Monday 27 July 2009

All done bar the shouting

Congratulate me. I've finally sewn up the Refined Aran Jacket and sewn on the buttons. Now to block it and photograph it.

- Pam (Procrastinators'r'Us)

Tuesday 21 July 2009


I'm still lusting after the moussaka I cooked for dinner last night and had again for lunch today. It was scrummy(!!!) so I thought I'd share.

My recipe is based on one from the Greek Cookbook by Tess Mallos, which I bought in a secondhand bookshop in Melbourne in 1997. I've modified it a little - the original uses a white sauce, whereas mine uses plain yoghurt.

Lamb Moussaka - serves 4-6


2-3 Aubergines/eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick
500g/1lb minced/ground lamb
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
150-200g/6-8oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree/paste
1/2 cup of red wine
1/4 teaspoon cinamon
1 teaspoon sugar
300ml (approx half a pint) of plain yoghurt
2oz/50g freshly grated parmisan cheese or very strong cheddar
2 eggs
Olive oil

  1. Pre-heat the grill/broiler. Lightly grease a large baking tray and cover it with aubergine slices. If possible, try to keep it to a single layer. Brush the top of each slice with olive oil. Grill/broil for 30 minutes, turning at half time. The aubergine should be soft and browned.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Heat a frying pan or large pot. Crumble in the lamb and dry fry until browned. Stir in the garlic, onion and mushrooms, if using, and fry in the lamb fat until the onions have gone clear and the mushroom "water" has evaporated.
  4. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, cinnamon, sugar and wine. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the sauce is thick.
  5. When the sauce and aubergine are ready, preheat the oven to 180C.
  6. Line a lasagne dish with a layer of aubergine. Check out how much you have left - is it half or two-thirds? If it is half, pour all the sauce over the first layer and cover with the remaining aubergine. If it is two-thirds, pour half the sauce over the first layer of aubergine, cover with a second, pour over the rest of the sauce and cover with a final layer.
  7. In a bowl or jug, beat the eggs together then stir in the yoghurt until thoroughly combined. Grate over some nutmeg - 5 rubs of the nutmeg over the grater should do. Stir it in.
  8. Carefully pour the yoghurt mixture over the contents of the lasagne dish (it tends to run off the sides!). Try to get an even coverage. Sprinkle over the cheese.
  9. Bake for an hour, then let sit for 10 minutes before serving to firm up.

  • If you keep Kosher, use a soy-based fake yoghurt instead of the plain yoghurt and forget about the cheese. That works well.
  • Jewish cookery writer, Evelyn Rose, in the Jewish Cronicle, suggested using coconut milk mixed with eggs as a non-dairy substitute for the traditional white sauce I've not tried this variation, but she said it made a rich topping which brought out the sweetness of the lamb.
  • The recipe book suggests using courgettes/zucchini instead of aubergine. Yet another way of using up a glut of zukes.
- Pam

Sunday 19 July 2009

On the cusp

I'm on the cusp of a new project but I'm out of knitting bags. The Refined Aran Cardigan is essentially finished; the Must Have Cardigan is essentially finished; both are in pieces and just need to be sewn up. I'm refusing myself permission to cast on until I've got both of those sewn up. They're taking up valuable knitting bag space. I can't even start the swatch until they're out of the way.

I used to be a product knitter. Although I loved the process, knitting was essentially about the garments I wanted to wear. When I finished something, I couldn't wait to sew it up so that I could wear it. It was Rule One: don't cast on something else until the current project is sewn up.

Not any more. Sometime in 2006, it all changed. I blame the Yarn Harlot. Until I started reading her blog, I used to only ever have one project on the needles at a time. Somehow, she gave me "permission" to have multiple projects and, from then on, it was all about the process. I still want to knit specific garments, but once Rule One was broken, there was no going back. I now have a stock pile of "Waiting to Sew Up" garments.

I have to reinstate Rule One. I can't go on like this. Besides.... I don't have any more knitting bags!

- Pam

(This isn't to say that I don't have any knitting I can do. There is always my handbag sock-in-progress, and my "travel knitting" project. What? I haven't told you about that one? Later...)

Tuesday 14 July 2009


I've "lost" Ravelry. Has anyone else had this problem, recently?

I'd just finished writing up one of my current projects, complete with notes on gauge and sizing, went to save it and lost the whole thing! Then I clicked on the other Ravelry tab I had open, to see if I'd saved anything and that crashed too. Tried again, off and on for the next hour without success.

It's back now but only intermittently. Naturally, I'VE LOST EVERYTHING!

- Pam (Not best pleased)

Sunday 12 July 2009

Dear Costco

Please tell me why the bag of garlic I purchased came all the way from China. Why didn't it come from Evesham, or somewhere in Europe? Even Gilroy is closer to here than China. Surely you've heard of food miles? Is the cheapness of the product worth the additional cost to the environment of shipping it in from so far away?

If you have to ship stuff in from the far side of the world, couldn't you ship in stuff we can't get easily get here like Nutrageous or cinamon toothpaste or Violet Crumbles? At least there'd be some justification for those.

- Pam (doubt I'll renew my membership)

Tuesday 7 July 2009


A couple of weeks ago, we scored 6 x 100g balls of organic buffalo mozzarella cheese for 70p a ball, approximately half price. My first thought was "pizza!" followed by "lasagna". Four of the balls went straight into the freezer. The other two languished in the fridge until the Friday, when I made my first pizza for nearly 6 years.

That's right. I haven't made a pizza since we moved into this house, mainly because my gas-hob-electric-ovens stove isn't wired in. Our only working oven is a combination microwave-convection oven and I'd never considered it as a pizza oven. With DH's encouragement, though, I thought I'd have a go. After all, what's the worst that could happen? We could always phone out for a takeaway.

Turns out, the dough recipe is engraved on my brain (just as well - I don't have the magazine I got it from). So was the tomato sauce recipe. Even more surprising, the ancient freeze-dried instant yeast still worked (use by date October 2001).


Make the tomato sauce while the pizza dough is rising. It needs to be cool before you dress the pizza.

Pizza Dough Recipe (makes sufficient for two pizzas)


2.5 cups strong flour (I used wholemeal)
1 cup of tap water
1 sachet instant yeast
Pinch of salt
Olive oil


  1. In a food processor, combine the flour, the salt and the yeast granules.
  2. Through the feeding tube, gradually add the water until the dough forms a ball. Note: you may not need all the water - it depends on the ambient humidity.
  3. Flour a pastry board or the kitchen worktop. Turn the dough out onto the board and knead by hand for a minute or so.
  4. Oil a large bowl. You can use spray oil or pour in a teaspoon or so of oil and swish it round.
  5. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it over until it is covered in oil (this stops it getting hard on top). Cover with a tea-towel and place somewhere warm and draft free to rise.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size (in approximately an hour), "knock it back": punch the middle of the dough to release the accumulated gasses and knead it for a minute.
  7. Cover again with the tea-towel and set the dough aside for its second rising.
  8. Repeat step 6. This time, though, after kneading the dough divide it into two and form into balls. If you are only making one pizza, pop the second ball into an oiled plastic bag and freeze.
  9. Flour your pastry board again and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it fits your designated pizza dish (I used to use a rectangular cookie sheet with a small lip, now I have a round one). Gently ease the dough into the pizza dish and leave it to rise for 20 minutes or so.
The dough freezes well. Defrost it in the fridge, then follow step 9 above.

Pizza sauce (makes enough for two pizzas)


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finally chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 x 400g/14 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2-3 black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon tomato puree/paste


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the onion and garlic until the onion is transparent but not coloured.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least half an hour or until thick.
  3. Remove the bay leaf, switch off the hob and allow the sauce to cool.
  4. If the sauce is too chunky for your liking, liquidize it to suit.
The sauce freezes well and can be used for pasta.

Assembling the Pizza

While the dough is rising in the pizza dish, prepare your other ingredients. We usually use a drained can of tuna, some salted anchovy fillets, sliced peppers and an equal mix of grated cheddar and shredded mozzarella cheeses.

If you like mushrooms on your pizza, you'll need to prepare them a day or two in advance. Slice the mushrooms thinly and let them dry out as much as possible, otherwise your pizza will drown in the liquid they release.

Preheat the oven to 250C.

Thinly spread the pizza sauce on the freshly risen dough in the pizza dish. Layer over your other ingredients.

Place the pizza on the top shelf in the hot oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cooked.

Serve. Yum!

- Pam

Monday 6 July 2009

A small victory

The other place I went to on Friday was Ikea. It was a long overdue visit in search of storage containers.

In the corner of my bedroom was a corner of shame. A corner of clothes piled high because there was nowhere else to put them, in front of a wardrobe bursting at the seams. I could only open one wardrobe door because of the clothes. Not any more. Behold the corner of my bedroom:

The boxes are Sortera by Ikea. I spent several hours on Saturday morning sorting out the mess, unearthing clothes I'd forgotten about, folding and organising them. I delved into the bottom of the wardrobe, unearthed and paired up shoes I haven't worn in months. The bottom box is shoes, the middle two are sweaters (casual on the bottom, work wearable above) and the top one holds jeans, shorts and my tracksuit.

DH helped me move the bureau slightly, to create a little more space. Result: for the first time in years, I can open both the wardrobe doors and access its deepest recesses.

Part of my long term plan is to sort out our wardrobe space (DH's is on the other side of the chimney). We're still using the built-ins that a previous owner installed. They aren't deep enough - you can't slide coat-hangers past the upright between the doors. My wardrobe is deceptively small, about two-thirds the size of its exterior - the outside is 40 inches wide but the inside loses 12 inches to the chimney. In theory it's floor-to-ceiling, but the top section contains a decorative arch, depriving me of even more space assuming I could actually reach up there. (I can't.) That needs lowering.

At the moment, the chimney holds a shelf and a mirror. I'd like to put a shoe cupboard in front of it, flush with the wardrobe doors, something along the lines of these cabinets from Ikea. And I'd like it to appear integrated into one unit with the revamped wardrobes. However, the wardrobe is another problem for another day.

For today, I'll bask in my small victory over a corner of mess.

- Pam

Friday 3 July 2009

A Not-Quite-Shopping Day

Today, I ventured into the lion's den: I visited the shops in Oxford Street in the middle of the summer sales. I wasn't there to go shopping. I hoped to get away without spending any money. My main purpose was to collect my boots from the RM Williams shop in New Bond Street.

I'd had to send them back to Australia to be reheeled and resoled. They've come back looking brand new. I reckon they're good for another 3 years of constant wear. (The picture comes from their website. )

After RM Williams, I ventured into dangerous territory - the yarn department at John Lewis. My motive was mainly pilgrimage; for many years, John Lewis was the only place you could buy yarn in Central London. There was no-where else. Back when I worked nearby, I was a regular customer. Back then, I didn't have a stash - I didn't need one - I used to buy per project because I could always pop into John Lewis for some more.

<- cough ->

I wasn't shopping; really, I wasn't.

<- cough ->

I wanted some sock yarn in pink/blue/lavender to make some socks as a thank you for a colleague in the States who does loads of work for me. Those are her favourite colours. But I wasn't planning to buy anything else.


I found the perfect colourway in Wendy's Happy; it's called Aquarius. And then something else fell into my shopping bag. (Honest!)

Two hanks each of Mirasol's Chirapa Crystal in Spearmint and Hacho in Verde Ripple. The Mirasol was half-price in the sales. I should get a pair of socks out of each colourway. The Happy will make at least 3 pairs of socks: 2 pairs to give away and 1 pair for me.

Next, I ventured into Debenhams to replace a belt I'd received as a gift and returned (it was far too big for me). Walked in, found the belts hanging in the accessories department, picked the only one in my size, paid for it with the gift voucher I'd received for the last one and walked out within 10 minutes.

Finally, I wandered into Boots, in a vain attempt to find their clearance shelves. I've found some wonderful bargains on their clearance shelves: makeup base in my shade at 50p a bottle (bought 6); cleanser at 50p a bottle (ditto) and body lotion at 40p (bought 2). But not today. Instead, I got ambushed by an Estee Lauder saleswoman determined to sell me lipstick. I resisted, then sent her on a futile attempt to find the elusive shade of dark-red I've been tracking for years. Defeated, she let me escape.

Even with my little yarn slip-up, I think I did very well resisting the siren call of the Sales. No browsing through the sale racks. No "little purchases". No lipstick in a shade that I'd never wear.

The first law of saving money is Don't Spend It. The second law is If You Have To Spend It, Make Sure It's In Your Budget. At least, with my yarn slip-up, there was money in my Sanity fund to pay for it.

- Pam