Thursday, 28 August 2014

Chainsaw Ice Carving in Ottawa



Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

One of the most unexpected highlights of our visit to the Ottawa Winterlude festival last year was the opportunity to watch giant ice cubes being carved into beautiful sculptures.

With chainsaws.

We'd already seen some of the beautiful carvings on display, in the competition area, but we hadn't expected to have chance to see the artists in action.

The artists were set a theme to work from, and we were given to believe they didn't have any prior knowledge, so they were improvising. In this case: mythical creatures. They started by sketching ideas directly onto the ice, and then out came the chainsaws, the angle grinders, and eventually chisels for the finest details.

Watching the sculptures emerge from the ice was utterly fascinating, and made me wonder if I could appropriate my husband's chainsaw to do a little sculpture myself. (Or maybe not... I think I'd be safer sticking to something a little smaller-scale!)

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa

Ice Carving Contest in Ottawa


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ice Sculpture at Ottawa's Winterlude



One of the best bits of the Winterlude festival in Ottawa is the international ice sculpture competition. I don't know what kind of subjects I'd expected to feature in the display, but I was taken aback (in a good way) by the towering alien lizard protecting her eggs! Along with such fantastical subjects, there were also a number of more familiar still-life tableaux, as well as some abstract pieces. It was really interesting to see the variety in the display, and I don't envy the judges who had to weigh each against the others.

Ottawa

Ottawa

Ottawa

The level of detail in some of the carvings is immense, and makes you wonder how many breakages they have to contend with. (Fortunately, as we observed while watching one sculpture being repaired, the advantage of ice is that you can stick it back together with water for glue.)

Ottawa

Ottawa

It's impressive. You wouldn't think you could be more impressed, by what is, after all, a collection of ice cubes.

And then the sun goes down, and the lights go on:

Ottawa Ice Sculpture

Ice Sculpture in Ottawa

Ottawa Ice Sculpture

Ottawa Ice Sculpture

Ottawa Ice Sculpture


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Gooseberry & Ginger Jam



Gooseberry ginger jam

I recently had the good fortune to receive a large bag of gooseberries from a friend, who has a productive bush but wasn't sure quite what to do with them. Obviously, I made jam, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit. After a little head-scratching, I decided that ginger would probably go pretty well with gooseberries. The end result is a very pretty jam, as the black gooseberry seeds are quite striking in the golden preserve.

Blackberry jamAre you interested in learning to make your own jam? Or just looking for more yummy recipes with jam as an ingredient? Click here for jam-making tips and a collection of related recipes.

Gooseberry & Ginger Jam
Makes enough to fill 2 jars (450g/1lb size)

450g (1lb) gooseberries
½cup ginger root
120ml (½cup) water
450g (1lb) granulated sugar
  1. Sterilise your jam jars, and put a small plate in the freezer.
  2. Wash the gooseberries. Peel and finely chop the ginger.
  3. Put the gooseberries, ginger, and water into a heavy-bottomed pan, and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
  4. Simmer the fruit for 5 minutes, or until the fruit softens.
  5. Add the sugar, stirring gradually until all the grains have dissolved.
  6. Increase the heat and boil vigorously for about 20 minutes, or until a sugar thermometer consistently reads 104°C (220°F).
  7. To check whether the jam is setting, retrieve your plate from the freezer, and drop a little jam onto it. The cold of the plate should cause it to set quickly, so that if you push the edge of the drop with your finger, it will react like a jelly instead of a liquid. If not, continue to boil for a couple more minutes, then test again.
  8. Decant the jam into the jars, and top with a piece of greaseproof paper. Screw the lids onto the jars while the jam is still hot, to form an airtight seal.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Strawberry Caprese Salad (Secret Recipe Club)



Strawberry Caprese Salad

Secret Recipe Club

This month for the Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to make something from Deborah of Delicious Happens.

Deborah's blog is just beautiful. I'm so envious of her food styling abilities, she clearly has a natural eye for artistic composition. Needless to say, her recipes had my mouth watering from the first moment.

It's summer berry season right now, so I'm buying and picking berries every weekend. (Keep an eye out for another batch of jam recipes soon.) Recipes for a gluten-free berry crisp and fresh berry tart drew my attention, but in the end I decided to go simple and elegant.

Now, everyone knows tomatoes are a fruit. But I think it's fair to say that replacing tomatoes with strawberries - even in a salad - is a slightly unconventional idea.

So I was feeling a bit brave as I made this strawberry caprese salad. My mum introduced me to strawberries with pepper when I was growing up, so I knew that bit would work. I was drawn in by the walnuts, and the tangy balsamic dressing. I added a spinach base to Deborah's recipe, inspired by a strawberry spinach salad that I once enjoyed at a restaurant, and I candied my walnuts (because why not?).

The end result was downright delicious, and very summery... but I still don't think strawberries-for-tomatoes is a substitution I'll be making every day (pizza, anyone...?)

Strawberry Caprese Salad


Strawberry Caprese Salad
Serves 4

4 cups fresh strawberries
4 cups fresh spinach leaves
⅓ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup (200g) fresh mozzarella balls

For the candied walnuts:
½ cup walnuts
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp water

For the balsamic dressing:
3tbsp balsamic vinegar
2tsp light brown sugar
¼tsp freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup olive oil
  1. Wash and hull the strawberries, and cut into halves.
  2. Wash and dry the spinach and basil leaves.
  3. Arrange the spinach and basil on the plate, and top with the strawberries and the mozzarella balls.
  4. Make the candied walnuts: roughly chop the nuts, and toss together with the sugar and water in a small pan. Heat until the walnuts are toasted and the sugar dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  5. Make the dressing: stir the sugar and pepper into the balsamic vinegar, and whisk in the olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle the walnuts over the salad, and serve with dressing on the side.



I'm submitting this recipe to August's Cooking with Herbs (hosted by Karen) and No Croutons Required (hosted by Jac and co-founded by Lisa), both of which are guaranteed to be excellent collections of summery dishes.

 Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

On Form Sculpture 2014 at Asthall Manor




Andy and I really enjoyed the On Form sculpture exhibition in 2012, and since the event is biennial, we immediately noted the 2014 dates in our diaries. It happened that I got back to the UK with just a week to spare before the 2014 exhibition closed, and the weather was great, so we decided to head out and take a look at this year's sculptures.

Visiting for a second time was a somewhat different experience to the first. We were already familiar with the layout of the gardens, so although it was still fun to discover art around every corner, there were fewer surprises in store. And a number of the same artists had returned, so the style of many of the sculptures was also familiar. (I suppose this may be exactly what you want if you're there to buy a piece.)

Still, it was a beautiful day, in a beautiful garden (I especially love the wildflower meadows), and outdoor sculpture gardens are always a pleasure.

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014

Asthall Manor On Form 2014


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