Friday, 31 October 2014


Well, it's here already; Halloween, 31st October.  The clocks have gone back, it is getting dark earlier and the orange, amber and golden leaves adorn the pavements instead of the trees. But it does not feel like Halloween, more like a balmy Summer evening.
Months ago, we planted some small seeds in the garden and they grew into pumpkins and today we carved them and put candles in them.

The bonus was that we walked around our neighbourhood and talked to our neighbours and met some new people.
Then we came home and baked a spider's web cake for Halloween. It is very simple:
6oz caster sugar
6oz self-raising flour
5oz soft margarine
1 oz cocoa
3 eggs mixed with a spoonful of milk

8" sandwich tins
whisk or wooden spoon
cocktail stick

1. Preheat the oven to 180 and grease the sandwich tins and line with baking paper.
2. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth and creamy.
3. Scrape the mixture into two sandwich tins and bake at 180 for 20 minutes.
4.  Turn out onto a cooling rack.
5.  Mix 4oz soft, unsalted butter with 6oz icing sugar and 1oz cocoa and 1 tablespoon milk until smooth and creamy.
6.  Mix 1 tablespoon icing sugar with 1-2tsp water to a smooth paste.
7.  When the cake is cool, spread a layer of icing on one half of the cake and sandwich the two halves together. Spread another layer of chocolate icing on top.
8. Put the white glace icing into a piping bag and pipe circles around the cake radiating out from the  centre.
9. Take a cocktail stick and draw lines from the centre to the outside, working around the cake.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Season of Mists

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

When John Keats wrote these words in his Ode "To Autumn" he perfectly captured the mood of Autumn and even though he wrote those words in 1819, almost 200 years ago, they still resonate today.  This is the season when the harvest is gathered in, marrows, pumpkins and squash are swollen with promise, the branches of fruit trees bow under the weight of ripening apples, pears and plums. Make the most of Nature’s larder: pick blackberries when you see them along the wayside, enjoy the fruits and vegetables in season, go for a walk in the autumn sunshine and kick your feet through the fallen leaves and cherish the light evenings before the clocks go back and the days grow shorter.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year and there are so many wonderful foods in season.  My kind neighbour gave me some apples from his garden so what could be better than an apple pie.


8oz/225g plain flour
4oz/100g butter
2oz/50g lard
3 tbsp cold water
1 tsp cinammon
3 tbsp  sugar
2-3large cooking  apples, peeled, cored and sliced

Rolling pin
Sharp knife
8inch/20cm metal pie plate

1.   First, make the shortcrust pastry: Put the flour into a large bowl and cut the butter and lard into dice and drop into the flour.  Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Gradually add the water and mix together with your hands until you have a dough.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2.   After 20 minutes, sprinkle flour onto a board and your rolling pin and roll out half the pastry, keep turning it as you roll so that it does not stick and you get a circle the size of the pie plate.  Carefully roll the pastry round the rolling pin and transfer to the pie plate. Moisten the edges of the pastry with egg or milk.
3.  Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 400F and put a baking tray in the oven.
3.   Arrange the apple slices on top and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
4.   Roll out the other half of the pastry into a circle and place on top of the apples.
5.   Crimp or squeeze the edges of the pastry together to form a seal and trim off any excess.  Roll the spare bits of pastry out and cut out shapes such as leaves to make decorations.  Brush egg or milk over the top of the pastry.
6. Put the pie plate on the heated baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes.

Serve warm with custard or cream.