Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

So I’ve been a little too busy to blog much about my crafting of late! But if you like random short fiction based on writing prompts I am rather more active at my main blog, Prompted Scribblings.

I’m still crafting, just got a lot going on and am trying to get warmed up for NaNo, so blogging here is taking a back seat to EVERYTHING ELSE OMG.

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I love spicy things.  I love the heat of too-many-peppers in a good curry, the kind that’s just bearable so long as you keep eating, but overwhelms you the moment your plate is finished.  I love the satisfying warmth that fills your mouth and throat at the end of the meal, and the total relaxation that comes after a satisfying meal.  My other half is the same, to the point that he’s developed a pavlovian response to me even suggesting cooking a curry for dinner, or picking up a jar of his and my favourite “jam” – the Nitro Naga Chilli Jam.

Oh, that stuff was glorious.  Hot, with a subtle sweet, fruity flavour and a deep, glossy red, thick enough and just right to use as a lethal dipping sauce.  And oh, how we squandered it.  A jar of Nitro would rarely last us a week, obliterated in a couple of meals as we turned to frying battered strips of chicken, pork and lamb and dipping straight into the jar.  And now it seems Nitro is no more.

I have no idea why.  The company I used to buy it from, Scorchio, stated that they won’t be getting any more for the “foreseeable future” but don’t say why, and the listing page for the jam no longer says “out of stock” – it doesn’t exist at all!  Searching for the delicious jam brings up a lot of useless results – a lot of sites mentioning the jam and linking to the now-defunct Scorchio page, a few reviews, a few pretenders to the throne claiming the name “Nitro Naga” for their own producst while offering an obviously inferior product – mostly transparent pink chilli jams with a jelly consistency.  It’s tragic.

I have noticed a very similar-looking product has suddenly turned up on the Scorchio website called “Chilli Jam Man Bhut Jolokia”, and I’m currently waiting for a reply from the company to find out if it’s anything like the Nitro in flavour, but in the meantime we’re bereft!

But then, a few days ago, my local Asian Grocery put up a tray of exciting little spicy treats.  Next to the usual birds eye chillis, scotch bonnets and banana chillis, were a few packets of “ghost chillis” – the colloquial name for Naga Jolokia.

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At first, I tried just cooking with them.  Careful experimentation has revealed that even just 1/8th of a ghost pepper in a whole pot of curry is simply too much, but I wasn’t sure what else to do with them.  I could try making my own chilli jam, but surely I’d need a lot more for that.  A little googling revealed that, actually, most ghost pepper jam recipes use only 3-4 peppers, filling out the bulk of the jam itself with carrots, apples and other vegetables.  I might conceivably have enough for two batches!

Out of excitement, I decided to try my hand at making my own.

DSCN0449I decided to make my first experimental batches based loosely on a combination of a few different recipes.  Partly because I wanted to make my own version based on what I like, and partly because I didn’t have money to spare to go shopping so just used what I had to hand at home.

Shown here, we have four carrots, cut into chunks, three whole ghost peppers, a generous third of a sweet red pepper, one onion, a chunk of fresh ginger and, hidden under the carrots, five garlic cloves.  I’ve stuck them into the blender all at once just for the photo – this blender is close to 30 years old and needs a little help, so I actually blended the peppers, ginger, garlic and onion together first, then added the sweet pepper, then the carrots a chunk at a time until it was pretty well broken down.

The smell of the peppers was pretty strong – I kept the lid on my blender the whole time I was operating it, and still had to open the back door to help with the fumes!  I didn’t go so far as some people do – with their face masks and gloves for handling the peppers – but it certainly had a kick to it just the raw ingredients!

DSCN0456Finally, the mixture was cooked down in a pot with distilled vinegar and, after about ten minutes, combined with a good bit of sugar, cooked a few more minutes and then stuck in jars.  I made two batches, one using whole peppers and one with the seeds removed so I can try growing my own next year.  The jam looks nothing like Nitro Naga, but it’s a first experiment made using what I had to hand at the time.  I’ve managed to track down an ingredients list for the real stuff, so I’ll be experimenting a bit more closely come next payday!

Jars are currently cooling in the window.  I’ll do an initial taste test later today and a proper taste test in a few weeks, when the jam has had time to mature.

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Actual Nitro Naga ingredients, for personal reference and in case anyone else wants to attempt to recreate it:

Ingredients: Dried naga chillies, tomatoes, ginger, thai fish sauce, garlic, red wine vinegar, caster sugar, muscavado sugar, coriander, salt.

This is Ravelry Mondays, a weekly event where I pick three-five patterns seen on Ravelry that week, and share them on this blog.  Some weeks will be themed, and there are some rules.

In order for a pattern to qualify it must:

  • Be on Ravelry
  • Be available for download either on Ravelry or from another website – no patterns only available in print or magazines, but it doesn’t have to be free
  • Have at least one photo clearly showing the item as a whole
  • Have at least one photo where the item is not being manipulated, so we can see accurately how it hangs and fits
  • Must have the necessary minimum information on the ravelry page – sizing info where applicable, yardage, yarn weight, etc
  • Clothing items will only qualify if they are available in plus sizes*
  • Only one pattern per designer per week

*And the plus sizes given must have MEASUREMENTS.  Calling the sizes XS-XXXL means nothing if you never tell us what XXXL is.  I’ve seen a 40″ bust called that, before!

July already?!  I’m a little disturbed by how fast the years have been flying by, recently.  It seems like months just zip past out of nowhere.  The British Summer seems to have finally actually started, now.  Too late to help my poor tomato or pepper plants to thrive – they’re still tiny but already putting their energy into fruiting, so won’t be getting much bigger.

We’ve got a mixed batch this time around.  There was quite a nice range of pretty things to choose from, including a decent amount of clothing in plus sizes, and reducing what was available to just five patterns was really, really hard.  These are the ones that, in the end, just really stood out to me.

 

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis is just a really nice, unusual pattern.  I love how the stripes come together at the back, and I love the length of the body.  Available up to a 54″ bust and knit with light fingering weight yarn, this is a very pretty, lightweight cover-up suitable for cool Summer evenings or chilly Autumn days, and looks really good in this sample knit from bold, contrasting colours.  The pattern is available for download on Ravelry for under £5.

 

Camden

I don’t often share kid’s patterns, simply because I don’t have any sprogs of my own so I’m not entirely sure what constitutes a good clothing pattern for children.  But sometimes one comes along that’s just too cute not to share, and this pretty hooded sweater, with the pretty braided edging, is definitely cute!  I love the design of this pattern, and actually I kind of want to see if the designer will make a version for adults.  I want one!  Knit in DK weight yarn and sized up to 24 months, this is a babies-only pattern not currently available for older kids, but  I live in hope!  The pattern costs a little under £3 and can be downloaded at Ravelry.

 

Sprockets

Sprockets is a pretty, lace-weight shawl with a really cool steampunk pattern.  I’ve been really enjoying some of the patterns people have been producing with cosplay in mind, and this is one of my favourites so far.  It’s such a lovely design!  Sprockets costs just a little over £4 and is available for download on Ravelry.

 

Palace Theatre Wrap

Oh, this is a pretty one!  It’s an incredibly delicate laceweight wrap with a classic shape to it that would look great on so many different figures.  I love this one because it’s the sort of incredibly delicate thing plus size women don’t often get to enjoy.  This wrap is available up to 54″ chest, and can be purchased for under £4 at Ravelry.

 

Miss Elliot

Our final pattern is a very nice crescent shawl knit in fingering weight yarn.  I particularly like the leaf motif border, and the unusual construction.  The border is knit flat first, then stitches are picked up along one side of it, and the shawl is knit bottom up for an interesting reversal of normal shawl construction.  It’s such a fun looking pattern, and the construction sounds like it’d feel so fast and easy compared to other methods, that I really want to try it out.  Miss Elliot costs exactly £4 and is available for download at Ravelry.

I was reminded again this morning of just how alive sourdough is.  The little jar of starter that sits in my fridge, at the back of the highest shelf, with the lid slightly off-centre and, usually, a little glob of crusted paste that bubbled up on a particularly warm day, doesn’t get much of the tender loving care I was told, repeatedly and at great length, that sourdough starters apparently need to stay healthy.  I have a knack for forgetting about things like this, and it isn’t unusual for my poor starter to go a fortnight without feeding.  When it is fed, it’s never the organic, unbleached rye flour or organic, unbleached brown bread flour that I was told is the only sort of flour a starter should ever be fed with.  It’s often the cheapest white bread flour I can get.  Frequently, when I’m out of bread flour at home and suddenly realise my starter hasn’t been fed in three weeks, it’s Tesco stripy label plain white flour.

When I feed my starter, I empty the entire contents of the jar into a bowl and double what’s there.  Once it’s good and lively and risen, I take a portion of it, feed that a second time and stick it back in the jar.  The rest gets used to bake with that day.

By rights, I should have a dead starter.  At the very least, I’m sure no one would be surprised if it turned out I frequently have to spend a week feeding my starter when I do remember to, slowly nursing it back to health before banishing it once more to the back of the fridge to languish again.  But that isn’t the case at all.  Last night I pulled my starter out of the fridge several days late for a feeding, where it turned out the fridge temperature had gone too low and left ice crystals on the outside of the jar, and the contents inside had a darker crust on top.  I fed it, the same way I always do, covered it in clingfilm and went to bed for an unsatisfying five hours of sleep.

And woke up to a mixing bowl on the verge of overflowing.

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Look at this! Look at how alive and full of air it is!

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It’s got more air bubbles than a meringue. Gorgeous.

Look at that!  Look at the stringy tangles of gluten, the texture so riddled with holes it’s hard to imagine how it even held itself upright, and that creeping fist of tightly wound, firm, stretchy dough threatening to swallow the knife I’m trying to break into it with.  This thing is alive and vibrant and so very, very healthy.  And I am a terrible starter owner.  I’ve had this starter for a year now, and it’s just the healthiest, happiest, bubbliest thing.

It smells amazing, as well.  Sour and alive, and full of energy.  My starter was just waiting to burst into life and activity.  I love it.

Later today I’ll portion a little off, feed it again and stick it in the little jar, at the back of the fridge.  The rest will be kneaded with a little oil and herbs, and topped with pepper paste and vegetables and mozarella.  Sourdough makes the BEST pizza dough.

This is what happens when you save a draft of a post but fail to schedule it to publish on time.  Oops.

Summer is here!  Summer is here!  And it’s instantly too hot for me to cope.

I’m a cold-weather girl.  Short, stocky, pale and grey eyed with ancestry solidly in the colder parts of Europe – Scotland and Lithuania.  I don’t do well with the heat.  Knitting at this time of year always starts to become a bit of a chore for me if I’m working on anything above DK weight, so you’ll probably see a lot more embroidery and sewing for the next few months, except my Ravenwing of course.  I’m determined to finish that soon!

I’ll still keep on with my Ravelry Mondays and Freebie Fridays, though!  Just because it’s too warm to knit until after dark doesn’t mean I can’t add new patterns to my to-do list!

Freebie Friday rules are a little different to Ravelry Monday rules, and are as follows:

  • The pattern needs to be free.
  • The pattern does not HAVE to be a Ravelry download, but must be listed on Ravelry.
  • The pattern must have a photo clearly showing the item.
  • The pattern still needs to produce a professional looking item and have the necessary information for potential makers.
  • Clothing for adults must still be available in plus sizes.
  • An item showcased on Freebie Friday may still be showcased on Ravelry Monday, if it fits the brief for that day.

 

Muh Muhs

What could be better for knitting in the hot Summer weather than a thick, solid shawlette knit in bulky weight wool?  I kid, of course,  But the Muh Muhs is a very nice shawl pattern, something handy to work on in preparation for the colder weather on the way, and as a bulky weight item would be fairly quick to knit, so could be worth saving in your library for emergency Christmas gift!  This shawlette pattern is available as a free Ravelry download.

 

So Sweet Shawlette

This is very much the Week of Shawls for Freebie Friday.  There were other patterns available, but many didn’t meet the requirements as listed above, so shawls are very much dominating this post!  The So Sweet Shawlette is as sweet as the name, knit in fine laceweight yarn with thick stripes and an airy lace pattern.  This is a perfect Summer shawl – the solid design keeps the sun off delicate shoulders, but the whole thing is light enough not to weigh you down or leave you overheating.  This shawl is available as a free Ravelry download.

 

Uncommon Ivy

Something a little different, this time.  An unusual, aran-weight scarf with striping in a colour gradient and a pattern of leaves and stems running along the length.  It’s certainly an unusual pattern and I’d be interested to see how knitters play with the design.  The pattern is not avalable for download on Ravelry itself, but the Ravelry page here links to the download website.