Hi everyone welcome to the new monthly blog. To start us off is Easter which is on Sunday 4th April which in the words of the Easter bunny is soon going to hop around!
Now Easter isn’t all about the chocolate (I know I gave up chocolate for lent too) but don’t worry this blog will cover chocolatey goodness. But deep down it’s about having a special day and for some there is the religious focus of the resurrection of Jesus.
Like most holidays and special days there are lots of different choices out there and to be fair it’s not easy to know what to get or what to do. Especially with this year where we can’t do absolutely everything we want or would normally do. But have no fear, I am here to take you on the Easter journey and give you some ideas for making this Easter extra special.
‘Easter on a budget’ it does not matter what budget you have. The ideas I have included in this blog you can tailor to your budget, plus I have added in some little freebie downloads and recipes which you can use for Easter or even tailor to any special day. Preparation is key, but the hardest part I find is deciding what to do, with so many choices out there it can be a little daunting. Within this blog I have come up with some examples of what you can do to make it special.
One way is to break Easter up in to manageable chunks, maybe go with the flow of the day. For example I have broken it down in to these areas breakfast, Easter treats and of course fitting in an Easter themed treasure hunt. Now to keep to your budget and in preparation write a list before you go out in to the supermarkets, decide what you are having so that you keep to your budget. Or even just use what you have already.
Easter is special regardless of what you spend on it and that’s what matters.
Eggs – no not the chocolatey kind just yet, but ordinary eggs. Get your colouring pencils out or any pen/pencil will do for this. Simply boil the egg to your requirements (here is a recipe should you need it) and voila we have an Easter themed breakfast. Or simply download an Easter picture and pop it near everyone’s favourite breakfast and colour it in and use them as placemats. Fancy chocolate at this time? Sure why not make a cup of hot chocolate and toast some hot cross buns.
Check out the this fab set of free Easter colouring links from Crayola click here to help make breakfast Easter special.
Making Easter treats can be fun for all the family. I personally love making Easter nests, don’t tell the Easter bunny but it’s not all about rabbits, Easter is often associated with chicks. Here is a recipe for Easter nests click here, now you can use cornflakes or even Weetabix just replace the shredded wheat for your cereal of choice. Why not make this extra fun and have a little picnic by making some sandwiches and nests which will make for a great fun lunch.
Of course this year we can’t go out to a pre-planned hunt, but there are lots of wonderful ideas out there, so I have put together an idea but just tailor it to you and your family that way you will have a lot more fun. Great hiding places can be found inside and outside even pots of daffodils can come in handy. Click here for the idea.
The key to any special day is just to enjoy it, hopefully the sun will be shining and we can all enjoy a bit of sunshine on Easter Sunday and the bank holiday. Have fun that’s the main thing and take photos, I would love to see your colouring, egg designs, rabbit masks or whatever you do!
That’s all for now readers, which leaves me with one last thing to say which is to wish you all a very Happy Easter and thank you for reading.
Until the next post – Have fun, stay safe and take care Pen x
Just like Pen said, we'd love to see what fun you've been up to! Email us your photos or visit us on Facebook. Any photos submitted will be shared in our photo gallery. Enjoy!
We asked for blackberry recipes and that's what we got! Our community worker happens to enjoy some time in the kitchen so has had great fun with this particular challenge. Keep an eye out for more of her blackberry recipes on the way. Over to you Alex...
Super Simple Fruit Compote
Fruit compotes are a great way to use up leftover fruits. Soft fruits like berries are ideal! Compotes are super simple and easy to adapt the recipe to what you have in the house...
Mix and match flavourings
For this mini-jar I used frozen foraged blackberries, a drop of orange juice, honey and mint from the garden.
1. Add the fruit to a pan over a medium heat. Allow the fruit to soften completely, stirring occasionally. Depending on the water content of the fruit you may like to add a splash of water or juice to help get things going.
2. Your mixture should gradually turn to an almost jam-like consistency, give it a taste and add whichever flavours you fancy! Some berries can be quite sharp so you may want to add something to sweeten it up a little. You won't need much to make a difference. Taste again and play with flavours until you're happy.
3. That's it. Enjoy! Fruit compote can be used as an alternative as jam but will only last for a few days in the fridge as it doesn't have all the preservatives in it. Don't waste any of this yummy concoction, only make what you need!
We had family coming over and wanted a little treat with a cup of tea. However, post lockdown people might be feeling a little wary of their waist lines... So I made wholemeal honey scones as an alternative to cake! This fruit compote is a tasty alternative to sugar filled jam and counts towards your five a day. If you were really pushing the boat you could swap the clotted cream for greek yoghurt but sometimes clotted cream is the right and only answer!
Jo topped the scones... I would have done it the right way and put compote first, OBVIOUSLY!
Check back tomorrow for more!
Watch out Gordon Ramsey... Move over Jamie Oliver... There's a new chef on the scene!
Thank you to Rosie, age 12 - superstar chef and her friend Grace - future camerawoman for their fantastic video on how to make blackberry and apple fool... Using foraged blackberries of course!
Serves 4. Prep time 15 mins, cook time 5 mins.
1 large dessert apple, peeled, cored and chopped
A few drops of vanilla essence
3 - 4 tbsp of clear honey
1 egg white
4 - 5 tbsp thick Greek yoghurt
Mint leaves - optional
Not only is this delicious dessert easy to prepare it is low in calories and packed full of vitamin c!
1. Place the apple, vanilla and honey in a pan and cook gently until just softened. Add the blackberries (keep back a few for decoration) and cook gently until all the fruit is soft.
2. Put a couple of blackberries in the base of each serving dish. Leave the rest until cold. Then gently mash or lightly beat the fruit together without turning it into a puree.
3. Whisk the egg white until standing in peaks and fold this into the fruit mixture along with the yoghurt, but don't fold too much.
4. Divide evenly between the four serving dishes and leave to chill. Serve the blackberry and apple fool decorated with the remaining fruit and mint leaves.
See you tomorrow!
Soup. Also known as a very grown up way to use the inside of your Halloween pumpkin!
The great thing about soups is that they are such flexible recipes. Using our very basic guide you can make any number of inventions. You could use home grown veggies straight out of the garden, oddments you've found in the fridge or pull out one of those freezer boxes you prepared a few weeks back. It' even up to you how you cook it, if you fancy some quiet time in front of the hob then carry on... Or if it's a lazy Sunday afternoon, then fire up the slow cooker and flop on the sofa. Like we did!
Our basic ingredient guide:
Your ingredient pile might end up looking something like this:
The plan was to make a spicy pumpkin soup but apparently we're too early in the season... So we improvised! Do us a favour, when you tell your friends about this amazing recipe, can you tell them it was pumpkin for a spooky Halloween soup please?
Step one: Deseed and peel the squash (cough PUMPKIN cough) and cut into chunks. Season with pepper and chilli flakes then roast for about 30 minutes in a 200 degrees C oven. If you can't be bothered to roast it, fair enough! Put the roasted (or not) squash in your slow cooker pot or pan on the hob.
Step two: Roughly chop your remaining vegetables (or open your freezer box) and add to the pot/pan.
Step three: Add your stock. How much is up to you depending on how thick you want your finished soup. If you're using the hob about a pint is a good place to start. Slow cookers need less liquid so we used a mug and a half of stock. You can always add more water later on if required. Add your seasoning.
Step four: If you're using the hob, leave to slowly boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally. If you're using a slow cooker, turn it to high and take a four hour nap or turn it to low and take a day trip.
Step five: Blend to the consistency you like.
Step six: We're hoping the Queen might call in so we primped our soup with garlic oil, balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.
Hints and tips:
The main flavour - make sure this is the bulk of your ingredients.
The secondary flavour - Use odd little bits of whatever you like, but if you want to make your soup look pretty at the end, use vegetables that are similar colours to each other.
Dried pulses - Dried lentils, beans or chickpeas are great thickeners but just be careful. They can take more cooking than you think, so soak them first and follow instructions on the packet.
Dairy - Cream, cheese, yoghurt or crème fraiche are all excellent options for thickeners or garnishes, but remember they reactive differently depending on how you are cooking. If you're using a hob and want to add cream or cheese then add it with the stock and stir occasionally. However if you're using a slow cooker you are at greater risk of the soup mix splitting and curdling so add it just before you blend the soup.
Have fun improvising with your harvest this Halloween!
Keep a look out for a post closer to Halloween. We have a carved pumpkin alternative for any crafty grown ups out there, but thought you might have read enough for one day... Check back soon...
Halloween is swiftly approaching... So it's time for pumpkin carving! Hooray!!! But it also means a lot of yummy pumpkin going to waste! Boo!!!
Ask yourself this, how many pumpkins do you think you've eaten compared to how many you've carved? They're a little bit like marmite aren't they, love them or hate them... But we all love a carved pumpkin even if we don't fancy eating it.
So we've come up with a few alternatives this year! We may have gotten a little carried away so it's in two parts. Fun for the kids today and fun for the bigger kids tomorrow!
Yummy Little Ghosties...
You will need:
Hmmm. He looks like he may have been modelled on Freddie Mercury... Dependant on the variety some apples can ripen off in the trees right up until November. If you've still got some growing near you these little Halloween treats are a great way to use them and they're easy to tweak. If you add a touch of orange food dye you can make pumpkins or swap out the icing for decorations of your own choice. Raisins or melted dark chocolate perhaps?
You will need:
Again, there are many ways to personalise this crafty little lady. You can use paints instead of pens and add as many decorations as you like. If you're really feeling fancy and have a steady hand then you with a sharp knife you could carve the face as you would on a pumpkin.
Remember we don't like to waste anything so save the juices and pulp that you scraped out. You could use it to flavour jellies and truffles as an extra treat. If you've carved your orange that's pretending to be a pumpkin that's pretending to be a witch, then you can also use the peel later on. Use the zest in cheesecakes and brownies or make some preserved and candied peel ready for Christmas!
It might be early but happy Halloween folks!
We had fun last Friday. A few of our chirpy volunteers spent a little time outside Wellesley and Abbotswood Primary schools talking to locals for our yearly community consultation.
This year we may have added a cheeky little incentive, free food! Barbara had been out foraging Abbotswood apples and Nessa had been busy making mini jars of jam from local fruits. The jam went down a treat and we managed to convince a few people to try apple foraging for themselves. So we'll help you out...
Here's the apples...
And here's the jam...
Nessa's Yate Bramble Jam: Nessa used local foraged blackberries and apples for her recipe. Knowing that we were doing a giveaway we bought the jam jars, but there is nothing stopping you recycling the jars you've already got at home. If you do that then all you have to buy is the sugar! Hooray! Nessa used 2 bags of sugar, which made about 5 pounds of jam. By using foraged fruits, and reusing jars that's 5 pounds of jam for a teeny tiny £1.28. What more could you ask for?
Jam can be a great introduction to home preserving as you can tweak this basic recipe to your heart's content...
1 lb granulated sugar
1 lb fruit
Step one: Place the fruit and sugar into a large pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step two: Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, the jam should start to thicken.
Step three: Remove the jam from the heat. Spoon some of the mixture onto a cold plate. Leave for a few minutes and then push the mixture with a spoon handle or your finger (clean hands please!). If the jam wrinkles, you're good to go. If not, put the jam back on the heat for a minute or two before trying again.
Step four: While the jam is still hot, pour into sterilised jars. Do up the lid while the jam is still hot, the jam will thicken in the jar and the lid should start to create a dip as it cools. This means you can keep it safely in your cupboard for up to 6 months. It could stay there longer but might start to lose flavour. If you don't see the dip in the lid, keep the jam in the fridge and use within a few weeks. What a hardship that would be right?
Anyone hungry? Because it's recipe time!
Apples and blackberries have been particularly abundant in and around Abbotswood this year, so we've been out foraging and made a batch of wild fruit scones to have on Wednesday's Wild Owl TV Garden talk. They were the favourite from the refreshment table with none leftover, so we thought we'd share with you.
The original recipe came from the National Trust Book of Scones, but as recipes so often are, it's been tweaked here and there.
You will need:
Step one: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. The amount of cinnamon can be pretty flexible depending on your taste, but a teaspoon or two is probably a good place to start. Add the butter and rub in to create the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Step two: Peel and dice the apples, add them to the mix and give a quick stir.
Step three: Stir the milk and egg together, before gradually adding to the dry ingredients. Add a little at a time. The mixture should come together to a slightly damp but not sloppy dough. Add a little extra milk if required.
Step four: Add the blackberries and mix until they are evenly spread throughout.
Step five: Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 3cm thick. Stamp out the mixture. A 7cm cutter will give you about 10 scones. You can use whatever size cutter you like, just remember this will affect cooking times.
Step six: Place the scones on a lined baking tray and bake in a 190 degrees C oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Ours took 18 minutes. The cooked scones should be well risen and slightly springy to the touch.
Step seven: Cool slightly, then munch away! Best served warm with lashings of clotted cream... and maybe even a dollop of bramble jam if you fancy.
Chef's top tips...
After several mishaps Alex has learnt a few scone making tricks and she's kindly sharing them with you.
We're all aware of savers accounts at the bank, but why should saving only be about money? We're talking about saving scraps of food. When thinking about sustainability and reducing food waste the freezer should be one of your best friends. You've probably heard TV chefs talk about batch cooking so you can make your own ready meals, but plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are freezable too. With some clever thinking and pre-planning you can save all of those little scraps left at the bottom of the fridge.
Here's the secret...
Treat yourself to some freezer safe containers.
Alright so it's not a very exciting secret, but it's well worth it. We're over halfway through September so it's over to you to do some of the work. It's OK don't panic, think of your favourite recipes you already know and love. Then label up a couple of empty tubs. As you stumble across some sad looking fruits or veggies in the fridge, chop them up and add them to the most relevant tub. Simple. When the tub's full, whip it out and get cooking.
Here's some examples of what savers tubs you could make:
Go and have some fun experimenting. You know you want to...
How's the foraging going everyone? There are plenty of apple trees ripe for the picking around Abbotswood. Why not go and grab some then try this cheeky little recipe? It was given to us by Barbara, who was offering samples to guests at last year's Autumn Day. It's wonderfully simple, no complicated cooking involved, all you need is a grater and microwave!
Step 1: Peel and grate the apples. Put the gratings into a microwave safe bowl.
Step 2: Add the sugar and combine. Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
Step 3: Add lemon juice and cinnamon to taste. Mix well and microwave for another 2 1/2 minutes.
Step 4: Have a sneaky taste! Add extra lemon juice and cinnamon if necessary.
Step 5: Get munching! Cool and store in the fridge or freeze for later.
It tastes great and there's plenty of scrummy things you can do with the sauce. Why not try some of these examples from our community:
Our current author is our AAG Committee member Pen Bailey. If you would like to be a guest blogger please do contact us here at AAG