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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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.

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

How to make refreshing Raspberry Cordial!

raspberry cordial

It will soon be that time of year when your tummies will be full and your fingers will be flushed from picking ripe summer berries. July is the best month for harvesting raspberries; a wonderful sweet treat that is high in fibre, low in calories and jam packed full of vitamin C!

Of course you can use them in baking, serve them with cream or why not make our simple cordial? Perfect for adding to lemonade or soda to make an ice-cold refreshing drink, drizzled over fruit and ice-cream for a summer treat or even used as a cocktail mixer if you’re feeling indulgent!

*Ingredients

  • 500g raspberries
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Method

  1. Put the raspberries in a pan with the sugar and vinegar. Mash over a low heat for 10 mins until smooth and syrupy. Rub through a sieve into a clean pan.
  2. Tip the seeds from the sieve into a bowl and stir in 300ml water, then sieve again to remove the last of the pulp from seeds. Pour the liquid into the pan with the sieved pulp, stir well and boil for 1 min. Pour into small sterilised bottles and seal. The cordial will keep unopened for a few months, however once opened, store in the fridge.
  3. Add ice to long glass, fill with lemonade, top with raspberry cordial and make your way outside, book optional! Enjoy x

*Recipe courtesy of BBC Good Food Guide.