Sunday 31 May 2020

Lockdown Cooking

How are you all? Still staying safe I hope. Despite the endless confusing information and bending of rules here in the UK (which makes me very angry but I'm not going there) we are pretty much living our lives much the same as the past ten weeks. We're staying at home, going out for walks but keeping our distance and supermarket shopping when necessary but that's about it. We have had one or two meetings with family members over the past couple of weeks which has been wonderful seeing them after so long, but still outside and at a distance. I needed some sandpaper during the week so actually ventured out to the DIY store but on seeing the queue outside I decided I didn't need it that urgently so turned around and came back home. I have no desire to rush back to pubs and restaurants or anywhere that people are gathering. It all feels so unnecessary. The jury is still out about getting my hair cut... Stewart did seem rather alarmed when I suggested I could shave my head!

So now that the demand for scrubs has pretty much stopped and I have used up my supply of mask making elastic I'm looking at other ways to stay busy besides painting all day. I've had a couple of moderately successful sough dough loaves from my starter, which I named Vincent Van Dough, which isn't looking very lively in this photo... but it has only just been fed and returned to the fridge. But then in the heat of last week I decided I couldn't endure another summer living with the Aga turned on. I was literally wilting in the heat and seemed to have a constant headache. So we bought a portable two ring hob and the Aga went off. The kitchen is so much more comfortable and our electricity bill has dropped by 75%. I think this could be the decider for it going for good!

So what to do with poor old Vincent with no oven in which to bake bread? I do have a bread maker so decided it was worth experimenting . I mixed the dough, kneaded it and let it prove before adding it to the bread maker for the longest cycle. I cooked a brick! I was all for throwing it out but the men of the house who will eat anything decided it was worth investigating. And surprisingly it was actually okay with a good sourdough flavour and suitably chewy texture, so probably worth doing again.

But I did also discover sough dough starter makes incredible pancakes so it would appear that Vincent will live on!

I then received a wonderful surprise gift in the post from our friends in the Netherlands, who know I like cooking as much as I appreciate art... Modern Art Desserts. On seeing the wonderful Mondrian cake on the cover my heart sank a little as I thought I wouldn't be able to make any of the desserts without an oven. But on reading there were several that do not require baking.

So On Friday I made these elegant little Panne Cotta based on an artwork by Spanish artist Rosana Castrillo Diaz. A layer of coffee flavoured panne cotta set at an angle, with a layer of liqueur jelly separating it from a layer of maple syrup flavoured panne cotta. An awful lot of work and several dirty saucepans over a period of about six hours but so worth it! Only in lockdown would I spend the time making such a special occasion dessert destined for our Saturday lunch but the Mondrian cake will have to wait until the autumn when the Aga goes back on.

I even managed to find some edible lustre dust to make the jelly layers sparkle.

As well as cooking there has been a fair bit of reading and I have just finished Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which I loved. I was so engrossed in the characters that I didn't want it to end so I have immediately picked up a God in Ruins, despite having read it only a few years ago with our reading group. Not a sequel exactly but the continuing story of one of the central characters from Life After Life. It's not often I read a contemporary novel more than once but I'm enjoying it just as much second time around and it's made me think of other books I might want to reread.

Our reading group has continued to meet via zoom calls although it's not quite so easy to have a discussion. As it happens our book for June is another Kate Atkinson - Big Sky, the latest in the Jackson Brodie series. Have you read anything good lately? Or cooked anything exciting either for that matter?

I've not been great at keeping up with blogs or replying to comments etc lately so do forgive me and pop by and say hello! I miss you!

Saturday 16 May 2020

Lockdown Life

Well hello! Despite my absence on this blog I'm still here, still keeping virus free, and ridiculous though sounds for someone who is suddenly left with no work, I'm really busy. The days seem to fly by. Most days you will find me at my sewing machine where I have moved on to making scrubs and gowns for a local group that is supplying hospitals, hospices and the like. If you had told me three months ago I would have become an expert at fashioning garments from duvet covers I would have thought it a ridiculous idea... but that is what I am doing. I reckon I'd give the contestants on the Sewing Bee a run for their money! I've lost count of how many sets I have now made but enough to have given myself a whole new wardrobe should I wish to dress in old sheeting. I have the fabric waiting to be cut out for two new dresses for myself but they will have to wait. After all I'm not going anywhere so don't need anything new to wear.

I have been enjoying customising the pockets and making my own labels. Totally silly, as this probably takes as much time as the rest of the garment but it keeps me amused and hopefully brings a smile to someone else's face too.

My favourite set of scrubs so far have been this Winnie the Pooh set. Some of the hospitals only want plain garments but others are quite happy to take the patterned ones.

It seems wrong to me that our key workers should be relying on volunteers to make protective garments from cast off bedding... but they do and so I am happy to help.

When I'm not making gowns or scrubs I have been making lots more masks... over 50 at the last count. These have gone to family and friends and whoever happens to ask for them. Some people have asked to buy them but despite my lack of income at the moment, it feels wrong to profit from the current situation.... not a sentiment shared by everyone as apparently masks have been selling for extortionate prices on the internet. But I have had some interesting gifts and exchanges (as well as donations to charity) for some of the masks I have made... wine, flowers, freshly laid eggs, a chilli plant, home grown garlic... and wellies! I rather like the idea of this barter system! If you want to make your own I have a tutorial here... just make the elastic a little bit longer... about 6"

When I'm not sewing you can find me pottering in the garden or painting in my studio... I'm now starting to put some of my paintings for sale so be sure to follow me on Instagram if you are interested. I'm taking part in something called the artist support pledge. Artists who have found their income suddenly depleted are offering work for sale for less than £200 and once they reach £1000 in sales they pledge to spend £200 on the work of another artist. Some artists are obviously more successful than others... I've still a way to go! 

There has also been a bit of baking. I have finally learned how to make sourdough bread and there is a jar of starter languishing in my fridge ready for the next loaf. And in the evenings I'm usually knitting or crocheting whilst watching something on Netflix or the like.

My latest make was this little cardigan for our newest arrival. Our granddaughter, Reagan, was born a week ago. It's hard not to have baby cuddles with her or her little cousin who is now two and half months already... but better to know they are staying safe at home. We are hoping by the time the third grandchild arrives this year (in August) we might be able to see them all.

So that's pretty much my life in Lockdown at the moment. We might have been asked to 'Stay Alert" but but we're continuing to 'Stay at Home' unless we have to go out. How are you doing?