Monday, 31 March 2008

Jeanie progress

You may remember right back at the beginning of the year that I showed a picture of Jeanie - a wrap from knitty with reversible cables and dropped stitches in between. I bought some trekking sock yarn from Twist and made a start on in when travelling over Christmas.

Since then it's been somewhat neglected while I worked on other things, but I've picked up the pace again recently, and am just about to finish the first ball of 3. I've got a lot of other scarfs/shawls/wraps in my mind that I'd like to try, but I've made a rule that I have to finish this one before casting on a project that fills the same niche!

This weekend I had a go at putting the edging around the bottom of the wrap. It was cast on with waste yarn while the main part of the wrap is knitted. I started off by unpicking the waste yarn (which took AGES) and placing the live stitches back onto a needle. The next stage involves taking the 8 st that form the cable edge up the sides of the wrap, bending it around the corner and knitting it across the bottom, incorporating the cast on stitches where appropriate.

The whole process took quite a bit longer than I'd expected, and a few tries to get started, but it worked out ok in the end. A bit of a challenge anyway, and it has motivated me to get on with the rest of the project because I've got a better feel for how it will look when finished.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Two FOs

I haven't been very good at keeping up to date with the knitting posts recently. Last week I said I was on the verge of finishing Ophelia. She then sat for a week waiting to have hooks and eyes sewn on. I finally got around to taking some pictures yesterday, but before I did the sewing. I'm rubbish at sewing, I don't know why. I turn into a bumbling fool when I pick up a needle and thread. It wasn't so bad as I was thinking though, and it didn't take long at all to sew 5 pairs of hooks and eyes down the front. I'm wearing it today and quite pleased with the results.

Pattern: Ophelia (free)

Yarn: 2.5 skeins Blue Sky Alpacas dyed cotton (LOVE IT)

Needles: 5mm

Mods: I bound off some st at the armholes and made the shoulder sections narrower.

The second FO for Easter weekend is Stardust, from Winter knitty. I love this, and it was really quick and easy to make. I think there's a bit of a problem though. When I started sewing the pieces together on Friday my nose began to run. And then stream. And then the sneezing and coughing started. It seems that angora and I do not get along! I finished it off on Sunday and wore it for a few hours, during which time I got through about one and a half rolls of kitchen paper. I felt like it got better when I took off the cardi, but maybe it's psychological or a coincidence or something. Plan is to give it a rest for a few days, and I'll try wearing it to knitting group on Wednesday to see if the nose starts up again. I'll be really sad if I can't wear it because it's great, I really like the pattern and I'm quite proud of my seaming job - look out for future posts, I may be trying to find a new home for it!

Pattern: Stardust (free from Knitty)
Yarn: Just over 4.5 balls Louisa Harding Kimono Angora

Needles: 4.5mm
Mods: 3 needle bind off on the shoulders. Ties are 16st wide instead of 20. I picked up and knitted the collar into the back neck as I went along rather than sewing it down later.

28th March: I've worn the cardi twice this week, and have survived. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it might be so looks like the project is safe. Phew!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

SHF41: Colomba Pasquale with Candied Peel

Happy Easter!

So here is the Columba Pasquale at last. I have some nice memories of eating this when we went to visit friends in Milan at Easter a couple of years ago, so this year I decided to have a go at making some at home. It's my entry for Sugar High Friday number 41, which is hosted by Habeas Brulee this month with the theme of sweet gifts.

Columba Pasquale (Easter Dove) is a lesser known relative of the Italian classic Panettone that is eaten around Christmas and New Year. It is said to have been made by the bakers of Milan since the twelfth centuary. Traditionally shaped like a dove, Colomba is a rich and soft bread packed with candied peel and topped with crunchy sugar and almonds. It's a typical dessert for Easter lunch, but makes a great gift as well.

The origins of Colomba are linked with an old story. When King Alboino of the Longobards conquered the city of Pavia on the eve of Easter Sunday, he requested that all the gold and treasures of the city should be given to him together with 12 virgins. The poor girls were sent to the castle to await their fate and they were all crying in despair. All, except for one, who asked to be given some honey, flour and dried fruits as she wanted to bake a cake. She prepared a dough and gave it the shape of a dove and asked her guardians to have it baked. When she was called to see Alboino, she carried the cake on a tray. The king was surprised and he asked her to taste the cake first in case she was trying to poison him. The girl ate a piece and Alboino, seeing that she looked so confident, did the same. He found the cake delicious, so as a reward he ordered his guards to free the baking girl.

Moral of the story? When in danger, bake! The colomba recipe I used is here. It's quite simple, but takes a long time becuase of the different rising stages, including one overnight.

The candied peel is a crucial part of this recipe, so I decided to start off my bake-fest last weekend by making my own. I described what I did in this post last week, but basically involved successive rounds of boiling the peel in fresh water, then for several hours in sugar syrup. As manoute pointed out, candied peel makes a lovely gift, and is especially delicious dipped in dark chocolate. I was really pleased with the home mande peel, it's got so much flavour compared to the bough stuff. It's a taste that really lingers for a long long time (possibly because it gets stuck in your teeth so much!), and is very refreshing. I'm surprised we had any left to make the Colomba with because we've been nibbling at it all week. Here's a picture of the peel as it was being candied, and then as it was drying before being tossed in sugar...

Last week I challenged everyone to make something foody for Easter. Manoute has just sent me some lovely pics of her Easter Pate that she made last year, and also a sweet version of the French flat bread fougasse. Yum! More pics of Easter baking to follow hopefully...

Monday, 17 March 2008

baking challenge for easter

It's Easter next weekend. Can you believe it?? The daffodils aren't even properly out yet, well not in Scotland at least. I heard somewhere that Easter hasn't been this early since the 1930s and won't be again for another 150 years or so.

I've been hatching a plan to make traditional bread from northern Italy called Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove), and I thought why not throw an invite out there and try to get a bake-along going. It's similar to the more well known Panettone which is eaten at Christmas - quite rich and sweet bread with candied peel and almonds. The main difference as far as I can tell is the lack of raisins, and also the shape: colomba is dove shaped, although all the pictures look more like a cross to me.

The recipe I'll be using is here. It's a bit daunting at first becuase there are a lot of steps for rising (including an overnight one!!) but the actual amount of attention you need to give it is not so huge. Is anyone up for the challenge? Andy K - I know you can do it, cookies were good but time to take it to the next level :) Jane, yours would be more the size of an eagle than a dove thanks to the superhot incubation temperatures down there. Let's see it! What about our Italians? Anyone else?? It makes a great gift, which is a handy thing because that is the theme for this month's Sugar High Friday.

Send me pics of your easter baking before Tues 25th and I'll put them up next week. I'll also accept Easter-related baking from other nations if you don't fancy the colomba, I'm rather partial to a hot cross bun too!

If you want to do some home made candied peel, you'll need to get going this week so it has a few days to dry out before baking with it. Yesterday I juiced 6 oranges and 4 or 5 lemons, then put the skins in large pans of cold water and boiled for 10 mins. (I froze the juice and will probably use it to make sorbet next weekend with the spare eggwhites the colomba will create). They were drained, refilled with cold water then the process repeated 6 times in total. I then scooped out the mushy membranes from inside, sliced the peel and simmered it in a 2:1 water:sugar mixture for 2 - 2.5 hours until kind of translucent. The remaining liquid at this point is very thick and sticky, and there isn't much left. Allow to rest for a minute or two then quickly spread the peel onto cooling racks before the syrup gets too cool and gloopy. Air dry overnight, then toss in sugar and leave to try for several more days, turning occasionally. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge, lasts for months and months if you can resist eating it all.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Chippy tea

I heard a song called 'Chippy tea' by the Lancashire Hotpots being played on the radio this afternoon and it really made me laugh. It's the exact same conversation that goes on in this household at least 3 times a week, right down to the Lancashire accent!

I often have a hard time convincing Barry to overlook the takeaway options at the top of the road in favour of stuff that's come from a recipe book, especially if it's vegetarian or (horror of horrors) healthy. He could have written this song himself. Just as I was googling it to find the lyrics, the phone went... Barry was calling to say that he'd finished at work and would I like anything from the chippy on the way home. And no, he wasn't swayed by the penne with leeks and smoked cheese that were here. I rest my case. In his defense, he did in fact eat some couscous last time I made a chargrilled veg salad with it, hehe. :)

Check out this video of them doing a slot on rock fm, it's genius.

Chippy Tea

Well it's the end of the working week

and I'm rushing back home quick

I'm starvingI'm fair klempt tha knows

I could eat a butter brick

I need stodgy food without the fuss

Then wife gives me a plate of cous cous

I said I'm sorry love but I want's a chippy tea

Chippy tea, chippy tea

I want's a chippy tea

But you keep givin posh nosh

it don't agree with me

I don't want lobster thermadore

Or your rasberry coulie

I'm a working man from Lancashire

and I wants a chippy tea

Plenty salt and vinegar on that love

Leave it open will ya darling

It's dark when I sets off to work

It's dark when I come home

And all I want is simple food

Not Din Sum from Ken Hom

Her inspiration's ready steady cook

Am I eating it?Am I f...

it's friday nightand i want a chippy tea

Chippy tea, chippy tea

I want's a chippy tea

But you keep givin posh nosh

it don't agree with me

I don't want lobster thermadore

With your rasberry coolie

It's Friday nightI'm within my rights

I wants a chippy tea

"And in the red kitchen

William is preparing griddled squid

With coconut pesto

Chilli jam and an ice cointreau custard"

"And in the Lancashire kitchen

Bernards brought back from the chippy

Chips, peas, pudding, gravy wrapped

a carton of curry, a barmcake and a can of vimto


Chippy tea, chippy tea

I want's a chippy tea

But you keep givin posh nosh

it don't agree with me

I don't want lobster thermadore

Or your rasberry coulie

I'm a working man from Lancashire

and I wants a chippy tea

Got any of your satchets of tomato sauce

Throw us a chicken in there will you love

Wigan chippys they have baby's heads

In St Helen's they serve splits

But tha's giving nouvel cuisine

And all I want is chips

I don't care if it's one of Nigela's

I think that's a funny name for a fella

I'm not eating it

I wants a chippy tea

One last time

Chippy tea, chippy tea

I want's a chippy tea

But you keep givin posh nosh

it don't agree with me

You can keep your Jamie Olivers

Or your Gordon Ramsey's

I'm a working man from Lancashire

and I wants a chippy tea

RightThrow a sausage in that batter love

Pass us one of those 2p forks


Here are the Lancashire hotpots on myspace.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Peacock on display

It's been a little quiet on the knitting posts since Christmas, especially over the last 6 weeks, because I've been working more or less solidly (and at a frantic pace) on one thing. It's Jae Koscierzynski's Pretty as a Peacock Shawl from Some Knitting Required. Today is my mum's birthday, and I'm really pleased with myself for finishing, blocking and posting it not only on time, but a day early! Smug! I'm fairly sure she'll like it, this is her favourite colour and she's also quite a fan of peacocks - this pattern was the obvious choice really.

Ravellers can follow the link to see the details in my notebook here. For the rest of you, bear with me while I bombard you with a gratuitous amount of knitting photos. Yes I am proud :) Did you know that a group of peacocks is called an ostentation by the way?

Who can spot the mistake in the next photo??

Should have at least brushed my hair before the photoshoot!

Blocking such a large item was an interesting challenge, especially since it needed a severe stretching to open up the lace pattern and make the shawl grow as much as possible. I initially marked out a semicircle at what I thought was the right size and then tried to fit the shawl to it, but everytime I pulled one side, the pins on the other side popped out. In the end I went for several successive rounds of further stretching after an initial pinning to a medium size. I gave up with the tape measure and just stretched to maximum distance all over. If I'd had more time I might have incorporated another row of peacock eyes to make the shawl a little bit bigger, but it reaches bum length, so I think it's fit for purpose. Here's a series of shots before/during/after blocking...

For those interested in the technicalites of all things lace, Eunny Jang has a fascinating series of tutorials called Majoring in Lace. So much work went into that set of articles!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Return of the pies

So after the success of the recent pie evening, I decided to have a go at making some of my own for tea yesterday. I used Simon Rimmer's Leek and Smoked Cheese Pie recipe, and was very happy with the pastry especially - the fat was 50/50 butter and veg suet and it worked extremely well. It was really stong and easy to handle, and didn't go soggy with the addition of the filling.

The pies were quite large, probably could have made 5 instead of 4 from the recipe quantities, but they'd be good as an all in one packed lunch. I liked the unsupported construction - one large circle for the base/sides and a smaller one for the lid. You put a ball of filling on the larger circle, brush both of them with egg wash then fold up the base and pinch it together with the lid to form a seal. Barry made a pastry snail with the leftovers...

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Saturday stuff

This is a bit of a random post of a couple of things, not much to do with anything really! First of all I wanted to show you a picture of Jane's orchid which is in my office at work. We inherited it when Jane left, and since then it's been working very hard at producing a flower stalk. A couple of weeks ago it reached full height and started to open, and we've been enjoying these beautiful flowers ever since...

I had a very nice Saturday yesterday, doing lots of fun Saturday things. First it was a trip to Newburgh for a good old knitting session. Last week I finished the peacock shawl I've been frantically knitting for the last month (post to follow next week once it's been sent, but ravellers can see it here), so I started something quite quick and easy a few days ago with some Blue Sky Alpacas organic cotton. It's nice and thick and chunky and very soft. Nearly finished that one already, so I'll save the pics for when it's fully done in a few days time. The knitters then headed back towards the rain in Dundee and went for lunch - the parlour was full so we tried out a new place that has opened near the Rep theatre. Pretty decent for lunch, and reasonably priced I'm glad to say.

After lunch I met up with Barry and we continued round the corner to Tonic where I had a bit of dessert and a coffee while continuing with the knitting and watching the England/Scotland 6 nations match. I like sitting at the window watching people coming and going, and was quite amused by the poster on the other side of the road which seemed to be saying that the daily record comes with free kids this weekend.

In the evening I met up with Diane and Fiona again to go and see Jung Chang give a lecture on her new book about Mao which was extremely interesting. It's part of the Dundee Saturday evening lecture series and was also tied in with international women's day celebrations.

Poor old Dilly went to the vet on Friday to have most of her few remaining teeth removed (she just has 2 very tiny ones at the front on top and bottom now). She was a bit subdued afterwards but by the time we got home on Saturday night she was fully recovered and ready to fight again. She's totally weaponless however because they also trimmed her claws right down while she was under anaesthetic, so had to resort to slobbering Barry into submission...

Monday, 3 March 2008


You may remember a post last year when I mentioned some pies we'd had on a trip to the west coast with Kirsty, Anna and Peter. Since then we've been waiting for a good opportunity to make the most of the pies by post service that they provide at the Lochinver Larder. In the end, we decided that the pies make the occasion and we don't need any other reason! Last week we rallied the troops and put in an enormous order for 34 pies amid great excitement and anticipation.

They arrived on Friday afternoon in the lab and blended in rather well, becuase they were packaged in three quite large polystyrene boxes very similar to the ones we get when ordering reagents that need to be kept cold or frozen. But this package contained far more exciting contents! Their pies are hand made in Lochinver using fresh local ingredients, and they've won a couple of awards for their efforts.

I made a huge pile of mash to go with the savoury ones, and we divided each of the pies into quarters so that everyone could try a good selection of the flavours on offer. We then moved on to a selection of fruit pies which were equally delicious. Eris went to the length of making some beautiful custard, I still feel sheepish about the fact I didn't watch it carefully enough as it was heating up. It was so lovely and smooth until it fell into my hands and I butchered it! Still tasted great, and the effort was very much appreciated. Here are the pies as we unwrapped them, and then a batch just as they were being served: