Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Rain Drops On Roses

Shhhh.... don't tell anybody but I love it when it rains.   After a long, sunny, dry spell, a gentle rain is most welcome in my garden.  Things were starting to look a bit parched, but early this morning we had a soft shower and the flowers were drinking it in.

So like the mad woman I am, in my pj's and slippers, I wandered out into the garden to take some photos to share with you.  The raindrops on this rose tempts me to type something sickening like.... the blushing cheek of the rose was bejeweled with nature's tears.....YUCK!  That sounds like Madeline Bassett from a Wodehouse novel.

But you have to admit, these droplets do look lovely sitting on the leaves of the Columbine.  

This little geum flower was almost weighed down with raindrops.


The sweet peas were bobbing up and down, the flowers are almost too heavy to be supported by their stems when wet.  

Funny things, sweet peas, they have such a wonderful scent, lovely flowers and leaves tough as old cabbages.  

That's enough underwater photography, I'm getting wet!  I think I'll enjoy the raindrops on the roses through the French windows with a hot cup of tea.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Caught In The Act - SLUG!

It's been a tough summer for gardeners in the U.K.  The weather was wet and cold for a very long time so the plants just didn't grow.  Most of the seeds I planted rotted in the cold, sodden soil.  But something did thrive in the garden this year....SLUGS!

It's been headline news.... Invasion of the Spanish Slugs!  It sounds like a horror movie and in some cases, it has been pretty horrific.   I haven't had a bean one out of my patch. Nearly all of the ripe strawberries were gnawed. The second sowing of lettuces were consumed as soon a a tiny green shoot would break through the soil. And all of my chive plants were eaten down to the ground! 

I knew who was to blame, but today, I caught him in the act! He was brazenly eating my daisies!  He started with a tender, green leaf.....

then moved on to the second course, a juicy petal.  Enough is enough!  Let's just say, I gave Mr. Slug a lift out of my garden!  

No slugs were harmed in the making of this post...... well, not YET!  

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Lazy Sunday Kitty

I know my nieces in the States, for whom this blog was started, are wondering  about the Dust Bunny.  He has been very busy.  In the summer, he loves to spend most of his time in the allotments chasing bugs and sleeping under the raspberry bushes.  

Like most cats, Mr. B. likes to prowl at night and sleep all day.  He stayed out ALL night, came in for his breakfast and headed straight upstairs to bed. 

He didn't wash his face, if you look closely you can see dust on his nose!

He didn't wash his paws!  He was much too sleepy to bother.

He just curled up against the pillows, wrapped his tail around his nose and tried to go to sleep.

But you know how it is, sometimes you just can't find a comfortable position. You toss and turn and fluff your pillows until finally.....

You find that 'sweet spot' that's just right.  Sleep tight Mr. B.  I'll see you when you are ready for supper!  

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Tea In the Garden - Iced Lemon Cookies

Some foods capture the essence of the season.  The scent of apples always makes me think of autumn.  Cinnamon and nutmeg are the aromas of Christmas and lemon IS summer! 

I suppose it's because we always made lemonade in the summertime when I was a child.  So when I saw this recipe for Iced Lemon Cookies, I thought of summer garden parties.  This weekend we have the perfect weather for a tea party on the lawn so we'd better get busy making these cookies.

All you need are a these store cupboard items and a nice juicy lemon:

3/4 cup butter - room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain flour

Beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks, vanilla and salt.  Beat again until they are well combined.  Gradually stir in the flour, mix until well incorporated.  I added a little Primrose Yellow paste food colouring, just because I wanted my cookies to look lemon-y yellow...it's certainly not necessary.  

Divide the dough in half.  Place each half on a piece of plastic wrap and roll into log shapes, about an inch or so in diameter.  Tightly twist the ends of the plastic wrap to seal and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until the dough is firm enough to slice into cookie shapes.   Cut slices (approximately 1/2 inch thick) to make cookies and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Leave about 1 1/2 inch spaces between the cookies.  Bake at 350 degrees F or  180 degrees C for about 15 minutes.  You want the cookies to be lightly browned on the bottom.  Cool on a wire rack before icing.

Now, you may have noticed a nautical theme in the background of these photos.  It is my very small nod to the Olympic Sailing Events taking place near us in Weymouth.  Good luck to all who are participating and safe sailing! 

Back to the really important stuff - our cookies..... 

Mix together the following ingredients to make the Lemon Icing:

1 cup icing sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 

Whisk together the icing ingredients, adding a few more drops of lemon juice if needed.  Frost the cookies, make a pot of tea and enjoy!  To get an extra citrus kick, serve the tea with a slice of lemon instead of the usual milk and sugar.  It really does taste like summer!

Thanks to the cake duchess for inspiring this post.  Visit her at www.cakeduchess.com 

Friday, 27 July 2012

Ladies Who Lunch at Joshua's Table

Having lunch out with friends and family is my favourite social activity.  It suits me down to the ground.  You have luncheon, do a little light shopping and are home in time for afternoon tea, a nice bubble bath and into your PJ's for a cosy night in.  Perfection!  Which leads us to today's luncheon venue - Joshua's Table.

Joshua's Table is hard to describe.  It's an organic food shop, housewares and gift shop and cafe all rolled into one! You know it's something special from the moment you turn into the drive and are greeted by the cordoned apple trees.  

Baskets and garden accessories are displayed under the eaves of the porch, tempting you to buy before you enter the store!

Maggie, my mum-in-law, was my companion today.  We had a delicious lunch of homity pie served with Joshua's own chutney and crisp summer salad.  

And after lunch we did a bit of shopping.... well, you have to!

Just look at the temptations- baked goods, fruit and veg, jams and chutneys.

There are charming cushions and toys for children.

There seems to be a bit of a theme, perhaps it's more of a trend....

Owls!  There were LOADS of owls! 

So take it from two 'Ladies Who Lunch', it's worth a visit to Joshua's Table.  

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Corn Bread Muffins

Have I mentioned, I am half Southern?  My Daddy was from Tennessee.  That means I was raised on biscuits, for you Brits that's an unsweetened scones, and corn bread.  

I LOVE biscuits and corn bread, but my Daddy couldn't abide them.  Notice, I am talking Southern now.  I don't mean to, it just happens sometimes!  I think biscuits and corn bread reminded him of growing up on the farm and if I am honest, sometimes things were a little lean for farmers in those days.  Some would say things haven't changed much.  Currently, the dairy farmers in the U.K. are fighting to keep their herds - milk prices are so low.  

Now, corn bread and biscuits are 'fashionable' not just food for Po' Folk.  It doesn't matter to me what is in fashion.  Corn bread tastes good!   Nothing is nicer than a hot corn muffin oozing butter unless it's a hot corn muffin oozing with honey-butter!  So let's make a batch of corn muffins.  

Here is what you will need:

1 cup cornmeal or polenta
1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/ 400 degrees F.  Place paper muffin cups into a 12 hole muffin tin or grease a 9 inch square pan if you don't want to make muffins.  (You can also use a cast iron skillet)  

In a medium mixing bowl, place the flour, sugar, corn meal or polenta, and baking powder.  Stir them together until well combined. 

In a large measuring cup or jug, mix together the egg, milk, and oil. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredient bowl.  Stir together until everything is well combined but DO NOT over mix.  

To make muffins:  spoon the batter into the individual muffin cases, bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Muffins should be well risen and lightly golden.

To make corn bread:  pour the batter into the greased pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.  Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly golden. 

Serve HOT with butter!   Let's face it, when it comes to corn bread, we're all a little Southern!  

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

On the Sunny Side of the Beach

Yesterday, we visited the beach huts.  Today we are going to cross the road to the beach!  Our beach is amazing with miles and miles of soft sand. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, like the Great Barrier Reef!

But it's just home to me.  I know, lucky me!   In the summer the beach is filled with visitors on holiday.  

The good weather has brought everyone to the seashore.

Ice cream is the treat of the day.  There are several ice cream vendors and every one has a queue of hot customers.

If you've forgotten your beach ball you can always purchase one here!

The British call these 'Bucket and Spade' holidays after the equipment required to build sand castles.   

There is a lot more than just sand castle building going on here.  This part of the beach was filled with surfers and beach volley ball games.

Most people were just relaxing, reading and eating picnics on the dunes.

Whether you are here for the long summer holidays, or just out for a brief stroll,  our beach is THE place to be..... well, as long as this lovely weather lasts!   

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Beach Huts

I must confess, I am fascinated with beach huts.  Perhaps it's not the beach huts but the people who occupy them and how they utilize them.  

Some are simply like garden sheds, full of beach equipment; wet suits, surf boards, very utilitarian.  

Some look like home from home, complete with drapery, china and a little stove for making tea and light lunches.  

Compared to the cozy cottage style of the previous beach hut, this one looks very Bohemian with the stripey carpet and large bottle of cider.  

These ladies visit their beach hut almost daily, all year 'round. Their hut is one of the most comfortably furnished.  The little birds wait for them to scatter crumbs from their tea, just like feeding birds in the garden.

Some people are more seasonal occupants but it's obvious how much they love their beach huts.  

It feels like a little village.  Everyone was friendly and willing to let me photograph them. 

And just like a village, there are the grand beach houses up on the hillside.  They have the best view but they don't look like they are having nearly as much fun!  

Thanks to all the Exmouth beach hut dwellers for their hospitality!

Monday, 23 July 2012

'Oh Bother!' or Baking Substitutions

Oh Bother!  Half way through baking a cake I realised I didn't have enough self-rising flour.  I try to keep my baking store cupboard well stocked but sometimes, despite all my best efforts, I still find I am caught short. OK, time to be resourceful and make my own self-rising flour! 

Has this ever happened to you?  Fortunately, there are lots of substitutions for common baking ingredients.  Here are a few ideas that might come in handy when you have an 'Oh Bother' moment:

Self-Rising Flour - 1 cup plain flour + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon salt 

Cake Flour - place 2 Tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour) into a measuring cup, add regular flour up to the 1 cup mark

Corn Meal (for cornbread) - polenta

Brown Sugar - 1 cup (200g) white sugar + 2 Tablespoons molasses 

Baking Powder (1 teaspoon) - 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch (cornflour)

Baking Chocolate  (1 oz or 30g) - 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder + 1 Tablespoon butter, vegetable oil or shortening

Golden Syrup - Corn syrup

Treacle - light corn syrup

Sour Cream - thick plain yogurt

Buttermilk (1 cup) - 1 cup plain milk + 1 Tablespoon white vinegar  OR 1 cup plain milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (let the milk mixture sit for about 10-15 minutes before using) OR  plain yogurt

Plain Yogurt - Sour cream OR buttermilk OR creme fraiche OR  1 cup heavy cream + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Of course, substitutions may result in a slightly different texture or taste but for most recipes they are adequate.  In some cases, you may prefer them. As, you know from previous posts, I use my home made yogurt instead of buttermilk in lots of different recipes.  

Do you know of a clever substitution or have you substituted an ingredient that has improved your recipes?  Please let me know, leave a comment!  I'd love to hear from you.  

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chocolate Cola Cake

Once again there has been an error in the purchasing department. Instead of our caffeine free, diet cola, someone picked up a pack of the fully loaded variety.  I'd like to say, just for the record, this time I didn't do it!  (I was the one who bought a kilo of BOGOF carrots!)  Now there are several cans of cola rattling around the fridge that neither Andy nor I can bring ourselves to drink.  Waste not want not, let's make a Cola Cake! 

It sounds weird, doesn't it, but there have been versions of cola cakes around for decades!  The original one, loaded with marshmallows and nuts can be found on the Coca-Cola website but I didn't have those extra bits so I've used  James Martin's version.  

Instead of making a sheet cake, James' cake is made in a round pan.  It looks a bit more elegant but it's still very moist and very rich.  

The topping couldn't be easier to make and it's poured over the cake while still warm in the pan!  

If you have a can of cola rattling 'round your fridge, give cola cake a try.  If you love rich, moist chocolate cake you'll love this!