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
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.
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!