Monthly Archives: February 2013

Casting on

When you’re a knitter, there’s a couple of questions that you always get asked:

“You’re knitting?!” – No, I’m playing the harmonica…

“What’s that?!” – (I quite like this one) Oh this old thing…? Well, it’s just a little project I’m working on…

“How long have you been knitting for?!” – It’s this one that I’m going to answer here. Every knitter has this story and this is my version.

Flash back to October 2010… Those crazy, hazy days…

My darling housemates bought me a fantastic-looking book called Knitting Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec with an amazing selection of strange, knitted creatures and I experienced the first inkling of the common knitter’s impulse of “KNIT ALL THE THINGS”. Only problem, at that point, I couldn’t knit. Slight issue.”Oh,” they said “we assumed you could knit!” – and that was that. My destiny was set.

Like quite a lot of people, I tried when I was rather younger but the complexity of the pointy sticks and the wool and the yarn-goes-here, put-the-needle-here,  in-round-through-off business was just far too baffling so I gave up and went back to watching The Simpsons or whatever I was doing. This time around, however, I was determined…

I started by pestering my mother and my brother’s girlfriend to help me learn and I went along to John Lewis in Peterborough (impossibly glamorous, I know) to pick up knitting supplies… I grabbed a large ball of chunky, squidgy, navy-blue acrylic (“that’s enough for a scarf, surely?” yes, I know, I know) and some needles (enormous, plastic 6mm ones) and excitedly went home to learn.

Why does everyone start off with a scarf? They take forever and that’s not what you want as a newbie! Knit a suitably-sized square, fold it in half and sew up the edges and you’ve got yourself an iPod sock – bam! Instant gratification! Anyway, I started with a scarf. More of a stole, really – barely stretching around the neck once – but I did it! Yes, the gauge may have ranged from ‘impossibly tight’ to ‘absurdly loose’ and I may have dropped and added stitches at random (which made it have a fascinating, wavy edge – entirely deliberate, I promise) but it was done!

And that was it, I was hooked. I went on to try doing cushion covers, more scarves and other square things and, yes, the knitted creatures from my first ever knitting book.

An early knitted effort

An early knitted effort

Chunky navy acrylic was my gateway drug and I’m now hopelessly addicted…

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beef stifado

We had a friend over for dinner tonight so I wanted to try something new… And drew a complete blank. All I managed to decide was that I really fancied some potatoes dauphinoise and so (creatively) googled “what to serve with potatoes dauphinoise” and this came up… Worth a try? Gosh yes.

I’ve never made it before but it was fabulous (if I say so myself) – it’s a very rich, tomatoey, beef stew with a really interesting spicy flavour. I started here and tinkered around with it a little – mostly by leaving out the shallots (because who can be bothered to peel 500g of shallots?! I mean really.) and, because our guest doesn’t drink, leaving out the wine (and wine vinegar) and substituting with a good glug of sherry vinegar.

  • Beef, lean casserole steak – about 750g would be enough for 4 people I think
  • Onions, 2, thickly sliced
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil, lots – probably close to 100ml
  • Sherry vinegar, a good slosh, around 100ml again
  • Stock cube (I used one of those chicken stock jelly pots)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • Cloves, 4
  • 1 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Tin of plum tomatoes
  • black pepper
  • salt

Fry the beef in batches in a very hot pan with a tiny bit of vegetable oil to seal and colour the meat and add the onions, garlic and olive oil and let the onions soften – might be worth turning down the heat a little. Add the vinegar and let it simmer for 5 mins to burn off the harsh sourness – it’ll smell a little strong but don’t worry. Add everything else (apart from the tomatoes), give it a good stir to mix everything together and open your tin of tomatoes. Pour them into a large bowl and squidge them into rough chunks with your hands and throw away any hard bits of stalk, pour into the pan. Season well and add about 500ml of water from the kettle before putting everything into an oven dish and cover (I use foil) – cook in a medium oven (about 180 degrees, fan) for 2 hours until the meat is tender and coming apart slightly – keep an eye on it and top up the sauce with more water as it needs it. The sauce should be very shiny, rich and thick. We had this with potatoes dauphinoise but it would be equally lovely with some rice or crusty bread and I would imagine it’d be even better the next day having rested overnight in the fridge (if you can resist scoffing the lot, right there and then).

 

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getting started…

So here we are! My new blog.

What are the sorts of things that will be appearing here? I’ll aim to post a mix of things that cover my various activities – I’m a keen cook, knitter and photographer (all of which with varying results) and I’ll be sharing things that work… and things that don’t.

Work in progress...

So thanks for bearing with me so far – I look forward to sharing this little corner of the internet with you!