Mmmmm

It’s June.

It’s sunny (on and off)

So there must be

Freshly picked,  sunwarmed strawberries

Freshly picked, sunwarmed strawberries

Which transform nicely into

Gently heated,  lemon infused,  strawberry scented kitchens

Gently heated, lemon infused, strawberry scented kitchens

Which stack up perfectly into

Homemade strawberry jam

Homemade strawberry jam

Which of course just perfectly lends itself to

Oven warm homemades scones with jam and clotted cream

Oven warm homemades scones with jam and clotted cream

Mmm mmm mmm. Β πŸ™‚

Advertisements

…In the Air

Happy Valentines Day πŸ™‚

Yoga yesterday.

We had to do a pose that involved sitting on the floor, one leg pulled back, knee bent, to the chest.

then you had to slip an arm through the crook of the bent knee, twist the arm behind the back, take the other arm behind the back and clasp hands, and then casually straighten the bent leg so it was waving nonchalantly in the air.

all the while focussing on drishti and engaging bhandas.

what popped in to my head?

a roomful of cats all poised to, erm, wash themselves

You can see the meditation practice is doing a fine job of helping me control my thought processes. πŸ™‚

So. Valentines Day. And what could be more appropriate then chocolate?

Gooey chocolate muffins with a gooey chocolate centre and gooey chocolate topping. With just a hint of orange to break up all that gooey ness a smidgen.

Perfect for a day that makes otherwise sane people go gooey.

You will need
80g softened butter
280g caster sugar
200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
A sprinkling of salt
1tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
240ml milk
1 tsp orange essence
Grated zest of 1 small orange.

For the icing and filling
1 chocolate orange (175g) or a bar of orange infused chocolate such as Maya gold if you want to be a bit more upmarket
Plain chocolate to make the quantity of chocolate up to 250g
250ml double cream

Preheat oven to Gas 5, 190C

Cream together the butter and sugar then add the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. The texture will be very grainy, this is fine.

Ina jug mix together the eggs, milk, orange essence and zest.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together very well until you have a lovely, smooth batterimage

Spoon into muffin cases and bake for about 20 minutes. When cool enough to touch, place on a wire rack and let them cool completely before going any further.

To make the filling/icing, chop up the chocolates
image
And place in a bowl. Put the cream into a saucepan and heat until nearly boiling, then pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Give it a stir and then leave for a few minutes for the chocolate to melt before stirring again to combine thoroughly. Allow to cool.

Take your now cooled cupcakes
image
and with a sharp knife cut out a cork-shaped and sized lump from the middle of the cupcake
image
Fill the hole with the chocolate & cream ganache and replace the plug of cake, trimming it if need be.
image

Top with a generous, artistically swirled blob of ganache and adorn with more zest or whatever other sprinkles you fancy and happen to have to hand.

I would have inserted a picture of the completed cupcakes, but they seemed to disappear. Strange.

Eat and enjoy.

Boo

Happy Dia de Los Muertos, happy Halloween. Samhain greetings.

IMG_0389.JPG
There were a few surprised faces when I answered the door yesterday.

And that was before I applied the make up (ba boom)

Five hyped up 8/9 year old girls.

And three trying to be cool but also actually quite hyped up nearly teenage boys.

I was ready for bed by 9.30.

But they were still going at 1am.

IMG_0386.JPG

A bowl of eyeballs

IMG_0382.JPG

Apple bobbing

IMG_0385.JPG

Red velvet blood cakes ready for decorating

And

IMG_0383.JPG
Death by chocolate cake.

The streets were packed with trick or treaters.

But I think the noise levels from our small group of girls outdid the rest of them put together.

Ears were bleeding πŸ™‚

May your Winter to come be a snug and cosy one.

Pumpkin Spice (ish)

So, Starbucks have brought out their Pumpkin Spice Latte. It must be autumn.

I succumbed.

I bought one.

And having been mostly sugar free for weeks I found I couldn’t (gasp) drink it. It was so sweet I nearly gagged.

Which makes me worry the gingerbread latte they bring out before Christmas might be similarly un drinkable.

In which case I will be cast into a veritable slough of despond.

But I digress.

Pumpkin spice? How about pumpkin spice muffins?

Mmmmmmmm.

Only.

Being organised as always I didn’t actually have any pumpkin in the house.

So….

Taaaa daaaa!

Sweet potato spice muffins.

I know.

Not quite the same ring, but work with me on this one.

You Will Need
175g sweet potato (steam or boiled until tender then lightly mashed)
100g whole meal flour
100g self raising flour
75g butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp stevia (plant based sweetener also known as xylitol)
2tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to gas 4 or 180c

Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl

20141015-165609.jpg
And beat to combine well

20141015-165638.jpg

20141015-165720.jpg
Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 25 minutes

20141015-165822.jpg
Once they are nicely browned and firm to the touch, remove from oven and allow to cool

20141015-165918.jpg

Now add your choice of frosting. I combined some cream cheese with maple syrup and spooned that on, topping with a pecan. I found this amply sweet but everyone else reacted like they’d just sucked a lemon so you may want to try a butter icing ( perhaps with a swirl of Dulce de Leche for a caramelly, sticky toffee vibe?)

20141015-170225.jpg

So, a serving of vegetables and sugar free.

Result!

20141015-170317.jpg

Party

We invited 35 friends to the grand kitchen unveiling at the weekend.

Only, the weekend before this one? the kitchen wasn’t actually quite ready to be unveiled.

And neither was the living room, which we decided to start redecorating a couple of weeks ago.

Because that’s a great thing to do when you’ve got masses of guests due to come to the house very soon.

So it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of nailing, sawing, painting and papering over the last ten days.

But I think we made it.

Just.

Or at least we were able to strategically place furniture in front of the bits that weren’t quite finished.

I think we got away with it.

Maybe πŸ™‚

So Saturday was party day. A whirl of cooking and baking

20140908-165105.jpg
Triple layer Mississippi Mud Cake

20140908-165228.jpg
White chocolate and strawberry cheesecake.

And a lot more that I was too flappy to take photos of.

Squawk.

I make a very convincing headless chicken πŸ™‚

Butter and spice

A drizzly afternoon.

A houseful of children.

Tired children, after two days of kayaking.

The perfect excuse for some baking.

20140805-211056-76256831.jpg

Butter ‘n’ spice biscuits

Take 400g of plain flour and sift it together with a teaspoon of baking powder, half a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

20140805-204723-74843205.jpg

In a separate bowl cream together 200g of caster sugar and 175g of butter

20140805-204826-74906564.jpg

Add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sugar/butter mixture and mix in well.

Now add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and combine well

20140805-205006-75006123.jpg

Divide the dough up into the same number of pieces as you have children to occupy, cover with whatever covering method you favour -bowl, cling film, tea towel – and place in the fridge for about 30 mins.

I did this bit before the kayaking so I could be smugly organised for once in my life (really must try that more often)(the organised bit, rather than the making cookie dough at silly o’clock in the morning bit).

Then, whenever noise levels/fractiousness/boredom levels get too high, produce the cookie dough out of the fridge (The loud “taaaa daaaaa” is optional), hand out rolling pins and cookie cutters and let the small creatures roll and cut to their hearts content.

Place the splodges carefully cut out and arranged shapes on a lined baking tray

20140805-205811-75491787.jpg
And bake in an oven at 180C for 8-10 minutes till pale golden in colour.

Let cool.

Then let the small creatures loose with icing and assorted doodahs to decorate the biccies to their hearts content.

20140805-210805-76085513.jpg

20140805-210827-76107016.jpg

20140805-211009-76209677.jpg

The biscuits themselves are rather moreish. Buttery with just a hint of warmth from the spices.

If you can taste them through all the creativity piled on top.

Time for tea

The last two mornings I have got up early and gone for a run.

That noise you can hear? Β That’s the sound of people who know me falling over in a dead faint.

I don’t do running.

And as I was running around the park this morning I thought to myself

Β 

“I don’t DO running”

and then “why am I here?”

Β 

and then “I want to go hoooooommmmeee”

But, I’ve been reading recently.

and that can be a dangerous thing.

so according toΒ this

20140629-133501-48901479.jpg
I (along with most of the western world) have a biological age that is 18 years older than my chronological age.

Which makes me over 60.

But given the effect that 90minutes of Ashtanga on Friday followed by two early morning runs on Saturday and Sunday has had on my body, 95 would be a positively flattering estimate.

This can’t be good for you!

And then, and then, of course, is the ‘news’ that all sugar is evil, the work of the devil, and responsible for everything that is wrong in the world today.

So what is a girl to do?

Lavender and Honey Scones

No sugar (ahem) and it contains plant matter so it can count as one of your five seven a day.

Take 375g self raising flour and sift it into a bowl. Take 2heaped teaspoons of culinary lavender flowers and grind in a pestle and mortar or blitz in a processor

20140629-134737-49657372.jpg

Add the lavender to the flour and mix well.

Now add 2 tablespoons of runny honey and mix well, and then to this slightly sticky mix add 80g of butter. Use your finger tips to mix in until it resembles breadcrumbs

20140629-134948-49788291.jpg
Add between 150-200ml of milk – add a bit at a time, you don’t want it too sticky, but also try not to overwork the dough or the scones will be heavy. Once the dough has come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and press down.

20140629-135301-49981216.jpg

Cut out your circles and place on a baking tray. Brush with milk if you like.

20140629-135523-50123678.jpg
Bake in an oven, preheated to 220C gas 7 (200c if fan assisted), for about 15 minutes until golden.

I remember having Lavender ice cream when we were in Provence many years ago.
Sounds lovely doesn’t it?
Imagine eating frozen perfume and you get close to the experience.

These scones are not like that. The lavender is subtle and adds just a hint of fragrance to the scone.

20140629-140251-50571280.jpg

They go very well with strawberry jam

20140629-140007-50407390.jpg
And that ups the score to 2 of your 7 a day!

Result!

πŸ™‚

Grasmere Gingerbread

It’s actually sunny outside.

Sunny! On a Bank Holiday weekend!

All this sunshine has started me thinking about summer holidays.

Even though we all know that the minute the schools break up for the summer, the storm clouds will gather and Britain will disappear behind grey and wet mist and murg.

But, hope springs eternal.

And this year we are staying in Britain and heading to the Lake District.

And so I started thinking about the Lakes, and Cumbria, and Grasmere.

And Grasmere Gingerbread.

Which is unlike any other Gingerbread in the world.

Honest!

If you have never tried it, it’s quite difficult to describe.

Thin and crispy and chewy and not quite a biscuit and not quite a cake. Sort of flapjacky and possibly a bit treacle-tarty. Sweet with a lot of fire.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but you can order the authentic gingerbread online from the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.

Or turn up at St Oswalds Church in Grasmere on the Saturday nearest St Oswald’s day in August when the gingerbread is given out after the rushbearing ceremony.

Or you can have a bash at making it yourself.

There are loads of attempts at the recipe out there. It seems like everyone from Jackie Kearney to Jamie Oliver has had a go.

So here’s mine.

You will need

125g plain flour mixed with 125g fine oatmeal.

Add 5 tsp (yes you did read that right) of ginger and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Mix well.

20140504-160307.jpg

Melt 150g of butter and add it to the dry mixture until well combined.

20140504-160425.jpg

Stir in 175g brown sugar

Then stir in 1 tbsp of golden syrup.

Or, if like me you discover that the tin of golden syrup you knew was lurking in the back of the pantry was actually a complete figment of your imagination, then add whatever gloopy syrup type substance you actually do have in the pantry. (In my case 1 tbsp treacle and then 1 tbsp maple syrup because the mix had gone a very scary colour).

Mix well.

20140504-160509.jpg

Line a shallow baking tray with grease proof paper.

Pour the mix into the tray, even it out and flatten with the back of your spoon. Don’t make it too thick – this should have more of a biscuit depth to it.

20140504-160551.jpg

Bake at 180C for about half an hour.

Cut into squares once it’s cooled down a bit but before it’s gone completely cold.

20140504-160625.jpg

Munch contentedly

20140504-160707.jpg