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Blueberry Fritters

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So the blueberries are beginning to ripen in our garden now.  Half of our bushes are an early variety which produces really big berries.  They are about the size of grapes.   On a side note, don't you just love this poem by Robert Frost???   I thought it was great!   

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I had about half a cup of nice ripe ones today.  It wasn't enough to make much with . . . but I did need to pick them today.  I suppose I could have frozen them, but the temptation to use them right now was too great and so I decided to make blueberry fritters.

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Fruit fritters are really easy to make.  You can do them with just about any type of fruit.  In the local coffee shop back home you can buy apple ones, which are filled with cinnamon and big chunks of apple and sultana raisins.  If you are using a really wet fruit, you will want to dry it well and dip it in some flour before you dip it into the batter, or the batter won't stick.

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Some of the berries will probably pop out when you cook these, but that's ok . . . it just makes these little craggy holes which get all crisp on the edges . . . my favourite part and the fried berries are rather scrummy too.

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You could glaze them with an icing sugar glaze, but I just dust mine with icing sugar.   They look like they've been snowed on, and I rather like the look of it myself . . . besides glazes can sometimes turn things soggy . . . and we don't want that do we?

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We want nice crisp fritters . . . with golden brown edges and just enough sweet to go with the tartness of the berries.   I like mine to be really golden brown, but if you like yours lighter just take them out sooner.   The important thing is to make sure your oil is hot enough before you begin frying.   That's the secret to a crisp fritter!

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*Blueberry Fritters*
Makes about 12
Printable Recipe

These are easy to make and delicious.  I am rather lazy you know, so easy works best for me.  Do make sure your oil is at the right temperature so that you end up with crisp fritters instead of soggy greasy ones.  Ideally it should be 180 to 190*C/360- 375*F.  If you have a deep fat  thermometer, use it.  If not, the oil is ready if when a drop of batter dropped into it the drop sizzles immediately and rises to the top.  Under no circumstances should you walk away from the stove when deep fat frying.  Also keep a pot lid handy to clap onto the top of the pan in case of fire.

1 cup plain flour (140g)
1/4 cup caster sugar (50g)
1 heaped tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
the finely grated zest of one lemon
1 large free range egg, beaten
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 TBS butter, melted
1/2 cup fresh blueberries (small punnet)
canola oil for frying
icing sugar for dusting

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Sift the flour into a bowl along with the sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom.  Whisk in the lemon zest.   Beat together the egg, milk, vanilla and melted butter.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet all at once.  Stir just to combine.  It's ok if it's lumpy, that's a good sign.   Fold in the fruit.

Heat 3 to 4 inches of canola oil in a deep skillet.  Once the oil is hot enough (see above) drop in heaped TBS of the batter, using two spoons to roll scoops of the batter into the hot oil.  Don't over crowd the pan or your oil will cool down too much.  I only do two to three at a time.  Cook until crisp and brown on one side, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, then carefully flip them over and brown on the other side for approximately the same amount of time.  Scoop out onto a rack lined with paper kitchen toweling to drain.   
Allow to cool somewhat.   Dust generously with sifted icing sugar and serve.  These aren't keepers so eat on the day!  (They get soggy if left longer, although you can refresh them somewhat in a hot oven.)
Marie Rayner
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Mom's Fried Potatoes

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I wish you could smell my house right now.  It smells just gorgeous . . . like butter and fried onions . . . very scrummy indeed.  I  wanted to share something today which really isn't a recipe so much as it is a memory combined with a technique . . . a combination which is always quite delicious . . .

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We had company on Friday evening and I served  Raclette. In other words, I made my guests cook their own dinner, but that was ok.  They did not mind at all.  We always have it with boiled baby new potatoes.  I did cook rather a lot . . . just in case (as you do), and I ended up with quite a bit leftover.

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I found myself staring at them in the refrigerator today and thinking to myself . . . what would Nigel do . . . Nigel is the master at taking a few ingredients to hand and creating something wonderfully delicious with them.   In one of his earlier cookbooks (Real Food) I found a recipe where he had used waxy potatoes and slow cooked them, thinly sliced with onions and garlic, in butter until they were golden brown and then he banged some cheese on top.

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And then I remembered the fried potatoes my mother used to make.   She didn't make them often, so when she did they were a real treat.   We loved them.  I have fond memories of the sight and smell of my mother standing over the stove and frying us potatoes for supper.

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She would melt a large knob of butter in a frying pan and then she would fry slices of cold boiled potatoes in the butter until they were gilded with butter and golden brown, crisp at every edge, with nothing more than some salt and pepper to flavour them . . .

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Oh boy, but they were good . . . the edges all crisp and buttery, but the insides still meltingly tender and potato-ee . . . she could never make enough.   We loved them so very much.   And so . . . I decided to make mom's fried potatoes, except I added a chopped onion and some leftover diced pancetta to the pan along with a nice knob of butter . . .  and then  sliced the potatoes in, about 1/4 inch thick and unpeeled (because I am rather lazy you know . . . )   I sprinkled them with sea salt and black pepper and a bit of savory.  I stood there turning them as they browned and thinking about what a labour of love that was for my mother to make those potatoes for us and how very much we enjoyed them . . . with the smell of crisping and buttery onions filling the air . . .

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And then I pulled a leaf of inspiration from Nigel's book and I tore up some leftover Reblochon cheese from the other night and scattered it over top of the hot potatoes . . . allowing it to melt and ooze into all of the nooks and crannies and crevices . . . not something mom would have done, but I had it, and it wasn't cheap and it needed to be used too . . .

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And so we feasted on buttery, cheesy and crispy golden pan fried potatoes, accompanied with gently warmed leftover brisket, buttered rolls and pickled beets.  A meal fit for a King . . . and this Queen.  And we died and went to heaven . . . the scent of which is still tantalizing us, and will probably accompany us throughout the evening on into bed time.

I can think of much worse things . . . can't you?

Marie Rayner
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Bumbleberry Pie

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Bumbleberries . . . they're something I have in abundance this time of year.   My fruit is ripening, but in small amounts . . . a handful of blueberries here, a handful of raspberries there.   The last few strawberries . . . stragglers, etc.

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You know what I mean . . . you have lots of berries hanging about, but not enough of any ONE berry to do anything that is distinctly dedicated to just them.   It's Bumbleberry season!

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You don't even need to grow your own.  It could be a few blueberries leftover from making pancakes or muffins.   Perhaps a friend dropped off a pint of raspberries.  You didn't use all of the berries you bought for strawberry shortcake.  A little bit here, and a little bit there and you've got Bumbleberries!!

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Bumbleberries make the most delicious pie!  A balance of sweet and tart that pleases with every mouthful.  I don't know anyone that doesn't enjoy this lovely pie.  I, myself, am not fond of cooked strawberry pie, but I love them in this pie, full stop.

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It's gorgeous served just slightly warm with a bit of  vanilla ice cream scooped and settled on top!!   Okay . . . so that's one mega scoop sitting there, but hey!   In for a penny in for a pound!

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And who can blame me?  Really.  I know . . . I'm one weak willed puddy tat.

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*Bumbleberry Pie*
Makes one 9 inch pie  
A delicious pie composed of five berries.  Perfect for berry season when all of them are coming in fast and furious and you don't have enough of any one kind to do anything substantial with!
Pastry for a two crust pie
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries, picked over and washed
1 1/4 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup black or red currants, or cranberries if you can't get the currants
(if using cranberries, coarsely chop them)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 TBS cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
pinch salt
the juice of 1/2 lemon
the finely grated zest of 1/2 un-waxed lemon
Cream for brushing and sugar for sprinkling  

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Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. 
Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt.   Gently fold the berries together in a bowl.  Stir in the sugar mixture along with the lemon zest and the lemon juice.  Let stand for a few minutes, while you roll out the pastry.

Roll out half of the pastry to fit into a 9 inch pie dish with a bit of an overhang.    Roll out the other half to fit over the top.   Pour in the berry mixture.  Top with the top crust.  Press together along the edge, trim to an even 1/2 inch.  Flute.  Cut several steam vents into the top of the pie.  Brush generously with cream and sprinkle with sugar.

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Place a foil lined pan on the bottom rack of the oven, and then place  the pie on the centre oven rack, over it.   Bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5, Turn the pie 180 degrees, and then bake for a further 35 to 40 minutes, until the juices are bubbling thickly and the pastry is done.

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If it appears to be browning too quickly, cover with foil during the last 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least an hour before serving.
Marie Rayner
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Jaffa Cake Muffins

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Usually at the weekend I like to do something a little special for Saturday morning breakfast . . . sometimes it's a nice big fry up, or pancakes . . . and sometimes it's a tasty muffin like these Jaffa Cake Muffins!  

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Stogged full of sweet milk chocolate chips and the flavours of orange and vanilla, these are so quick and easy to make, and oh so delicious.    

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Moist and buttery and oh so chocolatey, they go down real nice with a warm chocolate, or a cold glass of milk . . . perfect for dunking in tea if that's your poison . . .   

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The orange flavour shines through with the addition of freshly zested orange peel, that you rub into the sugars with your fingertips. Just a little trick I learned from my friend Dorie.   Try it with any citrus peels when you are baking.  It works a charm . . . and your fingers smell lovely jubbely when you are done!  

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Just look at those chocolate chips!   Well . . . what are you waiting for???  Get into the kitchen and get your bake on!  Time's a wasting!

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*Jaffa Cake Muffins*
Makes 12
These are delightful little cakes.  All the flavours of a jaffa cake . . . in a muffin.  Orange and milk chocolate.  What's not to like? 

280g of plain flour (2 cups)
100g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
85 g of soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
160ml of whole milk (2/3 cup)
2 large free range eggs, lightly beaten
115g of butter, melted (1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
the finely grated zest of 1/2 an orange
340g of milk chocolate chips (12 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6.   Butter and flour 12 medium muffin cups. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, essences, milk and melted butter.  Set aside.
Measure the sugar into a bowl.  Add the orange zest and rub it in with your fingertips until it becomes very fragrant.   Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir together.  Stir in the chocolate chips.   Make a well in the centre and add the liquid ingredients all at once.   Stir only to combine.  Divide equally amongst the muffin cups.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until well risen and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Allow to stand in the pans for about 5 minutes before tipping out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

If desired you can melt some dark chocolate and drizzle it over top before serving.
Marie Rayner
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Enjoying an Iced Chocolate with Tassimo . . .

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Did you know that you can enjoy iced drinks with your Tassimo machine??  I didn't either, but this month Tassimo sent me a set of TASSIMO Iced T DISCS so I could try it out for myself.  There is a set of four discs which you can use to create chilled versions of Cappuccino, Chocolate, Espresso or Green Tea's.

With this hot weather we've been having they've come in mighty handy . . . well, the chocolate ones at any rate. 

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I never thought I would enjoy an iced chocolate, as I am not overly fond of chocolate milk, but I have to say I quite enjoyed this!  It was so easy to make also.   The discs came with full instructions on how to use them . . . using the Tassimo Intellibrew system, we had iced chocolates in hand in next to no time at all.

Thanks Tassimo!   You helped us to cool off in a very delicious way!
Marie Rayner
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Slow Braised Brisket Sarnies, with quick pickled onions

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They had beef brisket on special offer the other day I was in the shops.  I couldn't resist picking up a piece, even though it's been quite hot this week.  I thought if all else failed, I could cook it in the slow cooker.

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I had in mind to make these tasty slow braised brisket sandwiches which we like.   The meat is a real doddle to cook.  You simply put it into a small covered roasting tin with some stock, balsamic vinegar, onions, garlic and a few herbs . . .

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Roasted on high for an hour . . . to really get it going . . . and then you turn it down real low and let it cook . . . slowly . . . until the meat is fork tender . . .

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This is a really delicious way to do beef brisket.  It's juicy and tender and beautiful served, coarsely shredded on warmed crisp baguettes . . .

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You spread the baguettes first with some delicious Garlic Horseradish Mayo, which you make yourself.   You top the meat with quick pickled onions, which you also make yourself.

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Altogether these ingredients make one of the most delicious and easiest sandwiches you could ever want to eat.  A real man and family pleaser!!  If it's too hot to have the oven on, you can do them in the slow cooker.  Just increase the times accordingly.  You will need at least 6 to 8 hours to do the meat on medium to low.  Just cook on high for the first hour to get it going really well.

I guarantee if you make these for your family they are sure to become a much requested family favourite!

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*Slow Braised Brisket Sarnies*
with quick pickled onions
Serves 4 to 6
Tender and moist brisket sandwiches served on fresh baguettes with a Horseradish and Garlic Mayo and Quick Pickled Onion garnish.  Delicious!  It's the meal that basically cooks itself!

For the meat:
1.5 kg rolled beef brisket
(Unroll and trim off most of the fat if you can)
2 red onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 banana shallot, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
125ml of good quality Balsamic vinegar (1/2 cup)
500ml of beef stock (2 cups)
1 TBS brown sugar, packed
fine sea salt to taste
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf, broken in two

For the Quick Pickled Onions:
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
125ml of white balsamic vinegar (1/2 cup)
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp fine sea salt

For the Horseradish and Garlic Mayo:
2 TBS creamed horseradish
4 TBS garlic mayo

To serve:
fresh crisp baguettes or ciabatta rolls, warmed
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 6. 

Place the onions, shallots and garlic into the bottom of a small roasting tin which has a tight lid.  Place the un-rolled and trimmed brisket on top.  Whisk together the stock, vinegar, sugar, salt, and rosemary.  Pour this into the roaster.  Tuck in the broken bay leaf.  Cover tightly and roast in the heated oven for 1 hour.   At the end of that time, reduce the heat to 160*C/325*F/ gas mark 3.  Continue to cook the brisket for an additional 3 to 4 hours until the beef is fork tender.   Remove from the oven, but don't turn the oven off.
Remove the brisket to a plate and coarsely shred it with two forks.  Gently fold this, along with any juices back into the oven gravy.  Cover again and bang it back into the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

Whisk together the ingredients for the mayo and set aside.
Heat the vinegar for the pickle in the microwave for about 45 seconds.  Whisk in the sugar and salt.  Stir in the onions and give them a good coating.   Allow to stand for five minutes, giving them an occasional swish with a fork.

To serve, cut the baguettes in half lengthwise.   Spread with some of the mayo and top with a generous amount of the shredded beef and some of the pickled onions.  Serve immediately.  We like to have coleslaw with this, but fill your boots and have whatever you want with it.  Todd likes his on a Baguette, but I prefer mine on a Ciabatta.   It's all a matter of taste and texture!

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Marie Rayner
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Clean Out The Fridge Vegetable Gratin

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Getting close to the end of the week here . . . time to clear out the fridge and get use out of what's there.  Those are my favourite kinds of meals, and thankfully the weather has turned a bit now so I could make this delicious gratin!    

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I love gratins . . . they are so adaptable.  You can fling just about everything in, cover it with flavoured cream and cheese and bang it under the grill and have a tasty meal at the end of it all.  

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Today I used a few carrots,  half a cauliflower, a few baby new potatoes, what was left of a bag of haricot verts beans . . . and a few spring onions I found in the bottom of the drawer, needing to be used up before they went all manky . . .   which seems to happen almost overnight these days . . .

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I also had some cream which needed using and a nice chunk of that kick ass onion and garlic cheddar from last weekend's ploughman's lunch that I made for Todd.  It made an excellent topping for this, along with some buttered crumbs created from a stale piece of bread . . .   

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It was so simple to make as well.  I cooked the vegetables first in some lightly salted water.   Softened the onions in a bit of butter, drained the veg and stirred the whole thing together and them banged it into a gratin dish . . .   

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A light napping of cream, scattered with lashings of grated cheese and buttered crumbs, a quick bake in a hot oven and Bob's Your Uncle!   Dinner is served!!  Delicious with a few slices of brown bread and some frizzled leftover gammon.

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*Clear the Fridge Vegetable Gratin*
Serves 4

Believe it or not, this was delicious,  quick and easy and used up all the bits and bobs left in the fridge at the end of the week!   You can't complain about any of that! 

3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
9 small new potatoes, unpeeled, washed
1/2 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
a large handful of french beans (haricot verts)
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
about 6 spring onions, chopped
a knob of butter
several large  handfuls of grated well flavoured cheese (I used kick ass onion and garlic cheddar)
225ml of single cream (1 cup) mixed with 1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard
buttered soft white bread crumbs  

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Bring a large lightly salted pan of water to the boil.  Add the potatoes.  Cook for about 8 minutes, drop in the carrots.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Drop in the green beans and cauliflower and cook for five minutes longer.  By then all your vegetables should be fork tender and the beans still nice and green.  Drain well.  Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190*C/ 375*F/ gas mark 5.

Add a knob of butter to the pan.  Add the spring onions and cook, stirring to soften.  Stir in the drained vegetables and season with some salt and black pepper to taste.  Pour this mixture into a shallow gratin dish.  Drizzle the cream over top.  You may not need it all.  Just use enough to barely cover the vegetables.  Scatter the cheese over top and sprinkle with buttered bread crumbs.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Note - You can use whatever vegetables you want.  This is just what I happened to have in the bottom of my vegetable drawer.  Cabbage, swede, parsnips, broccoli, flat beans, etc.   All work very well.

Marie Rayner
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