The other day the Headmaster suggested we buy a bread machine, despite my love of carbs I know this would be a very bad decision!

However, in the spirit of the Great British Bake Off I did have a go and made this rather impressive sunflower celebration loaf, based on an easy to follow recipe at Adventures in Cookery.

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The Sunflower Bread would be perfect served fresh from the oven for a large gathering for brunch (oh to have time to meet up with friends for brunch, I do remember long and lazy brunches from my very distant past!) or a perfect match for a hearty soup.

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This is where things started to go wrong for my waistline!

Sunflower Bread

Fancy petits fours are next up…the kitchen is about to get very messy!

I finally sat down to watch the first episode of The Great British Bake Off on BBC this week and it has inspired me to try my hand at some new recipes inspired from each show.

So, here goes…

Week One – An Amazing Chocolate Creation

Chocolate Pistachio Cake

This Chocolate Pistachio Cake may not look the best, but it really is quite delicious.  The cake didn’t quite turn out as I had envisaged, the chocolate ganache didn’t coat the little petit four moulds as elegantly as I would have wished, but the ganache is very moreish and easy to make.  Based loosely on this Martha Stewart recipe.

Mary Berry may not be amazed by my chocolate creation…The Headmaster says this is best served with a glass of milk.

Chocolate Pistachio Slice

Summer Garden Party

August 22, 2013

Garden Party

Phew, it’s hot…but I’m not complaining!  The UK heatwave is welcome at the Headmaster’s House.  The grass may be dry, crisp and yellow, but we are all enjoying long evenings in the garden and the children are cooling down with the occasional water fight.

A few weeks ago we welcomed family and friends to the house for a special family celebration.  I was far too busy chatting and serving lunch to take photos…only just remembered to take some of the roses once all was quiet the following day.  Here are a few of the recipes that worked a treat…

The star of the lunch was this delicious pulled pork recipe from The Pioneer Woman…put it all together and pop in the low oven overnight.

Pioneer Woman Pulled Pork
Another Pioneer Woman recipe, this really is the ‘best macaroni salad’.
Pioneer Woman Macaroni Salad
My first attempt making a pavlova, this Donna Hay recipe worked a treat.
Donna Hay Pavlova
We said our farewells and guests left with a bottle of homemade Elderflower Fizz as a goodie bag treat.  Another first attempt, this Elderflower Fizz tastes like summer and is a little too easy to drink…I have made a note to make double next year!
I had intended to make up goodie bags of homemade honeycomb, but things didn’t quite go to plan…I blame the hot July days and my fear of hot bubbling sugar!

Crunchie

January 18, 2013

It was chilly but beautiful…a winter walk down to the farm this afternoon.  We were greeted by this handsome horse, nicknamed Crunchie by the Artist which may have something to do with the chocolate bar or the snow under our feet. SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

Snow Day

January 18, 2013

Closing school was a tough decision for the Headmaster, but the Artist is delighted!

Are you at school today or making the most of a rare snow day in the UK?

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Here is the recipe for a delicious breakfast treat, or any time of day actually…this granola is really tasty sprinkled over a bowl of vanilla yoghurt.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups large rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped dates

1. Mix the oats, pecans, sunflower seeds, brown sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir well, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar.

2. Combine the oil, maple syrup and vanilla and pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture.  I found it much easier to do this bit in a lined baking tray (plus it saves on sticky washing up)…using two spoons, stir and toss until all of the oats are coated with the syrup.

3. Pop the granola in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes.  At the end of 10 minutes, remove the granola and stir, moving the granola around the outside edges into the middle and the middle out towards the edges.  Set the timer for another 10 minutes.  After the second 10 minutes, sprinkle with the coconut and then stir well again.  Return to oven and set the timer for one last 10 minute bake.  (30 minutes total, stirred twice at 10 minutes and 20 minutes).

 

4. At the end of the last 10 minutes (30 minutes in the oven), remove the granola from the oven.  Stir just a bit then sprinkle with the chopped dates (you could use raisins or other dried fruits) and leave undisturbed until it is completely cooled.  Once cooled, stir the granola…store at room temperature in an air-tight container.  It will keep for several weeks which will be ideal to make ahead for Christmas, add cranberries for a festive granola.

{Now I think this recipe turned out really well and will make a lovely addition to the homemade Christmas hamper.  You can add your favourite fruits and nuts…I may add cinnamon to the mix next time.  I will definitely watch out for the last 10 minutes cooking time…my pecans are a little charred but still completely delicious!}
Next on the list to try are peppermint creams.

Oh my goodness these are good and sweet, perfect with a cup of tea!

My first attempt was somewhat successful…the pralines taste divine but they ain’t real pretty!  But once you’ve tasted one of these delicious pralines that really doesn’t matter.

Here’s a reminder of the recipe from The New Orleans School of Cooking

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a “softball stage” (238-240 degrees F), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

2. Stir until mixture thickens (again stirring constantly), becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture.

3. Spoon out on to baking paper with plenty of newspaper underneath to stop it going through and marking the work surface.  This was the tricky part…you have to move fast to get the pralines on the baking paper before the sugar starts to get too thick…as you can see the ones at the back were not as pretty as those in the front row!

End Result!

{Next on my list of homemades is some nutty maple syrup granola}

And I’m back…

September 17, 2012

Almost a year to the date!  There are lots of reasons for going quiet on the blog…the usual family life, school days, holidays, Jubilee celebrations, London 2012 Olympics, the Paralympics, back to school…but mostly due to a lot of behind the scenes development for a brand new site which will air soon, watch this space!

Moving forward as they say…

The nights are drawing in, the autumn colours are starting to appear and my thoughts turn to Christmas!  And yes, I know there are a few hurdles before then…Harvest Festival, the half term break, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Nativity Plays, Carol Services and more.  In an effort to save a few pennies and put a bit more meaning into gifts for family and friends, I am challenging myself to get creative and produce some gorgeous homemade gifts.  Over the next few weeks I will be putting a few ideas to the test and will post the results…fingers crossed there is success ahead and come Christmas homemade hampers will be under the tree.

First up is a praline recipe from The New Orleans School of Cooking, the chefs look like they have loads of fun when sharing top tips on how to prepare the house specials.

Recipe by The New Orleans School of Cooking

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup milk

6 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a “softball stage” (238-240 degrees F), stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

2. Stir until mixture thickens (again stirring constantly), becomes creamy and cloudy, and pecans stay suspended in mixture. Spoon out on to baking paper with plenty of newspaper underneath to stop it going through and marking the work surface.

Makes 1-50 pralines depending on size

‘She’s so good at playing the violin, she’s practically Asian!’…a line from fiery Gabrielle in an episode of Desperate Housewives where she suffers from competitive mum syndrome!

Tiger Mother was the hot topic at the latest Book Club meeting (I know I say it each time, but it was another great get together with good people).  Parenting is so very personal and once shared with a wide audience can be contentious and critique comes easy…we all have our own style, traditions, beliefs, etc. and any attempt to coerse parents to take on your methods is dangerous ground.  But I don’t think this was essentially Amy Chua’s purpose when she wrote her journal of family life.  I must say I admire her devotion and determination, but can’t help wondering if this came at a price.  Her willingness to share so openly her ‘tiger’ parenting, and as such to invite readers to form an opinion about her family life is awfully brave.

Look out for the next Book Club read…The Help by Kathryn Stockett (already made into a movie due out this summer).

The Artist and I recently had the opportunity to see The Tiger Who Came to Tea live on stage before it runs in London during the summer and I urge you to book tickets now!  The book (first published in 1968) is a firm favourite at the Headmaster’s House and Judith Kerr’s illustrations are delightful.  This article from The Telegraph provides great insight into the life of a most fascinating lady and I can’t wait to see her new books about The Great Granny Gang!

Congratulations to Julia Donaldson, the new children’s laureate!

We had the great pleasure of meeting Julia Donaldson at a recent performance of the Gruffalo when she and her husband Malcolm invited the children to join them on stage to act out some of her brilliant books and songs.  She was absolutely charming and dealt with the somewhat rowdy young crowd with expert grace and patience.  I found it quite emotional when all the parents and children were singing along to a Squash and a Squeeze…I have enjoyed reading aloud from any of the Julia Donaldson books from day one of our family life and am in awe of her generosity when sharing her gift for rhyme and writing.

Julia Donaldson is a hero of literature, aha oho…we are in for a treat as she takes up the role of children’s laureate!