A Chatsworth Christmas

In a corner of Derbyshire

In a beautiful corner of Derbyshire, beyond Matlock, stands the magnificent Chatsworth House and every Christmas it holds a series of special events on an appropriate wintry theme. The grand house is decorated in fantasy and visitors can walk through the different rooms each with a sub-theme. The magic happens every year, but the year that sticks particularly in my mind was the one focused on the Victorian author Charles Dickens, and of course A Christmas Carol loomed large. The scenes in each room were breath-taking and you stand in wonder looking at the amazing detail the designers created.

Of course there was a room dedicated to Scrooge’s bedroom, the haunted skeletal figure of the old man sitting up in his four-poster bed staring in wide-eyed horror at the apparition before him. And of course the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future appeared in all their glory.

Another room, one of the great banqueting halls was home to Great Expectations, a huge table running the length of the hall, laden with cobweb smothered tableware, candelabras and food. As we drank in the spectacle we startled at the sight of Miss Haversham, in her ancient tattered wedding dress, moving ghost-like across towards us, muttering and moaning.

The gardens were frosty that December day and the silvery trees in the park and lining the drive added to the ghostly atmosphere.

Needless to say the gift shop provided many a gift and stocking filler, nicely in time for Christmas.

And of course, the cleverly animated snowy scene of Dickensian London prompted me to hurry home to bake my historical recipe of Victorian Boozy Plum Pudding and heat mulled wine from my Christmas Kitchen chapter of The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen at http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

An author’s life (part 2) : country baking through the seasons – oh, and writing of course!

It’s Winter!

OK, so it’s not actually deep in snow here, but you get the drift – um, pun unintended! Coming up to Christmas, and chilly days of British rain and wind, we really need some comfort treats. There’s something about ginger in the autumn and winter that is lovely and cosy, for example personally I love rhubarb and ginger gin – but that’s another story!

If you’ve been following my seasonal series on using my lunch break from my laptop to bake something delicious and comforting, you’ll know that my winter bake is often my Chewy Ginger Flapjacks, so easy to make (one bowl) and so moreish …

Chewy Ginger Flapjacks

makes about 12-16 depending on the size you want

Chewy, gooey, filling, scrumptious. What more can I say? One of my easiest and favourite teatime/coffee break treats.

You’ll need:

100 g. (4 oz.) butter

100 g. (4 oz.) caster sugar

100 g. (4 oz.) self raising flour

112 g. (4.5 oz.) oats

0.5 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

Pinch salt

2 tbsp. golden syrup, gently warmed

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF/gas mark 4. Grease a deepish oblong baking tray – a brownie tin is ideal. Mix the butter, sugar, and all the other dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix in the gently warmed syrup. Then spread in the baking tin and bake for about 20–30 minutes, until golden brown. Be careful the edges don’t burn. Cool a little and cut into squares or slices. Cool on a cooling rack and enjoy!

If you leave these unattended on the cooling rack in the kitchen, there may not be any left for you … so hide them. They’re also good for you, with lovely healthy oats.

What’s your favourite winter baking treat?

For more of my family recipes (and some from historical archives too), go to: The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen at http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

An author’s life (part 1): country baking through the seasons – oh, and writing of course!

It’s Autumn!

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

Autumn mist sweeps ghostly through the trees. Leaves are dropping in carpets of gold and russet – I think we’ve got them all in our garden, surrounded as we are by woodland! I’ve said before that I like to do a little baking as relaxation and comfort while I’m working on a novel. It gives me thinking time while I enjoy the gentleness of mixing and rolling, whisking and decorating.

My country kitchen baking tends to be seasonal. I like to use the ingredients that are fresh that month or that strike me as a reflection of the ‘feel’ of the season. In autumn it’s a nourishing hot cauliflower and stilton soup, in winter maybe it’s chewy ginger flapjacks, in Spring it might be almond macaroons, in summer chocolate fudge cake. I thought you might like some recipes (from my book The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen), so here goes with the first and I’ll add the rest in the due season!

As it’s autumn, here’s my cauliflower and stilton soup – a lovely heady rich taste with the deepness of the stilton. Come home from a chilly walk to this nourishing soup. You can make it ahead and freeze; it keeps well. Of course, if you’ve got an electric soup-maker, it’s even easier!

Cauliflower and Stilton Soup

serves 4

You’ll need:

1 small cauliflower, broken into florets, or leftover cooked cauliflower florets, even leftover cooked cauliflower cheese

Vegetable stock, if desired

1 small onion, chopped finely

100 g. (4 oz.) Stilton cheese, plus a little extra for crumbling on top

450 ml. (0.75UK pint) milk

50 g. (2 oz.) butter

50 g. (2 oz.) flour

Boil the cauliflower florets in a pan of water or vegetable stock until very soft, and lightly sauté the onion in a frying pan until transparent. Drain the cauliflower, reserving the water/stock. Crumble in the Stilton and purée all together in a blender with a little of the stock from the cauliflower pan. Make béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a pan, then adding the flour slowly, mixing thoroughly, then adding the milk slowly until smooth. Add the puréed cauliflower mixture, stirring as you blend, and slowly add the stock. Alternatively, add the sauce to the blender if it is large enough and whiz briefly to blend. Add more milk if you want to adjust the thickness of the soup.

Crumble a little Stilton on top of each serving bowl. You can also drizzle a little fresh cream on the top. You can adjust the amount of cauliflower and Stilton to taste; it’s a matter of trial and error. Enjoy!

The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen at http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

Look out Great British Bake Off – TOR rising up the book charts on Amazon!

I’m thrilled that today I discovered that The Old Rectory is at #2 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Canada and at #24 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Australia! In the UK it’s #1 in the Food & Drink UK category, beating the Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussain.

The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen has officially been awarded the ‘Best Seller’ badge!

http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

A Shape on the Air has also reached #5 on Amazon so I’m pretty delighted!

http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Afternoon Tea Week!

It’s Afternoon Tea Week this week and I’m sharing a couple of recipes from my book The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen, soon to be re-released by Endeavour Press (a week on Friday, 25th August). Wait for 25th as it’ll be available on Amazon and cheaper, in ebook and paperback!

The book has received many 5* reviews including “enchantingly told”, ” delightful”, ” a most engaging read”.

Cream Tea Scones

makes 10–12

A staple of the traditional English cream tea.

You’ll need:

50 g. (2 oz.) butter

25 g. (1 oz.) caster sugar

5tbsp milk

1 egg

225 g. (9 oz.) self raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch salt

A little beaten egg or milk to glaze

Strawberry jam and double whipped cream (or Cornish clotted cream) to sandwich the scones, and a little icing sugar to dust the tops.

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and roll out to about 1 cm. (0.5 in.) thickness. Cut into rounds with a 5-cm. (2-in.) cutter and place the scones on a greased baking sheet. Brush lightly with milk or a lightly beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 12–15 minutes. Cool on a wire cooling tray. Split each scone and spread with a layer of good fruity strawberry jam, topped with a dollop of whipped double cream, then place the other half on the top and dust with sieved icing sugar.

 

Lemon Iced Buns

makes 8

 You’ll need:

250 g. (9 oz.) strong white flour, sifted

250 g. (9 oz.) plain flour, sifted

7 g. (0.25 oz.) fast-action dried yeast

2 tsp. fine sea salt

50 g. (2 oz.) caster sugar

125 ml. (4 fl. oz.) warmed milk

125 g. (4 fl. oz.) warmed water

1 egg, beaten

50 g. (2 oz.) butter, cut into cubes

Zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for greasing

For the icing:

50 g. (2 oz.) icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Sift the flours and salt into a bowl. Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and lemon zest and mix with a fork until combined. Add the beaten egg and butter and continue to mix until the mixture is a sticky dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretches like elastic. Lightly oil a bowl with some of the vegetable oil. Turn the dough into the bowl and carefully turn until it is entirely coated with oil. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. The dough should have doubled in size. Lightly grease two baking trays. Knock the dough back to its original size and then turn onto a floured board again. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into fingers or rounds. Place on the greased baking sheets, ensuring plenty of space. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Bake in the oven for about 20–25 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove the buns from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.

The icing for the top: Made by simply combining the icing sugar and fresh lemon juice until smooth. When the buns are cool, spread icing over each bun and set aside until hardened. You can decorate with a little lemon zest for that extra oomph.

Sweet and sticky, with a little zestiness from the lemon, these buns are a favourite for afternoon tea.

http://Author.to/JuliaIbbotsonauthor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Old-Rectory-Escape-Country-Kitchen/dp/1909593753/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502726298&sr=1-4&keywords=julia+ibbotson