Going Green

One of the best things about having a break from work is having the time to do fun little things like this:I love the design of the golden syrup cans. Unlike many brands, Tate and Lyle have kept their gorgeous green tins the same since their original design. Beautiful. I have been wan to through these in the recycling bin and they have been waiting for a new lease of life for some time. Bring in a couple of pots of supermarket herbs, bang a few drainage holes in the bottom and there you have it. Practical, pretty and beautifully green.

I think they make a lovely addition to the table - especially if flowers aren't in the budget at the moment...

On the subject of vintage branding, I'm looking forward to visiting here this weekend.


She who dares bakes...lasagne

This month's challenge was to make lasagne using homemade spinach pasta. Yikes. This was my first foray into pasta making having always relied on the dried variety. In fact, one of the first things I unpacked at university was my 10kg sack of dried pasta which I didn't finish in the three years I studied there, much to the merriment of the porters. That said, Mr AB was recently given a pasta maker so this was the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.

The recipe called for us to mix our flour and eggs straight on the worktop. I'm sorry to say that after the Danish Braid debacle I played it safe and prepared the dough in a bowl. Uninspiring at first, the mixture soon took on an emerald hue. So vivid and, as promised by the recipe, alive to the touch.

Unfortunately any such vitality vanished once the dough went through the pasta machine. Less pasta, more saggy, green stockings:

What do you mean it doesn't look like the lasagne sheets you get in a packet?

The brilliant thing about lasagne of course is that the layers hide a multitude of sins. The pasta "sheets" (more crazy paving) that I made might not have been pretty but once covered in bechamel sauce and ragu no one could know that they once resembled an unmade jigsaw.

For the meat and bechamel sauces I used two faithful recipes from an excellent cookbook come family history called Dear Francesca. Both recipes are beautifully simple and full of flavour. Layered with the green pasta and a combination of fresh mozzarella and parmesan they produced a particularly light and flavourful lasagne.

Making homemade pasta for a baked dish such as this did seem like a bit of a faff but the results proved worthy of the hassle and green dough still stuck under my fingernails. Homemade pasta seems so much lighter than its doughy shop-bought counterparts and is definitely worth a try. I think the spinach pasta would make a brilliant basis for a summer vegetable lasagne so I will definitely return to this recipe once more.

Please take a look at the work of the other daring bakers here and also check out the fantabulous new daring bakers website here.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.


Forever Better

I'm finally back. I can't really justify my absence as I have been cooking, I even prepared the last Daring Baker challenge, but I just haven't felt like writing. There hasn't, however, been a shortage of things to write about. I have finally left my soul-destroying job (in the middle of a recession - I do time things well), have acquired a kitten (called Pudding) and have had plenty of time to put finger to keyboard; I just haven't felt inspired. Those doldrums have now passed. I want to spend more time on my blog, more time prettifying it and more time immersing myself in the creative world for which I quit my job. In fact, you could say that it is my intention to be "forever better" which leads me nicely into today's post about Miele.

In the world of blogging freebies I am but an amateur. I turned down the opportunity to receive some free GU puds because I thought it might compromise my "homemade is better" integrity and the only other thing I've been sent is some of Kellogg's new muesli to sample (generally tasty but a little dry). However, on Tuesday I got a whole day out at the Miele experience centre in Oxford with travel expenses paid (very important for someone not gainfully employed and with a kitten to support).

It was a brilliant day. I met some lovely fellow bloggers and we cooked a St Patrick's Day feast on the top of the range Miele appliances. Before I continue, I should stress that I am not going to do a puff piece on Miele in the hope of more fun days out (note the lack of advertising on this site) but I was very impressed by how well we were looked after by the team at Miele and the organisers at 1000 heads. The Miele appliances are, without a doubt, excellent quality. Never have I been a kitchen which felt so scientific and never have I suspected that I was less intelligent than an oven. Given the fact that most of these appliances retail for more than I'd get for selling all of my body parts, perhaps this is as it should be.

The famous Irish dish... kedgeree... well, maybe not, but it did show how versatile steam ovens are.

Walking around the experience centre I had an uneasy feeling that I was cheating on my beloved newly refurbished kitchen. We've barely been together 6 months and there I was coveting the steam infused ovens and dishwashers with cutlery trays not baskets. Fickle. Of course I'd have had to sell my flat to be able to afford everything I'd have wanted for my kitchen which would rather have defeated the purpose. Once I get my "forever home" then I'll consider it.

Look how fresh the rhubarb stays when cooked in a steam oven, not that I'm obsessed or anything.

One thing that I won't be saving up for is the kitchen counter BBQ. It's a lovely idea but surely the whole point of a BBQ is standing outside in the rain and cooking barely done sausages to give your family food poisoning, no?

To be fair, it did produce great results:

We left the experience centre full of food and full of loathing for our own technologically inadequate kitchens. It was a fantastic day and if anyone does want to try any of the Miele appliances I would heartily recommend a trip to the experience centre. I would also urge you to check out the work of my fellow bloggers, Sam, Alex, Alex and Joanna - a very talented bunch. They also all had beautiful cards advertising their blogs so I felt very amateur without any to share. Another thing to save up for, after I get the steam oven of course.

I added the shamrock but sadly I can't take credit for this delicious soda bread:


PS May I just add that naughty blogger seems to be cropping all my photos and I haven't lost the ability to centralise my subjects since I last posted!