Tomato Powder


This isn’t the first time I’ve reduced an unwitting fruit or vegetable to powder. I have form. As long as I’m on the loose, no chili is safe – and now, no tomato, either.

 

I have experimented with oven dried tomatoes before – like sun dried, only you can make them in countries where you don’t get much sun. This time, I went a step further and completely dried out some cherry tomatoes, before making them into powder.

 

STEP ONE: The tomatoes don’t know what’s coming. Quarter them, but don’t slice right through, leaving them slightly connected at the centre. This makes them a little easier to move around, plus looks pretty cool. Sprinkle with salt and, if you like, a little sugar.

 

Innocent Tomatoes

 

 

STEP TWO: Put the tomatoes in a low oven – about 70C – until dried out. I think it took me four hours in the end. They look kind of creepy now.

 

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STEP THREE: Put the now-dry tomatoes in a spice grinder and process as finely as possible. For me, this is where I found that they weren’t as completely dry as I’d have liked. You can tell by the way the powder clumps up in the spice grinder. So, on to…

 

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STEP FOUR: Take the not-quite-powder and spread on a baking sheet again. Put back into oven for half an hour or so, to remove more moisture.

 

STEP FIVE: Spread the powder out on absorbent paper towels, and leave to sit overnight. This will remove yet more moisture and oil from the powder.

 

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You can see where the paper towel has drawn moisture and colour from the tomato powder.

 

 

STEP SIX: After resting over night, return the powder to the spice grinder and process once more. You will find the resulting powder finer and drier. There was still a certain amount of moisture, but I judged it to be acceptable.

 

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Some thoughts on the uses of tomato powder, now that you have some:

  • Flavour popcorn or possibly even homemade Doritos (a challenge I intend to take on).
  • Add to humus or other dips.
  • Thicken sauces – it’s just like a really extreme form of tomato puree, right?
  • Use to give colour to rice dishes.
  • Mix with salt and pepper for a quick seasoning blend.

 

Will all that said, sometimes it’s really more about the process than the end result. Some people like to climb Everest. I like to dehydrate stuff.

 

Mine’s an easier hobby.

 


Spring Chicken Meatballs


This is a meal for when your heart says ‘summer!’ and the weather says ‘no. spring, at best’.

 

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My camera packed in when I was making this. I’m hoping it’s a ‘charge the batteries’ situation rather than a ‘you dropped me too many times’ situation. As a result, the few photos in this post were taken on my phone – not the best, but then again not the worst since we have plenty of lovely daylight right now.

 

I started with chicken breasts, which I reduced to mince with a sturdy knife, a determined attitude and a disregard for loud hammering noises.

 

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I added fresh thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, spring onion, salt and pepper to the chicken, and mixed thoroughly to this rather appetising homogeneous goop.

 

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Once shaped into meatballs, fried until golden and stacked into a precarious pyramid, they look a little better.

 

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Once I had the meatballs, I had to decide what to do with them. I turned to one of my very favourite recipes, this minestrone soup on Food 52. It’s an easy recipe to do, and even if you freestyle it, it turns out well. Even if you forget to put in the celery that you bought specially to make this soup, it turns out well. Even if you forget to put in the bacon that you defrosted especially to make this soup, it turns out well. Even if you change the recipe almost completely, it turns out well. It’s a good recipe.

 

I put the bacon in once the soup was simmering – threw in two whole slices, made sure they were covered, and let it be. It worked out really well. The celery is still sitting on the kitchen counter. I don’t know what to do with it.

 

For today’s version of the minestrone (this isn’t my first post about the amazing minestrone), I used garlic, carrot and courgette, tinned tomatoes, vegetable bouillon and frozen spinach. Plus afterthought bacon (those two words should never really go together). I skipped the potatoes and chickpeas in favour of  tiny pasta shells and the chicken meatballs. Then I added some dainty pesto quenelles, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and pea shoots to make the whole plate look like a forest bower. Sometimes it’s fun to combine foliage and food.

 

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Knitted Tartan



Well, what do we have here? My first craft post, that’s what! Given that it *is* my first craft post, I wasn’t too sure of how to go about it. I have pictures of the finished knit, and I can work up the pattern to share (if people are interested in knitting their own tartan). Pointers in how to write a better crafting post are most, most welcome.

 

Knitted Tartan Cushion

 

Some background: before I embarked on designing and making the wedding cake from last week, I had commenced on a homemade wedding gift. The couple in question like a bit of tartan, so I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if I could make them their own tartan? Yes, that would be nice.’ A bit of research showed me that the tartans most closely aligned with their surnames were Gordon and Tweedside Hunting.  Here’s what they look like:

 

I used Gordon Red

 

Tweedside Hunting

 

The finished pattern is a loose combination and interpretation of the two originals – I took the warp from the Tweedside Hunting, the weft from the Gordon, and then added some details to bring the two together into one unit. I wanted to avoid the finished product looking like chunks of tartan placed next to each other, and also wanted to avoid too much busy detail, or too many colours. For example, as you can see below, I added the green stripes through the Tweedside, and took out most of the blue from the Gordon.

 

Finished Tartan

 

I created a template in Paint. I’m so high-tec. I call it 8-bit tartan.

 

This is how that transferred to real life:

 

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You’ll notice that the blue horizontal stripes grew a little, and also that the vibrancy of the green diminished from pattern to knit. The main difference is the black areas – they are black/red, to simulate the way a woven material looks. Since I was combining two colours to make black, I had to add an extra strand of red to the red areas, in order to give contrast. So, the largest areas of red in the pattern ended up being red/red/black in reality. Three strands of wool per stitch – there were times when it got complicated. The middle section was purposely kept far simpler and more true to the pattern. Otherwise the tartan would have been lost altogether in the sheer volume of stitches and colours.

 

The method for knitting is in some ways simple – it’s a basic stockinette stitch, all the way through. Knit one row, purl one row. Job’s a goodun. However, there is almost an element of weaving as well, and at its busiest I had seven separate balls of wool all attached to the piece. The white stripes are achieved with two balls of white permanently active, and the blue stripe up the middle started as a whole ball of blue but was soon trimmed down to just one long strand, after it became irrevocably tangled with some of the other wool.

 

Wool tangling was the worst part, especially among the black, red and white strands. I got a handle on it a bit as I went on – what a learning curve it was – but it’s inevitable that you’ll end up with some unauthorised entwining.

 

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Closer shot of the stitches

 

Once I had knitted a square(ish) piece of tartan, I cast off and weaved in all my loose ends – there were many, most notably where the centre section starts and ends. Rather than keep the green and blue wools active, I trimmed them off, leaving a long tail, and tucked these in securely at the end. I then attached the square to a ready-made cushion cover. I got mine from Argos, who have a range of colours in almost the exact size of my piece, which was very fortuitous.

 

This is not cheating. Repeat: this is not cheating.

 

Before I started to sew the tartan on, though, I blocked it overnight. The middle section was narrower than the top and bottom, simply because I’d gone from using two or three strands of wool per stitch to one or two. To stretch this out, I picked up stitches from the edges on a mix of the needles I’d used to make the project, and some long chopsticks I had in the drawer.

 

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Once the wool was evenly stretched, I placed it on a towel then sprayed with water, with particular focus across the middle where I wanted the wool to relax and stretch out the most. By the next day, the square was looking squarer, and when I removed the supports it stayed more or less the same shape.

 

I then pinned the tartan on to the (empty) cushion cover, and sewed it on. I used a running stitch, mainly because I don’t know how to do any other stitches, and it seemed to do the job. I made sure to put the needle through some of the wool, not just through the holes in the knitted stitches, because I thought that would hold things together more securely.

 

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It still bulges a little where the wool is looser (top and bottom) but I have to say, I am really pleased with the end result! If I were to do it again, there are changes that I would make, but for something I created from scratch out of my own brain, especially given that I’ve only been knitting for about six months, I think it could be described as a triumph.

 

It’s official: you can knit tartan.

 

It might take you a while, though.

 

If anyone would like the pattern, let me know – if there’s demand for it I’ll put it up on Ravelry. Once I’ve learned how to use Ravelry properly, and how to write a knitting pattern properly, of course.


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