Archive | September, 2010

Apple Butter

29 Sep

The apple streusel muffins I baked last week were lovely, but I wanted to do something a bit more interesting with the rest of the apples my mother-in-law gave me from her garden. So I decided on apple butter. I mentioned this to a few people here in the UK, but nobody seemed to have heard of apple butter, so I came to the conclusion that it must be a strictly American thing (though I think it  might be European in origin). Anyway, I was delighted to find an apple butter recipe in my copy of The Country Kitchen by Jocasta Innes, that very British queen of everything. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the recipe until I’d already made my apple butter, so the recipe I’ve posted here is slightly different from Jocasta’s.

Apple Butter

4 lbs cooking apples
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar, about 4 cups
2 tsps cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

Cut the apples  into quarters without peeling or coring. Put in a large saucepan and add the vinegar and water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to simmer until the fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and force the pulp through a sieve or, better yet, a chinois if you have one. Measure your resulting pulp and add ½ cup of sugar for each 1 cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, cloves, allspice and lemon.

Cook again on a low heat for 1-2 hours, sitting constantly to prevent burning. Cook until it’s good and thick – it should leave a trail when you spoon some across in your saucepan. When it’s done, spoon it into sterilsed jars.


I don’t know how you like to eat your apple butter, but I have fond memories of late-night sandwiches at the Ivy Room when I was at university. My fellow Brunonians will know exactly what I mean. Cheese, apple butter and peanut butter, sometimes with alfalfa sprouts, in pita bread. It doesn’t sound so appetising now, but at 19 after a long night, it really hit the spot!

These days, I prefer mine on hearty granary bread, topped with a bit of grated mature Cheddar and put under the grill. That, with a good book, is the perfect lunch.


Homemade Bath Salts

27 Sep

After a bumper crop of lavender this year, I have far too many dried bunches hanging up in the loft just waiting for me to do something with them. And when I came across this pretty bottle at the Braderie in Lille earlier this month, I knew exactly what would go in it. Homemade lavender bath salts!

On this gorgeous, hot and sunny Cornish afternoon, I took all my bath salt ingredients out to the garden and worked outside. I used pure Dead Sea salt and added some drops of lavender essential oil. I like mine very lavender-y, so I added quite a bit, but you can use as much or as little as you like. Then I added some of my dried lavender and that was it!

You don’t have to use Dead Sea salt – ordinary sea salt from the supermarket will do. And it doesn’t have to be lavender. Use whatever scent essential oil you prefer. I think rose, with some dried rose petals in it, would be nice. Or, for something less floral, use rosemary oil with a bit of dried rosemary in it. That would be lovely!

I’m going to be selfish and keep this bottle for myself, but it would make an excellent Christmas present. I might have a look around some local car boot sales to see if I can find more pretty jars or bottles.

Pashley Bicycles

25 Sep

Maybe it’s the Miss Marple in me, but if I didn’t live in such a hilly part of the world I would buy one of these in a heartbeat.

My favourite is the Princess Sovereign, which sells for £595. See the Pashley website for stockists and for some gorgeous photos of lucky people on their lovely bicycles.

Hot Chocolate Blocks

22 Sep

With cooler weather setting in and thoughts turning to cosy nights by the fire, what could be nicer than a rich mug of hot chocolate.

Melt, a fabulous London chocolatier and boutique, has developed a gorgeous range of  hot chocolate blocks.

Simply dissolve a block in a mug of hot milk and there you have it!

The blocks come in six flavours (all single origin): Venezuela Dark, Milk Madagascar, Dark Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Caribbean and Colombia.

At only £2.50 each and wrapped so prettily, I think they make the perfect gift. Or stocking stuffer, if you’re one of those enviable people already preparing for Christmas.

You can buy the blocks online at the Melt website or, if you’re in London, visit the boutique in Notting Hill.

Apple Streusel Muffins

19 Sep

Now that last week’s blackberry glut has been dealt with, I can move onto apples. Yesterday, my mother-in-law brought over a great big bag of lovely cooking apples from her garden and I’ve been trying to come up with some interesting ideas about what to do with them. This morning I made a batch of delicious apple streusel muffins.

Apple Streusel Muffins
(makes 12 muffins or 24 mini-muffins)

350g cooking apples (weight after peeling and coring), cut into ½” cubes
110g butter
275g plain flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
2 eggs
75g golden caster sugar
175ml milk

Streusel topping
50g chopped pecans
75g self-raising flour
75g demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
25g butter, softened

Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and milk. Add the melted butter and whisk again. Sift the flour mixture (yes, that’s two siftings) into the egg mixture and fold. Don’t worry if it’s gloopy and lumpy – it’s meant to be. Fold in the apple. Spoon into your muffin tin(s).

To make the streusel topping, mix together the flour, sugar and cinnamon. Add the butter and rub together using your fingers until it’s crumbly. Stir in the pecans and add a spoonful of cold water until it’s good and clumpy. Put a bit on top of each muffin.

Bake at 190C (170C fan) for 25-30 minutes.

Foraging with Fat Hen

17 Sep

Yesterday I went on a group Wild Food Day, led by Caroline Davey of Fat Hen.

We set off on a woodland and coastal walk, winding up at lovely Penberth Cove. As we went, we foraged for all kinds of edible plants, under the guidance of the very knowledgeable Caroline. We picked basket-loads of yummy bits including pennywort, sorrel, dandelion leaves, black mustard and rock samphire.

Along the way, Caroline pointed out things that are particularly deadly and which, unfortunately, tend to look an awful lot like things that are edible and delicious.

She suggested that we try to remember four things from our day, and I think I’ve just about managed that.

Arriving back at Fat Hen HQ, we prepared a sumptuous and scrumptious meal with what we’d picked. I say we, but I have to admit that Caroline did most of the work.

We started off with deep fried rock samphire and falafel. Then had a main course of mackerel cooked with fennel flowers, served with sea beets and a big salad made from all of our foraged goodies.

Caroline had prepared a fantastic cake for dessert, made from sea buckthorn berries. If I can ever persuade her to reveal her secret sea buckthorn foraging spots, I’ll die a happy woman.

Fat Hen offers Foraging Days as well as full Wild Food Weekends. See the calendar of events here and book here.

I can’t recommend Fat Hen enough! If you live in Cornwall or are planning a holiday here, do try and spend a day foraging with Caroline. You’ll learn a lot, see some spectacular scenery and have a fabulous meal as well.

And you’ll probably get to spend the day with the lovely Molly too!

Bramble Jelly

15 Sep

Blackberry Mania continues here at our house. Yesterday I made some scrumptious bramble jelly which I spread liberally, with lashings of butter, on a toasted crumpet for breakfast this morning.

Bramble Jelly
(I halved this recipe)

3 lbs blackberries
2 cooking apples, washed, cored and diced
Juice of 1 large lemon
450 ml water
Sugar (amount varies)
2 Tbsp Cassis

Wash and drain the blackberries. Put in a preserving pan (or any heavy-based saucepan) along with the apple, lemon juice and water. Simmer for about an hour.

Strain the berry mixture in damp muslin in a sieve over a large bowl for 8 hours, or overnight. I find it easier to just leave it to drip all night. If you’re lucky enough to have one of those jelly bag contraptions, then use that. I just jerry-rig my own and it works fine.

Sterilise some jars – I do it by washing them in hot, soapy water, then putting them upside down on a rack in the oven to dry. Half an hour at 140C (120C fan) should do it.

Pour your berry liquid into a measuring cup and see how much you’ve got. For every 600ml, weigh out 450g of sugar. You can use special preserving sugar if you’d like, but I just use ordinary granulated. Add the sugar to the juice in a big saucepan and heat over low until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Add the Cassis and let the mixture simmer until it reaches setting point. I’ve always been told that you can tell it’s done if you dribble a little bit of the jelly onto a cold saucer, and it sort of wrinkles. However, that never seems to work for me. I just simmer it for about 15 minutes and it’s fine.

Pour into jars, cool and eat!

Anthology Magazine

14 Sep

Look! A gorgeous new print magazine which launches this autumn!

The publishers of Anthology magazine describe it as, “A new quarterly shelter and lifestyle print magazine that takes a narrative approach to its coverage of home décor, travel, design, entertainment, and culture.”

If you want to have a look inside, you can see an online preview of the first issue here. It looks really good, doesn’t it?!

It’s a US-based magazine, but they do deliver to the UK. So yippee for that!

Subscriptions are £38 or $38 for four quarterly issues. Or you can give it a trial and just order the launch issue for £12 or $12. Go to the Anthology website to place your order.

This is sheer escapism in magazine form. I can’t wait for my first issue to arrive … I imagine curling up on the sofa with a cup of coffee and a crumpet (with honey, of course), flipping through the pages, taking a deep breath of that delicious new magazine smell and being transported to a world of lovely things.

Thanks to Alison at Brocante Home for letting me know about this.

Oh, and one more thing. Because I’m passionate about all things to do with paper and print, I really loved this little Print is Not Dead video created by Anthology. Enjoy!

Butterfly Sticky Notes

13 Sep

Must. Have. These.

In case you don’t know, I have a rather unhealthy obsession with sticky notes. I have a desk drawer devoted entirely to sticky notes. I can’t walk down the stationery aisle in the supermarket without coming home with a few more packets of sticky notes. And Staples. Well, I have to stay clear of Staples for my own mental health.

But these. These are pure loveliness.

For £9.99 you get eight separate pads of notes in three different sizes and eight different designs.

And oh, those designs! How beautiful! And they come in a pretty reuseable tin!

Courtesy of the fabulous Rockett St George.

Blackberry Cordial

12 Sep

Yesterday was a gorgeous hot late summer day, so the husband and I set off on a brambling expedition. We came home with purple-stained fingers (and clothes) and with more blackberries than I knew what to do with. After all, there are only so many crumbles a couple can eat. So I decided to try making some blackberry cordial, and it’s delicious!

There are lots of boozy blackberry cordial recipes out there, but I wanted something non-alcoholic, icy and cold that I could gulp down from a tall glass on a hot afternoon.

Blackberry Cordial
(makes about 1 litre)

400g (13 oz) blackberries
1 litre ( 1 ¾ pints) water
300g (10 oz) caster sugar (next time I’ll use a bit less)

Wash the berries and place them, with the sugar and water, in a heavy pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and press through a sieve until you get as much juice out as you can. Cool the juice, then bottle and refrigerate.

Serve with soda water over ice. Refreshing!