Cinnamon and Pumpkin Scones with Dark Chocolate Chips

I was tagged in an Instagram post recently by Food Lover Magazine. They,  along with the Trewithen Dairy in Cornwall were launching a Scone Revolution and wanted to see what scones people were coming up with which I thought was a fantastic idea. Inspired by this and the four tins of Libby’s pumpkin puree in my cupboard, I thought I’d have a go at creating an Autumn themed scone. And after three attempts (too claggy, too flat, too ‘clovey’) this is my finished effort.

I had planned on having this with clotted cream and chocolate ganache but swapped the ganache out for honey at the last minute and I’m so glad I did – it works perfectly with the cream and the spices. It’s a super easy method and great for getting kids involved in the kitchen. Let me know what you think!

Ingredients

300g Self Raising Flour

75g Soft Brown Sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg

110g Butter (cold, cubed)

1 Egg

150g Pumpkin Puree

1/2 tbsp Milk

1 tsp Vanilla

100g Dark Chocolate Chips

Milk mixed with mixed spice to brush over the scones before baking

Method

Using a stand mixer or using your hands, mix or rub together the flour, spices sugar and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg along with pumpkin and the milk and mix until it starts to come together, then add the chocolate chips and mix for another few seconds.

Tip out onto a well floured surface and knead three or four times before rolling out to about an inch thick and cutting out  using a 2.5 inch cutter. Bake at 180c for 20-25 minutes.

 

Serve with clotted cream, some local honey and a huge pot of tea. Don’t forget that it’s cream before preserve in Devon and preserve before cream in Cornwall!

 

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My Top Ten Christmas Foods

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. Spending the best part of 2017 studying, working, looking after my family and trying to start a food blog from scratch, has been brilliant but exhausting and something had to give. Thankfully, every time I count the children and pets they all seem to be there and it was worth it – I passed my course! However I’m back now – fresh(ish)  faced and about to replace studying with marathon training. At least I’ll be hungry.

The utterly brilliant thing about December is the fact that officially – CHRISTMAS HAS ARRIVED!!!! I love Christmas, all those twinkling lights cutting through the fug of winter, the planning, list making, self gifting (just me?) and dragging the Christmas cookery books down from the shelves to pour over (honestly – if you haven’t bought Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles yet, why not – it’s amazing!)

Anyway, enough with all the wittering and without further ado  – here are my Top Ten Christmas Foods….

Mince Pies – I hated mince pies as a child but I love them now, cold with custard, warm with ice-cream or on their own with a cup of tea or better still, some mulled cider. My current obsession is Richard Bertinet’s variation, with frangipane topping the mince pie – they are only improved by adding a huge dollop of clotted cream. If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Bath and have the Bertinet bakery close to hand (me neither) then the recipe for these little beauties is here.

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Cheese – Who doesn’t love a cheese board? Hands down, one of the best parts of Christmas food shopping is choosing and going completely overboard on the cheese selection. I can’t do without a roof of the mouth stripping stilton (preferably potted), an oozy brie and a creamy blue – the Blue Boy from Country Cheeses in Topsham is out of this world.

Figs – I don’t know why, but I definitely think of figs as a classic Christmas food – wrapped in bacon as a canape, served sliced with cheeses, in chutney, dried and used to liven up a Christmas cake or even as an interesting addition to mincemeat, they are incredibly versatile and always well received. We’ll be serving Hillside’s Fig Chutney with some squishy blue cheese this year..

Turkey – We sometimes have a rib of beef for Christmas for a change, but if I’m honest it never feels quite as festive. Plus, the leftover possibilities with turkey are endless and nothing goes as well with pigs in blankets (which obviously are a compulsory Christmas foodstuff). I also really enjoy the ceremony of visiting the butchers, discussing my wishlist and placing the order. For the past three years we have had a Turkey Bomb from the Butchers at Darts Farm and I will be ordering the same again this year. Boned and rolled with a choice of stuffings (I love the cider, apple and sage) and covered in bacon it looks great, takes the pressure off the prep work on the big day and tastes amazing. See what I mean here.

Pate – We make a lot of it at this time of year and I don’t think a Boxing Day buffet would be the same without it. My husband and I differ in our opinions on this. He likes his as coarse as possible and I prefer smooth – he does make a cracking mackerel pate though and we are both in agreement that this recipe for chicken liver pate by Delicious magazine is a winner.
Sprouts – It’s a bit of an obvious choice but honestly, I just LOVE them. Cooked with bacon, chestnuts or both, roasted with parmesan or just steamed and served as they are. And let’s not forget sprout tops – I like them best gently steamed with butter and pepper, served with some really good sausages and garlicky mash. 

Christmas Eve canapes – I love Canapes, partly because nothing goes with canapes quite like a glass of fizz and well, any excuse. But also because they are as easy or difficult as you want them to be (each to their own, but I have yet to taste a supermarket canape that wasn’t just a little bit greasy or artificial tasting). Nigella’s mini sausages in Soy and cranberry have been my go-to for years and more recently the salt baked new potatoes from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, halved and served with a blue cheese and goats curd dip and ribbons of smoked trout are a favourite. See pge 412 in the book.

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Lebkuchen – The problem with Lebkuchen is that I make it, and then spend the next three days unable to walk past the kitchen without shovelling a piece in. Horribly moreish and so pretty, this German gingerbread-biscuit hybrid is a truly Christmassy addition to my list.  Make your own with this recipe here. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Leftovers – As an adult, I think leftovers might be the best of Christmas foods and I always order a big enough turkey and ham to give plenty. From bubble and squeak in the morning with a perfectly poached egg and and streaky bacon, to the inevitable turkey and leek pie to sweep up what’s left before we move on to New Years Eve. This year I’ll be turning my leftover turkey into this pie from Jamie Oliver. 

Pickled Red Cabbage – I’m using this as a bracket for one of my favourite childhood memories. On Christmas day evening, our parents would lay out cold turkey and gammon sandwiches, salad, cheese and biscuits, pickled onions, gherkins and red cabbage (half of my twin sister’s plate would be red cabbage) and as an extra special treat – a glass of Tizer (I couldn’t tell you now what Tizer tasted of, but we LOVED it back then). Then we’d either play games or all settle down to watch E.T./The Goonies/Home Alone and work our way through the Quality Street tin. Bliss. Here’s how to pickle your own red cabbage.

So that’s it, my list of favourite Christmas foods and where they fall in my ideal culinary Christmas. Not sure about the Tizer though, that might be best left in the memory banks along with the year I ate my entire selection box before 5am on Christmas morning…

 


Hasselback Butternut Squash with Honey, Sage and Chilli.

My Instagram feed is looking a little orange lately, it comes with the territory during the autumn months with the abundance of root vegetables available and I love their comforting flavours. This roasted hasselback butternut squash has been making a regular appearance on our table lately and with good reason – it’s simple, fuss free and goes wonderfully as a side or as a main in it’s own right.

Ingredients 

1 butternut squash

1 tablespoon chopped sage

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 tablespoons honey

25g butter, diced

1 pinch salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 200c

Slice the squash lengthways before using a spoon to scrape out the seeds, then top and tail before peeling with a potato peeler – this is fairly time consuming but worth it to get a lovely smooth base. Then place them flat side down on a lined baking tray.

Using a sharp knife carefully cut very thin slits across the squash – making sure you only take the knife a third of the way down so as not to break them, you can score the rest of the way down the sides with the knife afterwards.

drizzle the honey over the top of the squash and rub it in with your hands to make sure it is completely covered, then evenly distribute the diced butter so that it soaked into the slits as it melts and sprinkle the chopped sage, chilli and salt over the top.

Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes depending on the size of your squash, and serve. See – I told you it was easy!

 

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Another Excuse To Eat More Cake…

It’s almost cross country season again. After a summer lolling in the sun and not doing as much running as I had hoped/promised myself, next week, hundreds (thousands? ..there can’t be thousands of us this stupid?) of us across the country will start lining up in muddy fields, pitches and commons on a Sunday afternoon, charging around an invariably muddy course for a few miles (an awful lot of swearing in my head takes place during this part) and cheering on our teammates as they do the same.

Thankfully, this coincides with colder weather and the glut of root vegetables and fruits that are at their best baked, stewed or slow cooked into something warm and comforting during Autumn and by the time it comes around, I always look forward to the change. At the very least it means we all get to eat cake afterwards!

This morning I wanted to make a cherry clafoutis however there were no cherries in my local shop (first world problem anyone?) so with no time to look elsewhere, I dug a tin of black cherries out of the cupboard and made one anyway.

I love this Jamie Oliver recipe with the addition of a teaspoon of almond extract and some flaked almonds on top before it goes into the oven. This morning I found that the added bonus with using tinned cherries in syrup, is that you can miss the 5 minutes of them softening in the oven before you pour the batter on.

I also kept the syrup after draining the cherries, reduced in on the hob in a small saucepan by two thirds and it made a lovely thick cherry sauce to go with the clafoutis. It goes without saying that this all needs bucket-loads of super thick cream to go with it.

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Runners… If you’re making this on a Sunday afternoon – don’t forget to serve yourself first, take most of the cream and then lie across the entire sofa, ignoring the eyerolls of your family and wonder aloud how many toenails you’ll have left by Christmas…

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A Sage, Squash and Celariac Soup for blustery days.

Big batch soup cooking really signals the arrival of colder weather to me and today is no exception. After a muddy, windy run on the common this morning, I came home needing a warming bowl of soup. Packed with nutrients, this one is an all round good-egg. Feel free to add in any other root veg you have hanging around the kitchen.

 

Sage – a tablespoon, chopped.

2 medium butternut squash

500g celariac, diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 carrots, diced

1.5-2 litres of veg stock depending on how thick you like your soup

Natural yoghurt to top

Nigella Seeds

Olive oil to drizzle

Crusty bread to dunk

 

Preheat oven to 180c

Top and tail the butternut squash, cut into quarters lengthways and lay flesh side up in a baking tray. Season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle the sage over the squash, then if there is any left in the pack, tuck a couple of sprigs into the sides of the baking tray. Roast for 45-50 minutes until tender.

In the meantime, sweat the celeriac, celery, carrot and onion with olive oil on a low heat until nice and soft. Season well and add the scooped out flesh of the butternut squash.

Add your stock and simmer for 30 minutes, then blend until smooth. Ladle into a bowl and add a swirl of natural yoghurt, a drizzle of olive oil and a good sprinkle of Nigella Seeds – and don’t forget the bread!

For best results, wear a fur cape whilst dishing up and mutter ominously that ‘Winter is coming’ as you place the soup in front of your guest.

 

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Autumn Plum and Apple Galette

It’s a properly gloomy autumn day today and there’s even a storm warning here in the South West, so I’m baking for the weather and it’s comfort food all the way in the form of a plum and apple galette.

A galette is a French term for any type of free form tart with the filling in the middle and the sides pulled up – it can be sweet or savoury and I think the haphazard pastry surrounding, with its heaped up filling looks delicious.

In Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s book Sweet, they use a lemony, cream cheese pastry for Rugelah which I love to use for this recipe too. The galette is also absolutely perfect with standard shortcrust, either homemade or shop bought – the choice is yours.

 

Ingredients:

1 punnet of plums (about 400g)

2 apples ( I like Braeburn)

1 tbs ground almonds

2tbs golden caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

Pastry – 500g

1 egg, beaten

 

Method:

If you are making your own pastry, do this first and let it chill in the fridge for half an hour before you start the next step.

Preheat the oven to 200c and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.

Stone and slice your plums, then peel, core and slice your apples. Add them to a large bowl with the almonds, sugar and cinnamon and stir through, completely coating the fruit. Leave to sit for ten minutes.

Roll out your pastry into a rough disc about 1/2cm thick and then drain and arrange the fruit in the centre – you can pile it on or fan it out in a beautiful pattern as long as you leave at least 2cm around the edges for the folding up.

When this is done, gently fold your pastry up and around the edges of the fruit so that they fold over, pushing carefully so that the creases stick together and the edges hold the filling in – you want it to look rustic and uneven so don’t worry too much about being neat.

Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar, then bake in the oven for 45-55 minutes, turning the oven down to 180c after 30 mins.

When the galette is a deep golden colour, remove from the oven and serve with vanilla ice cream whilst making witty observations about the horrendous weather we are having lately…

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Baked Pears with Honey, Cinnamon and Toasted Almonds

 

Mind-blowingly easy, yet pretty enough to whip out when friends come over for dinner – these baked pears are a fantastic, easy recipe to keep tucked away for autumn evenings.

Ingredients (Serves 6):

6 pears (I used Sweet William in the photos but it doesn’t matter as long as they are perfectly ripe)

50g salted butter

6 tbsp clear honey

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs flaked almonds

Method:

Line a decent sized baking tray/dish with baking parchment and preheat your oven to 180c.

Wash and halve your pears, leaving the stalk in on one side and removing the seeds with either a teaspoon or a melon baller – do this carefully so that you end up with nice, neat little wells in the centre of the fruit. Then take a sliver off of the back of each half with a knife so that they lay flat on your baking tray.

Toast your almond flakes in a dry pan until they are blonde rather than brown – they will continue to cook in the oven so you just want to get them started, let them cool.

In the meantime, divide the butter into six pieces and put one into the well of each of your pear halves, then drizzle with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon (use your cinnamon to taste – if you like a stronger flavour then add more) and the toasted almond flakes.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and serve with vanilla ice-cream, an air of breezy accomplishment and another glass of wine…

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Strawberry and Ice-Cream Sodas

I still can’t believe our luck with the wall-to-wall sunshine this Summer and as it’s almost the end of term, this Strawberry Ice-Cream Soda is the perfect reward for all that hard work. I made this for my kids this week – it went down a storm and as it takes no time at all to make, I’m giving it an A+

Ingredients:

250g of strawberries (for the sauce) plus an extra handful to decorate

Vanilla Ice-Cream

Ice Cream Soda

Ice

 

For the strawberry sauce:

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp icing sugar

250g strawberries, hulled and chopped

A couple of drops of vanilla essence

Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a small pan and add the strawberries. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes until soft and add vanilla. Puree using a stick blender and set aside to cool.

 

Method:

Chop a handful of strawberries and line the bottom of your glass with a few, then add a generous handful of ice and another layer of chopped strawberries. Drizzle with strawberry sauce and fill almost to the neck with cream soda. Finally top with two scoops of vanilla ice-cream, some more sliced strawberries and a last drizzle of sauce.

Serve to your children, straighten your sunglasses and bask in rapturous applause before gently moving them out into the garden in case they spill strawberry sauce all over the floor…