Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cross-stitch sampler update

I managed to injure my leg while skiing at my mother's recently (all better now thank goodness) and was laid up for a couple of days.  This proved an excellent opportunity to get on with my sampler, which I had brought with me as a pastime for the long winter evenings.

The borders as you can see are taking shape.  I worked inwards from the corner to find the first leaf-point; now I will work right along the top of the tree until I know how wide the piece should be, and then go back and finish the blue border.  I think that my mother's parents' names will be enclosed at the top edge.

I am actually now further along than shown in the photo, with one stag-roundel finished and another begun; there will be four in total.  Stitch-counting in the red and brown border has been a problem, and one section got messed up a bit - but the long diagonals which you can see beginning at the bottom left of the piece provide a good place to restart and set things on the right path again.  This is the joy of working in independent sections - as long as the corner is OK, the tree and its surroundings can't affect each other.

I also hemmed the cross-stitch fabric crudely all the way round, to stop it from shedding fibres everywhere.  The trouble with bought squares of it is that the edges are never quite square to the weave, so there are short lengths which peel off the sides all the time.  Hem yours before you start is my advice now - just a simple fold over and running stitch all the way round.

Also at my mother's I found the goldfinch which I embroidered ages ago; I sent it as a birthday present the year I made it.  And at my father's this weekend I found the flower-press and pressed-flower pictures which I made of the remnants of my childhood garden.  I've added new, decently-lit pictures of these to the appropriate posts, so do go back and remind yourself of those Simple Things of yesteryear.  I do love my new digital camera!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Scrumptious Pancakes for Pancake Day - rather late

Left to right - first cock-up, second recovery, third perfect!  Blueberry sauce top left
Ok, so I should have had this up on Monday probably so that you guys were all set to follow the recipe on Shrove Tuesday.  But given the number of people on my Facebook bemoaning that they missed Pancake Day, or are planning a binge at the weekend, and the fact that there is a Pancake Day every year - here is what we ate this year.
One batch of the Simple batter makes a 'round' to serve two people.  I recommend making one plain round, then having a rest while you make a sweet round for pudding.

Simple Pancake Batter - adapted from the GoodFood website
You Will Need: Scales, two measuring jugs, spoon, whisk, frying pan, trusty spatula with fine edge, kitchen roll, plate.
1 egg
100g plain flour
pinch salt
300ml milk
glug vegetable oil (about 1 dessertsponful)
butter for frying

For sweeter pancakes
1 dessertspoonful caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence

1) Turn the hob on, and begin to get your frying pan really hot.
2) In the larger measuring jug, stir together the  flour and salt.  (If making sweet ones, add the sugar at this point as well).  Make a 'well' in the flour by pushing it to the sides with your spoon; break in the egg.
3) Measure out the milk in the other jug.  Add half of it to the flour and egg, and whisk well.  Mid-way through, scrape around the bottom edge of the jug with the spoon to pick up any flour which is sticking there.  Whisk this in.  Whisk in the rest of the milk, the vegetable oil, and the vanilla essence if using until really smooth.
4) Cut a little knoblet of butter and put it on your frying pan.  It should froth almost instantly.  Get a bundle of kitchen roll, and use this to smear the butter evenly all around the pan.  Save this bundle for the next pancake.  When the fat is smoking, pour in a good measure of batter - this will depend on the size of your pan.  Too little is more fiddly to deal with than too much, generally.
5) Swirl around carefully to get an even circle.  The first one is always a cock-up - don't panic, it will still be edible!  Wait until the batter has turned a matte, beige colour rather than cream, then work your spatula around the edge.  Shake the pan gently to loosen the middle.
6) I will not advise you to attempt throwing your pancakes, as in my experience this always results in wasted food and mess.  Instead, shuffle your spatula right in under the middle, and if necessary grab the near edge with your (clean) fingers to pull the pancake over.  The second side only needs about 10 seconds.
7) Slip the pancake onto the plate, and put a sheet of kitchen roll or a piece of greaseproof paper on top of it.  Wipe the buttery  kitchen roll over the pan to coat it again, and splosh the next pancake in.  Repeat!

Frankie's Shaken Pancake Mix For Students
An alternative mixing method, first shown me by my friend Frankie, is suitable for those celebrating in a less well-stocked kitchen.  Save an empty 2-pint plastic milk carton.  Peel off the label so that you can see all the markings easily.  Making sure that the bottle is clean, carefully break in the egg.  Add plain flour level up to the quarter-pint mark.  Add milk up to the half-pint mark.  Put the lid on hard and shake as though making cocktails! This makes pretty thick batter which is more drop-sconny and easier to handle.

Soggy Duck Pancakes
YWN: chopping board, knife, frying pan, small plates, ramekin, teaspoon

1 pack mini Gressingham duck breast fillets, cut into 1cm wide strips
6-7 spring onions, white sections of, cut into quarters lengthwise
plum sauce / Hoi Sin sauce
Fry the duck pieces until tender but not chewy, only a few minutes.  Serve the components on small plates with sauce in a ramekin, to assemble at the table.

Spinach, Asparagus and Goat's Cheese Pancakes
YWN: Oven, oven tray, tinfoil, dish/Pyrex/bowl and clingfilm, chopping board, knife, frying pan, plates
Bag of leaf spinach
bunch asparagus
packet goat's cheese
3-4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon
Before you make your pancakes: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Line the oven tray with tinfoil.  Cut the hard ends off the bottom of the asparagi and lay them in the oven tray; drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Jam in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Make the pancakes (as above).
Steam the spinach in a little water in the microwave, for about 7 minutes until mushy.  Chop the bacon into small pieces, and fry until crunchy.
When ready, take the asparagus out of the oven.   Put them on a plate for now.  To assemble the dish, plop a line of spinach down the middle of a pancake.  Add 2-3 stems of asparagus.  Sprinkle with bacon.  Roll the pancake around this assemblage, and put the tube into the oven tray.  When you have run out of ingredients, cut the goat's cheese into slices and lay over the tubes.  Bake cannelloni-style for a few minutes, until the cheese has melted and the panakes are warmed through again.

Blueberry Pancake Filling
YWN: Wooden spoon, small saucepan
Packet of fresh blueberries
Hank of butter
Splash of water
Heaped dessertspoonful of caster sugar
Bang all of the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat on a high heat.  Simmer until all of the blueberries have exploded, the sugar has dissolved, and the liquid has become a purple syrup which dribbles pleasantly off the spoon.  Serve with vanilla icecream if desired.