Thursday, December 29, 2011

that room in my head


Illustration for my poem of the same name. Read it here

All other images, textures, brushes etc. my own. Created with Photoshop (and lots of time).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Some Recipes for New Year's Eve

I love cooking and despite all the stress over Christmas I love the cooking and making up new recipes. I thought I share some of the ones I've tried over the last few days. If you're short of new party food recipes, try these. :-)

Baba Ganoush (my way)

I love this aubergine dip. It's spicy and cool all at the same time and works well on blinis, crips or small slices of pitta bread, and best of all, it doesn't take long at all to make.

2 medium large aubergines
1 clove of garlic
2 chillis (1 green, 1 red)
1 tsp black onion seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tomato & chilli jam (recipe here) alternatively use 1tsp tomato puree and 1-2 tsp chilli sauce
2 parsley finely chopped parsley
juice of half a lime
salt & pepper to taste
3 tbsp roasted pine nuts

  1. Roast the aubergines on a baking tray for about 20-30 min at 160 C (fan assisted or 180 C conventional oven). The exact time will depend on the size of the aubergines and your oven. Just keep checking them. The outer skin should be dry and crackling but not burnt.
  2. After 15 minutes add the chillis to the roasting aubergines. The outer skin should darken but not burn.
  3. Whilst the aubergines are roasting, finely chop the garlic and parsley and juice the lime.
  4. When the aubergines and chillis are ready, take them out and let them cool for a little bit until they are cool enough to handle.
  5. Once they are cool enough, slit the aubergines lengthways with a knife and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. The flesh should be soft and smell sweet - almost like warm honey.
  6. Chop the flesh finely and place it in a bowl with the other ingredients.
  7. Chop the chillis. You can use the seeds if you want the texture and heat, otherwise remove them before adding them to the other ingredients.
  8. Mix well and season to taste.
  9. Smooth the top of the mix.
  10. Add the roasted pine nuts, a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil. 
  11. Cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  
 The dip shouldn't be ice cold, so remove it from the fridge half an hour before you want to use it.
Hummus (my way)

This is a chickpea dip and easy to buy in most supermarkets, but I much prefer my own and it's easy to make. Serve with mini pitta breads.

1 tin of chickpeas drained
1 clove of garlic
juice of 1 lime
olive oil or mix of olive oil and sunflower oil (depending on the strength of your olive oil - strong olive oil like extra virgine can overpower the delicate taste of the chickpeas)
1 heaped tsp of tahini
1tbsp of choped parsley
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Put the chickpeasin the food processor together with the lime juice, the garlic, the tahini and 3 tbsp of oil .
  2. Blend the chickpeas to a smooth paste adding more oil as required.
  3. Add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Blend briefly before putting it into a bowl and covering with a sprig of parsley and a little oil.
I also like adding basil leaves to mine when I can get them. You can sprinkle it with roast pine nuts or add chillis or sunblushed tomatoes to the mix to make it taste different.The hummus will keep well in the fridge covered with cling film, however, like the baba ganoush, it should not be served ice cold.

Smoked Salmon, Tarragon and Lime Dip

This is perfect for using up smoked salmon from Christmas. :-) These can be served on blinis or little crackers.

100g smoked salmon, finely chopped
100g cream cheese
100g sour cream or creme fraiche
1 tbsp capers (finely chopped if they are large)
1tsp chopped tarragon
1tsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp zest of lime
juice of 1/2 a lime
1tbsp sunflower oil
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and season to taste. 

Keep it in the fridge until just before serving.

Stilton & Apricot Canapes

The perfect little canapes to impress your friends. Use a vegetarian stilton if some of your friends are vegetarian. The German rye bread adds another dimension.

100g ripe stilton with any rind removed and roughly chopped
75g cream cheese
75g sour cream or creme fraiche
a little cream if require to loosen the mixture
salt & pepper
50g dried (juicy) apricots cut into quarters
German rye bread cut into 1 inch squares
  1. Mix the stilton, cream cheese and sour cream (or creme fraiche) in a bowl with a fork. Mashing the stilton as you go along. If needed (stilton can be quite salty) add salt. Season with pepper. You might need a little cream to lighten the mixture if it's too heavy going.
  2. Add 1 tsp of the mix to each small square and decorate with a quarter apricot and arrange on a serving plate. 
You can keep the canapes in the fridge, covered with cling film until serving.

Cheese Twirls
Easy to make and great party food.

1 sheet of shop bought puff pastry
50g of finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp of black onion seeds
1 egg for brushing
  1. Cover the top half of the pastry sheet with half the cheese.
  2. Fold over the bottom half of the pastry so it covers the top.
  3. Roll out this sheet until it is as thin as the original.
  4. Cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long.
  5. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  6. Twist each strip and lay it on the baking tray. Leaving about a gap of 1/2 inch between each strip.
  7. Brush each strip with egg.
  8. Dust the strips with the remaining parmesan and sprinkle with the black onion seeds.

Bake them in a medium oven (180 C conventional oven/160 C fan oven) until golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. These can be stored for a day or two in an air tight container.

Feta and Spinach Parcels

These are perfect for your vegetarian and non-vegetarian friends. :-) Just make sure you buy a vegetarian feta.

1 pack of shop bought filo pastry
fresh spinach (about 200g)
4 tbsp parsley chopped
200g feta
2-3 tbsp of greek yoghurt
butter melted for brushing
sesame seeds to taste
salt & pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg

  1. Put the spinach in a collandar and pour over boiling water. Put a lid on the collandar and leave to steam for a few minutes. Take the lid off and leave to cool.
  2. Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess liquid.
  3. Chop roughly.
  4. Chop the feta into cubes or crumble it into the food processor.
  5. Add the spinach, nutmeg, yoghurt, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. The mix shouldn't need much salt as feta can be quite salty by itself.
  6. Pulse the mix until it has combined and turned into a paste.

Making the parcels
  1. Lay out one sheet of filo pastry. (Keep the rest of the pastry covered with a damp, clean tea towel.)
  2. Brush lightly with melted butter.
  3. Put another sheet exactly over the top.
  4. Depending on the size of your pastry sheets work out squares of about 10cm and cut them ready for the mix.
  5. Put a heaped teaspoon of the feta/spinach mix into the top left corner of each square.
  6. Brush the edges of each square with melted butter.
  7. Fold the bottom right corner of each pastry square onto the top.
  8. Press down on the edges all around the feta/spinach mix, making sure the edges hold together securely.
  9. Brush each triangle with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. When all the mixture/pastry is used up, put the squares on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  11. Bake in a hot oven (200 C conventional oven/180 C fan oven) for about 10 minutes until golden brown.
Use any leftover pastry to make, e.g. an apple strudel or a meat pie with meat left over from Christmas.

Leftover Mini Pies

These work well with most meats leftover from Christmas dinner, be it turkey, chicken, duck, goose, gammon, or ham. You could also try them with leftover venison or beef, however in this case I'd leave the leek out and maybe just add a little cranberry sauce at the top of each pie.

  1. Leftover meat cut into small pieces
  2. 1-2 leeks (depending on the amount of leftover meat)
  3. a handful of mushrooms (optional)
  4. 1tbsp parsley
  5. 2 tbsp butter for frying
  6. 1 pinch of sugar
  7. 1 pinch of nutmeg
  8. 1 pinch of pepper
  9. 1 dash of Worchester Sauce
  10. 2 tbsp flour (the same amount as the butter)
  11. 50ml white or rose wine
  12. 100ml cream

  13. leftover gravy
  14. water if the mixture gets to thick
  15. 1 sheet shop bought puff pastry per muffin tray (tray should hold six muffins)
  16. 1 egg for brushing

Prepare the filling
  1. Cut the leek into thin rings and the mushrooms (if used) into thin slices.
  2. Fry the leeks and mushrooms in the butter until they start to soften.
  3. Add the parsley.
  4. Add the spices (nutmeg, sugar and pepper).
  5. Add the flour and fry for 1 minute.
  6. Add the wine and stir until the wine has been absorbed.
  7. Pour in the cream and leftover gravy.
  8. Cook for a few minutes. The mixture should be creamy but not too thick
  9. Add the meat.
  10. Season to taste. Adding a dash of Worchester sauce before tasting and adding the salt.
  11. Let the mix cool down slightly.

Prepare the pasty
  1. Grease your muffin tray(s).
  2. Cut larger circles for the bottom parts of the pies and smaller ones for the lids. I used two different glasses to cut the circles.
  3. Line the muffin trays with the pastry.
  4. Add the filling into each.
  5. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg.
  6. Put the lids on, crimping the edges of the bottoms with the lids to make sure they're held together tightly.
  7. Cut a cross into the centre of each lid.
  8. Brush the lids with egg.
  9. Use the leftover pastry to cut leaves for decoration if desired.
  10. Brush the leaves with egg.

Cook in a medium oven (180C conventional oven/160C fan oven) for around 15 minutes depending on your oven until the tops are golden brown.

Serve with a salad for a light lunch or with roast potatoes and a vegetables for dinner. Once cooked they keep well in the fridge for a day or two.

Let me know if you try these recipes and how they worked out for you. :-) 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Have a wonderful Christmas Day everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

dreamer and the dream

Illustration for my poem of the same name (read here)


All other images/textures/brushes etc my own. Created in Photoshop.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Murder with a Kiss

I thought Christmas was the perfect time to post this. ;-)
With all the family together, I am sure we all have thoughts like that now and again. Especially, with the usual stress and disasters over the holidays...!
Sorry, I just couldn't resist a little 'tongue-in-cheek'

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images - use this code: SYST-0073
Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Together - in the spirit of the season...


Another of my origami images, this time a crane. :-) They are actually three different cranes, I didn't just take a picture of the same one from different angles. :-) Thought this one was perfect for the season...

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images: - use this code: SYST-0064  

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Face in the Mirror


Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images - use this code: SYST-0072  

I was experimenting with my favourite mirror. I've used it before in "The Sky is Blue Somewhere Else" and in "All the Jewels in the World". I wonder how many more versions I can come up with, all different of course. LOL

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Now for something spooky and a new story


I wanted to have a play with a hand coming out of the ground. The hand is my own. :-) Maybe this means I am going to come back and haunt you all. LOL

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images - use this code: SYST-0071  

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

You can see the whole collection of images I have on here on my Facebook page.

 All my licensing images are available on Redbubble, Artflakes and Bluecanvas as prints, cards, posters, skins for laptops, Blackberry, iPhones and other phones (for the skins go to Bluecanvas).

Here's a new story called The Heart of Wood for everyone who liked the Secret Keeper series. It's related to the Secret Keeper Universe. :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Last of the Moonlight

 MCN: CY652-XWN5X-4H6SX 

I have two of these wire dummies to display the jewellery I make. I love the detail on them and the 'feminity' they encapsulate so took some pictures of them. 

The image is for me about the 'autumn of our lives', when we take stock of who we are, who we were and when we have to reassess who we want to be. It's about the lost beauty of youth and the treasures we have accumulated. :-) 

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images: - use this code: SYST-0074  

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Waiting for Love

This was an experiment with a heart cut out from some packaging material and a ribbon. I love the magic feel this has. :-) Just right for the first blush of love.

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images - use this code: SYST-0045  

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Glory and Remember - Through a Glass Darkly Series

For licensing on use code SYST-0061
There is glory in the colours of autumn; the last burst of colour before winter. This is a celebration of this glory. :-)
This was taken only a few days ago, late in the afternoon with the light fading. Chestnuts with their prickly outer layer and the smooth inside always seemed magic to me as a child. They are the perfect place to keep secret memories. :-)

All my own images. :-)

All my (licensing) images are available on Redbubble, Artflakes and Bluecanvas as prints, cards, posters, skins for laptops, Blackberry, iPhones and other phones (for the skins go to Bluecanvas).

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sorrow, Joy and Regrets







I feel so inspired by the wonderful autumn/winter light and the contrast of the bare branches and the little colour left in the remaining leaves and fruit against clear crisp sky.

Joy and Regrets are also available for licensing from my Arcangel-Images portfolio

All three images are available on Redbubble, Artflakes and Bluecanvas as prints, cards, posters, skins for laptops, Blackberry, iPhones and other phones (for the skins go to Bluecanvas).

Friday, December 02, 2011

New Escape Collection - Give someone a dream for Christmas! ;-)

 My latest collection on Envelop, available here.
The design can also be ordered as a t-shirt, for light colours go here, for dark colours go here.

More goodies available on Envelop (click on an image to see a larger version):

Why not treat yourself or someone you love to something special for Christmas. :-)

Also check out my Redbubble pages for lovely Christmas cards and calendars.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Through a Glass Darkly


I've always loved this phrase and wondered what it meant and how it (probably) has a different flavour for each one of us. This is how it looks to me. :-) The phrase is from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:12 - see here.

There are three more images in this series, which I'll post over the next few days. :-)

Part of my new series of images for licensing on Arcangel-Images - use this code: SYST-0049  

Created with my own photographs in Photoshop, no stock used.

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