Monday, 1 September 2014

Stuffing-crusted roast pork

The fantasy joint of roast pork always has a tempting coating of bubbly, crispy crackling, just like you see in recipe book photos. Sadly the reality is often patches of tough, hard skin with the occasional bubble here and there.

One way round this is to cook the meat and the skin separately. The trouble with this, though, is that the meat can dry out and become tough without its protective coating of skin -  so how about replacing the skin with a layer of sage and onion stuffing to both flavour and protect the meat, as well as being a delicious accompaniment to it?

To make this, I used a piece of boneless pork loin weighing about 750g - you could use a bigger piece but a very big one would need such a long cooking time that it would scorch the stuffing.

First of all, carefully cut off the skin with a little of the fat, making sure there is still some fat covering the surface of the meat. Now use a very sharp knife to cut the skin into strips about 7mm wide and 10 cm long. Put them on a baking sheet that has raised edges all round (to stop the fat running off into the oven) and toss with a sprinkling of salt and 1 tsp sunflower oil, then arrange them on the sheet so they don't touch each other.

If you are cooking the cracking after you cook the pork, scroll down  past the photo now and get started on your stuffing. Otherwise read on.....

The crackling pieces need to cook for 15-20 minutes in a very hot oven, about 200 C (Fan), 220C (non-fan), 400F, gas mark 7. You can either do this ahead of cooking the pork, and serve the crackling cold, or when you take the pork out of the oven to stand and carve you can whack the temperature up and cook it then, if you prefer it hot. Whichever way you do it, as soon as it comes out of the oven use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the lovely, crispy, curly, bubbly pieces of gorgeousness out of the fat and onto kitchen paper to dry, then see if you can resist eating them before the rest of your meal is ready.

Next you need to prepare the stuffing. Peel two small onions, keeping them whole, place in a small saucepan, cover with water and boil for an hour, then allow to cool slightly and lift the onions out of the pan, keeping the liquid. Meanwhile chop the leaves from a few sprigs of sage in a food processor or blender. I like to use quite a lot of sage, about 30 leaves, but that makes it pretty strong and it's fine to use less. When the onions have cooled a little, add them to the sage in the blender and whizz to a green-flecked pulp. Scrape this into a bowl and add salt and pepper, 50g shredded suet and enough fresh white breadcrumbs to give a stiff mixture - about 75g usually does the trick but it depends on the size and moisture content of the onions. Then add one beaten egg, mixing thoroughly. You need a soft, mouldable consistency - adjust it with either more breadcrumbs or some of the onion water until you have a texture that you can press all over the surface of the pork with your hands, so that it looks like this

Now roast your pork in your usual way,  but remember that because the crackling has been removed it doesn't need that extra-hot blast you are probably used to starting or finishing with. The finished pork will have a crunchy brown stuffing crust. Depending on the cut of pork, you can either slice straight down through stuffing and meat, or remove the stuffing and break into chunks to serve alongside the carved meat.

I used the juices left in the tin to make a cider gravy, or as my mother always calls it, "Gravy that uses cider instead of sock". Yes, sock.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Autumn leaves

Autumn seems to be starting very early this year here in Hampshire - already the hedgerows are packed with blackberries and sloes and some of the leaves on the trees are starting to change colour. And yet we still have a few hours of August left!

But I'm happy because my favourite colours are the copper-browns and golds of Autumn, and those are what I've used in this, my latest Foil Play DT card.

I decided to try foiling a dry embossed design, so I embossed the leaf design using a Darice folder and then carefully traced over all the raised areas with a Tonertex pen. It was quite time consuming - don't do this if you're in a hurry - and there were times when I wished I'd started with a simpler piece of embossing for my first attempt! But finally it was ready to cover in foil. I used a copper foil for most of it, but deliberately left random patches which I foiled in gold. Then I went over the whole design with both copper and gold once again to fill in any bits I had missed, which helped to create a bit more randomness in the colouring.

I mounted it on a card covered with copper foiled paper from a Kanban kit I've had for years, and added a greeting which is also a Kanban one but I think it came in a different kit. And I went VERY retro, and edged the card with gold peel offs. Goodness knows how long it is since I last did that, but I felt it helped to link the copper background paper with the copper and gold foiling on the card.

As usual with foiled and metallic pieces, the photography (or rather MY photography) really can't do justice to the wonderfully rich metallic finish.

As well as being my latest DT piece, I also made this for the current Clear it Out challenge which is "Your favourite colour combo".

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Foiling can be child's play

I mentioned in my previous post that my granddaughter was crafting with me yesterday. Lara, aged 5, loves all kinds of crafting and likes to try out different techniques when she comes to visit. Yesterday we were crafting side by side - she was working on a project that involved a lot of princess stickers and hearts, while I made a start on my next DT piece for Foil Play (it's still a Work in progress so you'll need to wait a day or two for that!)

Lara's eyes lit up when she saw the effects of rubbing the foil on to the tacky surface and immediately wanted to help me, rubbing away enthusiastically at the foil until between us we had covered the whole piece. Then she asked to do a project of her own, so I found her some bold double sided stickers and let her look through my collection of foils. Being 5 years old, she was naturally attracted to the rainbow and holographic ones, and she made the card below (front and back) with no help from me at all. (Actually she decorated both panels on the inside too, with more foiled flowers, but she got bored with posing for photos before I could capture those)

So there you are - foiling is so easy that even a five year old can do it!

A five minute card

Yesterday my granddaughter and I were having a good rummage through my craft stash when I cane across a part-used sheet of stickers that hadn't seen the light of day for years. I decided to finish them up before they got dog-eared, and put together this pretty little card in less than 5 minutes (and that included clearing a space on the table for my die cutting machine, to cut the green circle).

I'm almost embarrassed to put this into a challenge, but it DOES include butterflies and a sentiment so I'm joining in with Butterfly Challenge #13 - Butterfly and a sentiment.

When inspiration goes off at a tangent!

This week's challenge at Addicted to Stamps and More is this photo inspiration

I knew straight away what I was going to do - probably a dangerous sign - emboss a piece of grey Core-dinations with a woodgrain effect, sand the surface for a little contrast, then stamp a large camellia on vellum, emboss it in white and cut it out then stick it on the background. So I did that.  and it looked - insipid. Wishy washy. So I gave the background more colour by inking the sanded surface with Walnut Stain distress ink. Then I stuck the camellia on - and not only did the ink show through, it completely stained the flower and made it unusable.

The distress ink had made the woodgrain so dark that it really needed a much brighter flower to stand out against it, so I brought a little white back into the equation in the form of a greeting.

So here we are, many miles from the original idea - but this card was most definitely originally inspired by the photo!

Zig Zags and Tags

This week's  challenge at Make my Mondays is "Tags and Toppers". One of my most recent die purchases is a  pair of Spellbinders tag dies, one of which embosses a lovely chevron pattern into the tag. I found a piece of paper in a magazine freebie set that reflected the chevron pattern, and used  a co-ordinating paper from the same set to thread through the slots in the second die.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Stepping (gingerly) into Steampunk

I have to admit to a nervous gulp when I was that this week's challenge at Cards 4 Guys is Steampunk.  I've seen Stampunk cards around, and even once made a card that might vaguely have fitted in to the category, but I really didn't understand it - and I can't craft with concepts I don't understand!

So I did a bit of surfing, a bit of reading and rather a lot of staring at Pinterest, and saw some absolutely wonderful works of art. The first explanation of the whole concept that I read was "The industrial revolution meets science fiction" which gave me a feel for what I was aiming towards, and the second was "Victoriana with cogs" which made me feel, "Yes, I can do that!"

The trouble is, I have very little in the way of suitable STUFF, and what I do have is more suited to a feminine card than a masculine one. All I could really scrape together was a sheet of cog wheel peel offs and a set of stamps that came free with a magazine. However while rummaging, I'd turned up an acetate transparency that was already printed with distressed-looking black edges and pre-coloured  in shades of peach and purple-grey. And I just happened to have a piece of card in the same shades. So I stamped some of the images onto the acetate using a Staz-on pad (even Staz-on can smudge when you're using it on acetate, as I discovered - luckily it was one of the cogs in a corner which doesn't really show).

I used spray adhesive to mount the transparency onto white card to accentuate the colours, then attached it to my base card and added the peel off cogs. A brass key finishes off one corner, although if I'd had some more dimensional cogs I think they would have looked better.

So, a little tame maybe for real Steampunk,  and a little flat, but given my limited resources, here is my first ever deliberately made Steampunk card.