Autumn is here

It’s absolutely crazy how quickly the summer holidays have passed by! I suppose this was our first proper summer holidays, with Max’s first year at school over and us enjoying ‘us-time’ for a couple of months.

We had family staying over both from my side and from Ian’s side almost back to back, which was lots of fun for everyone! Ok, so the weather wasn’t terribly summery (except when my sister-in-law Jo and co stayed over, then it was faaaaabulous!! – I mean we even ate breakfast on the patio!), but we definitely made the most of it and enjoyed any bit of sunshine, either on the beach in Wales or in the garden. We discovered loads of new places in the area, which now doesn’t feel as new and strange as it did four months ago. Four months!!! Geez, can’t believe we moved in four months ago!

I’m looking out of my kitchen window as I write this, how the sun is shining on the garden and the swing we put up on the old apple tree and all the space, and still can’t believe we live here, and how lucky we are. But I can also see that the leaves are slowly turning colour, which can only mean that autumn is here!! I love autumn! I love the colours the smell of the forests, I love putting on a cardigan and I love wearing my boots! And recently I’ve discovered that I love making the most of our fruit trees! We have apple trees, pear trees, plum trees and hazelnuts. The apples are still ripening and the hazelnuts are all being carried off by squirrels (grrrrr!!!!!!), but the plums are in full action and very tasty.

We picked as much as we could and I’ve been busy trying out making jam and tarts. Want to see? Hmm?? Oh, ok then, if you insist!!

The plum jam was so much easier to make than I thought it would be.

2 kg plums (boil this up in 1 pint of water in a preserving pan)

2 kg preserving sugar (gradually add to the plums, once they’ve boiled mushy and keep simmering for about half an hour or until the set-test works – see below)

1 lemon’s juice (add to the 1 pint of water in the beginning)

The tricks were:

I put 3 saucers in the fridge when I started the whole process and when I thought the jam might be ready I took one of the saucers out, put a spoon full of wanna-be-jam on and waited until it cooled down. If it wrinkled up, the jam was ready to be taken off the cooker, if not, keep simmering for a few more minutes and try again.

And also, have the jars as clean as you can have them! Steam them all and put them in the oven at 80C for 15 min. (do this while the jars are still warm, or else they’ll crack!) When you fill them, they have to be hot still, or else the glass will crack. Oh, and it helps to put the jars on a tea towel when you fill them.

Pretty, no?

Then there was the plum tart. Mmmmmmmmmm….. plum tart….!!!

My good friend Jocelyn gave me a recipe for this, which I had to alter a little bit, as I didn’t have her My Secret Kitchen ingredients, but it still worked beautifully (maybe because I used my mum’s Hungarian plum jam – much runnier than my jam – as a substitute)

Here’s the recipe as given by Jocelyn:

Figgy Plum Tart 

Sweet Pastry Tart Case

250gr. Plain Flour

125gr. Butter

100gr. Icing Sugar

3 medium egg yolks

Rub butter and flour together until a fine mix is obtained.

Add icing sugar and quickly mix, then add egg yolks to the mix to form a smooth pastry – some times a little more egg yolk is required – wrap in cling film and put in fridge for one hour – roll out and gently place in 22cm. loose bottomed flan tin, pushing pastry in to the sides with thumb and forefinger then crimp neatly around the top. Keep in fridge.

Frangipane

125gr. Butter

125gr. Sugar

125gr. Eggs – weigh without shells

125gr. Ground almonds

13gr. Plain flour

Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs, then the ground almonds and flour – the mix is now ready to use. Keep in fridge.

Cut six Victoria Plums in half and de-stone

Melt  25gr. Butter in small frying pan, add 2 tablespoons MSK Fig Pudding Pickle

Stir off the heat until melted – add plums cut side down and bubble until syrupy – spoon mixture over the top of the plums to glaze.

My other lovely friend Nicci, from Home Gurrown has a very similar recipe, which was featured on ITV the other day in their ‘Country Wise Kitchen’ series. Here’s the recipe and here’s the video.

(picture off Nicci’s website)

You can read all about Nicci and all the fab things they do on her wonderful website. On a side note though: she’s a super lady and a wonderful friend and mum, who loves what she does and seriously gives 100% to it all. I wish I had half the determination she has! I would recommend their produce and catering to anyone in a heartbeat. If you live in Kent, find them at the local Farmers’ Markets and buy some of their food. Yuuummmmmmmieeeeeee!!!!!

Oreo Pops

Here’s something super yummy!:

Oreo Pops!!

A little while ago I ordered some plastic (reusable!!!) lollypop sticks and some candy melt with the intention of making cake pops Bakerella style!

Well, with absolutely no time on my hands and two children demanding dessert, I quickly popped some Oreos at the end of a few sticks, melted the candy melt, dipped the Oreos and sprinkled with some cake decoration. Et Voila!

It went down really well!

On another note: I found this table at the junk auction the other week. This will be my perfect sewing table.

That’s Ian helping me out with sanding the old paint off. Thank you honey!

I was inspired by my friend, Jocelyn’s sewing table and have decided to paint the table turquoise with a deep red under coat. Somehow I doubt it will look as fabulous as hers, but it will definitely look better than its old state.

Yes… umm… whooooops!!! Well, honestly how well did the paint-mixing-woman put that lid on? Surely it shouldn’t have come flying off at the first little knock over!

(and no… I didn’t dip the Oreos in the paint instead of the melt!)

Just to finish off the post, here’s a little sneaky peak at my studio going through its transformation:

oooooooh, what will this be??

What’s taking so long?

We’re getting closer to our move. At least I hope so! Weeks have passed now and apparently, when Ian checked online, a lot of the solicitor’s boxes still haven’t been ticked. Honestly. What on earth could take so long? Surely they have templates for these contracts. Surely all they have to do is fill in the bit that says : NAME and ADDRESS and £.

COME OOOOON!!!!

We haven’t even had a survey on our house. The existing house that is. We’ve had it done on our (hopefully…!!) future house and it’s all good. Yay! That’s a relief.

But still for now all I can do is go to bed every night dreaming of the new house and dream-designing the interior.

The kitchen isn’t very big, but it’s cute. However, when I win Lotto, I’ll have it rebuilt to one of these babies:

(Hover over the images to see where I got them from)

Aren’t they divine? My heart flutters every time I look at gorgeous kitchens like these.

If you’d like to see more go onto my Pinterest site.

I’ll leave you with a tower of Raspberry Cupcakes I made the other day with Max.

Tasty, tasty, very, very tasty, they were so tasty!

I feel like I’ve gone up a whole size in clothes as a result, but hey… they were really good!

Baking Day

Oh, I can so feel spring in the air!

It’s still grey and miserable and wet most days where we are, but the daffodils and crocuses are out and I don’t have to scrape frost off the windows early morning when I go off to Bootcamp. There were even a couple of days, when I only wore a cardigan on top of my shirt outside and that was enough!!

We visited our future house the other day with Max so he could choose his room, and the willow tree in the garden was very much greening up.

Love it.

So yesterday, I had a bit of a baking day.

These were 5 minute microwave baked chocolate mug cakes.

A bit of a cheat did you say? Maybe. But it was yum and it was… well… 5 minutes to make!

Then I made these babies.

They’re my mum’s recipe. Gorgeous gorgeous bread rolls. They are a real family favourite, not just with my family, but with my sister’s too. We all love it. And I attempted it and I think it’s safe to say that I was successful!

Not a lot left over. Lucky I made a second batch for breakfast!

xx

**Update: My windscreen was iced up this morning… Bummer.**

My little girl is 2

Two years can go by ever so quickly, can’t it? I can’t believe it’s been two years since Anabelle came into the world.

My gorgeous girl. She is the funniest, sweetest, cheekiest person I know!

Sure, besides gorgeousness, her Grego side also involves temper tantrums and stubbornness, but that makes her perfect to me!

I followed my mum’s cake recipe for her birthday cake and it was truly yummy, though not exactly as pretty as I hoped it was going to be.

Still, Anabelle had a lovely birthday celebrated by family close by and further away. She’s a lucky little girl. 🙂

xx

Lemon and Poppyseed Muffin Recipe

Yuuuummmmmm…….

I made these muffins the other day for dinner. It was just me and the children home, and… well… we ate 7 of them in one go!! That’s 7 BIG muffins. That’s 2 for Max, 2 for Anabelle and (maybe) 3 for me. And I may have finished off Anabelle’s left over muffin too…

Would you like the recipe?

Ok, here it goes:

2 cups of flour

half a teaspoon baking powder

half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

half a cup of sugar

half a cup of brown sugar

half a cup of poppyseeds

grated rind of 2 lemons (that’s finely grated)

100g butter melted

2 eggs

1 cup of milk

 

Topping:

juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup of sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 190C. Mix all the dry ingredients. Mix all the liquid ingredients in a separate bowl, then tip this mixture into the dry mixture. Combine well, but don’t over mix! Spoon the muffin mixture into your muffin papered tray and bake for about 15 min. If the centre springs back when you press it, it’s baked!

Finally, mix the squeezed lemon juice with the 1/4 cup of sugar (don’t let the sugar dissolve too much) and when you’ve taken your baked muffins out of the oven, generously brush this over the tops of the muffins. Cool it all off (if you can be patient enough) and…..

Enjoy!!

The ginger-less Gingerbread Recipe aka Honey-bread Recipe

You know the recipe I promised? Here it is. And as you will see, it isn’t exactly a typical gingerbread recipe. Ok, ok, it hardly has anything to do with a typical gingerbread recipe. This is even BETTER! Seriously, your whole kitchen, in fact your whole house will smell like you’ll want to eat it!

The ginger-less gingerbread recipe

aka

Honey-bread recipe

 

You’ll need:

760g flour

340g icing sugar

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

1 tablespoon of baking cocoa

50g butter (room temperature)

4 eggs

4 tablespoons of runny honey

 

It’s very simple really.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line your baking trays with baking paper.

Put everything in a bowl and start mixing it together with your hands. It will take a little while before it forms a firm dough. If it doesn’t want to stick together, either put another egg in the mixture or a bit more honey.

Rest it overnight.

On a lightly floured area, roll the dough out to about 3mm (any thicker and the houses won’t look too nice). This is when you’ll want to put your drawn-up or printed-out stencils on the top to cut around. Dotting around the stencils is way too fiddly. I say, go with the knife! Cut, cut, cut. Don’t forget to do the base that you’ll stick your house and extras on or the windows, the chimneys, the fence, the Christmas trees, etc, etc. or anything else you want to put around your house, or in your village.

Then make up a mixture of 1 egg yolk+1 tablespoon sour cream and with a brush thinly paint it on the top of the rolled out and cut out pieces. This will give them a nice shine.

Pop them on the tray then in the oven. They really don’t take much to bake, so take care! This is not a set time, just an estimate as everyone’s oven is different and you might roll your pieces thicker or thinner, but try about 8-9 minutes. You’ll know it’s done, when the colour is light golden brown.

By now your whole house will smell of beautiful honey. Soooo Christmassy!

So, once your timer beeped and you’re satisfied with the colour, take out the house bits and let them totally cool. If they’re not cold, they will melt your sugar-glue you’ll stick your house together with.

There are two kinds of glues we used.

Simple:

Separate an egg and to the whites, start adding icing sugar and mix continuously until the mixture doesn’t run off your wooden spoon. Put the mixture in either a plastic bag, or make one up from paper (snip the end off and close the top so the mixture can’t run out up top).

More fiddly:

In a saucepan put 4 tablespoons of white sugar. Start heating it on lowish heat, until the sugar becomes liquid, has honey-brown colouring and is completely smooth.

You’ll have to work quicker with this because it sets quicker than the simple glue. AND you’ll have to be EXTRA CAREFUL because it will be very very very hot!! Please take extra care that you don’t drip any of the liquid sugar on your skin.

This glue is ideal when making something as big as my church, because it holds much much better than the icing sugar mixture.

However! If you live in a high humidity area, skip this, because it will melt and run down on your house.

So, with your chosen glue, stick your houses together, and with the icing sugar mixture, decorate your houses. Buy a whole lot of Smarties, and chocolate buttons, etc etc to stick on and make it all pretty and colourful.

You can make all sorts of things, like the pictured jewellery box we made. Fill it with tiny honey-bread Christmas trees decorated with hundreds and thousands.

Happy baking!

Veronika and her mum Csilla (who’s recipe this actually is!)

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