It’s no secret that this time of year is my favourite. Wandering through the Chiltern Hills with Lyra, the bees are buzzing, the grass is emerald green and the air has finally warmed up enough for me to discard my parka. We always look out for the first elderflowers: for me, they’re a firm favourite – the scent reminds me of early summer weekends at the cricket club, making elderflower crowns with the clusters of tiny, star-shaped creamy yellow flowers. We’ve spotted some over the last couple of weekends, and Mr E and I are dying to make elderflower tempura with the new blooms. To celebrate elderflower season, I’ve teamed up with Belvoir Fruit Farms to create some delicious elderflower recipes using their lovely range of delicious cordials: some pillowy soft elderflower marshmallows, fragrant elderflower scones and an indulgent elderflower and ginger cheesecake. Read on for the recipes!
What if I told you I’d got a recipe for the floofiest pancakes you’re every likely to make, AND that the secret behind them is cheaty, home-made buttermilk, AND that you can make them all in advance, keep them warm in the oven and they don’t even sink a teeny, tiny bit? I know, right? Feeling pretty smug right now. So, quick sciencey bit: buttermilk is more acidic than normal milk (it’s also thicker, making your batter less runny) so using buttermilk in your pancakes (and indeed scones or whatever) means that there’s more acid to react with the baking soda, therefore making more bubbles and making the pancakes lighter and fluffier. See? It’s not magic, it’s science. But I never remember to buy buttermilk, so I use the next best thing: normal milk soured with lemon juice and left at room temperature for a couple of minutes. It works in exactly the same way and will give you the perfect, fluffy pancakes. Want the recipe? Read on!
With Valentine’s Day coming up, I know many people will be thinking about booking a restaurant table for a romantic dinner for two. I do know, though, that going out on Valentine’s Day isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Restaurants are extra busy and there’s too much pressure to be ‘romantic’ while everyone’s looking, too! Plus, Mr E and I have been together for about a gazillion years, so I think the need to impress me has long gone. Still, I want to cook a gorgeous dinner for him, and I’ve been looking at the new M&S food to order products, where you can find some interesting cuts of meat that you’d normally have to order from your butcher, plus some great ideas for reluctant cooks, plus of course, delicious desserts.
My Dad’s not been well recently, so he’s not as active in his garden as he once was. He rang me last week and asked if I wanted any fruit, and Sam and I popped in to see him and to perform a quick raid of his gorgeous fruit trees. There are so many plums on the tree they’re weighing down the branches (and the wasps are having a field day), so we picked a load of those and also a load of his apples – I’m not sure of the variety but they’re somewhere in between an eater and a cooker and make awesome crumble. Seeing as we’d picked some blackberries on our walk, I thought I’d make an apple, plum and blackberry crumble. Here’s how to recreate it:
We’re a bit obsessed with kiwifruit in this house. (remember my kiwi and coconut breakfast bowls?) Sam always makes me laugh as on his late-night borrowing expeditions, he’ll sit with a big pile of them and eat them with a spoon, straight out of the skin. I particularly like the yellow variety: Zespri SunGold kiwifruit. Have you seen them? They’re deliciously sweet and particularly pretty, with their naturally golden glowy yellow colour. They’re also super-healthy: one Zespri SunGold kiwifruit contains three times the amount of vitamin C than an orange.
So it’s just dawned on me, after all the excitement of Florida, that I’ve totally missed out one of the birthday cakes: the birthday chocolate orange cheesecake! You all know about the birthday challenge, right? The birthday person gets to choose whatever birthday cake/dessert they want (within reason – I don’t do novelty cakes, I’m too cack handed), and I make it for them. I told you about Sam’s birthday lemon meringue pie, but then completely missed out Charlie’s chocolate orange cheesecake. This didn’t start well as I tried everywhere to find Terry’s Chocolate Oranges in all our local shops and supermarkets and just couldn’t find any, so I had to settle for Lindor Truffles. Still, it all turned out okay. Here’s how I made it:
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that over the weekend I was chatting about the ‘birthday challenge’. I’m not sure how this started but it’s been going on since the boys were really small. In our family, whenever it’s anyone’s birthday, they get to choose the birthday cake/dessert of their dreams – anything at all – and I promise to cook it for them. When the boys were small, they were always begging for novelty cakes way beyond my level of expertise: Buzz Lightyear and Power Rangers, then when they turned into little pre-teen smart-arses, it was always something really, really complicated – they would research for hours and come back with requests for things they thought were really exotic (my favourite was Sam’s request for a black forest gateau – I’m not even sure he knew what it was). Now, though, it’s all about requesting a big, yummy dessert and that suits me just fine. Sam’s birthday is on Tuesday, and I promised I’d do the birthday challenge last weekend as I’m away again next week (exploring Kissimmee, St Pete and Clearwater – I can’t wait). I was pretty chuffed when his request was for lemon meringue pie too – one of my favourites.
I’m so looking forward to this weekend! After a busy few weeks, it’s time to kick back and enjoy a lovely few days with the family. It’s Charlie’s birthday so we’re planning to head out on Sunday for brunch and I’m fully intending on spending Saturday baking hot cross buns and scoffing chocolate – let’s hope it stays nice and sunny! If you’re entertaining this weekend, I’ve got loads of recipes for you, including big roast dinners, delicious desserts, baking and – of course – hot cross buns! For this big Easter roundup, I’ve also picked a few of my favourite sweet treats, just in case you haven’t chosen your chocolate stash yet. Enjoy!
I’ve had this recipe for ages. It’s my go-to for any time when I want to make a quick Sunday lunch dessert (or if I need to take something relatively impressive to someone else’s house). Every so often I think that I should properly write the recipe out for you (piecing together the scribbles from my recipe notes), and guess what – I’ve finally got round to it! This easy biscuit pie crust is literally just pressed into the baking tin, and the filling can be as simple as a tin of cherry pie filling, or just some grated dessert apples (I’ve given some more suggestions below). Here’s how to make a really easy cherry pie with an easy biscuit pie crust.
I’ve always thought that music and food go hand in hand, but that could just be because we’re all huge music lovers in this house and, with the boys both studying music production, you can imagine there’s always a pretty strong baseline booming out of one room or other here at number one. If I’m in the kitchen, the radio will always be on. For me, the kitchen is the warmth and heart of our home, and it’s important to me that it’s filled with fun, bright colours and delicious treats, and there’s often someone having a little boogie around, so you can imagine how much we’re loving the new Sainsbury’s #fooddancing ad – it was basically just made for us – food and music are both just simple pleasures, and the kitchen’s the perfect place for a bit of dancing! If you haven’t seen it yet, the advert features families dancing around their kitchens while cooking and comes with a pretty catchy tune too:
I think when the weather is cold and bleak (let’s face it, January’s not the greatest month is it?), it’s even more important that there’s fun, laughter, music and good food all around, so to warm us up, I cooked up a delicious, warming spiced berry, rhubarb and lime crumble from the Sainsbury’s website:
Berry, rhubarb and lime crumble
You will need:
50g porridge oats
50g golden caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, diced
125g plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g rhubarb, roughly chopped
500g frozen black forest fruits, defrosted
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
½ tsp cinnamon
Firstly, preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
Weigh out the oats, caster sugar, butter, flour (I used a tiny bit more than the recipe suggests as I made one large crumble rather than four small ones), then rub them together, adding the vanilla in as well, until you get a breadcrumby texture.
Then just slice the rhubarb and add to the defrosted fruit along with the lime zest and juice and the cinnamon. Either pile into a large bowl, or divide into four smaller bowls, and sprinkle with the crumble topping.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Serve with custard or double cream.
Now isn’t that worth dancing for?!
I guess as a writer, I should be more creative than most with my language, but when it comes to food, I’m pretty stuck with the old favourites and find myself describing things as ‘delicious’ and ‘nice’ probably more often than I should. According to new research by Sainsbury’s, as a nation, we now spend an average of something like 16 hours a week planning, talking, and thinking about food (that’s almost six years of our adult lives) and yet despite this, we’re still using the same old words, with most of us using about six to describe their meals each week. My chums at Sainsbury’s love their food, and to expand our foodie vocabulary, they’ve enlisted lovely linguist Susie Dent to help them create ‘The Taste Dictionary: 101 ways to describe each mouthful’. The dictionary includes some fabulous words, like ‘lickerous’ (meaning: sweet and tempting), and my own favourite: ‘uliginous’ (yoo-lij-uh-nuh s – say it slowly – it almost oooozes…), meaning creamy, soft and smooth to taste. So to celebrate my new favourite word, how about trying the very epitome of uliginous food, a soft, creamy, luscious (ooh, there’s another one!) chocolate and peanut butter mousse, decorated with some salted peanut brittle, for a little crunch.
Good morning, good morning! The sun is shining (well, it is at the moment – clearly if you’re reading this next November then it might not be) and this week’s Sunday baking has a lovely, summer strawberry theme, courtesy of Beko, who challenged me to create a perfect strawberry recipe, inspired by their Wimbledon strawberry recipes page (check out the strawberry, basil and goat’s cheese panini – yum). Our local pick your own farm has just opened again for the summer and the strawberries are ABSOLUTELY HUGE! I thought I’d do a bit of research into strawberry shortcakes and it seems they’re actually more scone-like than shortbread, so this one’s a bit in between: a shortbread mixture, but lightened up with baking powder and an egg. I love the little dots of green pistachio in there too – so pretty! Bash them with a rolling pin, but leave some big pieces which add a bit of crunch.
I’m a huge fan of rapeseed oil. The fields surrounding the house are ablaze with yellow every summer, and we have great local producers, Chiltern Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, right on our doorstep. Rapeseed oil is really healthy – it has the lowest saturated fat content of any oil (6.6g/100g, compared to 14.3g for olive oil and 54.8g for butter), very high levels of Essential Fatty Acids (ten times the Omega 3 of olive oil) and is a natural source of vitamin E too. I use it for everything: roasties come out well as I think it’s quite pure so it heats to high temperatures quite well, it’s great for frying as it doesn’t smell too yucky, and I bake with it too. One of my faves is this rapeseed oil, lemon and almond drizzle cake – especially for dessert on a Sunday.
This week’s Sunday baking is steering into uncharted territory for me. I make pizza all the time and have a tried and tested dough recipe that always turns out well, so when the lovely chaps at Beko asked if I’d create a pizza for them, I was really happy to give it a go. Turns out, though, that Beko were after something a bit different! They have a sweet pizza recipe page on their website and my challenge was to come up with a new sweet pizza creation.
Sweet pizza you say? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
My baby was 21 yesterday – can you believe it? I feel SO old! Actually, I generally don’t really feel that old (except when I think back over those 21 years), which is quite good as we still have plenty of adventures to come – I guess that’s the advantage of having your kids really young.
For his birthday cake, Sam went a bit off piste and chose a cherry and berry crumble which I was very happy to supply. It’s barely a recipe at all, but I’ll share it with you just because it was SO DARN GOOD!
Okay, slightly cheating here as there’s no actual baking involved, but cheesecake is still cake, right? Anyway, yesterday was Charlie’s 18th birthday. How I came to be the mother of an 18 year old when I’m such a youngster is beyond me, but anyway it happened, and as usual, the Birthday Big Cheese got to choose the birthday cake of his dreams. No surprises here as Charlie basically always chooses variations of the same thing (which is a welcome change from the others who tend to devise me a GBBO-style technical challenge for every birthday) and this time chose an Oreo chocolate cheesecake. To make sure your cheesecake is smooth and silky, make sure you allow the cream cheese to come up to room temperature first.
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