Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Fibre arts

I have spent this morning photographing my yarn stash, with the intent of uploading the details onto Ravelry. However I have been defeated. It was taking so long to upload the photos and the ridiculous amount of yarn I have stashed in the last year (all cunningly hidden away in a large wooden chest) was just too daunting.
So instead I've decided to share a different kind of fibre art...roasted nuts!
Every Christmas I make nut roast, and a few years ago I discovered that it was infinitely tastier if I toasted the nuts first with some spices, before grinding them for the roast. From then on every Christmas Eve I make toasted spiced nuts in large quantities, half for the roast and then half to munch on throughout the holidays. Yesterday I was thinking how great these would be as party nibbles at the new year, and thought it was about time I shared the recipe with you.

Roasty toasty spiced nuts - Adapted from Nigella Lawson

500g of mixed nuts of your choice (I use: pecans, brazils, walnuts, peanuts (half plain, half dry roasted), marmite cashews (can't resit 'em!)
3 large sprigs of fresh rosemary (one whole, two chopped fine)
1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
large grind of pepper
large pinch of salt

Line a plate or baking tray with parchment and set aside.

Place a large frying pan on the hob over a medium/low heat. Add the nuts and the whole rosemary sprig and toast gently for about 3-4 minutes, stirring all the time. Once the nuts are fragrant (and only just turning golden) add the spices and chopped rosemary and toss gently to release the flavour and coat the nuts (beware when they are toasting they can really get up your nose!), turn the heat down then add the oil and the sugar, keep stirring to coat the nuts and melt the sugar. Allow about another minute and a half cooking to really toast the nuts and coat them, but watch carefully as you don't want any burning. Turn out of the pan onto the prepared plate/tray and leave to cool fully. Once cool you can store them in an airtight jar, or place into bowls for immediate munching!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from all at Number 98.

I hope you're all having a lovely festive season. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all. I'll be back in a couple of days with some recipes (good for new year parties), reflections on the past year and hopes for the coming one.
In the meantime, relax and enjoy! I hope you're all wrapped up warm (and enjoying the cricket, oh yes!)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Like mother, like daughter

I arrived up North and almost immediately the discussions of what we were currently knitting began. My Mum showed me a lovely silk/alpaca project she was working on, as I looked more closely it looked scarily familiar. Out of my bag I produced a project that was almost exactly the same. Same stitch pattern, also used in a cowl, also in a red luxury yarn (mine cashmere).
We hadn't discussed either project at any point previously. Scary!

Monday, 20 December 2010

It's actually not that grim up North!

On Saturday morning I crept out of the house at half past seven, leaving N safely tucked up in bed, and tottered down to the station with my suitcase in tow. We'd had about 1cm of snow overnight, and yet a reduced service was running. Nonetheless I made it up to and then across London and to Kings Cross. Armed with a coffee and smart phone access to the Ashes updates (let's not mention that eh?) I waited patiently for my train. I boarded and settled down with my knitting for the three hour trip Up North.

All of this happened in perfect calm. No delays, no falling over on the way to stations or trains, bags safely stowed with no fighting over luggage racks. And soon I was speeding across the countryside admiring the pretty frost dusted trees.

Little was I to know the chaos I was leaving behind! Less than an hour into my journey news comes in from N that the south has been hit by blizzards. I wasn't sure I really believed it was that bad given I hadn't seen a single flake. Then the emergency text arrived to see if I could find out if the football was cancelled. It was! I'm not sure I've ever known it so bad that central London Premiership matches were called off.

I of course arrived at my destination and there wasn't so much of a hint of snow. Heavy showers were forecast for overnight and we got about half an inch. So much for it being grim up north!

I've been doing the obligatory pre-Christmas present drop at my parents, and squeezing in a bit of sightseeing along the way. Tomorrow I shall be attempting to get back to the south, where the Christmas holiday (and baking!!) can truly begin.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The hot toddy

The hot toddy is a wonderfully restorative drink. This week I have found myself afflicted with man-flu. Yes, I will freely admit that I am rubbish at being ill, or even in any way coldy. It's rare and when it happens I don't like it.
I resist and refuse to admit it, whilst all the time being utterly pathetic. Just ask N. He knows. I spent Sunday battling through chores feeling increasingly sorry for myself. Then on Monday I thought I had come through it, until sitting in front of the football, the coughing and sneezing returned in earnest, much to the annoyance of Sniff, who was dosing on my lap and kept being woken by sniffles and my tickly throat.

There was only one thing for it. A hot toddy, number 98 style.
A hot toddy from No. 98. Serves one person with man flu...

1 shot whiskey
1 shot of ginger wine
Juice of half a lemon
double shot of boiling water
teaspoon of honey, or to taste.

Blend in a glass and drink as rapidly as possible, then make a second to sip gently whilst sniffling and wearing your favourite Christmas jumper (thanks Mum!)

p.s. I am aware that my most recent recipes have been for drinks. Very slack considering all the Christmas baking I did last year. I've just been a bit swamped. I am hoping to have some more recipes up in the coming weeks. Then again, one can never start the festive drinks season too early!

Monday, 13 December 2010

All that glitters.

On Friday I was over at the Make Lounge indulging in a bit of festive fun. I was there thanks to these guys, who's cupcake decorating competition I helped judge.
As a thank you I got to attend a decorating master class with Mich Turner along with the other judges and the two winners.
There was fondant, glitter, buttercream, glitter, royal icing, glitter, champagne and more glitter!
I was able to take the lovely Lady K with me, and much hilarity ensued. Although I'm not sure what was funnier, Mich's face as K mixed up the acid lime coloured buttercream, or the faces of all the people on the tube as we struggled home with our haul of ten cupcakes each!
The cupcakes of Lady K, spot the acid green, it looked much more neon in person!

Much fun was had by all, and I'm still finding glitter all over things! Thanks so much to everyone for getting me in the festive mood!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Deck the halls.

Remember this guy? He's back:
And he's been joined by this fellow:
Yep, the halls here at Number 98 are officially decked. We just couldn't wait any longer. Whilst the plumber was fixing the boiler we were frantically painting the living room. It was the only room that didn't get done when we moved and the awful shade of mank-nolia that it was painted was really getting us down. Problem was as soon as it was painted we felt so smug and suddenly festive that at that very moment we couldn't wait any longer. A tree was bought, boxes fished out of the loft, Sinatra on the stereo, wine opened, chocolates consumed, lights tested (and chased around the room by a little terrorist kitty), and suddenly Christmas arrived at Number 98.

It might seem early, but it's wonderful. I have been basking a little too much in it and not doing much else. Sometimes when you can't bring yourself to get out of your pyjamas and leave the sofa long enough to bake, you just have to give in and indulge in other ways...

...but if you do fancy a spot of baking, I can heartily recommend this. I made it last week and it was snaffled up so fast I didn't get a picture. Our top tip is to heat a little mincemeat until it's warmed and runny, and then pour it over and load with whipped cream. Nom!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Let it snow

If you're British you might have noticed that there's been a bit of snow around. Apparently we're not that great at dealing with snow as a nation. Or at least that's what all the news seems to be saying. I beg to differ. I'm fantastic at dealing with snow. There's a knack to it I should admit. What you do is....not leave the house for three days. I'm sure some people would go stir-crazy, but I am definitely in my element!
On Friday I couldn't get to work. I don't drive (not that I would in these conditions) and we're on a train line that seem particularly averse to anything the slightest bit chilly. Last week there was a train cancelled due to "adverse weather conditions" on a completely normal, cold, but bright winter's day. So a foot of snow and we ain't going nowhere.
No matter. With heating now working, showers were had and preparations begun. This weather naturally makes me feel even more festive, so what better way to enjoy a snow day than with some Christmas sewing, knitting and the first batch of mince pies.
See, coping with snow is easy!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I spoke too soon...

We got snow. Quite a bit in fact. On Tuesday evening we both left work at 6pm. We made it into the house at 11pm. It was one of the few evenings when I was cursing not being in central London. Very much "we're not in Kansas anymore"

Since then we haven't left the house (except for an emergency bread and milk run when our poor veg man rang to say he couldn't get through). All train services are suspended, so we couldn't really get anywhere even if we wanted to.
Fortunately the one person who did get to us is the plumber! Rumour has it we might have hot water later today. Yep, that's the old immersion tank! Hurrah!
Perhaps the funniest thing about the snow has been the cat's reactions. It shows up their individual approaches to life very well. Gatto was running around the house from window to window seemingly saying "it's brilliant! The whole world looks different, it's brilliant, white stuff is falling from the sky, brilliant." (forgive the blurry photo, he's not a cat that stays still for long!)
Sniff took one look at it, rolled his eyes and seemed to say "oh no, not this stuff again"

I'm off to huddle in front of the fire with my knitting. I hope you're all staying safe and warm. I will hopefully be back soon, with heating and cake recipes (because butter just won't soften in our house so we're on the emergency chocolate hob-nob stash rather than home baked cakes!)