Friday 30 September 2016

Pomegranate Fudge?

I have only ever once tried to make fudge.

It was a dismal failure.

So I gave up on that.

10 years later, now owning a Thermomix, and often being the recipient of someone else's yummy fudge, I decided it was time to conquer my fears and try again.

A box of fudge seemed the perfect accompaniment for a brief holiday with friends by the water.

So I tried again.  My only problem was finding a recipe that was constituted from ingredients that were in our house.  I did try to go shopping with an actual shopping list.  But I still managed to forget important fudgy components.

Finally I found this fantastic recipe from Tenina which, for some reason, doesn't contain glucose syrup.  I'm not sure why this is important to most people (gluten? intolerance?  feel free to enlighten me!) but it was important to me because we have no glucose syrup.

I followed the recipe carefully, even milling the sugar an extra 2 times to avoid any grittiness as mentioned in the reviews.  Everything was in:  the condensed milk, the vanilla, and the butter.  Oh, the butter!

But I forgot to check my golden syrup supplies.  Golden Syrup is just always there when you need it, surely?  Even my trusty neighbours had run out.

It was too late to back out, so I had to find Plan B

After watching the merest dribble of syrup fail to meet the requisite amount, I searched the pantry.  The best thing I could find was Pomegranate Molasses.  I bought this for something important I had planned and never gotten around to.  I too find it incredible that there was no golden syrup, but pomegranate molasses were in stock.

I hoped it would have a great flavour, and the same gooey consistency.  I thought I'd better taste test first - it's quite tangy, so I wasn't entirely confident.  But then I figured there was already enough sugar in the mixture to make this work.  It also isn't gooey like golden syrup.

I followed Tenina's instructions for the cooking process and time, and also her instructions for the fudge to cool for a long time, preferably overnight *not* in the fridge.  Husband had to be warned away so that he didn't burn himself with the mixture....

The recipe tastes AMAZING!!  But I wouldn't call it a fudge.  The texture is more like a caramel, perhaps because of the consistency of the molasses vs the golden syrup.  It is incredibly moreish.  It is sweet and yummy, and the pomegranate molasses give it a tangy juicy quality.

If you're up for some experimenting and have the patience to cut the caramel up (it does require  commitment - thank you Husband) I can recommend you try this.  It keeps best in the fridge, and is just divine with a cup of tea!

Isn't it wonderful when cooking experiments create new delights!

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Roast Pumpkin & Chorizo Soup

Spring is most definitely on the way now, despite my being lucky enough to squeeze in a crazy ski trip last weekend.

It may have involved some shenanigans that resulted in injury.  I'm all better now and still maintain that I'm not too old for adventures!

The children and I have been enjoying spotting each new bud and blossom in our garden.  Even the weeds bring my dude great joy - they are sunshine yellow after all!

Still, we've had some unexpectedly chilly days lately, so I'm making the most of the opportunity for more soups.

I had pumpkin, and a surfeit of chorizos*.  I also wanted to use the Thermomix to cook this meal - feeling far to lazy to bother cooking my usual Pumpkin Soup recipe on the stove...

So, here's my experimental Roast Pumpkin & Chorizo soup.  It turned out surprisingly yummy, if I do say so myself!  It's a hearty, sweet, chunky soup.  I'll try to improve my recipe layout for you later, but for now, here it is to enjoy!

1/2 Butternut Pumpkin - remove seeds
1 Sweet Potato
Olive oil
1 onion
2 chorizo**
knob of butter
500 ml Chicken Stock
Maple Syrup - splash

Preheat oven 220
Roughly chop pumpkin into quarters (you can leave it whole, but this quarters makes it quicker)
Cut sweet potato into large rough chunks
Drizzle with olive oil
Roast in oven approx 20 min until soft and starting to brown.
Place onion & chorizo in Thermomix:  Chop 5 sec, speed 5
Cook 2 Min / Varoma / reverse speed soft with butter
Repeat until you are happy it's cooked through / starting to caramelise - 1 repeated 3 times.
Scoop out the flesh of the roasted pumpkin & sweet potato.
Add to Thermomix
Add 500 ml chicken stock.
Add a splash of maple syrup.  Because Maple Syrup is always good right?
Blend for 30 seconds, starting at speed 1 progressing to speed 3 to blend carefully (due to the chunks of veg, and the amount of liquid)
Repeat until you are happy with the consistency, gradually increasing the speed.
Check your soup and see if you like the chunkiness of it - this is for a hearty, chunky recipe.
If you prefer a smoother soup, add a little more stock, milk or even cream!
Add it gradually so that you are blending safely and so that you can check as you go.

If you use boiling water to make your stock, you won't need to re-heat much, but you'll need to take even more care with blending.
If you used cold water (like me) you will want to bring your soup back up to the heat.
I cooked it for 10 min more at 95 degrees, reverse speed slow

Serve with a dash of yoghurt or sour cream.

**For a stove top recipe, dice the chorizo into neat little cubes, fry them, starting with a cold pan to allow them to render their tasty fat for the soup, then remove half.  Leave half of the chunks to cook and flavour the soup.  Add the remaining half after the blending process to add texture.

* I hate online shopping.  But occasionally I use it so that we can get food into the house without my having to go get it.  In an online shopping fail, I managed to order 2 kg of Chorizo.  I blame Woolworths.  That may or may not be fair.  Luckily we like it and it freezes well.  I have a couple of great recipes incorporating Chorizo, which I'll share soon.  2 kg is really quite a lot - I'd love any of your favourite chorizo recipes!

Wednesday 14 September 2016

Shawl v2.3

This shawl has had so much more backwards progress (ripping, tinking and starting over!) than forwards.

Finally, I think I may be heading in the right direction.

Lots of careful counting and re-counting.  And a little cheat - my numbers were out, so I did a sneaky increase in the middle, because I just could not find the mistake!

I love it when I start to 'understand' the topography of the pattern.

The pattern is the Daelin Shawl, the lace looks a little like leaves.  Or from another angle, like hearts.*
* I just found Miriam Felton's blog, and the lace is a lute...

the stems of the leaves are just starting to emerge - how appropriate for spring

Today has been a day in which it's hard to breathe.

Sitting in the sunshine, enjoying blossoms, petals floating to the ground, inhaling the fragrance of jasmine, butterflies, and my buddy, along with the meditation of knitting has helped.

The repetitive motion.

The concentration required, knit, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, purl.

Check and check again.

Brings it's reward.


Lace beginning to emerge.

I can't wait to see it revealed.

What do you do so you can breathe?

Wednesday 7 September 2016

Moments found

a time for sorrow and remembering

balm to comfort
like a gentle hug

sunshine to cheer the soul

sharing a burden, lifting the weight of one's own

providing lunch, sometimes preparing food is too hard

inhaling the joy of boy & puppy, destined to be friends

treasures found


cosy comfort

an unexpected blooming

Monday 5 September 2016

Balm to the Soul

I have just finished knitting up a beautiful shawl called Balm to the Soul.

And it really has been.

I needed something simple and comforting, and this has been perfect.

The pattern was easy enough for my concentration levels (low), and although there are mistakes in it, they have become features.

I've been able to complete it in a fairly short space of time too, which is satisfying.

The alpaca yarn from Adagio, is beyond description.  It is soft, snuggly and light.  It has a smoothness to it, that seems like lanolin, but can't be, because Alpaca doesn't have any.  I hope someone knows and can tell me what it is.  Or perhaps it's just part of the glory of Alpaca!

If you've been thinking of trying some of their yarns, I highly recommend you do.

I was inspired by the Adagio Alpaca facebook post, about a pattern called Curl Curl designed for their yarn by Meg Gadsbey, who has lovely, modern styles. Their kit contains the yarn & pattern for a beautiful simple and warm cowl.  You can get it here.  I was all set to cast on, but I had more yarn than the pattern required, which I really wanted to make the most of.  If you are looking for a simple, snuggly cowl to knit, this would be a great project - also good for learning to knit in-the-round.

This led to a Ravelry search for something else fabulous.

If you aren't aware of Ravelry, and want to get into knitting or crochet, it's just amazing.  It's an online collection of patterns, yarn databases, forums, groups, you name it.

The search functions within Ravelry are awesome.

I was able to search for a shawl with the type of yarn (DK / 8 ply), and the yardage.  Then I browsed through the options that came up, and the name of this one caught my eye.

All the options you can choose from are listed down the side of the page.  Here is what it looked like once I had chosen them.

Another thing I love about Ravelry, is that they have regular updates to their Home Page to help you learn how to use all the features of Ravelry.

I have enjoyed knitting something chunkier and softer than the fine sock yarn I have been working with on other projects.  And it was lovely to knit something quick (I'm a slow knitter).  The yarn is called "Clouds", and has the loveliest of greys in it - there is the slightest amount of subtle variegation within the strands of the yarn.  It's a little bit 'knubbly' with an imperfection here or there - which I think adds to the cosiness of the yarn.  It is such a beautiful yarn to knit with.

I know there is a larger 4 ply shawl pattern called Contrail coming out later in this yarn, also by Meg Gadsbey - I can't wait to buy it - it's a modern, striking design and it looks fantastic. I'll let you know when the pattern is released!

Balm to the Soul is what I have needed in this season, and this knit has been it!

It was soothing and comforting.

There was time to master the basics of the increasing pattern (on the spine and border) before the other aspects of the pattern began.

I'm so pleased with how the lace worked out.  Simple, not too fussy, and totally suits the alpaca.

If you are thinking of giving this one a go, here are my thoughts and how I changed the pattern.

It is a fairly small shawl.  Probably a 'shawlette' really.

I got worried about this during the knit, wondering how it would be big enough to wear.  I took a close look at the pattern pictures, and spent time reading through the comments on the Ravelry site - these can be a goldmine for you if you are considering a pattern, and want some perspectives on how other people found it.

It is most definitely a triangle shape - which means it isn't long for draping around artistically.  It is the perfect size for wrapping snugly around my neck, and tucking the ends in - perfect for a cold weather shawl.

I did change the pattern slightly:

* I added a few increases in some of the stocking stitch sections - to encourage the shawl into more of a crescent shape than a triangle.  This has only had a subtle effect on the shape of it, but I'm glad I did.  It did mean the shawl became bigger sooner, and therefore, used more yarn.  As a result I didn't repeat the lace section (The DK pattern indicated a repeat).  I actually prefer it with just the one lace section

* I did the wrong number of rows in the moss (seed) stitch & garter stitch sections.  I incorporated that into how I did the remaining scarf, to keep a 'balance' to the sizes of the different sections

* I repeated a section of stocking stitch / garter stitch to increase the overall size of the shawl

* This changed my stitch count, which affected the lace stitch.  The lace pattern repeat was in multiples of 12 stitches.  I increased the number of repeats, and kept enough "left over" to still incorporate the lace elements that were not part of the repeats.  I think I ended up with a wider section of stocking stitch near the spine of the scarf, but I like how it has turned out.

* There was one criticism of the pattern in the comments - one knitter felt it had mistakes in it.  I am not sure whether there were actual mistakes, but you did need to realise that the "border" and "spine" elements needed to stay consistent regardless of what else was happening.  I think the pattern was a little unclear in this, although the notes did explain it well.  I really appreciated the detailed notes, and I learned a lot about knitting shawls from reading them.  I also really love the story behind a design - a pattern just isn't as appealing to me without that

blocking in the waves
* Blocking For The Win.  The blocking process was expedited because I *may* have spilled a cup of tea on my new shawl!  I love that the lace is called "Crest of the Wave". One of my (and my mum's) favourite places has always been the ocean, so this element is important to me.  Although the outer edge of the shawl didn't look very 'wavy', it responded so well to being eased into the wave shape while blocking.  I'm thrilled!

Nice day for sunbathing!
The shawl was designed for teaching Shawl knitting, and I think it would be a great knit to try if you have stuck to scarves so far, and want to expand your knitting repertoire!