Witches and Wicked Halloween

Wicked Halloween

Lots of treats and no tricks please.

Halloween Pumpkins

And, no further suggestion that I am a witch:

If you think I'm a Witch
As my sister certainly had no hesitation in making this libellous claim when she tagged me in this picture earlier in the week.  The only fitting way to respond to this of course was “right back at you”!

Have a spook-tacu-lar Halloween.

My  signature

A day without…..

The particularly stormy weather over the weekend and the very real threat that we might well lose power and have to manage with candles, an extra blanket and cold baked beans as our only form of sustenance (eaten from the tin of course, as there would be no hot water to wash up and the dishwasher would be out of action)….. prompted me to consider a few things I just know I could not live without:

Water and Coffee

Water and Coffee

Chocolate and (it goes without saying) Cake

Chocolate Cake - Home is where the Heart is

I recently read and happily latched on to the suggestion that Chocolate should be put at the top of your “to do” list every morning, affording you the smug satisfaction of ticking off at least one item everyday (and most likely before breakfast!).

Hair Straighteners

Bad hair day
Image source

It would be a very brave man or woman indeed who got between me and my hair straighteners, as I remember (and cringe) all too well the wilderness hair years we lived through before the advent of this glorious accessory.

Laughter

A day without.....

and, Cashmere

Not a day without Cashmere

Image source

For, since I came across the note worthy advice of Peter Hahn that there should not be a day without cashmere, it would be quite remiss not to include this too.  Given that cashmere is now up there amongst life’s very essentials, what further excuse do I need to bump that new sweater from wish list to an absolute staple, must buy this week item!

My  signature

Storm in a Teacup

Storm in a Teacup

Image source

After all of the hype and frantic pre-storm preparation and pontification, in our part of the country we do seem to have been pretty much unaffected.  We have woken simply to a wet squally day – pretty typical really for late October.

That this “storm” was dubbed St Jude’s storm; after the patron saint of depression and lost causes whose feast day falls on 28th October, now seems particularly apt, as we actually seem to have lost the storm!

It has been not so much, super storm here but more storm in a teacup.

My  signature

Storms-a-coming!

1987 - aftermath of the Great Storm

With a rather unexpected and definitely unwelcome sense of déjà-va, just as last October we were caught by the tail end of Hurricane Sandy, this year we are watching and waiting for what is being billed as the worst storm to hit the UK in 25 years.

1987 - policeman surveys damage on a London road1987 - car wrecked by falling masonry in London
Image source

So bad in fact is the forecast, that Michael Fish, the weatherman who famously failed to predict the Great Storm of 1987, has advised us to “baton down the hatches”.

How is this possible?

It is quite simply not on?

Having fled back to England surely we left this sort of “tempestuous” weather behind us in North America?

There is still a chance that our storm could blow out to sea and scurry across the Channel to France and Europe beyond, and that again our British weather will have been all “chat” and no action!

Fierce and ferocious as forecast, or simply a damp squally squib, I plan on hiding out at home, as it will most definitely be damp enough for the very worst of hair days…..

My  signature

Real men eat Pink!

Pink Birthday Cake

We all know that real men wear pink.

Or this is certainly what I tell my son, who is beyond mortified by the picture we have on the landing wall of him at three years old in a wetsuit with pink sleeves (for the record this was the last item of clothing originally belonging to his sister which I passed down).

Pink Cake

Today is my husband’s birthday (age to be kept a closely guarded secret…..), and I do wonder if making him a pink cake was perhaps pushing the envelope a little too far.

Possibly it could catch on?

Real Men Eat Pink!

My  signature

In a pickle {Pickled Onions}

Pickled Onions

Personally I have never eaten Pickled Onions – it really is a case of, as my niece would say (and frequently does, much to my sister’s chagrin), “I’m sure it is delicious, but not to my taste”….

My husband, however loves them.

Although I have to say, I am currently unsure as to whether his recent request for Pickled Onions was extremely retro or further hard evidence of his spiralling mid-life crisis?

Pickled Onions and Cheese

Love them or not, should you wish to pickle your own onions, I followed this recipe, which was not only simple, but I am reliably informed also produced a delicious end product.

My  signature

Impending Crisis

A chocolate bar bigger than my head

Image via Pinterest – source unknown

Recently I have been reading, and hearing on the radio, an alarming buzz, or if you prefer shocking rumours.

Rumours with sufficient enough weight and veracity behind them to make me believe that an impending crisis really is looming.

Chocolate is in short supply…..

Apparently the drier than usual weather in Africa has hampered cocoa bean production and supplies are dwindling.  It is anticipated that the world’s cocoa bean supply will fall short of demand…..demand for chocolate!

Since chocolate has soooo many numerous (and of course proven!) health benefits the consequences could indeed be dire:

Gone will be our perfectly balance diets!

A balanced diet...

Image via Pinterest – source unknown

Gone will be our valiant efforts to eat a healthy
selection of 5-a-day!

Chocolate is a.....

Image via Facebook – source unknown

With costs set to spiral as supply outstrips demand, is it too late to get our placards at the ready and mount a campaign?

My  signature

On your marks, get set, bake {Tarte Tatin}

On your marks
Get set
Bake!

Week 9 of The Great British Bake Off, or semi-final week, was with more than a touch of oh, la, la…..LA SEMAINE FRANÇAISE.

The four remaining competitors whipped up canapés, Charlotte Royale desserts and Opera cakes.

Vegetable garden canapesCharlotte RoyaleOpera cakes

Image source

But I have to confess the best moment of the show for me was when hosts Mel and Sue dispatched Paul Hollywood from the baking marquee whilst gleefully remarking that he boasted un derrière comme une pêche (had we noticed this during the last 9 weeks?!…..).

As you know if you have been following my efforts to bake along with the show, I have been wildly generous with my brief, and this was very much the case once again this week.

So, with a nod of my beret towards all things French, I made Tarte Tatin.

Tarte Tatin

As I am not particularly fond of puff pastry (quite frankly too much “puff” for me), I made my tarte using sweet shortcrust pastry instead.

My  signature

For this Tarte Tatin recipe you will need:

For the pastry
125g butter (cut into small cubes)
175g plain flour
15g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water

For the apple filling
25g butter
50g caster sugar
450g Granny Smiths apples

  • Begin by making the pastry:  Measure the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together until the mixture takes on the texture of fine breadcrumbs.  This can be done by hand but I prefer to use my Kitchen Aid.
  • Stir in the caster sugar.
  • Add the egg yolk and water, and mix together to form a dough.
  • Lightly knead the dough, wrap tightly in cling film and chill in the fridge whilst you make the filling.
  • Peel, core, half and thinly slice the apples.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the sugar.   Gently heat until the mixture is caramelised and golden brown in colour.
  • Pour the caramelised sugar mixture into the bottom of a 20cm round cake tin.
  • Layer the sliced apples on top, making sure there are no gaps.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until you have a circle of pastry slightly larger than the cake tin.
  • Carefully place the pastry on top on the apples, tucking the edges in.
  • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • When you are ready to cook your tarte, preheat the oven to 200C / 400F /
    Gas Mark 6.
  • Place on a baking sheet and cook for 30 – 40 minutes until the pastry turns golden brown.
  • Turn onto a plate and serve apple side up.
  • Delicious hot with cream or cold (if there is any left!) the next day with a cup of coffee.

If you haven’t already read them, you might like to catch up on my previous bake-along efforts:  Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7 and Week 8.

Coffee CakeEnglish Breakfast MuffinsOn your marks, get set, bake {Profiteroles}On your marks, get set, bake {Lemon Tart}FlapjackSweet Tea LoafOn your marks, get set, bake {Jam Roly Poly}Five carrots

 

Knot this way!

Elegant knots - how to tie your scarfImage source

I have a wardrobe stuffed full of scarves and a near on compulsive habit which drives me to just keep buying more.  Working on the theory that just like handbags, and shoes (yes, my closet is very full, bursting to capacity even, with all these essential items!) that you simply cannot have too many.

But beautiful and extensive as my scarf collection might be, there is one small issue fundamental flaw; tying them.  Instead of sartorial statement and elegant nonchalant appeal, it is more “chewed-string” fashion faux-pas…..

And whilst I may not be looking as chic as I would like and my fumbling fingers may not be able to tie effortlessly casual knots such as those promised in this tutorial, my scarf romance will most definitely continue as we push into winter this year.  As unless I can manage to master the thermostat and the complexities of our new boiler and heating system (and please don’t suggest I read the instruction manual…..) scarves well tied or otherwise will not just be a wardrobe staple but an absolute necessity.

My  signature

Cheese and Chive Biscuits

Cheese and Chive biscuits - being snaffled

I only wish I had made twice the amount.

These biscuits were snaffled by my children (who for once chose not to take offense at the “green bits” which would normally be considered tantamount to poison!) whilst my back was turned.

My  signature

Cheese and Chive biscuits

For this biscuit recipe you will need:

115g plain flour
55g butter (cubed)
55g cheddar cheese (finely grated)
1 tablespoon fresh chives (chopped)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 egg yolk

Makes approximately 20 biscuits

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4 and grease and line two baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Measure the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together until the mixture takes on the texture of breadcrumbs.  This can be done by hand but I would recommend using a stand mixer.
  • Stir in the grated cheese, chopped chives and season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the egg yolk and mix to form a soft ball of dough.  If the mixture is too dry gradually add a little water.
  • On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until it is approximately 10mm thick.
  • Cut out the biscuits (I used a 5cm round biscuit cutter) and carefully place the biscuits onto the prepared baking sheets.
  • Cook in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes until the biscuits turn golden brown.

Note:
Eat quickly before the rest of the family finds them!