Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Things We Do For Love

It's our wedding anniversary tomorrow so in honour of the occasion and because I'm always being moaned at for making cakes for other people and none for Rob I have made Chocolate Brownies.  This has meant the ultimate sacrifice has had to be made - I've had to use the only bar of dark chocolate in the larder (stocked purely for medicinal purposes of course).  I shall have to hope for a bountiful chocolate harvest at the weekend to make up for it.

The brownies are made from a Lakeland recipe no longer extant on their website meaning that I had to go searching through the pile of printed out recipes in the kitchen, peeling the pages apart from where they'd been spattered with ingredients from long-ago-consumed offerings (there is a chocolate brownie recipe on there but it's not this one).

If you want to make some too the ingredients you'll need are:-

225g soft margarine
110g dark chocolate
400g caster sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
4 beaten eggs
100g walnut pieces
170g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2tsp baking powder

Melt the margarine and chocolate together.  It's best to do this in a large Pyrex bowl in the microwave.  Once the chocolate has melted add the sugar and mix well then add the vanilla extract, eggs and walnut pieces.  Measure out the flour, salt and baking powder and fold them into the chocolate mixture.  If you can resist the urge to eat the raw mixture, pour it into a lightly greased brownie tin and bake at 160C for 50 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook the brownies, the top should have just a slight crust while the underneath remains soft.  If you can bear not to scoff them straight from the oven, leave the brownies to cool in the baking tin.  The recipe says the mixture makes 36 brownies but here in the real world mine are divided into 12 because there's just no point in making them any smaller for Rob.

The first time I cooked this recipe I'd run out of table salt and used sea salt from the grinder instead.  The salt sank to the bottom of the cake mix making an interesting contrast between salty base and gooey chocolatey cake.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Nobody Here But Us Chickens!

Today I have been to my friend Sylvia's house.  She has helped me to cut fabric to make patchwork chickens.  It's easiest if you cut all the pieces you need before you start to sew the chicken so you don't have to keep stopping and starting.  Here's how I made them ...

To start with here are all the bits of fabric cut up ready.

Each chicken takes a surprising number of pieces!

Begin by sewing two tiny squares right sides together ...

 ... once you've sewn the seam you need to press it open to reduce bulk as you sew the next pieces.

Continue sewing pieces on until you have used up half of the pieces.  Once you have completed one side you need to repeat this process until you have two mirror-image squares, one for each side of the chicken.

Next you need to prepare the chicken's tail by cutting the large square across the diagonal and sewing the two short sides together before turning them right sides out.  Then cut a comb and a beak from felt.

Now you need to pin the two sides of the chicken together ...

 ... you need to fit the two squares together accurately and insert the comb and the beak.  Sew along the top edge and down the side so that the beak and comb are secured then sew along the bottom edge but leave a gap between the two red pins so that you can turn the chicken right side out.  Don't sew along the 4th side at this stage.

The next stage is to stitch along the 4th side but in order to do this you need to open up the fabric and line the two "side" seams up so that they are in the middle.  You then need to find the centre of the long side of the triangular tail piece, insert this into the seam and stitch into place.  Your chicken will now look a bit like a humbug!  Once all this is done you need to turn the chicken right side out through the gap you left in the 3rd side and press.  Stitch some tiny buttons or beads on for the eyes then fill the chicken with lentils, dried peas or lavender and finally stitch the gap up by hand to keep the filling in.

Ta da - chicken!!!

So far I've made a small chicken and a large one but I've got lots of pieces cut ready for a middle size one too!