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Karen’s Blog

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Spring Break in Shropshire

 

It’s nearly time for a spring break here in Shropshire. At Hopton House the catkins have been out for ages and we’re now surrounded by drifts of snowdrops. I spotted the first open daffodil flower on the dog walk today and some of the tete a tete and primroses are out in the garden.

Mr B&B was away for Valentine’s Day but I awoke to find a wren sitting on the end of my bed serenading me.   We like to sleep with our window slightly open, whatever the weather, and this wren  is a regular visitor into our bedroom, popping in several times a day in search of food. If I can just get them to do the housework for me, my transformation to Cinderella will be complete.

Spring Break in Shropshire - snowdrops on the verge with Hopton Titterhill behind

It is lovely to hear the dawn chorus starting up again. This morning it started with doves and was then taken up by the robin and blackbirds. Though I’m not sure how I’m going to feel about the wren serenading me when it gets lighter much earlier.

Also it’s probably not just one wren. I happened to catch 10 of them flying up into the eves at dusk the other day. Luckily I love my birds.

I also love my frogs and I’ve noticed several in the pond recently. Luckily they are safe from the chickens this spring . Because of the current avian flu problem, they have had to be kept shut away since before Christmas. I do miss them free ranging.

a big drift of primroses in the sunshine

 

Gluten Free Oat and Banana Blueberry Pancakes

I often get requests for gluten free options at the B&B and try and offer a good choice.

On request, I can do a gluten free lemon drizzle for the rooms and the gluten free banana bread at breakfast has proven to be very popular even amongst the gluten eaters!

Pancakes are a popular choice at breakfast but by just replacing the flour with gluten free they can taste a bit gritty.  So, as it’s the quiet time of year for the B&B, I thought I’d have a bit of an experiment.

I’m very pleased with the result and they have the added benefits of being high in fibre and with no added sugar.

This recipe serves 1 with 3 pancakes. You could also replace the blueberries with chopped apple and add a teaspoon of cinnamon.

The calorie count ( according to my fitness pal ) is about 320 calories for 3 pancakes – 8g fibre, 50g Carbohydrates, 15g sugar, 10g fat, 10g protein.

Adding a tablespoon of maple syrup adds 40 calories.

Gluten Free Oat and Banana Blueberry Pancakes

Gluten Free Banana Oat Blueberry Pancakes - Hopton House, Bed and Breakfast Shropshire

Ingredients

1 small banana

1 small egg

40 g ( 1/2 cup ) gluten free porridge oats

1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder

25g blueberries

3g butter for brushing the pan

Method

Whizz all the ingredients together in a blender until the mix is smooth. Leave for about 20 minutes to allow time for the mix to thicken up.

Heat a non stick frying pan on a medium heat. Brush with melted butter. Spoon the mix into the pan, creating 3 pancakes, Sprinkle the blueberries over the pancakes. Cook the pancakes until small bubbles appear and the bottom are golden brown, then flip the pancakes, cooking until golden brown.

Best served with lashings of maple syrup……

Free Knitting Patterns

I’ve become a bit addicted to knitting over the last 2 years since I taught myself to knit again. A lot of my original creations are still around but I’m pleased to say I am very gradually getting better.

Knitted Cowl - Knitting workshops shropshire

Knitting is brilliant for so many reasons and becoming increasingly trendy.

Knitting does have its dark side of course. I’ve become a yarn addict and most of my spare cash now goes in secretive yarn purchases. Mr B&B’s heart sinks when I spot a new yarn shop when we’re out and resigns himself to spending an hour in a local café whilst I indulge. I have even started planning excursions when we’re on holiday around new and exciting yarn emporiums.

The other downside is that I have stopped racking up so many steps on my Fitbit. I have solved this by perfecting my walk’n’knit technique.

Knitting also has lots of surprising health benefits, some of which are described here in the New York Times

If you’re new to knitting or want to improve your skills, the internet is full of great knitting resources. I taught myself from videos on YouTube. There are lots out there but I recommend Very Pink Knits

If you want to buy yarn then check out your local yarn shops ( LYS ) but you can also buy some fantastic wool online ( sorry non UK people this is a bit UK centric ).

My very favourite is Loop in London – I paid an in person visit there a few weeks ago – oh my.

Otherwise I like Love Knitting.

Here are some free knitting patterns to inspire you!

1. It’s not too late to knit yourself some Christmas decorations.

2. If you’re fasting and still want some gingerbread then knit yourself some – guaranteed calorie free!

3. The shops are full of big chunky scarves these days but so easy to knit

4. Is your Kindle feeling the cold? Then knit it a jumper

5. Or a jumper for your favourite 4 legged friend

6.  Welly toppers are a super quick knit and great stocking fillers

7. Is the family expecting a new arrival this year?

8. Want to keep chickens but don’t have the space – knit yourself some

9. Feeling adventurous? chunky jumpers for the whole family

10. Treat yourself to a pretty lace shawl

11. There are lots of things you can knit for charity too

12. I just love this little Miffy rabbit

13. Reading 50 shades of grey on the train – then this knitted book cover may come in useful

14. Some little heart coasters ready for Valentines Day

15. Wash and dish cloths are a popular starter project.

Enjoy your knitting and don’t forget you can learn to knit or improve your skills here at Hopton House with WildThornKnitting.

 

Shropshire Bed and Breakfast – October

Shropshire Bed and Breakfast - October Availability

After a very busy summer and September we’re now into October. We’ve been enjoying some glorious weather, with beautiful morning mists and golden sunsets,  and are loving seeing the colours gradually changing in the garden.

We were fairly full for October at the B&B but we’ve had a few last minute cancellations so we now have good availability, including our dog friendly downstairs Barn Room which is normally fairly well booked out throughout. Click on the Book Now! button for more details.

Remember if you’d rather not go out in the evening we can leave a platter in your room; choose from cheese, ploughmans or smoked salmon. This for just £25 for 2 people.

We hope to see you soon!

Karen

Shropshire Bed and Breakfast – October

 

How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

How To Bake A Small Batch Of Muffins

The buffet table at breakfast is filled with fresh fruit, fruit and natural yoghurts, Bircher muesli, homemade bread to toast, freshly squeezed orange juices and local apple juice and a selection of cereals. I also like to put some sort of baked goods on there as a treat.

At this time of year when I can pick blackberries from the wildflower meadow, the only thing to make is Blackberry cinnamon streusel muffins. If guests can’t manage them after breakfast  they can always take them away for a snack later when they get peckish.

The trouble with muffins is that I think they taste best warm from the oven and I don’t think they taste as good if they’ve been frozen or the next day. But the problem is all muffin recipes seem to produce 10-12 muffins and if I ate all the leftover muffins every day I’d soon need a new wardrobe.

So my challenge was to create a method that allowed me to make just 2 or 4 muffins with no waste. And I’ve done it! This recipe is also quite quick in the morning as much of it is already prepared for you. You just scoop out as much of your prepared dry mix as you need and then combine with the wet ingredients.

I’ve spent years looking for the perfect muffin recipe and I eventually found it the American Culinary Institute Cookbook.  The original recipe is for Raspberry pecan streusel muffins. This one is for blackberries. You can use any fruit that you think will work and add different nuts to the streusel or leave them out as I’ve done here.

Note when I talk about cups I mean American Measuring cups. They’re easy to buy in the UK these days but I’ve also included weights in grams.

Making Your Dry Mix

You need a large airtight jar. I have a bit of a thing about Kilner jars and can’t walk past them without buying them. The jar needs to be big enough so there’s room in there to shake all your ingredients to make sure they’re really well combined before each use.

First you put all the dry mix ingredients into your jar and shake really well. This is the ratio of ingredients you need but you could double ( or even triple if your jar is big enough ) them.

  • 1.5 cups ( 225g ) plain ( all purpose ) flour
  • 0.5 cups ( 115g) caster ( fine ) sugar
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp salt

Making Your Streusel Topping

You don’t have to use it but the streusel topping really makes these muffins. You can add nuts or different spices if you like. I make up a big batch of streusel topping and put it in the freezer, then just scoop out 0.5 tablespoons per muffin

  • 2/3 cup ( 110g) plain ( all purpose flour )
  • 2/3 cup ( 110g) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons ( 60g) melted butter

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then mix in the butter till you get a crumble like mixture with big crumbs. I use my Kitchenaid mixer for this because I’m lazy but you could do it in a big bowl with a wooden spoon.

Put this into a freezer proof container or a plastic bag, seal and put in the freezer.

Making Up Your Muffins

For each muffin you need 35g or 3.5 tablespoons of dry mix combined with about 35g or 3.5 tablespoons of the wet ingredients.

This is where it can be a bit problematic as you may need you find 1/2 an egg. You could always beat up the egg and throw half of it away or use it in scrambled eggs, an omelette or another recipe.

For 4 muffins I used one of our very small eggs which I weighed ( out of the shell ) to be 40g.  A normal egg is about 80g.

I wouldn’t get too worried about being that precise with the ratios of the wet ingredients. What you’re aiming for is about the same volume of dry ingredients to wet, so if your egg is a bit bigger just use a bit less buttermilk.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius ( 170 degrees for a fan or 375 F )

For 4 muffins you’ll need

Wet Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup ( 50g ) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup ( 50g ) melted butter
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 small egg ( about 40g or whatever size egg you have beaten and weigh/measure out 40g or 4 tablespoons )

Beat the wet ingredients together. Shake your prepared muffin mix well and weigh out 140g ( 3/4 cup + 2 tbs ) into a bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until it is just combined. Don’t beat or over mix as this makes the muffin tough. Stir through the blackberries ( I use about a tablespoon per muffin ).

Put into 4 prepared muffin cases in a muffin tin. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with about 0.5 tbs streusel mix straight from the freezer. Bake for a bout 20 minutes until risen and golden.

 

Maple Oat Ginger Scones

I discovered ginger scones when we stayed in a B&B in Maine quite a few years ago. I added them to the breakfast menu here and they were very popular, but for some reason I’ve not made them for a while.

I tried them out on the breakfast table again last week and they proved very popular. So much so that I was asked for the recipe. So here it is!

American breakfast scones are different to the traditional English scone. They are much flakier – almost like a thick but lighter shortbread biscuit. They contain no egg but are made with double cream. In my opinion they need to be eaten, still warm, from the oven.

One of the great things about these scones for a busy B&B owner is that they can be frozen and cooked from frozen. So you can make up a big batch, freeze them on a tray and then pop them into a bag in the freezer. Just take one or 2 out of the freezer when you need them.

These scones are a slightly different version of my original ginger scones as they contain maple syrup and porridge oats.

Ingredients

  • 400g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 65g porridge oats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 170g cold diced butter
  • 90ml maple syrup
  • 180ml double cream

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, porridge oats and ginger in a mixing bowl and mix well together. Then rub in the butter till it resembles biggest breadcrumbs. I use my kitchenaid to do this but it’s easy to do by hand.

Add the cream and maple syrup and mix till it forms a dough but don’t over beat.

Put the dough out onto a floured surface and fold it in half several times.

Roll it out to a dough about 2cm thick then, using a cookie cutter in your choice of size, cut out the scones.

Brush with maple syrup and sprinkle with a few oats then put in an oven heated to 180 degrees C ( fan oven ) and bake for 16-18 minutes.

If you want to freeze, put the individual scones on a baking tray ( without the extra maple syrup and oats )  and place in a freezer till frozen, then put into a plastic bag and put back in the freezer. Bake from frozen, brushing first with the maple syrup and oats.

 

New Breakfast Specials

The Full English remains a staple at the B&B, but I’m seeing fewer of them ordered these days, so I’m adding in some new breakfast specials.

Pancakes, Eggs Benedict and herby mushrooms with poached eggs are all favourites with our regular guests and they all appear on the menu everyday.

But occasionally, for a bit of variety or because I’m catering for special diets, I add in a few new dishes.

Avocado toast with lime and coriander on sourdough and poached eggs is a recent addition to the menu, brought back from that London by my daughter.

I’ve also taken the waffle maker out of the cupboard and dusted it off, so I can now offer sweet waffles with berries and maple syrup or savoury waffles with bacon and fried eggs.

Avocado toast and poached eggs - new breakfast specials

New Knitting Workshops for Autumn Winter 2016

We have some new knitting workshops for the autumn winter 2016,  including shawl knitting, improving your knitting and sock knitting. Take a look at our shiny new website for details. The workshop will be held in our dining room here at Hopton House. You’ll be able to enjoy our wonderful views of the Shropshire countryside, the birds and chickens, whilst learning your new skill. There’ll be coffee, tea and homemade cake available throughout the day and a locally sourced buffet lunch. Anna Wilde, who will be running the workshops, is a very experienced knitter and also a great trainer. With Anna’s expert help you’ll learn how to cast on, cast off, knit, purl, create different patterns and, also how to correct mistakes in your work. The workshop will start at 10.00 and finish by 16.00. If you need accommodation, it will be available at Hopton House on a first come first serve basis, or, if we’re full, we can arrange it at local B&Bs just a 5-10 minute drive away. We’ll provide everything you need to complete a small project in a day; needles, yarn, darning needle and an easy pattern all in a bag for you to take away. The cost of the workshop will be £85 including refreshments throughout the day, lunch and your goody bag. Places are limited to a maximum of 6. To secure a place, we ask for a £35 deposit, which can be paid by debit or credit card over the phone, paypal or bank transfer. The remainder is payable on the day of the course. Please call Karen on 01547 530885 or email info@shropshirebreakfast.co.uk Please note that the deposit is non-refundable if you cancel unless we are able to resell the workshop place. Oxeye daisies in our wildflower meadow - Shropshire B&B

Learn to Knit Workshop in the Shropshire Hills!

As a fairly new, and now completely addicted, knitter, I’m very pleased to announce we will be running a series of knitting workshops here at Hopton House.

The first workshop will be “Learn to Knit” for beginners ( or those, like me, who may have knitted a bit years ago but have forgotten it all! )

The workshop will be held in our dining room here at Hopton House. You’ll be able to enjoy our wonderful views of the Shropshire countryside, the birds and chickens, whilst learning your new skill.

There’ll be coffee, tea and homemade cake available throughout the day and a locally sourced buffet lunch.

Anna Wilde, who will be running the workshops, is a very experienced knitter and also a great trainer. With Anna’s expert help you’ll learn how to cast on, cast off, knit, purl, create different patterns and, also how to correct mistakes in your work.

We have 1  workshop planned on Thursday 5th May. It  will start at 10.00 and finish by 16.00. If you need accommodation, it will be available at Hopton House on a first come first serve basis, or, if we’re full, we can arrange it at local B&Bs just a 5-10 minute drive away.

We’ll provide everything you need to complete a small project in a day; needles, yarn, darning needle and an easy pattern all in a bag for you to take away.

The cost of the workshop will be £85 including refreshments throughout the day, lunch and your goody bag. Places are limited to a maximum of 6.

To secure a place, we ask for a £35 deposit, which can be paid by debit or credit card over the phone, paypal or bank transfer. The remainder is payable on the day of the course. Please call Karen on 01547 530885 or email info@shropshirebreakfast.co.uk

Please note that the deposit is non-refundable if you cancel unless we are able to resell the workshop place.

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Win a 2 night stay at Hopton House B&B Shropshire

It’s always nice to get January out of the way so that we can start looking forward to Spring. Though I had a very nice January as it was my 50th birthday and I enjoyed some nice quiet celebrations with family.

This year the signs of Spring have arrived much earlier than usual. I was very surprised to find cowslips and blackthorn blossom in the wildflower meadow last week.

The snowdrops are also early this early and we’ve got some amazing displays locally. The photo above is from my favourite field about a mile from us here at Hopton House.

Spring also sees the launch of the Bradt Slow Travel book on Shropshire. It promises to be a fabulous book with lots of ideas of things to do to enjoy this beautiful county.

We’re very pleased to be included in the book. You’ve got the opportunity to win a 2 night stay at Hopton House B&B with Bradt – full details here

But please don’t put off booking your stay just in case you win. We’re getting lots of booking through already for 2016, 75% of those bookings from repeat guests so book soon if you’re after a specific date. If you’ve already booked and you win, I’ll apply the prize value to your booking.

Early signs of spring at our Shropshire B&B