LOOKING out the window in late January, it’s hard to find the energy to do anything more than snuggle under the duvet, put on another DVD, make yourself a cup of tea or settle down with the paper.
Ironically, however, the best thing to do when you’re lacking energy is to get up, go outside and get some exercise. So even when the weather might not seem very inviting, wrap up warm, get on your wellies, a hat and scarf and head out for a winter picnic.
Young children absolutely love picnics – it’s a break from routine and, of course, the chance to eat treats anywhere, especially outside, is very exciting. Some fresh air, a bit of sunshine (if you’re lucky), the chance to explore nature, a change of scenery and tucking into some home baking will leave you feeling more energetic than ever.
If the weather’s really terrible then baking is a great way to pass a couple of hours or keep the kids occupied. As a dad of two young boys, I’m passionate about getting children into the kitchen as young as possible. No age is too young and the earlier you can create an awareness and understanding of food and cooking the better.
There are lots of things the little ones can do, from weighing out the flour to cracking eggs, mixing ingredients to licking the spoon, but more than anything they’ll just love the fact that they’re working with you to create something. Once their creation is in the oven, our boys will often sit and watch the cakes and scones rise and brown, constantly asking: “Are they ready yet?” I suppose the only downside is that children can’t usually be relied on to be clean and tidy. The best thing is to accept there will be mess and have fun together making it.
If you believe the statistics then more of us are getting into the kitchen and enjoying baking. The two recipes this week are true baking classics, loved by both young and old. The big difference, however, is that the banana bread is gluten free.
For those on a gluten-free diet, baking products are often the most challenging to replicate as it’s the gluten that gives bread and cakes their spring. This means they may not display the same characteristics of normal baking products.
So if you’re not used to working with gluten-free flours you might find them a little different to start with but you’ll soon get used to them. The good news, however, is that you don’t have to compromise on taste. Whether you’re following a gluten-free diet or just fancy something different, this is a great recipe everyone will enjoy.
So you can spend your Saturday baking then praying for decent weather to head out on Sunday. On our days off we always try to go on a walk and let the boys run about. Although we’ve been back in Scotland for a number of years now, I’m always amazed at how we still stumble on places we haven’t been to before. From the beautiful beaches in East Lothian to the majestic Water of Leith, the enchanting woodlands of Perth to the mighty Pentland Hills, you’ll always find something to suit your mood and energy level.
Before you set off, get your bag packed with everything you’ll need for your walk. Take little tubs of jam and whipped cream for the scones, plenty of napkins and a flask of something to warm everyone up like hot chocolate or hot orange juice for the children. I always laugh at how many times the children ask: “Is it picnic time yet?” but, as I have learnt, cake is a great incentive to make them go that little bit further.
When you’re ready, find some rocks or a tree stump, perch and tuck in. The sugar will give everyone that extra energy kick they need to get home in record speed with a smile on their faces. So, even if it’s cold outside, get baking, get wrapped up and get out there.
Tom Kitchin’s Top Five Winter Walks
Gullane, East Lothian
For a beautiful, isolated walk along the East Lothian coast, head from Gullane to North Berwick. Just check the tide levels before you set off so you don’t get caught out.
The Pentland Hills
Just a few miles from the heart of the capital, this is a great place for a Sunday walk to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Water of Leith
When we have visitors staying we like to take them for a stroll along the Water of Leith, through Stockbridge and on to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It’s a great way of seeing some of the city’s landmarks while still being able to get away from it all.
The Loch Leven Heritage Trail runs for 12.5km around Loch Leven, Scotland’s largest lowland loch. It’s a great option if you are taking the kids along, combining wildlife, history and education in some of Scotland’s most beautiful surroundings.
Loch an Eilein, Rothiemurchus, Aviemore
This is a beautiful place to visit, with some truly picturesque views. It’s a bit of a drive from the central belt but well worth the effort when you get there.
RECIPE: BANANA BREAD
220g ripe bananas
230g ground almonds
1 tbsp baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. In a bowl, mix together the bananas and sugar. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk before adding to the mix. Mix well, then fold in the rest of the dry ingredients.
Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper and grease well. Add the mix and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Insert a needle in the middle of the loaf and if it comes out clean it is ready.
250g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
Pre-heat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Mix the flour and salt together and rub in the butter using the tips of your fingers.
Add the sugar and milk to the mixture and form a dough. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead lightly.
Pat the dough out to about 2cm thick and cut to the desired size, then leave to rest for ten minutes.
Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve with good-quality jam and freshly whipped cream.