So finally when I still have half a punnet of blackberries and I could not (neither could my waistline) face anymore sweet treats I decided to just reduce them down into a compote… this is great for drizzling and glooping on anything you like, ice cream, yogurt, granola etc and it keeps for a good few weeks…

It’s so so simple to make as well…

You need;
250g blackberries
50g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 pod

Put the blackberries and sugar into a small pan with 100ml water.
Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins until the fruit is soft.
Stir in the vanilla, remove and cool a little.

If you want more of a coulis then you could blend this mix, but I loved it with the whole blackberries in.

I drizzled mine over ice cream… so easy and yum!

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The same week that we went blackberry picking there was a charity afternoon tea organised at my office, so I said I would donate 10 scones thinking I would use my blackberries up this way…

This blog post over at http://cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ inspired me… however mine are not gluten-free.

The recipe yielded so much more than I thought it would, maybe the blackberries stretched it out… I made quite a mess and used every tray we have to cook them all.

I made some normal size and some mini ones…

You need;
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder (or cream of tartare, this makes them really light and fluffy)
1tsp bicarb soda
pinch salt
50g butter
25g caster sugar
125ml whole milk (plus extra for brushing)
1 egg
plus I used about 250g blackberries (maybe a little more)

1. Grease two baking sheets.
Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt into a bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and add them to the flour and rub the butter into the flour until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and milk.
2. Use a blunt knife to mix everything to make a soft dough. Add your blackberries.
3. Sprinkle an area of your work surface with flour and put the dough onto it. Roll it out until the dough is about 2cm thick – it might make only 2 or 3 scones but believe me, it’s worth it. You will need flour on your rolling-pin as well as the blackberries make it quite sticky.
4. Cut circles from the dough with the cutter. Squeeze the scraps into a ball and roll them out again. Cut more circles until you have run out.
5. Put the circles onto the baking sheets, leaving no space between each one. Brush the tops with a little milk and the egg yolk mixed together.
6. Bake the scones for 7-10 minutes on the top shelf of the oven. They will rise and turn golden. Lift them onto a wire rack to cool.

A great excuse to get my cake stand out…

Biggie thought they looked delicious…

I had enough to take 15 into work, plus one extra for each of my team (mini ones) and even another 10 for the Boy to take to his work!

I am using fruit in scones more often, they were yummy, so soft and the fruit had all caramelised on the outside and gone all gloopy inside.

I ate mine plain with some coffee in the morning, they didn’t even need anything on top!

So I know this is quite an autumnal post, but whilst in Birmingham last week our friends took us for a little walk along a small river to collect some blackberries.

I never knew Birmingham had so much green space, you should have seen the park!

The Boy went deep into bushes on quests to get the biggest juiciest berries…

There were a lot of them…

We picked A LOT…

Which I then made into lots of yummy treats, the first being the Boys favourite pudding and something very quick and easy… crumble!

I used;
30g rolled oats
40g wholemeal flour
20g caster sugar
35g butter
plus I had about 500g blackberries and 5 granny smith apples

I don’t think you need to be too exact with crumble which is one of the reason I like making it so much… that and it’s so yummy.

I chopped the apples into quite thin slices and popped them, the blackberries, and 50g sugar into a saucepan for a few minutes to soften the fruit, if you don’t use berries you could probably do it for 6-7 but I only kept them on there for 3-4 as the berries melted quite a lot very quickly…

Whilst that’s going on combine all your oats and flour and chop the butter into smallish chunks and work into the mixture with your fingers until it becomes like wet sand…
Then put the fruit into a baking dish, top with the mix and bake for 20-30 minutes until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbling through…

Serve with ice cream… delicious!

Thai in Brum…

August 19, 2010

Last weekend the Boy and I made a visit to some friends in Birmingham.

We had missed an important birthday so to make it up to them we said we would take them to a favourite restaurant of theirs… they picked a Thai a short walk through an amazing park from their house called Sabi Sabi in Moseley…

…apparently they have just extended the restaurant because they are so busy, it certainly was when we got there.
At 9.30 on a Saturday every table was taken with more people arriving or trying to get a table whilst we were sat, and was still pretty full when we left at 11…

I decided to share because it was so good, another great restaurant far away from me… added to the rubbish fact that there are no great Thai’s in Bristol

I really loved their bamboo cutlery, standard in a Thai I know but these were beautiful heavy ones… It was everything I could do to stop myself from slipping one into my bag (joke!)

And we got a wine from New Zealand as there weren’t any Thai options other than beer… New Zealand Sauvignon… one of my all time favourites and always a good option…

Then whilst we nibbled on crackers took about 30 minutes to decide on food, the menu was huge and amazing…

 We went for the sharing platter… it was huge, more than enough for us all, and was lots of little snacky bits… This way we all got to try something but not fill up so we could go in on the mains.

We got chicken satay, prawns, fishcakes, some dipping vegetable parcels and a very pretty colourful salad…

This came with some really good dipping sauces; the usual sweet chilli, a honey-like dip plus a satay peanut sauce…

Nom nom!

At this point we still hadn’t ordered our mains, all I knew was I did not like the name of this steak dish…

In the end I chose the fish of the day which sounded yummy and was really amazing, and huge!

 Someone had to have Pad Thai… if this was good then you know it’s a great Thai…

It was by the way, she gets it every time!

The rice came on plates like Lotus leaves…

And steamed in baskets…

 

The Boy ordered beef Geng Massaman, which I had never tried before so we decided to share our meals as I did get two whole fishes.

I really liked this dish, although a lot heavier than I normally think of Thai as it was amazing and I really enjoyed it, the beef was really good. It very much like the Thai version of the Gambia dish Domoda I posted at the beginning of the month as it’s a peanut sauce… this explains why I liked it so much!

The boys drank Thai Chang beer…

And again it’s the little things I notice… I like the woven bill trays…

So a recommendation for Birmingham if you ever find yourself in Moseley head to Sabi Sabi… and you can also admire the unusual mural by the kitchen!

Home-made Bean Burgers…

August 13, 2010

One of my stand-by meals when I do not have time to cook is bean-burgers and chips, but I cheat and buy frozen burgers… just so I know they are there if I need them… but recently decided to try making my own and freezing them, this is a first attempt so hopefully I will perfect them but I wanted to document my progress!

You need;
2 x 400g cans kidney beans , rinsed and drained
100g breadcrumbs
2 tsp mild chilli powder (I used fresh chillies)
small bunch coriander , stalks and leaves chopped
1 egg
salsa (1 chopped red onion, 2 chopped tomatoes and chopped coriander with chopped chillies and olive oil)
150ml sour cream
juice ½ lime
plus wholemeal burger buns , sliced avocado, sliced red onion and salad leaves, to serve

1. Heat grill to high.
Tip the beans into a large bowl, then roughly crush with a potato masher.
Add the breadcrumbs, chillies, coriander stalks and ½ the leaves, egg and 2 tbsp salsa, season to taste, then mix together well with a fork.

2. Divide the mixture into 6, then wet your hands and shape into burgers.
The burgers can now be frozen if you wish.

Place on a non-stick baking tray, then grill for 4-5 mins on each side until golden and crisp.

To cook from frozen, bake at 180 for 20-30 mins until hot through.

3. While the burgers are cooking, mix the remaining coriander leaves with the sour cream, lime juice and a good grind of black pepper.

Split the buns in half and grill/griddle them then spread the bases with some of the sour cream.

Top each with whatever you like!

I served with sweet potato chips (chopped sweet potato baked with olive oil, sea salt and cracker black pepper, paprika and dried chillies for 30 minutes at 180) and they were good… I was stuffed!

Last week my friends Abigail and Matthews twins turned one!

To celebrate they threw them a big party at Abbie’s Mum’s beautiful cottage just outside of the city…

I wanted to make something special as it was going to be a special party and there were going to be lots of people so it needed to be big, so I volunteered to make the birthday cake…

It was going to be a challenge but Biggie the cat was there to help (not really)

… here is the recipe!

At the request of the Mum I used organic ingredients, this was her only request and with so many kids eating all that sugar, it was a great idea… but you don’t have to…

You need;
For each layer… (total amounts are at the bottom for shopping purposes)
175g soft unsalted butter
3 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
175g castor sugar
30g of cocoa powder
1 tsp of vanilla essence
2 tbsp of milk

Mix the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer and beat until creamy, light and fluffy.

Then break the eggs into another bowl and add the vanilla essence then beat together with a fork until light and frothy.
Pour this mixture a bit at a time into the bowl containing the butter and sugar mixture.
Take time to add the mixture to beat thoroughly, and go easy.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder together over the butter, sugar and egg mixture.
At any point in making this recipe, the more air you can trap in the mixture the better, the more you knock out by mixing roughly, the harder the cake will be.

Now gently mix it all together until completely blended… now taste… good right!

Pur into your baking tin (20cm lined with greaseproof paper) and bake for 25-35 minutes at 180, it’s ready when browning around the edges and when the middle springs back to your touch.

Repeat this three times
– This might sounds like a long way to do this, and you could cheat by doing all three together, with such large quantities and as I am a novice backer I wanted it to be perfect so I did each layer separately.

I am glad I did because the first layer was not good, as I had different quantities for that, it was very dry so I halved the flour and used 1/3 of the cocoa powder and it was amazing… this is the recipe I have given you.

For the icing;
75g unsalted butter, very soft
250g icing sugar (sifted)
75g sweetened condensed milk
75ml double cream

Get the butter as soft as possible without melting, then put in a bowl with the other ingredients.

Whisk until smooth and fluffy, then top each cupcake with a thick swirl. The sugar in the frosting means it will keep at cool room temperature

Again I did this twice (second time I mixed two quantities together which was fine, if a bit messy!)

Then just spread it over each layer…

Then spread it all over the sides… to do this better than I did maybe make one more quantity of icing; if you want a perfect white cake as mine got a bit thin… I loved how it looked though with little chocolate crumbs mixed in to the icing… also it’s quite a rich cake and the icing is so sweet I think making it thicker might be sugar over-load!

 I was very proud of this cake… I even brought a special banner decoration for the topping…

I arrived and put it on the table amongst home-made cupcakes and scones, crisps and sandwiches and the most amazing sausage rolls… the perfect children’s party spread…

And when they cut it open… it looked goooood, I hope everyone enjoyed it!

And everyone just ran around the huge lawn, with lots of balloon and bunting (made by hand by Abigail!)

Happy Birthday Twins!!

Such a great party, cannot wait till next year when they are old enough to run around as well!

Total ingrediants;
Cake;
525g soft unsalted butter
9 large eggs
450g self-raising flour
525g castor sugar
90g of cocoa powder
3 tsp of vanilla essence
6 tbsp of milk

Icing;
225g unsalted butter, very soft
750g icing sugar (sifted)
225g sweetened condensed milk
225ml double cream

So recently the Boy watched The Cove, I have been advised not to watch it, being a massive wimp about this stuff I would be traumatised for weeks!

It has made us both think about the food we eat a little more and so we are going to try to be more mindful about the meat and fish we eat. No more supermarket fish for a start…

In the same vein it makes grabbing lunch a little harder, except when you have a little treat like Friska near your office as they are all over the ‘Good Food Network’.

This is a programme they have started to educate in schools, check out their website for more information

They can tell you where anything on their menu has come from, from their ‘Family Tree’, and the menu choices are much better than your normal lunch options… healthy and tasty and so fresh, this is my new favourite spot.

So we can eat here for lunch safe in the knowledge that our food has been resourced without cruelty and is sustainable. They are also, of course, very good at recycling…

The menu is here, with soups, wraps, salad, hot skewers with rice and slaw, and more, and they change it quite regularly… you will never get bored with this menu.

They also do breakfast, again from the healthy bircher option to amazing sausage and bacon ciabattas.

They also have lot of yummy treats and drinks, it’s not all saintly goodness here, there is some naughtiness too…

the Italian anti-pasti and the ploughman’s looked amazing I must get this next visit…

The whole concept and space of Friska is great as well, the staff are also great, you are welcomed and if it’s your first time they explain how everything works briefly, from the food in the fridge ready to go to the ordering of hot food…

the cafe space is lovely as well, huge big oaky tables to sit at with lots to read scattered about…

Plus a huge shelf full of cookery books, inspiration prehaps?

on this visit I went for a healthy option, purely because I was training that day so could not have what I wanted (ploughman’s!) so order Thai chicken skewers with rice and slaw…

They give you a lovely reusable bag which if you bring back next visit you get 10p off, plus you get a loyalty card so if you go often enough you can get free stuff!

And your food comes in a big box…

The chicken was a great choice, so colourful and fresh, it came with slaw and rice and a wholemeal tortilla… I was stuffed and training was a breeze with all that energy…

I love Friska’s food and ethos, and I love the branding even more, check out all the characters on the website or when you visit, very cute!

Hopefully one day everyone will have a Friska near their work… no more soggy sandwiches!

P.s. I went back for the ploughman’s the next day; ratatouille, potato salad, tomatoes, lettuce, thick cut ham and a huge piece of smoke applewood cheddar… amazing! Plus yummy lobster fire cracker crisps… Friday Treats!

Friska is at 3 The Paragon, 32 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BX and http://www.twitter.com/friskafood