Seasonal Fruit Crumble

The blackberries around here are really coming on beautifully. My fiancé and I love foraging – possibly me more than him! – and so far, we’ve picked over 12lb of juicy blackberries.

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Last week, I was also given some lovely rhubarb from a friend’s garden and my father-in-law-to-be, gave me some strawberries. He’s a potato farmer near Peterborough and sells a range of produce every weekend in the Notcutts Layby, Oundle Road. Check him out on Facebook and pop along for your veggies if you’re nearby 😊

I was in the mood for something comforting, so I thought I’d knock up a crumble. It’s so simple to do:

Pop your fruit in a saucepan, you need a good 1-1.5lb minimum. Add a splash of water and pop on a low heat to start stewing. Let it cook until the fruit starts to soften, this is when I add some sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Not too much and taste as you go, so you get the flavour you like.

Pour the fruit – carefully, it’s hot – into a well-greased dish. For the crumble, I follow Delia’s basic crumble mix. You may like to do a double batch, if like us, you like a lot of crumble 😊 This is my go-to crumble recipe and it’s never failed me.

To work the crumble into its breadcrumb form, I cannot recommend getting a pastry cutter enough. I used one for the first time the other day and it saved time and joint ache! They’re pretty inexpensive and to me, are a wonder.

When the crumble is done, gentle pour evenly over your fruit and pop the whole thing on another baking tray – in case of bubbling over – and place in the oven at 180C for around half an hour, or until the crumble is golden and the fruit really bubbling.

Serve with cream, custard or ice cream and enjoy.

fruit crumble

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Crocheting Going Well!!

Well, a month ago, I picked up a crochet hook for the first time in my life, as I prepared to make decorations for our wedding later this year.

As we know, the initial teddy bear attempt wasn’t great!

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However, I wasn’t put off and rather than just keep practicing, I jumped straight in at the deep end and got on with dragons! I did inspire myself with some shiny new tools.

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I’m pleased to say, they’re turning out pretty well and I’ve already made three!

You can pick up varying crochet hooks online relatively cheap

Oaty Baked Chicken

It was another experimental dinner last night for Mr Fiancé. Like me, he’s on a slim down for the wedding, but is quite happy eating his carbs, which I’m cutting back on. He’s big into his chicken at the moment, but after having it with rice a lot, he asked me to whip him up a tasty chicken sandwich, that was still healthy.

Challenge accepted!

I started by pounding a chicken breast to make it equal thickness and then coated in flour, dipped it into beaten egg and then into my special oaty mix. This mix was simply basic porridge oats, cayenne pepper, hot chilli powder, chilli flakes, garlic powder, paprika and cracked black pepper. Yes, my fiancé likes things hot and spicy.

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Once I made sure the chicken was nicely coated with oats, I popped it onto a lined baking tray and put it in a pre-heated oven at 190C for around 25minutes – check it’s cooked through before serving.

To serve, I got some crusty bread, made a sweet chilli mayo with just a mix of these two condiments and smothered the bottom piece with that, layered up with salad and chicken and put some mango chutney on the top layer.

Apparently, it was a very good dish – too spicy for me! – but well worth a try I think.

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Festive Firelighters

I can finally write about these, as my friends whom I made them for have received them as part of a hamper, which they were allowed to open early for Christmas.

I got this idea off the TV the other day with Kirstie Allsopp in her Homemade Christmas series, which I love – festive firelighters. They looked easy, so I thought I would give them a go.

I started by drying some orange peel strips in the oven at a low temperature. It only took around 10 minutes – much quicker than I expected!

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Then I took 6 tealights out of their metal containers and popped them in their own individual Christmas cupcake cases and put them in the oven at around 150C I think it was, and allow the wax to melt. Again, this didn’t take long and I kept an eye all the time – just in case!

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Take the cases out of the oven, and carefully move the wick to the edge and whilst the wax is still molten, add your orange peel, cinnamon sticks, star anise and cloves – or a mix of what you like – and allow the wax to cool.

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The idea is my friends can now light the wick, pop the whole thing in their open fire and their home should smell like Christmas as the fire burns.

So, thank you Kirstie for the idea, it works and was a lovely addition to the hamper.

Christmas Tree Cake

I’ve had my first go at icing a cake that wasn’t a standard round Christmas cake. For my birthday this year, I was given a Christmas tree cake tin and we thought we’d have a chocolate cake for our Christmas pudding this year.

As a trial run, I made a dummy run, which was going to be delivered to my in-laws, only for the snow to hit, so we had to eat it ourselves!

I won’t talk you through the chocolate cake, but I used Mary Berry’s recipe and it turned out really nice – well, she is the Queen of Cakes to me!

For this cake, I made two sponge cakes and after a slight wrestling match with the tin, I managed to get them out. Note to self, cooking spray isn’t enough, always line!

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The two chocolate trees were filled with freshly whipped cream and a whole jar of strawberry jam. Then, I used ready-rolled (short cut) marzipan to top the cake, before rolling out green icing (I used two packets, but three would be better) and for the trunk, I used a pack of chocolate icing, which I rolled out.

To top the cake off, I used edible glitter spray in gold and silver, some little red sugar balls, silver sugar balls and some edible snowflakes. To get them to stick, I used a little bit of gin – vodka works well too.

I didn’t think I did too bad for my first attempt and was gutted I couldn’t get it to its intended recipients. I’ll now be having another go ready for Christmas next week.

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Christmas Ham

My parents-in-law always say they don’t want anything for Christmas, so I tend to make them edible treats and this year is no different.

Along with a batch of sausage rolls – without any spice – I whipped up a Christmas ham for them.

I always get my gammon from the butcher, that way I know it has a good rind on it. Do not remove any ‘netting’ around the meat, as this will hold the shape for you. Start by allowing it to soak in moving water for at least 2-3 hours, then pop the meat in a saucepan to slowly boil. You can use water, but I like to use apple juice or cider to give the meat a nice flavour. Cover the ham completely with your chosen liquid and add a few cloves and a cinnamon stick, put the lid on the pot and leave it on the lowest heat for 2-3 hours. Keep checking to make sure you still have enough liquid in there.

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Test the meat with a serving fork and when it’s cooked, transfer the meat to a board and carefully cut off the rind, leaving a good amount of fat. Remember it will be hot, so take extra care.

Now, score the fat to make diamond shapes across the top of the joint and pop in a roasting dish – I line mine with foil for less washing up!

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Pour over some runny honey and stud the diamonds with cloves for a pretty finish. You can do a mix of honey and mustard, a fruit jelly, such as quince or even apricot jam for the glaze – play and have fun.

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Now pop in the oven at 180C for around 20-30 minutes to allow the glaze to get a nice colour on it. I take it out every 10 minutes, just to baste again with any glaze that has melted off and to make sure it doesn’t burn.

You can serve his hot or cold.

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Lamb & Apricot Stew With Dumplings

It’s certainly the weather for winter warmers. I’ve seen friends posting that snow has arrived in parts of the UK and where I am, it is freezing today.

With that, I wanted to share a lovely lamb stew, that I cooked up the other day. I must apologise that we were so hungry, I completely forgot to take a photo of it on the plate all served up, but if you make it, you’ll see for yourself!! This is best made the day before you want to eat it.

I found some really lovely looking lamb neck in the butcher, so I started by just browning the meat in the bottom of a deep saucepan, before removing it to a plate and adding some oil to the pan, followed by a couple of small chopped red onions, three cloves of minced garlic and a chopped leek.

In a frying pan, dry roast a cinnamon stick and three cloves for round a minute or so, just to help release the flavour, then add them into the pan with the softening veggies. Stir in a good splodge of tomato puree, before returning the meat and any juices to the pan, along with two bay leaves.

Pour in enough chicken, vegetable or lamb stock to cover the meat and bring the pan to a low simmer, before putting the lid on. Give it a good hour or so, stirring occasionally, before throwing in some chopped mushrooms and covering again. I let mine have a slow cook for around 3-4 hours, stirring every now and then and checking to make sure there was still enough stock in there. To help thicken the sauce, I added a few teaspoons of cornflour and mixing it in well.

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Once the meat is nice and tender and trying to fall off the bone, turn off the heat and leave the stew to cool overnight. The next day, you’ll notice a layer of fat on the top of the stew, which you can skim off quite easily with a spoon.

Add in a tin – yes, a tin! – of apricot halves and the juices and re-heat the stew to a low simmer again and give it another hour or so to heat through properly. At this point, I like to remove the bones, spices and bay leaves. Mum always added the tinned fruit, so I’m sticking with it!

When you have 20minutes left, mix up 250g self raising flour with 140g cold butter, cut into cues and a good handful of mixed dried herbs. You want the mix to resemble breadcrumbs, before adding a splash of water and mixing together with a table knife. Keep adding splashes of water, until you form a sticky dough. Take small pinches and roll them into balls, before popping them in the top of the stew for your dumplings.

You can either serve just with the dumplings, or boil up some rice and have the stew with that – or even some mashed potatoes.