Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Secretary Skirt

I may have said I wanted to sew more clothes this year, but there's been hardly any evidence of it on here. It's not that I've been slacking off though - my machine has been working hard, but it's mostly been working on clothes for sale now that I've started back at the Tea Rooms again. But here, finally, is something I can show!

 I knew what I wanted to make with this unknown (polyester?) suiting fabric as soon as I found it in the op-shop - it would be perfect for a pencil skirt! At only 50p for about 2 metres, it didn't matter too much if I screwed it up.

The pattern is self-drafted, based on a few skirts I had, and plenty of Google images for research. It turned out to be fairly simple, although the first version came out a bit too wide at the hem. I fixed that by tapering it a couple of inches from the hips, so to give it that snug, fitted look. And snug it was too - I'd just finished lunch before the photoshoot, and had to get the Manbacon to close me up.

The faux-leather for the waistband came from a friend's fabric stash - we're currently working on handpainted cushions, and are using the fake leather for the backs of some of them. I 'borrowed' a long, narrow strip for the front. The back of the waistband was made up in the same fabric as the rest of the skirt.

The polyester fabric is fairly thick on it's own, but has a rough, scratchy quality that really irritates my skin. To make the skirt wearable, I lined it with some lilac acetate-type fabric I'd got of eBay. It's finished with a metal-toothed zipper rescued from a pair of the Manbacon's unwanted trousers, and 2 little hook-and-eyes to close off the waistband. (The hook-and-eyes were another awesome op-shop bargain - a whole spaghetti sauce jar of them - sans spaghetti sauce, of course - for the princely sum of 50p!)
 Of course, as soon as I got it all finished and photographed, the weather became much too warm for me to wear a fully lined, thick polyester skirt, and all I want to do these days is to swan around in floaty summer skirts. 

Blouse - op-shop, pencil skirt - selfmade, black tights - Primark (I think?)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Good Friday Brownies

How do you transform Good Friday into Awesome Friday? With a picnic in the park, sustained by lots of homemade brownies, of course. These brownies combine those two Easter essentials, eggs and chocolate, and can be customised with other goodies such as nuts or cherries, or simply left plain.

Good Friday (or any other day) Brownies

250gm butter 
200gm dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
200gm caster sugar
100gm cocoa powder
75gm plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
about 150gm nuts/cherries (optional)


- Preheat oven to 180C. 

- Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, add butter and chocolate to the bowl and stir gently until melted. Take bowl off heat, add cherries/nuts, if using.

- In a separate bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the dry mixture into the bowl of chocolate and butter. 

- Lightly whisk the eggs, then combine with the rest of the batter. Gently stir everything together until you get a smooth, silky consistency.

- Pour batter into a square baking tray and bake for about 25-30 mins.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Flourless Strawberry Cake

'Be prepared...' - it pays to keep that old Boy Scout motto in mind when planning your bakes, especially when it comes to your own birthday cake. Having come across a huge punnet of strawberries for the ridiculously reduced price of only 59p while at the supermarket, I was all hyped up to bake myself a wonderfully pink strawberry cake. It would be a strawberry and semolina cake, I decided on the way home - I thought I had half a bag of semolina at the back of the cupboard, and of course, didn't bother to check again.
I'm sure you can guess how the rest of this story goes...I opened the cupboard to reach for the bag of semolina, only to find I had...nothing. Undeterred, I decided to use the flourless orange cake recipe and substitute strawberries for the oranges. Of course, that wasn't the end of the saga - I discovered that I only had 5 eggs and 175 grams of ground almonds (the original recipe calls for 6 eggs and 200 grams of ground almonds). If you're thinking 'Why didn't you just go to the shop to get more?' then you probably haven't been reading this blog for long. I'm lazy, and it was dark, and I was tired, and hungry, and...and...
The resulting cake was very moist indeed, but it wasn't a complete failure. In fact, the texture was fairly similar to that of a nonbaked cheesecake. I can't wait for summer to come around again so I can have tons of juicy strawberries on hand to try this recipe again.

Flourless Strawberry Cake

400gm strawberries, roughly crushed
5 eggs, separated
175gm caster sugar
175gm ground almonds
1 tbsp baking powder


- Preheat oven to 180 C and lightly grease/line a 9 inch springform tin. 

- Beat egg yolks and sugar together until pale, then beat in strawberries, almonds and baking powder.

- Beat egg whites until soft peaks, then fold gently into mixture. Pour batter into baking tin, and bake for an hour until firm to the touch. 

- Cool the cake in the tin, then remove it and dust icing sugar over it before serving. Enjoy!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


The best - and certainly the tastiest - birthday present a girl could ask for!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Friday, 1 April 2011

Zesty Orange Crisps

Spring's arrival has brought with it a craving for orange. It could be because of the longer, brighter days, or it could my body telling me I need more vitamins - I'm hardly ever in the sun enjoying the longer, brighter days, after all (and my pasty, glow-in-the-dark legs are testament to that.)

Whatever the reason, I'm hardly one to say no to desserts, especially fruity ones. What to make this time, though? I'm not really a fan of orange-flavoured chocolates (sorry, Terry's) - I find them a little too cloying - and I just made an orange cake not too long ago. Well, how about biscuits then? A quick and impatient Google search didn't throw up many recipes that grabbed me, so I thought I'd indulge in an experiment instead. 

Orange Crisps

(makes about 40 biscuits)

150gm caster sugar
150gm butter, softened
225gm plain flour
1 tbsp vanilla extract
grated rind of 1 orange
2 tbsps orange juice

- Cream sugar and butter until fluffy. Add in vanilla extract, orange zest and juice.

- Stir in flour, knead mixture lightly, roll into a 2 inch wide sausage shape, wrap it in greaseproof paper or clingfilm and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

- Preheat oven to 175 C, and take the biscuit mixture out of the freezer. Slice off fairly thin pieces (I made mine about 3mm thick) and place them on a greased baking tray. Leave some space inbetween, as they will spread a little while in the oven.

- Bake for about 6-8 minutes, until lightly golden and remove from oven to cool.

At this stage, you can eat them as they are, or make a glaze to drizzle over them. I only made a glaze for them because I wanted to pretty up some burnt ones, so it's not strictly necessary, but it does help finish up the rest of the juice from your zested and squeezed orange.

50gm icing sugar
2tbsp orange juice

- Mix icing sugar and orange juice until you get a runny consistency, then drizzle the mixture over the biscuits with a fork. Leave to set, then enjoy!

They can be stored in an airtight box for up to a week (if you can resist them for that long!).