The Marzipan that turned into Blueberry Muffins

 

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The month of May is almost over. In fact most of April and May has been filled with work, a decorating and a DIY project for my youngest, all of which has meant I’ve not written as regularly as I’d like for a while.

Its also meant a few ingredients that were meant for Easter were left as I didn’t get around to much in the way of baking. In previous years, this usually means I find them lurking in the back of the cupboard until one day, when I am looking for something else I come across it and it’s past its sell-by date and too late to do anything but throw it way. I then kick myself for the wasted food.

So, this year, when my youngest said she needed some photos to cakes to bring into school, so she could apply to join the baking club.

I decided not to repeat the mistakes of previous years. With the Marzipan that I bought, I looked for a simple cake recipe to turn it into something quick and simple.

There were loads of recipes which included ground almonds, which I didn’t have, I’d almost given up until I came across this one. A simple bake with cherries and poppy seeds.

Ok I didn’t have the tinned cherries, but I had some fresh blueberries that were destined for a fruit salad instead.

With sugar, eggs, self raising flour and some milk in the fridge, this would do the trick.Photo of ingredients such as Marzipan

Muffin Ingredients:

255g self raising flour
115g caster sugar or soft brown sugar. (I used a 50/50 mix of white and brown as I had this in my cupboard)
2tbsp poppy seeds
150g fresh blueberries or canned cherries without pips
115g golden marzipan, chilled in the fridge and grate coarsely
1 medium egg, beaten
50g butter or margarine, melted
175ml whole milk

To make:

Pre-heat oven to 190°C/375°F/Fan 170°C/Gas Mark 5.

Put some  muffin cases in a muffin or cupcake tin, to keep the shaped of the cakes.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, and stir in the sugar, poppy seeds, blueberries (washed) and the grated marzipan. I find that chilling the marzipan makes it a lot easier to grate.

You’ll need to either chop the marzipan or grate it so it can be distributed evenly in the cake mix. It will infused the cakes with the most lovely scent of almonds. Hmmm heaven.

Make a well in the centre.

Mix together the egg, melted butter with the milk. I used Soy Milk.

Pour into the well and mix to form a thick, rough batter. My youngest insisted at this point to put her hands into the batter to mix the batter.

We made a lot of mess by this time and she could tell that I wasn’t impressed with this technique as by this time she had lost interest and had gone to find something else to do.

Now that we had the batter, the mix was spooned into the muffin cases and put into the preheated oven for 22-25 mins, until risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

This part of the cooling process is tricky in our house, firstly it’s hard to resist the tempting smell of the cakes as they cool, but they also summon our two cats, who are also keen on the taste of freshly baked cakes. This means we have to guard them until they are ready to serve.

We took photos of the muffins and printed them so my youngest could take them to school. They were eaten for tea that afternoon.

 

And Sometimes it Snows in April

For the last few days, I’ve been listening to music composed and performed by Prince. He was a huge influence in music around the world. To me, his music punctuated significant moments, a rite of passage from my teen years to the present. He was always present, not necessarily always on my mind, but never far. I’d always have a least one of his albums on my Walkman and now my iPhone so I could listen to his music.

 

Up close, I heard his songs in my head with headphones in my ears and I imagined like everyone else that he would go on for ever, or at least I was well into my old age. He just seemed eternal, didn’t age like the rest of us.

Then last Wednesday 21st, as I arrived home, my husband told me the news. I’m still adjusting to the idea that there will never be anymore new work by Prince, never any shows that he’ll announce and get the press and public excited over. No more surprises.

He never stopped evolving, transforming and changing, his music went from commercial pop to something altogether more sophisticated, it reflected his audience, they grew up and their tastes changed too.

I’ve been looking at all the interviews he’s given, he mentions his faith, he talks about his fans and how they now bring their families to his shows.

All of this was new to me, he wasn’t just a distant musical genius, his interviews and his Princetagram and tweets show him to be humble, hard working and funny. I’ll never be able share future stories of seeing him in concert with my kids. I will only be able to tell them about him, show them the music he created and the only time that we saw him perform live at the O2 back in 2007.

He made a big impact on music and on me, a young impressionable teenager, who saw him for the first time at the Cinema, in Christoper Tracey’s Parade, a black & white film. I wasn’t allowed to see Purple rain, and I’m not sure that I would have understood it.

And when I went to see Christopher Tracy’s Parade, I saw it with my future husband, though I didn’t know this at the time.

The film was so different to anything at the Cinema, it had a style of it’s own. Prince, dressed in his power 80s costumes, glittering and shiny with big doll like eyes, more beautiful than the female lead, what I saw was someone who had created through their imagination a world that looked beautiful, sad and nostalgic. All the ingredients for an impressionable teenager to fall in love with.

By the time I was studying for a degree in music, I had saved up and bought two of his albums, Parade and Sign of the Times on vinyls at the time. My husband had other Prince albums, so we used to listen to these together, just the ordinary kind of things teenagers used to do.

The albums I owned were sandwiched amongst classical albums of Mozart and Beethoven, composers I was studying. They still are in my vinyl record collection that I haven’t been able to part with.

I listened to his music, alternating between the serious business of studying for music exams and well just listening to music that I loved.

My favourite song by Prince is in the title of this post. There’s a lovely version I found on YouTube which you can hear by clicking on this link: And Sometimes it Snows in April. It snowed a day or so after he passed away. As I watched the snow gently fall outside the windows of the glass building of our offices in Canary Wharf, I could hear the song in my mind, I wasn’t really in the mood for the meeting or work, just kept thinking about the sad news and how strange and quiet the snow was falling.

At 6.07pm (ET) 4th of May, Radio Stations in the US will be simutaneously broadcasting Nothing Compares 2 U. I don’t think the idea has reached the UK, so this post is my way of joining in from the UK.

 

 

A photo posted by PRINCESTAGRAM (@prince) on

 

To me Prince represented life, bigger, exaggerated, full of energy, the kind that was on an epic scale that was glorious and full of colour, a life lived in 4K, high definition, to the Max. I wonder whether that’s the reason for his signature colour Purple.

I don’t think he’s really gone, his physical presence perhaps. I remind myself that the greatest composers in previous centuries such as Beethoven or Mozart, they still live on when people perform their music. They created a new sound and music historians refer to their time and genre as Baroque (Handle & Bach) Classical (Mozart), Romantic (Beethoven), in the future, there’s going to be a term to define Prince and his style of music, because just saying he created a fusion between R&B, Jazz and Pop and crossed all musical definitions, well I don’t think that’s enough. I think we need a new way of defining what his genre of music is, because so many musicians have been influenced and inspired by his music and so many People have enjoyed experiencing it.

Prince started to write about transcendence and still being able to communicate in a metaphysical sense, in the album called Art of Offical Age. I like to think that he’s not really gone forever, it’s just temporary and somehow, he’s actually found a way to move beyond the physical world and into another plane of existence, perhaps this seems crazy, but then not so long ago, people thought the Earth was flat and we’ve since discovered through science, it’s actually round.

And even if this is just wishful thinking on my part, one thing is for sure, we’ll find him through his art when ever we listen to his music.

Farewell Prince,  I wish you heaven.

Because everything will be coming up roses – Rosewater Facial Wash

Rosewater Facial Wash

I love the sent of roses.

Yesterday I finally got around to planting the two rose bushes purchased a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t got round to putting them into the garden as the previous weekends had been busy and the weather had been, well pretty unfriendly.

So when I looked out of the window in the morning, there was no more excuses. I dug the soil, as it had been wet, the ground was soft and much easier to dig. With some bonemeal to sprinkle into the earth around the rose bush, I patterned down the earth around the two rose bushes.

I can hardly wait for the first rose buds to appear. The rose bushes cost just the same as a bunch of ready cut roses from the Supermarket, but hopefully, they will yield a lot more blooms throughout early summer and Autumn. I chose fragrant varieties in deep pink and white.

Rosewater Facial Cleanser

Meantime, in the bathroom, I’d run out of face wash. I prefer to wash the day’s make-up off with soapy cleanser, somehow the foaminess feels so much more refreshing than just the Rosewater toner/cleanser that I use afterwards.

Since I have a bottle of Doctor Bonner’s Castille Soap (baby wash version) waiting to find a use in my cabinet, I’m using this for the first time to make a batch of facial cleanser. As it is supposed to be non-scented, it will make a good base for a natural facial wash, though it still has the scent of Castille soap.

I’ve combined this with Rosewater along with Jojoba Oil and the scent of rose along with Jasmine makes the facial wash a floral sensation.

Here’s the ingredients:

1/4 cup Doctor Bonner’s baby non-scented Castille Soap (you can use solid or liquid)

1/4 cup Rosewater

1 teaspoon Jojoba oil, 1/2 teaspoon Rosehip Oil*

4-8 drops of your chosen blend of essential oil (I’ve chosen to use a 10% dilution of Jasmine Absolute and Rose Geranium)

Making the facial wash could not be easier, just combine all the ingredients in a bottle shake vigorously to combine and put a cap on.

I use this at night to remove make-up and afterwards use the Rosewater and Witch Hazel Toner. Just wash face until all trace of make-up has gone. It is quite watery, though if you use a muslin, simply squirt a bit on a damp muslin and rinse until clear.

That’s it, and best of all it’s all natural and can be customised to suit your skin

*I have chose Jojoba Oil and Rosehip oil as these have great anti-aging properties. You can use Coconut or Sweet Almond or any other natural oil best suited to your skin instead. Experiment until you get the right consistency you prefer

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do with a ripe juicy Pomegranate

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Pomegranates are one of the fruits that I think of as very versatile. It wasn’t always so. I never really knew what to do with it other than throw it into a fruit salad. But of course you can add it as a lovely topping on Roast Lamb, or sprinkle some into a plain yoghurt with breakfast cereal. l like to sprinkle them over chocolate ice cream.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to an impromptu lunch at her house. We’d been to a meeting together and on our way home, she collected a few groceries and invited me to lunch. As she started to make the colourful salad, she took out the reddest pomegranate I’d ever seen, cut it open and tapped some of the seeds out over the bowl of salad. A drizzle of Olive oil and orange juice dressed the salad. It was delicious.

So when I saw these huge Pomegranates in the green grocers, ripe and gorgeous I bought one along with some large oranges.

If you are looking for something easy to make, this lovely refreshing orange and Pomegrante fruit juice takes just a few minutes to make.

Squeeze some fresh Oranges into a jug. I stuck a sieve over the top of the jug to keep the pips and pith from falling in. Two Oranges, some mango juice I had in the fridge made it into this drink. I added some fizzy mineral water and then swirled in about two tablespoons of Pomegrante seeds into the sparkling juice. It frothed to the top of the jug just in time to serve with some ice. Enjoy!

Home Made Apricot scones infused with Rose Pouchong tea

 

Apricot Scone infused with Rose Pouchong tea

 

When we visited Fortnum and Masons, I noticed  lovely jar of Rose Pouchong infused Apricot conserve, which is the inspiration for these apricot and Rose scented Scone recipe.

Scones are so easy to make, and they are better freshly baked, eaten slightly warm with a big pot of tea, jam and whipped cream. I can’t think of anything better to cheer up a dull cold afternoon.

Here are the ingredients for home made scones:

50grams of dried apricots (diced into small pieces about the size of a raisin. Soak the dried apricots in a strongly brewed dark Rose Pouchong Tea overnight. Drain and remove all the excess liquid.

40grams of room temperature butter

225grams of self-raising flour

1.5 level tablespoons of caster sugar, a little more if you prefer the scones to be sweeter to taste.

A pinch of salt

110ml milk (this can be soy milk if you prefer)

A little extra flour for rolling and dusting the scones with.

To make the scones, preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

The mixture should be made as light as possible, sieve the flour into a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour and rub into the flour as if making pastry. Aim for a light fine crumbly mixture. It’s very important to get the butter combined in well with the flour, next add the sugar and salt and mix well.

Slowly add the milk and then add in the pieces of apricots. By pre soaking the dried apricots overnight in the Rose scented tea, they have taken on the wonderfully aromatic floral qualities of the tea. This is enough to add just the subtlest hint of Rose to the scones.

If you want the scones more fragrant, add a couple of drops of Rosewater. Continue to add the milk and then combine into a soft dough.

Roll the dough out on a well floured pastry board. As my work tops are made of granite, I dusted this with plenty of flour and rolled them out with a well dusted rolling-pin. The dough should be rolled out to the thickness of about 2cm or thicker if you want high-rise scones. I’ve rolled these out to about 2cm and then used a large round cutter to cut out 8 scones.

Lay them out on a well buttered baking tray.

I then sprinkled some granulated sugar and dusted the scones with some flour.

Next, pop the baking tray(s)  into the preheated oven (220 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes until the scones look warm and golden in colour.

Cool them on a baking rack.

Best served freshly baked and still warm from the oven with a pot of tea, with Jam (apricot or marmalade is delicious with these scones) and  cream, clotted if you want to be extra indulgent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mothering Sunday

In the UK – Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It was customary for people to return to the church where they were baptised and to visit their mother and their families, bring gifts to give their mums.

I look forward to this day, as my kids surprise me with a homemade card which is just about the best thing to wake up to on a Sunday morning.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Home Made Mothers Day Card

Mother’s Day card from Little Bird with a little lavender scented felt blackbird decoration

Rose Pouchong Tea and Conconut body scrub

This aromatic Rose Scented tea, made its way into a body scrub, simply because I could not get enough of the delicate scent of rose scented tea.

Since tea is well-known for its antioxidant properties, the act of steeping the tea leaves in hot water and drinking it will activate its health giving properties. I thought it would also make for a wonderfully fragrant body scrub, which would not only delicately scent    my skin, but would leave it wonderfully soft and pampered this weekend.

Making this could not be easier. Simply take a cupful of coarse sea salt. In my case I’m using the Dead Sea bath salts that I purchased a while back and am working my way through.

Add a spoonful of Rose Pouching loose leaf tea and mix into the salt granules.

Add a spoonful of Coconut oil and mix until the consistency is soft, slightly damp and granular. If you want to boost the moisture content, you can add a splash of Rosewater, and mix in until you get the consistency you’d like for the scrub. Just enough moisture in my case to make the salt form a clump in my hands.

You can add Rose essential oil to this to further enhance the delicate scent of Rose. The scent of the coconut oil compliments the sweet floral scent of the Rose tea and will moisturise the skin, leaving a silky softness.

Apply to damp skin, by gently rubbing the mixture in a circular motion on your skin. Don’t overdo it, the aim is to rub until your skin feels as if it has had a workout and has a soft glow.

You can either use thus scrub in the shower and rinse away the tea leaves as you go, or as I did, in a bath so that all the gorgeous scent, little blobs of Rose petals and tea leaves unfurl and surround you in the delicate scent of Rose Pouchong tea. The antioxidants in the tea will aid aching limbs and muscles. I like the idea of bathing in tea, it’s qualities being good on the outside as well as on the inside.

The origins of the tea come from China, later imported to Taiwan, where it has become a specialty. This tea in the pretty caddy was a treat from Fortnum and Masons, you can of course get this tea fairly easily in a supermarket or find it in specialty tea websites.

The leaves from the tea plant are harvested and wrapped in paper, layered and left to dry, with dried Rose buds added to delicately scent the tea, once dried, the loose tea leaves look like little tiny lengths of rope.

It is a lovely tea, refreshing, with just the right rich depth of flavour. It’s strange because if you inhale the scent of this tea, its wonderful scent will transport you to a scene out of The Arabian nights filled with the sweet scent of Turkish delight. It does not have a dark smoky taste like Chinese Oolong or light and refreshing sparkle of green tea, but somewhere in between. Sweet and fragrant.

I love to drink this tea at the end of the day, a full pot with a biscotti, which I like to dunk in the tea or a coconut flavoured biscuit. Hmmm off to brew a cuppa!

Enjoy drinking or bathing in Rose Pouchong!