Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I have two confessions to make. The first is that I watch a lot of recipe programmes. We have subscriptions to the Good Food Channel and the Food Network and I find they're a great way to wind down in the evenings. My favourites are Nigel and Nigella as I love the way they're styled and shot (and Nigel Slater has such a friendly manner), but the other day I stumbled on 'Unique Sweets' about the best bakeries and restaurant desserts to be found around the US. 

There were rave reviews about an unusual biscuit from a San Francisco bakery called Goodygoodie: a chocolate wafer sprinkled with raw cocoa nibs and chopped olives. There seems to be a trend for combining salty and sweet flavours in baking at the moment. Nigella herself has a passion for salted caramel and I loved the idea of the floral saltiness of olives with chocolate, but San Francisco is a bit of a trek. I had never heard of chocolate wafers but realised that they are those tubular, crispy (often striped) biscuits that sometimes come with coffee in a cafe.

I found this basic recipe, some cocoa nibs for sale and bagged a jar of kalamata olives from the supermarket.

The cocoa nibs are crunchy and buttery and the wafers are crispy-edged and delicious. The spike of the salty olives make these utterly moreish. The best part of the recipe* is that its so quick and easy and it makes a small number of wafers - just enough for a treat with a cuppa. They disappear quickly. The Mr thinks that small pieces of very crispy bacon would be good sprinkled on these biscuits but that may be a step too far.

As for my other confession, I like a little marmite under the jam on my toasted crumpets. I think it's OK to admit that nowadays.

This post was due to be part of Making Winter Week but the cocoa nibs took a little while to arrive.

There have been so many gorgeous contributions to this month's link up - huge thanks to everyone who has commented and posted. Thriftyhousehold and I are relaxed about the timings of the project and this month's list is open for another week or two, so if you'd like to discover some lovely wintry recipes and craft or you'd like to join in then follow the link above. I'll be making some mosaics from the Flickr pool later in the week.

* Recipe for chocolate wafers with cocoa nibs and olives
Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment and preheat an oven to 200C/400F

Mix the following thoroughly (makes 12-14 biscuits):

1/4 cup plus two teaspoons all-purpose/plain flour
1/3 cup confectioner's/icing sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons heavy/double cream
1 large eggwhite
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch table salt

  • Make three small piles of mixture on the baking sheet along the longer edge. Spread each into a longish shape (approx 10x 4cm) with a table or palette knife.
  • Onto each wafer sprinkle a good pinch of coca nibs and a good pinch of finely chopped Kalamata olives 
  • Bake for 5-8 minutes or until very slightly darkened round the edge.
  • Cool. 
  • Eat.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Comforting winter salad

Mrs Thriftyhousehold and I hatched a very last minute plan for lunch today. After a hurried phone call I bunged some ingredients in a bag and drove to her place. 

I had some smoked mackerel and baby spinach leaves and I'd whipped up some quick croutons* and a  caesar-style dressing**. I added some marinated artichokes, slivers of parmesan and sunflower seeds. The creaminess of smoked mackerel always surprises me and it was good with the tangy dressing and the fresh crispy leaves.

My lunch partner had made her delicious roasted butternut squash and sage soup. It's hearty, warming and absolutely delicious.

Then the wintry sunshine was calling so we went for a walk. Sometimes last-minute plans are the best kind.

This month's cosy and comforting making winter project can be found in the last post and will be open until well into next month. The contributions are truly lovely so a huge thankyou to everyone who's shared their recipes or wintry images. Making Winter blogposts don't have to be long or elaborate - images of cups of hot chocolate, a favourite pair of mittens, a wintry walk or a tasty pie are perfect. Click here if you'd like to join in.

* Chunks of any bread tossed with 
A few rosemary leaves 
Onto a baking sheet, 
Into the oven at roasting temperature for 10 mins or until golden brown and crispy

** Three tablespoons of creme fraiche, mayonnaise or a 50:50 combination of the two
Squeeze of lemon
Few drops of white wine vinegar
Good dash of Worcestershire sauce
Few drops of oil from a tin of anchovies (optional)
Season (may not need salt)

Monday, 23 January 2012

Making Winter bloghop for January: Cosiness and comfort

Back in 1999 I was working in Covent Garden as a patent analyst. It was an interesting, if slightly monotonous job. One of the bonuses but also the pitfalls of working in that part of London was that Neal Street and The Bead Shop were just a few minutes' walk away.

My takeaway treat lunch of choice at the time was:

A salad from Food for Thought
A Muffinski's raspberry and white chocolate oatbran muffin 
An Innocent Smoothie

Back then Innocent was a tiny start-up company and muffins were very exotic. The muffin trend had yet to take hold and this was ten years or so before cupcakes, whoopie pies or macarons were fashionable. Despite knowing very little about baking I was keen to make some.

Fast forward five years and I ate my first homemade muffin at a friend's house. I was given the recipe on a scrap of paper. 

The real eye opener was that there was no faffing about with creaming sugar and butter. There was a wet mix and a dry mix. They were bunged together, roughly mixed, some fruit or chocolate added (or both) and that was it bar the baking and scoffing. Brilliant.

Nowadays one small daughter whisks the eggs and milk whilst the other (at school for the baking, arrived home for scoffing) helps to measure out. The thrill they get from knowing that they helped to make the muffins never wavers. They may no longer be the height of baking fashion but their simplicity and tastiness are still top of the pops around here, especially as a treat on a grey wintry day. Funnily enough, raspberry and chocolate is the absolute family favourite (oh and raspberries cancel out chocolate in a matter/anti-matter kind of way. Add wholemeal flour and, really, these are a health food).

The basic muffin recipe below can be fancied up or left plain. It is a good, quick comfort baking recipe. I timed it once. From the first opening of the cupboard to getting the muffins out of the oven was 27 minutes. I'm sure it could even be faster.

One top tip (written on the original scrap of paper) is that if frozen berries are put straight into the mixture from the freezer they are just soft and tender (not mushy) once baked.

Guide to measurements: BLACK Imperial, RED Metric, BLUE Cups/sticks

Wet mix:

8 fl oz/230ml/1 cup milk
4 oz/115ml/1 stick melted butter
1 whisked egg
1 tsp vanilla extract  (optional)

Dry mix

10 oz/280g / 1.25 cups plain flour (wholemeal OR 8oz wholemeal plus 2 oz fine oatmeal for health*)
3 oz/85g/1/3 cup of sugar of choice
Level dessert spoon of baking powder

Bake as they are, or..

For extra tastiness choose from

3 oz/85g/1/3 cup - 5oz/150g/just over 1/2 cup frozen berries or chopped fruit/nuts
3 oz/85g/1/3 cup - 5oz/150g/just over 1/2 cup chopped chocolate
(3 oz good, 5 oz better)
Orange/lemon zest

To make

Add the wet to the dry mix
Add extra tastiness ingredient(s)
Mix roughly until just combined
Divide into 12 muffin cases.
Bake at 180 C/350 F for between 15 and 25 minutes (or until golden brown and bouncing back when pressed)

This week is Making Winter Week. If you'd like to share your cosy, comforting wintry creative doings then add your link below, a link in your post and others joining in will come over and visit. If you're new to the project then feel free to grab the button from my sidebar (html code to follow). The Making Winter Flickr pool is just wonderful - pop over for a peep. The first link you see below is Mrs TH's wonderfully simple and soothing balm recipe. I've tried it. It's excellent.

Mrs Thriftyhousehold and I would be especially excited about wintry Comfort Baking recipes over the next two months. As I mentioned yesterday, the plan would be to make and share an online links resource entitled Baking Winter.

* See matter/anti-matter theory above.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Winter cutting garden

Sue at Backlane Notebook has set herself a challenge to cut greenery and, if possible, flowers from her garden during the winter. Hedgerow finds are allowed if things get desperate. I'm a latecomer to the project but I thought I'd venture out to see if there were any spots of colour. I was surprised at what I found amongst the crispy perennials and dead leaves.

I think the prolonged warm weather in autumn kept things flowering for longer and brought forward some Spring favourites*. I bunged them in a cheery tomato can and the table looked brighter immediately.

Tomorrow I'll be hosting a bloghop for January's Making Winter Week. The focus will be on wintry comfort. We'll be sharing cheery creativity to help us through to Spring. Click the link or the Making Winter partcipant list at the top of this page to find out more about the project.

It would be especially fantastic to build up a resource of easy-ish baking recipes for everyone to call on during grey days when we could all do with a pick-me-up. If you've got a good comfort baking  recipe and don't mind sharing it then join in with the bloghop and Thriftyhbousehold and I will collate an online Baking Winter Cookbook.

*I found fennel (both flowers and new ferny leaves), winter-flowering jasmine, a hellebore, ivy berries and leaves, wintersweet (the latter two are favourites of Alice) cotoneaster, perennial wallflower, snowberry, and viburnum. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Capturing nature

Back in the late summer I held a slightly different kind of silver clay workshop here at the cottage. After a cuppa we put on our coats, took up our baskets and went hunting for seeds, berries, leaves and anything we could find in the hedgerows that might have an interesting texture or shape. 

We brought our treasures back inside and laid them out with a small sample of my shell collection.

Then came the fun part. We made little casts of the best acorns, berries and shells from our haul and used them to replicate the shapes in fine silver. 

We also impressed grasses and leaves directly into the clay to create beautiful freeform pendants. Shepherd's purse and rye grass proved brilliant for this.

Once they were added to a chain with a few choice semi-precious stones there was some gleeful trying-on. Silver acorn anyone?

I've been thrilled at the response to the few workshop dates I put on my website recently. I've added an extra date in March for a nature capture workshop as they're so much fun. Edited to add: just one space left on this workshop.

Other news
  • There's an extra 5% off (that makes 15%) plus free shipping in my etsy shop until the weekend. Coupon code: NYSALE15
  • A space has freed up on my silver clay workshop this coming Saturday (due to illness). We will be making silver buttons, flowers, birds and anything that takes our fancy. We will also be eating homemade cake. Pop over here or leave a comment if you're free and would like to come along.  Edited to add: Space now filled.
  • This month's Making Winter week will begin on Monday 23rd January.

Friday, 6 January 2012


Many bloggers have eschewed resolutions this year. I know that my own New Year's good intentions have often been forgotten or set aside by the time Spring arrives.  Despite this I do have a few things I resolve to do more of in 2012:

Make time to bake. Once a week would be good.

Stop worrying about dust in the corners and have friends round to eat more often.

Make my own granola. The very word evokes jokes about macrame potholders, flares and lentils for me but it's a good, tasty breakfast.* 

Take up a new craft. The jewellery-making used to be my main source of relaxation. Now that it has started to become more of a day job I need an alternative. Willow weaving is top option at the moment.**

Take daily walks round the village and in our wood. They are such good places to be and I often forget that. All these images came from a half hour walk this afternoon within half a mile of our cottage.

This bench is my favourite spot in the wood. Here there are dogroses, hawthorn (blossom and berries) and a walnut tree.

Sometimes the girls and the Mr come with me to the bench and we have a mini picnic. Fairy houses are built out of sticks (above is the remains of one built in October). We will be coming here more often.

A kingfisher lives here. I didn't see him/her today.

*Any good recipe links gratefully received.
** Perhaps I can weave my own granola.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Little etsy sale

There is a little New Year sale on in my etsy shop at the moment. Not only is there free shipping but also 10% off for a week, starting today. The coupon code to enter at checkout is NYSALE10.

After the sale there will be new stock arriving in the shop, including vintage lockets (I recently found a beautiful, oval Georg Jensen locket), a beehive pendant and some vintage doily necklaces. 

I will also be making and listing some hand drawn brooches like the one I gave to Rebecca. Once the bulbs start to emerge in our garden I plan to capture the seasonal flowers regularly this way.

I am excited about 2012. My head is buzzing with new designs for, dare I say it, the Spring.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Checking it twice

I'm aware that lovely as the Making Winter Flickr mosaics are, they don't always contain the gorgeous goings on of bloggers who are not on Flickr. I needed to remedy the situation so I have made a list of all the participants of the project (there are seventy of us (!) including me) both on blogs and in the Flickr pool and put them on a separate page of my blog - click the link at the top there or go here

If you have been joining in with the cheery seasonal goodness and I haven't put your link in the list then drop me a line and I'll remedy that straight away. 

Photo credits:
1. Green Rabbit Designs 2. The List Writer 3. Lola Nova 4. During Quiet Time 5. Little Cotton Rabbits 6. Little Cottage Comforts 7. Scented Sweetpeas

 In other news, this was my Boxing Day sandwich, containing leftover Christmas dinner, including slices of roast potato and horseradish sauce. It was delicious.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Decorate, celebrate, make and eat

The Making Winter Project has been an absolute joy over the festive season. It's been an unexpectedly tricky few weeks here so the images, blogposts, comments and contributions from all who have taken part have been absolutely invaluable. Thankyou so much. I have collated some images together from the Flickr pool to give a feel for just how uplifting everyone's creativity can be en masse.

The mosaic above is called simply Make,

1. Little Cotton Rabbits  2. The List Writer 3. Green Rabbit Designs 4. Farfromharmfarm
5. Thriftyhousehold  6. Andamento 7. Saidos da Concha 8. Scented Sweetpeas
9. Farfromharmfarm 10. Little Cotton Rabbits 11. Scented Sweetpeas 12. Spruce St

This one is called Decorate and Celebrate:

1. Quince Tree 2. Me 3. Andamento 4. During Quiet Time
5.During Quiet Time 6. Itchin Stitchin 7. Lina 8. The List Writer
9. The Knobby Knitter 10. During Quiet Time 11. Saidos de Concha 12. The List Writer
13.Yellowhouse 72 14.Scented Sweetpeas 15. Lola Nova 16. Het Bovenhuis

....and finally, Eat

1. Lola Nova 2. Yellowhouse 72 3. The Quince Tree 4. Thrifty Household
5. Saidos da Concha 6. Saidos da Concha 7. VinGar 8. Lina
9. Thrifty Household 10. Green Tea Comfort 11. The Quince Tree 12. During Quiet Time

I think they're wonderful and they cover many of the hygge themes that Sue described and that Making Winter embraces wholeheartedly. To see even more gorgeous images the December 2011 Making WInter blog hop is here.

Some images cannot be used in mosaics because of privacy settings but contributions from Mrs Micawber  Peeriemoot, Planet PennyDriftwood (especailly her wonderful pinecone biscuits), The Fluff Pot and Paula's Homemade Life are just gorgeous.

The Flickr pool also holds tasters of some New Year themes, fresh starts and hints of a new season. I do like this time of year - it always has a feeling of possibilities and new starts.

1. Saidos da Concha 2. Saidos da Concha 3. Thrifty Household

The January Making Winter week will begin on Monday 23rd  January. This month can sometimes be a tough one so the focus will be on comfort, cosiness and things that can cheer a grey winter's day. We may even factor in some cold and 'flu remedies, just in case. Mrs Thriftyhousehold and I do hope you might join in. I can vouch for it being a very good thing to do.

Happy New Year x