So, Here I am in Cebu!

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“The life you have led doesn’t need to be the only life you have.”  ~ Anna Quindlen

 

This morning I was up so early that it seemed I had the entire place to myself.

Cebu. Philippines. Beautiful.

I did a sunrise meditation and sent you all some healing and love.

I swam in the ocean, and then later in a wide pool under the overhang of frangipani and palm trees.

And now, after a wholesome breakfast made even more delightful by the fact that I did not prepare it, nor have to clean up afterwards, I am spending an entire day on my own, with my Planner and my journal. This week – on the back of the solar eclipse and the supermoon New Moon is a perfect time for working with mindfulness to deliberately craft a life plan for yourself. (Need inspiration for that? Go read Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy.)

There shall be thinking. There shall be planning. There will be naps and swims.

Did I say fabulous?

So glad I made the effort to be here.

Sending much love your way, Nicole xx

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Bacon and Egg Sandwich with Caramelised Onion

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“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
~ A.A. Milne

 

I have workmen to feed again today at the farm. This is a tasty, easy and rustic meal that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner with equally good results. Served up with a big pot of coffee or tea and a slab or two of my boiled fruitcake, the hungriest stomach can be made content.

What makes this sandwich extra good is using fresh, seasonal local produce. I source all of my ingredients from the local farmers markets or my back yard. Fresh artisan bread, organic free-range eggs and bacon lift this from tasty to sublime.

The caramelised onion takes a little time to make, but is well worth the little extra effort, and it can be made in advance so that you always have some on hand. This sandwich is fancy enough that I have often served it for breakfast at Christmas and New Year. At Christmas time you can substitute Christmas ham for the bacon. 🙂

Note: If you have non-bacon eaters, swap the bacon out for grilled haloumi cheese or some grilled sweet red capsicum (bell pepper).

Caramelised Onion Ingredients:

3 large brown onions, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 to 2 tablespoons soft brown sugar, salt and pepper. – This will cook down to about one large cup’s worth of caramelised onion, which would give me a hearty filling for three to four sandwiches.

Method:

Peel and halve the onions and slice. Don’t make them too thin. Place a heavy bottomed frypan over low heat with the oil, add the onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave on low heat, stirring occasionally for about twenty minutes or until the onions are soft have begun to turn golden.

Now add the balsamic vinegar, sugar and a grind or two or pepper. Continue to cook over low heat for a further ten minutes until the onions are sticky and caramelised.

Set aside to cool. Any leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to two months.

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Sandwich ingredients per person:

Two pieces of a good sourdough bread (I used a Sourdough Light Rye) or get super fancy and use half a baguette or a charming bread roll, enough bacon to generously fill each sandwich, one fresh egg, a handful of rocket leaves (arugula), and a slice of crispy apple. A generous portion of caramelised onion, a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper.

Method:

Put your frypan on over medium heat, add a slug of oil and when the pan is hot add your bacon slices. Cook until golden but still soft. Super crispy bacon isn’t great for sandwiches. Set the bacon aside on some paper towel or in a warm oven until you need it.

While the bacon is cooking, finely cut some fresh apple into matchsticks. I used half a large Pink Lady Apple for four sandwiches. Toss the apple and rocket together, ready for your sandwich assembly.

Turn the heat down a little and add the eggs in on top of the bacon fat. You can cook them sunny side up, or however you like them. I always like to leave my yolks a little on the soft side.

Get your bread ready. I toasted mine, which is not essential, but gives the sandwich a little extra yummy crunch.

Place a generous layer of caramelised onion on one slice of bread.

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Then heap some rocket and apple on. I know that using apple may sound weird but trust me, it’s amazing!

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On goes the bacon.

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And then the egg.

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A sprinkle of salt and pepper, pop the lid on and it’s ready to eat!

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Easy Stewed Apple Recipe

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“If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.”
~ Linda Henley

 

Stewed apples always remind me of my grandmothers’ kitchens. Both of them were avid fruit stewers, especially when fruit was beginning to get a little old, or soft, or if there was too much to eat fresh, or if it was tart and not so great for eating. Nothing was ever wasted in their kitchens.

Of course you don’t need old apples for this recipe. Any apples are fine. They are a simple and thrifty dessert that is easy and quick to make. Served plain, or with a little cream, custard, yoghurt or ice-cream it is wholesomeness in a bowl. I guess most people call it ‘fruit compote’ these days, but good old-fashioned stewed apples works for me.

I like to make a big pot so that I can have some for a warm dessert and some left over to gift others or to eat during the week. They are delicious served cold, spooned over cereal or teamed with yoghurt for a yummy breakfast. They also make a smashingly good base for an apple crumble. My Nana often served this apple with pork chops or roasted pork too. Both grandmothers served them up to us as children if we had upset tummies or were feeling poorly.

I’ve gone a bit crazy with cinnamon in my stewed apples (much more than what I state in the recipe). Why? It’s a brilliant anti-fungal and anti-bacterial spice, and it helps normalise blood sugar and reduce inflammatory responses within the body – so it’s great for people with lyme disease.

This recipe freezes well, or will keep refrigerated for one week.

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Ingredients:

8 to 10 apples, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or 4 whole cloves, juice of half a lemon, 2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar of your favourite sugar substitute, 1/2 cup of water

*If your apples are sweet to eat you may want to use a little less sugar. If they are tart you may want a little more. Sweeten to your own preference. Natvia works well if you need to be sugar-free.

Method:

Peel, core and chop your apples into wedges. Toss them with the lemon juice to prevent them going brown.

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Place the water, sugar and spices in a large saucepan over medium heat, and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add apples and stir to coat in the spice mixture. Leave on medium heat until water begins to bubble. Place lid on pan, turn down heat and cook for ten minutes or until apples are soft.

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This is me in my pyjamas and slippers, eating my yummy stewed apples and yoghurt in front of television last night. Cosy, snug and feeling very nurtured after a big stressful day.

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 PS: How cute are these slippers, although if you look closely the one on the left does look a little gnawed. Thanks, Harry!

Easy Tomato and Onion Gravy

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Q. Why is a tomato round and red?
A. Because if it was long, skinny, and green, it would be a bean.

 

My grandmother used to cook a batch of this sauce every week, and use it for a variety of purposes. I learned to make this recipe by avidly watching her and, bit by bit, being allowed to help as I became old enough to navigate a knife and a hot stove.

You can use this recipe as a simple gravy for cooked meats, as a sauce over vegetables, or even with crusty bread or a quick bowl of pasta. It’s a recipe that can be easily varied to suit your taste buds, or the meal at hand. It’s even good on pizza bases or as a foundation for spaghetti bolognese.

One thing chronic illness has taught me is that food can be a medicine, and I have come to appreciate that this particular recipe is jam-packed full of goodness.

The onions and garlic are a good source of sulfur. Sulfur has anti-cancer, anti-microbial and detoxification properties, and supports blood vessel health, gut and heart health, immune cell support and liver health. The parsley is full of vitamins K, A, C, B group vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste are packed with lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant which has been shown to have a preventative effect against breast, skin, prostate, lung and liver cancer.

Chicken stock or bone broth calms digestion, heals the gut lining, and is a good source of protein, amino acids and anti-inflammatory compounds.

What I love most about this recipe though, is that it tastes so yummy, it is simple to prepare, and it makes getting those extra servings of vegetables into your diet that much easier. And it always reminds me of Marga, my maternal grandmother, whose legacy is, in part, her wonderful recipes.

HolbrooksWorcestershireSauce500mLTruth be told, when I add Worchestershire Sauce to this recipe it also reminds me of my grandfather, Ceddie.

As kids we called this sauce Ceddie Sauce because my grandfather ate it on everything. He even had us convinced that it was a picture of him on the bottle! (It’s not, of course, but I still pretend that it is!)

The Worchestershire sauce gives a nice tang for barbeque meats or sausages.

If you want to eat this sauce with seafood or chicken a dash of white wine is nice. Use red wine for red meats.

 

Ingredients:

1 large onion – diced, 1 clove of crushed garlic, 3 cups of diced fresh tomatoes or 1 can of tinned tomatoes, 1 to 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, 1 small diced red capsicum (bell pepper,) 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs – I used some green onion and parsley, 1 tablespoon of ghee, butter, or olive oil, salt and pepper.

*Optional – 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire Sauce, chilli or a splash of wine, a pinch of sugar. If your tomatoes are store bought or canned, and the capsicum is not ripe enough you may want just a pinch of sugar to counter the acidity in the sauce. If the capsicum IS ripe and sweet, you won’t need it.

Method:

Place the onion in a large pot or frypan with the fat. Cook over gentle heat until the onion starts to soften. Then tip in the capsicum and cook for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick.

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Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Confession: I have a ridiculous amount of tomato plants in my garden this season. Ridiculous. So many varieties. But what can top a home-grown tomato? Expect more tomato based recipes soon…

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Now add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and seasonings.

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Stir well, reduce heat and simmer gently for thirty minutes. The sauce will thicken, so do check and stir occasionally. Enjoy!

That’s last night’s dinner below. A grilled organic T-bone with a side salad of mixed greens, olives, fermented vegetables, radish, walnuts, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Easy Peach and Vanilla Jam Recipe

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“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.”

“It must come sometime to jam today,” Alice objected.

“No it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day. Today isn’t any other day, you know.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Have you ever made jam? Most people seem to think it’s some kind of messy and terrifying endeavour, but honestly, if you follow a few simple steps jam making is easy and satisfying, even for beginner cooks!

Today’s recipe is for a delicious peach and vanilla jam. The vanilla gives a lovely smoothness to the flavour, and the end result is like sunshine in a jar.

I have been kept in an abundance of peaches and nectarines this season from all of my friends with orchards. Our own orchard is predominantly citrus, so when citrus season comes the favour is returned with boxes of oranges, mandarins and tangellos. But I digress. Back to the recipe!

Ingredients:

Fresh peaches, sugar, lemon, *vanilla paste – quantities to follow

*Note: Vanilla paste gives a better result, but if you only have vanilla essence feel free to use that. It will still be yummy. If using essence, add right at the end!

I made a massive batch of jam with two kilograms of cut fruit. The ratios I use are for every 500 grams of peaches use 250 grams of sugar, two teaspoons lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste.

Method:

Prepare your fruit. Wash thoroughly, and peel if needed. If the fruit is bright and unblemished you can leave the skins on. Some of my fruit was quite blemished and bird struck so I peeled most of mine with a paring knife while listening to the cricket. You can also blanch your fruit in a bowl of boiling water, a few at a time, then rinse under cold tap and peel. Blanching will make peeling easier. Remove flesh from stones and cut into chunks.

Weigh your fruit so that you can work out the sugar you’ll use. You’ll need half the weight of fruit in sugar.

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Place peaches in a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel saucepan (never use aluminium for jam making!). Make sure to use a generous size.

Turn on the heat and begin to soften the fruit. Don’t panic that there is no water in this recipe. Stir! Keep that fruit moving in the pot.

Once the fruit is softened and making juice, add your sugar and stir thoroughly until it is dissolved.

*Prize-winning jam tip: If your fruit is really firm you may need to add a tablespoon or so of water and cook it down a little before adding your sugar. Sugar hardens your fruit, and you’ll end up with really lumpy jam if you haven’t softened it enough first.

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Add the sugar bit by bit if you have a lot of fruit, stirring after each addition so that the sugar melts completely.

Add your lemon juice, and vanilla paste (if you are using it – otherwise add your vanilla essence at the end of the cooking time).

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Increase the temperature and bring the jam to a fast boil, like this:

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Stir well and then lower the temperature to a steady simmer. Some people recommend a furious boil for jam making, but that isn’t such a great technique for beginners. You can’t go wrong if you go low and slow, but too much heat and sugar and you can burn a jam batch in an instant, ruining all your hard work!

A foam will being to form. Don’t panic. That’s supposed to happen. You need to let your jam simmer for a minimum of twenty minutes. Small batches may only take half an hour. Stir your jam occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Set a timer if you are forgetful.

If your peach pieces are enormous and you’re not happy with the texture, use a stick blender or potato masher to break some of the pieces up in the pot. Just be careful, because hot jam burns!

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While you’re waiting put a saucer or two in the fridge and prepare your jars.

Preparing your jars: Clean jars and lids are essential for your jams and preserves. To sterilise your jars wash well in soapy water, rinse and then stand in a hot oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven and avoid touching neck of jar. You could also boil your jars and lids for ten minutes. Use tongs or a tea towel to hold them. Fill jars while hot. Wipe any excess from mouth of jar with a clean paper towel. Screw lids on while hot.

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After twenty minutes take your saucer from the fridge and drop a teaspoon of jam onto the surface. Jam is set when it firms on the saucer, or if placed back in the fridge, the surface of the jam can be wrinkled with your finger when it is cool. Remember that jam will continue to firm as it cools.

I’ve shown you the progression of my jam making below, starting with the very liquid jam after twenty minutes.

My own batch took forty five minutes to produce the final, firm orange-coloured jam which has gelled nicely on the cold saucer. If jam is very runny, keep cooking. If you fear a runny jam disaster just add a little more lemon juice and cook some more.

I tested every ten minutes or so. (And I must confess to regular tasting too 🙂 )

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When jam is ready, turn off the heat and move to another part of the stove so it doesn’t keep cooking. Add vanilla essence now if that’s what you are using. Leave to cool for five minutes and then skim off any remaining foam.

Spoon hot jam into hot jars, place lids on and leave to cool. While still warm, wipe jars to remove any spills.  Label with variety and date when completely cold. Jam will last one year unopened, and a month in the fridge or a cool pantry once opened.

We tested some out on crumpets after dinner last night. The verdict? Heavenly!

You could also eat this jam with pikelets. Here’s my Nana’s recipe.

Works well with scones too, and these are fast to make: Hurry Up Scones

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Variation: For a completely grown-up treat, add a tablespoon or so of whiskey, bourbon, brandy or cognac to your finished jam. If you’re not sure whether this will be to your taste, place a little hot jam in a cup and add a drop or two of liquor to the jam, stirring well. Taste. If you like, bottle half the jam as per the original recipe, and then add alcohol to the final half. This makes a lovely gift at Christmas time.

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Easy Peach Chutney Recipe

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“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” 
~ Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Hooray! I’m feeling much better. And so of course my thoughts return to cooking…

A lovely neighbour turned up a fortnight ago with a box full of white and golden peaches and some nectarines, fresh from their orchard. A few days later there was another. The fruit was ‘seconds’ – too ripe, a bruise, a bird peck, a blemish. Not good enough quality to send to market, but good enough for me!

So last week I ended up making jam and chutney to my heart’s content. I love a good chutney – one that’s full of fruit and flavour. Chutneys are versatile things.

This is an easy chutney for beginners and the taste is peachy! Fresh, clean and sweet with a touch of heat and spice. Oh, the cardamom – mmmm, what a heavenly little flavour buzz in your mouth. 🙂

Use this chutney with chicken and roast meats. Try it as an accompaniment to your favourite curry. It’s also fabulous with cheese. Cheese, crackers and chutney is a wholesome snack for yourself, but fancy enough to serve to visitors with a cup of tea, a beer or a glass of wine. Mix some with a little plain yoghurt or sour cream and you’ll have yourself a tasty dip.

This recipe is also vegan and gluten free.

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Ingredients:

1 kilogram of pitted, peeled and sliced fresh peaches, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 brown onion, 1/2 cup of sultanas, 1 tablespoon of cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger, 2 large garlic cloves crushed, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce

Method:

Wash, pit, peel and slice your peaches.

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Lightly crush cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Remove and discard all husks. Grind the seeds so that they are fragrant but still mostly whole.

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Peel and grate the ginger root.

Place sugar, cardamom seeds and vinegar in a large non-reactive saucepan (such as stainless steel) and bring to boil, stirring.

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Reduce heat to a simmer and dump in the finely chopped onion. Cook for ten minutes or until onion is softened.

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Add in the peaches and stir well. As you can see, mine were a mix of golden and white peaches. This recipe works well with any variety of peaches.

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Add the crushed garlic, ginger, sultanas and sweet chilli sauce. If you prefer a mild chutney add a little less chilli sauce, and if you like it hot add an extra tablespoon or to your taste.

Leave to simmer for 45 minutes or until jammy in texture. Stir well every so often so it doesn’t stick to the base. Add salt to taste.

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Leave chutney to cool for ten minutes and then spoon into prepared jars (see note below). Place lids on jars. Label when cool.

Store in dark cupboard at least one month for the flavours to mature. Once open keep in fridge for one month. Unopened it will keep for a year.

A spoonful of peach chutney makes everything better!

A spoonful of peach chutney makes everything better!

Note – Preparing your jars: Clean jars and lids are essential for your jams and preserves. To sterilise your jars wash well in soapy water, rinse and then stand in a hot oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven and avoid touching neck of jar. You could also boil your jars and lids for ten minutes.Use tongs or a tea towel to hold them. Fill jars while hot. Wipe any excess from mouth of jar with a clean paper towel. Screw lids on while hot.

Easy Strawberry and Mulberry Teacake Recipe with Berry Compote

Strawberry and Mulberr eacake with Berry Compote and Icecream

Strawberry and Mulberry Teacake with Berry Compote and Ice Cream

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!” 
― C. JoyBell C.

I don’t need much of an excuse to bake a cake. And now, while the mulberry tree is weighted down with dark sweet fruit, and my heritage strawberries are dripping berries, it seems only sensible to include them in my baking.

This cake can be made and eaten as a tea cake – it’s dense and buttery and not too sweet, making it wonderful for afternoon tea. If you like you could have it sliced with a scrape of butter, or get a little fancy and drizzle some lemony icing over the top. It’s equally delicious warm or cold.

Don’t panic if you’re not much of a baker – this recipe is dead easy.

I chose to bake my cake in the afternoon and let it cool for dinner, then served it with a simple warm berry compote and vanilla ice-cream. You have no idea how much willpower it took to not taste a corner while it was cooling.

There was plenty for the next day too. Leftovers always make me happy! Just remember to refrigerate any cake you don’t eat, as the soft berries mean the cake will only keep for three to four days.

If you don’t have access to fresh berries, frozen ones will work just fine. And the combination is really up to you. I’m just using strawberries and mulberries because that’s what’s ripe at my farm right now.

Serving up dessert at my low-key kitchen table dinner with the neighbours.

Serving up dessert at my low-key kitchen table dinner with the neighbours.

Cake Ingredients:

70g x (5 tablespoons) softened butter, 2 x teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 x egg, 1/2 x cup sugar, 1 x cup self raising (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 2 cups of berries, grated zest of one lemon.  1 x bundt pan well greased with butter or 1 x 20cm round cake tin, paper lined.

*Note: This cake also bakes up well using a commercially prepared gluten-free flour mix.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Prepare your cake tin.

Wash berries, remove any hulls or stems and drain well. (I pat mine dry in paper towel.)

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Strawberries and mulberries from the garden!

Place butter and sugar in bowl and beat until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes). Then add in the egg, lemon zest, vanilla and beat again until thick and well combined. I use an electric mixer for this first part.

Fold through the yoghurt and flour with a spoon. Then gently fold in the berries.

Pretty cake batter ready for the pan

Pretty cake batter ready for the pan

Then carefully dollop your cake batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.

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I love how the creamy batter is streaked pink and purple from the berry juices.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.  Check your cake by poking  a skewer into the centre at 25 minutes. If it comes out clean it is ready. Leave in a little longer if batter still clings to skewer.

Cool in tin for five minutes, then give it a shake to loosen it and invert onto a serving plate. There might be a few gooey soft berries on the top of the cake, which is part of its rustic charm.

The finished cake, cooling on my windowsill.

The finished cake, cooling on my windowsill.

Compote Ingredients:

2 heaped cups of berries, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

Method:

Place the berries, sugar and lemon juice on a saucepan over low heat. Squash the berries slightly with a potato masher to release some of the juice.

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Blurry action shot of the berries being smashed up to make them juicy.

Heat until the berries become syrupy – which takes just a minute or two. Serve over the sliced cake.

This compote is also delicious over porridge, ice cream, pancakes or waffles. Enjoy!

Did I mention yummy? Yummy!

Did I mention yummy? Yummy!