Figs in a wine syrup

 
I tried these once in a restaurant and thought they were delicious, even a hater of figs would struggle not to like them; my only disappointment was that the portion was smaller than I wanted!  So thought I’d have a bash at at recreating them, what’s the worst that could happen? Well it would just be stewed figs, no hardship there if you like figs, fortunately it all turned out alright. 

Figs are easy to come by at the supermarket, but probably best bought from an Asian grocer or similar, as they are often more plentiful and cheaper here.  Buying baby ones are ideal, if not just buy what you can lay your hands on and cut the big ones in half after cooking. Even better if you grown your own and can pick them!

 

Ingredients

  • 500-600g figs
  • 300g sugar
  • 300mls dry white wine
  • 200mls water
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence/paste
  • 1 cinnamon stick, break in half
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, gently crushed
  • Several tbsps rum

Gently clean the figs, and take off the end off the hardened end of the stalk.

In a pan add the sugar, wine, water, lemon, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom gently bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Add the figs and poach them for 15-20 mins (depending on their size) on a low heat, just simmering.  

 

Fish out the figs when they have poached and set aside. Cook the remaining liquid in the pan down to a syrup for a further 30 minutes. Then leave to cool a little.

In a clean jar (preferably one that’s been ate rises in the oven: wash jar, lay in 100C oven for 30 mins should do), pack in the figs you set aside earlier.  Pour over the syrup, making sure the figs are under the surup.  Add 1 tbsp of rum to each jar and then close with a well sealing lid.

Ideally wait a couple of weeks before eating.  I didn’t though, it needed pairing with a dollop of marscapone sitting in my fridge.  Lovely with pancakes or waffles too, as is any leftover syrup!


 

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I Plum and Blueberry Frangipane Tart

 
What to do with some fruit lying about in the fridge and some jam the kids are complaining about? Chuck it in some pastry with a frangipane mix (it’s real easy to make), bake, add cream, and enjoy. 

It can be any fruit with in reason, stone fruits are particularly suited to the task though; and jam is not necessary, but I had some to use up, so why not? I think my favourite fruit in this dessert is apricot, sadly it’s not their season and it’s the plums and blueberries sitting at the back of the fridge desperate to be put to good use.

Ingredients 

  • Shortcrust pastry 1 packet
  • Blueberry jam
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs beaten lightly 
  • 100g ground almonds 
  • Few drops almond essence 
  • 3 plums sliced
  • 50g blueberries

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a flan tin.  Roll out your pastry and place in your greased tin, prick the pastry base with a fork, insert some baking paper and fill with ceramic baking beans (or similar).  Blind bake it for around 15 mins, then take off the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 5 mins.  Now remove from the oven, when it’s cooled a little, trim off any pastry that hangs over the edge of your tin with a knife.

While the pastry is blind baking, beat the sugar and butter til smooth, add the eggs a little at a time til well combined. Mix in the ground almonds, then then finally mix in a few drops of almond essence. When the base is ready, generously spread jam across the pastry base.  

 

Add in the frangipane mixture, place your fruit in top.  The proportions of fruit don’t matter too much as long as there is plenty to go in the tart. 

 

 Now don’t look too closely at my pastry, I’m certainly no expert when it comes to blind baking. This example is not pretty but, it is cooked though, which is what matters!

Bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes. The frangipane mix should be golden and set in the middle. Dust with icing sugar if you want to be a bit fancy. What’s great about this dessert though is that it’s versatile, different fruits, different nuts, and it’s real easy to make, (especially if you cheat and bought the pastry like me).

 

Easter Hot Cross Cookies

  

I like hot cross buns, all very seasonal, great for breakfast, but I’m a bit bored of them. So I decided to try my hand at some Hot Cross Cookies, although the only time they’re hot is when they come out of the oven (yum).  However ‘Cross Cookies’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it and to be honest they sound a bit grumpy, even though that’s not the reason for the cross!

Let’s get down to business…

Ingredients 

  • 120g brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence 
  • 175g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1egg
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 180g rolled oats
  • 2tsp mixed spice, well rounded
  • 120g raisins
  • 40g mixed peel

Set your oven to 160C. Place sugars, vanilla, butter, and egg in a mixer and beat, or whizz in food processor til well mixed.

Add the flour, bicarbonate, oats and mixed spice, fold through til well combined. Finally add the raisins  and peel, stir til combined again.

Take a tablespoon of mixture at a time and roll into balls. Place them on a lined baking tray, leaving them room to spread. Bake for about 12 minutes until golden.  Cool on the tray for a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack.

  

To ice them or not?  You could buy a small tube of white icing, but it’s easy to make and not a lot is required. 

Into half a cup of icing sugar add 3tsp of milk and 2tsp of syrup (honey/golden or corn syrup) mix until well combined. It must not be runny but needs to be able to go through a piping bag. Add more milk a teaspoon at a time if I t’s still too thick. 

Pipe on the crosses to your liking, it could be drizzled if you have no piping bag. 

  

Happy Easter!

Wild Garlic Pesto Pizza

Spring is here, (it may not feel like it some days when there is still ice cold winds), but the wild garlic has appeared, and that’s how I know.  This is arguably one of the best forages of the year, so I’ve been out picking already. The recipe for the pesto is here, really easy to make, and keeps well in the fridge if it lasts long enough. However, when my other half makes pizza it’s just asking for trouble!



This pesto pizza is really low maintenance, you don’t even have to make the dough if you don’t want. I often use soft Lancashire or Staffordshire oatcakes as pizza bases for the kids, which they love, and it only takes 5 minutes to throw it altogether. I love it too, its a yum alternative to your average garlic bread, and it can be dressed up as a main meal with salad.

Ingredients

Preheat your oven to 220C, ideally heat your baking tray or pizza stone as well.

Roll out your dough or get out your bases, spread generously with the wild garlic pesto. Dot the soft cream cheese over the top. If you wish to have extra cheese use some grated cheddar or mozzarella. 

Place on the baking tray and bake until golden, approximately 10 minutes, if your pizza base is quite thick it may take slightly longer to bake. 

Enjoy while it’s hot and the fewer people you have to share it with the better.





Orange Madeleines 

This is what you get when the kids help you ice your cakes.  Ugly madeleines, much fun and stickiness, but pretty ugly!  Madeleine’s disappear fast in this house, and are a breeze to make.  It doesn’t take long to whip up a batch, which is good when you have a three and a five year old helping you.

A madeleine tin is ideal but you could make them in fairy cake size tins, the cooking time is also short at 8-10 mins so it really is a low maintenance recipe.

So why orange?  Well I had blood orange icing left over from my last bake so the madeleines seemed like the perfect vehicle for the job, and you can’t go wrong with a hit of citrus really. 

Ingredients 

  • 200g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tsp, heaped,baking powder
  • 50mls milk
  • Zest of one orange
  • 125g butter, melted

Preheat oven to 190C. This recipe makes 26-30 little cakes, so grease two madeleine tins well.  

Mix the sugar and eggs together until well combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix again.  Add the milk, orange zest and melted butter. Combine again til all ingredients incorporated.

Pour batter into tins (about a dessert spoonful in each mould) and bake for 8-10 mins until golden.  To get the familiar madeleine ‘hump’, you have to open and close your oven door when the batter is cooked around the edges but not in the centre. 

Once out of the oven remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack. Cover with icing as you desire, the recipe is here.  If your lucky, and the kids helped you, they maybe look as ugly as mine, but hopefully taste as good as well.

They do keep for a week in airtight container and I freeze half a batch (un-iced) for later due to the sheer quantity made, good if you have little time to bake and need a last minute idea.





Blood Orange and Rosemary Cake

I’ve bought a new cook book, a guilty pleasure of mine and I couldn’t resist making this amazing cake I found in there.  I love the idea of herbs in sweet things and not just keeping them for savoury dishes. The cook book is called What Katie Ate written by food blogger and photographer Katie Quinn Davies. Definitely worth a look if you like cooking. 

I chose this cake as not only did it look yum, but blood oranges are in season, the rosemary is in the garden, a herb that should still be standing through the frosts. The rest of the ingredients are all store cupboard. If you can’t get your hands on any blood oranges then ordinary oranges would do the cake justice.

Ingredients 

225g butter 220g caster sugar 2tsp orange liqueur 3 eggs beaten 1 orange, skin & pith removed and then segmented 1 blood orange, skin & pith removed & then segmented 3 rosemary sprigs, leaves removed 300g plain flour 2tsp baking powder 

Blood orange syrup 

2 blood oranges, juiced 2 oranges, juiced 1tbsp caster sugar 

Blood orange icing 

1 Blood orange, juiced 320g icing sugar Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a bundt tin, (alternatively grease & line a 22cm round cake tin).

Cream your butter and sugar until well mixed and light in colour.  Add in your orange liqueur and eggs, keep mixing til combined.



Whizz the the blood orange, orange  and rosemary in food processor until all is finely chopped and pulpy.  Add to the creamed butter & sugar mixture and combine.

Gradually sift in the flour and baking powder whilst mixing on a low speed.  Once well combined, pour into your tin and bake for 45-50 mins, til your skewer comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, make the surup.  Put the ingredients in a stirring til it boils, slow to a simmer for 10mins or so, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup has reduced by about a third, keep this warm.

Let the cake cool for 5-10mins in the tin, then move to a wire rack. Prick the cake over the top, and ensuring there is a plate underneath, pour over your orange syrup. Use up as much as possible, I repoured with the syrup caught on the plate underneath, too good to waste!

Lastly mix the icing ingredients together and drizzle over the top. I had loads of icing left over (probably 1/3) so you can either reduce your quantity or save it for more cakes such as these Orange Madeleine’s or biscuits. Enjoy.



Tartan Fabric Handmade Christmas Cards

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Most years I make my own Christmas cards as long as they don’t cost more to make than buy, as sometimes is the case with craft. However everything I had was to hand and the fabric was some vintage scraps I found at the bottom of a box.

So it’s a new departure for the blog, but I thought I’d give it a whirl and there is still plenty of time to make these simple cards and send them before Christmas.

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All you need is:
Plain cards or A5 folded in half
Scraps of material
Pinking shears
Thread to match your material
Ideally a sewing machine, (you could hand see if making a few only)

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Cut out triangles of your chosen fabric.
Lay them on your card
Sew from top to bottom holding your Christmas tree in place as you go, starting about 1cm above the tree, straight stitch all the way down to about 2cm below the tree, to give it a trunk.

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Snip off the ends of thread.
And your done, how easy was that?!

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