Apricot and walnut loaf

Yes, another easy loaf!
I'm now trying to use up the contents of my food cupboard. There were a few dried apricots, sultanas and walnuts left, so this was the perfect recipe.

300g plain flour
21/2 tspn baking powder
11/2 tspn mixed spice
90g diced butter
90g soft brown sugar
200g dried apricots
125g sultanas
90g chopped walnuts
210 ml milk
1 beaten egg

Preheat ovem 180C/350F/gas4

Grease a 900g [2lb] loaf tin

Sift flour, spice and baking powder into a bowl and rub in the butter. Add the sugar, fruit and walnuts and mix together.
Add the milk and egg and mix well.
Put into tin and bake for 45-50 mins till golden. Cool on a wire rack.

                                    I didn't have enough apricots so I also added some dried apple.


Unexpected present

We were busy packing boxes this afternoon when the doorbell rang. There were 3 ladies standing outside grinning at us.
They were 3 of our lovely neighbours, and when invited in, they produced a package and said it was a souvenir of our time here. We were so moved that they'd thought of doing this.
On opening the present, we found a lovely watercolour, done by a local artist, of La Garette, a pretty village in the Marais Poitevin, our area.

It's not framed as they wanted us to choose what we wanted.

What lovely people we have as neighbours; everyone, without exception, has been so kind to us. Our little hamlet has about 20 houses and we belong to a big village.

The Marais Poitevin is beautiful. It's now an inter-regional park. It's not well known to the Brits and is still unspoilt. It has a variety of scenery, from marshes to the coast. We live in the lovely marsh area with lots of alder trees.
Have a look here.
The black flat-bottomed boat is known as a barque, and is a popular way of experiencing this lovely area.

Tomato soup

Thought I'd just finish off the post that I did the other day about tomatoes.

I'd roasted a tray of tomatoes ready for soup. It's been too hot to even contemplate soup, but the weather is now cooler so we had some for lunch today.

It was really tasty.

What did I do?
I sauteed an onion in a little evo till translucent, added a few chopped cloves of garlic and some chopped  oregano from the garden. Cooked this a little longer, then added the tomatoes and 300ml of vegetable stock. [I used a good veg.stock cube].  I simmered it for about 10 mins then blended it. I checked the seasoning, then we ate it with big chunks of multigrain homemade bread.


Fruit galore!

We planted a couple of Chasselas grapevines a couple of years ago, and we've just picked our first fruit.

                                 For a small vine we picked quite a lot, and there's more to pick.

Then our friends arrived this morning to bring us some lovely plums from their garden!

We still have yesterday's blackcurrant loaf to eat, we picked a lot of Bramleys from our trees [which I've stewed to eat with my porridge] and now plums..!

I'm going to really miss this garden when we move. It's not huge, but we've become almost self-sufficient in veg.


Blackcurrant loaf

I'm desperately trying to use up the contents of the freezer before we move. Just before we came here, I ended up running down the road to my friend with an enormous plastic bag full of food from the freezer! I want to do a better job this time, so it's 'use up some blackcurrants' day!

I love teabreads and loafcakes, so was very pleased to find this recipe in a little book I bought ages ago from a NT shop. There's no author's name, and the book is called 'Favourite family teabreads and other delights'.

Here's the recipe which I've adapted.

100g fresh blackcurrants
275g sr flour [plus a bit for tossing the blackcurrants]
100g butter or margarine
100g caster sugar [and a bit for sprinkling on the top]
2 large eggs, beaten
a little milk

Preheat oven 160 fan/180C/350F/gas4

Grease a 900g [2lb] loaf tin

Rub the fat into the flour. Add the sugar then the eggs and stir together. The mixture should be fairly dry, but if it won't come together easily, add a little milk.
Put the blackcurrants in another bowl and toss them in a little flour [to stop them sinking to the bottom of the cake] then mix them into the dough.

This shows that tossing them in flour does work - no I didn't eat 2 pieces!

Put into the tin, sprinkle the top with some sugar and bake for about 45-50 mins till golden.

I used light brown caster sugar and added a little cinnamon to the dough, as I love it!

We still have several bags of blackcurrants left, so watch this space!!



I don't plant tomatoes from seed as I only need 6 plants, so this year we bought a tray of 6 mixed varieties. These were - cherry tomatoes, vine cherry tomatoes, beef tomatoes, plum tomatoes, vine plum tomatoes and a round tomato I've forgotten the name of!

As we've had so much hot weather, they've been prolific and they've had a wonderful flavour. They've lacked water, and we've got a hosepipe ban, so I've been using the 3 water butts, now they've run out!

Bob picked yet more today, so I decided to make some soup with some and I made a starter with a few more.

These are some lovely plum tomatoes going into the oven to be roasted, just drizzled with olive oil. These will be for the soup.

This is the starter. It's not a good picture as it's from a French magazine.
It's mozzarella tomato gratin.

for 4 people you need:

6 tomatoes, 1 ball of mozzarella [125g],
4 tbns grated parmesan, 1 clove of garlic
4 stems of parsley, 4 stems of basil, 1 tspn thyme
evo, s&p

Preheat oven 160C/gas6/325F

Cut the tomatoes in 2 horizontally and put them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle them with the thyme, s&p and a glug of evo. Cook them for about 40 mins.
Grate the mozzarella coarsely. Chop the basil and parsley. peel and chop the garlic.
Mix these with the grated and parmesan and about 10cl evo. Spread this on the cooked tomaotes.
Put under a grill for about 5 mins. Serve warm. Great with grilled chops or steak.


Whoopie pies

I've seen a lot in magazines and online about whoopie pies so as I had some marshmallows in the cupboard, I thought I'd have a go at some.
This recipe comes from the June edition of Sainsbury magazine and is by Dan Lepard, one of my favourite bakers.
You'll find the recipe on Dan's forum here .
The recipe makes a lot of pies so I halved it. I think the pie is a cross between a biscuit and a cake. As there's no raising agent in the recipe, they don't rise very much. I just spooned the mixture on, but if you want a really good shape, you need to pipe them. Oh, and I added some grated lemon rind to the mixture.

The mixture for the pies is quite thick, thicker than the normal cake mixture.

The marshmallow were big ones, but they melted easily.     


This is the melted mixture.

One very important thing, you must let this mixture go cold before adding the soft butter or it doesn't work! I was impatient and added the butter while it was still warmish and it didn't become a nice fluffy filling, just a runny one!

Only had pink marshmallows left,so my second attempt at the filling is yellow rather than white! But at least it worked this time.

I didn't put any icing on top, as the original ones don't have it and I thought they'd be too sweet.

They taste fine, but to be honest, I don't think I'd make them again. They certainly aren't the 'new cupcake' imho. Maybe a chocolate version would be better?


Saucy lemon pudding

My Mum used to make this when I was young, but I'd forgotten about it till I was looking in her recipe book the other day.
I thought it was magic because the mixture goes in mixed together and comes out as a sponge top and a lovely lemon sauce underneath. As I had a few lemons to use up it was the perfect pudd. for today. My husband  thought it was too sweet, and it does have a lot of sugar in it. Maybe I would use less another time.

3oz/90g soft margarine or softened butter
9oz/275g caster sugar
3 eggs, separated
3oz/90g sr flour
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
3/4pt/425ml milk

Preheat oven 180C/gas4/350F

Grease a 2 pt/just over a litre pie dish.

In a big bowl beat together the margarine or butter, sugar, egg yolks, flour, rind and juice and the milk.

It might look curdled, but don't worry, all will be well. Mine wasn't curdled and I wondered what I'd done wrong!

Whisk the egg whites till they form soft peaks and fold this gently into the lemon mixture.

It looks a bit lumpy, but that's OK.

Pour this into the dish and put the dish in a roasting tin . Then pour enough hot water into the roasting tin to come half way up the sides of your dish.

Bake for about 45mins to 1 hour till golden.



Apple and cinnamon scone round

Yet another apple recipe!  Am making the most of the Bramleys before we leave.

This is a nice easy recipe that you can make in a few minutes, if you need a cake in a hurry. It's another one from Mum's old handwritten book.

4oz/125g sr flour and 4oz/125g sr wholemeal flour
1 tspn baking powder
2oz/60g soft brown or demerara sugar
11/2 oz/45g diced butter or margarine
1 tspn cinnamon
1 medium Bramley apple [about 10oz/300g before peeling] peeled, cored and chopped
3-4 tbspn milk
extra demerara sugar for the top

Preheat oven 200C/gas6/400F

Grease a baking sheet.
Sift the flours into a bowl and rub in the fat.
Stir in the sugar and cinnamon and then add the chopped apple. You can, if you like, grate the apple, but I prefer it in chunks.
Mix it all together then stir in enough milk to make a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured board and shape into a 7"/ about 18cm round.
Mark it into 8 and then sprinkle the top with denerara sugar.
Bake it for about 25-30 mins.


Spicy topped apple cake

Yes, another apple cake! The apples are falling off the Bramley trees as there are so many of them, and it's been so hot.
I found this recipe in one of my Mum's old cookbooks. It was called a 'crunchy' topped cake, but it's not at all crunchy on top. It's not a spongecake base this time - more of a sweet pastry.

75g butter or margarine
175g sr flour
50g caster sugar
1 egg
75ml water
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges


75g dark brown sugar
2 tspn cinnamon
25g butter of margarine

Preheat oven to 180C/gas4/350F
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Rub fat into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs.
Stir in the sugar and mix in the egg and water to make a soft dough.
Spread this dough into the base of the tin.

Press the apple wedges into the dough and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon. Dot with pieces of butter of margarine.

Bake for about 30 mins till firm.
It's difficult to decide of the base is cooked as the top is soft from the melted butter. I cooked it for 40 minutes and it was cooked perfectly.

It wouldn't win any awards for 'best looking cake', but it tastes really good.

We ate it with some cream, but ice cream would be delicious too.

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