Nice but dim

On Thursday, we retrieved this lovely, but dim calf from a water tank.  After climbing out, he peed on me, demonstrating his Blue Flag-esque clean water credentials, and making me a pollution hazard in the catchment zone of a watercourse.

Which brings me to a request from @FarmerCharles on Twitter this week:  "What was that cake with apostles all over it that I was going to try?"  I had intended to start said cake with apostles all over it, a Simnel Cake, that night but, well, hygiene first.

Simnel Cake - as styled by Marguerite Patten

In the matter of the Taylor-Nicholson Simnel Cake, we use our Christmas cake recipe; a great excuse to eat Christmas cake more than once a year.  Choose your favourite fruit or Dundee cake recipe, and sandwich a layer of marzipan in the middle of the batter.  When cool, brush the top with jam and add a circle of marzipan and twelve balls to represent the apostles, minus Judas.  Brown the marzipan under the grill or using a blowtorch (perhaps not the one that lives on the farm, and no, the dehorner won't do).

The thing to remember, is that twelve balls are insufficient; '70s decorations are compulsory.  If it's good enough for Marguerite, then it's good enough for your Easter table.  And be warned: Don't melt the apostles (grilling in the Aga can be hit and miss)!  Marguerite will know.

Essex, Orange and Proud

Yes, it's nearly Halloween, and El Diablo dog is disguising himself as a pumpkin to avoid the ghosts of past unholy collie-terrier unions. Wise werewolf.

   Here in Essex, those of us who cannot afford a spray tan, take this seasonal opportunity to surround ourselves with as many pumpkins as possible for a reflected TOWIE orange glow. Nothing is more effective at scaring the undead.  And so, to celebrate this joyous pumpkin-filled Hallowe'en, we've delved into Hannah's recipe "book" (a scary task in itself, see right), and as requested, the recipe for a family favourite:

 Pumpkin Bread

1lb pumpkin (peeled and diced) , 2 oz butter/marg, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. ginger, large pinch nutmeg, 1lb flour (1/2 white, 1/2 wholemeal is best), 1 tsp. salt (optional), 2 tsps. sugar, 2 tbsps. warm water, 1 egg (beaten)

Peel and dice the pumpkin.  Cover with water and cook for 20 minutes until tender then drain and mash with the butter, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Make sure it is smooth.  Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, mix together the sugar, warm water, egg and yeast.

Once the pumpkin mixture is lukewarm, combine all the ingredients and knead.  The mixture can be quite wet at first.  The best advice I've had is to start mixing and kneading with a spatula and give the flour time to absorb some of the liquid.  If needed, gradually add extra flour a little at a time on your hands or in the bowl and knead in until you have a smooth dough. 

Cover and leave for 10 minutes to prove in a warm place. 

Punch down and divide the dough in two.  Knead each half and place into two greased 1lb loaf tins.  Cover the tins with a tea towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Cook at 200oC for about 30 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when knocked on the base. (My favourite part of the bread process!)

Enjoy toasted with lashings of butter, Marmite or jam and try not to eat the two loaves before you get a chance to take a photo...ahem.

This year, mini pumpkins (munchkins) are available at Wiston Church, including the adorably named 'Wee Be Little'.  It's worth a walk over to Wiston to enjoy the autumn colours and return home with pockets of pumpkins. They also act as excellent improvised "go fetch" balls if you are uncoordinated enough to drop them near annoyingly fast werewolves with vegetarian tendencies - a socially acceptable werewolf if ever I've met one.

Happy baking and Happy Halloween!

Blackberry Ice-Cream

Verity requested. Hannah has spoken. The late sun has led to a resurgence of blackberries in the hedgerows.  I was once told "never pick blackberries after October 1st because the Devil's peed on them".  Ignore this, seek out some blackberries and get churning.  Can't find blackberries?  You can always buy fresh or frozen.  Just make sure they're British!


To make with fresh berries:

1lb blackberries, 5 oz sugar, 1/4 pint water, 1/2 pint double cream

To make with frozen berries:

1lb blackberries frozen with sugar OR 1/2 pint blackberry puree, 2 oz sugar, 1/4 pint water, 1/2 pint double cream

Puree the blackberries and strain through a nylon sieve.  Boil the sugar and water together for 3 minutes and leave to cool. Whip the cream lightly. Stir the syrup into the fruit puree and fold into the cream.

Turn into basin and freeze for 1 to 2 hours, until the mixture has reached a mushy state. Take out of freezer, beat well and pour into waxed containers and replace in the freezer.

To serve: Remove from freezer 1 hour before serving and leave in the refrigerator.

And hey presto, there you have it! In the modern land of the ice-cream maker, most/all of this will be done for you.  But all our ice-cream is made by hand.  Follow a similar fruit-based recipe in the machine's recipe book and you'll be away.

Hannah would like to thank the unbeatable freezer knowledge of Helge Rubenstein and Sheila Bush for this recipe.

(PS This totally counts as one of your 5-a-day...)