Friday, 15 February 2013

In My KItchen In February

Joining in with Celia's In My Kitchen series here, in my kitchen, in February, have been the following:

... Leek and Herb soup

In February I seem to hanker for food that is plainer and packed with vitamins after the more sumptuous offerings of the post-Christmas period that extends into January. Things like this vivid green soup, which is my own recipe. It's very simple and although it uses plain water, not stock, it doesn't taste at all thin. I use 4 largish leeks, washed, trimmed and chopped, and about 12 oz / 300g of potato, peeled and diced, which I sweat in a spoonful of olive oil for a few minutes. Add 3 tsps salt (sounds a lot but you are not using stock so it needs more than you might think), plenty of black pepper and about 1.5 litres / 2.5 pints of water. I cook this little lot for 6 minutes in the pressure cooker and when it's done, I open up the lid and immediately stir in a bag of washed wild rocket and a great big bunch of flat leaf parsley, (about a 75-100g / 3-4 oz bunch roughly chopped, leaves only). Wilt the greens in the hot soup for a minute or so and then whizz the soup in the blender. Made like this, it keeps its vivid colour and all the associated vitamins beautifully. And if you think that amount of parsley is too much, let me tell you, it isn't! The strong, verdant flavour that raw parsley has, gets softened to something much more subtle in the wilting process and the soup tastes delicate, fragrant and unexpectedly savoury for something that you might think would have needed bolstering with a good chicken stock.

... Carrot and Almond Muffins

Strictly speaking, I think these do not qualify as muffins because the method and ingredients are not those of classic muffins so they probably ought to be called Carrot and Almond Buns. Buns or muffins, these too are part of my plainer, vitamin-packed, February fare. And again this is my own recipe. Very simple and easy.

Peel and coarsely grate 200g / 7 oz carrots and set aside in a large bowl.

Chuck the following in the food processor and whizz to a nice smooth consistency:

200 ml / 7 fl oz almond oil (you could substitute another vegetable oil, if you prefer, but I like almond oil for the vitamin E it gives)
175 g / 6 oz light soft brown muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
1 ripe banana, peeled

Now add:

350g / 12 oz white self-raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
100 g / 4oz ground almonds

Whizz again to a produce a nice smooth batter. Tip into the large bowl where the grated carrots are waiting and fold them into the mixture. Spoon into about 15 muffin cases (see, I told you they were muffins!) and bake for 20 -25 minutes at 170 - 180 C until well-risen and golden. They freeze beautifully.

... oranges wrapped in tissue paper

I know, it's my food packaging thing again! I love these oranges, individually wrapped in tissue paper from Spain. I cut the outer peel off with a sharp serrated knife and then cut each segment free of the pithy membranes on either side to make a simple orange fruit salad. Delicious. Although they are a fiddle to prepare like this they are just so much nicer to eat when freed from all that white pith.

... shortbread

This again is plain, but good. I find substituting some ground rice for some of the flour gives the best and crunchiest texture in shortbread. Semolina also works well if you can't get hold of ground rice but I find ground rice is best. I substitute about 2 oz / 50 g ground rice out of a total weight of 12 oz / 300g flour. I also cook the shortbread slightly beyond what a purist would probably say I should, that is to say, I prefer I prefer it to go one stage beyond the pale gold of commercial shortbread until it is a slightly darker brown. It improves both the flavour and the crispness. Be warned, this may seem plain but it disappears like greased lightning, in my kitchen anyway!

... one of H's targets from his .22 rifle shooting sessions at school

Sadly the days are gone when H used to come home with bright, jolly paintings and wobbly cardboard models to stick up on the wall or perch on the top of the fridge but instead, the kitchen walls now sport a lot of these .22 rifle targets. This one comes from an inter-school competition at the beginning of the month and shows his best shot to date. Two shots to be precise. Two consecutive shots straight through the centre of the bullseye. He ascribed this success to luck and when I said it couldn't just be luck I got a long and complicated explanation about the trajectory of a rifle bullet and the infinitesimal environmental variations that occur that mean luck as much as judgement were at play. As I don't shoot, myself, I can't comment on this but it seems an impressive result nonetheless and whether fluke or skill, it has now joined a number of its fellows behind the geraniums on the kitchen window sill!

... my new crocheted red dishcloth complete with heart pattern

Lots of people have been making dishcloths recently - have a look at Astri's fabulous ones here and with St Valentine's Day this month I got it into my head that I fancied a red one with a heart motif. I was sure I had a pattern for a small bag with a heart motif which I thought could be adapted to make a dishcloth but I couldn't find it anywhere. I think I must have lent the book to someone and failed to retrieve it. Nothing daunted, I had a little hunt on the Internet and found just what I was looking for. Here it is:

The pattern is by Donna Mason-Svara and you can find the pattern on her blog, Smoothfox here. She has lots of lovely innovative crochet patterns listed on the right hand side and you'll find the one I used under the heading "Heart Square". (check out her beautiful round and star-shaped afghans while you're there - they are amazing!) The "Heart Square" is  exactly what I had in mind for my purpose and is nice and holey which makes it hygienically easy to rinse and dry. I made it in red Puppets 8/8 cotton, like my face flannels last year, as this yarn can be washed on a hot cycle.

I say "can be washed on a hot cycle" but it hasn't been yet because I haven't yet had the heart (sorry!) actually to use it. It looks so nice that seizing it to wipe the breakfast table seems a bit boorish but I tell myself, I made it to use it and must stop being precious about it! Someone will knock over a mug of tea or hot chocolate soon and I will grab it as the nearest thing to hand with which to mop up the mess, which will break the ice, but so far, I am quietly admiring it in its pristine state!

... heart-shaped, home-made custard creams for St Valentine's Day, with tea in one of my new spotty mugs which I don't need, but couldn't resist when I saw them in a sale.

Have a look at Celia's blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for sightings of other February kitchens!


  1. These are all fabulous! Especially that soup looks so good and the photo with the blue dishes is just so pretty and appetizing.

    Love your heart dishcloth.

    Congrats to "H". A few weeks ago I hit the bullseye at the shooting range (probably luck) was with a 38 special....I taped it on our front door right on top of the wreath, haha. ;-)

  2. You've been busy! The shortbread is making my mouth water.

  3. The soup and the shortbread are tempting me- I make make both very soon.
    And I love the heart/square dish cloth- I wish I could crochet- but I do love looking up recipes and instructions on the internet.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi..great post, we make a lot of soups, will give that one a go it looks delicious, Love the heart crochet and the heart biscuit hehe...cute
    It all looks very yummy on a cold winter day
    Hugs xx

  5. what a fab aim!!! I used to be great at archery and used to win for the girls and still blow the boys scores out the water. Infact if my husband had his way I would accompany him to gold and do the putting part. Some people just have a good aim I guess!
    Roll on the next Olympics - perhaps we will see him there!

  6. Get you, Mrs Creative at Home this month! I love everything you've shown here - the dishcloth is very lovely, a really nice red, that one. And that grEEEN soup!! Wowsers. The bun-muffins I shall give a go, I think, and those custard creams look gorgeous, and now have me hankering for biscuits - thanks for that! I too love oranges in tissue, although rarely seem to come across them.
    Had to smirk at the difference between bringing home the innocent junk of childhood art lessons and used targets from a rifle!! How time moves on...

  7. That soup looks delicious and so healthy. I must try the recipe out when I need a vitamin boost after half term. x

  8. Ahhhhh such a lovely post - I love the fresh greenery of the soup snd the addition of rocket and parsley is pure genius - You have been so busy with all your baking too - I love the shortbread and the love heart biscuit - truly inspiring . With regards to the target , I don't think I wil show this post to my son - he would be soooo envious - he would love to do rifle shooting!

  9. P.s. I forgot to say love the dishcloth - what yarn or weight of yarn did you use - I have some coloured cotton somewhere in my stash I could use x

    1. Hi Nikki, I used some Puppets red 8/8 cotton and a 4mm hook but I don't think it matters much what weight you pick. I like to use a yarn that can be washed on a hot cycle for something like this and the Puppets Cotton can be although as I say in my post, this hasn't actually been put to the test yet with this particular make! E x

  10. Everything is great Mrs T.

  11. I am a sucker for food packaging, too. I love the oranges you bought. I probably couldn't resist them, either. I especially like fancy jam jars or tea tins or boxes. I'll have to check out Fortnum and Mason and Harrods when I'm in England.

    I, too, think about healthier food in February. I bought some dried organic beans yesterday from Whole Foods to make some pasta fagioli. (I don't know if you have this chain in England, but it sells all sorts of wonderful organic stuff, including prepared baked goods. I always feel inspired to eat healthier food when I shop there.)

    I enjoyed your response to my post about my yarn stash. I think that for so long I have chosen a particular pattern, and then purchased the yarn for it, that it is hard for me to break out and think up ways to use skeins I have bought for no particular purpose. I eventually would like to sort my yarn by weight and have enough of it to just pull out some to use it when I am inspired, but it takes me so long to complete projects that I get a bit nervous about buying too much. I do have quite a few yarn shops in my area, though, so it's difficult to resist browsing and buying on the weekends.

    Finally, James and Jonathan would love to be able to shoot a 22 at school! Ironically, here, with all of our violence, children get suspended from school if they even draw a picture of a gun.

    All the best.

  12. I love these posts, Elizabeth. Firstly, I can't get over the colour of that soup! Anything that green must be good for you. Homemade custard creams - I need to try these as they look extremely tasty.

    I have often admired crocheted dishcloths but marveled that anyone could use something so pretty to wipe the table with. So glad it's not just me!

    Gillian x

  13. You've been very busy and made some lovely things. Where did you get your custard creme recipe from? I'd love to make some myself.

    1. Hi Anne, the custard cream recipe is Nigella Lawson's from her book "Feast". I don't particularly care for commercial custard creams but these homemade ones I have to say are extraordinarily good! Email me directly if you don't have the book and I'll copy out the recipe for you. E x

  14. You've been very busy and made some lovely things. Where did you get your custard creme recipe from? I'd love to make some myself.

  15. I admire your industry - I don't know where you get the time. I've never made a dishcloth either as I too would be reluctant to immerse my handmade creations in soapy water only to slosh it all over the table. And heart shaped biscuits! I did write a comment on your pom poms but as I've been out of the bloggosphere for a few weeks I forgot my password so not sure what happened - will get back to you. love Judy.

  16. What a busy kitchen! Given the choice of oranges with or oranges without beautiful wrappers, why do we often picked the wrapped? The foil wrapped biscuit in the Christmas biscuit selection tin was almost the most desirable aw we were sure that was the special one (if I was a biscuit manufacturer I'd put my plainest biscuit in the foil just to fool everyone).

    1. This is so true - I always go for the wrapped biscuits in a tin - especially if wrapped in coloured silver paper! But as previously indicated I am hopelessly vulnerable to a nice bit of food packaging which is not very green of me, I know. On the plus side though, I avoid outer packaging like the plague and am very happy not to take a carrier bag! Does this even things up, do you think? Probably not, truth to tell! E x

  17. Your vitamin packed soup looks and sounds delicious, I think I may have a go at making this one, and I'm always knitting new cotton dishcloths, thanks for the link to the 'heart in a square'.............I shall forgo the washing up for now and pop over for a browse.

    kim x

  18. Elizabeth, they offer shooting as a school sport? Wow. Your son is a great shot, though! And the oranges are so pretty in their wrapper - did you know they're considered good luck during the 15 days of Chinese New Year? We're supposed to keep a couple on our mantlepieces, and take them to people's houses when we visit. Your green soup is very appealing, but I'm especially taken with your crocheted dishcloth! Every since I received a few as a gift, I've been thinking about making some for myself, so thank you for the link and the inspiration! :)

  19. That herb soup.... a perfect contrast with the container.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.