Caramel Apple Cake

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Today, some friends and I went to a food festival at the beautiful Stonyhurst College. We decided (largely due to the lure of free entry) to each enter a cake into the ‘Great British Cake Off’ competition. I found the recipe for my entry, Apple Caramel Layer Cake in ‘Delicious’ magazine, and delicious it was (although, evidently not as delicious as some of the other entries as sadly I didn’t win!).

I’ve made the recipe a couple of times, but changed it slightly for this competition in that I only included two layers to make it easier to transport and slice. I also put apple puree and extra caramel between the layers as well as the Greek yoghurt and caramelised apple slices to give it a bit of extra bite. Caramelised apple slices and spun sugar finished it off nicely.

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I’d encourage you to give this one a try. It really is beautiful and a lovely way to use up all those seasonal cooking apples! Enjoy.

Spiced Elderberry Cordial

We were having a little trundle along a canal tow path this afternoon when we happened upon a cluster of elderflower trees, and the berries were just about ripe.

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After filling a bag up, we headed home where I gave them a good wash and removed the berries from the stalks by running a fork though them (think brushing knotty hair with a comb!).

I’d thought about doing a flavoured gin with the berries, but alas, didn’t have enough gin in, and didn’t fancy heading out to the shops, so I found a basic recipe for cordial online, but changed it up a bit. This cordial really is a taste of Autumn with its warming spice and rich flavour.

After washing the berries and removing them from the stalks, put them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Quantity really doesn’t matter here, just put enough water in to cover them. Add in a couple of cinnamon sticks, star anise, a few cloves and the rind of a lemon and boil, stiring occasionally, for twenty minutes.

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When the twenty minutes is up, strain the mixture through a muslin lined sieve into a jug. Squeeze the muslin to get as much juice out of the berries as possible, before discarding.

Make a note of the quantity of juice before pouring from the jug into a clean pan. Add in an equal quantity of sugar, I used half caster and half demerara, and the juice of one lemon.  Let it boil for about 15 minutes, stiring occasionally until all the sugar has dissolved and the cordial is syrupy. Decant into a sterilised bottle and leave to cool before storing in the fridge.

This is delicious served warm, or cold over ice with sparkling water or lemonade. It’s also delicious added to a G&T or martini.

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Homemade Butter

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It’s rare that we run out of butter in this household, but alas, we did this morning. Not wanting to deny Phoebe the buttered bagel she had asked for as part of her breakfast, I dug some left over double cream out of the fridge, stuck it in the Kitchen Aid with a large pinch of salt, and whisked on high until clumps of butter were formed and the buttermilk separated (you’ll need the cover on your kitchen aid/mixer to stop buttermilk splattering everywhere).

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Once you’ve got to this stage, put a piece of muslin or a clean tea towel in a bowl, and pour the mixture into it.

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Squeeze out the excess buttermilk.

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And there you have it; salted butter in a flash! You can of course leave the salt out and use the buttermilk in baking, or indeed flavour with herbs and/or garlic. phew, crisis averted!

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Our first Contact the Elderly tea party

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Well, this afternoon I hosted Preston’s first Contact the Elderly tea party in conjunction with Full Life Church . It was such a privilege and so incredible to see just what a difference a simple afternoon tea with others in similar situations can make to an elderly person who perhaps isn’t able to get out and about, or who doesn’t have local friends or family.

As you may well know, I love to bake, so used the opportunity to make a few different things to ensure there was something for everyone to enjoy.

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Scones, of course, are a given at any tea party, and I served mine with raspberry jam and dollops of clotted cream.

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These mini filo and creme pat fruit tartlets are also a crowd pleaser, and are so easy to make. Check out the recipe here.

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I came across a recipe for a Bakewell Cheesecake this week which I thought I’d have a shot at and it turned out pretty well. The recipe is from the BBC website here.

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Cute little chocolate fudge cupcakes added an extra touch of kitsch, while a blonde spiced fruit cake brought an element of old school.

As for savoury, I kept it simple just doing finger sandwiches with classic fillings to suit all tastes. Ham, mustard and cucumber, egg mayo and cress, smoked salmon and cream cheese and mature cheddar and tomato. A few sausage rolls, cheese straws and pork pies finished it off nicely.

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Six guests arrived escorted by their volunteer drivers, and they enjoyed a tot of sherry in the lounge before sitting at the table for tea.

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The food was enjoyed almost as much as the conversation.

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I was presented with a Contact the Elderly pin, which I will no doubt wear with pride!

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This afternoon highlighted a few things to me:
1) Even the simplest things, such as inviting someone to your home for tea and cake can make a huge difference to them.
2) It’s a sad fact, but there is a demand for this, and there are far more isolated and lonely older people than we might think.
3) Contact the Elderly really does provide a lifeline for so many, and you can be involved. It doesn’t take much. If you think you might be able to host a tea party once a month, or drive a guest to and from the host’s house  then please have a look at the Contact the Elderly website and do something amazing! You won’t regret it, I can vouch for that.