Category Archives: House stuff

The Easiest, Tastiest, Cake Recipe Ever, Or My Name’s Not Hieronymus Winklebottom

A knitter’s gotta eat, yeah?

There is a reason why this cake is green, and it's a good reason.

There is a reason why this cake is greenish, and it’s a good reason.

You need fuel in order to retain your grip on sanity when you get to that part of the pattern. You know, the part that the designer wrote when they were having a really bad day because they’d just accidentally boil-washed their cashmere, so they decided to give free rein to their inner sadist because if they were suffering, then you should sure-as-eggs be suffering too. So instead of the easy, restful garter stitch they’d been suggesting for the body of this top-down cardigan, they decided to introduce such monstrosities of yarnery as repeated p7tog tbl for the last 20 rows. For those of you who are hookers not knitters, just trust me: that’s not a stitch that you’d want to meet in an alley on a dark night, unless you had some very sharp knitting needles with which to defend your honour.

So although you thought that the fiendishly complex lace band at the bottom edge of this cardigan pattern was a lovingly thought out design feature, it was really just the sadistic result of the designer’s BAD DAY. Still, it’s a nice-looking cardigan, isn’t it?

But I digress. I was discussing food.

Oh! A courgette plant. I wonder what's hidden amongst its leaves.

Oh! A courgette plant. I wonder what’s hidden amongst its leaves…

If you’re into growing your own dinner, you’ll be familiar with the issue (especially at this time of year) of lurching from a glut of one type of produce to a glut of the next, and then the next. It certainly challenges your creativity as you master a hundred and four ways with broad beans one month, and then a tomatoes the next. Broad bean curry, anyone?

At the moment, we’re in the middle of courgette season. (Translation: zucchini.) We have a lot of courgettes. You’re supposed to pick them often to ensure that a steady supply keeps coming. “DON’T ENCOURAGE THEM!” the Stoic Spouse yelped when he saw me rummaging amongst the plants with a watering can. There was a look of panic in his eyes that suggested he wasn’t approaching my courgette sorbet recipe with an entirely open mind. But honestly, you’d have thought he’d caught me feeding the local rats, not growing harmless vegetables. He can’t win, though: if you don’t pick them, they get their revenge by growing into super-sized marrows, which still need eating but don’t taste half as nice.

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So the courgette thing has been getting difficult, especially as I have to grate them into oblivion before hiding them in any foodstuffs destined for the twinnage’s plates as courgettes aren’t on my sons’ Official Approved Vegetable List. I don’t feel too guilty about this subterfuge: a friend used to do it to her 30-something veg-averse partner, too, after which he started looking healthier and got himself an allotment.

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But then I came across a courgette CAKE recipe of such deliciousness that the poor courgette plants can’t keep pace with demand. I’ve made courgette cakes before: there’s a delicious chocolatey one in the original (and sadly out-of-print) Green and Blacks chocolate cookbook. The one I’m going to tell you about started out as a courgette-and-orange cake, but in my kitchen, it’s gradually morphed into a courgette, lemon, and poppyseed cake. And it rocks. 🙂 Also, it’s very very easy. And I’m happy to tell you how I made it.

Or you could use what's known in this household as a 'whizzer'.

The original recipe is here. I didn’t make the icing, though, mostly because as a cheese-phobic, I wasn’t going anywhere near that culinary abomination. Anyway, the cake tastes fabulous without any icing.

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So here, with respectful acknowledgement of the original recipe in the link above, is the modified (and slightly simpler, cheaty, look-guys-I-haven’t-got-time-to-faff) Twisted Yarn version: COURGETTE, LEMON, AND POPPY SEED LOAF.

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Ingredients

  • 350g courgettes, the smaller the better
  • Rind of approximately a quarter of a lemon
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 125 ml vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, beaten (although as you can see from one of the photos below, I’m sometimes a little lazy about pre-beating the eggs)
  • 100g raisins
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

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Method

Set oven to 180°C/350°F, or 160°C/325°F fan oven, or gas mark 4.

Grease and line a one-pound loaf tin.

Prepare the courgettes and lemon rind. I used a little gadget that’s known in this house as a ‘whizzer’ to mix both together and pulverize them into mushy oblivion. (See pic higher up this post.) But an alternative is to grate the courgette and lemon rind.

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Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat for approx two minutes or until your arm aches a little bit but not unbearably.

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Pour mixture into tin and place in centre of oven.

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Bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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Remove from tin after a few minutes and leave on a rack to cool. Or you could just munch the lot: I won’t tell. 😉

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this delicacy goes very well with green tea and knitting. Or crochet. I know, because I’ve tested extensively.

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Now, onto the next glut…

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And Then Suddenly, Dinner Was Ready.

Gosh, thank you for your kind words on the crocheted garden. I’d best get on with the next section, then…

Meanwhile, let’s talk about food. Way back in April, I promised you dinner. Yeah, yeah, you’ve probably worked up quite some appetite by now: sorry for the delay. Well the good news is that dinner has finally finished growing, muchly helped by this mad sun-rain-sun-hail-sun-apocalypse-sun weather we’ve been a-having. Even the clouds have been a little crazy. Here’s a few I snapped during my run the other day:-

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Forgive me: you’re hungry. Let’s get back to the food. We’ve reached that splendid time of year when all those stroppy, diva-like plants at the allotment actually begin producing dinner. But you know what it’s like with allotments: you wait all year for a runner bean and then eleventy billion come along at once, thus ensuring that you properly hate runner beans by the end of the season. I mean, there’s only so many ways with runner beans before you get sick of them boiled, fried, on toast, and steamed under the light of a full moon with dill. Actually, the runner beans are some way off being ready, but we have an insane abundance of broad beans at the moment, here being shelled by the Stoic Spouse. We have so many that I suspect our neighbours are starting to deliberately not answer the door when we knock.

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And the potatoes! I love digging up potatoes – it’s like finding buried treasure. Of course the twinnage enjoy helping.

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If you’re short on space and skill (that’ll be me, then), rocket is the easiest, tastiest thing in the world to grow. Oh, and courgettes (that’s zucchini to you folk over there). Peas are fab, too, because they’re easy and kinda vertical, so you don’t need much space. There’s nothing nicer than wandering into the garden/allotment to collect what you need for dinner:-

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So with this luscious haul, I think it might just be time to get cooking. Do help yourself to some of that wine. This is going to be one of those dishes that just sort of designs itself as you cook it. Onions and garlic… (OK, I didn’t grow the garlic.)

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Some chicken. OK, I didn’t grow the chicken. Diced courgette.

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Oregano leaves from the garden.

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Shell those peas. Try not eat all of them before they hit the pot. Almost fail. Pop a few broad beans from the allotment in there, too, and hope nobody notices that this is the squillionth meal in a row with broad beans in it.

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Some wine. And some stock.

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And some luscious Pommery mustard.

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Puy lentils. You can’t go wrong with puy lentils. Well you probably can, if you serve them with chocolate or something, but in this type of dish, puy lentils are heaven.

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And right at the end, the rocket.

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Let’s have a stir…

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Bit of black pepper, and I reckon we’re done. Enjoy.

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Whaddya mean, you don’t like it?! Are you one of my sons or summat?

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Let Them Eat Cake. (And Chocolate).

Chocolaty felicitations to those amongst you of an Eastery inclination. And even if Easter isn’t your thing, I hope you have some cocoa solids handy anyway. Because, well, chocolate.

Given the ongoing grey/damp outside, I’ve been creating colour in the indoor flowerbeds. This. Project. Is. Going. To. Be. Finished. Very. Soon. Or. I. Will. Scream.

Begonias Begoni-ing

Begonias Begoni-ing

The plants/foliage are aggressively crocheted, and then I’m embroidering on the flowers.

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But never mind that, it’s Easter. Despite the fact that we’re not very good at seasonal celebrations in this house, something of an arms race has developed this weekend. After the Stoic Spouse’s home-made hot cross buns on Friday, I decided to make a simnel cake (well two, actually, so that we could give one away).

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Not to be outdone, the Stoic Spouse is at this very moment preparing a feast of duck à l’orange for later tonight. Early indications are that it smells good. Hmm, not sure how to better that. A home-made six-foot-high statue of the Easter bunny worked in chocolate? I’d better get carving…

There's a LOT of fruit in simnel cake.

There’s a LOT of fruit in simnel cake. So much that it could possibly count as a health food. Possibly. If you squint a bit.

Anyway, simnel cake is delicious. Recipe for the cake here, and for the marzipan here. Home-made marzipan is much more alcoholic nicer than shop-bought. Inspiration for the whole thing comes from my good friend Selma, who is much better at seasonal celebrations than I am.

I didn't have any brandy, so I made do with Grand Marnier. Life is tough...

I didn’t have any brandy, so I made do with Grand Marnier. Life is tough…

Unlike Selma, I’m not good enough at adulting to plan ahead and soak the dried fruit for two days in alcohol, orange juice, and lemon juice, so I plopped it all in a pan and warmed it on the lowest possible heat, as a way of encouraging the currants and sultanas and candied peel to get thirsty and soak up a little of the delicious juice. I’m not sure how far it worked, but I swear I got drunk on the fumes.

Drunk raisins

Drunk sultanas

There are lots of glacé cherries in a simnel cake. There are even more in two simnel cakes. Ditto eggs:-

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But it smells gorgeous as you add the ground mixed spice and the boozy fruit, and beat the mixture until your arms ache.

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Seriously, though, I recommend making your own marzipan. The only disadvantage other than cost is that it’s not as malleable as the shop-bought sort.

Eleven apostles.

Eleven apostles.

You glaze the top with egg, and then you dice with failure by popping the whole thing under the grill. It’s one of those times when there’s a two-second difference between RAW and IRREVOCABLY CHARRED. You have been warned.

Not taking my eyes off this for one second.

Not taking my eyes off this for one second.

It’s worth it, though. The layer of marzipan through the middle of the cake is just delicious and will be mandatory in all cakes when I become Ruler Of The Whole World.

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So then of course, there’s all that cake to be worked off. The weather has been vile, and so the ****ing, ****ing, ************ING running has been even more of a chore than usual. (I may have graduated to lycra and fitness trackers, but I’m still a gasping, wheezing, exercise-phobe in my heart.) So here is a picture from yesterday’s run. My running partner has disappeared off to the Alps to bask in the snowy sunshine amongst the mountains. I bet she was wishing she was back home. Drowned rat number one:-

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And this was at the end of today’s run. Drowned rat number two.

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I’m going for a hat-trick of sodden-ness tomorrow.

No, this is not fun and it’s not my hobby.

Happy Easter, folks! 🙂

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Easter. Chocolate. Home-Brew.

Typical. You put out a blog post about how cold and grey it is, and barely have the pixels dried on the screen (my understanding of technological hardware may be imperfect) when the sun leaps out from behind a cloud, yelling “TA-DA!” and makes everything springlike. That said, by the time you read this, it’s due to be dull and damp again.

This blog post is brought to you courtesy of the Stoic Spouse’s homebrew (which is actually rather tasty), so don’t be surprised if the final few paragraphs consist mostly of, “I luffs you I do.”

Another gratuitous butterfly shot, left over from last post.

Another gratuitous butterfly shot, left over from last post.

We’re not very good at seasonal celebrations around here, but we seem to be surpassing ourselves this Easter weekend. Between me and the Stoic Spouse, the ritual usually goes something like this:-

Year one: Spouse 1 presents Spouse 2 with Easter egg. Spouse 2 says, “Oops, sorry, I didn’t get you one.”

Year two: Spouse 2 presents Spouse 1 with Easter egg. Spouse 1 says, “Oops, sorry, I didn’t get you one.”

…And repeat.

But this year we’re upping our game, before our children start putting in formal complaints about us. So on Good Friday, the Stoic Spouse sneaked downstairs at preposterous-o’clock in the morning to start baking hot cross buns. Look!

home-made hot cross buns thetwistedyarn.com

They tasted gorgeous but, poor things, their existence was briefer than the lovely smell of cinnamon they left behind.

Not to be outdone, my plan for Saturday is to bake simnel cake. Oh, and just for the record: Stoic Spouse, if you’re reading, I’ve got you an Easter egg this year.

The twinnage get a better deal than the grownups, of course, and will be certifiably comprised of 90% cocoa solids and uncontrollably manic by this time on Sunday. I do think that the Easter bunny should be encouraged in the giving of broccoli instead, with delicious florets wrapped in coloured foil, and joyful Easter broccoli hunts in the garden involving all the family.

But no, we’re tediously conventional and so we laid out a (chocolate) egg hunt for the twinnage.

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Both boys relished the challenge, and never once whined that they’d rather have had broccoli. C’mon kids, couldn’t you have been a little more whingey because none of these treasures contained 30% of your RDA of Vitamin A and pantothenic acid?

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Pah! In my day, all we had to look forward to at Easter was playing hunt-the-cold-gruel in the back yard next to the coal shed, and right grateful we were too… (Shall I step back into my Dickensian novel / episode of Monty Python now?)

Ha! Found the broccoli! Victory is MINE!

Ha! Found the broccoli! Victory is MINE!

Anyway, a very happy Easter to you – if Easter is your thing – and may there be much broccoli chocolate in your weekend.

Oh, and did I mention that I reeeeeally luffs you?! Hic!

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Family Stuff

So I tidied my study.

Can you tell that this is going to be an edge-of-your-seat blog post, a white knuckle ride of dastardly deeds and derring-do? Well if you’d seen the state of the room beforehand, you might feel that you weren’t too far awry in that opinion.

(There was going to be knitting in this post, too, but quirky study stuff took over, so the knitted pretties are reserved for next time. Please do stick around, my fine fibrous friends.)

Anyway, would you like to take a look around, now that I’ve removed the spiders from the underside of the desk and generally had a clear-out? My study is my dark, secret, little cave, hidden away yet right in the middle of the house. Look, the door is open: come in!

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There aren’t actually huge numbers of books in here because there are bookcases scattered everywhere throughout the rest of the house (we take a firm and unwavering it’s-not-a-home-unless-it’s-filled-with-books line), and most of my psychology books/journals are in my office at work.

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So here’s one corner (shelves and cupboards are by the Stoic Spouse). See that Singer sewing machine? It’s been in my family for 117 years.

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Look at this receipt for its purchase:-

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My great-great-grandmother, Mrs McLean, aka ‘Granny Mac’ bought it in 1899. Here is the only photo that I have of her:-

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She stares sternly across my desk and disapproves of almost everything I do.

Anyway, the sewing machine was originally treadle-operated, but my step-great-grandfather (whom I remember mostly for his deafness and for his love of inhaling snuff of an evening) converted it to electric in the 1950s for my great-grandmother (whom I remember very well). He was a handy chap, my step-great-grandfather, but I guess most people were, back then. In our sitting room is the wooden trunk that he made and took with him on the submarines in World War One: unlike most submariners of the time, he came back alive. His name is mounted on the lid:-

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(OK, it wasn’t painted that blue-purple colour when he had it.)

My great-grandmother, although apprenticed to a tailor on leaving school at 12, didn’t like sewing. She gave up the apprenticeship. The Singer probably wasn’t her favourite possession.

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In World War Two, the family was bombed out of their Coventry home (November 1940), and family folklore has it that the sewing machine sat out on the kerb for three weeks before being rescued, mysteriously unlooted (unlike many of the family’s other possessions).

It came down the maternal line to me about 25 years ago, and I set about making this patchwork quilt.

Patchwork bedspread

These days, I confess that it sits idle (you’ll note the dull, modern, easy-to-use Brother in the photo earlier on), but I really should get it serviced and back in use.

But let’s move on. Here’s another corner:-

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Have you any idea how easy it is to spray-paint a filing cabinet? I thoroughly recommend the practice.

And another corner (they’re getting less impressive as we go round…)

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Oh, and I love the mottled light from above:-

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And the ceramic door and cupboard handles.

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And the coat-hook behind the door, home to a couple of bags I’ve designed.

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But I haven’t got round to hanging pictures yet. There’s the geological map of Britain (I’ve always been passionate about geology, ever since seeing my father’s book of minerals when I was a small child. And when I up sticks and toddle off anywhere, I do like to check this map to see what sort of rock I’ll be sitting on.)

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And the Freedom Of The City Of Coventry awarded to my great-great-grandfather for we’re-not-quite-sure-what impressive deed:-

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I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. All the pretty knitting things I’d planned to add to this post will have to wait until next time. I’d best get on with them, then…

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Something’s Brewing At The Brewery

It’s been many decades since beer was last made here in our converted brewery home, although walking around the oldest part of the house, you can still see plenty of signs of what went on where. The Stoic Spouse made a token effort at authenticity last year when he bought an old wooden barrel to convert into a water butt, but we later discovered that it was actually a red wine barrel. Man, that barrel smelled good.

Here's a piece of wood that the Stoic Spouse bored out of the side of the barrel. That dark stain? RED WINE. I invite you to imagine how marvellous this wood smells...

Here’s a piece of wood that the Stoic Spouse bored out of the side of the barrel. That dark stain? RED WINE. I invite you to imagine how marvellous this wood smells…

Anyway, sometimes a lass needs peace and quiet, so last weekend I sent the Stoic Spouse on a brewing course at a micro-brewery down in Brighton. He returned, listing slightly to the left and carrying a large container of brown sludgy liquid. The aforementioned sludge has taken up residence on our kitchen table, much to the bemusement of various visitors this week.

Bottles have been purchased, too.

Bottles have been purchased, too.

So the Stoic Spouse spent an evening sterilising components of this set-up so thoroughly that I began to wonder whether he was planning on feeding the beer to newborn babies.

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For days, now, this beast has squatted on our kitchen table, burping occasionally (I kid you not). These belches are alarming in the dark at 4am when you’ve sneaked down to the kitchen for a glass of water.

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Looking at this set-up reminded me of the micro-brewing that my parents did when I was small. They experimented with making onion wine… once. But apparently their blackberry wine and elderberry wine were considerably more palatable. Oh and talking of familial alcohol production (I’m clearly tapping a rich seam here), as a child my poor mum was in charge of gathering the nettles for my great grandfather’s famous nettle beer. Famous not so much for its taste, as for its propensity to ferment over-quickly and explode in the bottle. Oops. Here was his manual (published 1960):-

photo credit: Mother Twisted

photo credit: Mother Twisted

Inside, is the impression that pretty much anything organic can become wine:-

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photo credit: Mother Twisted

Oh and I do remember my grandfather giving my parents bottles of his wine made from onions, potatoes, and pretty much anything else that he’d grown in his marvellous vegetable patch. I’m quite glad that I was too young to sample those. Meanwhile, back to the sludge that’s fermenting in our kitchen:-

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Purely for your edification, I’ll sample some of the Stoic Spouse’s beer, and report back. Maybe it’ll be suitable for making more beer bread, too. By the way, I’ve experimented with adding a little salt to the recipe, and my fears that this would kill off the lovely yeasty rising process proved unfounded. Yum!

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Hmm, not much knitting or crochet in this post, is there? This may have something to do with the fact that an ambitious experiment involving seven DPNs got a little… messy.

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A Ludicrously Easy Bread Recipe (Before I Get Back To The Knitting)

OK, this post isn’t strictly knitting, but… This bread recipe is so easy that it ought to be illegal, because such an extreme level of gorgeousness will make folk assume that you slaved over it for hours, and it’s surely wrong to be the source of such deception. When I say that it takes two minutes* to put together, I’m not joking, and I say that as the person who looks at most recipes and thinks, “Yeah right is that gonna take a mere half hour to make: two hours, more like.”

Dry ingredients first: flour and self-raising flour.

Dry ingredients first: self-raising flour and sugar.

So in case you’ve not yet had the pleasure, permit me to introduce you to the wonderful world of beer bread.

Soft, tearable, slightly sweet-tasting loaves of extreme yumminess.

Mmm... beer...

Mmm… beer…

I first got into beer bread when I was cooking lots of things from a medieval cookbook, but that recipe still used a bit of yeast and so was a (minor) faff. These days we make most of our dull-but-reliable bread in a breadmaker. Beer bread makes a tasty change, and is ready much faster, too. It does taste sweet, which wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but the sugar is necessary in the same way that you need sugar in conventional bread so that the yeast has summat to munch for its lunch before it flatulently produces all that fabulous carbon dioxide that makes your loaf rise.

Pour it in, and fizzzzzzzzz...

Pour it in, and fizzzzzzzzz…

So, clear most of the toys from a corner of your kitchen table (yes it’s fine to just move them to the sofa instead) and let’s begin. You’ll need:-

  • 375g self-raising flour (that’s 2¾ American cups)
  • 3tbsp caster sugar
  • 330 ml beer/ale (that’s 12 fl oz)
  • Absolutely NO YEAST whatsoever!
Fizzing quagmire

Fizzing quagmire

Chuck ingredients in a bowl. Gently mix around a bit. Observe how it goes from a fizzing quagmire to a coherent(ish) damp dough after mere seconds.

Sloppy dough. Worry not: there's no need to kneed.

Sloppy dough. Worry not: there’s no need to kneed.

Plonk dough into a lined loaf tin.

In the tin. Usually I'd put it all in one tin but I was experimenting with encouraging it to rise, today.

In the tin. Usually I’d put it all in one tin but I was experimenting with encouraging it to rise, today.

Put in oven at 180ºC/350ºF or Gas Mark 4. Drink the remaining 170ml of the beer you opened. Remove loaf from oven after 50-60 minutes once it’s golden on top and your entire house smells of baking. Try not to eat it all in one snarling, wild-eyed, feeding frenzy, or you’ll feel sick later.

Lunch. A mackerel, tomato, and lettuce sandwich. I may have forgotten to add the mackerel, lettuce, and tomato.

Lunch. A mackerel, tomato, and lettuce sandwich. I may have forgotten to add the mackerel, lettuce, and tomato.

Variations:-

  • When I make it, I always pour a small amount of melted butter mixed with salt onto the loaf towards the end of baking.
  • Experiment with adding seeds. The Stoic Spouse has an uncanny genius for creating combinations of different seeds in bread that taste just perfect. It’s the main reason I married him.
  • Try different beers: the more flavoursome, the better.
  • I’ve also tried making it with proper bread flour (ie ‘strong’ flour). Yum.
  • Based on recommendations online, I tried something different today. I split the mixture between two tins and left it in peace to rise for half an hour before baking. Really I should have put it somewhere warm, but we don’t have anywhere warm in our house. So although it did rise a bit and the texture was lighter, I wouldn’t necessarily do this again, or at least not unless we moved to a house that was warm enough for human habitation.
  • Add anything else that will go with the sweetness of this bread. Maybe some rosemary and sliced black olives? I’m led to believe that cheese works well, but as I have an almost-phobia of cheese (stop laughing, you at the back, it’s true) I’m afraid you won’t find any cheese-related advice on here.
Yum. It's flattish because I divided the mixture between two tins. Usually it's taller.

Yum. It’s flattish because I divided the mixture between two tins. Usually it’s taller.

*Not including time to realize that you’ve run out of flour, gather up your various children and manhandle them into outdoorwear, mount an unsuccessful search for your car keys, catch the bus instead, give in to toddler demand for confectionary, and purchase flour. So, about two hours, all-told.

RECIPE SOURCE: This recipe is a hybrid of lots of very similar versions that I’ve seen online, on sites ranging from allrecipes.co.uk to Jamie Oliver’s site.

And that, my friends, may be the easiest bread to make in the entire world. Now, back to knitting…

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Christmas

So for those of you of a Christmassy persuasion, how was your festive season?

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As usual we hosted here at the brewery, but I confess that I wasn’t really feeling it after the fire (and some further sad events) at work. Instead, I had an urge to creep away to a quiet corner and think about stuff, which obviously wasn’t going to happen with small, excited twins in tow. Fortunately the Stoic Spouse did a sterling job of feeding us all to the point of near-bursting, whilst I was in charge of decorations and gifts.

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On a more disappointing note, I regret to inform you that our combined extended families insisted on behaving entirely reasonably / considerately / amenably as guests, and thus I have no amusing anecdotes whatsoever about any drunken misdemeanours or shenanigans. Honestly, do these folk have no respect for the fact that I have a blog to update?!

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Talking of anecdotes, this is a blog that begins with the written word, and the pictures are forced to fall in line and behave. (Contrast with Attic24, who has written about how the text of her blog posts accretes around the photos that she takes.) But just this one time, I’m beginning with the pictures, OK?

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So here was our Christmas. My very kind father-in-law gave me some wonderful lenses that enable close-up photography, so I had to experiment:-

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…And whilst I was in a shutterbug mood, I set a long (four-second) exposure and experimented with moving my camera around a candle flame in a heart-shape. Tip: you have to draw the heart upside-down:-

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I was given a rather splendid telephoto lens by the Stoic Spouse, too, but it’s hard to use it whilst marshalling small children. Why does nobody address this very significant problem in photo manuals? (This lens really is da business, though.)

As usual, I brought out my knit-textured decorations for the season. Don’tcha just love the details?

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We have more conventional decorations, too:-

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And after overindulging in Christmas eats and drinks, we ventured out a little, to see the river in its dull-brown wintry livery:-

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And birds’ nests visible whilst the trees are bare, much to the delight of the twinnage:-

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And old houses with thick walls to protect against the cold unlike our very old house that seems permanently freezing:-

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I experimented again with long exposure on a bridge over a major road, but it was hard to keep my camera sufficiently still with the twinnage a-pulling at my sleeve. Trust me, the cars didn’t really jump around this much:-

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And now if you’ll excuse me, I have knitting and crochet to complete.

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The Week My Knitting Needles Fell Silent For A While

It began with a birthday: mine, as it so happens. A few days ago. How old? Let’s just say that my age is a number that provides the twinnage with the impression that they’re geniuses for having successfully counted so very high. Yeah, thanks boys. In my head, I’m still down wiv da kidz. But then, my 96-year-old grandmother said to me the other week that she still feels young until she remembers that her own daughter is now a grandmother. That fact makes her feel very old indeed. (None of us were particularly early breeders.)

For my birthday, I was given a wonderful print by David Day. Now that’s my kind of landscape:-

Credit: David Day

Credit: David Day

Also I was given an elegant wrought iron wellie-boot holder and an ornate boot scraper, both of which I love. Anyway, back to this week.

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Half way through the morning of my birthday, the phone rang. It was the hospital where I work. You know, I’ve changed my mind a hundred times about writing this post. I never know how much serious stuff to put in my blog, so I tend to err on the side of frivolous. But there hasn’t been a great deal of knitting/crochet this week, and there is a reason for that. The phone call brought dark news. There was a terrible fire on my ward, and tragically, one of our patients died in the inferno. There is more, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to write it here. Let’s just say that the extreme heroism of my colleagues who were on duty that night definitely prevented more deaths from occurring. So you’ll understand that it hasn’t been a normal week, and that I’ve been at work more than usual, and that I’ve had a propensity in the evening to stare at mindless internet junk rather than doing anything constructive. Half the hospital stinks of smoke, and there are police guarding the entrance to what remains of my ward. Sad times indeed.

Sorry, you probably didn’t come here to read such stuff today. Let’s lighten the mood. I can’t show you a finished knitted Christmas garland yet, but I can show you my subversive Christmas decorations that I made a few years ago. I always enjoy putting them out on the tree. There’s the Father Christmas who’s succumbed to beer and fags:-

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And the slightly more innocent festive cow:-

christmas cow decoration www.thetwistedyarn.com

There’s the cheeky beaver that felled the Christmas tree:-

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And the stained glass window:-

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And finally my favourite, the little Father Christmases hatching (and in one case abseiling) from a bauble. I’m really quite proud of this one. Those were the pre-kids days when I had time to design and paint such things:-

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But that’s just my over-silly imagination. I really do need to begin thinking about Christmas properly, but I confess that events this week have interfered with the process. This weekend, I’m going to sort it. All of it. Effortlessly and efficiently.

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As you’ll understand, time away from work has been precious and important this week. Time to just be normal and carefree and to watch the twinnage kick up leaves:-

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Time to cook a huge pan of comfort food, with venison and onions and garlic and celeriac and wine:-

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And lots and lots of pearl barley:-

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And then mixing some dumplings using flour, suet, thyme, salt, lashings of black pepper, and water:-

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…Which taste rather delicious in the finished meal, if you’re in need of winter comfort food:-

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And my favourite vegetable was available at the local farm shop:-

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Such comforts help. And then late, late, late in the evening, there’s always the chance to step outside the front door and stare up at the winter moon beyond our tower:-

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The world carries on turning, it would seem.

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Yarn. Lots and lots of oddments of yarn.

Another post while the monster rainbow afghan grows and grows. And grows. 🙂

There’s a bit of a problem in my study. A bit of mission creep. The study is supposed to be home for all my work stuff (psychology books, journals, etc), and all my writing stuff, plus a spot of tedious admin. And all the sombre, brooding pictures that the Stoic Spouse dislikes. And my geology books and some of my fossils and rock specimens, the ones that would be small enough for the twinnage to use as food or lethal weapons if they got near them. It’s a dark little cave of a room, because as long as I’ve got a little lamp at my desk and a mug of green tea beside me, I can read and write contentedly.

But there’s an invader, a determined, fibrous invader.

Creeping around the room like ivy, along the tops of the bookshelves, over the desk and filing cabinet, creeping pretty much everywhere in fact, is yarn. Look!

(Bad photos due to darkness of room.)

Yarn. More yarn. And... yarn.

Yarn. More yarn. And… yarn.

And look!

Nowhere is safe

Nowhere is safe

And I write this as someone with a stash aversion. All this yarn is leftovers from projects or balls for projects I’m working on or am about to do. Where will it end? This has happened fast. How soon will our entire house silt up with spare yarn and we’ll be forced to move out and live in the garden shed? I foresee an advantage, however. Lined with yarn, this room will soon be the only place in the house that is blissfully warm. 🙂

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