Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Just a reminder...

The new blog is here:


www.thepumpkinlife.co.uk

 

This blog will be taken down on Friday.  Please update your bookmarks if you intend to make the jump! : )

 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Moving on

I'm moving blogs again, for the second time in 18 months. I apologise!

This is the result of a few things - I've wanted to change over to Wordpress for a while, I've wanted to buy my own domain name for a while and I've wanted to change the focus of my blog (just a little) for quite some time.

I also need to steer well clear of my employer's new social media policy. For that reason, this
blog will need to be taken down in the next few weeks as it contains so many identifying references.

The new blog is here:

www.thepumpkinlife.co.uk

 

I hope you will join me. I wish you all the best and thank you for stopping by, commenting and linking to me over the years.

xx

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hearty stew


I have always carried a little guilt for my dislike of organ meats. It makes sense to me that we shouldn't just be picking the finest cuts and feeding the rest to cats. Meat production is ethically complicated, more so if the only product we choose to utilize from the resources, energy and pain that goes into it is individually wrapped chicken breasts and steak cuts. Whilst I have never been quite that extravagant with my meat, I don't get along too well with offal. Sausages, black pudding and pate are fine. Its not a visceral thing (no pun intended) but rather the smell and taste, so anything heavily seasoned is perfectly edible. Kidneys are out in any context; I have never come across a seasoning that can mask that smell sufficiently. I finally weaned myself onto DH's favourite liver and onions, though it is an occasional treat; my own version is doused in a liberal quantity of home-brew beer to take the edge off (of me or the livers, I'm not quite sure!); after which they are quite passable.

A few years ago, I bought some lamb hearts. I have no idea why I picked them up, I think I was just feeling brave on that particular visit to the butchers. Lamb hearts are meaty in texture and they taste and smell like lamb, although with a slightly more iron tang to them. They are incredibly lean and do need a long slow cook to tenderize, which makes them perfect for stews and casseroles, where a little goes a long way. They are also incredibly good value - I bought six for £3.40 from our butchers shop with the intention of stuffing and braising them. Then I got home and...couldn't really be bothered to learn something new. Stew it was, goulash(ish) style to celebrate the fact that my corner shop now sells very reasonably priced paprika. 


* * * * * *

Lamb heart stew (serves 6)

100g dried haricot beans, soaked overnight
3 lambs hearts
1tbsp oil
1 rounded tbsp plain flour
2 large onions, chopped
1 rounded tbsp paprika
1 pint stock
2 cloves garlic
Ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
3 large carrots, chopped
¼ large cabbage, shredded
Mashed potato to serve

Bring the haricot beans to the boil and maintain for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.

Slice the hearts in half lengthways. Remove any obvious tough vessels, chop and rinse thoroughly. Toss with the flour.

Heat the oil in the pan and add the onions, spices and hearts. Cook over a medium heat until browned.

Add the drained haricot beans and stock. Bring to the boil and reduce to a gentle simmer for 1 1/2 hours. 

Add the carrots, cabbage, bay and thyme and cook for a further 30 mins, or until the carrots are tender. Boil and mash the potatoes during this final stage and serve.

* * * * * * 
I added just 3 and put the rest in the freezer, which makes for a tasty and frugal stew at around 60p a portion when served with mashed potatoes. Alas with the evenings drawing in and an already dingy dining room, there are no good photos of the finished product, but it looked good and tasted lovely. Autumn is definitely here.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

Frugal frittata


Darling husband-to-be picked up two boxes of twelve eggs for 10 pence a pop last week, with a week left on their 'display until' dates (it is surprising that our local Co-ops haven't gone out of business, as this sort of evening reduction isn't an unusual occurrence). For us and anyone else who picked up a bargain that evening, eggcellent...

Eggs are a cheap and tasty source of protein, vitamins and minerals at around 20 pence per egg. They are also the basis for many very quick meals, a boon after a long day. Quite often they find their way into dishes with lots of leftovers and loose ends - hash, stir-fry, and salads. Last night it was frittata. I have had a jar of Lidl sweet peppers sitting in the cupboard for a few months now. I've used them before and always think that they are delicious, so I buy another jar - and can't think what to do with them. From memory, I think that they are good in lasagne. They also, apparently, make an awesome frittata.

* * * * * *

 Sweet pepper frittata (4 adult portions)

4 small potatoes, thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and sliced.
2 sweet smoked peppers, chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
Black pepper
Oil
7 medium eggs
Small amount of grated cheese.

In a frying pan, simmer the potato slices in a small amount of water for a few minutes until they begin to soften.

Drain away any excess water; add the oil, onions, peppers and spices and fry over a high heat until the onions have softened, turning regularly.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. Add them to the pan, rolling it to distribute as evenly as possible through the veg.

Cook over a low heat until cooked through, around ten minutes. Grate some cheese over the top and place under the grill to brown if desired.

* * * * * *

This was last night's dinner and it was appreciated by both children and adults. It currently works out at around 80 pence a portion (I was really frugal with the cheese), or buttons if your eggs cost you less than a penny each. Keep the stock taking errors coming, please, Mr Coop.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Recent reading

Recent, to me - the content may me antique  : )


UK personal debt statistics from UK Charity Credit Action.

Cheap food - the end of an era?

Growing mushrooms in buckets.

Slightly straighter talking than FlyLady, sweary inspiration for the really domestically challenged.

Homemade chalk paint recipes for upcycling tatty furniture.

A pictorial guide to our cutest summer beetle.

3-Bee printing - it's the future.

Have a lovely weekend.












Thursday, 1 August 2013

Upcycling again

We have needed some drawer space downstairs for quite a while now - say, the five years since we moved in - for all the of the shoes and hats and nappies and small things that can't be easily corralled on our open shelves. A nice high surface for my spinning wheel out of the way of pingling hands wouldn't have gone amiss either. Trawling local eBay listings and secondhand furniture shops, for all the other awesome pieces it brought us, had failed to turn up a sturdy chest of drawers of  suitable size and price.

And then, it came to us, the perfect chest. We salvaged it from a house refurbishment around the corner in return for a few bottles of home brew beer. It pays to be plucky when you see a piece of furniture sat forlornly in a front yard. It would fit this gap perfectly if not for a plug socket in the way and it has been stood up on overly tall temporary blocks until a more stable solution could be found. Also, that pink colour? Not our thing at all. As you can see, darling daughter tried to spruce it up a bit using her newly found mad crayon skills, but to no avail. Still, it has held our shoes and hats and suncream and spinning wheel admirably well, which was perfect enough after years of no storage. 

After months of procrastination, however, I finally reached the limits of my tolerance for  the unwipable dingy pink surface this week. It had to go.

I didn't choose the new colour (B&Q matt emulsion in Pacific) and I was rather skeptical of my man's choice that it was going to turn out well. I made my own chalk paint using 1 part Plaster of Paris to 3 parts emulsion, with a little water to thin. The advantage of mixing Plaster of Paris into the paint is that most surfaces will not need to be primed or sanded, the paint sticks very nicely to existing layers of paint. It also goes a long way - I have two litres of unmixed turquoise blue emulsion to use up.


Of course, the whole project took much longer than the two days I had budgeted for, to the point I seriously considered it may be easier to learn to love a half blue/half THAT pink, handle-less chest of drawers than to actually continue.  The original wooden handles were of a bizarre, half jointed, half screwed construction that resulted in some unforeseen sawing, gluing, filling and drilling. I built up three coats of paint instead of the expected two thanks to a few greasy toddler hand prints from an ill timed lunchtime interlude. The third coat was sealed the moment it was dry with quick drying matt varnish whilst said toddler was asleep; and another coat of the varnish has left a tough, wipeable surface.


Whilst I liked the colour, I still wasn't entirely sold on the new look until the new pewter handles were installed. Then, it was perfection. I just need to make some shorter, sturdier furniture blocks to raise it up a couple of inches over that annoyingly placed plug socket and I can say that it is done. And totally worth all the blood (yep), sweat (in this weather, yes) and tears (/swearing).


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Always rooting for autumn

Two whole months, whoops! I hope that you are all well and have been enjoying the sunshine. The blogging drought ends right along with the heatwave we have been basking (wilting) in - a few nights ago the clouds that had gathered tantalizingly overhead for three days broke in a rare show of thunder and lightning, our only storm of the past 12 months that I was sad had to end. We made the most of it, throwing open the windows to let in the loud rumbles and newly fresh air.


The rain has continued on and off for the past few days; the laundry has continued to pile up. The garden is loving the downpours and everything is looking newly green and perky after weeks of sparse watering. The water butt was completely empty for the first time in four years, leaving me with no excuse to not clean it out.

Perhaps it was the heat that had me in a dither, but the last few weeks I haven't felt like doing much of anything. I enjoy the heat up until a point - the point at which I really REALLY don't like it anymore. I feel the same way about high summer as I do about the depths of winter- oppressed. I find myself starting to consider a knitting project, to see if I can bring cooler days along prematurely - or at least pretend the heatwave isn't happening. I dream of pumpkin cheesecake. I want the elderberries and the rose hips to have ripened. The summer really feels like the years end to me, with late September the time of new beginnings and new projects; and I really want that freshness and newness now.

Still, the only way through the blahs is through them. We have been busy with birthdays and days out and family visits which have been lovely. Things have settled into a nice rhythm since school broke up and I am planning lots of things to fill up the days with. All of those things that are so much easier in summer - decorating, eating out of doors, trips to the beach and barbeques are all on the menu, along with lots and lots of laundry. We have weddings to attend and a summer holiday to go on. My very introverted self is going to be exhausted at the end of all of this, no matter how much I enjoy these things at the time. I look forward to the cooler days of autumn and a new knitting project on the needles as just reward.

It's going to be a long hot summer. 



Saturday, 25 May 2013

TLC

Not much spinning has been done around these parts lately. When I moved blogs I expected to be doing a lot more spinning and a lot more blogging about it. The name Freya's Rainbow comes from my spinning wheel - Freya - and well, the rainbow was supposed to be all of the lovely yarn that we would be producing together. It didn't happen.

When I bought my wheel, she was in good condition, merely requiring a drive band to get going. I had a full few months of spinning happily away before I forgot to put her up out of pingling range; and walked into the dining room to find Elsa had pulled apart the scotch tension mechanism, stretching the small springs well past the point of no return.


Last week I finally got around to ordering an Ashford spinning wheel maintenance kit (I bought mine from handspinner.co.uk). This had the scotch tension springs and enough other spares to do a full wheel service.

I started out by disassembling the easy to strip parts and washing the whole wheel down. There was actually quite a lot of grease, dust and rust to remove when I got into it. As I went, I polished each piece - it turns out that winter balm makes for a very good wood conditioner.

I replaced the leather strap that connects the treadle to the conrod (the baton that connects the treadle to the crankshaft and makes the wheel turn every time you put your foot down). I assumed mine would need replacing in the future, but I couldn't believe how worn it was when compared to a brand new one:


As I stripped it down, I realized a little TLC had been in order for quite some time. All of the hooks and metal fixings were tarnished and in need of replacement:



A new scotch tension (the only thing that really needed to be done was, of course, the most finnickety and difficult):



 A final coat of polish:



We are up and running again:



I am a little out of practice, it would seem.