadgets and actually be able to use them! Be able to share the joys of cooking and baking with others in the kitchen space, and be able to open the door to my kitchen garden and pick fresh herbs…Oh I dream of my of my own space.  Part of this 'dream' has begun, as the house we will be renting offers some of these opportunities to me.  But before I say 'goodbye to this tiny space' this year.  I have to remind myself that I have made some delicious diverse world vegetarian cuisines here.

Here are some recipes from my kitchen in 2011.  Enjoy.
 Of course, I have to begin with these Welsh Red Dragon Chilli Shortbread.
 February - A Scottish recipe that I will always keep close to me - Potato Scones.
 April - Wild Garlic Oatcakes
 May - A new challenge for me - making Banoffee Curd and White Chocolate Roulade
 June - Radish Leaf and Root Tart.
 July - Savoury Seitan Faux Roast 'Meat' (vegan)
August - Plum and Almond Tart with Plum Syrup
September - Creamy Cabbage Pie - Perfect for those rainy Scottish days!!!
October - Another new technique to me - Sweet Potato Wontons Stickers with Sweet Chilli Sauce - absolutely delicious.
 November - Beetroot and Gingerbread Muffins
And finally,  December - Date and Coconut Bars.

Oh I should also mention, that I will not be returning back to blustery gale force windy Scotland with D later in the week. I had applied for a job in Wales and guess what I have an interview next week. Sounds promising and it may be a welcome start to the new year, so I have made the decision to stay behind. First for the interview, second for the outcome.  If all goes well, then it will be 'ready set go' for moving, if not...well I will blog about that later.  Anyway, whatever happens, You will have to forgive me in advance as there may be very little in the way of proper foodie (and growing) blogging until mid to late February.  So instead I thought that I would begin sharing with you some things from my kitchen - starting of course with the kitchen itself. 

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Baked Carrot-Parsnip Quenelles

May I wish you all a Very Happy, happy New Year and thank those of you who left warm wishes on the previous posts. Each comment has been truly appreciated.  I personally have never looked forward to a new year as I am this one.  So to welcome the new year, new beginnings and change, I have changed my blog header that will gently lull my transition from Scotland to Wales in the next month or so.  Today though I am enjoying the company of family, playful nephews and nieces and good food.

As its a day of celebrations and one of tucking into posh looking edible morsels, I am pretentiously calling these Carrot-Parsnip Quenelles, but the homely cook in me has to admit that they are essentially just wintry oven baked fritters. 
These Carrot-Parsnip Quenelles are actually based on some Sweet Potato Falafels I made a few years back.  Although these can be reheated, I think they are best eaten fresh from the oven on the day that they are made.

I am sharing a plate full of these rooty bites with Ricki at Diet, Dessert, Dogs for her Wellness Weekend: 29th December 2011- 2nd January 2012.  

Carrot and Parsnip Baked Quenelles
Makes about 16 - 20
600g carrots and parsnip,s peeled and sliced
1 -2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne
Juice of ½ lemon
120g besan, gram flour also known as chickpea flour
Olive oil to coat the baking tray
Optional 20g fresh herb, chopped
Optional: Generous sprinkling of sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Either roast or steam the root vegetables, until very tender.  Allow to cool.  Then put the soft root vegetables along with the garlic, and mash well.  Then add the spices, lemon juice, herb if using and chickpea flour and combine well, so this either with a spatula or your hands.  Season well, and mash lightly until you have a smooth mix with no chunks. Put the bowl into the fridge to allow the mixture to firm up for about an hour.
Oil a baking tray.
Turn the oven to gas mark 6.
Using a couple of large spoons, put a well heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides. Or use a falafel shaper and put onto oiled tray.
Or use a falafel shaper to put onto oiled tray. 
Sprinkle the optional sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven. 
After 15 minutes, flip them over and give it another 5 minutes until golden.