How to make the best Apple & Blackberry Crumble!

What a wonderful time of year Autumn is.  The hedgerows are full of ripe blackberries and the trees are laden with juicy apples; it’s the perfect time to try your hand at making England’s favourite pud!

I’m happy to say that, having found this recipe, I’m a crumble convert! The crunchy topping is simply delicious, occasionally I add a handful of mixed nuts and seeds to the crumble mixture to give it a little je ne sais quoi and change it up a bit!

Cooking the two elements separately is new to me but definitely my preferred method from now on.  I’ve even got adventurous with the fruit and added blueberries and raspberries to the mix, after all I’m sure this counts towards my 5 a day (or is it 7 now?)!

Have a go and make use of what nature does best, you’ll certainly earn yourself some brownie points in the cooking department and they will be calling you Nigella in no time 😉

Ingredients

For the crumble topping
  • 120g plain flour
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into pieces

For the fruit compote

  • 300g apple – preferably Braeburns!
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 30g demerara sugar
  • 115g blackberries
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • vanilla ice cream or piping hot custard to serve

Method

  1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5.
  2. Pop 120g of plain flour and 60g of caster sugar into a large bowl. Add 60g of unsalted butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture. Do not overwork it or the crumble will become heavy and a processor can make the crumbs so fine you end up … with a cakey rather than crumbly texture.
  3. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins or until lightly coloured.
  4. Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut 300g Braeburn apples into 2cm dice.
  5. Put 30g of unsalted butter and 30g of demerara sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel.
  6. Stir in the apples and cook for 3 mins. Add 115g of blackberries and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, and cook for 3 mins more.
  7. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
  8. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with vanilla ice cream or piping hot custard and enjoy 🙂

Recipe courtesy of BBC Food.

Love is something special

Love is such a mysterious topic to talk about, you love everybody differently and it changes all the time.

Love at a young age is simple but it is by far the strongest.  Your parents unconditionally love you even when you do not know what the word love means yet.  Your parents raise you and care for you even when you are probably being loud and obnoxious.  You may even learn how to draw a heart to express your love for them, you may love them so much you are going to give them a card full of hearts; you may even love them so much you want to draw hearts on all of the walls to show them!  As you grow up you make many mistakes, but your ever-loving parents always forgive you.

When it comes to friends, despite how sometimes you may want to hit them with a shovel; your friends should always provide love, support and affection for you.  After all you wouldn’t be friends with them if you didn’t care for them.  This level of love has a prestigious and highly sought-after title of “Best friend” or BFF!

Love is also one of the most powerful forms of forgiveness, or at least I am assuming that is why my partner says, “You’re lucky I love you”.  Loving a single person, more than anybody else and refusing to be without them is possibly the second strongest love and compassion you can be part of.  Marriage joins two people who love each other together, sharing everything completely with your partner; some say romantic and some say crazy but I will let you decide.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to confess and show your love for all of the people you love, but love is not just for Valentines!  Show them you care with a small gift at any time of the year and get yours today!

What interior design trends are predicted for 2018?

Do you like keeping your home up to date with the latest trends? We have a few tips to make sure your home is always in front of the Joneses!

The kitchen is considered the most popular room in your house, after all the best parties always end in here!  This year there are two distinct trends to keep and eye on; one builds upon last years “metallic” themes and the other adds a twist to 2016’s “grey and sleek” theme. If you are redesigning your kitchen this year then I would recommend taking a look at the “delicate pastel” trends that are starting to emerge on pinterest to get a feeling of how to use the new colours.  A good way of saving money but keeping your home bang on trend is to introduce accessories in the new colours, after all not everybody can afford a new kitchen every year!

Another general tip to keep in mind is that gold is in and other metallics are out. Last years silver should be changed to this years gold! And if you have any copper tones then they are starting to make their way towards the garden to embrace coppers natural and raw roots, so make sure you get ready to move them!

This year, your living room should be exactly that a “living” room! Warm colours are known to bring a cosy feel to your home so add a little heartbeat to your house and introduce golds, reds and browns. Add some large cushions in warmer colours, they’re great for entertaining and won’t break the bank.

The humble bathroom is high on the list this year! In fact searches for “bathroom spa” on pinterest have increased by 269%. Could this year be the time to create a well-designed bathroom that mimics a spa? If you want to give it a go try blending large marble features such as marble tile walls and marble basins, to create a stunning bathroom which oozes relief and relaxation.

For inspiration on your interior design make sure you keep up to date with our hints and tips featured on our Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest pages, simply search “Pretty Maison” to find us.

Why do we give gifts?

Christmas, Birthdays & Anniversaries are all times of celebration and cheer. We are at our most generous during the festive period than any other time of year. But, why do we part with our cash so easily for others during this period.

One of the main reasons we have the tradition of giving and receiving presents is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Three Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold & Myrrh.

Giving presents is a little different today to say the least!  It’s a fine balancing act of spending the right amount of money versus the perfect gift for the recipient? Research is critical to finding the correct gift at the price you can afford, a problem the Wise Men did not encounter!

Today, we give gifts for different reasons. For some, it is a way to celebrate the Christian holy day & for others, it is a special time to let family & friends know that you care & are thinking of them. Often a way to show your appreciation of their support you have received throughout the year.

St. Nicholas was probably the most famous gift giver in history, leaving wonderful presents in shoes that were left outside for children! This is the reason children today hang up stockings on Christmas Eve.

Christmas as we now know it originated from the Victorian era, with families gathering for a feast, to play games & give gifts. To give a gift was an expression of kindness & warmth especially during harder times.

Nowadays in more affluent times, Christmas is all about the gift. With Christmas adverts being shown on every channel & Santa Claus appearing in department stores the focus on buying the perfect gift has never been more important. Macy’s of New York revolutionised Christmas shopping when they stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve in 1867 encouraging shoppers to pop in for their last minute gifts.

Luckily today we have the blessing of the internet to help with Christmas shopping so you don’t need to brace the cold, you can shop to your hearts content whilst drinking your cocoa in front of the blazing fire. In fact a little bird has told me that www.prettymaison.co.uk has some great little gifts for your friends and family, definitely worth a click 😉

Happy Shopping & Merry Christmas!

A gift for you and your home!

We always have products at low prices that are perfect for the use around your home, from candle holders to dog sculptures we always have an assortment products that would fit in perfectly with your interior decor.

We want to inspire you to turn your house into a home, show your seasonal spirit with decorations and most importantly make the space yours. So we cut the prices on products throughout the year, allowing you to mix it up but never know what you may need next!

If you want ideas keep checking this blog, but if its deals you want then here’s the link you need: http://www.prettymaison.co.uk/sale

 

My favourite Autumn dish!

As the leaves turn golden brown, the cooler nights draw in and thoughts of Halloween & Bonfire Night spring to mind so does Toffee Apples, Hot Chocolate and Duck with Blackberry Sauce!

An odd combination I know but definitely one of my favourites and it’s delicious! Game season begins in September so you can replace the duck with Venison or Guinea Fowl and it works just as well. Why not swap blackberries and red wine for cherries and port at Christmas for a festive alternative to Turkey!

Ingredients – Serves 2

2 duck breasts

150g blackberries

1 tbsp caster sugar

½ shallot, finely chopped

100ml red wine

100ml chicken stock

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern and season. Place them skin-side down in a cold frying pan and set over a medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, tipping excess fat out of the pan as it cooks. Meanwhile, put the blackberries in a small saucepan with the sugar and simmer for 5 minutes, crushing the berries with the back of a fork; set aside.

2. When the skin is golden and crisp, turn the breasts over and cook the flesh side for 2 minutes, then transfer to a roasting tray and place in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, wrap loosely in foil and rest for 5 minutes.

3. While the duck breasts are in the oven, spoon all but 1 tbsp fat from the pan. Set the pan over a medium-low heat and cook the shallot for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the wine and stock to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes over a high heat, until reduced and syrupy. Stir in the blackberries and any resting juices from the duck and simmer until warmed through. Slice the duck and serve with the sauce, plus some steamed Autumn green vegetables.

Enjoy x

How to choose the perfect gift this Father’s Day

fathers day

Father’s Day is a precious time to show your Dad how much you care and how grateful you are for the love and support that he has shown to you throughout the years.

Many people take time to send cards and gifts, visit if possible and spend the day with the special man in their life. Why not take your Dad out to lunch, go for a stroll in the park, a walk on the beach or simply just spend some time together.

I am sure everybody thinks they have the worlds best Dad so what better way to tell him than with a fabulous and thoughtful gift. If you have time you could try your hand at baking him a cake? You could present this in a vintage cake tin to give it the homemade edge.

If your Dad is a budding Monty Don at heart then our seed storage tins make a perfect gift, why not double up with a matching string dispenser!

The most important thing is to think about your Dad and what he would like. It’s not really that difficult, just cast your mind back and you will re-discover a whole new shopping list!

We all have precious memories of our childhood days. Mine include wrestling with Dad (I always won of course!), being buried in the sand every summer holiday, running around the local park with Dad pretending to be Rocky Balboa in training, burnt sausages at every family BBQ and shaving foam fights at Christmas!

Whatever your memories are make sure you enjoy the day with your Dad, take some time to show him you care, enjoy yourselves and create more wonderful and happy memories together.

Most of all have a happy Father’s Day x

Is Spring on the way?

Apparently according to ancient folklore the weather on Candlemas day (February 2nd) predicts whether the winter will continue or Spring is just around the corner.

If the 2nd of February is wet, cold and windy, don’t panic you’re in for a treat and Spring will follow shortly whereas if it’s mild and dry expect another month of cold and harsh conditions because winter is set to continue.

It may feel too early to be thinking about Spring but it is the perfect time for working in the greenhouse. Chrysanthemums, Geraniums and Sweet Peas are ideal to grow from seed and by early March they will start to germinate just in time for the improving light levels.

Cucumber, Tomatoes and Basil are the basis of any great Italian salad, they are simple to grow from seed and February is the best time to get them started in the greenhouse.

If you’ve missed your garden and are eager to get digging then you can sow early varieties of carrots such as Amsterdam Forcing, Broad Beans and Parsnips but you will need to keep them under cloches or in a cold frame, Shallots can also be planted out from the middle of the month and before you know it March will be here and then the work really starts!

So for this month get out in your greenhouse, sow a few seeds and enjoy the relaxed pace of gardening whilst you can!

How to make unbelievably easy mince pies.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the traditional mince pie! Crisp shortcrust pastry hiding a mouthwatering, spiced fruit filling, simply perfect for your festive gathering.

As you take the first bite memories will come flooding back, Christmas baking with Mum, making sure Santa’s little treat is ready on Christmas Eve and burning your lip on the hot mincemeat because you can’t wait for the pies to cool!

Over the years I have tried to make mince pies that taste as good as my Mum’s but somehow I’ve never quite managed it. The pastry has been too thick, too crumbly, not enough filling, too much filling, you name it and I’ve done it!

All this is now a thing of the past thanks to the easiest recipe alive. Simply follow this step by step recipe below and you too will have mince pies that taste like my Mums baked them, and Mary Berry has nothing on her!

Ingredients

  • 225g cold butter, diced
  • 350g plain flour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 280g mincemeat
  • 1 small egg
  • icing sugar, to dust
  1. To make the pastry, rub cold, diced butter into plain flour, then mix in golden caster sugar and a pinch of salt. Combine the pastry into a ball – don’t add liquid – and knead it briefly. The dough will be fairly firm, like shortbread dough. You can use the dough immediately, or chill for later.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6/fan 180C. Line 18 holes of two 12-hole patty tins, by pressing small walnut-sized balls of pastry into each hole. Spoon the mincemeat into the pies.
  3. Take slightly smaller balls of pastry than before and pat them out between your hands to make round lids, big enough to cover the pies. Top the pies with their lids, pressing the edges gently together to seal – you don’t need to seal them with milk or egg as they will stick on their own. (The pies may now be frozen for up to 1 month).
  4. Beat 1 small egg and brush the tops of the pies. Bake for 20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack. To serve, lightly dust with icing sugar. They will keep for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container (unless you live in my house and then it’s a small Christmas miracle if they last until the morning!).

Now all you need to do is taste! Best served with a little cream whilst warm (not hot otherwise you will have the same memories I have!). Relax, pop on a Christmas movie, sit back and enjoy. Let the festive season begin x

Thank you to the BBC Good Food Guide for their unbelievable easy recipe!

Tips for Autumn Gardening

autumn gardening

Autumn has arrived! The evenings are cooler, the mornings are crisper and there’s a freshness in the air, but now is not the time to take it easy and rest on your laurels.  Autumn is one of the busiest times in the garden, it’s a time for clearing and preparing for the big freeze. Follow my top tips to get your garden ready for hibernation.

  • Tidying the greenhouse is one of those jobs that is put off until tomorrow, unfortunately tomorrow has arrived! Remove plants, sweep out any debris and disinfect.  (This will keep pests and diseases from growing throughout the winter months). I usually use hot water and Jeyes Fluid for cleaning and disinfecting and whilst you have the solution to hand clean out any pots or seed trays that you will be re-using in the Spring. Make sure you ventilate your greenhouse for a couple of days to ensure everything is thoroughly dry.
  • Once you have mastered the inside of your greenhouse it’s time to move on to the outside! Remove any shading you have used over the hotter months, clean out debris and leaves from the gutters and clean the glass thoroughly to make the most of the sunshine throughout the cooler seasons.
  • Tidy your borders! It’s time to say goodbye to the annuals and add them to the compost heap. Perennials will need to be cut back to around 5cm above ground level and the borders can then be covered with a thick layer of compost or bark chips.
  • If you have a pond or water feature make sure you are prepared for falling leaves. Decomposing leaves can turn water foul and block filters, make sure you cover with a fine mesh to avoid this.
  • Fallen leaves are perfect for making leafmould. This will add structure and organic matter to your soil and is the perfect solution for garden waste. Simply fill plastic bin bags with leaves, punch holes through the sides and sprinkle with water. Fasten the bags with string and leave for a couple of years to breakdown into a crumbly texture that can be added to your borders.
  • Now you have cleared up the leaves it’s time to have a look at the lawn. Most lawns will need moss removing, aerating and feeding. If you have any patches it’s a great time to lay new turf or sow seeds.
  • Before you take it easy and get ready to put your feet up make sure your tools are given the final once over. Sharpen secateurs and shears, wash spades and forks and treat any wooden handles with linseed oil for protection. This will ensure your tools will be ready for action in the Spring, which will be here before you know it!