Knit one, pearl one, drop one, gain one?

So I have started knitting. It came about after I attended a workshop put on by the UK Hand Knitting Association and I was hooked (is that a knitting pun? I’m not fully ‘down’ with the lingo yet.)

It took me a grand total of 45 minutes to cast on and do two rows – it was a challenge I can say. I have watched my nan knitting away for years and years, quite often witnessing her hands acting purely autonomously as she simultaneously crafted an Aran jumper whilst watching Fifteen To One on the telly, drinking a cup of tea and eating a ham sandwich.

In my case, simply casting on was the hardest thing I’ve had to do for a long while (sad, isn’t it), but I got there, thanks to the help of one (very patient) UK Hand Knitter. A few weeks later and I’m a good fifty-odd rows down. The thing is…(and it really is a ┬ábig thing…), I keep losing and gaining stitches and I don’t have the foggiest reason why!

I started my first ever knitting project (a headband, in case you’re wondering) with 15 stitches. Now I’m up to 17, having at one point dropped to 14, then I went back up to 15, then to 16 and now 17. What I’d like to ask the Gods of Knitting is…HOW on earth am I doing this? I’m as slow as a snail and meticulous in my concentration, but somehow, out of what seems like nowhere, my headband is growing wider and wider.

Any ideas, folks? Pinny Girl is in need of your pin-wisdom!

Knitting for beginners


Gone Dotty Chocolate Cake

A ‘spot’ of baking was in order for BBC Children In Need last week, and so emerging from my kitchen was a rather chocolatey offering.

Encasing a cocoa-enriched cake sandwiched with home-made damson jam was a creamy dark chocolate ganache, lavishly decorated with chocolate fingers, Maltesers and Smarties. If you’ve got the aforementioned treats lurking in your cupboard, this cake is one sure-fire way of putting them to a deliciously good use!

Gone Dotty Chocolate Cake

Gone Dotty Chocolate Cake

For the cake:

8oz golden caster sugar

8oz butter, softened

4 large eggs

6oz wholemeal self raising flour

2oz good-quality cocoa powder

For the filling:

A berry-flavoured jam of your choice

For the ganache:

100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)

50g butter

1 heaped tablespoon golden syrup

For decorating:

A couple of tubes of Smarties

A large bag of Maltesers

A box of Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate Fingers – or two, if like me, you have a habit of munching on them!


Pre-heat the oven to Gas 5 / 180 degrees / 160 fan. Grease and line 2 x 7-inch sandwich pans.

To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk or beaters until light and creamy, to get maximum fluffiness for your effort and to save your arms from dropping off (wooden spoons are sooo last season!). Beat in an egg a time, accompanied by a tablespoon of the flour, until all the eggs are used up. Now carefully fold in the rest of the flour and cocoa powder using a metal spoon until combined, treating it like a delicate flower – this is how you end up with a light cake, so avoid beating the life out of it!

Divide the mix between the two pans and give them a good tap to level out the mix. Pop in the oven and bake for around 25-35 minutes, until a skewer or a cocktail stick comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Ovens vary! Once cooked, allow to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, sandwich the two cakes together with your choice of jam in the middle (or Nutella if you fancy!).

Now it’s time to prepare the ganache. Be warned – this is a bit of a pesky one and can go from liquid to solid in about a minute, so you need to be ready to work fast! Have to hand a palette knife (for smoothing the ganache over the cake) and have all of your decorations lined up ready to stick on before it sets!

Here we go: melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a glass bowl over a barely simmering pan of water – don’t let the bowl touch the water! Stir well then allow to cool until it becomes thick – the test is when it falls of a spoon in a robust dollop as opposed to a thin pour. To speed things up, (as it can take a while to cool), I tend to pop the bowl in the fridge and take it out for a stir at 4-5 minute intervals.

When it’s at the stage that it can be spread without a) running down the side of the cake or b) going stiff to the point of unmovable, then coat the cake from the top down to the sides. If you go past the point of no return and the ganache has gone hard, simply pop the bowl in the microwave on defrost for 5 seconds and stir it until it gets to the right consistency again. It’s trial and error with this one, but well worth the attention! Smother with decorations in any design you wish – be arty and have fun! I like to put a chocolate finger ‘fence’ around the sides and a pretty pattern of spots on top, but feel free to go where the wind takes you with this one!

If you have any goodies left at the end, pop the kettle on, make a cuppa and eat them selfishly before the hubby or kids see them; you’ve earned it!


Cherry Menlove’s Mincemeat

Ah…the sights and sounds of the festive season are upon us and the charming crooner, Andy Williams, was absolutely right; it IS the most wonderful time of the year.

The expectation of excitement is thrilling; crowds are bustling through the streets with shopping; heart-warming ads are on the TV and early morning frosts paint a sparkle of white. For one girl and her pinny, the season is spent full of joy in the kitchen with the oven roaring, the kettle on for a heart-warming cuppa and the smell of Christmas in the air.

It was last weekend that I made my mincemeat, in preparation for a mass mince-pie-making marathon in the weeks to come. It has become a tradition to try a different recipe each year, and I thought I’d cracked it last winter with a Women’s Institute recipe, but after visiting the Country Living Christmas Fair recently, I do believe I have a new contender for the best ever mincemeat I think I’m ever likely to find. It comes from Cherry Menlove, a homely, crafty, cooking blogger and it’s quite simply heaven in a jam jar.

If you feel like a festive cinnamon fix and you want your house to smell good enough to eat, try the recipe for yourself; you really won’t regret it!

Happy mincemeat-making!

Cherry Melove's mincemeat recipe