And we did go forth unto Battle!

Hehe 🙂 Yes, we took a small trip at the weekend to Sussex to help at a conference and made a short foray into Battle (yes, 1066 and all that). It was very cold (we saw cars with snow on them) and dark so we didn’t hang about so this is a whistlestop tour, walking briskly to keep out the chill 🙂 This is Battle Abbey all lit up for Christmas.

A view down into the town of Battle from the Abbey.

Bright lights on the merry-go-round

and in the shop window. Chocolate, tea and warmth were our thoughts so we left Battle hastily for the evening session.

Advent is here!

We celebrated the start of advent by going to a candlelit carol service at St Martin’s Church last night and we managed to get what seemed the two orders of service without the words to the songs in them so lots of smiling and listening intently ensued. It was a beautiful evening and reminded me of the joy I’d had last year making an advent wreath – so, of course, I figured it was time to make another 🙂

This year, I am actually looking forward to Christmas. It is weird, normally I’m hurtling towards it like it is a big target with so many things to do beforehand, I haven’t really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to eating the mince pies and enjoyed playing with Sirius as I made the wreath. I’m even looking forward to writing some cards. (Yes, that is weird!!)

I even made mince pies this evening from scratch – making my own pastry. Usually I just use some Just Rol which is quick and easy but I took some time between other tasks to make some and some brandy butter too. A real treat.

Happy Advent!

All grown up now

It was quite some time since we first met this chap and we’d walked round to the church many times without seeing him and have even thought he might have been run over as the church is near a busy road….

….until yesterday when I found him sitting by a gravestone looking like he owned the place. What a handsome chap he has become!

Hello again, Wriggler! And Happy Thanksgiving to lovely American friends!!

Sparkling bright for a winter’s night

I’ve had a bit of inspiration

from some of the beads

I’ve found at our local bead shop.

I really like the turquoise wires so enjoyed putting together this pendant to match it.

I also like combining and twisting beads and wire round so am rather pleased with how this pendant turned out.

This has to be my favourite by miles so I will have a lot of trouble actually wanting to sell it 🙂 I’m going to do a craft fair with my talented friends Rach and Fiona really soon 🙂

Anise Anise

Yes, my sewing up aversion seems to be almost at an end. Anise is finished, done, dusted, finito! I think it might have something to do with the very cold weather that has arrived

and finding this beautiful button I’d bought at a knitting show some time ago!

Tamyra doesn’t have a problem with the cold as she can always find somewhere warm to lie even if it is at the bottom of the stairs.

One pumpkin .. so many ways

pumpkin pulp
I managed to snag a lovely pumpkin for the princely sum of 50p the other week and it has been sitting in the kitchen looking at me ever since. It was only this weekend when I came home with a large squash as well, I figured I’d better do something with the pumpkin to make room for the squash particularly since it is Thanksgiving weekend next weekend 🙂

So it had to be pumpkin pie. pao had been asking me if I’d make pumpkin pie. Well, I’ve never ever made one before and I knew I liked it as an American colleague had brought in some she’d made and that started a whole new love affair with canned pumpkin which is often very expensive and difficult to get here. I did a bit of googling to try and work out how to prepare the pumpkin and came up with the Joy of Baking recipe but decided that I would prepare the pumpkin according to the recipe I had found on the BBC using the spices that Joy the Baker recommended on her blog.

So with reference to all of those recipes, here is how I made three (!) 7 inch pies:

Pate Brise Pastry
(adapted from Joy of Baking)

350g plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated white sugar
225g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
60-120ml cold water

In a food processor : put flour, salt, and sugar and pulse slightly to combine. Add butter and whizz until it resembles fine crumbs. Then add gradually 60-120ml of cold water so dough just holds together when pinched. If you don’t get this, add a little more water – I had to when I was doing this. Don’t pulse too much to mix – about 15-20 seconds.

Divide dough into three patties and wrap each in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. You can now prepare your pumpkin spice and filling.

Pumpkin spice
(adapted from Joy the Baker)

1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (the one in my local shop has pimento in it and I have bought one with orange peel in so whatever you can get your hands on is nice)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
big pinch of mace (Joy suggests cardamom but I’ve not really seen powdered cardamom here and I got my Mace in Waitrose so I’m going to use it!!)

Add all the ingredients to a empty jar, put lid on and give a good shake and you are good to go. This makes about 2 tbsps of spice which is just enough for three pies.

(adapted from BBC Pumpkin Pie recipe)

900g prepared pumpkin – peeled and chopped weight
4 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
150g soft dark muscovado sugar
20 fl oz double cream

Steam pumpkin until soft and press through a sieve to get out all of the excess liquid. You may have to give this several goes and I did save the liquid for making a soup later.

At this stage, you will want to grease your 7 in dishes with butter and take your pastry out of the fridge so you can roll it out to fit your pie dishes. Joy of Baking explains this much better than I could but basically you want to roll your pastry to slightly larger than your dish then carefully poke it into the corners so it fills the dish and then cut off the excess pastry. Something that the BBC recipe mentions is putting chopped pecans into the pastry. I just sprinkled them on the top but for future reference, I plan to press them into the pastry at this stage so you get a nice pecan-y layer when you cut into it next time. Once you have put the pastry in all three pans, cover them each with cling film and put them back in the fridge to cool for 30 mins.

At this point, you can make a cup of tea and relax for ten minutes or do what I did which was pop over the road to a Christmas Bazaar to see what bargains were to be had (mmm gingerbread men).

Ok, back from drinking tea and hi-jinks?

(At this stage, you probably want to think about preheating your oven to 180C. My oven heats up quick so I kind of know that within the 10-15 minutes it takes me to do the next bit that I’ll be ready to bake.)

Beat eggs and yolks lightly in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, heat together gently sugar and double cream, whisking them together until at simmering point. Pour this onto the egg mixture and whisk to combine.

Add spice mix and whisk to combine.

Take the pastry cases from the fridge and pour in pumpkin mix. Transfer carefully to preheated oven and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes until puffed up round the edges and slightly wobbly in the middle.

Cool on racks being watchful of maurading cake eating kittens. I put two of the pumpkin pies in the freezer in case you wondered how we were going to eat all three before they went off.

In the meantime, whisk up a nice warming pumpkin soup:

Spicy pumpkin soup
1kg pumpkin flesh
2 leeks
Lump of butter, touch of olive oil
2 dried red chilis (this was quite spicy because I left the seeds it, for the less adventurous you might wish to deseed the chilis or just use the one)
1 tbsp powdered vegetable stock (I like the Marigold Swiss stuff) mixed up with water or leftover pumpkin water from pie
3 tbsps mint raita

Fry leek in butter with a little olive oil and set aside until pumpkin has cooked.
Steam pumpkin in stock until tender. Add chili(s) and leeks. Blitz with a stick blender.

Add mint raita and enjoy!

I toasted the pumpkin seeds in the oven with sugar and a little olive oil whilst the pies were cooking.

The kittens mourned the loss of their friend.

Tamyra’s November Lady (or how to make a kitten happy)

The weather has taken quite a turn for the colder and because I did manage to sew up Alex…

I cast on for another February Lady

or Tamyra’s November Lady. She is rather smitten.

Even taking a photo of the salvaged vintage buttons was difficult as she kept moving her paw into shot.

Who am I though to separate a kitten from her bliss?

Sugar and spice

There is nothing nicer at this time of year than the warmth of the oven and the smell of sweet spices slowly baking. I love making Christmas cakes and the long slow 4 hour bake is a good afternoon usually spent knitting or playing with kittens wrapped up warm and thinking about Christmas.

After all that slow cooking, there is a beautifully plump and spiced-filled fruit cake ready for the resting and feeding. I’ve run out of brandy so this year I’m feeding my cake with Cointreau so that will be interesting.

I do love cherries and do feel most fruit cakes do not have enough cherries in them so I bought some extra and make a special cherry-laden version which I will be feeding raspberry liqueur to at regular intervals. The fruit for the cake was soaked in kirsch and it does seem to taste rather good when I tried a nip.

My biggest problem now is not when to eat them but how to make sure those cake-eating kittens keep off them. I do leave them to cool in the dining room but have to check carefully as Sirius has taken to climbing up to the top of the bookcases and lying in wait.

Autumn’s final harvests

A handful of chestnuts gathered on an autumn walk…

a last bunch of sweet carrots gathered in the garden..

It is the time to tidy away the old and start to get set in for the winter and new growth in the spring. New ways of doing and seeing. A new season.

Even Sirius has found himself a new place to curl up – squeezing himself small and scooting under the bookcase.

Alex all sewn up

Inspired by your encouraging comments on my case of unfinished objects, I took Alex out of the case and got sewing. I’ve tried it on and it fits great. I’ll need to do a bit of blocking to get the neck to sit flatter but apart from that it looks great. I found the buttons in a rummage box in a charity shop so it was nice to do a bit of recycling. They look just the part on this jacket.

Sirius doesn’t mind if I block it on not, he thinks it is a good place to sleep blocked or not. Now I should crack on with the next thing as it is starting to get quite cold.

Thanks for your encouraging comments for pao. He is still not really with it as he is so dizzy and disorientated. Please continue to send those healing thoughts and prayers for those who believe in prayer. He certainly needs them!