A little green tea

Herbal TeaI was reading about recipes using fresh, home grown herbs when I decided to try my own herbal tea. I’m having a lazy, restful Sunday and after the past two month of hectic life, I’m determined to enjoy it.

First step was to google ideas for combinations of herbs to try. My little balcony herb garden has the basics: mint, thyme, basil, parsley and a chilli plant. After reading about others’ experiences with fresh herbs, I decided to try a mixture of fresh mint and basil with fennel seeds.

Step one was to cut the mint & basil, break down the fennel seeds a little with a mortar and pestle, rip up the leaves to release the flavours, then steep in boiling water for around 5-10 minutes.

On a trip to Thailand a few years ago, I was taken by this lovely tea infuser-cup-and-lid set which is perfect for trying my own teas. I do love pretty things, so what is more perfect than a pretty, hand-painted tea cup just for me?

The tea verdict? Surprisingly pleasant and very refreshing.

I have not been a big fan of either green tea or herbal tea bags, so I’m very pleased that I enjoyed this combination. Whilst reading up about home made herbal teas, I found that apparently the best teas are made from three types of ingredients – something green, some herb and something floral. One of my basil plants is going to flower soon so I think I should try harvesting those flowers and drying them, ready for another herbal tea experiment.

The last step in this process was, of course, to put my feet up and enjoy my fragrant brew.

And I did need to put my feet up on this cushion… last night I attended a  “hen’s night”  – for the uninitiated, that is the last wild “girls’ night out” before a bride’s impending nuptials –  so this little cupcake was suffering from a little fatigue and very sore feet after a night of laughter and dancing with a great group of girls.

Here’s to lazy Sundays and home made herbal teas (and girls’ nights)! Home made herbal tea

Who said life wasn’t meant to be easy?

Vanilla Extract - Day 1

Chilli Oil, Vanilla Extract – Day 1

I know I’m not the first person to learn about some very basic things in the kitchen, but I am wondering why it has taken me so long? Making your own simple things from scratch just gives you this great feeling of satisfaction. I’m not even talking about difficult things – I’m talking about very very simple things.

A bit of background on my life in the kitchen – until now I have preferred to stay out of it. I used to ‘have’ to do all the cooking and I hated it, such a chore. Since meeting TC and having a lovely long break from the kitchen, I am now sneaking back in to try all sorts of bits & pieces.

This year I have learned how to make two of these very simple things and I just can’t understand why I didn’t know these before. Sometimes I think that the more ‘developed’ our societies become, the more we learn on the whole, the more we forget. Or it could be that I’m the only one who didn’t know these things, but now I do. And now, there’s no going back!

OK first simple thing was chilli oil. Please don’t laugh, I had never even tried chilli oil in my life until this year. Not knowingly anyway. We were sitting in a restaurant ordering pizzas, we were absolutely starving having just completed about 85km on the bikes, loaded up on our trek to Paris. That will be in another post so I won’t say more about that here. Anyway, the waitress took our order and then asked in a tiny little whisper “Voulez-vous sauce piquant?”

With my newly blossoming French skills, I understood that she was asking if we wanted hot sauce. I was imagining something like Worcestershire sauce but what she brought was a small bottle of chilli oil. Despite the fact that we were so hungry we could have just inhaled the pizzas in one go, I did a scientific tasting – first tasting one piece without the chilli oil, then with it sprinkled on. Oh what a difference a few drops of oil can make to the flavour!  I was hooked. It really changed flavours from something fairly ordinary to something really delicious.

When we got home, we bought a bottle of good quality olive oil and proceeded to stuff if with dried chillis. You know, the small, hot ones. Oh yes, our chilli oil only took a few days to develop its flavour, and its a lot hotter than that in the pizza restaurant in Belleme. But that’s OK, we like it hot. We stuck in one of those little pouring spouts – you can buy then with a tapered silicon base so they’ll fit different sized bottles – and one easy thing done!

Next on the DIY easy things list came from a cooking show I was watching. The presenter told me that I could make my own vanilla extract with two ingredients and a jar. Vanilla extract has to be one of the worlds best inventions, I love the stuff. The real stuff, not the imitation. Well, that afternoon I went out & bought a bottle of vodka and a jar, grabbed the pack of vanilla beans we’d had sitting in the cupboard for months, put them together and voila – my own vanilla extract is making itself in the cupboard.

How easy can that be? I am never going to buy it again.

And what do you do when it starts getting used up? Well just top it up. We top up the chilli oil with more oil & chillis when we feel the need, and when I start using that vanilla extract, I’ll be topping it  up with more vodka and vanilla beans.

Here is my vanilla extract, colouring up nicely after 5 weeks in a dark, cool place. Apparently you just keep waiting for about 3-6 months, shaking occasionally. I’ll take more pics as the months go by – and as I remember.

Vanilla extract - Week 5

Chilli oil, Vanilla extract – Week 5

I’ve now started reading blogs from some lovely people who make their own moisturisers, soaps, skin scrubs and even makeup in the kitchen so I’m going to try some of those before too long too.

Who knew the kitchen could be so much FUN?