We have been in the grips of a storm here today in Suffolk – the remnants of hurricane Bertha have brought swirling winds and heavy rain to our otherwise sunny british summer. As gardening was off the cards today I decided to have an inside day – ironing, tidying my linen cupboard and a bit of baking seemed a good plan.
My first job was to gather some ripe blueberries early this morning before the wind and rain pulled them from the bushes. I have four blueberry bushes growing in pots on the terrace close to the house. The variety is called Chandler, which produces the largest blueberries. I grow them in ericaceous compost as blueberries need an acidic soil and feed them regularly with a Maxicrop feed designed for acid loving plants. The main purpose of these blueberries is to provide stems of unripe blueberries to use in flower arrangements (I showed you an arrangement with roses and blueberries back in June in a previous ‘Flowers On Sunday’). Despite losing some of the crop to flower arrangements I do still enjoy a few bowls of fresh ripe blueberries during August, before the leaves of my bushes turn a stunning red in the autumn (again just perfect to add to autumnal arrangements).
Most of my blueberry harvest will be eaten fresh with yogurt or porridge for breakfast this week. On such a grey day, however, and inspired by the start of the new BBC series of The Great British Bake Off, I had a hankering for cake and decided to try a blueberry traybake.
Although I have many favourite cookbooks I think that Nigel Slater is my favourite cook. I turn to his books for regular inspiration and have an ambition to cook my way through his Kitchen Diaries. The Kitchen Diaries II was the book I pulled from my shelf this morning. Finding a similar tray bake using raspberries, I adapted the recipe to include blueberries and vanilla. I will try the raspberry version in a few weeks time, when I have more raspberries to harvest.
My trusty Kenwood Patissier came out of the cupboard and I lined a baking tray with parchment paper.
Nigel Slater says at the start of his recipe that the ‘traybake’ is a sign of a cook and not a chief. I would go further and say that for me it also separates city from country baking. I was brought up on the outskirts of Manchester and spent my 20’s and 30’s living in London, blissfully unaware of the existence of the traybake.
After moving to the country (and discovering the AGA), I then came across cakes that were cooked in AGA roasting trays rather than in a cake tin. After regarding this concept with great suspicion for a few more years I am now a convert.
Like Nigel Slater I now not only make jam and chutney, but I also bake traybakes. It seems that my city girl persona is now a distant memory, but the cake is good!!
The hibiscus that I mentioned earlier last Sunday is now flowering with gusto outside my kitchen door. Despite the heavy rain this morning these tropical feeling flowers speak of hot late summer days more than any other flower in my garden.
You have to be patient with hibiscus. They are deciduous and remain dead looking until well into May when the first foliage slowly starts to appear. The flowers seem to be in bud for weeks and just when you think it will never happen they open with a glorious tropical display.
Whether they will survive the remnants of the hurricane remains to be seen. Last night I moved all of my pots and trays of seedlings back into the greenhouse for protection. With the animals on lock down we went to bed and waited for the storm. In typical British manner it has been a bit of a damp squid here in Suffolk and after a few hours of rain the sun was breaking through again. It has rained on and off all day and my lawn is covered with debris from the trees but otherwise the garden seems to have survived intact. I am very relieved as I spent last night worrying about the dahlias and sunflowers that I am growing for the September wedding being knocked to the ground.
The rain was quite intense and the terrace was under water for a while.
I love looking out at wet and windy weather whilst I am baking in a warm kitchen.
The recipe I used was:
- 225g unsalted butter,
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs lightly beaten
- 225g self raising flour
- a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- a splash of milk
- a small bowl of blueberries
Combine all the ingredients and bake at 180 degrees centigrade for about 25 minutes.
So – does anyone have time to pop round for tea?