23 October 2014

Sweet & Sour Chicken

This tasty recipe is failsafe (low 'food chemical') and gluten-free. I hope you enjoy it!

Serves 4

  • 450g chicken breast fillet, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbspns cornflour*
  • canola oil for frying
  • 1 choko, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 100g sliced bamboo shoots (tinned)
  • 1 cup red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 cup tinned pears, diced (reserve syrup from the tin)

  • ½ cup pear syrup (from tinned pears)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbspns brown sugar
  • 1 Tbspn gin
  • 2 tspns cornflour
  • 1 ½ tspns citric acid
  • 1 ¼ tspns salt


1. Mix the sliced chicken with the cornflour. Heat a tablespoon or two of canola oil in a large frypan or wok. Fry half the chicken, until golden brown. Remove from pan, and set aside. Fry the second batch of chicken in the same way, adding a little extra oil if necessary, and set aside.

2. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl or measuring jug. Put the cornflour into the jug first, and just add a little water, whisking constantly. When this paste is smooth, add the remaining water, whisk, and then add the other ingredients.

3. Heat a little canola oil in the pan. Stir-fry the choko, spring onions, bamboo shoots and cabbage for a few minutes. Add the garlic, and fry for another 10-20 seconds. Return the chicken to the pan, stir well.

4. Add the sauce, and diced pears to the pan. Stir well, until sauce has boiled and thickened.

5. Serve with rice or rice noodles.

*cornflour = white cornstarch, not cornmeal or polenta

04 October 2014

New Garage Doom

Oh god, it's the garage AGAIN ... as usually happens when we move house, a bunch of stuff just gets dumped in the garage by everyone who's helping us move, and ourselves, as the move gets into the awful ending hours. And there it sits. And sits. And SITS. The question "Where is the ...." invariably gets answered with those dread words "In a box in the garage somewhere".

When we moved in March, we only unpacked the things we really wanted out, which means a fair few boxes are still unpacked. Upstairs is glorious — minimalist, sunny, uncluttered, and a delight to live in, I gotta say. Easy to keep clean, cos it's not full of stuff.

But. The minimalist in me is desperate to clear out the garage too. And we need to. House inspection coming up, and I'm just generally sick of the mess. So it's back to hours of cleaning, tidying, sorting, and culling. And to Freecycle, and Salvos, and recycling.

Some progress has been made —

The before photo is on top, and the 'after some hours of work' photo is underneath. No, I wasn't sure, either.

A major challenge, as ever, is that a lot of this isn't mine — it's my son's glassmaking gear as he's not allowed to use the wonderful tiled workshop area in the garage for his glasswork because the owners are annoyingly paranoid and ignored our reasons why it was safe  refused permission.

So that's all a mess, and unused (he is setting up a studio in an old caravan thingy out the front, but it's taking a while). And a lot of it is son's and dotter's shtuff. Endless shtuff. Or hubby's shtuff. 

Getting there  s l o w l y. And who knows, maybe one day we can actually *gasp* park the car in the garage.

24 September 2014

Alabama Chanin

A few months ago I stumbled fortuitously across Alabama Chanin — an American couture house that not only hand sews all its garments for sale, and pays its sewers a living wage, but also makes all its patterns, stencils and techniques open source. Swoon.

I haven't been this excited and inspired by hand crafts for a long time. I love their philosophy, and their designs.

I bought their third book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, and practically hyperventilated when it arrived.

This is the 'baby doll tunic' that I made, using the patterns from this book. I started sewing on 22 July, and finished the garment on 14 August, so it only took about three weeks. I did made some adjustments to the fit after this, but that was the work of an hour, at most.

Something about sewing this entirely by hand appeals to me so much. It's portable. It's simple. It's careful, slow work, akin to knitting. You can do it on the train, or while watching TV — no need to be plugged in to a sewing machine to work. You don't get things caught up or stitched wrongly, because you're making one stitch at a time, and you can see both sides of the work easily, not like with machine sewing.

I love my slightly erratic stitches, the look of them, the fact that they're not perfect. The seams that show on the outside. I love learning hand stitches and techniques that have been used through the ages, like stretch stitches, and how to do a flat felled seam.

So yeah. Totally. In. Love. Little bit obsessed.

The decoration on the bodice is reverse appliqué — the black top layer is cut away, after the stitching is done, to reveal the grey lower layer. I used the Alabama Chanin stencil designs as a starting point, and just drew the design on in chalk, as I went.

 The inside of the bodice piece. I used upholstery thread, waxed, for all my sewing on this garment — strongest thread I could find.

Both the bodice pieces done. Each piece is so small and portable — a bodice half, plus thread, needle, scissors, and beeswax (great for handsewing thread) — into a smaller bag than a knitting project.

Starting on construction — doing the shoulder seams here.

The outside of the shoulder seams.

 Binding for the armhole and neck, with a great stretch stitch.

Changed to black edging for the front of the bodice.

Sewing the gathered skirt on took a loooong time. This vertical stitch is a stretch stitch.

After I was finished, I decided to cut some out of the lower back, and stitched a dart in there, and I needed to shorten the straps too. Very happy with the result!