Recipe: Herbed lentil and beetroot ‘couscous’ with halloumi

It’s official! Winter is here in the UK. It took it’s sweet time coming, and for a while it had me fooled into thinking I could handle it. But no, deep down I am still a thin-skinned Aussie girl.

Strangely enough, although I’ve mostly been craving hearty warm winter fare of late, this week I decided to make a salad. A fairly wintery salad, as salads go, but still, a salad.

The recipe I used can be found in the December issue of Delicious magazine, or online here.

Ready, steady, cook!

Ready, steady, cook!

Herbed lentil and beetroot ‘couscous’ with halloumi and spiced seeds

Please note – below is the list of ingredients I used, but it differs slightly from the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 150gm raw beetroot peeled (two medium beetroots)
  • 100gm puy lentils, dried or cooked
  • 4 small shallots or half a red onion, finely diced
  • 100gm gherkins, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp dried dill
  • 20gm fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp virgin olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Packet of cooked beetroot
  • 60gm mixed seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 250gm halloumi

Method:

  • If using dried puy lentils, rinse the lentils under cold water, then add to a pan with three times their volume in water. Pop in a stock cube for more flavour, and leave to simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  • Peel and grate the raw beetroot into a large bowl. It’s probably best to wear gloves, otherwise you’ll be caught red-handed like I was!
Ruby red beetroot

Ruby red beetroot

  • Add the shallots, gherkin, dill, fresh mint, vinegar, olive oil and lemon to the beetroot, and toss to combine.
Grated beetroot

Grated beetroot

  • Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • Pour the seeds onto the tray, and toss with the cumin and paprika, and 1 tbsp of the oil.
  • Pop the seeds into the oven and bake for 5 minutes.
Spiced seeds

Spiced seeds

  • After 5 minutes, take the seeds out of the oven and add the quartered cooked beetroot to the tray. Return to the oven for another 8 minutes (or until seeds are golden brown and beetroot warmed through).
More beetroot, anyone?

More beetroot, anyone?

  • Slice the halloumi and pan fry over a high heat with the remaining oil until golden brown.
  • Drain the lentils and mix through the grated beetroot combination in the bowl, along with the toasted seeds.
  • To serve, pile the grated beetroot mix on a plate and top with the warm cooked beetroot and slices of halloumi.
Ta dah!

Ta dah!

I felt it needed some additional greens, so served it with steamed broccoli on the side. It was delicious! Very tasty and refreshing, and pretty healthy too (if you ignore the fried cheese).

Enjoy.

The baking year ahead: 2013

Why, hello there! Happy new year. Sorry for my complete lack of blogging over the Christmas period, what with illness, Australian adventures and festivities, there hasn’t been much time for me to sit and type.

It being early in the new year, now is the time for people to make new year’s resolutions – you know, the well intentioned goals you set, full of vigour and hope for the year ahead. I don’t know if these resolutions are ever fulfilled, I’m guessing they often loose their steam by February. I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions, but this year I do have some baking resolutions – things I’d like to try my hand at in 2013.

Now, this is by no means a comprehensive list of everything I plan to make, but it gives a flavour of some of the recipes and techniques I’d like to try. Warning: Do not read this list while hungry.

Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Raspberry Marshmallows by Not Quite Nigella

Homemade marshmallows seem to be growing in popularity at the moment. Are they perhaps the new macaroon when it comes to baking trends? I’ve only tried eating them a few times, and I love their soft, cloud-like texture. They are similar to macaroons in that they can be a great vehicle for carrying flavours. These Fresh Raspberry Marshmallows by Not Quite Nigella look delightful, and I plan on giving them a go. I’ve not worked with gelatine before, and will also be investing in a sugar thermometer.

Nougat

Pistachio and Rose Petal Nougat

Pistachio and Rose Petal Nougat

My first job was at a fantastic Italian bakery in my hometown, which is well known for its French-style nougat, packaged and shipped around Australia. I spent quite a few hours helping pack the nougat, ready for sale, into its neat wrappers, and can remember clearly the smell of roasting almonds throughout the bakery when a batch was being made.

I was lucky enough to be given a few bars of this nougat for Christmas, and they are currently waiting patiently in the cupboard for their time to be eaten. I’m saving them for a time when I really fancy a special sweet treat.

I’ve been thinking about making my own nougat for a while now, and while living in Australia cut out this recipe for pistachio and rose petal nougat from the Sydney Morning Herald. It’s another recipe I’ll be using a sugar thermometer for, and I’ve already purchased the edible paper and rose petals for it. Stay tuned for my attempt!

Croissants

Buttery croissant with jam

Buttery croissant with jam

2012 has been a year of baking with yeast – I’ve tried numerous breads, made baguettes, brioche and bagels. In 2013 I’d like to try my hand at buttery french pastries. I think I’ll start with croissants, although I know a lot of time/folding/patience is involved. Surely the result – a fresh buttery croissant made with my own two hands and warm from the oven – is worth it?

I have a recipe in my ‘How to Make Bread’ book by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou who teaches at the School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire. Wish me luck.

Macaroons

Rainbow macaroons

Rainbow macaroons

The lovely Kerry and I attempted Macaroons on New Year’s Eve – she was off to celebrate with Emma, who had recently been proposed to in Paris, so they seemed a fitting treat. We used this recipe from Delicious magazine. I didn’t get to sample the final product, but apparently they tasted good! I’d like to give them another go and see if I can improve on our attempt. Not sure I’ll ever make them look as perfect as the ones above, but no harm in trying!

Sugar-free and gluten-free

Sugar-free cheesecake by Sarah Wilson

Sugar-free cheesecake by Sarah Wilson

Sugar-free and gluten-free?! Yes, you heard right. Don’t panic – I’m not going all super-healthy on you, but I am curious to try recipes with alternative ingredients, and am also keen to get acquainted with some of the ‘healthier’ sweeteners out there.

Sarah Wilson is an Australian writer, blogger and media-type who has completely given up sugar. She even has a cookbook about it - I quit sugar. This month’s Cake Eaters Anonymous get together is a focus on healthier recipes, so I’ll be giving her gluten-free and sugar-free cheesecake a try. She uses nuts for the base instead of biscuit crumbs or pastry, and sweetens it with vanilla essences, coconut cream and rice syrup. I LOVE baked cheesecake, so am really hoping this one tastes as good as it looks.

What are your baking plans for this year? Anything you’d like to perfect or try your hand at?

Recipe: Langues du chat

Langues du chat (cat tongues) are a delicate shortbread biscuit, named so because of their flat, rounded shape. As far as biscuits go, these ones are pretty special. Light, crisp and gently sweet, they are a far-cry from chunky choc cip cookies or chewy anzacs.

My inspiration to make these came from Danny on the Great British Bake Off. She made her version of langues du chat in the petit four challenge of the second last episode in the series. She flavoured hers with orange, and dipped them in cardamom-flavoured white chocolate.

I also spotted them a few weeks ago on a visit to The Cheese Shop in Nottingham – these are the imported from France version and apparently very yummy.

Danny in action on the GBBO

I decided to try and replicate her take on this French recipe, but decided to dip them in plain white chocolate instead, as I didn’t want them overpowered by the cardamom flavour.

White chocoalate and orange langues du chat

Ingredients:

  • 125gm softened butter
  • 125gm sifted icing sugar
  • 25gm ground almonds
  • 3 egg whites
  • 165gm sifted plain flour
  • 2 small oranges (or 1 large one), zest only
  • 200gm white chocolate

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 170C.
  • Using an electric hand-held mixer, beat the soft butter until light and fluffy. Then beat in 100gm of the icing sugar for one minute.
  • Add the ground almonds and remaining icing sugar to the mix and beat until just combined.
  • Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing between each addition.
  • Use a metal spoon to lightly mix in the plain flour and orange zest.
  • Leave the mixture to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Now for the slightly trickier bit – use a ruler and pencil to mark out 7cm lines, 3cm apart, on a piece of baking paper. These will act as a guide for the piped biscuits. Turn the paper over on your oven sheet, and you should still be able to see the lines to guide you (Note: I was worried the lines looked too close together, but the biscuits don’t spread that much, so it worked fine).
  • Fit a piping bag with a 1cm round nozzle and fill the bag with the rested biscuit mix.
  • Steadily pipe out the biscuits onto the greaseproof paper – try and keep them uniform.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown, and the edges are gently colouring, then remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray for two minutes.
  • Lift each biscuit off with a palette life and leave to cool on a wire rack. The biscuits will crisp and harden as they cool.
  • Repeat this until all of the mix is used.
  • Once the biscuits are cool, melt the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, and dip each biscuit into it. I dipped mine about a third of the way in, but half way up would be even better I think.
  • Enjoy with a cup of tea.

Danny’s langues du chat

I was pretty happy with my biscuits, and they were eaten-up quickly. I remembered to take a photo just in time, but these were slightly less uniform than the best ones of the batch.

My version… langues du chat

I was also accused of them being slightly man-like in appearance. I can assure you, this was not intentional!

Happy baking

Recipe: Bounty Cake

Taste of Paradise cake

Bounty Cake, aka Taste of Paradise Cake, is a recipe I submitted to the Nottingham Post’s weekend magazine feature, ‘A nice slice’. I love bounty bars, and this cake had instant appeal to me when I saw the original recipe on this blog, by Cathryn and Sarah-Jane from the latest season of the Great British Bake Off.

Coconut sponge topped with decadent chocolate and toasted coconut sounded like a winning combination to me. After I baked it, I also delivered it to the Nottingham Post HQ in the city, and the team there seemed really grateful. I even received a wedding proposal by email as a result (I think it was a joke…).

Here is the lovely write-up they gave me, which includes the recipe. They even mentioned this blog site in there, which was very sweet of them – especially considering it is so new.

Nottingham Post Weekend magazine

I only slightly varied from the original in that I found the icing to be a bit too solid – my fault for not putting in the full amount of milk, so I’d suggest don’t be afraid of all the milk and I’ve reduced the amount of icing sugar slightly. Also, the resulting cakes are BIG – perfect for feeding a crowd. But if you want a smaller cake, you could easily halve the amounts and just do a single layer.

In case you can’t read the recipe clearly, here it is:

Bounty Cake (Taste of Paradise Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 500gm soft butter
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 4 egg whites
  • 150ml butter milk
  • 400gm caster sugar
  • 75gm desiccated coconut
  • 450gm SR flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For icing and decoration:

  • 150gm dark chocolate
  • 50gm milk chocolate
  • 80gm soft butter
  • 4tbsp whole milk
  • 140gm icing sugar
  • 50gm cocoa powder
  • Toasted shredded coconut

Method:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 170C. Grease and line two deep, round sponge tins.
  • Cream together the soft butter and sugar with electric beaters until pale and fluffy.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg whites and butter milk.
  • In another large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.
  • Add egg mixture, a ladleful at a time, to butter mixture, alternating with a spoonful of flour, until all egg mix is combined (The flour stops the mix from curdling).
  • Add the remaining flour and coconut, and mix lightly until just combined.
  • Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 45 minutes, or until light brown and pulling away from the sides of the tin.
  • While the cakes are cooling, make the icing.
  • Melt the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, milk and butter in a bowl in the microwave, stirring regularly to avoid burning, until just melted and combined.
  • Remove from microwave, sift in the icing sugar and cocoa, beating well until a spreadable consistency.
  • Fill and ice the cakes, decorating with the shredded coconut. Or you could decorate with sliced bounty bars for something more decadent.

A nice slice

Happy baking!

Wild men, wet weather and woolly sheep

On a wet week in November, Mr H and I ventured to the north of England, to the beautiful Lake District, to celebrate our wedding anniversary.

The Lakes is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Britain – all rugged mountains, crystal clear lakes and rustic slate cottages. This is as close as England gets to true wilderness, with its unpredictable weather and craggy peaks.

For a short break in November however, we weren’t planning anything too wild. A bit of gentle rambling, chilling out in the spa and taking in the scenery, were all on the menu.

On our only full day there, given we were staying just south of the largest lake in the region, Windemere, we decided to follow a 10km circular route from the town of Ambleside.

Ambleside is quite a pretty town, but felt quite touristy, even in the low season when we were there. It has a lovely position on the edge of Lake Windemere, and is right next to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall.

Stock Ghyll Force

The falls were in full flow when we were there, and made quite the pretty picture rushing down through the autumn trees. Apparently in the spring the area is carpeted in daffodils too (very appropriate, given this is Wordsworth territory, but more on that later). They are only a five minute walk from Ambleside town centre, so very easy to visit. We had them pretty much to ourselves, on this drizzly Thursday.

Rainy rambling

From Stock Ghyll Falls, we were climbing to the top of Wansfell Pike, on a circular walk from Ambleside via TroutBeck. The Pike is about 400 metres high, and offers top views across Lake Windemere. The weather wasn’t great for us, with low cloud blowing around and plenty of wind, but the outlook from the top was still stunning.

View over Windemere from Wansfell Pike

After quite a bit of climbing, from here it was mainly down hill into the tiny village of Troutbeck. On the way down narrow country lanes lined with dry stone walls, we said hello to plenty of damp woolly sheep. I love how much wilder they look than the sheep I grew up with, which were always fairly neat and dusty in comparison.

Woolly locals

After a tea break by a stream in Troutbeck, we walked back towards Skelghyll Woods, a woodland managed by the National Trust. As you’ll see from the photo below, I was the designated map wearer. Not the most stylish piece of attire, but I sure love being in charge of directions.

My best look

We ended the day walking through pretty woodland, back down into Ambleside.

Cascades

To reward ourselves, we hopped on over to Elterwater to The Britannia Inn which had been recommended to us, for a well-earned drink by a lively fire in the snug bar.

Next day, the weather was rubbish. Wet and grey and COLD. What better thing to do, than head for a swim in one of the nearby lakes?

Brave man in a wetsuit

Not me of course – Mr H just couldn’t resist the call of the water! First we tried Rydal Water, one of the smallest lakes in the district, where you’ll also find Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s old cottage.

Fancy new swimming hat

Despite me loudly worrying about his sanity, Mr H ventured into the river that leads into Rydal Water. Looks inviting, no?

Venturing in…

But despite his toughness and state-of-the-art wetsuit, the conditions weren’t great. The river was rocky and shallow, and after travelling a little way down, we decided to try and find a better point to enter the lake.

Too shallow!

After driving around the lake and at one point ending up stuck at the end of a dead-end, muddy, narrow country lane, we drove on to Grassmere, to try the lake there instead.

This is more like it!

We found some steps in front of a hotel, and off he went.

Brrrrr!

I watched on in the rain from the muddy bank, as he explored the lake and scared the local water birds.

Too warm with the wetsuit on apparently

One cold but happy Englishman.

His idea of fun

We spent the rest of the day exploring Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage, and tasting local treats in the village of Grassmere. This in another post to follow soon.

Have you been to the Lake District? Any favourite places there to recommend?

Recipe: Cherry & Chocolate Cupcakes

For the most recent meeting of Cake Club I made chocolate cherry cupcakes, garnished with suitably ghoulish bloody eyeballs. The recipe I used is a simple Nigella recipe, and the resulting cupcakes were delicious. A nice soft cake with a deep, dark fruity flavour from the use of cherry jam in the mix. Nigella topped her cupcakes with cherries, but I chose eyeballs (made of chocolate) instead, to fit in with the Halloween theme.

Chocolate cherry cupcakes

Cherry & Chocolate Cupcakes (Halloween style)

Ingredients:

  • 125gm soft unsalted butter
  • 100gm dark chocolate (I used the Sainsbury’s basics chocolate found in the confectionary aisle – 30p for 100gm and rich in cocoa, perfect for baking)
  • 300gm morello cherry jam (I used Sainsbury’s reduced sugar morello cherry jam)
  • 150gm golden caster sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150gm SR flour

For the icing:

  • 100gm dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • Box of Lindt truffle balls (I used milk chocolate)
  • 200gm white chocolate
  • Red and blue food dye to decorate
  • 4 tbsps raspberry jam

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 180C and line a 12-cup muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When nearly fully melted, stir in the broken dark chocolate, leave to warm for one minute, then remove from heat. Stir until smooth and combined.
  • Add the cherry jam, sugar and salt, and stir until well combined. Lightly beat the eggs and then add these too.
  • Lightly stir in the flour, and then spoon into the prepared cupcake cases.
  • Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes. When they look ready, take them out and leave the pan to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes, before turning out the cupcakes.
  • Once cool, prepare the icing.
  • Break the dark chocolate into squares, and put in a saucepan with the cream. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat and stir til smooth. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk until thickened.
  • Spread this on the top of the cupcakes using a spoon, and then top with one of your chocolate eyeballs.

Iced cupcakes

To make the eyeballs, melt the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. Zap it for 30 seconds at a time, stirring in between each blast, to ensure it doesn’t burn, and instead reaches a nice runny consistency.

Using two teaspoons, drop the unwrapped lindt balls into the chocolate one at a time, and roll around to cover, before scooping out gently, and placing on some greaseproof baking paper to set.

White chocolate covered Lindt balls

After the chocolate had hardened, I was planning on using my newly purchased (from eBay) sugar art pens in red and black to draw on the eyes.

Sugar art pens

Unfortunately the pens didn’t seem to work properly on the white chocolate surface, and dried out, meaning only two of the eyeballs were done before they stopped working.

After a few minutes of panic, I decided to instead use red and blue gel food dyes to create the eyeball effect, and they worked pretty well. I applied the dye with the end of a toothpick, drawing the red outline first, then dabbing blue in the centre.

Chocolate eyeball close-up

I’ve got my eye on you!

Cupcake close-up

To create some blood for oozing out of the eyeballs, I placed the raspberry jam in a strainer over a bowl, to remove the seeds. The smooth liquid that resulted, was then dropped onto each eyeball, running down the side onto the cake, to create a ‘bloody’ effect.

Straining the jam

This is a very useful chocolate cupcake recipe to have on hand – very easy to make, and they taste delicious. You can use a similar recipe with other flavours such as orange, raspberry or apricot, using the relevant replacement jam in the mix. I think I’ll try apricot next.

Happy baking x

Birthday bumps

Today happens to be my birthday! 31 years old, and somehow already a year has passed since I celebrated the big three-oh with friends in a cave, enjoying lunch at the Hand and Heart pub in Nottingham.

This year was dim sum at Man’s Restaurant in Nottingham, equally fun and delicious. 30 was a really good year, and I have high expectations for 31.

Upon checking, I share a birthday with a pretty diverse list of ‘famous’ people… from royalty, to actors, from Condolezza Rice, to sports stars, from murder victims to Miss Americas, and not forgetting Rev Run from Run DMC.

Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham Contemporary

Nottingham’s fantastic contemporary art gallery, Nottingham Contemporary, turns three years old today. They are celebrating with a special birthday lunch, to which people with the same birthday were also invited (unfortunately I can’t attend due to being at another event for work today). The Contemporary is an amazing art space, and hosts brilliant international contemporary art year round, plus its free to visit and has great events for families.

Kafou: Haiti, art and vodou

I highly recommend their current exhibition, Kafou, which is the largest ever exhibition of Haitian art in the UK, and explores this Caribbean island’s tumultuous history, and belief in vodou. It’s on til 6 January, so hopefully you can make time to go and see it.

Prince Charles

Prince Charles rocking it in NZ

Prince Charles turns 64 today, and is in New Zealand for his birthday this year. To celebrate, he invited 64 New Zealand locals who share his birthday to join him for a birthday lunch, where they played When I’m 64 by the Beatles and enjoyed cake decorated with images of ‘a silver fern, jandals, hokey pokey ice cream and a tomato squeeze bottle’. Hooray for NZ showing him a good time!

Tonight I’m being taken for dinner at a Nepalese restaurant nearby, which comes highly recommended. Lucky me!

I hope you have a top Wednesday ahead too.

A day out in Lincoln

A few weeks ago, my lovely friend Holly invited me to join her and a bunch of friends for a big day out / train picnic adventure to Lincoln. Only one hour from Nottingham by train, I’d heard little about Lincoln – only that it is home to an impressive Cathedral and hosts a hugely popular Christmas market each December – and had never been there before.

Unfortunately the reason for our outing was a sad one, as Holly is leaving Nottingham to move to London, but in her inimitable style, she made sure to have a special send-off.

First up was the train journey there. We enjoyed a train picnic – bringing prosecco, red wine, cheese, pork pies, nuts, hommus, tomatoes and other tasty delights on board to share amongst the group. It was a lovely way to pass the train journey, as we travelled through pretty Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire countryside.

Welcome to Lincoln

Once arriving in Lincoln we enjoyed ‘free time’ and wandered around the town checking out the historic cobbled streets, and visiting some of the quirky stores and sights.

Saturday morning in Lincoln

Saturday morning in Lincoln is BUSY. It was a cold November day, but the sun was shining and it seemed everyone had come out to make the most of it. The area nearer the train station is mainly the usual high street suspects, but as we ventured further away, and started climbing up hill, we began to appreciate Lincoln’s pretty historic face.

Ladies who train picnic

The streets start to rise quite steeply and are lined with historic buildings, and on this autumn day the bunting was flying in the sunshine.

Lincoln’s Steep Hill

Steep Hill is a beautiful narrow street leading up to Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle, and is lined with all manner of temptations – second-hand bookshops, vintage shops, crafty gift stores, tea shops and clothing boutiques.

Autumn colours

It really is quite a steep climb, but there is plenty of cause to stop on the way up for a breather. We browsed in plenty of stores, but I managed to resist the temptations and save my pennies. We wandered and browsed and chatted, til we got to the top of the hill.

Cake show

I was particularly taken with this cake display in one of the tea shop windows. Tempting toffee fudge cake? If I wasn’t still full to the brim from the train picnic, I definitely would have been tempted to try a piece.

Lincoln Cathedral spires

As we got to the top of the hill, we spotted the cathedral’s famous spires in the distance, and a few of us wandered over to have a look at Lincoln’s most famous landmark.

A few interesting facts about Lincoln Cathedral:

  • For 249 years it held the title of the tallest building in the world (1300 – 1549)
  • The original Lincoln Cathedral was destroyed by an earthquake in 1185. An earthquake! In Lincoln!?
  • It costs more than 1 million pounds per year to maintain the Cathedral
  • The Cathedral played the role of Westminster Abbey in the film of The Da Vinci Code

Spires and sunshine

It really is a beautiful building, and absolutely enormous. It glowed in the sunshine, and we stepped inside to appreciate it fully.

Inside the Cathedral

The sun shining through those huge stained glass windows was really something. I couldn’t really capture it properly on my little camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Lincoln Cathedral is open daily, and it is free to go inside and see the nave. For 6 pounds you can explore further and take part in one of the tours – I’d love to go back and have a proper look around.

Future home

The street outside the cathedral is lined with lovely historic homes. This one especially caught my eye – so pretty, and wouldn’t a Christmas tree glowing in the window just look picture perfect?

Lincoln’s famous Christmas market takes place 6 – 9 December this year, and although it is said to be hugely busy, it sounds like a brilliant festive day out.

Have you been to Lincoln or the Christmas market? What did you think?

Recipe: Bramley Apple & Cheddar Cheese Scones

Today’s recipe is for Bramley Apple and cheddar cheese scones. Apple in a scone? Yes, you heard right. Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t heard of or tried this combination before either, but it is now one of my favourite scone recipes.

The reason I came to make apple and cheese scones, is because I wanted to enter a few of the cooking categories at the WI baking competition which takes place at the Southwell Bramley Apple Festival.

The picturesque market town of Southwell in Nottinghamshire is the birthplace of the Bramley Apple, and ever year this festival in October celebrates apples through food, drink, performances and apple-inspired baking.

Apples at Southwell Minster

Being a member of the Nottingham City WI, I decided to enter two of the baking categories – the apple pie category, and the intriguing apple and cheese scone category.

The recipe I used is based on this one by Recharge, Refocus, Relax. I adapted it slightly – using Bramley Apple and adding more flour, baking powder, and reducing the amount of cheese.

I heart Southwell (and apples)

I tried the recipe a few times before the big day, and baked the scones fresh first thing on the morning of the festival. I was thrilled to receive first prize in the apple and cheese scone category, and wore my red rosette with pride. It was a really fun experience, and I plan on entering more baking competitions in future, as a chance to try and improve my skills and try new things.

Win!

Now, for the winning recipe. I hope you enjoy these easy and tasty scones as much as I do.

Bramley Apple and Cheddar Cheese Scones

Ingredients:

  • 230g SR flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40gm salted butter
  • 100gm very strong cheddar cheese
  • 1 Bramley apple (or half a very large Bramley apple)
  • 150ml full cream milk

Method:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 220C.
  • Roughly chop the cold butter and add it to the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Rub with your fingers until there are no large lumps left.
  • Peel and core the apple. Finely dice into small cubes.
  • Grate the cheese and stir it into the flour and butter mixture. Then stir in the apple.
  • Pour in the mil and mix to form a soft dough, being careful not to over work it. The dough will be quite wet, but this ok. Resist the urge to add extra flour.
  • Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently pat out until around 2 cm thick.
  • Use a class or cutting ring to cut circular scones from the dough.
  • Place the scones on a greased baking tray, with their edges just touching.
  • Brush the scones with milk, to give a golden crust.
  • Place in the hot oven. Check after 15 minutes – they may need a little longer. The scones are ready when golden brown and risen.

The beauty of these scones is they aren’t dry like cheese scones can sometimes be. In fact, you don’t even need butter with them, they are great just on their own.

Happy baking x

Two reasons why today rocks.

So today, Wednesday 7 November 2012, happens to be a very good day.

I woke up this morning to the news that Barack Obama has been voted in as president of the United States for another four years. As an unashamed ‘leftie’ and big believer in Obama’s talents, this news made me happy. As I listened to his stirring acceptance speech while doing my morning yoga, he made each sun salutation more hopeful, each downward dog pose more calm and assured.

Surely no one could disagree that Obama is a brilliant orator. His eloquent acceptance speech managed to be modest, inspiring, fair, proud, stirring, thoughtful and passionate, all at once.

Beautiful Obama family

I am not American, and I don’t live in the United States, but I can’t help but be caught up in this good news. For one of the world’s biggest powers to have a liberal president is an important thing for us all. As an Australian, political moments like this remind me of how small we are when it comes to political clout. Although our Prime Minister Julia Gillard has of course offered her congratulations. This piece on the Guardian about the win is also worth a read.

It seems timely that I spent last night at Nottingham Playhouse watching Of Mice and Men, the classic John Steinbeck piece set in a time of 1930s depression, the struggles of which will resonate with many people living in the world today. I’d not seen the play or read the book before and I absolutely loved it. Lennie and George are such brilliant characters, and the Playhouse production was spot on in its casting, set and acting. So powerful, I was in floods of tears at the end – slightly embarrassing given most of the theatre goers were teenagers there on a school outing.

The other reason for today being a very happy day, is that it is our three-year wedding anniversary. Our ‘leather’ anniversary as it were.

Wedding bouquet

It was three years ago that I woke full of excitement to a beautiful sunny Sydney day, and prepared for our ‘big day’. We said our vows in a hilltop park overlooking Sydney Harbour, and celebrated well into the night at the Bondi Beach surf life savers club.

Three years on, I do love reminiscing about the day, and how much fun it was. But for Mr H and I, it was more about the marriage than the wedding. We couldn’t wait to commit to spending our lives together, and the party itself was not the most important thing. I hadn’t been a girl who dreamt of her wedding, but when the time came I can’t deny I loved the dressing up and spending the day with all of our loved ones on a beautiful Australian spring day.

Sydney cliff tops

Although it’s passed by quickly in many senses, we’ve also experienced a lot in our three years together as husband and wife. We’ve moved countries, changed careers, started full time study, achieved huge sporting feats (Mr H swimming 19km in Fiji springs to mind!), made new friends and lost some very special loved ones.

Happiness

I’m grateful that all of this has brought us even closer, and I’m also grateful to all of our parents, for offering such great examples of how to be happily married and remain as ‘love birds’ as my Mum put it to us this morning, for decades.

I’ve written a few things about weddings for Any Other Woman – a website that I wish I had access to when we got married. It is full of thoughtful words from clever ladies (and gents) about love and life. You can read my posts on food and hen dos as part of their Any Other Woman A – Z of getting married.

Happy Wednesday to you x