Dorset Apple Cake

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After a recent trip to my favourite county in England, Dorset, it became my mission to find a great recipe for Dorset Apple Cake. I wanted to recreate this delicious delight that I had enjoyed, complete with oodles of clotted cream, whilst sitting by the sea on the amazing Jurassic coast.

I looked at several recipes – most are generally the same however some are slightly spiced and others aren’t. I knew I wanted it to be spiced as cinnamon and apple go together likes peas and carrots! I settled on this, a Mary Berry recipe, and the results were fabulous. Everybody loved it (apart from my son, he has lumps-in-cakes issues) and there wasn’t a crumb left. This is most definitely a keeper and will almost certainly be going into the recipe file for my daughter!

This traybake serves 12, though I am pretty sure we stretched it further.  You may want to adjust the amount of sliced apples depending on your personal tastes. I prefer less apple, more sponge and so when I followed this recipe I was left with quite a bit of apple I didn’t need. However, you might like it loaded, so fill your boots!

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Dorset Apple Cake

Ingredients

225g (8oz) butter (room temperature), plus extra for greasing
550g (1¼ lb) cooking apples, such as Bramley
juice of ½ lemon
225g (8oz) light muscovado sugar
300g (10oz) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1 tbsp full-fat or semi-skimmed milk
icing sugar, to dust

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan/350°F/gas 4). Grease a 30cm x 23cm traybake tin with butter and line with baking parchment.

Quarter, peel, core and thinly slice the apples and put them in a shallow dish. Make sure that you don’t slice the apple too thick or else they won’t soften enough when you’re backing the cake. Pour over the lemon juice to stop them turning brown and toss gently together. 

Put the butter, muscovado sugar, flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, eggs and milk in a large bowl. Beat thoroughly using an electric hand whisk for about 2 minutes or use a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes until smooth and light.  Alternatively you can use a stand mixer as I do!

Spoon half the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly. Lay half the apple slices on top, pressing them in lightly, and sprinkle over the remaining ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and carefully level the surface using a palette knife, take care to ensure the apple slices beneath aren’t disturbed. Scatter the rest of the apple slices over the cake mixture and press them lightly into the surface. 

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until well risen and golden brown on top. The cake should feel spongy but firm. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides with a small palette knife and turn out the cake, peel off the parchment paper and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

This cake is delicious both warm and cold, though I prefer it warmed up with cream on the side!

A firm family favourite!

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Meal Planning Monday (29th June 2015)

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Hi everyone!

Sorry I missed last week’s Meal Planning Monday. I’d had a very busy weekend in Blackpool which included my son picking up a horrible sickness bug. He then spent Monday malingering on the sofa, and my daughter went away on a school residential trip. Coupled with working all week (which is hectic at the mo) meal planning and everything else just kind of went out of the window. It was one of those weeks.

I’ve now got myself organised, cleaned and tidied my house, caught up on some blogging and emptied all my email inboxes. I’m feeling ready to start the week!

My meal plan for this week looks like this

Sweet potato, spring onion & feta salad
Taco Tuesday (again!)
New potato, bacon & blue cheese salad
Halloumi salad with houmous dressing and pitta crisps
Spaghetti bolognese
Sweet’n’sour chicken and rice

I’m clearly feeling very salad-y this week!

Okay, now it’s your turn,

If you want a recap of where to find #mealplanningmonday all over your internet, the details are on this post.

The all-important instructions… If you’re new to my blog or #mealplanningmonday all you have to do is this – write a blog post about your meal plan for the week and submit the URL of your post using the Linkytools below. If you’ve not got a blog but want to join in, that’s fine – just leave a comment below telling us what you’re planning this week.  Any questions, just holler at me via email (in the contact page) or on Twitter @madamding.

Keep your eyes peeled for another Meet the Meal Planner arriving this week!

Have a great week everyone!

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BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

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I’m a huge fan of a quesadilla, a huge fan of chicken and a huge fan of BBQ sauce, so tell me – what’s not to love?

When you’re after something quick and tasty then these are pretty much perfect. They’re also an uber simple think to knock up and only use one frying or griddle pan so a great meal to make when you’re camping and want to move away from the usual hot dogs or pasta’n’sauce combo!

This recipe makes 4 servings, if you’re being restrained. Obviously because we’re a bit piggy, it only served 2 of us!   I do these Jamie Oliver style and dry fry but if you want to, you can use a spot of non stick cooking spray in the pan.

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

Ingredients

4 large flour tortillas
150g extra mature grated cheese
1 jar jalapenos (use as little or as much as you like!)
1 jar/bottle of BBQ sauce (I used Heinz)
150g cooked, shredded chicken
1 tub of salsa
Soured cream
Handful of sliced spring onions

Method

Start by mixing the shredded chicken with the BBQ sauce.

Place tortilla on a chopping board or plate. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese, top with some sliced jalapenos and the chicken and BBQ sauce. Fold the tortilla in half, pressing gently.

In a hot frying or griddle plan, cook the quesadillas (you can do this two at a time) over a medium heat for around 5-7 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. 

If you want to keep these warm whilst you make the second batch, transfer on a baking sheet to a preheated oven, you can keep them here for up to 30 minutes, under a moderate heat.

Cut each quesadilla into three wedges and serve with the salsa, sour cream and sliced spring onions.

Delicious!

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Review: Oscar’s Boutique

I am going to start this post with a bit of an apology. This is one that has been sitting waiting for me to get on with whilst I’ve been neglecting my blog, so a big apology to Oscar’s Boutique!

Oscar’s Boutique, established in 2012 by Nick Perrins, is an online boutique specialising in sourcing shabby chic home accessories and high quality furniture. They offer a great range of gift ideas and home accessories and best of all, offer free delivery, something that is always a big clincher for me when shopping online. What can I say? I’m easily won over!

When they contacted me and asked if I’d like to review them by choosing a product off their website, it was hard to know where to start. So many pretty things, but I already have lots of pretty things (Mr M will testify to that!) so I decided to go for something a bit more functional.

Then I saw this vintage wooden recipe box.

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I don’t need a recipe box but it gave me an idea.

My 9 year old daughter is always mithering on at me to copy her favourite recipes for her to keep for when she’s older. So instead of keeping a messy pile of paper like I normally do…. (see exhibit a below)

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…I’m going to use this lovely box to keep a record of all her favourite recipes, all lovingly handwritten by myself.

There were a few boxes to choose from but I opted for this one as I liked it’s rustic, classic look. It’s finished with a white wash paint and has a good quality hinged lid with metal insert. It would fit nicely in most kitchens I think!

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The plan is to buy some lovely index cards and dividers and transfer her top recipes to this box as I go alone, making it a lovely heirloom for her to take when she leaves home. Not that she thinks she’s ever leaving home. But she is. One day.

I’ve spotted these cards on Etsy which I think are pretty much perfect and I think I might make a purchase and get started!

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(Images property of https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/1canoe2)

I hope that my daughter appreciates all my hard work one day!

The vintage wooden recipe box is available to buy here and is priced at £15.99.

Why not head over to Oscar’s Boutique and see if there is anything there that catches your eye? Personally I could spend a lot of money on there!

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#BlackpoolsBack – Oh yes it is!

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Last month I received a surprise parcel in the post. Surprise parcels are near one of my favourite things in life. I was very intrigued to open it and find it was full of goodies from Blackpool! I was sent the box as part of a marketing campaign between Visit Blackpool and Merlin Entertainments – #BlackpoolsBack. (I’ve since learned that this marketing campaign has won awards and it doesn’t surprise me in the least, this was perfectly executed, bravo).  In the box was a draft itinerary inviting me on an all-expenses paid trip to see what Blackpool has to offer.

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Now, I am not going to lie, Blackpool has never really been on the top of my “places I must go” list and I’ll admit I probably have negative associations with it in my mind but my last visit there was as a sullen teenager in 1995 when I had a go on The Pepsi Max Big One for the first time at the Blackpool Pleasure Beach. I’m not sure it’s called that anymore so I am definitely highlighting my advancing years. As it had been so long since I had frequented Blackpool I decided there really was nothing to lose and started to plan our trip up North.

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My first impression of Blackpool? There’s a LOT of regeneration work going on which is great to see. (Actually, that’s a lie, my first impression of Blackpool was “Crikey, Blackpool is a LOT further away from home than I thought…). It’s always good to see investment into areas that have been in such decline. Of course like anywhere, there’s still masses of room for improvement and I’d say that there is a long road ahead for Blackpool but they are definitely making moves in the right direction.

We were there from Friday to Sunday and I was provided with a full itinerary which I am going to break down for you.

Friday

We arrived late Friday evening and received an extremely warm welcome at our hotel, the Hilton Blackpool. Our room was pleasant and had a sea view. We had reservations at Tiger Bills which we knew was next to The Pleasure Beach and had rather amusingly thought we were going to walk 5 minutes and be there. If you’ve never been to Blackpool what you need to know is that it has a 7mile sandy beach. Seven miles. What might be ‘just down the seafront’ could quite easily be over two miles away. Not feeling like we wanted to negotiate the tram system, we hopped in the car and drove down.  Tiger Bills was great, the staff were fantastic and the food was delicious. I had steak fajitas and I won’t like, they were probably the best steak fajitas I’ve ever had, not one sign of gristle in there. The kids menu at Tiger Bills is great too, lots of variety away from  just the normal chicken/fish and chips. Blackpool did seem eerily quiet but it’s hard to tell if it was the weather, the early season or a combination of both.

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Children’s meal at Tiger Bills

Saturday

After a lovely hot breakfast at the Hilton we were ready to go and get our passes at Madame Tussauds. We also had plans to go up the famous Blackpool Tower but the weather was a bit dodgy and therefore we didn’t see the point…

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British Summertime…the Tower is there somewhere.

So. Madame Tussauds. We all know what it is right? Waxwork models of famous people. I wasn’t too excited about this really, I’ve never thought it was my bag (last seen in a Madame Tussauds circa 1987) but oh my gosh, we all loved it, loads of fun for all the family and we spent a lot longer in there than we thought we would.  I’ll be doing a full review of this venue shortly so watch this space.

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Then followed the Sea Life Centre. My son is a SUCKER for a fish so this was probably the highlight of his trip and he really enjoyed going around collecting his stamps in his dive log book.  The shark tunnel was probably his favourite part, though the giant crab was also a firm family favourite.

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Meet my friend…Ray

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This looks tiny. It’s bigger than me. FOR REALZ.

We had lunch at Captain Jack’s at Coral Island and were met by a Jack Sparrow-a-like on the door who was oodles of fun and gave us chocolate dubloons. Winner. Food was great, I had a lovely burger and the place was really busy. Coral Island itself is an amusement arcade type facility and one of the cleanest and tidiest I have every been in. You might not be a fan of this places or introducing your children but we’re all suckers for a 2p coin dozer and we easily lost an hour (and about a fiver) trying to win little prizes our of the dozer – we came away with quiet a haul. I tell you, those things are hypnotic.

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The afternoons excitement was a trip to the Blackpool Tower Circus. I’ve been in the Tower before but never seen the circus and I was really impressed with the room, stunning location. The circus itself? It was awesome. My children have clown issues so were nervous but Mooky and Mr Boo were not in any way frightening – they were amazing. I’ve never seen circus acts before, there were a few times I hid behind my coat, honestly. I couldn’t watch. If you’re in Blackpool and only have time to do one thing – DO THIS. Probably my favourite thing over the entire weekend. (Sadly, they don’t allow photos so I can’t show you much but again I will be doing a full review of this).

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Would you believe it was time for more food? We went to Harry Ramsden’s. Not entirely sure what I was expecting but this was a classy joint. I think I was thinking it would all be a fast food style place but the restaurant was lovely, very clean and tidy, beautifully presented and with a lovely view across the seafront. Service was excellent and food was delicious. Though I think the staff were a little perturbed as to why we didn’t want bread and butter with our meal, they asked us three times. Is that a Northern thing?

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After that we were bushed and went back to the hotel.  We thought we’d rest and go to the bar for a drink but what actually occurred was something I don’t want to dwell on to much. All I’m going to say is this;

8 year old boy
baked beans x 3
sickness bug
carpet and bed
emergency call to housekeeping

You get the picture right?

Sunday

After a long night with the aforementioned sicknote child, it was time to get on with the next days activities. In our original plan we were meant to go to Blackpool Zoo but as we had a poorly child (who was gutted – a zoo, after the Sea Life Centre is about his favourite thing in life) my husband and daughter decided to exploit the fact that you could actually see the Blackpool Tower again and go up it. I wasn’t there, I can’t tell you how it was but they both thought it was great and my daughter loved the see-through floor. They both said there was a great view and my husband was impressed at how well positioned the Comedy Carpet was.

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Incidentally, the Comedy Carpet was one of my favourite things EVER in Blackpool. I absolutely loved this street art installation and this its a fabulous addition to the seafront. So much work has gone into it, it’s incredible. I wasn’t aware of it before but I was really impressed. If you’re in Blackpool, take a look.

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We had tickets for the Sandcastle Waterpark in the afternoon which we had all been super excited for but for which now only two of us were going to get to experience. Gutted! It looked amazing, husband and daughter went and tried it out and all reports were overwhelmingly positive. There are 18 rides and slides and definitely something for everyone there, with ample places to get food and drink – you can even just get out of the pool and grab yourself a burger before getting straight back in. Loved it. The staff were all fab, and very sympathetic to my ailing child, and the place was clean and tidy. I was totally impressed with this venue, it definitely felt more like something you’d experience abroad rather than in England and we’d love to go back another time and all get a go this time… By this point my son was starting to pick up a bit but I really couldn’t risk a vomit-in-the-pool situation.

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The last thing we were due to do was nip to Notarriani’s for ice-cream but given the fact my son was on hunger strike we decided to call it a day and start the long journey home. I wish we had managed it though because it sounded really lovely. Next time!

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Verdict

We had an amazing time in Blackpool, despite some rotten weather and despite dodgy tummies. Who knew there were so many quality things to do in Blackpool? Would we go back? Yes we probably would, especially as we know there are so many great undercover attractions which means you’re not reliant on the weather. Handy, given our track record of British summertimes. Sure Blackpool is still a bit rough around the edges but they’re working on it and trying hard, what it needs now is more people to go with their families, this will only drive regeneration further. Blackpool has a lot to offer and has a truly beautiful seafront.

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We had the Blackpool BIG Ticket which gets you one visit into seven great attractions but there is also the Blackpool Resort Pass which gets you in to a different combination of attractions. Both are excellent value.

Coming soon…full reviews of The Blackpool Tower Circus and Madame Tussauds.

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