At the bottom of our garden, we have an imposing Bramley apple tree, planted during the ‘Dig for Britain’ campaign during the second world war. Last year, British crops suffered and there were hardly any apples at all. This year, and following a good prune, we seem to have our apples back – big and shiny and rosy on the edge receiving sunlight. Since we also had an apple tree in our back garden growing up at home, apples conjure up comforting memories of cinnamon-spiked apple pies, cakes and crumbles. Apples can also be useful loot to swap for other homegrown produce. Since it’s Bonfire Night tonight, we’ve made some Toffee Apple Tarts and if time allows, a Spiced Toffee Apple Cake will also await lashings of custard. I’ve also written a post over at JamieOliver.com highlighting some other Bonfire Night treats you might like to try.
My blog has had a little refresh and you’ll have probably noticed a few changes. The main change is the installation of a new WordPress theme called Foodie, cleverly designed by Shay Bocks, offering some very neat features, such as updated coding and a customised home & recipe page with improved plugins and features. I still have quite a big job to do with my post categories, so over the next week or so, there may be a little maintenance going on. I have also had a refreshed header installed, which I think is fun – I love my bowl of seasonal plums. My existing logo and old header, designed by Miss Foodwise and husband Bruno, have been updated and will get an upgrade to Ren Behan Food – a new site (also under construction) which will become home to some examples of my freelance work.
3 Years of Blogging
I almost missed my blogging anniversary! As I began to type this post, I remembered that I published my first post, Hello World, on 2nd November 2010 – back then, my blog was called Fabulicious Food! Starting a blog and hitting publish placed me on the path of a great adventure. I’ve made so many friends as a consequence of starting this little food blog. I’ve also had opportunities to cook with and receive help, advice and words of wisdom from some of the people I most admire in the world of food. Perhaps as a result of sticking at something I love doing very much, I’m now settling into a freelance writing and recipe development career.
Things I’ve learnt along the way
I have learnt that it takes time to build a community and to build up new skills. Although I always loved to cook, I had no idea how to translate a love of food into recipe writing and I had only ever used a camera to take holiday and family shots. I’ve read lots of books and other blogs – including It Starts With Food by Diane Jacob and The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Barbaba Gibbs Ostmann. I have also studied food magazines, taken courses, and have developed my own way of describing how to cook something or bake something.
Many bloggers expect to start blogging, generate attention and become a success overnight. I’d say, don’t expect readership to happen overnight. A blog will grown over time. Keep going and crucially, if you begin to value your time and your worth, you can turn blogging for fun into something more than a hobby. My best advice is to keep moving forward – don’t be afraid of change or of trying something new. Set yourself some targets, don’t just accept every offer that comes your way – analyse what you are being asked to do, to create, to write and then decide if it is worth it. If you decide to work with brands, be aware when commercial companies (who pay PR’s to contact you!) are trying to get something for nothing and don’t sell yourself short. Learn how to negotiate and very importantly, make an effort to understand some of the legal aspects of blogging. For example, always be honest and disclose to your readers whether you have received something for free or as an incentive to write about a certain topic or product. State clearly if you have been paid to feature a brand, a product, a recipe, a video, or have been asked to include links to specific pages. Blogging, both as a means of communication and an extension of social media is changing rapidly – make sure you keep up with any significant changes and always be aware that as a blogger you are ultimately an ‘influencer’ – tread carefully. That being said, the best and most successful blogs (in my view) are the ones written by people who truly love writing and communicating and who see blogging and tending to a blog as a creative process rather than a money-making scheme.
Toffee Apple Tarts
Easy to bake toffee apple tartlets using British Bramley apples
- 375g sweet shortcrust pastry (ready to roll is fine)
- 4 large cooking apples
- 50g butter
- 125g light soft brown sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 tablespoon double cream (optional)
- A little butter for greasing the tin
- A sprinkle of flour for the pastry board
- Grease a 12-hole muffin tin with a small amount of butter. Sprinkle some flour onto a board and roll out the pastry. Cut out 12 circles of pastry and carefully place each disc into a hole in the tin and press down gently. Place the pastry-lined tin in the fridge whilst you make the apples.
- Peel, core and dice the apples. Place them into a large pan. Add the butter, sugar and golden syrup cook for five minutes. Take off the heat and add the double cream, if using. Pour any excess toffee sauce into a cup so that the apples are just coated.
- Take the pastry-lined tin out of the fridge and spoon some toffee coated apples into each tart. Sprinkle the apples with a little extra sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and bubbling. Remove from the tin and serve whilst warm.
What do you think makes a successful blog? I’d love to know your thoughts…