THE BIG BAKE ON FOR CHRISTMAS – DO TRY THIS AT HOME

THE BIG BAKE ON FOR CHRISTMAS – DO TRY THIS AT HOME

You may have never tried this before but we do recommend you ‘do try this at home’ as if you bake it now, it will not only be a memorable table centre for your family meal  but also a huge accolade of achievement for you.
The first time I tried this recipe I was amazed how easy it actually was, and the fruit makes it moist and delightfully tasteful.

You never know, it may also inspire you to be more adventurous in the kitchen all round this party season.

DELICIOUS HOME BAKED CHRISTMAS CAKE

Ingredients

150 g dried figs
225 g soft prunes
100 g pure almonds
225 g soft butter
185 g brown sugar
250 g self-raising flour
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
0.5 tsp ground ginger
1 good pinch of ground clove
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
225 g raisins
1 juice and zest of 1 large lemon
3 tbsp black treacle
4 tbsp dark rum

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C, fan 130°C, gas 3. Line a 7cm-deep 20cm square tin with buttered baking paper.

Slice the figs and prunes into small pieces. Roughly chop the almonds. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until fluffy.

Sift the flour into a bowl with the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Add this and the beaten eggs alternately to the butter and sugar in the mixer, beating on a low setting all the time.

Stir in the fruit, almonds, lemon juice and zest, treacle and 3 tablespoons of the rum by hand. Tip into the tin and even out with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

Once cool – make small insertions in the surface and add a little extra rum. To ice your cake, brush the cake with a little warmed apricot glaze, then cover it completely with 500g rolled-out marzipan, trimming off the excess. Brush the marzipan with cooled boiled water. Cover with 750g rolled-out white icing and trim off the excess.

If you prefer you can also bake this cake in a round 20cm tin; cook for 2-2½ hours.

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LOOKING ‘COOL’ WHILST KEEPING WARM – THE ULTIMATE IMAGE MAKER

LOOKING ‘COOL’ WHILST KEEPING WARM – THE ULTIMATE IMAGE MAKER

 

I have been watching so many period dramas and movies recently, and I have been obsessing about the power of the hat.

My grandmother, whose hay day was in the fifties, would go to great lengths to ensure each outfit was perfectly co-ordinated, and her crowning glory would be the most important accessory to complete an outfit.  In fact, she wouldn’t go out without a hat and matching handbag and shoes – especially when visiting the Capital.

I remember trying on a multitude of hats when playing dress-up in her bedroom, and loved every minute.  Milliners were then in abundance and every department store boasted a vibrant hat department.

To endorse my debate, the word Milliner actually came from Milan, which still is the height of fashion, and this is why I am thrilled that hats are making a massive come back.  You can’t beat them as a major styling accessory, and can even create an identity.  But nowadays a Milliner is actually someone who designs and makes a hat, and there are some fabulous styles to choose from.

We have seen it with Meghan Markle who loves wearing a French style beret, and Jenifer Aniston recently was seen donning a Fedora.

If you want a more urban image, there has been a surge in the more masculine tweed ‘peaky blinders’ style beret but worn by women, and for Winter some gorgeous beanies to enhance your ‘cool’ whilst keeping warm.

Stunnning organic cable cashmere hat in natural white – Pure – £55

https://www.purecollection.com/women-c31/accessories-c542/organic-cashmere-cable-hat-alpine-white-p8935

The ultimately cool BBCo Elan Beanie – £28 by wildbounds

https://wildbounds.com/products/elan-beanie-cream

Classic Fedora by Joules – in felt oxblood – £34.95

www.joules.com/Women/Hats-Scarves-And-Gloves/Oxblood/Fedora/Felt

The 30s style Floral wool pleated cloche by Kelkoo – John Lewis – £28

https://www.johnlewis.com/john-lewis-partners-floral-wool-pleated-cloche/plum/

Chic grey wool blend plain beret by Swoop at Topshop – £10

https://www.topshop.com/en/tsuk/product/grey-wool-blend-plain-beret

 

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IT’S A WRAP – BE CREATIVE THIS CHRISTMAS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR PLANET

IT’S A WRAP – BE CREATIVE THIS CHRISTMAS FOR THE SAKE OF OUR PLANET

 

When I told my young daughter that we were using brown wrapping paper this Christmas, it was as if I had told her there was no such thing as Santa.  So I immediately came up with a rescue plan, as only Mums can, for both my daughter and the rest of the Planet.

It may encourage you to know there can also be a good money save here too as Staples are selling brown paper at only £1.67 per roll, so that is a good place to start.  There are numerous ways to decorate brown paper without causing any harm environmentally.   Plain and natural string can be purchased from places like www.notonthehighstreet.com & https://www.staples.co.uk and then you are ready to go.

Cut outs from magazines are perfect for decorating the gifts.  You can then glue images onto the paper with sustainable glue obtained from any store or purchased online.    I picked a perfect flower and some vibrant images from some old copies of journals I had stored throughout the year, and alternatively you can download images from the Internet in black and white and just colour them in.

It may sound strange, but newspapers are also a cool way to wrap presents, and can again be decorated by add-ons like black and white bows or even old jewellery to stick on.  You can find odd bits of vintage pieces in charity shops to tie or glue onto the wrapping, especially if you enjoy a good ‘find’ and will be appreciated by friends who enjoy receiving gifts with a bit of creative flair and care.

Pressed flowers or leaves also look great, and you have time to prepare them for Christmas if you start now.  There are still some wild flowers and fabulous brown leaves around, so dry them out and place them in the middle of the biggest book you possess, and bring them out to add to your present wrap a few days before 25 December.  Holly is also very pretty on pressies and you can acquire stems nearer to the big day.

You may just want to keep it simple and paint images onto the plain wrapping paper, and there is nothing wrong with that.   You don’t have to be a Picasso to achieve a great effect, just some vibrant colours and even the most child-like attempt will not go unappreciated by your loved ones.  In fact your kids or grandkids could have a field day splashing paint on the present wrapping.

So hopefully I have inspired you a little into the art of sustainable creative wrapping, and still managed to add a little sparkle to the big day.   As you know we are always open to ideas, and if you can come up with some good alternatives for decorating brown paper, please let us know.

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