Gin-gle all the way. Make this easy Damson Gin for Christmas

EVERY August, our damson tree delivers a wonderful, early Christmas present of dozens of plump fruits. Which is handy, because a pile of damsons, a bottle of gin and some sugar is all you need to make a delicious, rose-coloured, Christmassy drink with a kick that would give Rudolph a run for his money. You’ll need 1.5l Kilner jar A bottle of gin. I use Sipsmith’s as I like it’s aromatics but any brand will work 250g caster sugar Freeze your damsons then pop them in a sturdy bag and bash them with a rolling-pin until they split open and reveal their inner flesh. Pour the caster sugar into the Kilner jar, add the pulped damsons, stones and all, mix together with a wooden spoon then pour in the gin until it comes to just below the jar’s rim. Now you can simply seal the jar and wait. However, I like to add a few extra bits and bobs. A cinnamon stick here, a couple of cloves there, a smattering of star anise, maybe a bit of ginger, a few fenugreek seeds. A chilli, even. Once sealed, shake it all up and store in a dark cupboard. Turn the jar daily (or when you remember). Ideally, it should be stored for three months but a few weeks of infusing weeks will suffice. When you’re ready to drink it – or gift it – just strain and decant into a bottle.
Frozen damsons 
pulped to release their lovely flavour
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Give yourself a break, make this chocolate Kit-Kat cake

SHORT of time with a celebration looming? You can still ignore the store and go for a home-made cake with this crazily-simple recipe.

Ingredients:

2 chocolate sponge cakes (9″ round), made or shop-bought – your call.

1 400g tub of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Icing.

2 KitKat multi packs (9x two-finger bars) 1 dark, 1 orange milk chocolate.

Some sparkly sprinkles or your preferred decorative topping

Method:

Using about a quarter of the fudge icing, sandwich the two sponges together.

Smother the top and sides with the remaining icing.

Separate the Kit-Kat fingers, then place them all around the side of the cake, alternating the orange milk and dark versions.

Add some sprinkles or topping and then just put your feet up!

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I want my mummy! Cute, easy and scarily-quick Hallowe’en lollies

IN a frightful rush? Then here’s a simple recipe for some yummy mummy lollies that need no trick and are a real treat!

This makes 12, but you can do as many as your little monsters can eat!

Ingredients:

12 Vienna biscuits (shop bought, or make your own in minutes using plain flour, butter, icing sugar and vanilla essence and a 15 min bake in a medium oven)

2 bars of plain or milk cooking chocolate and 1 bar of white cooking chocolate

A pack of edible googly eyes

Equipment:

Baking tray or sheet

Baking parchment

12 lolly sticks

Method:

Melt a few squares of the white chocolate in a bowl.

Lay the biscuits in a row on a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray. Place a lolly stick down the middle of each one and ‘glue’ it on using a small amount of the chocolate. Repeat until all biscuits have sticks attached. Chill in the fridge for a bout 10 mins to set.

When set, melt the dark/milk chocolate in a bowl deep enough to dip the entire biscuit in. When ready, dip then place each one back on the paper and add a pair of eyes. When all are done, return to the fridge for about 15 mins to set.

When set, melt the remaining white chocolate and zig-zag back and forth to create the ‘bandages’, avoiding the eyes where possible.

You’re done. Frightfully easy, don’t you think?!

 

 

 

 

 

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness in glorious pictures

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Pumpkins and squashes at the Kingston Lacy Estate, Dorset

Work it

STYLE FILE

When I work from home, I have to be comfortable. I don’t mean staying in my pjs and eating toast at my desk (although, occasionally, that’s a thing), I’m talking calm and luxurious surroundings that help get my thinking juices going and make me feel chilled. I’m not saying this makes me any more productive, but it definitely makes me happy to go to work. Well, most days!

Here are some of the little things that, for me, help me handle the big things.

Red velvet antique chair – a slightly faded, slightly tatty family heirloom that’s way comfier than any office chair I’ve ever sat on, and there have been a few over the years, as my backside will testify!

Edwardian lady’s kneehole desk – this is a small version of the classic desk, so it doesn’t take up too much space. It’s cherrywood and I got it off…

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