Super simple chocolate fudge recipe

I wasn’t sure what on earth to get for Monkey’s Teacher and Teaching Assistants for Christmas this year. It’s our first foray into presents for teachers and to be honest I didn’t want to spend too much money or time on them, but I still wanted to give them something nice. Having seen lots of seemingly simple recipes around for homemade fudge, I decided to give it ago. I’ve typed it up below as mine are a bit of a variation on some others I saw, and ooh they are scrummy.photogrid_1481736987541

I made two, a white chocolate and cranberry fudge and a minty white chocolate fudge. The first part of the recipe is identical then you add flavours later.

Chocolate Fudge ingredients

397g Tin of Condensed Milk
550g White chocolate, broken into small pieces
40g Icing Sugar (sieved)
For the minty version
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
Handful milk chocolate chips (to sprinkle on top)
For the cranberry version
1/2 cup of dried cranberries

Method

Line a baking tray (deep ones work best) with greaseproof paper.

Melt the chocolate and condensed milk. I did this on the hob in a Pyrex dish over boiling water, but you can do it in a microwave, if you do it in 10-20s bursts. With both methods stir well throughout.

Once melted take off the hob and add the sieved icing sugar. Mix well (you can use an electric mixer).

Add other ingredients of your choosing (peppermint extract, or cranberries, or nuts etc) and again stir well.

Pour the mixture into your lined tray and spread evenly. For the minty version this is where I added chocolate chips and gently pressed them in for the topping.

Refrigerate for 3-4 hours at least.

Take out and cut as desired. Our tray was quite long which meant the fudge wasn’t very deep but I got at least 30 bite sized chunks from each, though it would depend on the size of baking tray you use and how big you cut them up!

So easy and so tasty!

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How NOT to make a Paw Patrol Lookout Cake

So your kids have asked you to make a Paw Patrol Lookout cake, or you have decided to try it yourself and that has led you here. Fear not I have been there and basically failed first, so you can learn from my mistakes as I share my wisdom and experience about how not to make a Paw Patrol Lookout cake.paw-patrol-cake

My first piece of advice. Just don’t do it. Don’t even attempt it. No matter how much your kids beg, whine, plead, cry etc. Just say no. Continue reading

Baking with our new bowl from House of Fraser

With the recent start of the new GBBO series, baking season is in full swing. We love baking in our house and it’s great to be inspired watching the brilliant bakers… Even if that isn’t so great for our waistlines! The kids love baking too, especially Monkey, so it is often a family affair in our house. Which is why I was super excited to receive this gorgeous new bowl from House of Fraser recently and couldn’t wait to try it out. 20160826_092723

The design is gorgeous, with a real country kitchen feel. Apparently Hubs’ Nana had a similar one growing up, and I’m sure mine did too actually so it conjures up lots of memories of yummy smells and delicious food. I’m sure I saw a very similar one in the Bake Off tent recently too!

The kids and I put it to the test with a simple biscuit recipe from the Queen of Bake Off herself, Mary Berry. As LM is mainly in a play and explore mode she had her own little bowl of ingredients to,  erm,  have fun with, while Monkey and I got on with the serious baking in our gorgeous new bowl. PhotoGrid_1473080336913

The bowl was perfect and once the dough was ready I rolled it out and the kids helped make some biscuits in the shape of stars and, um, stormtroopers. Haha, probably not quite the shape Mary Berry had in mind when creating this recipe! PhotoGrid_1473080736068

Once they had baked it was time to decorate with simple water icing and sprinkles. I was pleasantly surprised how LM did with the sprinkles actually and some actually made their way into the biscuits! By this point Monkey was far more interested in eating the ingredients than helping any more!PhotoGrid_1473081094949

I love baking with the kids but it can seriously stress me out at times too trying to actually end up with something edible by the end haha. Hence keeping it simple with the recipe, but don’t be fooled by the seemingly perfect serene images, I was definitely irritable by the end. The clean up too, argh! 20160902_104008

One of my favourite things about our new bowl though is that it can be washed in the dishwasher! Hooray! That is such a must for me these days. Even though Monkey had basically licked it clean it went in the dishwasher with all the other bits meaning I could give the kitchen itself a good clean up without leaving the kids to their own devices for too long.

Thanks House of Fraser, our new bowl is the perfect addition to our kitchen!

Disclosure: we received this bowl foc in exchange for this review, however all thoughts, opinions and images are my own.

Purees vs Baby Led Weaning

There are seemingly endless choices to make as a parent. Breast or bottle? co sleep? Baby wear? Then when it comes to weaning,  traditional purée or baby-led weaning? As I wrote recently I think there is far too much judgement which ever way you choose so I am not here to say one way is better than another. Different things work for different babies, and indeed parents.

WP_001227With Monkey I didn’t know much about BLW other than that you had to start at 6 mths. Monkey was a big baby and I will be honest, by 4 ½ mths milk just wasn’t cutting it anymore so we started down the road of purées. I spent ages making purées during his naps and he scoffed almost everything we gave him (though he never did like banana!). We then extended out to finger foods and he ate everything we gave him until around 13 mths when the fussy eating began.

It is something we still struggle with at times now. He will eat most things but he says he doesn’t like things we know he does like and often refuses to eat his dinner. We have tried various tactics with this and most of the time once we have convinced him or he has decided to take a bite then he will eat quite happily. Other times he sits with the food in his mouth and refuses to swallow it. It’s like a psychological barrier and seems to be the most random of foods that he decides he doesn’t like.

I have heard it said that baby-led weaned babies are less likely to be fussy than their purée fed counterparts. Something to do with the fact they learn to chew early on (as opposed to a purée which just requires swallowing) and that they get to experience different textures early on as well as different tastes. Texture has been one of Monkey’ sticking points so the idea that you can prevent fussiness does intrigue me.

I will admit that I have been put off baby-led weaning in the past by some of the attitudes I have encountered from its advocates. Not all of course and I guess I understand that if you feel passionate about something that you will want everyone to try it, but a few such parents have gone a bit OTT and made other parents feel bad for their choice not to do it. That is not the fault of the technique but it is easily tarred with the same brush as the over preachers so I have judged baby-led weaning harshly in the past, which was wrong of me.

WP_20150425_10_15_26_ProNow, enter LM. At 5 ½ mths she too seemed to just not be as satisfied with milk anymore, so we headed down the same purée route as with Monkey. Though there are some differences this time. One being our experience with Monkey and knowing that we tried so hard to introduce tastes and textures to him but he still is a fussy eater. Two is that actually LM is already much fussier about which purées she will and won’t eat than Monkey was. The combination of these led me to fret a bit as I want to do as much as I can to try and prevent having two fussy children in the family!

But where to start? How to approach it when she is already eating purée? How do I even do it? Regular readers will know I got a bit het up about it and was over-thinking it a lot. But that’s what I do I’m afraid!

As mentioned, I believe that the same approach isn’t necessarily right for all babies, or all parents, and I think that is my biggest sticking point with BLW. I’m not sure that I am that well suited to the approach. The mess is part of it, though I can cope with that. But I am not the most patient person and I can definitely be a bit of a control freak, yep I know my flaws! So the idea of basically leaving baby to it to eat or not eat is really hard for me. As mentioned, LM isn’t satisfied by milk alone anymore, and the thought that milk should be her main nutrition for many months to come is confusing for me. Isn’t that why we start weaning? Because they need more nutrition than they can get from their milk at this point?

LM also gets massively annoyed when she is hungry if she doesn’t get food inside her pretty quickly. This leads to her getting frantic and screaming her head off. I have read that as part of BLW you should let them get annoyed as they are frustrated at their lack of skills rather than with hunger. But what if they are frustrated because they are hungry and can’t get the food in quick enough? I have quite a low tolerance for the sound of baby cries, especially when Monkey is chattering away at me too, so if I can help keep her calm by feeding her then I am going to. For my sanity as much as anything else!

With her reflux I do think it is important for her to have solids in her tummy too so that is another reason I won’t let her get frantic, or rely largely on milk, because I do believe she needs solids to help keep the reflux at bay.

WP_20150524_17_39_26_ProSo I have accepted that we won’t be doing the full baby led approach. We are using a combination of purée and finger foods with a variety of tastes and textures. I have read staunch baby-led supporters who say that BLW is all or nothing and that saying you are combining the two approaches is like saying you are a vegetarian who also eats meat. You either BLW or you don’t. And that’s fine, I understand why they say that.

So I am not sure what to call it but we are using a combination approach. For example earlier today she had some beef, sweet potato and carrot puree alongside some steamed vegetables. The puree filled her tummy a little while she explored, picked up and munched on the veg. She also had a go with the spoon and fed herself some of the puree on mummy-loaded spoons.

WP_20150428_11_10_00_ProThe ideal will be that this will only be temporary and that as she learns the skills needed to solely self feed I will feed her less and less. but in the meantime, to prevent her getting frantic and to keep me sane, we will do it our way. I have to admit that I love seeing her munch on a whole chunk of pasta or bit of cooked chicken. I love seeing her work out how to pick things up and get them to her mouth. I really really hope that by introducing all of these textures we may prevent some of the fussy eating issues that we have with Monkey… but only time will tell I suppose!

How did you wean? Purees? BLW? Or a combination like us? Do you have a fussy eater?

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Lots of cooking and baking

My word of the week this week is “cooking” as I seem to have spent a lot of time cooking and baking lately! Mainly food for LM as we continue her weaning journey and I am looking for easy freezable finger foods I can take out and about with us or just have readily availble at home so there is not a huge amount of prep at every mealtime.

So, in the last week or so I have tried the following new recipes: salmon croquettes, cheesy flapjacks, carrot muffins (which I made correctly this time after forgetting to add the butter the first time, d’oh!), meatloaf, and an apple oat cake plus the usual things for us to eat like a big batch of carrot and honey soup, sausage carbonara, sweetcorn fritters etc etc. (I have intended to share these recipes on here for some time but never get round to writing the posts!)

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Carrot muffins, cheesy flapjacks and carrot soup, the fruits of one morning’s labours!

 

Most of the new recipes have come from the baby-led weaning cookbook and I am afraid to say that so far I have not been that impressed with them. The exception to this is the salmon croquettes as even I don’t mind those and I am not a big fish fan. The carrot muffins aren’t terrible but the cheesy flapjacks are just odd and I’m not that keen on the oat cake either (Icooked it for 15 mins longer than it says but still is soggy in the middle, is it supposed to be like that?). I suppose the meatloaf wasn’t terrible either but it wasn’t exactly delicious.

Difficult as of course recipes for babies do tend to be a little more bland as they contain much less salt or sugar than we would usually use. Having said that though, the sweetcorn fritters are based on an Annabel Karmel recipe (just with the addition of a few more veggies) and they are lovely, as are many of the other things we have tried from her cookbook so I don’t think that recipes suitable for babies necessarily have to be bland.

It’s a shame to be spending so much time and effort in the kitchen and being disappointed with the results to be honest! Thankfully because at least 50% of the food I have made this week are tried and trusted recipes, they are lovely but it’s a shame none but one (the salmon croquettes) of the new recipes from the weaning book are going to be added to our repertoire I don’t think… I’m not even sure how to tweak them to improve them… as I’m not sure they are worth the effort!

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the slightly soggy centred oat cake

Monkey has enjoyed helping me cook and bake though so it is always nice to have him in the kitchen with me helping weigh out and mix ingredients. The low point though was when trying to do some with LM awake and eating/playing in her high chair in the kitchen with us. She wasn’t having any of it so I ended up holding her in one arm & balancing her on my hip, while hastily whizzing some fruit, greasing a pan, stirring the mixture (with Monkey’s help), filling the pan and putting it in the oven. It is blimmin amazing the things you can accomplish with one hand when you have to, but my goodness it makes it hard work!!

The kids are enjoying the oat cake and it is full of goodness so I may not like it but at least they are!

WP_20150603_001The over-riding success of the week actually comes in the form of not a recipe exactly, but more of a cheat. I love Paprika Chicken at restaurants but we have never been able to recretae it at home, none of the recipes I have tried seem to have the right balance of seasoning. So when I saw some funky new pre-seasoned papers that you wrap the chicken in, I thought they had to be worth a try. And they were great!

This isn’t a sponsored post and I didn’t get them free to review, but we thought they were lovely, and so so easy.You wrap the chicken in the paper, and fry it in the pan. It’s that straightforward. The chicken was juicy and the flavour was yummy. So hooray for a success, I needed one!

The Reading ResidenceWeaning Wednesdays Linky

Chocolate Easter Nests

I remember making chocolate easter nests year after year as a child and it is a tradition we have carried on with Monkey, and will with LM as she gets older. It is such a great fun, quick, and easy make that kids of any age can join in with.

Easter Nests fun for all ages

Monkey did it first 2 years ago at about 10 mths old, then last year at just under 2 and again this year. He still needs quite a bit of help but I imagine he will less and less help as he gets older.

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Making Pizzas with Hidden Vegetables

Monkey is a fussy eater. He wasn’t until he was about  13 months old then almost overnight everything changed. I’ve talked at length about it before and we have ups and downs with how fussy he is. We have been going through a very fussy patch lately. As he has been so poorly over the recent weeks he really hasn’t had as much of an appetite so we have been happy when he has eaten anything really. I am planning a seperate post about this but it is so difficult to be strict with them when they are poorly, especially with food as he needed to keep his strength up and things can taste really funny when you are poorly.

I’ve been watching “Junk Food Children who’s to blame?” on TV too recently, and well I think it is pretty obvious the documentary makers are laying the blame squarely on the parents. I think they are probably right, as they are the ones who buy the food for their children, but I can also see how it is a slippery slope and none of these parents do it with intentions of harming their children. Far from it, they are probably too soft on them and that isn’t always good for them.

Anyway it has made me think a lot about Monkey. He has a pretty good diet anyway, hardly ever has crisps, chocolate etc, BUT we could do better. He doesn’t really eat any fresh fruits (we get him eating dried, cooked, frozen pureed but no joy with fresh really) and we struggle with lots of vegetables too, and most things actually. Pasta, sausages, chicken, pretty much everything depends on his mood. Most dinner times are spent with Mummy and Daddy pretending to be the voice of a toy (postman pat, a bus, an owl, any toy really) as he is much more likely to eat something when a toy suggests it! Not ideal but we go with what works.

One great way to get kids interested in food is to get them to help with preparing and cooking food. Monkey does love cooking but after catching himself with the peeler a few months ago he has been more reluctant to get in the kitchen. He has expressed more of an interest though lately, and with poorliness and chicken pox meaning we have spent a lot of time at home, rather than out and about, I have grabbed the opportunity to get him back in the kitchen. We do a lot of baking, which is great, but there is no reason cooking can’t be fun too.

We love Annabel Karmel’s recipes, her veggie burgers are a firm fave and we make them regularly in big batches so there is always some in the freezer. Another regular is her hidden veggie pizza sauce, which again we make in big batches and freeze. I know not everyone is into hidden veggies and I would prefer Monkey ate vegetables without having to hide them, but while we work on that I don’t think there is anything wrong with getting them into him any way that we can.

Hidden Veggie Pizza Sauce

Ingredients

WP_20150304_09_28_57_Pro1/2 onion – finely chopped
1/2 leek – thinly sliced

1 small carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 courgette, grated

1 clove crushed garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp tomato pesto (we use sacla sundried tomato pesto)

2 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 1/2 tsp sugar

We tend to double this and make a big batch (because so many of the ingredients are halved etc.) which gives enough sauce for 20 pizzas, so this would do about 10 pizzas.

Monkey helped me prepare the veggies, washing them and grating which is good as at least he knows there are veggies. He even announces that he loves leeks and courgettes – without tasting them. I love his enthusiasm though even if I don’t believe him for a second!

Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion, leek, carrot and courgette and saute for 8-10 mins until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for one minute than remove from the heat. We have hard anodised pans and a hand blender so I add the remaining ingredients in the pan and blend in there, but if you have non stick pans, or if you prefer, you should move the veg to a blender or bowl at this point.

Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.  Return to the pan and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool and then it can be frozen in batches. I usually spoon off a couple of ladles full into a tupperware which can then be got out to use with 2 pizza bases as and when. I would love to make our own pizza bases, but don’t have the time or energy at the mo – hopefully we will one day though!

Pizza toppings

The pizza sauce is great, but with the small amount of veg in there I doubt it would count as one of your 5 a day, and we really want to work on getting other veg into Monkey. Homemade pizzas are a great way of doing that, as cheese can help mask the veg, and you obviously get control of the ingredients. We use a half fat cheese, because it happens to be our fave and does help with our diets.

This is the fun bit that kids can really get involved with. We bought Monkey a child safe knife – which has a rounded tip and a fairly blunt serrated edge. It still cuts veg so you still have to be very careful around it, but the thought of Monkey cutting with it terrifies me a heck of a lot less than helping him use our big scary kitchen knives would! It means he can join in with the chopping safely and without giving me heart failure. (Yes he is wearing his PJs in these pics, I indulged him with a PJ day when he was poorly :))

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So he helped me chop up the mushrooms and yellow pepper and had great fun doing it. The amounts and size of the bits I guess depends on your kid and their fussiness level. We are going for not too much, and fairly small at the moment as if they are big he will either eat round them or refuse to eat them at all. Even some of these size bits have been a challenge to get him to eat! Monkey is seriously stubborn and often goes to bed without eating any tea when he doesn’t like what is on offer (or at least he has decided he doesn’t like it even when we know it is something he does actually like!).

So anyway, yes our chunks are quite small. We also use some flavoured turkey meat for the most part, though do use other meats too sometimes to shake things up a little :). Monkey helped spread the sauce onto the pizza bases and then sprinkle the meat, veg and of course cheese on top. Yummy pizzas made :). WP_20150304_11_35_57_Pro WP_20150304_11_37_51_Pro Now I won’t say it was plain sailing. We make variations of this quite often and it depends on his mood and like I say at the moment he really is quite fussy. He did eat some though and moaned more about the chunks of meat than the veg and with him it really is all about seeing something he doesn’t like. If a mushroom or pepper is hidden under cheese he eats it no problem. If he can see them he doesn’t want it. So it is a work in progress but for my part, I thought they were blimming lovely and it is a good way to get him involved with cooking and vegetables so got to look at the positives! Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

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BakedPotato Mummy

Monkey & Daddy Make: Basic Chocolate Biscuits

Monkey loves baking, he would do it every day if he could and I do love doing it with him but I don’t have the energy to do it with as much at the moment. Last weekend as we were having a bit of a quiet weekend I thought it was a good opportunity to try and do some with him. With 2 parents it meant one could bake with him while the other could look after LM.

Hubs loves baking, he was the one who got me interested in baking when we met and he really loves baking with Monkey. He has more patience than I do too so they are a great little team. So it was an easy decision for them to spend some time together and do some baking! one of Monkey’s favourite programmes at the moment is Bing Bunny and there is an episode where they make Ginger Bunny biscuits. He loves it so I wanted to find a recipe where you can roll it out and cut out shapes as most of our biscuit recipes are for just free-formed biscuits really. Neither hubs or I like gingerbread very much though so we though either a plain or chocolatey one would be great.

So I found this lovely, simple, recipe to make lovely simple chocolate biscuits.

225g Self raising Flour
100g Caster Sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
100g Margarine
5 tbsp Milk
A few drops of vanilla essence.

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and grease 2 baking trays.

Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa in a bowel and rub in the margarine.

Add the milk and vanilla essence and mix in well. Bring together with your hands and knead lightly on a floured service. (Ours still felt really gooey at this point but soon firmed up with some kneading in the flour).

Roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm and cut shapes. The recipe we used 7.5cm rounds and baked the biscuits for 8 – 10 minutes. We gave Monkey the choice out of all of our cutters and ended up with Star and Rhombus biscuits and only baked ours for 7 minutes which was perfect.

Monkey is so good at baking now – a far cry from the early days where all he wanted was to eat the raw ingredients, even the flour, now he is so good at measuring everything out and so careful with it all, and only ate some of the dough when we said it was ok to.

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He was less keen on getting his hands really mucky when mixing the dough, but loved kneading it and helping daddy roll it out (he hasn’t got the hang of rolling it out himself yet).

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Then of course was the important job of cutting out the shapes ready to bake!

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You can decorate these biscuits however you like, the recipe used a Chocolate Glace Icing but we used some little icing tubes we already had in the cupboard and again I was pleased to see how precise he was. Even since the baking we did at Christmas he has got a lot more precise and was great at putting dots and patterns on the biscuits.

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The finished biscuits! Obviously Daddy helped with some of the patterns but Monkey did a lot of them by himself.

These chocolate biscuits are super quick and simple to make although obviously baking them with a toddler takes a little longer but just adds to the fun. Monkey adored making these with daddy and actually they were really, really tasty!

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Simple Christmas Baking with a Toddler

Monkey loves helping to cook at the moment. He loves putting his pinny and on and it is generally Daddy who he helps in the kitchen while I am looking after Little Miss. They have done all sorts, Monkey is learning to peel and chop vegetables and he is fascinated by “fire” (the hob) though he knows to stay well back from it, and the oven. He just wants to “have a look see!”

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Plum & Blackberry Crumble & a Plum-Picking Adventure!

We have a lovely little ‘pick your own’ farm a really short distance from where we live. I vaguely remember going as a child to pick strawberries and had planned on taking Monkey to pick strawberries, but alas we missed the season this year. My neighbour went though and also went recently and said they had the most delicious plums! Plums aren’t a fruit regularly eaten in our house but my neighbour really wanted Monkey and I to join her and her kiddies on a pick your own expedition, and I thought Monkey would enjoy it so off we went.

Monkey absolutely loved it at the farm, so many open spaces to run about bless him and he just kept running around shouting “Berry, berry, berry!” lol. He was quite helpful with picking the plums, although he also tried picking some very underripe ones, and some less than lovely looking ones off the floor! He did try though!

plums

I didn’t realise they also had blackberry bushes and we love a blackberry crumble in our house so we picked some of those too. I was worried he would hurt himself on the thorns but he managed really well and actually tried to eat some of the blackberries and plums, though he isn’t very good with fresh fruit and pretty much spat it all out.

blackberries

We then had a play on their fabulous play park before we headed home. It was a lovely place and we will definitely go fruit picking there again!

playground

I wasn’t sure what to do with the fruit to start with as neither hubby or Monkey are big fans of fresh fruit, and I don’t really have the energy to make anything complicated. So it didn’t take long for me to decide to make a Plum & Blackberry crumble. I love making crumbles mainly because they are so easy to make, are absolutely yummy and get some fruit inside us (albeit with a lot of sugar involved!)

Here is our recipe for a lovely crumble. My fruit measurements are very vague and can be interchangeable with a lot of fruits. I originally used this recipe to make a rhubarb crumble, though with rhubarb you also need 50ml of water, which I left out in this case as the plums were so juicy in themselves!

Plum & Blackberry Crumble Ingredients

WP_20140816_19_15_38_Pro500g Fruit – in this case Plums & Blackberries – chopped/sliced thinly
100g Caster Sugar
100g Wholemeal Flour (can use plain)
100g Rolled Oats (Porridge oats)
100g Butter (we use unsalted)
125g Demerara Sugar

Plum & Blackberry Crumble Method

Preheat the oven to 180°

Place the chopped into fruit in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the Caster Sugar (and water if necessary i.e with rhubarb)

Put the Flour, Oats and Demerara Sugar in a separate bowl. Add the butter and mix in with your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. It is ok if there are a few lumpy bits.

Sprinkle crumble mixture over the fruit as evenly as possible, and don’t pat down too much.

Bake for 35- 40 mins or until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.

Plum & Blackberry Crumble

Serve with custard, or a good dollop of ice cream!

Plum & Blackberry Crumble

Family Friday

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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