I love snow and I’ve been wistfully following the flurries around the UK on the news, Twitter, blogs and Facebook, wondering if it will head my way. I have a section in my new cookbook listing things to do on snow days and I’m looking forward to doing them when I get my own snow day. Until then, I thought we could have a little food blogging event and you can send me pictures of the snow where you are so I get to see it, along with the lovely bakes you make. What do you think; sound like fun?

To enter, all you have to do is bake something yummy and take a photo of the snow or frost and then blog about it, with a link back to this post. It looks like the winter chill is set to last so let’s set a deadline of 12th December and then I’ll do a round-up of all the snowy photos and bakes. I can’t wait to see them! You can also post on Twitter using the tags #SnowDayBakeOff and #uksnow. Have fun!

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Hot Water Bottle

Once again a cold snap has descended and I’ve become surgically attached to my hot water bottle of an evening. Anything that offers warmth and cosiness I want to have around me right now: freshly laundered blankets; bowls of hot porridge; thick woollen scarfs. It’s forecast to get even colder with snow on its way so I shall continue to cocoon myself. If you see a big wool-wrapped flump walking down the road towards you with just a little pink nose poking out beneath the folds you will know it’s me.

The winter weather and the nearing of December is putting me in a Christmassy mood and I’m ready to embrace it. I’ll be temporarily finishing work next week and so will have the luxury of having time off to potter and prepare for Christmas. Brace yourselves for lots of festive posts and recipes! This adorable little felt-covered notebook I fell in love and took home will be perfect for jotting down my cooking notes when I’m busy in the kitchen and my nostalgic thoughts when I’m curled up on the sofa; all to be shared with you.

Felt Book

On the Sunday just gone by my need for warmth prompted me to mix ginger with oranges and bury them under a rubble of biscuity crumble. The resulting pudding was a triumph and one that I intend to make several more times before this winter is through. If you’re feeling the cold as I am try it; it will warm your belly and your heart.

Orange and Stem Ginger Crumble

Orange and Stem Ginger Crumble
Serves 4

For the filling
3 large oranges
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 pieces of stem ginger plus 1 tablespoon of the syrup

For the topping
240g plain flour
140g butter
80g caster sugar
2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C

Peel, deseed and segment the oranges and cut each segment in half. Put the orange pieces into a into a 22cm round or square, 8 cm deep ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the sugar. Finely chop the pieces of stem ginger and add them to the oranges along with the syrup. Using spoons carefully toss the orange pieces with the sugar, ginger and syrup.

Put the flour, butter, sugar and ground ginger into a mixing bowl and rub together between your fingers until the mixture takes on the texture of biscuit or cake crumbs.

Sprinkle the crumbly topping over the fruit, covering it entirely. Don’t press down on the topping; keep it loose.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is lightly golden.

Serve with double cream or custard.

Candles in Fireplace

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Thank you so much for all your kind comments on my previous post. As promised, I have picked 3 winners at random and they will each receive a signed copy of my new cookbook. They are:

Commenter number 21: Jo

Commenter number 34: Phil in Kitchen

Commenter number 12: Jane Elliot

Congratulations, I really hope you enjoy it!

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Cherry Pie Book Pile

Last Tuesday morning as I arrived at the office bright and early for a meeting first thing my colleagues greeted me with expectant looks and smiles. I was momentarily taken aback; could this mean what I thought it meant? ‘Is it here?’ I squealed. I hadn’t been expecting it until at least midday. They indicated to a package that had been waiting on my chair. It was here.

I picked up the package and sat down. As I held it in my hands I paused, holding my breath. This was it; after years of hard work I would finally hold my own book in my hands. The nervous anticipation I’d had for weeks came rushing back to me; the fine line between excitement and sheer terror blurring as it does when your car climbs the rollercoaster track and your knuckles whiten as you get closer to the top before the sharp drop. With heart in mouth I opened the package and pulled out the hardback book inside. I ran my fingers over the cover and read the words ‘A Slice of Cherry Pie’. I beamed.

Cherry Blossom

It’s a very wonderful feeling to see and hold your very own book that you’ve worked so hard to write. Books are so very special and I’m still finding it hard to believe that I have my very own, especially one that has been so beautifully designed and produced. The paper feels and smells incredible and the art work is larger than life. This really is a dream come true.

I tried not to make my thank you page in the book too long but found it impossible; I’m so very grateful to many, many people. I won’t bore you with repeating the thank yous here save one, and that is for you. If it wasn’t for you, who is reading my blog now and for you has written to me, you who has commented on my posts, you who has been there from the beginning, for all of my readers old and new, and for the friends I have made in the blogging community which I am so proud to belong to, there would be no book. I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.

I have three copies of my book that I’d like to sign for you and give to you as a thank you. If you would like to receive one leave me a comment and tell me what your favourite pie is (you know mine!) and I’ll pick three winners at random.

‘A Slice of Cherry Pie’ is available now, RRP £16.99. Published by Absolute Press.

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In the Bag Logo November 2010

This month, ladies and gentlemen, my co-host Scott from Real Epicurean is holding the ‘In the Bag’ party over at his place and we have the perfect autumnal choice inside: game. I’m already thinking up what to cook….

…visit www.realepicurean.com for entry details.

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As darkness fell over Saturday evening and cats with knowing eyes prowled the hushed street outside I closed my blinds and retreated into to my kitchen. It was time to stir up a little black magic for my Halloween Feast.

A deliciously wicked goulash (or, forgive me, ghoulash) was what I had in mind, followed by spooky meringue ghosts, all washed down with blood-red wine.

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Saturday night passed in a cackle of merriment and as dawn broke the following day Halloween was upon us. I gathered rosy red apples and grisly sweets in my Halloween basket ready to give out to my little witches and ghouls who would come knocking when night fell once more. I performed my annual ritual of carving a pumpkin and placing a tea light inside and then put it on my doorstep along with a gaggle of gourds. The carved pumpkin the unmistakable sign of a witches coven, inviting all from the underworld to join in the festivities.

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And now I open my book of spells and offer you a glimpse inside…

A Potent Potion for Ghoulash

Olive oil
1.5kg stewing beef
2 large onions, halved and sliced
2 tablespoons Smoked paprika
2x 400g tins tomatoes
200ml beef stock
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

200ml soured cream and French sticks, to serve

Drizzle a little olive oil into a large casserole dish and heat it over a high heat. Brown the beef in batches and then remove it and set it aside.

Add the onions to the pan and sauté them for about 5 mins until they start to soften, then stir the paprika into them. Add the beef back to the pan along with the stock and tomatoes and bring it up to the boil then gently simmer it for 1.5 hours then add the peppers. Cook for another 30 minutes or until the beef is tender and the sauce has thickened a little.

Serve with French sticks and soured cream.

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A Spell to Summon Meringue Ghosts

3 egg whites
165g caster sugar
A square of dark chocolate

Double cream, lightly whipped, and fresh seasonal fruits, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 120°C/ fan 100 ̊C/gas mark 1/4. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment.

Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and whisk the eggs until they form stiff peaks. Next add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking each tablespoon in before adding the next. Once all the sugar has been incorporated the mixture should be firm and glossy.

Spoon the mixture onto the lined baking tray forming 6 ghostly shapes using the back of a metal spoon.

Bake the meringues for 2 hours then remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.

Melt the chocolate square in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water and then use a cocktail stick or fine brush to dot eyes onto the ghosts with the chocolate.

Serve as they are or with lightly whipped double cream and fresh seasonal fruits.

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