5 December 2012

DIY Christmas decorations

No sign of the Coca-cola ads yet which means Christmas hasn't officially started, but the street lights are up and the shops are packed with christmas presents and decorations. Last year, I made these delicious dried orange and cinnamon decorations, and here are a few other ideas that I'm keen to have a go at...

- these very pretty paper baubles

- a pine cone garland for an outdoors/indoor look

- something to make your Chrismas wrapping extra special 

- paper doily snowflakes to guarantee a white Christmas!

4 December 2012

Chicken with chorizo and beans

I made this recipe a little while ago, but for some reason didn't post it up. Now that it's heading towards Baltic conditions though, it seems very appropriate to be eating warm, hearty meals, and this one is certainly that.

It's a bit of a store cupboard recipe, so any kind of beans will do (I used haricot). If you don't have any chorizo, you could swap in pancetta or bacon, and if you have fresh tomatoes or peppers that need using up, feel free to throw those in too. 

Chicken with chorizo and beans 
Serves 2

2 chicken legs
50g chorizo, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 garlic cloves
400g tinned haricot beans (or any other kind)
100ml white wine (or chicken stock, if you don't have any wine open)
Couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a medium sized, oven proof frying pan. Add the chicken legs to the pan, skin side down, and fry over a medium heat, turning once or twice until golden brown on both sides (probably about 10 minutes in total). Remove the chicken from the pan and put it to one side. 

Using the same pan, turn down the heat to low and add the whole, unpeeled garlic, the chorizo and the thyme leaves. Fry gently for a couple of minutes until the chorizo is just cooked. Add the beans and the white wine and stir everything together. Season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken thighs on top of the beans and put everything in the pre-heated oven. (If you don't have an ovenproof frying pan, just transfer everything into any oven proof dish).

Bake for about 25 minutes, checking every now and adding a splash more wine if the beans look dry. When it's cooked, the chicken will start to come away from the bones, the skin will be crispy, and the juices will run clear when you test the meat with a knife.

21 November 2012

Braided Rug Company baskets

I know I've already professed my love for the Braided Rug Company, but a recent trip to the Country Living Christmas Fair at the BDC in London refreshed my memory and renewed my obsession. 

Spurred on by my sister who, I'm pretty sure, was somehow brainwashing me to spend FAR more than I had originally planned, I extended my collection of braided furnishings to include one of these lovely, lovely baskets. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I'm using it to store the makings of a knitted patchwork blanket which is now stretching into its third (or maybe fourth...) year of assembly. Despite their soft look though, these are sturdy baskets which could easily support something much more substantial. They come in a range of sizes and would look lovely in the corner of a room filled with firewood, or all of those magazines that you never know what to do with.

The Braided Rug Company has a little shop in Aberdovey, in Wales, but you can also buy online or visit them at different shows throughout the year. You can find out where they'll be here.

13 November 2012

Luna Lighting

The Country Living Fair was packed pretty full with lovely things, but some of my favourites were these hole-punched, ceramic lights by Luna Lighting. They're all designed and made by Anna Perring from her studio in Bloomsbury, London (a place made famous by these fellas). Maybe I like them especially because we're heading towards Christmas which is, of course, a time of all things glowy and sparkly, but I think I also love the fact that they're all such simple designs, but created with painstaking detail. 

ps - Anna's studio is part of Cockpit Arts - a self-professed "creative incubator for designer-makers." Most excitingly though, they hold open studio events twice a year which sound well worth a visit.

11 November 2012

Homemade peanut butter

Gosh, has it really been THAT long? It appears to have been just about forever since my last post, but a visit to the Country Living Christmas Fair this morning has put me in a crafty-Christmassy mood and I'm jam packed with ideas for new products to rave about, and new crafty things to have a bash at. 

However, to get myself back on the blogging horse, and as it's getting all dark and cold outside, I'll plump for something quick, easy and comforting to start with. Homemade peanut butter. 

I'd never made this before last weekend, but I have absolutely no idea why. Granted, we do struggle a little bit with peanut butter in our house - an open jar is pretty much an empty jar, so its "healthy" properties are mostly swamped by the sheer volume consumed. But if you make it yourself, well, that's so worthy it has to be good for you, right? And it could not be easier.
The recipe is easily tweakable depending on your taste, but I like peanut butter when it's quite soft with a bit of a salty hit, so that's what I made.

Homemade peanut butter
Makes 1 small jar

200g peanuts (I used raw, but if they're already roasted/salted, you can miss out those steps)
2-3 tbsp sunflower oil
Sea salt

If they're not already roasted, spread out the peanuts on a shallow tray and at 160C for about 10 - 15 minutes. Leave them to cool a bit then blitz them in a food processor with 2 tbsp oil. There will be an almighty racket at first, but just keep the motor running and eventually you'll start to get a paste. Add a little more oil if needed to get the consistency you like. If you haven't used salted nuts, add a pinch of sea salt and blitz again. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. 

Decant into a jar and try not to eat all at once.  

ps - if you haven't tried it, you must try peanut butter on toast with cucumber. My Dad introduced me to the idea, and it's a revelation!

25 September 2012

Bulgar wheat and halumi salad with tahini dressing

Does anyone not like halumi? Surely not! Maybe for some it's a bit of an acquired taste/texture, but it's definitely one of my favourites. 

It's been a complete wash-out for barbeques this year, but if you happened to live somewhere where the sun actually shines then halumi, grilled on the barbeque and served up with a bowl of taramasalata and piles of pita bread (à la Dad's amazing Greek barbeques) is a definite summer-time treat. For now though, dry frying the halumi will have to do, and this robust salad can bring a little summer sunshine to a rainy England. 

The dressing (created by my sis) is a gem which would work well with lots of other middle-eastern style salads.

Bulgar wheat and halumi salad with tahini dressing
Serves 4

150g bulgar wheat
6 spring onions, diced
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds*
1 tbsp pistachio nuts*
4 tomatoes, chopped
4 handfuls rocket
250g halumi

For the dressing
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp tahini
1/2 tsp honey
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*any combination of nuts and seeds will do, so whatever's in the cupboard

Cook the bulgar wheat according the the packet instructions, drain and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, toast the nuts and seeds (including the cumin seeds) in a large frying pan. Combine in a large bowl with the tomatoes, spring onions, and rocket. Add the bulgar wheat and season with salt and pepper.

To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a jam jar, season with salt and pepper and shake well. Dress the salad.

Cut the halumi into 1cm slices, dry fry it for a minute or so on each side (until it goes golden brown) and then pop it on top of the plated salad and you're done.

10 September 2012

Peach and honey frozen yogurt

Whilst we're still in the last throws of summer, it's not to late to dig out the ice cream maker for bit of frozen deliciousness. Although, as far as I'm concerned it's never too late to dig out the ice cream maker. Ever. 

This is a super summery recipe and calls for some ripe, sweet peaches. I know we're not great at peaches in England, but hopefully at this time of year, they're still in the shops and have had all summer to pack themselves full of flavour. If the peaches aren't looking great, you could try the same recipe with nectarines or even apricots or plums. 

Peach and honey frozen yogurt
Serves 6

3 ripe peaches
3 tbsp honey (maybe a little more, depending on how sweet your peaches are)
500ml natural yogurt

Stone the peaches and cut them into chunks. Puree them in a food processor until smooth. Add the honey and yogurt and puree again. Taste the mixture, and add more honey if needed. It should be a bit over sweet at this stage, because the flavours will mellow as it freezes. 

Pour the yogurt mixture into an ice cream machine and churn until set.