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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Sweet September in Staffordshire

I have often posted and mentioned that I love September - a time for reflection, renewed energy and plans for a cosy Autumn. September has got a colour and smell about it that I find so evocative of happy times and special moments.
This year is no different as we have been treated to some fabulous weather and Staffordshire hills and fields have slowly turned to golden yellow and the dust has risen from the combines. Mornings are misty, quiet and magical and each day feels precious as the last days of warmth fade. Perfect time to visit Staffordshire if you ask me!
Our village has a proper old fashioned Show in early September which is nothing short of a treat. We have a Dog Show complete with be-ribboned pooches, over excited puppies, grumpy canines that would rather be at home. Hilarity ensues as dogs make friends, break friends and trot in the wrong direction. Rosettes are traditional, judging is serious and we love it!
We also have proper old school classes to enter from Victoria sponges (red rosette for me this year!!) to flower arranging and art. The children spend all summer holidays creating models from recycled material and the last of the garden flowers are arranged in jugs and jars. Competition is fierce as folks inspect runner beans, giant onions and chutney made from practically anything.
On top of all this fun, we have the local falconry group with beautiful birds, vintage vehicles, wooden skittles, plant stalls and lots of time to sit, chat and take it all in.

Food in September is starting to get comforting, warm and hearty. Runner beans are still going strong in the veg patch as is the Italian cabbage and so get added to every stir fry, soup and meal that is eaten! However cake has featured heavily this month so far (as previously explained) so I thought I would share the very simple recipe I used for the winning Victoria Sponge.
A Proper Victoria Sponge
8 oz very soft butter
8 oz castor sugar
4 large, free range eggs (room temperature)
8 oz of self raising flour
small tsp of baking powder
a couple of drops of vanilla essence

Pre heat and oven to 180C (165C fan oven) or gas 6 and line and butter 2 8inch cake tins. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take a good few minutes so don't rush this stage. Add an egg at a time and beat well until the mixture is light and fluffy. You can also beat in the vanilla at this time. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the mixture and very carefully fold into the eggy batter with a large meal spoon. You should end up with a batter that is the consistency of thick whipped cream and pour equally into both tins. As you spread the mixture in the tin...really just tease it into the corners and don't be rough at this stage. Place into an oven for about 20 minutes. The cake is ready when it is just coming away from the sides of the tin and has the very slightest spring on the top when pressed. Once ready, allow to cool fully before using best jam to sandwich together. Strawberry or Raspberry is traditional but blackcurrant is a triumph if you added lemon zest instead of vanilla essence. Sprinkle sugar on the top. Now proper W.I. standards mean it has to be castor sugar but icing is good too.
Enjoy with a cuppa and your feet up.

More seasonal and home made treat recipes can be found at www.simplystaffordshire.co.uk

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