Saturday, 31 December 2011

Laptop Bag

I initially was planning on making a laptop bag for my friend for Christmas (in the end I decided against it) so I made a prototype for myself in case I messed up. It was similar to the zippered pouches I made before but I used a much longer zip so it went around 3 sides instead of just the top. I loosely followed this tutorial. Simply cut your fabric to your laptop width/length + depth and continue as you would with a zippered pouch.

Again I used fusible fleece to pad it up for protection.

A little different to the zippered pouches - a curved edge with a longer zip. This was a bit tricky as there was a fair amount of material..

Zipper's on - now to sew it together!

Ta-da! Cosy laptop sleeve that looks much better than my boring black one..

I must admit I didn't do too well with the zipper - I did have to topstitch on the outside of the material so there wasn't a gaping hole where the end of the zipper was.. but lesson learnt!

Friday, 30 December 2011

Plastic bag holders

I found this tutorial and decided to make a plastic bag holder for my Nan and my Mum. I didn't do the patchwork bit but it was a quick and simple thing to make that is pretty useful. The fabric I used is my Nan's leftover from when she made her curtains! It's not so great in my opinion but my Mum and Nan liked it and it'll only be hung up in the kitchen/larder.. I think I need to make one for my house too, we have zillions of plastic bags!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Before I start anything.. here is my awesome Christmas present! Thanks parents! My first sewing machine. I also got framed art and some money to go to an embroidery class with Lara Sparks (check her out!) which I am very excited about. She has some awesome stuff on her website.

I made dinner on Christmas Eve. I saw this recipe on Pinterest and have been wanting to do it for a starter since. Now I'm home I don't have to pay for expensive fresh scallops myself! The recipe was a total success. It is so easy and simple. It must have been a fluke as I've never cooked scallops before but I seem to have cooked them for the perfect amount of time.

We bought the scallops two days before I cooked them and it was fine.

Season both sides of the scallops with plenty of salt and pepper.

Get the pan at it's hottest with a thin layer of olive oil.

Depending on the size (mine were fairly big) cook for two minutes on the first side and one minute on the second. My hob turned off while I was doing this for some reason so I cooked them a tiny bit longer as you want to get them nice and brown like below.

Plate up then immediately, then stick a large helping of butter (depending on the number of scallops you're doing) in the pan and mix it with the remnants of the burnt scallop.

Pour some white wine in until heated (won't take long!) then ta-da! You have this wonderful looking starter as below. The green is chopped parsley and in my opinion wouldn't be half as good without it.

For the main course I made crispy duck with a cherry sauce accompanied by parsley mash potato. I'm not sure if you can get this in the UK or the US, but I used Confit de Canard - already cooked legs of duck in duck fat.. tinned. It sounds a bit awful but the meat is unbelievably tender. It was so simple to make - knock off most of the fat then cook in the oven for around half an hour.. and you get perfect, fall off the bone, crispy skinned, leg of duck.. 

The cherry sauce was a Delia recipe, and can be found here. I had to bring the "Forest Feast sour cherries" and the "Morello Cherry Conserve" over from the UK but I'm sure substitutes would work just as well. 

For Boxing Day I contributed to the table with my own recipe of Christmas cabbage. 

1 red cabbage - thinly sliced
2 red onions - finely chopped
100g butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup port
1 cup orange juice

Melt the butter in a large(r than you think!) pan then cook the onions until soft.

Add the cinnamon and cook for a further minute or two.

Add the cabbage

I had about this much left as it was HUGE and I couldn't fit any more in the pan.

Add the sugar, port, orange juice, S&P and cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently, for at least 30 minutes.

It's ready when you have got it to your preferred consistency. I like it still with a crunch.

If you're reading this I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and have a great New Year's Eve planned!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Christmas Bread

Last Christmas I saw a Christmas Bread recipe on the TV and it looked so delicious I did it myself. Our family don't have any special traditions for Christmas morning/breakfast so I am kind of attempting to get this bread in there.. which means I am making it again this Christmas! Last holiday we had both my mum's brothers and their families over as well as my grandparents so it was a very full house. This Christmas it's just my immediate family, so we'll have to eat lots more of the bread ourselves! The recipe was from River Cottage and can be found here. I didn't change it too much.

75g raisins
125g sultanas
50g dried apple, roughly chopped (I used dried apple, pear and apricot)
2-3 tbsp apple brandy (I used normal brandy)
500g strong white flour
150ml warm milk
100g butter, softened
100g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
7g dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
60g hazelnuts, roughly chopped (I used ground hazelnuts)
2 tsp mixed peel
1 tsp preserved stem ginger (I did not include this in mine)
Zest ½ orange

Steep the raisins, sultanas and chopped fruit in brandy/apple brandy for a few hours or preferably overnight. I just did this first and it took a few hours before I needed them again in the recipe.

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, spices, eggs, milk, butter and vanilla in a large bowl and knead for around ten minutes until it's all combined, and the dough is smooth and elastic. (I had my little sister do this part!)

Leave to rise until doubled in size (this took at least two hours for mine.. and I forgot to take a picture after that!).

Once risen, spread the dough out on a surface and cover with the fruits, peel and nuts, roll up and knead lightly. The bits will come out but just push them back into the dough. 

Butter a cake tin and dust with flour. Divide the dough into seven equal balls and place them in the tin as below. Leave in a warm place for at least an hour to prove. Again I left mine for at least two hours to let it rise a bit more.

Sprinkle golden caster sugar/brown sugar on top (this wasn't included in the original recipe but is a tasty addition. Bake the bread in a preheated oven (160 degrees celcius) for 45-60 minutes.

I have the bread lightly toasted for breakfast (although I do have most bread toasted, it doesn't need toasting apparently) with some butter. Delicious!!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Vanilla Extract

I found a great tutorial for making your own vanilla extract and decided to make some in the summer so it would have a good few months to "steep" to be perfect in time for Christmas. It was super easy and unlike what my parents thought vanilla bean really isn't that expensive (even here in Switzerland!) The vodka was the pricier ingredient as I didn't use the crappy stuff.

I also tried out Vanilla Sugar which literally was slicing the vanilla pods in half then putting them in with the sugar in a jam jar and shaking.. a lot!

Here are the bottles a few minutes after I made them. I only made three as I had to buy the empty bottles which did cost too much to buy more, but they are pretty!

Starting to steep properly after a few days..

And here are them now! I made cut labels to size out of white stickers and wrote on them. 

All ready to be gifted to an unsuspecting person!