Homemade Celery Powder


Do you know what happens when you slice up little half-moons of celery and then dry them in the oven?

Caterpillars happen.

 

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You can see the shape and size of the original celery slice, marked out on the tinfoil underneath. It’s amazing how much it shrinks – though I suppose we all know that celery is just crunchy water.

 

Whenever I buy a head of celery, I find a lot of it goes to waste. I’ll generally use one or two sticks of it in whatever recipe I’m making, and the rest sits around in the fridge getting progressively more limp and more sad until I put it in the bin with a great sense of guilt. I tried ‘planting’ a head in a glass of water, once, but all that happened was that it got more slowly limp at the top, and rotted from the bottom.

 

So, last time I decided to try making celery powder, after the success of my tomato powder experiment. The celery went in a low oven – about 50C – for somewhere between one and two hours. I think it was ready after just one. Then, the resulting caterpillars were ground in my spice grinder.

 

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The powder was a bit lumpy here and there, so I sifted it:

 

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…and discarded the clumps.

 

That’s that! Celery powder, no bother at all. I imagine it can be used in any situation that calls for celery salt, including gravies, seasoning mixes and the rim of a Bloody Ceasar glass.

 

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The trick to maintaining a green colour is blanching the celery sticks before slicing and dehydrating. I think mine could have gone a little longer in the boiling water, this colour is right at the edge of khaki and bordering on tan. Still, it smells and tastes of celery, and I didn’t throw any food in the bin.

 

That, my friends, is what we call a result.

 

 


Salty Sweet Double Chip Cookies


These cookies have a surprise ingredient.

 

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I love a surprise ingredient. Mainly because the surprise is never on me. Oh, the power!

 

Look, you can kind of see the secret ingredient in this shot, rendering it slightly less secret. Can you guess what it is?

 

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That’s right – it’s potato chips. Good old crunchy, salty, dip them in sour cream potato chips.

 

Now, the only trouble is that I would *never* say ‘potato chips’ in real life. They’re crisps, as far as I’m concerned. But if I say ‘crisp cookies’ you’ll think I’m just talking about the texture. ‘Crisp biscuits’ is even more confusing.

 

To add to the turmoil, I threw in some dark chocolate chunks. Not chips – your actual, honest to goodness chunks. Much more satisfying.

 

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I cannot truly describe the perfection of this melty moment.

 

I found the original, chocolate-less recipe through Sam the Cooking Guy – he got them from a viewer of his show, Lori, who in turn got them from her Grandma Thora.

 

Thanks, Sam, Lori and Grandma Thora!

 

I reduced the recipe, changed a couple of things and made the size smaller. Here is the end result – the recipe makes 32 cookies:

 

  • 225g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g plain flour
  • 170g granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon homemade bourbon vanilla essence
  • 50g salted Kettle Chips (other crisps are available), crushed up
  • 100g dark chocolate, cut into chunks (or chocolate chips if you want the path of least resistance)

 

Heat the oven to 190C. Line three baking sheets with lightly oiled greaseproof paper.

 

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.

 

Add the vanilla extract and mix well, then add the flour and mix until combined. At first it will look hopelessly dry, but give it a minute. It’ll be OK.

 

Stir in the crisps and chocolate until evenly dispersed. There will be some folding and perhaps a little pushing and shoving. This is OK.

 

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Form the mix into small balls, and space evenly across the three baking sheets. If, like me, you only have two baking sheets, you can prepare a sheet of greaseproof paper and put the final 12 cookie balls on that, then slide them onto a baking sheet when one becomes available.

 

Bake for ten minutes, rotating and swapping shelves half way through. They will be golden around the edges but pale and very squishy in the middle. Resist the temptation to leave them in the oven.

 

Cool for ten minutes, or until firm enough to lift one up without it looking like a Dali painting. Consume.

 

If you want your cookies to be more crisp, you can flatten the balls of dough before you put them in the oven – you’ll end up with a less rustic, darker coloured cookie. You can also bake them for longer, of course, but I find this terribly difficult to judge. It took me a long number of years to bake decent biscuits for this exact reason – I would wait, and wait, and wait, and wonder why they weren’t crisping up in the oven. Once they were cooled, of course, it was like trying to bite into some kind of diamond-adamantium hybrid. Not good.

 

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These are light, not too sweet, not exactly savoury morsels. They’re unusual, to say the least, and they take very little time to put together.

 

Plus if you share them, you get to play the ‘secret ingredient’ game. Mwa ha ha ha…


TARDIS Tea Cosy


This, my friends, is the first thing I ever knitted.

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I made it late last year. The G man wanted a tea cosy as part of his Christmas present, and I couldn’t find one that I liked. So I thought, ‘I’ll knit one’. The fact that, at that time, I didn’t know how to knit didn’t seem to factor into the equation.

 

I’ll be honest – I think I made an excellent decision. Me from the past was absolutely right to think she could learn to knit using only YouTube videos and some half-broken hand-me-down needles. Granted, the first day that I sat down to learn was frustrating, and I felt that perhaps I had made some bad choices to bring me to that moment, sitting on the couch surrounded by wool that had been many times unravelled, but I persevered and, in the end, I had this beauty to show for it.

 

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It’s like a little woolly jumper for the teapot! I am disproportionately enchanted with that idea.

 

So, let’s talk about the pattern and the materials. The pattern, which I found to be quite unusual in the world of tea cosy patterns, comes from Lollipop Knits. The unique factor with this one is that you don’t have to remove the cosy to fill or empty the tea pot – the wee lid buttons on and off, instead of the whole thing lifting away. The pattern specifies to use two strands of wool at once – one chunky and one double knit. In my youthful (at least in knitting years) arrogance, I ignored this and simply used two strands of the same double knit royal blue wool.

 

The yarn was Marriner double knit acrylic, which I got from Amazon (shame). I now have a favourite online wool shop, Love Knitting, but it doesn’t stock this particular brand. Any double knit wool in the right colour would work, and I probably used about 50g. I try to split my wool buying between Love Knitting and my local wool shop. In many ways it’s better to buy in person so you can feel the texture and see the thickness of the yarn, but the convenience of online shopping can be too much to resist, especially with next day delivery.

 

(Note: This post isn’t sponsored by Love Knitting, I do just really like them. Next day delivery at no extra cost – what’s not to like?)

 

The buttons, which are my second favourite part of the tea cosy, came from Bead Me Up Buttercup on Etsy. They were handmade to order from polymer clay, then washed with acrylic paint and sealed with wax. They are beautiful little creations, and sad to say they’re now discontinued in Angela’s shop. I’m so glad I picked some up before that happened.

 

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My first favourite part of the tea cosy, incidentally, is simply the fact that I knitted it. I still get a buzz from that.

 

A while after I made the cosy, I decided I wanted to line it, to keep the tea hotter for longer. Tipped off by someone on tumblr, I headed to Spoonflower for some cool fabric. The choice over there is fairly overwhelming, so set aside a good chunk of time to browse, that’s my advice. I chose the perfect lining for my TARDIS tea cosy – it’s part of  aliceelettrica’s Timey Wimey – Time Vortex collection, and it depicts the inside of the TARDIS (depending on when you visit, of course). I ordered a fat quarter of the Linen-Cotton Canvas in this pattern, and it was more than enough to create the two little panels that I needed.

 

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Sewing is another skill I don’t really possess, at least not beyond the level of putting buttons on. At one time I would occasionally get out a needle and thread to customise my clothes – hello, homemade flares – but the results were never especially durable. I let this put me off making and attaching the lining to the tea cosy for a number of months, but finally convinced myself to get on and do it, lest the beautiful fabric I’d ordered all the way from the US go to waste.

 

First, I made paper templates to decide on the size and shape I needed – this size included an extra 5mm or so all round, that I would fold in as a hem. Once I had this figured out, I traced round the template onto the fabric and cut it out. I folded in the hem, then ironed it flat. This was the first time I’d used my iron in years. I don’t do ironing, it’s just not worth it. This was part of the reason I had to psych myself up to make the lining, I think – fear of ironing.

 

Once the hem was creased in nicely, I used a simple running stitch to secure it all the way round. I used yarn for this, rather than thread, because I like the chunky finish this way, and also because it feels stronger. Once the panels were both hemmed neatly, I attached them to the insides of the cosy. I read a few how-to articles about this before I did it, and I took the most inspiration from this piece on the overcast stitch at TECHknitting.

 

As the article says, it’s important not to stitch the lining in too tightly, because the fabric is bound to have a lot less give than the knitted element you’re attaching it to. So, if you don’t leave any leeway, your lining is likely to tear, or your stitches are likely to burst. We can’t have that. I attached my lining using a loose overcast stitch, matching each stitch into the wool with an existing stitch on the hem of my lining panels.

 

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That’s it! My tea cosy was now sufficiently lined and will, hopefully, keep the G man’s tea nice and toasty for longer.

 

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Plus, it’s cool. Tea cosies are cool.


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