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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Cooking up a storm

A couple of years ago, I followed a gluten free diet for about six months as a way of trying to alleviate the symptoms of colitis. One very good thing which came out of that time was discovering this amazing recipe for lemon polenta cake, which I found in a magazine. I put a photo of it on Instagram recently and a couple of people asked for the recipe, so here it is. It is a very easy cake to make, and it also looks beautiful. It is great served with fresh cream.

250 g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
grated zest 2 lemons
juice 1 lemon
125g polenta, sifted
1 level teaspoon baking powder (gluten free if you are following a diet)
For the syrup:
4 tablespoons lemon juice
125g icing sugar
200g soft fruits e.g raspberries and blueberries
Icing sugar to dust

23cm/9 inch tin, lined with parchment
Set oven to Gas mark 3, or 160 degrees
Beat the butter until soft and pale. Add the sugar, beat until light and creamy. Whisk in the eggs a little at a time, making sure you beat the egg well. Fold in the almonds, vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, polenta and baking powder. Put into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 50 mins to one hour. 
To make the syrup, place the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, and icing sugar into a pan and stir until the icing sugar has dissolved. Spoon over the cake while the syrup and the cake are still hot. Leave in the tin to cool. When the cake is cold, arrange berries on top and dust with icing sugar.

I'll be serving the cake to my Mum later today, along with some home made scones, clotted cream and raspberry jam. 

Have a lovely Sunday. 
PS I should clarify that I didn't paint that beautiful watercolour above. It's a photograph of mine which I changed using the Waterlogue App on my iPhone to give a painterly effect. I wish I was that good at watercolour :)

Sunday, 1 March 2015

An arty adventure

One of my Christmas presents was a day at a lino printing course in Sheffield. I've been looking forward to it hugely,and finally the day arrived. I travelled to Sheffield on Friday night, and met my brother who lives in the city for an early dinner. Up early on Saturday morning and we went to Hunters Bar, the area where the course was being held. As well as having a brother who lives in Sheffield, I feel strong links to the city. I was a student there in the 80s and have very happy memories of that time. It's just one of those places that will always have a really special significance.
As students, Hunters Bar was the place we often came on a Sunday. There is a beautiful park here, with a river running through it, and there have always been lots of interesting shops. The art school was once sited here, although that has now moved into the city centre.

Things have changed, but not too much. In those days, it was 'second hand' not vintage, and there were many little shops selling old clothes. Pre-Primark, this is how we shopped! I distinctly remember buying a pair of leopard skin hobnail boots from a second hand shop along this road, which I wore proudly with a pair of old long johns and a large pinafore dress. Anyway...the printing workshop was set in Cowlishaw Works, behind a pine shop and next door to a vintage china store.

There were eight of us on the course and the tutor was James Green, who is an amazing print maker. Most people had come along with a design in mind, and we got straight down to tracing it onto a lino tile using carbon paper.

Then it was time to start carving the lino. James provided all the tools for us. Some people had come up with really intricate designs: mine was pretty simple by comparison. I still found it quite tricky though. It was great to work alongside other people, we chatted and helped each other along, with sound advice and help from James.

Slowly it took shape. A break for lunch and chance to try some of the lovely local cafes and bakeries.

Finally, time to ink up! I chose black which I thought would suit my graphic design.

A few test prints are done first, and any adjustments made. For example, if there are any messy bits where the ink catches in the wrong place, or a chance to add some more detail. The patterned print above was by Susan, who was sitting opposite me.

And then, time to print on a piece of cartridge paper, to make the final picture. It was so satisfying! Everyone had a little moment as they revealed their design. It's a lovely thing to see. Each print was so different. Some people worked from photos, others had gone for pattern. Mine was probably the simplest style. 

A few of the other prints drying on the floor. Loved the frog and the street scene.
We finished by about 3.30pm, just time for a final cup of tea and a chance to let the ink dry. I headed off to the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield and saw a beautiful exhibition about bird illustrations, well worth seeing if you're in the area.

Then just time for a quick snack in The Crucible Theatre cafe and back on the train home. Pretty much a perfect day.