Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Autumn, Handmade!

Winter's definitely snuffling it's way under the door again, there's mist over the grass in the mornings, and it's the time you start wanting the cosy closeness of warm comfortable things.  The extra time spent indoors in the evenings is handy for projects, and getting on with those things you've meant to do all summer.

I've fully moved into my new house now, and for a finishing touch I asked my friend Amy to set me up with some classy new cushions.  She runs Amy Allwright Homeware and handmakes all things textiley, from pinnies to iPad covers.  Her work is beautiful, and for ages I've been wanting to find a place for something made by her.  I unearthed two stained, battered and flattened old cushions, and handed them over to her.  Just look how they came back!

Amy restuffed the dying cushions, and made me two removable covers, so that I can take them off and wash them in future.  The one on the left has the pink back fabric I liked from her apron, and the front patterned one picked by Amy.  The one on the right (which I admit is my favourite!) was made from a woollen jumper.  A subtle cable-knit pattern runs through it, and although the cover is held together with poppers she's sewn the original buttons back over them.

They are beautiful.  They're sitting in my reading corner, a space made between a window seat, a wall, and my bookcase, where I can now wedge myself happily in and get lost.  Long winter evenings, sorted!

I've been making things too.  Mostly food.


I've been wanting to try making my own mincemeat ever since I made pies for Christmas last year for a contest.  The homemade pastry was good, but I hadn't thought of mincemeat.  This year, my housemate Katie and I were prepared!

In each of them is a concoction of the following: currants, raisins, sultanas, candied peel, juice and zest fron lemons and oranges, suet, grated apple, brown sugar, brandy, cinnamon, ginger stem, ginger wine, cranberries, cherries, nutmeg.

Basically it's just a case of mixing the ingredients together, packing them into jars, and sealing them tight.  From mid-November they ought to be ready to eat.  Of course neither of us have done this before so we've tried it a couple of different ways, but ultimately we won't know what's worked and what hasn't until we crack open the mincemeat jars in a month or so.  I'm quite excited, and curious to see what we've made.

Cheese and Leek pie

I swiped this recipe for leek and cheese tart from The Guardian's website.  It's pretty easy to do, introduced me to some new cheese (although cheddar would do it, I might swap the taleggio out for some camembert next time, just for a treat.  The taleggio was good in the end, but whiffed a bit of feet for my taste!)  Goes nicely in my lunchbox for work as well.

Makes 4
Leeks 500g
Butter 50g
Puff Pastry 375g
Taleggio (or other melty) cheese 100g
1 beaten egg

1.  Preheat oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4.  Put some baking paper on a tray and leave it in there to heat up.
2.  Remove the roots and leaves from the leak.  Slice them small, melt the butter in a saucepan, and throw the leeks in.  You don't actually want to fry them, just soften them.  It'll only take 10 mins.
3.  While that's happening, divide your puff pasty into eight (a top and bottom for each pie) and roll them into the most circular shape you can. (You could just make 6 long ovals, fold them, and have pasties if you want)  You will need a bigger circle than you imagine.
4.  Split your leeks between the pie bottoms, add cubes of taleggio cheese - you don't need as much as you think you do.  Put a line of egg round the edge and stick the pie top on.  Stab it with a form to let the steam out.
5.  About 25mins in the oven, until the pastry is golden and crispy.
6. EAT IT!!!

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