July, 2015

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Families blog

Here are some ideas and guidance to help your family make the most of the UK's fantastic wildlife
  • Wild food - Pineapple upside-down cake

    This month's recipe is brought to you by Tom Clarke and Rob Farrington from our Dorset team. To get you in the mood for the Big Wild Sleepout 7-9 August, they've created an ingenious treat cooked in the flames of a fire pit. While pineapples are unlikely to be forageable in the UK, the method of preparing this pudding certainly qualifies as wild! Over to you Tom...

    You will need:

    1 shovel (every cake recipe needs one, right?).
    1 fire.
    1 empty fire pit/patch of bare ground to do your cooking in/on.
    1 8lt dutch oven (your local blacksmith will probably stock them, but they're available online if you don't happen to have a local black smith).
    Mixing bowl
    Spoon
    2lt tub of ice cream
    1kg of self raising flour
    1kg of tinned pineapple in juice
    200g of brown sugar
    People to share the baking journey (and the eating, but this is all about the journey).

    Method

    Step 1.  Forage like Ray or Bear for your ingredients and equipment.

    Step 2. Assemble a crowd around you. Nothing like doing this for the first time in front of your peers. Or your kids. Best to hide the ice cream though, it stops it getting eaten and is a bit of a showstopper later on. 

    Step 3. Empty the cans of pineapple and juice into the dutch oven (ours are well seasoned so it doesn’t stick, if you are not sure add a load of butter to your warm dutch). If you are arty, you could lay them out in a pattern. If not a mess will do, but try to make an even depth.

    Step 4 Liberally sprinkle brown sugar over the pineapple. This will caramelise and add sweetness to the cake (unless it burns in which case it will go bitter).

    Step 5. Reveal the melted ice cream. Watch the assembled crowd be amazed by this magic ingredient.

    Step 6. Make a batter by mixing the flour and ice cream together. It is easier to make several small amounts of batter than one big lump. It obviously helps to have 5 kids stirring per bowl.

    Step 7. Pour batter over the pineapple. Ensure all pineapple is covered then go as deep as you like (you’ll learn if you overfill, you only do it once). For your first effort, just aim to cover the fruit.

    Step 8. Place lid on oven.

    Step 9. Take some coals from your fire (these can be bits of charcoal/embers of branches etc) and place in cooking pit. Put dutch oven on these coals. Then add twice as many coals to the lid. It is important to get this ratio about right as the cake needs to cook from the top as well as the bottom (and thus the pan and lid become an oven).

    Step 10. Equally importantly, every ten minutes or so turn the pan 90 degrees or so to ensure an even bake. Do the same with the lid. No-one wants a soggy bottom. Keep an eye on the coals to ensure the don’t burnt down too much, top up if necessary from your fire.

    Step 11. After about 45mins check the cake in several places with a knife. If the knife comes out clean it’s done. Let the oven cool a bit.

    Step 12. Now for the fun bit. Try to turn the cake out. This is messy, and can be tricky because the pan is heavy, hot, and ours have a handle which mean they don’t sit flat on a table (so the cake slips off unless you prop it up). Or you can keep it in the pan, as we have here!

    Step 13. Eat. Share. Beware it’s very hot!

    Step 14. If you have enjoyed return to step 1 and repeat. You can change the fruit, just make sure there is enough liquid (maybe apple juice?) in the bottom to prevent burning. Can highly recommend apple and cinnamon.

  • The joy of kite flying – who knew?!

    It’s taken me 34 years on planet earth to experience the thrill of flying a kite. I know I know, what on earth was I doing as a child!  Sadly, it seems I lived an unfulfilled, kiteless childhood… 

    Homemade heaven

    Earlier in the year my kitelessness ended when the family and I attended a local kite festival. Apart from it being an awesome spectacle with giant octopus, sharks and cherubs adorning the skies – a spectacle so good it kept my kids away from the illuminating swords and ice cream sellers for a record breaking half an hour! – we got to make our own kites. With just a couple of pounds and the assistance of some friendly folk on the stand, the children had their very own kites and it was time to give them a go…

    Disappointingly, the kites were great and the kids loved them. Yes, I did say ‘disappointingly’ and the reason being that the kids required no help from me, they were happy with just themselves and their new toys and I didn’t get a look in! Even my three year old told me to “Get off Daddy. Go away!” – charming. But seriously, what joy from a piece of plastic, a couple of sticks, tape and string. And never fear, leave the kids long enough and it’s inevitable that they’ll get tangled-up, giving you the perfect excuse to assist and show them how it’s done!

    From warfare to space exploration

    If my crude desk research doesn’t let me down, kites have been around some 2,000 years and have been used for everything from warfare, fishing, space exploration and of course the ever popular recreational use. So from humble Chinese origins – some believe a farmer who tied his hat to himself with a piece of string to stop it blowing away ‘invented’ the first kite – kites have endured and remain a brilliant way to get outdoors, get active and have fun.

    Let’s go fly a kite

    The pull (pardon the pun!) of kites is strong; so much so that although the kids got their ice cream in the end, we did arrive home without adding to our lounge’s stockpile of illuminating swords! If I could sing like Mary Poppins I would; sadly I can’t but I urge you with no less gusto to go out and fly a kite. Kids love it, adults love it and what better way to spend a warm, breezy summer day outdoors?

    If you don’t have one, the RSPB Shop sells a very cool flying red kite kite(!) which will go down well with young and old alike. Happy flying!