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    Easy Chocolate Brownies

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    These went down really well as Christmas presents for teachers, and we also took some as presents when we went to stay with my brother’s family. This recipe which I picked up from one of my visits to the Panasonic Ideas Kitchen, makes loads, at least 30 small squares, and is so easy. We make them in our Panasonic Combination oven which cuts the cooking time, but I have included conventional oven timings too.

    Ingredients

    • 250 g plain chocolate
    • 250 g unsalted butter
    • 4 large eggs
    • 310 g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence
    • 180 g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 75 g hazelnuts
    • 75 g white chocolate chips
    • 75 g milk chocolate chips

    1. Put the plain chocolate and butter in a large bowl. Place on glass turntable and cook on HIGH MICROWAVE for 3 mins. Leave to cool slightly.

    2. Sieve the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

    3. Stir the sugar into the Chocolate. Add the eggs and vanilla essence.
    Fold in the flour, nuts and Chocolate.

    4. Pour the Chocolate mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place on tray and cook on COMBINATION: CONVECTION 180°C and SIMMER MICROWAVE for 18 mins. Or Gas 4/180 C for 25-30 minutes.

    The middle should feel soft when cooked. Allow to cool in the tin. Remove the brownies from the tin and cut into squares.

    Food

    My favourite Nut Roast recipe and Vegetarian Gravy recipe

    This is the gorgeous nut roast we have pretty much always had at Christmas, but it is lovely for Sunday lunch or any special occasion. It has a layer of tomatoes and parsley in the middle which makes it attractive, extra special and a little bit festive too. The meat eaters always have some as stuffing and since I discovered this gravy it has been the only one we ever make, for veggies and meat eaters alike. Continue reading

    Home, Memory Book, Nostalgic, Reviews

    Creating the perfect spot in the garden

    perfect spot in the garden

    Creating the perfect spot in the garden, photo by Arno Smit

    Do you have a favourite spot in the garden? What makes it special?  Is it the furniture you sit on ? The view? The plants that surround you?  The feeling of escaping?

    My attitude to gardens was shaped hugely by my grandparent’s garden.  They lived in a two up two down semi-detached pebble-dashed house in Staffordshire, but the garden was huge. It was long and sloped, the first section rows of rose bushes and chrysanthemums which my Granddad would enter in shows, surrounded by three neat paths through the edges and middle of the garden.

    A washing pole marked the start of a lawned section of garden where there was a bench under some trees and next to this some giant rhubarb leaves.  I think you could look out over the greenhouse at the bottom of the lawn to see the fields beyond.  It was always a peaceful spot where we would play as kids, and the grown ups would join us to drink tea while taking a break from the garden.

    More moss lined paths wound round the greenhouse and shed, past our secret den to an apple tree you could climb in, another big black shed we weren’t allowed in and a huge vegetable patch where we planted peas, carrots, potatoes.

    The house I did most of my growing up in had a small yard, but the most stunning view of the Peak District. At the end of the yard Dad placed a sea worn plank he found on the beach at Harlech and that was our garden bench.  I can see Mum sitting on it in the Summer, laughing with the neighbours who went to Italy every year, as they handed round Limencello and Amaretto.

    Years ago, the Summer when Mr A and I bumped into each each other again in town while visiting our parents, we would stagger back from the pub and sit on that bench talking into the night. That bench has memories.

    We had a garden table and chairs, now we have 3 chairs.. But I can’t settle on them. I come out of the back door, step on the decking, shuffle them and sit maybe for a minute at a time. So I guess I am coming to the conclusion that what my next garden needs is a bench. I like the idea of a fixed spot I can keep coming back to.

    I also remember lying in a hammock with my mum, strung between two apple trees, the smell of lavender wafting by at my mum’s college friend’s house in a Cotswolds village. My brother must have been about three and he was pretending to be a dentist and inspecting mum’s teeth. Sigh. A hammock would be amazing.

    What garden furniture do you have or lust after?