Sunday, 26 April 2015

Blood oranges

I love blood oranges, I think it's their colour, so rich and exotic but rarely seen in our area. We were in the market a couple of weeks ago and a stallholder was selling eight for £2. How could I resist?

Blood oranges
My first bake was a blood orange and almond cake:

  • 3 medium (or 2 large) blood oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 250g caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
Boil the oranges in a little water, covered, for about 1.5-2 hours until soft. When cool open to remove the pips and roughly chop the oranges.

Preheat oven 190C/170C fan and fully line a 22 cm springform cake tin.

Blend all the ingredients, except the oranges, until you have a nice batter. Add the oranges and pour into the tin.

Bake for about an hour.

Blood orange and almond cake
 This cake is beautifully moist and kept really well. We had small slices with coffee and for dessert with a blob of creme fraiche.

Next was an upside down cake which I thought would really showcase the blood oranges.

Topping (or bottom!)

  • 2-3 oranges
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup water


  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
Preheat oven to 160/140C and line a 22/25 cm springform. Use one sheet of baking paper so that there are no gaps for the syrup to leak (a bit like a cup cake liner).

Slice the oranges as finely as you can (use a mandolin if you have one).

Thinly sliced oranges

Gently heat the topping sugar and water on a low heat until the sugar has melted, increase the temperature to a medium high and add the orange slices. Once boiling point has been reached turn down to a simmer and cook until the rinds are semi-transclucent. Remove slices with a slotted spoon and allow to cool. Boil the remaining liquid until it thickens a bit more.

This is the tricky bit! Ideally you want to put orange slices along the sides and base of the baking tin, but the sides depend on how neatly you've been with the baking paper. Whichever way a light brushing of the syrup will help them to stick.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat the eggs and add a little at a time whilst still beating. Stir in ground almonds, flour and yoghurt without overworking. Gently spoon the mixture over the orange slices being careful not to dislodge them. Bake for about 60 minutes.

Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Carefully upturn onto a serving plate and gently remove the baking paper. Brush the top and sides with the reserved syrup.

Blood orange upside down cake
Andrew decided that he'd like the upside down cake made with the orange and almond cake mix. Maybe next time!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Last week at Nelson House

Last Sunday was the first of the practical beekeeping sessions at the West Norfolk & King's Lynn training apiary.

Training apiary
Now it may look like a benign day in the photograph but what you can't see are the winds that were a steady 30 mph and gusting 50. The bees weren't going out in that and if we'd opened up the hives they would have been blown away and may not have been able to return. However there were lots of other things to learn so we went up to the rather smart portacabin for some hands on demonstrations.

First was how to light, and keep lit, your smoker. This is very important to keep your bees quiet.

Lighting the smoker
It is not, as I had initially thought, the smoke itself that subdues the bees. Bees are originally from Africa where forest fires are common. When the bees sense smoke their instinct is to save the colony and to do this they need food and so they glut on honey. And like all of us after a heavy meal we feel a bit dozy and slow down a bit.

Smoking equipment
Our other project was assembling frames of which there are two types - those that hold the brood and where the queen lays the eggs and smaller ones where the honey is stored. They come flat pack and have to be assembled (apparently this is how I will be spending my winter evenings!). Fortunately my upholstery skills came in useful when hammering in the small tacks.

Frame assembling

While I was away with the bees Andrew started the really tricky floor tiling in the wet room. This is a challenging job as the tiles have to go in the drainer, there is a slight slope on the floor so that water will drain, we have put down underfloor heating and to add to his problems we decided on a diamond bond as the room is L-shaped and this works best. He was very even tempered as several tiles were broken in the attempt to get some very complicated cuts done. But his perseverance paid off.

Tricky tiling

Tuesday was a glorious day and we took advantage of the longer evenings and snuck off early to Old Hunstanton beach.

Old Hunstanton beach
Mortimer was delighted with his first evening trip of the season.

Mortimer enjoying himself

The view while we ate our fish & chips
We were introduced to Toby, Patricia and David's new trainée guide dog puppy.

And spotted this rather odd nesting site by a local pigeon.

Pigeon nest
And finally, although it's not quite finished, we're really enjoying meals in the refurbished garden from.

Not a bad week :-)

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


Walking down the theatre stairs on Sunday after seeing a performance of Swan Lake, the father in the family group ahead of us asked his son (about eight or nine years old) what he thought of the ballet. A pause. "I like what they did with their arms and their feet".

Sums it up quite nicely!

Enjoy your Easter break.