Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Vegenara!

There is something inherently satisfying and indulgent about a creamy sauce, being vegetarian I miss out on being able to indulge myself in a Carbonara what with the bacon and all. What happens in my own home is very different I can fill my tummy full of cream and egg until I have to be rolled to bed and I don't have to add bacon lardons for flavour. Of course for those die hards amongst you if you fancy chucking a little bacon into this recipe I will not judge.

To make this dish extra indulgent I sat on the sofa ate it out a giant bowl, (hard to see from the photograph but they are huge), and had a Mad Men marathon. Don't fret I cut through the cream with a very healthy red wine. 

This recipe serves four, although as I mentioned before I was greedy and ate half of it!

you will need;

150g mushrooms
150g courgettes
6 shallots
25g butter
4tbsp crème fraîche
2 egg yolks 
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2tsp dried parsley 
1/2 tsp minced garlic 
400g dried spaghetti
salt and pepper
dash of olive oil 
method;
  1. Begin by separating your eggs, you can always freeze egg whites for another recipe so that they do not go to waste. Lightly whisk with a fork the egg yolks and crème fraîche together until well combined. Set this bowl aside. 
  2.  Boil a pan of water with a little salt and olive oil in ready for your spaghetti.
  3. Finely slice the shallots and fry in the butter. Meanwhile slice the mushrooms and using a vegetable peeler slice the courgettes into ribbons.
  4. Once the shallots are soft and have begun to turn a pale golden colour add the mushrooms, courgettes, herbs and garlic. Season and fry on a medium heat.
  5. Drain your cooked spaghetti and add to the pan of vegetables. Mix well.
  6. Turn the heat down as low as it will go and pour in the crème fraîche and egg yolk mixture and stir. 
  7. Serve hot.  

Monday, 28 July 2014

Lessons In Framing - Photography

This is a lesson in photography that everyone can benefit from regardless of what you are shooting on, be it a DSLR, a phone or a point and shoot. The way in which you frame a photograph makes the difference between a snapshot and a great photograph. Framing is part of taking a photograph that allows you to have power over the story being told. Above is an example of how the simple act of squatting on the floor can make for a more exciting image. You don't have to have an exciting camera with a zoom to alter the frame. Move your body, lie on the ground, walk 360 degrees around a subject before you decide what the best angle is.

All of the examples below are taken on a 35mm lens, 100iso, f4.5. The only thing that I changed was my physical position.
 As you can see the picture above is boring. There is a bit of a plant poking in at the bottom and a line of grey from the next building.
By simply moving around to the other side of the display I could get a far more interesting photograph of the oils with no odd bits protruding into the frame.
The same can be seen from these pictures of the market. Above a snapshot, three steps to the right and one step forward and the picture become a lot more interesting.
Below are three pictures of the same staircase in Zagreb, all I did was move closer, on the final image I moved closer and knelt down.
 Boring...
 Better...
Best...
Of course sometimes framing is just a matter of personal preference as opposed to a good or bad photo. I like all three of these photographs of the hanging shoes but they are all framed differently. Again I kept the same settings that I mentioned above and just moved my body around the subject.
Changing the framing of a photograph allows you to change the story this is something that is important when I take the craft and food photography images for the blog. I don't have to clean the whole house just the bit that is in the frame! You can also dress an area to help the feel of the piece.
 In the image of the ribbon bookmarks I wanted to tell a story about the item and their purpose so I dressed the image with a book on a desk and placed the vase in the top corner to balance the image. With the hot spiced apple drink below I dressed the image with stollen to add more Christmassy feel to the image.
Last but not least think about how busy you want your photograph to be? Where do you want the focus of the image?
The image above is far too busy you don't know what the main focus should be. The image below uses all of the same settings but the tripod is lower and over to the side cutting out most of the advert and the parked cars so the main thing to look at is the dress and the bag.
So here are a recap of the main points to consider next time you go to take a photograph;
  • Move around the subject matter trying different viewpoints
  • Change your perspective by squatting, lying down or standing in an elevated spot
  • Use framing to cut out unwanted areas
  • Use framing to tell a story with your photo

Friday, 25 July 2014

Lone Working

As you can see from the picture above lone working offers me the opportunity to work in cute Parisian bistros but there is so much more to consider than which cafe to choose and very low budget Christmas parties, I am going to explore some of the aspects now.

Working for yourself takes a special kind of self discipline and it is not for everyone. It is far too easy to think that lone working means that you can lead an unstructured life; watching an afternoon movie or sleeping in and saying I will make the time up later. You may well make the time up later but there is a reason that the most common working hours take place during the day, that is our best time. There is a real science around daylight saving, we are not nocturnal animals, if we were we would have evolved differently. Many individuals who work permanent night/late evenings, so their body clock is as fully adjusted, as it can be, will still tell you that their brain functions better during the day, they are left more lethargic during the day than they would be returning home from work at 6pm and having the evening as their time off.  On top of all this the majority of your friends and possibly your significant other will have a 'normal' 9-5 and then your body clock will be out of whack with theirs. All in all structure is key. Structure is something I have always had as I didn't always work for myself, before this blogging life I had a muggle existence. When I started to work for myself I extended my working hours but I understood that I still had to be available to take calls and meetings during 'normal' working hours. 
Now take on board everything that I have just written because it is true and important and now the caveat; parenthood changes everything. Of course it does that is why I am typing this at midnight because my baby is asleep, for now. So here is one of the great aspects of lone working you have a degree of freedom to adjust your day. I am still up first thing in the morning, and I mean first thing. So here is a typical day; wake up, feed baby, feed myself, play with baby until it is time for his first nap, get baby to sleep usually done with a dog walk, whilst baby is asleep get some work done, baby wakes, repeat the feed and play portion of the day, Joe returns from work for some baby time (I take this opportunity to cook & do housework), feed baby, baby goes to sleep, I work, and repeat. On the weekends I schedule in all the things that are harder to do during the week. Yes it is hard work but I love my work and my baby is the best thing ever so I have no regrets. Not being part of a team means there is no maternity leave, if I stop everything stops, I would love to have time at home with Sebastian with my mind not worrying about work, at least for a little while. 
Working for yourself offers a great deal of creative freedom. Out of all the things I do to put food on the table; presenting, writing for magazines and websites, the blog offers me the most amount of control and that level of creative freedom is both challenging and exhilarating. Yet still my dream for the future is for Archie & The Rug to become a small team. Why? Well I will tell you; it is not only about sharing the load, in fact in a small business everyone works really hard, it is about all the stuff you miss when you work by yourself, you don't have people to bounce ideas off. It is nice to have a team to share the successes with and support one another in the bad times. It is important to make sure you are working with the right people if you want a small team. We have all had those projects when everyone is pulling in a different direction. It is vital to have clear and defined goals and establish a hierarchy, someone has to have the buck stops here responsibility.

Finally, I should mention that lone working does not have to mean that you work for yourself, I have many friends who work from home on full time contracts, from graphic designers to magazine editors and database analysts. The way in which society is changing means that the way we schedule in our work and manage our time has to change also. Ultimately you have to find a path that suits you and your family but I hope that I have offered up some useful and thought provoking insights for you to to consider.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Broccoli & Quinoa Muffins

I am becoming increasingly obsessed with brunch and snacks and in the warm weather it suits me to have lighter recipes that is why I developed this recipe for eggless muffins. Despite being light they are packed with flavour and goodness. The muffin batter is easy to make as you don't need to beat any butter.
you will need;

1/4 cup bulgar wheat 
1/4 red quinoa 
2tsp dried parsley 
1tsp dried shallots 
2 cups chopped broccoli florets 
3tbsp olive oil 
1 cup of crème fraîche
1 1/2 cups plain flour 
22g baking powder 
75g feta 
2tbsp  milk 
black pepper 
 method;
  1. Boil the bulgar wheat and quinoa according to instructions until cooked.
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the baking powder, broccoli herbs and crumble the feta in.
  3. Add the crème fraîche, milk, olive oil and season with pepper.
  4. Take the cooked bulgar wheat and quinoa to the muffin batter, mix thoroughly.
  5. Grease a 12 hole muffin pan, fill each hole to the top and bake at 200C for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Wait for them to cool before removing them from the pan.


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pizza Blanc

 A while ago I waxed lyrical in my Pizza Night post about how great pizza is, how may toppings you can have and how much better life becomes when you have homemade pizza. I can hold my hands up and admit there was some hyperbole in that but it is safe to say I am a fan of pizza. Given that I am such a huge fan of pizza I want to make it for all of my friends. As it turns out I have a friends who does not get on well with tomatoes so I have developed this recipe for a white pizza.
 you will need;

1 portion of dough from this recipe
1/2 cup creme fraiche
4tbsp natural yogurt
1tbsp freshly chopped chives
1 can palm hearts, sliced 
1 cup grated hard cheese, such as cheddar 
1 cup sliced mushrooms 
1 cup sliced leeks 
1/4 cup garden peas 
flat leaf parsley to garnish
salt and pepper 

method;
  1. Prepare your dough according to the recipe and roll it out.
  2. In a bowl mix the creme fraiche, yogurt, chives and salt and pepper in a bowl. Spread this mixture over your bases in place of tomato pizza sauce.
  3. Sprinkle your toppings over the bases then top with cheese.
  4. Cook in the oven until the bases are golden and the cheese is melted and browning.
  5. Garnish with flat leaf parsley.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Garden - Before & Progress

The last couple of houses I have had not had a garden so I am thrilled that my 'forever house' does. The term wild jungle may be more fitting. When I first saw the house it was the dead of winter so things were less wild so you can imagine my surprise when I came back to find everything overgrown.

There was so much to be done in eight days; cleaning, moving, painting, sanding, factor into that time for baby care it was a pretty full week. With that in mind I did not think any headway would be made in the garden department. Saturday and Sunday everything else had been done, I know I was shocked and even more surprisingly I had a sudden burst of energy.
Above are photographs of the tree and thorny bush that were way too close to the house, they were pushing up against the windows. I also want to avoid thorns in a garden that has to be little person friendly, it is a space for Sebastian to run around in. So with a blunt-ish saw in hand I cut them down, and I only sawed through my hand twice.
So much clearer and lighter in the house. Another plus is that we have our first wood pile ready to dry out for the wood burner. I know it is odd to get sentimental about a wood pile but I really like the fact that the first fire will be from the wood I cut down that week. And here it is.
I am so blessed with the space, not only is there a garden but there is a patio and a courtyard off the utility room, I intend to make a kitchen garden in containers there and hang outdoor festoon lights. I am looking forward to enjoying a glass of wine looking out at the garden and the hills in the background.
A nice shot of Joe clearing the garden waste, I even changed into more appropriate garden clearing clothing.
There is still so much to do and some work for a professional tree surgeon but I am proud of the headway. All of the grass at the bottom is dead as it has not seen sun but hopefully that can start to change and I will be able to save the lawn with feeding and regular TLC.
Above is a picture of the cleared garden, well as much as it for the time being. I am so proud of how much got done in such a short space of time. I need to pull together my garden inspiration into a more cohesive manner, there will even be a scale drawing!