‘Bench Series 36’: Metal Bench!

'Bench Series 36': Metal Bench!

‘Bench Series 36’: Metal Bench!

Jude, Author of ‘Travel Words’, a wonderful blog inspired by her travel notes and diaries over the years runs a great linky called ‘Bench Series’.

Here’s my first contribution: I took this shot on a bright morning this February.

It was the first day this year when you could really feel the sun: I walked down to the Herne Hill weekend market, and South London seemed to be smiling – as though the sun had lifted the weight of winter chill.

This photo is taken from the top of the hill in Brockwell Park.  Sitting on the bench, there are wonderful views over the London Skyline.  But I thought smooth curve of the metal arm, with the bright sun brimming thorouh and bouncing off the bench rails, was a good sight too!

Check out Jude’s ‘Italian’ style metal benches in San Diego,

and other contributions too:  ‘Bench Series’: September – Metal Benches.

No looking back.

Lines, he said.

Give Me Lines.

x

No Looking Back.

He said.

That’s My Line for You.

x

How Strong,
it sounded.

Get Over It.
He added, to her.  And sent her this song –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FS2nBCR9o8

x

After all the years,
all those fears

the trip of a lifetime –

in a train that was off the rails
with The One who was totally trusted.

Whose mind slowly slowed,
twisted,
morphed –

terrifyingly

destructively

Driving That Train.

x

After all the years,
all those fears,

More than two decades since other lines of simple honesty were publicly exchanged,

the trip of a lifetime, and the ongoing climb back again, that’s felt like a lifetime in itself.

That Line,

so carelessly given.

A safe shield.  Treasured above all.

x

Her feeling of utter betrayal.

feels like a final nail.

xx

Where is the truth in the world?

She wondered.

To herself.

x

Perfect Party Pudding!

Fiesta Friday *1

We have just enjoyed a wonderful sunny Bank Holiday Monday in the UK 🙂

This is my stand by celebration pudding and my first choice for gatherings on such occasions, when I want to make something special, but don’t want it take so long that there’s no time do something special as well!

… it takes ages in the oven, but only minutes of preparation time and always looks great.

Strawberry Pavlova - slice

As an added bonus, if you don’t count any of the white bits, it’s full of vitamins and virtually calorie free too!

Having enjoyed reading Fiesta Friday posts and using some of the recipes, I’ve plucked up my courage to join in, conscious that my photography skills are not comparable with other Fiesta participants.  But I’m hoping that I’ll pick up some tips… (I’m relying on you other fiesta-goers for that!)

* * *

So with thanks to with Angie over at Novice Gardiner,

Here I am, knocking on the door of the party house and looking forward to joining in…

http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/

* * *

An easy pre-metric way to remember the quantities for meringue used to be to allow 2 oz sugar per egg white – so when I’m making a pavlova for a party, I use 10 eggs and used to use 20 oz sugar… it’s all a bit more tricky now, with grammes – but that’s the idea!

For example, 4 egg whites and 250g caster sugar.

Line your flat baking tray by lining with good quality baking parchment.

Turn the oven on – I set the shelf in the centre and put the oven to the very lowest setting, and ‘cook’ the pavlova over night – it  slowly dries out this way, but you need to make sure you’re not going to need the oven for a late night roast or anything whilst its cooking!

Whisk egg whites until they form soft peaks (that’s a lot of whisking – best to go electric!)

Whisk in sugar, 1 Tbs at a time as this helps stiffen whites further.

Spread about 1/3 of the meringue in a circle to form the base of your Pavlova.

Either ‘blob’ or pipe remaining meringue around the edge, to form the ‘walls’ for the pavlova.

Let it dry out overnight in the oven.

When dried out, lift from baking sheet and carefully place on your serving board or dish.  Fill with cream and fruit and prepare to dazzle your guests – simple!

Strawberry Pavlova - whole

TIPS:  

Some people recommend adding cornflour – this helps keep the meringue soft in the centre.  I don’t do this, because I like to fill mine a few hours in advance and this means that the moisture from the cream softens the meringue a bit anyway (this allows me to focus on the party and relaxing not finishing off the pudding at the last minute!) If you’d like to try this, add 1 tsp sieved cornflour with the last addition of sugar

Others like to add a tsp of vinegar.  Some believe that this keeps the meringue white (I think it’s pretty white anyway!) and also say that it helps the egg whites increase in volume.  If you’d like to try this, add 1 tsp vinegar with the final addition of eggs.

It’s fun to try making flavoured meringue – add some drops of vanilla or rosewater, depending on fruit used.

You can make darker meringue by substituting some of the caster sugar for brown – but this does make them more gooey too!

Add a drop or two of red food colouring and just marble it in lightly for a pretty pink fleck to your meringue.

Interesting fact –

The Pavlova desert is named after the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Matveyevna Pavlova (1881-1931).  It was said that her dancing was as though she had wings – so light and airy – hence naming the case for this desert after her.

Strawberry Pavlova - wholeWhat is your easy-peasy party pudding?

Follow the Fiesta-Friday link to see more great foodie posts – and thanks for letting me join in, guys!

fiesta-friday-badge-button-i-party

Apple Cake Experimentation – 3 recipes that came out as winners.

We’ve been experimentating with different apple cake styles and recipes over the winter.

It’s been interesting, made the house smell wonderful and provided us with a great excuse to have the oven on, which has helped the log burner heat up the kitchen – win, win, win!

Here are the recipes for three of our favourites – all very different.

Recipe 1 – 

Chunky Apple & Plum Loaf Cake.           

ImageThis is a great way to use up not only older apples, but also the last bit of jam in the jar (or have a clear out, and finish those last smidgens from lots of pots!)

We made it in a loaf tin… just for a change, but you could use a regular round tin if you prefer – use a 1Kg / 2Lb loaf tin or a 20 cm round tin lined with baking paper.

This recipe is adapted from one found in BBC Good Food Magazine.

We used Plum jam, so ours was an apple and plum cake, but consult with your almost empty jam jars then decide what you’re going to make –

250g / 9oz Self Raising Flour

175g / 6oz butter (I always use butter rather than spread in cakes & pastry as I think it tastes better)

175g / 6 oz Muscovado Sugar (or demerara, or white if you don’t have Muscovado)

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

3 Small Eating Apples – Peeled & cut into medium sized chunks

2 Large Eggs, Beaten

1 tsp Baking Powder

Jam & 2 x Rounded Tbs Demerara Sugar for top

1.   Preheat oven to 170c or Gas 4.  Line loaf or cake tin with baking paper.

2.   Rub the flour, butter and muscovado sugar together to make fine breadcrumbs.  Reserve 5 Tbs of this mixture and mix it with cinnamon and demerara sugar for topping.  Set this reserved mixture aside.

3.   Mix apple chunks and eggs.

4.   Stir baking powder into rubbed in mixture, then quickly and lightly stir in the egg mixture – don’t over mix.

5.   Spoon into the tin – if you have enough jam, you can dollop some jam in as you spoon cake mixture in.

6.   Dollop rest of jam on the top – we made a little rut along the middle of our loaf cake, and put jam along the middle – good idea to keep it away from the sides of the tin as you don’t want the jam to burn

7.   Spoon reserved crumble / sugar over the top, avoiding jam.

8.   Bake in your preheated oven for 1 hour and 10 or 20 minutes – test with a skewer & it’s cooked when skewer comes out clean.  Cover with foil after about 50 minutes.

9.   Once cooked, leave in tin for around 30 minutes then cool on a wire rack (or eat hot!)

Recipe 2 – Apple Cake with Syrup.

ImageThis is a very different cake, made with semolina – higher in protein than flour.  This cake has no added fat and the main sweetener is the maple syrup.  There are different grades of ‘maple syrup’ sold, and as always you get what you pay for – genuine maple syrup has a low GI in contrast to cheaper varieties, which often contain a low element of maple syrup (therefore less taste) and often have a much higher GI.  This is great with greek yougort or vanilla ice cream.

The recipe here was adapted from http://www.weighitup.com.au

Line a 20 – 22 cm cake tin, or make in a flapjack type tin – 32 x 22 cm, lined.

Heat oven to 180c or gas 4.

4 eggs
½ cup  sugar
250g semolina
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup water
½ cup quick oats
800g stewed Apples
½ cup flaked almonds – optional

Syrup:
1 cup water
¼ cup  sugar
¾ cup  Maple Syrup

1.   Mix eggs and sugar with a whisk until light, creamy and thick.

2.   Add some of the semolina, then some of the water and vanilla.  Add the rest of the semolina, baking powder, water, vanilla and oats. Mix well.

3.   Mix in apples.

4.   Spread into tin. Sprinkle with almonds if using them.

5.   Bake for 20 – 25 minutes if using a flapjack style tin, or longer if using a cake tin – it is ready when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

6.   Allow the cake to cool.  Heat the syrup for a little while in a small saucepan – don’t let it burn, but do let it thicken a little.  Then pour it over the cake – slowly so it soaks in.

Recipe 3 – Apple, Sunflower seed and Honey Cake.

ImageSunflower seeds are great little packets of goodness – they contain lots of vitamin E, which has been said to help to reduce cholsterol.  They also contain a lot of magnesium, which is needed for strong healthy bones and also for regulating the flow of calcium to the blood vessels and muscles.  They also contain  selenium, which has been found in some studies to inhibit cancer cells… and the Vitamin E that they contain is claimed to help prevent UV damage to the skin by the sun.

We made this in a ring tin – one with a hole in the centre.  We greased it well first, and it turned out wonderfully.

Preheat oven to 170c or Gas 5.

1 cup sunflower seeds.

1/4 cup Honey (heat your measuring cup first by pouring boiling water into it, and this will help honey to run out more cleanly)

1 cup sunflower oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups plain flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground cinnamon or nutmeg and 1 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups peeled, chopped apple – chop quite small.

Honey to pour over – use a spoon heated by pouring boiling water over it first to help.

1.   Sprinkle some of the sunflower seeds into the greased tin.

2.   Use an electric mixer to beat sugar, honey and oil.

3.   Beat in eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with the last couple if necessary.

4.   Gently beat in rest of dry ingredients, then fold in vanilla, rest of sunflower seeds & apple.

5.  Cook for 50 – 60 minutes.   Cool in tin for about 10 minutes when taken out of oven.

6.   Turn out onto a wire rack to cool, and very carefully pour over more honey – it helps this absorb better if you heat the honey gently in a pan first.  You may want to prick the cake gently too, to help absorption.

Delicious served with vanilla ice cream, custard, creme fraiche or greek yogurt.

– Do you have any recipes that you’ve found to be family favourites?

2013 Already…!

It’s been a busy five months at home – a building project followed by huge amounts of refurbishment, with the end now in sight… when wearing fairly strong glasses.

Some years ago, my daughter gave me a card simply printed with a quote by Winston Churchill – ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’.  It helped keep me going this spring, summer and into the autumn.

I’ve learnt more about plans, plastering, plumbing and Poles than I think should be necessary for a lady of my age to know.

I’ve had my patience, perseverance and pocket stretched to beyond breaking point, and found out that once you’ve got that far, the only answer is to bounce back.

Time to think of another quote, from Eleanor Roosevelt – ‘With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts’.  

I’m looking forward to this year – pleased to have the destruction, dust, and difficulties of last year in the past – a springboard to jump into the future from.

It’s a beautiful snowy day here in London – the snow began a couple of days ago, and has been falling fairly thickly all day.  Here’s a picture of our latest upcycling success – a fab garden ornament.

It’s a curtain pole that is no longer needed, and I think looks very elegant in the flower bed – even with a thick covering of snow!  Roll on those months – I’m looking forward to seeing verbena and sweet peas stretching up to and beyond it’s height in the summer!

A wonderful addition to the house is a log burner in the kitchen – I’d so recommend this to anyone, and can particularly vouch for Dennis, our trusty installer who stepped in and made good, then finished excellently after being let down by another builder – one of those whose ability is outstripped by his imagination, and whose gift of the gab exceeds knowledge and practicalities… I hope you don’t know what I mean!

My tip for cleaning wood burning stoves is simple, but took me a while to work out – when the glass gets really dirty, it’s probably because the air flow isn’t quite right, so play around with that – it’s very satisfying when you finally get the hang of it… and to clean it, just use slightly damp, scrunched up newspaper – if you need a little abrasion, dip it slightly in ash first – sparkling!

Chocolate chip thins.

These crispy chocolate chip biscuits are melt in the mouth, thin and crumbly.

Really quick to make, they’re great as a light delight with a cup of tea!

If you want to have thicker cookie type biscuits, chill the dough well before cooking and add 40 – 50g more flour.

Vary the recipe by adding nuts, rasins, cherries dired apricots, ginger… … experiment.

Makes around 20.

150 g plain flour

Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Half a teaspoon of salt

110g slightly soft butter – if the butter is very soft, you will get very thin cookies, as I did… if you don’t want such thin cookies, see note above.

170g total of white and light brown sugar mixed together

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

I egg

100g nuts, if wanted

170g chocolate chips

x2 baking sheets lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 190c / no5 and set the racks to the upper and middle of the oven space.

Stir flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda.

Combine butter, sugars and vanilla and beat with an electric paddle until just combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating in between.  Gently beat in flour mixture.

Very gently beat in nuts and chocolate.

Place mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 7.5cm apart from each other.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 12 – 14 minutes.

Cool slightly on baking tin, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Keep in an airtight container.