Bounteous Breakfast Buns

ImageI’ve always struggled with muffins. Mine always seem a disappointment when compared to the huge, billowy confections that the coffee chains produce. But just read the ingredients & you’ll see these are Franken-bakes, chemically inflated & tasting of factory packing.

So I’ve come to terms with my size issues & proudly serve these little beauties for breakfast. I’ve Karen at Hopton House to thank for the recipe, I’ve tweaked it to include a few more ingredients. They’ll keep you fuelled up until lunch time.

No chemical enhancements just good stuff.

Shopping List:

50g unsalted butter melted

90g soft brown sugar

1 egg

110g wholemeal self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp cinnamon

1 ripe banana mashed

1 carrot grated

1 handful of sultanas, walnuts & sunflower seeds

rolled oats to top

You’ll need a 6 hole muffin tin lined with paper cake cases. Pre-heat oven to gas 5/190 degrees

In a bowl mix the melted butter, sugar, mashed banana, carrot, sultana, chopped walnuts, seeds, egg & cinnamon. Add the flour & baking powder & mix roughly. If you over-mix the muffins will become tough. Divide the mixture between the cases, sprinkle oats on top  & pop into the oven to bake for 12 minutes. When cooked the tops should bounce back when pressed lightly.

Muffins don’t keep well so eat as soon as they’ve cooled slightly.

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Cadbury’s Fruit & Not


Fruit & Nut SliceThose of you who’ve stayed recently will have noticed a much slimmer offering at The Ashton.

Yes the beds are still super kings, the buffet still groans under the weight of breakfast goodies & the cake still gets cut with a generous hand. However your landlady is a shadow of his former self. I’ve been on a Paleo Diet in an effort to shed a bit of wine belly.

For those who don’t know The Paleo Diet or Caveman’s diet basically means eating a diet similar to our non-farming Paleolithic ancestors. Lots of lean meat, vegetables, nuts and some fruit. All good, all the things I like, but something’s missing, those numbskulls  seem to have forgotten to bake anything.

Unfortunately it seems that cake wasn’t a staple back in the Paleolithic day. So based on a loose interpretation of Paleo rules here’s a little slice of something to sweeten  a grey winter afternoon.

Shopping list: I strongly recommend a visit to Aldi. You won’t find everything there but you’ll save a ton on cashews, almonds, coconut & dried fruit. Any large supermarket should have coconut oil. It’ll be in a jar (it’s actually solid & white not liquid) probably with olive & the more exotic oils.

300g nuts (I use a mixture of whole almonds, cashews & pistachios)

100g dried fruit (experiment but cherries, cranberries & flame raisins all work well)

100g butter

1 large tbsp coconut oil

100g honey

50g desiccated, unsweetened coconut

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

Start by roughly chopping your nuts. Spread over a baking tray & toast in a low oven (120 degrees or gas mark 2.) 10 minutes should do but check after 5 & give the tray a shake so the edges don’t burn. Leave to cool.

While your nuts are chilling put the honey, butter, coconut oil & cocoa into a saucepan & heat gently to melt together. You mustn’t let this boil. Once combined leave to cool.

Take a shallow rectangular baking tray (approx 20 x 30cm) & line with greaseproof paper.

Add the nuts to your melted mixture, then fold in the dried fruit & coconut. Mix well to combine before spooning out into the baking tray. Press well down to flatten the mixture into a nice solid layer. Once done place the tray into the freezer & let it set for at least an hour.

Once chilled take the lovely, solid, chocolatey slab out of the tray. Using a sharp knife cut into pieces; squares, rectangles whatever you fancy. Just don’t make them too big as it’s incredibly rich. The bars should be kept chilled either in the fridge or freezer until needed. 10 minutes before you want a sweet treat take a bar out & allow it to warm slightly to get the full flavour hit of cocoa, nuts, fruit & honey.

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noir-group-235x156Melt Candles

Banished these never ending winter blues by lighting up a Christmas present, a gorgeous dark & decadent Melt Noir candle. The house is filled with the most intoxicating scent of rose & bergamot, and I am dressed as Phantom of the Opera in a velvet cape & purple silk shirt.*

Having logged on to their website to order some more I was amazed to see they’re a Lancashire company too. Not all flat, caps & Old Spice up North we’re actually a very talented &  beautifully scented county full of delicious things.

*This may be a lie

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March 27, 2013 · 6:19 pm

Comfort Eats – Baked Cheese


ImageWith this Siberian wind you’ll be glad of the extra pounds this simple dish adds to your BMI.

Simply put a small camembert in an ovenproof dish. Splash over a little white wine & press a few slices of garlic into the cheese.

Place in the oven at gas mark 6, 200*C for 20 minutes.

Remove & serve with toasted bread & a fresh salad of apple & rocket.

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Morning Moanings


From now on I’m only holidaying in the UK. Yes I’ll miss the feeling of sun on my face, warm breezes & crystal clear seas. I’ll never get to taste an expertly mixed martini in Manhattan or laze with an iced tea on a Long Island lounger. But the consolation for this sacrifice is a day started properly.

This holiday commandment has been provoked my a mini break in Amsterdam, a carefully researched trip, lodging booked on the strength of Tripadvisor reviews & mention of an amazing breakfast.

Looking forward to a spread as extensive & carefully compiled as my own dawn exertions, I tripped out of bed raced down the stairs. But what greeted me was not a sideboard groaning with breakfast delights & a menu of hot possibilities.

No. It was a continental. Abbreviation for ‘we didn’t really feel like getting up too early.’ The only redeeming feature was the jam, Tiptree. Obviously acknowledgement that for all things breakfast it’s best to buy British.




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Breakfast in Bed – Without the Crumbs in bed is meant to be the ultimate in indulgent treat. A luxury reserved for anniversaries & wedding mornings. However it can also be an utter nightmare. Balancing a small tray loaded with coffee and orange over  just laundered bedding, a lie in ruined by uncomfortable bed crumbs. So here are a few golden rules if you’re treating a loved one this weekend.

My Mum used to get the dubious pleasure of breakfast in bed every Mother’s Day. A concoction of spilt juice, lukewarm tea and great uneven slabs of lightly charred toast. Feigning delight but no doubt thinking about just what horrors that awaited downstairs or if the kitchen was on fire? Rule 1 – clear up after.

What to serve? Hopefully having reached the breakfast in bed point you’ll know the recipient fairly well. But just in case you don’t you might want to check they’re not vegetarian before presenting a plated pile of piggy bits. For those awkward mornings, waking up with a vague recollection of the night before & with a stranger lying next to you, might I suggest a fruit plate & a smoked salmon & cream cheese bagel. Minimal effort but impressive enough to warrant a phone number should you want it.

Smoked salmon is the only fish that should make an appearance in the bedroom whether on a bagel or with scrambled eggs. Other fish are just too stinky to consider. Baked beans should be avoided for the same reason. “Thank you for my breakfast, but it’s just racked up a £100 dry cleaning bill.”

The best bedroom food can be eaten with fingers or one handed and this needn’t limit you to bacon buns or bowls of cereal. A stack of pancakes with strawberries, maple syrup & vanilla yoghurt can easily be tackled with a fork. Toast never makes trip from kitchen to bedside well. Pre butter & it’ll arrive soggy & soft. Leave them to do it themselves & crumbs everywhere, makes for an uncomfortable lie in. Which option ever you choose it’s likely to be cold and disappointing, never good thing in the boudoir.

So rather than face the trials & tribulations of breakfast pleasure giving why not leave it to the experts? Book a stay in one of our Grand Rooms and we’ll bring a brilliant breakfast to your room. Book online at & why not take advantage of our ‘Not just a 1 night stand’ offer?

p.s. And for those of you lucky breakfast recipients please remember eating naked only looks good in the movies.

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Life’s Too Short to De-Vein a Prawn



Like boy scouts a landlady is always prepared and there are a few ingredients I always have in for emergency suppers. These are things that with the addition of a few store-cupboard ingredients are quick, cause minimal washing up and look as though you’ve spent hours in the kitchen. They need either to have a really long shelf life or be quick to defrost without ruining. Halloumi’s a great example as is smoked chicken. This one I knocked up last night using another, raw king prawns. You can make this dish even less effort by not de-veining the prawns, I always do if it’s for guests but otherwise what’s a little prawn poop between friends?

300g shallots or brown onions diced

1 x 400g tin of crushed plum tomatoes (or I really like tinned cherry tomatoes)

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 red pepper, diced

100g chopped piquante peppers (from a jar, you’ll find them with the olives)

1.25 litres veg/chicken stock

250g frozen peas

500g paella rice

32 raw king prawns

Start by heating a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan, add half the shallots and cook on  a low heat until softened. Add the red & piquante peppers & paprika and cook for another 2 minutes . Add the tomatoes and stock and leave to simmer for for 20 minutes.

In a separate pan soften the remaining shallots in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the rice & stir to coat all the grains in oil. Stir the rice into the tomato mixture & simmer on a low heat stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.

Add the prawns & frozen peas, bring back to a simmer, cover with a lid & leave for 5 minutes. Check the prawns are pink and cooked through & check the rice is just the right side of al-dente before spooning into large bowls. Finish with chopped spring onion, parsley & lemon wedges. Serve with a mixed green salad & good bread. Serves 6 (or 4 in my house.)

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