Saturday, December 19, 2009

We start believing now that we can be who we are

K blanket
I haven't really knitted much for K, ever. A footy scarf several years ago and several beanies - some of which even fitted well. Oh, and a couple of felted covers for his camera and ipod. He doesn't tend to wear really warm jumpers and he's not convinced about hand-knitted socks. I know it's possible he might turn out to love them once he tries them. Now that I think about it, I guess I haven't tried to convince him, because I haven't found them that wearable myself, except in quite cold weather. But I think I have weird feet.

A couple of times earlier this year, especially in the chilly time just before we started turning heaters on, I came home to find him draped with this first blanket. And so I had the idea to make him a lap blanket, and to plan ahead over several months to have it ready for his birthday in November.

K blanket 2

In the end I missed his birthday by a week or two. Unfortunately it's completely seasonally inappropriate at the moment, although the way the temperatures have been going up and down at odd times lately, you never know.

I had a hard time figuring out how to photograph it to show the size. In the picture below it looks tiny but it IS on a king size bed.

blanket size

The pattern was improvised. I think it is a type of mitred square, it looks like a big version of the squares in the barn-raising quilt. I knew I wanted to knit the blanket all in one piece, in the round (this seemed likely to be the fastest and simplest way to achieve a blanket) but I wanted it to be square, not round.

Here is the simple method: CO 12 stitches, join to knit in the round, place four markers evenly spaced. Increase either side of each marker (I did yarn overs one stitch away from the marker) on every second round. The other rounds are knit (I knit the yarn overs through the back loop as I didn't want them too holey).

I also did a purl row every fourth row. I did this to try to keep the whole thing from curling. In the end, it needed a knit-on border to flatten it out so the ridge rows might not have been necessary.

I deliberately didn't use an even stripe colour sequence and I also varied the width of the stripes, as I wanted to use up a few different amounts of wool. There is quite a bit of the infamous Lincraft Cosy Wool that wouldn't felt. There is also a small amount of a mystery silver-grey crepe which I would have loved more of; some Woolganic; some Naturally Pride, and a few other bits and bobs. The edging is Cleckheaton Country Naturals.

To start with, the blanket was based around two skeins of handdyed wool from one of the Bus Depot Markets' special days. I don't know if these photos really show it well (the middle one maybe a little) but it makes up all of the large dark greyish stripes except for the outer one, and it has a wonderful mix of colours in the grey, like an oil slick.

I originally planned to work in a bigger range of colours (including a dark red) but as I got going it just seemed right to limit the palette to purples and greens with the grey. I often seem to have to simplify a project from my initial idea. This one springs to mind.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'German' potato salad recipe

The potato salad tasted pretty good last night. I considered also eating it for breakfast this morning. But I managed to wait until lunch. And it really is much better the next day. Well, it doesn't have to be the next day - at Christmas Mum usually makes it in the morning and it's great by lunch time. I think the sour cream and the other parts of the dressing need a little time for the flavours to combine fully.

I had to improvise the potato salad from memory last night - I know I've copied the recipe before but I don't know what happened to it. I dropped round to see my parents this afternoon and copied it again. Mum cut it out from a magazine many many years ago, so I don't think there should be any problem sharing it here.

Sour cream potato salad

The introduction to the recipe claims this is a German style potato salad.


6 medium potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1¾ cups beef stock (I use vegetable stock)
4 tablespoons white vinegar (apple cider or other vinegar of your choice works too, perhaps not balsamic though!)
5 tablespoons salad oil
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
white pepper and salt
½ cup sour cream

Cook unpeeled potatoes in boiling salted water. (We steam them). Do not overcook or they will not keep their shape in the salad. Peel the potatoes while still hot (we don't bother) and cut into slices. Place in a bowl with the onion.

Bring the stock to the boil with the vinegar added, and while boiling pour over the potatoes. Marinate until almost all the liquid is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes. Pour off any excess liquid (this might depend on the type of spuds - I had to pour off a lot of liquid) and gently fold in the oil mixed with the mustard.

Taste, and season with white pepper and salt if necessary. Lastly, fold in the sour cream. Serve at room temperature, garnished with parsley or other fresh herbs. (It's perfectly nice refrigerated too, if you are concerned about leaving food in the 'danger zone' temperature-wise.)

Serves 8-10 (Ha! Not necessarily)

Update in response to some comments:

Salad Oil: I always though 'salad oil' meant a simple oil-based dressing like French or Italian. When I looked it up, most sites said it is simply any oil that can be used in salad dressing. Which makes sense for the recipe as you can season it separately and it is also already strongly vinegar-flavoured so you wouldn't want to use a strongly vinegar-y dressing. Though I personally have a huge appetite for vinegar, I know some don't like it too strong.

Raw onions: I never eat raw onions as I hate the way the taste stays with me for so long. I find they are blanched enough by the boiling stock marinade that they are ok in this recipe. However, I have also used shallots (green onions/spring onions) which look nice and taste milder.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I won't ask for much this Christmas. I won't even wish for snow

I've had a busy, excited, planning brain all week with ideas for things I'll make (we have a $10 rule for gifts in my family).

But tonight I'm really getting into the spirit of Christmas. I'm making potato salad.

I am generally a fan of potato salad and will happily eat most versions (though not, of course when they ruin it by adding bacon or ham). But Mum's potato salad is far and away the best possible version. I believe the recipe she has used for years is called German potato salad. It has no mayonnaise. It is tangy and savoury, thanks to the unusual step of marinating the cooked spuds in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and stock.

Each year Mum raises the question of what foods we might like to eat for Christmas lunch. My answer is always the same - all I need is the potato salad. I usually work my way through more of it than anyone else. Well, they do fill up on the meat. And then at the end of the day I'm sometimes persuaded to take the leftovers home as well.

Anyway I decided not to wait until Christmas and make some myself. I'm off to pour off the marinade and mix in the dressing and sour cream right now, and then eat!