The nights are darker, the air is colder and it definitely feels like winter is upon us. On top of this we have tighter restrictions coming at us from all directions and it feels harder than ever to stay positive. From the Birlinn staff team, here are our top tips for getting through the months ahead:
Get out into the air every day and top up your Vitamin D levels. Researchers and scientists have pulled together to ask governments to recommend increased Vitamin D intake to boost the immune system’s response to Covid-19 and reduce the severity of symptoms. We make Vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sun but for many of us, the winter months make this a challenge.
Stretch your legs
In addition to getting a top up of that important Vitamin D AND helping with fitness levels, walking or running in the open air can be good for mental health. If you haven’t tried running before take a look at the inspiration stories in Running the Smoke, where 26 brave individuals share their experience of tackling the London Marathon for the first time. And if you are serious about getting serious, in Run Forever Amby Burfoot offers clear, actionable guidance to runners of all abilities and ages from beginner to experienced runner.
Wild-water swimming is also tempting. On a recent visit to a beach in Scotland I made up my mind to invest in a wetsuit and join those benefiting from the invigorating daily or weekly splash. I still have the website pages for wetsuits bookmarked but as the days get colder that one is definitely filed under ‘revisti in the Spring’.
Give yourself permission to slow down… and get cooking!
For many, working from home means that the distinction between work-time and home-time has blurred. Give yourself a cut-off point (and a lunch-break). Move away from the screen. Cooking is a great activity to bring your mind back to home-life. To that end, we have decided to highlight a recipe from one of our gorgeous cook books every week.
Our favourite recipe this week? Deep Apple Pie with Butterscotch and Oaty Crumble (serves 10) from Scottish Baking by Sue Lawrence
Apples are falling from the trees and this is the perfect recipe for that Autumn haul. This pie is deep and bulging with apples and topped with a crunchy oat topping. It is hearty and extravagant and quite delicious!
- 300g/101/2 oz plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 40g/11/2 oz golden caster sugar
- 200g/7oz butter, cubed
- 1 medium free-range egg plus 1 medium yolk
- 1 tbsp semolina
- 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
- 100g / 31/2 oz light muscovado sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2kg / 4lb 8 oz cooking apples
- 1 x 397g tin of caramel (or dulce de leche)
- 75g / 23/4 oz plain flour
- 75g / 23/4 oz porridge oats
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100g / 31/2 oz butter, slightly softened, cubed
For the pastry, place the first four ingredients in a food processor and whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then, with the motor running, add the egg and yolk. Once combined, bring the dough together with your hands, cling-wrap and chill in the fridge for half and hour or so.
Now roll out and use to line the base and sides of a buttered, deep 23cm/9in. loose-bottom cake tin. Prick the base and chill well, preferably overnight.
Once ready to bake, sprinkle the semolina all over the base.
For the filling, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Peel the apples, chop and add to the bowl, stirring to coat. Tip half into the tin and spoon over about a third of the tin of caramel, dolloping it all over. Add the remaining apples, squashing down with your hands once they are all in. Spoon over the remaining caramel, smoothing over as evenly as you can.
For the crumble, mix together the flour, oats and cinnamon and run in the butter. Sprinkle this over the caramel-topped apples and press down to ensure an even coating.
Place on a hot baking sheet in the oven preheated to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and bake for 10 mins, then reduce to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and continue to bake for a further 1 hour 20 mins (1 hour 30 mins altogether), covering with foil after the first half hour or so. It is ready when you push a metal skewer carefully through the topping and you can feel the apples are soft. Allow to stand for an hour or so, then serve warm with custard or ice-cream.
Chat to a friend
Zoom meetings take up so much of our working lives at the moment that sometimes the last thing we want to do is a social Zoom in the evening. But they can be fun and it does lift the spirits to reconnect with friends and loved ones. On a Friday after work with a coffee / glass of wine in hand, it feels pretty good to exchange stories from the week with a few friends.
Listen to music. I found a grey playlist on Spotify – Cheer Up you Depressed B…. I’m not depressed but it is a great mood lifter. I love it.
And podcasts, a new found joy! Tune in to the Birlinn podcasts and catch up with favourite writers, the Nutmeg podcasts for all your football chatter, and the Penguin podcasts for a bit of everything. All great stuff.
And when you have taken your Vit B, been out for your walk, made your gorgeous apple pie, finished the zoom call, and listened to some uplifting music, take time to curl up with a good book (you deserve it). Recommendations of the week for an escape read:
Tiny Tales by Alexander McCall Smith and A Large Measure of Snow by Denzil Meyrick.