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There are lots of wonderful gifts and flowers in the shops for Mother’s Day but you can’t beat a home-made present that is made with love and especially one which is as delicious as this …

Lemon Curd Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 225g Caster Sugar
  • 225g Self-Raising Flour
  • 225g Margarine/Butter
  • 1tsp Baking Powder
  • Finely grated zest of one Lemon

To decorate

  • Lemon Curd
  • 50g Icing Sugar
  • Lemon Juice to combine

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4.
  2. Lightly grease and line with greaseproof paper two 20cm round or square cake tins.
  3. Beat the Margarine/Butter in a bowl with the Caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Gradually add the eggs with the sifted Self Raising Flour/Baking Powder and mix well.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and level the tops.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown and springly to the touch.
  7. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. To finish spread a layer of Lemon Curd over one of the cakes and the lemon icing on the top of the other then sandwich both together.

Delicious!

Happy Mother’s Day

Gill

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bread

This Thursday 17 November is Homemade Bread Day, it is a day to celebrate and make our own homemade bread. Bread is a staple food using flour, water, yeast and sugar, usually it is oven baked but in some cuisines it can be steamed, fried or cooked on a skillet, there are many ingredients that can be added to bread to either make it sweet (sultanas, raisins, cherries, orange peel, cranberries, chocolate chips, bananas, apples, spices) or savoury (onions, pumpkin, herbs, nuts, cheese, seeds such as poppy and sunflower).

Bread is often referred to as the “Staff of life” and has been prepared for at least 30,000 years, there have been two major developments in the industrialization of bread-making the first was in 1912 when Otto Frederick Rohwedder began work inventing a machine that would slice bread, bakeries were reluctant to use it as they thought that sliced bread would go stale, later in 1928 it was re-developed to slice and wrap the bread, then in 1961 came the development of the Chorleywood Bread Process which used intense mechanical working of the dough this dramatically reduced the fermentation period and the time taken to produce the bread, this process is today used around the world in large factories.

White bread was once the preferred bread of the rich whilst the poor ate whole grain bread however in the late 20th Century in most western societies this was reversed as whole grain bread was found to have a higher nutritional value whilst white bread became associated with the lower class.

Homemade bread is far superior in taste, aroma, quality and appearance although it does have a shorter ‘shelf life’ which is not really a problem as it is usually eaten within hours of being made, if you want to have a go at making your own bread see below.

Charlotte’s guide to making delicious bread with children.

When bread making with the under 10’s we recommend preparing the dough in advance, up to step 7, and dividing the mixture into balls to make rolls.  Each child can then finish their own fairly easily.

Ingredients

  • Just over a pint of tepid water
  • 2 sachets of dried yeast
  • 1 dessert spoon of brown sugar
  • 5 cups of strong white bread flour (note our cup takes around 160g of flour
  • 2 cups of either wheat bran, ground oatmeal, wholemeal flour or granary flour (experiment to see which you prefer)
  • Handful of seeds – sunflower, poppy, sesame etc.

 

Method

  1. Add the dried yeast and the brown sugar to a jug containing the tepid water and whisk until the sugar has dissolved
  2. In a separate large deep bowl add the strong white flour and the 2 cups of either wheat bran, ground oat meal, wholemeal flour or granary flour (this will give the bread a little more texture) and mix together
  3. Add contents of the jug and stir and then with your hands form into a ball of dough
  4. If its too sticky add a little more flour but don’t add too much
  5. Work the dough by stretching, folding and kneading for 10 to 15 minutes
  6. Stand in a covered bowl in a slightly warm place until twice the size (about an hour)
  7. Knead for a second time for around 3 to 4 minutes
  8. At this stage you can add seeds of your choice (little hands love to prod them into the dough)
  9. Put into bread tins or make into roll shapes.  When making rolls with children you can be creative, try cobs, plaits and cottage rolls
  10. When the children have finished leave the dough to rise a second time, for around half an hour until it doubles in size
  11. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes for rolls.  For a loaf allow 30 – 35 minutes at Gas mark 4 to 5 or 180 C.
  12. When the bread is cooked, place on a rack until cool.  Store in a sealed tin or bag to keep the bread fresh for longer

 

Happy bread making

Gill

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I hope that you all had a very enjoyable Halloween and now we look forward to Bonfire Night!

Penny for the Guy

When I was young I remember knocking on the doors of neighbours with my friends and asking them if they had any old wood that they didn’t want for our bonfire and also if they had a ‘Penny for the Guy’ who was sat in our wheelbarrow wearing our old clothes and stuffed with newspaper/leaves/straw, the money went towards fireworks, thinking about it now it does seem rather cheeky although I suppose it is not too different to trick or treating which seems to have taken over.

The ‘Guy’ represents Guy Fawkes who was a member of the conspiracy who intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament on 5th November 1605, the Gunpowder plot was thwarted when he was caught the night before guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the House of Lords.

I can’t remember the last time I saw children’s asking for a ‘penny for the guy’ it is such a shame that this tradition has died out, it is harmless fun although not for the Guy who unfortunately takes pride of place at the top of the bonfire.

Bonfire Night is all about keeping warm by the bonfire, watching fireworks, eating delicious treats and having fun here are some tasty easy to eat snacks for you to try:

popcorn

Home-made Popcorn

Ingredients

  • Popcorn Kernels/Popping Corn
  • Flavouring of your choice: Icing Sugar, Salt, Honey, Butter

What you need to do

  1. Place the popcorn kernels in one layer on the bottom of a heavy-based, deep pan with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Place on the stove on a medium heat with the lid on.
  3. Stay nearby as you need to listen to the kernels as they pop, at the beginning they will pop vigorously, when it slows down to a second or two between the pops remove from the heat.
  4. Wait a few minutes for the popcorn to cool, carefully remove the lid and place in a bowl, whilst warm sprinkle over the sugar, salt, runny honey or melted butter and stir.

Johns Red Apple plot

Spicy Apple Crisps

Ingredients

  • 2 large red skinned eating apples
  • Cinnamon and Nutmeg
  • Spray Oil

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas 3. Core and thinly slice the apples ideally with a mandolin (adults only) which will give even slices.
  2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and spray lightly with oil.
  3. Lay the apple slices out on the tray so that they are not touching and sprinkle with the spices.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes turn over the slices and if required sprinkle again with the spices.
  5. Return to the oven for about 30 minutes, check regularly and remove any crisps that are golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool on a baking rack.

Edible Chocolate Sparklers

Ingredients

  • Bread Sticks
  • Chocolate
  • Syrup
  • Cake decorations (stars, edible glitter, hundreds and thousands)

What you need to do

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave and add some syrup so that the chocolate doesn’t set too quickly.
  2. Spread or brush (with a silicone brush) the chocolate on one half of the bread stick, then sprinkle with your favourite cake decorations, why not also try popping candy, nuts, desiccated coconut or even Rice Krispies or Coco Pops.
  3. Leave to set then enjoy.

firework

Don’t forget Garden Wildlife on Bonfire Night

With all the excitement of bonfire night don’t forget about the wildlife in your garden.  Make sure the bonfire isn’t set up too far in advance, as hedgehogs, small mammals and frogs/toads will be looking for somewhere to hibernate at this time of year, and may find a pile of leaves and wood enticing.  Why not provide hedgehogs/frogs/toads with an alternative home such as a Hogitat or a Frogitat. Click here to see a large selection of Wildlife Habitats.

Place fireworks away from trees and hedges where birds may be roosting, when bonfire night is over remember that now is an excellent time to start feeding your garden birds.  Click here to have a look at our bird feeders and accessories.

Safety is paramount on Bonfire Night click here for a reminder of the rules and tips for a safe and enjoyable Bonfire Night.

Gill

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A lot of children will be enjoying half term this week whilst many others will have to wait until next week, I love half term as it usually includes Halloween and Bonfire Night, every year I try out new treats and decorations here are this year’s ideas:

 

dsc06832

Mummified Sausages

Ingredients

  • 8 Sausages (long and thinnish if possible)
  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Tomato Sauce or dips of your choice

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut it into 1cm strips.
  3. Starting at the bottom , wrap a pastry ‘bandage’ around each sausage in one direction, then repeat and wrap another strip of pastry in the other direction overlapping to look like a mummy, leave a space for the eyes, dip a cocktail stick in the tomato puree and dot on two eyes.
  4. Brush the pastry with a beaten egg and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sausages are cooked through.

dsc06826

Witches Fingers

Ingredients

  • A packet of ready rolled Shortcrust pastry (approx. 375g)
  • An egg (beaten)
  • Tomato puree
  • Dried grated hard cheese
  • 1 or 2 Peperami Sausages

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/Fan 170 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. Lay out your pastry sheet and cut into approx. 20 pieces.
  3. Roll out each piece to the length of a finger, gently round one end and press in the tip of a knife for the fingernail, using the knife score two lots of 3 lines across the finger to resemble the knuckles.
  4. Cut the Peperami into 1.5cm slices and then cut each slice in half, dab some tomato puree at the end of the finger and press on your peperami finger nail.
  5. Place on a baking tray, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle on the cheese.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve both with your favourite dips and watch them disappear

 

dsc06841

Spooky Twig Spiders Webs

What you need

3 twigs of similar length and thickness (per web)

Light coloured string or wool

Plastic/rubber spiders

What you need to do

Lay your 3 twigs on the floor then tie and knot the string/wool around the middle to secure, then carefully loop the string tightly around each branch working in a circle until you reach the end of the twigs, cut and knot the string leaving a long length to hang your web up. Thread your spiders on to the web between the string or tie them on. I have hung my web on the front door.

 

spider-light

Spider Lights

What you need to do

Simply fill jam jars/glass bowls/vases or containers with shop bought ‘spiders webs’ or cotton wool (stretched and pulled), place a safe LED tea light (white or coloured) in the middle and your scary spiders in between the web and the glass, place on your windowsill or by the front door.

 

Have fun

Gill

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red-tomato-chutney

This morning there is a faint smell of vinegar in our house, yesterday I made Red Tomato Chutney using the crops that I had grown, Tomatoes (Large fleshy beef variety that contain very little juice or seeds), Onions and Bramley Apples, I made a large batch which produced 13 jars of this wonderful chestnut brown preserve, it cannot be eaten straight away as most chutneys take time to mature and should be left for at least a month before opening, I like to leave mine a little longer and will be eating this at Christmas with the Turkey. There are so many variations of Chutneys I think it is a case of anything goes whether its fruit, vegetables or a combination of both, it’s a great way to use up the last of your crops or alternatively to make good use of a glut. The word ‘Chutney’ is derived from the Hindu word ‘chatni’ which means strongly spiced if you like lightly spiced chutney then this recipe is perfect for you.

Red Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 900g/2lb Tomatoes (firm but ripe)
  • 450g/1lb Onions
  • 450g/1lb Cooking Apples (weight when peeled and cored)
  • 450ml/¾ pint Malt or Wine Vinegar (I used Malt)
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon Ground Mixed Spice
  • 350g/12oz Sugar
  • 300g/10oz Sultanas
  • Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste

What you need to do

  1. Skin and chop the tomatoes, peel and finely chop the onions and the apples.
  2. Put all the ingredients into the preserving pan except for the sugar, sultanas and the seasoning, simmer gently until tender.
  3. Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until dissolved then put in the sultanas and seasoning.
  4. Simmer steadily, stirring regularly until it is the consistency of a thick jam.
  5. Spoon into hot sterilized jars, add a waxed circle and tighten the lid securely.
  6. Store in a dark, cool and dry place.

Notes:

  1. I made 2.5 times the above quantities in a large stainless steel pan 17cm high x 25cm diameter, this is the maximum volume that can be made in this size of pan.
  2. Once the sultanas have been added you need to stir the mixture regularly as they sink to the bottom and can burn.
  3. If the chutney is slow to reduce down to a jam consistency, spoon off some of the watery mixture from the top of the pan and sieve out the vinegar liquid returning any pulp to the pan.

Homemade chutneys, jams and preserves make a lovely personal gift, why not plan ahead and give friends/family a home produce hamper this Christmas.

Gill

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Autumn Rasberries

Autumn Raspberries

The Autumn Raspberries are ripening fast in the warm weather and can be picked daily they are delicious with cream or ice cream but freshly picked Raspberries have a limited shelf life of about 3 days in the fridge, if you have a glut make them into delicious jam or freeze them in a single layer on trays then bag them up for use later on either in pies, crumbles, sauces, fruit smoothies, jams/jellies or in cakes. Here is a delicious recipe for you to try:

Raspberry and Lemon Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

  • 115g butter, softened
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 150g raspberries

For the drizzle

  • 80g caster sugar
  • Juice of one lemon

What you need to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C and grease and line a 28cm x 18cm rectangular tin.
  2. Put the butter, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and lemon zest in a bowl and beat for 2 minutes until well combined.
  3. Gently fold in the milk and two thirds of the raspberries
  4. Spoon the mixture into the tray and level out.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining raspberries over the surface of the cake.
  6. Bake for approx. 45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the cake is spongy to touch.
  7. Mix the lemon juice and sugar together, remove the cake from the oven and while still hot make holes in the top with a skewer and pour over the drizzle, leave to cool in the tin.

Eat cold or as a pudding warm with custard, ice cream or crème fraiche.

 

Raspberry Support With Extension

Raspberry Support

When you have finished picking the Autumn Raspberries (August to October harvest) cut the canes down to soil level, new canes will grow in the Spring that will bear next year’s fruit, if you have Summer fruiting raspberries (June to early August harvest) only cut back this years old fruiting canes, leave tie in and support this year’s new canes these will produce next year’s fruit.

Budget Fruit Cage

Fruit Cage

Raspberries are very easy to grow, bare root Raspberry canes can be ordered now for planting in November-March when they are dormant, they prefer a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position. Plant the canes of Summer Fruiting Raspberries 40cm apart and Autumn fruiting Raspberries 60cm apart at a depth of 8cm, firm in, water well and reduce the canes to a height of 25cm. Each spring mulch around the canes with well-rotted manure or apply a general fertiliser and then mulch with garden compost, water during dry weather and protect with a fruit cage or netting to stop the birds eating your crop.

Right I’m off to pick some more – it is raspberries and ice cream for tea!

Gill

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Does every day seem the same?

Then why not have a ‘Green Day’, when you get up in the morning announce to your children that you are going ‘Green’, this is where your imagination plays a part and a bit of forward planning is advisable.

Here are some ideas for a ‘Green Day’:

  • Get dressed in green clothes.
  • Place a drop of food colouring in some milk so that you can have green milk with your cereal.
  • Go shopping for green and healthy food – Cucumber, Lettuce, Apples, Avocado, Kiwi Fruit, Peas in the Pod, Limes, Broccoli, Peppers, Courgettes, Cabbage, Celery.
  • Do some green ‘cooking’ – Make an Avocado Dip, a Green Jelly, an Apple Pie, Fairy Cakes with Green Icing and decorations and Green Cordial Ice Cubes.
  • Paint a picture using only green paint – You can make different shades of green by adding a bit of black or white paint.
  • Grow something green – Mustard and Cress Seeds are very fast to germinate, you can watch them growing day by day and can be eaten in about a week.
  • Go for a walk and collect green leaves, see how many different types you can find, take them home and make some leaf rubbing pictures with your green crayons.
  • At the end of the day have a lovely bath with some green bubble bath or add a few drops of green food colouring to the water.

Try the challenge again on another day with a different colour.

Why not use some of your fruit and vegetables to enter our free, fun face on a plate Summer Competition in the Gardening With Children Family Zone?

Vegetable face

Create a face on a plate using fruit and vegetables; it can be sad, happy or just silly it doesn’t have to be a person it can be an animal, bird, creature, an alien or a figment of your imagination, why not experiment you can send in as many entries as you like.

An Illuminated Minibeast Centre

The Illuminated Minibeast Centre - Solar Insect Theatre

Not only is it great for collecting and studying insects, it also features a solar light which glows in the dark and can attract moths.

The centre can be used in 3 ways

  1. For insect sample collection/ field trips
  2. General Insect Study
  3. Moth Study

Your minibeasts can be placed inside the study centre either via the opening top or through the opening side ports with the perspex windows, twigs and flower stems can also be put inside to provide a temporary habitat whilst you study your bugs and beasties. A rope handle makes the Minibeast Centre easy to carry so you’ll want to take it out and about to collect interesting creatures.
On the top of the Minibeast Centre is the solar lamp this is perfect for attracting night flying insects and bugs such moths and night flying beetles, make sure that the rechargeable battery gets a good charge by leaving the minibeast centre out in bright light during the day, in the evening open the side windows to allow the insects attracted by the light to enter the study chamber, release your creatures as soon as you have studied them.

The Minibeast Centre is made of slow-seasoned FSC timber so will be durable and not require any chemical treatments.

Take a photograph of your creation and send it to us with your details on the entry form (click here) to gill@gardeningwithchildren.co.uk or by post to Gardening with Children Family Competition, Gardening Works, Unit 1, Bee Mill, Ribchester, Preston PR3 3XJ by the closing date of Wednesday 31st August 2016.

Have fun

Gill

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