home making

Therapeutic baking. The other day I stood in the little front garden of this new house and pulled out the weeds that were choking the crocuses and dwarf narcissi. The smell of fresh earth hit me and I remembered how good gardening is for the soul. Today I listened to Radio 4 and baked and it was good.

Cupcakes ready to go.


Blueberry muffins (recipe below, they’re really easy and a million times nicer than the horrible oily ones you get in shops).


Not sure how long this lot will last. But they look pretty with their lilac and pale pistachio coloured icing. Someone seems to have eaten all the sprinkly things from my baking cupboard, though. Several someones, I suspect.

Photos above all taken with iPhone because my camera is dead. A new one is stupendously expensive. It might be fixable, but it looks like the cost of fixing it might be more than my battered old Canon is worth. Sob.

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 190c, 375F or Gas 5.

You need 300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarb of soda
a pinch of salt
2 beaten eggs
175g light brown sugar
250ml natural yogurt (or buttermilk would work, and milk at a push but reduce the quantity a bit)
125ml melted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
175g blueberries

Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a biggish bowl
Mix the melted butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla in another bowl
Mix the two together, adding the blueberries, and just fold it together a bit (lumpy and bits of flour is fine, undermixing is worse than overmixing these)
Divide them into 12 muffin cups and bake for about 12 minutes.

I can’t remember where I originally found this recipe but I’ve been using it for so long I know the quantities off by heart. You can also do banana (a couple of over-ripe bananas mashed) or chocolate chip (big handful and a mouthful for the cook) or (yum) raspberry and white chocolate chips.

chocolate brownies – the recipe

Yesterday was a 1970s sort of day. Scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, football in the garden, a couple of hours at Sunday school and making snails (and lots of other creatures) with Plasticine. Oh, and chocolate brownies.

So for those of you who asked after my Silent Sunday post of yesterday, here’s the rest of the photos – and the recipe for chocolate brownies (in family-of-six quantities):

(Any recipe that starts with a whole crushed bar of 85% cocoa solids chocolate is good in my eyes.)

I started off with a Nigella recipe a while back, but I’m not very good at sticking to recipes, so this owes something to the domestic goddess, but is a variation on her theme.

You need:
225g unsalted butter
450g light muscovado sugar
100g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 eggs, beaten
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
225g of chocolate – I use a bar, and then I also add a couple of generous handfuls of chocolate chips. Not measured, not exact. Sometimes instead I add a bar of white chocolate. Beat the chocolate with a rolling pin (very therapeutic, that bit)
200g chopped walnuts. Or not.

You need a brownie tin lined with tin foil – this quantity fills mine, which is a deep 32cm x 20cm.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, or 170 if you have a fan oven. Or gas mark 5.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb into a large bowl.
Melt the butter, pour in the sugar and stir it until it’s blended, then pour it all onto the dry ingredients.
Stir it up, add the beaten egg and vanilla, mix again – you want a smoothish mixture.
Plonk in the chocolate (trying to avoid small chocolate-stealers) and chopped nuts, if you’re adding them.

Mix a bit (with obligatory test of mixture – yum)
Splodge it into the tin, spreading it out to cover the base.

Put in oven for 25-ish minutes, no more. Check after 20. Meanwhile, lick the bowl.

After 20 minutes, check the brownies. They should be set on top but wobbly to the touch. They might need another five minutes. It’s a bit of an inexact science – overcook them and they won’t be all gooey on the inside, but they’ll still be lovely – just a bit more cakey.

Let them cool for ten minutes, then cut them into squares.

chocolate brownies

Makes 32. Or 16. Or 8, if you’re a giant who likes chocolate brownies.

PS – My friend Karin over at Cafe Bebe is just embarking on a gluten free lifestyle and she’ll be baking GF brownies later this week. Pop over for a visit!

how to ice cupcakes – a very bad vlog

(Or: how to ice cupcakes and make yourself look like a blithering idiot, by Rachael Moore aged 37 and a half)

So, a while ago, my friend Kate of the Five Fs blog stated that she couldn’t pipe swirls on cupcakes to save her life.

This has been worrying me enormously. Imagine my guilt if there was a terrible incident whereby Kate was held hostage, with cupcake icing a condition of release.

So here, for your delectation (and with quite a lot of mad Scottish rambling) I present:

How to Ice Life-saving Swirls on Cupcakes – A Film in Two Parts.
(clumsy title, but all bets have been off since there was a film called The Men Who Stare at Goats)

I don’t think Nigella has anything to worry about, do you?
(Sorry Kate, I couldn’t remember if it was you or someone else who asked when I was videoing it!)

Blog – vlog – vlogblog. (Too much icing)

And the finished products, complete with the little birthday boy himself, and a special guest role by my mum:

Terrible cackling.

The End.

jam and jerusalem

Look at my gorgeous, new look blog! The blog has been beautified by Liz at Violet Posy Design who is psychic, I think. And a bit of a kindred spirit, too. If you haven’t visited her blog Violet Posy you must. She loves all the stuff I do, and she’s a Doctor Who geek too.

Meanwhile, back to life in the village. I have to confess that although I haven’t yet joined The WI (or Women’s Institute, as it used to be known) I suspect it won’t be long. You know you’re being lured in when the reports in the village newspaper of what they’re up to sound quite tempting. And Jerusalem is one of my favourite hymns, so I would love that bit. (Do they still sing it? My singing is so spectacularly bad that it’d probably be best for everyone if they gave it a miss.)

Anyway, I digress. This week’s theme at Tara’s Gallery is Food.

blackberry jam and crabapples

So here I am again, harping on about getting out into the countryside and picking it. It’s there, it’s free, nobody minds if you pick it as long as you stick to The Countryside Code. The blackberry jam I’ve made from these berries is a million times nicer than anything you could buy in the supermarket, and with no pesticides and a million times more vitamins. (disclaimer: I have no idea if that’s true, but I sort of think it ought to be)

I may even enter the WI Real Jam Festival. It’s a slippery slope, isn’t it? Oh dear.

a tale from the village

tulips by Sarah Raven

Once upon a time there was a girl with four children and about a million animals. She was very tired because her husband had disappeared to New York to do, er, whatever-it-is-he-does (even he can’t describe his job) and looking after four children was rather wearing. So instead of going to bed she stayed up playing on the internet and drooling over plant websites. And then, because she was one of those irritating people who gets excited about Christmas in September, she decided to start a wish list.

continue reading…

Martha Stewart Living in the UK (hooray)

So, Martha Stewart is launching her magazine, Living, in the UK. And according to the Independent newspaper and a little chat I had with Hallmark channel on Twitter, it looks like her Martha Stewart Show might be making it over here, too:

twitter about Martha Stewart

I do love me a bit of Martha, and I’ve been reading her magazine for years. I have to confess that part of the magic for me is the American adverts, the strange cooking terminology (what is a stick of butter?) and the references to strange gardening zones which make no sense to someone who lives in England.
continue reading…

cake wrecks

Gorgeous domestic goddess English Mum is hosting a competition called The Big Bake Off. First prize is a huge hamper of Green & Black’s chocolate. Just in time for the school holidays – yum.

So, I thought, hooray. I’ve got to make some cupcakes for end-of-term presents – this can be a warm up. I’ll try English Mum’s recipe for strawberry cupcakes with white chocolate ganache.

Hrmm. I think. She’s using self-raising flour, whereas I use plain with baking powder. Never mind, I’ll just doctor the recipe.

continue reading…

Redcurrant Jelly and bossy Delia Smith

recipe for redcurrant jelly

This recipe comes to you via the goddess of cooking that is Delia Smith.

When I was 17 and leaving home to go to university, my mum gave me a copy of Delia’s Complete Cookery Course. Delia Smith taught me to cook, really. Her instructions are idiot proof (very handy for a teenager transplanted from home to a strange boarding house in Northern Ireland) and encouraging. Despite having shelves of cookery books now, most of which I like to read with a cup of tea (thank you Nigella’s Christmas and Apples for Jam) it’s always to Delia that I turn for help. She’s slightly bossy, but I rather like that.
continue reading…