Saturday, 9 December 2017

Christmas countdown - week two




Home-made mincemeat is one of my absolute favourite things to make at this time of year.
A little chopping, mixing and stirring, preferably with a few Christmas Carols playing in the background, is the perfect antidote to the frenzy which can so often engulf us.
And as for the taste - well I could happily eat spoonfuls of the stuff straight from the jar!


This is the recipe which I have used for the last few years and which I think is delicious.
It is a recipe which I adapted from a Waitrose magazine and uses coconut oil instead of the more usual suet.


Here is the recipe again if you wish to try it.
Don't be put off by the amount of brandy. It soaks into the fruit overnight and makes the mixture deliciously boozy.
Since the mincemeat is not cooked or heated in any way, I keep it in the fridge and use it to make the mince pies within a few days.


Excitement for the Big Day is mounting here and this year Tiny Girlie is 3 and beginning to understand a little more about Father Christmas.
There have been a couple of Santa sightings so far.
Last week, when we were shopping in Cambridge, he popped his head around the door of the cafe we were in and gave everyone a cheery wave and earlier this week made an appearance along our road riding on something which resembled a fairground ride.
No sleigh or reindeer in sight!

And snow .... if the weather app is correct, we are fully expecting to wake up tomorrow morning to a world transformed by a blanket of pure white!

Annie
x

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Christmas countdown - week one.









And so December is here and it's ok for a few twinkly lights to start appearing around the house!


I spent a happy half hour fashioning this star from a few spare twigs I found at the back of the shed and then winding ivy and lights around it. 
Pinterest has a lot to answer for!



And December, of course, also means baking and more specifically baking the Christmas cake.
After last year's success with this recipe for a chocolate Christmas cake and following a request from younger dear daughter, I have made the same cake again.

Fear not, it is still the rich, fruity, boozy cake beloved by so many, but with the addition of some luscious melted dark chocolate.
Perfect!


Here it is in its naked state straight from the oven, ready, when cooled, to be tucked into a tin and anointed with brandy at regular intervals over the next few weeks.
Are your festive preparations under way yet?
Some people have had snow I hear, but not us - unless a few brief flakes over the space of 5 minutes counts!

Wishing you a good week ahead.

Annie
x




Saturday, 25 November 2017

Hygge, heiter, cosy .....


.....whatever you like to call it, Millie the cat has it cracked.


Millie is a recent addition to our family. She arrived by default; a rescue cat whom we 'fostered' for a few weeks when dear daughter couldn't look after her and who has now made her home permanently here!
And she certainly knows how to do cosy.

This morning was very cold and frosty.
Time for warm blankets, candles in the evening and comfort food.
'Tis the season for crumble!

With some of the plums from the summer's huge harvest still in the freezer, I decided on a plum crumble with the addition of chunks of dark chocolate and some toasted hazelnuts.


But when the plums had defrosted they had, for some unknown reason, a distinctly 'off' flavour. 
Feeling rather disappointed, I rummaged around in the cupboard and found a tin of pears which made a good substitute.

So here is pear crumble, with oats, dark chocolate and hazelnuts.
I tend to go with Delia's recipe for the crumble mix, but I replace half the flour with oats and in this case added some dark chocolate broken into chunks ( as much as you dare!) and some toasted, chopped hazelnuts to taste.




Serve warm with cream or custard.
Guaranteed to cheer up a grey cold day!

Annie
x



Monday, 13 November 2017

more apples ...



Here we are nearly half way through November. Bonfire night has come and gone.
Did you celebrate?
We  had a few sparklers in the garden with Tiny Girlie and warmed ourselves with soup and jacket potatoes.
Then cosied up in front of a log fire and ate chestnuts roasted in the embers.

Oh and cake.
There was more cake. Made from more apples.


A simple, rustic style cake, with apples, walnuts and raisins ...


fragrant with cinnamon and ginger.



Winter is tightening her grip on the weather. Today has been so cold.
There is even talk of a white Christmas.
We shall see!


Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A gift of apples...

Mr digandweed arrived home the other evening with a big bagful of apples ; a gift from a colleague, from their garden.
 Beautiful, rosy cheeked cooking apples, just waiting to be turned into something delicious .



I immediately had in mind a recipe for a luscious cinnamon apple butter; a recipe that my sister made a couple of years ago, from a book called Perfect Preserves:Maggie Mayhew.
Apple butter is a thick spread made from cooked pureed apples, cider, cinnamon and sugar.



Apple and cinnamon are a match made in heaven and apple butter seems to encapsulate the essence of Autumn.
It is also relatively straightforward to make. There is no worry over whether it has reached setting point, since the pureed apple and sugar are simply bubbled away until a good spoonable consistency is reached.



Spread it thickly on hot buttered toast or scones and enjoy!


Today is the last day of October, the clocks have gone back and Bonfire night is looming.
How did all that happen?!
Hope you are enjoying these last autumn days.

annjenny
x


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Autumn celebrations.


Some things in life remain a mystery - such as why the beetroot on the allotment were a dismal failure this year!
Poor germination and diddly squat growth meant that these two beetroot were virtually the sum total of the harvest.





But augmented by some extra beetroot and red cabbage from the shop, I was able to make Borscht, one of my favourite autumnal soups .
A quick 'google' reveals numerous recipes for this well known soup.... and opens a Pandora's box as regards its origin and list of ingredients;
is it Polish or Russian, should it include meat of some sort or be purely vegetable based?
I will leave you to make your own mind up!

In the end, shunning any meat content, my recipe included equal amounts of grated raw beetroot and red cabbage (about 500g each, reserve a little of the beetroot for decoration later) with one grated red onion and one carrot , all lightly sauted in butter before being simmered in a well flavoured vegetable stock until tender. Add a small amount of tomato puree and red wine vinegar to taste, season with salt and pepper then blend.
I like to serve this with a spoonful of yoghurt mixed with a small amount of creamed horseradish and topped with a little of the reserved beetroot for decoration.







Earlier in the week, Tiny Girlie, her mama and I were on a mission to find a pumpkin patch, in order to celebrate this most autumnal of vegetables.
A drive across the wide open fields of the Fens proved fruitless, until we stumbled upon a PYO farm  just a few miles from here.
Here, we found pumpkins, squash and gourds of every description, plus a lovely farm shop ...and tea and home made cake!
It took a while to decide upon the perfect pumpkin ...


But having selected one, we also picked sweetcorn for our tea and said hello to the friendly scarecrow.


We are going to carve smiley faces on the larger pumpkins.
Though I'm not a fan of Halloween, decorating the house with these lovely vegetables seems a fitting way to celebrate the beauty and bounty of Autumn.



Hoping you are enjoying this wonderful season too.

annjenny
x



Sunday, 1 October 2017

October



October is such a beautiful month; a month of golden hues, of cocoa-coloured nuts and conkers, russet tinged apples and pears.
This time a year ago, dear daughter had just had her first round of chemotherapy and so it was fitting that, on Friday evening, a year on, we both took part in Maggie's culture crawl, a night-time sponsored walk around the city of Nottingham to raise money for this wonderful charity.

The photo below is of the iconic library building on the Nottingham University Jubilee campus and was just one of the places we visited.


We had a wonderful fun filled evening, walking through parts of the city not usually accessible at night, in the company of lots of other lovely people and entertained along the way by musicians and actors explaining the history of various buildings - and not to mention sustained by some delicious food!


Meanwhile, back on the lottie, I have harvested the Butternut squash.



I grew several plants from seeds that I saved from last year.
I have always found the squash to be a reliable crop, despite our sometimes unpredictable summers... and also extremely versatile in the kitchen.
Amongst other things, squash make delicious soups.







Recipe adapted from Roasted Butternut Squash Soup: New Covent Garden Book of Soups.

Here's to a cosy week ahead full of autumnal colours.

annjenny
x