Inktober Day 6: Kyoto Neko

A quick ink and Copic drawing of a tiny ceramic maneki neko we bought in Kyoto. If anyone knows of somewhere we can find these specific little guys (see second photo) online, I’d love to know! They came in many poses and we should’ve bought more when we were there! ☺️

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

💡Lesson learned from this piece: blot Copic Markers before drawing with them if it’s been awhile since you used them!!! I did this drawing twice; the first time, when I started to ink the red for the ears, it soaked the paper, spread and ruined the drawing 😐

Inktober Day 3 (on Day 5 ☺️): Tanuki in Takayama

Based on a photo I took in Takayama a couple years ago. I converted the little tanuki statue into a real tanuki (at least I hope it looks like that!) Those in the know, will spot the eight symbol on the sake bottle and the straw hat.

💡Lesson learned from this piece: Think about how much time I have before starting a piece with a deadline 😋

Inktober Day 4: Cat’s Eye

0F11ECAC-62EA-49E8-AA77-56C59E84560B.jpegI bit off more than I could chew on Day 3 by starting a drawing I didn’t really have time for and then having a migraine thrown into the mix, so I spent a lot of Day 4 working on Day 3. Rather than being down a day on my drawings, I drew this quick cat’s eye (Ponzu’s to be precise!), which took twenty minutes. Day 3’s drawing will be posted tomorrow along with whatever I come up with for Day 5. 

💡Lesson learned from this piece: I think I feel a greater sense of freedom with smaller pieces as I don’t have so much time invested in them. I should carry that feeling into bigger pieces. 

Inktober Day 2: Ponzu the Cat

Now, why I decided to draw my darling Ponzu on a day when I had no time and I know she’s so hard to capture is beyond me… I guess I just love her that much ☺️

💡Lesson learned from this piece: I can finish a drawing in an hour or so if I need to and I’m willing to let perfectionism go. It’s a handy lesson 😉

2E6CC0DE-EA0F-4BB1-9ADB-E43EE3DB1DCA.jpeg

Inktober Day 1

I recently heard about Inktober so thought I’d give it a go. I’m new to drawing in ink so figured this is a perfect chance to get properly acquainted!

Yesterday was manic so I’m posting yesterday’s drawing a little late, but luckily Inktober is about enjoying drawing and creating consistently, not about militantly meeting arbitrary goalposts ☺️

For me, every piece of art is also a learning experience so I think I may share one of the things I learned from each piece as I go. For this one, I learned I shouldn’t rush, even when I feel I need to hurry 🙃

So, my Inktober Day 1:

A Realm of My Imagining

51FC267C-0473-4711-98AD-B7DBEA833DDB

Inarizushi

IMG_6370

Another one from the archives. I originally posted this back in 2010 (how time flies!)

I’ve always loved Inari; it’s yummy and for me brings back fond memories… when I was little my Grandma would make it every time we went to visit her as she knew it was my favourite. We used to call it ‘Bag Sushi’. Image result for copy and paste laughing blushing emoji

Ingredients:

Inarizushi Bags (here are a couple links to different brands sold by Japan Centre in London to show you what I’m talking about. You can probably find them at your nearest Asian food store or, if you are in the UK, can order them from Japan Centre online: Hime Inarizushi no moto and Hikari Inari Age)

2/3 c sugar

1 tbsp salt

1 cup rice vinegar (you can substitute with white vinegar, but rice vinegar is nicer)

2 medium sized carrots

1 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp sugar

approximately 3 tbsp pickled ginger, finely chopped

5 cups cooked Japanese/sushi rice

 Instructions:

1. In a small saucepan, mix the sugar, salt, and vinegar together, place over low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.

2. Wash, peel, and grate the carrots using a large cheese grater. Put the carrots in a small saucepan, add enough water to cover, plus the tbsp of soya sauce and the 2 tbsp sugar. Simmer for 3 minutes, drain, cool, then squeeze out excess moisture. Set aside.

3. Cook the rice and put into a large flat dish, sprinkle about 1/2 of the carrot and 1/2 of the ginger over the rice, then pour about 1/2 of the vinegar mixture evenly over the rice as well. Wet a wooden spoon/rice paddle/spatula and use that to gently turn the rice over, mixing everything together. When the carrot and ginger look evenly incorporated, taste the rice to see if it’s seasoned to your liking. If you prefer, add more of the carrot, ginger, and/or seasoning liquid (being careful not to make the rice soggy) and again gently turn the rice to mix and cool. Do not overmix or squish the rice. If you’d like, you can fan the rice to help it cool.

4. When the rice mixture is cool enough to handle (normally just slightly warmer than room temp), open the package of Inarizushi bags. Stuff the bags with the rice (messy, but fun!), fill them about 3/4 full and then fold over the ends to cover the rice. (Some people fill them to the brim which works well too, but I find the ¾ full method helps keep the rice moist for longer if you have leftovers).

Enjoy!

They keep well for a couple days in the fridge if wrapped well (I normally keep ours in a Ziplock bag or on a plate well covered with plastic wrap).

Somerset

A couple weekends ago,  we went for a quick trip to the coast in Somerset. We stayed in the beautiful and very welcoming Swain House in Watchet and had a great mini break. It was the first time in ages we’d been out with our cameras and, though my eyes are feeling a bit out of practice, it was lovely. Here are a few shots from the weekend.

Sfhia

I thought it would be nice to re-share some of the recipes I had on my old site and where better to start than one of my absolute favourites, Sfhia.

I was very lucky to spend time sampling and learning about Middle Eastern food when we lived in Qatar. When we were there, I did a series of recipes on my website, sharing my takes on the things we were experiencing. The recipe that inspired this was from wonderful book, The Flavours of Arabia and it was absolutely lovely when followed to a ‘T’, but to me, in that form, seemed more like a snack than a meal. The bread was lovely and the minced lamb topping delicious, but I felt for it to be a meal in and of itself, it just needed a few tweaks. I’ve changed the dough, but only slightly, just added a second rising to refine the texture a little, and I’ve decided to pre-cook the meat mixture so that the crumb of the bread can retain a tiny bit of softness by cooking at a hotter temperature, faster. Other than that, I’ve added a few ingredients, but I tried to keep them very sympathetic to the region and I’m really pleased with how all the flavours came together.

After all these years, I’m still excited about this one.

Sfiha-IMG_3927

Sfiha ~ Syrian Pizza

 

For the Dough:

2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp (10g) dried yeast

¾ cup (175ml)  warm water

2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil

 

For the filling:

500g minced lamb

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 tsp red pepper

½ tsp white pepper

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp ground ginger

The seeds from 2 green cardamom pods, ground (you can use a mortar and pestle, or, if you don’t have one, grind the seeds on a chopping boards with the bottom of a heavy frying pan)

2 tsp salt

4  tbsp (60ml) natural yogurt

3 tbsp (45ml) pomegranate molasses

 

For the toppings:

200g feta cheese

A handful fresh coriander (cilantro)

1 cup fresh Pomegranate seeds

1 cup toasted pine nuts

1 cup natural yogurt

¼ cup (60ml) pomegranate molasses

 

  1. Pour the water into the bowl you’ll use for mixing the bread dough, sprinkle with the yeast, and allow to stand for 10 minutes until the yeast is active.
  2. Measure the flour into a separate bowl (or keep it in the measuring cup if you have one large enough), add the salt and stir thoroughly.
  3. Add the flour to the yeast & water mixture a little at a time until a dough starts forming, when the dough becomes of a consistency to handle, lightly flour your hands, turn the contents of the bowl out on to a clean work surface and continue to knead the rest of the flour into the bread until the dough is still slightly sticky, but does not stick to the counter. (The amount of moisture needed to make bread dough a proper consistency will change based on the particular flour you have and other conditions such as humidity, temperature, and altitude, because of this you may need to either leave a bit of the flour out or add a little more in.) Knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball, rub a little olive oil all over it, place the dough in a large bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place to raise until double in size, approximately one hour.
  5. ‘Knock back’ the dough by giving it a couple quick punches (always fun) to release the some of the built-up carbon dioxide, then turn the dough out on to the counter and knead for a minute. Divide the dough up into pieces about the size of a golf ball, shape into nice little spheres, rub with olive oil and place back into the bowl to raise again. Cover again, let stand 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the filling.

 

For the filling:

  1. Combine all the filling ingredients and mix well.
  2. In frying pan, over medium heat, gently cook the meat mixture though. Remove from heat and set aside.

 

Back to the dough & the finishing touches:

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) and grease a baking sheet.
  2. Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle about 3mm thick and then pinch the ends to make a boat like structure. Place each little boat on the baking sheet, fill with a couple spoonfulls of the meat mixture, and a top with a sprinkle of crumbled feta cheese.
  3. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and from the baking tray. Top with a few small dollops of the yogurt, a scattering of pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, a little bit of the coriander (cilantro), and finish with a drizzle of the pomegranate syrup.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

Last Song Before Night

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Meyer

It’s such a treat to find a beautifully written and crafted fantasy book. I loved reading fantasy when I was growing up, but have found, as the years have gone by, that it’s become very difficult to find a book in the genre that appeals to the adult me. I tried this one after hearing about it on Twitter and I’m so glad I did – it’s entirely compelling and is written with subtlety and sophistication. So many fantasy books seem to be treated by their authors as a vehicle for conveying their world, this couldn’t be farther from the case here – this is a Story in its truest sense and is filled with complex characters that drew me in from the start (and then never let me go!)

Definitely keeping my eye out for Ilana C. Myer’s next book; if you haven’t tried this one yet, I recommend you do and would go as far as to say you don’t need to be a fan of fantasy to enjoy it

Japan 3 – Higashiyama, Kyoto

Our first day in Kyoto we decided to head to the Higashiyama district to wander a temple or two and enjoy the historical streets. Our hotel was very close to Kyoto Station, but we took the easy option and jumped in a taxi. We’d heard taxis could be quite expensive in Japan, so were happy to find that in Kyoto this was not really the case, at least not compared to the UK!

We got dropped off at Kodai-ji, a Buddhist temple at the edge of district, tucked up against a forested hillside. We wandered the complex stunned by the serenity and beauty. I’m little ashamed to admit that while I have photos of the gardens, I don’t feel I really captured the true atmosphere of the place at all… Though, in a way I do feel this might be a good thing in that I was shooting less than normal because I was simply enjoying the experience. Perhaps an apt reaction to a Zen Buddhist temple.

After leaving the temple we explored the old streets of Higashiyama. It is a popular tourist area, but somehow that enhances rather than spoils the experience because so many of the tourists are Japanese and are enjoying the day out in traditional clothing. This is such a popular activity in Kyoto that most of the hotels have a ‘hire a yukata’ package where one can rent an outfit to wander around in for a day!

The weather that day was interesting to say the least; it started out bright, but in a short time became blustery and dark. It turned out that a typhoon was approaching far to the south and while we were lucky it didn’t reach Kyoto, its effects were felt. We were very glad to reach our hotel before the rain hit that evening as when it did, it was torrential. The last image in this post was taken in our hotel courtyard bar that evening; you can see the rain.

As a small side note before I get to the images, the hotel we stayed at was fabulous. It was Sakura Terrace The Gallery and while the rooms were smallish, the whole place was stylish and the amenities were fantastic; every evening you could have a free ‘welcome’ drink at the bar, the communal areas also had ‘cafes’ where you could make yourself a tea or coffee, and they also had a laundry room that was free to use – they even provided the detergent! Because of all these things, the place had a friendly community atmosphere about it that we really enjoyed. We stayed at the hotel for our first two nights in Kyoto, then again for five nights once we returned from Koyasan and were super happy it was our Kyoto home.

Day 3 in Japan: Higashiyama, Kyoto

A Walk in The Park, Kyoto, Japan
A Walk in The Park, Kyoto, Japan
Temple Guardians, Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Temple Guardians, Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Bamboo Forest, Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Bamboo Forest, Kodai-ji Temple, Kyoto, Japan
Through The Trees, Kyoto, Japan
Through The Trees, Kyoto, Japan
Sightseeing in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Sightseeing in Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Lanterns, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Lanterns, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Yasaka Pagoda, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Yasaka Pagoda, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Uphill Battle, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Uphill Battle, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Before The Rain, Higashiyama, Kyoto
Before The Rain, Higashiyama, Kyoto
Neko Window Shopping, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Neko Window Shopping, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Bar at Sakura Gallery, Kyoto, Japan
Bar at Sakura Gallery, Kyoto, Japan