Sunday, 29 April 2012

# 206 April showers & Carrot cake

The rain's been falling nice and steady all day and much welcome it is too with all the drought warnings that've been issued for some parts of England.

The rain and greyness outside make for a quiet Sunday at home, watching DVDs, reading, doing some crochet, baking bread, drinking tea and eating cake, a lovely and moist carrot cake.

Carrot cake

 2 cups grated carrots
Handful of chopped Brasil nuts
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180º and line a cake tin with baking parchment.

In a bowl put the grated carrots, Brasil nuts, sugar, eggs and vegetable oil. Add the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda and mix with a wooden spoon.

Pour the cake batter into the cake tin and bake for about 1 hour or so or until done.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.



Friday, 27 April 2012

# 205 Roast gammon

The 1st time I cooked gammon it ended in disaster. Not realising that gammon in itself is already quite salty I added a little more and as you can imagine the result was inedible due to the high salt content.

Recently I decided to try again, a big gammon joint costs about £3 per kg which is a lot cheaper than many other meats plus it goes a long way which is very convenient.

This time I looked online for recipes and tips for cooking gammon and the result was a lovely roasted piece of meat. The times mentioned in the recipe below are for a 3kg approx. gammon joint so if you buy a smaller or larger one you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Roast gammon

3kg gammon joint
6 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
Drizzle of olive oil

Put the gammon in a large bowl with the spices, bay leaf and drizzle of olive oil and cover with water. Seal the bowl with clingfilm and keep in the fridge overnight.

Place the gammon in the slow cooker, pour some of water until halfway and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the slow cooker and place on a wire rack in a baking tray and roast in the oven for 2 to 3 hours basting occasionally with some of the water left in the slow cooker. Bake some potatoes at the same time.

Cut thin slices and serve with the baked potatoes and salad.



Thursday, 26 April 2012

# 204 Call out to all sewing enthusiasts

One of my favourite TV series last year was the Great British Bake Off, I never missed an episode and when I couldn't watch it I always recorded it to watch later.

Anyway, the team that created the Bake Off for BBC2 are now on the hunt for people who are passionate about sewing and this is what they are looking for:

"The programme will be a celebration of sewing and will see men and women who love sewing turn their hand to a variety of challenges, from clothing making to interior projects. The sewing tasks will be interspersed with short films exploring the history of sewing in Britain.

It would be fantastic to get lots of people to come forward and apply for the show but at this stage I’m especially keen to get some men involved. I thought perhaps you might consider blogging about the series in order to generate some interest?

The series is currently due to be filmed in summer and we’ll be contacting shortlisted applicants from now to mid-May, so we’d love to hear from interested individuals as soon as possible.

If you think this is you and want to know more here are the contacts you can use.

Direct Line:
T: 020 7067 4834

Alternatively contact the Sewing Team on:
020 7067 4822 /

The application form is available for download from their website.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

# 203 Rich Chocolate Cookie Slice

I hope you're completely recovered from the chocolate consumption over Easter because the recipe I'm posting today is very...hum...chocolatey!

The original recipe is from the book "Cookies, biscuits, bars and brownies" by Catherine Atkinson but I think you know what I'm going to say next don't you? And you're right, I did make a few changes as below for no other reason than that we don't really like white chocolate (one of the ingredients listed in the original recipe) and I wanted to use up some marshmallows and bits and pieces of chocolate bars I had in the fridge. I think there's a lot you can do with this recipe, I've made it a few times and everytime I added different things: chopped up walnuts or Brasil nuts, granola, etc.

Rich Chocolate Cookie Slice

275g combined weight of dark chocolate, aero chocolate bar, roasted almonds and raisins
130g butter, diced
90g digestive biscuits
Handful of mini marshmallows

Grease and line the base and sides of a cake tin (I used the brownie pan with removable bottom) with baking parchment.

Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir gently until melted.

Break the digestive biscuits into small pieces. Finely chop the almonds and raisins. Stir the broken biscuits, the almonds, the raisins and the marshmallows into the melted chocolate until well combined. Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and pack down gently.

Chill for 2 hours or until set. Turn out the mixture and remove the lining paper. Cut into slices with a sharp knife and place in a plastic food container in the fridge.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee or slip one in your child's packed lunch as a special treat.


Tuesday, 17 April 2012

# 202 Bluebells and Blossom

And this is why I love living in the countryside.


Friday, 13 April 2012

# 201 Epi bread

"Epi bread is a type of artisan bread often made at French-style bakeries. The bread is a popular picnicking bread since it consists of a series of rolls which are interconnected to look like a stalk of wheat. As diners need chunks of bread, they can pull rolls off without making a mess of the loaf."

From WiseGEEK

Here's my attempt at making Epi bread, I used my regular bread dough recipe which is kneaded in the bread machine and then just shaped it and baked in the oven.

I'm quite happy with the result, this bread was such a big success that it's all gone.

There's lots of information, tips, recipes and techniques available on the Web to make this type of bread, just type "Epi bread" in your search box and have fun baking :-)


Thursday, 12 April 2012

# 200 Sweet bread with star anise and cinnamon

This type of bread is traditionally made in Portugal at Easter time, there are obviously slight differences in the recipe from region to region but the base dough is practically the same. Despite the name this bread is actually not that sweet but if you prefer savoury foods you can always try this recipe I posted in June last year. It makes a delicious savoury bread with meat filling.

I realise Easter is gone and done with but I was quite busy during the 1st week of April and somehow I didn't realise the long Easter weekend was upon us until quite late, actually it only occurred to me when the husband arrived home on Thursday evening with a few chocolate eggs he'd been given at work! The fact that A. had been on holiday for the whole of that week was not enough of a clue.

Anyway, I'm more than making up for it now having already baked 3 batches of this delicious sweet bread but don't worry we haven't been having it all ourselves ;-)

Before we move on to the recipe just want to say the dough is kneaded in the bread machine which makes it a lot easier.

Sweet bread with star anise and cinnamon

1 teaspoon fast action yeast
450g strong white flour
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground star anise
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Zest of an orange
75g butter
Pinch of salt
1 egg
250ml milk

1 egg, beaten
Sugar for sprinkling

Place the ingredients into the bread pan in the order especified for your machine. Select the Basic Dough programme (2hours and 20 minutes in mine).

When the cycle finishes, grease your hands with a little olive oil to handle the dough. Shape the dough into a ball (I prefer to make 2 smaller balls) and place on a baking tray lined with some greaseproof paper, allow to prove in a warm place for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Brush the top with beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven Gas Mark 5 for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.



Tuesday, 10 April 2012

# 199 Easter

Did you have a good Easter? I hope you enjoyed the long weekend. We tried to make the most of every opening in the weather and went for walks whenever possible. Sunday was a good day not a lot of sunshine but at least it didn't rain, we revisited Westbury Court Garden then went for a walk along one of the nearby public footpaths which runs along the River Severn.

Wetsbury Court Garden, Westbury-on-Severn.

Plum tree dating from before 1600.

Pear tree dating from late 17th century.

View from public footpath along the Severn.

After lunch we drove to Stroud and walked a little along the Wysis Way until a growling dog made us turn back!

Wysis Way, Offa's Dyke to Thames Path.

Next we stopped at Selsley Hill & Common before coming back home with a toffee ice-cream bought on the way :-)

View from Selsley Hill and Common towards Stroud.

View from Selsley Hill and Common.

View from Selsley Hill and Common.

Much needed rain fell all day yesterday but today was again lovely and sunny.


Wednesday, 4 April 2012

# 198 Gingernuts

The other day while browsing through the books at one of the 2 local charity shops I came across this book.

It was priced at £1 and after a quick look at some of the recipes inside I decided it was a good buy so brought it home with me and I'm glad I did, I've tried a few of the recipes with very good results.

I love baking and I love homemade biscuits, they're just miles away from shop-bought ones. The smell of these gingernuts while they were baking was mouth watering and they were so, so delicious. Here's the recipe if you'd like to try them yourself.


350 g self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
200 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
125 g butter
75 g golden syrup
1 egg.beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange rind

Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Heat the butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan over a very low heat and until the butter has melted. Leave this mixture to cool slightly and then pour over the dry ingredients.

Add the egg and orange rind and mix well. Using your hands shape the dough into small balls and place them apart on the baking trays (I usually line mine with greaseproof paper), then flatten them slightly with your fingers.

Bake in a pre-heated oven, gas mark 3/160ºC, for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!