Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Veggie Burgers

Having a little more time on my hands now, I can afford to be a bit more experimental in the kitchen. Our new kitchen, despite it's uninspiring view of a concrete wall, is loads nicer than our old one, much lighter and cottagey (if that was a word).

Last night I made some home made veggie burgers. I've made a few from various recipe books but never found any that I really liked or that I was able to get to hold together properly. This is the recipe I use:

Monster Veggie Burgers 
(serves 2 plus 2 extra patties for lunch the next day)

For the patty:
3 medium potatoes
1 carrot (we used a purple carrot, but orange is fine)
1 medium onion
2/3 tin red kidney beans (you can eat the rest while you're cooking)
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp HP sauce
2 medium eggs
1 tblsp plain flour
Pinch of dill
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt & Pepper
2-3 tblsp Vegetable Oil for Frying

For the burger:
Decent bread, ideally home made - this 7 grain loaf is the first one we've bought since arriving here.
1/3 aubergine (eggplant)
1 red pepper (capsicum)
1 block halloumi cheese
1/2 tomato
1/2 avocado
Handful of spinach leaves
Red Pesto
1 tblsp Olive Oil for roasting

1. Peel and chop the potatoes and put on to boil.
2. Slice the aubergine and de-seed and quarter the pepper. Rub with olive oil and add a little salt and pepper. Put in a roasting dish and roast at 200 degrees for about half an hour.
3. Finely chop the carrot and onion and fry on a low heat until soft but not coloured. Put to one side to cool.
4. When the potato is soft drain and mash until smooth in a large pan or mixing bowl. Add the carrot & onion mix, the kidney beans, soy sauce, HP sauce, eggs, dill, chilli flakes, and stir together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This mix will be very runny and soft, much thinner that many veggie burgers you have made before. Add the flour slowly to thicken the mix but be careful to avoid lumps.
5. Slice the halloumi into 1.5cm thick slices. Feel free to eat the ends while you cook. If you have a grill pop the slices under a hot grill for about 4 minutes each side, until they've just started to colour. We don't have a grill, so we put the slices in a hot dry pan for 3-4 minutes per side. They won't stick due to the high fat content, and they will leak a fair amount of water when you first put them in, this is normal.
6. In a large flat bottomed frying pan add a good glug of vegetable oil and allow it to heat up. Using a large serving spoon scoop up a portion of the patty mixture. Place neatly into the pan. Depending upon the size of your pan you may be able to fit 2-4 spoons of patty mix into the pan. Each spoonful should be enough for one patty. Leave without moving for 3-4 minutes. The mix will spread slightly, but, like an omelet, you're cooking the egg that holds the mixture together.
7. While the patty is cooking begin to assemble the burger. Slice the bread as thickly as you like, it's unlikely you'll be able to pick this burger up. Spread mayonnaise on one slice (the bottom) and red pesto on the other (top). Remove the aubergine and pepper from the oven. Beginning with the bottom slice layer spinach, tomato (sliced), avocado (sliced), aubergine.
8. When the base of the patty is cooked carefully flip the burgers, they will need another 1-2 minutes to seal the top. When cooked carefully place the patty on the top of the burger stack. Finish by adding the halloumi and a portion of pepper.

The patty mix will keep overnight in the fridge if preferred in order to make fresh burgers for lunch the next day. Just be aware that the mix does contain raw egg.

We served the burger with the excess tomato and avocado, and some home made chips. Perfect with a beer or cool drink at the end of a hot day!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Fun at the fair

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in Belgium (for Whit Monday/Pentecost Monday, although it seems public holidays are ten-a-penny here!) so I didn't get a huge amount of work done. It's very hard to concentrate with a bored and excitable 28 year old at home!

Eventually I admitted defeat and we went for a lovely walk out in the sun - can you guess what we found?

ps. It was by far the loudest fair I've ever been to - and with more flashing lights and moving parts. Who says Belgium is boring?
pps. That candyfloss was even better than it looks. Jealous?

Monday, 28 May 2012

This Weekend's Achievement

This weekend's achievement came in the form of some home made English muffins.

English muffins are a sweetened bread roll generally halved, toasted and buttered. These were amazing - I was so proud! The dough contains a little sugar and is made with milk instead of water so the muffin is sweet and rich, but the dough was heavy and stiff to knead - fortunately Andrew was there to help!

I used the recipe in Duncan Glendinning and Patrick Ryan's Bread Revolution

Friday, 25 May 2012

Things I have been up to

So we finally have internet! The man from Telenet came on Wednesday, along with the bulk of our furniture, and now we have a proper grown up home! 

I thought it might be nice to show you some photos out and about in our part of Antwerp, so you can see what it's like (this is mostly for the benefit of my Mam, but it's a pretty place too!)

 This is the view of our building from across the street. We're on the fourth floor in the building on the right, but I wanted to show you the MASSIVE church three doors down. Antwerp is full of churches, much more so than London, and as we're in a predominantly Catholic country, they are really beautiful and elaborate. 
 This enormous fountain is around the corner. I have no idea what it commemorates as there's not a plaque, but it is beautiful. It's taking me a lot of time to get used to there being such lovely things in ordinary places and there being no graffiti/drunks/litter.
 This is the Royal Museum of Fine Art. Unfortunately it's closed for refurbishment right now, and will be for the forseeable future, but it's only 4 or 5 minutes walk from the flat and has a really cool water feature. We have to walk past it to get to the supermarket and Andrew works across the road from it.
 This is the view from my studio window. In many ways Antwerp is very similar to Edinburgh, where I went to university. It's a small town in terms of square miles, but everyone lives in these skinny 4-6 storey buildings. As such, there city is able to support hundreds of cafes, bars and shops - we've had so much fun just wandering around exploring, the "residential street" is a bit of an alien concept here.
 This is the view from my bed. Every morning the sun rises over the top of the church and floods into the bedroom. We don't have access to the yard downstairs, but the people who do keep chickens there. Our outside space comes in the form of a small balcony. Want to see the view?

That's right, solid concrete. Small price to pay when the rest of the flat is so nice, but most of my gardening plans have been scuppered :(

We've finally got some furniture, including this deliciously retro sofa suite:

And a big desk for me:

We were so lucky to find a huge second hand furniture warehouse on the outside of town. We really didn't want an IKEA-kit house again, and while they have served to give us a nice bed and sofabed, we wanted stuff with a bit more character, and a little cheaper. As it was, we were able to get the three piece sofa, a massive dining table (solid wood), 6 chairs, my desk, a bookcase and two full length mirrors for less than 300 euros from Ecoshop. Very happy indeed.

The lack of internet, and the fact that I arranged not to have any magazine deadlines over this moving period, has left me a little out of sorts - what should I do with my day? The sensible me said that this was a great time to get ahead on design ideas, swatching, sketching and maybe something fun to self-publish. The hedonistic me said "Whoohoo! Holiday!" And won the argument. I've been knitting FOR FUN. Sometimes even from other people's patterns! Mostly in order to finish a few WIPs that have been languishing, but a couple of other bits too, shall we take a look-see?

Firstly this rather fetching pair of vanilla socks for Andrew. Knit in Wollmeise 100% in Zenzi for the MC and Wollmeise Twin for the CC. I've not knit stockinette socks in years, my vanilla pattern is Brick by Brick, but this yarn wouldn't stand for any funny business. Both were part skeins left over from the Father's New Socks I knit Andrew last year, so are "free" socks - in that I didn't buy the yarn especially. I'm rather proud of them, I took them along to my first visit to the Antwerp Knit and Bitch last week and they went down a treat, plus I knit LOADS of them, like half the foot, at knitting! I'm so used to knitting a couple of rows then getting distracted, hooray for vanilla knitting!

Next up are a not-quite pair of Alice Yu's Crowley's, in a mystery yarn she gifted me before moving to Hong Kong. I do know Alice dyed the yarn, so I of course had to use it for one of her patterns. I knit the Crowley sample for the Socktopus book and had such a blast I had to make another pair for myself. These are coming out great, the ankle sock is an underrated concept amongst sock knitters.

I'm still working on my Agatha C.'s, by Emma Haigh of Loumms, but have now almost finished one. These cables are as intricate and winding as a Poirot plot, and so of course this project is travelling a little slower. They are coming out SO well though, I adore the Sweet Clement Smitten yarn, I have another skein in this colourway from a Christmas swap I can't wait to knit up.

I've also been knitting my own Jasper Diamond Baby Cardigan for a colleague of Andrew's who is expecting. She helped him (and me by default) out a lot before I moved over by translating things like out tenancy agreement and Andrew's work contract into English for us, so she definitely deserves a baby cardigan!

Now we have internet it's back to work!

Monday, 14 May 2012

I'm a Twerp!

I'm here! In Antwerp! What a crazy couple of weeks it's been! The new flat is fantastic, at least twice the size of our London flat, and it's so WARM here! It's as if all the crappy weather we had in London at the end of April was just to highlight how nice it is here now!

I had a wonderful send off, firstly a few weeks ago Andrew and I and some friends went to Bill's Covent Garden, a lovely casual restaurant (I think Bill is Australian, but the food was from all over) where I ate the most fantastic halloumi burger. Then was my last night out for knitting, and we had a raucous evening involving a greasy curry on Brick Lane and me mixing my drinks. It was awesome. The following Wednesday was my leaving drinks from my part time job in a bookshop. Andrew came, which was nice as no one had met him before so I was able to prove he was real! I got some really wonderful presents, my colleague Isabel even knitted me a scarf - amazing! I was very grateful and very sad.

On the Saturday, our official moving out day, our friend Mark came over to help us load everything into the van, and when Andrew and his dad (our very generous driver) left he helped me with the last little bit of cleaning and took me to the letting agent to hand in the keys. This was so lovely, I would have been in floods of tears had he not been there! As much as it's fantastic now to be in this great flat in this lovely city, it's certainly scary to move to a country you've only visited once for 3 days into a flat you've never seen!!! I arrived at about 9pm on Saturday night, about 2 hours after Andrew, and he treated us to dinner that night before bed. Then the unpacking started!

The flat is still in disarray with all the unpacking and the lack of furniture! Only yesterday did we realise that there's only one plug socket in my new studio (ok, our new studio), so for the next couple of days my computer will continue to be set up on the living room floor. The to-do list is epic, in addition to getting the required new furniture (such as a computer desk, a sofa, chairs), we have to sort out ID cards, phone and internet lines, healthcare and vets, get new kitchen electricals and a whole heap of adapter plugs for the stuff we couldn't afford to replace. So you'll have to bear with me over the next few weeks!!

That being said, I spent the first morning making bread, trying out the new oven (the bread was a disaster, the oven works just fine). Since then (and we've been here two weeks now) I've made all the bread we've eaten, which has been so lovely! Yesterday was a soup making day, I treated myself to the new book "Veggiestan" - a cook book of vegetarian Middle Eastern food I can't recommend enough - we made Iranian onion soup with eggy croutons that was delicious.

Joey and Elmo (the cats) are starting to settle in, as expected Joey has been pretty much fine since we arrived, playing with the doors and smelling all the smells. All the floors are wooden here, so we put down an old rug to give them something soft to sleep on. Joey's loving that it slips and slides around if he rolls on it! Elmo has been a bit more nervous, rarely venturing out of the bedroom, but then that always was his way. He's happy to be carried and cuddled around the flat though!

We're slowly and inefficiently trying to learn the language. I hate that I have to ask everyone if they speak English, especially as they generally do, so this is a real priority. I was reading today that being bilingual boosts brain power, which is totally unsurprising if you've ever met a bilingual person, but is an extra motivation - maybe my pattern calculations will go smoother if I can speak Dutch too!

Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can tell you a bit more about some of my new patterns that have been published recently - Igneous in The Knitter, Colour Pop!, Nitha Hat and Nitha Scarf in Knit Now, and Cucumber in Knitty!