thyme and taleggio scones

taleggio

Neither Tom or I are fond of food shopping, yet for some unknown reason we have never ordered our supplies online using one of the many delivery services now available. I finally tried this the other day, and of course made the mistake of failing to adjust the default units under which some items are measured. This rookie error resulted in the delivery of a kilo of taleggio cheese. I required just 100g to make a tart, and was now in possession of 10 times more than the recipe required. . . . Tom had a good laugh, and Bruce kindly offered to help out by devouring the excess, but, I reminded him (as I often have to) that dogs don’t eat cheese.

Unfortunately, taleggio is a substance with limited uses, and not really the sort of cheese you can just chow down on wholesale — it is quite strong and salty and very squashy. What to do?

cutter

Well, I just made taleggio scones for lunch, and they turned out so well that I thought I’d share the recipe!

scone

cheesy

There are a few key things to remember when making these:

1) stick the taleggio in the freezer for half an hour so that it hardens up
2) cut the taleggio into small pieces
3) do not work the scone dough in any way. Just bring it together and plonk it down on your floured surface.

Thyme and Taleggio Scones

(Makes 6 or 7 large scones)
6oz / 170g self raising flour
2oz / 56 g butter
3.5 oz / 100g taleggio
ground black pepper
sprig of thyme
5floz / 150 ml buttermilk

Put taleggio in freezer for 30 mins
Preheat oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the thyme leaves and the ground black pepper.
Take the taleggio out of the freezer and cut into small cubes. Using your hand, mix it lightly into the breadcrumb mixture.
Add the buttermilk, and, using a butter knife, stir the mixture gently until it starts to come together.
Bring the mixture together carefully with your hands into a rough dough. DO NOT KNEAD, OR OTHERWISE WORK THE DOUGH!
Place dough on floured surface and lightly press to 1.5 in thick.
Cut out scones with pastry cutter.
Place on floured baking tray and bake at centre of oven for 15 mins, or until golden.
Eat warm.

nom

Well, that’s 100g of taleggio down, only 900g to go . . . .

a few days in Cartmel

sticky
cartmel
watersidecottage

A pretty Cumbrian village . . .

windows2
windows1

. . . festive windows . . .

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doors2

. . . and doors.

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ben2

Ben, the friendly cat . . .

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market3
market2

A fine local food market . . .

lenclume

And a wonderful birthday meal.

In case you are wondering, the food at L’Enclume was just as amazing as you might imagine. We didn’t look at the menu, and really enjoyed the delicious surprises that all (ahem) seventeen courses of the tasting menu afforded. This was incredible food, impeccably presented, but I never felt that its theatre was pointless. In fact, in general L’Enclume struck us as being refreshingly grounded — from its use of local ingredients and suppliers, to the warmth and complete lack of stuffiness of its staff. As our holidays and meals are usually done on the cheap, camper-van style, the whole experience was a real treat for us and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

bauble

Happy 40th birthday, Tom!

nutz

There is no getting away from the fact that I’ve had a rough few days. Please try not to have a stroke, people: the long term health implications of it are really bloody annoying. Sometimes the process of recovery itself can add further problems to the myriad medical issues that follow a brain injury, and this has certainly been the case for me. This particular issue concerns the instability of my pelvis, and my general (in)ability to get about, and as well as being in quite a bit of pain this week I’ve been feeling rather angry and frustrated. Will this shit never leave me alone? Unfortunately, it probably won’t. The only thing for me to do is to properly face up to the fact that a stroke is, in effect, a chronic condition with which I am now living: however determined I am, my mobility is now going to be seriously compromised for the rest of my life, and I have to deal with that. Easier said than done, sometimes. I often find myself thinking of Patricia Neal and her hip replacements.

I’m not keen on myself when I’m maudlin, and I’m quite sure no one else is either, so I find myself with not too much to say today. Here are a couple of cheering things.

I love this so much I can’t stop knitting it. The yarn is the stuff I showed you recently and it is just. so. bloody. tasty. I am making some things from it which will be out in pattern form next month, so I will be able to show you the right side reasonably soon.

Tom baked hazelnut shortbread. When baking anything containing nutz, it is, of course, obligatory to sing several verses of the old Louis Jordan song, Nuts to You. At least it is round here:

“We’ve got walnuts, chestnuts – all the best nuts -
Every kind but donuts
Brazil nuts, peanuts, we will see nuts
Till we really go nuts.”

Where was I? Oh yes, Tom’s hazelnut shortbread. It is very good.

You will find the recipe on p. 948 of Nigel Slater’s Tender, vol 2, or below in an abbreviated variation, rendered without Nigel’s linguistic excesses (“large, unruly balls” being a notable feature of his original).

Butter 170g
golden caster sugar 100g
skinned hazelnuts 60g
ground almonds 40g
plain flour 200g
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 160c.

Cream butter and sugar together till fluffy.
Toast hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until golden, then pound with mixer or pestle & mortar until coarse.
Add the nuts & flour to the butter & sugar and stir until the mixture comes together.
Take a teaspoon, and divide mixture into twelve blobs.
Place on non-stick baking sheet and bake for about 25 mins, or until the biscuits have risen and begun to colour.
Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, before lifting from the baking sheet and dusting with icing sugar.

Enjoy while still slightly warm, with a nice cup of tea.

thought for the day

I was after a needlecase, and found a nice old one on ebay. I always like it when these things contain their original threads and notions. But what really drew me to this particular case was its prim little maxim:

These lines are conventional, and may appear elsewhere, but I know them from William King’s poem, The Art of Cookery (1708), notable for its enthusiastic celebration of eighteenth-century British food, “squab pie” and “white pot” and “Leicester beans and bacon, food of kings!”

“Happy the Man that has each Fortune tried,
To whom she much has giv’n, and much deny’d:
With abstinence all delicates he sees,
And can regale himself with Toast and Cheese:
Your Betters will despise you if they see
Things that are far surpassing your degree;
Therefore beyond your substance never treat,
‘Tis plenty in small fortune to be neat.”

Well, I’m off to make a PIE.

kvikk lunsj

When Martha Joy left a comment comparing Tantallon‘s colour scheme to the wrapping of a Norweigan chocolate bar, I was intrigued. I just had to see it for myself. We agreed to a little exchange, and she kindly sent me a couple of kvikk lunsj in return for a taste of one of Scotland’s finest confections. We can now confirm that hat and choc do indeed share a happy resemblance.

As a a high-energy snack enjoyed by walkers, kvikk lunsj seems to be the Norweigan equivalent of our Kendal Mint Cake. Apparently, each bar used to have the Norweigan fjellvettreglene (mountain code) printed on its wrapper. I rather like this idea.

The tantallon-wearer made kvikk work of one after a snowy walk yesterday. . .

thankyou, Martha Joy!

happy tortoise and hare day!

The tortoise and the hare is finished! I am pleased with it!

I am not ashamed to admit that I had foolish ideas about an appropriate photo location, for which I blame a poster I saw a while ago advertising the LMS railway. The poster was from the 1920s, and like many of this era, it got its message about the benefits of travel across with the image of an energetic young woman enjoying a healthsome, outdoor sporting activity – in this case golf. The setting was the Fylde coast, and a culotte-clad golfer was dramatically framed against the dunes, swinging her club and staring into the middle distance. The caption read “Lytham St Annes for Sea Breezes and Sunshine.” (I’d show it to you, but it doesn’t appear to be online…this companion piece gives you a flavour of it, though). I was to be the windswept golfer, so I donned my culottes (which Tom refers to as the loon pants for perhaps obvious reasons) and we set out to find a golf course.

I was of course forgetting that golf courses are private spaces – indeed, to me golf represents a wholescale privatisation of the landscape anachronistic in a country with progressive outdoor access legislation – but clearly on this occasion politics had to be sacrificed to fashion. Golf courses are also (apparently) dangerous places, due to the associated hazards of flying golf balls and marauding golf buddies. With some trepidation, we advanced beyond the margins of public access and attempted to find a good location. I did not possess clubs or other paraphernalia; the golf buddies were circling like vultures, and a lolloping woman with a leg brace is a conspicuous figure on the green. This was a totally shite idea for a photoshoot!

The flag is there to remind you that I am on a golf course and I am staring out to sea (perhaps trying to locate my lost marbles). The whole effect is more Just William than Jordan Baker, but this interesting shot of my armpit does serve to illustrate what you are all no doubt dying to know: how did I incorporate shaping into the colourwork? ‘Traditional’ fairisle sweaters are not shaped to the bust and waist, and more modern, closely-fitting designs often get round this by allowing the shaping to interrupt the pattern (with a greater or lesser degree of success). I considered several options, none of which were totally acceptable to me: vigorous blocking; the familiar trick of working with smaller or larger needles; having half a tortoise or hare traveling up my torso; or making the sweater fit more loosely and squarely ie- not bothering with shaping at all. Waist decreases were easily integrated into the deep rib at the bottom of the sweater, but what about increasing for the bust? In the end, I realised that I could continue working peerie bands around the sweater, as long as my increases were added in multiples of 5, and I wove in the colours of the hares and tortoises along the back of the work (this is the only weaving I did). This has allowed for a difference of several inches between the measurements of the waist and chest, and the peerie band fools the eye (to a certain extent) into seeing the pattern moving continuously around the torso. In any case, as one does not usually throw armpit-displaying shapes in public, the way the increases are worked is not all that obvious anyway.

Short row set-in sleeves are my new favourite thing: I was put off them a little when I tried Wendy Bernard’s method of picking-up-the-stitches-as-I-went with a kids sweater I was working on a while ago – I made a bit of a pigs ear of it – but really much prefer doing it the way that Barbara Walker recommends: cutting the steek, picking up stitches all around the sleeve cap, and working short rows to the underarms (I used the Carol Sunday short-row method). O, the joy of setting in a sleeve without seams!

I love the triple vikkel braid that separates the ribbing from the colourwork. What I had in mind here was the decorative belt on a ’30s swimsuit, and it does give the sweater that slightly drop-waisted feel. The braids are rather time-consuming to work over a sweaters-worth of stitches, but definitely worth it.

Strangely, the pictures that we took seemed to be much better once we had escaped from golf-world . . .
Here’s a final shot of the whole thing.

A pattern shouldn’t be too long in coming; I’ve planned everything about this design really carefully, so hopefully there will be no unknowns. I also had the idea of writing a companion design for tortoise and hare fingerless gloves / armwarmers to be included with the sweater pattern (these might be worked as a sort of tester swatch or sampler for those unfamiliar with colourwork techniques like the vikkel braids, and could be rather fun).
Here are the project specs in the meantime:

Design: the Tortoise and the Hare
By me! Pattern forthcoming
Yarn: 4 shades of Blacker designs Shetland 4 ply; Katmogit, moorit, white and dark. This is an exceptionally soft and tasty Shetland, which I know will wear fantastically well. I used 180g /675 yards of the katmogit, almost a whole 50g ball of each of the moorit and dark; and around 30g of white.
Needles. 2.75 circs for rib, and on 3mm for body.
Ravelled here

In other news, it was my birthday yesterday (huzzah!) and there were macaro(o)ns. Tom used the Humble Pie recipe a few of you recommended and attempted three varieties: almond and rosewater; pistachio and vanilla; and hazelnut and orange. I have to say that there was a lot of cursing coming from the kitchen the night before last: Tom felt the recipe was a little too sweet and too eggy and removing the macawotsits from the greaseproof paper proved to be a total nightmare. The almond ones were the first batch, and he felt that he overbeat the egg whites, and overcooked them to boot. But the pistachio and hazelnut varieties turned out extremely well, even though Tom was not at all pleased with what he felt was their rather rustic appearance. Indeed, he seems to have gone off the idea of fiddly pattiserie altogether, since his first response to making the macaro(ons) was “I’d rather bake a big ol’ cake and cut you a giant slice.”

From my perspective, however, they were damn tasty – particularly the pistachio ones. And I mostly had a great birthday, but I have to be honest and say that the combination of excitement and exhaustion proved to be a little toxic: I spent the early part of the morning motoring around the flat with the hill-walking poles that Tom had got for me, not thinking about what the effects of learning a new skill of reciprocal bodily co-ordination, combined with putting a lot of unexpected weight through my left arm, would be. I stupidly wore myself out, collapsed for the rest of the day, and then had to sleep for a few hours before I could muster up enough energy to nip out to North Berwick for Tortoise and Hare photography. After that, we bought a fish supper and sat on the sea wall to eat it, looking out at The Bass Rock almost luminously white with gannets – a lovely evening, but an at times frustrating day.

Gie her a haggis

I’ve been marking Burns-themed exam scripts today, so this evening’s supper feels quite timely. This particularly sonsie incarnation comes from Crombies. May I heartily recommend the ‘great chieftan o the puddin race’ to those of you on the other side of the Atlantic who have been denied the pleasures of Scottish offal for the past decade? I’m not entirely sure of the wisdom of photographing one of these fellers uncooked, but light is in short supply, and it still looks tasty to me. When it comes out of the pot, I shall be enjoying it with tatties, neeps, and a nip of corryvreckan. While wearing me neepheid, of course.

help me to win an egg cup

Clearly I have gone blog-post-crazy today, but I just noticed from my all-seeing ‘blog stats’ page that some lovely person (who? who are you?) has nominated me for a Dorset Cereals blog award. Now, generally, I don’t pay much attention to such things, but I like Dorset Cereals and this award involves some homely merchandise (vaguely reminiscent of the stuff I used to be able to acquire with my lost and beloved Yorkshire Tea tokens, ah me), among which is the ultimate, coveted prize of a Dorset Cereals egg cup. My competitive streak has emerged. I would like to win that egg cup. If you would like to help me win it, please support me and vote by clicking on this widget thingy:

Dorset Cereals little awards

If that doesn’t work, just follow this link and look for ‘needled’ (on the first page of nominations, towards the bottom). I will be extremely happy if I win that egg cup and can promise much ludicrous enthusing in the happy event . . .

edit: apparently, if you vote, you may win a “case of Dorset cereals.” Imagine!

mead magic

mead1

Last summer, when we were walking on Jura, we buried some home-brewed mead above the gulf of corryvreckan. Yesterday we retraced our steps, and returned to find it.

mead2

I heart Jura.

mead4

Seven miles and a very enjoyable walk later, we climbed up a cliffside on the remote and empty north-west of the island and wondered if we would be able to find our bottle. Last August, we had dug a hole near the heather line, covered up the mead, and placed a large stone to mark the spot. Since then, the heather appeared to have receded, and other visitors had added other stones to ours.

mead5

The site now resembled a small burial cairn — which I suppose is exactly what it was. Underneath the stones was a bare patch of ground, and what seemed to be solid peat. Tom began to dig. Was the mead still there?

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Of course it was!

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It is hard to convey just how excited we were to see this bottle again. It had spent three seasons in the ground of Carraig Mhór, above the swirling, whirling, myth-infused waters of Corryvreckan. Our mead had lain there, quietly wintering with with Cailleach Bheur above the whirlpool in which Orwell had almost drowned. As a friend of ours said after a few in the bar of the Jura hotel on Saturday night, “that bottle is bigger than both of you.”

mead8

It tasted damn fine, anyway.

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I can also confirm that the returning foot miles seemed to pass by rather quickly in a sort of warm, meady fug. Which was good, since we were walking into a headwind. Slainte!

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