Thursday, 30 May 2013

Special guest in my garden!

I get many guests visiting my little city garden (welcomed and unwelcome). However I am impressed that many of these urban animals aren't scared of humans! This cute squirrel for instance did not mind picking nuts from my hands...

I quite enjoyed sharing my walnuts and hazelnuts with squirrel! But if you prefer, bake carrot cupcakes with walnuts.
Or when the weather seems more promising, this ice-cream recipe is great way to use up all those nuts and seeds.

Or even better! These healthy dried fruit and nut truffles taste great ;-)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cat neck pillow DIY

I don't know about you but having a pet in London is quite a difficulty, especially if you are renting. I once wanted a cat, but came across other issues. This is quite a long story... ok, ok, I will say it quick: I wanted to adopt, but RSPCA was so concerned about me not working full time that they did not even bother to visit my place. I am still confused if I wasn't adopting a child instead of pet, because part time job = can't support a cat financially! Really? Anyways, I am happy I was not considered, because I don't know how I would be baking now? Imagine all those hair all over the place. Maybe next time! 
Vickie's flatmate, Frรคnzel would also like a cat, but can't have it in rented place :-(. So as a gift (Vickie is leaving the house, so she wanted to give something nice to remember), we decided to make a stuffed cat! I know I know this might not replace a real cat, but look at those extra uses for it. You can have it as a cushion or a decoration, or a neck pillow! So don't be sad if you are not able to keep a pet, make a stuffed one to cheer you up! ;-)  

Start with cutting pieces out of the chosen fabric. I used denim (reused old jeans) and flower print cotton fabric. Did you noticed that the bottom cat piece (on the left) is smaller then the top cat piece (on the right)? That is only by 5mm circular, because I wanted flower pattern showing slightly less then denim. I suppose if you are cutting both pieces in the same fabric make them both in the same size, that will be even easer to sew!
A little tip from me when you cutting one piece twice: cut it on the fold! That way you will cut two pieces out of one pattern: one as you cut and one flip side. 
Next job is to stitch matching pieces together. It might be tricky with the main body as they slightly differs in size. While sewing on the machine hold the smaller piece on top and stretch it on the top of the bigger one. Leave stitch gap on all pieces so it can be inverted.
Now you can invert and stuff it with whatever soft things you can find (I used Vickie's old pillow stuffing). No need to stuff the cat ears, they will be sticking out anyways! Maybe just iron them and fold the raw edges in.
Seal the body by stitching using the most basic stitch.
 Using the same stitch attach the tail to the body
And same with the ears: stich all around!

Now the only thing is left is the decoration. Feel free to add anything! I stitched flower buttons for the eyes and Vickie embroidered "cheeks" and cute nose. 

When your stuffed cat is finished, you can....

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Something really tasty from Alex Mackay's cookbook

Just wanted to say how surprisingly amazing this book is! I cooked couple of things from it and whatever I was eating I was never disappointed. Today I cooked this lentil 'moussaka'... hmm!


For the braised lentils

  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 350ml water
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200ml red wine (I used white wine as red one could not be found!)
  • 115g Puy lentils (used basic greens, but I am sure Puy lentils are better)
  • 200 tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt, pepper, sugar (used dark brown and quite a lot by accident, but turned out really really great)
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (oopst! I missed read that! I used the whole orange juice... oh never mind!)
For 'moussaka'

  • 1 large aubergine
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2tsp wine vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar as I am just little addicted to that)
  • 1/2 orange zest
  • 2 tbsp chilly powder
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 125 mascarpone  
  • 60g grated cheddar cheese
  • some parsley for deco (my own touch)
So I began with the lentils as that takes more than an hour...
I started with frying the onion and garlic, then added tomato puree after 7min or so. Then added wine and lentils.
Then I added tinned tomatoes, bay leaf and water and put it into the preheated oven (170C) covered (had to switch the pots as the one pictured above was not suitable for oven, one more reason why I should read the recipe before cooking!). After 30 min I have removed the lid as instructed and carried on cooking it in the oven for another 30min. When finished I just added sugar, salt, pepper and orange juice. This is the result...
Next, I cut the aubergine in four slices (lengthwise) and brushed it with vinegar and olive oil which then got baked for 20min in oven at 230C.
Meanwhile I prepared all the little things like 'cheese sauce' (mascarpone and cheddar cheese mix) and orange zest mixture (zest, chilly and coriander).

Oh,  and you might be asking why I still have orange juice in this picture, did't it go into the lentils? Well... I made this mixture way before everything (sorry to be so confusing).

So, once I got the aubergines out of the oven I started layering. This went like this: first two aubergine slices, than the lentils, then orange zest sprinkles, then the second aubergine slices, then the cheese mix, then the orange zest mix... got the picture? Really useful tip from Alex Mackay in regards to spreading cheese mix: heat the butter knife in the hot water as this makes the spreading much easer!
And now into the oven for 20 min. Enjoy!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Pickled Cucumbers (the Lithuanian Way)!!

As the barbecue season is soon approaching I felt like making cucumber pickles. I pickles in my burger!  Anyway, what I really like is the Lithuanian version as there are no vinegar used in the process, therefore it taste really yummy without any harsh taste. I called my dad for the tips and here is what I did...


Ingredients5 cucumbers (I bought them from green groceries as the long
                                          cucumbers in the supermarket would not work)
                   2 handfuls of dill (very important)
                   1 handful of blackcurrant leaves (my dad said this is important, 
                                                                       but I could not find so I did not add)
                   1 handful of cherry leaves (optional and I did not have any anyways)
                   1 hanful of oak leaves (optional, do you know any oak tree in London?)
                   1 sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional)
                   5 pepper corns
                   3 garlic cloves
                   lots and lots of salt
                   1l boiled water, cooled down to lukewarm 

So first thing first (very simple), put all the ingredients into one pot, glass jar or a bucket (I used a vase actually)... whatever!
I used ceramic baking beans on the saucer to weigh the contents down (the cucumbers tend to float). My dad usually use a stone, but I did not find any suitable. The important thing is not to seal them as it might explode due to gases passing through (I know that sounds creepy, but it's worthy!). After just a few days here come the results!

Now you only need other components for the burger like coleslaw (try sunflower oil with caraway seeds instead of mayonnaise), sliced tomatoes with sour cream and chives + most importantly fried onions (I like it caramelised with some balsamic vinegar and sugar). 
As for buns I baked them all from scratch sprinkled with some caraway seeds again (can't have too much of it!)
 And finally the burgers - have them which ever way ;)