Posts Tagged little chicks

Easter Simnel Cake

As it is Easter I have made a Simnel cake.  Wickipedia tells us that Simnel cakes have been known since at least the medieval time. They would be eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (also known as Refreshment Sunday, Mothering Sunday, Sunday of the Five Loaves, and Simnel Sunday), when the forty day fast would be relaxed. More recently, they became a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to be taken home to their mothers on their day off. The word simnel probably derived from the Latin word simila, meaning fine, wheaten flour. Somehow the tradition moved to Easter and now Simnel cakes are representative of Easter.

Conventionally eleven marzipan balls are used to decorate the cake, with a story that the balls represent the twelve apostles, minus Judas. They used to also be decorated with flowers, but I have modernised mine to decorate with chicks and little chocolate eggs.

DSC05412

This is the recipe I used as a basis for my cake.

Easter Simnel cake

Ingredients

175g/6oz light muscavado sugar

175g/6oz butter, softened

175g/6oz self raising flour

3 large eggs

2 tbsp milk

25g/1oz ground almonds

100g/4oz sultanas

100g/4oz cherries, quartered, washed, and dried

100g/4oz dried apricots, snipped into small pieces

100g/4oz stem ginger, finely chopped

(I just used 425g of mixed fruit that I had in the cupboard, so I used dried sour cherries, cranberries, raisins, dates and apricots)

1 tsp mixed spice

2 tsp ground ginger

To top the cake

450g/1lb golden marzipan

3 tbsp apricot jam

1 egg, beaten

To decorate

little chicks, little Easter eggs, marzipan balls

Preparation method

 1. Preheat oven 160C/320F/Gas 3.

2. Grease and line the base and sides of an 20cm/8in deep, round cake tin with baking parchment.

3. Cream the butter and sugar and gradually add the eggs and milk. Fold in the flour and all the dried fruit and mix well. Place half the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.

4. Take one third of the marzipan and roll into a circle the same size as the cake tin, place the circle on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the remaining mixture on top of the marzipan and level the surface.

5. Bake for about 1 3/4 to 2 hours or until golden brown and firm in the middle. If toward the end of the cooking time the cake is getting too brown, loosely cover with a piece of foil. Allow the cake to cool in the tin before turning onto a cooling rack.

6. When the cake is cool. Brush the top with a little warmed apricot jam. Roll out half the remaining marzipan to the size of the cake and sit it on the top. Crimp the edges of the marzipan. Make 11 even sized balls from the remaining marzipan and arrange around the edge.

7. Brush with beaten egg and glaze under a hot grill for about 5 minutes, turning the cake round so it browns evenly, so the marzipan is tinged brown all over. (You can also do this with a blow torch if preferred).

8. Decorate as required, I used little chicks and chocolate eggs

30 mins to 1 hour preparation time

1 to 2 hours cooking time

Serves 6-8

Adapted from Mary Berry From Saturday Kitchen

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Mayhem in the hen house

Yesterday evening it was dark by 10 to 7pm.  Neil went down to shut away the hens and came back in a tearing hurry shouting my name. “There’s a dog in the hen house and it’s killed one of our chicks” he cried out to me.  I couldn’t believe it.  How could a dog get into the hen house?

A couple of hours earlier I had seen our neighbour who has 4 dogs, ( a basset hound, 2 beagles and a great dane), and she was worried because she had lost her dogs.  She had let them off the lead in her garden and they had got out and she couldn’t find them straight away.   So over 2 hours had passed when Neil found one of her dogs, the 2 year old great dane, in our hen house.

This dog, although muzzled, had pulled at the wire mesh on the side of the run to the hen house and managed to actually get inside the run.  This was where we were keeping our 3 little chicks that we had hatched from eggs, separate from the rest of the adult hens.  We were thinking they were nice and safe in there, and we had separated them because they were smaller and on different food from the adult hens.

The wire mesh pulled away from the frame of the hen house

Neil had to go down there in the dark after dinner and make some running repairs to the hen run, other wise we would not be able to let the hens out in the morning.

Neil’s running repairs to the hen run

When Neil went down to the hens to shut the doors for the night, he could only see 2 of the 3 little hens and this great dane was still in the hen run and growling at him.  It’s a big dog to encounter in the dark, and he was shocked and surprised to find it there.

I managed to get hold of our neighbour on her mobile phone and she came round, but the dog had headed off leaving our 2 remaining chicks cowering in the nest box.  I was concerned they would die of shock.  The third chick, the little brown one was nowhere to be seen.  Neil searched all round for it, in case it had got out when the dog got in, but then he made a grim discovery.  Bits of chicken were trampled into the mud.  The third chicken had been savagely torn apart by the great dane.  Warning the next picture is a bit grim, but this was about all that was left of the chicken, 2 legs!!

Naturally we were horrified by this attack on a defenceless poor chick, and more so because these were the first chicks we had ever raised from eggs and we had nutured them and looked after them from day one, so to lose one in this way was very upsetting.  Our neighbour was more worried about her dog and said “its only a chicken”, which may well be the case, but it was one of our babies and we hated the thought of it being ripped apart by her dog.

A big dog like that which has not been to any obedience training classes, should not be let loose in a garden unless there is proper fencing to stop it getting out.  Luckily the other 2 babies have survived the shock, and although quiet today, have been eating.  The adult chickens were not harmed as they were behind an electric fence, but we had thought the little chicks were safe in their enclosed run, but we could not have foreseen this dog attack.

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