Once the children are tucked up in bed and I’ve cleaned away the evening mess from the kitchen, my time for snacking begins. I can go a whole day avoiding the biscuit tin, ignoring half packets of crisps peeping out for the press. I can even bypass cakes with my afternoon cuppa, yet once night-time is neigh I can’t resist snacks. I prefer savoury or salty snacks to sweet ones, yet believe me I don’t discriminate, especially if there’s only the option of chocolate biscuits in the press. In a bid to eat less processed goodies and more homemade ones I find myself regularly seeking out snack recipes which would satisfy this need. Hummus is one of my favourites, especially when paired with nice crispy breadsticks. Also I'm rather partial to nuts, of any variety. This hazelnut recipe happens to make a fairly healthy snack. Yes, there is a little butter in this recipe but it really adds to the nuts deliciousness and works wonderfully with the sweet and salty seasoning. A handful of these will always ease my snack craving as they are rather filling. Enjoy!

Sweet & Spicy Hazelnuts

150g raw hazelnuts, out of their shells
25g butter
½ teaspoon salt
¼ tsp smoked paprika
2 teasp soft brown sugar


1.       Preheat the oven to 200c /fan 180c /gas mark 6.
2.       Place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray. Toast in the hot oven for about 10mins until the nuts have begun to brown and the skin starts to split from the nut. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool a little, and then tip into a clean tea-towel.
3.       Using the tea-towel, rub the hazelnuts to loosen and remove most of the skins.
4.       Roughly chop the nuts, leaving most of them whole.
5.       In a small saucepan melt the butter until it froths a little. Remove from heat and add the salt and paprika. Pour the nuts into the saucepan. Combine all the ingredients well and tip back onto the baking tray and bake in the oven for 7 mins.
6.       Remove from the oven, pour into a bowl and immediately sprinkle over the sugar. Stir to combine.
7.       Allow to cool and serve. 

It has been quite a good year for wild fruit and nuts. The children and I collected a nice amount of hazelnuts, from our near-by trees, but we did leave plenty for the squirrel's winter stash.

If using unshelled nuts for the this recipe, roast them first. Place the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and place in a preheated hot oven {200c /fan 180c /gas mark 6}, for about 20 minutes. Remove from the tray and leave to cool before cracking open. 

It is almost time for Halloween and tomorrow {Tuesday} morning I'll be chatting about all things Halloween on Midlands Radio 3. Also if you are planning a little party, have a look at my Halloween Page, where I have a few party ideas. 

The month of September has slipped away without me barely noticing. I'm a lover of lists and each evening I jot down the intended work, be it columns or photographs, for the next day. The pleasure that comes from ticking off completed jobs seems to never lack satisfaction; please tell me that you are all like this, or is it a case that I need to get out more?  However, for the past few weeks I've been unable to happily tick all the boxes each evening, as I have been unbelievably busy. Columns, recipes, photographs, radio interviews and cookery demos have proved September to be my busiest month since the release of the book. Naturally for someone like myself, who relies on freelance work, this most certainly is a good thing. 

I try to have the bulk of my day's work completed once the children arrive in from school, apart from an odd photo or email. With each new school year it appears that the homework has doubled, so most evening's are consumed with grammar, maths, spellings and the odd disagreement or two. I was never much of a homework-fan and as the years have passed this hasn't changed. Over the past few weeks, on any evenings which were dry, as soon as homework was complete,the children and I would each grab a basket and take to the fields to forage for berries, nuts and anything pretty we could get our hands on. It turns out that that evening walk really clears the head and works wonders as a stress buster for all of us.

Blackberry & Apple Cobbler 

I love foraging for autumn treasures. From what we've already collected we've been making jam and pies aplenty, but I'm also filling my freezer with small batches of berries for the making of autumn pies right through the winter. Blackberry season is almost coming to an end, so take the opportunity, this weekend, to enjoy a country walk and hopefully you'll pick enough berries, and maybe a few apples, to make this rather tasty cobbler.

1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
200g blackberries
75g caster sugar

Cake Batter
110g butter
110g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 teasp vanilla extract

1tbsp oats

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6. Grease a medium sized casserole dish, with a little butter.
2. Line the bottom of the casserole dish with the apple slices and blackberries. Sprinkle over the 75g of sugar.
4. In a food processor or mixer add all of the batter ingredients, apart from the oats, and mix for a few minutes, until well combined.
5. Spoon the cake batter evenly over the apple and blackberries. Smooth over with a knife and sprinkle over the oats.
6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the pudding has risen, is golden in colour and cooked through. Serve hot or cold with custard, cream or vanilla ice-cream.


In Other News

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that Nessa's Family Kitchen has made it into the final of The Irish Blog Awards. I'd like to whole-heartily thank those who voted for my blog. The other blogs in my category are ones which I read and respect, so to be included in such a line-up is an honour.