Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Crafting with cashmere June 20, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:26 am

Another weekend whizzes by, but at least it’s been a good one.

I have started work on a new cushion cover for my mother: she has/had a beautiful orange cashmere jumper, and wore it happily for a few years. But then it came out of the wash rather smaller than it had been when it went in, and no longer fitted her. (Nor did it fit me, unfortunately – much as I would have liked to inherit something cashmere!) It’s far too good to get rid of, and so it must be repurposed – I think a cushion cover is its best hope.

But there is something about working with a very expensive, albeit shrunken, cashmere sweater that makes me nervous. I have stitched a line across it, and yet I am reluctant to take the scissors to it to trim off the sleeves and the excess parts of the body. My mother is unlikely to share these reservations, and so I’m sure when she next visits, she’ll be willing to pick up the scissors and start trimming it to size.

Incidentally, I thought I would have to sew the whole thing by hand, but I did a trial run sewing across one sleeve on my sewing machine, and it worked really well. When I turn it the right way out and put the cushion pad inside it, I plan to hand sew it closed along the bottom edge that you can see in this photo.

As you can see from this picture, my little assistant likes it just as it is. I’m hoping there will be enough scraps left at the end of the project to make her something to sit on. She seems to think she deserves a cashmere cushion, so who am I to argue?


The pine nut problem June 14, 2010

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 7:25 pm

On Saturday I found myself in Waitrose, complaining about the pine nuts. I may even have been wearing something from Boden at the time – I don’t think I’ve ever been so middle class. To even be buying pine nuts marks me out as middle class, but to then find fault with them is a new level entirely. (Next thing you know I’ll be writing angry letters to the Daily Telegraph. My dad already does this.)

The problem with pine nuts is a new one as far as I can tell: we’ve been using them for years in a range of recipes (mostly pastas and so on), and I love them. I usually toast them in a pan before using them, and I always make sure to toast plenty more than I need, knowing that I will snack on the excess while I cook.

Not any more. The pine nuts we’ve been getting recently are much longer than the ones we’ve had before – and they don’t taste nice at all. AND they have a weird texture about them. I thought we’d just bought a few bags that were a bit duff, but then something popped up in my Google Reader that made me realise that it’s not just me: plenty of people have been experiencing the pine nut problem. And it sounds like I’ve been quite lucky – the ones we’ve eaten have been unpleasant, but other people have reported experiencing a horrible, persistent metallic taste in their mouths for days after eating them.

Digging a little deeper, it seems that the issue relates to where the pine nuts come from. The ones we’ve been able to buy at the supermarket recently are from Pakistan. The ones we used to get were from Italy. And there is the problem: pine nuts grow on trees, and there are different kinds of pine trees on different parts of the planet. And so the pine nuts you get from different parts of the world vary in terms of their taste, texture, and the sustainability of the way they are harvested (the Wikipedia page mentions ‘destructive harvesting techniques’ being used in China).

But if life gives you dodgy pine nuts, make some pesto with them. We’ve got two more bags to get through, so I see a lot of pesto in our future. After that, I’m going to be much more careful about which pine nuts I buy: Italian ones all the way. While I was in Waitrose, I had a look round to see if they had other varieties of pine nuts for sale, and found little bags of organic pine nuts. They were expensive, but they were from Italy. I’ll save up…

In the meantime, there’s a lot of discussion online about pine nuts:


The great outdoors June 12, 2010

Filed under: Flowers and plants — lauravw @ 4:26 pm

There’s a serious counterfeiting problem in the Leicestershire countryside – this picture was taken in my mum’s garden. I’m not sure what Orla Kiely Inc would think about it!


Deliciousness in a glass June 1, 2010

Filed under: Food — lauravw @ 6:59 pm

Over the long weekend my parents came over for a meal, and I wanted to make them something yummy for pudding. Like me, they both have a very sweet tooth, and since this dessert was such a hit with them, I thought you might like the recipe.

It’s from a small and seemingly out of print book that I bought a few years ago – called Cheesecakes, Pavlovas and Trifles. It seems to be available on Amazon but the price is pretty high for what is more of a booklet than a book.

Vanilla and Caramel Parfait

  • 3oz butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 3 1/2 oz chocolate-coated malt balls, halved.

The ingredients above are exactly as stated in the book – I assumed that ‘cream’ meant double cream, so that’s what I used. And I didn’t stand there measuring out ice cream, either – just crammed as much as I could into my sundae glasses. Finally, life is too short to spend halving a bag of Malteasers – I just whacked them with a rolling pin instead. It says serves 4, but I think we stretched the sauce to six servings over two days.

To make the caramel sauce, you melt the butter in a pan. You then add the sugar and stir it over a low heat until it’s dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer gently for 3 minutes or so, until it turns golden. Then remove from the heat, letting it cool a bit before whisking in the cream.

To serve, put some of the crushed Malteasers in a sundae glass, then some ice cream, then some caramel sauce, and then some more crushed Malteasers.

My dad loved this pudding – he said it’s one of the best he’s ever eaten, and he’s a rather fussy eater. I felt very proud, and was glad there was enough sauce leftover for him to take home and put on ice cream the next day. I can’t wait to make this again!