Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Court Cottage’ Category

Workshops! Spaces!

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Hello there, welcome to the ghost-ship Court Cottage.  The workshops have succumbed to an epidemic of cancellations – so there is a lot of space here in June.

This weekend, you can come and knit socks, either from the top down or from the toe up. This is a great skill. Socks are easy to knit once you have mastered the basics – and that, plus a few extras, is what this course is all about.  I teach top down socks on DPNs and toe up socks on 2 short circular needles.  Once mastered, socks are ideal in many ways:  great, fast and economical gift knits; and perfect as a travelling project.

Next weekend, you can come and learn to knit a magical Moebius, or if you have done this with me before, you can knit a brand new design.  Moebiuses are very addictive and great fun to knit and to wear.

Please follow the links above or contact me.

Just a reminder:  if you were on my email list and did not opt back in when I sent out a recent pre-GDPR reminder, you will no longer receive my alerts and up-dates. So if you want to continue to get these, please contact me and I will add your name back in.  If you did opt back in – thank you!


Allotment at Home: almost there!

Friday, May 11th, 2018

There has been so much progress! I have to say that since the muddy, freezing days of January and February when the turf was lifted but there was nothing in situ, the state of play now is just great.  Back then I was despondent and regretted ever starting this project but now I am sure I have done the right thing.

Last night, I picked all the ingredients, here in the garden, for this salad:

allotment at home salad

The first part of the project is 100% complete. All the beds are up, the gravel is down and each bed has been planted up.  Honestly – as I suspected – the furthest two beds beneath the rowan tree are far too shady so what I plant in there will need a lot of careful management, but otherwise, it is all good.

Here are some images of the progress here:

The second area is 75% there.  The beds are all in place, but now I have to fill them all (three are filled) and then lay the lining and the gravel.

Area Two:

The third area is the old veg garden – and this is clear, and ready for a modified brassica cage from the old allotment to go up this Sunday.  The plants are almost ready to go in, so just in time.

I had not been to the old allotment for weeks – so when I did go last weekend, it was a bit of a sorry state.  But then, I saw that a lot of plots were in even worse states with weeds and long grass and I assume their owners had been down there!  Anyway, it’s all tidy now and I have removed almost all the stuff I want – mainly the raised beds, the canes, some tyres and tools.  There are 1.5 beds to come back still – but this, though physically hard, is not at all slow or difficult.  And the cage.  I will keep the plot tidy until I finally give notice.

Taking the old allotment down:

When I went down, I thought I would feel sad – but in fact it just vindicated my decision. It is not a place of quiet solitude now – and also there are still no ‘facilities’ so it feels like hard labour compared to having a cuppa and a loo handy, here, in between work.  There, you just end up racing round to get it done before you need a drink or a wee!


April Newsletter

Monday, April 16th, 2018

The new Newsletter has just gone out to my email list.  It contains news on my events, new stock, and an invitation for expressions of interest for Knit Camp 2019 – which will be in Bath and offer 2 or 3 night options.  if nothing else, it is an easy read with a cuppa…

To receive my up-dates first, ask me to add you to my distribution list.




Allotment Up-Date: should I stay or should I go now?

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

I am well into year two of Project Allotment. This year has been much better than last in many ways.  First, almost no digging. Second, I have learned a lot and it shows in terms of how I plan things and how well they turn out.  Third, I have just about managed to keep the brassica cage free of cabbage white fly with the use of diatomaceous earth.  This is an organic dusting powder.  It is a faff to apply it and it isn’t 100% successful but it has made a big difference.  Last year, by now, the cage was infested, but this year they are just beginning to be obvious – so I have re-applied the DE.

I have maintained an organic approach – no pellets, no poison.  I do lose a bit of stuff here and there but I think it is worth it.

There have been failures.  The potatoes were poor.  Not worth the effort.  The carrots were also poor in terms of germination.  And I planted the squash way too close together so it is very crowded.

On the other hand, the kale and cabbage are 90% better, and I have had (and am continuing to have) amazing bean crops, good courgettes and interesting and delicious new squash types.

So, it seems a bit counter-intuitive to tell you, dear reader, that I am thinking of giving the plot up.  Not in October 2017, probably, which is renewal time.  But maybe at some point in the following year.  I have not decided for definite but I have it in my mind.  There are pros and cons.  As I am powered by lists, here is my pros/cons for giving up the allotment list:


  • I find it incredibly time hungry, as it is very labour intensive and in spring and summer I do go to the plot at least 3 times a week, often more.
  • It is not inconvenient as it is only 1/2 mile away but that is an issue when pushing a loaded wheel barrow, or riding an over-loaded bike.
  • It is basically still trying to be a pasture field and so despite the efforts of the previous plot holder before he gave up a year or so before I got it, and mine, if you turn your back for more than 3 days, the bind-weed and other invasive, pernicious weeds just move back in and bring all their mates.
  • Someone has taken some of my Japanese squash – which are big and heavy, and some of the black French beans. These are not things birds could or would take.  That was upsetting. It won’t be anyone on the allotments or our local badgers who do steal fruit and sweetcorn.  But the field is not secure at all so I guess it is inevitable, sometimes. Jo has also had fruit taken and last year someone had his brassica cage vandalised.
  • It has really set off my always lurking OCD nerve. I can’t just cut the grass, for example.  I have to cut the grass and then edge the whole plot and then pick up all the clippings and then hoe it neat – this is just the edges.  I wish I could be more relaxed but I can’t.  So, it’s a bit obsessive. Obsessions are, basically, my one weakness.
  • I am very allergic to a lot and an increasing number of things and many of these are down the allotment.  I am bitten by all the insects despite my spraying myself with jungle strength insect repellent, and I react very badly to these bites, both at the site of the sting or bite and also all over. I am allergic to soil on my bare skin, so I have to garden in gloves – but I am also allergic to most gloves so I have to line the gloves with cotton gloves, soaked in E45.  Despite this, my hands are in an awful state.  (I think I am also becoming allergic to some animal fibres but anyway…). My new allergy is to the plants themselves especially courgettes and squash leaves, raspberry leaves and runner bean leaves.  Spiders bite me whenever I go into the cage even if I wear long sleeves and trousers, and then I get blisters.  To be honest, it is just miserable to be so allergic to my allotment.  The garden can, of course, set off reactions but rarely so extreme.
  • The garden is suffering neglect.
  • I worry about it if I have to miss a few days and kind of dread the return to what I know will be a lot of hard effort.
  • I am often very tired.
  • I have learned a lot and some of this could be translated into my garden here.


  • I actually love my allotment and I am very proud of it. I know I would miss it terribly. It is often a place of great happiness and peace for me.
  • After all that work (and this is not a response I am proud of) I can’t bear someone else to just walk onto the plot and take it on.  Is the answer to let it go to pot for a few months and then quit, I hear you murmur?  Frankly that thought is unworthy of you and I am disappointed, I shall pretend you didn’t suggest it.
  • I have invested in some equipment but mainly the cage which I think I can bring home.
  • Related, I have a plan (very provisional) to turn part of my garden here into a mini-allotment. It is at the thinking stage only but I do believe it may have merit.  There will be a lot of work associated with this initially and some cost, but still, it would be a realistic alternative.
  • We love the food I grow.  I have not thrown money at my allotment and not really bought much at all, so it really is a thrift project for me which has given us so much produce that you just can’t buy anyway.
  • I might be able to go down to a half-plot. But you see, the OCD nerve would kick in then, if the partner plot-holder left his/her plot (joined onto my MY plot) in a state.
  • I am not a sociable person in any way but I have slowly and quietly made some very nice ‘acquaintances’ down there. But on the whole it is just me there and I like that.
  • Whilst it is very hard work, it is really away from it all as there is no internet coverage and very poor phone signal. So, audio books are marvellous for allotmenting.

What do you think I ought to do? Give it up, or keep it?  You are wise, advise me.


Macmillan Afternoon Knit Club, 15 June and 23 November

Monday, June 5th, 2017

These dates could do with a few more knitters.  Based on the current bookings, everyone will have to eat 3 slices of cake and a plate of savouries – and that’s just not fair, even by my feeding standards.

All the fees (£15 a head) will be donated by me to Macmillan Cancer Support.

So it would be awesome (overdone phrase, but in this case, justified) if you could see your way to coming along.  They start at 2, and finish at 5.  You can come/go at any time around these points.

It is just a knitting session, with afternoon tea served basically all the time.  I am making a couple of cakes and some sarnies and if you want to bring something to add to the tea table, that would be marvelous but not by no means compulsory.  Just bring your knitting and crochet.

Here is the link, where either date can be booked.

Please come. Thankyouplease.

The Afternoon Tea Club 2017 – in support of Macmillan Cancer Care

Friday, February 17th, 2017

This year, there will be two Knit Clubs, and the proceeds from these will go Macmillan Cancer Care.  Here is the page to have a look and book your places. All you have to do is book, turn up with your knitting – and a tea-time contribution. I will do the rest.

Tea, cake, knitting, raffle for knitting prizes – sounds good, right?

Please come!

Peep Into The Design Room…

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Here is a peep at some of the goodies we have been designing and knitting for your workshops in 2017.

Two Colour Brioche – knitted flat

We have Introduction to Two Colour Brioche in March, April and May.  The April date is the only one with spaces – there are two.  This course is all about getting to grips with this pleasing stitch – but hopefully I have Anglicised and simplified it a little.  This is not to say that it is difficult, but it is rather unusual.  I have sifted through several of the eleventy-nine variations on this theme and come up with the one I will teach you. So this course will walk you through knitting Brioche in one colour, and then we will move on to two colours.  I have ‘designed’ two scarves/throws – I say ‘designed’ but really, it is just a matter of deciding what yarns you want to use and then how wide/long you want it.  So it’s a stretch to call it designing. However, I have done the experimenting so you don’t have to.  One of the things I like best about Brioche is the opportunity to experiment a little, which we have been doing by blending yarns of differing weights.  You can view the course and book the remaining two places here.

Here are some examples of the way Brioche looks.  This is the warm brown and teal Kidsilk Haze pattern.


I do love it.  Often – and I especially need to remember this – less is more.  With Brioche, once you have mastered the rhythm of the stitch (and it is only slipping, knitting and purling, basically), I think it is fine to just let the Brioche, with its neat edges and reversible shadow-effect rib, do all the work.

And this is a neat grey and cream Aran:


Scarves and throws, by the way, will never go out of fashion and I for one am glad that they are there, constant and faithful in a frankly alarming world.  Long live the scarf – and Brioche extends its reign.

Kidsilk Haze Extravaganza

There is just one place left on this event.  One date is full, but there is a space on 1 April.

I do love Kidsilk Haze.  Oh!  Wait – did you not know?  OK – well I am the Kidsilk Haze Queen.  Self-appointed, granted and ruler only of my own stash – which is impressive.  I have written two books devoted to it and even the books I have published that are not all about Kidsilk Haze have some of the cocaine of the yarn world smuggled in.  Yes, even felted.  Anyway, this year I am returning to my roots in many ways.  And one of these ways is The Kidsilk Haze Extravaganza events.

At this workshop, I will offer you a choice of three designs.  Two are brand new.  One is a pair of almost entirely decorative beaded cuffs – fairly easy, knitted flat.  Next is a new design adapted from Rise in Elements:


But this Rise is knitted in the round, and features Kidsilk Haze plus a DK wool. This design is probably the most challenging.  Finally, Gathering Scarf from my second (now out of print) book, Little Luxury Knits.  This takes only one ball of Kidsilk Haze, is lightly beaded, and is an unusual but fairly easy lace knit:


And then…we have also worked this same design in a silk-wool DK blend, wider and longer, and behold, it is a thing of great beauty:


I have done this so that even if you are for some sad reason, possibly medical, unable to wear or knit Kidsilk Haze, you can still do the course!  Rise can also be knitted with a substitute for the Kidsilk Haze. Please apply to the management in writing for more details.

Anyway as I say, just one place is left, so do come.

I will reveal more glimpses through the crack in the design room door shortly for the Brioche in the Round, and Fairisle Courses.

2017 Courses – Now Live

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

The courses are up and it’s the biggest year ever!  Here they are – do come!

We have Fairisle and Brioche, cables and beads, steeking and gifts – and of course, Christmas.

It really won’t be the same without you, so please take a look and Kathryn and I hope to see you here in 2017.

Here is the link.

The Axis of Evil (AKA Squirrel for lunch)

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

So, recently, as you may have read, my good friend Hilda sadly died.  It was a shock.  It is still a shock.  And while Hilda was in hospital and then after she had died, I had her dog, Toby, here to stay.

My dogs didn’t really like Toby at first.  It’s OK now, kind of.  But Medlar really, really hates Toby and he is never getting over it.  Even though Toby isn’t here now, Medlar still approaches the house sideways, on his toes, ready to attack-slash-run.  Not attack/run.  No, I mean slash-run.  He is very aggressive.  Having three dogs and a seething cat in the house was not restful.  There was never any peace until bed-time when I placed the animals in several different parts of the house.

One day, just a few days after Hilda’s death, I had some ladies who attend my workshops here, come over for a technical knitting solving thing – coffee with DPNs on the side. I just do not know why I didn’t cancel or rearrange it as I was honestly still in shock and we had not even sorted out the funeral, but it never occurred to me call it off.  So these lovely ladies arrived, I popped them into the workshop room and then went to make coffee – and round up the three dogs (three dogs, by the way, is too many dogs.  Do not do it.  You’re welcome). Only Toby was present and correct, if by present and correct you mean turning somersaults on the borders and eating shells and stones ‘cos that is what he mainly does.  No sign of my boys.

I had to find them and then place them, all three of them, in specific and safe places before returning to my guests.  I called, whistled, cursed (quietly) and finally resorted to shaking the biscuit box in the front garden.  I have created a sort of Pavlovian reaction among the good village folk here too – when I shake the dog biscuit box, they form a line outside the gate.  Rupert swaggered over, got a biscuit and I placed him in the kitchen.  No sign of Arthur, who is the nicest of all my animals and very biddable.  Eventually after some castanet-standard biscuit percussion, he emerged from the border.  With a squirrel’s head, perfect and looking me right in the eye, sticking out of his mouth.

Squirrels have really large heads.  Well this one did – its head was almost the same size as Arthur’s head. This created a surreal impression of a two-headed dachshund where one of the heads was growing right out of the main head.  Also, the squirrel’s eyes were open and as Arthur sashayed up the path, the squirrel head kind of bobbed and swayed.  Now, I know, realistically, if a squirrel is so far down inside a dog’s throat/stomach you can’t see the body, it can’t still be alive.  But I was as far from rational as I am from New York, and so I did what I think we would all do in just this situation.  I screamed at the top of my voice.  This set off a short chain of reactions.  First, Arthur froze and bellied-down but tried as hard as he could to swallow the squirrel.  Second, Toby and Rupert cartwheeled out of the kitchen like a two-headed poodle/dachshund freak-show act.  Third (I imagine) traffic stopped and children were ushered indoors at the school and kindergarten, both of which have the pleasure of being within earshot of Court Cottage.

I knew I had to get the squirrel out of Arthur’s mouth.  I’m not good with stuff like offal, in fact I can’t have it in the house and so I was just certain I couldn’t get hold of it and pull.  I was also sure Arthur would resist me.  Yet, I had two ladies in the dining room, literally 30 feet away – and I had to get back in there and knit. Or at least not be hysterical.  My screaming matured into a really sweary stream of consciousness.  And a whole tirade of eugh. Arthur was very afraid.  Toby and Rupert were hysterical.  Poor Toby, he never signed up for this mad boot-camp experience.

I forced myself – and I still don’t know how – to grab the head of the squirrel and pull.  Arthur resisted a bit then suddenly let go. And that is all there was – just the head.  No body.  It was either still in the shrubbery, or in the dog.  My money is on the dog.  I hurled the head into the border and Rupert sprinted after it like a starving wolf who has never had back surgery.  But I was too fast and I dragged the bloody, boiling pack of dogs back into the house. Then I scrubbed my tembling hands, and my arms, face, and neck with boiling Dettol and wire wool, made the coffee and went back into the dining room.

‘I’m sorry about that’ I murmured.  No problem, they intimated.  Just as if they had no idea of what had just happened, just feet away from the window of the room where I had left them for an awkwardly long rest.  We knitted for a bit, resolving tricky things as we went.  Then Florence who often calls in during her break at work, popped her head in, and said:  ‘Is Rupert in here?’ No.  When I last saw the dratted threesome they were in a squirrel coma.

I hastily excused myself and joined Florence in the kitchen.  She was furious as she had been fruitlessly searching for Rupert for about ten minutes. We deployed the dog biscuit box and went back into the garden.  No sign of him.  Toby happily trampled a few borders and Arthur went to look for the squirrel head.  Ominously, it had gone.  Suddenly, Rupert popped out of the border – with a new, and absolutely huge squirrel in his mouth.  But this time, the head was inside his mouth and the whole of the rest of the body was hanging out.  He could hardly walk!  He kept tripping over the sodding squirrel as it lunged and lurched about – oh, it was dead alright, and it was just the most bizarre and nightmarish puppetry. I honestly wondered, at that moment, if I was in fact asleep and dreaming.

I was actually crying by now – tears of utter rage, and revulsion, for I knew what I had to do. Both Florence and I were now totally oblivious to the fact that everyone within a 200 yards radius of the house, including the people in my dining room, would definitely be able to hear our piratical swearing and for my part, jagged sobbing. We just did not care and our yelled oaths were truly heartfelt, if a bit repetitive.

Our only hope was to distract Rupert with dog biscuits and then, when he dropped the squirrel, to grab it and get it away.  A very hasty discussion revealed that Florence was unwilling to be the squirrel-grabber. And after all, I had already wrestled a squirrel head from one dog that morning, it was in danger of becoming my party-piece. So she festooned the path with many biscuits, casting them before Rupert like savoury, hefty confetti.  He hesitated…he loves those biscuits and frankly I think we were all wondering how he’d swallow the enormous squirrel, so he dropped it and still snarling at me, started eating the manna from heaven while I – a true heroine, picked up the headless squirrel and kind of pogo-ed up the path with it in my outstretched hand.  I hurled it into the kindling box.  And then, as I am confident you would have done, I had to dance and jog about on the spot for a few moments while flicking my hands about in a frenzied routine of grossed-out devil-casting.  You would have done the same, right?

A few moments later, after another full decontamination routine, plus face-washing to reduce the redness and swelling of angry tears, I calmly rejoined the knitters.  There is simply no way on this good earth that they did not hear all this and frankly, had I been in that room, I would either have left by the window and never come back, OR joined us in the garden. But anyway they must be much calmer than me.  One lady simply said, hesitantly raising her delicate hand – ‘You seem to have something in your hair.’ My inner hysteria, always only lightly dusted with calm, almost burst forth – in case it was a squirrel body-part; but it was only a twig.

My dogs are hounds.  They will hunt and kill and eat things.  But I am 100% sure, on reflection, that Medlar had a dark hand in this terrible scene.  He probably wanted Toby to eat the squirrels and die, or at the very least be in big trouble.  But Toby will hardly eat his own dinner let alone giant rodents that the cat has winged.  Oh yes, it was Medlar, and my lads just went in for the kill.   Were you watching, Hilda?  Hope you enjoyed it more than I did!

2017 Workshop Schedule

Monday, September 12th, 2016

This is shaping up nicely.

First, I am repeating Steeking and the knitting of the Bee Blanket and Cushion, probably in April or May as the new date (February 2017) is also already full.  Contact me to ensure a place, I think at the moment I have four places not filled, subject to dates.

I am also repeating the New Moebius event which is happning first this November.  I am happy to take a mix of those who can knit a Moebius (refresher given anyway) and anyone who has not done this as I can teach one group and Kath the other.  Let me know if you fancy this.

Then the rest of the year so far is looking like:

  • New Fairisle in the round (a cowl, not steeked).
  • New Fairisle in the round for steeking (throw and cushion).
  • Kidsilk Haze Day: brand new designs for this heavenly yarn, ranging from 2 – 6 balls, and from easy to slightly more technical. Great for anyone who hasn’t yet ventured into this magical land with me, and for devotees alike.
  • Textured Knits:  combining beading, cables and textured stitches.
  • Brioche Knitting in Two Colours:  an introduction.  Your entry-level event, but we’re going straight in with two shades because that is really half the point of this amazing and cool stitch.
  • Brioche Knitting in Two Colours in The Round.  Your ‘moving on’ event!
  • Christmas Gifts.
  • Christmas at Court Cottage.  If, that is, there are still some little decorations I can design and pass on!

Now one or maybe two of these may not make the final cut or might get bumped forward.  But I think most of this will be on your menu for 2017.

I do get asked if the courses are only put onto the site once they are full.  No, but I do operate am email alert system which means that those people know about them straight away.  You probably know if you are on it as I also use this list to tell folks about last-minute cancellations, but if you think you want to be on it, please let me know.

I am hoping to get the main batch of courses for 2017 live in October.

The Afternoon Tea Club will not be back in 2017.  They have all been busy but having them before a workshop, which was the idea – and a very good one – is just too hectic for me.  However, I plan some (probably two) get-togethers for a full afternoon of knitting with tea and cakes, which I will charge for and then donate the fees less my costs to Macmillan Cancer Care, a charity very dear to my heart.  I think I will hold one in the summer and one really festive one in early December.

Hope to see you here for some knitting next year. Everyone is very welcome.


Allotment Soup and Upside Down Rhubarb Fool Cheesecake

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Squah and Courgettes for soup

This soup is really yummy and I have been serving it at workshops last weekend.  Everything in it was grown on the allotment! It contains no brassica which I know some people don’t like and it has gone down very well.  Here is the recipe which made enough for 8 so you could freeze some. I serve it with bread and sometimes warm buttered toasted crumpets, pickles and several cheeses:

  • 3 or 4 squash (I used Japanese squash that are orange and quite like small pumpkins, and Patti-Pan squash which look like yellow, fat flying saucers)
  • 5 or 6 large courgettes (I used mainly yellow and two large dark green ones).  A marrow would also do nicely though you might de-seed it.
  • 3 large brown or white onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic (I made one lot with garlic and one lot without)
  • 3 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of mustard seeds
  • Black pepper (lots) and some sea-salt flakes
  • Rape seed oil

De-seed the squash but do not peel.  Chop into smallish chunks and add larger chunks of the courgettes and the sliced onions and garlic, peeled and whole.  Pop them into a large roasting tin and douse with a good slug of good quality rape seed oil.  Add the spices, salt and pepper, mix it all up and roast it for ages.  I start mine slow and then move it up for the last hour or so.  Eventually, it will start to caramelize a bit and will all be very tender. Transfer to a huge stock pot.  Add enough veg stock to cover well and simmer for a few minutes.  Cool.  Blend. It will go velvety thick.  Too thick probably, so if you want to eat it now, add more water or stock, re-heat and serve.  If you want to freeze it, as I did, freeze it now and then once it has de-frosted and you have re-heated it, let it down a bit more then.  it looks odd at first when you de-frost it but just heat well and stir a lot, then add more water or stock to get it how thick you want it.

Another crop that has been abundant is rhubarb.  Here is upside down rhubarb fool cheesecake pots and this makes about 8 – 10 small pots:

Rhubarb fool cheesecake pots

  • Lots of rhubarb washed, trimmed and chopped
  • Some fresh grated ginger
  • 6 slightly crushed whole cardamon pods
  • Caster sugar to taste
  • A large pot of double cream (and optional, I am doing this next time, substutute half the cream for a full pack of cream cheese)
  • About 4 oz of butter
  • About half a pack of digestive biscuits

Put the rhubarb, sugar, ginger and cardamon in a shallow roasting tin and roast for as long as it takes for the fruit to be very soft and deepening in colour.  It should still be quite syrupy.  Fish out the pods and squeeze the black cardamon seeds back into the mixture, chuck away the skins.  Mash or blend it – I mash so it is still textured.  Cool and chill.  Whip the cream to a soft peak consistency.  Add about 2/3rds of the chilled rhubarb mix and stir it all in well.  Crush the biscuits to a coarse powder and add the melted butter.  Mix well.  Cool and chill.  Spoon the rhubarb/cream mix into your pots and on top of each add a generous dollop of the rhubarb compote that has no cream in it.  These can now be covered tight and chilled and will keep fine for 24 – 48 hours.   The biscuit mix can be put in a food bag, air pushed out, sealed and chilled for up to 24 – 48 hours too. When you want to serve them, make sure the biscuit mix is back to room temp and sprinkle a generous layer on the top of the rhubarb.  To make it even more cheesecake-ish next time I am going to blend the rhubarb compote with half cream, half cream cheese.  I will let you know how that goes.



Places Available for Gift Knits, Saturday 3 September 2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016

I have just had two cancellations for the next workshop which is on Saturday 3 September.  You can come here, knit this hat and / or these mitts, learn a new skill maybe, and have a generally lovely day. Both patterns are included and the hat comes in adult male, adult female, and two child sizes.

The items are both knitted in the round, skills which we can teach you; and they are fast to make – economical too, each uses only 2 balls of wool.

Fancy it?  Contact me!  And I will help you to book and send you all the info you need.

New Workshop Dates for 2016

Friday, May 20th, 2016

I have added three new dates for 2016.  There is a repeat of Christmas Gift Knitting on 3 September and there is one place left at the moment.  Here are the details.

And I have added a new date for knitting this beauty on 5 November, details here:

Smoke and Mirrors by Annabelle

(c) Annabel.  Isn’t it lovely?  I adore her colour way, quite a long way from my comfort zone and a lesson to ME:  live life in the colour-lane and embrace the ginger.  I ought to know, I AM ginger (underneath this cool lavender-blonde exterior that is, the freckles tend to give it away and the pale-russet eyebrows). I am totally going to pinch her colour-way for everything in future.  It is my felted bag, Smoke and Mirrors.  There are three spaces at the moment.

I also added a new event – new Moebiuses, on 5 November.  This is full but I am starting a waiting list and it will be repeated, so let me know if you want to come and I will ensure you get a place.  Details here.

That’s it for now, I will be adding the first batch of 2017 (!) dates in the autumn; otherwise, I will let you know of any cancellations – you can get prior notice of these by requesting to join my alert email list. Just contact me and let me know.  I email out to this list about 6 times a year, only about events, both new, repeats and last-minute cancellations.


A Word About Arthur. And Medlar Rises Again.

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

The thing is, Arthur is an under-dog.  In his mind.  And I hardly ever mention him, do I?  But in fact, he is the sweetest, best-mannered, gentlest little dog that ever walked Dog’s good earth.  He just melts away, often, into the background while Rupert and to a lesser extent, Medlar (Lord of Darkness) perform acts of willful mayhem and lay the village to waste.

When Arthur was a puppy, which is seven years ago this September, he was snubbed by Rupert.  They gradually got along and now they are joined at the paw, but it is, I feel, still a bit of a one-way street.  Arthur adores Rupert. He actually cries pitifully when Rupert has to go to the vets, so we usually take him along too, to calm him down.  If Arthur has to go, Rupert just goes to sleep in his sleeping bag.  He doesn’t cry.

Arthur longs only to be loved, held, cuddled and stroked.  He will put his paw on your arm, or rest his chin on your leg, solely for the purpose of being instantly alerted should you try and get away.  He nuzzles and taps you on the leg to be picked up.  When you do, he just sighs and goes to sleep.  He is also very, very handsome:

Arthur on Landscape for Blog

This is him modelling for Elements.  And here are some of his other portfolio shots:

Arthur and the apple close up

That’s an apple.

Arthur on apple petals

See how lovely he is?

Arthur in Helebore border


You know how much I love Rupert, right?  My first very own dog, and he’s my shadow.  Maybe a bit less so now he’s older and likes sleeping even more than he used to.  But he is my soul-mate.  However, I have never met a dog as lovable as Arthur.  Unlike Rupert, he never gets nasty, or moody or stubborn.  He doesn’t (often) steal food and if he does, he will obey me when I command him to give it up or stop.  Rupert just looks at me as he wolfs his ill-gotten gains and basically sticks two fingers up at me.   Arthur will walk, off the lead, right by my heel.  He will not run off and chase seagulls or bark at prams, as Rupert does.

But mainly, Arthur is just the most loving, loyal gentle little dog ever.  Timid he may be, and also, perhaps, not the sharpest dog in the pound.  It just makes him even nicer.  I could not love him anymore than I do.

In the interests of balance, here is a picture from last weekend of them both, Rupert at the front as ever.  He now has almost no tan.  It is almost all white and some of the black is now grey.  How can he be eleven this year?  Surely it is only about six months since I brought him home, wrapped in a blanket?

In other news, Medlar, Dark Lordling of Puriton, has been poorly.  He is now much better but he was really ill for several days resulting in two very expensive trips to the vet.  My word, he was unwell.  He began by just being really dopey and then, after half a day, I realised that he was not eating or drinking.  The next day, I took him to the vets and in a sure sign that he was really poorly, he submitted to all the tests (though he did come out of the back having had both front legs shaved to take blood, as he resisted the first attempt.  Apparently).  I don’t know exactly what happened out there but they were gone for ten minutes and when the vet came back she said: ‘I think we need to give him antibiotics in case it is an infection but I rate your chances of getting tablets into him as zero so I will inject them – this will last for two weeks.’  And she did.  He was furious.

The blood tests proved all fine.  The chief reason I was so worried was that some cats in our village have been poisoned.  To date, five cats (four from one household, over a period of about four months) have been killed with anti-freeze poisoning.  Two other cats have disappeared.  I did not think he had the symptoms of this which are fairly rapid and utterly horrific, but I was keen to make sure.  It was not a toxic issue in his case.  Still he would not eat or drink.  I boiled chicken and tried to get him to drink the cooled, weak stock.  Nope.  I bought cat-milk.  Nothing.

So that day, in a valiant or possibly foolhardy attempt to get some water at least into him, Florence and I held him wrapped in a beach-towel (this was Florence’s job) while I went to the dangerous end of Medlar and used a soft pipette to gently shoot some liquid into his mouth, which was partially successful.  If by successful you mean no-one died, we were able to keep him from dehydration, and the kitchen was fine after a deep clean.  I also, probably in contravention of all known wisdom but I am fine with that so don’t bother telling me off, smeared tiny semi-melted blobs of vanilla ice-cream on his front paws and he licked that off quite happily.  I think he had a very sore throat.

He did go back to the vets though because I was still frightened that he was not responding.  By day three, he was a bit less dopey and drank some water.  That night he also ate for the first time.  All through this time and indeed a week or so afterwards as he slowly improved, he did little other than sleep.  But, he only wanted to sleep where we were.  So he slept in the kitchen all day, or in the sitting room if I moved; and on our bed all night. He is not a very affectionate cat, really.  Or he wasn’t.  But since this illness, he has been totally soppy and very demanding of baby-style cuddles and shoulder-perching, along with 100% devotion to stroking him.  He has suggested we do this on a family rota basis.

He is older now too.  He is ten, but in his prime still.  See how he smiles for you?  Sweet, is he not?

Medlar Halloween 15


Afternoon Tea Knitting Club

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

The Afternoon Tea Knitting Club kicks off this Friday, 1 April.  This inaugural knit-in is fully booked but there are spaces for the other three dates, so please have a look at these here.  You do not need to ‘join’ this club, you can come to them all or just one.  They start at 2.00 pm with a cuppa and we knit for a bit, then I will serve afternoon tea at 3.30.

I have just finalised the menu for this week’s club.  It is:  cucumber sandwiches, smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, warm cheese and rosemary scones with optional butter and cream cheese, and hot, buttered potato cakes.  Then, plain scones with cream, jam and strawberries, ‘slutty’ brownies and lemon drizzle cake.

Want to know what a slutty brownie is and what makes it so slutty?  Of course you do.  But instead of Googlating it, come to the next Club, in June!

This menu will be fairly typical.  You don’t have to eat it all, and I promise not to force you, but I am making it fairly wide-ranging to appeal to most people I hope.  I will adjust it seasonally though.

In the meantime, here is a glimpse into the pilot-baking I did to test All Of The Things.

Here is the sunny face of a lemon drizzle cake I made last week – just to check that I could still make them:

And here is a dark and gooey interior of the slutty brownie:

New Courses, September 2016

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

I*think* I am going to add 2 new courses in September 2016.

The thoughts I have in mind are:

New Moebius Knitting – maybe a weekend with the option of learning how to knit these lovely things on Day 1, and then attending Day 2 for more Moebiusing, or just attending Day 2 if you can already make a basic Moebius and want to try one of the TWO NEW DESIGNS I have created.


Christmas Gifts.  A one-day workshop featuring 2 fairly small and fast gift-knit items, held in plenty of time for making gifts for Christmas.  I imagine there would be hats (sized, child X 2 sizes to man, via woman), cute household items…not decorations, as these feature more in the November Christmas at Court Cottage days.


A textured throw/blanket, which is in the design phase but is inspired by – MY ALLOTMENT!  To be fair, this is currently mainly mud, so I am looking ahead to the days when it will be in full spate.  Do not worry, no actual beans or carrots will be knitted.


New Thronchos.  I have two new designs in fetal to advanced stages.  One is DK, one is possibly aran.  I know.  Aran!

What do you think?  I can probably manage two of the above.  Would you come?  Answers please as Madam Morgan and I need to plan it all.

Tree Huggers of the World Unite

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Leaf of the Day will never be the same again.  The beech tree, prime leaf drop culprit at Court Cottage, is no more.

When we moved in over 10 years ago, there were three fairly mature trees in the back garden area. This is a bit you do not see if you come to a workshop.  There is access to the main drive, garage, car-port etc from the side road – there’s a wood store and the veg garden etc.  There is also a piece of ground that I am going to call ‘lawn’.  It resembles lawn in that it is partially green, though much of this is now moss.

These trees – a copper beech, a cedar and a rowan-tree – were planted about 30 years ago.  In the time we have lived here, we have had them crowned/reduced three times, pretty drastically.  There is, however, a limit to how effective this will be in terms of a) keeping the trees looking good; and b) encouraging them to not push the cottage right over.  The cedar in particular was looking less stately and more towering lollipop as a result of its 3 haircuts, while the beech was just spreading, as they do, being forest trees.

Here they are:

The last time we had a tree surgeon over which was a couple of weeks back, he told us honestly that he could reduce them, again, but they’d just keep coming back at us; that it’d cost almost 4 times as much to have them topped/pruned as felled; and that if he lived here, he’d get shut of them.

The ‘little’ fir trees on the side of the drive are actually too tall to trim without a tall ladder – but the beech and the cedar dwarf them.

I wavered still, but Mark was keen to have them chopped down.  And in the end, I had to agree because of the proximity to the cottage – closer than any sane person would plant forest trees and within bough-touching distance by the close of 2015.

The chap whose company came over to look at the trees was very kind.  Basically, he humoured me as I blathered on about how sad it was, how we loved the trees, how we’d miss them, how we’d tried to practice SRT in the beech tree (fail)…he didn’t say much but I could tell he was sympathetic.

So anyway, very soon, came dreaded the day – and of course, it dawned frosty, blue and beautiful, just so the majestic trees would look their very best as they spread their limbs out against the glittering, winter-ice sky and rosy dawn.

I began a sniveling, eye-watering limbering up to full-on crying at sunrise.  By 7.30 I was quietly sobbing in the kitchen, trying but failing to imagine my view without the trees, as I stood in the gloomy-end of the kitchen, looking at the ‘lawn’ and drive. It is (was) gloomy here all year round. In summer, the copper beech, in full leaf, robbed about half this area and half the kitchen of any natural light save that filtered by its bronze leaves.  Copper beech, stately and lovely as they are, especially when viewed in park-land estates or on telly when watching Woolf Hall, are light-thieves.  They actively soak up light around them, quite apart from creating a shade so deep it is oceanic in its depths.

Even in winter, it towered and anyway, the cedar was evergreen, so it always loomed.  Recently it had taken to shedding its pernicious brown needles, much finer than a Christmas tree’s, all over its potion of ‘lawn’, the drive and the paths.  From here, it was easy for all humans and animals who use the back door, which is everyone basically, to tread these all over the house.

But still, that morning, I was very sad.  The moment arrived when the tree-men maneuvered their truck and trailer down the road – always an exciting time for this village, any work being done by someone they have not approved, are related to or recognise.  Well!  The owner had sent two little boys! They were tall for children it is true, but still about eleven years old.  So now I was upset and anxious about these little boys having chain saws and climbing things – on my property – and also, being English, I was suppressed, being unable to express this anxiety in case they were insulted.  Mark took a quick look, in response to me hissing at him that the kindergarten class of tree-surgery had rocked up.  He pronounced them to be adults. Hmmm.  Only just.  I made them tea (they declined squash and cookies, most odd) and may have brought them up to date with my ‘I love these trees, but they have to go’ dilemma.

I went indoors and actually begged Mark to give them the cheque for the work – just to go away.  He said no.

As they fiddled about on the road, out of eye-line, I crept out and bade a last goodbye to my trees.  I took some photos.  Then  I wondered, as you do, just how wide that cedar had grown.  When we moved in it was mature but still fairly slender.  It looked much sturdier, so thick-set now.  So, I put my arms around its trunk.  My longest fingers could only just touch.  That’s a big tree.  It wasn’t meant to be a hug, but of course, it sort of was.  It was just my curiosity to see how big it had grown.

Unfortunately at this moment, the older (well, taller) of the two man-child tree-surgeons wandered back up the drive carrying a mile or two of coiled ropes.  Our eyes met.  He paused.  I let go of the tree and stepped away.  He proceeded to lay out the ropes.  We agreed, via the silent code of our people, not to attempt an explanation or ever to mention it.  So, he thinks I am a red-eyed tree-hugger.

Some hours – but fewer than you might suppose – and an awful lot of noise later, the children had finished playing in the trees.  They were no more.  I had also asked them to leave circles of the trunks for me, on the drive, plus any boughs we can saw up for fire-wood.  The circles make great eco-seats for the garden, we have two stacks of them from some trees that were felled elsewhere and were given to us – they are useful, home to lots of creatures and they look nice.  Now I have enough to make some more seats here and take to the allotment to sit upon.

And, I like it better now.  It is bright, light and just less gloomy.  So much soul-searching, and so many other solutions tried – but Mark and the tree-man were right.

The ‘lawn’ may recover; or I might use this space to keep chickens – a recurring dream. It may never be realised, but this would now be a good space. The  rowan-tree was spared, posing no threat and probably being full size now, but it may do better now it is not cowering in the vast shadow of the cedar.

And a small lesson learned about being less resistant to even fairly small changes and to listening to the views and advice of others.  They were right, and I am glad.

Coming Soon – Two New Dates for Court Cottage Workshops 2016

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

All the main workshops, except Steeking, are sold out in 2016.  This will never do!  Kathy and I have agreed that we will repeat the Thronchos event and also offer an extra Christmas workshop, a repeat of the ones that are full.

Let me know if these may be of interest to you.  I have a waiting list for both but there will still be four or five places available.

Still available:  Steeking (which will be fun and so rewarding) has one place for one date and two for the other.  Also, the technical dates – the continental and a the full-day tech day on sock anatomy – both have plenty of room.

The tea-club is 60% sold out but still lots of availability.

The days on New Felting are now also full, but I have no waiting list.  If this appeals to you, let me know as we might add an extra date for this too.

It has been suggested to me that a day held in the late summer – say, September – might be a good time to teach two, maybe three Christmas gift knit projects.  This makes sense.  It will give you time. It wouldn’t be a full-on Christmas experience, but a ‘normal’ workshop, only with options for present-knitting, which I think I would try and make in female and manly options.  Do you think you would like this?

In 2016, Donna and I, my co-author for Elements and the Jones to my Smith, had hoped to stage a residential event.  We still do hope to, but the venue choosing is becoming an issue.  We had a venue in mind but it has become far too expensive, it will not be viable.  If we do not hold a residential event, I will definitely be adding extra dates and new topics here in 2016.


Monday, November 16th, 2015

Recent workshop attendees have requested some recipes for the lunches or treats we serve.

Here are the recent requests.  Some of the quantities may be too much for 1 – 4 people.  I always knowingly over cater.

Mistake Trifle

This is my first offering.  It was traumatic to say the least and I am never making this again.  But it was delicious.  This is what happened on Friday, before my first Christmas 2015 event.

First, spend most of your day painstakingly making a vast, baked New York vanilla cheesecake. Once this is really cold, (which takes a further 4 hours) and while removing it from its giant tin, up-end the bastard cheesecake, partially into the cake box you have ready, partially smashing it onto the lid of the cake box, making quite sure the cheesecake is upside down and utterly, irreparably ruined.

This is what your ruined work should look like:

Commence epic bout of jagged crying, interspersed with piratical swearage, disbelieving hysterical laughter, and angry, fist-clenched, body convulsions.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Realise that this is, sadly, not another pre-workshop anxiety dream, but it is actually happening. Gradually regain some self-control and calm the dachshunds who are now also hysterical with vexation that you didn’t up-end the thing onto the floor so they could gorge on it and have to go to the emergency vets.  Again.  Well, it is Friday.

Tell Face Book, along with a picture.  Receive little sympathy, but also the genius idea of making this effin’ disaster into a trifle.  Ring someone who is not hysterical and who also has access to a car and some money, and who will help you rather than face an evening of distress.  Get them to bring you a red jelly (I used raspberry), a lot of double cream, and a can of black cherries or black cherry pie-filling.  Further destroy the poxy cheesecake and distribute it, all smashed up, into a trifle dish.  Make up the jelly and while still hot, mix in the cherries or pie filling.  Pour this over the cheesecake base.  Watch with detached interest as the dense cheesecake mix first resists and then gradually absorbs the fruit and jelly, popping like geysers in an Icelandic landscape.

Chill the trifle base for a few hours while you clear up the kitchen, re-apply your eye-flicks because you cried off the ones you applied in the morning, re-apply a little rouge as the first lot has slid off your sweating, greasy face like a land-slip, have a big glass of water to ease your parched and aching throat, and then serenely make a giant vanilla cream sponge just in case the Mistake Trifle is rank.  Add a layer of not-too-thick creamy custard and some softly whipped double cream, silver balls, unicorn sprinkles, and anything else pretty in your cupboard.  Serve the bloody trifle anyway.

I’m over it.  Clearly.

Salt Caramel Choc Pots

This will make enough for about 5 people so I double it.

Make or buy salt caramel sauce.  To make it, you need butter – I use a whole 1/2 lb block; fine salt – enough to make it actually salty; a 14 oz can of condensed milk and 3 table spoons of golden syrup.  Mix all together in a pan, bring to the boil and gently boil (rather than simmer) for about 10 mins.  Lily makes it a different way, on top of a bain marie for about a month…Or buy a jar, it tastes the same.  If you can’t buy the salted variety, just stir in a tea spoon of fine salt and mix really well.

Put a big dollop of the sauce in the bottom of a pot (I use small espresso-style coffee cups or tiny Kilner jars).

To make the chocolate topping, you need 200g good quality, high cocoa dark chocolate broken up, 100 ml boiling water, 1 tsp vanilla, 125 ml double cream, plus a little single cream to serve.  Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Take it off the heat.  Add the boiling water to the choc – and now you need to really stir this hard – it may look granular when you first add the water, so this step makes it all glossy and smooth.  Add the vanilla and the cream and mix well.  While still really warm, spoon it on top of the caramel.  Chill (and this will keep fine for up to 48 hours in the fridge, covered over).  To serve, bring up to cool room temp or the chocolate topping is too hard; pour a tiny bit of single cream onto each pot.

Cold Crumbles

Served as a small sweet treat in a glass or the Kilner jars, as above.

Make a crumble topping, with butter, plain flour and rub to a fine crumb; add golden caster sugar (I always reduce the amount in a recipe by 1/3rd) and a 1/2 tsp of fine salt.  Mix well and spread out in a baking tin – it needs to be about 2 – 3 cm deep.  Dot with more butter.  Bake this and now and again, stir it all round to redistribute it.  But for the last bit, leave it be, so the top and the edges go a bit caramelised and darker.  I bake this for about 45 mins in the baking oven, so I think gas mark 4…?  Let it go cold and rough it all up again.

Make the fruit base – I use apples and any berries in the hedges or the freezer – just on the top of the stove like you would to stew fruit, with some sugar to your taste and a tsp of vanilla.  Sometimes I add grated fresh ginger, especially if the fruit is rhubarb.

Dollop this into the bottom of the glasses/jars.  Sprinke/ram on some of the crumble topping, which may be a bit chunky, that’s fine.  Chill – this will keep well, covered in the fridge for up to 48 hours.  The crumble topping will go very hard, because of the butter.  Don’t panic.  Just make sure it is warm room temp before serving and it will soften.  This takes about 1 hour in my kitchen which is very hot indeed.  I add a topping of single cream about 5 mins before serving, as this sort of sinks into the topping; but cold creamy custard not too thick would work, as would a tsp of clotted cream balanced on the top!

Variation:  fruit fool.  Make the stewed sweetened fruit, cool down, puree and chill. Whip up a large pot of double cream to softly stiff.  Fold the fruit into the cream.  Pile into the pots or jars.  Beat a few ginger biscuits up and sprinkle on top just as you serve or reserve a little of the puree and add a tart layer of that onto the fool.

Roast Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup

This is super-easy, veggie-friendly and always seems to go down well.  Very comforting in autumn and winter too.

This serves 9.

3 large butternut squash, 2 large onions, 3 cloves of garlic (sometimes I leave this out but it is much better with the garlic), 4 inch piece of fresh ginger, lots of veg stock, black pepper, salt, 2 table spoons of dry coriander seeds (berries, sometimes sold as), dry roasted in a pan and then ground by pestle and mortar, olive oil.

Wash the squash, de-seed and cut the rest into chunks – do not take off the skin cos it’s delicious and makes it thick.  Chop the peeled onions into chunks.  Peel and chop the ginger and the garlic. Pile it all into a big roasting tin, season and anoint it with a good slosh of oil.  Roast it quite high for about an hour (this is in an aga; I used the roasting oven which is really hot but gentler than a real stove). It will need turning over a few times and lots of liquid will come out – it’s fine, don’t drain it off, but use it all in the soup. When the squash is tender and roasty, take It out.  In a huge soup pan, add some oil, get it warm and add the ground coriander seeds, fry very briefly – maybe 20 seconds – add the veg roast mix and cover with vegetable stock.  Simmer for about 40 mins.  You may need to re-season with salt and pepper and add more water.  Blitz it with a hand blender.  It will go VERY thick as the pulp is blended, so add more stock or water, simmer and serve.

I sometimes add a chopped sweet potato skin on, or celery, or 2 or 3 chopped carrots at the roasting stage.

Parmesan Aubergine Bake

There are lots of recipes out there on the interwovens for this North Italian seasonal favourite.  There is also a lot of tosh about having to use Parmesan that has been hand-pressed by the fingers of new-born cherubs in the most enchanted of the Provinces of Parma.  Rubbish.  Use supermarket ‘Parmesan-style cheese’.  It’s fine.  I also leave off the basil as I hate basil.  Who likes food that smells like cat-wee?  Not me.  And I leave off the optional mozzarella cheese on top.  Not sure why, as I love all cheese.

This served 10.  So, you know, pare it down.

8 large aubergines, 3 large red onions, 2 cloves of garlic (can be left off but nicer with it), dried oregano – about a tablespoon, 4 cans of chopped peeled plum tomatoes OR if you have plenty in the garden, a basin full of fresh toms, peeled and chopped, 1 large carton of passata, 1 triangular block of Parmesan cheese finely grated, a little salt – be careful as the canned tomatoes, cheese and passata are salty too, black pepper, 3 handfuls of home-made white breadcrumbs, fresh, and a lot of a light oil such as rape seed which can remain stable at high temps.

Top and tail the aubergines and slice them into discs about 1.5 cm thick but don’t actually measure – you want meaty slices but not door-steps.  Put on the radio to a good play or your audio book as you are now entering the griddling phase and you will be here for a while.  Also, open a through draft as the air will soon be smokey and blue.  In a  griddle pan that has lines raised up, add some oil and get it hot.  Place as many discs of aubergine in as you can fit, and lightly press down but don’t move them about.  They will spit and hiss like a tom-cat, I wear long sleeves and resign myself to the mess. Put a teaspoon of more oil on each top of the slices.   After about 3 mins, tip one over; if it has darkish score/griddle lines on it, flip them all over and repeat on the other side.  You are not looking to cook them through, just griddle them.  Set aside to rest and cool.  Some hours later, you will be done and you can start the kitchen decontamination.

Make the sauce by frying the chopped onion, garlic and oregano in plenty of oil until the onion is well cooked and starting to go brownish.  Add some the tomatoes and passata, black pepper and a little salt if you wish.   Simmer this for about 15 minutes or 30 if you used fresh toms.

In a deep roasting tin, dollop a few spoons of the sauce and spread it out.  Sprinkle with a little cheese.  Add a layer of the aubergines.  Repeat – sauce, cheese, aubergine, until you run out of aubergine and end with sauce on top, cheese on the sauce and then the breadcrumbs.  This is when you can add the Mozzarella torn up into chunks if you want.  Also the basil if you like your food to resonate of cat-wee.

At this stage, you can chill it and keep it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.  But you don’t have to.

Bake it for about 2 – 3 hours, slowly at first then with more heat.  Ideally the sauce will bubble through to the top here and there and the top will be roasty.  Do not disturb the layers or stir it up.  It will keep warm for ages too.

Serve with these:

Hassle-back bay scented roast potatoes and pan-fried sliced brussels with crispy smoked bacon OR toasted pine-nuts for a veggie option.  We are having all this again next week for Second Christmas at Court Cottage.



Christmas 2015

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


The Christmas workshops are almost here.  I have designed some Harry Potter inspired (only slightly) decorations this year – owls and envelopes, hopefully no howlers.


My festive envelopes are the perfect size for a gift-card, a cheque if you folded it up three times, a name-card for the festive table, or a large diamond ring…


Later this week I will unveil my wisdom of owls. I do love an owl.  DSC_0091