Monday, 24 October 2011


This recipe has no quantities, because it is entirely dependent on how many apples you have.  But as a rough guide, 8 good-sized apples made two large jars of applesauce - see left!

There are also no ingredients, apart from apples!  Though some recipes do suggest adding cinnamon, or even some sugar if the apples are tart.

The Americans are far more used to canning applesauce than we Brits are, and so they have a whole lot of specialised equipment, such as jar grabbers, water bath pots (with built in rack for raising and lowering the jars, etc.  If you have such equipment, then I presume you know how to use it.  I would also advise investing in such equipment and following the instructions closely if you have a vast quantity of apples to process.  Nothing could be worse than all the jars spoiling for the want of precise attention.

However, if like me you only have a few apples to deal with and want to have a go, then this is my improvised version.  The final product looks good, and I am hoping the jars last okay.  I shall keep at least one jar until Christmas, and will report back if it has survived or not.  Caveat emptor!

Equipment you will need:
- approximately one large jar per 4 apples.  Kilner jars are best, though any with a tight-fitting lid should work.
- a deep and heavy-bottomed pot, such as a stock pot, with a well-fitting lid.
- something to improvise a rack at the bottom of the pot - I used an upturned plate, though be careful that it is one that can withstand a lot of heat (my Ikea one cracked!).  A metal grill of some kind would work better - anything to keep the jars from sitting on the base of the pot. 
- something to remove the jars safely from the boiling water.  Americans have special jar grabbers: I poured off some of the water, and then used a silicone oven glove.
- apple corer or sharp knife; wooden spoon; large serving spoon or ladle.


Please be carefull!  As with jam, you are dealing with very high temperatures, and the absence of specialised equipment increases the likelihood of spills and burns.

1) Before beginning, you need to sterilise your jars.  Put the jars on their sides on a rack in the oven. Turn the oven to 140C, and when it reaches this temperature, turn it off.  Leave the jars in the oven until ready to use.  For the lids, boil them for 5 minutes.  Or if you have a dishwasher, run jars and lids through a cycle.

2) Wash and core your apples, and remove any bruised or nibbled bits.  You can peel them if you want, but I didn't bother.  But do make sure all the nasty bits around the seeds are removed.  While you are doing this, you can place the cut apples in a large bowl of water to stop them discolouring too quickly.  You could add a touch of lemon juice to the water.

3) Fill the large pot with about an inch of water, and add the apples.  Put the lid on tightly.  Bring rapidly to the boil, and then reduce the heat.  Simmer for around 20 minutes, until the apples are disintegrated and fluffy.  

4) If you did not peel the apples, pick out the skins at this stage.  If there are any lumps left, mash them with a potato masher, or with a wooden spoon.  If the sauce seems too watery, you can boil some of the liquid off, stirring all the time and being careful that it does not stick to the bottom or burn.  Keep the applesauce hot.

5) Spoon the hot applesauce into the jars, wipe off any spills around the rim, and seal tightly with the lids.

6)  Wash your large and deep pot.  Place the rack in the bottom, and sit the sealed jars on the rack.  Cover the jars with hot water so that they are about an inch below the surface.  Bring to the boil, and boil the jars for 20-30 minutes.

7) Carefully remove the jars from the water, and allow to sit until cold.  You will know if they are properly sealed by pressing the top of the jar: if it doesn't 'pop' in and out, it is sealed.  If any are unsealed, simply put them in the fridge and use within a week.
If using kilner jars, you should loosen or remove the screw part of the lid, so that it doesn't rust.  The top will stay completely sealed.
Store the jars in a cool dark cupboard.

Day 115: Learning from Americans

Dear Americans,

You are lovely.  When I spent four months in New Jersey just a few years ago, you made me wonderfully welcome.  It is true that you have your quirks, the most bizarre being your love of that abomination, iced tea - closely followed by your inexplicable tolerance of terrible, terrible chocolate.  But no matter.  Because such oddities are well outweighed by a plethora of culinary delights.

I was in NJ in the Fall, and one day went on a trip to an apple orchard, where I filled a bag with many different varieties.  This was followed by a country fair, where apple cider was drunk in delectable combination with cinnamon donuts.  (For non-Americans, apple cider is a kind of thick and cloudy apple juice, not alcoholic at all.  I have never seen its like over here.)

Alas, such delights are not really available in Scotland.  Nevertheless, I have recreated an American classic here in my kitchen - Applesauce!  Specifically, canned applesauce, that can sit in my store cupboard for half the winter, if I have done it right.  Okay, so I only managed to produce two jars.  Which was lucky, because I only had two jars.  But it made excellent use of the rest of the apples kindly donated by Friend Julie's trees. 

I will post the recipe above.  And look forward to a winter of Apple Charlotte pudding - which recipe I will also post.  Free food rocks!

Day 114: The Unexpected Versatility of Clingfilm

Well, that is one lot of windows done.  The view from the living room window now has a strangely blurred appearance, but beyond that, it looks fairly respectable, and scarcely even noticeable from a distance.

I am grateful for advice from Jan back in Day 105.  She pointed out that the idea for windows is the same as for clothes: it is layers that count.  So although the clingfilm isn't very thick, it is still adding a layer for insulation. If anyone is thinking of following suit, Lakeland is currently selling 25 metres of their good quality stuff for £1.09, with money off any future purchase.  If you only have a few windows, and especially if they are small, then this could be a good buy.

I only have four windows in the flat, but they are huge - proper old tenement things.  It was slightly scary standing on the windowsill to reach the highest corners.  A stepladder would be much more sensible, of course, but unfortunately the flat does not have such a thing.  I think I was rather foolish - but hey, it is done now, and the other windows are nowhere near as worrying.  Moreover, while I was up there, I discovered that there was a massive draft coming from the join between the top and bottom panes.  What you can see on the photo is a rolled up towel now resting discreetly along the ledge.

I also tried to cover the bathroom window, but it is coated in some strange opaque frosting, and the clingfilm refused to cling.  That is the coldest room, too, but it does have a fairly grubby blind (which I cannot reach to take down and wash) so perhaps that will help a little.  I'll tackle the kitchen next.

But so far, some limited success.  The weather has warmed up a little anyway, but even so, I felt no need of the heating this evening.  The combination of dressing gown, thermal vest, and clingfilm is working so far.

Oh, and P.S. - I opened one of the jars of jam today - and it is perfect! 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Day 113: Retail Therapy

Even as I write, I am snuggled up in my new long-sleeved thermal top.  It is soft and cosy and gorgeous, and teamed with my equally new fluffy dressing gown, I am a whole lot happier about facing winter now.

But whence this sudden wealth?  I have been saving up a couple of Marks and Spencer vouchers that kind people gave me for my birthday back in July.  With winter in mind even then, I have been very carefully not spending them.  But today it was time!

It is four months since I have been shopping.  I don't mean trips to Lidl or occasional wanders into a charity shop.  I mean proper clothes shopping.  Even just strolling around Marks and Spencer's lingerie department was a real treat.  I miss clothes.  I miss shoes.  I was never particularly extravagant clothes-wise before this year, but I could at least indulge myself here and there.

So today I spent £40 worth of vouchers on two thermal vests and a dressing gown.  Good and happy purchases.  But I averted my eyes from the party clothes on my way out.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Day 112: And the heating goes on

There is snow on the mountains not so very far north of here.  I can't see it, but I can feel it.  The weather has taken on a distinct chill, and it has made its way inside.

Last night it was just too miserable sitting in my cold living room.  It was not too bad while I was moving around, but there comes a time when one likes to lounge on the sofa and watch a DVD.  My fleecy blanket helped a little, but not enough.  So I gave in, and wandered through to the kitchen, and flicked the switch to the little radiator symbol.

Even so, I am not succumbing fully yet.  I wandered through the flat turning off all the radiators except for the living room.  And although I have the heating on again tonight, I am switching it on and off manually, so it only goes on when I really feel the need.  The bedroom is still fine when I am under the duvet, especially with my hot water bottle.  And mornings are still okay, though stripping off for the shower is getting more and more unpleasant.  I may soon have to put the bathroom radiator on a timer.

I am also remembering keep-warm advice often dished out to the elderly.  One of them is, in the winter, to pretty much live in and heat one room.  If it comes to it, I have my little fold-out bed in the cupboard, which will do the job nicely. I shall try to adopt a positive attitude to this, and convince myself that it is like a fun camping trip.  Oh well.

But before such desperate measures, I should first do everything else I can.  I have a kind of day off tomorrow, so time to trundle down to Lakeland and purchase some good quality clingfilm to cover these windows.  While I am there, I will take the Marks and Spencer vouchers I've got saved from my birthday and invest in a couple of thermal vests.  Friends, I am grimly determined.  The cold will not beat me.


I said that if it worked, I would give it a massive plug.  So here it is.  Wizz Oxi Ultra Plus Fabric Stain Remover is a miracle product! 

Remember the teatowel?  Just to remind you, this is what it looked like:

And now it looks like this:

Now, I have no idea how safe or chemically nasty this stuff is.  But Friend Claire the Chemist didn't seem too alarmed (though she works on a daily basis with hydrochloric acid, so perhaps she is immune to chemical alarm).  And I can witness that even while it was doing its work on the bramble juice stain, it was giving off no visible or olfactory fumes.  But then, it does have a big cross on the back of the tub with the word HARMFUL in caps underneath.  I guess it is to be treated with the same respect as bleach.

Whatever.  It worked!  And a quick google tells me it can be picked up in Poundland for - wait for it - £1.  Cheaper than a new teatowel.  :)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Day 109: And We Have Jam!

Apple and Bramble Jam *ting*
Six jars, to be precise.  Six jars of beautifully clear and, I suspect, somewhat over-solidified Apple and Bramble Jelly.  Well, technically, I only have three jars, because the other three belong to Friend Claire.  But there they are, ranged on my kitchen work surface, making gentle little popping sounds as they cool and their seals tighten.

This has been a happy experience.  A new skill has been learned, if not exactly mastered.  (I think they may be very over-solidified.)  The frothy skimmings been consumed on some freshly-made soda scones, and I can confirm the general deliciousness of the final product. I don't think the jam is gift-able, which is a shame - one jar could have made a nice little Christmas present for someone.  But for a first attempt, I think this can be declared a qualified success.

The only casualty has been my tea towel.  It is currently soaking in some stain-removing product called Wizz Oxi Ultra Plus, which my predecessors left behind.  Friend Claire the Chemist watched with scientific interest as the tea towel turned from purple to black to brown to a kind of dirty beige, poking it occasionally with a plastic whisk selected for its non-reactive properties.  If this stuff works, I will give it a massive plug on this blog, because it will truly be a miracle product.  This despite the rather alarming instructions NOT to put the damp scoop back in the tub, lest it produce some kind of oxygen explosion under the sink. 

The sugar cost £1. 
That is six jars of jam for £1. 
Definite Frugal Win. :)

Day 108: The Jam Begins

Woohoo!  Friend Claire came round tonight, and we have embarked on the Bramble and Apple Jelly!  The first part of the process is complete, and we are feeling highly pleased with ourselves.

The great thing is that, apart from the sugar, this foodstuff is entirely free.  The brambles which have been lurking in my freezer for a month were combined with an equal quantity of apples, some donated by a neighbour of Friend Claire, and some very kindly supplied by Friend Julie from the vast quantities her Victorian garden has been producing this harvest.  As Friend Claire and I observed, while stirring our pot of rich, deeply-purple, aromatic fruit, there is a peculiar delight involved where the food is not only free, but moreover, has been harvested by our own fair hands.  My highly rationalist scientist friend was even heard to mutter slightly sheepishly, that without getting too New Age-y about it, the whole process did somehow put us more in touch with our food.

We have been following this recipe which we found online.  The quantities listed here handily matched almost exactly the amount of brambles we had - it turns out that we had managed to pick just over 2lb on our foraging trip.  The link also contains some very useful advice for sterilising jars, cloths, etc, so we have been following it pretty closely.

Improvisation rocks!
On a practical level, we have managed so far without specialist equipment.  Not having a jam pan, my large heavy-bottomed stock pot is doing the job fine.  We also have not been able to borrow a jelly bag, so we have improvised with a large linen tea towel.  Learning from my rosehip syrup success, we placed the tea towel in a metal sieve over a baking bowl.  We ladled the bramble mixture carefully into the teatowel, and then tied the opposite corners of the tea towel firmly together.  We then removed the sieve and suspended the tea towel from an old mop handle which we have laid across the backs of two chairs, with the baking bowl on the floor to catch the liquid. It will stay there overnight.  So far it seems to be working well, though I suspect the tea towel will never recover.  I also have little hope of the decarnadination of the wooden spoon.

Friend Claire is coming round tomorrow in the early evening so that we can complete the process.  We could perhaps have done the whole thing in one night had we been prepared to squeeze the juice through the bag - but according to Mother, that is the surest route to (horrors!) a cloudy jelly.  Therefore we are giving it the time it needs.  We think we have enough jars - a mottly collection of there ever was one - but I need to buy in some sugar and some of these little wax disks.  I remember helping Mother with this stage often enough, so hopefully all the necessary techniques will come flooding back from the deep recesses of my memory. 

What I am currently loving about this frugality project is that I am truly learning new skills - or relearning old ones.  I have watched jam-making often enough, and been involved in the various stages, but I have never seen the whole process through myself.  And to make the project even more enjoyable, it has meant some days-out-with-a-difference with Friend Claire in particular.  Where last year we would have been eating out or sitting in the cinema, this time we are doing things.  And this is a good thing.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Day 107: A Stitch in Time

Is there any implement more useful to the frugalist than a needle and thread? 

This week it is buttons.  Upon digging out my winter coat, I remembered belatedly that a button had fallen off last February.  Although I did not have the foresight to do the actual stitch in time, I did at least have the foresight to store said button in the coat pocket.  Then my light raincoat decided to shed a button today as well, so I clearly need to set aside half an hour for a couple of repairs.

I was brought up by a mother who is highly skilled in all areas of needlework.  Having very little money back when we were children, she used to sew and knit all our school uniforms and a goodly proportion of our clothes as well.  There is a highly embarrassing photo of me and my sisters, all in identical green nylon trousers and hand-knitted green tank tops (sweater vests).  But hey - it was the 70s - I think we can cut my mother a bit of slack.  And they were very well made trousers and tank tops!

Despite producing two daughters whose abilities tend more towards the cerebral than the practical (the third daughter, my younger sister, combines the two superbly), Mother has at least succeeded in passing on some basic skills to her offspring.  But despite her best efforts, my ability does not extend far beyond the button-sewing-on level. 

So while it is a shame that I cannot save money by making my own clothes (!!), I can at least look after the ones I've got.  I can sew on a button, repair small rips in seams, and have even been known to darn a woollen glove.  Mother also darns the toes of her nylon stockings and tights, which extends their lives quite considerably.  As I have said before, I think my toes wreck the knee-highs too much even to attempt to mend them - but I confess that is often because I have not done a more immediate repair. 

I am therefore resolving, even as I write this, to be more truly my mother's daughter this week.  I shall lay out all my winter wardrobe and make sure it is mended and fit to wear.  If I am super organised, I may even be able to do the same for the summer wardrobe before packing it away for the next few months.  But that, I suspect, is very wishful thinking indeed.  I am constantly oppressed by my good intentions.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Day 105: Winter is i-cummin in

I am mightily impressed that is is mid October and I still have not turned on the central heating.  Nor have I been shivering miserably in a cold dank flat.  Outside there has been a distinct autumnal nip to the air, but inside I have been, if not exactly snug as a bug, at least comfortably free of shivers.

I put it down to this being a tenement flat, with neighbours below, above, and to either side.  Very kindly, what they spend on heating also helps to keep me warm.  Moreover, the flat is kind of long and thin, with windows front and back, so there is very little actual outside wall.  For an old flat without double glazing and with plenty of gaps between the floorboards, it is also surprisingly draft free.  I guess these Victorians knew what they were doing when they built this place.

But winter is indeed i-cummin in, and if it is anything like the last two up here, I am going to have to look at some heat-saving ventures.  Given that it is a rented flat and I will not be forking out on insulation any time soon, I need to do what I can with what I have.  I can close the thick curtains in the living room, but the bedroom curtains are pretty thin, and there are only flimsy blinds in the kitchen and bathroom.  I also read a tip about pinning a clear shower curtain over the window as a kind of secondary double glazing.  It doesn't sound very attractive, but it might be worth a go if I can find such a thing cheaply enough. 

And the other easy tip is draft excluders at the bottom of doors.  I seem to have a surplus of towels, so maybe I could roll some up and tie them in place.  I could even have a go at covering them.  I have a strange zebra-striped blanket thing with sleeves that is falling apart, which might do the trick.  Time to dig out the needle and thread, I think.

I did find this web page which has some very useful tips about staying warm in general.  Some are bleedingly obvious, but others are more original.  I especially liked tip number 16!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Day 103: The Hair! The Hair!

Very straight and very thick ...
It is now nearly 5 months since it was cut.

Have a look back at my graduation photo on Day 1.  The hair there is almost shoulder length.  Then mentally add about 3 inches to that.  Three untrimmed and shapeless inches.

The cheapest I can get a haircut at an Edinburgh salon is £35.  When my hair is bobbed, this should really be once every two months.  Gents seem to get away with a £10 short-back-and-sides at the barbers, or better still, they simply run the clippers over their head.  But I am clinging desperately to what little femininity I possess, and am not ready to go close cropped just yet.   So for the moment, long hair seems like the most frugal option.

The problem is, I have difficult hair.  I like it very much, and am inordinately proud of the total absence of grey given my increasingly advanced age.  But it is straight.  Very straight and thick.  Straight and very thick.  I cannot emphasise this enough.  It does not like to bend.  It will not submit gracefully to comb or clip.  Any stray hairs do not fluff softly around my face, but stick out at defiant angles.  This means that if my hair is to be styled even in the most simple of ways - say, a ponytail - then it has to be really very long indeed.  That stage being still some weeks away, it is currently an increasingly shaggy mess. And besides, even long hair needs to be trimmed at the ends now and then to keep everything neat and professional looking.  Hairdressers charge £35 for that too, regardless.

I have discovered, however, that our local hairdressing college likes to experiment on willing members of the public.  I am resolved to give them a ring shortly and see if they fancy getting their hands on a classic bob.  With instructors standing by, it seems safer than the Gumtree option, where I could currently get myself a "Proffesional" haircut.

Rosehip Syrup

Adapted from Marguerite Patten's Feeding the Nation.

Makes 2 cups rosehip syrup - enough for 2 people for 6-8 months, if taken as a few drops daily.

1lb rosehips, ripe and red
9oz sugar

1) Wash hips and 'top and tail' (remove stalks and greenery).  Put in a heavy stainless steel pan.  Cover well with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer until tender - about 10 minutes.

2) Mash hips well with a wooden spoon so that they are all broken open.  Put into a jelly bag (see Notes) over a bowl, and squeeze out as much juice as possible.

3) Return the pulp to the saucepan and add the same amount of water again.  Bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Pour back into teatowel and squeeze again into the bowl, adding to the juice from the first round.

4) Bin the pulp, and wash out the teatowel very thoroughly.  (I put mine through the washing machine.)  Pour the juice once again into the teatowel.  Do not squeeze this time, but allow to drip through into a clean bowl overnight, without stirring or pressing.  This should ensure that the liquid is hair-free!

5) Boil the juice down until it measures about 2 cups (16 fl. oz.)  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Boil for 5 minutes.

6) Either:
(a) Bottle the syrup in small jars.  The jars must be perfectly clean and hot - put them through the dishwasher and use immediately, or sterilise with boiling water and keep warm in the oven until ready for use.  Seal the jars at once, using rubber washers to ensure a perfect seal.  The syrup should be stored in a dark cupboard.
(b) Do what I did and freeze the syrup in ice cube trays, so that a very little can be defrosted at a time.  I think this works, but don't guarantee it yet!  I'll update this recipe as I find out.

I didn't have a heavy stainless steel pan, and an ordinary cheap one worked fine!  Just watch a little more closely in case the bottom burns.

I also didn't have a proper jelly bag, and was wary of using a borrowed one in case the little rosehip hairs got stuck in it and spoiled it.  You can improvise a jelly bag with layers of muslin, but I found a simple linen tea towel worked very well, and moreover, was tough enough to endure squeezing.  The red stain washed out fine, at least when I washed it straight away.  Just put a metal sieve over a large baking bowl, and put the tea towel in the sieve to hold everything in place; then pour into the sieve.

Serve as a Vitamin C supplement, taking about 1/4 tsp a day.  Alternatively, pour some over icecream, or use to flavour home made icecream or desserts.

Day 102: Rosehips - The Final Chapter

Well, it has worked!  At least, I have produced a reddish liquid which tastes quite nice, and is suitably syrupy.  I am really rather proud of myself.  What better frugal achievement than a Hedgerow Harvest transformed into a useful foodstuff and medicine?

Good old Marguerite Patten.  Her wartime recipe was just the thing.  She informs me that "This syrup is suitable for infants, very palatable, and so rich in Vitamin C that 1oz is sufficient for 1 month."   The half pound of rosehips I had picked has made 1 cup (8 fl.oz) of syrup, so that means that I am sorted for 8 months, I presume.  That will tide me over even a Scottish winter. :D

Of course, there are still a couple of things that could go wrong.  I think I got all the little hairs, but who knows?  Only time and potentially painful experiment will tell.  And rather than bottling the syrup, I am making use of some technology they didn't have in wartime Britain, and freezing it.  I read somewhere that if you do bottle it, you should use tiny bottles, as it goes off rapidly after opening - about one week.  So I am hoping that freezing offers a good alternative and doesn't destroy the syrup or its nutritional value.  I froze it in a couple of icecube trays, for easy extraction and defrosting.

Anyway, the recipe is posted above.  I am told it can also be used as a flavouring for desserts, or poured over ice cream, which sounds like an extraordinarily pleasant way of taking one's medicine.

So come and get me, Winter Germs!  I am ready for you!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Day 101: More on Rosehips

I mentioned yesterday how, while foraging, I added some rosehips to the haul.  I did this without much idea what I would do with these, apart from a vague notion that there exists such a thing as rosehip syrup.  So now I have half a pound in the freezer, and have been researching how to proceed.

Did you know that rosehips contain 20 times as much Vitamin C as an orange?  The problem with my source for this factoid is that it doesn't say exactly how it calculates this - pound for pound, or what?  Be that as it may be, they were majorly useful during World War II, where a few drops of the syrup was given to infants on a daily basis.  It therefore occurs to me that if I can make this stuff, it could be the first line of defence against the common cold this winter.  Got to be cheaper than echinacea tablets.

The problem with rosehips (and it is a major one!) is that inside, the little seeds are covered with little hairs.  These hairs are immensely irritating and can, I am told, cause nasty tummy upsets.  And if they get through the tummy without problem, then they REALLY get you on the way out.  I do not speak from experience here, but I am told that the word, 'itchy', does not begin to cover it. 

So when making the syrup, one has to be very careful that none of these little hairs get into the final product.  Hence straining and straining and straining.

Well, I'm off to give it a try.  I'll let you know how it goes, and if it works, I'll post the recipe.  After all, my "Food for Free" foraging book says there are hips still in the hedgerows until November.

Day What Must It Be?

This is me, crawling back.  I am very very sorry.  Work suddenly exploded with busy-ness, and I was so tired at the end of the day that blogging just felt like more work.  Then, once things calmed down, I was embarrassed by the gap.  But I think I just have to leap back in, and hope for forgiveness.  As a peace offering, I have posted below a very wonderful recipe for Lemon Drizzle Cake.  :)

What to report in the meantime?  I shall gloss over some of the Downs, and concentrate instead on the major Up that was a very successful foraging expedition.  I put out a little call on facebook for anyone who knew of a bramble patch near to Edinburgh, and Friend Sharon from East Lothian replied that there were a whole lot down her way.  So one sunny Saturday afternoon in September, Friend Claire and I got the First Bus out to the highways and byways around Haddington.  Sure enough, the hedgerows were laden.

We spent a very happy couple of hours filling our tubs with brambles, and with some rosehips as well.  These are all currently in my freezer. Scottish brambles are not the lovely big juicy blackberries of the south of England, and the harvest is a little gritty and prickly, which makes them difficult to sort out and use fresh.  Rather, our intention is to make bramble jelly.  Friend Claire is sourcing some free apples from a neighbour's tree, and we plan having a jam-making day sometime soon.  We also need to track down a jelly bag, ideally, though some muslin could also do the job.  I have been on the phone to Mother, and she will keep us right.

It wasn't exactly a frugal day - the bus alone cost over £6 each - but in terms of getting out of the city to some glorious countryside, and time spent with a good friend, it beat a trip to the cinema.  The hedgerow harvest was almost a bonus, and the severely scratched hands but a badge of our righteousness.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Makes c.10 slices

4 oz soft margarine
6oz caster sugar
2 large eggs
6 oz self-raising flour
4 tbsp milk
rind and juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp icing sugar

1) Grease and line the bottom of a 2lb loaf tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C.
2) Cream together the margarine and sugar.  Beat the eggs, add to the mixture, and beat well together.
3) Add the sifted flour, the lemon rind, and the milk.  Mix well.  
4) Put mixture in tin, and smooth top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.  
5) While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and icing sugar in a pan, and heat gently until the icing sugar is dissolved.  
6) As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, use a skewer to make several deep holes in the top.  Immediately pour the lemon-sugar mix over the cake.  Leave the cake in the tin until completely cool before removing.

This makes a gorgeous sticky cake.  It counts as economical, given that a slice of lemon drizzle cake costs about £2 in any cafe.  I am not sure what the whole cake costs to bake, but it is a whole lot less than £20!  I had a vegetable bake on the bottom shelf of the oven while this was cooking on the top.  Half of the final loaf has gone in the freezer.

Caster sugar costs more than granulated.  Friend Claire recently suggested buying granulated sugar and whizzing it in the food processor to make caster sugar.  I gave it a try and am not altogether convinced it made much difference - but maybe your food processor is more efficient than mine.  I have never had a problem working with granulated sugar anyway, unless it is meringues. 

If making the cake in a food processor, then add the sugar, margarine, and eggs all at once, and cream together before adding the other ingredients.  This is how I did it, and it worked well.