I feel like a broken record, but it’s been another busy week at work. Aside from that, I was mainly working on my Sinister Catdigan again. I forgot to take a photo of the wrong side last week. So pleased with those floats! I don’t trap them because it ruins the look of the design when you’re using high contrast colours.
I finished the yoke and grafted it to the body and sleeves. The grafting took 3-4 hours and used a lot of yarn. I thought I’d left a long enough section of wool (about three armspans) but I had to splice on some more.
I couldn’t wait to try it on. I’m pretty happy with the fit. I never button my cardigans so the width is fine. I’m a little surprised at how long it’s looking, but the neckline may bring it up a bit.
I spent over an hour picking up the stitches from the provisional cast on, and an evening researching knitting patterns for my neck decreases. I really can’t be bothered to try and calculate the decreases myself. I’m happy to pay someone who has already done it!
On Tuesday I made vegan cannelloni. It didn’t look that stunning but it tasted amazing- even if it took well over an hour longer than suggested in the recipe.
I also made a cake using some cheap rhubarb I got in Waitrose. It was delicious!
And I made french toast using my sourdough bread from last week. The bread was actually very tasty even if it looked a bit flat and the french toast livened it up perfectly.
Finally, I made some vegan mozzarella using School Night Vegan’s recipe. Yes I am obsessed with him. At first I was put off by all the speciality ingredients required for a lot of his recipes, but they really do make a difference to the texture. I now own psyllium husks, agar powder, potato and tapioca starch. Just as well I am not spending any money eating out at the moment!
Another week where I haven’t had that much craft time. I’m moving out of my place in London for the time being. It just doesn’t make sense to pay rent when I don’t need to be here for work and I can’t even enjoy the city.
Here I am enjoying my local area. I was out collecting food from Island Ting Kitchen, a small black-owned vegan business near me. One action I’ve been taking is supporting Black businesses. I’m enjoying it! I highly recommend ITK if you’re in west London.
I also ordered some mind-blowing vegan doughnuts from Tastopia. Supporting these businesses feels like such a win-win. They get to do something they’ve chosen and I get to enjoy delicious food. I’ve been so happy to see how many black-owned vegan businesses there are in particular. The vegan community is pretty whitewashed. I will support these businesses as much as I can. I really hope they thrive.
Last Sunday I ripped out the second sleeve of my Sinister Catdigan/Oran do Chaora. Not only was the ribbing visibly larger, I had somehow done way more rows on the second sleeve than the first and it looked shit. Since the tail on my cast on was barely long enough, I just started over. I used this tubular cast on (twisted the knits on the second foundation row). I am working the ribbing on a 3mm needle. I don’t know why I did the number of rows of ribbing that I did on the first sleeve. It bears no resemblance to the pattern. Possibly I just got bored of doing the twisted rib. Either way, I will count the number of rows properly so I can match the second sleeve.
I actually had to rip out some of the sleeve a second time because they still weren’t even. I’m happy enough with how the two sleeves are looking now (no photo soz).
Predictably, as soon as I wrote about my struggles with my starter last week, my efforts to get it going bore fruit. The starter finally started to double in volume and I successfully made a crumpet!
Although you can cook and eat the excess unfed starter before it matures, I wouldn’t recommend it. Whatever you make will be very gummy. While I ate it for several days with no ill effects, I have a pretty strong stomach. There was a world of difference in my pikelet in the 24 hours before the starter began doubling and after. It actually smelled of bread while it was cooking. I couldn’t see anyone online addressing this issue so I hope my experience helps someone.
Creating the starter was a bit of a journey of self-discovery. Things I was pleased to be reminded of: I’m scientifically minded. I did my research and that helped me to figure out why the starter wasn’t rising. I am learning to be patient. I didn’t just throw it away when it didn’t go to plan.
Things I still find difficult: not being perfect. In the picture above, you can’t really see how much of a difference there was between the crumpets I made a week apart. That’s because I engineered the top photo to look better than it was by tearing the crumpet rather than biting it. The former made it look like it had a decent crumb structure while the latter revealed it for the mess it was.
Perfectionism is a double-edged sword. I don’t think I’d be where I am in life without my relentless striving for better. I know that it’s impossible to be perfect, I know it’s irrational, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to be perfect. Perfectionism makes me pick holes in everything I do, and struggle to acknowledge my achievements and strengths. It makes me feel like a failure. It makes me feel like I can never be good enough, and that’s really hard. I’ve been working for a long time on being less hard on myself, and I think I’m getting better but it’s still a struggle.
I didn’t have time to try making a loaf during the week, which is a bit sad after all my work making the starter. I actually have more ideas for the excess than the starter itself. I’m dying to try focaccia and I’ve seen an amazing cracker recipe on Instagram. I’m a little apprehensive about making a proper loaf- it all seems to technical! Although I am looking forward to being that person who drops words like levain and autolyse into everyday conversation.
My mind is blown that this has been going on for twelve weeks now. This week I finally cast on the second sleeve for my Sinister Catdigan, I’ve been reminded that I need to take much better notes. I always assume that I will remember everything and that is simply not the way my brain works. I can’t remember whether I knit the ribbing on a smaller needle to the stocking portions of the other sleeve and body. Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things but I’d rather the two sleeves be identical if possible. This will be the project I work on during calls.
Inspired by last week’s crafternoon rainbows, I made a birthday card for one of the girls.
I sent it with Joy mitts I’d made for her. Double rainbow FTW. I blocked them using my sock blockers since I don’t have my matts here. I tried to shrink the larger glove using some boiling water but that didn’t seem to have any impact. It was easier to block the smaller glove fairly aggressively. They’re still not exactly the same size but hey ho. Predictably I failed to take a photo before wrapping them up (in reused paper of course!) and sending them off.
I’ve sewn in all the ends on one of my Somewhere socks and a few on the second. This is a task I’m trying to do while listening to an audiobook (currently The Hate U Give, which is incredibly emotional to listen to at the moment).
Work was bananas this week so I’m relieved that I was able to have a quieter day on Friday. I bought everything to have a go at School Night Vegan’s sausage rolls but didn’t have a chance to make them until Friday. They were so good! And didn’t contain too many obscure ingredients. I’ll definitely make these again.
My sourdough starter has stalled big time. Apparently this is not uncommon if the comments on a post about troubleshooting are anything to go by.
I think I may have accidentally over-fed the starter at times (feeding 100g+100g rather than 50g+50g) because the weight was way off. This may have been part of the problem since I wasn’t feeding it enough- and indeed it started smelling of acetone, which is apparently a sign that it’s hungry. I felt weird discarding so much of it so I compromised and now discard and feed 150g total. I’ve been eating some of the discard in the mornings because I hate throwing away all that flour. I make a kind of freeform pikelet, which is ok if a little gummy, like the crumpets I attempted last week.
I need to call it something other than ‘discard’ because that makes it sound gross. I just read someone calling it excess unfed starter so I’m going to try that.
I’m also keeping the jar in a different room because the kitchen is quite cold. I actually put it in my bed during the day. All in all I’m frustrated with the starter. I was led to believe that it was pretty foolproof so I feel like an idiot not being able to mix flour and water properly. I’d actually planned a whole meal around a sourdough focaccia which is far from possible at this point. Oh, the hubris.
I’m trying out a few new recipes. Changing my diet is inspiring me to cook differently, which has been fun. I also went to an amazing vegan supper club with my flatmate.
I’m definitely going to do Veganuary so I’ve also been getting a few recipes out of my system. Karelian/Carelian pastries (both spellings appear to be acceptable) were one of my favourite foods from Finland and I suddenly had a hankering to try making them last Friday.
Karelian pie sounds absolutely repulsive but tastes amazing. It’s thin rye pastry filled with savoury rice pudding and topped with egg butter. Lots of fat and carbs to help withstand the freezing Nordic temperatures. Or London in November.
I followed this recipe quite closely, using a mixture of arborio and pudding rice. I had around 1/3 of the pastry left, I believe because I put a lot of filling in each one. I considered trying to freeze the dough, but I think it will be a while before I attempt this recipe again so I just binned it.
The only plastic waste generated from these was the chive package. I had purchased the chives for a new black lentil recipe I was trying to use up my OddBox potatoes. I went to a greengrocer and Eat17 but neither place had them unpackaged and I wasn’t willing to go without.
Oh! I nearly forgot that I bought milk in plastic for this recipe too. I trialled making two of the Carelian pies with almond milk and they were nice but I made a slight mistake using a sweetened product. I think oat milk would work better.
The stars aligned for one of my increasingly rare opportunities to bake. I was hosting a gathering at my house for my quidditch team, one of whom was having a birthday the next day. Since she is lactose intolerant, I decided to have a go at a dairy-free bake. I looked specifically for a recipe that still included eggs, since I’ve had mixed success with vegan bakes in the past. This Nigella recipe popped up on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a go. The cake is also gluten-free.
The recipe states that the cake is best eaten warm, so I made the apple sauce in advance to save some time. The apple sauce was delicious- I might well make that again. I enjoyed this cake, especially considering it’s a ‘free from’ type recipe. Not the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I may have already started drinking when I was making this cake.
I froze some grated courgette because I wanted to have another go at making the chocolate courgette cake that I baked a few years ago. It’s based on a BBC Good Food recipe. I think I made a few errors when I was plagiarising it (slap on the wrist to past me), so maybe go from the original! Here’s a picture of the second attempt.
Something that’s really nice about having this blog is the ability to look back on my previous makes, and my thoughts about them. So interesting to see me describing myself as a ‘lifelong loather of the courgette’ when just over three years later, I am eating it on a daily basis.
I felt that the cake turned out a little bit dry this time- I think I shouldn’t have squeezed the courgette. I also think I over-baked the cake slightly. However, my colleagues seemed to enjoy it and one even asked for the recipe, so it can’t have been that bad.
In the past couple of weeks, my garden has started to produce a lot of courgettes. I got the seeds as part of a ‘funky veg’ kit and kind of just planted for the hell of it- I’m not the biggest fan of courgettes. However, I sense that my glut of yellow beauties may make me learn to love this humble vegetable. We’ll see how I do at the challenging task of not embarrassing myself with phallic references in this post. I am a follower of Freud, after all.
I turned my first fistful of small courgettes into a tasty salad. Adapted from this recipe.
I knew that my staff summer picnic would be a good excuse to use up some more courgettes. As you can see, these ones were much larger.
I made another salad for the party- this was actually my first time cooking and eating fennel. I selected a vegan recipe, but when the vegan in the team wasn’t at the picnic, I did add some cheeky feta. Cheese makes everything better.
The cake was lovely- light, moist and tasty. Would probably omit raisins next time. My favourite bit was the frosting, but then I am dangerously addicted to cream cheese frosting. I have a LOT more courgettes coming, so I need to stay ahead of the game with ways to use them.
My baking has declined massively over the past few years. The almost weekly bakes of my early twenties have reduced to making cake for my colleagues on my birthday, plus a handful of ad hoc cakes. This year I wasn’t feeling massively inspired. After looking through my ‘recipes’ Pinterest boards and rejecting most of the items, I settled on the Ultimate Vanilla cupcakes from the Cupcake Project, which I was super into about five years ago. I absolutely love their Ultimate Chocolate cupcakes.
Because the batter is very liquid, the sugar dissolved too quickly and did not produce the little neon flecks I had hoped for amongst the black-speckled vanilla cake. I also used coconut oil instead of vegetable, which was fine apart from the fact that I didn’t melt it fully. I knew the batter was too lumpy, but I couldn’t be bothered to get out my hand blender and blitz it. Mistake.
Overall, I probably would give these cupcakes a second chance. While I liked the Ultimate Vanilla Frosting (basically buttercream) from the same site, I don’t think it paired especially well with the UV cupcake. It’s just sweet on sweet. I think you need a bit of a contrasting flavour in there for balance.
My friend Anna gave me some very exciting National Trust spreads for my birthday, and I can see these being incorporated into bakes soon. If only to stop me from eating both jars by the spoonful.
I spotted this recipe on the Instagram feed of a yoga studio I frequented when I lived in west London. I was in the throes of the ‘new year, new you’ thing, so I decided to make it. Here’s how it turned out.
To be honest I don’t think I’d make this again unless I was baking for someone with specific dietary requirements. While it’s perfectly nice, it’s still quite high in calories, and I prefer my sweets to be a bit naughtier than this. If I did bake this recipe again, I would probably throw in some chopped pecans or walnuts to add to the texture.