Thursday, 31 October 2019

Can Dogs See Spirits or Sense Ghosts?

What about Hallucinations?


Now in the darkening of the year,
The worlds between the worlds wear thin,
And those gone on ahead, draw near,
Like a harvest gathered in.
In the hours of quiet remembrance,
The waning season brings,
We may feel their whispered presence
Like the brush of whispered wings.
Artist Amanda Clark

Siren of stars

Moonbeams for makeup
And stars in her hair
She scatters her wishes
Into the wild air
A guardian of nature
Bestowing third sight
With wild herbs and potions
The witch flies tonight
With candlelit beacons
With essence of flowers
Her hands do the healing
In reticent hours
With eyes bright and whispers
She summons desires
Beneath starlit blankets
Enchantment conspires
She weaves every step
Of her magickal path
With purpose of virtue
She silences wrath
Moon Maiden, Earth Mother
A siren of stars
You shall possess magic
Wherever you are
© 2016 Amelia Dashwood, All rights reserved

Happy Halloween!

"The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper."
~ Eden Phillipots
"The moon has awoken with the sleep of the sun, the light has been broken; the spell has begun."
~ Midgard Morningstar
Let the magic begin and have a happy Halloween! 🎃

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Easy Bakewell tart

Easy Bakewell tart

For those that only like a little icing, Mary's drizzled version of the classic Bakewell tart will be a hit at tea time.


For the shortcrust pastry

For the filling

For the icing


  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface and use to line a 20cm/8in flan tin. Leave in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (180C fan).
  4. Line the pastry case with foil and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans and foil and cook for a further five minutes to dry out the base.
  5. For the filing, spread the base of the flan generously with raspberry jam.
  6. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add ground almonds, egg and almond extract. Pour into the flan tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  7. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds seem to be browning too quickly, cover the tart loosely with foil to prevent them burning.
  8. Meanwhile, sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in cold water and transfer to a piping bag.
  9. Once you have removed the tart from the oven, pipe the icing over the top, giving an informal zig zag effect.


by Pat A. Fleming
I'm still here
My looks are nothing special,
My face reveals my age,
My body shows some wear and tear,
And my energy's not the same.
Too often my memory fails me,
And I lose things all the time.
One minute I know what I plan to do,
And the next it may just slip my mind.
I try hard to avoid my mirror.
There are things I would rather not see,
And even those times when I just catch a glimpse,
I can no longer recognize me.
The things I used to do with ease
Can now cause aches and pains,
And the quality of the things I do
Will never be quite the same.
I always compare my older self
To those younger versions of me,
And I know I'm wasting too much time
Missing who I used to be.
But the thing that really makes me sad
Is despite what people see,
Underneath my tattered, worn out shell,
I'm still the same old me.
My heart can still feel endless love,
And at times it still can ache.
My heart can fill with so much joy,
And then it can suddenly break.
My soul can still feel sympathy
And longs for forgiveness and peace,
And there are times its light shines boldly through,
And times when it longs for release.
It's true, maybe now that I'm older,
Feeling lonely may be status quo,
But it also has made me more willing
To forgive and let past conflicts go.
So maybe to some I look ugly and old,
A person who barely exists.
I'm still quite aware of the beauty inside,
And my value should not be dismissed.
So although not as strong and no beauty, it's true,
I'm still here and want so much to live,
And I know that there's no one in this world quite like me,
And no one who has more to give.
Artist Autumn Skye

Sunday, 27 October 2019


by . Featured in NIGELLA EXPRESS

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
Photo by Lis Parsons


Makes: 64 pieces of rich fudg

  • 350 grams dark chocolate (chopped, minimum 70% cocoa solids)
  • 1 x 397 grams can condensed milk
  • 30 grams butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 150 grams pistachios


  1. Put the chopped chocolate, condensed milk, butter and salt in a heavy-based pan on a low heat, and stir to melt.
  2. Put the nuts into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin, until broken up into both big and little pieces.
  3. Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix.
  4. Pour and spatch this mixture into a foil tray 23cm / 9 inch square, smoothing the top.
  5. Let the fudge cool, and refrigerate until set. You can then cut it into small pieces approx. 3 x 2.25cm / 1¾ x 1¾ inches. Cutting 8 x 10 / 7 x 7 lines in the tin to give 64 pieces best achieves this.
  6. Once cut, it can be kept in the freezer - no need to thaw just eat straight away.

Today (27th October) is... Black Cat Day

Black cats are adopted less than other cats due to the superstition surrounding the felines.

Nothing is quite as elegant as a black cat—like a miniature Amazonian jaguar, they doze atop the highest point in the area, waking for several hours daily to prowl around hunting for a tasty morsel. But black cats and kittens are often overlooked when animal shelters are looking for new homes, and can be at the shelter much longer than they should be. So why is this?

The History of Black Cat Day

Interestingly, cats in ancient Egypt were revered highly, partly due to their ability to combat vermin such as mice, rats. Cats of royalty were known to be dressed in golden jewelry and were allowed to eat right off their owners’ plates. The goddess of warfare was a woman with the head of a cat named Bastet.
These days, however, black cats are often are seen as unlucky or mischievous, but not everyone knows why that is. In Celtic mythology, it was believed that fairies could take the form of black cats, and therefore their arrival to a home or village was seen as sign of good luck. Unfortunately, the Pilgrims that came after them were devoutly religious and fearful of anything remotely related to the pagan beliefs of their ancestors, and it was because of that fear that black cats went from being seen as the vessels of fairies to the vessels of witches and demons. At that time it became common practice to severely punish those who kept black cats as pets, and even kill the animals themselves.
Although these days nobody really believes black cats are witches or demons in disguise anymore, they are still often seen as signs of bad luck by many people in the West.

How to Celebrate Black Cat Day

How you decide to celebrate this will depend on how you answer the following questions: firstly, do you have a cat? Secondly, if you don’t have a cat, would you like to and are you ready to have one? And thirdly, if you answered no to the previous two questions, what can you do to celebrate this special animal?
If you have a cat, especially a black one, today is the day to make it feel extra special. We are all so busy with their lives nowadays that we often forget to show give our pets back a some of the love they give us on a daily basis. So buy your cat a new toy or a tasty treat and spend the afternoon playing tug-of-war or rubbing its belly—nobody knows how to enjoy the little things in life like animals do.
If you’ve been thinking about getting a cat of your own and have the time to take proper care of it, maybe today should be the day you welcome a furry feline into your life? Animals shelters are always bursting at the seams with both kittens and older cats who need a human of their own and a warm cozy bed and black cats are less likely to get adopted than other cats, so what are you waiting for? If you are willing to spend a bit of money, you can also buy a black kitten—breeds such as the Bombay are solid black and known to be playful and affectionate.
And even if you can’t have a cat due to allergies or other reasons, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate this day! Making a small donation to your local animal shelter can help countless felines and get you in good with the cats of this world…you know, just in case they really do have magic powers.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Toffee apple and crumble: Four recipes for easy apple bakes

James Rich’s apple and almond tart with cider brandy cream.
 James Rich’s apple and almond tart with cider brandy cream. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Beatrice Ferrante. Prop styling: Louie Waller.

Apple and almond tart with cider brandy cream (above)

Prep 1 hr 45 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 8
250g plain flour
50g icing sugar
25g finely ground hazelnuts
125g butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 egg, beaten
½ tbsp whole milk
For the filling
100g butter
100g icing sugar
2 eggs, beaten
100g ground almonds
Zest of ½ lemon
4 crisp, sweet eating apples (eg Fiesta or Jazz), peeled, cored and thinly sliced into rounds
1 tbsp demerara sugar
For the cider brandy cream
150ml double cream
25g caster sugar
2 tbsp Somerset cider brandy or Calvados
To make the pastry, Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl, add the ground hazelnuts and butter, and rub them into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until you get a crumble-like mixture. Add the eggs and milk, and carefully work into with your hands until you have a dough . Be careful not to mix it too much – you don’t want to overwork the pastry. Lightly dust with flour the dough, cover and chill in the fridge for an hour.
To make the filling, cream together the butter and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. Gently Fold in the almonds and lemon zest, then set aside.
To make the cider brandy cream, whisk the cream and sugar to soft peaks. Slowly add the cider brandy, whisking well in between each addition, then chill until ready to serve. To assemble and bake, take the pastry out of the fridge 30 minutes before you need it. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and grease a 23cm springform tart tin with butter.
Flour a smooth work surface. Roll out the pastry large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart tin. and put the pastry in the tin, pushing it into the edges with your thumbs. Prick the bottom with a fork, trim the edges off and , then pop in the freezer for 10 minutes before filling.
Remove the pastry from the freezer, Add the almond filling, arrange the apple rounds on top and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for an hour, or until the apples are golden brown and the centre is cooked. Leave to Cool for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the frangipane to firm up, then serve warm with a dollop of the cider brandy cream.

Toffee apple cake

 Like cake? Like toffee apples? Here’s James Rich’s toffee apple cake.
Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hr
Serves 12
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
150g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
100g ground almonds
50g sultanas
200g crisp eating apples (eg granny smith or Chivers Delight), peeled, cored and sliced
For the toffee sauce
200ml double cream
50g butter
175g light muscovado sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp black treacle
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and grease and line the base of a 23cm round springform cake tin with butter and line with baking parchment. In an electric mixer,
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and smooth, and sift together the flour, spices and baking powder into a bowl.
Add the beaten eggs to the butter mixture a little at a time, mixing well in and adding a tablespoon of the flour mix as you go with each addition. Once all the flour has been added, mix in the ground almonds and sultanas until combined.
Stir three-quarters of the apples to the mixture and , stir in with a wooden spoon, then spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange the remaining pieces of apple on top of the top of the cake in a circular pattern. Bake in the oven for one hour, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to Cool in the pan for five minutes, thenremove the springform ring and transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
To make the toffee sauce, Put the cream in a saucepan over a low heat to warm, add the butter and sugar and stir until dissolved and smooth. Add the syrup and treacle and stir until melted. Serve the cake with the hot toffee sauce and a hefty dollop of vanilla ice-cream.

Apple crumble muffins

An a-peeling combo:apple crumble muffins.
 An a-peeling combo:apple crumble muffins.
Prep 20 min
Cook 25 min
Makes 8
For the muffins
150g plain flour
100g caster sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 sweet, juicy eating apple (eg cox’s), cored and grated
120ml whole milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp vegetable oil
For the crumble
50g rolled oats
40g butter, at room temperature
½ tsp ground cinnamon
25g demerara sugar
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/375F/gas 5 and grease an eight-hole muffin tin with butter or oil, or line the tin with paper muffin cases. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices andpinch of salt in alarge mixing bowl, then add the grated apple.
Combine the milk, beaten egg and vegetable oil, and gradually add to the bowl, mixing all the time. Once everything is combined, spoon equally into the prepared tins or cases.
In another bowl, mix the oats for the crumble with the soft butter, cinnamon and sugar together until well combined. Top each muffin with a spoonful of the crumble mix.
Bake the muffins in the oven for 25 minutes until brown and crunchy on top, then leave to cool on a wire rack. They will keep in an airtight container for up to three days.

Autumn fruit pavlova with apple and vanilla cream

 James Rich’s pavlova with apple and vanilla cream.
Prep 35 min
Cook 45 min
Serves 12
For the apple and vanilla cream
1 large cooking apple (eg bramley), peeled, cored and chopped
4 tbsp caster sugar
½ vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds removed
400ml double cream
Zest of ½ lime
For the meringue
6 egg whites
1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
350g caster sugar
For the topping
Selection of autumn fruits: apples, blackberries, pears, plums
Juice of ½ lemon

To serve
Mint, finely sliced
Zest of 1 lime
To make the apple and vanilla cream, Heat the apple, half of the sugar and two tablespoons of water in a pan over a medium heat. Stir until the apple begins to break down, then simmer for five minutes, until you have a smooth apple sauce.
Stir in the vanilla seeds and leave to fully cool. Whisk the cream and the remaining sugar in an electric mixer to stiff peaks, then mix in the lime zest. Once the apple sauce is fully cool, briefly stir through the cream to achieve a marbled effect.
Heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/gas 1 and cut three pieces of baking parchment to fit three baking sheets. Draw a 20cm circle clearly on each, piece of parchment, then turn the paper upside down on the baking sheet; you should still be able to see the circles.
Now make the meringue. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, For the meringue, beat the egg whites and vinegar on a medium-high speed for two minutes. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until you have very stiff peaks. Using a spatula, Divide the meringue between the three circles and use the back of the spatula to spread the meringue into even discs that fill the circles..
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until firm, then turn the oven off, but leave the oven door ajar to cool and harden the meringues – about 90 minutes.
To assemble the pavlova, slice and Prepare the chosen fruit. Slice the apples with the skins on and soak in some cool water with the lemon juice for a few minutes so that they keep their colour. Drain, then add to the other fruit.
Just before serving, Put one meringue disc on a cake stand and spread a third of the apple cream on top. Add a third of the fruit, Top with the next meringue disc, spread a third of the cream and another third of the fruit. Finally repeat twice more, then garnish with mint and lime zest, then serve.
From Apple: Recipes form the Orchard, by James Rich (Hardie Grant, £20). To order a copy for £17.60