Rendang Style Beef and time to catch up with myself…

It’s been quiet on the blog for a while. Spain was hectic and by the time we got back to England just over four weeks ago we made a conscious decision to take things a little more slowly for a while. Old favourites were made in the kitchen, lots of comforting chickpea stews and delicious bowls of Spanish style lentils.

There was time for me to relax a little finishing off my summer quilt. It will have to wait to be used until next year as it’s enormous but thin. Not warm enough for the cold winter weather that has moved in here on the English South Coast.

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Totally hand made, Every. Single. Stitch. And I loved making it!

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Then I moved on to making my first proper socks for Big Man to keep cosy in. Thanks to Evie at Pendle Stitches for sending me this great pattern.

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I know the heel looks a bit odd, but it is a proper one, I promise! It’s just a dodgy photo.

And now, as we are one day away from December (some of my pals on the other side of the world are already into December!), I am allowing myself to tentatively think about Christmas menus. But we also have another very important celebration on 27th December. Best pal Ria’s birthday, and I have the honour of cooking a meal for a group of us. Nothing remotely Christmassy, so we’ve chosen a curry menu. A mix of different curries, some old favourites like Monkfish and Prawn curry. And a new one. A Rendang Style Beef Curry.

I say Rendang Style and not Beef Rendang as I don’t think the method of cooking it is entirely authentic. I’ve also been told that if the curry is saucy, it’s not a Rendang. So, a curry cooked differently, with plenty of sauce –  but well worth the time it takes to prepare and the longish list of ingredients. I had a trial run with it and (she says humbly) it was amazing! Fantastic flavours, meat that melted in your mouth, second and third helpings and clean plates all round.  I’ll post some of the other recipes in the coming week. Lemon and Cashew nut rice, potato and spinach curry and Keralan parathas to follow soon.

Beef Rendang

Ingredients (Recipe from Sainsbury’s Oct 2015 Magazine) Serves 6

  • 1 piece of brisket or silverside about 1.7kg cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
  • 8 green cardamom pods, crushed
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, hot chili powder
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 400ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of palm sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
  • 8-10 kaffir lime leaves
  • 4 stalks of lemongrass, lightly “bashed”
  • juice of 2 limes
  • Chopped coriander, toasted dessicated coconut and red chili slivers to garnish (optional)

 

For the Spice Paste

  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeld
  • 20g root ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 20g galangal peeled and finely chopped (or use paste)
  • up to 6 birds eye chilis, stalks removed (I used a couple of my super hot, Bexhill grown chilis)
  • 3 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Make the paste by blending all the ingredients in a food processor with about 50ml water to make it smooth. Add to the beef and marinate overnight in the fridge.

I used a slow cooker but this can also be done in the oven which you will need to preheat to 160C, (fan 140c) or gas 3. Otherwise preheat your slow cooker.

Heat the coconut or vegetable oil in a large pan or your casserole dish if it can go on the stove top. Add the cardamom, star anise, bay leaf, cinnamon sticks, cloves and ground spices and stir fry until fragrant.

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Add the beef and marinade, fry for a few minutes but you don’t need to brown. Then add the crumbled stock cube, coconut milk, tamarind paste, Thai fish sauce, lime leaves and lemongrass and bring to the boil.

Cover and transfer to the preheated oven for about 3 hours – I cooked mine in the slow cooker on low for about 8 hours.  Return to the hob and simmer, uncovered until the sauce has thickened and reduced. When you are ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and garnish.

I made mine ahead and found that when it has chilled there was a layer of oil from the cooking which solidified and was easy to remove. Of course, you don’t need to do this!

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We drank this with a delicious sauvignon blanc, but I think an ice cold beer would be great too.

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No cooking…but some patchworking and quilting

So, the quilt was completed the day before Christmas Eve. A special present to me and Big Man made by my own fair hands. And the terrible thing is that now I’m hooked!

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It was made entirely by hand apart from the strips I added to widen it and the first run round of the binding.

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The strips are green, not blue as they look in the photo – and just look at that binding…thanks Kate!

 

Ok, so it’s not perfect and I had to restitch the initial quilting as it was so awful. But I did keep one line of it in, next to the final attempt to show myself that practice makes better (but not yet perfect!).

 

Dodgy Big Stitches next to slightly less dodgy and a bit smaller stitches...
Dodgy Big Stitches next to slightly less dodgy and a bit smaller stitches…

There are plenty of wonky lines, but hey, that adds to the charm. And I’m sticking with that (wonky) line.

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For details of the quilt pattern and fabric, take a look here and here.

And now that I’m hooked, I just couldn’t help myself when these fabrics on sale called out to me…was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation”?!

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A big thank you to both Kate from talltalesfromchiconia (especially her quilt binding tutorial) and Evie  (check out the link for her Chateau Quilt) over at Pendle Stitches for their advice and encouragement, especially when I started the hand quilting of the quilt top – I was all set to give up, but thanks to their kind words I pushed on and gradually became addicted…

Patchwork Progress

I apologise for the lack of cooking and recipe posts recently. I have made some new dishes, a wonderful beef casserole a few days ago but the photos – not so good…

Anyway, some of you know that I am a crafty Chica (of the creative rather than sly kind) when I’m not cooking or renovating. My latest project is a patchwork quilt, which almost follows a pattern and is being made by hand. Time for a big thank you to a new blogging pal, Kate over at talltalesfromchiconia, who has an amazing blog full of beautiful projects and a lot of quilts! She has been giving me, a humble novice quilter, some really great tips – thanks Kate!

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So, just to give some “technical” details for anyone interested, the pattern is based on one called Garden Walk from the book Jelly Roll Dreams compiled by Pam and Nicky Lintott. I used a Moda Jelly Roll (I think the colour was called Holly Wishes which turned out to be quite Christmassy!) plus extra fabric.

The blocks are now completed but I want to make the quilt wider to properly cover our King Size bed, so will be adding a contrast of sashes vertically between the rows of four blocks.

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The next step is to assemble the quilt block and then make the quilt “sandwich” and start hand quilting…

Spicy Pumpkin and Pear Soup…and a little sewing

So, remember our pear tree? Yes, the one with an awful lot of pears on it. We’ve been really enjoying eating them in crumbles, purées, stewed but mainly au naturel and sometimes with cheese. Delicious. But they don’t store. I know, I tried it out. I spent ages wrapping a load up in newspaper and storing them somewhere cool and dark only to find a horrible, stinky mush a few days ago. Nasty.

Luckily we really did make the most of them and one of the dishes I made was a hearty soup using some of the crisper, under ripe pears left at the very end.

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Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course)

  • About 1kg of pumpkin or squash (peeled, seeded and cut into cubes)
  • 3 medium pears (peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 1 level teaspoon of hot chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tin (400g) coconut milk
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked pimenton to serve

(Inspired by a recipe from the book Economy Gastronomy)

Heat the oil and add the pumpkin. Fry on a medium heat until it starts to colour a little (you may need to do this in batches) then add the spices and garlic. Cook for a minute then add the pear, coconut milk and stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, blend to a texture you enjoy (I used a stick blender) season to taste and serve with a sprinkle of smoked pimenton.

For any of you who are wondering what the heck I’ve been up to in the absence of great cooking facilities (and apart from house renovations), I decided to set myself up with a little winter project. I am hand making a patchwork quilt, following (sort of) a design pattern.

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Am really enjoying making the quilt top but may back out of hand quilting it myself. We’ll see.  Perhaps next year I’ll be eating this soup snuggled under my quilt!

Sewing Sunday – Fifties Franken Frock

Morning! Hope you are all having a wonderful weekend.  Just a quickie from me today, another of my little sewing projects.

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This summer dress is made from a beautiful vintage fabric I bought in a second-hand shop in Hastings Old Town over a year ago, when we were house hunting in the UK. The shop sells bric a brac, crockery, books etc and I just happened to ask if there was any fabric tucked away. Luckily for me the owner told me that a man had come in that morning with a suitcase full of fabrics he had found when clearing out his late mother’s effects. He believed the fabric had been purchased in the 1950s and then never used. What a find, I snapped it all up.

I was happy to think that I could turn this beautiful, summery fabric into a Happy Dress, I hope the original purchaser would have approved.

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The dress is a bit of a Frankenstein, in that it has been made up from parts of different patterns. The top of my Vogue Going to the Wedding Dress and the skirt (with some added pleats) and pockets of my recently made Tiramisu.

I know I will enjoy wearing this dress the whole summer through.

Old Favourites and Favourite Gadgets

When we were in England, people asked us what we missed about Spain. Mostly it was the light, which sounds odd, I think people expected us to say “the sun”.  We missed family and friends of course, we missed the gatherings and fiestas. But we knew we’d be back and we were having fun too.

I missed being able to cook “properly”, I didn’t have all my gadgets with me, so being back in my fully equipped kitchen with my hand blender, my food processor and my terracotta bowls has allowed me to make some old favourites.

Salmorejo (do click on the link for the recipe and a “how to) is a summer favourite, and now that I can buy tomatoes without taking out a mortgage to do so, this will be made every few days.

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Of course, I was able to make pil pil while in England, but it does taste so much better when cooked in the traditional terracotta bowl. And just to prove that you can “pil pil” so many different things, this week I did clams.

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And sewing…oh sewing. How I missed my sewing machine. We’ve only been back a week but that wasn’t going to stop me getting my hands on some fabric gifted to me, and a beautiful pattern from the very talented Steph over at 3 Hours Past and making up her wonderful Tiramisu dress pattern. If you fancy making the wonderful dessert instead of the dress, do head over to Karen’s fabulous post which tells you how!

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Steph designs and makes patterns for real women – curvy ones, slim ones, straight up and down ones.

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The designs and patterns are beautiful with excellent instructions and I’m thrilled with my new summer dress.

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My sourdough starter, courtesy of Sawsan’s “how to”, is bubbling away nicely, so at the weekend the mixer with the dough hook will be put to work and I think I’ll really feel like I’ve settled back in again properly.

Staple Guns and Happy Accident Pasta

It’s been a busy old time here and writing has been virtually impossible. Floorboards are up, plumbing is going down, kitchen units have been delivered and it’s freezing cold. Oh well, I think we’ve got to the stage where it can’t possibly get any worse, just better, so onwards and upwards.

In between the mucky stuff, we’ve continued to eat well. Never fear, Chica and Big Man won’t fade away. I had planned one evening to make a carbonara but got home to find, shock horror, not an egg in the house. As we have no chickens here, I had to make do and ended up with what I call my Happy Accident pasta.

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I fried some garlic and finely chopped onion then added a few rashers of finely chopped smoked streaky bacon and a handful of sliced mushrooms.

When the pasta was cooked I kept a little of the cooking water and stirred in the bacon and mushrooms plus a good dollop of crème fraiche, some finely chopped spinach and about half a cup of chopped up dolcelatte.

Result? Creamy, delicious, quick pasta but most definitely not carbonara.

Then it was back to work tidying up some dining chairs we bought second hand. Quite a traditional style but it will work in the house. The chairs had a regency stripe silk material covering them but it had seen better days…many bottoms had clearly sat on them and enjoyed countless meals around the table.

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So it was off with old material.

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Cutting out of a new piece using the old one as a template (and the fabric was recycled too from a friend’s kind donation of unwanted curtains). Fortunately Luna and Alfi (who appears to be headless in the photo) were around to comfort test the fabric.

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A staple gun frenzy followed.

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Now we have six fancy new dining chairs…who wants to come round and help wear them out?!

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Edwardian Style Standard Lamp

Isn’t it always the same…when you’re looking to buy something you can never find it in quite the right style, shape colour? And then, when you least expect it, something perfect throws itself at your feet?!

Ugly sofa too - don't worry, it's not permament!
Ugly sofa too – don’t worry, it’s not permament!

One of the exciting things about our new project here in Bexhill is that we get to furnish it too! When we set up our home in Spain it was relatively easy as we both already had furniture and we merged, purged and started making new memories. Here we had nothing. Starting from scratch is fun. Not starting anew though as we are both agreed that we like buying second hand, preloved, vintage, antique and car boot bargains. Clearly car boot bargains cost less than antiques, but they give us just as much pleasure. Half the fun is restoring, cleaning, seeing the potential.

Grubby Feet
Grubby Feet

The property is part of what would have been an Edwardian Family “Villa”. This means it was built around 1903, from what we can tell, and whilst we don’t intend to live in the past completely….we need a decent oven, tv and internet for goodness sake…some older touches will also work well.

Dashing around the other day I popped into a local shop which deals with House Clearances. Some of the stuff they have is junk, some is clearly high quality and very much loved (and priced) antique furniture. And some of it falls between the two. I spotted a wrought iron standard lamp with a very ugly pink lampshade. It spoke to me. Really, it did. I could hear a most refined Edwardian Lady reclining in the bay window of her drawing room on a chaise longue saying “Pray, take this lamp stand home. Clean it, love it and it will add some much needed elegance to your home. Oh, and your hair could do with a brush…standards are slipping”.

Clean Feet!
Clean Feet!

So we haggled a little and the bemused owner helped me put it into the car with the back window down so that it would fit and off to House Number 2 I drove where Big Man was impatiently waiting for me to arrive with a bag of masonry nails.

Looking much better now
Looking much better now

It was dingy brown and I had planned to clean it and paint it black and then buy a new lampshade. So I cleaned it and underneath all the grease and grime it was a beautiful cream colour. Then I popped out to the supermarket and was waylaid in another House Clearance shop (I know now where all the good ones are) and found a perfect sized lampshade in a gold colour and once more turned up at House Number 2 with nothing for dinner but an unexpected  bargain that I wore on my head for extra effect.

Dressed to impress
Dressed to impress

Then I rummaged in a bag of goodies given to me my Best Friend’s sister who is downsizing and used to make costumes for shows, curtains, clothes and found some beautiful lace and a strip of beading. Two evenings later it was done and I heard my Edwardian Lady murmur in approval “Beautiful my dear, very elegant indeed. But your hair could still do with a good brush”.

Autumn Tomato and Vegetable Soup

Lunch in our home right now doesn´t always happen at lunch time. Sometimes it doesn´t happen at all, but we do eventually eat and everything tastes even better as hunger – so they say – is the best seasoning.

Soups are perfect as they just need to be heated up and can be eaten quickly if we´re in a rush, or enjoyed with a hearty sandwich or some cold meats and cheeses if we have the luxury of a little time. This was a quick one to prepare, and was warming and tasty due to the addition of fresh ginger and smoked pimentón.

Of course, I´d recommend a soup bowl and not a coffee cup without a handle, but the choice is yours!

Ingredients (serves two to four, depending on how hungry you are)

  • 500ml of sieved tomatoes (passata)
  • 500ml of water or vegetable stock
  • 1 large carrot peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 large courgette peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 large onion peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium parsnip peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • About 10 green beans cut into small pieces
  • A level teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • One heaped teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • A teaspoon of marmite (optional)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • A tablespoon of fresh olive oil

Put all the ingredients except the oil into a saucepan and simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Taste for seasoning and either serve as is with chunks of vegetables or add the olive oil and blend until smooth and creamy.

PS. The pretty napkins were made from an old sheet my best friend gave me that she found in a charity shop. She knows how I like to recycle and refashion and was sick of me commenting that I was missing sewing/knitting/crochet etc.  She gave it to me and said “there you go, it´s big enough for you to make a tablecloth and six napkins by hand”. So I did!

Sewing Sunday – Summer Skirt

Remember my Safari Skirt? When I bought it, I also came across another one, in a pretty pale blue pattern.  This was more fitted, made up of panels, but way too small at the waist. It also had a zip.

Here´s how I made it fit (and I can be quite determined when I want to be)!

First I cut the skirt from around the top to give me the length I wanted less 2cm (I was going to add a waistband).

Then I unpicked the zip from the piece I had removed (you may need to do this first if it overlaps into the section of skirt that remains). I unpicked the side of the skirt to the length of the zip and reinserted the zip.

The skirt was now too big around the waist for me, so I added some darts at the front and back to make it fit comfortably.

Then I cut the piece of fabric from the top of the skirt lengthways to make two narrow strips which I joined together to make one long strip (this would become my new waistband, although I would not need it all as it became one very long strip).

This was pinned wrong sides together round the outside of the skirt.

I left a few cm at each zip edge to turn in.

This was stitched down, then the waistband turned over and under on the inside of the skirt and stitched again. I did this by hand because I enjoy hand stitching, but it could be done more quickly with machine stitching.

Finally I tucked in the ends of the waistband to give me a little overlap to add some snap fasteners and I also reinserted the hanging loops which I had recycled from the original waistband.

The finished skirt, which will is cool and comfy…I love soft cotton which is slightly “worn”, perfect for running around in the heat.

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The photo makes it look very short and “stumpy” – I should have removed the half-finished top from Marilyn, I am sure that would have helped!