The best thing about baking at home is that you can change things around to suit your own taste. You know exactly what’s gone into your creation, and there’s no hidden chemical nasties. Back in 2019 I wrote a post about blueberry muffins which you can read here.
Today’s blueberry muffin recipe is basically the same one, but different because I used fresh blueberries (instead of frozen) and rapeseed oil instead of butter. I also halved the sugar, and didn’t top with anything (in the last post I topped with cinnamon and Demerara sugar).
Here is the basic muffin recipe that makes 12 ( it is from Joy of Cooking):
Put 12 paper muffin cups in the muffin tin and pre heat the oven to Mark 6 or 200* C.
In one bowl whisk/combine the dry ingredients:
2 cups flour; 1 tbsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp salt
In another bowl whisk/combine the wet ingredients:
2 large eggs; 1 cup milk; 1/3 cup sugar (the recipe was twice that – this is how much I used); 4 tbsp rapeseed oil; 1 tsp vanilla
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, combining lightly, there should still be a few lumps. Add 1 1/2 cups of blueberries. Put the batter in the muffin cups, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes until the cake tester comes out clean. Today it took a bit longer than 15 minutes. Without fruit it might be quicker. Let stand in the tin for 3 minutes before removing and cooling a on a rack. Best eaten fresh, but can be frozen, or warmed for a few seconds in the microwave the next day.
They are quick to make, and very tasty to eat!
Running update: I am trying to increase the distance I am running as it has slipped a bit in the last few months. In 2019 I ran a half marathon every month – give or take – sometimes it was 10 miles, and sometimes 16. So on Friday I ran 19.5 km, going along quite a long section of the canal towpath in Greenford – where I came upon a barrier across the path. I really didn’t want to go the long way round so I tried to squeeze past. Definitely NOT a good idea as I managed to poke a hole in my leg on a piece of wire. As it was bleeding quite a lot I had to squeeze back again and make an even longer detour to the pharmacy to get some plasters! Anyway – lesson learned – follow the signs.
If you look closely as the photo of the ingredients you may notice that the best before date on the buttermilk pot was 27/12 – in the year 2021! Yes that’s right – 18 weeks ago. I am a great believer in the look, smell and taste test, and when I opened this pot of buttermilk, lurking in the fridge behind a jar of pickle, it looked all right, smelled all right and tasted all right! Scones are so easy and quick, and can be frozen very successfully so I made a batch.
I used a recipe from the BBC Good Food site which you can find by clicking here. I didn’t use a food processor, I rubbed the butter in by hand because I prefer it and it’s easier to wash up.
Scones are so delicious. Although it’s traditional to have them with cream and jam in the classic ‘cream tea’ they are also very nice with butter, or even just jam. In 2019 I wrote a post about a proper cream tea, complete with homemade jam – you can read it here. I used a different recipe this time, but they are all very similar really. Today’s recipe used quite a bit more sugar – recipes can be adapted so feel free to reduce the amount of sugar. Next time I would use less sugar as I found these quite sweet.
Don’t forget that the ‘best before’ date is just an indicator. It does NOT mean that the food is unusable after this date! Use your taste buds and common sense my friends!
Frozen scones should be defrosted, and then warmed gently in the oven to recreate that ‘just baked’ taste.
What’s your favourite scone recipe? Perhaps a cheese or other savoury scone is more your thing? Cheese scones go really well with a bowl of soup for a very satisfying lunch. Maybe I’ll try them next!
I’ve made these buns before, and I wrote about them here. Today I made them with Portuguese olive oil instead of Spanish. I think they came out a little heavier than last time, although it’s hard to remember!
The Portuguese olive oil was special, extra virgin and unfiltered, from the harvest of 2021. Full of flavour, you can almost just drink it neat.
The recipe can be found on this lovely Spanish recipe website. The recipe is for one cake – it was my idea to make it into small buns. I have just had another look through the site, and it has some yummy sounding recipes that I’d like to try.
The original post (2019) was full of photos from our holiday in Majorca. This time I’m going to show you some recent photos that showcase Spring!
PS. I am still running! Just not quite as much as usual – I seem to be doing a lot of walking lately. You can read about some of my walks on my other blog: Walking the London Loop. I also have a little plan up my sleeve for my running journey – and hope to write about it soon!
This week I have been walking along the coastal section of the Cleveland Way in Yorkshire. The whole Way is 109 miles, and starts in Helmsley. The first part of the route crosses the North Yorkshire moors, and my walking friends Steve and Michelle had already completed that part by the time I joined them in Whitby for the second section – 53 miles along the coast to Filey.
Based in Whitby, in a comfortable self catering cottage with stunning views across the river Esk to the famous Whitby Abbey, we have used the very reliable coastal bus service to get to and from the start or finish of each day’s walk.
Day One: Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Staithes (walked approximately 18km/ 11 miles)
Perfect walking weather – sunny, blue skies, and only a moderate breeze!
Day Two: Staithes to Whitby (walked approximately 21km/13 miles)
We got the bus back to Staithes, and then walked home! It was quite a bit further than we thought! It was very windy, but blowing from the west so not too cold. There were a lot of steep hills – up and down – something we were going to encounter quite a bit on the Cleveland Way.
Day Three: Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay (walked approximately 15km/ 9 miles)
I think everyone knows about coastal erosion, and periodically we all read about this or that dramatic cliff fall, but when you are walking along the cliffs and see the fences literally hanging over fresh air it is quite sobering. And just a little scary.
Day Four: Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough (walked approximately 26 km/ 16miles)
Well if we thought the ‘ups and downs’ couldn’t get any steeper we certainly had to think again today! It was a tough day, with some rain in the afternoon. But you can’t have rainbows without rain and we were lucky enough to see some beautiful rainbows over the sea. Coming into Scarborough the tide was out, and we walked along the North Sands into town.
We saw (or heard) many birds today including buzzards, curlews, lapwings and oystercatchers. And then caught a glimpse of an adder before it shot away into the undergrowth!
Day Five: REST DAY! (Walked approximately 6km/ 3.7 miles)
We had a welcome rest for our legs today and caught a steam train to Pickering. The weather had turned, and was a lot colder and wetter, so it was nice not to be up on the cliff tops. The steam train passes through Goathland station, the location for Hogsmeade station in the first Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was also used as a location in the video for Simply Red’s Holding Back the Years. Once in Pickering we visited the Beck Isle Museum, which is an interesting local museum. Then through the powers of the internet I found the blue plaque on 3 Hungate for Francis Nicholson, an artist who developed the art of watercolour landscape painting in the 19th century. He was also my four times great grandfather! I also visited the church of St. Peter and St. Paul where there are amazing medieval wall paintings, covered up in the Reformation and restored in the 19th century.
Day Six: Scarborough to Filey (walked approximately 18km/ 11miles)
The day started with an hour’s bus ride from Whitby to Scarborough. It was freezing cold, but nobody told the locals this, and there were plenty of people young and old breezing about in shorts and t shirts. Meanwhile we were wrapped up in at least 4 layers, hats and gloves! (Soft southerners – you could almost hear them saying this out loud 😉).
Scarborough is a big town and we walked from the north beach round the headland to the south beach along Marine Drive which gave fantastic views of the crashing waves. Scarborough was the first seaside resort of the 19thC, and its popularity increased with the coming of the railways, and the introduction of Bank Holidays in 1871.
The walk was, for the most part, easier than some of the previous days because there was less ascent and descent. But there were still spectacular views across the bays and cliffs. There are some really beautiful beaches along this coast.
Arriving in Filey along the sandy beach felt like a fitting end to a coast walk. Michelle and Steve have walked the whole of the Cleveland Way (109 miles) and I have done the coastal section. Sixty miles altogether, which is a bit more than the official distance. This takes into account walking to and from the bus stops!
I will miss the sound of the sea in my left ear, and the sound of the larks in the right; the sight of the blue sky, and the white (or sometimes grey) clouds. I will miss the cheery primroses and daffodils everywhere, and the friendly greetings of fellow walkers. I will even miss the climbs up and paths down! Most of all I will miss the very fact of the walk itself.
I am sure that many many people around the world are shocked and horrified at the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent devastation of people’s lives, and the tearing apart of families. It is easy to feel helpless faced with such an enormous tragedy.
Living in London with neighbours from all over the world, it is hard for me to see people at work, in the local shops, friends and family upset, sad, angry and quite frankly heartbroken by what is happening.
As well as donating money to charities such as the Red Cross or Unicef I can bake. For this post I decided I would bake a typical Ukrainian pastry: sochniki. Simple ingredients, an easy technique and a delicious pastry to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. The recipe is from this website, check it out for more authentic Ukrainian recipes. There’s a hashtag doing the rounds on social media – #cookforukraine, and a related JustGiving page raising money for Ukraine. Here is the link to the page.
I have been lucky enough to spend the last few days in Cornwall, and I have done a bit of walking. As today is St Pirin’s day (the patron saint of Cornwall) I though it would be nice to share some photos of the beautiful countryside and coastline around Port Isaac and nearby places.
On Wednesday I walked from Wadebridge along the Camel estuary before turning inland to the church of St Breock which dates from the 13th century. The weather in the days before had been very rainy and the ground was muddy. But luckily for me the rain mainly held off.
On Thursday I walked from Polzeath to St Enodoc church. This church dates from the 12th century and is now located in the middle of a golf course. It is close to the sea, and over the centuries became almost buried in sand. In order to collect tithes, and remain effectively ‘open for business’ it had to hold at least one service a year. The vicar and congregation entered through a hole in the roof until in the 19th century the church was restored. The church spire is not quite straight. Sir John Betjeman is buried in the churchyard.
On Friday I walked from Port Isaac to Polzeath (and then got the bus back). I have done the first bit of this walk before – to Port Quin – so I was aware of the reason behind the nickname the ‘rollercoaster’. However I had forgotten just how tough this part of the coast path is. My goodness me the ascents and descents are tough on your legs! There was a quite a wind blowing but no rain.
On Saturday I walked from Boscastle to Minster (St Merthiana’s) Church. This church dates back to 1150, although it is on a site which has been there since Celtic times, and there is a Holy Well in the churchyard which was likely a sacred Celtic spring.
Apart from the walk to Polzeath from Port Isaac all the walks were circular. I downloaded a brilliant app called I-walk Cornwall which I can thoroughly recommend. It meant that I felt quite secure walking without a map, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for all terrain, but here felt perfectly ok. Most of these walks I just wouldn’t have done without this app. If you are thinking of a holiday in Cornwall definitely consider getting it!
So – happy St Piran’s Day to all Cornish people! Maybe my next baking post will be about making pasties – or saffron buns!
Here is another recipe for banana bread/cake! This time it is from the lovely Nadiya Hussain, who won the 2015 series of Great British Bake Off. I was really intrigued by the addition of thyme, and also the fact that the ingredients include olive oil, and no eggs.
So I set to. The cake was not a total success. But not an unmitigated failure either. And I know where I went wrong, and it’s totally my fault, not the recipe!
Gathering everything together before I started I was pleased that I already had a half a pot of double cream for the caramel. And exactly 4 small bananas, at the perfect level of ripeness for banana bread. However. I did not have any self raising flour. Oh well, I thought, not a disaster, I will use baking powder. But. No baking powder.
At this point it was 8.30 on a Sunday morning, pouring with rain and blowing a hooley. And I was still in my pyjamas! I did not feel like going down to the shop just to get some baking powder. So – I will make my own baking powder. I looked up the proportions of bicarbonate of soda to cream of tartar (1:2 if you’re wondering). I calculated how much I would need for 300g of flour. All good. Oh but, no but, no. Somehow I managed to put in a little too much raising agent, which meant that the the cake rose and rose far too quickly and then sank like a soggy stone!
The outcome was a loaf cake with a deep well along the middle. But the caramel needs a place to settle, right?! And the caramel is good! So, although it definitely didn’t come out as the handsomest cake ever, which is a shame as the sliced banana on top does look pretty cool, it was very tasty. We decided it tasted a bit like those yummy toffee bananas you get as pudding in Chinese restaurants.
And the thyme? It’s very subtle, but there is a hint of herbal tang and aroma which lifts this cake from the ordinary. I will have to make it again, with a proper flour/ raising agent mix.
You can find the recipe on the BBC website by clicking this link. (You really need to click on it to see what it is supposed to look like!) I didn’t change anything much (except the crucial specified flour 😂). You could make this without the caramel – but don’t. The salted caramel lifts it to another level.
I have made a very similar loaf to this before – Welsh Bara Brith, which I wrote about in this post here. This version was in the Guardian Food section on Saturday and you can find it online next week, unless you happen to have bought a hard copy today, or subscribe. (As soon as I can I will add the link.) The article discussed different versions, and then came up with a ‘classic-best-recipe’. In Ireland this fruit loaf was traditionally made at Halloween, but nowadays is popular all year round. Like bara brith it was originally a yeasted bread, and some recipes still use this method. However it’s usually made as a quick bread now with baking powder.
300ml strong tea
50ml whisky – or an extra 50ml tea
25g mixed peel – roughly chopped if it’s not already
25g glacé cherries – quartered
25g chopped blanched almonds (texture) – or I used ground almonds
150g light muscovado sugar (I used 130g of a mix of dark brown and golden caster sugar because that’s what I had)
210g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
Soak the sultanas and currants in the tea (and whisky) for at least 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (160 fan) Gas 4. Grease and line a 13cm x 20cm loaf tin. Stir the peel, cherries and almonds into the soaked fruit.
In another bowl which together the sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and salt. The stir into the fruit with the beaten egg. Tip the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 90 minutes, covering the top after an hour if it’s getting too brown. A skewer or cake tester should come out clean.
Leave for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
In the recipe as written there is an optional sugar glaze but I really don’t think it needs it. The main difference between this recipe and the Welsh one is the amount of fruit, which is way more in the Irish version. It comes out really squishy and damp. And yummy! The spice is just right, and with a little bit of butter it makes a very delicious tea time treat.
I’ve also been thinking it would make a good snack when on a long walk. Which brings me to my new venture – I’ve started a new blog called Walking the London Loop, which is all about – well you can guess! If you have the time and inclination take a look.
So – yesterday afternoon around 4 o’clock I decided to run a half marathon! Today! As you do. I have run this event before. In fact this event started my year of half marathons in 2019, and then I just had to do it again in 2020. It didn’t happen in 2021, so why not again in 2022?!
Run at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit it’s a timed run which means you can run any distance you can manage within 6 hours. Some people do marathons, some people ultras. Some run, some walk, some run/walk. One person today was in a wheelchair. It’s out and back loops – seven for a half marathon.
Even though it’s the exact opposite type of run that I normally like (I.e. countryside trail runs) it’s curiously compelling. Meditative and mindless almost. The atmosphere is one of camaraderie, although there were a lot fewer people today than in previous years. There’s no sense of competition because everyone is running their own race in terms of time and distance. The cycle circuit is in a green space within a highly industrial and commercial area. Today there were two kites hovering for about half an hour overhead, and lots of other birds singing away. Ever changing skies remind me of the skies in Suffolk, which is really quite extraordinary when we are in deepest Hayes just a couple of miles from Heathrow!
So that’s the first half marathon of 2022. Done and dusted in 2 hours and 11 minutes! When’s the next one?!
So it’s 2022. Yay! And traditionally it’s the time to look back on the last year. I do wish I had managed to write a few more blog posts, but I have been so busy, and at times quite unmotivated if I am honest. But there have been many good things this year. I managed two trail runs which were a lot of fun. And I also did the wonderful Ealing half marathon, as well as the Ealing parks challenge which was wonderful – getting into all the corners of Ealing borough that I would never normally go to.
As always I feel grateful to live in an area where there are so many nice places to run that are in green spaces – right on the doorstep!
I was very lucky to be able to get away to the beautiful Isle of Arran in July for a walking holiday. I feel so grateful that my friend and I were able to do that, given the horrible winter we seem to be having lately. Thinking about all the lovely things that happened in 2021 certainly picks me up when things feel hard.
I also had a holiday in Suffolk, and ran some familiar routes there. The weather was good, and it was lovely to be by the sea with good friends for a few days.
I have not done so much baking this year, or perhaps I just haven’t written about it as much! I’ve made some nice things and some not so nice (!). Highlights were the apple buns and the magic custard cakes!
In May all the family managed a few days near Buxton in Derbyshire when the babies – my beautiful grandsons – met for the first time since being born on the same day in 2020!
Today was the first day of a new year, so time to start as you mean to go on – a nice easy 6km run around one of my favourite parks – Pitshanger Park. It was so warm I went out in shorts and a t-shirt and was still too hot!
I haven’t yet decided on any ‘challenges’ for 2022… right now there’s enough going in my life without any more challenge thank you very much!
I am hoping to write a bit more regularly – I’ve been sharpening the pencils and filling the inkwells in readiness.
Happy New Year to all my readers! Wishing you all good health and happiness. 😊