When life gives you pumpkins

Sometimes, life gives you pumpkins. In our vege patch this summer, we ended up with a rogue pumpkin plant that gave us 3 small but delicious pumpkins. I’m not entirely sure, but I think they were Golden Nugget pumpkins. And they were definitely the nicest pumpkins we’ve grown in the last few years.

Anyway, when faced with a bounty of unexpected pumpkins, you have to think of something to do with them. They were too small to make much pumpkin soup, so one I roasted alongside potatoes and a chicken for a delicious roast dinner. Another went into a curry. But the third made us a delicious meal combined with lamb, green beans and almonds. The recipe was a hybrid, combining the best parts of two Donna Hay recipes: one for a roast pumpkin and couscous salad (from her cookbook The New Cook), and the other for lamb with couscous and spiced almonds (from Simple Dinners). The result was a delicious autumn meal!

Lamb and pumpkin couscous with spiced almonds

Serves 4

1 small pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 tbs olive oil, plus extra for brushing
120g blanched almonds
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbs honey
2 X 250g lamb loin/backstrap
sea salt and black pepper to taste
400g (2 c) instant couscous
2 c water
50g butter
1/2 c mint leaves, roughly chopped
150g green beans, trimmed
Tzatziki to serve

Preheat oven to 200C.

Toss the pumpkin with 1/2 tsp cumin and 2 tbs olive oil and a large pinch of sea salt, and spread out on baking tray. Roast for 20-30 minutes until tender.

Toss almonds and sesame seeds with 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tsp cumin and honey and spread out on non stick baking paper on a tray. Bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool slightly and break or chop into rough pieces.

Brush meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes each side in grill pan or frying pan over high heat, or to liking. Rest for 5 minutes then slice.

Cover green beans with water and microwave for a couple of minutes to blanch (or steam or boil until bright green but still crisp).

Place couscous into heatproof bowl. Boil 2 c water and pour over couscous, swirl to mix. Add butter, cover and stand for 5 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

Toss couscous with pumpkin and green beans. Divide between plates. Top with sliced lamb and scatter with mint and spiced nuts.

Serve with tzatziki if desired.

Boho bangles and bracelets

As I write, my arm is jingling with bracelets. Today is the reveal day and blog hop for Tracy Statler’s Wrapped Stacked and Layered Bracelet Challenge.

I ended up making quite a few bracelets, mostly in the last week! I do wish I had made time to make another leather wrap bracelet as I love the style. But in the end, I had bracelets aplenty for a couple of different sets. Bangles wrapped with wire and sari silk. A stretchy loop of almost iridescent Czech glass beads. A few gemstones and some lampwork beads. Brass chain and an eclectic combo of Czech crystals.

The first set, which I’m calling “Dusty Roses”, incorporates the two bracelets I showed in my last bracelet post, but I added a stretch bracelet I found among my jewellery that matches the colours really well. I also made a bangle using a Vintaj creative hoop, a gemstone nugget that could be agate or possibly quartz, and some beautiful frayed sari silk that I wrapped around the bangle and overwrapped with antique brass wire. I can see myself wearing this combination a lot with jeans.

The second set, uses more vibrant colours. I’ve called this set “Boho Peacock” for its turquoise, green, and lavender hues. It includes three bangles, a double-wrapped braid of sari silk, a stretch bracelet of iridescent Czech glass beads, and a pretty little bracelet of brass chain and Czech beads. I think this combo will be great at night.

I think the bangles also work as a set on their own. One of the bangles uses a gorgeous lampwork pillow bead from Etsy lampworker Vivian Houser. Her shop is Dragyn’s Fyre Designs. Another bangle has a small lampwork bead from Australian lampworker Angela Gensch (her Etsy shop is Genschi). The sari silk comes from another Etsy shop Designtalentedone. The gemstone nuggets in the third bangle is rainbow fluorite. And I’m not entirely sure what the faceted gemstone nugget is in the fourth bangle, but as I said above, it’s probably agate or quartz.

I have to say, I have learnt a lot while doing this challenge. My wire-wrapping skills are definitely improving. It’s been fun incorporating sari silk into my jewellery designs. And I have lots more ideas for bracelets and bracelet stacks.

Here is the list of participants in the challenge—there are almost 80! Go and have a look at what they’ve made! I know I’ll be spending a bit of time browsing these blogs tomorrow! Thanks again Tracy for this great challenge!

beadrecipes.wordpress.com YOU ARE HERE!!!

Easter feast

For the first time in a few years we were home for the Easter weekend. And, as it happened, so were some of our very good friends. So plans were made to spend some time together on Easter Sunday. To make it even more fun, an old friend from our Californian days was in town for a family event, and he joined us too.

What better to serve at Easter than roast lamb? But this wasn’t just any roast lamb. I got boned lamb shoulder from the local butcher, and roasted it slowly in lemon juice, herbs and olive oil, until the meat was falling apart. A quick blast under the grill to crisp up the edges and then a scattering of creamy salty feta cheese to round it off. Yum! It was beautifully complemented by quinoa and barley salads brought by our guests, as well as baby roast potatoes.

After a week of warmer weather, we headed back to winter over the Easter weekend, and to warm us all up I made a bread and butter pudding using up some of the hot cross buns we had left over. I used chocolate hot cross buns—not very traditional but so delicious—buttered and soaked in a simple custard before baking. It was a chocolate-y oozing mess of comfort.

 

Slow-roasted greek style lamb shoulder

This recipe is really a combination of two Karen Martini recipes published a few years ago in The Age’s weekend magazine Sunday Life.

2 lemons, zested and juiced
large handful of fresh oregano, roughly chopped
2-3 stalks of fresh rosemary, chopped
6-4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp sea salt
100 ml olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 lamb shoulder, boned and trimmed of excess fat
100 g feta cheese 

Preheat the oven to 160C.

To make the marinade, combine the lemon juice and zest, chopped herbs, and olive oil in a jug. Pound the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle with the sea salt and add it to the marinade along with black pepper to taste.

Open out lamb shoulder in baking tray and pour marinade over it, making sure you get it under all the folds. Cover the tray tightly with foil.

At this point you can let it marinate in the fridge as long as overnight or you can put it in the oven straight away. Cook for 3-4 hours until the lamb is falling-apart tender.

Remove from the oven and pour off half of the juices. Turn oven up to 250C and put the grill on and place lamb back under grill to brown for 5 minutes until the edges are crisp.

Remove from the grill and rest for 10-15 minutes, then shred into chunks using a fork. Transfer to a serving platter and scatter with crumbled feta cheese.

 

Chocolate hot cross bun bread and butter pudding

6 chocolate hot cross buns, slightly stale
unsalted butter
2 c milk
3 eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter, extra 

Preheat the oven to 170C. Butter a large ceramic or glass baking dish (approx 20 X 30 cm).

Split each hot cross bun in half and generously butter each slice. Tear or cut each half into 4 pieces and place in the baking dish in one layer.

Whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until well combined. Pour evenly over buns, pushing the pieces down into the mixture. Dot the top with butter.

Set the pudding aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the liquid to really soak in to the bread.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and sit for 10-15 minutes before serving with icecream, cream or even a tangy yoghurt.

 

Notes

1. One lamb shoulder will easily feed 4-6 people. And the pudding serves at least 8, as it is very rich and a little goes a long way!

2. You can serve the lamb with fresh pita bread, tzatziki, and a grain-y salad.

3. For a variation on the pudding,make it with traditional fruit hot cross buns instead. Try adding some orange zest to the custard mixture or scatter some chunks of 70% chocolate through the buns.

Bracelets on my mind

I’ve signed up for another challenge. This one is the Wrapped, Stacked and Layered Bracelet Challenge started over at Tracy Statler’s Make Bracelets blog and it’s all about stacking and layering bracelets to create a unique-to-you look.

The big day is 21 April, when all the participants (and there seem to be quite a few signed up!) post pics of their bracelet on their blogs.

The thing I like about layering bracelets is that it’s all about texture, mixing different beads and techniques to get an eclectic effect. Different metals, like silver, copper or brass, beads made from glass, clay, semi-precious stones, dangling charms and beads sliding along, leather, chain and fabric all mixed up together.

I’ve got a few bracelets I’ve made, and a few more that I have acquired along the way, and I’m putting together some more in the next couple of weeks, so hopefully I’ll have a few to choose from. And I’ve been having a lovely time fossicking around the web, looking for inspiration. I think I could almost start a separate Pinterest board just for ideas!

Some of the bracelets I have already made include this wrap bracelet in the Chan Luu style. It’s made from brown leather and pink rhodonite beads and finished with an antique silver button. I’ve got earrings made out of the same pink stone too.

This one was made by knotting together a set of Gaea ceramic beads on natural leather. I finished it off with antique brass findings. But I think I need to hang something else from the closure side, to balance it a bit, as it keeps sliding around so that the pretty beads don’t keep ending up on the inside of my wrist.

Now I just have to decide whether to go for a silver bling-y effect or an antique-y boho look. Or maybe I’ll do both! See you on the 21st for the big reveal!