Monday, 30 March 2015

Easter Baking: Mini Simnel Cakes

Aside from Christmas, Easter is one of my favourite times of year. It marks the beginning of a new season, changing weather and lots of new adventures soon to be had. Growing up in a small village setting, our social calendar centred greatly around the church calendar too, and many a coffee morning or 'Lent lunch' would be enjoyed as a child with big cups of squash to wash down wedges of cake. Yum!

So, it seemed only fitting that I share with you all a twist on a favourite,classic Easter recipe...Simnel Cake! Think dinky little fruit cakes topped with marzipan make the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, or can even be given as Easter gifts instead of chocolate eggs. They look just luscious wrapped up in a little cake box with some ribbon, or tied in a polka dot cellophane bag. I always prefer giving homemade edible gifts to shop bought pressies.

So, why not stick the radio on, don your apron and get baking. I'm sure this will help keep the kids amused for a couple of hours during the Easter break too. And you'll have cake as a reward at the end of it too.
Enjoy! xx

100g self raising flour
100g plain four
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs (+1 for egg-wahsing the marizpan)
150g butter softened
150g soft brown sugar
200g sultanas
100g raisins
50g mixed peel
500g marzipan

Pre-heat the oven to 160c, Gas Mark 3. Grease and flour a 12 hole muffin tin. 
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add 1 egg to the butter and sugar mix, and beat in, followed by half of the flour and tsp of cinnamon. Add another egg, and the remaining flour, and mix in. Followed by the 3rd egg, mixing everything thoroughly. 
Mix in the raisins, sultanas and mixed peel until everything is evenly distributed. 

Half fill the muffin holes with the cake mix. Then take a piece of marzipan and roll it into a ball the size of a large marble. Flatten the ball between the palms of your hands to form a small disc. Place the disc of marzipan on top of the cake mix in the muffin holes (as shown), before topping up the muffin pan with the remaining cake mix.
Place in the oven for 50mins - 1 hour, Check on them after 50 minutes to make sure they don't catch around the edges.
When the cakes are cooked, remove from the oven but, leave the oven on whilst your prepare your decorations.

Beat the remaining egg in a mug and use it to adhere discs of marzipan to the top of the cakes in the same way you did before. Then take another marble sized piece of marzipan and roll it into a sausage, recreating a ring shape on the top of the marzipan disc. Make little snips around the edge of the marzipan ring so it resembles a birds nest, before brushing the whole top of the cake with the egg wash.
Do this for all 12, before placing back in the oven for 10 mins. Set a timer, as a few seconds over could mean the marizpan goes from beautiful and golden to burnt and bitter.
Once the marzipan is gently browned remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool, before decorating with mini chocolate eggs.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Cottage to Call My Own

Lately, I've been finding myself dreaming. Dreaming of a thick stone walled cottage, with a pile of boots by the front door ready for walks in the countryside. Of a wood burning stove roaring in the living room, and a cast iron kettle sitting on top, whistling it's head off, waiting to make steaming hot cups of tea. Big squishy armchairs, antique rugs, exposed beams, flagstone kitchen floors, toasty range oven to warm your bum on when you walk in the door from work. (This is the point where I let out a sigh of despair.)

How I love our dinky little flat, in all it's draughty glory but, something just doesn't fit anymore. We're both getting itchy feet (myself and the husband). We're both longing to set down roots and somewhere we can call home. I love that old saying "Home is wherever I'm with you", and for us that is definitely true but, we're both longing for somewhere that we can put our stamp on. Somewhere we can adorn the walls, with art and wedding photos without having to worry about what the landlord might say. Somewhere where we can choose the furniture, and the colour of the walls, and rip out the garden if we do so wish.

Until we find that place, I shall emerse myself in hexi-quilt sewing, and baking bread, and growing herbs by my back door. I shall light my candles in the Welsh slate hearth of our bricked up fireplace, and pretend it's really logs burning. I shall take a stroll to my nearest park and pretend I didn't hear those sirens over the birdsong.

Here's to daydreaming. It's ok to do it once in a while y'know. 

Until next time,
Hannah. x

If you're looking for a bit more cottage inspiration then visit my Pinterest page, where you can find all the above images too.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Soul Searching

It's been a strange couple of weeks. I haven't spent a great deal of time online, and haven't really wanted to. It's been so nice taking a break from normal hum-drum day to day life and to get stuck in with the things which make my heart feel fit to bursting.

It was so nice getting to spend time with an old friend at the Country Living Fair. We had such a brilliant catch up, and have vowed to make time for plenty more new adventures together. I didn't take a great deal of photos on the day (apart from one or two of me grinning with delight whilst snuggling a lamb), and I don't feel a great deal of guilt about it.
Sometimes it's nice not to post everything about my life on the internet. Sometimes it's nice to keep a few things for myself, to print out those photos I've been snapping on my phone and display them in pretty picture frames. Sometimes it's nice to just disappear for a day or two without any real plan and just see what lays out ahead of me. 
For me, that truly is a 'homespun' lifestyle. We have the luxury to design a life we why not grab it with hands and run with it!!

Happy Saturday everyone. I hope your weekend is full of adventures and happiness.

Hannah. x

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Hannah's Hectic Life

The above phrase is very fitting to how things have been of late. The last few weeks have been packed to the brim with cottage hunting, tube riding, Harry Potter nerding and Nostalgianeering.

Let me explain. It all began back at the beginning of March when myself and the Mr hopped on the Megabus Gold to London to visit my sisters and to take a trip to the Harry Potter Studios in Watford (my Christmas pressie from my lovely husband.) We had a delightful weekend, full of lots of eating, guinea pig snuggles, hot croissants and cups of tea, lovely sunny riverside walks near Epping Forest and piles and piles of Harry Potter nerdiness.

Myself and the Mr are HUGE Harry Potter fans so this present was as much for him, as it was for me (but I know he'd never admit that) and we had such a brilliant time. We caught the tube into London on Sunday morning, stopped off at M&S for some bits for our packed lunches, and off we went to Watford. I was completely in my element all day, and as you can see, really got into the spirit of things by donning my Gryffindor scarf and t-shirt pretending I was a Hogwarts student for the day. I won't give away too many spoilers or bore you with tonnes of photos from the day but, by far my favourite parts were the Gryffindor common room, and the boys dormitory...but above all it was The Burrow where the Weasley family live. The attention to detail throughout the whole tour is second to none, and I urge anyone who has even remotely enjoyed the Harry Potter films let alone read the books, to visit. And the Butterbeer, isn't too bad either.

After such a lovely weekend, both relaxing and tiring in it's own right, we climbed onto the coach home, only to receive a call from the estate agent to confirm our viewing of a dear little mining cottage in the village where I grew up. My heart was all a flutter, and my head was mighty confused as I'd received a message earlier in the week to say it wasn't available anymore.
I tried to contain my excitement and not get my hopes up as I knew as soon as we got home from London we would have to drop our bags and run out to meet the estate agent at our potentially dream cottage.
But our dreams were sadly not fulfilled. The cottage was not at all what we expected and we strolled home to my parents house a few minutes away, as I wiped away a few disappointed tears. (Oh well, there'll be more pretty cottages, I'm sure.)

Which almost brings me up to date. More recently, I've been involved with the wonderful Pretty Nostalgic Society. I've been reading this beautiful publication for many years. So, when the lovely editor of the magazine, Nicole, sent out an appeal for members to become more actively involved I jumped at the chance. Our most recent event has been at Lou Lou's Vintage Fair in Cardiff's City Hall, this past Sunday. We had a brilliant day and met so many lovely Nostalgianeers, spreading the word about the society. I can't wait for the next one now. And I've even signed up to do a couple of events around the country too.
If you'd like to know more about the Pretty Nostalgic Society then you can read the latest issue of the compendium online for FREE, for one issue only. You can pre-order a printed copy on the website, or sign up for a yearly subscription here.

So, there you have it. That's where I've been disappearing to recently. My next adventure will be to the Country Living Fair this coming Thursday, and I cannot wait!. Goodness me, I think I need to slow down.

If you need me, I'll be in bed with a cup of tea, watching Harry Potter films back to back.