Comfort and Joy – Sunday Sevens 18th March

Radiant and Green Travels book review

Joining Nat’s Sunday Sevens post this week…

It has been a tough six months -moving home and starting a new job, but it seems that things are getting easier – the worst is behind me – a bit like Spring things are starting to bloom. Although right now, I have woken up to a lovely covering of snow!

I have been struggling health wise – back in January I decided to try a wheat free diet – I bought two books Radiant and Green Kitchen travels. I think this decision has added to my misery- Green Travels has a wonderful recipe for chocolate cake that looks delicious but the steps to make it are very complicated – you have to use hazelnut flour that you grind yourself! I have taken the trouble to make it twice now – but my palate has not caught up – it just tasted rubbery and bland! (I do feel a rant coming on but I will save it for another post!)

wheat free peanut butter biscuits

However these little biscuits have been a life saver! My friend, P came over yesterday and I showed her how to make these – they were hot out of the oven in 10 minutes and they are gluten free.

Put 200g of peanut butter in a bowl, add 100 – 175 grams of sugar, ( I use 100g the recipe calls for 175 but I cut down all sugar in recipes) add an egg and mix. Put small balls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Press with the back of a fork (tip if you want them crisp flatten them down – if you like them crispy on the outside and soft in the middle leave them a bit thicker. Also use dark muscovado sugar) Bake at 180 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Weekend Baking - Lemon Drizzle cake
Lemon Drizzle Cake

It has been a week where I have needed comforting – I’ve had 9 days of constant migraine so I have focussed on home comforts to soothe myself. I love baking – it is such a nurturing comforting activity. So on Monday I made a lemon drizzle cake and a dark ginger cake. The ginger was wrapped in one of my wax cloths (you can read how they are made on my other blog) – it helped the flavour develop for a couple of days and kept it very moist.

Comfort food - Mac Cheese
Comfort food – mac and cheese

I have also been reaching for comfort food in other ways – this Mac cheese was delicious – why should it be that carbs are demonised recently? I think food is so much more than the elements it is made from. I think this week has seen me rebel because despite cutting down on wheat – I am still getting horrendous migraines!

Seasonal Celebrations
Ready to decorate for Spring

My new tree arrived this week – we have a large alcove above the fireplace and I decided to buy an artificial tree to decorate as a way of celebrating the seasons. So I have been gathering items together to decorate it for Ostara which falls on the 20th of March – and Easter just after. I am not a pagan, but I love the story behind Ostara and it seems to be more Germanic – either way, Spring is a welcome guest.

Preparations for Spring Ostara
Eggs, Daffodils, Spring

 

I have been collecting egg shells – as well as polystyrene eggs to decorate – E and I will sit down together to paint them today which should be great fun. I will also save a few for little ones when they visit – we have little chicks too.

I am relishing the glorious bright sunny daffodils in abundance outside as well as in. They are so unashamedly vibrant – which is just what is needed after the dark months of January and February.

moon gazing hare embroidery
Ostara celebration embroidery

I have been loving slow sewing – this little Moon Gazing Hare embroidery was a delight to do – you can catch up with it on my made for mi blog. I am really enjoying hand embroidery – it is similar to colouring – there is no counting just following the lines one stitch at a time. It can be done easily while watching  listening to the Television.

Mini Vintage linen Quilt Embroidery
Mini Vintage Quilt Embroidery

I am using up all old vintage linens, (I found these pieces in a charity shop) to create mini quilts that I will be posting on made for mi soon. I think the sentiment sums up my week!

ttfn x

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Rosemary Moon – Bread making evening with the Belles

Last night we had another wonderful cookery demonstration from the fabulous Rosemary Moon – the subject was bread making! 
Rosemary is the author of several cookery books, and runs a fantastic foodie blog  as well as having local links with West Dean College and Transition Chichester
Rosemary soon had us all giggling, her self deprecating humour combined wisdom and experience made a very inspiring evening – it has given me the enthusiasm to try my hand at sourdough bread. (it is Scott’s favourite!)
Rosemary introduced us to the mysteries of bread making, taking us through each stage – she brought some ready prepared bread in true blue Peter style, although we had to battle to use the stove from the lady who was trying to run a slimming club in the other room! (Freshly baked bread might have led her slimmers into temptation!) 
Rosemary covered the following- 
The importance of the Ingredients – what type of flour to use, and how to combine flours – using a mixture of wholemeal and white flour. In addition the importance of good quality food – quality ingredients give a better result – if you are putting in all the effort – you want something that is superior to shop bought bread. By making your own you can have a choice to support local farmers by using British flour. You can also decide what flavourings to add, herbs, nuts or fruit which have to be added before the final proving. 
weighing (critical for sourdough but not so much for other types). We were able to see how the dough should look – giving us the confidence to add more flour or more liquid because we saw how the dough should be. 
Yeast – the varieties an differences between fast acting, dried yeast, fresh yeast and sour dough starters. 
The process, the importance of patience and time – really the hardest element of bread making is having the patience to allow it to develop and rise. As well as giving the dough a proper knead for 6 to 8 minutes. 
One of the many valuable tips she gave was to put the bread into a cold oven, which was a new idea to me, it prevents the loaf splitting during the cooking process. She also suggested that some loaves need to return to the oven to brown the bottoms when they have come out of the tin. I also picked up a tip about gas oven temperatures – it seems the middle is the right temperature, the top a little higher and the bottom lower. Common sense but sometimes these things pass me by! 
By the end of the evening, when everyone had tasted both loaves warm from the oven, we all went away likely to try out the recipes clasped in our hands. Thank you Rosemary!  

Simply the best

It is all well and good trying new recipes but my success rate has taken a bit of a bashing recently, after all the festivities and rich food, what  I wanted at the weekend was a touch of simplicity, –  I thought I would go back to an old favourite of mine, Victoria Sponge. Named as I am sure you know, after Queen Victoria. 
This is a foolproof recipe – this cake is made from 6 eggs, simply weigh your eggs, add the same weight of sugar, self raising flour, and softened butter, (not straight from the fridge it won’t work!) a good teaspoon of vanilla essence and a teaspoon of baking powder ( for every three eggs – 6 eggs =2 teaspoons). Mix together to form a soft dropping consistency – using two lined round cake tins – place in a moderate oven for around 20 – 30 minutes. You will know it is cooked because it will shrink slightly around the rim, have a golden colour and will not leave any cake mixture on a cocktail stick that you can push through the centre to check. 
It is important to let the cake cool completely before icing. 
Victoria Sanwich relies on the combination of butter and vanilla, so I always use butter and not margarine, however Stork can be a good alternative for the cake, but I always recommend butter for icing. While I am a great fan of the cupcakes, I prefer my victoria sandwich with just a little Raspberry jam, but you can ice yours with buttercream if you wish. 
What I love about this recipe is that it works for me every time, there is nothing more disappointing than using good ingredients and spending time in the kitchen only to have a soggy or disastrous cake, but this really has stood the test of time even my daughter uses the recipe. 
I love to get out my china tea service and really push the boat out, I feel very Duchess of Bedford! (She invented the concept of Afternoon Tea so I am told!) China tea cups really do make the best cup of tea, not to mention a good full bellied pot! 

Weekend baking

I like to make a cake at the weekends I came across this lovely recipe for Cinnamon and apple crumble cake. I have also been investigating spices and herbs as medicine; cinnamon has sugar balancing properties, which help the body deal with the highs and lows of a sugar rush. It is an all round good spice which also has anti-viral properties which is why it is an excellent cake to eat this time of year. 
 Since I am a huge fan of apple crumble this seemed to be the perfect cake for me, however the perfection in the recipe book has eluded me, if you look closely you will see that the sponge base disappears in the centre. I find recipes that don’t work really annoying, this is my third attempt to get the cake to work and I am disappointed again! It tastes ok, but still does not look like the picture promised. 
The first time I made it the sponge base was uncooked, despite lengthening the time in the oven, the crumble topping began to burn. (The method was to put the apples onto the uncooked cake batter)
The second time I made it I cooked the sponge base first, then added the apple and the topping, but the crumble did not work well. I finally realised that in order to make an effective crumble you need to use butter straight from the fridge, otherwise the flour and butter blend into a dough needing more flour which results in a dry cake. This third attempt, back to cooking all three layers together did not work, the rising cake mixture had no where to go so ended up disappearing from the middle and going up the sides. 
So now I think I have perfected the recipe, so here goes. (will post a picture at the bottom when I have made it again, but for the moment we have too much cake!) 
Apples 
Peel, core and chop two large or three small apples and place in a saucepan, cover in water, add two tablespoons brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a handful of cloves, bring to the boil and simmer until the apples are softened but not mush. (about 10 minutes) Drain and leave to cool, pick out the cloves as they are not tasty to chew on, but they do bring out the flavour of apples so well. 
For the sponge base
4 oz butter, 4oz soft brown sugar which you beat together until pale and creamy
Add cinnamon (to taste) and two lightly beaten eggs, gradually, add 4oz flour a spoonful at a time between each addition of egg to stop it curdling. 
Add a teaspoon of baking powder and mix together and then put into a 8inch cake tin. 
Cook at 180 GM 4 for 10 – 15 minutes until slightly firm. 
Cover the sponge with the apple and return to the oven to continue cooking. (By cooking the sponge first it gives it the room to expand before adding the apples). If you put the apple directly onto the raw cake mixture it will have no room to expand and will move round the edges. 
Crumble topping
Rub in 4oz of chilled butter into 6oz of plain flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Add 3oz of demerera sugar and cinnamon to taste (1 – 2 teaspoons) mix together. 
Remove cake from oven and top with the crumble mixture, cook until the crumble topping is brown and golden and a knife comes out of the cake clean. You can see the cake mixture has escaped round the edges and landed all over my oven! hence the suggestion to pre-cook the sponge. 
Delicious when warm with custard. 

Apron love

I love all things domestic, I also enjoy wearing clothes that feel good. I was inspired by the fabric when I was sent on a course to London. Near our HQ is a wonderful fabric shop and there was a whole range of lovely heart fabrics in all different sizes. I could imagine it would be the best thing for a fifties inspired apron and bought enough for a project. I don’t go that often and I have always regretted the times I have seen something and not bought it! (That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

I admit it is hearty! I researched several vintage designs of aprons and there were many fifties aprons that had heart shaped bib sections.

The problem is that sometimes the bib sections don’t keep their shape so I re-enforced this with some interfacing, in addition I also re-enforced the front of the tie section so it keeps its width and does not fold over as some tend to do.

I wanted some form rosette on the apron and found this lovely pin from the British heart foundation, very apt in our year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics! 
I love suffolk puffs, (now called yo yo’s thanks to our American cousins) I remember making a child’s toy at school it was a long caterpillar made from these puffs. My mother would not buy new material for it, so I had to cut up an old dress. I don’t think it was finished because it was a very lengthy process, but I am so pleased to see things re-invented and renewed. 

I made the tie nice and big, to create a lovely bow on my bottom! It adds to the appeal of femininity, which is what the fifties era personifies.

It is a period where women were able to wear very feminine clothes, together with new materials becoming available so much happened to change the lives of the Brits from the deprivation of war to the optimistic 60’s. I am going on a fashion lecture about this era as it is a particular interest of mine.

The skirt section is a half circle and it feels lovely as it sways around, it reminds me of a gypsy skirt I had in my dressing up box as a child. I think we should all dress up still! 

It is one of those things that I can simply slip on and indulge in a little baking imagining I am Doris Day! it makes me feel wonderful, just like a little girl again! Now that can’t be bad can it?