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Apple & Blackberry Muffins

Apple & Blackberry Muffins

September is my January. Maybe it’s that crispness that suddenly arrives out of nowhere (crisp air, crisp leaves, crispy-clean duvet sheets after a summer without one) or maybe it’s that back-to-school-ness I still feel aged 30. Whatever it is I feel ready to start all over. Fresh new notebooks are bought by the armful and immediately filled with lists and ideas that I was too busy to write down all summer. And this renewed sense of purpose doesn’t just stop at stationery my friends. Oh no, no, no. I also remember that I have a kitchen! And that I love baking! I think! Unsurprisingly this newfound desire to cover myself in flour also coincides with Great British Bake Off arriving on our screens to help welcome in those dark cosy nights and when I, yet again, truly convince myself that I am a domestic goddess.

The thing is though, I’m a bit of a crap baker. There is no rhyme or reason with the way I create anything so baking for me is a step too scientific. I prefer to whack things in a bowl rather than measure too accurately which sometimes works but sometimes really doesn’t. With that in mind I dusted off the cookbooks that had been deserted (geddit?!) and leafed through until I would come across a recipe that didn’t seem too easy to screw up.

When that failed I knew I needed to think smaller and instead re-focus on easy ingredients. With it being September I realised that it gave me the perfect excuse to pretend that I am a real forager and head home to Armagh to pick some apples, one of my favourite autumn things to do. My home county is bursting at the seams with fruit this time of year and I always head to Andrew’s friend Thomas’ orchard (#connections) to pick a few Bramley’s to bake with and to just generally take a gazillion photos of apples. His Dad is pretty used to this kind of thing since his daughter-in-law is a fashion and lifestyle blogger herself and when we popped down last weekend for the annual visit his face fell in apparent recognition. “I remember you”, said he with a painted smile.

David is a dote though and he very kindly pointed us in the direction of the trees with the best fruit (he’s well trained) and we skipped AKA drove down the lane to pick a few while taking a few very causal and very natural snaps. Only thing is I forgot an Instagram-friendly prop to collect my Bramley’s in – d’oh! So I collected a few using my dress like a basket – cute, right? What’s not so cute is climbing apple trees in tights – those darn things will catch like nobody’s business.

I picked a fairly modest dress-load of apples and headed back up the road to Belfast with them thrown in the bottom of my camera bag. The next evening, with still no recipe in mind, I went for a wander round Crawfordsburn Country Park and spotted blackberries out of the corner of my beady eye. They had arrived early this year and I was warned by Andrew’s parents that they’d likely be all gone by mid-September. They’re usually right on the money with this sort of thing, like a pair of botanical forecasters they are but thankfully they were wonderfully WRONG this time. There were loads!! I hit the freakin’ berry jackpot and again ripped more tights as I tramped through brambles to get to them (also stung myself with nettles which was sort of lovely because it made me feel about 8 again). I collected them in a nifty old pick ‘n’ mix bag I found in my car door (note to self: buy some cute props for next years forage) which then proceeded to seep all round my fingers staining them bright purple which again made me feel about 8.

Now that I had the perfect autumnal crop to bake with I went back to the drawing board and tried to find an unintimidating recipe. This time I used the power of social media and asked if anyone knew of any good recipes that a gal like me could use and holy smokers did I get recipes o’plenty. There were dozens of crumble requests but since I gave that a whirl last year I decided to try something new. I finally landed on Apple & Blackberry Muffins since these could be easily shared with my work chums or else just eaten entirely by me while I watch another Bake Off episode – let’s not think about which option I went for.

If you fancy trying your hand at some apple pickin’ too then you might just be interested in the Armagh Food & Cider Festival that’s happening this weekend. There are heaps of events across the entire weekend including foodie film nights (The Godfather is being shown in an actual pizza joint, I mean?!), sunset markets, harvest suppers and so much more. What’s really great is that a few local orchards are hosting tours so you’ll get to have your very own orchard photo shoot if you so choose. Otherwise you can take a few Bramley’s home and try your hand at this recipe which thankfully, tasted amazing!


Apple & Blackberry Muffins

IngredientsMakes 12 muffins
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium grated Bramley apples
  • ½ pint blackberries (washed dried and floured)
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ cup brown sugar

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400F/200C/Gas Mark 6 and paper a 12 cup muffin pan.
  • Combine the dry ingredients.
  • Combine the liquid ingredients (I measure the milk in the measuring cup and then add the butter and egg). Add the liquid ingredients to the dry and combine in a few strokes.
  • Add the blackberries and the grated apple and mix quickly. Spoon the batter into the cups. Mix together the brown sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the tops of the muffins.
  • Bake at 400F/200C for 25-30 minutes.

Hello Autumn: 10 Activities for the Golden Season

Hello Autumn: 10 Activities for the Golden Season

As a wee girl in school, my teacher asked me why I thought the leaves turned orange and fell from the trees every year. My reply was, “because they’re magic!” and to this day I feel like there is something a little bit magical about this time of year. There is a new briskness in the early mornings and late evenings that wasn’t there before and an air of preparedness seems to descend among everyone as we pack away the summer clothes and bring out the blankets, wool jumpers and scarves.

I was born and raised in Co. Armagh in Ireland, better known as the Orchard County, which may be the reason why I love autumn so much. Or maybe because I was born in the season (I turned 28 on Friday!!) but when the 1st of September arrives, it feels like we can almost hear the seasons snap. When I was living in Australia, experiencing that change in the season was something I missed dearly. I longed for the darker evenings, the walks through amber forests, the crunching of the leaves underfoot. There’s a reason we Irish seem to talk about nothing but the weather – it’s ingrained in us to experience all kinds of seasons and to look forward to the changes.

There is so much to do in the autumn, we just have to wear a few extra layers and have an umbrella within reach at all times! If you’re local or experience the seasons like we do, then have a gander at a wee list I made of fun activities to get you in to the autumnal spirit.

 

Go For A Walk

Now I understand that this isn’t the most creative suggestion but in Ireland many of us take for granted how amazing our woods and forests are this time of year. There is so much colour showcased all around us not to mention that it’s an absolute Instagram delight! Collect some conkers and jump in to piles of leaves to let your inner child be free and if you’re stuck for inspiration for where to places in Belfast, check out a post I wrote a while ago for my favourite walks here.

 

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Forage

It’s the time of harvest so go out and reap the benefits (with permission of course)! Armagh is home to the apple and there are plenty of orchards that will let you pick your own fruit to take home if you ask them. There’s also plums, damsons and blackberries to make jams and pies that would make aul Mary Berry proud!

 

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Host a Scary Movie / Pumpkin Carving Night

I love scary movies – LOVE them! I get some weird enjoyment from sitting with the blanket up around my eyes wondering why the hell I do it to myself. Hallowe’en is the perfect time to take advantage of this masochist hobby of mine and last year we had our friends Thomas & Rebecca over for a bit of carving too. Turns out Thomas was a bit of a professional and the competitiveness made it a great night. Will be doing it again this year for sure!

 

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Start a New Hobby

Spring is better known as the time to start something new but I think autumn is perfect because of the darker evenings pulling us indoors. We too often get sucked in to a routine of going home after work because it’s rainy and we’re feeling tired but having an activity which gets us out of the house helps break the week up and lift the spirits. This autumn/winter I’m going to start learning how to knit – expect photos of something resembling a scarf next summer!

 

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Visit Your Local Oktoberfest

The Belfast Oktoberfest has really taken off in the last couple of years with this year’s festival taking place every weekend in October – plenty of opportunity to sample all those brews then. I’m yet to have experienced it so I’m keen to make my way to the King’s Hall for a stein or 10!

 

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Volunteer at Homeless Shelter

Not to bring us all down but the figures for homelessness in Belfast these days are scary with the number of those sleeping rough increasing consistently year after year. However it’s not just those we see on the streets that we need to be concerned about. The number of those couch surfing, losing their homes or those vulnerable to abuse are also increasing. I’ve decided to sign up to assist the Welcome Organisation and help out where I can during these harsher months and if you feel like you would like to as well, just visit their website here.

 

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Bring the Autumn Inside

The Danes have a word called hygge which means the creation of a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life. I feel like I can definitely identify with this because in autumn, I love to make my home as cosy as possible. What I like to do is bring as many blankets out as I can for the living room, collect leaves and pine cones to decorate the table and fireplace and swap my art and pictures around so the colours are a bit earthier throughout the house. Andrew is just overjoyed when he sees me bringing more and more pieces of nature inside – not really, he doesn’t seem to have the same appreciation for dried leaves! Mel Wiggins, a fellow blogger, recently wrote a lovely post for the Smashed Avocado blog on how to create the perfect autumn table which you can read here for inspiration.

 

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Gather Your Clan

A roast is difficult to beat on those rainy Sunday afternoons and if you can’t meet your friends or family outside then why not gather inside for a feast to warm the bellies? My friends and I are choosing this option more and more now that we’ve reached our late twenties – we’d much rather sit around the table with a bottle or 5 of wine, eat good food and talk about dogs (to the dismay of our partners)! I wrote a post about what I cook for my roast dinner here but it’s also good to have a pot luck dinner where everyone brings their own dish because it eases the pressure and allows more time for wine drinking. Priorities people.

 

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Make Your Own Mulled Wine/Cider or Hot Whiskies

Any excuse for the Irish right?! I love curling up by the fire with my hands wrapped round a mug of warm alcohol. Making mulled wine is super easy and will make your home smell like an incredible winter wonderland! Whisky mixed with hot water, lemon, honey and some cloves are great too after a long day at work or if your throat is feeling a bit rough. Just don’t get plastered on a school night.

 

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Go To A Festival

Festivals aren’t just for the summer and there’s still lots happening in the autumn if you keep your eyes open. Culture Night is happening both in Belfast and Armagh this weekend, there’s also comedy festivals, harvest festivals, exhibitions. To find out what’s happening close to you, check out the Discover NI website here – don’t be tempted to hibernate and lock yourself indoors!

 

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Wishing you all a cosy, happy autumn!!

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