Apple Square with Toffee Sauce

Gosh its been a long old summer! Its still 24 degrees here in the South of France but soon I will be returning to the UK where it is damp, chilly and a little foggy apparently! (Hahaha 😉 )

On my return I will be starting a new venture, a little company called Free Range Kitchen. Through this, you lovely people can actually have me come to your house (!) and cook you dinner. Or help you cook something you’ve been wanting to learn, or even just fill up your fridge or freezer with yummy delightful dinners!

Autumn in a cake

Autumn in a cake

On that note, I have been testing out lots of new recipes for my sample menus and this is just one of the many puddings that will be on offer during the Autumn.

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Lemon Drizzle Loaf

I cook when I’m bored. I know, I know, I do it for a job but that doesn’t stop me getting in the galley and making something just for me when I get the chance. Not that anyone seems to mind…usually I end up producing my famous Stuff Your Face chocolate brownies, named such because they were gone within minutes…and I mean minutes of coming out the oven the first time.

What do you do when you're bored?

What do you do when you’re bored?

Yesterday I made a lemon drizzle loaf. I used to make this a lot as it works well with gluten free flour, as my mum is coeliac it was my go to tea cake for when she visited. Its been a while though (France is a little bit too far for a cuppa apparently…) so I had a quick look for recipes and for once I actually tried to follow it instead of tweaking it – didn’t work. The mix came up too thick so I ended up modifying it anyway. So here’s my recipe for a lemon drizzle cake that will knock your visitors little socks off next time you have guests for tea.

Lemon Drizzle Loaf

Loaf tin 26x10cm (greased and lined), two lemons, 120g butter, 120g caster/light brown sugar, 2 eggs, 50 ml milk, 220g plain flour, 2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Syrup: Half a cup lemon juice (add a bit of water if your lemons aren’t too juicy), 1/4 honey, 1/4 sugar

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly, folding in plenty of air. Mix in the milk, making sure everything is well combined. Grate the zest from the two lemons and stir into the mix, juice both the lemons but only add HALF to the mixture (reserve the rest to make the drizzling syrup later). Fold in the flour and bicarbonate soda. Empty into the lined loaf tin and bake at 180 C for 35 – 40 minutes, until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean. While its cooking, make the syrup. Mix the lemon juice, honey and sugar together in a small saucepan and heat until the edges start to go a little brown and the sugar is completely dissolved. Once cooked, use the skewer to poke loads of holes in the top. Pour the syrup over the top, a little at a time making sure it all soaks into the holes. I’ve topped mine with some toasted almonds I had lying around from lunch and then added another couple of spoons of honey for good measure.

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea as an afternoon pick me up 🙂

Lemon, Cranberry and Poppy Seed Scones

Eeerrrrmaaagosh! I have just eaten half the batch…My thought process behind batches of things is that if I eat all of them in one go then I remove the temptation that they offer and am therefore better off. It happened with a bag of toffees yesterday, reeces pieces too. I’m holding out that its the eating session that counts i.e. lunch, rather than the calories I’m consuming…yeh right. Off to the gym then.

And they're scone!

And they’re scone!

These are really tasty. And there’s not that much butter OR sugar so they’re kind of healthy. Unless you eat them all…in one go. They make a great breakfast, if they last that long, or an afternoon snack with a coat of butter.

The cranberries look like little hidden jewels and the poppy seeds give a delightful texture too. And the lemon, well. I love lemon for the irresistible citrus tang it gives in an other wise sweet dish.

Lemon, Cranberry and Poppy Seed Scones

225g S.R. flour, 55g butter, 55g sugar, 150ml milk, 100g dried cranberries (cut in half if they’re big), juice of one lemon, zest of one lemon, 3 tbsp poppy seeds

Mix the flour, sugar and poppy seeds together in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the cold butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.

Rub a dub dub

Rub a dub dub

Stir in the lemon zest and cranberries. Mix the lemon juice with the milk, it’ll curdle slightly and give you a buttermilk (slightly sour) flavour. Combine the milk and other ingredients in the bowl with a metal knife until you have a sticky batter.

Ruby Scones

Ruby Scones

Using lots of flour turn out the dough onto a clean surface and knead gently for a minute or so. Do not over work it as you’ll end up with flat scones. Press into a flat circle of about 2cm thickness and slice into eight. Place each slice on a greased baking tray and put straight into the oven at 220 C for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

*recently I’ve been having issues with burnt bottoms and I have been reliably informed that its probably the pan I’m using. Make sure you buy the right pans for the job…I am currently trying to use a pizza pan for everything and its not working very well.

Honey Sloe Down

As some of you may know I am the eldest of five kids, and the youngest three are still young enough that they are on Santa’s high priority stocking list. This calls for mince pies and sloe gin, with a carrot for Rudolf (who we all now know is a GIRL!!!). We have diverted from the norm of whiskey in my father’s household as he is of a mind that after several billion tots of whiskey, Santa is going to be a bit fed up of it would welcome a change.

My father is also one of the lucky few that normally gets a bottle of my Honey Sloe Down gin, before  Christmas. However, seeing as I have been out of the country for the last year it has been awhile since I made any. For those of you lucky enough to be living somewhere that Blackthorn Trees are, its the perfect time to go looking for sloes. I love a days foraging, especially when its a blue sky, freezy sort of day that ends in the pub by a lovely, toasty fire with a pint of ale. I really miss England right now!

Careful, sloe berries!

Careful, sloe berries!

Traditionally, sloes should be picked after the first frosts and fallen as it helps them get all mushy and flavour-some in the gin. I tend to start picking sloes in late October right the way through though and the ones that haven’t seen a frost go in the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

Honey Sloe Down (Sloe Gin)

75cl gin (the best you can afford but one without too many botanicals i.e. Gordons), 4 hand fulls of sloes, 50g light brown sugar, 3 tbsp honey, vanilla pod, 1L kilner jar.

Wash the sloes well and remove any stalks or bruised fruit. Some recipes say to prick the fruit with a needle/fork/skewer but I never have and get great results. Put them in the kilner jar and then pour over gin. Stir in the sugar and honey, add the vanilla pod and then make sure the lid is on tight. Give it a good shake everyday for a few weeks, then leave it for a few months to mature. Some people strain it then bottle it, I tend to pour it into pretty bottles and then add a few of the fruit for presentation. You could make some now and give it as gifts that need to be matured, or you could make it now, mature it yourself and give it as gifts NEXT Christmas (if that isn’t too forward thinking for you…)

Sloe-ly does it

Sloe-ly does it

Don’t discard the berries, there is a killer drink called Slider which you can make with them. Retain them in the kilner jar and top with some flat cider. Leave for a few weeks and enjoy in small quantities. I warn you now, its lethal!!

I like to drink my sloe gin neat from a hip flask or mixed with cloudy apple juice for a long party drink. How do you like yours?

Candied Peel

Last week I joined a gym. The owner is ex-military. He scares me a little. Before last week I had never been to a gym. Not once. He noticed me looking a little despairingly at the machines – which admittedly are ridiculously simple and I now feel fairly stupid – and helped me out with how to program them etc. If he thinks I’m going a bit easy on myself he does a casual wander over, peers at my screen and presses level buttons. It is only ever up. Its good for me, apparently.

What going to the gym has actually enabled me to do is eat cake guilt free and spend even more time thinking about food. As the calorie counter goes along I think, oo thats another biscuit gone from my elevenses, and the slice of the coffee cake I’m going to make when I get home. Oh and that delcious carrot cake the other half picked up yesterday. And so on.

This recipe was inspired by BBC Good Food and I am wholeheartedly supporting the come back of this slightly retro gift. By giving some to everyone.

Dip me in chocolate...

Dip me in chocolate…and roll me to the gym

Candied Peel

A selection of citrus fruits – two or three lemons or limes, grapefruit, oranges, or the Christmassy clementine, a one to one ratio sugar syrup made from 4 cups water and 4 cups of sugar, melted dark chocolate (optional)

Are you getting fruity with me?

Are you getting fruity with me?

 

Using a sharp knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of each citrus fruit, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into thin strips. Trim excess pith from each strip. Place peel in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then drain. Do this twice.

Bring equal quanities of sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Add peel to the boiling syrup then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently, without stirring, until strips are translucent. This will take about an hour. Remove from the heat and let the strips cool in the syrup. Keep the syrup as it could also be used for a nice gift if you pop it into a pretty jar or bottle. It would taste great in cocktails or drizzled on ice cream or cakes as it is essentially a thick cordial.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strips to a wire wrack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off excess syrup with paper towels, then roll strips in more sugar. Arrange in a single layer on the wire rack, and let dry for at least 24 hours. At this stage you could dip a few of the orange ones in dark chocolate too. Candied peel can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks.

Eat them straight from the jar, add them to cocktails or pop them in a blender to make a citrusy sugar.

For The Love of Blog

My laptop is still broken. I am currently borrowing one; its like my fix of methadone while waiting for my dealer to get back off holidays…or not, really. But I have realised I am a total computer/internet addict. I thought I could be with out it but I have found myself pining for writing my blog and other projects in a way I feel just a little bit ashamed about. But also good about because it means I really LOVE doing it.

For most of the time it wasn’t too heartbreaking as I was distracting myself valiantly with a trip to Kenya where I fell in love with samosas and Swahili sauce. And so actually I haven’t done a huge amount of cooking in the time I have been bereft of laptop. I did however spend a great deal of time hanging about in airports looking at my favourite food blogs and so I am going to direct you to some of the recipes I will soon be trying because I can’t get the thought of their potential deliciousness out of my head…

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FlapJacks (and Toms)

Possibly the most popular of the elevenses snacks I’ve made in the last few weeks has been the flapjacks, particularly with the crew (Jack and Tom). Served on getting into port with a hot cup of tea after a rather wet and windy sail, they went down a storm (sorry). Here’s the recipe so that you’ve got something nice to snack on after a cold and blustery dog walk, or Sunday stroll to the pub.

Flap Jacks and Toms

Flap Jacks and Toms

Flapjacks

350g rolled oats, 175g sugar, 175g butter, 175g golden syrup, two handfuls chopped, dried apricots

Heat the oven to 150 C, line and grease a baking tray. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the sugar and the syrup and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and then stir in the oats and apricots (or other dried fruit, cranberries would be a nice Christmassy addition). Pour into the baking tin and squish it down well. Bake for 40 minutes, allow to cool for 15 minutes before turning it out and slicing, then a further ten minutes (if at all possible) before serving.

*So when I looked at the recipe for these I didn’t notice that you do in fact need twice as many oats as any other ingredient…so on pouring a very sloppy mix into tins, checking to see how long they needed and noticing my error, I had to pour it all out and start again….Note: Read recipes carefully