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!

my food of shame

I’m meant to be editing, which is actually far more fun than it sounds. I am going through the manuscript with the delete button on high alert, removing adverbs, killing adjectives, and hacking out great wodges of hideousness. But all work and no play is not A Good Thing.

Incidentally if you’ve seen The Shining you may snigger if I tell you that after one very long day of typing (for me) and child wrangling (for K) he came upstairs to see how I was getting on and I showed him a word document like this:

only with the obvious substitutions. You may not snigger of course, but that’s what passes for humour in our house. We don’t get out much.

Anyway. The point. I’m getting there, slowly.

My foods of shame. This post was inspired by my friend @JonnyDobby who was appalled by my confession that I was enjoying a lovely cup of instant coffee.

I know. Heinous shame. But look, it’s rainforest certified and, um, I reuse the jar. And, er, stuff.

So. Here we are. I lay myself before you, in my Scottish shame.

It’s a Scotch Pie. It’s probably made from ground up testicle and lip and earflaps in gravy. But mmmmmm, it is heavenly.

I know, I know. Heinz Macaroni Cheese. It’s not even real food. But it’s lying in a feeble heap on a Sunday food. And once a year or so, I have to have it.

And milk bottle sweeties. They have milk in the title, so they can’t be all that bad, surely?

But my desert island food – it’s none of the above.

I am obsessed. You know the way other people have favourite coffees, or are wine experts? That’s me, but with apples. Russets with a cup of coffee, really sharp Granny Smiths with a pot of tea. Nothing shaming about that. Except I eat the whole thing, leaving only the stalk. And then I leave the stalks lying around the house in a really irritating manner.

So there you are. Confession time. Anyone want to own up to anything and make me feel better?

how to make sloe gin

It’s autumn, and I’m thinking about sloe gin and sparkly lights and candles and crochet blankets. For those of you wanting to know how to make sloe gin, here’s a recipe.

Having left it until later this year, the sloes are softer, darker, and they’ve lost their bloom. I’ve always picked them in September, and plonked them in the freezer overnight, because the traditional sloe gin recipe states that you shouldn’t pick them until after the first frost. However, I think the first frost must’ve been earlier than it is nowadays, because the sloes have undergone a transformation and their bitter, dusty taste has been replaced with that of a very tart plum. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the sloe gin.

The first thing you need to make sloe gin is – you guessed it – sloes. They grow on the blackthorn bush, and look like tiny little plums, blue-black with a slight whitish bloom. The blackthorn has quite sharp thorns, so be prepared when you’re picking to come home a bit sore. You might also come across a bush with bigger, slightly less tart fruit – these are bullaces. These won’t give quite the same almondy taste to the gin, but they’ll work as a substitute.

Back in August I was featured in Woman & Home magazine talking about picking sloes, and how the annual ritual of making sloe gin marked the beginning of autumn, my favourite season. Yesterday afternoon we got soaking wet, had a lovely time, came home and curled
up in the sitting room with hot chocolate and watched a film.

Sloe Gin Recipe:

Go and have a look in the hedgerows and you’re sure to find some sloes. Don’t forget a bag. If you’re like me, you’ll forget, and have to take them home in a dog poo bag.
This will earn you strange looks from passing walkers.

how to make sloe gin

All you need for home made sloe gin is a jar, a bottle of gin, a pound (450g) of sloes and 100g of sugar.
Sterilise the jar by washing it in hot soapy water and then rinsing with lots of boiling water.
Plonk the washed sloes in the jar, and add the sugar and gin.
Put it in a dark place, and give it a swirl once a week from now ’til Christmas
Strain it into a bottle, and drink.
It’s that simple.
This year I’ve experimented by using vanilla sugar (caster sugar I keep in a jar with vanilla pods) and I’ve added a vanilla pod to the sloe gin mixture, too.
This may be delicious.
It may be disgusting.
Reports to follow in December.

how to make sloe gin

This is my entry to lovely English Mum’s Great Big Autumn Bakeoff.
It’s not baking, but I’m hoping that a recipe for sloe gin means she’ll let me off!


The final result: this is the 2010 vintage, sloe gin made with vanilla. Two years on its absolutely delicious: warm and mellow and just what you need on a winter evening. Happy sloe-picking!

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.

august at the allotment

We scooted up to the allotment late this afternoon, in between rain showers.

sunflower in the allotment

I’d love to say that growing vegetables has had a wonderful influence on the children, and that they happily eat anything they’ve helped to produce at the allotment. But, er, it hasn’t. We have courgettes (aka zucchini) coming out of our ears, and the children think they’re evil. The neighbours are starting to hide when they see us approaching because I keep giving them away.
(Note to self for next year: seven courgette plants is overkill for a family of six. Oops.)
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…

Boycott Farm

This morning my friend Jane took me out for breakfast to the lovely Boycott Farm which isn’t far from the village. The piglets are gorgeous, look:

continue reading…