Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Marie at the Flower Parade

I love love love florals - when I'm feeling down or anxious, I pop on a floral dress or a skirt and everything doesn't seem so bad!
A friend and I were at Tessuti fabrics the other day taking advantage of their sale (squeee!) and we saw the most beautiful of beautiful fabric, called Flower Parade for obvious reasons.
The fabric asked to be made into a skirt and Marie was my answer.
When I first started sewing I made a Marie (also out of florals) - but I had used a lawn and lined it with a heavy cotton, used the wrong interfacing for the waist band and generally did a pretty shitty job! I think that skirt ended up with a friend in London on one of my travels...
As the weave is really big I lined it with some (slightly stretchy) silky fabric I had left over from a failed dress attempt (we all have them so its best to just move on!).
I traced a teeny tiny thickness waist band and interfaced it with some light weight woven interfacing, I also interfaced the top half of the skirt to add some strength to the pleats as well as using the lining as "underlining" where the pleats were to add some more strength.
I used a dress zip rather than an invisible one (as I wasn't sure it the fabric would be robust enough to handle it, but mostly because I had one that matched the colour really well!).
After a hurried sewing evening she emerged in all her florally splendour as the most beautiful skirt in all the world - I adore her.
Excuse the pics- this is me at 8am in the morning.

The back is the same as the front - easy peasy pattern
Woo pleats
Only just noticed that the sides vaguely match! boo ya!
- On a related note:  I was looking through some blogs and saw Sarai's at Colette patterns post about architecting a small wardrobe.  Sounds like a fantastic idea, the more I sew the more I really find about what I wear and what I don't.   Minimalism is a lifestyle no?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Stupendous Syrups

Today was a fun day- playing in the kitchen in between doing loads of washing from our trip and catching up with the garden.
Today was a fun day!
Left to right: Bitters, Tonic Syrup, Ginger Syrup, Cola Syrup and Ginger biscuits.
I had been neglecting my Bitters and needed to do the next step (admittedly a bit delayed but that's fine- its not like it could go off with so much alcohol in it!).  
Its been so gloriously warm here that I decided to make some cordials/syrups to go with soda - a nice break from heavy homebrews!

Bitters step 2. Straining the chunks from the alcohol ready for soaking in water

et voila - Ready for another week of soaking (strained alcohol on the right - soaking in water on the left)

Tonic Syrup:
The last 2L of Tonic syrup certainly went quickly! so it seemed appropriate to make more whilst doing the next step with the Bitters. I stuck with the recipe from batch no.2 as I really liked the lemony/juniper flavours.
Cola Syrup: 
So I don't really like Coke, unless its with rum that is - however I was keen to have a play and try out this recipe adapted from Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, you can find it here .  We luckily still had some dried lavender from our Christmas lavender harvest at Mums.  I love any recipe that uses freshly grated nutmeg - it smells so damn good! 
Pretty Spices, a bit dubious about using lavender but it smells nice already!
It was quite easy to follow - similar to the other syrups - boil the spices- then add to a premade syrup. I didn't have any caramel colour but you can't taste colour so I didn't mind.    I added a little more fresh ginger to taste - you may note below that I love ginger :).
 According to my housemate it tasted like backstreet asian cola whatever that means (must be the star anise).
Much lighter colour than normal coke- also in my opinion yummier as it tastes like flowers :) !
Gingerbeer Syrup: 
I've made gingerbeer numerous times and invariably they end up tasting ridiculously alcoholic-delicious but deadly.  Having a yummy Bundaberg gingerbeer at lunch also tweaked my inspiration and armed with a massive chunk of ginger I also began a ginger syrup for a non-alcoholic version. 
3 cups of water 
1/2 cup of grated ginger (from a knob the size of my fist) 
1 tsp of citric acid 
I simmered them for 15 minutes and then added about 2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger for that little bit of zing before straining out the chunks 
I added some syrup made from 3/4 cup of white sugar and 3/4 cup of water to the ginger tea. The cordial isn't very sugary but has an awesome heat behind it! Perfect for adding to soda, rum or even fruit salads!
I also made some cracking cookies with the strained out ginger bits - The recipe was hell easy! and they look pretty yummy no? - They also taste amazing but you will have to trust me on that.  
Fluffy ginger biscuits! Definitely not healthy but ridiculously more-ish!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Pocket-full of Hearts

This was a lovely instant gratification project - the boyfriend was getting back from overseas the next day and I was in a romantic mood so why not make an incredibly corny skirt to wear to the airport? 
I've definitely been going though a jersey phase lately,  having finally worked out the right settings for my machine and also finding how much difference that using the right needles make.   I have had this fabric for years, I think getting it from Rathdowne (oh I miss that place!) when I lived in Melbs.
I drafted (well to be honest more like measured my waist, butt, and legs and then drew them straight onto the fabric) the pattern, added some elastic for the waist band and serged the inside seams. 
I've seen heart pockets before and kinda loved them! 
To make the pocket shapes I cut some thick interfacing the size of the finisehd pockets, and starched the pocket seam allowances under then interfaced directly onto the wrong side holding the seam allowances in and top stiching them onto the skirt. I had a little trim (but not enough to go all around the pockets) so added it to the pocket openings.  This skirt may not be the most robust in the longterm but its fun and playful in the meantime :)   
Its also a fun skirt for Valentines day :)
Teeeny tiny pockets- I can fit a hairband at least!
Deliciously corny!
Very simple profile

Don't look to closely at the dodgy top-stitching ;)

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Meat Week - Day 7

Its time to slow down the meat experiments! I do feel like I've learnt heaps but if I'm not careful I'll spend all my spare time planning what sausages to make next and we definitely don't eat enough meat for that!
But before I sign off--- its still Pastrami time! 
Fishing out the two hunks of brisket I corned for 3 days they didn't appear to have changed much- I dried them off and popped them in my "super professional smoking equipment" that I used for the bacon first. 
Finished with the brine. 
Smoked pastrami with a crust of pepper, coriander and fennel.
I learnt lots about cooking brisket with the first attempt
1. They need longer than 2 hrs at 100'C 
2. The need less than 10 hrs at 160'C ( or more water) 

The outside of the first hunk was a bit dry after the 10 hrs but it was beautiful and fall-aparty inside  (unlike at the 2hr mark where even a dinosaur would have trouble chewing it). 
The next hunk promises to be perfection. 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Meat Week - Day 6

Bacon day! The pork belly I injected and corned for a couple of days I deemed ready! After some drying with a tea towel it was time to test my smoking system!
Corning the pork belly
The extremely low tech solution to cold (ish) smoking was using a cardboard box (with a rack suspended on lengths of wood at the very top for the meat) above our little camp smoker box that uses a methanol burner. I used some hickory wood chips and everything now smells smokey instead of Worcestershire saucy!
It worked pretty well! I popped a thermometer in the top to make sure it didn't get toooo hot (The highest I measured was 50'C). After about an hour smoking I pulled it out et voila! Bacon!
'Bacon to be' in the smoking box.
Looks dodgy doesn't it!  Don't worry I kept an eye on it to make sure nothing important caught fire!
Good end result though!
After a bit of frying in a pan - I am now a bacon snob! 
I''m going to have to try another cut next time- the American style is pretty yummmy but uber fatty! Lots of plans! Have you ever made bacon? Are you addicted too?

Meat Week - Day 5

Its Jerkey time!
After drying in a 50'C oven for like 12 hrs the jerky is finally done! Its certainly more-ish, after having the whole house smelling like Worcestershire sauce for a whole day I was certainly keen for snacking!  Its pretty addictive, however you have to work for it!


The Bresaola (First started here) was also ready to come out of its dry cure  (having actually been in for 6 days). So far they were seen to have lost 15% of their initial weights- on track to the desired 40%!  It looks a bit silly all wrapped up in muslin however a friend suggested it rather than using casings as the recipe requires - Fingers crossed it behaves for the next 3 weeks! I'll keep you all updated on its progress.

Looking funky  in my fridge:)

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Meat Week - Day 4

This was to be a smoking day - However we decided to postpone it until I get back to Sydney with more supplies. We planned to do it in the bbq but it got too hot and didnt seal well enough for cold smoking- So instead it will be an electric frypan and a big cardboard box back in Sydney! Low tech I know but at least it works!
Instead I bought a brisket (well half one, I didnt realise it was like a whole side of a cow!) and prepped to make Pastrami and Jerkey.

Pastrami: I followed recipes based on Michael Ruhlmans for Homemade Pastrami using two pieces (970g and 660g) of brisket.
I used a syringe to inject the brine into the chunks - So much fun! I aimed for 15% injection rate.
Brine Injection time!

Brine Time!

Homemade Jerkey: I kinda made up my version based roughly on this recipe - I diverted towards the end as I never have all of those dried herbs.
For 1kg of finely sliced brisket I used
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup worchestershire
3 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of coriander seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar 

 I marinated the slices overnight and then threaded them onto skewers and popped them in the oven at 50'C with the fan on.  (I love mums oven- mine doesn't go as low!)
Hows it looking?
Slowly slowly drying!

 Home cured american style bacon: I was looking through a friends "Gourmet Farmer Deli Cookbook" (awesome book by the way!) and saw about 6 different recipes for bacon.  As I had some pork belly in the fridge I decided to go for the american style, I used some brown sugar rather than honey and added a tad of sodium nitrate (cure #1).  I injected the belly with some brine (still enthusiastic after the pastrami injections!) to speed up the process and popped it in the fridge!

Monday, 13 January 2014

Meat Week - Day 3

After the frenzy that was yesterday, today was much more reserved.

We finished the Italian potato sausages- as we were using the sheep casings I had to cut up the potato chunks teeny tiny to fit through the smaller nozzle - Lesson learnt: larger casings next time:)
They do look like proper sausages with the sheep casings though! Collagen ones are so easy to use but don't look as traditional! Think I will still stick with easy though!

We also divided up the previous sausages into portions and froze them, as there is not way we could eat ~10kg of meat in the next few days!

We have been eating the Mortadella on toast- Its quite flavourful with the pepper coming though nice and strong.
Mortadella- As its already been cooked its ready to eat!

While we fried up some of the pepperoni and had it in a tomato based pasta sauce! I think its a winner - sure to be repeated (much later as we have 2kg of it!)
Fried pepperoni pieces

Meat Week - Day 2

I think I possibly got a bit carried away today - quite sick of mincing pork!- But now its all minced and filled or curing in the fridge.

So todays programme included:

Michigan style potato sausages - 2kg:
We had some of the potato sausages for dinner and they were surprisingly delicious considering they are made from mostly raw potato and onions!

We altered the recipe slightly using all chuck beef rather than a mix with pork.

1.2kg Peeled and sliced potatoes (presoaked in citric acid and water)
340 g sliced onions
460 g sliced chuck beef
3 cloves of garlic
20 g salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp ground allspice

Everything was minced together though a 4.5mm plate- I drained some of the liquid off as they potatoes were certainly juicy! Then we filled some collagen casings quite loosely with the mix!  We cooked then in a tray with a bit of water in the oven - turning at 20 minutes!
You would never guess they were mostly potato- surprisingly delicious! will definitely add these to the list to make again.

Pepperoni - 2kg and Mortadella - 1.5 kg:
The Mortadella and Cooked Pepperoni were made pretty much according to the recipes-
We then cooked both strung up in our oven at 80'C with the fan on - which certainly sped up the cooking times! It looked like a little deli in there!
Pepperoni and Mortadella ready to cook in a 80'C oven - 1

Pepperoni and Mortadella ready to cook in a 80'C oven -2

Kasewurst - 1.5kg:
 When we were halfway through the Kasewurst we finally ran out of the collagen casings so moved onto the sheep casings - he he mini sausages!  We used some gouda cheese mum had made,  that was a bit harder than usual, so would be a good replacement for the emmenthaler that the recipe called for.  These look a little gross with the chunks of cheese but I imagine when cooked they will combine a bit more - We are trying them in the next few days so will keep you posted.

29/1/2014 - I cooked some of these delicious creations last night, steamed first for 15 minutes and then finished them off with a bit of pan frying.  Cheesy goodness.
Cheese sausages

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Meat Week - Day 1

And so Meat Week Begins!
I love learning how to make things! Whether its finding out about the history and methods of making cheese to researching the parameters needed to make a really good coffee, I love finding out how to make foods at home! I think it really makes you appreciate what your eating if you know how difficult it is to make or how important quality ingredients are!
Over Christmas I was looking over my Mums cookbooks and I found a recipe for Chorizo in the Movida cookbook – It looked so easy that I started thinking bigger! Bearing in mind that Mum has a meat grinder and sausage filling attachment the plans grew still!
The internet is a wonderful resource – this website in particular by Len Poli from Sonoma Mountain Sausages is great to refer to with enough scientific depth to be believable (and helpful!). 
So taking advantage of my Holidays and with some Cure#1 and Cure #2, a variety of casings as well as 6kg Pork meat, 2 kg Pork Fat, 3 kg Beef and 2 kg Lamb and my Mums amazing kitchen it began. 
 Day 1     
Having never made sausages I wanted to start small getting to know how the stuffing and grinding process worked!
Lamb Sausages: We cut up a 2.6kg leg of lamb- getting about 2kg of meat- we left the fat in and didn’t add any extra in!  We minced it on the coarsest setting and then added wine and rosemary according to a neighbours recipe until it stuck to your hand when you held it upside-down!  We stuffed it into collagen casings (omg they are soo easy – no presoaking or anything!) et voila!
We had some for dinner and they were yummy! As there wasn’t much fat they could have the tendency to dry out but we cooked them carefully and they were delicious! (and healthy!).

Freshly made lamb sausages
Bresaeola: This possibly delicious smallgood I made according to Lens recipe from Sonoma sausages . I used an eye fillet as I found a lovely small one rather than a HUGE sirloin! Starting weight of an eye fillet – 840g  - it was trimmed of fat and sinew/tendons and split into two pieces. Added a cure of   - Salt, Sugar, Cure #2, Rosemary, Juniper, Thyme to the pieces and popped it in the fridge
Chorizo: I used the recipe from the Movida cookbook
Batch 1 – For Fresh sausages
Batch 2 – For dried sausages
- 1kg  pork meat with 200g pork back fat.
- 1kg  pork meat with 200g pork back fat.
Spices: 2.5 tsp fine sea salt flakes
4 tbsps sweet paprika
1 tbsp hot paprika
1 tbsp dried oregano
a handful fresh oregano finely chopped

Spices: 3 tsp fine sea salt flakes
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp sweet paprika
1tbsp hot paprika
3 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cure#2
The chilled Meat (2kg pork leg ) and (400 g pork back) fat  where minced with the coarse mincer – then separated into batches and mixed with a kenwood chef with appropriate spice mixes. – Let me tell you the grinding is so much easier if the meat and fat it chilled/frozen prior- The batches were filled into collagen casings, tied off and refrigerated.
We had some of the fresh chorizo for dinner as well – we were a bit disappointed with the flavour profile (next time we will fry a little of the meat/spice mixture before we stuff to check!) it wasn’t very strong and kind of just tasted like pork sausages! We will still try and dry the batch #2 – Following this recipe from  (you guessed it) Sonoma Mountain Sausages!
Chorizo hanging to dry

Tommorow heralds more sausages - but interesting ones such as Potatos, Pepperoni, Cheese and Mortdella! 
 Any hints or tips are welcome!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Bitters and Tonic Water

I love learning how to make things, and comparing how they were made traditionally in comparison to how they are commercially produced now.  Sometimes the processes have remained similar - Bitters for example: the obvious brand choice is Angostura which has been around since the 1800's- The process hasn't changed over the years as its quite simple, using alcohol and water as solvents to remove different flavour compounds - I'm sure the scale has changed but the basic steps wouldn't have!
I think Melbourne is the King (or Queen) of Bitters at the moment- I remember tasting so many different house blends in little cocktail bars that when I lived in Melbourne I tried making some - the results initially looked good!
I had to do some substituting as its really hard to find Cinchona bark in Australia - its restricted due to its classification as a pharmaceutical as it contains quinine (I believe you can get some from a alternative medicine pharmacy in Sydney but only small amounts and its xx'y!  - If you want to learn more about quinine and malaria the book "The Miraculous Fever-tree" is a really good read!). Instead I added a tad more quassia bark. The recipe I based it on was from -here-.
Doesn't the quassia bark look ridiculously just like wood chips (left)! The gentian root doesnt look much more appetizing (right)!
But I learnt two lessons from that first attempt.
1. Don't burn your sugar syrup ... basic yes?
2. When you give up due to the burnt sugar syrup- don't leave the remaining mix sitting on the herbs and spices for the next two months before you do anything about it.- You won't make any friends that way, uberly, tongue curling, eye watering bitter!

In light of Pip from "Meet me at Mikes" post  (yes I love her) about making Tonic Syrup I was inspired to give making bitters another go! (and also try my hand at tonic syrup!).  I'm using the same Bitters recipe again (figuring I won't screw it up this time!).
Bitters Mixture (Day 1 of 24)

Whilst for the tonic syrup being the good little scientist I am, I wanted to do some different batches to tweak the recipe (I love tonic water so the more the merrier).
One batch is following the recipe on Pips Blog (See above)
I tweaked it a little for the second, substituting more lemon rather than the orange and adding a good handful of dried lemon verbena leaves as well as 1/2 tsp of juniper berries ( like 3 of them!).
For both versions I used a bit less sugar (6 cups rather than 8).
Both versions turned out quite yummy - I think I like the lemony one better as the tartness combats the bitterness well, while with the juniper berries it tastes like it already has gin in it :-) YUM
First batch of tonic syrup- in progress!

Tonic waters (Left) and Bitters mixture (right)
Excited to see how this batch of bitters turns out- I'll keep you posted!

-18/01/2014- I've already finished the batch of Tonic Syrup #2 - addicted...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Happy New Year!

The thing I love about the New Year is anticipating all the things to come, all those crafty projects progressing into things that are tangible!
A friend of mine showed me the pledge that Pip from Meet Me at Mikes has proposed for 2014 at breakfast on New Years Day. I love this idea and am excited to give it a go - I pretty much make most of my clothes already- but I like the thought of raising awareness of choices we have when it comes to fashion.
There are so many aspects of consumerism that lead to environmental degradation that it is nigh impossible to live sustainably, considering all the choices we have to make each day (Have you ever tried to go shopping using "Shop Ethical"? Very time consuming!).  However fashion is something that with a little bit of thought and not much extra effort we can make some important choices to make it sustainable.  I'm not going to go into sustainable and ethical fabrics as that's another can of worms!
So 2014 can be amongst other things, the Year of Ethical Fashion - Woo YOEF!  Wanna pledge too?  My friend has already given me a dress that doesnt fit her - so six days in, its progressing well :)

So far this year (the 6 days of it!) have been productive crafty wise!
With the boyfriend away, I can play in his uber cool shed and whipped up a thread holder (whilst learning the merits of pre-drilling nail holes).

Made an incredibly easy yet practical earring holder, using a hot glue gun, picture frame and fly screen. 

and a (possibly extremely tacky) pot plant from a light fitting (just added a perforated plate in the bottom to stop the soil falling through, and some cuttings from a friends garden!).    
For Christmas the Boyfriend gave me lots of sewing accoutrements, the Drape Drape books and Sew Chic. So excited I have already made a dress that I am very much in love with and it only took me 5 hours (stupid zipper).  I have grand plans to churn out some more, picture to come rest assured!!

Hows the New Year treating you so far?