Wild garlic and warm weather

Oh, poor neglected blog! I would like to blame my extended blogging hiatus on returning to work, family illness, or embarking on a new house project… but despite all these things, I must admit that having a baby really kind of kicked my ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother, and my daughter is an absolute delight, but since having a baby I’ve really struggled to fit in all those things I used to love to do. Blog. Take photographs with my camera. Knit. Bake! Only now, 14 months later, am I slowly starting to get back into everything. Having a baby is all-encompassing, but it is nice to think about me again…and this poor little blog, which I plan to start updating regularly. So why not begin with a recipe!

Last week, when the weather turned warm (hooray!), we took a trip out into the countryside. We are in the process of renovating a house in the hills near Wrexham so went for a drive up there. The sun was warm, the air clear and the strong scent of wild garlic all around. We picked a large handful, as I’d been keen to find some ever since hearing about a recipe for wild garlic and cheese scones on the radio a couple of months ago.

Later, once Kitty was asleep, I whipped up a batch of these scones. They only require a few ingredients and are really quick and easy to make. And they taste delicious warm from the oven – with lashings of butter, of course. If, like me, you like your garlic strong, you’ll love them! Head on over to Emma Bradshaw’s blog for the recipe. And go get foraging!

IMG_6457IMG_6458IMG_6463IMG_6466IMG_6468

Maternity style: 29 weeks

Happy 2015! I hope your Christmas was merry and bright, and the new year is treating you well so far. Our festive season was full of family, friends, food, and reflecting on how different next Christmas is going to be. My bump has grown again over the last few weeks, and I’m well and truly into the third trimester! My, time is flying. Our little one continues to move a LOT, picking bump party sessions at opportune moments such as midnight, 3am and 7am. Nice one, baby! As much as it keeps me awake, I love feeling her wriggling about and am grateful that she is so active. It also occurred to me lately that as much as we are excited about meeting our baby, I will miss carrying her around with me, my constant companion. I have been very lucky so far in that I’ve had a very easy pregnancy, and have enjoyed every minute of it.

Our Christmas decorations are down now, and we’ve entered 2015 determined to be organised. That has meant picking up our pram, washing baby clothes and even buying nappies! Our next job is sorting our spare room and getting everything neat for the baby – I will share a small nursery tour when we’re done.

This past weekend we took a walk in Erddig, our local National Trust property, and the setting for our our engagement photos (taken what seems like a lifetime ago now!). I finished knitting this cosy winter sweater just before Christmas, and teamed it with my comfiest maternity jeans and my favourite coat. Man, I love this coat. I spotted it in French Connection early last year, but the price tag put me off. Then I found it on eBay over the summer for a third of the price. Bargain! Although not strictly a maternity coat, its oversized style is perfect for accommodating my growing bump. Also, a splash of coral pink in the winter never hurt anyone.

IMG_3827
IMG_3818
IMG_3829
IMG_3849
IMG_3851
IMG_3831
IMG_3879
IMG_3885
IMG_3886
IMG_3908
IMG_3896
IMG_3887
IMG_3923
IMG_3916
IMG_3920
IMG_3915
IMG_3913
IMG_3911
IMG_3852
IMG_3925

Wearing: coat, French Connection via eBay | blanket scarf, Accessorize | jumper, handknitted by me | jeans, Topshop | boots, Liberty for Doc Martens

Pants: an obsession

Great title for a blog post, no? Let me explain. With our baby due in March I have been having to hold myself back from too much shopping for the little one…not that I haven’t bought (ahem) some things, of course. But to try and abate this I have also been making a few bits for the babe. A bit of knitting, and some sewing too. Ever since Helen pointed me in the direction of Made by Rae and her wonderful FREE sewing tutorials, I had been hankering to make some adorable newborn pants. Rae describes the pattern as “so simple it’s scary”, and I’m inclined to agree with her.

IMG_3377
IMG_3387

The newborn pant pattern really is a doddle. I made my first pair in a great elephant print I’d been saving for something special, and they turned out really cute.

IMG_3392
IMG_3393

After that, I was longing to make more, so raided my fabric shelves for some inspiration. Deciding which fabric to use was loads of fun in itself. The day of the dead fabric is perhaps kind of random, I’m aware, but I’m sure our baby will appreciate the bold sartorial choice. My favourite of all is probably the foxes, oh THE FOXES! Again, I have Helen to thank for introducing me to that fabric.

IMG_3398
IMG_3399
IMG_3403
IMG_3405
IMG_3406

I made five pairs in total, because obviously baby needs trousers. I made them all over a couple of afternoons, and they were so much fun to put together – and so easy! Honestly, if you are a beginner sewer, you can make these cute pants. Skills needed: cutting things, sewing straight lines, using an iron. They are so quick and very satisfying, and will be perfect for our little spring-summer baby to lie about in.

IMG_3416
IMG_3421

I think I’ve sated my pants obsession for now. I am currently knitting a pair of baby bloomers, though, so maybe I’m not quite over it just yet…
IMG_3409

A park day

Last week, I spent the day with a couple of pals at Tatton Park, a beautiful National Trust estate in Cheshire. It was a crisp day, with orange leaves underfoot and grey clouds sitting low in the sky. We wandered through the lovely gardens (although my favourite, the Japanese garden, was shut), played in the maze and, as is obligatory at all National Trust cafés, enjoyed rather a large slice of cake. The park was decorated for Halloween, with white ghosties hanging from the trees, which was loads of fun. It was great to wander around in the fresh air, enjoy Autumn and feel that the cooler weather – and Christmas – is on the way.

Tatton Park is a huge estate, and you really do need a full day there to enjoy it. You can ramble around the parkland deer-spotting, and even sign up for a deer-feeding session! They hold seasonal events all year round, and are gearing up for Christmas, when I’m sure the house and gardens will look beautifully festive.

IMG_3215
IMG_3223
IMG_3224
IMG_3226
IMG_3229
IMG_3230
IMG_3231
IMG_3244
IMG_3247
IMG_3250
IMG_3253
IMG_3255
IMG_3271
IMG_3258
IMG_3263
IMG_3264
IMG_3266
IMG_3269
IMG_3276
IMG_3279
IMG_3283
IMG_3284
IMG_3289

A bit of news…

Roswell

Very excited to share the news that Jim and I are expecting a baby! Mini Ashworth is due in March 2015 and we’ve already begun planning, organising and (for me) knitting. I’m excited about growing big during the cooler months and will be sharing some outfit posts in this space. Life is about to change a whole lot and I’m looking forward to sharing our adventure here on this little blog!

Lately: a trip to Nadinoo

A few weeks ago, over my birthday weekend, Jim and I went to Manchester for the day for some shopping, browsing and afternoon tea. I always love visiting my old home, seeing what’s changed and what’s new. Anyway, this time I had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Manchester, and specifically, Manchester Craft and Design Centre. Tucked away in the heart of the Northern Quarter, the centre houses 30 artists and makers across two floors, all selling their handmade wares. There’s a huge variety of goods for sale, from jewellery to baby clothes to prints to paintings to toys, as well as a friendly café downstairs.

Back in April a new resident moved in to the design centre, with a studio I was very eager to visit. I’ve been a fan of Nadia Izruna for years, since she launched her beautiful handmade clothing label Nadinoo in 2009. Nadia has a real knack for design, and for choosing beautiful fabrics to compliment her collections of dresses, blouses and two-piece sets. In fact, Nadia was the person who introduced me to Liberty fabrics, in particular the Claire Aude fabric which later became the inspiration for the colour scheme for our wedding!

So when I found out that Nadia had opened a studio, I knew I had to see her beautiful pieces in person – and perhaps buy myself a birthday gift, of course! Meeting Nadia was a real treat after following her adventures for so long online. She was welcoming and friendly, and we had a lovely chat. I rummaged through the rails, tried dresses on and grinned with delight at Nadia’s pint-sized children’s collection. And I did treat myself to a birthday present; a custom-made Nadinoo dress, which arrived last week and is perfect for Autumn adventures. I’ll save that for another blog post…in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my photos of Nadia’s lovely workspace.

Unfortunately, Nadinoo’s studio doors will be closing for the last time on 15th September – so if you’re in the Manchester area, hot-foot it over there! I have no doubt that Nadia has many more exciting projects up her sleeve, including a children’s collection for Spring/Summer 2015, which I had the pleasure of viewing and which is THE CUTEST. In the meantime, you can follow Nadia’s adventures on her blog and shop her lovely clothes online. Stay tuned, more great things are coming from the Nadinoo camp.

IMG_2403
IMG_2431
IMG_2404
IMG_2415
IMG_2418
IMG_2422
IMG_2424
IMG_2425
IMG_2429
IMG_2436
IMG_2439
IMG_2441
IMG_2442
IMG_2443
IMG_2444
IMG_2446

Damson season

Things have been pretty quiet on the blog baking-wise lately. But I’ve been trying my hand at some new recipes, including spanakopita (delicious), chocolate eclairs (deflated) and strawberry cheesecake (GNAM). Today I’d like to share a recipe I’d been wanting to try out for a while, only it felt too…well, Autumny. Signe Johansen’s lovely book Scandilicious Baking is packed full of beautiful and tempting treats; I’ve written about it before, here. Pastry and dough-making pops up a lot in the book, which may sound time-consuming, but the results are well worth it. And this week I attempted, for the first time, jam pinwheels.

IMG_2275

First off, to explain my reasons behind baking such an Autumnal treat when we’re still in sunny August: although I was a Summer baby, my favourite season is Autumn. Perhaps it’s because UK Summers are always so half-hearted nowadays, but by this time of year I’m always craving Autumn, anxious for it to arrive. Although other people hate the early dark nights, there’s something I love about leaving work in the dark, wrapped up in layers and walking home to find the fire lit and delicious smells filling the kitchen. I love fireworks, bonfire night, and Halloween, and the promise of Christmas just around the corner. I love the warm, comforting smells of Autumn, the layers, coats and colourful knitwear. I have a coral pink wool coat that I bought over the Summer and am itching to wear. I know I may sound a bit mad wishing the Summer away, but at this time of year, when the weather is gradually turning, I feel ready for crunchy leaves, hot chocolate and roast dinners. I prefer tights to bare legs (mine are perpetually white), I love warm fairisle jumpers and woollen miniskirts and layering. I really am an Autumn girl at heart.

Sorry if I’m bringing you down, but think about the other upside to Autumn: the baking. I baked this cake last week and am feeling ready for another delicious dark batch of this. I’ve had enough of pavlovas and strawberries. The apples and damsons are ripening in our garden and I’m feeling the urge to bake crumbles and pies, desserts to eat warm with ice cream and a cup of tea.

So to pay homage to my favourite season a little early, here’s the recipe for Signe’s jam star Danish pastries – or, pinwheel pastries. This recipe does take a bit of preparation; you have to make the dough the night before baking the pastries. But if you have the time (and take your time), the results are definitely worth it. Next time I think I’ll make a large batch and freeze it for when I have the pastry itch. You can use any jam you like, and as the photograph in the book shows, these pastries look especially pretty with different-coloured toppings. I used damson jam, however, as we had a large jar in the fridge, made by Jim using fruit from our damson trees.

I made these pastries for my pals at knitting club, and they went down very well. I will roll the dough a bit thinner next time, though, as my pinwheels turned out a bit, well, beastly! I’m really pleased I took the time to make these sweet pastries, and will definitely be making them an Autumn staple in my baking repertoire. After all, it is nearly damson season.

Jam star Danish pastries
recipe from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen
Makes 12-15

IMG_2313

Ingredients:

for the Danish pastry – prepared the day before baking the pinwheels
250-300ml whole milk
500g strong white flour
10g fine sea salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
15g fresh yeast or 7g fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
250g unsalted butter, chilled

– Scald 250ml of the milk by heating it in a small pan until almost boiling and then allow it to cool. Scalding the milk makes the finished pastry softer.

– Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cardamom together in a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds) add to the dry ingredients.

– Make a well in the middle, add the beaten egg and then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl, adding as much of the remaining milk as you feel is needed until the dough looks – for want of a better word – doughy. Shape into a rough rectangle shape, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

– Take the dough out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (30-60 minutes depending on how cold your fridge is). Use a cheese slicer or a very sharp knife to cut 250g chilled butter into thin slices. Lightly flour the surface you’re going to roll the dough on and the dough itself. Roll out to a rectangle about 45cm x 15cm and roughly 1cm thick. Starting at one end of the pastry rectangle, place the butter slices across two-thirds the pastry, leaving a border of a couple of centimetres around the edges. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed and that there are no large lumps sticking out.

IMG_2251

– Fold the unbuttered pastry third over to sit on top of half of the buttered pastry, and then fold the remaining buttered third on the top of that, so that you end up with a rectangle of pastry a third of the size but three times as thick as when you started. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways again, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.

IMG_2252

– Remove from the fridge, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a long rectangle (roughly 50cm x 10-15cm) when it again should be about 1cm thick. This time fold both the shorter ends in so they meet in the middle and then fold of half on top of the other, as if you’re closing a book. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways one last time, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill for another hour or so before using to make Danish pinwheels.

IMG_2259

for the pastries
1 batch of Danish pastry (as above)
12-15 tbsp jam
1 medium egg, beaten

– Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Roll out the chilled Danish pastry on a lightly floured surface until it forms a rectangle about 30cm x 40-50cm. Slice into 12-15 equal squares of pastry, until 10cm x 10cm each, and place about 3-4cm apart on the baking sheet.

IMG_2263

– Use a sharp knife to split each corner of the squares by cutting a couple of centimetres in from the tip towards the centre, leaving the middle of each pastry square uncut (to make room for the jam).

IMG_2262

– Dollop a tablespoon of jam on the centre of each square. Lift one side (left or right, whichever you prefer) of one of the split corners of the pastry square and fold it in towards the middle, pressing gently in to the jam so that it stays put. Repeat with the same side of each of the remaining split corners, pressing the pastry tips together in the middle, to create a pinwheel star shape. Brush the exposed pastry surfaces with beaten egg (dabbing a little on the points where they meet in the middle to stick them together), cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 20 minutes. While they are proving, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.

IMG_2273
IMG_2284

– Bake on the upper shelf of the oven for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 190°C/170°C/gas mark 5 for a further 3-5 minutes or until the pastries look golden brown and feel crispy and firm to the touch.

IMG_2266

– Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack, sift icing sugar over the top for a pretty touch and eat while still warm (but not immediately out of the oven, as the jam gets very hot).

IMG_2288
IMG_2309
IMG_2306