Rainy Day Muffins


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A cold, rainy, windy day calls for something sweet and warm. I remembered seeing a recipe for jam doughnut muffins in How To Be a Domestic Goddess . This is not that recipe but my version of it.
I used my basic muffin recipe and added coconut and jam.

Coconut Jam Doughnut Muffins

Mix in a bowl
9 oz plain flour
1 level tbsp of baking powder
half a tsp of salt
4 oz sugar
A handful of desiccated coconut (sorry, I forgot to weigh it)

Mix in a jug
3 oz melted butter
1 beaten egg
8 fl oz milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour wet into dry and combine. Don't overwork the mixture but make sure there is no dry mixture left.
Grease a 12 hole muffin tin with butter. Don't use paper muffin cases for these or you won't be able to roll them in the butter and sugar once they're baked and that is really the whole point of this recipe.

Fill each muffin cup just under halfway with the muffin batter. Place a teaspoon of red jam (I used raspberry and redcurrant) on top of the batter in each muffin cup. Don't be tempted to put more jam in or it will leak out of your muffins and mess up the sugary coating.
Top the jam with another spoonful of batter using it all up and covering the jam completely.

Bake at 200°c/ 180°c fan oven for about 20 mins. I left mine for 22 mins and they were perfect.
While they are baking melt 6oz butter and weigh out 4 oz sugar. 

When you have taken the muffins out of the oven, let them cool for just a few minutes before carefully removing them from the tin. Using a couple of spoons dip a muffin in melted butter making sure the whole thing is coated. Then roll gently in sugar. Do the same with all the muffins.
Hand to wet children when they come home from school without their coats (again).

November's sampler.
This has to be one of my favourite samplers. I love those rich brocade colours. 

Advent Candle


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Advent Candle

Commander of wax
Waiting alone
Running from darkness
Chameleon of light
Brightest star
Flame dancer
Most beautiful
Flowing like a wave
The most powerful energy

by Alexander Coulson, written in 1999 aged 8 (not my son)

We have lit our candle for the first Sunday in Advent

We have also opened the first window of our Advent calendar.
We are waiting.......

Making Menus


Saturday, 26 November 2011

I take a very relaxed approach to menu planning. It's not so much a plan as a sketch.

For most of the week I rely on my storecupboard and freezer to supply meals. These will be meals based around staples like rice, pasta, potatoes or bread. They often feature beans and lentils, cheese, eggs or small amounts of meat such as bacon or leftover roast .
Mondays tend to be fish days as I like to cook it on the day I buy it. I buy fresh fish when it is on offer and smoked mackerel if it is all too expensive.
We eat more meat at the weekend. I buy things like sausages or mince for Saturday and a chicken or a joint of pork for Sunday. We don't always have a roast though. The weekend is also when we have puddings.

Last week, for instance, I bought a pound of smoked haddock, some belly pork and a couple of packets of sausages, I also had some leftover roast chicken in the fridge. As well as my basic veg I bought a large red cabbage and a butternut squash. This is what we ate:

Monday - Smoked haddock and leek tart (using half the haddock)
Red cabbage slaw

Tuesday - Mulligatawny soup (using leftover chicken), bread

Wednesday - Baked potatoes filled with smoked haddock paste (using the rest of the haddock, this, with oatcakes also served as my lunch for the week)
Red cabbage slaw and sweetcorn

Thursday - Feta, chickpea, butternut squash and giant couscous salad with a sun-dried tomato pesto dressing

Friday - Spaghetti with bacon, sun-dried tomato pesto

Saturday - Sausages, mash and onion gravy (made from two tubs of leftover frozen gravy)
Treacle tart and cream

Sunday - Roast belly pork, baked potatoes, braised red cabbage (lots of this was leftover so I froze it in individual portions)
Bread and butter pudding

This week I bought two large organic brown trout which were half price, a large duck which was also
reduced making it cheaper than the chicken I had planned to buy, and a couple of pounds of braising steak. I also bought a chorizo sausage and some mozzarella.

Monday - Trout with oven-fried potatoes, peas and a butter and wine sauce

Tuesday - A pot of spicy beans with bread

Wednesday -  Chorizo hash with fried egg on top

Thursday - Fish fingers, oven fried potatoes, peas and sweetcorn
(some nights I just can't be bothered)

Friday -Pizza

Saturday - Beef stew and dumplings
Apple and quince fool (using apple and quince purée in the freezer)

Sunday - Roast duck, gravy, roast potatoes, braised red cabbage, peas and carrots
Pineapple pud and cream*

There is plenty of leftover potential in this weekend's meals. Any leftover stew will be turned into a meaty sauce for pasta with the addition of a little passata**. Hopefully there will some leftover cream to use in a savoury tart and there will be leftover duck to go in a lentil and barley stew or maybe a pilaff, and of course, I will make a big pot of stock with the duck carcass to go in the freezer. That's three meals for next week already sorted. I may buy mince next week and make a double batch of chilli on Saturday so that I have a meal to put in my freezer. Doubling meals that freeze well is an easy way to fill your freezer with your own homemade ready meals for those 'can't be bothered' days.

I shop on Mondays, so on Sunday evening I make my list. First I jot down my 'basics'. These are the things I buy every single week. They are:
ham or salami
bread flour

Then there are the other things I like to always have but do not necessarily need to buy each week, things like: sugar, honey, frozen peas, potatoes, onions, pasta, baked beans. I check what I have run out of and add them to my list.

I jot down an idea or two for what meat and fish to buy but I am prepared to change my mind when I see what is cheap and what is available.
I do the same for fruit and veg.

When I get home I jot down meal ideas in my diary. Looking back through my diary I see many meals that were never made. My plans remain sketchy right up until the moment I notice that it is 5.30 and that I should really stop playing Angry Birds and feed my family.

* Plenty of fool left; we'll have the pineapple pud another weekend.
**None left!

The Feast of Saint Catherine


Friday, 25 November 2011

November 25th is St Catherine's Day, she of wheel fame.
St Catherine is the patron saint of young girls, of students, of nurses and of any craftsmen whose work involves wheels; like spinners, wheelwrights and millers. And if she isn't then she ought to be the patron saint of pyrotechnicians .

As we have our very own Katherine (my daughter Katie) I thought it would be nice to celebrate St Catherine's day with some traditional cattern cakes which you can read all about here.
Cattern cakes were originally a sweetened yeast cake flavoured with caraway. This version is really a big soft biscuit. They reminded me a little of flat rock cakes.

Today is also Quince Tree day, the 25th day of the month is when I take a picture of the tree.
Here she is with her leaves exactly the same colour as her fruit were last month.

Calendar Giveaway Winner


Monday, 21 November 2011

Thank you to everyone who entered my calendar giveaway. There were over 70 entries. I really enjoyed reading about your favourite months. Some people selected more than one month and I can't say I blamed them. It is very hard to choose just one. I thought it would be fun to make a little chart showing the results. It took me back to my school days when the best bit about maths lessons was colouring in columns on a bar chart.
As you can see we have a clear preference for autumn amongst the Quince Tree's readers with September the overall winner. This pleased me as it is my favourite month too. The spring months had a good showing but most surprisingly summer did badly with August scoring nil.

Well September won the most popular month competion but who won the calendar?

The winner is


Toffee, if you'd like to email me your address I will get your calendar on its way to you.

Thank you again to everyone. I fully intend to make a calendar for 2013 and will hold another giveaway next November.

Crust and Crumb


Sunday, 20 November 2011

English puddings are, of course, the best in the world.
A proper pudding is solid, sustaining and substantial and made of  such things as flour, butter, suet, sugar and eggs.
They are also often thrifty. Many of the nicest puddings rely on the humble leftover crust or crumb for their substance.
Queen of puddings is an airy confection of crumb-speckled custard, raspberry jam and meringue.
Apple Charlotte is apples baked inside a case of buttered bread slices.
Poor Knights of Windsor is a version of eggy bread where the bread is soaked in sherry before being dipped in eggs and fried in butter.
Bread pudding is a very solid affair of soaked leftover bread and dried fruit baked in a baking tin and cut into slices.
Summer pudding, somewhat lighter than most puds, is a cold dish of summer berries encased in juice-soaked bread.

Many steamed puddings contain breadcrumbs as well as flour. This helps lighten the pudding.
One such steamed pud is Christmas pud. The recipe I used has breadcrumbs, a little flour, suet, sugar, spices, apple, dried fruit, eggs, rum and stout in it. It also has a sixpence. This year is my sixpence's 50th anniversary.

I noticed that it had become discoloured. I decided to be cautious and wrapped it in foil before stirring into the pud. I made sure everyone in the family stirred it too, it's traditional.

Doesn't the queen look young?

Treacle tart is another wonderful pudding made with breadcrumbs.
This is easy to make. It is simply a pastry case filled with breadcrumbs which have been mixed with golden syrup and baked.  I'm sure treacle was used once upon a time but I have only ever eaten it made with golden syrup. I like to add ginger to the mixture.
I made a big tart (about 10 inches) using shortcrust pastry made with 8 oz of flour and 4 oz of butter. For the filling I used about 8 oz of crumbs and 12 tablespoons of syrup. I baked it for about half an hour at 190°c/170°c fan oven.

Bread and butter pudding must be the best  pudding of this kind.

Buttered bread is layered with dried fruit, about 6-8 slices. I used rum-soaked sultanas. 
A mixture of  3 eggs,  10 fl oz milk, 2 fl oz cream and 2 oz sugar is poured over and left to soak for a few hours. I added some vanilla extract.

Then it is baked for 35-40 mins at 180°c/160°c fan oven

And eaten

Another good thing to do with bread is to make a stack of toast.

Weekend To Do


Friday, 18 November 2011

This Sunday is Stir Up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent Sunday.
So-called because in the Book of Common Prayer the collect for that day is:

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

It has become the traditional day on which to stir up your Christmas pudding if you haven't already done so.


Thank you to all those who have emailed me saying they would like a Quince Tree calendar.
The cost of the calendar will be £12 for UK and European orders and £15 for other overseas destinations. 
This takes into account the cost of printing, postage, packing plus my photography and design of each sampler.



Thursday, 17 November 2011

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -


By Thomas Hood 1799- 1845

Mr Hood, I beg to differ.

(pictures all taken in my Worcester garden this morning)

Would you buy a Quince Tree calendar?

Thank you for your amazing response to my calendar giveaway. It has been suggested that I make my calendar available to buy.
They are not particularly cheap to have printed -£7.10 each, therefore if I were to have some more printed I really need to know that I have guaranteed customers for them.
If you would definitely like to buy a calendar please could you email me at  thequincetree@live.co.uk preferably before the end of this week.

Calendar Giveaway


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Half way through November, December the week after next, and 2012 in less than seven weeks.
Autumn seems to have flown by. I start hunting down a nice calendar around this time of year. This year I'm ahead of myself and have my own calendar ready made. I posted about it back in September.
I had some more printed for Christmas presents and I have one spare to give away.

It has all the UK bank holidays marked on it and the main Christian festival dates.
It also shows the dates we change the clocks in the UK.

If you would like to win a Quince Tree Calendar for 2012 all you have to do is leave me a comment on this post telling me which month is your favourite and why. Comments will be closed on Sunday, 20th November when I will choose a winner.
Good luck!

Eleven Eleven Eleven


Friday, 11 November 2011

Move him into the sun--
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,--
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved-- still warm,-- too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
-- O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?

Wilfred Owen

Owen was just 25 when he was killed on 4th November, one week before the armistice. His mother received the telegram bearing the news of his death on this day 93 years ago as the Armistice bells were ringing in celebration.



Thursday, 10 November 2011

All of us apart from Tom suffer from hay fever.
George probably suffers the most. He sneezes and sniffles his way through May and June. We've never sought medical advice over it though, antihistamines keep it under control and manageable.
I never considered it a health problem.

Until Charlie took George to the RAF Careers centre recently.

If you suffer from hay fever the RAF won't let you anywhere near their aircraft.
It's a deal-breaker.
They don't want someone with streaming eyes flying their planes.
It's the end of George's ambition to be a fighter pilot.

However, there are plenty of exciting career opportunities for bright young people in the RAF that don't involve flying.
 George has very sensibly resigned himself to the fact that he won't be able to fly.

And me? I am so relieved.

November Colour


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

 I took my camera outside to look for colour. I found scarlet leaves, turquoise metal, orange berries, white fungi and blood red hips.
The berries and hips reminded me of the bowl of dried fruit I had soaking in brandy in the kitchen.
Time to make the Christmas cake.

Wrapped well in greaseproof paper and foil, stored in an airtight tin, it will be unwrapped once a week until Christmas and fed with more brandy.

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