Pressure cooker flan

This recipe is the product of a lot of experimentation. I found some recipes for flan to make in the pressure cooker and they were not what I wanted. First of all, I live in Spain and speak Spanish at home, so for me a flan is a flan and everything else is pudding or custard. Second of all, I know what a real flan is supposed to taste like because of “first of all.” I certainly do not protest against this free, open, global world that reinterprets things and reshapes them. I just want a good old flan the way I think it’s supposed to be, as do most of the people who live in my neighborhood. I want the kind you can get in Spain at a cafeteria. I also want it to be convenient to make at home. Making flan the slow way with a hot water bath is a bit tedious.

Photo Aug 17, 22 10 09

Making flan in the pressure cooker takes about 40 minutes total, from start to finish, or an hour if you’re multitasking in the kitchen or are especially slow at doing things. It’s totally not rocket science.

For equipment you need: a pressure cooker and a steaming rack that can support ramekins. Also, six 3-inch ramekins will also be necessary. Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

3 eggs, medium or large are fine

1 cup whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup white sugar

zest of one lemon (or half a lemon if you don’t want too much lemon flavor)

1 tsp vanilla

liquid caramel (get the store-bought kind in a squeeze bottle unless you want this to take an hour and 40 minutes)

Directions:

Squeeze a layer of caramel in the bottom of the ramekins, enough to coat the bottom. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Gradually whisk in the sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla. Over the mixture, grate the lemon zest and whisk that in. Ladle mixture into six ramekins that have the bottoms covered with caramel. Cover each ramekin tightly with aluminum foil. Add two cups of water to the pressure cooker. Insert rack. Place as many ramekins on the rack that will fit into the pressure cooker. Cover the pressure cooker with its lid and cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When finished, allow the pressure to reduce on its own until no more pressure remains in the cooker. Repeat for remaining ramekins. Allow the flans to cool completely. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. To serve: with a knife, separate the edges of the flan from the wall of the ramekin all the way around; cover with a saucer and turn upside-down; if necessary, give the flan a few whacks and it should plop onto the plate.

Note: It is especially convenient to do this in an electric pressure cooker because it times itself, beeps when it’s finished, etc. However, if you have a traditional one to use on the stove, you can still do this, you just have to use a timer.

Potato pancakes

Photo Aug 08, 22 56 07

I think it’s been a while since I last shared a recipe. Tonight I had some leftover mashed potatoes and I decided to make potato pancakes. Usually my default is bubble and squeak, but I didn’t have any leftover cooked vegetables. Really, there isn’t much skill required to make these little savory cakes. I make these every once and a while, especially if I have cheese that needs using up. Here’s my recipe. Please feel free to alter it any old way you wish.

Ingredients

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, cold

1 egg yolk

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever you have on hand)

1 tsp onion powder or 2 tbsp fresh chopped chives

oil for shallow pan frying

all-purpose flour for dusting and handling raw pancakes

Directions

Combine all the ingredients except the last two in the list. Mix well. The consistency should be rather stiff, enough to handle without too much stickiness. If the dough is too sticky or wet, add a little more flour. With floured hands form 3-inch patties, about 1/4 inch thick. If frying later, line a plate with floured parchment paper and keep them in the fridge on that. To fry: over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan, heat oil. When the oil is hot enough, begin frying the pancakes in batches. If making many pancakes they can be kept warm in an oven. Serve with ketchup and / or sour cream. Makes approximately 5 3-inch potato pancakes.

Notes

This recipe is not for people who wish to lose weight or need to avoid fattening foods. Just imagine: mashed potatoes have butter and if you’re the type of person who prefers to use cream instead of milk for mashing potatoes, well, there’s all that fat. Then, we’ve just added cheese and fried this lovely mix. Generally speaking, we’re frying some carbohydrate-rich mass of fat in more fat. If eaten with sour cream, well, there’s more. I usually only eat one and have a salad on the side. Any remaining pancakes heat up well in a 350 F oven.

 

 

 

Chicken chili (soup)

This week I have no new WIP photos to share. I am still knitting a blue lace scarf, neon self-striping socks, red cabled socks, and a sweater. Remember my “one pattern repeat a day” commitment to my blue lace scarf? It’s working! Last week I missed a couple of days so I got myself caught up on Thursday. Last Friday I proceeded to knit another two repeats and on Saturday I knitted four pattern repeats. And, to add to the happiness, today I squeezed in my one pattern repeat. This commitment has helped me a lot because I am making fewer mistakes and can knit more repeats in one sitting. I’ll have this scarf done sooner than later, which makes me very satisfied. It’s a cold month so maybe I’ll even get a chance to wear it this year before the warmer days of Spring come around. If not, I can look forward to using it.

Instead of giving you my usual WIP Wednesday I am offering you a recipe Monday. It’s for a chicken soup (or maybe chili?). It has Mexican flavors and I invented it a few weeks ago. I’ve made it about four times now so I think I’m addicted to it and I’m ready to share the recipe. I’ve been eating it for supper quite a lot. My favorite soup, in fact, is chili, but I try to keep my ground beef consumption down to once a week (or never) if I can for health reasons, which means I shouldn’t be eating a bowl of classic chili con carne every other day. I decided to make a healthier version with chicken. I’m not a big fan of chicken, typically I only really like the breast part of this animal, and only when it’s seasoned well, so it was a challenge for me to invent something I would like. Evidently, I was successful, because I have turned myself into an addict to this soup. Below, please find the recipe. After the recipe I’ll talk a little more about different things you can do to it to make it more soup and less chili or more chili and less soup. Also, I’ll provide some ways to hack it to turn it into something else. In the ingredients list I’ve given amounts of seasonings in a range of numbers to accommodate people who like more or less heat. I like my food spicy, so you know which end of the numbers I prefer. Anyway, it’s soup (or chili) for crying out loud. No need to be super OCD about the amounts unless you have dietary restrictions or some other need or desire to be super careful with measurements. I am not a nutritionist so I have no guidance to offer on that end. For me and my health, this soup works great for me.

Photo Mar 09, 7 27 30 PM

Chicken chili (soup)

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, uncooked (raw!), cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 large can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes

1 jar (the kind for dipping tortilla chips) Mexican salsa (use what you have or like, but nothing exotic like “with mangoes” or “with black beans,” etc.)

1 small can of sliced jalapeños, drained, or 3 fresh jalapeños, sliced, optional

1-2 cups chicken broth, homemade, from bouillon cubes, powder, a carton, or a can, not important how it’s made

1 cup frozen corn or a small can of corn, drained

1 can (14 ounces) red kidney beans, drained, optional

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 Spanish onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1-2 Tablespoons hot paprika (or more if you like lots of heat)

2-3 teaspoons ground cumin

2-3 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Directions

  1. Blend together: paprika, cumin, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), garlic powder, and onion powder. Season chicken breast cubes with the blend.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the seasoned chicken in the oil for about five minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink.
  3. Add to the dutch oven: red bell pepper, minced garlic, diced onion, corn, jalapeños (if desired), and bay leaf. Sauté ten minutes more, or until pepper is soft and onion is translucent. If you want to help the vegetables cook faster, add a pinch of salt if you wish.
  4. Add to the dutch oven: crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, Mexican salsa, and beans (if desired).
  5. Simmer over very low heat for two or three hours (the longer you can slowly simmer it the better). Season to taste, remove bay leaf, and serve.

Serving suggestions

Good for reheating. I serve this dish to myself, freshly made and reheated. It gets me through quite a few meals and for some reason, since I made a batch over the weekend, I feel all cozy knowing my soup is waiting for me in the fridge to reheat whenever I want. When you reheat it, don’t microwave it unless you’re totally in a hurry or at work having lunch in the break room. It ruins the chicken breast meat slightly — but it’s OK, just not as good as reheated slowly. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I had it for supper and this week so far I’ve eaten it for lunch once (today, Monday). Remember: I live in Spain and lunch is our big meal and supper is lightish unless we’re super hungry. Last month I also ate this soup-chili frequently.

Garnishes and sides. As far as I remember I have had this dish: topped with grated cheddar cheese, plain (nothing on top), garnished with grated cheddar cheese and sour cream on top, with and without toppings with a cheese quesadilla on the side, with and without toppings with saltines on the side, and without toppings with a roasted red pepper  hummus sandwich on the side (today for lunch). On Wednesday I’ll have it for lunch again and I think I’ll eat a ham and cheese on whole wheat on the side. I have to say I have enjoyed this soup each and every way I have served it to myself. So much so that each time I eat it, I have two bowls of it, I just can’t resist.

Results with and without options.  I’ve eaten it with beans and without beans as well as with jalapeños and without jalapeños. I thought all the versions were delicious. In Spain in my city it’s impossible to buy fresh jalapeños so I’ve always had to use the canned type. I haven’t used any other type of broth but from bouillon cubes but I’ve left the source of the broth up to you because I don’t think it’s critical to use one type or another. A low-sodium chicken broth might require you to consider the “season to taste” instruction a bit more seriously, though.

If you do not enjoy this soup, I am very sorry. But, as they say, everybody’s taste is different.

Hacks

  1. Consistency: You could leave out the chicken broth to have a chunkier stew (or more chili-like chili) and just add some chicken bouillon powder to the pot as a seasoning.
  2. Italianize: You could also completely alter the soup by removing its tex-mex flavor and replacing it with an Italian flavor: replace the cumin with dried basil, the red kidney beans with white beans, use zucchini instead of corn, and leave out the Mexican salsa and jalapeños. As an Italian soup, you could serve it topped with an Italian cheese, mozzarella or Parmesan-reggiano. I haven’t tried this out yet, but I plan to do this in the future. First I have to get this tex-mex addiction out of my system.
  3. Slow cooker: I don’t have a slow cooker but in the USA I had one and used it often, so I know you could adapt this recipe for the crock pot if you wanted. If you have a slow cooker, consult the manual that came with it to figure out how to adapt the recipe.
  4. Other chicken parts: If you don’t like the texture of chicken breast meat when it’s been simmered for hours (it can get stringy) by all means use other parts of the chicken, such as thigh meat. I don’t care for chicken thighs, but maybe you love them. If you do, you should definitely try it out.

 

 

 

 

 

Any pot pie you like

I have been knitting a lot. Unfortunately, I’ve been knitting the same old things: A shawl for Mom, a pair of socks, and a cabled sweater. I think it would be rather boring to show you pictures of my WIPs because I’ve already done that and all you’ll see are more of the same  that aren’t finished yet. This week I have also turned left over pot roast into beef pot pies. So, just in case I didn’t have much knitting to write about I took some photos and decided to write about making them. If you read on you will get: a pretty darn good all-purpose pie crust recipe, a way to make pot pies with any savory filling you like, and my own personal recipe for individual beef pot pies made with leftover pot roast. Also, remember: you can easily double or triple everything indicated below.

The Crust

We judge a good pie crust according to how it flakes. To make a really flaky, puffy pie crust, in my opinion, it is essential to use butter. Also, it’s important to make sure the pie is nice and cold when you put it in the hot oven. The pie crust will puff up and acquire that flaky and tender texture we all want. In my recipe I use lots of butter. This is not for dieters or people with diet restrictions. So, here it goes:

Recipe for all-purpose pie crust (for the top and bottom of a 9-inch pie):

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter (4 sticks), cold

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup or less of cold water

extra flour for dusting and rolling

(note: if this is for a dessert pie, also add 1/4 cup of white sugar)

Directions:

Cut the butter into little cubes. To a large mixing bowl (or large capacity food processor with chopping blade) add flour, salt, butter (and sugar if this is for dessert). Cut the butter into the flour or pulse a few times if using a food processor. When your mixture has a course texture and can form little pea-shaped balls you are done combining the flour with the butter.

Stir with a spoon (or run the food processor) while adding the cold water little by little. When the mixture forms a ball all on its own stop adding water and stop mixing. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it a little bit with floured hands on a floured surface. If the dough is really sticky or pasty you can add some more flour to it as you knead it to get the consistency you desire.

At this stage, you can wrap the large ball in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator or you can roll it out the way you want with a rolling pin and flour. When you’re handling the dough just make sure you keep your surface, hands, and rolling pin floured. If you keep it in the fridge for a long time (more than 30 minutes) you will need to leave the dough on the counter for a while to take the extreme chill off before working with it. An all-butter pie dough gets really stiff and impossible to work with when it’s really cold. I actually prefer to refrigerate the dough for 15 to 20 minutes after mixing it and before working with it.

Any pot pie you like

To make pot pie filling all you need to remember is the following: you typically need 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup of butter, and 2 1/2 cups of liquid (usually broth or stock). This will be enough to fill a 9-inch pie or 4 individual pot pies. If you need more filling, double or triple these proportions. I prefer to make individual pot pies, actually. They store nicely and you can bake them as you need them.

Phase 1: You start cooking your filling by melting the butter in the pan, adding minced or chopped onion to the hot fat and sautéing it until the onion gets translucent.

Phase 2: Add the flour and cook the flour for 1 to 2 minutes.

Phase 3: Gradually add your liquid as you stir or whisk the hot mixture. To do it right, add the liquid in very tiny amounts at the beginning and do not add more liquid until you see a smooth, congealed mixture in your pan. So the procedure is: add a tiny amount of liquid, stir aggressively until it all looks homogeneous and smooth, add a tiny amount of liquid, stir aggressively until it all looks homogeneous and smooth, etc. etc. Eventually, your mixture will be able to handle larger additions of liquid. Keep going until you’ve added all the liquid. Cook for five minutes more (make sure your mixture is bubbling) before moving on to Phase 4.

Phase 4: Add the rest of your ingredients and cook until the mixture has the consistency you’re looking for. If you’re using cooked chicken breast or another type of cooked meat that does not improve with extensive simmering, add it when you’ve finished cooking the other ingredients.

Phase 5: Allow the filling to cool completely. I like to cook my filling hours in advance of assembling my pot pies so it’s nice and cold.

Phase 6: Make your pie dough as indicated above. Roll out your pie dough as you like and start assembling the pie or pies. Line your containers with pie dough, add your filling, and top it off with the top of the crust. When they’re assembled, refrigerate them for at least an hour before baking them. You can also freeze them.

Phase 7: Brush the pot pies with whole milk or cream and poke a hole in their centers.

Phase 8: Bake the pot pies (individual 4-inch round or square pies) at 375 degrees F (190 C) for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool for ten minutes before serving them. If the pies are frozen, bake them for 60 to 70 minutes.

Leftover individual pot roast pot pies (serves 4)

Filling:

1/2 cup of onion, minced

1/2 cup of Cremini mushrooms, minced

1/3 cup of flour

1/3 cup of butter

2 1/2 cups of beef stock (it does not have to be homemade)

1/2 cup of sliced carrots (make sure you peel them!)

1/4 cup of frozen peas

1 teaspoon of dried thyme (or more if you like)

1 or 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1 cup (or some more!) of leftover pot roast, chopped into small pieces or shredded

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large frying pan or medium-sized pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for one or two minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Add the mushrooms. Add the beef stock little by little and stirring, as described in “Any pot pie you like,” above. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the mixture has the desired consistency. Remove from heat. Cool, and then chill in the fridge until ready to assemble the pot pies.

Assembly:

After making the pie dough as instructed above, divide it into eight pieces. Four pieces should be of equal size but larger than the other four pieces. The slightly larger pieces are for the bottom of the individual pot pies and the slightly smaller ones are for the tops. Grease four 4-inch round or square baking dishes (you can get away with using 5-inch ones, too). Roll out each of the four larger pieces to fit the baking dishes. Line the dishes with the dough. Add the filling. Roll out the four smaller pieces and top the individual pot pies with them. Cut off the excess dough and press down on the edges to make sure the top edges and bottom edges are sealed. Refrigerate or freeze the pot pies until ready to bake them. Bake refrigerated pot pies in 375 F (190 C) oven 30-40 minutes or frozen pies in 375 F (190 C) oven for 60 minutes. Let the pies cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Enjoying pot pies

An individual, homemade pot pie is just something I love to eat. When you make them for dinner guests it’s also quite the delight for them. There’s just something cool about getting a little delicious savory pie just for you.

Garlic baby sea bass

I don’t have much to say about my knitting. Actually, I haven’t been knitting much for the past couple of days. So, why not share a recipe?

In Spain we have some delicious baby sea bass native to our coasts and it goes on sale this time of year. A dish that is popular here is called lubina a la bilbaína which is just a fancy way to say “garlic baby sea bass.” It is not difficult to prepare.

This fish recipe is so flexible that you can double it, triple, or halve it. As a matter of fact I’m not going to say how many sea bass you should buy. Figuring out a serving size is easy: one whole fish per person.

So, go to your fish monger and buy as many baby sea bass as you need. Have the fish monger cut their heads off and splay them open. The fish should be cut open so that they lay like an open book. There’s no need to de-bone the fish and the scales should not be removed.

So, here’s what you do:

  1. preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (or 200 Celsius)
  2. chop a lot of garlic – for each fish you need about three or or four cloves
  3. place your fish on a baking sheet or other type of baking pan
  4. season the fish with salt
  5. cover them with bits of garlic
  6. drizzle olive oil over them
  7. roast in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes depending on their size

Now, the meat of the fish will get a nice crispy texture on the outside and be soft and juicy on the inside. The garlic will brown a little bit and as it bakes it imparts its flavor to the fish thanks to the olive oil.

I like to eat my garlic baby sea bass with some plain white rice (seasoned with salt and pepper, of course) and a salad. Sometimes I season my fish with fresh lemon juice. Today I didn’t. Of course, I snapped a pic of my plate so you can see how it looks:

Photo Aug 06, 5 20 50 PM

I allowed my fish to stay in the oven perhaps 5 minutes longer than I usually do because these little “babies” were a bit meatier than I’m used to seeing.

How to eat your baby sea bass: just pick at the fish with a fork. You can use the tines of your fork to scrape the meat from the spines or you can simply lift the entire spinal column out of the meat. It will separate cleanly and easily.

When you make your first batch you’ll understand why I said it’s essential to leave the bones in and the skin on the fish because you’ll notice that, once cooked, the fish is a bit fragile. The skin and the bones hold it all together.

I’m pretty sure you can adapt this recipe to using a grill outside. The only thing you might need to do is put the fish on some aluminum foil.

The trick to pulling this dish off is to buy fresh baby sea bass. You can’t really use frozen fish because the bass’s flavor is the main feature. This, of course, is typical of Spanish cuisine. Most age-old, tried-and-true Spanish recipes use very few ingredients because the whole concept of enjoying food in Spain is to make the flavor of the main ingredient come through and truly shine. A lot of dishes that we consider “Spanish”aren’t really too terribly unique. Take, for example, the way lamb chops are traditionally prepared here: lightly salted and cooked on a grill or in a grill pan with some olive oil.

Tinto de verano

Well, after I finished working I got going on ripping back my toe-up socks and reknitting them with the gussets correctly placed. I knitted for a couple of hours and this evening we had dinner with tinto de verano to drink.

What is this drink? Well, I suppose in English we’d call it a “wine spritzer.” It’s red wine mixed with lemon flavored soda (Fanta, Sprite, or 7UP, etc.) served with plenty of ice. Here in Spain it’s ubiquitous during the hot months of summer. You can even buy it pre-mixed (industrial style) at the supermarket. I prefer to make my own because I like to control the amount of wine and soda. Would you like to try one? Go for it, following these steps:

  1. Open a bottle of red wine.
  2. Get a glass.
  3. Put ice in the glass.
  4. Pour the red wine into the glass until it’s half full.
  5. Fill the rest of the glass up with lemon soda.
  6. Drink.

If you prefer white wine, then use white wine, although the taste won’t be exactly the same.

A lot of people in my family always ask me what type of red wine they should use so I imagine maybe you, too, might have that question. It’s quite simple: use the red wine you want to use. Here in Spain, a lot of people make tinto de verano drinks with cheap wine. We have lots of wonderful options for cheap wine here from vino cosechero (wine made from this year’s grapes, sold in bottles with no label), boxed wines, cartons of wine, and economy wines that are actually of high quality. The latter wines are inexpensive in Spain but are sold in the United States for much more. Even though lots of people here use cheaper wines for mixing, there is absolutely nothing wrong with using more expensive wines. At my house we use what we have on hand, which is typically a wide range of cheaper and more expensive bottled wines.

More trivial information: if you mix red wine with cola it’s called a calimocho. And yes, please do try out a calimocho and see if you like it. I prefer the tinto de verano but I’m sure cola fans will love it.

Photo Jul 07, 3 43 42 PM

The First “Russian Salad” of the Season

It’s getting warmer, finally. After teaching my last class this afternoon I went out for a walk without a jacket on and wearing sandals. The warm weather got me in the mood for an ensaladilla rusa which, literally translated to English, would be “Russian salad.” But really, it’s just a potato salad. Yes, that’s correct, Spain also has its own special version of potato salad. This is what Spanish potato salad looks like in my kitchen, in case you’re curious:

Photo May 27, 4 09 15 PM

If you want to make one of your very own, here’s how to make an ensaladilla rusa for four people:

Step 1: Boil four medium-sized, unpeeled potatoes and a good-sized, peeled carrot in a big pot of salted water. It should take roughly 30 minutes to cook them. When they’re done, remove them from the water and let them cool on the counter.

Step 2: Cook some frozen peas in the microwave. Shock them in cold water.

Step 3: Hard boil two eggs. Let them cool.

Step 4: When the potatoes  and the carrot have cooled, peel the potatoes and cut them into cubes. Cut the carrot anyway you like (julienne, slices, medium-sized dice).

Step 4: Combine potatoes, carrot, and peas in a bowl. Also, add some drained, canned, solid white tuna to the bowl. In Spain all that’s available is tuna packed in oil so, to make it truly Spanish, use that kind. If you worry about fat, use solid white tuna packed in water and just Americanize it. I wouldn’t recommend using chunk light tuna but if that’s what you like I won’t ever know!

Step 5: Add some salt to the bowl if you like, to taste. Moisten the mixture with mayonnaise. Use as much mayonnaise as you usually do for your normal potato salad. In Spanish restaurants this salad is practically swimming in mayo and I hate that!

Step 6: Peel and slice the hard-boiled eggs. Decorate the top with the slices.

Step 7: Decorate the top of the salad with green manzanilla olives. You can use pitted or un-pitted, whichever you prefer.

Step 8: Chill in the fridge before serving. This should be enough for 4 people.

Now, of course, an ensaladilla rusa can be as unique as you are. The recipe, above, is for the typical one you can find just about anywhere in Spain but, as with everything, there are always regional and restaurant variations. In Madrid, for example, you are very likely to find your serving of “Russian salad” garnished with red strips of pimiento along with the olives and hard-boiled egg slices. I prefer to mix the tuna in with the potato and carrot and other people like to use the tuna as an additional garnish. Basically, it’s just a potato salad. Enjoy!

And now, for the crafty talk. My knitting club has decided to start a CAL because, apparently, here in Spain the Wayuu bag is going to be fashionable this summer. If you are wondering what a Wayuu is, I’ll tell you: it’s a Native American ethnic group from Colombia that makes crocheted bags with interesting, colorful designs. I decided to join the fun because my mother is going to be having a birthday soon. Since the point is to be summery, I picked some bright colors. Here’s my progress so far:

Photo May 26, 3 43 43 PM

As you can see, it’s just nice and easy tapestry crochet. I’ve crocheted this way before, but never for a bag and I can’t believe I never thought of it on my own. Using cotton yarn creates a very firm fabric that won’t need a lining. I decided to use a cotton-synthetic blend just in case my colors run in the washing but a lot of people are going with DMC Natura because, let’s face it, the colors for that yarn are outrageously beautiful.