Monday, November 30, 2009

Delicate Snowflake

As an avid knitter, the news of a baby's arrival in the family is always something to get excited about. I found this cute pattern for a baby jacket in one of my magazines (Simply Knitting, issue 48) and set to work, and a couple of weeks later it was done. (OK - 3 weeks to be honest - it took me a week to get around to sewing in all those ends!)

It was a fun knit, there was never time to get bored with a scalloped edging, garter stitch stripes, fair-isle snowflakes, a little bit of lace, cables, and also embroidery!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ricotta Hotcakes

These Ricotta Hotcakes are delightfully fluffy, moist and light, and so easy - the perfect Sunday breakfast!

For about 12 hotcakes you'll need:
250g ricotta cheese
1/2 C milk
2 eggs
3/4 C plain flour
1 t baking powder
pinch of salt
2 T rice bran oil

Mix ricotta, milk and egg yolks with a whisk.
Sift in flour, baking powder and salt, whisk lightly to form a smooth batter.
Beat egg whites to soft peak stage, then fold gently into batter.
Heat 1/2T oil in frypan on medium-low heat, drop in large tablespoons of batter, flattening slightly if necessary.
Cook 1-2 minutes until golden and the bubbles just burst, turn and cook other side until golden.
As your hotcakes cook, keep the others warm in the oven at 100C.
Serve warm with your favourite syrup or fruit.

Today we had ours with balsamic strawberries - 2 C strawberries, 2T caster sugar, 2t quality balsamic vinegar, marinated for 1/2 hour or more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

To dye for

In an effort to find the perfect shade of aubergine to knit Cookie A's 'Marlene' socks, I thought I'd have a go at hand dyeing yarn with food colouring. Although it hasn't turned out as I envisaged (I'd prefer less colour variation) the result is quite pretty, even if it does rather remind me of a massive bruise!

Here's what I did:

1. I used 2 balls of ivory Cleckheaton Cocoon (70% merino, 30% nylon). Wind them into loose hanks, knot the ends together, and using contrasting yarn tie loosely in several places to avoid tangling. Soak in water for 30 minutes to ensure even dye uptake.

2. Now have fun mixing your pottles of dye - some colour theory helps here. To get a semi-solid dye effect, I mixed 4 different colours in 1/2 cup of water, using different proportions of red and blue food colouring (2:1, 1:1, 1:2, 1:3). I also mixed a diluted black in case I wished to tone down any garish brightness that might eventuate. If you want a solid effect, simply mix one colour.

3. Get your biggest pot and fill with water to cover the yarn well and bring to 'almost boiling' point. Put in 1 tablespoon of citric acid, then the yarn. I poured the different coloured dye pottles in different areas of the pot, and gently mixed to ensure all yarn was in contact and took up the dye. For more of a rainbow effect you might not want to mix it at all.

4. I found the red took up quickly, leaving blue/cyan remaining in the water for longer. My unexpected turquoise colour is probably due to the red 'taking up' before it even reached the innermost part of my hanks (which were probably a bit tight), and these parts absorbed only cyan. I mixed another 2 red:1 blue and sploshed this into these areas so it would take up some red.

5. Simmer just below boiling point (boiling will felt the wool) for about 30 minutes, or until all the dye has been taken up from the water. Rinse, hang to dry and carefully wind into a ball. Don't do what I did and end up in knots!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I love eggplant, but it is often very expensive. However yesterday at Foodtown they were selling big glossy specimens for only $3 so I immediately put Moussaka on the menu.

I always cook enough for 2 meals, so although a bit of time and effort is involved tonight, tomorrow night will be just heat and eat! And like a lot of dishes - it tastes even better the next day.

Here's my version:

3-4 large eggplants
sea salt
olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1kg beef mince
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1-2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 400g cans Italian plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 C red wine for the pot
1/2 glass of red wine for the chef :)
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
3cm cinnamon stick, or 1/2 t ground cinnamon
2-3 freshly ground allspice berries, or 1/4 t ground allspice
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C toasted breadcrumbs
1 C grated parmesan
for the sauce:
2 T butter
1/3 C plain flour
4 C milk
1 C grated parmesan
1/2 t freshly ground nutmeg

Prepare eggplant:
Wash and trim eggplant and slice into 1cm slices. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and leave for 1/2 hour to remove excess liquid and bitterness.
Rinse, pat dry with paper towels, brush with olive oil and grill until soft and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Prepare mince:
Saute onions and garlic gently in olive oil until translucent and softened.
Add mince, breaking up any lumps with a fork, and saute until lightly browned.
Add carrot and celery, then tomatoes, wine, bayleaves, cloves, cinnamon and allspice.
Season with sea salt and black pepper
Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. If any liquid remains, simmer uncovered until it evaporates - the mixture must be quite dry to avoid too much moisture in the finished dish.

Prepare the sauce:
Melt butter and add flour. Stirring constantly, cook 1-2 minutes over medium heat until bubbling.
Add 1T of milk and whisk until smooth. Keep adding milk in small batches and whisking until smooth over heat until all milk is added. You can remove from heat before each addition if you tend to get lumps, but I find this tedious and don't get lumps if I mix quickly with a whisk!
Cook over medium heat, scraping bottom of pot with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes until sauce thickens and coats the back of the spoon.
Remove from heat, stir in parmesan and nutmeg, salt to taste.

Assemble and bake:
Preheat oven to 180C.
Sprinkle bottom of large baking dish (I use a roasting pan) with half the breadcrumbs.
Layer half the eggplant slices on breadcrumbs, top with mince mixture, and cover with remaining eggplant. Pour sauce evenly over top.
Bake 30 minutes, then sprinkle with extra portion of parmesan and remaining breadcrumbs, then bake 15 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm, with a green salad, crusty bread, and the rest of that bottle of wine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gingerbread Man

Our boy was making finger puppets for a school puppet play, and I noticed this one in Simply Knitting magazine (issue 48, December 2008) so couldn't resist casting on and joining in the fun. He was quick to knit, but sewing him together with mattress stitch and decorating him with embroidery took ages!