Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Shawl progress

I've been knitting exclusively on the merino stripes mitred shawl this week and it's coming along quite nicely. It's made up of 3 rows of diamond shapes: 1 on the bottom, then 2, then 3, and the top row is finished off with 4 half-diamonds to make a straight edge. I'm on the final full square at the moment, then it's onto the triangles, before picking up hundreds of stitches to do a border around the whole thing. Maybe another week and a half?!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

But n Ben

Parents came to visit this weekend so we took a trip to the tiny Auchmithie just past Arbroath to have a meal at But n Ben (details and review here). It's very small and cosy and a bit like being in someone's house. They use lots of local produce, so lots of fishy things, but also venison and game pie and stuff like that, and most of it is done in quite a Scottish style with lots of cream and rich sauces.
What they're really known for is their Smokie Pancake - a massive pancake stuffed full of Arbroath smokie pieces in cream sauce. Probably about a week's worth of calories all in one dish, but very good. The smokie soup is also tasty, and you can get a hot buttered smokie in its whole form as as a starter too. Jane and I both had a big bowl of mussels to start. They don't always have them in so it was a lucky day.
For mains, Dad went for the seafood platter - another large amount of food as you can see from the picture! Different types of salmon, a bit of smokie, some winkles, a monster crab, some mussels etc etc. Very impressive. And just when you think you're about to burst, along comes the sweet trolley loaded with tempting home made puds. Barry modestly limited himself to ordering just one this time (bread and butter pudding), but proceeded to help finish up my sticky toffee sponge and Mum's coffee and walnut cake.
We had to make a slightly hastier exit than we might have done after I suddenly realised that I'd left my vat of chickpeas boiling away on the hob!! I had visions of coming home to a house full of smoke and a glowing red hot pan in the kitchen containing a smoking chickpea-charcoal brick. Amazingly they were fine even after being boiled for a good 5 hours - thankfully I'd used an enormous pot with plenty of water. Big sighs of relief all round, and a wee cheeky whisky to help all that food go down, and then off to bed to sleep off the excitement!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Chocolate muffins = happy friends!

Plenty to write about from this weekend both foody and knitty, I'll try to catch up during the week. But for now here's something that can't fail to generate squeals of excitement and a happy mouth-full-of-cake type of quiet. For Kirsty...


125g plain choc
50g cocoa powder
225g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
50g dark brown soft sugar
pinch of salt
125g plain choc chips
225ml milk
60ml (4tbsp) vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla essence
1 egg

  • Heat oven to 220C and line a 12-hole muffin tray.
  • Melt the plain choc, remove from heat and stir in other ingredients, beat well.
  • Spoon mixture into cases and bake in center of oven for 15min until well risen.

Dead easy! (PS I did this with M&Ms once instead of choc chips becuase I didn't have time to go get the real thing - worked quite well and they had pretty coloured bits in them!)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

In praise of the Parlour

Off to the Parlour we trotted this lunchtime to celebrate Jane's birthday, and actually managed to get a table (virtually impossible after 12). There was tasty looking mozzarella on the chicken and bacon salads, and I had a rather nice roasted aubergine with veggies and cheese etc in it. Plenty of salad too, very good as usual.

We were all too stuffed for dessert but there was a fine cake stand full of their syrup muffins. They are ENOURMOUS. Great sponge, plenty of tangy syrup, nice chewy citrus slice on top, just the right amount of icing, ie not too much, and with nice home-cut pleated paper round the edge. A wonder to behold. (the lime ones are the best by the way). I will have to buy one next time in order to photograph it in its full glory, purely in the interest of effective communication of course, although it'd be a waste not to scoff the lot afterwards :)

The hot chocolate was pretty impressive too, kind of DIY styley. You get a mug of hot milk and a big cube of chocolate on a stick to dunk in it. Not so speedy if you're in a rush, but high potential for a nice chocolatey mess.

Absolutely the best place for a weekday lunch or a tasty coffee/cake sneakout mission.

5/5 again.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

National Vegetarian Week 21st-27th May

It's National Vegetarian Week this week!

The vegetarian society's website has an article on why it's green to go veggie which I like. Won't rant with the biased propaganda too much but think on these factoids...
  • Farmed animals produce more greenhouse gas emissions (18%) than the world’s entire transport system (13.5%).
  • Farmed animal production accounts for 70% of all agricultural land use (30% of the earth’s entire land surface).
Interesting stuff, check it out.

Scarf done, new yarn is here

Two good things:
1) I finished the holey scarf
2) My birthday shipment from patternworks arrived yesterday :)

Scarf is good, I quite like it, but might have made it one pattern repetition slimmer in order to make it longer. Still, pretty good for one ball.

New stuff is all hairy and soft. Merino Stripes (blue jeans) and Kid Merino (red cinnamon), both for shawly-type things. And it's really great having the packaged delivered to work. Nice big cardboard box on my bench pretending to be gels of chemicals or something, but it's far more exciting to open it up and see 11 shiny new balls of wool in there instead of dry ice and chippings. I'm not patient enough to leave it sitting there in ball form until everything else is finished so I cracked one open last night and started the merino stripes shawl. The first square was done in no time, and after a bit of confusion about which was the front/back and how to pick up stitches from the side, the second square is now well on the way. First ball nearly finished already and I went to bed far too late last night! It's done on fairly big needles, and initially the stitches looked pretty loose and holey but actually it's turning out quite well like that. The garter stitch makes it seem thicker than it actually is, but it still stays nice and soft and drapey because the stitches aren't very tight. Pictures coming soon...

Monday, 21 May 2007

BBQ weekend (+Olga's Cinnamon Cake)

Heads are sore, eyes are tired, stomachs are full to bursting. Had an old AZ pal up to visit this weekend, lots of eating and drinking ensued. Too much lemonade for me on Friday night meant that I woke up on BBQ day feeling rather sorry for myself, and with curiously yellow fingers (finally attributed in a wave of memory recovery to the chips/curry sauce from the 24h bakery DIRTY DIRTY DIRTY). I was struggling to be able to watch the cooking on Saturday Kitchen successfully, let alone manage the cooking I was supposed to be doing myself, but we all eventually pulled ourselves together and crawled over to Broughty Ferry for some fresh air and a sandwich, after which the world started to seem like a more hospitable place.
Just about finished everything we'd hoped to make before the BBQ revellers arrived, and a most successful BBQ was had by all - thankfully the sky cleared a little, and the gale force winds weakened enough to allow the BBQ to stay on the ground. Below is the recipe for Olga's cinnamon cake which always goes down well, v tasty.

Also here's a pic of Dan mid-way through our adventurous river crossing to get back to the trees after a seal spotting trip on Tentsmuir. It actually turned out to be a good thing that we didn't make it on Saturday because the weather on Sunday was beautiful. We saved ourselves from being sandblasted and rained on! The seals were doing their usual trick of staying on a distant sandbank when we take visitors to the beach, but we saw them with the binoculars and there were a couple swimming nearer in the water.


250 ml sour-cream
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175 g butter
2 eggs
250 ml sugar
450 ml flour (I used 225g)
1tsp vanilla flavour
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

Ground cinnamon and sugar to fill.

• Mix sour-cream, vanilla and bicarbonate in a bowl.
• In another bowl, beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time.
• In a third bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients; flour, salt and baking powder.
• Mix in the dry ingredients and the sour-cream mixture gradually with the butter/egg/sugar mix, to form a smooth, rather thick batter.
• Spread out half of the batter in a greased 9in tin. Sprinkle very generously with cinnamon and sugar (until cake mix isn't visible). Spread out the rest of the batter and sprinkle again with cinnamon and sugar.
• Bake 175°C 1h.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Meaty Mars, boo hiss

Mars bars are no longer veggie! Crazy! Accoding to the BBC article out today Masterfoods have been using animal rennet in their chocolate since 1st May so Mars/Twix/Snickers/Bounty/Milky Way etc etc are all no longer strictly vegetarian. Boo hiss to them! Give me a slab of dairy milk or green and blacks any day :)

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Rhubarb and Ginger Sponge Pud.... the microwave experiment

Just polished off the last spoonful of my latest experiment: sponge pud done in the microwave. I get in the mood for this kind of pudding sometimes but only ever think of it way too late to stand for the 1-2h steaming/cooking time. So with a few minutes internet research and an amalgamation of basic sponge recipes from Simon Rimmer (essential Sunday morning viewing) and James Martin (essential Saturday morning viewing), I decided on this. Dubious was the mood when it went into the microwave, triumphant is the mood as we're finishing it up. Sponge pud start to belly in less than 15mins! We tarted up some powdered custard with a vanilla pod to give it some cheffy black dots in it too, good trick.

Thanks again to David for the new batch of rhubarb.

Barry's rating: 4/5
Jane's rating: 4/5
Louise's rating: 4/5 Not quite the real deal but excellent for the time it takes.

Rhubarb and Ginger Sponge Pud (for 4)

  • 3 medium stems rhubarb
  • 3 tbsp crystallised ginger
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 25ml milk
  • 4tbsp honey
  • tsp powdered ginger

Chop rhubarb finely and microwave 1min to soften. Put honey in the bottom of a lidded dish and sprinkle with the ginger. Beat together everything else with an electric mixer, fold in rhubarb and ginger pieces then plonk it on top of the honey (should only come about half way up sides of dish at this point). Level surface, put the lid on and microwave for 6 mins (ours is 800W).

Thursday, 10 May 2007

All together now

The only photo of the whole group together again! Alberto arrived in Milan the day before we left, so we had a late night rendezvous at a motorway toll station carpark and went for pizza, then met up the next day when Silvia cooked lunch (mmm scamorza) before we said goodbye again at the airport.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The holey scarf...and even boys like to knit

I've finally decided what to do with my Rowan kidsilk night (hairy dark purple with metallic bits) - it is slowly turning into a holey scarf that goes like this:

CO 49 st and knit 2 rows
Row 1: K1, *YF, K1, K3tog, K1, YF, K1* rep btwn *s to end
Row 2: Purl
Finish with 2 knit rows

It's pretty quick to do, just going slowly because of ridiculous number of projects on the go at the same time. Got maybe 30cm so far.

And even the boys joined in with the knitting at the weekend, destroying rather than creating stitches, but it's a start. I always suspected Andy has a secret interest...

Brea Bag

Well here's my first attempt at cables - the Brea bag from Berroco, completed just in time to take with me to Milan. Sorry it took so long to get a finished picture Olga! I decided to use the actual yarn in the pattern (Berroco Ultra Alpaca from Jimmy Beans), and was very glad I did because it's lovely. The lining was from a stripey green shirt I got in the shelter shop, and this was the hardest bit to get right. The actual knitting was no probs, 4 repeated sections to each side and a moss stitch strip to join them together. The cord for the strap isn't quite strong enough and keeps snapping so I've got some cotton stuff to replace it with when I get around to it. Love the bag! Making a purse to match using the middle part of the pattern, watch out for it...

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Jane's baby blanket

A baby blanket for Alex. All laid out and ready to sew up, I'm very impressed, and very far behind with progress on my own blanket. I'm going to time how long it takes for her to sew up and crochet the edges ;)

Sunday lunch

Yummy cheese from Mellis of St Andrews that we had for Sunday lunch after a foody trip on Saturday. The ham's partly from nice St Andrew's delis and partly what was smuggled back from Milan, along with Jane's excellent bottle of Barolo. The cheeses preceeded a shed load of home made pasta and sauces, and then we moved on to the rhubarb/orange meringue monster.

Thanks to Dave for the rhubarb - we had a great crumble from it too!

Easter break in Milan

Below is a link to the photos from our trip to visit Silvia and Fabrizio in Milan. Pizza, pasta, cheese, gelati, wine, sunshine, very nice :)
Here we are on top of the Duomo doing a perfect catalogue pose, very impressive it was up there too. I'm modelling my nice new pair of linen trousers that took the biggest hit by the red-wine-breaking-in-suitcase incident on the way home. Successfully dyed dark blue last weekend, together with two tops that also came out of the incident rather badly.
Alberto has a photo of the whole group reunited (just before we went through security to go home again), will post when I get hold of it!

Milan pics

Summer is coming

Dilly is enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather, and insists on being half in and half our of the door if she has the chance.