Monthly Archives: November 2011

Gifts for Photographers

Here are a few ideas for all the photographers you know!

Set of 3 Lens shot glasses // Jo totes betsy camera bag // Finest Imaginary camera necklace
Wild Wolf Ridley’s Pinhole Camera // SLR bokeh kit // Lomography La Sardina camera
Eye-fi Memory card // Wooden iPhone 4 camera case // Retro camera print

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Gifts for Crafters

I’m going to be posting some gift guides over the next few days seeing as Christmas is only 30 days away now (eek!). Here’s the first! Gifts for crafters…

Miso funky cross stitch kit // Cath Kidston caravan sewing basket // Felt mouse making kit // Silver clay starter kit // Print Liberation (I have this, it’s awesome as an intro to screen printing) // DIY herbal teabags // Fox teatowel/plush // Weaving loom starter kit // Craft Inc.

And as a bonus extra, Crafting with Cat Hair!

 

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Recipe Wednesday: Vegetarian Gumbo!

Today’s recipe comes from Adam’s fair hands! He loves to make gumbo & jambalaya, and the recipe that we use has been tweaked and altered to make use of available ingredients & our mid-week evening cooking time.

A few years back we were in New Orleans, eating up a storm of local dishes including beignets from Café Du Monde, gumbo, jambalaya and po’boys. I adore Southern food, for me it’s definitely the best type of comfort food around, especially something like fried chicken & mashed potatoes – yum yum.

When we were in New Orleans we picked up ‘ Dat little cajun cookbook by Chef Remy’, which has served us well these past few years with interesting cajun delights. The two recipes that we always go back to though are definitely the jambalaya and gumbo varients, and there are quite a few! We’ve sort of made our own vegetarian versions of both, they’re faster to make that way.

So, what is a gumbo? A gumbo is sort of a stew, in English cooking terms, and most of them have Okra in (ours don’t, I’ve yet to find an okra recipe that I like) and seafood/chicken. The other main ingredient is the cajun trinity – chopped bell peppers, celery and white onion – a base of most cajun & creole dishes, much as we have stock vegetables in our cuisine. It’s then flavoured with the smokiness of the dark roux, parsley, garlic, cayenne pepper and a hot pepper sauce.

While a meat based gumbo can sometimes take a long time to cook (especially ones where you need to boil chicken for over an hour), this recipe takes around 30 minutes start to finish. Oh, I’d also say that this is a cross between a cajun and a creole gumbo :)

You’ll need…

(serves around 2 with leftovers, leftovers are always good…)
3 tbsp Plain flour
4 tbsp Vegetable oil
600ml Vegetable stock
3 chopped bell peppers
3 sticks of chopped celery
1 large chopped white onion
2 cloves of crushed garlic
0.5 tsp Cayenne pepper (or, if you’re a heat fiend then add a whole one)
a good glug of hot pepper sauce (we use a caribbean pepper sauce or Tabasco, which as it’s  made in Louisiana will be perfect!)
Handful of fresh parsley
Pinch of ground thyme
1tsp black pepper
Salt to season

Really, this is already a bastardisation of the traditional recipe, so if you find you’re without ground thyme or cayenne don’t sweat it, just do without.

First, make a roux! You’ll have made a roux before when you’ve made white sauce for lasagne, it’s dead easy. Add your oil to a large pan and heat. Add the flour and mix well, you might want to use a whisk for this step. The flour shouldn’t go like breadcrumbs so you might want to add the flour just a bit at a time.

Keep mixing it really well, don’t ever let it sit. You’re going to start to brown the flour but you don’t want it to burn so keep moving it around. You want to get it to the stage of milk chocolate colour. It’ll smoke, too, so turn on your extractors. When it’s milk chocolate colour turn the heat off and keep stirring until it stops sizzling. It should have eventually gone a dark chocolate colour, but remember to turn the heat off when it’s milk chocolate because it’ll keep cooking for a bit!

Now, add your chopped onion and stir well, return to the heat and keep mixing it around as before. Add the vegetable stock and stir well with your whisky until it’s all combined.

Add the pepper, celery, parsley, garlic, pinch of salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, pepper sauce and thyme and stir it all up. Boidl for about 20 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the flavours have developed.

A lot of the traditional gumbo recipes end up with the vegetables being quite mushy, but as they’re the main part of this recipe it’s nice to have them quite stable and whole.

And you’re done! Serve over rice and go back for seconds. And next time double up the quantities so you can go back for thirds.

Man, I really want to go back to New Orleans now…

NB. no photos because I er… forgot to take them!

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Working for Yourself: Am I Taking on Too Much?

As with all my Working For Yourself posts I try and speak from my own struggles and accomplishments, and I experienced this subject first hand over the past couple of weeks.

Firstly, the Christmas rush has sort of started so Finest Imaginary has started occupying even more of my time than usual. Between packaging up orders and making necklaces I’ve also been setting up the Finest Imaginary store on Not on the High Street and dealing with press requests, supplier chasing and all the other fun stuff that comes with running a business.

On top of this I’ve been working on 3 freelance web projects, 3 favours for friends and family, and decided it was time to start work on my new collection (hey, when inspiration strikes…!). A couple of weeks before this, just after the Renegade fair, I was really, really run down. I ended up getting a coldsore (I haven’t had one since university) and an eye twitch. Disastuh!

The thing is, I haven’t really felt stressed out, at least not a kind of stress that I’m used to. I guess working for yourself and doing what you want causes some kind of mental cross-wire. I don’t even know if it’s stress so much as taking on too much in one go.

I feel like I’m still at a stage in my new career where it’s impossible for me to say no to any potential projects, even if I know that I’ll be working crazy hours to get them done (and I do get them done, no questions about that, even if I end up having a panic attack when I break a website just before I’m due to go to bed… er… let’s say that didn’t happen). I need to get me one of them there time turners…!

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate each and every project that comes my way – I’m working on so many interesting things at the moment which is exactly what I wanted to do. But… there has to be a time when I start to say no to some things, otherwise I’m going to go insane!

Gala Darling touched on the subject of saying no in a recent post of hers, and I think it’s a very good point to make, however I’m not quite sure how it works in practice. It’d be nice to be able to say no, but like I mentioned before, I don’t feel comfortable with doing that… yet!

Do you feel overwhelmed with work? Would you rather work yourself silly than say no to a project? I’d love to hear your experiences with this subject :)

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Recipe Wednesday: How to Make Easy Mulled Wine!

Mulled wine is a favourite tipple of mine in the colder months, and one that I’m likely to be found drinking on a lazy Sunday afternoon at home while working from the sofa. Last sunday Adam and I decided that we definitely wanted some mulled wine, even though it was 4pm and most of the shops were shut. We headed out in the fog to the nearest small Sainsburys that would be open, only to find their mulled wine was £6.99. Tshh!

Instead, we opted for a bottle of their cheapest plonk (I think it was just called ‘House Red’) at £3.99 with the aim of mulling it ourselves.

We were shocked at how easy it is to mull wine! I always thought there was some ancient alchemy involved, thus the high prices of the ready-made stuff. But no, nonono, it’s simple.

There are a variety of recipes around on the internet, some where you make a syrup before and sort of mix it in to the wine (lest you burn off any alcohol in the heating-up process), and others where you add even more exotic spices than the ones listed below. Because it was a Sunday and we were feeling slothenly we went down the easiest route – bung it all in a pan for a bit.

You’ll need…

Bottle of wine (you’re mulling it, so no point paying for a high priced bottle!)
Cinnamon Stick
Nutmeg
Cloves (about 3 cloves)
Bay leaf
A clemantine, tangerine or orange
Soft dark brown sugar (about 50g)

The main thing with this recipe is that it’s all ‘to taste’, you might like it a little sweeter than me, or with less nutmeg. We used around 1/2 a grated nutmeg for one bottle of wine.

Pour the wine into a pan, add the cinnamon, grated nutmeg (or regular stuff, if that’s all you have to hand), a bay leaf, 3 cloves and brown sugar. Cut the citrus in half, squeeze some of the juice into the pan and then just put the two halves into the pan, too. This is easy mulled wine, so I’m not going to start zesting the damn thing!

Heat gently for around 5-6 minutes, until the wine is hot. Have a taste, if you feel it needs a little more infusing then let it sit a while without boiling.

And it’s ready! Enjoy with a mince pie :)

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