Sunday, 22 November 2015

Bran Fruit Loaf - A Fun Way to Eat Bran and it's also Egg Free.

Bran Fruit Loaf. Delicious with Butter.
If you feel you are missing fibre in your diet, bran is probably the answer, but if like me, you don't like cereal in the morning, or you find bran too tasteless on its own, you might want to try this.  It's a recipe I got an All-Bran packet in the 80s and I hadn't made it for years, but I remembered that it is quite tasty. It's also eggless.

Bran Fruit Loaf is very simple to do and does not require much equipment. Just as well as I can't lift my mixer at the moment.
I altered the original recipe to make it more interesting and I will show both versions below.

4 oz (100 g) Bran
5 oz sugar (125g)
10 oz (275 g)mixed dried fruit
1/4 pt milk (1/2 cup)
4 oz Self Raising flout (100 g)

Put the bran, sugar, dried fruit into a basin and mix them well together.
Stir in milk and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Stir in the flour and pour the mixture into a greased 2 lb loaf tin.
Bake at 350 F or 180 C for about one hour.
Turn out onto a rack and allow to cool.
Cut into slices and serve with butter.

My versions:
I used 3 oz sultanas, 3 oz glace cherries, one Tablespoon mixed peel and some chopped walnuts.
I baked it for about 45 minutes, but it could have baked a little longer.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

How to Un-shrink a Sweater

Cardigan back to normal size.
At the weekend I did a terrible thing.  I inadvertently put my favourite cardigan in the washer and dryer.  I normally put it in a wool wash and air dry it. Although it is viscose and elastane, it came out two sizes smaller. It was destined for the charity shop but a friend suggested I look online to see if it could be fixed.  I found the solution on this site:
It worked! I plan to try it with something else now.

Here's what to do.
Put a small amount of fabric conditioner in a plastic bowl and fill it with cool water.
Immerse the cardigan and leave it in this solution for 30 minutes.  This allows the fibres to relax.
Do not rinse.
Roll it in a towel to take away excess moisture.
Spread it out and gently stretch it back to its original shape, if necessary. (I drew around another 
similar cardigan and used the template to check but mine had reverted to its original shape.)
Spread it out  on a clean, dry towel and allow to dry. This will take a day or so, but it's worth it.
Gently press it if necessary.
( If you are dealing with a wool sweater, you may have to stretch and pin it when it is still wet and
then press it with a damp cloth when it is dry.)

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A Quick Mid-Week Meal

Pasta with bacon, mushrooms and creme fraiche
This dish is one of my favourite quick meals.  It is tasty and filling and there is a vegetarian option.
Hubby had to help me with lifting and draining the pasta pan, but otherwise I was able to do it myself.  I am at the beginning of my third week of convalescence and still not allowed to lift anything heavier than one litre, so I have to rely on others to do it for me. I am now feeling well enough to be a little bit bored, so this was a bit of light relief.  Not only that, but I managed a short walk to the local shops to get mushrooms!
Here's the recipe followed by alterations for other versions.

I used to make this by the bucket full, but now I am usually cooking for just the two of us.
If you are cooking for four, just double the amounts.

Ingredients for two people:
A handful of pasta for each person to be fed. I use bows.
1 Tablespoon olive oil.
Bacon lardons or chopped bacon (about 4 strips)
2 handfuls of closed cap mushrooms wiped and sliced.
2 spring onions, chopped.
About 6 oz of creme fraiche. Use your judgement. You need enough to coat the pasta.
Some chopped parsley to garnish.

Cook the pasta according to the direction on the package.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan.
Add bacon/lardons and fry until brown.
Put in mushrooms and cook until they begin to colour.
Add the spring greens and let then cook for one minute.
Add creme fraiche and stir in well.
Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta leaving a little water in the pan.
Add pasta and water (about 1/2 cup) to the sauce and stir in.
Put in bowls and garnish with parsley.
Grate a little parmesan over the top.

Serve with a salad if you require something green. ( I always need salad.)

Other versions:
For a delicious vegetarian version, cook the mushrooms and spring onion as above.  Add the creme fraiche  and put in the pasta.  Stir in bite size pieces of brie.  They will melt slightly from the heat.

If you don't like mushrooms, substitute with broccoli (Do not overcook) or frozen peas.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Little Bit of Crochet

The beginning of a scarf in Larksfoot pattern.
I have not done any sewing for months and now that I am convalescing from an operation, I can't.  I am not allowed to do any housework (yay), cooking, etc nor can I lift anything heavier than one litre. This puts severe constraints on my activities as you can imagine. It is particularly frustrating when Hubby (who has been an Angel) is away at work and not here to help me.  Fortunately, I was warned.  I did everything I could pre-op and planned a few light activities to amuse myself while convalescing.
This embryo scarf is one of them.
I have forgotten how to crochet and I am very slow, but it is coming back and it is wonderful to be able to create something, no matter how small or how slow.
I can do this from a reclining position so there is no guilt about 'over doing it'. I chose the colours starting with the sale bin at Elys Department Store in Wimbledon, then moved on to find others to coordinate with them. A trip to Liberty with my daughter (also pre-op) gave me the opportunity to buy enough wool for a second scarf. If all goes well, they will make good Christmas or birthday presents for friends. If I don't feel they are up to scratch, I will wear them myself.  I'm not proud.
My inspiration for this scarf was this from the blog 'Little Treasures' which you can find at:

I am following the tutorial at this site:
Try as I might, I can't form a link here, but if you go to the site above, there is a link to the tutorial.  I think the stitch is so pretty and it is not difficult to do once you get past the first row, which is always a difficulty for me.

From The Little Treasures Tutorial.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Quilt in a Day - Not

My one and only completed block.
Yesterday, I went on a 'Quilt in a Day' course at a wonderful shop called Patchwork Cabin in Great Bookham. We were meant to make a large quilt top in one day.  (See below.) Our tutor, Julia, was lovely and very helpful, but I found the whole process stressful because the photo on the left is the only block I finished! And I am a confident sewist. (Sewing from the age of 12 will do that for you.)
Perhaps the project was too ambitious.  It took me all morning to stitch together 40 x 10" blocks, slice them diagonally (I had help with this.) and stitch them together in another way.  Then, we were meant to slice them again and re-stitch them.  The finished result of all this labour is on the left and I'm not sure I even like the fabrics.
This has not put me off making quilts. Far from it, but I may not finish this one. Back to my Lotta Jansdotter - a more modern quilt with fewer fiddly pieces and colours I love.

This is the tutor's quilt.  Beautiful and something to desire,
but maybe not something to aim for. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Why bother to sew?

 Don’t get me wrong.  I love to sew and there is something very satisfying about making something yourself. For one thing, you can get just the right fit. For another, you can choose your fabric and have a one-off garment.  However, I found this little linen shirtdress on sale in France, marked down from 69 euros to 23 euros.  I couldn’t resist. The fabric would cost as much and it would take me some time to make it. All that detail, pockets, plackets, buttonholes.  Now all I need is a day warm and sunny enough to wear it.
N.B. This is a post that I wrote in the summer.  Accessing the internet was either too difficult or too expensive.  I did, in the end, wear the dress.  I am now thinking of dying it black or navy to increase the wearing time because white linen is only really appropriate in high summer. What do you think?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Make Ahead Mid-Week Meal, Caramelised Onion Tart

Caramelised Onion Tart is the perfect make-ahead meal.  It  keeps well in the fridge for two or three days and can be frozen and thawed and re-heated when needed. 
Caramelised Onion Tart is a great recipe for vegetarians as well as meat eaters.  It can be served hot, at room temperature (my favourite) or cold and therefore is easily transportable.  It’s one of my life-saving recipes when company is expected. It also makes a good dish for a street party, a fete or buffet.

Caramelised Onion Tart is easy to make, particularly if you use ready-made and rolled out pastry. In France, you can buy pastry rounds which, with a little trimming, just fit into a flan tin. In England you can buy ready made pastry in oblongs, which, with a little fiddling, will also fit into a flan tin. I have made this tart with homemade pastry as well, but it’s only worth the trouble is you have a lot of time and you make excellent pastry. Mine is variable!

What you need:
Ready-made pastry.
2 large onions or 3 medium sized ones.
2 tablespoons of oil and about an ounce (a knob) of butter. (The oil keeps the butter from burning.)
3 large eggs
¾ pint of liquid (I use about a cup of crème fraiche or cream and the rest milk to make it richer.)
1 dash of nutmeg (optional).
1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
About a cup of grated Emmenthal cheese.  (You can substitute any mild cheese, but Emmenthal compliments the sweetness of the onions.).

Lightly grease the flan tin and lay the pastry in it. 
Prick the pastry with a fork and brush lightly with egg.
Allow the pastry to hang over the sides and trim off excess later.
Blind bake at 200 C or 400 F for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven.
Turn the oven down to 180 C or 350 F.
Meanwhile, in a frying pan, sauté the onions in the oil and butter over low heat until they are brown and caramelized but not burnt.  (This will take about 25 minutes.).
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and seasoning.
Add the milk and cream mixture.
Spread the onions in the pastry case.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the onions.
Now carefully pour the egg and cream mixture over the top. 
Take care to keep it in the pastry case!
Put the tart in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes until the creamy mixture is set. 
Cool to room temperature and serve.

Carefully fit pastry to tin and prick the base.

Blind Bake for 10 minutes. Mine cracked at little, 

but I was able to stick it together while it was still warm.

Salute the onions in butter and oil until brown and caramelised.

Beat the eggs, then add milk and cream and seasoning.

Layer the onions, egg mixture, and cheese in the pastry base.

Remove from oven when the egg mixture is set and the top is golden.


Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sue's Next Quilt

 I have been away all summer and it has been difficult to access the internet unless I pay my service provider vast amounts of money.  Actually, I have, but I have now cancelled my contract as they got greedy. I managed to get a few things on Facebook when we were out and about.  I even wrote two blog posts, but they did not get sent.
We are back in England now and I am ready to sew and blog again.  In fact, I am eager to do so.
Meanwhile, my friend, Sue, has been busy making another quilt. I love the colours and the arrangement, so I thought I would share them with you. It's a lovely quilt for a spare room. All that's left o do is the quilting - ha ha.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Make Do and Mend - from Hubby's Shirt to My Blouse

 I have several of Hubby's shirts in my stash cupboard.  For one reason or another he has not work the for years.  This one is a Ben Sherman shirt made of beautiful fabric.  Too good to waste.

I bought two beautiful pieces of fabric in Paris and do not want to cut into them until I am sure that the style and fit are exactly what I want, so I consider this a toile which I can also wear.  I'm pleased with the result and will now make it up in white linen without the front opening, but with two patch pockets.

This is the fabric up close.  You can see why I love it.

The first step was the hardest.  I had to steal myself to cut into the shirt.
Collar off  Sleeves off. 

Laying out the pieces and deciding how to use them.

I decided to use the sleeve hems rather than unpick them and then hem them again.

It's hard to see it, but I used the buttons and buttonholes for the front of my shirt. (Why re-invent the wheel?)

I stitched the sleeves using French seams to avoid a messy finish at the bottom.
You can see the gentle gathering at the head of the sleeves.  Two rows of stitching ensure that the sleeves will go into the armholes evenly.

My friend, Sue, modelling the shirt for me. She preferred it worn like a short sleeved jacket.

A close up of Sue wearing the blouse.  I nearly gave it to her.

Sue show the blouse buttoned up.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Made in a Morning

A simple top made out of piece of batik in my stash.
I have been using some of my stash to try out some patterns. I bought some relatively expensive fabric in Paris a few weeks ago and I want to make two tops.  Instead of making toiles then I decided to make some wearable tops and if I liked them enough, I would make them again out of the better fabric. This one will be very useful in warm weather, but I don't think I like the shape well enough to make it out of the French fabric.

While I was making it, I thought I could also do a tutorial on a couple of 'tricky' techniques.
The back view.
How to face a neckline.

The finish of your garment can make all the difference between it looking home-made or professional.  My mother sewed beautifully (better than I do) and she was very particular about every stage of her work.  I was always proud to wear something she made and I would like to think that I am living up to her standards.

Cut out your facing and iron on interfacing.

Use a biro and a tape measure or ruler to mark the seamline.  This will make it much easier to stitch.

Stitch along the marks pivoting carefully at the point.

Trim the seams to voice bulk.

Carefully cut a notch at the centre of the V.

Clip the fabric around the curves.  This is a very important step to ensure the facing lies flat.

Trim the seam allowances at the shoulder seams.

Press and edge stitch facing to avoid 'rolling'. This entails stitching through the facings only.

Turn over and stitch through shoulder seams. This will prevent facing flapping and showing.  It eliminated the need for hemming which can spoil the look of the top.

Inside view of facing.

Trying on the top.  Photo courtesy of Hubby.

Attempting a 'selfie'.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Barbecued Spare Ribs and Home Made Oven Fries

Barbecued ribs, home-made fries and coleslaw.
 It's barbecue season again.  Soon our tiny London garden will fill up with smoke and wafts of lovely barbecued food from our neighbours' gardens.
We don't barbecue.
We are hopeless at it; therefore we have given up.
However, we do enjoy barbecued ribs and chicken cooked in our oven, smothered in a home-made barbecue sauce and served with home-made spicy fries.
Here's how:
Wrap ribs or chicken pieces in foil and place in the oven.  Bake for 30 - 40 minutes at 350/180 degrees until cooked and juicy.
At this point, you can put the ribs on the barbecue and coat them with sauce.  Watch them carefully so they don't burn.
If you are doing them in the oven, turn up the oven to 400/200 degrees. Open the foil and coat the meat with home-made barbecue sauce and then put it back in the oven for another 20 -30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the meat has a crispy outer layer.
Serve more sauce on the side.
Home-made oven fries
For the fries, peel potatoes and cut into chunky chip-size pieces.
Rinse in cold water and dry on a towel.
Put the potatoes into a bowl, drizzle over one to two tablespoons of vegetable oil, add some salt and pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper and 1/2 a teaspoon of oregano.
Mix well until all the potato pieces are coated with oil and seasoning.
Put a little vegetable oil on a large tray and heat in the oven until it is hot.
Tip in the potatoes and space them evenly around the tray so they will brown, not steam.
Bake at 400/200 degrees for about 1/2 hour, turning once or twice to get them brown all over.

Home-made barbecue sauce (I normally double this recipe.)
2 oz butter
2 Tablespoons oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup catsup (I buy the cheap still for this)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional0

Heat butter and oil.
Add onions and soften (about 10 minutes on low heat, covered).
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Simmer 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Making Something out of Nothing

We returned from a long weekend in Paris yesterday, where there was so much to inspire me. I am ready to get started on more sewing and blogging.  Meanwhile, this little display in a Mercerie (haberdashery shop) caught my eye because it was a simple idea for a display.  Little organdie bags (for favours or jewellery) were hung on a small wooden fruit crate and dangled in the window.
My husband said it was making something out of nothing, a gift his mother had as she lived through two world wars, rationing and early widowhood.  She was always chic, even on a budget.
In the background you can see the lovely buildings across the road reflected in the window.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Tips on Making a Quit - Things I've Learned the Hard Way.

The first panel stitched.
 I have finally made a start on my Lotta Jansdotter quilt. It took me all afternoon and a bad back to cut out these strips.  After that, the sewing was easy. I plan to cut this piece in half vertically and add another panel to make a quilt that will hang horizontally over the bed.  Making the quilt top is the easy bit, however.  It's the quilting that is a real challenge, but I'll worry about that later.

I wanted the strips to be of varying widths so I played around with them on my cutting board until I got a combination that worked for me. I like the pink and orange colours the best, so I put them in the middle  The light mauve/grey at the top and the green at the bottom go well together, so I can add another panel vertically and it will work.
I cut carefully, but even so, I can see a slight curve at the bottom of the panel and I have to decide whether or not to ignore it. I think it happened because I cut the fabric folded in half and I probably got a little out of line at the fold end. (Live and learn.)

Strips laid out on in order on cutting board.
Tip 1.
Lay out quilting pieces in order.
Before sewing the strips together, I laid them out in order on my cutting board. That way I could lift them up, one at a time and stitch them without forgetting the order of sewing. If you are working with squares, put them in piles in the order of sewing.

Tip 2.
Use a walking foot and stitch in different directions.
I learned the hard way on a previous quilt, that the fabric will move whatever you do.  Even my walking foot did not prevent this altogether. You can counteract this by stitching the first strip in one direction and the next in the opposite direction.  Sometimes I had to stop and count to remember which way I was going, but it did help to minimise movement.

Tip 3.
Use thin wadding for easier quilting.
When I made my last quilt, I bought wadding that was quite thick, planning to make a nice, warm quilt. That caused me problems.  It was too thick to stitch on my machine and I had to do some quilting by hand. I do not enjoy hand sewing, so this was a problem  For this quilt, I will use the thinnest wadding I can buy.  As it will be a wall hanging, I do not have to worry about warmth. However, if my machine decides to chew the fabric, I may have to quilt it by hand.

Tip 4.
Choose a pattern that makes the most of your fabric.
I looked at many quilt patterns before I decided what I wanted to do with this quilt.  The fabrics are beautiful and I did not want to cut them too small or to use a pattern that would detract from them. Think about your fabric and how you want it to look when the quilt is finished.

Tip 5.
Don't kuse a flimsy backing.
Use a sturdy backing for your quilt.  When I planned my last quilt, I intended to use Liberty lawn as the backing. This did not work as the machine wanted to chew it up. Also it is an expensive fabric that will not be seen often.  Instead, I used a modern pattern of large pieces of Kona cotton and the equivalent and a printed cotton that I though blended with the quilt.

The backing on my last quilt.