Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Quilting on My Old Bernina

 My quilt is taking on a satisfying slight puffiness now.  I have quilted one half (I am doing it in two panels) thanks to the help of my old Bernina Minimatic.  I think the Bernina dates to the 1970s and I was not its first owner.  It is quite basic and very heavy, which make it great for ordinary stitching (straight and zig zag), particularly on heavy or thick fabrics.  Whenever I have it serviced the man at Wimbledon Sewing Machines says "It's a good machine." In fact, it reminds me of my mother's ancient Singer.  The Singer only did straight stitching but it's what I learned to sew on and it did a great job for me.

My newer Toyota, which I usually prefer to use,  has a walking foot (even feed), but it does not have a long stitch.  It has two settings for straight stitching and one is small and the other is tiny! Having done a few rows with it, I decided to try the Bernina. I was worried that it might bunch or push the fabric, but so far so good. That may be because I took the 'belt and braces' approach and pinned the quilt with large safety pins and then tacked (basted) it every two rows.  Lots of extra pins kept it in place while I stitched.

Pinned and tacked

A Satisfying Puffiness

First panel stitched. Hooray.

Good old Bernina.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Easy Peasy Rhubarb and Strawberry Fool

Rhubarb and strawberry fool served in my late
Mother-in-law's glass trifle bowl.
 This is a cheat's recipe.  I found some cooked rhubarb and strawberries in the freezer that looked as if they needed to be used up. They had already been sugared and I just heated them up to get ride of the freezer taste and then cooled them again.
At the moment, lovely pink rhubarb in in the supermarkets and available on market stalls. I may succumb to some fresh rhubarb and do this again.

 Supermarket strawberries which can be bland at this time of year are fine as the orange will impart a bit more flavour.

To make the fool, you need 6 or so good sized stalks of rhubarb, a punnet of strawberries and a tub of ready-made custard.

6 large stalks of rhubarb
1 punnet of strawberries (Reserve a few for placing on top.)
The juice and zest of one orange
About 1/2 cup of sugar
1 tub of ready-made custard. (I used Madagascan Vanilla Custard.  Delicious.)

Cook the rhubarb with the juice of one orange until tender.
Add strawberries, sugar and the zest of the orange and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
When the mixture is cool, swirl the custard into the rhubarb mixture. Do not over mix it.  You want the swirls to show.
Serve it in a pretty bowl topped with a few fresh berries.

NB What happened to sewing??? I'm still working on my quilt.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bread. Perfect with butter and a cup of tea.
 We grew pumpkins and squash in France (with a little help from friends) and I have just cooked the last one.  They kept quite well in a cool, dry place after they were harvested in October.
For this recipe you can use either pumpkin or squash, but the pumpkin must be a firm, meaty one.  Jack-o-Lanterns are usually too stringy and watery.  I know, I've made pies with them. If you are lucky enough to have canned pumpkin, use that.
To cook pumpkins or squash, wash the skins and then quarter them and place them cut side up on baking trays and bake for about an hour at 200 C (400 F) until the flesh is soft.
Scoop out the seeds and put to one side, then scoop out the flesh.  If the flesh is watery, put it in a strainer and get rid of the excess liquid. You can freeze what you don't use and defrost it when you want it. This pumpkin was so perfect it did not need draining.  Most do.

Pumpkin Bread with Pecans

1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup cooked/canned pumpkin

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup soft brown sugar

2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream oil, water, and sugars together.
Add eggs and beat well.
Sift dry ingredients and add gently.
Mix only until incorporated.  (Do not over mix.)
Stir in nuts.

Grease and line a 1 lb loaf tin.
Pour the batter in and bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 45 minutes.
Test with a skewer and when still soft, but not gooey in the middle take it out of the oven.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.

This would be delicious with maple icing or just dusted with icing sugar.
I served it with butter and a nice cup of tea.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Progress on My Liberty Quilt

The first 4 x 4 block stitched together and pressed.

Very pleased that I am finally making progress on the Liberty quilt. I have worked on it quite a lot this week This is the first of 4 x 4 blocks stitched together. There will be eight 4 x 4 blocks and two 3 x 4.  I really don't know what size the quilt will be when it's finished, but it doesn't matter as it will either be a throw for the sitting room (for watching telly) or a wall hanging if I think it's good enough.

This pattern just looks simple.  However,  every square and every strip has to be trimmed so it is exactly even.  I am usually in a hurry to finish things, but not this time.  I will do it properly. After all the work that has gone into it, I don't want this quilt to go wonky and anyway, I'm enjoying doing it.

This is a close up view of the wrong side.

I have laid out all the quilt pieces on a double bed, alternating darker triangles with lighter ones.  At the moment, it looks quite good. I'm wondering if I can quilt it in strips.  I  have a fairly basic sewing machine and and think it would be best to keep the quilting simple. I am planning to go with the pattern and stitch in the ditches.  If anyone reading this has a suggestion, let me know. 

A side-on view of the squares all laid out and ready to be stitched together.

I've finished a block and have four more strips ready, but it's a lovely day in London and I want to get outside.  Can't waste the sunshine that we have waited so long for.  Off to Cannizaro House to look at the flower beds. Will continue sewing later.  My goal is to finish this quilt by Easter. Watch this space.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Weekend Cake - Lemon Sponge with Marmalade Filling

Lemon Sponge with Marmalade Filling

The weekend is the perfect time to make a cake.  Someone might drop in.  You might invite someone over for tea.  You might, as we did, invite someone over for dessert after a meal out.  Having had a disappointing result when I tried a new recipe for a friend's birthday recently (the cake was too solid), I decided to revert to my tried and tested lemon sponge.  It's easy to make and almost never goes wrong.

There are two 'secrets' to a good sponge. Mary Berry would be horrified, but I always use soft margarine for cakes. It makes them lighter.  The other is to add a bit of liquid (one or two tablespoons) at the end (after the flour) to 'lighten' the mixture. Mary Berry might approve. It is important to  use butter for the icing.  You will be able to taste the difference. I used home made marmalade in the filling, but store bought is just as good in this recipe.
As this is the first weekend of spring, lemon cake seems entirely appropriate. It has just the right taste for welcoming spring.


For the cake:
8 ounces of soft margarine (Stork or Flora). These are the original ones, not the low cholesterol ones. They usually say 'Suitable for baking' on them.
8 ounces of sugar.
4 medium or large eggs. (I usually only have large eggs on hand.)
1 generous teaspoon of good quality Vanilla essence.
8 ounces of Self Raising flour, sifted.
A small pinch of salt.
Juice and rind of one lemon.
A little warm water from the kettle.

Beat the margarine until fluffy.
Add the sugar and cream the ingredients well, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure they are mixed well.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each one.
Add the vanilla essence and the grated lemon rind. Don't worry if it curdles.
Sift the flour and salt and add to the wet ingredients, folding in gently.
Stir in the lemon juice and, if the mixture is too heavy, add a little warm water from the kettle.

Put the mixture into greased, lined 8" round cake tins and bake at 180C, 350F for 20 minutes.
The top of the cake should be springy when the cake is done.  Do not over bake it.
Leave 10 minutes then remove from the tins and cool the cake on racks.

For the icing:
2 ounces softened butter.  (I use lightly salted because I like the taste.)
8 ounces icing sugar, sifted.
Juice and rind of one lemon.
A little water, if needed.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the lemon juice and rind.  If the mixture needs thinning, add a little more lemon juice or a little water.

Assembling the Cake:
When the cake is cool, put the bottom layer on a plate and spread a little of the icing on it. This is to prevent the marmalade making the cake wet.
Spoon some marmalade on and spread it gently over the icing.
Place the other layer on top and spread the rest of the icing on it. 

A piece of cake on one of my late Mother-inlaw's lovely dragon plates.

Happy Spring.