Aunty Elisabeth’s School of Cookery Lesson 2

This evening I had a wee chat with my niece from the other side of the planet, and promised her some more recipes. It’s only been three years since the last one, and she’s starting to feel peckish again.


She has graduated from university in the meantime, and is now living at home with her mum (my sister) again. This means her meals now need to not just be vegetarian, but also cater for some tricky food intolerances. I’m hoping this dish will be suitable for them to both enjoy.

Tomato and Spinach on Polenta
Tomatoes and spinach on polenta



  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 5 cups of cold water
  • 1 teaspoon stock powder
  • a dash or knob of fat (I used a knob of coconut oil)
  • oil for frying


  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 can of chopped peeled tomatoes
  • 2 – 3 cups of chopped spinach or silver beet, or the same of baby spinach leaves
  • a dash of chilli powder (go easy on it though)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oil



I had never made polenta before, so I had to do some googling when I decided I wanted to try it. I liked the instructions I found at Serious Eats  the best.

Pour the water in to a large saucepan. Add the cornmeal and stock powder. Stir regularly for about an hour, adding the knob/dash of fat at the end of this time, stirring it in.
Grease a slice tin, then pour the polenta into it. Cover with clingfilm, then leave to cool. After a bit, put it in the fridge. I left mine overnight.

When you’re ready to make your meal, heat a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick pan.

Flip the polenta out on to a chopping board, and chop it into squares. You’ll have enough for four servings, but the sauce is for two, so put half of it back into the fridge for tomorrow.

Pan fry the squares of polenta over a medium-hot element. They’ll kind of go all melt-y like cheese, but this is what you want. After a few minutes, use a fish slice to flip it over. You’ll have a crisp layer, which might move off centre a bit, but don’t worry about that. Leave the other side to cook.


While the polenta is cooking, heat the oil in a sauté pan. Chop your garlic and sauté it for about a minute.

If you are using big spinach or silver beet leaves, put them in a colander and pour boiling water over them, then transfer to the pan. If you are using baby spinach leaves, add them a minute or so before serving.

Start adding the tomatoes. You’ll want to add about 1/3 of a cup at a time to start with, so the tomato flavour is intensified. Once you’ve added about half the can, you can add the rest in one go, and sprinkle in a little chilli powder at this point as well. Cook until the tomato has thickened up a bit. If you’re using baby spinach, now is the time to add the leaves, and let them wilt a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I used fresh tomatoes in the picture above, but I made this same recipe 2 nights ago with canned, so either will work. If you use fresh, just add all the tomatoes at the same time.


Use a fish slice to remove the polenta from the pan, and put three squares on each plate. Spoon over the sauce.  That’s it, nice and simple.




Revivals! This blog, the fashion of my youth, and my sad wardrobe.

I’ve decided it’s time to spark-up the old blogging engines again, and resurrect Handmakemeover. I have an overflowing stash, I was on a stash diet for so long, but recently I may have had a little binge. Or two. Maybe even three. And we won’t count what I’ve picked up from op-shops, because that’s not really fabric shopping…

I'd love to say this was all I'd bought in the last year, but that would be a lie.
I’d love to say this was all I’d bought in the last year, but that would be a lie.

But first I need to do something about the ridiculousness of my current wardrobe. I have a problem. If you follow my business blog, you might have read that one of my objectives for this year is to achieve laundry hamper zero.

At least 3 of the garments on top are actually made by me.
At least 3 of the garments on top are actually made by me.

I nearly got there actually, for a very brief moment, but I have way too many clothes. I need to get rid of A LOT of them. I need help to do this, because I am lily-livered. I’d guesstimate that I have at least one cubic metre of excess clothing. I need a plan to cull. While I’d love to just hire a stylist, right now that’s not really an option I can look at. (My ideal would be to work with a stylist who would look at my stash and say, ooh, you should make this from this, and that would look fabulous as that. Shopping for clothes is just not really my thing.)

Should I:

a) get rid of everything that doesn’t fit with my current buying principles (made-by-me, NZ-made, AU-made (most of my professional wardrobe is from Cue) or bought from an op-shop)

b) get rid of everything that is older than a certain date (but then I’d have to get rid of the awesome tops that I bought when I was in my early 20s, and if fashion predictions are right, the 90s are about to come back in a big way… Also, they’re cute. I like them…)

c) invite a bunch of friends around, pile up everything I own, and get them to go through them and do a Trinny-and-Sussanah-esque critique of it all (and get them to  remove all the “nos” from my house at the end of the session).

One things for certain: I’m going to need some help with this, so your comments will be greatly appreciated!

xx Elisabeth

Auntie Elisabeth’s school of cookery

Well hello, it’s been a while.  (I think all my blog posts always start that way).

I’ve been busying making and doing and doing and making.  I even made a shop.  But you can read about that elsewhere.

Today I’m resurrecting Handmakemeover for a very important reason.  My niece wants me to teach her how to cook.  The interesting part is that she lives on the other side of the world from me.  For a long time I toyed with the idea of taking beautiful pictures of yummy food, then handwriting the recipe on the back and sending it to her as a postcard. Which is all well and good.  Except somehow I never managed to make it happen.  This evening, as I was cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, I came to a realisation.  My niece is a final year photography student.  I could blog the recipes, and make her take the photos!

So this, my dear Saxon, is for you.

Tasty lentil stew

Yes, lentils can be tasty.


1/2 cup lentils (I used brown ones)

2 bay leaves

1 T (big T means Tablespoon) miso paste


1 cup brown rice


1 T oil (grapeseed is good)

1 onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

1 carrot, thinly sliced and then roughly chopped

2-3 bunches of spinach

1 can whole peeled tomatoes

1 t (little t means teaspoon) dried mixed herbs

1 T miso paste


Measure the lentils into a medium saucepan, cover with 2 cups of water, add the bay leaves and the first measure of miso.  Set the timer for 40 minutes.  Turn the element on full, bring it to the boil, and then turn down to a medium heat.  If it’s boiling over, it’s too hot.


Measure the brown rice into a large seive, rinse under the cold tap, and then put into another medium saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, and then turn the element right down to low.


Chop your onion.  Chop your garlic.  Chop your carrot.  Let’s even chop your spinach (rinse it first)!

About 10 minutes before the timer goes off, start heating a sautée pan (that’s the wide, flat pan you used at my house) or a large frying pan to a medium heat, and then add the oil.  Let it heat a little, then add the onion and sautée it.  A minute later, add the garlic. Cook until the onion is starting to look translucent. Then you can add the carrot, and a couple of minutes later, add the spinach.  Stir for a minute or two until the spinach is wilted (you’ll know when it has because it will go dark green and wilty). Add the can of tomatoes, breaking up the chunks with a wooden spoon.  Add about half a can of water to the mix.

About now your timer should be going off.  Turn the heat off under the rice and lentils.  Remove the bay leaves from the lentils, then add the lentils to the vegetables, along with the mixed herbs and the second measure of miso paste.  Leave the lid on the rice at this stage (you’re cooking it by what’s called the absorption method).

Let the veges and lentil mix cook down for another 10 minutes or so, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon.  You want it to thicken up a bit, but not stick to the bottom!


Serve the stew over the rice. Voilà.

Photo Brief:

Saxon, this bit’s for you to do!

When I made this, it honestly looked like it had escaped from the pages of a 70’s vegetarian cook book.  See if you can style it to match this look.


I’ve been silent for way too long!  That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been making things… more that I haven’t been able to convince my hubster to take great pictures of the things I have made.  Really, I should just use the self-timer more.

So, since I last posted, I’ve made myself a burgandy stretch velvet skirt, an awesome pair of jeans (which I then grew out of, I must do something about that) and most recently a pair of dress pants for work.

For the latter, I started with a Burda pattern (Vol 8/04, adapted from style 105).  For length, I cut to the line for style 104, I didn’t make cuffs, and I didn’t add the front pocket flap either.  The back features faux pocket flaps – I wanted the detail without the fuss.  Because I’m carrying a little extra weight at the moment, I also made some changes to the actual pattern pieces.  The style went up to 42, which was fine for the waist (in fact, I had to remove some material from the back waist), but I have chunkier hips and thighs.  Instead of playing with the outside leg seams, I made the adjustments on the crotch and inner leg seams, effectively scaling them to a 44 from my wider bits.  In the past I’ve done this using the marked pattern lines, and just rejoining them, but as this style didn’t go up quite big enough, in this case I actually had to do the measuring and drafting work myself on those seams.  So I can tick off a new skill!

Do these pants make me look short?
Full length rear view


Here, Kitty Kitty!
And the all important question: Does my butt look good in these?

I think these pants are a success.  I don’t have a pic to prove it, but the fly is very nicely done.

Purple silk top from Veronica Main, shoes from Hannahs, handmade earrings by zippitydoodah.

Kitty model is M from next door.  Hobbes was hiding (and I needed to distract M from stealing his food).

I’ve been making things… (just nothing for myself)

I just wanted to pop up with a quick apology for being a bit quiet recently.  I had a really big craft fair on Saturday just gone, and so my energies recently have been going into that.  Now that that’s been and gone, I’m starting to make plans for Take 2 of the Great Jeans Experiment, thinking of a new skirt or two, and maybe a merino top (or three.  I never stop planning what to make next.  Maybe that’s what prevents me from actually getting started on the next thing).

There has been rather a cool handmade makeover project going on in my town recently, and I thought I’d link you through to have a gander at it.  By day, Knitsch is a local yarn dyer.  She is also behind the odd bit of knit graffiti that you might see around Wellington.  A little while ago, she came up with the idea of transforming a couple of the metal lampposts outside of the Dowse Museum in Lower Hutt.  And so the call went out for knitted, crocheted, and felted flora and fauna suitable for adding to It’s a tree! Installation started in mid-May, and a couple of weeks ago several local crafters, myself included, went along to help Knitsch with installing a plethora of leaves, flowers and creatures (Owls! Tuis! Gnomes!).  Especially exciting that night were the LED flowers that SmartCrafting designed and taught us how to make.  I reckon you should head on over to the Outdoor Knit blog to check out what it looked like that night.

PS.  That’s me in the second photo, all rugged up.  We were very fortunate that evening to have the ONLY clear evening in about a 3 week stretch of almost constant rain.

Finally introducing myself!

Hey, I’m Shell!  I’m not new to the world of sewing, but I find out about so many fantastic things all the time that I feel as if I am.  I actually started sewing when I was a kid, thanks to my mom.  She used to make outfits for my Cabbage Patch doll (and I think some for me to match!) and I got interested, so she taught me the basics.  My best friend in grade school’s mom was a seamstress and I took one introductory class from her.  I still have the bag I made!  After that it was all learning-by-doing (still with mom’s help for a while).

When I was in college my interest sparked again and my parents got me a sewing machine for my birthday.  I used the sewing lab with the help of a friend who was in a class there, and had my first shot with an overlocker (I’d end up with one of those some years later).

One day, when I was totally bored with my wardrobe, I started looking online for ways to spice up my extensive t-shirt collection, because I used to wear them several sizes too large (yay bad teenager fashion sense) and I wanted to make them fitted and cute.  It was then I found the massive online crafting community that exists and I started pursuing sewing and crafting with renewed enthusiasm.

These days, with a regular job and other obligations for my personal time, finding time to sew and create is hard, but I manage to cram it in there.  I still look for fun ways to reinvent my own wardrobe, and my t-shirt collection is still too huge.  Sometimes the lack of formal training is frustrating, but thanks to that fabulous crafting community, I can always find a way to solve any problems I come up against.  Each new project I take on teaches me something, and once in a while mom will still come out to help, too.

I conquered my confusion

I made myself a new dress for work from freebie houndstooth, and conquered my mental block on sewing bodice linings.

I have long struggled with trying to work out how on earth a fully lined neckline and armholes work.  Wanting to make myself work-suitable dresses meant that I really needed to get over this.

So when one of my colleagues gave me some black and white houndstooth crimpolene(!) that her mother was clearing out of her stash, I decided it was time to face this conceptual block once and for all.  This dress made up like a dream – apart from a few weeks in the middle of making it when I got a bit busy with other stuff…

Houndstooth Dress

I had to alter the pattern (Burda issue 01/04, style 111) somewhat, as it is quite fitted through the skirt, and while my top half might fit a Burda 38 well, the lower half is something more like a 42.  There are no side seams on this dress, rather princess seams front and back, and long underarm darts for shaping.  I didn’t get the adjustment quite right on front panel, so I had to take those darts in a little more.  I’ve still got a little too much fabric across the front waist, but nothing that I can’t cover up with a belt or cardie.

Is it possible to be coy while wearing houndstooth?

The seaming through the back on this style is really nice.  I realised as I was cutting that the darts had slightly different shaping on each side, so I marked them carefully with chalk and basted by hand, matching up the lines before stitching.  I’m sure this helped with the overall fit and finish, especially for the side darts.  You can’t really tell from this image, but the invisible zip is near perfect :-).  I love how they are so much easier to insert and I especially love that you don’t have to handstitch the lining to them in the back.  Because you don’t topstitch like you do with a normal lapped zip opening, you can just flip the lining over so you have the right sides facing, and then stitch the lining into the seam allowance along the teeth of the zip.

And it turns out I had nothing to be worried about with the neck and arm edges.  I followed the directions in the Burda magazine for pushing and pulling, and got a really neat finish, even without using a wooden spoon!

I think I nailed the neckline and arm edges!