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Posted in Food

Test of Time Raspberry Buns

Every home economics class across the globe, has been scattered with flour and filled with the smell of baking raspberry jam. Raspberry buns are a tasty easy to bake treat, somewhere between a scone, cake, and cookie. I was in year 7 when I first made a batch, returning home from school with nothing but a scattering of crumbs in my tin. These buns remain a firm favourite of mine. I continue to use raspberry jam, but any flavour work. The original recipe contains castor sugar, but I like the hint of caramel of soft brown sugar.

Ingredients

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Butter
  • 100g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1tbsp Milk
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Raspberry Jam

Method

Preheat the oven to 220°C/Fan 180°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6 and grease a large baking sheet.

Add flour and salt to a bowl and rub in butter with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

Whisk the egg and milk together and add to the bowl. Form eight balls from the dough and place on the prepared baking sheet. Make an indent in the centre of each ball and add jam.

Place in the pre heated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.

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Honey & Mustard Pork with Soy Sauce

For a quick and easy taste of east meets west try this delicious fried pork dish, served with noodles and fried onions. Cheap, easy and tasty what more can you ask for.

Ingredients

  • 500g Diced Pork
  • 2 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 tsp Ground Ginger
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dried Egg Noodles
  • Broccoli
  • 1 Onion

Method

Peel and crush the garlic. Marinade the pork in the honey, mustard, soy sauce, garlic and ginger for a minimum of fifteen minutes or chilled in the fridge overnight.

Prepare the crispy onions by peeling and thinly slicing the onion. Heat a dash of vegetable oil in a frying pan and when hot add the onion. Stirring often, the onion will first soften and turn translucent. It will then turn brown. Keep stirring and do not remove until dark brown and sticking to the pan. Drain on kitchen towel and allow to cool and turn crisp.

Drizzle a large frying pan or wok with vegetable oil and heat. Add the pork and marinade to the pan and fry until the pork is cooked through and the marinade browned and turned sticky, stirring often.

While the pork is cooking cut a head of broccoli into florets and steam or boil for 3-5 minutes. Then add the egg noodles to a pan of boiling salted water to soften.

Serve the pork and broccoli on top of the noodles and sprinkle with the crispy onions.

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Posted in Food

Forgotten Mushroom Soup

Forgotten Mushroom Soup Without the Walnut

Autumn is the perfect time of year for warm and creamy soups and this one is delicious. It was supposed to contain walnuts which I forgot while desperately trying to escape the supermarket, so I replaced them with a packet of peanuts lay gathering dust in the store cupboard. The result was the mellow creaminess of mushrooms with a hint of salted peanuts. Yummy!

I used a mixture of white, chestnut, portobello and shitake mushrooms. This recipe works with whatever mushrooms are available.

Ingredients

  • 300g Mushrooms
  • 1 Onion
  • Knob of Butter
  • Pint of Chicken Stock
  • Handful of Peanuts
  • Dash of Single Cream
  • Handful of Parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Method

In a large saucepan add a knob of butter and melt over a medium heat. Peel and slice the onion and add to the pan, allow to soften and turn translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Fry for a couple more minutes and then add a pint of prepared chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and then blend, adding parsley and a dash of single cream.

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Posted in Food

Give Me Coffee and Chocolate not Toilet Roll

A week has passed since my weekend away in Suffolk. In that time the air has cooled and decaying leaves have begun to fall, a second lockdown looms bringing the wrath of panic buyers with it. My kitchen resembles Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard, forcing me to face the supermarket aisles. A common cold not Covid has found me and I want to be snuggled in my pyjamas and slippers in front of the television, not dodging demented shoppers determined not to miss out on their 3 item daily allowance of bog roll. Newsflash! Unlike doctors surgeries, the supermarkets remained open during this pandemic. And if the apocalypse is coming I want coffee and chocolate by my side, not a room full of Andrex. I have a twelve packet at home that will see me through, so I steer wide of toilet aisle asylum and instead search for the ultimate comfort food.

Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 45g Pudding Rice
  • 25g Soft Brown Sugar
  • Pint of Milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • Knob of Butter
  • Jam to serve

Method

Rice pudding is traditionally done in the oven, but I am not a fan of the skin. I have tried the hob option a couple of times, with varying degrees of burnt milk. Now I use the slow cooker, a sure way to achieve perfectly cooked (skin free) rice pudding each and every time.

All I do is add pudding rice, soft brown sugar, milk, cinnamon and a knob of butter to the slow cooker. Switch it on high and leave for three hours, stirring occasionally. Dish up and add jam. Simple, yummy and not a toilet roll in sight. Perfect!

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Posted in Natural World

British Beavers are Back for Good

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Once native to Britain, for centuries beavers were excessively hunted for their pelts, meat and scent glands, finally becoming extinct in the 16th century. Back in 2009 they were reintroduced to the UK when 11 beavers were released in Knapdale forest, Scotland. The project aimed to see if the animals could survive and if there presence would benefit conversation and the environment. After five years the beavers had successfully bred and the dams and canals they built were considered beneficial to the environment.

Since the success of the Scottish Beaver Trial, other areas of the UK have gradually released these large rodents into their waterways. But not everybody is happy about the reunion: farmers, landowners and anglers have concerns. Tree felling and dam building by beavers can be destructive and cause flooding. Fishermen fear the presence of beaver can alter fish migration and their dams could block essential spawning routes. There are also fears beaver will spread disease, including a particular tapeworm that can be fatal to humans.

This said, experts believe beaver to be ecosystem engineers. The dams they build slow the flow of water from high ground thus decreasing the risk of flooding. These dams also act as a filtering system for pollution in our waterways. And beaver habitats benefit and encourage other species. Back in August 2020 these buck toothed rodents were granted permanent residence in the river Otter, East Devon. After a five year trial water quality was up, risk of flooding was improved and other species were thriving.

Now after 800 years beaver are returning to Derbyshire, to an area less than 6 miles from my home. Two companies have granted Derbyshire Wildlife Trust £140,000. The money will be spent introducing two family of beaver to 20 acres of protected wetland in Derbyshire. A high risk flood area, the hope is the dams they build will divert water away from the village and instead onto wetland. The new residents will hopefully be arriving from Scotland as early as November 2020. There are also plans to build a visitor centre and circular walk to enable people to get up close to nature and these new residents.

So I would like to say a big hello to our two local beaver families.

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Oh We Do Like to be Beside the Seaside…

Southwold: A Little Town That Offers More

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

A regimental row of wooden beach huts like soldiers on parade, replace winding lanes lined with hedgerows rich in food and teaming with life. At first glance visitors could be forgiven for believing Southwold is a sparse and barren place, as East Suffolk greets the North Sea. In fact this small town and civil parish at the mouth of the river Blyth breeds like rabbits artists and writers, literally bleeding creativity, history and culture from every crack and crevice.

Mid September, the sun beams low in the sky and a brisk autumnal wind whips breaking waves into foaming fury. Upon the pier each wooden slat rattles and creaks, with every rolling wave. In a tiny sheltered courtyard in denim jeans, checked shirt and weave apron an artist stands at her easel and paints, upon her head a straw hat. Tubes of oil paint in a crumpled plastic bag beneath a stool where her palette is precariously balanced. In one hand a postcard and in the other her paintbrush.

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What is on Offer in Southwold?

All this and of course cream teas, rock, ice cream and candy floss can all be found in Southwold.

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Posted in Food

UK Apple Orchards Report Bumper Crop

Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

A Starbucks drive-thru now stands, where a local boozer once stood with dark decor and carpets to disguise spilt ale and cigarette smoke. I am a simple woman who drinks my coffee black no sugar, zoning out while my daughter orders a drink with shots of this and pumps of that. I notice an apple tree in a nearby garden, its bough hanging over the fence laden with fruit. I had never noticed it before. Upon the concrete was a growing pile of bruised fruit turning bad, such a shame, I was tempted to return with a basket knock on and offer to strip the tree of its harvest, but my joints and muscles would never allow that.

So I was unsurprised to read, wheat may be in short supply this year but apples are a plenty. Long stretches of unbroken sunshine throughout spring coupled with lack of late frosts led to an extended blossom season, enabling pollinators such as honeybee and bumblebee to fertilise more flowers. A rainy July and August benefitted the growth cycle further, aiding the fruit to swell and become plump. Autumn in an apple orchard amplifies nature. The air is filled with an earthy blend of sweet and tart as fruit ripen upon laden boughs, amid the gentle decay of plants preparing for winter.

The National Trust manage more than 200 traditional apple orchards in the UK, reporting an early harvest the best in 3 years. Visitors will be invited to pick and take home apples, in exchange for a donation.

So as we wave goodbye to summer, let’s say a sweet hello to autumn.

Apple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz cooking apples
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 15g/1/2oz butter
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp water

Method

Peel, core and chop the apples. Bring to the boil in a pan with the lemon zest, sugar, water and cinnamon.

Take off the heat and beat in the butter. Leave to cool.

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Posted in Food

Spring Roll v Pancake Roll

Image by Tim Nguyen from Pixabay Image by Chris Tweten from Pixabay

My partner is a little more precise about his culinary ventures than me, knowing what he likes and what he doesn’t like. For years we have debated the difference on a Chinese takeaway menu, between a spring roll and a crispy pancake roll. He vehemently defends the latter his reason being more protein, less rabbit food. I always counter attack with ‘if that were true why sell meat spring rolls’. He then gets bored and mumbles ‘well I can tell the difference’. While some restaurants only sell one or the other, I had come to the conclusion they are practically the same thing jumping between to alias.

I am determined to discover the difference, which is not proving easy. Opinion is divided and hazy at best, ranging from size to veg versus meat. My research then dragged egg rolls and summer rolls into the mix. Gggrrrr! Thankfully I quickly clarified a summer roll, which is served cold and of Vietnamese origin. The wrapper is typically made of rice paper filled with shrimp or pork, carrot, lettuce, cucumber, rice noodles and herbs.

Where it get’s interesting is the definition of an egg roll and I believe where lies the answer. Egg rolls are an American-Chinese variant of the traditional spring roll. And the difference lies not in the filling, but the wrapper. Spring roll wrappers are made from wheat flour and water. The batter is steamed to form a thin pancake, thinner and lighter in colour. Whereas egg roll wrappers are made from wheat flour, egg and water producing a dough which is rolled, stuffed and deep fried. The addition of eggs inevitably alters the flavour like my partner claims. Ultimately when I next go to a restaurant which serves both, I will order both and examine the difference.

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Posted in Arts & Culture

Happy Birthday Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl had the power to make anything possible, hooking his readers and transporting them on the most amazing adventures. Born on the 13th September 2016, today would have been his 104th birthday. His parents Harold and Sophie Magdalene named him after the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who four years earlier was the first man to reach the South Pole. Born in Llandaff, Wales he was one of five children, but tragically lost a sister and his father at an early age. He was privately educated at boarding school: St Peters and Repton referring to his school days in his writing.

As a young adult he worked for an oil company traveling to Canada and East Africa. The out break of World War II sent his life in a different direction when he joined the RAF, age 23. But his flying career came crashing down in September 1940, and he would spend six months recuperating from several injuries to his back and head. Not defeated he went on to return to action, and even supplied intelligence to MI6.

He had five children with his first wife American actress Patricia Neal, but they divorced after 30 years of marriage. He remarried Felicity Crossland and they remained together until his death on the 23rd November 1990. Felicity continues to fuel her husbands legacy with the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and Roald Dahls Marvellous Childrens Charity

During his lifetime Roald Dahl wrote 19 novels, 13 short story collections, 12 scripts, 5 poetry collections and 9 works of non fiction. So thankyou Roald Dahl for your contribution to literature. And a big ‘Happy Birthday!’

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Posted in Food

Sourdough: No more Kneading

A warm kitchen filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Delicious! But kneading has become a painful chore rather than a therapeutic pleasure, as arthritis ravages my joints. A bread making machine bakes a close second loaf, but measuring ingredients and pressing start doesn’t quite bring the same joy. I have however found a wonderful alternative. Sourdough replaces traditional yeast with a fermented flour starter, and the physical exertion of kneading with time.

Photo by Monserrat Soldu00fa on Pexels.com

Sourdough Starter

A sourdough starter or levain is made with flour and water left to ferment, developing the naturally occurring lactobacilli and yeasts. The bubbles produced enable sourdough to rise. And the lactic acid produced from the lactobacilli give the bread its unique mildly sour flavour. There are many variations of sourdough starter, using different flours and ratios of flour and water. Rye flour is a popular choice for sourdough. I am making a basic white starter.

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