Gooseberry & Elderflower Muffins via Thursday Cottage

These light, easy to make muffins are a great way to use the gorgeous Gooseberry and Elerflower jam from Thursday Cottage. Click on the link at the bottom of the page to find out more.

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Makes 12

250g self raising flower
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of sea salt
75g caster sugar
250ml buttermilk or 125ml plain yoghurt mixed with 125ml milk
2 medium eggs
100g butter, melted
150-200g Thursday Cottage Gooseberry jam
25ml Elderflower cordial

To finish
125g icing sugar, sieved
2 teaspoons Elderflower cordial

Equipment
12 hole muffin tray, holes about 6 cm in diameter lightly greased or lined with paper muffin cases.

Preheat oven to 190/200C/Gas mark 5-6.

Sift the first 4 ingredients into a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and using a spoon or spatula, mix until well blended.

Next put the buttermilk, the eggs, melted butter, jam and elderflower cordial into a large mixing jug or bowl. Beat together until well combined and the mixture is a thick batter. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir very lightly, scraping the sides down, until just combined -over beating won’t improve your muffins! Divide the mixture between the muffin cups, filling each tyre-quarters full (approximately 1 large tablespoon per cup).

Bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes until well risen and the tops are golden. The muffins should spring back into shape when lightly touched. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the sieved icing sugar with 2 teaspoons elderflower cordial and a drop of water to a thick smooth consistency. Trickle over the muffins when cool.

VARIATION – replace the elderflower cordial with freshly squeezed orange juice and the
zest from one orange.

Click here to buy Thursday Cottage products

 

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A Step Back in Time – Boiled Fruit Cake

Being lucky enough to be blessed with a good set of grandparents meant I also learned to cook and bake at their elbows- timeless, stick to your-ribs, homely cooking based upon what they grew in their garden and bought locally (alongside M&S apricot roll cake- a particular weakness of my grandmother). Evening meals were strictly rotated- the Sunday roast provided a mini roast on Mondays and Wednesdays with meat leftovers being added to freshly cooked vegetables. Tuesdays and Thursdays were beans or cheese on toast and Fridays were the day for fish and chips in the evening, eaten at home in the winter and in the summer, on our laps in a nearby beauty spot, Rodbridge Corner.

Ducks from the nearby river crowded around our feet as we threw the odd chip at them and licked our salt-encrusted fingers before getting back into the car, chip wrappers neatly stored away in one of the many plastic bags stored in the glove compartment. In those days, Getting The Car Out was a big deal and woe betide any greasy fingerprints smudged onto the Ultrasuede seat covers but the day came when the car met its end at the hands of a long drive after two strawberry ice creams and a bout of travel sickness. No amount of valeting eliminated the lingering perfume.

Doctor Who dictated Saturdays- we ate around the TV with our salads balanced precariously on our knees or we’d move the table into the sitting room. Daleks rained death and destruction upon the good Doctor and his sidekick as I peered through my fingers or around the cluster of bottles on the tabletop- salad cream, Branston Pickle and great grandmothers picalilli. The crowning glory of these meals were what I found in the cake tin; a retro Bakelite beauty stored in the highest wall cupboard, or inside the fridge-freezer. Great slabs of home made pastry were baked off and frozen on a weekly basis to be thawed out later and popped back into the oven until they were golden and crisp. They were served with stewed fruit (or in today’s middle class terminology, a compote) or a scoop of macerated strawberries in the summer and my grandfather liked his berries liberally dusted with black pepper.

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The glories of the Be Ro Baking Book gave grandmother the inspiration for her boiled fruit cake and this slim narrow volume with time-torn, food-stained pages was THE cookbook of the sixties, packed with day-go bright drawings of battenburg cake, rock Cakes, victoria sponge and other ageless British cakes and breads. I have no idea what happened to the original copy although the Bakelite cake tin and child-sized knife with pale green bakelite handle are safely stored away. Boiled fruit cake recipes are thankfully not hard to find in other cookery books either; I have tried Julie Duff’s version and it is a decent replacement for the recipe of my childhood, giving a cake that is slightly smaller and not so moist. If you like a drier fruit cake then it will suit you.

This is THE Uber recipe though, the one used by my grandmother and provider of a darkly tanned and rich sugared crumb and retaining its juiciness via a generous hand with the dried fruit. It is large enough to keep a family fed for several days.

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Boiled Fruit Cake

Ingredients

225g / 8oz sultanas

225g / 8oz currants

225g / 8oz raisins

50g / 2oz  mixed peel

175g / 6oz butter

175g / 6oz soft brown sugar

350g / 120z self raising flour

Generous teaspoon of mixed spice

pinch salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 150c/300f/Gas mark 2. Place the peel, fruit, butter, sugar and spice into a large saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil very gently for two minutes and keep an eye on it then remove from heat, stir and let it cool down.

Sift flour and salt into another bowl and making a well in the centre, pour the lightly beaten eggs into the well of flour. Now pour the fruit mixture onto the flour and eggs then beat them with a wooden spoon until this mixture is thoroughly combined.

Spoon into a greased and lined 18cm/7 inch round cake tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for 2- 2 and a half hours or until the cake is firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.

Cover with a clean cloth and allow to cool in the tin.


Lovely with Wensleydale cheese and an apple.

If you want to soak the dried fruit overnight in rum or brandy don’t let me stop you. The cake tastes great with that hit but it isn’t the cake that I made as a child and it is this which I wanted to celebrate.

 

 

Henrietta Inman- Suffolk Patissiere Extraordinaire.

Berry, banana and oatmeal loaf-cake
Berry, banana and oatmeal loaf-cake Photo: YUKI SUGIURA
 We are delighted to see that the talented Henrietta Inman is being recognised in our national press. The following recipe appeared in the Sunday Telegraph’s  ‘Stella’ Magazine and shows everybody else what I already knew- that she is destined for culinary greatness. Having originally been fans of her delectable Facebook page and recently her new online pages  we found Henrietta at the monthly Snape Maltings Food Market earlier this year. Henrietta trained at the Lanesborough Hotel (among others) and whenever possible cooks with local ingredients, combining them with classical techniques and a fresh take on ingredients, many of which are locally sourced when not grown herself. Feast your eyes on some of these sumptuous treats then feast in real life by baking her lovely fruited loaf cake.
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Gorgeously topped with dried fresh apple slices – rustic apple cake with toasted hazelnuts, Frangelico-plumped raisins and soured cream cinnamon frosting..
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Henrietta grows her own organic flowers, vegetables & fruit. Flowers are turned into delicate floral sugar syrups and are also crystallised to beautify her creations.
The new baker: Berry, banana and oatmeal loaf-cake by Henrietta Inman
Rapeseed oil gives this cake an earthy and a nutty depth, but for a lighter flavour sunflower oil works well too.

Makes one loaf

120ml (4fl oz) rapeseed or sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing

65g (2¼oz) medium oatmeal
25g (1oz) pumpkin seeds
25g (1oz) sunflower seeds
20g (¾oz) brown linseed
40g (1½oz) rolled oats
75g (2¾oz) white spelt flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp baking-powder
¾ tsp ground Maldon salt
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
finely grated zest 1 orange
2 medium eggs
140g (5oz) soft light-brown Muscovado sugar
150g (5½oz) ripe banana
60g (2oz) dried cranberries
60g (2oz) blueberries
60g (2oz) raspberries

 Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5. Grease a 19x12x8.5cm (7½x4¾x3½in) loaf tin with oil, and line the base with baking-parchment. Flour the sides with 20g (¾oz) oatmeal, leaving the larger grains to fall to the base.
On a small tray, toast the pumpkin and sunflower seeds for about six minutes. Mix in the linseed. Toast for a further three minutes. Meanwhile, cover the rest of the oatmeal and 30g (1¼oz) of the oats in a bowl with 150ml (5fl oz) boiling water. Stir well and leave for five to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking-powder, salt, cinnamon and toasted seeds. Mix together the zest, eggs, oil and sugar, then whisk in the porridge. Add to the flour mix. Blitz the banana and cranberries for seven seconds in a food processor until the banana just begins to purée, leaving some lumps for texture. Scrape into the flour mixture and combine well.

Pour into the tin and sprinkle over the remaining oats and fresh berries. Bake for 30 minutes then rotate the cake and reduce the temperature to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Cook for a further 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin completely (it will slice better cold). Serve with yogurt for breakfast or on its own for tea.

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Marshmallows

 

All photos by Henrietta Inman.

Fancy trying squirrel for supper?

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Long eaten across the American Deep South and very popular stewed long and slow, squirrel meat was even included in older editions of that famous American cooking tome The Joy of Cooking as a ‘tender alternative to chicken or rabbit’. It might not be long before people across East Anglia become accustomed to eating this lowest of food-miles meat and with over five million of the bright eyed and bushy tailed beasties hopping across our lawns, parks and forests, the questions has to be ‘what took us so long?’

Squirrel meat is on sale for the first time on the butchery counter at the Elveden Courtyard in Suffolk. Similar to rabbit in flavour, it is a light-coloured, finely textured meat that is low in fat and completely free-range. Its natural diet of berries and nuts contributes to a flavour I can only describe as nutty having eaten it some time ago, coated in a flavoured breadcrumb Southern style and deep fried. I also recommend a paella made with squirrel instead of rabbit or chicken and the great Brunswick Stew, an old Southern one pot meal beloved in North Carolina and Kentucky and which must be made with three specific ingredients to be genuine- okra, lima (butter) beans and squirrel.

One regular Elveden customer, Helen Sturgeon, has already created some lovely squirrel pasties using the meat and food shop manager Richard Howard explains the benefits, “Squirrel from Elveden is wild, nutritious and has virtually zero food miles, coming straight from the estate itself, making for a highly ethical meat.” If terroir is your thing, squirrel meat, like all wild game, is its perfect expression.

The move follows an increase in demand for game from the estate butchers, with venison, pheasant and wild rabbit highly sought after. Although rabbit can be shot all year round, a national decrease in population numbers has led the estate to restrict the numbers shot each month in order to ensure the animals flourish. It is generally advised to avoid eating town squirrels because of the risk of ingesting what they have eaten which may include poison put out to kill rats. Buying squirrel meat from a reputable supplier eliminates the risk.

“Rabbits are no longer breeding ‘like rabbits’,” explains James Holliday, Forestry and Conservation Manager at Elveden Estate. “Nationally, numbers have been in decline over the past few years and have now reached such low numbers we are limiting the number killed in order to maintain a sustainable population.”

The Elveden Estate is located in the Brecks region of Suffolk, an area renowned for rabbit warrening and a unique ecosystem that greatly depends upon controlled rabbit populations to maintain the open and friable structure of the soil, benefiting the huge variety of plants that are specialised to sandy healthland. So while we’re trying to build local rabbit populations up again, why not try its arboreal taste equivalent?

The Elveden Courtyard shops are open Monday to Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm and Sundays from 10am to 5pm.

For further information, please visit www.elveden.com

Elmer Fudds Brunswick Stew

Woodbridge Tide Mill and The Cake Shop Launch Collaborative Cookbook

Woodbridge’s iconic working Tide Mill has collaborated with the town’s much loved bakery, The Cake Shop, to create an informative book filled with delicious recipes and fascinating facts.

The book will launch at The Local Seasonal Food Market: What’s Tasty in Woodbridge on Market Hill in Woodbridge on Saturday 24th May from 10am.  The recipes have been created by Christine Wright from The Cake Shop and Anne Barratt from the Tide Mill – who will be signing copies of the book at the market between 12 noon and 1.00pm.

The book uses interesting recipes and facts to dispel the myths around wholemeal flour.   Not only does it explain why wholemeal flour is the healthiest option, but it also demonstrates the remarkable versatility of wholemeal flour through the variety of tasty recipes.

Nigel Barratt, Miller and Trustee of the Tide Mill Living Museum said; “Many people may think that that all you can really do with wholemeal flour is bake heavy, stodgy bread, but it’s far more versatile.

“Most flour produced in modern roller mills has all the bran and most of the nutrients in the wheat germ removed in the process.  Our stone ground wholemeal flour uses 100% of the whole grain. The slow and gentle milling process leaves all the goodness in the flour and makes it the healthiest and most natural of all wheat flours. It’s tasty too, with a characteristic nutty flavour that works really well in bread, cakes, pastry and biscuits!”

We have been able to see a sneak preview of the recipes and they appear accessible, family friendly and clearly explained. Tide Mill Wholemeal Onion & Herb Bread, Chapatti’s and Paratha’s are all accompanied by bakers tips to help you trouble shoot any problem areas and teach you some of the tricks of the trade too. In the meal section, Stuffed Mushrooms on Tide Mill Croutons offers what looks like a delicious and sensible way of using up any stale bread. Unlike supermarket bread which is stuffed with preservatives which tends to make it get soggy and mouldy as it ages, home baked bread merely dries out. This offers great scope for further cooking, an important consideration in these times of austerity and furthermore ingredients are in the main, accessible and affordable.

Bread can also make great puddings and it won’t be long before we are into the fruit season and able to make the delicious sounding Blueberry & Nectarine Crumble with its lime spiked fruit base and almond enriched crumble topping. Cakes also celebrate fruit from the recipe for Christines fruit cake through all manner of banana breads, Date Slices and the Tide Mill Carrot Cake. Sections for recipes suitable for children- pizza bases for one and even a dog biscuit recipe round off this useful and local cook book.

The Tortilla Curtain by T C Boyle – reviewed by 2nd Air Division Memorial Library

The Library blog is maintained by scholars at the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library and each month their book group reviews one book within it. This month our book group, Reading Across the Pond, read T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain, a novel that tackles middle-class values, illegal immigration, xenophobia, poverty, the American Dream and entitlement.

 What is the Tortilla Curtain? The Tortilla Curtain references both the physical wall, or border, between Mexico and the United States and the cultural wall or division between the people of these two nations. The novel follows two couples: Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a white upper-middle class liberal couple who live in a gated community on the outskirts of Los Angeles; and Cándido and America Rincón, two Mexican illegal immigrants in desperate search of work, food and shelter. A car accident brings Cándido and Delaney into intimate contact and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

With the narrative voice switching with each chapter, the novel forces its readers to engage with a variety—and sometimes conflicting—perspectives. This adds to the complexity of the book and the complexity of the issues within the book. As one member said, ‘the book forces you to see yourself from very different perspectives—sometimes painfully so.’

usa_mexico_border_03Published in 1994 at the height of the U.S.’s militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, Boyle’s book poignantly demonstrates the sometimes inconsistent demands for citizenship rights and human rights and the often emotional reactions towards immigration and immigrant communities. For many of our book group readers, Boyle’s novel unveils the ‘hypocrisy of the American Dream’, ‘the impossible immigrant experience’ and the criminalization of desperation: ‘Mexicans don’t get the chance to experience the American Dream.’

Though written in an American context, many of our  readers felt there were ‘many parallels with contemporary thinking in Britain’ vis-á-vis immigration. Truth be told the book–despite being twenty years old—continues to hold contemporary resonance within the United States as well.

For these reasons and many more, T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain sparked a very thoughtful and emotive discussion for our book group readers and as a result the book comes highly recommended; it has been one of the group’s favorite books this year and many have been encouraged to read more of Boyle’s work.

‘Tremendously written’

‘Absolutely brilliant book’

‘ Riveting’

‘Evidence of a great writer, strong character development and very tense’

You can borrow a copy of T.C. Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain from your local Norfolk Library. Check the catalog and put in your requests here.

T.C. Boyle is an American novelist and short story writerOther books by this author include:

The Black Dog Project

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‘I Had a Black Dog’ is a comic, fun and heart wrenching story about one man called Joe and his own struggle with the multifaceted entity known as depressive disorder. Originally written by Matthew Johnstone, an artist, writer and photographer, the book is a radical and humane departure from the traditional self help format of many books about mental health and illness. Sometimes we need to NOT be advised in an overt manner; rather we need to walk alongside somebody who just ‘knows’ and this book (alongside the theatrical version in development) is just that. Acknowledging that depression can mess with a persons ability to ingest and digest information-although intellect is left intact- the book offers non patronising and intelligent pictorial depictions of the ways in which thought, affect and feeling can all be warped by the illness. This is as important for carers, friends and relatives to understand as it is for the ill person to know he has been understood.

Small Nose Productions is developing The Black Dog Project via a series of research and development sessions (a total of 3) held at local theatres and arts centres in front of small audiences. The New Wolsey hosted one of them under its #Scratch banner at their High St Gallery venue in Ipswich, a beautiful multi -use art gallery. Mark Curtis from Small Nose, in a previous interview, told Stage Review: “The project is about trying to raise awareness about Mental Health issues – and begins with this first 30 mins (a scratch production) of the best selling book. The company hope to take it to a full length version later this year”.

Watching the project in its rough format followed by a Talk Out/question & answer session provided us and the cast with a valuable opportunity to pool knowledge both lived and learned, offer feedback and share our experiences about an illness that has no definitive truth or any one narrative. Mirroring the book, the Scratch production clearly values that lived experience and the intra-personal above others and gains emotional resonance with its audience as a result. Spending time talking with audiences helps them manage powerful feelings brought back into now by what they have seen; shows such as this can be cathartic but only if one is given the space to make sense of what has been felt and thought.

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Developing a theatrical production from such a simple book contains its own challenges – reflecting the evidence base, keeping the simplicity of the concept which was consistently cited as one of THE main points of success whilst layering in subjective and individual experiences. Building in humour was vital too. Outreach work conducted by Small Nose Productions told them that their initial audiences needed their experiences acknowledged; they had to see themselves in the main character but how to avoid building a composite that ended up reflecting nobody? Audiences do not want a’ Greatest Hits of Depression’.  The work of Doctor Stuart Brown into the neuro-psychological effects of laughter was another important building block. Alongside the plain old enjoyment of a good laugh, the humour here has a more vital role- there needs to be a leavening too without making the laughed with, laughed AT. Our own experiences of a former career in mental health alongside living with PTSD shows us that the dark humour of staff and service users needs to be celebrated; it is dry, observational, political and astute.

Said Johnstone of Small Nose: “Their chaotic approach, constant search for the correct balance between laughter and something more poignant and their audacity for things that are silly and at the heart of us all, makes this company the perfect eclectic mix for dealing with the dark world of the Black Dog.”

The uses of comedy in the early production was multi-faceted. It lightened, it played with our feelings of inclusion and exclusion and it played with the characters inclusion and isolation. At times the humour tangibly pushed Joe aside and at other times it united us. Should the literal depiction of the metaphorical ‘Black Dog’ be less comedic? Some feedback suggested the dog lacked the overtly oppressive nature of depression, that it was too approachable or not ‘nasty’ enough or that it needed to be approachable and comforting because the heavy blanket of depression can in itself be a comfort. Hard for non sufferers to sometimes grasp, people speak of depression as an identity with gains at times; provision of a ‘get out’ clause for everything they find too difficult or taxing, hence the feelings of apprehension and even fear at thoughts of recovery and all that this entails. At least Depression is known. There is a difficult kind of solace in that and so we have a furry, cuddly playful dog leaping into the lap of Joe, throwing its arms around him and draped all over him, limbs splayed and not quite under its control, a playful clown mitigating the oppressiveness of the illness. Think Boxer or Spaniel rather than lupine and dark.

At times the laughs of the audience at the boisterous expressiveness of the Black Dog and its total unawareness and lack of control of its own corporeal body was unbearably poignant in that it highlighted the essential disconnect that lies at the centre of the world of the person with depression. On stage all was busy and social (in the restaurant) as life and the world moved and morphed around Joe. The audience seemed to be in collusion with the Dog against him and he was at a still point outwardly whilst his mind was clearly in turmoil. Disconnected from the world, from his own body (he did not inhabit it comfortably), from other people, his only consistency to be found was in his own intrapersonal relationship- the one with himself and his depression. We found it very hard to look at Joe as he sat there because he inspired feelings of guilt in us that we had laughed in the face of such inner turmoil.

We saw the beautiful subtlety of a facial expression that was really a non expression, a terrifying combination of both blankness and inner confusion. No confusion on his face but we knew it was there. Exacerbating this even more was the dogs vital engagement with us, playing to the crowd, prancing, clowning and making us feel uncomfortably disregarding and dismissive of Joe’s alienation. The dog was like a black hole, drawing all attention and life towards it. We were in the moment and Joe was not. He was scarcely in the play. The dog became less a reflection of his feelings,  more a case of reflecting all that he was not and no longer acting as metaphor for his illness. We wondered then ‘should the dog be just a dog and if so, should it be more dog like?’ Using a more lifelike mask (with a better budget maybe?) might help us manage the conflicting feelings about what the dog is but on the other hand, this uncertainty accurately mirrors the larger questions about what depression actually is and what it is not. Indeed is that something we should even need to delineate? Managing dissonance in an audience is tricky and we will be interested to see how this plays out as the project develops.

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The use of space and props has huge potential and already encapsulates some of the Depressive imagery and metaphor. Kicking off with Joe having a restless night, we see the lights go up on a sparsely inhabited set; bed, a set of drawers, a wardrobe, a bathroom, a desk for work, a kitchen table /  restaurant table….Illuminating the different room spaces and activities sparely and sparsely draws us into Joe’s inner life and the subsequent terrifying lack of. Having Joe and his Dog move the set around is part reflection of budgetary constraints and a deliberate feature. The actor playing the dog morphs into the waiter, the secretary and Joe’s girlfriend with his/her costume changes contributing to the comedy and Joe’s disconnect from it and our reactions. We laugh at the ill fitting wig, the crooked moustache, and throughout this Joe remains painfully and terrifyingly removed from it all. It is not that depression = feeling miserable. In fact depression can mean = feeling nothing at all. What on earth must it be like feeling nothing at all? 

One problem we could see with the idea of Joe and the Dog having to do the set changes themselves is that we lose some of the chronology of his illness. One of the ways in which depression affects a person is by changing the way they move, speak, think and act. The biological signs of a depressive disorder can include changes in sleep, appetite, sex drive and how we move- do we slow down (retarded movements) or do we speed up and become more agitated? Joe wound down like an old clock; he became less purposeful, less methodical despite trying to cling to routines and to us, this appeared commensurate with what we know to be the symptoms of some types of depression. Seeing Joe move the set around to reconfigure the furniture in a fast, strong and purposeful way (because of time constraints) interrupted this progression and we suggested that the company employ theatre students as interns dressed in the customary black to act as stagehands. Having Joe lost and still in the midst of a set change might enhance our sense of his life unfolding and renegotiating apparently without his consent or understanding. Or Joe could be more ineffectual at set changes which would reflect the unravelling of his life- the end of his relationship with his girlfriend, the changes in his job that he found so hard having previously arranged work to best suit his nature. He is not managing these well so he should not manage the set changes well either.

As the play approached its conclusion we were apprehensive that Joe’s final wresting with his illness, the all at sea analogy was actually leading towards suicide and this was compounded by our obscured view of the scene- a problem of the venue, not the play. Unsure as to whether anybody else in the audience interpreted it in this way, we felt anxiety at how on earth the play could come back from this story development despite the fact that this is sadly not that far removed from reality for some people with mental health problems. The actual ending, Joe developing ways to live with his depression reflected the book but the lack of explanations as to how Joe achieved this left us feeling a little adrift. It risks being seen as a hasty ‘wrap up’ rather then the truth of the book that inspired this play. Finding ways to bridge this gap we feel, is important whether via play content, talk out or within the programme notes.

We are greatly looking forward to seeing the finished version of The Black Dog Project and are grateful for the opportunity to both see and contribute to the development of the show. Thanks to the New Wolsey Theatre and Small Nose Productions. 

Visit http://www.smallnose.net/for more information on Small Nose Productions

 

The Little Norfolk Book of Baking

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The Little Norfolk Book of Baking has been born! Originally conceived as a competition entry by ten girls from the Norwich High School for Girls for ‘Young Enterprise’ a competition designed to give young people an insight into running their own business, the book fills a gap in the market for a Norfolk baking book that celebrates both local talent and our rich culinary heritage. We contacted  Katie Bates, a member of their fledgling business ‘The Saffron Enterprise Company’ who wrote,

 “The popularity of home baking in Britain has seen a huge surge in this decade thanks to programmes such as the Great British Bake Off, and today the British baking industry is worth an estimated £3.4 billion. It was this huge evolving market combined with a shared passion for all things baking that led us to create our cookbook”

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Keeping it regional meant approaching Norfolk’s stellar culinary talent and the students received a highly positive response from all those they got in touch with, quickly acquiring enough recipes to fill the 44-page book. Contributors include 2010 MasterChef finalist Tim Kinnaird, and celebrity chefs Galton Blackiston and Mary Berry. We at Mumsnet Norfolk & Suffolk are particular fans of Dr Kinnaird’s macarons and other delicacies having sampled them in the past. Interspersed with these are the girls own favourite recipes, resulting in a cook book that appeals to young adults – those starting out as cooks who might be intimidated by some of the more complicated and less realistic baking tomes out there. 

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The students have recently won the Norfolk county finals, and since then have been trying to sell as many books as possible before the regional finals in Cambridge in June. The book retails for £5.99, and can be found in Jarrolds’ book department and at Blickling Hall, as well in restaurants and cafes in Norfolk, such as The Box Tree Cafe. They recently appeared on the new local station, Mustard TV to promote the book, and have also previously featured in The Norfolk Magazine. We at Mumsnet wish them the very best of luck and will most certainly be using this gorgeous little book. 

The Little Norfolk Book of Baking can also be brought from the school– http://goo.gl/0gJLXu

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These really ARE the best Banana Muffins ever.

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These Banana muffins were made in a Friand pan but any size or shape of pan will do.

To hit the sweet spot with anything banana, it is first necessary to exercise some discernment when choosing them. Those brown splodges on the skin that are the enemy of most shop fruit displays? They are known as the ‘Sweet Spot’  Those fresh young bananas with a tight yellow skin will not  infuse your baking with the squidgy texture and  depth of flavour that a mature fruit is in possession of. Yes, that mottled, streaked skin with some give is a sign of age but in contrast to the more usual response to the advancement of time, this is what we most desire here.

We have spent many decades in our (fruitful) search for the perfect and simple banana muffin recipe and as far as we are concerned, this quest of Quixote like scale is over. This easy to adapt and forgiving recipe is it. Forgiving of added (or subtracted) dried banana chips, other dried fruit such as sultanas or even sliced preserved ginger in syrup, we have never had a fail with it.

Preparation time 15 mins + chilling. Cooking time 18-20 mins. Preheat oven to 375F / 190c / Gas mark 5

Ingredients

175g softened butter / 120g caster sugar / 4 oz soft brown sugar / 1 beaten egg / 3 ripe medium size bananas, mashed / 1 tsp Vanilla extract / 250g plain flour / 1 tsp baking powder / 175g banana chips, broken up (these are optional)

Place butter and sugars into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg until it is well incorporated then stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Sift the flour and baking powder together then sift into the mixture and incorporate, making sure you don’t over mix.  Lastly, add the dried banana chips (if using) or the dried fruit- a small handful (if using). The same rule applies to adding sliced stem ginger. We find one small ‘ball’ of stem ginger fine sliced then diced is more than enough to infuse them with a delicate gingery heat.

Grease a muffin pan with butter or baking spray or use paper muffin cases inside a muffin pan (we do this). Take spoons of the mixture and add to the muffin cases/pan, filling them 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until done; they can vary a little in their cooking times depending upon the size of the muffins made. Keep an eye on them and remove when golden and a tester stick comes out clean when inserted into their middle. Allow to cool for as long as you can stand to wait then eat!