Sunday, November 25, 2012

Speculating on Speculaas Koekjes - a real Dutch Treat for Christmas

Dutch Speculaas Cookies
Today is a filthy wet Sunday and I am happily stuck indoors with my knitting and the Sunday paper which I did venture out for earlier on, and browsing Facebook and the Twitter machine. I saw an enthusiastic post about Lidl's Spekulatius cookies from Susan (who blogs at Queen of Pots), and she had bought up the shop's stock from what I could gather. So in the interest of cookies, international cultural and culinary relations, and the much-vaunted Electric Ireland Random Acts of Kindness that Sean Moncrieff was banging on about on Newstalk last week as a fundraiser for Concern, (of course I'm too late for that but I hope they won the competition, especially as he was doing the final show of the week in a onesie as a random act of humiliation).

So I posted to Susan that I had a recipe so she asked if I'd blog it. Of course I will, and better still I'll make the darn things. So the dough was chillaxing in the fridge and I've just baked the first batch. The Dutch recipe is from a book called "Dutch Cooking Today" and is very simple. I'll post it and also a pic from the page which you can read. I'll also post a page of a German book called "German Baking Today" from Dr. Oetker who's well known for baking products (somebody's very busy today writing cooking and baking books!) which is much more complicated and way too much hassle for a quiet Sunday so I'll wait till another time to try that one, but for anyone ambitious out there in the blogosphere you can click on the photo and see the recipe.

So here goes.
The Recipe I used

Ingredients for Speculaas Koekjes (Spiced Biscuits)
200g/7oz Self-raising flour
125g/4oz soft brown sugar
2 Tablespoons Mixed Spice
Pinch Salt
150g/5oz chilled butter
1 Tablespoon milk

Mix flour, spices, sugar in a bowl.
Add butter, using knife chop up and rub in lightly with fingertips to breadcrumb texture. (Like short crust pastry)
Add milk and quickly knead to firm dough.
Wrap in cling film and put in fridge for 2 hrs minimum, ideally overnight to let flavours develop.
Preheat oven 175°C/375°F.
Cut dough into thin disc if it's been rolled into a sausage shape, or roll out flat and cut with cookie cutters.
Place on lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 mins until nicely browned.
Result - a nice light-as-air spicy biccy perfect for dunking - briefly! - in tea or coffee!

Sausage of cookie dough and Stars 

My Dutch Cooking Bible!

German Spekulatius recipe - on my to-do list!

Sugar and Spice and all things nice…and flour!
chopping butter in the spicy floury mix
And I thought Dr. Oetker just made baking ingredients and pizza!
yum yum!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Knitting and Stitching Show Dublin - Craft Heaven for Knitters and Quilters

Mary & Me at the Big Knit Innocent Stand 
Back after a long hiatus for  no particular reason other than Bloggers' Block - I just couldn't seem to find time between life and work to do anything other than knit and read and think "I must write a blogpost soon"! Of course it just kept getting deferred and now I'm almost totally embarrassed that it's been two months without a post which is a first since I started blogging from the Déise in 2008. So I have to really make more effort - must try harder, in school reportese.

So I decided this post would be about a recent event - the Knitting and Stitching Show in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) in Dublin last weekend. I won two tickets in an online competition on the Innocent Ireland Big Knit page which didn't even seem like a competition as all I had to do was post a comment who I'd bring to the Knitting and Stitching Show. I wrote that in a wishlist I'd bring my mother who taught me to knit, and Jany my D-i-L who I taught to crochet and who has been blitzing everything with her craft ever since, and as she's in Spain I would then love to  bring my Knitting Circle knitters. So I was delighted to get the email telling me I'd won - then I had a reason to go! The Knitting and Stitching Show (Facebook too) is a UK venture that puts on 3 shows every autumn - a London one in Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace) in October, this one in Dublin in November, and the final one in Harrogate also in November. They bring over a lot of exhibitors from the UK but there is a huge Irish craft element to this show, which gives the best of both worlds.
Patchwork quilt on show

Zoe Williams Needle Felting - Saola and Rhino
I found out a bus was going from Tallow with their knitters, and Helen kindly let me join them. I brought a friend from work, another friend wasn't able to go as she had another gig on, and I was delighted that Mary could come at short notice. We joined the Tallow knitters early on Saturday morning for the bus, and there was a sharp frost which made everywhere very Christmassy for about an hour! The trip to Dublin took about 3 hours plus a half hours pitstop in the Midway in Portlaoise for tea and scones, and then we were brought to the door of the RDS.

It was a great day, and as Mary is interested in Patchwork Quilting and my interest is in knitting and crochet, we were well served. As well as drooling over the wonderful displays and exhibitions of various crafts and some graduate shows from the art and design colleges, we were able to indulge our wishlist fantasies and get some stuff we mightn't be able to find in our local yarn shops. The Limerick Prison Quilt project was very good, and we were amazed at the multimedia element of some of the work, like the felted cables from a GMIT student. I saw some new crafts I had never heard of like Luceting which seems a bit of a cross between Macrame and French Knitting! Also saw some marvellous silk felting by Limerick-based Kate Ramsey which was a new concept for me but looks amazing!

Limerick Prison Quilt Project
I was very restrained in that I only got one skein of yarn from Winnie's Wool Wagon shop - Drops Lace in Alpaca and Silk blend in Turqouise (6410 if you wanna see it on the website), over 800m. in 100g. which gives an idea of how fine it will knit up and make a fab shawl when I get round to a)winding it into a ball and b)finding a nice pattern and actually making it! I also got a fab circular needle for socks - a pair of 3mm KnitPro wooden needles and a separate 120cm cable! I'd been looking for a long cable to knit up twin socks (two at a time) and the 80mm 2.5mm cable needle I had was just a tad short, though manageable. Also the wooden needles are wonderfully smooth to knit fine yarn with and will do grand for socks and maybe shawls and also I can get interchangeable needles for the cable at any time.

NCAD 2nd Year textile structures
We visited the Innocent Smoothies stand and saw all the knitters busily knitting little hats for the Age Action Big Knit. We introduced ourselves as winners of tickets to the Show and they took our photos and gave us smoothies which was really nice of them, thanks a lot girls! We also introduced ourselves to Rosemary of The Constant Knitter, who's also a Deise girl, and who won an Irish Times Best Craft Shop in a reader-nominated competition recently. We'd had some Twitter talk lately and she'd said to drop by, so we did and took a pic.

With Rosemary The Constant Knitter
We had a cuppa and a sandwich and wandered around for the afternoon, enjoying the craic and meeting others from the group laden down with bags of wool - one intrepid knitter had brought an empty suitcase, redolent of the New York-bound Christmas shoppers from the Celtic Tiger days! We bumped into an old colleague from my Concern Tanzania days and her sister who's an avid knitter and we've linked up on Ravelry since, she's there as FinishMyRow, a familiar knitters' refrain.

We hit the road home at 5pm and stopped for food at the Midway where we had lovely Thai chicken curry, and snoozed in between showing off and admiring our purchases on the bus. Next year the Tuesday Knitters from Lismore Design Workshop will organise our own  bus and look forward to another good day out.

To conclude on the school theme - in the time-honoured words of the annual school essay - we arrived home tired but happy!

Scroll down to see a gallery of photos of the day.

Mary with crafty mags!

Mary gets some fat quarters (quilter's lingo)
some great Innocent Hats
more cute hats

My KnitPro cable sock needles
Matching hats - mine and the smoothie!

Amazing Knitted Village
Granny Square bag idea!
Kate Ramsey Fabulous Felt (Silk)

Schoolkids' quilt

Knitted Village
Knitting Stash Heaven! Bargains galore.