Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Welcome to the Foodie Post! If I can organise myself this should be a regular spot as requested by (some of) you! I had quite a few comments here and on face book about quinoa so I thought I'd use this post to introduce it to those of you who have never heard of it before.

Quinoa - pronounced keen-wha - is actually a seed, not a grain, and is gluten free. So if you are cutting back or excluding those items from your diet, quinoa is very useful. I regularly use it as a rice or couscous substitute. It comes from South America and has for years been a diet staple of indigenous peoples there. The brand I buy is called Granovita, which is a fair-trade company. There has recently been some controversy about the increased demand for this foodstuff world-wide, apparently pushing up prices and making it too expensive for the people who grow it to eat it. There are several sides to this   debate, but I will include a link to an article my musical friend Marj sent me this morning, and you may read and follow it up as you please. I think paying the growers a fair price for their labours is an equally  strong argument, and I am about to investigate an English firm who have been growing quinoa for years, to see if that is worth following up.

Darn it, I didn't get the name of the company in! But you have it above anyway. Pictured also is the stock I used to cook it. The instructions tell you to rinse well, and add to twice its volume of boiling salted water. Cook over a moderate heat until the germ separates- about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover, leaving it to absorb the remaining water. May be served hot or cold.

Today I cooked it as I would risotto. I prepared my veggie basics and sautéed them until soft, then I added my spices - za'atar, grated turmeric and mixed peppercorns.

I then added my quinoa and stirred to coat the grains, and poured over my stock. This is what the uncooked seed looks like. A bit larger than couscous, slightly smaller than barley, I'd say.

A quick turn round the garden found a handful of herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme and some Moroccan mint. The sage is a bit on the sparse side as it is from an old bush which is past its best!

As the quinoa absorbed the stock I added a little more water, then covered the pan until the water was gone and the quinoa was cooked and fluffy. About half an hour. Meanwhile I had steamed some broccoli and cauliflower, and shredded some spinach.

Here is what the quinoa looked like when first cooked, close up.

And here is the finished dish, with the spinach and the cooked veggies stirred into it.

And very nice it was too! We ate it as a side dish to some stewed lamb. Not the cheapest of 'grains' so if you are being very frugal, one to miss perhaps. However, a good substitute if you are grain free, and I shall let you make your own minds up about the ethics involved. Do let me know what you feel about it

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Couple of Jaunts

Such a sunny day it was, and the photo above looks quite grey! Never mind, you will have to imagine the sun! Jim and I took a jaunt up to Dersingham to look at some plants to go in the garden. It really was a lovely day, and warm when in direct sunshine. After visiting Thaxters and having a coffee in the cafe we drove up to Old Hunstanton and took a stroll round the craft centre - we go about once every year or so - it doesn't change much!

I bought some cards and some little odds and ends for future gifts, and no, I was tempted, but did not walk out with any socks, delightful though they were! They were imported from America so I didn't feel they had much to do with Norfolk Crafts!

Then we went for a stroll overlooking the sea and the beach huts. An old friend and I used to bring the children here - oooh MANY years ago now, to a little hut they had. Crikey! That must be about 30 years ago!!

Jim, gazing out towards Hunstanton. Blue sky more apparent here!

Looking West - Hunstanton faces both north and west, as it sits on that corner of the Rump of East Anglia.

Looking north, across the dunes to the sea.

Jim in the car park at The Lodge where we had our lunch. And very nice too!

Then on Thursday, after my melodeon lesson, I met up in Norwich with my friend Sue and we had a wander and then lunch (yes, my posts are all about eating, I know) at The Waffle House , which has been going at least thirty years and Sue can't imagine why she has never taken me there before. 

Sue polishing off her waffle with brownie mousse and ice cream. I know, disgusting isn't it?

And my almost clean plate. Except I didn't have ice cream. Honest. well, just a little bit of Sue's!

So that's the extent of my wanderings for the last couple of weeks, the sunshine was just too good to remain indoors and it was good to catch up with Sue - plans for more lino-cutting are in the air. I hope you have all managed to do nice things in the sunshine - but watch those frosts! We aren't there yet!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Mandy Pattullo Workshop

Hello Sunshine!!! I can't believe this weekend is wonderful, sunshine and real warmth, and the garden is cheering up no end. I took a Sunday stroll around Gill Acres this afternoon and thought you might like to see how the rockery beneath my sewing room window is shaping up; the crocus have it to themselves at the moment but it won't be long before more colour blossoms forth.

Yesterday was just as lovely, weatherwise, and Yvonne and I sped across-county to Swanton Novers to spend the day at Jane-Ann's studio taking part in a wonderful workshop with Mandy Pattullo. If you have never seen her work, do google her name and see her original and stunning textiles. The workshop Mandy taught us was The Enchanted Forest, and is a fabric collage technique using pieces of vintage patchwork quilt as the background, or pieces of vintage sheet, 'altered' with emulsion paint and embellished with image transfer flower sprigs. An outline of our chosen animal or bird was traced onto our background pieces, and collaged and stitched to give a very impressionistic idea of the original drawing.

Herr are a few photographs of Mandy's work - excuse the poor quality of photo as the pieces were mounted and wrapped and the light bounced around a bit!

This hare is my favourite and I was very tempted to buy it, but Mandy told me to hang on as I might want to make my own version! And she was right. I have (with permission) traced her template and intend to have a go at it myself. I did manage to come home with the one similar to the stag above.

So here are some initial shots and a few of how our worked had progressed when we packed in at the close of workshop. We all have work to do before completing our pieces, but I think we all came away quite pleased with ourselves and impressed with our progress.

             My photocopy of a drawing from a beautiful book, but I have forgotten the details!

               Yvonne gets cracking with transferring her image to her piece of altered sheet.

             I have selected my fabrics and cut and pinned them. It was surprisingly intense work!

                  Sharon has stitched in most of her outline and begun to pin her fabrics down.

                          Jane-Ann is pinning her tiny pieces to her fox mask outline.

                                  Red is at the selection and first pinning stage here.

Fen has chosen to work with altered sheeting, like Yvonne, and has stitched her outline and begun pinning.

                                              Me , beginning to stitch, close-up.

Pauline is working on sheeting, and has an outline of a photograph of one of her beautiful Haflinger horses, who I showed you in the Open Studios post last year. Below you can see how she had progressed by the end of the workshop.. She is choosing to work mostly with stitch in her piece.

And here are the final photographs. We all have more to do at home - this is very intensive work!

Fen's owl

Red's hare

Yvonne's hare

Sharon's bird

Jane-Ann's fox

My hare.

Close-up of my hare. Some seed-heads to be stitched on the quilt as well.

And there we have it, a very full day's work, in wonderful surroundings, and we had gorgeous weather to boot. If you get the chance to do a Mandy Pattullo workshop - jump at it, she is an extremely interesting woman, excellent tutor and very generous of her time, fabric stash, and images!

Enjoy the weather too, I think it is with us for another week.... oh to be in England now that some sunshine is here...or words to that effect!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A year in Books: March

Well here we go, March already, and I can at last begin to read my new book by Elly Griffiths. February saw me ploughing through THREE Game of Thrones books, and I am part-way through the fourth. To say I am hooked would be an understatement. As I mentioned last time, I cane late to GOT and have never watched it on tv, though I do now have the DVDs to the first and second seasons. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the writing of George R R Martin. He covers a very broad stage, peopled with a huge cast of characters, and he writes darned well. The story is fast paced and engaging, and I actually felt involved and interested in the characters - always a good start!

I have to say something about the language (and in the videos, the nudity). I am no prude. However, I think the stories are so good, and the screenplays are stupendous, it is a pity that the the language and nudity would preclude them being read or viewed by youngsters, who, I believe, would hugely enjoy the panoramic stretch of the writing. These are rattling good yarns about kings and castles, knights and ladies, dragons and galleons .....what youngster wouldn't enjoy reading about these things?

However, that is a side issue. I thoroughly enjoyed them and have another two waiting on my kindle for later on. Meanwhile, I shall be diving into  The Outcast Dead, which brings our protagonist Ruth Galloway back to her own stamping ground, where she excavates a body from the grounds of Norwich Castle, who she believes may be that of a Victorian murderess, hung in 1867 for the murder of five children in her care. Meanwhile across the county in Kings Lynn DCI Harry Nelson is investigating the deaths of three children in contemporary time. Hmmm ......sounds a bit grim actually, doesn't it? But Elly Griffiths is more interested in plot and character than in gory details, so it isn't the kind of book that sensationalises the seamy side of life.

So, a short post, but to the point! Lots of good stuff has been happening which I will fill you in on in my next post....... I shall try and not leave it too long before I write it! Enjoy the emergence of spring - we have sunshine and blue skies today - hurrah!