Friday, 30 December 2011

Yotam Ottolenghi's Baked Tomatoes with Baguette


The other evening we tried Ottolenghi's baked tomatoes with baguette recipe, omitting the anchovies to make it completely vegetarian. We had it with some sausage-shaped fake-meat soya products, which was probably not what Ottolenghi intended, but never mind - it was yum. If you fancy making it, you can find the recipe here.


























And since this will more than likely be my last post of 2011 (I'm sorry, where did the last 12 months go..?) -  Happy New Year everyone! See you in again in 'twenty-twelve'...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

Yarn Storm Spot


A few weekends ago Ben and myself wandered down Brick Lane way for a spot of Christmas shopping (and a quick jaunt in Poppies for some on-the-go chips, yum), and we happened across this tasty piece of yarn storming. I love that this one is in crochet, my current craft of choice, and covering a suspended bike, which is pretty unusual. The 'We heart London' embellishment is also a nice touch. Well done to whoever's responsible for it!


It was above this street art which I thought was pretty cool too. Shame someone's graffitied 'cock' on it, but I guess you can't have everything!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Easy Vegan / Vegetarian Mince Pie Recipe


So it turns out making your own mince pies isn't too tricky at all. Well, half making them - truth be told, I did not make my own filling in this instance. This is perhaps cheating a bit, but if you have the time to devote to making your own filling (which I'm told does get you the absolutely best flavour) then you are a better woman than I. I opted for Sainsbury's Taste the Difference mincemeat in these (after it was recommended in this article) and had no complaints - a good consistency and just the right side of boozey. Making shortcrust party, as used in these, is a genuinely simple process - and if your wanting to make vegan mince pies, I'm guessing shop-bought probably isn't an option anyway. So don't be shy - step away from the Jus-Rol, crack out the scales, and get baking!

You will need (makes approximately 8 generous mince pies)

1 jar of mincemeat filling (you may have a little left over)
100g vegan spread or butter
200g plain flour
50g icing sugar
Juice of one big Clementine, or small cup of regular orange juice
A pinch of salt
A splash of milk (but not if making vegan option)


How to make

Pre-heat oven to 200/180oc fan. Wipe a small amount of spread/butter into the holes of a cupcake or shallow muffin tin, and set aside.

Combine your flour, icing sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add in the vegan spread or butter (if using butter, you want it cold and cut into chunks). With your finger tips, rub the spread/butter into the flour until it has become a breadcrumb-like consistency (this may take a few minutes). Next, add in a tablespoon or two of the juice and start to bring the mixture together with your hands. You can add a bit more if you feel it needs it. Knead until it's formed into a nice dough.

Take half of the dough and place on a floured surface and, with a floured rolling-pin, roll out to 1/3-1/2 centimetre thickness. Using round cookie cutters or the rim of an appropriate sized glass, cut out 8 discs of dough. Transfer these to your greased tin holes, smoothing them up the edges - they should just come above the sides of the holes. Fill each with a generous spoon of mince pie filling - don't skimp! Then take the remainder of the dough and roll this out, using a slightly smaller cutter (or glass) this time. Lay over the top of the filling so the disc sits just inside the pastry case, and pinch together all around the edge to seal (this is just how I make them - feel free to experiment!). If you have any cute little cutters, you can use any leftover bits of dough to make decorative shapes for the top - I went for festive stars.

If making vegetarian pies, you can now brush the tops with a touch of milk to give a bit of extra sheen and colour. If making vegan pies, skip this step.

Bake pies for around 20 minutes, until golden brown. When done, leave to cool in tray for a few minutes, before gently prising out and transferring to a cooling rack. In my opinion always best served warm with a splash of cream. Christmas nom.



You might also like:
>> 8 Homemade Christmas Card Ideas
>> How to Make Wine or Cider Mulling Kits
>> Easy Raspberry Gin Liqueur Recipe
>> Upcycled Wrapping Paper DIY
>> Swirly Mince Pies Recipe 

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Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Card Making for the Perpetually Unorganised





This December has felt particularly busy, so I decided to go uber simple with my Christmas card designs so as not to cause myself any extra unnecessary stress. This were made using blank cards, gold and silver wrapping paper (Paperchase), some paper doilies, and some good old fashioned cutting and sticking. And that's it! Even with this simple design I couldn't face the idea of making enough for everyone I should really give a card to, so I'm cheating a bit - enough home-made ones to go to close friends and family, and a pack of nice shop-bought ones for work colleagues and the like. There just isn't enough time in the day!

Have you had time to home-make cards this year? I wouldn't blame you if you haven't!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

  
I managed to cajole Ben into getting a Christmas tree at the weekend, and we decorated it simply (and cheaply) with a string of clear fairy lights that we already had, a pack of little gold baubles (£2.50) and home-made paper pom-poms. They're easy to make with just a few pieces of tissue paper and a bit of yarn. See how here, here, and here (big ones).

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Avocado and Butter Bean Wrap with Spinach, Tomato and Chedder Cheese

After a heavy weekend of meals out and huge early Christmas dinner with friends (yay!), it felt like time to try and lighten things up on the food front. This wrap contains lots of healthy tasty bits to ward off the one-too-many-mince-pies-blues, and it's filling and moreish to boot. Scroll down to the end of the post for some nutritional facts about the ingredients used in this wrap, if you fancy.


How to make (two wraps)

Take half a tin of butter beans, drain and rinse, and spend a bit of time squeezing them out of their skins (it's quite therapeutic actually). Discard skins. Add to this the flesh of one ripe avocado, roughly chopped, a squeeze of lemon juice, dash of Tabasco sauce (to taste), a pinch of sea salt and good grind of black pepper. Mash together with a fork.

Take a wholemeal flour tortilla and spread with a little mayonnaise (optional). Spoon half of the avocado/butter mean mixture down the centre of the tortilla, sprinkle over a teaspoon or two of finely chopped onion, and lay over halves of baby plum (or other) tomatoes. Sprinkle over fresh torn coriander leaf. Grate half a small carrot over this, then a decent amount of mature cheddar. Finally, top with a good handful of baby spinach leaves. Repeat for second wrap.





I like to fold my wraps in from the bottom and top first (by this I mean the edges with the least tortilla showing), before folding over the left hand side, tucking the filling under with my hand, then rolling all the way over, keeping the bottom and top edges tucked in. I find this holds together pretty securely. If you're not eating straight away, wrapping tightly in foil keeps everything neat, and when your ready to chow down you can just peel back the top, leaving foil on the bottom half to hold. Clean fingers! Sweet.


  • Avocado contains a wide-range of anti-inflammatory nutrients, which help to prevent osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. It's also full of carotenoids, as well as just the right amount of dietary fats to absorb them optimally. 
  • Carrots are a good source of beta-carotene (funnily enough),  but also of a wide variety of antioxidants and other health-supporting nutrients. Numerous studies have documented the cardiovascular benefits of carrots.
  • Spinach is pretty much the dude of the salad leaf world. An excellent source of various antioxidant nutrients—including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and manganese—plus a very good source of the antioxidant zinc and a good source of the antioxidant selenium. It's also high in vitamin K which is important in maintaining bone health. 
  • Butter beans are a good non-meaty source of protein, as well as dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals - particularly magnesium and iron.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Simple Homemade Wreath


Being a bit strapped for cash at the moment (or as ever, should I say), I don't really have the funds to splash out on a luxurious wreath, but I can certainly scrape together a few sheets of tissue paper for a homemade version.


This is a very simple, minimal wreath. And by 'minimal', I mean easy - the base is just a ring of cardboard (for a template, just draw around a large plate, then draw around a smaller plate inside it), and the leaves are cut out of two shades of green tissue paper (try your local stationary shop rather than Paperchase - I found larger packs for less money). I layered up several pieces of tissue before cutting out, which made the job a lot quicker. Then I simply started sticking as I went, layering the leaves on top of each other, then tucking the last layer underneath when I got back to the beginning. Easy peasy.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Christmas Gift Guide: Etsy and Online

For those of you who didn't make it along to the frankly awesome Bust Christmas Craftacular, I thought I'd put together a little gift guide of some of the lovely stall holders that you missed. With 16 days until Christmas, I reckon you've still got time to order online - if you get your skates on!


Gemma Correll brooches, £20



Caroline Dulko cushions, £21.73

General Pattern screenprint, £70

  

Lucie Ellen necklaces, £8 and £9



Jenine Basil hair clips, £12.52



Jill purses, £20

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Quick Stocking Filler Idea: Crochet Flower Egg Cozy


Sometimes I'm drawn to quick crochet projects that are really 'just because' - i.e. the finished item serves no real purpose at all. Ordinarily when I get this urge I whip up a jam jar cover (lovely nonsense), but lately I've been making a small pile of crochet flowers and the other day I took the plunge and whipped up my first crochet egg cozy. Anyone who got all riled up over the utter uselessness of  the crochet apple jacket on the Guardian website should look away now. I do fully appreciate that soft boiled eggs don't really need to be kept snug for the, oh, 30 seconds they spend in the egg cup before being shovelled into ones gob, but just look at that cutesy crochet goodness. Aaaahhhhh.

I used patterns from Cute and Easy Crochet for both the egg cozy pattern and the flower, but you can find various ones on the interwebs. I quite like the look of this multicoloured granny square style one, or if you wanted you could do this fairly mental looking chick - I imagine kids would get a kick out of it. I think my favourite might be this bobble hat style one though - extra cuteness points for sure.

Are you crafting any little stocking fillers this year?

 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Crafty goings on in London: Christmas Special!

The time of sparkly lights, warm spiced booze and eating your weight in Quality Street is upon us! Whether you're looking for a Christmas market at which to buy some original gifts or a crafty event where you can have a go at making something festive, there's a lot going on this month to keep you busy... (click pictures for links)
*****


21 November - 12 December, Mondays - Saturdays 11am-7pm (until 9pm On Thursdays)

If you'd prefer to support UK designers this Christmas, you could pop along to this place - and be rewarded with free festive drinks.




Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th December, 12-6pm (until 8pm on Friday), £5 (children free)


If you want to take your Christmas shopping off of the high street, this might be a nice alternative. For one weekend, over 100 independent designers will be setting up shop in Shoreditch town hall with glass, ceramics, jewellery, women’s and men’s fashion and accessories, children’s clothing and toys, stationery, home-wares and furniture on offer. 

For cheaper entry, you can download a 2 for 1 voucher here. Alternatively, if you fancy late night shopping on Friday with a free drink, buy a £5 ticket through Time Out deals.



Thursday 8th December, 6.30-10pm, Free

Described as a 'drop-in evening pop-up party', this event promises an alternative to mass production and useless consumerism. Bring along your unwanted gifts, no-longer-needed personal items or homemade creations to be re-packaged for gift sharing or giving to charity. Party games, music and drinks also included.


Thursday 8th December, 8-11.30pm, Free

At the last Craft Guerrilla craft night of the year (and until February) you'll be able to buy special edition Christmas craft packs, get a new vintage frock, a lovely retro hair do and also also have two mini workshops to choose from. Sounds good, especially for that price.


Inappropriate Card Making @ Drink, Shop & Do
Wednesday 7th, 14th & 21st December, any time, Free when you buy a drink

Have a hot spiced cider and let your imagination flow....

Saturday 10th December, 11-5pm, £2 (children free)

This fair boasts over 80 stalls selling handmade wares from UK designer-makers, plus a gift wrapping area, workshops for all ages, Christmas stage area and personal shopping guide. Phew.


Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December, 11-5pm, Free


With 50+ handpicked stalls over two days, plenty of hands-on workshops, a bar, DJ’s and a pop up tea room, this looks to be a nice Christmas market to pop along to south of the river. 
Festive Cake Pop Making @ The Create Place
Monday 12th December, 6.30-9pm and Sunday 18 December 2-4.30pm, £44 (£22 concs.)

If you've always fancied turning your hand to these cutesy little baked items, why not pop along to this workshop at The Create Place where you'll learn all the necessary techniques, with a festive twist.



Wednesday 14th December, 6.30-10pm, Free

Come along to this Etsy Christmas party and workshop with some of your plainer crockery in tow and jazz it up with colourful doodles. Then keep it for yourself, or re-gift it for Christmas. Sweet.

*****

I've tried to be thorough, but I'm sure lots of things have slipped by me; any other crafty Christmas events that you've spotted?
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