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!
I had some pastry left over after wildly overestimating the amount I was going to need for an apple tart, and decided to try my hand making some mini Bakewell tarts. I kid you not, these babies are delicious and were completely demolished in less than five minutes. If you want to go all Mr Kipling, feel free to slather them in really thick icing. I prefer just a drizzle and – of course – a cherry!
I do love a good muffin, don’t you? Here’s a quick muffin vs cupcake factorama for you: muffins are different from cupcakes because a) they don’t have a big swirl of icing or frosting on top (but they can be glazed), b) the texture is denser (wet ingredients are stirred briefly into dry, rather than creaming butter and sugar) and c) they tend to be much less sweet. Anyway, I wanted to do something with a bit of a Halloween twist involving the cupcake’s less sweet, denser, unfrosted cousin, but I’m absolutely no good with novelty things (as evidenced by these rather clumsy Halloween cupcakes back in 2013), so I decided on chocolate orange drizzle muffins basically because chocolate orange is my favourite flavour combo and also because the drizzle seems suitably autumnal and pumpkin-coloured (I’m always thinking about the ‘gram). I used cacao powder because I think it gives a better chocolatey hit than cocoa, but feel free to use either.
Last week, I mentioned my need for a few little calming rituals, like my coconut chai tea. My brain is particularly whizzy at the moment (hence, I went to my first yoga class this week – and loved it), and if I’m up really early, I quite like to go downstairs, say hi to the dog and have a little potter in the kitchen. At the moment I’m a bit obsessed with baking bread – I tend to bake two loaves at a time, using my standard, lazy recipe (which doesn’t involve any kneading at all). I’ve mentioned before that rye is really good for you – I don’t make 100% rye bread, which we find too strong, but when mixed with white flour, this is our absolute favourite. Another bonus of home made bread is that it lasts ages when compared to shop bought, which seems to go mouldy very quickly. This particular recipe has rosemary added, which is surprisingly delicious. Here’s how to do it:
It’s SO cold!! I know we should probably all be ‘clean eating’ or whatever it is that we all do to make ourselves feel even more miserable’ at this time of year, but for me, mornings start best when they involve baked goods and a bucket of tea. These vanilla breakfast muffins use real butter and that old fashioned ‘wet into dry’ method. Feel free to add whatever you like to the recipe: chocolate chips are a favourite here. I like to add blueberries, then top the muffins with a sprinkling of granola, which makes them feel extra breakfasty. Remember, with a muffin recipe, you need to assemble the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, then stir the wet into the dry, making sure you don’t overmix (a bit of flour visible is absolutely fine).
I love this lazy time at home between the hustle and bustle of Christmas, and the excitement of the New Year. We’re lucky, nobody is working and we’re all enjoying spending time at home together, watching films and eating too much chocolate. Yesterday we went to the Royal Albert Hall with my Dad for the Christmas Spectacular. It was wonderfully festive – there was a bit of ballet, a bit of opera and some modern classics like John Williams’ incredible Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Today we’re just pottering at home (see what I did there?). I wanted to share this really lovely, easy recipe with you. It’s a half rye/half strong white flour mix (I find rye a bit overpowering), scented with oranges (or at this time of year, leftover clementines) and sweetened with honey. I think 2017 is the year we’re all going to be embracing our homes and families, simplifying our lives and counting our blessings, and pottering in my beloved kitchen, baking those I love a delicious, home made treat comes high up in my priorities. Here’s how to make my orange and sultana rye bread:
If you follow me on Instagram stories you’ll see that our mad whippet, Lyra, absolutely ADORES blackberries. I’ve been out picking with her several times and she’ll actually beg for blackberries (and pick them off the lower branches herself). Still, when I’m not competing with the dog for them, I’ve actually been able to pick quite a few. These honey and blackberry flapjacks came about after I offered to make some for Mr E’s work – he’s always complaining that everyone else brings in home made cakes, etc and I never bake anything. He then went on to say, but only do flapjack if it’s ‘full ‘fat’.
Happy Saturday! Phew, we made it. Time to kick back, chill out, enjoy your home and family and carve a pumpkin or two. I’m up early this morning and it’s lovely outside: misty and cool, with dew covered cobwebs and scattered leaves and birds eating berries. I love this time of year, and how better to celebrate everything autumnal than with warmly spiced leafy biscuits? These maple leaf pumpkin spice biscuits came about after I found this fab maple leaf cutter in HomeSense when I was shopping for Halloween things. It’s even got a little extra bit so you can press the leaf pattern into the cookie!
So GBBO is back on our screens tonight and I’m completely over-excited! I LOVE baking (and watching other people baking) and I particularly love making bread, don’t you? It’s the ultimate slow food. I do feel that I’m rather chained to the internet, what with blogging and writing and, well, Instagramming and stuff (I know, it’s totally my own doing), so sometimes it’s just nice to switch off and have a lovely potter in the kitchen. Bread baking can’t be rushed and it forces you to relax and gives you plenty of head clearing time. These easy soft wholemeal rolls are based on my ‘quick and easy soft bread rolls’ recipe, published back in 2010 and since archived. I often get lovely emails from people asking where they went, and keep meaning to update the recipe (and the horrific photography – and the dodgy title – I prefer slow bread to quick bread!) so I made a batch yesterday and feel rather chuffed to be able to have one topped with smashed avo and a poached egg for my breakfast today!
Because I’ve been away quite a bit, I’ve really missed pottering in the kitchen, and the first thing that I wanted to do was bake. Oh wait, that was actually the second – the first was tidy up and put everything back where I like it – but then it was bake. I absolutely adore breadmaking: I love the delicious smell and the sense of achievement (and the fact that this recipe makes two loaves, because the first one gets scoffed instantly). What I don’t like is kneading. This recipe is 100% perfect WITHOUT kneading, and I know, because I make it nearly every day.
We were talking the other day about the last time we deliberately bought something labelled ‘low fat’ or ‘low sugar’. For us, it’s been a really long time. I think we’ve deliberately moved away from things with bits and bobs taken out, to more natural, healthy products: proper wholesome, whole milk yoghurts; proper bread from the bakery (yes, I love to make my own, but I don’t always have time and who wants to live on squishy plastic bread?), and mature cheddar. We’re never going to be a hard-core healthy family that lives on quinoa and chia seeds and gives up sugar, salt and dairy – that’s not my style at all. I’m an ‘everything in moderation’ person when it comes to food, and as a family we embrace everything, even treats in small amounts. But even with treats, I’d rather the boys were scoffing homemade cake than handfuls of sweets packed with artificial goodness-knows-what.
Recently, a very nice lady called Laura sent me an email and asked me why my blog post in which I explain how to make Bourbon biscuits at home had disappeared. Did you know that I’ve been writing English Mum for nearly TEN YEARS? I know! It’s testament to the fact that I’ve got an awful lot to say for myself that I’ve never once run out of things to write about. You’ll be pleased to know that I’m exactly the same in real life and can never shut up there either. One of the problems with this terrible affliction is the strain on poor Andy the web designer’s servers. Ten year’s worth of waffle and pictures takes up a lot of room, so recently we took the tough decision to archive the first five years.
The thing I like most about baking hot cross buns is the smell. That gorgeous, sweet spicy smell that fills the whole house – better than any scented candle, and so comforting. With these hot cross buns I used a packet of dried cherries that I had in the cupboard, but any dried fruit will do; I think cranberries would be delicious. Take your time, because slow rising gives the best results. I’m guilty of rushing up to the airing cupboard every five minutes to see if they’ve risen, but, like bread, they always turn out best when you’ve forgotten the dough and it’s puffed up to glorious proportions.
Are you doing something lovely for your Mama this weekend (or indeed hoping to have something lovely done for you?). We’re taking my mum out to lunch at a local pub (very unusual – and difficult – to get all of us together, so it will be very special). The lovelies at Tesco asked me to pick a special bake to share with you all for Mother’s Day. If you fancy it, might I suggest something with blood oranges? They’re in season at the moment and I just think they’re the most gorgeous fruit imaginable. One of nature’s wonders.
One of the things I really wanted to do this year was spend more time in the kitchen for fun (as opposed to for work, which I love too, but for different reasons). Baking bread is the ultimate in relaxation – it’s absorbing, but not taxing. I love it. I love having a loaf on the table at dinner times for people to grab a hunk and mop up whatever we’re eating. The boys both adore this bread and serving it up for breakfast seems so much nicer than sticking a couple of slices of bought white sliced in the toaster. I’ve been fiddling with rye recipes recently and I feel like I’ve really cracked it with this easy rye bread. The secret seems to be a really sticky dough, which doesn’t need kneading, followed by a nice, slow rise, both of which coincidentally make this bread really easy to make – the longer you forget it, the nicer it is!
As part of our #thriftyorganic challenge, I whipped this up for a quick dessert and served it hot with double cream. While it’s cooking, it makes the whole kitchen smell like Terry’s Chocolate Orange (our Christmas chocolate of choice) and could just as easily be made with clementines or tangerines too. I think it would make a lovely, Christmassy alternative for the Christmas pud haters on Christmas day too!
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