Refashioning: Is It Worth It?

This blog is helping me to make sense of why I sometimes follow through on an idea that won’t work:
the sheer curiosity of writing a song/making a dress/a human experiment that in all probability and reason won’t work out at all:  the allure of the unusual; and the possibility of finding a rare pearl.

Returning to the blog’s recyling spirit, I’m going to discuss why I made a top with a slash down the middle when I knew deep down that I wouldn’t wear it.  Ever.

It started with a challenge.  I asked my tutor at the Grafton Academy of Fashion Design to randomly pick out a design that I could practice pattern drafting from scratch with.  Not being content leaving it at a pattern, I decided to make it up as well.

Being just an experiment, I decided to cut up an old dress.  I knew I wouldn’t have enough fabric for the skirt section but that was okay because the main challenge was in the bodice.  This is the old dress I cut up.

When you are working with an old fabric, often you must negotiate around stains, small snags and tears.  You must be flexible in your design goals in case some of the fabric is unworkable or you must patch sections of fabric together.  You might have to allow more time then working from a ‘fresh’ piece of cloth.  You will feel virtuous but time poor.  You will learn a lot.

This is the final item:  a t-shirt with a slash down the middle of the bodice.  The seams had to be all reinforced with bias tape and there was much hand stitching that is not visible from the out side.  This added in hours of extra work.  It took me a total of 3 hours drafting, 10 hours machine sewing and 3 hours hand finishing.  16 hours labour!

In fact, I got a slip and a top out of the dress.  Learning and experience 10/10.  Quality of finished item 7 1/2 /10.  Wearability (unless on a beach) 3/10.


Scotch Eggs Video

You’re A Good Cook But You Can’t Boil An Egg

I’m going to share a video I made while I was working in a previous school.  I organized the TY students to have an unseen recipe cooking competition, with the teachers.  Despite my best efforts to print out the recipe, talk them through it, provide a video I made especially and have them working in teams,  the teachers lost the competition because of two following things:  (a)  they didn’t read the recipe and (b) none of them could actually boil an egg.  Since some of them were quite proficient cooks in other areas, everybody was surprised.   The students on the other hand, had a more zen outlook.  They knew they knew nothing and therefore excelled.

A Video On How To Make Scotch Eggs

While the video meets the wordless and soundless food video brief, it is very difficult to cook and photograph at the same time!

Scotch Eggs

If you would like a variation, try substituting some chopped chorizo or black pudding for the sausage meat.  For vegetarians, try using a falafel mixture instead of sausage meat.  Play around with different herbs and flavoring ingredients.  These would be fun to make with kids but under no circumstances let them near a deep fat fryer!

Ingredients (makes 5)

6 eggs
380g sausage meat
120g breadcrumbs
A minimum of 1 pint vegetable oil
Zest of a lemon
1 tablespoon each of fresh parsley and thyme
1 teaspoon French mustard
2 scallions, finely chopped.
1 cup of plain flour
Salt and pepper


1.  Immerse 5 of the eggs into cold water with 1 tablespoon vinegar to prevent cracking.  When the eggs come to the boil, leave to simmer for 7 minutes.
2.  Cool cooked hard boiled eggs under cold water and carefully remove the shells.
3.  In 3 separate bowls, place a cup of flour, a beaten egg and the breadcrumbs.
4.  In another large bowl, place the sausage meat, the lemon zest, the herbs, chopped scallions and season with salt and pepper.   Wearing plastic gloves, combine the mixture with your hands.
5.  Place the oil into the deep fat fryer and heat to 170 degrees celsius.  Do not over fill the fryer.  Remember you will need to rotate the scotch eggs if they are not fully immersed in oil.
6.  Divide the sausage mixture into 5 rounds.  Place a piece onto a board covered with another piece of cling film.  Place a second piece of cling film on top of the meat.  Flatten gently with the palm of your hand.
7.  Remove the top layer of cling film and place a boiled egg without the shell on top of the meat.
8.  Cut the meat around the egg using the bottom layer of cling film to scoop the mixture up.  Close the meat around the egg remembering to keep the oval shape of the egg.
9.  Dust your hands lightly with flour and prepare to work fast in the coating stage.
10.  Dip the meat coated egg into the flour, followed by the beaten egg and lastly followed by the breadcrumbs.
11.  Place the eggs into the deep fat fryer and fry until golden brown.  Take safety precautions not to burn your hands as you remove each egg.
12.  Place the cooked eggs carefully on kitchen paper to mop up excessive oil.
13.  Enjoy hot or cold.

Gluten Free Chocolate Orange and Ginger Cake

At the Electric Picnic, I saw David and Stephen Flynn (from The Happy Pear in Greystones with book of same name) in The Theatre Of Food. It was crammed with punters to rival any of the music venues going on at the same time. 

I absolutely adore the Happy Pear cookbook.  I love the brother’s positivity and how they have embraced and road tested all types of vegetarianism, diving fully into the movement, evaluating it and coming up with their own philosophy.  But what is needed now are more voiceless and soundless video ‘vlogs’.  You will find a few on my Under Fresher You Tube Channel. This one is gluten free and goes a long way in a crowd.  So to start, here is your shopping list, watch the video and away you go (or not).   


Ingredients for Chocolate Orange and Ginger Cake

2 medium/large oranges
5 eggs
180g ground almonds
200g granulated sugar
80g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder (note in video it says two. This is wrong!)
½ teaspoon bread soda
2 level teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon grated ginger

Special equipment

Parchment paper
Blender or food processor. 

Triple Chocolate Red Velvet Raspberry Mousse Layer Cake

Serves:  An army 
I won’t lie.  I ‘improvised’ this recipe from this recipe to suit metric measurements and ingredients available in Ireland.  In other words, I glanced over it and did my own thing to suit the containers I bought my ingredients in.  Mainly cream.  There are three ½ litre cartons of cream in this recipe.  I also changed the brownie layer recipe completely because I didn’t trust the science or logic behind her quantities or method.  I also made it into a ‘mock’ red velvet layer.   In truth, you can use just about whatever cake you want for the base, as long as it is not too crumbly. 
For your sanity, I have compiled all of the ingredients into one list instead of all the different layers.  Think of it as four cakes and a topping.  There is one cake layer at the bottom and three layers of mousse on the top.  This means you will have to start making it the day before or very early in the morning. 
In fact, I made this gluten free cake for a significant birthday of a very good friend last Friday night.  It was therefore delivered in secret to the restaurant (Seapoint in Monkstown). Chef kindly let us store the cake in the massive walk-in fridge.  I caught him gazing in confusion at my thick and monstrous looking ganache from the corner of his eye, wondering if intentional or not.  I confessed my error and after enquiring about my quantities (correctly 1:1 choc:cream) he shared a tip to which I am grateful: add in a spoon of glucose into the ganache and it will keep its gloss.   Others say butter will also do the trick.  I’ll just have to make it again.
You can substitute ordinary self raising white flour if you don’t need it to be gluten free.  

1 length of thick acetate
1 25cm diameter spring form tin
Greaseproof paper
Free standing electric mixer (seriously, there is too much beating in this recipe and you don’t want to be all day doing this).  
120g Doves farm gluten free self-raising flour blend
65g unsweetened cocoa powder
3 sachets of powdered gelatine (I used Dr Oetker’s)
600g white chocolate
600g Dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids
150g butter
250g sugar
3 eggs
3 pints of cream or 3 x 500mls carton of cream plus one 150ml carton. 
4 x 125g punnets raspberries
1 pod of fresh vanilla
Red food colouring
Baking powder


For the Mock Red Velvet layer

1.              Preparation:  Line the tin with parchment paper by taking the circular disc out of the tin and drawing a circle on the ‘rough’ side of the greaseproof paper with a pencil.  Cut out this circle.  Cut a long length that just goes up the side of the tin.  Grease the tin and put the two pieces of greaseproof paper in place.  Preheat oven to 170°C.   Adjust your oven shelves. 
2.              Sieve together the following:  120g self raising flour, 65g unsweetened cocoa powder, ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp baking powder. 
3.              Melt 150g butter over a basin of hot water or in the microwave.  Do not let it burn, bubble or boil. 
4.              Using an electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and 250g sugar together until thick and creamy.  When you can make a figure of eight with the beaters, you are then ready to add the melted butter in at the side of the bowl.  Continue to beat after every addition. 
5.              Using a spatula, add a fifth of the dry mixture with a tablespoon of red food colouring.  Add another fifth and another tablespoon of red.  Carefully add the rest of the mixture to the sponge and don’t knock out all of the air.   Make it very red. 
6.              Pour the mixture into the tin, cleaning the bowl out with the spatula to avoid waste and to provide for uninvited guests. 
7.              Bake for 30 minutes until you can smell cake and the mixture is firm to the touch. 
8.              Remove the cake using an oven glove.  Leave in tin for three minutes and then cool on a wire rack.  Be careful not to put a really hot cake on a wire rack or it will stick to the grids. 
9.              Clean out the tin while the cake is cooling down.  Line the tin with the acetate length so it comes up 16 cm from the base.  The acetate should be as long as the circumference of the tin.  You may tape a few pieces together if necessary but they must overlap.  Tape in place so it holds.  Place the red velvet sponge into the tin and prepare the first mousse layer. 

For the Chocolate Mousse

Step 1.                        Place 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small dish and sprinkle on the sachet of powdered gelatine.  Gelatine must be added to the water and not the other way around.  Leave the gelatine and water mixture to one side.
Step 2             Place 200g of dark chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.  Estimate a similar volume of cream from your 500ml carton and add to the chocolate (about 150mls).  Melt this chocolate and cream gently.  It’s a good idea to remove the chocolate before fully melted because it will fully melt in the residual heat.
Step 3             Beat the remaining 350mls of cream until soft peaks form.  Leave to one side.
Step 4             When the chocolate mixture has cooled slightly, heat the bowl of gelatine in the microwave for a few seconds.  DO NOT BOIL or the thickening qualities of the gelatine will be destroyed. 
Step 5             Add the liquid and no longer grainy gelatine mixture to the chocolate mixture and combine well with a spatula. 
Step 6             Fold in the beaten cream into the chocolate and gelatine mixture.  Spoon over the red velvet layer and leave to set.

For the Raspberry Mousse

1.              Blitz one punnet of the raspberries with a hand blender.
2.              If desired, strain through a sieve so you are left with a puree.  Personally the seeds do not bother me. A lot of the raspberries will get stuck to the sieve and this is wasteful.   I think they add texture and flavour.  Do as you wish here. 
3.              Follow steps 1-5 for the chocolate mousse above but using 200g of white chocolate instead. 
4.              Fold in the raspberry puree and another punnet of whole raspberries to the white chocolate mixture and then fold in the cream as for step 6 above.  Add a few drops of food colouring if you want for extra pink. 
5.              Spoon the white chocolate and raspberry mousse over the dark chocolate layer and leave to set. 

For the White Chocolate Mousse

1.              Follow steps 1-6 for the chocolate mousse but use 200g white chocolate instead of dark. 
2.              Cut a length of a vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the chocolate mixture after step 5.  Reserve the empty pod to infuse another recipe at another time if you desire. 
3.              Fold in the cream and place on previous raspberry mousse layer.  Leave to set.

For the ganache and to finish.

1.              Break 200g dark chocolate into little pieces.
2.              Heat 200mls cream until very hot but not boiling.
3.              Add the hot cream to the chocolate.  Stir until melted. 
4.              When cooled but still viscous and liquid, pour over the cake. 
5.              Decorate with fresh raspberries, chocolate shavings and perhaps a few sprigs of mint. 

So, that’s it.  It will cut into 40 thin slices and half of everybody will leave it behind because it is still a lot of cake. 

Photographs © John Wiles