Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Pumpkin & Pecan Bread

A lovely colleague of mine had her mother, who lives in the States, ship over an entire box of canned pumpkin last October in the hope of baking lots of pumpkin-based goodies over the following 12 months. Unfortunately things didn't go to plan and so she's now finding homes for all the canned pumpkin that's about to go out of date! Happily I took two cans off her hands, and spent my Sunday evening trying out this recipe for pumpkin bread - it went down so well with a cuppa, and has really got me in the mood for crisp autumn evenings.

You will need for the bread  |  200g wholemeal flour  |  1/2 teaspoon of salt  |  200g sugar  |  1 teaspoon baking powder  |  1 teaspoon ground ginger  |  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  |  1/2 teaspoon nutmeg  |  1/2 teaspoon allspice  |  1 can of pumpkin purée (you don't need to go all the way to the States for this, you can find it in big supermarkets - or why not use fresh pumpkin instead?)  |  110g butter, melted  |  2 eggs, beaten  |  1/4 cup water  |  2 teaspoons golden syrup  |  1 teaspoon orange zest  |  Handful of chopped pecans

You will need for the glaze and topping  |  1 cup icing sugar  |  2 tablespoons orange juice  |  1 teaspoon orange zest  |  1/4 teaspoon vanilla  |  Handful of chopped pecans  |  1/4 cup sugar  |  1 tablespoon butter  |  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice.

Step 2: In a separate bowl, mix together the pumpkin purée, melted butter, beaten eggs, 1/4 cup of water, golden syrup and orange zest.

Step 3: Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined and there is no more dry flour in the mix. Stir in the chopped pecans.

Step 4: Butter the inside of a loaf tin, pour in the batter and smooth the top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes.

Step 5: To make the caramelised pecans that go on top of your loaf, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add your pecans, sugar, butter and cinnamon. Keep stirring - don't stop stirring! - until the nuts are evenly coated in the melted sugar and butter. Transfer the nuts to baking paper and once cooled, make sure to chop them into pieces so they're not all stuck together.

Step 6: To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar, orange juice, zest and vanilla until smooth. If it's too thick, add more juice; if it's too thin, add more icing sugar. Once your bread has cooled completely, drizzle with the glaze, sprinkle on the caramelised pecans, and then finish with some more glaze.

Step 7: Make yourself a nice hot cup of Earl Grey and enjoy with a big slice!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Down House

On Saturday the Texan and I jumped in the car and headed to Down House, the home of Charles Darwin. We actually visited Down House five or six years ago, but I remember being observed with suspicion by the very stern ladies implanted in each room, ready to chastise you if you tried to take a photograph, and it left me feeling a bit disappointed. Thankfully, it seems that English Heritage has realised that a more relaxed approach makes for a more enjoyable visit, and this time we were able to roam freely throughout the house and gardens, camera in hand and not a stern lady in sight. It is a stunningly beautiful house, and unpretentious too - unlike most of the stately and country houses we've visited, which look like carefully curated dolls houses, you can feel that Down House was a warm and loving home which was truly lived-in. Darwin's study was for me, as I imagine is it for most visitors, the real highlight - you almost feel like you're intruding into what must have been Darwin's private space, with all of his objects and collections around him. But the gardens alone are worth the visit - the wild flowers and insects that surround Darwin's blue greenhouse leave you with the impression that, living at Down House, it would be hard not to contemplate the intricate workings of nature.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Domestic Goddess

I had some wonderful posts scheduled for this past week but I'm afraid work got in the way - it's been a busy one! Never mind, at least I've got this fun little video to share with you this morning, which we made for Secret Linen Store a few weekends ago.

Now, I may like to keep a nice home but I'm certainly no domestic goddess. I have a lovely cleaner who comes once a week (which took a lot of getting used to, as my family would never dream of paying for a cleaner when I was growing up) and I loathe doing the laundry...and when it comes to my bed sheets, I tend just to scrunch them up into a ball and chuck them in the bottom of my wardrobe. Needless to say, when Secret Linen Store asked me to film a short how-to on folding a fitted sheet, I knew I'd be under-qualified for the job.

Thankfully with a little guidance, it didn't actually take all that long to learn how to do it, and I'm now kicking myself for not educating myself about these little tricks! Since filming, I've learned a life-changing way to put a duvet cover onto a duvet (you roll it like a burrito!), discovered the magic of bicarbonate of soda and lemon for cleaning the microwave, and even studied how to properly iron a man's shirt. I'm quite the domestic goddess these days!

And here's the video for your viewing pleasure - enjoy!  P.S. Click the little "settings" icon on the bottom right of the video and select "1080p HD" for better quality!