Blackberry & Lemon Curd Cake...

Usually I make this using raspberries, but as we’d been out picking blackberries I thought some were destined for this cake. It’s great hot or cold, with cream, custard or ice cream.

• Beat butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.
• Beat in the eggs one by one
• Stir in the flour and ground almonds.
• Spread over the base of a lined 20x20cm baking tin.
• Cover the top with small blobs of lemon curd and the blackberries. Nudge the blackberries into the batter slightly.
• Cook in a pre-heated oven (180°C) for 35-40 minutes.

• The blobs of lemon curd should be no bigger than half a teaspoon, otherwise they’ll sink and become a sticky mess at the bottom of the cake. If they’re smaller they’ll float midway through the sponge.
• I see no reason why this couldn’t be varied to use other jams/marmalade and different fruit to create a variety of flavour combinations.
• Serves 10-12.
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Pearl Barley with Roasted Vegetables...

This is really simple and very tasty, I'm sure there are loads of possibilities of what you could add to this. I just approached it as you would cous cous to make a warm salad or accompaniment to meat and was pretty pleased with the results.

• Wash the barley and boil for 30-40 minutes.
• Meanwhile, chop and roast slices of the pepper, courgette and onion until soft and slightly charred. Finely chop once roasted.
• Drain the barley and mix with the copped vegetable, finely chopped chilli, garlic then season.

• Great with barbecued meats, along with some green salad.
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Strawberry & Blueberry Jam...

I’ve spent my whole life enjoying the smell of jam making in summer & autumn and then the taste of home-made jam through the rest of the year. However, until recently I’d been wary of making it as it seemed so complicated.

That’s not really the case, but you’ll need about 2 hours of clear time with no distractions to tackle this. It’s relatively simple really, you just have to keep an eye on it.

• De-stalk the strawberries and chop up.
• Put a saucer in the fridge to chill (1).
• Place the fruit and lemon juice in a large, heavy-based saucepan and simmer until lots of juice has formed and the fruit is softened.
• Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until fully dissolved.
• Return to a very gentle heat (2), gradually bringing to a rolling boil (5-10mins).
• Whilst boiling gently skim any scum from the top of the liquid.
• Taking note of the scum line on the edge of the pan, once you see a noticeable reduction in volume, begin testing whether the jam has reached setting point (1).
• When ready, transfer to sterilised jars, cover with a wax disc or greaseproof paper and leave to cool (3).

(1) You use the cold plate to determine whether the jam has reached its setting point.
Place a little of the syrup on your cold saucer and return to the fridge for a minute.
Run your finger through the liquid, when you see a slightly creased skin the jam is ready to be jarred.

(2) Don’t rush this part of the process, If you boil it too quickly you’ll end up with jars of toffee.

(3) To sterilise jars wash with soapy water and then dry in a medium heat oven, or run through the dishwasher.
To avoid the jars cracking when the boiling hot jam is poured in, keep them warm in the oven beforehand.
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Raisin & Walnut Scones...

The basic scone mixture is my Grandma’s tried and tested recipe, although no one can make them quite as well as her! For this variation I added fruit and nuts.

• Preheat your oven to 200°C
• Rub flour and butter together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
• Stir in the sugar, walnuts, raisins and lemon zest.
• Make a well in centre and add the eggs.
• Quickly combine into a soft dough that is just on the dry side of sticky.
• Roll out to ½ inch thick and cut into rounds.
• Bake for about 10 minutes on a greased baking sheet.

• I have used ¼ wholemeal flour and ¾ white.
• Anything can be added to the main flour/butter/egg mixture, it's your choice.

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Simple Salsa...

This is so simple to make, but perfect with a BBQ or Nachos.
The key to success is the freshest, ripest ingredients you can get.

• Chop the tomatoes, onion, garlic and coriander. Depends how coarse you want your salsa, but I usually chop as fine as possible. You could always use a hand blender if you want a smoother texture.
• Add a small splash of olive oil and season to taste.
• Ideally rest for an hour before serving to allow the flavours to mingle.
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Date & Walnut Slices...

Date slice or date crumble has long been a family favourite with my Mum making an excellent example. I felt like giving it a go and thought a slight twist on the classic recipe would be fun so added walnuts and honey.

Dates (300g, stoned & chopped)
Plain Flour (250g)
Butter (250g)
Brown Sugar (50g)
Walnuts (100g)
Oats (50g)
Honey (2 tbsp)

• Place dates & honey in a saucepan over medium heat with a splash of water.
• Stir until the dates have become a thick, paste-like consistency.
• Crush half the walnuts and stir in. Set aside to cool.
• Meanwhile, combine flour and butter to make the crumble mixture (easiest in a food processor). It needs to resemble crumbs, don’t over-do it or it will become a ball of pastry.
• Blitz the other half of the walnuts into the crumble mixture, then stir in the oats and sugar.
• Place half the crumble into a greased 20x20cm square tin to form a base and press down.
• Spread the date mixture over the base and top with the remaining crumble, pushing down lightly.
• Bake for 25-30mins in a preheated oven at 170°C.

I used half’n’half wholemeal flour, but it’s not essential.
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Fruit, Nut & Seed Flapjacks...

From River Cottage ‘Everyday’ book in the breakfast section. It’s very easy and very customisable to your own tastes.

• In a large saucepan melt the butter, sugar, PB and honey on a low heat
• Add the zests and the fruit for a bit as it is finishing melting
• Stir in the oats and most of the seeds
• Press into a tin (20cm x 20cm is good), drizzle a little more honey and sprinkle the last of the seeds on top
• Bake at around 150-160°C for about 30 minutes (golden brown at the edges)
• Cool in tin, turn out and cut into slices

Tastes even better the next day if you can wait
(makes about 12-15)

• For the fruit and nuts use whatever suits your taste. I used figs, dates and raisins and a bag of sunflower, pumpkin and pine nut seeds from the supermarket. The original recipe suggests apricots, linseeds, poppy seeds.
• The orange zest in this recipe really breaks through the sweetness of the honey and the salty peanuts so unless you can’t stand orange I wouldn’t leave it out. That said I’m sure they’d be tasty either way.
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Cheese & Onion Twists

Knocked these up as a quick snack when we had guests coming over.

• Roll out the pastry
• Sprinkle over grated cheese, fold into 4 and re-roll
• Sprinkle over other fillings (onion, seasoning etc), fold again and re-roll to around 3-5mm thick
• Cut into ribbons (approx 2cm x 15cm)
• Twist each ribbon and place on a greased/papered baking sheet
• Brush a little milk or egg wash over the surface and top with some freshly ground salt & pepper
• Bake at around 200-220°C for about 10 minutes (or until golden brown)
• Cool on a rack, or eat warm
(makes about 25)

• I happened to have a pack of ready-made pastry available, but would be just as good with a homemade pastry (puff or shortcrust) I’m sure.
• They’re great for using up leftover bits and bobs in the fridge too as you can add all sorts of things. Also made some with a couple of slices of left over chorizo thrown in which tasted great.

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