Monday, 29 June 2015

Doomed from the Start!

We are about to experience a rare occurrence here in Britain, a heat wave! Most normal people are looking forward to a hot spell of real summer time weather but I HATE it!  I immediately began to make provisions, bake bread, cook the cat's chicken. Yes, I cook chicken especially for the cat.  And for myself, I thought I'd bake some little pink cakes.  

I envisioned them in pretty pink paper cases, piped icing roses on the top, all very girly.   Lost in this fantasy, I began the usual process of photographing my progress.  CLICK when the camera,  SPLAT went the lens hood - straight into the bowl of batter. 

Undaunted, I fished out the lens hood and proceeded to bake the cakes.  They smelled wonderful.  The oven timer when DING and I grabbed the first tray of cakes with an oven-gloved hand.  They jiggled in the paper cases, slightly under-baked.  Back into the oven the little cakes went.  

Five minutes later, the oven timer dinged again.  Out came the cakes, standing tall with perfectly domed tops... which fell like bad souffles as soon as they hit the cool kitchen air. 

Worst of all, the little pink cakes weren't actually PINK!  I suppose I should have known from the start this wasn't going to turn out as planned.  Oh, I'll eat them but instead of piping delicate pink roses on them I'll probably bury them under a mound of strawberries and cream.  I hope the heat wave doesn't last long.  I am going to need to bake some proper cakes soon!   

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Honey and Oatmeal Bread

I love oatmeal bread with its slightly cake-like texture and that touch of sweetness from the honey.  As my Mom used to say, 'It's ALMOST better than cake'.  

I always used to make bread by hand.  There is something therapeutic about kneading the dough and knowing this is how it's been done for centuries. Lately I've been letting my Kitchenaid mixer do all the heavy work. At first I felt guilty, as if it was cheating. 

After a few baking sessions I've gotten over it.  You can easily make this bread by hand, but I am going to show you how to do it with a mixer and a dough hook, after all, that's how the best bakeries do it. 


3 cups flour - I used bread flour but plain flour will work
1/4 cup runny honey
1 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 cup porridge oats (old fashioned not instant) 
2 teaspoons or one packet of dried yeast

Place the oats into the bowl of the mixer.  Pour over the boiling water, add the butter and honey.  Mix with the dough hook to combine.  Leave the oat mixture to cool until the outside of bowl feels JUST warm.  

Add the yeast and one cup of the flour. Mix with the dough hook until the flour is combined with the oat mixture.   Add another cup of flour and repeat the mixing process.  Finally, add the final cup of flour, set the speed to a slow position and leave the dough hook to knead the dough.  This should take about 5 minutes or so.  

When the dough looks smooth and elastic it is ready to rise.  Cover the bowl with a bit of plastic wrap and place in a warm spot.  After about an hour, the dough should be doubled in size.  Punch it down, cover the bowl, and let it rise again. 

While the dough rises a second time,  heat the oven to 375F/180C and grease a standard loaf tin.  

Form the dough into a loaf, I do this by making a fat sausage shape.  Place the loaf into the greased baking tin, cover with a bit of plastic wrap, and allow the loaf to double in size.  You can slash the top of the loaf if you like. It makes me feel all 'artisan baker-ish' to slash but it's not necessary.  

Bake for about 30 minutes.  If you think the top is getting brown too quickly, turn down the heat a little.  

The bread is ready when it is golden brown and sounds hollows when you gently thump it.   Remove the bread from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool. 

Now here's the hard part... do not cut the loaf until it has cooled completely.  I know... it's cruel, but do try.  Then you can enjoy a slice of that slightly cakey, slightly sweet, almost-better-than-cake Honey and Oatmeal Bread.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Random Snaps

I like to change my blog header to reflect the season and what's growing in the garden.   Some folk might think it's best to be consistent and stay with one photo..sort of like a brand's logo.

But life is full of beautiful things and it seems churlish not the share them, especially the glorious but brief life of the flowers in the garden. 

So don't be surprised if one of these photos pops up at the top of the blog in future. 

Or not!

Friday, 19 June 2015

Not Quite Mom's Soft Chocolate Cookies

When I was a kid growing up, my mom made the most delicious soft chocolate cookies.  She got the recipe from a neighbour lady.  Now there must have been some sort of pact made between the two of them because my mom would NEVER share the recipe with ANYONE!  Well, she gave it to me..or I just copied out of her recipe box.  I don't remember how it happened. 

To her dying day she would say to me, 'don't you dare give that cookie recipe to anyone', and I vowed I wouldn't.   Let's face it, no cookie is worth the bad Karma you get from breaking a promise to your mother.  So I've been doing some research trying to find a soft chocolate cookie recipe that is ALMOST like my mom's... but not EXACTLY like her recipe.  It would be unkind not to share the chocolate cookie pleasure.

So, with a clear conscience I present to you the recipe for ..


1/2 cup butter or baking margarine
1 cup soft brown sugar - lightly packed
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.  Line baking sheets with baking paper. 

With an electric mixer,  beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat again.  Mix in the cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and baking powder.  

Add about half of the flour and half of the milk.  Mix until incorporated, then add the remaining flour and milk.  Mix  again until everything is combined but DO NOT BEAT.  Beating will activate the gluten and make a tough cookie.

Using a teaspoon or small scoop, drop the cookie batter onto the prepared baking tray.  Leave enough room for the cookies to spread while baking. 

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes.  The cookies should puff up and be just 'set'.  I found 10 minutes to be perfect in my oven.  DO NOT OVER BAKE or you won't have soft cookies. 

Leave the cookies on the baking paper to cool completely.  You can eat them just as they are but mom always finished them with a simple frosting. 


1 cup icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons milk

Combine the icing sugar with a little milk.  Stir until smooth, adding a drop of milk at a time until you get the consistency you like...thick for spreading or a bit thinner for drizzling.  Using your preferred method, apply frosting to the cookies, then munch!

Now you can enjoy guilt-free, soft chocolate cookies... no promises broken... no bad Karma! Be sure to store the cookies in an airtight container so they stay moist and soft.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

A Passion for Fashion - The Ladies

There is an old show business saying that goes like this, 'Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backward and in heels'!  Well, that what's came to mind when I saw all the ladies dressed in their colourful frocks and gorgeous shoes at the VELO VINTAGE Occasion and Ride.

I mean, I loved all the beautiful dresses and ADORED all the T-strapped shoes but I couldn't stop wondering how they were going to ride in them.

Of course the answer was...very well, thank you!

These ladies didn't just dress the part.  Their hair and makeup were period perfect.

The attention to detail was incredible.  This little dog wore a bow tie which matched the ribbons in her owner's hair.  

Hat, handbag, and even white cotton gloves completed this ensemble.  

 How lovely does this lady look with her layers of net petticoats and strings of pearls.  Once again, those shoes are to die for!  

The chaps wore those natty tweeds and pith helmets but the ladies did it with great style and in HEELS!  

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

A Passion for Fashion - The Chaps

As you recall from my previous post,  the VELO VINTAGE Occasion and Ride is not just about bicycles.  The riders are just as passionate about fashion.  I am not talking about your run of the mill Marks and Sparks togs, but real classic, vintage STYLE! 

From boaters to bowlers, top hats and tails, the gents bring back a time when a chap's best friend was his tailor. 

I noticed that there were one or two Pith Helmets about.

This fine fellow had a furry friend who coordinated perfectly with the Pith! 

The addition of a ukulele was a stroke of genius! 

And what girl can resist a man in a uniform?

Flat caps and goggles were a popular combination.  Love the braces!

This year is the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, so what could be more appropriate than a Mad Hatter's top hat!

But my favourite was this classic, all-round, proper chap's attire.

Next time... we'll take a look at the lovely ladies.  

CLICK HERE to read more about VELO VINTAGE SYLE.

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Velo Vintage Occasion and Ride

I am not easily impressed.  It takes a lot for something to seem extraordinary to me but I have to say what I witnessed this Saturday was FANTASTIC.  

It all began at about nine o'clock at the cricket club as a group of dedicated cyclist assembled for the VELO VINTAGE 8th Occasion and Ride.  One by one they sort of drifted in, on classic bicycles and velocipedes,  everyone dressed to the nines!  

It was a sight to behold!  There were chaps in tweed and magnificent moustaches.

The ladies looked lovely do they cycle in those shoes?

We even saw a World War I flying ace!

Everyone is welcome to participate, even the family pet.  Daisy, who looked smashing in her shades and tweed jacket, was ready to ride.

Tilly has a special basket especially for the occasion.

After a spot of tea and a bacon sarnie, everyone did a quick inspection of their equipment to make sure all was in order.

A quick pressure check was made.

Then a group photo was taken to mark the occasion, complete with the Mayor and Town Crier.

And they were off! 

For more information on the upcoming VELO VINTAGE EVENTS CLICK HERE!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Barrington Court and Wolf Hall

Recently, Andy and I visited Barrington Court.  You say it looks familiar to you? I am not surprised.  It was one of the National Trust properties used as a location for the filming of BBC's production of WOLF HALL. 

We had hoped to see the exhibition of Wolf Hall costumes on display but they were still setting up the displays so we will have to go back another time to see them.   Now that's not a problem.  We love visiting Barrington Court.  The gardens are always beautiful.

How's this for a veg patch?  

You can just imagine how beautiful the vegetable garden will be later on in the season.  It has all sorts of espalier and cordon fruit trees, sculptures, and a fountain.  But that's just the beginning.

The herbaceous borders are filled to bursting with blossom.  The gardens are set out in a series of rooms, inspired by Gertrude Jekyll's plans.

The borders were filled with roses, peonies, and iris.  There is even a White Garden.

I know, there is a splash or two of pastel pink...

But that only intensifies the brightness and purity of the white flowers.

Even the old Buss Stalls, they were originally for calves, are rose covered.  Take a closer look. Do you remember seeing these being used as stables in Wolf Hall?

It was about here that we could smell the tempting aromas of lunch being served in the Strode dining room.  We couldn't resist ... time to have a bite to eat before visiting Court House.

That will have to wait until Part II of Barrington Court and Wolf Hall. 

For more information about visiting Barrington Court,  CLICK HERE!