Saturday, 24 August 2013

Fruit Cocktail Bundt Cake

Fruit Cocktail Bundt Cake

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Sweet Chilli Chutney

Cheese Hamburger and Onions with Sweet Chilli Chutney
Whilst I lay claim to be the baker in the family my Mother does wear the crown as the Chutney Queen. As befits her status as President of her local WI there isn't a fruit or vegetable that she can't preserve. Many a time she has come home to find a bag of rhubarb, apples, pears or plums on her doorstep waiting to be turned into some sort of preserve. My Mum has also taught me everything she knows about getting reduced food and getting the best out of it. Therefore some punnets of nectarines priced at 30p couldn't be left on the shelf. 

Of course with nectarines they can be like a cricket ball one day and soft and wrinkly the next. This does not mean they can't be put to good use as my Mum has showed with this chutney recipe. When she had it cooking the whole house had a delicious sweet and sour smell drifting through it. This is by no means a hot chilli flavour. My favourite way of serving it is by using it as a relish on hamburger.

After all that it's over to Mum for her recipe...

Equipment: A large saucepan or preserving pan. (My Mother has some fabulous Swedish saucepans which are over 45 years old. They don't stick or burn and clean really easily. Back to Mum now), clean jars and wax discs to fit.

Ingredients

500g Demerara sugar
120ml Cider vinegar
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp Mixed spice
Around 8 Nectarines, de-stoned and chopped
2 Lemons, peel and pips removed and chopped
2 Onions, chopped
1 Red and yellow bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
35g Crystallised ginger, chopped
115g Sultanas

Method

1. In a large saucepan put the sugar, vinegar, salt, cayenne pepper and mixed spice. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Bring to the boil again and then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced and thickened. You can do this in 30 minutes but I prefer to put it on a very low heat for a couple of hours.
3. While the chutney is cooking sterilise your jars. Wash them well in hot soapy water, rinse and dry with a clean tea towel. Put them in the oven, lying down, at 120°C for about 20 minutes.
4. Remove the jars from the oven when the chutney is ready. Put the hot chutney into the hot jar. I use a jar funnel to stop it dripping down the sides. Push the chutney down to ensure there are no air bubbles. Screw the lid on immediately. This will ensure there is a 'pop' when the jar is opened for the first time.






Saturday, 17 August 2013

Lemon and Ricotta Bundt Cake

Lemon and Ricotta Bundt Cake
This recipe came about through three things:

1. I had a lovely new Nordic Ware Bavaria Bundt tin (purchased with vouchers I got through doing the weekly shopping = canny Ness).


2. I had some lemons in the fridge which were beginning to look sadder and sadder and as such they refused to have their photograph taken.

3. I bought this tub of ricotta cheese for a silly price and it had to be used straight away!

The outcome of this is a lovely, zesty cake. Just like the snow I prefer a light dusting of icing. However, you may like more of a drift on your cake. The addition of the ricotta does make it a very moist cake so a little more icing sugar than normal can be tolerated.

Equipment: 10 cup Bundt tin/pan, electric whisk.

Ingredients

9oz (250g) Unsalted butter, softened or baking spread
8oz (225g) Caster sugar
2 Lemons, zest and juice separated
4 Large eggs, separated
250g tub Ricotta, drained of any excess liquid
10½ oz (300g) Plain flour, sifted
2oz (50g) Ground almonds
1½ tsp (7.5ml) Baking powder
Icing sugar to dust

Method

1. Prepare the Bundt tin by greasing it and then dusting it with flour. Tap out the excess.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 5.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the lemon zest.
4. Beat in the egg yolks one by one, adding a little flour after each addition.
5. Add the ricotta and stir in.
6. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they form peaks – they don't need to be 'meringue' peaks. Leave to one side.
7. Add the lemon juice to the original mixture and fold in the flour, almonds and baking powder.
8. Finally, carefully fold in the egg whites.
9. Spoon the batter into the tin, making sure it goes into all the grooves of the pattern.
10. Bake for about 50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
11. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
12. Once cool dust with icing sugar.





Thursday, 15 August 2013

Attracting Birds to your Garden

Feeding the birds in your garden will help attract a wide variety of species
This year we have had the joy of seeing the blackbirds return to our garden and see them build a new nest in their favourite spot. Last year they had just the one brood but this summer two sets of fledglings have left the nest. The reason the blackbirds have decided to come back is because we've tried to make our garden as bird friendly as possible.

The first flight of a fledgling blackbird
Home sweet home

Several years ago I bought a slate-roofed bird feeder to mount on the garage wall. I used to put food out for the birds in it. I say used to because over the years the flowering currant in front of it has grown up making it difficult to get to. This has meant that is has now became a perfect nesting spot – hidden away on a sturdy ledge but with access to plenty of nearby food. I also saw the blackbirds going round the garden collecting up dead grasses to use as nest building material. 

A well hidden safe nesting spot
If you don't have any trees or suitable spots for birds to nest in put up some nesting boxes. There is a wide variety of boxes now available depending of what species you would like to attract or know are in your area. 

A pair of small nest boxes would make a great home for some sparrows
What to feed birds

To attract the widest and healthiest selection of birds invest in a variety of different feeders and specialist foods. For a good selection look at Westland Garden Health for some ideas. A general purpose feeder filled with a seed mix is a good starter kit. Specialist seeds such a the black, oily nyjer seeds are a favourite of goldfinches. Mealworms placed on a mesh feeder tray will be a treat for any robin or blue tit.

A single feeder with some good quality seed mix makes a good starter set
Many people simply put scraps of food out on the lawn that they wouldn't eat themselves. You wouldn't eat mouldy food yourself so don't expect it to be any good for the birds. Mouldy and stale food brings with it the risk of respiratory infections and salmonella. Any food that is put on the ground should be cleared away in the evening as it can attract rats which carry their own diseases.

There are some particular foods from your garden which you should avoid even if they are fresh. Soft fats, such as cooking fat, margarine, spreads and vegetable oil can be smeared on a bird's feathers which affects their waterproofing and insulting properties. Hardened fats such as lard or suet are fine. Birds can't digest milk so stick to fresh water only. You can often buy or fill your own coconut shells with fat for birds but don't give them desiccated coconut as it can swell up inside a bird and be fatal. The same goes for cooked porridge oats as the mixture can harden around a bird's beak.

Making it safe

If you just want to feed the birds but have squirrels in your garden you'll need a specialist feeder with a cage fitted around it to stop the squirrels helping themselves. Squirrels don't just go for peanuts but any seeds they can get their paws on. Other garden predators are also the domestic cat. Site feeders away from trees and tall plants and grass where cats can hide. 

Always on the lookout...
Fat balls are a great source of energy for birds, particularly in the colder months. However, some are still sold in the mesh bags. Remove the balls from the bags before putting them out as the birds can easily trap their feet or beaks.

When to feed birds

If you start to feed the birds in your garden then you must continue as they will rely on you as a source of food. Many people think that birds only need extra food through the winter months. In reality birds need feeding all year round but what they need to be fed differs depending on the time of year. In the winter make sure there is plenty of food out for the birds first thing in the morning. Overnight birds expel a lot of energy and need high fat foods to restore their supplies. In the summer birds need foods with more protein in as they will be moulting.

If you start feeding the birds make sure there is always plenty available
If you like to put out peanuts make sure during the nesting season they are only put in feeders as whole nuts given to chicks can choke them.

Keeping it clean

You wouldn't eat off dirty plates so don't expect your feathered visitors to enjoy it either. Don't allow food to build up or get wet. Clean the feeders regularly in a low dose solution of disinfectant. Always wear gloves for this and clean them outside. Once they are clean move the feeders around to stop a build up of bird droppings. 


This is a sponsored post on behalf of Westland Garden Health. The words, photographs and advice are my own. 

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A Walk On The Wild Side In The Moss Valley

A walk through Eckington Woods into the Moss Valley
When I tell people I like to go walking then the assumption is this involves miles and miles of going up and down hills in the nearby Peak District. Whilst I do enjoy this it isn't a very practical option these days with two children in tow. For easy family walks we tend to seek out the hidden Moss Valley.

The Moss Valley lies within the towns and villages of Mosborough, Eckington, Apperknowle, Dronfield, Coal Aston, Norton, Gleadless and Owlthorpe and yet many people do not know of it existence.
I say hidden because even some of residents of the adjoining towns and villages on the border of North East Derbyshire and South Yorkshire don't know it exists. There are no signs pointing your way to a central point. The main access points are by going down narrow single track lanes from Mosborough and Eckington or from the hamlet of Ford. The way we usually get to it is by walking behind the back of Eckington Church. This part is commonly known as Eckington Wood or Bluebell Wood due to the abundance of bluebells on show in the spring.

Known as Eckington or Bluebell Woods, it also comprises Ince Piece Wood and Ladybank Wood.
Although you do not venture into the complete wilderness there are a few things you need to bear in mind before you set out. Always make sure you have a supply of food and drink. You won't need vast quantities but once into the woods there are no cafés or refreshment stops. Tell someone you are going in case something does happen to you. There is no mobile or internet signal in the woods. Wear suitable footwear as the woods are usually quite muddy all year.

Great for splashing in muddy puddles!
Even for the shortest walks it's a good idea to invest in some good walking boots or shoes. If you're stuck for suggestions check out the range for all the family from Hi-Tec. Proper walking boots or shoes are best are keeping feet dry and moans to a minimum. 

A good pair of walking boots will last years
The first part of the track is fairly smooth but with a few building bricks here and there. This points to some of the industrial heritage that forms the history of the Moss Valley. As you make your way along you'll notice the flat roof of an disused building. This was an air raid shelter for workers in the woods who used to light lanterns during World War 2 to try and fool the enemy to bomb the woods rather than the nearby towns and villages.

The remains of an air raid shelter in the woods
Industrial activities have been going on in the Moss Valley since the 16th century. Part of the woodland is still managed by the Sitwell Estate. The Sitwell ancestral home is still located at nearby Renishaw Hall. Iron-making was once a thriving industry and indeed at one point more nails were made in Eckington than anyway else in the world. Today the area is a mixture of managed woodland and working agricultural land.
Hedge laying on one side and arable farmland on the other
Parts of the area are listed as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) making it a haven for wildlife and plants. Over 85 varieties of butterflies have been spotted within the Moss Valley.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). One of many in the Moss Valley
There's also plenty of bounty for its human visitors. In late summer and early autumn trees and bushes are heavy with the weight of elderberries and blackberries.
Nature's larder
The Moss Valley takes it name from the River Moss or the Moss Brook as it is more commonly known. It eventually runs into the River Rother. You can carry walking along the track or for a shorter walk cross the Moss Brook via the wooden or 'Thin' bridge.
The wooden bridge crossing the Moss Brook, also known as the Thin Bridge
On the other side of the bridge the path is much wider and there is a slightly more open feel to the woods. This is due to the fact on this side access is needed as many of the trees are grown for logging purposes.
A wider track is needed to get the logging equipment through
It's on the way back that you'll see the real gem in the Woods' industrial heritage. Rising up from the track is Seldom Seen Engine House. It dates from between 1855 and 1875 but by 1901 after a series of fatal accidents and the financial mis-management of its owner, John Rhodes, it was abandoned. It is thought its name comes from the fact it is hidden and therefore 'seldom seen' in the woods. It also points to tales of a 'seldom seen' ghost! To this day many passers-by describe the site as 'creepy' or 'spooky'! This once housed the winding wheel as part of the engine house for the Plumbley Colliery. The Penny Engine Railway ran from here – it cost a penny to travel on it to what was the main station at Renishaw. 
Seldom Seen Engine House has not been used for over 100 years
After a a look around the Seldom Seen Engine House it's time to head back home for a well deserved slice of cake and a cup of tea and to clean those muddy boots!


This is a sponsored post on behalf of Hi-Tec. All the views, words and photographs are my own.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Schwartz Grill Mates - A Review

Schwartz Mojito Lime Marinade Mix with turkey and prawns
It's not often that the UK enjoys such weather that BBQ is possible almost every night for weeks but somehow we have managed to go through the whole period without setting the coals alight at home. Perhaps we were feeling a little uninspired but all this changed when the lovely people at Schwartz sent me a package of their Herb & Spice Blends and Grill Mates packets to try out.


You may think why is a food blogger reviewing ready-made packets but there are a couple of reasons. Most people aren't potential future Masterchef contestants and it's a good way of trying out new flavours without the hassle and expense of buying lots of ingredients. This is a particularly good option if you are on holiday and without your usual stock of ingredients and don't won't to buy extra. Both the Cajun and Smokey Texan only require water and oil to be added to the mix.

We decided to try the Mojito Lime Marinade Mix. The instructions suggest using chicken, beef or King prawns but we used turkey (cheaper than chicken at any time and also on offer) and raw King prawns (again on offer and cooking from raw means less chance of them ending up like rubber). Being a Mojito mix it does ask for the addition of some white rum. Somewhere in a box in the garage there is a bottle which came with us when we moved house 11 years ago but for many reasons we decided not to look for it. However, each packet comes with two recipe ideas so we went for the second option. This just needed some oil, honey and lime juice. It did say 50ml of lime juice which I did have a bit of a panic over as I had bought just one big lime but found that 50ml is about the quantity of juice you get from one lime.


Quite simply you put the packet contents in a bowl, add the extra ingredients and your choice of meat and fish and leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes. You can leave overnight if you are using just meat but does it warn that if you are using seafood not to marinate for longer than 30 minutes. I guess this is because the acidic nature of the lime will start to cook the prawns.


As we were using prawns we decided to cut up the turkey and put them both on kebab sticks to cook. They all cooked really well without problem and we used the extra marinade left in the bowl to baste them.


After it was all cooked I served it with my Potato Salad with Chives and it was time for the all-important verdict. Basically everybody enjoyed it and there was clean plates at the end. My Daughter thought the marinade went better with the prawns but my Husband and I preferred it with the turkey. Son just kept munching everything on his plate. The recipe did suggest beef as an option but I'm not sure this would have worked very well with the citrus flavours. A better alternative would be pork. It does say there is a hint of cayenne chilli pepper which there is but nothing that is going to burn your head off. All-in-all a success which was easy to make and nice to eat. One final note – if the weather does suddenly turn on you and you don't want to BBQ holding an umbrella all the mixes can also be grilled or baked. A good British back-up plan.

Schwartz sent be the mixes and blends for free and no payment was received. I was under obligation to give a positive review and the opinions are my own and the JibberJabberUK taste test panel (my husband and children).


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Peaches, Honey and Mint Pancakes

Peaches, Honey and Mint Pancakes
During the week breakfasts need to be easy and quick which usually means bowls of cereal all round. Weekends though are a different affair – it's time to start cooking things for a leisurely, laidback meal. However, this is still breakfast time and we can't spend spend too much time in the kitchen as the younger natives start getting very restless. Fresh inspiration is always welcome and this has come in the form of a package I recently received from Clarks Honey containing their new Honey blend.

Clarks Honey is a clear, runny honey which makes it perfect for drizzling or measuring out for recipes. Usually British honey is set but Clarks has mixed British honey with Blossom and Acacia honey so you get the best of both. For a light fruity breakfast I chose some ripe peaches but you could also try nectarines, apricots or plums. The mint is from my garden and is a lime mint variety but pick whatever mint you have.

Ingredients

½ oz (15g) Unsalted butter
4 Ripe peaches, de-stoned and sliced
3 Mint leaves
1 tbsp (15ml) Clarks Honey

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas mark 6.
2. In a large frying pan melt the butter and start to cook the peach slices slowly.

3. Once they start to fry cook the pancakes as per the instructions (4-5 minutes).
4. Tear the mint leaves and sprinkle over the peaches. Then drizzle over the honey.

5. Heat though gently making sure the peaches keep their shape.
6. Serve mixed with the heated pancakes.

If you want to know what we did with the Roddas Clotted Cream they became pudding that night along with some fresh figs drizzled with some more Clarks Honey.



Clarks sent me the items for free and no payment was received. The views and recipe are my own.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Chocolate Cola Bundt Cake

Chocolate and Cola Bundt Cake
My regular attendance at Clandestine Cake Club meetings provides me with a constant source of inspiration for making different kinds of cake. This Chocolate Cola Bundt Cake was made for the theme of 'Cocktails and Mocktails'. My daughter often attends the meetings with me and she always likes to do some kind of chocolate cake. Since we weren't going down the alcoholic route we required something different to mix our chocolate with. For a treat my daughter likes a drink of cola so this became our cocktail combination.

There are several recipes for Chocolate Cola Cake on the internet and this is probably a combination of all of them. The actual cola used in the cake was the famous brand one but I used their caffeine-free version. I have seen reports of different cola giving different results but as you can see this one worked fine. The icing topping I used is one I have put together myself. It's very light and not big on quantity as I don't like icing to overwhelm a cake.

I've used a Bundt tin to cook it in as I think Bundt tins are the cocktail glass of the baking world – anything looks good in them. If you want to know how good it tastes I was left with just the one slice at the end of the afternoon and a request for the recipe. In the middle there are six giant cola bottle sweets (Wilkinson's pic'n'mix if you're asking) – 2 each of plain cola, fizzy cola and cherry cola. If fancy turning it it into more of a 'Cola Float' try using marshmallows instead.

Equipment: 10 cup or 26cm Bundt tin/pan.

Ingredients

7 fl oz (200ml) Cola
4½ oz (125g) Unsalted butter, diced
¾ tsp (3.75ml) Bicarbonate of soda
9oz (250g) Self raising flour
½ oz (10g) Cocoa
10½ oz (300g) Golden caster sugar
2 Large eggs
4½ fl oz (125ml) Low fat natural yoghurt
1 tsp (5ml) Vanilla extract


Topping

2½ oz (70g) Icing sugar
1 tbsp (15ml) Cocoa
1 tbsp (15ml) Cola

Method

1. Prepare the tin by greasing it and then shaking flour round it. Tap out the excess flour.
2. In a saucepan pour the cola in and then add the butter. Gently heat it until the butter has melted. 
3. Bring the mixture to the boil and then add the bicarbonate of soda. This will fizz up. Stir it together and then leave to cool.
4. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5.
5. In a large bowl sift together the flour and cocoa. Add the sugar and then the cola mixture and beat well.
6. In a small bowl beat together the eggs, yoghurt and vanilla extract. Add this to the other mixture beat well until it is all combined.
7. Spoon the cake batter into the tin. To get rid of any air bubbles from the bicarbonate of soda or cola tap the tin a couple of times.
8. Bake for 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
9. For the icing put the icing sugar, cocoa and cola in a bowl and beat well. Add extra icing sugar if it is too runny or a little bit more cola if it is too thick.
10. Drizzle over the cooled cake and leave to set. Add any other decorations.


Thursday, 1 August 2013

Rhubarb and Granola Crumble

Rhubarb and Granola Crumble
After our traditional Sunday roast we also like a pudding to follow it. Living in Britain the seasons only usually make an impact on what kind of fruit goes in it. Recently though the weather has been such that only strawberries and ice cream will do. However, this Sunday normal service resumed and we had a need for something cooked. The last crop of rhubarb has been growing nicely in the garden and I decided it was time to sacrifice the last sticks for our crumble. I normally use porridge oats for my crumble topping but since Jordans Cereals had sent me a selection of their cereals I decided to try them instead. In short it works, everyone enjoyed it, yum yum.

I was sent three Jordans Cereals to try – Fruit & Nut Muesli, Country Crisp Honey & Nut, Super Fruity Granola. 


Between the three of us (son just ate everything that was put in his bowl) we had three different favourites. Husband liked them all but rated the Honey & Nut the best “crispy, tasty – definitely honey”. Daughter liked the freeze dried raspberries, redcurrants and pomegranates in the Super Fruity Granola but has taken to mixing the Honey & Nut and Granola together each morning. Supplies are now running low.

I on the other hand liked the Muesli the best. Being a bit of a cereal eating freak I always have it without milk (you may as well have papier mâché for breakfast). Quite a few mueslis I have tasted do have the element of 'dust' to them. Thanks to the high amount of dried fruit in this mix this isn't the case. Also it has a good variety of fruit and the pineapple and papaya are nice additions. On reading the side panel I noticed Jordans say they don't add salt to any of their cereals which I found very pleasing to find out in my rôle as head of the Salt Police at JibberJabber Towers.

Equipment: Oven proof dish – my dish measures 16cm x 23cm, foil or greaseproof paper

Ingredients

10oz (285g – about 5-6 sticks) Rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp (15ml) Demerara sugar
7oz (190g) Jordans Granola
1oz (28g) Unsalted butter

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Arrange the chopped rhubarb in a single layer in the dish.
3. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the rhubarb.


4. Spread the granola over the rhubarb and sugar.
5. Cut the butter into small pieces and put onto of the granola.


6. Cook for 5 minutes and then put the foil or greaseproof paper on top. Cook for another 10 minutes.


Jordans Cereals sent me some of their cereals to review. No payment was made and the opinions are my own and the crack squad at JibberJabber Towers.