Sunday, November 30, 2008

Among my souvenirs

What would the collective noun be for mittens? A clutch? A handful? These are Newfoundland Mittens,the beauty of which is that they are knit in one colour at a time, the slip stitches suggesting otherwise. And they use hardly any of each yarn, so the remnants from sock knitting or that odd skein bought some time ago, turn out to be perfectly adequate. Add to this a quick turnaround, with a finished item always in view and they form the ideal winter project.

Summer, however, usually finds me searching for that elusive textile treasure. Having once picked up a stunning white quilt in France for under twenty pounds, I remain convinced that neglected gems are still out there and find myself incapable of passing a Brocante without checking it out. The quilt, it turned out, was English, seventeenth century, and not unlike one in the Burrell collection.

Here, we have a sampler, found in the scruffiest of village vide-greniers in the Auvergne. It was filthy, stained, crumpled. Gradually, I noticed that the same three letters are repeated in different styles. Who was this girl, and why did she stop where she did, when the letters are so very ambitious and the stitching so very regular? After a little pre-testing of a thread end, I boiled it in Persil, not without trepidation, and it was transformed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Odds and Ends

That's an awful lot of pumpkin. My first soups, pepped up with curry spices, didn't get over the essential wateriness of the vegetable, its tendency to puree without being blended. It need something very pungent to permeate its blandness. A small amount of bacon scraps, fried to release the fat and brine, had just that smoky saltiness it needed. That, and the roasting of the cubed pumpkin to dry it out a little. A bowl of this was very welcome on a wet November evening.

Then, what about pumpkin pie? Trawling the Net for a recipe proved how many variations there might be on this theme. My local shop was out of some key ingredients, such as maple syrup, and pastry is something I've never mastered. Instead, I believe I have invented a completely new dessert here. Most of a pack of Hobnobs with about two ounces of butter to make a crust. Two eggs beaten with milk, brown sugar and cinnamon to bind it all and roasted pumpkin as the filling. Baked for forty-five minutes, by which time the biscuit of the crust has assimilated with the egg mixture to form a kind of parkin around the pumpkin pieces. I could see us having this again, or maybe something else completely unexpected, dependent on the store cupboard.

As for knitting:

Newfoundland Mittens, a traditional pattern, apparently. This is the result of two remainders of very bright sock yarn, knit double and a dk base colour. They were very easy to knit as only one colour is in use at a time, with slipped stitches suggesting otherwise. The construction creates pockets of fabric which must be why they are so warm. I was very pleased with how these turned out.