You can Eat Cake for Breakfast (but only if it’s my best ever raspberry cake recipe)

20170702124957Not just any cake. Packed with fruit and nuts, this is practically health food! I’ll admit, with no shame we ate a slice for breakfast and felt no guilt. (Nope, not even a little bit). Of course, I’m not suggesting you make a habit of cake for breakfast, but the occasional indulgence is OK. Let’s face it, not much can be worse than those sugar filled cereals we all love but pretend not to because “they’re bad for us”.

I like a cake that will serve as dessert as well as accompany a morning mug of coffee and this old favourite really does fit the bill. You can serve a slice with creme fraiche (or double cream) or just eat it on its own. It is quite moist, not the kind of cake you can eat with your fingers – although Mr T would disagree – sticky fingers can be licked clean he tells me!  I’m sharing the recipe for this Raspberry and Almond cake here (or you can find it by clicking on the recipe tab in the sidebar) but first a few tips.

I tend to weigh out in cups (American, not Australian), simply because that’s easier for me than getting out the scales. Butter has a handy guide on the wrapper, so you can just cut off what you need. I use Spelt flour (Sharpham Park), but there’s no reason why you couldn’t sub a plain flour, or even try using your favourite gluten free if  you need to. I used frozen raspberries, the remainder of last year’s crop. You could use fresh if you prefer.

My oven is a bit on the cool side, so everything takes longer to cook, so use the timings as a guide. You know your oven, so start checking after 45 minutes to test if your cake is cooked. I store my cake in the fridge, but it will sit quite happily at room temperature for a day or two, so long as it’s in an air tight tin. Why do I keep cake in the fridge?  If we can see it, we’ll eat it, so it’s best hidden away behind the vegetables  where Mr T won’t go snacking!

When lining your cake tin, either use a quick release springform tin,  or make sure the lining paper sits higher than the sides of the tin so you can lift it out. This cake won’t thank you for turning it upside down to cool – you’ll end up with a sloppy mess and lose the pretty, crunchy topping.

Orange zest definitely falls in the “food for free” category. Next time you eat an orange, pop the peel in a tub and freeze it. You can grate or zest it from frozen straight into your cake mix. You can do the same with lemons, if you need the juice for a recipe, freeze the empty “shell”.

I don’t know who should take the credit for this recipe, it was sent to me by a friend when my daughter was little, we had enjoyed a slice (well, since we’re friends I’ll admit it was two) at her house and I loved it. Over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit, adding flaked almonds to the topping and experimenting with the sugar quantity (I think I’ve got that just right now). I hope you enjoy it.

This post isn’t sponsored by any of the companies listed in the ingredients. I’ve just names them because they work well for me. You can, of course substitute your personal favourites.

Now, don’t eat it all at once!

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Five Veg Every Gardener Can Grow

20150519_102250It’s been a week of plots, plans, lists and hands deep in compost at every opportunity. Finally it’s time to start filling the windowsills with pots and seed trays. It’s a time of optimism and hope. I sprinkle seeds on warm earth, knowing that so long as I give them a little water and a little warmth tiny seedlings will appear like magic to fill me with joy and a sense of achievement.

Without fail, other gardeners will ask what I’m growing this year, not because they are interested in my plans, but it’s a chance for them to share and show off their own plans and perhaps, just maybe indulge in a bit of gardener’s one up manship. Oh yes ,were all guilty of that!

Growing fruit and veg is so easy, even when I didn’t have a garden I grew tomatoes and chillies on a sunny window ledge, pots of herbs on the doorstep and even a hanging basket by the front door of our flat filled with tumbling tomatoes. All you need is a bit of confidence, some spare cash to spend on seeds and compost and a little (or a lot) of patience. Borrow a couple of gardening books from your local library or check out some gardening blogs for ideas and inspiration. My favourite writers are Monty Don, Bob Flowerdwew and James Wong.

If you’re new to gardening, here’s my top five veg that everyone can grow without a greenhouse. If you have access to a sunny windowsill, you can start seeds off on there. Or, buy small plants online or from a garden centre. But,  for me so much of the joy comes from watching seeds germinate and flourish. It makes me feel incredibly clever!

Of course, along side these suggestions you should try and find room for a few herbs. A pot of basil on the window ledge or a small chilli plant will serve you well and are pretty reliable for beginners.

Onions

Cooks go through copious amounts of onions, and for me they are a kitchen garden essential. Choose your varieties carefully and you can have onions all year round. They’re easy to grow, relatively free of pests and the winter varieties especially, cope with a bit of neglect.

Tomatoes

These will do best if you grow them from seed on a sunny window ledge, but if that’s not possible, buy small established plants from a local garden centre (try to find one that raises their own plants from seed, they will probably be stronger and healthier). Choose tiny plum or cherry tomatoes to pluck from the plant, or big beefsteaks. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from.

Kale

While all the focus right now is on summer veg, start making plans for winter. Kale is easy to get established and will see you through the winter. I love kale raw, or  tossed in olive oil and roasted it’s delicious. Be warned, unless you want to feed your kale to the caterpillars, net it early or you’ll be left with shredded, good for nothing stalks that will make you weep in frustration (ask me how I know this).

Salads leaves

With a bit of planning you can grow fresh salads all year round. In fact, my autumn and winter lettuce do much better than summer ones, which just wilt in the heat or run to seed when I’m on holiday. You can buy packets of mixed seed. Just sprinkle a little in pots or straight on the soil every couple of weeks for regular crops.

Peas

I think almost everyone has a childhood memory of eating peas out of the pod. I grow mange tout, purple flowered ones that we steam. These are another crop that you can grow over a long season. By starting early and planting little and often you can have peas from June to late September if the weather is kind.  Mr T would sulk if there were no peas to pick as he wandered around the garden in the summer, we are like children as we sit in the sunshine with a handful of peas, shelling them from their pods.

Of course, these are just suggestions. Ask your neighbours what grows well for them, beg seeds from gardening friends and take all the advice you’re offered. You don’t have to follow it, making mistakes, experiencing crop failures and slug damage are all part of the learning process.

Now, if I haven’t put you off completely get out and grow!

Here’s a few of my favourite seed suppliers, gardening websites and sources of information.

Kings seeds

The Organic Gardening Catalogue

BBC Gardeners World Magazine

BBC Two Gardener’s World

Grow Your Own (magazine)

 

 

 

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A quick lunch on a cold day

hoummous6

Hummus and crunchy veg, summer 2016

It really was a day for soup. A biting wind and a hard frost kept me indoors. Only a fool would have ventured out today! I craved soup, but the cupboards are bare. We only came back from a few days away last night and the only fresh veg we have is a sad looking cauliflower, and a couple of onions. We didn’t even have a can of soup or a stray tupperware tub lurking in the freezer.

Instead I made a big bowl of hummus. Served up with crackers and crunchy cauliflower it was a delicious lunch. I make mine with lots of garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. It might not be the genuine article but it passes muster in this house. Everyone has their own favourite recipe for this tasty dip. I use canned chick peas for convenience and a big dollop of tahini. It’s easy to make if you have a food processor. You might like to try this recipe from Jamie Oliver as a starting point. If you have ten minutes to spare, Felicity Cloake wrote a piece for the Guardian about making the “perfect hummus”, which is a great read if you want to experiment.

Tonight we’re eating from the freezer, left over sausage rolls and Christmas Day veg fried up bubble and squeak style. Tomorrow the monthly “big” Ocado shop arrives and I’ll make a trip to the green grocers and the butcher to stock up – but I shall definitely be wearing “all the hand knits” if it’s as cold as it’s been today!

 

What We Ate in 2016

chocolate covered candied peel

Candies orange peel – we used the juice to make a citrus cheesecake.

Looking back over last years food diary, it would appear the Todhunters ate very well. Inspired by Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Dairies, last year I resolved to keep a journal of what we grew, cooked and ate. I am starting to regret not blogging about it here – especially when I checked the stats yesterday and realised just how many of you still visit this website every day (far more than my “official website”). So, in case any of you are interested, or simply looking for a bit of frugal food inspiration for the year ahead here are a few highlights.

Delicious lemon buns from Bake me a Cake as Fast as You Can

Delicious lemon buns from Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can

All our meals  are inspired by the cookery books on my kitchen shelves and local library.  The most thumbed is a school exercise book which contains hand written recipes dating back to my student days – when we ate frugal food because we had to, not because it tasted so good!! These days, we just eat the food we like. It happens that we grow a lot of our herbs and veg, so we eat seasonally.

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

We grew lots of old favourites and ate well on the produce from our home veg plot.

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

The highlight of 2016 had to be Rachel Allen’s Nectarine Frangipane, which I made for New Year. It’s been on my list of recipes to try for most of the year, but the right occasion never presented itself. You can find the recipe in Rachel’s book Every Day Kitchen. We eat from this book at least once a month, the fish curry  is a firm favourite. Sadly, we demolished this too quickly for me to pause and take a photo – and young Miss T and her boyfriend took the left overs home with them! You can find a link to the Frangipane recipe on my Baking and Making Pinterest board. You cn also find a selection of recipes on Rachel’s website.

So, happy 2017 and welcome back to the Baking and Making blog. I just want to thank all of you who have dropped by over the past few months expecting something new and been disappointed.  I shall be adding a page with my favourite  store cupboard ingredients shortly and a page listing my January meal plan. As the year progresses I’ll add links to the recipes as we make them. If you have any recommendations for frugal, tasty family food I would love to see them, so leave me a link to your blog or Instagram.

Happy making x

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Best of British Yarns

Thanks so much for all feedback on yesterday’s post about the WI collaboration with Hobbycraft. I’m ploughing through the emails, and will respond to everyone. You can read some of the responses on my twitter feed and in the comments on yesterday’s post.

In the interests of fairness, tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my favourite designs made using man made fibres, but today I’m sharing a few of my  makes which show off some fabulous British wool and wool blends.

Just for the record, my interpretation of “British” wool means that the fleece grew on the back of a British sheep and that will always be my first choice for personal projects. However, there are some fabulous independent spinners and dyers doing amazing stuff with natural fibres and I shall definitely write about those in the future.

west yoks spinners 4 plyFirst up is this “work in progress”, a plain sock which is on the needles at the moment. I like my socks plain, simple and  a perfect fit in a good quality yarn. This Signature 4 ply from West Yorkshire Spinners definitely fits the bill and priced at £7.20 for 400m (a 100g ball) it compare favourably with other commercial sock yarns. I’ve got a bit of a WYS “thing” going at the moment, you may recall the beautiful mohair wrap I made at Easter. They do a great range of DK and Aran weights and are reasonably priced. The Aire Valley DK washes particularly well and is great for kids wear.

Willow Shawl, pattern and photo Credit Vicki Magnus, full details on Ravelry (click on the photo to be redirected to Ravelry))

A long time favourite dyer of mine is Vicki Magnus of Eden Cottage Yarns,lots of my personal projects are made in her gorgeous yarns. Among her British yarns is the new MIlburn 4 ply. ( a blend of Blue Faced Leicester and silk),  I can’t wait to treat myself to a skein. Vicki kindly gave permission to use the photo above. You can find the pattern details and download  on her Ravelry page.

wrist warmers

It’s always a bonus when an editor supports my choice for British yarn and these gorgeous wrist warmers in two beautiful shades of New Lanark DK first appeared in Love Crochet last year. This yarn definitely falls into the “super value” category and comes in a great range of colours. If you’re not familiar with New Lanark, do visit the website and drool over the amazing shades. A visit is highly recommended too!

Of course, I’m lucky to have such great editors, Knit Now for example have done great stuff in supporting and promoting British yarns  (if you’re looking for more British yarn suppliers, take a look at the current issue which has plenty of adverts for British yarn suppliers).

knit now

One of my all time favourite shoots has to be this simple ear warmer from Inside Crochet. Made using two balls of Erika Knight’s British Blue yarn it is just adorable and really shows off the subtle shades and soft yarn Erika Knight  has become known  for. Ideal for baby knits and for colour work, the 25g balls are the perfect size for little treats and fair isle projects.

Crochet_6Jan14-124

Photo Credit: Britt Spring for Inside Crochet (c) Tailormade Publishing

I’m often drawn to the colour and texture of a yarn and that often influences a design. The two shades of British Blue I used here are “Milk Chocolate” and “Steve”, other yarns in the range include “Mouse” and “Iced Gem” and are equally beautiful.

LilyWarneWool

Another great value and beautiful yarn which I recently discovered comes from Devon. Lily Warne wools  (cheaper, by the way,  than the Hobbycraft Heritage yarn I talked about yesterday). Sold   in DK and Aran weights the colour range can best be described as “scrumptious”. I’ve had great fun playing with different colour ways and I’ll have a project and pattern to share soon. Do take a look at Paula’s website, you can buy yarn and patterns direct or check out the list of stockists.

Photo Credit Lily Warne Wools. (Click on the photo to visit the website)

I just adore this photo and the super cute lambs steal the show!

Finally, I can’t write a post on British wool with a word for the producers. The farmers, shepherds, shearers and companies that provide us with one of the most beautiful, versatile and durable of fibres. Without healthy, happy sheep we wouldn’t have such beautiful yarns. So, thank you to everyone out on the fells at this time of year. If you’re interested to know more about the life of a shepherdess, I can throughly recommend you take a look at Alison O’Neill’s website. The neighbour of a friend of mine, she writes and records her life in the Howgills with humour and honesty.

Alison fleeces

Photo Kindly provided by Mike Glover to promote Kendal Wool Gathering. Click on the photo to visit the website.

I could write all morning about the gorgeous yarns, friendly suppliers and producers, but there’s really no substitute for going out and discovering British yarns for yourself. Do feel free to leave a link to your own favourites (or your own shop) in the comments and don’t fret, I know there hasn’t been a single mention for alpaca, cashmere or one of the many other beautiful fibres available. That’s a post for another day!

 

Recipe: Salads with a Twist

I love beetroot, jewel colours, tiny globes of sweet flavour which brighten up winter mealtimes. Yet, for most people, mention beetroot and their first thought is the vinegar steeped slices bought from the supermarket. If you can get hold of fresh beetroot it’s truly delicious, easy to cook, versatile and very good for you. You can even eat the tiny young leaves in a salad.

LOWRESthenaturalvegmen_3143Earlier this week, I picked up a bunch of tiny, overwintered beetroot from the Veg Men (I wrote about them here). I decided to make a salad for lunch, using up a few left overs from the fridge, added some slivers of Gabriel Blue (a ewe’s milk cheese) bought from my favourite Cockermouth deli last weekend and a few slices of baked beetroot. Looking for a bit of added “crunch” I made some candied nuts as a gluten free alternative to croutons. Here’s how you can recreate your own version. Mix and match your flavours to suit what you have. Think of it as a twist on the classic goats cheese salad you find on so many restaurant menus and experiment.

sliced beetrootThe Basics

150g of mixed salad leaves (either home grown or find a local producer)

100g candied walnuts or pecans (see below for instructions)

75g goats cheese (I used a blue ewe’s milk because that’s what I had – and I didn’t weigh it – a small handful should suffice) chopped into small cubes.

3 or 4 small baked beetroot (see below for instructions)

A simple dressing made with 3 tablespoons  walnut oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

Whisk together the oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Shred the salad leaves, slice the beetroot and combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Leave to stand for a few minutes for the flavours to develop beofre serving.cheese and walnut salad

Candied Nuts

The ideal nut for this salad would be walnuts –  the eagle eyed among you will spot I used pecans – that’s what I had in the cupboard! To be honest, that’s what I’d use again, the flavour of cooked pecans worked really well with the blue cheese.

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

3 tablespoons of water

100g nuts

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and stir until well covered in the syrup.

Pour onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper or baking parchment and cook at gas mark 6 for about 5-7 minutes. Start checking after five minutes, you want the nuts cooked, but not burnt. Leave to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight jar for about a week. They make a great snack too.

As a variation you could substitute maple syrup for the sugar, add a little ground ginger, plenty of sea salt and perhaps even a little paprika. Combine with a small bag of mixed nuts and make the perfect gluten free nibble to serve with drinks. These may take a little longer to cook, in my oven I give them 10 minues.

Baked Beetroot

Wash the beetroot, but don’t scrub. It’s important not to break the skin or the colour will “bleed”. Trim off the leaves, leaving about 1cm of stalk and  then trim the roots. Place in a shallow baking dish and add a little water (as a general rule I add a tablespoon for each beetroot). Cover with foil and bake at gas mark 2 for about an hour. The baking time depends on the size of your beetroots, “golf ball” size take about an hour, larger ones will take longer).

Once cooked, leave to cool before trimming the stalks and roots. You can then peel them if you wish and add them to salads, make a delicious dip or make a puree.

Veg Men salad

When I was a little girl, a “salad” meant a slice of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and if we were really pushing the boat out, slices of hard boiled egg. This would be smothered in Heinz salad dressing. Today, we eat some kind of salad almost every day. Even if you only have  a small plot or a window ledge, it’s easy enought o grow a few salad leaves. Even during the winter you’d be surprised what will grow.

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Garden Update: Compost!

There are few greater pleasures than creating “something from nothing”, maybe that’s why I get such pleasure from taking the lid off the compost bins each April to reveal the black gold inside them!

This year the worms have done a particularly good job at turning cabbage leaves, carrot tops, weeds and cardboard boxes (amongst other things) into the perfect mulch for the raspberries, dug into the sweet pea beds I expect a riot of colour and I have even been known to sieve it, bake in the oven and use to coddle young seedlings!

I love my garden, much neglected over the winter I am finally able to spend time out-of-doors. We sit and watch the blue tits and goldfinches raid the bird feeders, the robin follows us around as we dig and plant.

On days like this, all seems right with the world and life is good.

T x

Plans and Plots

I am busy working on a couple of rather lovely crochet commissions at the moment, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks for photos. Meantime, I wanted to share with you my plans for the veg plot this year.

Mr T very kindly bought me a copy of James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution, which I had read about on Urvashi’s blog* .  Since Boxing day I have had the book either on the kitchen table or by my bed, making lists and drawing up plans of all the vegetables I’m going to grow this year. James Wong made me realise how crazy it is to grow potatoes when the field behind our house is full of Cheshire’s finest new potatoes and just up the road our local (and very lovely fruit farm) can provide us with delicious, tasty strawberries. Why not try something a little more unusual ?

Instead of the “usual suspects” this year, I’m going to try growing wasabi, sweet potatoes and chinese artichokes. I’m going to add more salad ingredients and herbs  and maybe even try my hand at hyacinth beans (simply because they look so beautiful).

If you can get hold of a copy of Homegrown Revolution, you’ll be inspired by the delicious recipes and beautiful illustrations which fill the book, or click here to go straight to James Wong’s website.

Thank you Mr T for a lovely present and thanks to Urvashi for writing her piece in the first place.

Now, I’m off to plant some seeds ….

 

 

 

 

*Always well worth a read, hop over now and take a look at what urvashi has planned for 2013

Recipe: Parsnip and Coconut Soup

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You might think this would be a strange combination, but it works. Using up the leftovers before we make our pre christmas visit to family, I found a bag of parsnips looking rather sorry for themselves. I fried 2 finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic and a small piece of fresh ginger until golden. Then I added chopped parsnips, a teaspoon of garam masala and poured on cold water to cover. The soup was left to simmer until the parsnips were soft. To finish, I added the remains of a pot of fresh coriander leaves and blended until smooth. Finally the soup was returned to the pan and I added half a can of coconut milk left over from last night’s thai chicken. Season to taste and serve warm with crusty bread. Now I need to find a use for some rather wrinkly carrots….

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Beauty in the Ordinary…

While family life is  chaotic just now, with plans for the teen’s imminent departure for University, too many looming publication deadlines and Mr T working far too hard then is sensible I took a few minutes  “time out”. I stepped into the garden  just for a moment and listened to the silence (well what passes for silence here: tractors, a horse neighing, birds chattering), I watched the blue tits devouring seed in the bird feeders and saw this beautiful creature completely oblivious she had an audience.

Sometimes you just need to stand still and admire beauty in the ordinary.

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • Today I have been planning recipes, working on new design commissions - and tidying my small, but perfectly formed  stash of beautiful British wool!
#bririshwool #britishfibre #wool #stashenhancement #minimalism #knittersofinstagram #crochet Slow down, look around you and see the beauty in small things. Breathe fresh air, watch sunsets, make time for friendship, love and laughter. 
A bit philosophical for a wet Tuesday morning, felt the need to remind myself there is beauty in the ordinary. 
#slowliving #naturelovers #foraging #permaculture #homesteading #keepthewildinyou #hedgerows #beautyintheordinary Major dessert envy last night - Mr T chose the baked alaska - need to go back & try this for myself! Delicious food, great service & my "Heaton Mess" was delicious!! Oh and the gin menu - superb! If you find yourself in Newcastle check this place out - Chillingham Rd. Xxx
#heaton #puddinglove #newcastle #eatingout #instafood #foodphotography #bakedalaska Passionflower. One of the joys of our holiday this year was stumbling across the unexpected. We walked past a garden fence covered in these flowers & their ripening fruit. In my schoolgirl French I asked the elderly gentleman if I could take a photo, in better English than my French he invited us in to admire his plot. You can read more about him on the blog, where I've also been writing about how having too much can be a good thing - even if you're a minimalist!
#slowliving #minimalism #permaculture #ediblegarden #girlgardener #zerowaste #livingwithless #bakingandmaking #homesteading #simplethings Star baker! Finally got a photo of me wearing my new sweatshirt, bought from @mirandagorebrowne I ♥♥♥ it so much. The fabric is soft, it fits really well and now washed 3 times it still looks like new! Go buy one before they sell out (also available: "nice buns" & "jammy dodger")
#starbaker #gbbo #kitchenschool #bakemeacakeasfastasyoucan  #bakersofinstagram #baking #lovelythings #instafood #eatme I miss this view so much. Even our current view of sunset over the wheat fields can't compare to a French field of sunflowers!
#naturelover #sunflowers #yellow #countryliving #slowliving #simplethings #keepthewildinyou #floral #seaofflowers #seekthesimplicity #pursuepretty
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