2013 - The Year of Knitting


Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 was the year I learnt to knit properly.

Two years earlier I had to abandon an attempt to knit a scarf for my dad. I crocheted it instead. I just couldn't get along with knitting. It was slow and awkward, me and the sticks did not like each other.

Then at the beginning of March 2013 I spent a fabulous day with some fabulous blogladies. Many of them were knitting, Ali was knitting socks, Monica was knitting socks, Tracy was knitting an Icelandic vest, Julie was knitting something gorgeous too, bunnies I think, Alice had something white on the go on a long circular needle, and Kristina had knitted everybody socks -11 pairs (plus some spares). 

'Could I knit a sock?' I asked 'Of course you could knit a sock' the blogladies said. And they were right; I could knit a sock.

Since March I have knitted: 2 and half pairs of socks, 2 scarves, 2 shawls and 3 hats. I have another shawl and another scarf on the needles and 1 and half pairs of socks waiting to be cast on.

Thanks to those wonderful ladies I am now a knitter.

I am also a blogger and although I know I don't post quite as much as I used to I still enjoy it and do not intend to stop. There is no particular reason for my less frequent posts other than a feeling that I don't want to be too repetitive. Such is the cyclical nature of life, and as such here is this year's December sampler.

My very best wishes for
Thank you for reading


Turkey Leftovers


Friday, 27 December 2013

Leftover turkey. There's a good chance you've got some.
There's more to leftover turkey than the meat. The bones are leftover turkey, the fat you pour from the roasting tin is leftover turkey, the skin is leftover turkey and it is all good to eat. 

Giblets aren't leftovers so much as extras, but they are turkey too and good to eat if made into stock. On Christmas Eve I made stock with the all of the giblets except the liver. The liver I chopped very small and added to my stuffing. Making stock out of giblets is easy. Chuck them in a pan with an  onion, a carrot, a leek, and/or a stick of celery. Add a bay leaf if you like. Cover with water and bring to the boil then simmer for 1-2 hours. Strain into a bowl or jug. Use some of it to make the gravy on Christmas day and freeze the rest for future soup.

Fat and Juices
When you take your turkey out of the roasting tin there will be a lot of fat and rich, meaty juices in the tin. Don't think of throwing it away. Pour the lot into a bowl. Use a couple of spoonfuls of the fat for gravy and allow the rest to cool in the bowl before putting it in the fridge. The fat will not get really hard but it will solidify and you will be able to lift it off to reveal the gorgeous jellied juices underneath. Keep reading to see how I used the fat and juices from my turkey this year.

delicious jellied turkey juices beneath the rich fat

The white meat is easier to slice when it is cold. We like it simply served with baked potatoes and wintry salads like coleslaw, or in sandwiches. 
The dark meat I find less appetising. This year I decided to mince it in my food processor.

Make stock, make it in exactly the same way as giblet stock using all the bones and gristly bits. A turkey carcass will produce a lot of stock. If you don't have much freezer space store it in the fridge and plan to eat soup everyday for a week, why not? Cook pasta and rice in stock. Make risottos. We are eating some of our turkey stock as soup today for lunch. I've added leeks, carrots, potatoes and barley, it smells wonderful.

The skin can be added to the stockpot or you could try putting it on a baking tray and crisping it in the oven. I say 'you could try' because I haven't tried it. I wish I had though, I think crisp turkey crackling would have gone down well with my boys.

Now for that minced turkey and the delicious fat and juices. Here's what I did.

Turkey Rissoles
The rissole deserves a revival. Made with care these little cakes of minced roast meat can be delicious. Crisp on the outside, soft and savoury inside.


leftover roast meat, minced or chopped finely
fat from the roast (or butter)
meat juices from the roast or stock or water

I am not giving precise quantities, I don't know how much leftover turkey you have. There is very little point in a recipe which uses up leftovers if it requires you to have a specific amount of leftovers.

Start well ahead as the mixture needs to chill before it is shaped into cakes.
Take a bowl of minced roast turkey (or any roast meat), add finely chopped onion (I use my veg hash), throw in any leftover bread sauce and stuffing you might have lurking around. Season with salt and pepper.

Now make a sauce using about a tablespoonful of the turkey fat and another tablespoonful of flour. Make it exactly like gravy by melting the fat and stirring in the flour to make a paste. Let the paste cook for a minute or two before adding some liquid. I used the jellied turkey juices from beneath the turkey fat. Obviously if you can use the meat juices and its fat your rissoles will have a better flavour and you will have made good use of all of your turkey. Stir them into your paste until you have a very thick glossy sauce. It should be thicker than gravy because this is going to bind the meat together. If it is too stiff add some stock or water, or you could use leftover gravy (I was saving my gravy to serve with the rissoles).

Add the sauce to the minced turkey. You may not need it all so add it gradually until you have a firm paste.

Spread the mixture on a dinner plate and put it into the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

When it has chilled and firmed up cut it into equal portions like a pie and shape the pieces into little cakes.

Roll them in breadcrumbs. If you don't have any breadcrumbs dust with flour.

Use the remaining turkey fat to fry the rissoles on both sides until crisp and brown. They will become quite soft and delicate after frying so take care when removing them from the pan. Serve with reheated leftover gravy if you have some. Mashed potato is nice with rissoles although I made twelve with my leftover dark meat so we skipped it and just had them with peas.

The same method can be used to make fishcakes or veggie cakes using leftover cooked veg and cheese.
You can of course add whatever spices you like to rissoles to zip them up a bit.

All I have left of my Christmas turkey now are several tubs of stock in the freezer and the sliced white meat which we will eat with baked spuds and salad tonight. The pudding was eaten in one go thanks to me cleverly making a quarter-sized one. There is one jar of mincemeat left and an entire Christmas cake but neither are in any danger of going off due to their high alcohol content so I am not worrying about using them up.

Simmer Dim Two


Thursday, 26 December 2013

 This is my second Simmer Dim, the first is here. I called that one Summer's Done because I knitted it as summer turned to autumn. This one I made for my mum's Christmas present. I tried to think of a clever name but all I could come up with was Simmer Dim Mum and I didn't think she'd appreciate that. She appreciated the scarf though. Or is it a shawl? I'm not sure.

It's knitted in Araucania Botany Lace -details here. I think this one turned out better than the first one because I used blocking wires to get all the points pointy.

Seasonal Observations


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas is nearly here and here I am doing what I do at this time of year:

lighting candles
decorating my tree (we have such a nice one this year)
hoovering up pine needles
making dozens of florentines
eating dozens of florentines
listening to A Christmas Carol
wishing Katie would turn off the Christmas music. All I want for Christmas is not to hear Mariah Carey ever again. Ever.
sampling the quince vodka and damson gin
making mince pies -little'uns and one big pie to eat hot with cream for pudding -much less trouble.
making a turkey timetable -thank you Delia
taking photographs of my candles, Christmas tree, florentines and mince pie

I will be back after Christmas when no doubt I will be fired up with the desire to eat less and get fit. Again.

Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this blog, do have a good one!

Just Now I Am.....


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Decking the halls with boughs of holly. And mistletoe.

Enjoying the sun shining on my trees - quince and Christmas. The Christmas tree will come indoors on Friday afternoon.

Buying boxes of clementines.

Watching Kangaroo Dundee. Adding 'baby kangaroo' to my Christmas list. I have plenty of pillow cases.

Baking bread. Spreading it with this.

Knitting. Of course. The lace is finished on my shawl and my scarf of many colours is coming along beautifully.

Ringing the AA and asking them how much it will cost to add George to my car insurance policy so that he can practise before he takes his test next month.

Telling George that he'll just have to manage without practice after being told that to add him to my policy for 6 months will cost £1300. I pay £160 a year.

Listening to this.

Christmas Granola


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

They keep asking when am I going to make mince pies. I say 'next week because if I make them now you will eat them all and then I will have to make more next week'. And the same goes for the florentines.

But they want something Christmassy now. So I made them some Christmas granola.

I make a big batch of granola every two or three weeks. I use this recipe  which I make in double quantities.

To Christmas it up a bit I switched the honey/sugar for golden syrup and black treacle. I added ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice. I used pecans adding an extra cup. When the granola was baked and cooled I added dried cranberries and broken gingernuts. My gingernuts were homemade (they're really easy to make) but you could use any crisp gingery biscuit.

Making granola is not a precise art, the recipe below is just a guideline, it's what I did today. Next time I may add different fruit or nuts, or some chocolate chunks. Maybe I'll try it with cardamom instead of ginger for a Scandinavian flavour. Experiment.

Christmas Granola

If you don't have cup measures use a mug.

Mix together the following ingredients
4 cups porridge oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup of seeds ( I used pumpkin and sunflower)
1½ cups pecans
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ mixed spice
pinch of salt

Heat together
½ cup sunflower oil or melted butter
¼ black treacle
¼ golden syrup

Pour syrup and oil mixture onto dry ingredients and mix well. Use your hands to get every dry bit covered.

Spread granola out in a roasting pan and bake for 1 hour at 160°c (140°c fan oven) stirring at 20 minute intervals. If you leave it to cool completely in the pan you will get nice big chunks of granola.

Once cool add
1½ cups dried cranberries
12-15  broken ginger biscuits (put them in a bag and bash them with a rolling pin).

The Week in Pictures


Sunday, 8 December 2013

A birthday meal of chicken with lemon thyme, pancetta, cream and vermouth.

Followed by quince sorbet. Made by defrosting frozen quince purée, adding sugar and lemon juice and freezing in an ice cream-maker. Probably a food safety crime.

A new knitting bag because I bloody love knitting.

 And gorgeous new yarn to put in it. Koigu KPPPM. Must have them all.

Casting on a Carlisle scarf. Easy tv watching, wine drinking knitting.

More new yarn.  Following all the excellent advice readers gave me for choosing a yarn that won't pill I chose Baby Cashmerino for this shawl. Please tell me it will be ok. Challenging chart-reading, undisturbed, focussed knitting.

Chocolate muffins with white chocolate chips. Consumed by the ever-hungry teenagers.

 Hummus, spinach, avocado and feta pitta sandwich. Virtuous lunch for me.

Purple sky on Thursday morning. A sign of stormy weather to come.

It's been a good week.

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