Friday, 7 December 2012

Winter woolies

paper dolls yoke detail

So I finished the paper dolls jumper for my daughter. Whilst I sat busily weaving in the ends one evening, my husband sat next to me companionably, marking this

... which is utter gobbledygook to me, but then again, he doesn't even know the difference between knit and purl, so I think we're even.

I have loved this knit from start to finish, even the endless rounds of stocking stitch (to the point where I'm prepared to countenance knitting an adult version, with even more endless rounds). The artesano alpaca yarn I used was so soft and fuzzy, it was a pleasure to knit with, and the pattern is a winner - those paper dolls are such a clear childhood reference without being at all twee.

paper dolls sweater
The only part where I strayed from the pattern was in doing fewer rounds of corrugated rib at the neckline than suggested, as I didn't want a stand-up collar. Oh, and I did have to rip back (actually I had to cut back as the artesano did not like being frogged) the neckline first time round as it was so tight it was like watching a birthing video seeing my daughter try and pull it over her head.

paper dolls sweater

Having rectified the neck and soaked and blocked the jumper, my daughter finally got to wear it, and what's more she's totally thrilled with it, which is always a nice thing. The full details are over on my ravelry page.

Bunty mitts in progress

Next up on the needles are the fabulous Bunty mitts from BomBella. This pattern first appeared in The Knitter, but is now available over on ravelry and as a kit from Ella's etsy shop. More stylised motifs, in the shape, this time, of blooms atop leafy stems. My 9-year old daughter marched straight up to me and said, authoritatively 'that looks a bit like Orla Kiely', which was my thought exactly, such a lovely design inspired by vintage wallpapers. I'm knitting this in various Skein Queen sockweight yarns, gorgeous colours as always. This is another project I can't wait to finish. It's just a shame I'm not quite close enough any more to pop over for a knit night with Ella and the other Outcasts in Reading.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


Advent calendar

Well it's advent Sunday today, and there are a few little bits of Christmas sneaking their way in around the house. Eldest is playing 'Good King Wenceslas on her violin, middle has joined her on his tenor horn, and their duet is nothing if not festive, loudly festive. Then there's the littlest of the tribe, who has been learning some new songs at playgroup - if you ask her what she's been singing, she'll get a serious look on her face and say : 'Christmas ... got stuck ... can't get out ... in chimbly'.

There is an advent candle burning merrily on the mantlepiece. We're still in the heady days of advent candle ownership, remembering to light the candle each day (day 2), but I know it won't be long before I'm guiltily trying to burn down three days' worth after forgetting to light it. We also have three traditional advent calendars on the mantel, gifted to my children each year by their grandfather, a vicar, as an advent tradition. None of this chocolate nonsense, they not only have a picture inside but also a biblical verse. Eldest has a lovely nativity scene in 3D, with glitter and everything. I'm playing along with Rachel of my life in knitwear's advent calendar reveal over on twitter. If you'd like to join in, just use the hashtag #traditionaladventcalendar.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas, you know. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Shiny apples

tarte tatin recipe 1

Tarte tatin, without question the simplest, yet most impressive, dessert I have every made. Even easier than an apple crumble, but with a bit of added showmanship in the form of plate-flipping. How glad I was that I hadn't thrown away the packaging for my lovely glossy red Emile Henry tarte tatin dish, gifted to me by my brother and sister-in-law, when we had the whole family over for lunch a few weeks ago. For printed on the back was a recipe for said dessert courtesy of Monsieur Raymond Blanc himself. The most complex techniques required were melting butter and peeling apples. It was that easy. So I'm sharing, partly because it's nice to share, but also partly because I envisage making this dessert many more times, and if I write down the recipe here then it won't matter if I lose the packaging at a later date (very likely).

Ingredients (to fill a 30cm dish):
About 9 apples - (the recipe suggests Braeburn) peeled, cored and quartered
150g Caster sugar
80g Unsalted butter (cubed)
40g Unsalted butter (melted)
400g puff pastry (I used all-butter puff pastry, Raymond didn't say I needed to make my own, thank goodness!) rolled out into a disc large enough to lay over your dish and tuck in slightly around the sides.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Melt the cubed butter and caster sugar in an oven proof dish on the hob to make a caramel.*
Arrange the apple quarters with the outside edge down in the caramel, packing them in quite tightly, then once you've filled the whole of the dish, continue to fill in the middle part.
Press down the apples and brush with melted butter.
Bake in the oven for 30 mins.
Remove  the dish from the oven, place the pastry disc on top and tuck it in around the edge of the apples.
Prick a few holes into the pastry so that the steam can escape.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 mins until the pastry is risen, golden and crisp.
Allow to cool for around an hour before calling all your family into the kitchen and doing the show-stopping flip of the dish onto a plate to serve your glossy apple tarte tatin.

tarte tatin recipe 2

It was genuinely quite exciting doing the reveal - to the point where my brother (iphoneographer) and sister (appointed food stylist and owner of the pair of hands holding the dish in this photo) were debating quite heatedly at one point where to place the tarte for best photographic effect. And the whole thing was speedily demolished by adults and children alike. Even my littlest who normally loathes apple tarts and crumbles due to the tartness of the cooked apples. An inch-thick smothering layer of caramel would doubtless persuade her to eat almost anything.

I'm a sucker for any apple-based dessert, and this knocks sports off my usual endeavours. I'm also a fan of recipes which require minimum effort and technical skill. Have you got any favourites to share?

*this is the only place where you let me down, Monsieur Blanc, as you didn't tell me whether to stir or not and I had vague memories of not stirring sugar when making a caramel lest it crystallise from Masterchef or Great British Bake Off or some such programme. I did, however, stir, as I am an impatient cook. and it seemed to work.

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