Here are some photos from our latest holiday!
June 10, 2017 by sarah
November 27, 2016 by sarah
I can’t believe it! This summer I won a competition for my food photography! I have never won anything before with my photography and in fact the only thing I remember winning is a bottle of blend whisky in a veterinary raffle! Here is my winning photo.
And here is the photo I was emulating. And I had to make the recipe too, which you can find on an earlier blog entry here.
I have to be realistic though that it is not a major competition, just a food magazine competition. Nether the less, I won a set of professional knives worth £700. They arrived this week and I couldn’t wait to unpack them. Until this point in time I have had only one knife capable of cutting anything firmer than a tomato and now I have a set of eight! I think I’ll look at entering some more food photography competitions!
November 21, 2016 by sarah
A couple of weeks ago we spent a lovely week in a small town called Essaouira on the coast of Morocco. We spent a wonderfully relaxing week wandering the souks, tickling cats, reading books that I have been meaning to read for years, taking morning ‘nos-nos’ coffee and pastry and afternoon mint tea and pastries, eating delicious tagines/pastilla/grilled sardines, going to a real local hammam for a scrub and a touristy but luxuriant spa for a massage, watching a film (Ex Machina) in the open-air cinema… And spending time together, talking and getting to know each other again. All this (flights for two and a nice riad hotel in the centre) cost less than renting a cottage in damp, cold England! The world is crazy!
October 27, 2016 by sarah
Apples, Autumn, Halloween, Guy Fawkes and Bonfire night. Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, this recipe will make your get together complete. You can even kid yourself that they are vaguely good for you (they are based on apples after all!). The deliciously caramel tones of the toffee as it crunches in your mouth against the sharp-but-sweet juice of the apple underneath is a perfect combination. Just be careful if you have fillings!
Once these are made, you need to eat them ideally within 24 hours otherwise the apples start to become soft. You can wrap then in parchment or cellophane but the apples still go soggy. I used twigs from my apple tree for the sticks (they are non-toxic) but feel free to use lollipop sticks or even spare forks to spear your apples. Sometimes these are coloured with food colouring but I prefer the natural touch though gothic black with rosie pink apples peaking out might well fit a Halloween party! To make them a little grown up, how about sprinkling them with sea salt flakes before the toffee hardens?
12 small apples (kids lunch box size or Coxes but I prefer crunchier apples than Coxes)
400g sugar – granulated or caster, entirely white or some soft brown/un
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons golden syrup
Firstly you need to prepare the apples to get rid of the wax that coats them as otherwise the toffee will not stick. I did this by putting the apples in a colander in the sink and pouring over boiling water from the kettle then I dried the apples and gave them a good rub to remove all traces of wax.
Stick firm sticks (I used apple sticks) into the stalk end of the apple – make sure these are firm as these are your handles. Set the apples on a baking tray covered in baking parchment.
Place the sugar with 100ml water in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and use a dampened pastry brush to brush down any sugar clinging to the sides. Once all the sugar is dissolved, stir in the vinegar and syrup.
Now turn up the heat and DO NOT stir. Use a sugar thermometer and check that 150°C (hard crack) is reached.
Remove the toffee from the heat and carefully swirl the apples in it so they are completely covered, allowing extra to drip back into the pan before sitting the apples on the prepared tray. Repeat with all the apples; if the toffee is getting too thick then carefully heat again until it loosens in texture. Be very careful as the toffee is very hot and will give you a nasty burn if it touches you – if you are a little worried then fill the sink with cold water before doing this.
October 17, 2016 by sarah
Yesterday, I answered that long-standing question – can you ever eat too much chocolate? I can now confirm the answer – yes! We went into London to The Chocolate Show, being held at Olympia. I originally found out about this show through the International Chocolate Awards, which were holding their ceremony at the show (but I missed it as it was on Friday when I could not attend). I could not believe there was so much high quality chocolate on one site! I spied lots of famous chocolatiers, including Paul A Young. We tried his chocolate afternoon tea at the show, which I have to say was the biggest disappointment (soggy bread, dense scones, dulche de leche instead of made caramel sauce, crystallised ganache). We signed up to a monthly chocolate subscription service so we can continue to eat good chocolate all year and I brought home a huge bag of chocolates and bars to try. It was also very inspirational in regards my amateur attempts at chocolate making – yuzu is the in thing, along with bean-to-bar producers.
October 13, 2016 by sarah
Now the days are really turning Autumnal; it is chilly at night and dark when I get up in the morning. But it is time to stop reminiscing of picnics and barbecues and late evening walks in the sun, and embrace the change of the seasons. The cool days, the wet days, the sitting by the fire, the fire coloured leaves that suddenly drop in a storm, the comforting puddings, vin chaud and cake. And so this has to be the perfect season for this recipe. Using the last of the British apples fresh from the tree and combining them in a spiced dense yeasted cake. This is not a fluffy and light as air sponge, this cake has some heft and needs a walk to digest it but it is not rich or cream leaden. I particularly enjoyed it re-warmed with yogurt for breakfast.
This recipe calls for a bundt tin but you can use a large loaf tin instead. Because of the butter and eggs in this dough, it is slow to rise. If making an enriched dough like this on a chilly day I definitely use my ‘lizard mat’, an electric warming mat sold for use under reptile houses. You can pick them up cheaply online and they just give the dough an extra boost in rising. I don’t have a proving draw like the contestants on Great British Bake Off!
Apple & Cinnamon Kugelhopf
60g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing
60g ground almonds, for dusting
200ml full-fat milk
85g caster sugar
85g unsalted butter, very soft
200g plain flour
200g white bread flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
lemon zest, 1-2
12g fast-action yeast (1 and 1/2 sachets)
3 medium free-range eggs
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 220g)
75g sultanas soaked in booze for 24 hours
Thoroughly grease the bundt tin with the soft butter and dust with the 60g ground almonds; tip out the excess.
Warm the milk with 25ml water.
Cream together (by hand, hand mixer or stand mixer) the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add the flours, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest and instant yeast. Add the warm milk/water and the eggs. Slowly beat together until comes together then beat on medium for 5-10 minutes until the dough is sticky and stretchy. Fold in the diced apples and sultanas.
Transfer the dough to the prepared tin, cover with greased clingfilm or shower cap and leave somewhere warm (like on the lizard mat) for 1-2 hours until it is doubled and nearly reaching the top of the tin.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan with a rack in the middle of the oven.
When the oven is up to temperature, bake the kugelhopf for 35-40 minutes, starting to check after 30 minutes. It is done when a skewer comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the tin. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out to cool fully. Decorate with sliced almonds.
October 2, 2016 by sarah
Autumn is definitely here: the nights are drawing in such that I squeeze in some outdoor activity after coming home from work; the evenings are becoming cool enough to think about lighting a fire or turning on the heating; the leaves are yellowing and starting to drop; the apple harvest has started with three demi-johns of cider bubbling away. It makes me glad that I live somewhere the seasons are defined and changing. Sticky gingerbread is a cake that reminds me of autumn; the dark colour contrasting with the snow white icing and the spiciness that is surprising yet moreish. Go on, welcome in the autumn and make my sticky gingerbread!
This recipe is an amalgamation of several recipes as I have tried countless times over the years and none where quite right, until this one.
150g unsalted butter
150g dark muscovado sugar
175g golden syrup
175g black treacle
thumb size knob of fresh ginger, finely grated
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
For the icing
200g icing sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Line a roasting tin of about 30x20cm with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan.
In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup and treacle until combined but do not boil. In a jug beat the eggs into the milk. In a large bowl sift the flour with the dry spices and in a small bowl dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a couple of tablespoons of warm water.
Pour the liquid ingredients (melted butter/sugar pan, milk/egg jug and dissolved bicarb) over the flour and beat until well mixed; it will make a very wet batter. I normally need to use a whisk to beat out the lumps of flour. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and place in the preheated oven; bake for 30-45 minutes until risen and a squewer comes out clean but the cake is still sticky and moist. Do NOT over bake. Allow to cool completely in the tin.
Prepare the icing by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and whisking in the lemon juice until a very thick icing forms. Pour this over the gingerbread and encourage it to spread out to cover the top with a palette knife.
This cake keeps for up to a week in a sealed container.
September 15, 2016 by sarah
At the end of August and into September, Jim and I took a trip up North in his Lotus. The weather was amazing for most of the time except one day on Skye. The open, well maintained roads with light traffic were a joy to drive in the Lotus. We had some interesting staying in B&Bs and ate far too much food. At the end of our tour we finished in Dunblane to meet up with the family and meet our new niece and nephew for the first time.
September 10, 2016 by sarah
Writing this is hard as today is a day of complete contrasts. Today was the day I put my companion of nearly 15 years to sleep after she had a stroke (vestibular incident for the medically minded). With her additional health problems she just couldn’t cope with one more thing and was distressed. But we had a couple of hours on the sofa together and then she went to sleep in my arms. It really couldn’t of been more peaceful and I hope someone can do that for me if I get to that stage.
The complete contrast is that the local show was also today; the Wigginton Gardner’s Association annual show. I wasn’t around to enter last year so felt I’d better give it a good bash this year. And I did very well – lots of firsts and placings and three best in shows and 2 cups won. Just need to improve my flower arranging skills for next time! My silver heart bracelet got best in show handicrafts, my carrot cake (see my recipe here) got best in show domestic and my damson wine got best in show wine. I won the Lady Hadden Challenge Cup for the person with the most points in domestic classes and the George Hill Memorial Trophy for the best wine. I need to wait a few weeks to get the cups as they are getting engraved. I am pleased to say that entries had increased and it was a healthier show.
August 4, 2016 by sarah
It feels like summer has finally arrived; the schools are off so my commute to work takes half the time, the weather is warm enough to consider putting on a skirt or a dress (needs to be above 20°C for cold blooded me!), the lawns are looking a little yellow/brown, I can eat a meal outside (at least some of the time), my straw hat sits by the front door for walks in the evenings. And of course, ice cream. Not that I am against eating ice cream at any other time of the year, but in the summer the luxurious iciness seems perfectly, sublimely fitting. Almost magical, probably from reminiscences of a ‘rose-tinted’ childhood!
I was inspired to make this recipe by the ‘delicious’ magazine that fell through the letter box at the weekend – this was the front cover. Though this recipe has several parts, it did not seem onerous to make. I have to admit to actually making the yogurt to go in the recipe, but only because I had excess milk in the house; please don’t bother. The ice cream recipes are supposed to be ‘non-churn’ but the raspberry ice cream was so hard that even after one hour out of the freezer, I needed to use a knife to get it out of the tub!! So I have amended the recipe so that it should not set as hard as concrete. Similarly, do not feel obliged to make ice cream at all; you can buy decent gelato at any supermarket (I admit to having a particular fondness for the cheap mint choc-chip – probably something to do with the Viennettas of the 80’s!).
IceCream Cookie Sandwiches
Makes 10-12 cookies; they will keep in an airtight tin for a few days. The recipes make far too much ice cream for the cookies but it will keep in the freezer for a month.
FOR THE COOKIES
100g unsalted butter, soft
100g caster sugar
100g demerara sugar, plus extra to sprinkle
1 medium free-range egg
1 tsp vanilla paste
165g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp fine salt
1. Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan and grease 2 large baking sheets with flavourless oil. Mix the butter and both sugars with a stand or hand-held mixer until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the egg and vanilla, then beat in the dry ingredients.
2. Spoon the mixture on the prepared trays; half a dessert spoon was about right. Scatter with extra demerara sugar. Bake for about 8 minutes until golden around the edges and cracking in the middle. Remove the sheets from the oven and allow the cookies to cool for 10 minutes before removing with a spatula to a cooling rack to cool completely.
FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM
397g can Carnation caramel (I used home made salted caramel sauce as I had it left over from making chocolates)
350ml double cream
200ml full-fat greek yogurt
A large pinch sea salt flakes (if not using salted caramel!)
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat until aerated and thick. Transfer to a freezerproof container with a lid and freeze overnight until completely firm.
FOR THE RASPBERRY ICE CREAM
350g tub frozen raspberries, thawed then pushed through a sieve (discard the seeds)
100g icing sugar stirred into the raspberry puree
400ml double cream
100ml full-fat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons of vodka or gin or invert sugar syrup
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients until aerated and thick. Ideally churn using an ice cream machine otherwise transfer to a freezerproof container with a lid and freeze overnight until completely firm.
FOR THE MINT CHOC CHIP ICE CREAM
350ml double cream
397g can condensed milk
1/4-1/2 capful of peppermint extract
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
+/- green food colouring
In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat all the ingredients until aerated and thick. Add the chocolate chips. Transfer to a freezerproof container with a lid and freeze overnight until completely firm.
To make the ice cream cookie sandwiches, take the ice cream out of the freezer at least 10 minutes before needed (sometimes they need much longer). Use a spoon to scoop out flattish scoops of ice cream; place onto the bottom side of a cookie and top with a second cookie. Eat immediately or put on a tray and freeze again for up to 24 hours.