27.08

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G O O D B Y E   S U M M E R

Blackberry season always feels like the beginning of the end of summer, doesn’t it?

I’ve been picking berries a few times a week for a good few weeks now, and built up a stash in my freezer with the idea of making jam. I’ve been on something of a jam kick lately, after eating so many delicious kinds made by our friends Lizzie and Tania’s sweet Maman in France at the beginning of the month.

And so, it was to Cathy’s recipe that I turned for my first foray into jam making…

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A kilo of berries (mine were frozen), left to defrost and macerate in 800grams of sugar overnight, and then mixed with the juice of a lemon. Bring to the boil in a large pan, and then cook for 20 minutes. Do the ‘wrinkle’ test by pouring a little of the juice onto a clean plate and then let it go cold- if it forms a skin that wrinkles when pushed with your fingertip, it’s ready to jar.

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Pour the jam out into clean, sterilised jars, and screw the lids on tightly. And that’s it! I tasted a jar the next morning, spreading the jam onto freshly buttered toast and eating straight from the chopping board. Quite possibly the most satisfying piece of toast I’ve ever had!

And you know the best thing? When I nipped out to take the photos of the brambles that I wanted for this blog post, the hedges were so heavy with berries that I ended up collected another great bag-full.

So I think I’ll be making more jam again quite soon…

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05.11

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A P P L E S   +   S P I C E S   +   N U T S ,   O H   M Y !

I always feel as though Bonfire Night marks the start of *real* winter.

It’s a coming together of all my most favourite aspects of the season- being outside in air so chilly you can see your breath clouding and billowing in front of you, the jovial, festive atmosphere that builds as the evening goes on, a touch of magic (brought on by bonfires and sparklers and fireworks), and, of course, the delicious food!

Food on bonfire night has to be baked, if you ask me. We hosted a mini-Bonfire Night at our house last weekend, and baked up everything from bread, to apples, to potatoes! That sounds like the most boring, meagre meal imaginable, but I promise you it was delicious!

In fact, the recipe for spiced, baked apples I rustled up turned out to be *so* delicious, I thought I’d better share it! Here’s how…

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First things first, you’ll need to buy six or so of the most delicious eating apples you can find. I picked up these Braeburns from the farmer’s market, and they were crisper and tastier than any I’ve bought from the supermarket in a long time.

Give them a rinse, to rid them of any nasties.

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Take each apple in turn, and cut off the top- only about a centimetre or so down the apple.

Use a sharp knife to cut out the core and seeds, and then use a spoon to hollow out the apple so that it’s about a centimetre or so thick all the way around.

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We’re filling the hollowed-out apples with the most delicious, and yet totally virtuous date and nut stuffing! It’s so caramelly sweet and packed with cinnamon-dredged nuts, and tastes so wonderful it’s almost hard to believe that there’s nothing but good, wholesome ingredients in it!

The ingredients are as follows:
200g Medjool dates
150g mixed pecans and walnuts
1/2tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp flaky sea salt

- Soak the dates in boiling water for 15 minutes, then remove them from the water and use a food processor/blender to whizz them up into a paste along with the 1/2tsp of salt. {You’ll need to add a few tablespoons of the soaking liquid if you’re using a blender or NutriBullet (as I did), to help the machine run.}

- Add the nuts to a large, dry frying pan set over a medium heat, and gently toast for a couple of minutes until they begin to smell warm and fragrant. Add in the cinnamon, toss to combine, and then turn off the heat.

- Transfer to a clean tea towel, cover over and bash up with a rolling pin until the nuts are in small pieces.

- Stir together the date paste and cinnamon nuts, and set aside to cool.

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Fill the cored apples with the cinnamon date filling, and then put the ‘lids’ back on!

I found I had enough of the spiced date mixture to generously fill 6 medium apples- enough to serve the five of us I was catering for, plus an extra for the chef! ;)

~

With the apple prep done (and wasn’t it simple?), it’s time to pause for a cup of tea…

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To further spice up our bonfire night, the tea blending geniuses at Taylors sent over a box of their Spiced Apple tea to serve alongside my own baked spiced apples!

I fell in love with the blend last December, and the warm spices and sweet appley flavour are *so* festive that drinking the tea again felt like my first taste of Christmas this year!

Served with those hot apples taken fresh out of the oven, it really is the most divine pairing.

Isn’t that colour so beautiful, too?

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The final step to finishing off these dreamboat baked apples is, of course, the baking!

We cooked up our batch late on in the evening (after a main course of chilli-loaded jacket potatoes!) nipping back in to check on them in between rounds of sparkler-waving and turns taken toasting our hands over the fire.

25 minutes in an oven at 180 degrees will leave them soft, melting, and beautifully wrinkled around the edges. The cinnamon in the filling infuses the apple from within, and each bite tastes like an apple pie in a mouthful.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla icecream, and eat by the light of a fire for true magic.

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Do you have anything fun planned for Bonfire Night? :) I hope you love the baked apple recipe as much as we did, if you give it a go this weekend!

~ ~ ~

This post was sponsored by Taylors.

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Posted in AUTUMN, BAKING, RECIPE, SWEET

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18.10

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A M O N G S T   T H E   F L O W E R S .

Growing up, garden centres visits were something of a ritual.

My family and I would meet my cousins and uncle at one or other of our many local garden centres every other Sunday, for cake and tea and hours of chatter.

I’d pick up my Grandma on my way home from lectures on Wednesdays during my first year or so of university, and we’d head over to the garden centre just across from where she lived for a happy afternoon of shopping and pottering and updating one another on our lives.

Christmas just wasn’t Christmas until we’d visited the festive displays in our favourite local nursery, and my sister and I would comment every year on how it never felt as sparkly or magical as the previous year’s display. Over the past decade, these traditions have changed and evolved, as our family has done the same.

But nevertheless, a garden centre visit still holds a special place in my heart…

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I met Tania in Richmond a few days ago, and together we moseyed our way along the river towards Petersham Nurseries. Tania had never been before, you see, and so we thought it was about time for a visit!

I’d been to Petersham 18 months or so ago with friends, back when the nursery was beginning to bloom in full summer glory.

This visit was decidedly chillier, a little breezier, but my goodness, just as beautiful as ever.

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Summer’s soft pinks and corals and lilacs have faded away, and instead the flower beds and potting tables now are filled with deep rust and berry tones.

The vines that have threaded their way across the ceiling of the greenhouse (that doubles as a cafe) are heavy with grapes, and the whole nursery is a feast for the eyes.

Not to mention the camera lens…

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We could’ve stayed there all afternoon, Tania and I. And thinking about it now, we pretty much did.

Lunch was bought and enjoyed in the greenhouse (a taleggio and kale bake for Tania, chickpea and potato curry for me, plus a slice of chocolate cake to share), and we fell in love a hundred times over with the idea of owning a vine-filled greenhouse big enough to set up a dining table in. Can you even imagine the dinner parties?

The rest of our afternoon was spent wandering up and down the beds, taking 101 photos of the vibrant dahlias and herbs and greenery, and talking about how much we both loved playing hide and seek during the garden centre visits we made as children.

Not that there was ever any doubt that our friendship were solid as a rock, but sharing a love of garden centres cemented it that bit further.

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I’m wearing :: Scarf (< almost identical!) || Roll-neck jumper || Riding pants || Boots | Handbag

I must just take a brief minute to talk to you about that dreamboat of a roll-neck I’m wearing. It’s without doubt the most cosy, yet effortlessly stylish jumper I’ve ever owned, and I’m yet to go a day whilst wearing it that it doesn’t get complimented.

All that, *and* it doesn’t need hand washing? Consider my heart officially stolen!

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Posted in AUTUMN, DAY TRIPS, RICHMOND

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20.09

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U N E X P E C T E D   B L A C K B E R R Y I N G .

Ahead of the start of the new academic year, with my Mum heading back into another year of teaching just as my sister’s getting ready to start at sixth form college, we’ve been trying to seize every opportunity to spend quality time together whilst we’ve got the chance.

It’s been possibly the busiest summer of our lives, and it feels as though we’ve barely spent any time together at all!

Last week, Francesca and I decided to spend a morning taking Teddy out walking somewhere new, and so instead of heading to one of our usual haunts- the bluebell woods, or the lake- we headed out to Windsor Great Park instead. It’s not somewhere I tend to visit very often, though now, having seen how picturesque a spot it is to explore, I can’t think why.

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The leaves are just beginning to turn in our neck of the woods, and the air that morning had just the right amount of crispness so it. We layered up well, in light knits and soft scarves and boots that need to be broken in again for another season’s wear.
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WHAT I WORE ::
Orange & taupe scarf
Cardigan {past season, gorgeous jumper version here!}
Jeans
Boots
Panama hat {identical shape, but in camel instead of brown}

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As we walked, and Teddy moseyed along up ahead of us flushing pheasants from the undergrowth at a rate of roughly one every thirty seconds, we came across a thicket of brambles that was so heavy with blackberries it was practically groaning under the weight of it all.

We’d not planned on picking berries whilst we were out so had come completely unprepared, but weren’t about to let a little thing like poor planning get in the way of gathering such beautiful fruit!

Hats were removed and upturned, and the berry picking commenced!

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B E L O W :: We must have more than tripled our bounty after this photo was taken…

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Francesca’s wellies || jeans || jumper.

We gathered enough berries between us to feed a small army- or at least, two hungry girls plus the naughty spaniel who stole a mouthful for himself- until at last it was time to take ourselves and our purple-stained hands home again.

Francesca snacked on her share whilst we walked, and whilst I had visions of making my portion of the hat-bounty into a crumble, we wound up being too impatient to bother baking them and instead ate them that evening with a little natural yoghurt and a drizzle of acacia honey.

It was completely delicious, but given that I’ve had a hankering for blackberry and apple crumble with fresh vanilla ice-cream ever since, I guess we’ll just have to make a date to go back…

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