Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Poultry Puppets

These poor souls have been off the blog since I made them, and I can't even remember when that was. It was definitely months ago, but then that's what you get for breaking your own digital camera and not visiting your brother often enough so he can provide piccies for you.  I insist on having pictures for knitted creations because otherwise the instructions *make no sense*.  Hence delay.  Apologies.

Unfortunately having finally got round to acquiring a picture at a lovely barbeque (with the beneficiary of the chicken modelling it beautifully in the background) I have now almost forgotten the instructions.  I was making the pair (yes, pair) of chickens up as I went along basically, fitting the sock to my own hand, so I can only give you a very rough guide indeed.  If you have any trouble and really want to know? I could work it out from the originals and message you, but you can't go far wrong here as they were designed to be pretty shapeless and crazy items.

Poultry Puppets
1) Cast on about 40 stitches, and knit a tube in the round on your double-pointed needles as far as you would like the puppet to extend below your thumb joint.
2) Turn the heel; the heel flap will go up the back of your hand
3) Make the gussets and decrease etc. according to the tutorials from Socky.
4) Based on how big you want the beak, decrease a bit into the 'toe'.  To join on the beak, alternate first yellow-body-body-yellow-body-body, then yellow-body-yellow-body, then all yellow coloured stitches.  Tie off the body wool safely.  For knitting in two colours, see Lizard.
5) Divide 2/3 of your stitches onto a 'top' needle, and the remaining 1/3 onto a 'bottom' needle.  On each needle, knit an hourglass shape, i.e. starting with many stitches decrease carefully on both sides to a point, then increase on both sides again to many.  Measure onto your fingers as you go along.  Cast off the finished hourglasses.
6) Stitch the hourglasses together into pouches which can fit your thumb and fingers into them.  Join the back of the throat together carefully - the lower edge of the top triangle to the upper edge of the bottom triangle, leaving holes for fingers and thumbs to get in.
7) Cast on 6-10 stitches in fat red wool, and knit two rows garter stitch (all knit sts both sides).  Follow Step 9 of Socky's ears to make a comb, possibly a little blunter than Socky's ears, and then cast on 5-7 sts and make two 'fingers' or spikes to make wattles.
8) Sew on comb, wattles and buttons for crazy eyes in appropriate places.  If wanted, get a bit of red felt for a rabid, pointy tongue.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cartacake, or Mappe-Monde on a Gateaux Projection

Since starting work at Jonathan Potter Ltd (shameless plug) I've made many rookie errors and seldom had a chance to show my appreciation and gratitude to the rest of the staff.  So when it started being my-birthday-time-of-year, I resolved to bring a cake in like we used to at school, and to theme it appropriately.

With one of us being on holiday, it needed to keep until he got back, so a fruitcake with plenty of integral booze seemed best.  This also gave me an excellent opportunity to use up some of the old dried fruits in the larder which had been giving me funny looks for years and threatening to go crunchy.

Map Cake
You Will Need: Large bowl, wooden spoon, scales, small bowl, fork, medium bowl, knife, sharp knife and chopping board, 24cm Springform tin, greaseproof paper, rolling pin, small plate, paintbrush, cup of water, plate for display.

3 medium eggs weighing 6ozs. total
6ozs. butter (Kerry Gold for preference, it squidges so well)
6ozs golden caster sugar
large handful of apricots, finely chopped
tablespoonful of mixed peel
a dozen glacé cherries, finely chopped
tablespoonful of currants, with any stalks removed
tablespoonful of sultanas
Armangac, Madeira, sherry or other cooking alcohol
6 ozs self-raising flour
2 ozs dessicated coconut
icing sugar
lump of marzipan
silver balls, food colourings
apricot jam

1) Preheat the oven to 180degrees C.  Grease and line the tin with a circle of greaseproof paper.  Set aside.  Chop all the fruit that needs chopping.  Put all the fruity ingredients in the medium bowl, and glug over a generous measure of the booze by putting your thumb in the neck of the bottle and drizzling as though you are a real chef.  This is quite fun, but only do a coating, not so you can see a puddle at the bottom.  Leave to soak.
2) Cream the butter and sugar.  Beat the eggs together in the small bowl with the fork, and mix well into the sugar/butter a third at a time.
3) Stir in the fruit and booze.
4) Weigh out the flour and coconut together and mix them.  Add to the cake mix a quarter at a time.  Fold in carefully to get lots of air bubbles into the cake.
5) Pour the mixture into the tin and spread carefully so that there is a slight depression in the centre of the cake.  As it rises this will fill out, creating a flatter surface to rest the cake on.
6) Bake until golden brown and cleanly skewered, about 35-40 mins.  Meanwhile, roll out a piece of marzipan into a circle big enough to cover the whole cake.  Use icing sugar to 'flour' the surface and your rolling pin.  On the little plate, blob food colouring like paint onto a palette and paint your design onto the marzipan with the brush.  Rinse in the cup of water.  You can't get much detail on marzipan; if I was doing this again I would make Royal Icing with eggwhite and use a smaller brush, but not everyone likes crunchy icing.  This was a cake for all.
7) Take the side-tin off the cake and flip it onto the plate for display, by putting plate on top of cake, grasping the tin-bottom firmly and turning over.  The tin-bottom and paper can now be removed.  When cool, spread the cake with a little apricot jam and lay the marzimap over the surface.  Trim any unsightly dangly bits with a knife.
8) Add capital cities or other places of interest with silver balls. 

Safe to say the cartographic content (and indeed the cakey content) was appreciated by all, which is gratifying.  And one of my rookie mistakes today (not getting a potential customer's name and number) came good too!  So, all is well in London Town for the beginning of another year...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Luxury Snacks for The Deserving

You can actually pay to go and stay in this house, as it's owned by the Landmark Trust.  I haven't been to this particular Landmark, but it makes an excellent illustration for a luxury pudding/snack/treat/vitamin C upgrade.

Boozy Pineapple
You Will Need: Chopping board, knife, pineapple, Cointreau, bowl, cutlery (optional)

1) Cut the pineapple in half.  Chop each end off.  With the big end against the chopping board, shuck off the skin carefully, pushing the knife blade away from you.
2) Cut each skinless half in half lengthwise, and carve out the hard cores in Toblerone shapes.
3) Chop the remaining fruit as you would prefer to eat it.  I am a pig so I did fat slices big enough to pick up with my bare hands.
4) Pile the pineapple into a bowl and slug a lot of Cointreau over it.  

Omelette of Queens
You Will Need: Knife, fork, bowl, small frying pan, spatula, butter, 2 eggs, some cream, some sugar, plate

1) Melt a small chunk of butter in the frying pan and let it froth.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs together with a generous slug of cream and a sprinkling of sugar with the fork in a bowl.
2) Add the egg mixture to the frying pan.  Cook on a highish heat without touching it until the edges are beginning to cook.  Scrape the bottom of the pan so that cooked areas ripple into view.  Leave it to cook some more, until there is about 3mm of uncooked egg sloshing around on top.
3) CAREFULLY turn the omelette over and cook another 30 seconds.
4) Flop the creation onto a plate, and serve hot with more scrapings of butter.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Flower Pressing

I had a good old Tidy last week, and was surprised and not a little pleased to find my old flower press and some of its produce tucked away.  The last time I moved house I went round the garden and took a sample of each plant as a memento.  Some of them pressed better than others - white flowers always tend to go brown if they're too fleshy - but I was able to construct a couple of pictures to remind me of past glories.  Last week I found the leaves I hadn't used yet, and reckon they could be kept for greetings cards etc.

I was lucky enough to be given a press, several layers of cardboard and blotting paper in a wooden frame with tightening screws.  You don't need one though - just some slightly absorbent paper to go beneath and above the flowers, a heavy book and another heavy book to weigh it shut.  Be careful how you lay the flowers, as they won't all open out beautifully once you close the pages over them.  Get a few of each kind so that you can pick the best-turned-out for your project.  It'll take a couple of weeks for them to dry out completely.  To stick them to something, use a very very fine scraping of PVA glue on the surface and a DRY, SOFT paintbrush to ease the petals down flat.  Lay them out in a plan before you get sticking, and try a few different arrangements. 

You don't have to make big pieces as above - a single blossom on a small piece of card can be tucked into a clear plastic keyring-dongle.  A silhouette portrait could be enlivened with flowers in the hair or as a border.  Elderly female relatives will appreciate your efforts as cards, and even a plain picture can become more of an abstract collage than a reproduction of a garden.  Don't forget that delicate leaves also work, especially variegated and feathery types.

Now that autumn months are drawing close, nab the last blooms of August while they last, and make them keep!