Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Spring greens

Spring cabbage stirfry, originally uploaded by soja.

I maybe yearning for summer weather, I long for warmer evenings and nights. As much as I sometimes think that Spring is nothing more than the end of Winter..... I do appreciate the 'greeness' the new buds on the trees, the shoots pushing up through the still cold earth, and the Spring vegetables. I think that cabbage tastes so different at this time of year, actually delicate and juicy!

I'm also hoping that all the colourful vitamin rich vegetables, along with the antibacterial garlic, cold-curing ginger and spicy chilli will help me get rid of this lingering stuffy nose, cough and cold. Ha ha - I'm hoping they'll put a spring in my step! ;-)

Thursday, 19 February 2009

A present to me!

How did Kimono Reincarnate (aka Melanie Gray Austin) know that I ordered these prints as a present for myself? :-) The fabric arrived beautifully wrapped in a cute piece of Easter Bunny fabric all tied up with a bow. It feels more spring like already! (See link to her blog in the right-hand column).

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Mind the gap

I'm sure this isn't an original idea, but I'm pleased with myself for thinking of it and am wondering if I could do the same with outer wear tops....

A month or so ago I got fed up of feeling cold and bought a couple of vests on special offer. And what an instant difference! They were long enough to not become untucked from my jeans or skirts or whatever I was wearing and I actually felt warm again. I don't think I've worn a vest regularly since I was seven years old. Actually, with skirts there is not usually a problem as I'm wearing tights - why do thick tights seem to be designed to reach your armpit? I'm 5ft7" (1.70m) so it's not as if I'm particularly short. Anyway...

 I have a long back, and the couple of vests I already owned (got before a trip to Sweden one January) were not quite long enough and always came untucked from jeans, leaving a gap that made me feel colder. Living in Spain for the most part since that trip, they haven't had much wear and it seemed daft to spend much time making vests or buying more as theoretically I shouldn't need them.

So I came up with the idea of just stitching a length of stretch lace around the bottom. I got the lace from ebay, 10cm wide (4"), stitched it around the bottom, over the top of the original serged hem (not stretching the lace), and dahdah! 5 minutes later lovely long vests that leave no gap! I'm now tempted to add a wide band of lace to most tops and knickers I own....would that be very wrong? This winter is lasting too long.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

In the can!

Phew! No more pickles for a year... except maybe in the summer when there are plenty of tasty tomatoes around. I still had some lemon and limes left and I wanted to make mango chutney. 
Mango chutney is relatively hard to find here, and when I do find it it is the very sweet, smooth jam like stuff. I prefer the chunkier, more chutney like version.

Lemon and Lime marmalade 
(recipe from 'The Book of Preserves' by the Australian Women's weekly, ed. Maryanne Blacker, 199o)

540 g lemons (Bk 3 med, 4 smallish)
425 g limes (Bk 5 med, me 4 as all I had)
2 litres water
1 3/4 kg sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau

Rind removed from fruit, without pith, messy, used a potato peeler. Cut into very fine strips. Pith and pips removed and saved. Tied up in a handkerchief sized piece of calico - didn't used all the pith, too much. Flesh chopped up roughly. Flesh and bad added to a big pan and brought to the boil. Simmered, covered for 1 hour until rind soft. Removed bag. Added sugar and stirred, not boiling, until sugar dissolved. (I did not measure the fruit mixture as instructed in the book, I just added all the sugar).

Boiled for 20-30 minutes until setting point. Added Cointreau, poured into hot sterilised jars. Covered loosely, tightly when cooled.

Mango Chutney
(recipe adapted from 'Marguerite Patten's 1,000 Favourite Recipes', Treasure Press, 1988)

1-2 teaspoons pickling spices tied in muslin (I didn't have/do this - I added 1/2 teaspoon cloves, peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds to the fruit mixture.
350 g onions, finely chopped
600 ml brown or white malt vinegar (I used a mixture of apple and sherry and white wine vinegar)
450 g cooking apples, weight when peeled, sliced (I used Granny Smiths)
450 g sugar
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger (I used finely grated fresh ginger, about an inch)

The onions, spices, and half the vinegar went in a big pan and were simmered until the onion was tender. The remaining vinegar, mangoes and apples were added and cooked until the fruit was soft. The sugar and ginger were added and then the mixture cooked until thick and jam like. Then poured into hot sterilised jars.

Pickle a jam

Now I'm finished, I made a couple more batches of things last weekend.

First, the recipes, and changes made, for the Tomato Chilli Sauce (from 'The Book of Preserves' by 'The Australian Women's Weekly' (Ed. Maryanne Blacker, 1990) and the Lime Pickle (from '1001 Recipes' Ed. Alexa Stace, 1997).

Tomato and Chilli Sauce

3 cloves garlic (I used 4 or 5)
2 1/2 tablespoons allspice (I used nutmeg)
3 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 1/2 kg ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I used mostly plum tomatoes as they were riper)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup white vinegar (I used mix of apple and sherry vinegar)
2 teaspoons coarse cooking salt
3 medium fresh red chillies, chopped (I use large mild chillies)
Garlic, cloves and peppercorns tied in calico pouch. 

Pouch and everything else put in a large pan, heated and stirred without boiling until sugar had dissolved. Brought to the boil, simmered uncovered, approx. 45 mins, stirred occasionally. 
Mixture quite thick, discarded bag of spices, blended in pan with hand held metal blender (washed in boiling water) re-boiled. Poured into two hot sterilised jars.

Lime pickle

6 limes, washed
60 g (1/2 cup) salt
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
seeds from 2 star anise (I didn't have these)
4 small green chillies (I used large mild chillies)
1 tablespoon ground ginger
125 g (2/3 cup) light muscovado sugar (I used light cane sugar)
3 -4 tablespoons water

Limes cut into quarters put in a wide bowl and sprinkled with the salt. For 24 hours (overnight/12 hours NOT long enough!) Seeds and chillies heated in a dry saucepan until seeds began to pop. Removed from heat. 

Liquid strained from limes into a small pan. Add sugar, ginger and water, boiled for approx 2 minutes until sugar had dissolved.
Limes and chilli spice mix combined and packed into hot sterilised jars. Boiled sugar mixture poured over limes. Lids screwed on loosely, when cool screwed on firmly.

Mixture did not cover limes completely. I've added a layer of sunflower oil to make a seal. Will see how this works (it's what I do with preserved lemons and the lime pickle I have at Indian restaurants is usually oily (unless it is a fresh pickle) so this is an experiment.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Kimono Reincarnate

I love all the beautiful things Melanie Gray Augustin creates over in Japan from Japanese fabrics, silver and glass. Her glass pendants with kimono fabric are lovely - she makes me feel that I am right to save every little scrap of material. I wish my bags looked as professional as hers! Her blog is at

She is having a huge sale in her etsy shop this month, in preparation for her move back to Australia - perhaps it is time to get hold of some of those pretty Japanese prints?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

All done!

All done, originally uploaded by soja.
Seville orange marmalade, four jars; Piccalilli six jars; Apple and plum chutney four jars, Lime pickle two jars, Chilli tomato sauce two jars, Seville orange whisky marmalade two jars.
All I have to do now is label them and store them. And hope they keep. Some of the limes are not completely covered, though this might change as they soften. I might have to work out a way of opening them up and then re-pickling them. Not sure yet. Everything else seems fine.
I want to work out what the cost works out for these too. I think it's pretty good.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

First Bite!

First Bite!, originally uploaded by soja.

Breakfast this morning - it worked! The marmalade is delicious, if I do say so myself! Perfect set and great colour.

Last time I made marmalade, about two years ago, I remember that I was worried that the marmalade was still too runny, even though it passed a set test, so I jarrred some and boiled up the rest until it was thicker. The first batch was better, the second a little thicker than I wanted. I remembered this and stopped cooking the oranges as soon as they were at the setting point and the rind was as soft as I wanted it to be. So note to future self - stop when it's set, it'll firm up a little when cool.

Pouring with rain outside, and a bit grey, but some how I always feel that making marmalade and pickles catches some of the sunshine in the jars. Well, it makes me happy.