CELEBRATE EASTER WITH A TRADITIONAL BRITISH DELICACY: SIMNEL CAKE

The festival of the spring equinox speaks of freshness and youth, of excitement and endless possibilities. Nature begins to quicken and early flowers open to the warmth of the strengthening sun, bringing the colours of lemon and yellow into our lives on the wings of a March wind.
- Carole Carlton


Being part English and feeling a certain pride in the fact that I am of British descent*, it is impossible for me to imagine celebrating the spring equinox without baking Simnel cake. Along with the inescapable roast leg of lamb, this marzipan-covered fruit cake is compulsory to any traditional English Easter menu and makes a wonderful centrepiece for your festive table. As a matter of fact, I cannot envision ending my Ostara feast differently.

This delicacy is quite similar to a Christmas cake, yet it is much lighter, more elegant and a lot less boozy than the latter. Its daintiness and immaculateness very much reflect the season. Simnel cake is the perfect treat to eat out in your bloom-filled garden (alternatively on your flowery balcony) while sipping on a cup of tea, sitting on a white cane chair and enjoying the mad chirp of birds. A great way to greet spring!

Simnel derives from simila, the Latin word for the best and finest sort of flour. Lancashire alone has three types of simnel cake: Barn simnels are a yeast-raised bun, Bury simnels a rich biscuit and this very grand cake, which is often sandwiched and topped with marzipan. Today one often sees it decorated with marzipan balls, fluffy chickens and nests, which turn it into an Easter cake.
- Jane Grigson "British Cookery"

My late Nan, who was a WI lady (Belper branch, Derbyshire) and excellent cook, used to bake the most fabulous pastries, and Simnel cake was no mystery to her. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to taste hers as my family and I generally visited my grandparents during the summer holidays. And to my biggest regret, my granny didn’t pass down her recipes to me before she left this world, thus I would never be able to know how she prepared hers...

Anyway, internet is a boon for people like me who love to hunt for long-lost heirloom recipes. If you do a little research, you are most likely to find what you are looking for. Well, that’s exactly what happened two years ago when Regula Ysewjin at Miss Foodwise posted a highly interesting as well as informative in-depth article about Simnel cake. Since then, her foolproof recipe has become a favorite at my place; even if I'm not a Christian, this divine cake is now a must on Good Friday.

So, with Regula’s kind permission, I am delighted to share with you today that top-notch recipe (I’ve adapted it slightly) and I hope you’ll treasure it as much I do…

* Not in a political or monarchy-loving manner as both are not my cup of tea (I am absolutely no political enthusiast and definitely not a monarchist - I told you, I'm a non-conformist!)… It is the blood and spirit of my Pagan ancestors from the North (the Celts, Anglo-Saxons and probably the Vikings too) that I am proud of having running through my veins! Besides, I am also extremely happy to originate from a land that is undeniably beautiful and culturally rich.


Simnel Cake
Adapted from Miss Foodwise.


Serves 12.

Ingredients:
100g Currants
100g Sultanas
100g Raisins
100ml Sherry
250g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
230g Turbinado raw cane sugar
4 Free range eggs
320g Plain white flour
1 Tsp Mixed spice (recipe here)
1 Tsp Orange zest paste
A pinch of salt
60g Candied lemon peel, chopped
750g Marzipan (recipe here or there)
Orange marmalade, a few spoonfuls

Method:
The day before, soak the currants, sultanas and raisins in the sherry.
Preheat your oven to 160° C (320° F).
Line the bottom of a 21cm round spring form with baking parchment, butter the sides and then flour them.
Roll out 1/3 of the marzipan and use the spring form as a guide to cut out a circle of the same size. Set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time.
Beat in the mixed spice, orange zest paste and salt. Then add the flour and incorporate well.
Now fold in the currants, sultanas, raisins and candied peel.
Scoop one half of the batter into the spring form and place the rolled marzipan circle on top. Now pour in the remaining batter and smooth the surface.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Leave to cool in the baking tin.
Meanwhile, roll out half of the remaining marzipan and cut out another round the same size as your cake, then roll the remaining marzipan into 11 equal balls.
When the cake is completely cool, smear the top with the orange marmalade, place the second rolled marzipan circle and decorate with the balls. 
Egg wash your balls and use a cook's blowtorch to brown the balls (or turn the grill to a moderate heat and place the cake underneath for a few minutes, until the marzipan is lightly browned).

Note:
If possible, try to use homemade marzipan and marmelade. It is really worth the "trouble" and besides it is a lot healthier (no glucose syrup or additives) than what you can find in mainstream supermarkets.
All the ingredients I use are certified organic, fair trade and humane.

Serve with a cup of tea or a glass of sherry.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley

12 TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER, HAPPIER & MORE HARMONIOUS YOU

Mind, Body and soul are like a musical ensemble. Each must be finely tuned, well-nourished, diligently practiced, and lovingly maintained in order to reach full potential.
- RJ Starr

Being of sound mind, body and spirit is extremely important at any age and it is something each of us should aspire to.

There is no doubt that if we aim to live a peaceful and perfectly balanced existence, there are certain natural rules we'd better follow earnestly, otherwise our physical, mental and spiritual condition might suffer tremendously.

It is no secret that how we nourish ourselves, behave and think has a direct impact on the way we feel. So never forget that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

The root of all health is in the brain. The trunk of it is in emotion. The branches and leaves are the body. The flower of health blooms when all parts work together.
- Kurdish Saying


  • Eat mindfully and wholesomely (according to your needs and constitution):
    - Sit down to dine, savor your meals and chew slowly. It's not a competition or a race, so take your time!
    - Have as many meatless and low-carb meals as possible. Your cholesterol level will thank you for being reasonable.
    - Serve vegetables at every meal and fill at least half of your plate with them.
    - Keep your fruit consumption to three per day. Loading your diet with fruits isn’t recommended as this can impact your health (excess fructose can cause high blood sugar & will get transformed into fat).
    - Integrate sufficient good proteins into your diet (seeds, eggs, all natural dairy products, poultry, fish, tofu, seitan, lentils, navy beans, quinoa, peanut butter,  etc...).
    - Regularly cook (a few times a week) with legumes and grains (chickpeas, buckwheat, barley, farrò, black beans, bulgur, couscous, etc...).
    - Eat a handful of nuts (soaked and roasted, if possible / here's why) and dried fruits on a daily basis.
    - Flavor your dishes with lots of spices and herbs as well as condiments (vinegar, mustard, hot sauce, curcuma, cilantro, cinnamon, ginger, holy basil, etc...). They are real health bombs!
    - Use nutritious oils and fats in moderate quantities (that also includes animal fats).
    - Drink lots of plain water (the amount varies from one person to another, depending on one's lifestyle and body's demand, but you should not ingest more than 2 litres a day or you might cause the level of salt, or sodium, in your blood to drop too low - check out this link for additional info) and reasonable amounts of green tea or coffee (2-3 cups / 2-3 cup daily, depending on the individual).
    - Cut down on sugars and white flour/floury foods, and find alternatives (sugar: honey, coconut flower sugar, maple syrup, xylitol, etc... / flour: whole wheat flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, rye flour, spelt flour, etc...).
    - Steer clear of additives, MSG, glucose, trans fats, GMO's and processed food.
    - And last but not least, respect our planet/Mother Earth, along with the animals and plants that populate it: go green, support local organic farmers, defend small-scale agriculture, follow seasons, and if you are not vegetarian, please eat humanely raised meat only and in small quantities. Without them we are nothing, so don't be greedy and ungrateful...


The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.
- Ann Wigmore



Your body is a temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in it.
- B.K.S. Iyengar


He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors.

- Chinese Proverb


A manifesto for A simple life:
Eat less, move more
Buy less, make more
Stress less, laugh more
Feel blessed, love more

Find a quiet spot every day and
BREATHE!
- Kelly Exeter


  • Exercise often (daily, if possible). Physical activity strengthens your heart, regulates your weight and elevates your mood.
     
  • Sleep enough. Apart from reducing the black circles under your eyes and helping you feel merrier, sleep has the same effects as sports on your overall health.
     
  • Get some fresh air and bond with nature. There is nothing better for clearing your mind and uplifting your spirits.
     
  • Relax more and ban stress. Nothing is more harmful than being constantly tense and anxious.
     
  • Seek harmony and peace of mind, think positively, cast aside the past and focus on the present, be optimistic and surround yourself with non-toxic people.
     
  • Find inspiration in others, be passionate and creative.
     
  • Express your emotions (don't swallow your feelings), but remember that an excess of any type of emotion will affect your yin & yang energies (learn more on the subject, here). Balance is the key word.
     
  • Be one with the Universe. Recognise its power, sacredness and mystery.
     
  • Stop trying to be someone else and learn to love yourself by accepting who you are and acknowledging your uniqueness. You are exactly who and where you are meant to be.
     
  • Enjoy life & don't take it all too seriously. And as Chief Mac in The Red Road said, "this world isn't real, it's a shadow of the real one"...
     
  • Fake it till you make it! And if you don't succeed, continue winging it and improvising. You'll get there at some point.

A NEW BEGINNING. GOODBYE ROSA'S YUMMY YUMS AND HELLO REVERIES, BRAMBLES & SCRIBBLES!

Hello Dear Reader,

I am Rosa Jeanne Mayland, welcome to my humble abode!

For some of you, my name might ring a bell. Actually, it is totally probable that you already know me, as long before I decided to launch Reveries, Brambles & Scribbles, I was the recipe developer, photographer and writer behind Rosa’s Yummy Yums (2005-2015).

My first online diary - dedicated mainly to the culinary arts - has given and taught me a lot on many levels, and I’ve had immense joy publishing on that platform, but after 10 years of blogging under that brand I have decided to start afresh and take a different direction.

The old blog had stopped satisfying me and it was more and more becoming a constrictive burden. My inspiration declined while my frustration increased. The old happy and emancipated me felt trapped and miserable. I was craving freedom and frivolousness.

Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The reason for this disenchantment lies in the fact that it didn’t reflect my present personality and the individual that I had metamorphosed into anymore. Thus I had to find a solution in order to get my creative juices flowing again. And this meant reorienting myself completely, casting caution to the winds and daring to go off the beaten path.

It surely wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I had no other choice. I needed a breath of fresh air so badly.

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
- George Bernard Shaw

After all, life is made of changes. It is something positive, inevitable, primordial and constant. It infuses our existence with vivid colours and gives us perspective as well as hope. Transition is life and life is all about transition.

So today I am opening a brand new chapter in the book of my life and I hope you’ll enjoy this virtual adventure into the depth of my soul and heart.

Cheers,

Rosa x