Baking

Fat-Free Ice-cream Cupcakes! (*Okay, they’re not fat-free at all. Not even slightly).

Ice-cream or cake?  Cake or ice-cream?  Which to choose?  Debate no further; have it all.  Have both!  Well, almost…

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Last week I was inspired by this divine-looking recipe from Waitrose for cupcakes baked in an ice-cream cone and laced with marshmallow-style icing, with a hidden chocolate treat at the bottom – so we gave it a go.  Surprisingly, flat-based wafer cones (we used these ones) don’t burn in the oven, so as long as you wedge them firmly into muffin trays with some tinfoil, they’re pretty foolproof…

How to bake cupcakes in an ice cream cone

Cupcakes baked in ice cream cones

Once the cupcakes are cooled in their trays, gently slice off any tops which have risen above the cone; you want a nice flat surface for your icing.

Make the icing according to the recipe and then carefully spoon it into a large icing bag.  Unlike buttercream icing, it’s firm and pillowy and almost bouncy.  Voila..!

ice6You can test whether you have the right consistency via a number of different means.

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When you’re ready, pipe a swirl of icing onto the centre of each cupcake and then pipe around it, twisting off to give a soft-scoop flourish to the peak of each cake.

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For a true British seaside traditional effect we added a chocolate flake to half of ours…

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Marshmallow-frosted cupcakes with chocolate flake

And then scattered colourful sprinkles liberally over the rest..

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Once they’re set, the only dilemma is which one to try first..

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But be quick.

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For those in the US, the ever-ready Martha Stewart has a similar recipe here that won’t require you to juggle conversion tables for the ingredients.

Enjoy! And excuse us whilst we have a little lie down to recover from all the taste-testing…

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DIY… Edible Greeting Cards!

Edible cookie cards from katescreativespace

I was browsing in White Stuff this weekend, wondering idly whether I am too old to wear short shorts and Really Ought To Know Better (advice please), and instead my eye caught the much safer option of this gorgeous cookie cutter (below); because who can’t resist a sausage dog?

sausage dog cutter

 

I made a batch of cookies today using gingerbread dough, and accessorised with cut-out chocolate fondant ears, candy eyes (from here and good cake decorating shops / craft stores) and pearl necklaces made from tiny ivory balls…

A tray of sausage dog cookies

They look very cute, and are quite flat and light so I then decided to turn a couple into edible greeting cards, and used blobs of thick fondant icing to attach a cookie to folded card blanks.  I had some candy bones leftover from Halloween, so stuck one of those on too…

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I have a supply of flat cards that you can run through the printer, so I added text to a couple (you can just hand-write on the front, of course instead).

Sausage dog card

These would work with any shape of cookie, and are great for something fun and a little bit different.  A few tips and words of caution from this amateur…

  • Inevitably, these are best hand-delivered to your recipient rather than entrusted to the vagaries of the postal service.  Just saying.
  • Use reasonably thick cards to stick your cookies to, so that they don’t buckle with the weight.  The bigger the cookie, the thicker the card…
  • And you might need to use a slightly bigger envelope if your cookie is thick; these dogs slipped in fine, but only just.
  • It sounds obvious, but…. make sure the cookie is completely cool and dry before you stick it to the card, and then wait long enough for the fondant to dry so that the cookie doesn’t slip.  It’s very very very tempting to rush ahead to see the finished result.
  • Gingerbread and sugar cookie dough will be fine for a couple of days, but don’t make these too far in advance or they’ll get very soft and chewy.
  • When slipping your card into an envelope, place a piece of kitchen roll over the front of the cookie first, so that no grease stains come through.
  • Happy baking!

p.s. If there are any cookies leftover when you’ve made your cards, you are entitled to eat all of them.  Cook’s privilege.

Hope you’ve had a wonderful long weekend!

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Ampersand Cookies

Welcome back!

We’ve been making cookies this weekend; fun, alphabet cookies sandwiched together with jam and sprinkled with a liberal snowfall of icing sugar.  They fit in the palm of your hand and will make you happy for hours, I promise…

DIY cookies from katescreativespace

Firstly, we made a batch of sugar cookie dough, using our favourite basic recipe, though any one will do. We chilled the dough for 20 minutes in the fridge and then rolled it out  (my friend recently bought me one of these genius rolling pins, which ensures a regulation thickness to your dough; no more slanty, wobbly cookies for me…).

We used this small ampersand-shaped cookie cutter from Etsy to stamp out the top layer of cookies, and then for the bases, made a lighter imprint on the dough and I then cut around them carefully with a craft knife.  A bid fiddly, yes, but the only way I could think of to ensure I didn’t stamp out the holes in the bottom shapes.

DIY ampersand cookies

And then we simply baked for 10 mins (these cookies are small so they bake quickly; check on them regularly, and don’t get distracted with a good magazine and a coffee; I speak from experience here…).  Once cool, sandwich together with a dollop of raspberry jam, and sprinkle with icing sugar.  They are divine.  Trust me…

Homemade cookies from katescreativespace

Hope you’re enjoying a wonderful weekend!

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p.s.  I styled our cookies on top a beautiful ampersand image I found  here; if you know the source do let me know so I can credit!

 

Knitted Mitten Cookies

Knitted Mitten Cookies from Katescreativespace

Our little corner of the world here in England has been protected from the snowstorms raging across the US this weekend, but it has still been chilly and bleak.  Harry and I have busied ourselves in the kitchen, making these gingerbread mitten cookies using one of my favourite Christmas presents; a knitting-effect rubber stamp from here.  We’ve produced a tray of gorgeous, decorated mittens that have steadily vanished across the day…

Knitted mitten cookie making

We started by making a batch of our favourite gingerbread and stamping out mitten-shaped cookies…

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We rolled out some white fondant icing, pressed on the stamp and then used the cutter to create the knitted tops for each cookie, using a little apricot jam to hold them in place…

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I pressed buttons into the leftover fondant to create button-shapes and then brushed lightly with edible gold dust, and added one to each cuff, along with some sugar pearls.  Mittens fit for the most discerning snow-queen…

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And once all the hard work is done?  A reward, I think…

Knitted cookies for winter

 And finallly…

Thank you for all the lovely comments on last week’s post about how to stay in touch when you’re far from home; they made me smile (and tear-up a little), and were very comforting in their assurance that most small boys stay just as loving at 36 as they are at 6…

Have a great week!

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Home Harvest

Hello again, after a brief hiatus; I’ve been travelling with work to San Diego – a beautiful if fleeting visit, spent mostly in hotel meeting rooms but with the occasional, wonderful foray outdoors. One evening we caught the night ferry across the bay for dinner – those 20 minutes on the water, watching the lights of the city skyline and feeling the mist of the water spray, were a highlight of the trip.

I like travelling, but I love coming home even more, and this weekend has been spent nesting with the boys; apple-picking, crumble-making, bonfire-lighting, marshmallow-roasting and the havesting of everything edible from the hedgerows and trees.  We’re tired, scratched up, smeared with mallow and thoroughly happy – and the best is yet to come; tonight we get to eat everything we’ve made.

We began with the ancient apple trees along the garden wall….

The apple harvest

Even after discarding the ones with worm holes, dents and bruises we had seemingly hundreds, so gently wrapped and boxed them to store through the winter.

Apple storage

Apple storage for winter

They’re cooking apples rather than eaters, so I searched for good recipes before coming across this one for a divine-looking tarte tatin.  Incredibly simple, but a delicious, caramelised flaky dessert.  We cheated and used our favourite gadget, an automatic appple corer and slicer, so ours looks a little flatter than it was supposed to; I don’t think that will trouble the tasters later…

Tarte tatin

We’ve been gradually tearing down an old shed, amassing a pile of wood which we used for a bonfire today.  For fun, Harry and I tried making Ina Garten’s marshmallows, and managed to produce a tray of giant, wobbling cubes which made us laugh just to look at them.  Harry dusted them with sugar and added sticks.  Some we ate before the fire was even lit (how could we resist?), others we secured carefully onto toasting forks and roasted over the fire as it died down.  A small minority we managed to set fire to; I suspect it will take several hair washes before the woodsmoke-and-burned-sugar smell leaves us completely…

Making marshmallows

Making marshmallows to toast

And finally today we picked all the pears from our pear tree which was leaning ominously under their weight. Most were unripe so after googling advice we have consigned them to the fridge for a few days to hasten the process.  Apparently if we take them out next weekend they will soften up beautifully within a few days.  A handful were ready, so we invented a recipe of our own and made blackberry crumbles for dinner tonight, each with their very own magic, golden pear…

Gold pear crumble

My recipe is below if you fancy giving this a try – and if you’re a pear-lover and have some other favourites, please do let me know; we’ll have a lot of pears to work our way through this month!

Golden Pear Crumble

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend; it feels very autumnal here so once we’ve polished off the crumbles we’ll be lighting the fire and snuggling up in front of the TV, holding the oncoming week at bay.  I’m praying for a good night’s sleep after jetlag kept me awake last night; at 2am I was cheerfully – if quietly – rearranging cuboards and drawers in the dark, not something I’m keen to repeat…

I’ll be back in a few days; till then, take care.

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Friends for dinner: time for kitchen experimentation!

How is your Monday going, are you surviving?  We managed a lovely weekend with friends and sunshine (the best combination), so the afterglow has seen me through a manic day at work.  We threw a small dinner party on Friday night.  The kind where everyone arrives, slightly giddy with a mix of exhaustion, anticipation, and the rush of adrenalin that comes after shutting your laptop, settling the babysitter in, examining yourself from every angle in your outfit, sucking everything in and racing, slightly late, to your destination.  Friday night fever.

If you’re braced for a picture-heavy post, here are a few touches from the night, like dessert (but more on that later!)…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

Earlier in the week I made place-names for everyone to go on the table.  I began by printing out the names of all our guests onto watercolour paper (I used this calligraphy font; a favourite of mine), before taking a heavily loaded brush and spattering on watercolour paint in different shades of green.  I swirled the brush around a little to pool the colours and left to dry…

Watercolour gift tags step 1

Before slicing the paper into strips to create individual tags;

DIY place cards or gift tags

Which I then clipped to the plates at each setting, adding a spring of rosemary….

DIY Watercolour place names

Watercolour place settings

With dinners like these it’s always good to work out where to spend the effort and where to make life easy for yourself so that you can kick back and enjoy the evening; I opted for a huge caprese salad to start, and then a side of salmon, baked with lemon, feta, black pepper and capers and served up with sharing bowls of roasted new potatoes; one of those combination that you can place in the oven and forget about for 40mins whilst catching up on everyone’s news.  You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos; we were having way too much fun to stop and try to capture the food…

After a couple of easy courses, I wanted to go to town on the dessert and experiment with using the edible flowers I’ve been growing.  I decided to make individual lemon tarts in advance (these, which are my go-to reliable pudding for nights like these!).  To try to truly over-stretch myself, I also decided it would be a really great idea to make caramelised hazelnuts to garnish the plate, following what looked like a foolproof tutorial from Martha.  WELL.  Let me tell you that it’s quite an expensive garnish if you factor in the saucepan which became irretrievably welded with cooling molten caramel, and the burn cream I had to invest in after a minor slip up with the pan.  Oh, and you could lose 8hrs of your life attempting to skin the hazlenuts, unless  - as I did – you decide from the outset that life is too short and that a rather more slapdash approach is called for.   They look mighty pretty, but I can tell you it was a one-off venture into nut caramelisation for me…

caramelised hazelnuts

Still, I would like to be awarded an inventiveness prize for my creative repurposing of an old floral foam wreath…

caramelised nuts in florists foam

After that, the rest of the dessert was remarkably easy.  I had a dry-run at putting it together before everyone arrived, and took the photos below.  I’m pleased to report that even 4hrs and a number of glasses of wine later, it was manageable – here’s the step by step guide if you fancy giving it a whirl!

Take a plate (yes, ok – that’s the easiest step).

plate

Using a brand new  - washed! – paintbrush, add a stripe of raspberry coulis (from a jar; this is no time for domestic goddessery; no-one will ever know).

Plate with coulis

Add your homemade lemon tart in the centre of the coulis.  Squash together any crumbly bits; dust with icing sugar if necessary to disguise any imperfections.

Coulis and lemon tart

Add a couple of fresh blackberries and some carefully washed and pesticide-free edible flowers.  Mine are nasturtiums; you can grow your own or buy them in high-end supermarkets.

Step by step dessert with edible flowers

A couple of (shop-bought!) macarons add a further splash of colour.  I once tried making my own during a weekend break in Paris; it was amazing to learn but another of those once-in-a-lifetime things for me.

And finally, the caramelised hazelnuts, a sprinkling of dried edible rose petals (from Waitrose, for those in the UK), and a shaving of lemon zest, and ta-da! – dessert on a plate.   Just don’t drop the tray of these on the way to the table or your poor heart will never recover from the ruined labour of love…

Lemon tart with edible nasturtium flowers and macarons

The evening went on into the wee small hours; plates were scraped clean and the weekend was truly christened and launched.  I love Friday nights…

p.s . Now I need a new show-stopper dessert; do you have any favourite recommendations that you can share? Or other courses?  Preferably high on the aesthetics and low on the culinary skill required, which regular readers will know is my modus-operandi by now…

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re upto;  and thank you for stopping by… particularly those who come week after week and say hello; it’s a very wonderful thing :-)

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The gift of…. Breakfast.

Sunday morning croissants

Back in January, we spent a lovely evening at my friend Anna’s house.  Twelve of us squeezed around her dining table, talking to and over each other, eating and drinking into the wee small hours.  The party continued after we all left, as Anna and her husband cranked up the stereo and threw some moves, ignoring the scene of culinary devastation in the kitchen.  A perfect night, all told; but what of the morning after?

‘I have the hangover from hell‘ texted Anna gingerly the next morning, ‘And there’s no food in the house because I didn’t think beyond dinner.  I would KILL for carbohydrates right now.’

It was a lightbulb moment for me; so now when we go to friends for dinner I generally take a bottle of wine – and breakfast.  The kind of slightly decadent, Sunday-morning breakfast that you can indulge in whilst reliving tales of the night before and revelling in your marvellous hostessery (new word, but you know what I mean..), before the realities of cleaning up and entertaining the kids with a hangover properly kick in.  I find croissants (butter, almond or chocolate; all divine), really good jam and fresh bread go down a treat, and also require no attention when you hand them over; they can be set down and forgotten, then rediscovered with joy & hunger the next day.

The gift of breakfast...

A couple of really good friends have recently had babies, and I take a similar approach on the first visit to see them too; whilst the new arrivals tend to get showered with lovely gifts, it’s easy to forget who actually did all the hard work and is finding it hard to remember unbroken nights and the phenomenon of being able to read a book from cover to cover.  For the new mums, a magazine, some simple scented flowers and a loaf of sourdough go some way to restoring peace of mind and providing the maternal equivalent of a comfort blanket;

Hostess gifts; breakfast for the morning after

Creamy white roses

p.s. Hot, buttered toast would be my last meal of choice.  No question.  Perhaps not my desert island food of choice – that would be calamari and crayfish with a chilled glass of wine as I scan the horizon looking for passing ships – but toast would be the most evocative, comforting choice. And as my last meal, I wouldn’t even have to skimp on the butter…

Also,

41 rules for how to be a great dinner party guest

..and useful tips for the host (especially ones like me who tend to have a warm-up cocktail at 7pm and only then remember to vaguely start thinking about the cooking)

and finally, for anyone feeling tortured by the gratuitous photos of carbohydrates, try the gluten-free museum

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Cake! (And solar eclipses, and the pursuit of happiness..)

Rose ombre 5 layer cake

Did you have a lovely weekend? I hope so… it was Mothers Day here in the UK so I was woken around dawn by a breathless Harry, bursting with excitement and clutching a pot of daffodils he had secretly grown at school, a carefully drawn portrait of me (dressed in black, curiously, with forked hands rather like Satan – but then I’m sure that some of Lucian Freud’s subjects were equally touchy about how they were portrayed), and ready to recite a poem called ‘My Mummy’ about the wonderful things that mothers do.

And yes, I cried. (‘I know you were crying’ said Harry, at the end of the poem ‘Because I could see the drips’.)

To treat ourselves, we made cake; a rather splendid layer cake in the brightest colours we could find.  I got to choose, so I chose pink…

Rose ombre cake

We used a basic sponge cake recipe and a set of  layer cake pans which produce small but perfectly formed sponge layers (try these or this link if you’re in North America – both have recipe links too), and simply divided the cake batter into five pudding bowls and stirred in tiny amounts of pink food colouring, adding more with each bowl…

Ombre cake mixture in bowls


Ombre cake mixture! To get equal amounts of cake batter, by the way, you need a spot of elementary maths (great for mini-chef assistants!); weigh your mixing bowl before you begin and again when the batter is mixed; deduct the original bowl weight and then divide the remaining weight by five; that’s the amount you need to spoon out each time. When the cakes are baked, they look interesting and somewhat planetary; Ombre sponge cakes Once cooled, we stacked and layered ours with vanilla buttercream and then covered the cake with (whisper it) Betty Crocker Strawberry Frosting.  Because if you can’t take a culinary shortcut on Mothers Day, when can you? It was delicious; both the first slice and the second.. Rose ombre layer cake
This was our second attempt at layer-cake-making; we made a neon rainbow cake for Harry’s wonderful Godparents a couple of weeks ago using the same principles but a rather more lairy set of colours, chosen entirely by Harry, who made a cute rainbow decoration to adorn the top;

Rainbow cake!

See what I mean about the colours? ;-)  It had the same effect on our teeth that those old-fashioned disclosing tablets used to do… but it was worth it.

Vibrant rainbow cake

Enough about cake, particularly for those who are trying to exercise restraint in such matters as the thought of summer and swimwear starts to focus the mind, and the appearance of beguiling layer cake photos is far from helpful.  Instead, let’s talk about..

The solar eclipse which will occur across Scandinavia and the UK on Friday and which is already causing feverish excitement in our household.  We need to make a pinhole camera to view it, which requires us to eat a whole can of Pringles before then in order to use the tube for our camera.  It’s a tough job but I’m making good progress (on the crisps that is; I haven’t started the camera).  Will you be watching, are you ready?  If you won’t be able to see it from where you are, you can follow it here instead.  Fingers crossed for clear skies.

And finally have you seen this documentary?  I’m sure that I’m  late to the party on this one but I loved it; a feel-good analysis of what makes us happy – a great antidote for those Sunday-evening blues as we transition from the weekend back to work.  It’s up there with Finding Vivian Maier on my list of great word-of-mouth Netflix discoveries; if you have any more recommendations of things you’ve watched and loved do please share in the comments below – I need to build up a little store of things I can look forward to watching!

Have a great week ahead – oh and thank you for all the lovely comments on our bathroom; they really made me smile.

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Love Letter Cookies!

Love Letter Cookie for Valentines

February has begun so I think we’re now entitled to think romantic thoughts. Happily, this means that January – official month of gloomy abstinence and calorie-counting – is now finished, so what better way to celebrate these two things than with deliciously more-ish love letter cookies for Valentine’s day?

Love Letter Monogram Cookies from Kates Creative Space

These have the advantage of looking quite accomplished, as if you have spent many hours slavishly finessing them as a sign of the depth and breadth of your passion, but in fact they’re very easy to whip up.  Bonus.  Love should not always be hard work, after all.

I made a batch of basic cookie dough (I use Nigella’s recipe ) and then cut out rectangle shapes using a matchbox as a guide.  Whilst these baked and cooled, I rolled out ready-made fondant icing and cut same-size shapes to go on top. Spread a little apricot jam (or edible glue) on top of the cookie to secure the fondant in place, and then simply mark a cross on top of each one to look like the flaps of an envelope.

I made fondant monogram seals by rolling little balls of red fondant and pressing gently with a wax seal (remember the tutorial below from last year?  Find it here).

Edible monogram seals for cakes

Monogram cupcake

I let the monograms dry out a little to firm up, before adding them to the centre of each cookie with another dab of jam, and slipping each cookie into a cellophane envelope, sealed with a faux rose petal and little peg..

Love Letter Cookies for the one you love!

You could choose to make a batch of these and then distribute them widely; spread-betting, one could say, to impress a range of potential suitors with your domestic skills and mastery of baking.  Or you could box them up as I’ve done, so that the object of your affections can have one each day, if they can manage to restrain themselves…

DIY Box of Love Letter Cookies

Happy baking… and forgive the absence of a step-by-step photo guide on this one; I’ve been midnight baking again, which doesn’t result in good pics.  Leave me a comment if you have any questions about how to make these sinful little treats!

Life is moving at a particularly frenzied pace these days, and the time to sit quietly with a cup of tea composing posts is harder to find. I’ll still be here once a week or so, fulfilling my creative urges and sharing thoughts and projects, but as an experiment I will also start to use my Facebook page for smaller, more frequent pics and posts, so do sign up there if you’d like a bit more of the in-between bits as well.

Have a wonderful week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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Channelling Icarus, and a week in pictures…

Icarus wings master

You can imagine the moment when Icarus, full of hubris and exhilaration as he sailed above Crete with his home-made wings, began to question the wisdom of using wax.  Perhaps when the first rays of the sun warmed his back and he began to feel an alarming softening of his wingspan….  the rest, as they say, is history.  Or myth, more accurately.

If only Icarus had enjoyed access to poster board and lolly sticks, we reckon it might have been a very different story.  Lighter, less smelly than wax and feathers, and surprisingly resilient even when you get stuck in a doorway when trying to launch yourself outside, these are proving a winner in our household this week.

Harry has recently developed a passion for flight, in no small part due to discovering How to Train Your Dragon, and also the cast of Lego Ninjago – his new heroes.  ’Mummy, can we make me some wings please that I can wear?’  well sure, let’s try, said I.  ’Great!  They need to ping out when I press a button and fold away when I click and they should be big enough to fly, ok?’  Ummm, no.

Still, we did OK.  I quite fancy a pair of these myself, and am trying to invent / discover a party that I can justifiably wear these to…

Icarus wings for littles

I used poster board (foam board), and hand-drew a wing shape before cutting it out with a craft knife (I used plates to get clean half-circle shapes around the edges).  Wooden lolly sticks glued in lines gave the appearance of a wing frame, and then I used ordinary paper fasteners and scraps of faux leather to make handles and to join the two wings together.  If you fancy having a go, gather the materials below  - I’ve also made a proper template which you can download and photocopy to the size you want it.  If you’re in need of detailed instructions, just let me know!

You’ll need:

  • Two sheets of foam board or cardboard
  • A pile of wooden lolly sticks
  • Paper fasteners
  • Glue (all-purpose or hot glue).
  • Scraps of cardboard, faux leather or foam to make the handles and connector piece
  • Braid (optional)

Icarus Wing Template

wing template

How to make Icarus Wings

Making Icarus Wings

In other news this week, the fair came to town!

A traditional steam fair comes to the Village Green of a town near us each Autumn, for a weekend of bumper-cars, helter-skelter rides, coconut shies and old-fashioned fun.  Crowds come from all of the surrounding villages and it’s a lovely event.  Harry wore his aviator goggles throughout, although we persuaded him to leave his wings at home.

The Steam Fair

I’m trying to enjoy every last minute of Autumn, as we gather blackberries and pine cones and count-down the days until we can light the wood-burning stove and find that we are once again racing the sun at each end of the day; to school and work before it rises, home again before it finally sets.  Already the stores are turning to Christmas, and festive displays are filling the windows.  Part of me is horrified, and part of me slows and lingers, I confess.

I’ve been doodling on scraps of watercolour paper and thinking through ideas for Christmas cards (whisper it – I know it’s so long away..).  Happy polar bears, perhaps, once I get the proportions right and add a few festive accents..

polar bear sketching

On Sunday, we focused firmly on the present and had a weekend tea party in glorious late-season sunshine for Harry’s godparents; a lovely change to a more traditional lunchtime get together, and a delicious excuse for cake-making…. I made the universal favourite chocolate biscuit cake, which apparently was served at William and Kate’s royal wedding (we add raisins, cherries and decoration to ours; we love a bit of overkill!)…

Royal Biscuit Cake

And also experimented with mini banoffee pies in flower pots, topped with grated chocolate to look like soil…

Plantpot Banoffee Pies

And finally Harry and I made a raspberry and lemon bundt cake, which has become a family favourite and proves irresistible to even the most virtuous and health-conscious guest..

The cake thief

 

And talking of cake, it’s time to sign off, as I must ensure I’m in position on the sofa, glass of wine in hand in time for the final, climactic episode of The Great British Bake-Off; we don’t watch much TV but this has become my weekly guilty pleasure; with just three bakers left and some pretty daunting challenges ahead, I’ll be gripped.

Have a great rest of the week!

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Home Harvest

Blackberry and Pear Crumble with Pistachio Crust

How was your weekend?  I hope it was a lovely one.  We had a decidedly autumnal couple of days, with misty mornings and cool evenings punctuating the bursts of heat and sunshine in between.  We had an amazing evening on Friday at the Luna Cinema, watching a movie under the stars whilst swaddled in blankets and sipping wine; as Friday nights go, it was hard to beat.  Picnics too take on a whole new dimension when you’re unable to see what you’re rummaging for in the basket; we did eat the strangest combination of things.

Our main activity this weekend though was harvesting and foraging, gathering pears and blackberries from the garden to see us through the next couple of seasons.  We began with pears… very small, wrinkly and peculiarly shaped ones, but they taste delicious nonetheless..

Home Harvest

Harry was in charge of quality control, checking for holes, bite-marks and signs that we’d been beaten to the chase by other inhabitants of the garden.  He takes after his dad and is able to do this calmly and methodically, and not run screaming to the house in hysterics every time he finds a worm (guilty as charged…).

Gathering Pears for Autumn

The quirky summer weather has produced masses of early blackberries, which unlike the pears are super-sized and super-juicy.  I flash-froze tray after tray before packaging them up like marbles, and now have a freezer-full of strangely shaped bags of bobbly purple fruit.

frezzing blackberries

Last year we experimented with blackberry jam-making, but this weekend we wanted a more immediate treat, so I tried this recipe from James Martin for pear and blackberry crumble… and can officially declare it to be delicious.  I tweaked the quantities a little (my version below); if you’re working in US measurements, all you need to remember for the filling is a rough ratio of 3:1 for the pear vs the blackberries – though of course the beauty of crumbles is that you can customise it is much as you like…

Pear and Blackberry crumble recipe

Finally, we gathered up all of the pears we had left over and arranged them amongst tissue paper in a couple of spare shoeboxes; I pasted a picture of our morning’s efforts to the inside lid and we’ll take them to local friends.  Harry has certified each to be worm-free, and his word is good :-)

a box of pears

And now we’re back into the hurly-burly of the working week; thankfully without the frantic checking of school kit and the shock of early mornings and routine which rushed at us last week; we’re in our groove again now.  At least, today we were..

Thank you incidentally for the lovely comments about our puppet theatre, and the stories and memories shared – it’s so lovely when a conversation unfolds!

Have a great rest of the week.

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