Saturday, 26 March 2016

Happy Easter

Easter - my favourite time of year ....

.... hope, new life, lengthening days, warmer weather, flowers, lambs, chicks and ....chocolate.
 All great reasons to celebrate!

And cake ... there has to be cake at Easter.
Firstly, a chocolate almond marble cake. I used this recipe from Ruby Tandoh, contestant on GBBO 2013.
My pan was 1 litre rather than the 1.5 litre specified, so I reduced the ingredients by a third and it turned out well. The good thing, also, is that cakes with ground almonds keep well and even become more moist after a day or two.

Secondly, the traditional Simnel cake; a light fruit cake with a layer of oozy marzipan in the middle and another layer on top. Originally, it is thought Simnel cake was made by young girls working in service to take home to their Mothers on Mothering Sunday. But in late Victorian times, the cake started to be decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent the disciples of Jesus ( minus Judas, Jesus' betrayer ) and so became an Easter tradition.

I used a recipe by Mary Berry. I was intrigued by this recipe, as it uses an all-in-one method which is unusual for a fruit cake.
I am not able to report on its success, as we haven't tried it yet, but it looks deliciously moist.

Mr digandweed and I are enjoying a family get together for Easter.
The Simnel cake and chocolate goodies are packed and we are heading west to visit Mister Fudge and his family in the lovely city of Bristol.

Wishing you all a very happy Easter.

annjenny x

Saturday, 19 March 2016

soup and salads

With the lengthening days and a definite warmth when the sun makes an appearance, I have been making trips down to the lottie to tidy up after its winter sleep.
Digging over one of the beds, I was pleasantly surprised to find a few parsnips hiding there. After months in the ground, they were not the best looking vegetables, but they made a delicious soup, with a sprinkling of nutmeg and a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

I  also cleaned out the shed, evicting a family of very large spiders with the help of a long broom. I know spiders are harmless - at least they are in the UK - and I know I should, but I cannot love them. I will tolerate them on the lottie so long as they DON'T ENTER MY SHED!

Now is also the time to plot and plan which vegetables and fruit to grow on the lottie this year.
Following my carrot success last year, maybe they should be on the list again. There will definitely be beans: runner, french and broad, along with butternut squash, beetroot, onions and spinach.

The carrots in the salad below were bought not grown. 
Even in winter/early spring, a salad is always welcome in my opinion.
This one had a sweet/sour vibe with dates (or I have used raisins in the past), lots of chopped mint and coriander and a dressing made from olive oil, lemon and date syrup (which tastes a bit like molasses) or you could use honey, plus salt, pepper and 1/2 teasp of cinnamon and the same of ground cumin.

And along the same idea a cauliflower 'tabouleh'.
After a delicious meal out with mr digandweed, when I enjoyed fresh grilled salmon on a bed of cauliflower couscous, I decided to recreate the dish at home. It follows the trend for using vegetables in place of pasta.
'Googling' revealed a number of recipe ideas; some used raw cauliflower, some lightly roasted. All required the cauliflower to be blitzed in a food processor or alternatively grated by hand. 
I decided to go with the roasted version and mixed my grated cauliflower with a little olive oil, spread it out on a baking tray and put it in a hot oven for about 20 minutes.

When it had cooled, it was dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, chopped coriander and a sprinkling of red chilli. Great with grilled chicken, fish or roasted vegetables.

Will you be gardening this weekend?
I know a lot of people have already made a start on sowing trays of seeds.
What are your 'must have' vegetables for the allotment or garden?

Happy weekend!

annjenny x

Saturday, 12 March 2016


I've started running. 
When I say running, I'm not talking record breaking sprints or long marathons -
  as if!
No, by running, I mean more of a speeded up plod.

Actually, I started running over a year ago. From a standstill. Literally. 
Progress has been slow, but my aim is to enter a 5k parkrun before too long.

Mr digandweed has been a keen runner for years now, so when I gave up work just over a year ago, I decided to join him. We can usually be seen running, often at the crack of dawn, round our local country park. Mr digandweed, of course, is much faster than me, so he goes one way round the park and I go the other. That way we pass each other and if I have fallen into a hedge en route he can yank me out! Not that that has ever happened thankfully.

Finally, after about 14 months I am finding it easier. 
That 5k is within reach!
My running, you may have realised, has nothing whatsoever to do with the photos in this post. I wasn't inclined to post a photo of me red - faced and exhausted, so instead some pictures of recent visits to Stamford and Cambridge.
And, taken this morning, photos of the flooded washlands just a mile up the road.

This is land which is deliberately allowed to flood in order to reduce water levels in other parts.
It is quite picturesque. Peaceful and still.

Happy weekend all.

annjenny x

Sunday, 6 March 2016

sunshine cake

Just when we thought spring was nearly here, with daffodils and primroses in full bloom in the garden, winter returns with grey skies, snow and hail.

But here is a cake to put some sunshine in your life. A cake with such vibrant colour and zing it is bound to bring a smile to even the most winter weary of us.

I came across the recipe whilst reading Silverpebble's lovely blog.  It is a cake she baked with Chetna from the Great British Bake Off 2014. But I will let Emma tell the story here.

The recipe uses blood oranges which rather like Seville oranges have a short season , normally from December to April and so are available now.
Their dark ruby red colour is due to an antioxidant pigment which develops due to cold night temperatures during the fruit's growing season. Their beautiful crimson flesh is good for the soul and the body!
By chance, I had bought some blood oranges ( or blush oranges as Waitrose prefers to call them ) the other day and so I had to try this cake.
Do visit Emma's blog to view the complete recipe and to watch Emma and Chetna making the cake on YouTube.

I halved the recipe ingredients and baked the mixture in a 19 cm sponge tin at 170c for about 20 minutes.
When the cake had cooled slightly, I poured the orange syrup over and served it in wedges with a dollop of yoghurt.
It was delicious! 
Thank you Chetna and Emma.

Wishing you all a happy Sunday and especially to all those ladies out there who care for someone whether child, partner, parent, friend, relative or neighbour - Happy Mother's Day.

annjenny x