Friday, 28 December 2012

Cold Turkey

Now the big day has come and gone and the Boxing Day Buffet has exceeded all expectation but is now just a dim and distant memory along with the annual Knitted Christmas Sweater, our attentions now turn to what to do with the left-over Turkey et al.  Some women can keep Christmas left-overs going till Pancake Day but remember these are the women that probably put their Christmas veg on to boil in November.  It has to be said that some left-overs are best left to the dog/cat/rabbit/hamster/Shetland pony but in the absence of, then a little knowledge aforethought might not go amiss before you order the turkey and plan for the perfect Christmas feast:  


1. It's not just the oven the turkey has to fit into. You have to be able to house the beast in the fridge first without resorting to a Krypton Factor test of removing shelves, emptying the entire contents then put back as you remember.  

2. Turkey Crowns are a boon to the modern housewife but if you insist on buying the real thing then always downsize. Everyone always pigs-out for lunch so barely has room for a wafer thin slice of turkey in the evening. Either that or go down the goose-route.  

3. Fridges do tend to take on a life of their own around this festive period, becoming almost Narnia-esque.   When searching for the already sliced-into lemon you've stashed away somewhere in cling film wanting to load your glass of gin and tonic, you never seem to reach the back of the fridge and instead end up touching something soft and furry and then extremely cold only to discover the canopes from Christmas Eve have developed fur coats of their own.

4. Beware of parsnips cunningly disguised as roast potatoes.  Although personally I am a great fan of parsnips I do appreciate there are always those who have an aversion to the much maligned parsnip so best not to cook too many unless you know they are spoken for.

5. This is an absolute must - ensure you have enough room in the fridge to chill the Champers and white wine even if it means jettisoning the stuff for the Boxing Day Buffet to the garage. Don't rely on the cupboard under the stairs as a makeshift fridge to chill down the Christmas booze. Remember Harry Potter lived here till he went to Hogwarts so it's certainly not cold enough to chill the fizz.


I remember as a child growing up, the left-over turkey meal of choice my mum would cook at Christmas would be Turkey and Chips and she would cook real chips cooked in a deep saucepan of cooking oil, not the cheat's oven chips of today.

Turkey curry is always a good standby but came across this recipe for turkey left-overs in an American cook book and they of all people should know a lot about Turkey seeing as they have a double whammy of Turkey with Thanksgiving in November as a pre-cursor to Christmas. It is a variation on the classic New York recipe for Chicken Divan:

Turkey Divan 

6 good slices of left-over turkey
1 tin condensed cream of chicken soup (thinned slightly with a splash of sherry and a little cream or milk)
Head of Broccoli (cooked)
Grated Parmesan/Cheddar (or whatever cheese you have got to hand) 

Put about one quarter of the soup mixture in the based of a buttered casserole, Add the broccoli and cover with the slices of turkey.  Pour over the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle generously with the cheese and bake uncovered at 180C for about twenty minutes till bubbling. (Serves 5-6)

I will leave the last word to the gospel according to Delia.  I always follow her instructions on Christmas Day to the letter - got to be done - you can't deviate from the great Delia.  


Turn the chipolatas and bacon rolls over, then you are free for a few minutes to go and have a pre-lunch glass of champagne.  You deserve it."



Merry Christmas Everyone and a Happy 2013!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Great Jumpers of our Time No 5 - 21 years in the making

Strictly speaking a cardigan not a jumper, yesterday I finally finished the Fair Isle cardigan I started knitting 21 years ago. A cause for celebration indeed as it has been a real labour of love. When I first started knitting it all those years ago, Fair Isle was very on trend, then slipped out of fashion but fortunately for me Fair Isle is once again de rigueur appearing in all the high street stores. Darling Daughter who once pooh-poohed it not so long back, thinking it was horrendous and soooo middle-aged, has her eyes firmly set on it now and this is only because her favourite shop Jack Wills - University Outfitters Fabulously Overpriced  is full of Fair Isles. I have relented a bit though and told her she can borrow it from time to time. 

   The Jack Wills Hensingham Cardigan -  a snip at £129.00


The Jack Wills Sedburgh Jumper - a bargain at only £98.50

So why has it taken me so many years to knit?  Well with Fair Isle you have to follow a chart which is like graph paper where each square represents 1 stitch.  This is not something you can do easily while watching TV and the fact that I needed a magnifying glass to see the chart didn't help either. Other things got in the way too like juggling a career with bringing up baby so the knitting took a back seat plus the fact that knitting itself seemed to go out of fashion. When I first bought the wool there was a wool shop on every high street but now sadly there are very few or we have to rely on major department stores and on-line shopping.  This was also a time when in women's magazines the knitting patterns and recipes fast started disappearing in favour of celebrity shenanigans such as who's fat, who's thin, who's pregnant and who's got the worst  cellulite. 

Also interesting to note that 21 years ago the wool, which is 100% Lambswool Tweed, cost me around £27 but  if I bought the wool today it would set me back a whopping £95 although it has to be said that Rowan yarns (which I absolutely adore) always have been a bit on the dear side.
The rather dog-eared original Rowan pattern

DD put an order in for a Fair Isle of her own a few weeks ago thinking I would have it knitted and sewn up ready for her Christmas stocking. Which Christmas and what planet is she on?  Based on my track record she would be 38 by the time it's finished and God knows how old that would make me. Would I ever be tempted to knit another? Not bloody likely! But then again look at this absolutely divine Fair Isle I have spotted in the latest Rowan Autumn/Winter magazine issue 52.

And as my dear old mum used to say:

 "You can never have too many cardigans"  


                                                                                                  Frances Prestwich 1924 - 2002 

Great Jumpers of our Time No 1 - Howard & Hilda
Great Jumpers of our Time No 2 - Colin Firth
Great Jumpers of our Time No 3 - Sara Lund, The Killing
Great Jumpers of our Time No 4 - Tom & Barbara Good

Friday, 7 December 2012

Kimono My House

We had a really inspiring and interesting talk this week at the Solihull Embroiderer's Guild from textile artist Marion Plumb on the kimono. Marion brought along some of her extensive collection of vintage kimono and obi shashes for us to look at and gave us an overview of the history and the decorative techniques used to produce them.

The kimono are hand-stitched and here is the detail from one that has been hand embroidered. They really were something to behold and the intricate stitchwork was stunning.

Kimono are still worn today mostly by Japanese women for special occasions.   Marion brought with her examples of kimono called furisode which are worn by girls when they reach the age of 19 at the start of their 20th year to celebrate their coming of age. The furisode is made of brightly coloured silk with huge long sleeves to the floor designed to signify they are single and available for marriage.

Here are some stunning examples of obi which are the sashes used to tie the komono.  They are made of brocade and can be up to 13ft long.    

Here is a shibori dyed kimono which is the Japanese art of tie-dying using folding, twisting, stitching and binding. Modelled beautifully here by my good friend and textile artist  June Parkinson