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These are just out of the oven, still hot and I can’t wait to get some Devonshire clotted cream onto them when they’re a little cooler and some homemade jam. We’ve just spent a week in Devon and I only ate ONE cream tea – I’m gutted, it just wasn’t enough.
We are busy picking platefuls of raspberries, loganberries and strawberries from our garden. The first of the raspberries appeared at the end of June, which seemed really early to me – anyone else finding that their raspberries are out earlier this year?
For all the cursing I do during the year about the raspberry canes that pop up in all the wrong places (like the middle of my raised veg beds!), and all the promises I make to pull out all of them over the winter, I can’t help but leave them when we get such a bounty during the summer.
The strawberries have all but disappeared from their original location (overtaken by the raspberries) but have sprung up in unlikely places. If you pull back their parasol shaped leaves you discover lots of very sweet fruits – a wonderful surprise.
The loganberries are prolific growing over an archway, but I find if I don’t pick them in time many of them that still look ok have yucky little white maggot/caterpillas inside them – those ones go on the bird table.
We have too many raspberries and loganberries at the moment to eat, so I bung them in the freezer until a time when we have enough to maybe make some jam. The strawberries are fewer so those we are eating.
Our Christmas day morning was spent munching on some of the best bought buttery croissants (from Waitrose) topped with generous spoonfuls of our homemade strawberry jam. And if you’re me, an extra helping of butter.
Then we helped Buddy open his stocking – our first Christmas with him – and he was so funny. He was so interested as Mr Rigg began to open the bag of goodies…
perhaps not so keen on the silly Father Christmas hat and scarf chosen by me…
…but he does love his new friend Mr Pheasant…
…especially when you squeeze him and he honks …
Ah, the joys of Christmas with animals!
Today I drove the many miles southward to Hanbury Hall – a National Trust property near Droitwich, just south of Birmingham. I went to interview the Head Gardener for the sustainable food bulletin I edit as part of my volunteer role for the National Trust.
Hanbury Hall is possibly one of the prettiest Trust properties I’ve ever visited. The formal gardens are immaculate and full of colour – lots of orange and purple.
The house is very similar to my local Dunham Massey, but a little bit fancier and with more detail.
They have an Orangery and a Mushroom House (where mushrooms were grown for the Vernon family back in the 1860’s), and a large orchard full of ancient apple varieties.
But I was there to see the Walled Vegetable Garden. Down the end of long walkway, surrounded by high Yew hedges (very Alice in Wonderland!) are two old wooden gates set into a high red-bricked wall.
Inside was an idyllic scene of a beautiful working kitchen garden. There were chickens picking happily at the grass, neat row of vegetables – cabbages, Rainbow chard and lettuces to name but a few, bee hives and polytunnels (one bursting with a stunning display of colourful pumpkins and squashes). Sorry – I didn’t take any pictures inside the garden!
Hanbury Hall’s vegetable garden not only supplies the tea rooms with a bounty of fresh produce, eggs and honey throughout the year, but visitors can buy vegetables direct from the garden – simply ask a gardener for a celeriac, and they will go and pull one up for you right before your eyes, or maybe you’re after ruby red forced rhubarb – they can pick that for you while you watch.
How cool is that?!
After having a tour of the kitchen garden and doing my interview, I said goodbye to Neil, the Head Gardener and went for lunch in the tearoom.
In the tearoom you are greeted by a counter full of cakes (like most National Trust tearooms), but here at Hanbury they are quite different – perhaps you are tempted by a slice of their rich and moist Chocolate Beetroot Cake (I certainly was!), or their Parsnip and Caraway Seed Cake, maybe it’s their Honey Cake or my favourite a Victoria Sponge?
What’s special about these cakes is they feature vegetables and ingredients from the Walled Garden – beetroot, parsnip, caraway seeds, honey, eggs, and homemade jam (made with their own fruits, of course). I was also told their made courgette cake and even potato cake! All sweet.
In addition to my slice of Chocolate Beetroot Cake (which I didn’t eat first, I promise!), I had a bowl of vegetable soup with vegetables from the kitchen garden, and an apple and blackcurrant juice from a local producer in Worcestershire. The cake defeated me – I couldn’t manage the last mouthful – shameful, I know!
What a lovely visit and a delicious lunch, and a big thanks to the friendly staff at Hanbury Hall.
If you’d like to visit Hanbury Hall you can find more details here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hanburyhall.
*Photos taken with camera phone – not looking too bad!
Last weekend N and I did some baking. We baked two loaves of white bread and a focaccia, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt crystals and chopped rosemary from the garden.
The dog tried to take a bite from each at different moments throughout the afternoon and evening. We only lost of tiny bit of crust – thankfully!
We used a white bread recipe from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking and a focaccia recipe from River Cottage Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
On Sunday, we enjoyed the sunshine, walked the dog, and pottered in the garden. I did a bit of weeding, and helped N make a run for Lovage and Daisy’s hutch – it’s so smart and they now have much more room. Happy bunnies.
Late afternoon we sat and watched the rugby and ate hunks of homebaked bread spread thickly with goat’s butter and raspberry jam.
Following on from yesterday’s post, mom cracked open a jar of the freshly made plum jam for breakfast today. She spread a slice of organic white bread with some butter and topped it with a dollop of plum jam.
It was a gorgeous amber jelly, just holding together enough to be great for spreading.
We all had a nibble. It was just sweet enough, with a soft and subtle plum taste. Not too overpowering, with a lovely smooth, slippery texture.
My recommendation: find some local plums and get making your own homemade plum jam. Perfect for Christmas presents, and in the depths of winter you’ll be pleased of a little slice of summer for breakfast.
N and I are spending a lovely weekend at home with my family in the Cotswolds. Today my mom and I made plum jam from using plums from her garden. She has a tree that is positively groaning under the weight of plums, many boughs almost touching the ground.
With a large basketful we seated ourselves in a sunny spot in the garden and began the task of pitting all the plums.
The saucepan was laden down with nearly 7lbs of plums. The saucepan was popped onto the hob and brought to a simmer. This was then followed by long periods of checking to see whether the plums were turning into jam.
Once the jam had begun to set when smeared onto a plate, it was removed and placed into sterilised jars (they’d been put through the dishwasher). We made about 13 jarfuls. Not sure how it will taste – will have to let you know when we try it.
My mom insists I can’t share the recipe, not because it’s a closely guarded family secret, but because she’s not sure it’s very good. Will let you know how it rates on a crusty piece of grain bread with a good layer of butter.
Yesterday at work we celebrated our 11th Birthday – why 11th, you ask? Well, we forgot last year that the business had turned 10, so we’re celebrating now. Also, my dear colleague Paul is leaving us and heading back to his native Australia.
So we celebrated with a very English afternoon tea in a meadow, believe it or not in the city. We had a tented camp, bunting hanging from the trees, live music, and lots of good friends. There were scones and jam, make-it-yourself knicker-bocker-glories, and baskets of tiny sandwiches.
My colleague and I were responsible for the baskets of sandwiches, and had spent all morning making them. We made three varieties: egg mayonnaise with lots of chives on a white Polish rye bread; smoked salmon with a tangy lemon cream cheese on a deep campagrain bread; and (my absolute favourite, and my own invention) my take on cheese and pickle, a Welsh blue brie with sweet onion chutney on a fragrant seeded bread.
So here’s a quick round-up of our lovely afternoon:
…How to make your knicker-bocker-glory…
…A table groaning under the weight of jam, cream and Jane’s utterly perfect scones (recipe coming soon!)…
…The wheelbarrow of drinks on ice…
…Soft white egg and chive sandwiches with pretty cocktail flags…
…and the band creating a lovely atmosphere…
Two summers ago we went to Sweden for a family wedding. We decided to make it into our summer holiday as it seemed like a long way to go for a wedding. We travelled by boat to Denmark with our little car, then drove around a large part of the west coast of Sweden. At the time, it felt exhausting, and by the time we got back we weren’t sure it had felt much like a holiday.
Now as I look back on our time there and the experiences we had, it was actually quite a lovely holiday. Despite the terrible weather and the hours and hours of driving, we ate some lovely food and saw some fantastic things. It is an amazing country and somewhere I would definitely like to return to one day.
We sailed from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark, then drove along the E20 through Denmark to Copenhagen. We crossed the huge bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo – our first stop in Sweden. Our parks conference the February before we went away had included a speaker from Malmo, and it inspired me so much I knew we had to visit.
Everywhere that we stayed on our journey along the coast was a member of the Bo på lantgård – ‘staying on a farm’ – http://www.bopalantgard.org. Our first farm was Vragerups Gård (http://www.vragerup.se/) in the countryside outside Malmo. It was an idyllic farmhouse with beautiful furnishings and we really didn’t want to leave.
In terms of eating out our plan was to drive around and see what looked nice, which means on one hand you might find a real gem of a restaurant, but on the other hand it could be dire. Our first night we found this place…
It couldn’t have been a more stunning location, and the food was equally nice. I have managed to find out that the restaurant is called Kallbadhus (this might be the name of the whole complex) or Kalendarium, but it is also Sweden’s longest swimming pier (http://www.kallbadhus.se/).
Nearby to where we were staying, we discovered this unusual village, which we think it styled on a medieval style town. It felt like a film set, especially as it was seemingly deserted.
We had a somewhat miserable day out in Malmo as it rained, and rained and rained. So much for visiting parks – we ended up on a coach tour of the city, which was not quite what we were hoping, but there wasn’t much choice short of getting soaked. We did also discover a cluster of craft workshops and a quaint sweet shop – perfect for gifts for younger brothers!
Our plan the next day, with storm clouds looming, was to head for the sun and blue clouds wherever they were on the horizon. This worked out quite well, and we came across a little cafe-cum-farm shop. We sat in a beautiful glasshouse and ate tea and cake under a canopy of kiwi fruit!
That evening, we found a lovely little restaurant in a nearby town and enjoyed a great meal. That was until the roof above me sprung a leak, which turned into a waterfall, and the whole restaurant was swamped! We sat in the car wondering what kind of holiday we were on…
One thing that Swedish hospitality does well is a fantastic spread for breakfast: cooked meats, jams, compotes, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, and breads including the dark rye breads. I fell in love with what I like to call pillow bread, what it’s real name is I’m not sure – but it’s soft, flat, with dimples in it like a sofa. I ate a lot of it during this holiday, and brought a lot back with us.
As we travelled up the coast and slightly inland to our next stop – an incredible looking colonial style house – there was more rain…
Drip, drip, drip, little april showers…
We started to see signs for a vaffle stuga (spelling probably not quite correct) and ended up in a log cabin deep in a huge forest eating waffles! They were delicious and it was nice to sit inside by a fire while it drizzled outside. There was a hamlet of houses selling artisan made items and we came away with a lovely rug that now sits in our living room.
Hults Gard (http://www.hultsgard.com/) the next place we stayed, looked beautiful, but our room was small and felt like we were staying in a hostel. One of the things I enjoyed most about the incredible amounts of driving that we did, was it meant we could watch the landscape change – from the rolling farmland and towns near Malmo, to dark evergreen forests, then through great expanses of farmland with railroads, and finally to the rocky coastal islands with their clapboard fishing villages.
The wedding was held in a fairytale castle near Gothenburg and was a whole weekend of eating and celebrating. We were treated to a gourmet meal featuring some delicious Swedish dishes – sadly no pictures.
Our final leg of the journey took us further up the coast and out onto an island. We were staying at a strawberry farm called Tyfta Ostergård (http://www.lekander.nu/eindex.html) which had the perks of fantastic jams and compotes for breakfast.
It was run by a lovely family with three generations of the family living and working there together. The guest accommodation including a lovely kitchen and sitting room were decorated with that impeccable Swedish knack for style.
It was out on these islands that we had our best meals of the holiday. It was also probably the poshest and most expensive meal that we have ever eaten – but worth every penny. Situated on the “herring island” of Klädesholmen is Salt & Sill (http://www.saltosill.se), a small restaurant with a stunning view and excellent food.
The highlights of this meal by far were the starters. I wish at the time I had written down exactly what we had eaten, because now I just have the photos as a reminder, but don’t know any of the more interesting details!
N had a trio of pickled herring, each piece pickled differently, on a different bread or cracker, topped with a different sauce. Each mouthful was pared with a different shot of snaps.
I chose salmon, which turned out to be THE best salmon dish I’ve ever eaten. I think that salmon dishes often run the risk of being a bit boring, but this was incredible. I think it was poached somehow – it was so delicate, and still so pink, and came on a bed of green vegetables with a sauce that I think was broad bean.
For mains we had fishcakes and a piece of cod with a foam – sorry I can’t recall the details more accurately.
Desserts were also a highlight. N had a(nother) trio of handmade truffles with a strawberry coulis.
I had a delicate dish which comprised a miniature panna cotta dusted with vanilla, a chocolate fondue sauce, and a caramelised banana wrapped in filo pastry and finished with a scattering of nuts. This restaurant would come highly recommended from me to anyone looking to visit this part of Sweden. It’s not to be missed.
The island of Tjörn had a wealth of interesting places for ‘foodies’ to visit. We found a pick-you-own tomato farm!
It was run by a lovely couple who showed us around their giant pollytunnel where there were growing unusual organic salads. I have never seen or heard of some of the incredible vegetables, salads and herbs they were growing, so it was a fantastic experience. Ever since this experience, I have always loved the idea of setting up a pick-you-own tomatoes, what a fab idea!
There was one cafe that I had read about on my internet searches before we left for Sweden that I was determined we would visit. It is a small cafe-restaurant in the fishing village of Mollösund, which is right on the far tip of an island called Orust. Café Emma (http://www.cafeemma.com/eng.html) is a member of the Slow Food movement, and serve homemade food using seasonal and local ingredients.
We both had their signature rich fish soup for starters, which is made with saffron, shrimp and two kind of fish. It was served with bread, aioli and a herb mayonnaise. I must admit this isn’t the sort of starter I would normally order, but it was incredible.
It was a no-brainerwhat N would choose for his main – a homemade burger. It was served in thin pillow bread, with a fresh tomato salsa and a bean salad. Who said burgers have to be unhealthy?
I chose a quinoa salad with asparagus, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted beetroot and micro salad leaves. This is food to die for.
Café Emma serve the kind of food that you never forget. Food that you dream about. Food that you spend hours trying to recreate. These are my food memories.