Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Can you see the sea?

Family holiday, visiting my mum's old school friend in Brighton, circa 1989...

"I can see the seeeeeeeeeeeeea!"
"Oh yes, me too, I can see the sea!"
"I can see the seeeea...oh hang on, are you sure that's not the sky?"

It's a game our family always played, competing to be the first person to say they can see the sea (when they really can) as we drove closer to the coastline in our old red Ford Escort. We lived surrounded by land then, as my parents still do, so the sight of the sea was a once-a-year novelty.

There would often be a dispute, as one of us saw a hazy blue line on the horizon, whether what we could see was the sea, or actually part of the sky. It's especially tricky to tell on those days when the sky is almost full of cloud (oh Mr Barnes, my old geography teacher, would roll his eyes at me forgetting the names of the types of cloud) and there is just a sliver of blue sky visible on the horizon. Sometimes the sea and the sky would be almost exactly the same colour, barely distinguishable from one another.

Memories of this, as well as my walks along the local coastline now that I live near the sea, have inspired my first art embroidery for JumpUp. I used part of a gorgeously soft wool jumper for the base (poor jumper, it had stains on the front as well as a hole - obviously had been worn and loved a lot during it's life!)

I really enjoyed watching this come's been a while since I created something totally by hand (ie no sewing machine) and I have found it quite addictive, so I've already begun sewing my second embroidery, this time inspired by the hills I grew up around.

I have a friend visiting from Bristol soon, looking forward to playing the 'see the sea' game again!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Healthy, right?

Today, I perfected homemade falafels. These are one of my favourite things to eat in summer, and they feel really virtuous (though they're fried, they contain healthy chickpeas and lots of leafy herbs, and they go well with salad) I've tried to make my own a couple of times before, but always got stuck when it came to making them stick together and hold their shape.
This time, I took a recipe from my favourite veggie cookbook (Vegetarian Cooking by Roz Denny and Christine Ingram) and adapted it - the recipe calls for mint, which I didn't have so had to skip that, but I also added one beaten egg and dipped the finished falafels in breadcrumbs. Fried in a little oil saved from a jar of sundried tomatoes (I think it's a mix of olive oil and vegetable oil), they came out beautifully even with the missing mint!

I thought I would share the recipe here. This made me 14 falafels roughly an inch wide.

You need:
A 400 to 425g tin of chickpeas, drained
1 garlic clove, crushed or chopped finely
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaf
1 tbsp fresh mint
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large egg, beaten
One or two slices of bread made into breadcrumbs (2 tbsp for the falafel mix, the rest for dipping the falafels into)
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying

Use a food processor to whizz the chickpeas into a smooth paste, then add the rest of the ingredients apart from the oil and the leftover breadcrumbs. Whizz again (that's the technical term for it, right? :) ) until everything is mixed well. Make the falafel mix into bitesized balls, roll between your hands and roll in breadcrumbs to cover slightly. Heat the oil in a pan - ideally you'll need about a quarter inch deep of oil (half a cm) Fry the falafels gently for about 8 minutes, turning over once.
Serve in warm pitta bread or tortilla wraps with salad and hummous.
Apparently they freeze well (reheat for 15 mins in the oven) so if you have a big food processor, it's probably a good idea to make a big batch at once and save some. Buying a pack of 8 similar sized falafels in my supermarket costs £2, but making them at home is a snip of that (especially now I'm growing my own coriander!) so I recommend giving the recipe a go. :)

I also have been enjoying some homemade icecream...but the recipe isn't quite perfect yet, so I'll save the details until it's just right.
I like to tell myself homemade icecream is much healthier (and I suppose it probably is in that you can minimize the additives in there) so I think I'll be making lots of different flavours this summer. This first attempt was chocolate and peanut butter icecream...made more healthy by having low fat crème fraîche in it, but sadly this does seem to make the iciness a little much and the creaminess a little lacking...

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Salt Ghost aka When Life Gives you Lemons... buy your own lemonade

Reading this lovely blog here (link) I was reminded that I've been meaning to write a post about my Salt Ghost...
At the charity shop I work at, we had a donation last week of a set of salt and pepper shakers. I've seen these around before (I think designed by Alberto Manteilla...can anyone tell me?) really cute pairs of shakers that are in the form of little figures that fit together in a sweet 'hug'. The set we had donated featured a white figure and a purple one, but sadly the purple one was too chipped to sell. I noticed that the white one, separate from his partner, looked like a curious ghost.

I like the quirkiness of it (sort of creepy but cute), so I bought the shaker and he stands on top of my little set of drawers in my kitchen. Perhaps next time I have a guest over, and they ask for the salt, I will tell them it is inside the ghost... :)

Here in the second picture you'll notice 4 lemons sitting on my lemon squeezer. In the unusual heat of last week, I got it into my head that I was going to try and make my own traditional lemonade (that is, the still kind, not the fizzy sort) I very earnestly took photos of the freshly-washed lemons before I started and then I used a recipe found on the internet.
It took me ages to zest the lemons, as I don't have a proper zester...I tried using a cheese grater (no luck) then a vegetable peeler (even less luck than no luck!) and then finally resorted to peeling the skin off by hand. I do NOT recommend this, especially if you have sensitive skin and a paper cut (I'm really prone to both) Ouch! I even managed to get a bit of lemon rind down under my thumbnail, which then pressed back the sensitive 'quick' behind the nail and...well, I've heard there's a type of torture not unlike this, and I can well believe it...VERY painful!

After over an hour of peeling the lemons, then carefully removing as much of the pith as possible, steeping the lemon peel in hot water for an hour and then juicing the lemons and preparing the sugary lemon water, then straining it all to get rid of the peel and 'bits', I put my jug into the fridge content in the knowledge that it would all have been worth the effort.

A while later, a glass of cool iced lemonade in my hand, I took my first eager sip...and oh, how I regretted it! Sour as can be, and not sweet at all (despite 100g of caster sugar having gone into the 750ml of water), the lemonade was as painful to drink as it had been to make, making my gums and lips sting. I added some more sugar, and watered it down repeatedly until it was drinkable...having spent so much time on it and not wishing to waste the lemons and sugar I'd used, I forced myself to drink it over the next two days.
The moral of the story, I think, is don't use any old recipe you find on the internet. Usually, I'm lucky and find a good recipe...but sometimes, not so much.
In future, I think I'll cross reference a few recipes to compare ingredients, and use trusted sources wherever possible - such as dear Nigella, who has a brilliant recipe for chocolate banana cake on her website that came out totally delicious when I tried it (did I remember photos that time? Nope...I ate it too fast...oink)
Or perhaps one of my dear readers knows of a less painful recipe for traditional lemonade?