August Links Post

Things I have done

Things friends have done

  • Almost immediately crowd-funded an illustrated version of the Ars Goetia, well done Lucian!

Things strangers have done

  • Come up with Oystercard wristbands, which I want like I want chocolate gin and world peace, because it would be satisfying and useful and it displays your balance! You don’t have to be at an Oyster machine to know how much is on there! These things need to become a reality immediately. I will pay the price. (Edit: Friend who works In Trains says this is not feasible, and I am upset).
  • The Royal Society have launched a Print On Demand service for their archive prints, so any other nerds who love old scientific illustrations like everyone Chez Des Anges does is in for a treat.
  • Wrote a brilliant defence of the Narnia books from the boring, oft-wielded “Susan Argument”. I’ve had so many arguments with people that have ended in taking down The Last Battle and making them read the actual words themselves, rather than regurgitating a misremembering by another writer, while muttering “words mean things” in their ear, it’s quite nice to see someone taking another approach.
  • Made a website where you can design your own shoes.
  • Made a very popular website which responds to a list of the ingredients you have to hand with recipes you can make with them. Although as the front page included the words “American Cheese” I’m guessing it’s focus is not necessarily as useful if you’re accessing it from a kitchen in Lagos.

Sewing: Bottle Pyjamas and tweed breeks

One upside of the godawful recent weather has been the somewhat contrarian desire to head out and then to promptly dive into the nearest shop in order to shelter from the downpour, which has led to interesting discoveries, like the presence of a tweed-a-like blanket for sale in a local charity shop for under three quid – immediately seized upon with a cry of “TROUSERS”. “Trousers” for me does generally mean that the item of clothing does not extend much below the knee (I wear knee boots most of the time and long socks all the time and thus deemed it pointless to waste fabric on the extra inches of leg), but in the case of some light pyjama pants made with £1-a-metre cotton from the end-of-roll shop which also supplied me with this wool, I made an exception.

 

Wrinkles were not originally included.
Wrinkles were not originally included.

Those are not my trainers.

Side view

The blur is also not original but my other half left a load of forms on the floor.

I am enjoy this stitch and will be using it more.
I am enjoy this stitch and will be using it more.

The breeks were a slightly more involved prospect and involved lining up some patterned fabric (always a nightmare); they also go lined with some old army thermal pants because I was entirely too lazy to cut lining (and didn’t have enough material for that). Happily, no one can tell from the outside how snug they are on the inside.

back view stripes

Also I made them with an elasticated waist, because I have figured out how to do that in a way which allows me to skip the darts and zip/button stage of making trousers and I am all about the laziness both in making and in wearing. Pockets, of course, because pockets are important.

So what with these and the scarlet breeches, I’m a good deal closer to being ready for whatever a weak El Niño winter brings. Providing what it brings is “moderate cold”, because if it snows I’m going to bed and staying there.

A Tiny Mention From A Tiny Room.

M’colleague Wayne Rée  is bringing out his first book, a collection of short stories called Tales From A Tiny Room, and he’s launching it at the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention. Not only this, but while giving an interview to InSing.com, he’s been kind enough to mention one of mine, so for insight into his process and a glimpse of his handsome face, read the interview here.

Art Dump: 24-08-2014

I haven’t done much of this for a while what with all the baking and the sudden burst of edits on a couple of stories, and making pyjama pants (which I shall hopefully have some photographs of soon) but I did manage to do some today, now that the Boyfriend is in Helsinki… Sketches & pop art:

Click through for redbubble products.

Recipe: Drunk Jerk Cake

“Why the hell is it called that?”

Well, listen. I don’t think it qualifies as bread because there’s no yeast in it, and it’s actually made from the base of that brownie recipe that does everything, so it’s a cake. And it’s got cider in it, so I decided to be whimsical. And it’s got jerk in it, so jerk. And “Drunk Jerk Cake” sounded better than “leftovers and booze bread” to me.

This is … probably not to be undertaken drunk, but is a good way of using up crap you have around.

Ingredients

135g wholemeal flour (Can use plain, probably should use plain, I just used wholemeal because I’m fucked if I’m ever going to use it for anything else and it was taking up space)
12.5g jerk seasoning/smoked paprika (about half and half)
a bit of dried rosemary
62.5g butter
1 egg
50ml cider (which gives you the rest of the can to drink) – note to Americans, this means “hard” cider.
25g peanut butter
50g tomatoes (I used a mixture of sundried and fresh because that’s what I had), you could instead do 25/25 of sundried and olives, or whatever, really.

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Rub butter into flour/spice mixture. Do this with your hands. Rub it in and keep rubbing it in until it has a texture like breadcrumbs. NB: This is gross and you will get stuff under your fingernails and then when you wash your hands you will look like you have a skin disease.
  3. Mix in the egg using a huge wooden spoon/spatula. It’s easiest if you stick the bowl under your arm like you’re in a nursery rhyme. Great workout, bloody exhausting. Helps if you sing something inane while you’re doing it.
  4. 4. Now mix in the peanut butter. Thought your arm hurt before? We’re not even started.
  5. Mix in the cider. Enjoy getting splashes all over you. Enjoy the gross noises it makes.
  6. Mix in your tomatoes, olives, whatever you’re using for variety. Keep mixing. Admire your biceps.
  7. Scrape the tough stuff into your 3 ramekins or whatever you’re cooking it in. Try to flatten it out a bit.
  8. Put ramekins on a tray and put them in the oven for 45 minutes.

Do not be alarmed by the foam of cider bubbling at the top, by 45 minutes it should definitely be done. If it sounds like a weird thing to eat, do not panic. No one has to know you ate this.

Photo not by J. Reilly this time, which explains the poor quality.
Photo not by J. Reilly this time, which explains the poor quality.

Recipe: Christmas Comes Early

Before I introduce this variant on the BBC Good Food Best Brownie Ever Recipe (more details on the post where I made them into apple and cinnamon bars), I have to admit that I fucked them up slightly: oven temperature was too high, which meant the brownies cooked too fast on the outside and split on the top. On the other hand, given my trepidation concerning them cooking properly at all, I don’t think it went too badly.

Christmas Brownies

Wait, why the fuck am I making Christmas anything, it’s the middle of August?

  1. This never stops the bloody shops, as soon as the Back To School sales stop there will be Christmas shit in shops.
  2. I want to make sure I’ve got it right when the time comes to thrust these babies at alarmed friends who have had years and years of my voluble insistence that I will kill them with my cooking.

So, once again:

Christmas Brownies

I imagine when they don't crack you can also decorate them, if that's your bag.
I imagine when they don’t crack you can also decorate them, if that’s your bag.

(Serves 3, don’t be a greedy fucker)

Ingredients

  • 35g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 12.5g ground allspice (it’s more than you think)
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 62.5g salted butter
  • 75g cranberry jelly (this hides in the condiments aisle for some reason even though it is clearly jam)
  • 25g mixed dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, candied peel, etc)
  • 25g chopped glacé cherries (if you don’t like glacé cherries either double up the dried mixed fruits, substitute something similar, or have a long hard think about what’s wrong with your life and your choices, you weirdo).

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180C. Not 185C as I apparently inadvertently did, which would be stupid.
  2. Throw sugar, butter, and cranberry jelly into a pan and melt them together while stirring.
  3. You should end up with goo. Turn off the heat and stir in the egg. Break the egg first otherwise this really will not work.
  4. Sieve the flour and ground allspice into the mixture and then stir it in persistently until the mixture is basically smooth and thick; this takes a bit more effort than with the apple bars for some reason.
  5. Wang in your dried fruit and cherries, stir them until they’re evenly distributed in the mix. Potentially hold some back and chuck ’em on top later so they don’t all sink to the bottom like mine did? I dunno.
  6. Scrape your goo into 3 x ramekins or 2 x (ovenproof) mugs or a small tray, whatever you fancy, really. Put them on another tray, and put that tray in the oven for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove your Christmas whatsits, wait for them to stop being painfully hot, serve with custard or ice cream or brandy butter or whatever it is that counts as Christmas Accompaniment in your house.

Added bonus: these are nowhere near as calorific as the chocolate version so if you’re being bullied into Watching Your Waist by whoever, you can mark them down as 313 and not, like, 500.

Sewing: Captain Scarlet Breeches

Normally I knock out a pair of trousers in about two hours, but these blighters kept me going for days: in part because I kept running out of concentration… points… whatever it is that limits your ability to think without finding yourself just repeating the lyrics to “Hooked on a Feeling” or sewing over your own fingers several times; in part because it turns out thick wool is hard to sew through. Happily, there was only one instance of the machine needle snapping and flying at my face this time, which is an improvement on the canvas shorts.

Photograph taken in the bedroom for added mess to crop out.
Photograph taken in the bedroom for added mess to crop out.

Fabric: end of roll wine-coloured Melton wool from the glorious wonderland of Walthamstow’s fabric shops.
Cuff fastenings: four wooden toggles and some ribbon, from the glorious republic of haberdashery that is The Cloth Shop in Wood Green market.
Zips in the pockets: because why the hell not.
Pattern: adapted from the same old, same old 1930s/40s women’s trouser pattern. The only part of the pattern I use is the front-and-back templates with darts, the cuffs and waistband are my own and the decision to cut off the pattern at just below the knee is both fabric-saving and sensible considering how often I wear knee-high boots.

Toggles magnificently hidden for some reason.
Toggles magnificently hidden for some reason.

Buttons: cut from a pair of old button-fastening socks I bought from Top Shop many years ago and which were beyond their last legs. Waste not, etc.
Interfacing: HA HA HA WHO BOTHERS USING THAT I am a terrible seamstress.

I am either ahead of my time or very much behind it but I do enjoy a semi-Tudor silhouette.
I am either ahead of my time or very much behind it but I do enjoy a semi-Tudor silhouette.

A slightly better view of the toggles. I’m hoping these are going to be toasty and comfortable this winter, and validate the fact that overall they cost me about £18 to make. For a pair of wool trousers, though, I suppose that’s not all that bad, especially given the perfect fit and the colour.

Next: A test run for a coat pattern I’ve cobbled together, but in cheapo cotton so that screwing it up isn’t a painful waste of money!

Recipe: Baking so simple even I can do it.

I would not go so far as to suggest that my cooking is legendarily bad; so far I’ve not killed anyone with my gumbo despite their fervent wishes and the other day I made soup. I did misspell “recipe” three different ways in the header, mind you, and I’ve never been able to master the arcane art of bakery until now, because anything that involves letting the thing I am cooking get out of my sight ends in crispy blackened disaster.

The “until now” part was generously provided by the BBC. The original recipe of best-ever chocolate brownies with raspberries (here) has been experimented with on this blog before, by the Resident Australian. This produced Far Too Many Brownies, which thanks to the inclusion of Paul A Young cocoa powder (I will happily shill for this company, everything they sell is amazing) and the unwise addition of salted caramel butter as a kind of icing, were entirely too rich for people to eat more than one. Tactical error: I hate food waste like leaky ceilings and whichever dick it is who likes to drive down my road playing Turkish pop music at deafening volumes out of their car window after 10pm.

Happily it turns out that maths.

I mean, it turns out you can reduce a recipe size with maths. I halved the recipe and halved it again (no more than that because I’m not in the game of trying to figure out how to halve an egg), and now instead of making two trays of brownies it makes 3 ramekins of brownies, effectively enough for three people. Which is exactly how many people there are in my house, and thanks to previous  consumption we have the required number of glass, oven-proof ramekins of exactly the right size. My advice is obviously to buy and consume some Gü rather than specifically buying ramekins, or just use an ordinary coffee mug and accept that you’re going to have two larger brownies instead. Kind of romantic!

Anyway, the quartered, romantic division of the recipe I linked to is as follows:

50g dark chocolate
25g milk chocolate
62.5g salted butter
100g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
35g plain flour
12.5g cocoa powder
50g raspberries

And then follow the same instructions as in the link.

Last night I decided to put a spin on this and made one batch of these:

I don’t normally put food on the windowsill, it’s just the only place that has any light at the moment.

For this I made three incredibly simple changes: switched out the amount of cocoa powder (12.5g) for ground cinnamon (everyone was convinced this was going to be too much but instead: bang on the correct amount); switched out the combined 75g of chocolate types for 75g of jelly-like apple sauce from a jar; and instead of 50g of raspberries I had 50g of chopped apple, which is just over a quarter of an apple and meant there was still a large amount of apple left to eat – I’d suggest that means if you’re making the full amount you still only need one apple.

Moderately concerned while I was making it that somehow the apple sauce in place of chocolate would prevent the brownie from becoming adequately cohered, but it worked out pretty much perfectly and smelled fantastic while it was cooking.

In case you’re too lazy to follow the link, the instructions are:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Melt sugar, butter, and chocolate or apple sauce (depending which version you want) in a pan together.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in your egg.
  4. Sieve in the flour and cocoa/cinnamon (depending), and stir them in until the mixture is like smooth goo. This should take less than a minute.
  5. Wang in your fruit, be it broken up raspberries or chopped apple bits or whatever really. Stir that shit in.
  6. Put the goo in the ramekins/tray/coffee cup/whatever you’re baking it in, stick that in the oven.
  7. 30 minutes later remove your excellent brownies and wait for them to cool enough that you can insert them into your face hole.

And this is why it’s so incredibly simple that even I can make it in my insultingly tiny kitchen at 9.30 at night while not entirely paying attention and still have enough brownies for my whole household to eat in bed. Next stop: gonna try and make a Christmas variation.

Small Mystery

On Sunday night, the night of what turned out to be the supermoon, the Resident Australian and I went looking for blackberries. At dusk, because obviously the best way to gather small black fruit is to wait until it’s nearly dark and then not bring a torch.

While on our largely unsuccessful mission to the nature walk, we encountered this:

What is it? We just don’t know. Is this bowl of apples, pears, grapes, and loose grain an offering to some kind of forest god? Is it some misguided and patronising attempt at feeding the homeless? Or has it been put out for the deer by someone who doesn’t know that the deer park is at the other side of the hill? What does it mean?