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.

When is Asparagus in Season?

Asparagus season ranges from the end of April to the middle of June and supermarkets across the UK are stocking their shelves in abundance!

It’s not an easy veg to grow and is very labour-intensive, they come from the young shoot of a cultivated lily plant and are considered to be one of the finer delicacies of the vegetable world.

Health Benefits of Asparagus

  • Good source of Vitamin K. Asparagus is high in vitamin K, which is the blood clotting vitamin.
  • Contains Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant properties.
  • Nourishes the digestive tract.
  • Good source of fibre
  • Helps fight cancer.

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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 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!

How to make a Rhubarb Crumble taste of Summer!

crumble

I decided a couple of years ago to grow my own rhubarb not quite knowing how successful this would be!

I started collecting my juicy stalks at the beginning of May and they are still going strong, needless to say I have become a bit of a whiz at the ole crumble and thought I would share my recipe for you all to enjoy!

I’ve turned the traditional rhubarb crumble into a delicious summer dessert by introducing strawberries and ginger. Ginger is the perfect partner for the fruit as it adds a spice to the sweetness but you can replace this with cinnamon if you prefer. (I actually like both so have to do an eeny meeny miny mo each time I cook!).

I’ve also added oats to my topping to offer a healthier alternative to your traditional fruit crumble and give it an extra crunch. If you want to go one step further add 30g of chopped almonds too!

One of my pet hates is a soggy bottom and to stop this from happening I prefer to bake my fruit and topping separately and assemble just before serving, this ensures you will have the perfect crunch with every mouthful. It’s also a great way to store your excess fruit, simply bake your filing in bulk, freeze it in batches and when you fancy a pud simply defrost a portion, rustle up a fresh crumble topping, and voila! The perfect homemade crumble every time!

Ingredients for Crumble topping

  • 140g plain flour
  • 30g oatmeal
  • 30g jumbo oats
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 2tsp ground ginger

Ingredients for the filling

  • 50g strawberries
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 100ml cold water
  • 9 sticks of juicy rhubarb

Method

  1. Preheat the oven 170°
  2. Add all of the topping ingredients (apart from oats) to a large mixing bowl and rub together using your fingertips, when the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs stir in the oats and transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 mins until lightly golden.
  3. Whilst the topping is baking prepare the rhubarb by peeling away the skin and chop into 2cm chunks and place the rhubarb and strawberries in to a large ovenproof dish. Mix the sugar, ground ginger and water in a jug and pour over the fruit. Bake in the oven for approx 30 mins until fruit is soft.
  4. To serve, drain any excess juice away from the fruit, add the crumble topping and serve with custard, clotted cream or ice cream.
  5. Sit back & enjoy x

How to make the perfect Simnel Cake

simnel cake

Follow our step by step guide to create the perfect Simnel Cake, ideal for Mothers Day and Easter.

Ingredients

For the almond paste

  • 250g/9oz caster sugar
  • 250g/9oz ground almonds
  • 2 free-range beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp almond essence

For the cake

  • 175g/6oz butter or margarine
  • 175g/6oz soft brown sugar
  • 3 free-range beaten eggs
  • 175g/6oz plain flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 350g/12oz mixed raisins, currants and sultanas
  • 55g/2oz chopped mixed peel
  • 1/2 grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 1 free-range beaten egg for glazing

Method

  1. For the almond paste, place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl. Add enough beaten egg and mix to a fairly soft consistency.

  2. Add the almond essence and knead for one minute until the paste is smooth and pliable.

  3. Roll out a third of the almond paste to make a circle 18cm/7in in diameter and reserve the remainder for the cake topping.

  4. Preheat oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1. Grease and line a 18cm/7in cake tin.

  5. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice (if using) a little at a time. Finally, add the mixed dried fruit, peel and grated lemon zest and stir into the mixture.

  6. Put half the mixture into a greased and lined 18cm/7in cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with the circle of almond paste. Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top leaving a slight dip in the centre to allow for the cake to rise. Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours. Test by inserting a skewer in the middle – if it comes out clean, it is ready. Once baked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

  7. Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam. Divide the remainder of the almond paste in half; roll out a circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and form 11 small balls with the other half.

  8. Place the circle of paste on the jam glaze and set the balls round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.

  9. Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill for 1-2 minutes, or until the top of the marzipan begins to brown. Alternatively, lightly heat the cake topping using a cook’s blow torch, until the marzipan is golden-brown.

Recipe courtesy of BBC Food.

Fancy a little something on the side?

stilton scones

If you’re like me and are in for a busy day this Christmas you will look forward to waving the last of the crowd off, putting your feet up and catching up on who’s wedding went off with a bang and who snuffed it on the soaps! Trouble is after the cooking, the present unwrapping and the clearing up, the nibbles start to nag (even though I’ve consumed enough food to last me to February!).

My Stilton & Rosemary Scones are perfect for this time of day and if you’re very organised you could make them a couple of days before the 25th and keep in an air tight container. They are the perfect partner for my homemade chutney (this chutney is so easy, once you’ve made it you will never buy another jar!).

This delicious duo is excellent with a glass of your favourite red and what better way to end the craziest day of the year, indulge and enjoy!

Quick Caramelised Onion, Port & Cranberry Chutney

  • 5 onions finely sliced
  • 3tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 1tbsp dried cranberries
  • Salt & pepper
  1. Soak the cranberries in the port.
  2. Fry the onions in 1tbsp olive oil allowing to brown and caramelise.
  3. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper & port-soaked cranberries & cook out for a further 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by three quarters.

Stilton & Rosemary Scones

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • 25g butter
  • 75g Stilton cheese
  • 1tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 1 large egg & a little milk
  1. Combine flour, baking powder & salt.
  2. Rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Mix in the Stilton and rosemary.
  4. Mix in the egg and a little milk, enough to create a sticky dough.
  5. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and roll to 2cm thick.
  6. Cut shape with a biscuit cutter.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven (200c fan) for 8 mins.
  8. Cool on a cooling rack.

How to make the perfect Christmas cake!

christmas cake recipe

Have you ever contemplated making your very own Christmas cake but a little too scared of how it might turn out? Worry no more! I have the perfect recipe with the easiest method going!

Rumour has it that it is popular to make your Christmas pudding on Stir Up Sunday which is the last Sunday before Advent, (this is traditionally the start of the season and falls on 22nd November this year). So why not make your cake on this day too?

Traditionally, families would gather in the kitchen to mix their Christmas pudding on this day. Everyone would take a turn to stir the pudding mix and make a wish for the coming new year. By tradition the pudding mixture was stirred from East to West in honour of the three wise men who travelled from the East to visit baby Jesus.

What a great way to get the family into the Christmas spirit, have fun in the kitchen and produce your very own homemade extravaganza!

Now let’s get started!

Ingredients

  • 1kg mixed dried fruits (use a mix of raisins, sultanas, currants, cherries, cranberries, prunes or figs)
  • Zest and juice of 1 orange
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 150ml Brandy, Sherry, Whisky or Rum, (plus extra for feeding!)
  • 250g pack butter, softened
  • 200g light soft brown sugar
  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Put the dried fruit, zests and juice, alcohol, butter and sugar in a large pan set over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 mins. Tip the fruit mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 30 mins.
  2. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas mark 2. Line a deep 20cm cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment, then wrap a double layer of newspaper around the outside – tie with string to secure.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the fruit mixture and stir well, making sure there are no pockets of flour. Tip into your prepared tin, level the top with a spatula and bake in the centre of the oven for 2 hrs.
  4. Remove the cake from the oven, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of your chosen alcohol. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
  5. To store, peel off the baking parchment, then wrap well in cling film. Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every fortnight, until you ice it. Don’t feed the cake for the final week to give the surface a chance to dry before icing.
Recipe courtesy of Good Food magazine.

Are you ready for the Blackberry season?

Blackberry honey creams

It’s that time of year when the humble blackberry decorates our hedgerows and our spare time is filled with searching out brambles. Armed with Tupperware containers, baskets and a brolly (for holding back branches!) we will set out to fill our kitchens with enough blackberries to feed an army!

There is a fine art to blackberry picking, look for plump, dry & dark fruit that are not too firm nor too squishy. You need them to survive the journey home (minus a few tempting ones!), you also need them ready for storing.

The best way to store blackberries is to keep them dry and cool and eat within a day or two. Blackberries freeze extremely well, simply spread a single layer on a tray and freeze until solid then pop them into an air-tight bag, you can then defrost at room temperature to use for cooking or eat them frozen with a warm white chocolate sauce!

I always use my surplus blackberries to make Blackberry Honey Creams, they are absolutely delicious and so easy to make, follow my recipe below for a speedy dessert or a nutritious breakfast!

Ingredients

  • 500g Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 tbsp runny honey
  • 300g washed blackberries
  • blackberry coulis (bring to the boil 250g blackberries & 50g caster sugar, add teaspoon of vanilla extract, when fruit is soft leave to cool and then whizz to a puree in a blender, and sieve before serving).

Beat the yogurt with honey to taste. Divide half the berries between 4 glasses, drizzle with some coulis and spoon over yogurt. Top with the remaining berries and some coulis. Serve immediately with the rest of the coulis.

Blackberries are available from August through to October but do you remember the old wives tale? Don’t pick a blackberry after Michaelmas Day (October 11th) as it’s rumoured the devil will make them unfit to eat by stepping & spitting on them! There’s probably some truth in this as when the wetter and cooler weather arrives this often causes the fruit to become mouldy. Therefore you haven’t got long to enjoy the seasonal delights, but it’s a great time to try your hand at making jam, cooking & baking!

Enjoy x

How to spice up your BBQ!

BBQ foodI’m sure your nostrils have had the delicious waft of your neighbours al fresco cooking and you’ve often wondered why your chargrilled sausages don’t smell quite that good! Well wonder no more simply follow my mouth watering recipes below and you will have your taste buds trembling with delight!

Grilled Corn

Boil the corn for 5 minutes until bright yellow but not yet cooked through; cool under cold water and drain well. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and kept in the fridge). For cooking the coals should be white and glowing before you begin cooking. Cook for 10 mins, turning often, until the corn is tender and golden. Brush with a little soft butter (garlic butter is perfect) as it cooks. Transfer to a dish, top with more of the butter and let it melt.

Burgers – Aussie Style!

  • 1kg minced beef
  • 2 finely chopped red onions
  • 5 crushed garlic cloves
  • large handful of chopped parsley
  • 75ml tomato ketchup
  • 50ml oyster sauce
  • 2 egg yolks

To make the burgers, mix together all the ingredients and knead well so everything is thoroughly mixed. Separate the mix into 6 large balls, then shape into burgers. Put them in the fridge and, if possible, leave to chill for at least 1 hr.

To cook the burgers, get the barbecue good and hot with the coals glowing. You don’t need to add any oil to the burgers. Put them on the barbecue and leave for a few minutes until the edges start to colour, then turn over. Repeat the process, then turn again. Remove to the cooler side of the barbecue and leave to cook for a good 15 minutes if you like them well cooked.

To serve:

  • 6 smoked back bacon rashers
  • 6 slices fresh pineapple
  • 6 slices good melting cheese, such as cheddar
  • 6 burger baps, split in half
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 12 slices pickled beetroot
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 Cos lettuce, separated into leaves

While the burgers are cooking, BBQ the bacon and pineapple. Top the burgers with the bacon, then add the cheese and put back on the barbecue to melt. Warm the baps over the barbecue, too, if you like. Divide the mayo between the bap bases and top with the burgers. Add the pineapple, beetroot, tomato and lettuce, then put the lids on top.

Frango churrasco (Grilled lemon & garlic chicken)

  • 900g boneless chicken thighs (skin-on if possible)
  • zest and juice 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp mild piri-piri sauce
  • 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp coriander, finely chopped

Place the chicken in a shallow, non-metallic dish and cover with all the other ingredients and mix everything together. Cover and chill for at least 2 hrs, orovernight if possible. Bring to room temperature 1 hr before grilling.

Thread half the thighs onto 2 large metal skewers, or wooden ones soaked in water for 10 minutes. Repeat with the remaining thighs and another 2 skewers. Heat an outdoor barbecue until very hot. Place on the grill for 6 minutes on one side, then turn over and cook for 4 minutes. Cook for a few minutes more on each side if they are large – keep the heat on medium so they don’t burn. Remove and keep warm under foil.

That’s it folks! Easy!

All you need to do is serve the above with a fresh crispy green salad and a nice chilled beer, your guests will be amazed and your neighbours nostrils will be twitching for hours!

Recipes courtesy of BBC good food guide http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/collection/barbecue