Saturday 31 August 2013

Raspberry Macaroon Recipe mmmmmm.....

This was last weekend's mother and daughter bake in our house. Little Miss 4 had been perusing cook books and plotting her next tea party play date when she came across a recipe for Vanilla Macaroons. Anyone with a little girl will tell you that there is usually only one colour request - and that's ", pink and pink please Mummy". Not content with just plain pink food colouring, we set about creating these raspberry marvels.

Raspberry Macaroons with Butter cream Filling

75g ground almonds
115g icing sugar
2 large egg whites
50g caster sugar
1 tablespoon chambord - raspberry liquor
as many drops of red food colour as you need to get a strong pink colour

60g softened butter
120g icing sugar
1 tablespoon chambord liquor
pink colouring
2 teaspoons freeze dried raspberry powder

Sift the ground almonds and icing sugar together. You will have to use a spoon to push the almond meal through the sieve.

Place the egg whites in a immaculately clean bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar a few tablespoons at a time: whisking well between each addition until a glossy meringue is formed.

Using a spatula fold the almond mixture into the meringue one third at a time.

Now fold in the liquor and colouring. The mixture should have deflated into a shiny batter that drops from the spoon.

Pour the mixture into a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

Pipe the macaroons into evenly sized rounds. Bang the tray onto the bench to remove any large air bubbles.

Set the oven to 160deg. C, then leave the macaroons out on the bench to dry for 40 minutes.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes. Cool for a while before carefully removing from the paper.

Leave to cool completely before filling with the butter cream filling.

While the macaroons are cooking and cooling, make the Raspberry Butter cream Filling by beating all the ingredients until a pale fluffy filling is formed.

Match the macaroons into pairs. Then place a generous teaspoonful of butter cream onto the middle of one of each of the pairs and squeeze together.

These are a great addition to a party spread. They are surprisingly easy to make - which sure beats paying $2 each at the bakery.

So whip some up and invite your friends around. Do it quick, before the family eat them up!

Spicy Cranberry and Raisin Pinwheel Scones

It's no secret that I recently had a milestone birthday. If there is one thing we all learn with age, it's that it is not the things we accumulate over our lifetimes that matter, it's the friends we make along the way. I can hardly believe I'm forty! That's like twenty twice! How did that happen? I had a great birthday week celebration with family and friends. 

I whipped up these scones for one of my most fabulous old friends and her beautiful family when they popped round to our house for a catch up.

Spicy Cranberry and Raisin Pinwheel Scones

Scone Mix
2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
100g butter
1 egg 
enough milk to top up the egg to make 200ml of liquid
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup Raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter - melted
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Preheat the oven to 200deg. C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Start by making the spicy fruit filling: Melt the butter and stir in the remaining filling ingredients. Put aside while you make the scone dough.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Grate the butter into the flour mix and add the brown sugar; then rub the butter in with your finger tips until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Whisk the egg and milk mixture together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture.

Use a table knife to gently combine the ingredients until just mixed. The mixture should be quite wet.

Sprinkle some extra flour onto a sheet of plastic food wrap. Turn the scone dough out onto the wrap and use a gentle floured hand to spread the dough into rectangular shape. 

Evenly spread the spicy fruit filling onto the scone dough.

Use the plastic wrap to help roll the dough into a 'sushi roll'.

Make sure the join is on the underside, and with a sharp floured knife cut the scone roll into 3cm slices. Try not to squash the roll shape.

Place the scones onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown.

The best way to test a scone for doneness is to tap the bottom and listen for a hollow sound - then you know it is cooked.

Time to switch the coffee machine on and get the butter out!

Thursday 29 August 2013

Back from my blog holiday with Pineapple Passionfruit Polenta Cake

I can't believe its been nearly two weeks since I wrote a blog post. The computers been in and out of the repair shop, the Internet connection went on the blink, all the programmes have been painstakingly reloaded and I'm finally back. I have to admit that after two weeks I felt a pang of regret putting my knitting down in favour of loading all the project photos I have accumulated in the past 10 days. So please forgive me, as its going to take I few days to catchup. 

I have made this cake a couple of times. It's gluten free and easily adaptable to whatever fruit you have handy. We took this one over to a friends as part of a casual Friday night tea. In this one I used the course polenta, which gives quite a lot of bite. If you want a smoother finish I suggest using the finely ground variety.

Pineapple and Passionfruit Polenta Cake

180g butter
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 teaspoons baking soda
250g polenta
a small can of pineapple pieces
3 tablespoons passionfruit pulp

Preheat the oven to 170deg. C and line a baking dish with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition. 

Fold in the vanilla and zest, followed by the polenta and baking powder. Lastly fold in the passionfruit and pineapple pieces.

Place the mixture in a lined baking tin. On this occasion I was in a bit of a hurry, so used a wide tin so the cake would cook more quickly. 
Smooth over the top and bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes until the cake is golden brown and risen. 

This cake is excellent served warm from the oven.
If your feeling virtuous serve it with natural yoghurt, otherwise whipped cream is also excellent.

Friday 23 August 2013


I'm having a bit of a forced holiday care of a case of laptop malfunction. The recipes and photos of tasty treats are piling up, and I'm getting an astounding amount of knitting done.
It's been about a year since I started sharing all my cooking and crafty projects, so I suppose a holiday is timely.
All going well my computer issues will be solved soon, and I'm looking forward to reconnecting with you all.
xx Prudence

Friday 16 August 2013

Limited Ingredient Challenge - Bacon and Pea Pies

In a bid to both inspire and define what creativity in cooking means, I have been challenging my Year 13 Food class to limited ingredients cooking challenges. I give them a list of ingredients and a day or so to think about it and plan, and they come up with a dish. A not too dissimilar process to that which we all go through while looking in a pre-shopping day fridge.
Friday's challenge list was as follows: 1/2 cup short grain rice, 2 eggs, 1 rasher of bacon, 2 mushrooms, 1/2 cup frozen peas, 1/2 an onion and 1 carrot. In addition to this they had the choice of flour, butter, cream, spices, soy sauce, stock and other general pantry items, as well as some rather small (and left over) pieces of rump steak. The only rule was that they had to use some of all the main challenge ingredients except one.

Thinking I had better walk the walk I came up with my own rendition - Bacon and Pea Pies. We had all sorts of other dishes: lots of adaptations on fried rice, a delicious risotto served with a side of scotch eggs, fried eggs with vegetables, an interesting interpretation of crumbed bacon and steak pieces, as well as fried rice and crumbed steak.

The pressure was on, we were on shortened time thanks to Assumption Day Mass, and I for one didn't want to be receiving my blessing from the Bishop while still wafting of onions!

Bacon and Pea Pies

Preheat the oven to 200deg. C

1 cup flour
70g butter
1 teaspoon salt
approx 5 tablespoons cold water

In the food processor combine the flour, butter and salt until well incorporated. With the motor running add the cold water a teaspoon at a time until the mixture forms lots of little balls of dough. Take the lib from the processor - the dough should form a ball when pressed together.
Take from the processor, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

Pie Filling
1 egg
1/3 cup cream
1 clove garlic - crushed
1/4 onion - finely chopped
1 mushroom - sliced
1 rasher of bacon - cut into small strips called lardons
1/3 cup peas

Thoroughly combine the egg and cream with the crushed garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
Prepare the onion, mushroom and bacon and combine with the peas.

Assembling the Pies

Roll the pastry between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a suitable sized jar or bowl, cut out circles from the rolled pastry. Place the pastry discs into Texas muffin tins.

Place a small amount of the filling into each pastry case.

Using a jug, pour a small quantity of the egg and cream mixture into each pie. Be careful not to overfill. If they overflow the mixture will burn onto the tins and be a real pain to clean!

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling cooked and set.
Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to remove from the tins.

It was about now that the girls noticed my slight cheat of leaving out the carrots! Too short of time before Mass, I left the filled pies in the fridge and baked them straight afterwards. I thought the moisture from the filling might ruin the pastry, but they were quite alright after baking.
Just in time for lunch.

Thursday 15 August 2013

Blanket Love

I've been channelling the vintage vibe with this traditionally styled check blanket. I just love weaving. It's actually a whole load quicker than knitting and a great opportunity to experiment with colours. Rather than leave the ends as a fringe that's going to tickle half asleep noses, I've bound the ends with some cute floral fabric.

I dragged my trusty Ashford heddle loom out of the spare room and into the lounge and threaded it up with 100% New Zealand wool 8 ply Utuku yarn from The Wool Company in Taihape. Little Miss 4 has had endless trouble resisting the temptation to run her hand over the warp threads. She loves blankets, and can't wait to try out some weaving of her own. She is never very impressed when I tell her that the blanket is to be sold to another family. Though she likes the idea that something created by her mummy is going to keep another child warm and happy.

Ashford have some really good instructional videos on how to thread up a rigid heddle loom.
I used an 8/8 colour pattern and the 7.5dpi reed. Alternating 8 green and 8 pink threads for the warp, and 8 green and 8 pink for the weft threads. I threaded on 192 warp threads in total. Rather than breaking the yarn for the colour change, I wove the alternating yarn up one side of the work by including it with the end warp thread and wrapping the weft thread around at the end of each row.  

I've blogged the instructions for the bound ends in a previous blog. Its super simple and worth the extra effort for the contrasting texture and added cuteness.

One snuggly blanket looking for a cold day and a little companion.

Monday 12 August 2013

Wool Tailored Pants - Sewing tutorial

These grey woollen pants have been rather a long time in the making. At one point I feared they would not be finished before summer rendered them less than useful. Despite the mild winter, I have found them a super useful addition to my working wardrobe. To make them I used the same pattern as the summer floral pants made previously.

No photographs without the small star of the house getting in on the act! 
Complete with self styled asymmetry. 

Since the fabric has no nap - it looks the same from both grain directions - I could lay the back and front panels out in opposing directions to economise on fabric.
The pocket lining needed to be cut out again - total of 2 pairs of pockets.

Use a tape measure to ensure the grain lines are straight. The measurement from the grain line to the straight edge of the fabric should be the same at both ends of the garment panel.

All cut out and ready to go. Be sure to mark the notches, dart and pleat markings. It will make the sewing easier and quicker later.
First step: Pin and sew the darts in the back panels. They should be marked with a notch at the fabrics edge and tailors chalk at the end.
Dart markings on the pattern.
The right and wrong side view of the completed darts - pre-ironing
Pin the pleats into place and sew down about 5 cm.

Fold the pleats into place and top stitch across the waist to hold them in place.
To sew in the fly zip:
Separately overlock the centre front seams.
Pin the two front panels, right sides together, around the crutch seam using a standard 1.5cm seam allowance. 
Press the seam open along the centre front line all the way to the waist band
Fold the left side flat and use the ironed crease as a guide to pinning the zip on. Position the zip teeth outside the crease line as pictured. 
Sew into place using a zipper foot to stitch as close to the zip teeth as practical.
Close up of zip stitching.
Once stitched, fold the zip back and press the original crease out. 
This positions the zip far enough inside the centre line that it is not seen during normal wear.
Fold the right side of the front over the zip and position evenly so the centre front crease folds match up.
Pin along the centre front edge of the fly.
Then top stitch through both layers in order to stitch the overlapping layer onto the zip underneath. 
Curve the top stitching at the base of the zip, (marked in the picture by the red pin) as is customary with most trousers. Take your time as this top stitching needs to be super neat. 

Check that the stitching has caught the zip; otherwise there will be a hole!
Sewing the slanting side pockets:
In this pattern the pocket shape must be marked and cut out as part of the pocket construction. 
Cut 2 strips of interfacing to re-enforce the pocket edge.
Pattern piece 7 shows the stitching line for the pocket. 

Mark the sewing line with tailors chalk and iron the fusing in place.
Lay the pocket lining piece, right sides together, over the side of the front panel. Sew along the chalked stitching line. 
Cut the unwanted excess fabric away and cut notches into the seam so it will sit flat once turned in the right way.
Fold the pocket and front panel out flat and 'understitch' the seam as shown in the picture. 
Understitching attaches the facing or lining onto both layers of the underneath seam allowance. This is always sewn with the right side of the garment facing upwards. It holds the lining or facing in place and stops it from peeping out. 
This picture shows the inside of the pocket lining with the understitching in place.
Iron the seam into place.

Place the 2nd half of the pocket lining onto the first half and pin the two linings together. The lining should not be pinned nor stitched to the front panel at this stage.
Once stitched, overlock the edges.

Now lay the layers together, iron and pin the top and sides together. Top stitch through all the layers, using a 1 cm seam. This stitching holds the pocket and front panel together until the side seam and band are completed.

Assemble the body of the pants:

Match the centre back seam, right sides together, and sew using the usual seam. Overlock the seam together.

Match up and pin together the completed front and back panels.

Sew the side seams and inside leg seams using the standard 1.5cm seam allowance.

Try the pants on to check for size. At this stage I took mine in a little along the side seams.

Over lock the seams once you are happy with the fit.

Attaching the waistband:

Cut out the iron-on interfacing to match the waist band and iron into place.
Starting from the left side of the garment, leave a 1.5cm seam, put the right sides together, then pin the remainder of the band to the pants - as shown.
The left side of the pants should have an overlap of 3 to 4cm.
Sew the band to the pants using the standard 1.5cm seam.

This picture shows the overlap on the left side of the pants.

Overlock the other side of the band. It will be left flat on the inside of the garment.
To 'bag out' the right end of the band, fold the end of the band - right sides together. The edges of the band must meet exactly.
Pin as shown.

Sew a 1.5cm seam around the end of the band. Sew right up to the the seam that is holding the band onto the pants. This forms the overlapping tab that the button hole will be sewn into.

The left end of the band does not require an overlapping tab.
Fold it over, right sides together, matching all the edges. Sew across the end using the standard 1.5cm seam.

Turn the left side band end in the right way and position the seams inside the band.
Trim the corners from the the right side band and turn it in the right way.
Position the seams inside the band, leaving the inside edge of the band hanging flat on the inside of the garment.
Get your tape measure out and measure and pin the inside edge of the band onto the pants to form the waistband. The inside edge must overlap the bands stitching line 1.5cm. Iron into place.

Pin it from the outside of the garment as your going to be 'stitching in the ditch' to finish the band.
It could be top stitched if you want to see the stitching; but for this fabric, I would rather hide the stitching line.

Close up of stitching in the ditch to sew the layers of the waistband together.
Finished waist band!

Sew the button hole onto the tab on the right side of the band. The button hole should be a few millimetres bigger than the button, so search out a suitable button before you start.
Hem the pants and finish the side splits by folding the hem over - right sides together, as shown. Sew down each side of the side split using a 1.5cm seam.
Turn out so the hem is positioned on the inside of the pants and the split edge seams are neatly finished.

Iron the hem up and the split seams back into place.

Hand stitch the hem in place.

Sew on the button, and its all done!

Warm pants on a cold damp day.
Little Miss 4 loves picking dandelions from the lawn. She collects up handfuls of them and I float them in wineglasses of water on the window sill. Winter's not all that bad.