Cooking…

My nephew was recently awarded his First Dan in karate and to celebrate he wanted a family party. My Dad and stepmother have travelled up from Kent and I, foolishly, agreed to make two quiches (from scratch!) and a meringue based pudding. It’s taken me most of the day and the meringues are still in the oven but here is the goats cheese and summer vegetables (baby courgette, mangetout, peasand spring onions, with tomato on top) quiche:

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And the mushroom, leek & gruyere quiche:

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And the best bit! Summer berries in a creme de cassis syrup. I made the syrup with water, brown sugar and the creme de cassis. It tastes fab.

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Let’s just hope the meringues turn put ok. After all of this I am exhausted. Might have a snooze! 😉

What is a salad…

This is a frivolous post but I thought it might amuse people. My husband reckons he’s happy to eat salad, which we do a lot in the summer. Today, because we had a meeting, I wanted my dinner early, while he said he’d hang on til afterwards. I had rocket leaves, watercress leaves, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, egg and a few potatoes. It was a proper looking salad and it was delicious. Damon had this:
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I pointed out that a tomato on top of egg, potato and cheese with chilli mayo is not a salad. He indignantly pointed to a small amount of celery… I think I’ll be making future salads!

We’re back

The last two weeks have been slightly crazy. I work in politics & am elected in local government: I’m not going to talk about my party or personal politics because that’s not what my blog is about, but I mention it for explanation. Election times are odd because you become utterly focused on the first Thursday in May and nothing else happens in your life because you’re so busy. I wasn’t up for election (not up til 2015) but two friends of mine were. I’ve been an election agent and worked strategically on election campaigns, but this time I was able to really focus on the campaigns of my friends. Both Sam and Josh (for those are their names) are also keen knitters and Sam is also great at crochet. Outside of elections, when not regaling each other with the latest bit of scurrilous gossip about our opposition (and sometimes our colleagues!) we tend to talk all things yarn. Then there’s the Sunday afternoon knitty get togethers!

But this is election time and I haven’t touched any knitting or crochet for two weeks. I haven’t had time to miss it; pretty much the only creative thing I’ve done is make dinner each evening (It seemed only fair to feed the troops after I’d made them deliver or canvass for 12 hours!). I have to say that the pasta sauce I made on Wednesday evening was blinding. I was really proud of it, so I’ve put the recipe here:

Claire’s Slightly Spicy Homemade Pasta Sauce

You need a big pan!

2 red onions, chopped into large chunks
4 cloves of garlic, crushed, peeled & roughly chopped
2 tins/ packets chopped tomatoes (800g)
2 jars/ packets Italian passatta (900g)
1 pint of stock (I use Knorr veggie stock pots)
1 small tin of tomato purée
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
A good squirt of Tabasco
Salt & pepper

Fry the onions in the oil until softened. Add the garlic & fry for another minute. Make the stock & mix the tomato puree into the hot mixture to loosen it. Add all the other ingredients & heat on high until its bubbling. Turn down & simmer with a lid on for a least an hour. Stir occasionally. Blend the sauce to mix in the onions & garlic. It should now be thick & unctuous… Perfect over pasta. If you reduce it further it makes a great sauce for a homemade pizza.

So, back to my reason for my absence… we all worked hard and in the end Sam won his seat and Josh came within 200 votes of winning his, in a much harder to win seat. Having had five hours sleep Wednesday into Thursday and got to bed at 5am on Friday morning, yesterday I wasn’t much use but this morning I feel much better. Looking forward to three days off now! And of course, getting back to my knitting.

A really nice weekend

I’ve been staying at my Mum’s house this weekend, looking after her 10 month old spangold puppy Lucy, while she’s off having a great time with her friend in Rome. (I’m not jealous, much!) Mollie is here with me, so we’ve been sharing puppy sitting duties. A spangold is a cross between a springer spaniel and a golden retriever, and at 10 months Lucy is the same height as Mollie, though of a slighter build. She has also inherited all of the enthusiasm and energy of her parents’ breeds; she is very loving, but also quite naughty and is much more inclined to have a woof at stray birds/ cats/ neighbours. Living, as I do, with a dog who always surprises herself when she barks, this is quite a change and Lucy tends to need supervising when she’s in the garden, particularly if she’s in a woofy mood.

I abandoned the dogs for a couple of hours on Friday evening and went to a little get together at my local yarn store. I had been invited previously and hadn’t been able to go, so it was really nice to see what other people are making and just have a chat about knitting and crochet, and to squish some nice yarn! I had a lovely time.

So, Saturday I was supposed to be out all day working on my friends’ election campaign for their County Council divisions. It started out quite nice in Somerset, but by 11am is was absolutely chucking it down and by lunchtime everyone was soaking and a decision was made to cancel the day. Apart from this commitment, I knew that my entire weekend would be looking after Lucy and feeding and watering my sister who was abandoning her family to her husband and ensconsing herself in Mum’s dining room to finish her last essay of the year on her degree course. Saturday afternoon passed in a pleasant blur of listening to my audio book, continuing with my crochet blanket for my Mum and making the occasional cup of tea for my sister.

I had arranged for two different dog walkers to take Mollie and Lucy out over the weekend; not just sheer laziness on my part, but because Mum, the husband and I are off to my stepson’s wedding in ten days time and the dogs need to be looked after for three days; we’ve someone coming in to stay with them overnight, but they need to be taken for a walk. The paid-for walks were to introduce them to the women who will be looking after them. Clearly neither of them do separation anxiety or are in the slightest disclined to go off with strangers as they both trotted off as happy as can be without a backwards look.

Saturday evening my friends Sam and Josh popped round for dinner and to watch The Voice – the husband came too – and I made a butternut squash and chickpea tagine. It was really lovely – you can get all sorts of similar receipes from the BBC Food website – I would definitely recommend the combination. After the husband had gone to work, taking my sister home, the three of us settled down for a cosy chat about yarn. Sam has a copy of the new Debbie Bliss homewares crochet book – which I had a good squizz at – it is divine!

Here’s Lucy giving Josh some love!
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And Sunday, ah Sunday – a delicious mix of sitting in the conservatory, crochet, sunshine and talking crochet and knitted cushions with my sister (while she was on a break from her essay). The only bit that involved any sort of work was reading her essay and making some leek and potato soup. Because I was feeling lazy I left the skin on the potato – it changed the flavour, but not in a bad way…

And this is the ongoing blanket.
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