Are you ready for Bonfire Night?

Remember remember the 5th of November!

Make sure your Bonfire Night party gets off to the right start with my favourite tried and (very much) tested home made toffee apples. (Courtesy of BBC Good Food Guide).

toffee apples

Home Made Toffee Apples

  • 8 Granny Smiths Apples
  • 400g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  1. Place the apples in a large bowl, then cover with boiling water (you may have to do this in 2 batches). This will remove the waxy coating and help the caramel to stick (incredibly important!). Dry thoroughly and twist off any stalks. Push a wooden skewer or lolly stick into the stalk end of each apple.
  2. Lay out a sheet of baking parchment and place the apples on this, close to your stovetop. Tip the sugar into a pan along with 100ml water and set over a medium heat. Cook for 5 mins until the sugar dissolves, then stir in the vinegar and syrup. Set a sugar thermometer in the pan and boil to 140C or ‘hard crack’ stage. If you don’t have a thermometer you can test the toffee by pouring a little into a bowl of cold water. It should harden instantly and, when removed, be brittle and easy to break. If you can still squish the toffee, continue to boil it.
  3. Working quickly and carefully, dip and twist each apple in the hot toffee until covered, let any excess drip away, then place on the baking parchment to harden. You may have to heat the toffee a little if the temperature drops and it starts to feel thick and viscous. Leave the toffee to cool before eating. Can be made up to 2 days in advance, stored in a dry place.

A really nice ending to a wonderful evening is to hand out small gifts, and what better gift than showing off your clever culinary skills! Bonfire night just wouldn’t be complete with out Bonfire toffee! Another of my favourite recipes is below, this is a really easy recipe, great for those starting out in toffee making!

bonfire toffee

Home Made Bonfire Toffee (also know as Plot Toffee)

  • 4oz (100g) butter
  • 8oz (200g) sugar
  • 4oz (100g) treacle
  • 4oz (100g) golden syrup

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. When melted stir in the sugar, syrup & treacle.
  3. Boil steadily without stirring until the mixture reaches the ‘hard crack stage’. To test this simply drop a teaspoonful of the hot mixture into a saucer of cold water. If the toffee starts to harden then it’s ready. If it doesn’t, keep boiling and testing it until this stage is reached. The longer you boil the mixture the harder the toffee will become, but keep the heat at medium so it doesn’t burn.
  4. Once ready pour the toffee mixture into a lightly greased baking tray and leave to cool.
  5. Once cool, break into pieces with a toffee hammer and serve or wrap in cellophane bags to give as a gift.

Remember take extra care as the mixture will be extremely hot.

Feeding the birds this Autumn?

Autumn Birds

Autumn is an ever changing season and it can be a very important and rewarding time to feed your wild garden birds. It is possible to attract a wide variety of species if you ensure they are happily fed and watered.

At this time of year, food and water will need to be put out on a regular basis to ensure freshness and once you have established a feeding routine; your birds will become familiar and visit your garden regularly. It is important to offer additional food as natural food sources begin to reduce.

Birds require high fat foods for energy during colder months to maintain their fat reserves to help them survive frosty conditions. It is therefore wise to use good quality food and scraps.

The best autumn bird foods consist of sunflower hearts, suet, nuts and sunflower seeds.

Providing the right foods and feeding your wildlife is only half the battle!  Making sure the environment is safe is equally important. Feeders will need to be checked for damage, ideally squirrel-proof bird feeders are essential to prevent foraging foreigners and it is essential to keep your seed and nuts fresh and dry, I would recommend a storage tin to keep naughty nibblers at bay.

Bird baths are great when filled with fresh, clean water and if you allow fallen leaves to build up under trees and shrubs this will attract insects, and provide your feathered friends with necessary shelter. Don’t despair if you have a smaller yard, bird boxes are perfect for providing warmth and shelter too!