Friday, 29 March 2013

The Tartlet for Easter

I love tartlets! I probably said this so many times before... they are sooo cute! This one is perfect for Easter! Not only it has a spring appeal (contains refreshing wild berries with crunchy meringue topping), but it also can be made in any season as frozen berries are totally expectable. Have a lovely Easter weekend!

Makes  6

For the sweet pastry:

110g softened unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
1 small egg
210g plain flour
a pinch of salt

For the berry filling:

Half cooking apple
4 tbsp frozen mixed berries
60g caster sugar

For meringue:

4 egg whites
200g caster sugar
poppy seeds for deco

1. Make the pastry in a food processor, if you have one, by placing all the ingredients in the machine and pulsing gently until they form a soft but not sticky dough. If you are making the pastry by hand, lightly cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden or plastic spoon. Beat the egg and to the creamed mixture a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Sift the flour and salt on to a piece of baking parchment and add to the creamed mixture all in one go. Bring the paste together gently to form a soft but not sticky dough. Do not over-handle it.
2. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 2hours. Then roll it out on a lightly floured work surface to about 5mm thick and use to line six 10cm loose-bottomed tartlet tins. Leave the lined tartlet tins to rest in the fridge for 30min.
3. Preheat the oven to 170C. To bake the pastry cases blind, line it with cling film and fill with baking beans . Bake for about 15min, until the pastries have started to colour and bases are firm to touch. Remove the packages of beans and return the pastry cases to the oven for about 10 min, until the pastries are golden brown. Leave to cool completely.
4. Turn the oven down to 150C.
5. To make the filling shred apple into the saucepan and heat it together with the berries and sugar. When the sugar is completely melted spoon the filling into the baked cases.
6. Finally, prepare the meringue topping by whisking the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff (it's best to use an electric mixer for this as it takes a while). Add the sugar a little at  a time until it is fully incorporated. The meringue should be stiff and glossy.
7. Spread the meringue over the berry filling and bake for 40min.
8. Sprinkle some poppy seeds (for deco purposes only)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Homemade lifestyle

I love creating, crafting and DIY projects! I would like to think that I buy less (and spend less by being really really frugal) and make more, however this is still not truth. I started making my own cosmetics and soap so hopefully this will take towards my goal (to live homemade lifestyle of course).
To make this soap you will need:

610g olive oil
85g caustic soda (I bought mine in B&Q and I have seen some sold in Boots)
230ml water
2 tsp lemon balm or citronella essential oil
zest of 3 oranges
zest of 2 lemons

Safety googles
Rubber gloves 
A stainless steel or enamel (not aluminum) pot
A glass or plastic pitcher to hold the water and caustic soda
A glass or plastic measuring jug
Plastic or wooden spoons (that you are not going to use for food again)
A stick blender/hand processor
Two thermometers with the prong (I used one, but had the kitchen towel paper at hand to wipe after each use)
Kitchen towel paper for clean ups 

1. Prepare the workspace and gather all the ingredients ( you will be working with caustic soda, dangerous chemical, so make sure children and pets are not underfoot while you work). Make sure you have googles (I used my own spectacles which was safe enough) and rubber gloves at hand, because caustic should never touch your skin, as it would burn you (for more info read on how to work with caustic soda (sometimes called lye) safely. 
2. Pour 230ml cold water (around 20C) into the pitcher. Measure 85g caustic soda and pour it into measuring jug. Add caustic soda into the water (not the other way round; don't add water into the caustic soda) and as you doing that keep your face turned away to avoid inhaling the fumes. Set the mixture aside as it is cooling down and fumes dissipate. 
3. Weigh out 610g of oil and pour it into pot. When Caustic soda water is around 45C start slowly heating the oil. When both oil and caustic soda are at the similar temperature (around 35C-39C), gradually pour caustic soda mixture into the oil while mixing (do not use metal spoon for this).
4. Use stick blender to mix the mixture for 5-10 min until "tracing" occurs (you should see the spoon leaving visible trace behind it, like in the pudding). If you don't see any tracing, be patient and try again after 10-15min rest.   
5. Add essential oil and orange/lemon zests in to the mixture, mix and then pour it into the moulds. I used celicon loaf baking tin, but if you are using regular baking tin do line it with baking paper as well. Be sure you are still wearing your rubber gloves at this stage, since raw soap is caustic and can burn skin. 
6. Leave the soap in the tin/mould for 36hours before unmolding.
7. To unmold the soap turn tin/mould over and allow it to fall on a towel or clean surface. Cut the soap into desired size pieces (I used cookie cutters to cut out these lovely heart shaped pieces).
8. Allow the soap to cure before packaging or before use for min of 3 weeks.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

At my grandma's!

Happy Mother's and Grandma's day (if I can add that just because I feel this is fair)!
So... this lovely lady is my grandma and I had such a wonderful time visiting her today. As I mentioned before, her home is my paradise as so many cool old-fashioned things can be found there. Although my dad warned me today once more that I should not "steal" my grandma's stuff (well... she gives everything with joy, so never considered to call it stealing), I took a lot of pictures to show you how lovely her home looks....

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Make your own apron

I made this apron for my friend Vickie (late birthday gift) who is wonderful in cooking (great chopping skills may I say). This was also a good chance for me to try out my new vintage sewing machine which works like a dream and it was quite affordable on e-bay.  Few things had to be fixed of course, but I still recommend old fashioned machine to anybody who wants to sew (not manual however, unless you want to be making apron for one month). And if you do get a vintage machine I really recommend Jennie (from London) who was really really helpful (and positive), it was so lovely to meet her!

Anyway I made the apron... happy happy! (I used to sew a lot in the past when I studied Fashion at Uni, so was feeling a bit nostalgic, missing all this sewing experience).... And this is how I wrapped the gift...
So how did I make it? Well... try it for yourself! The draft drawing might look too complicated for the beginner, but user friendly instructions will be coming out soon! Meanwhile drop me a line and I will be more then happy to help :)

1. First, Cut out the pieces of course! Give 3cm seam allowance everywhere except the pocket (square piece) which is 2cm allowance.
2. Then make two strips for tying on the back (long ones) and one for the head loop (shorter one) by folding in the ends, then the edges and stitching alongside.
3. Start with the main apron piece by folding bottom edge twice (1.5cm each time) and stitching it down.
4. Repeat the same with the top edge, except that this time insert the strip (shorter one) to make a loop
5. Do the same for the sides and insert one strip on each side to make the ties.
6. Now the last bit left is to fold (twice) and stitch the curvy edges (Tip: Use an iron to press down so you dont fiddle with that when you are sewing)
7. Can you see two tripple notches on the the top. Well, that is a guideline where the two pleats should go. So make a 2cm wide pleat and stitch down on the edge.
8. Stitch pocket edges same way as the other edges, just this time fold 1cm folds. Then stitch the pocket on the apron.

Done! Please let me know if you have any difficulty in understanding the instructions.