the lemon tree

Gardening in Bahrain definitely poses some great challenges and if you are “no expert” like me, then gardening can become quite exhausting at times! However, I do try my hand at keeping a few edibles in the garden such as herbs, lemons, limes (still waiting), dates, lemongrass and some baby tomatoes.

What I absolutely love about gardening and especially this time of year, is witnessing the first stages of growth… then watching that new beginning transform into an edible culinary ingredient that has endless possibilities both in cooking and baking!

Two years ago I planted a lemon tree (which was quite big to begin with) into a very large pot and was very excited at the prospect of growing my own organic lemons! Sigh… last year I ended up with about five lemons! It was quite a painful sight, seeing lots of new buds (potential lemons) fall to the ground and realize that my efforts of successfully growing lemons was not to be! So now you know that this post is not going to be about  how to grow lemons…  but a glimpse into the new beginnings within the garden that sometimes we fail to notice as our busy lives consume our every waking hour. This year I am feeling more hopeful with each new stage of growth on my lemon tree! So take a moment, marvel and appreciate the life of a lemon…

 Buds

The amount of buds growing on the lemon tree will determine the volume of fruit it produces… if of course they don’t fall… like mine did last year! Apparently you need to underwater at this stage.

Flowers

The buds of the lemon tree blossom and the flowers exude an intoxicating soft lemony perfume that fills the surrounding air…and what an amazing scent it is!

 Ripening Fruit

The flower is in bloom and peeking out from its center is the developing lemon!

Lemons need plenty of water at this stage of growth so the fruit becomes full and juicy.
This was one of last years lemons which seemed to take so long to ripen… !
 
My quest to successfully grow lemons will continue!  In the mean time, if anyone out there in cyber space is an expert on the subject of citrus trees I would love your advice!

You might like to try some recipes using lemons. Click on image for recipes!

cookies from a jar

When I saw that this months Sweet Adventures Blog Hop which is hosted by The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader and the theme Layer upon Layer… immediately I thought of using filo pastry! No desserts or sweet would be complete with using only one sheet of this very fine paper-like pastry, so making something with layers of filo pastry seemed apt!

But then I remembered a different kind of layer upon layer while teaching cooking at a private school… Cookies from a Jar! The idea and the recipe (which has been adapted) are from a book that I own “Gifts in a Jar for Kids”

Cookies from a Jar is a fun project and a great way of getting your kids involved in the kitchen and I know first hand how excited  kids can get… especially when they hear the words “baking” and “cookies”!

This project is also a fun way of introducing and teaching your kids how to measure correctly using the appropriate kitchen tools. Decorating the jars with colourful fabric, ribbon and gift tags, kids will love giving these Cookies from a Jar as gifts to friends and family! Mum’s if you need to send in something yummy (send some baked samples as well) for school fair’s or fund-raisers… “Cookies from a Jar” will be a big hit!

Rainbow Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (85g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (25g) old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup (54g) mixture of M&M’s and Smarties
  • 1/4 cup (40g) milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (42g) soft brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (54g) castor sugar
  • 1/4 cup (8g) Rice Krispies

Useful Kitchen Jewellery:

  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixing bowls
  • wooden spoon
  • cookie sheet
  • wire cooling rack

If you are giving these Cookies from a Jar as gifts:

You will need a clear plastic (kid friendly) or glass 400ml wide-mouth jar, some fabric, ribbon and gift tags of your choice.

Layer each ingredient in the order given from the above recipe starting with the flour and ending with the Rice Krispies into the jar. The jar will be full to the brim and you may need to press the last layer of ingredients down into the jar so they fit, if a bigger jar was used the ingredients would move around and spoil the layers.

The extra ingredients needed and the instructions on how to make and bake the cookies should be written or typed on a small sheet of paper, folded and placed between the lid and the fabric before tying down with ribbon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 jar of Rainbow Cookie Mix
  • 1/4 cup (50g) salted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons of beaten egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/160 Fan/Gas 4.

Place the contents of the jar of cookie mix into a mixing bowl and with a wooden spoon thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.

Mix the butter, egg and vanilla together and pour over cookie mix, stir until mixture is well blended and you end up with one big ball (you might need to use your hands) of cookie dough.

Break off walnut sized pieces of cookie dough and shape into balls, then place 2 inches apart on a non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.

Note:  All ingredients measured with cups and spoons in the above recipe should be leveled off. I have also given the weights in grams for more consistency!

Before you go buying lots of jars, check one out first to make sure all the ingredients fit, variations on volume of jars can occur!

After adding the flour you might need to wipe the inside of the jar with a clean paper towel.

Once the jars are assembled they can be stored in a cool place for a couple of months. The brown sugar tends to clump up after some time so I suggest that you make sure you break up all the lumps with the back of a spoon before adding the liquid ingredients!

Check out all the other entries by clicking on the on this link “The Capers of the Kitchen Crusader”.

chocolate, guinness and blackcurrant cupcakes

I heard someone once say that St. Patrick’s Day without a drink is like Christmas Day without a tree! On the 17th of March St. Patrick’s Day will be celebrated throughout Ireland and there will be lots of “ceoil agus crack” (music and fun), with the  festivities running well into the night! Many pints of the famous Irish drink called  Guinness will be served and even the drink itself will be turned green for the occasion.

Guinness is a rich dense black looking liquid with a distinctive burnt and tangy flavour and when poured has a thick creamy head which floats on top. Even though I love the look of Guinness I have never acquired a taste for it! I always think of Guinness as a man’s drink, but back in Ireland in my younger days we ladies were known to have a half pint or two… but with a feminine twistblackcurrant! The blackcurrant cordial makes this bittersweet drink more palatable and turns the creamy head into a delicate light pink… much more lady like.

Cooking with rather than drinking Guinness is my preference, it adds a depth of flavour and richness to cooking and baking which is not always so apparent.  So, based on this famous Irish drink I decided to bake some not so overly sweet chocolate cupcakes with a blackcurrant center, topping them off with fresh whipped cream to echo the creamy head that sits on top of a pint of Guinness! Sláinte


Chocolate, Guinness and Blackcurrant Cupcakes

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                            

  • 50g sour cream
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 150ml Guinness
  • 250g all purpose flour
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 25g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 4 tablespoons blackcurrant jam
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 -2 teaspoons of icing sugar
  • edible glitter (optional)

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/170 Fan/Gas 5.  Line a cupcake tin with 12 paper cases.

In a medium mixing bowl add the sour cream and mix with a whisk until smooth. Next add in the butter, egg, vanilla, milk and Guinness, whisk gently until all ingredients are combined.

In a larger mixing bowl sieve in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and  bicarbonate of soda. With a large spoon throughly mix all the dry ingredients together.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using a large spoon gently mix and fold together until just combined and no dry ingredients are visible.

As the batter is fairly liquid use a large globe ice-cream scoop or a small cup to help fill the cupcake cases with. Fill no more than three-quarters full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with your fingers. Remove cupcakes from the oven and let stand for a few minutes before removing from the tin and transferring onto a wire rack to cool.

When cold use a cupcake corer to hollow out the center of each cupcake and fill each one with a teaspoon of blackcurrant jam.

I used a cupcake corer which is a handy little gadget to hollow out the middle of these cupcakes, but you can use an apple corer instead!

In a medium mixing bowl pour in the cream and add the icing sugar. With an electric whisk, whisk the cream until stiff peaks form, be careful at this stage or you could end up with butter.

The fresh cream can be piped onto the cupcakes an hour or two before serving. Using a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle, pipe a swirl of cream on top of each cupcake. Or simply place a neat blob of cream on top using a spoon. If using, dust over some edible glitter for a sparkle effect.  Serve or store in the fridge until needed

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