A summer soup…

My foraging friend Julia Horton-Powdrill is always introducing new seasonal recipes for either things she’s grown in her veg garden or foraged from some passing hedgerow, beach or field margin.

She currently has an excellent pea crop and, while they are delicious cooked and cooled and added to a green salad, she has also used them in a lovely soup that can be enjoyed hot or cold. It combines the sweetness of the peas with the zing of wild mint! As you will know, mint is a terribly over-enthusiastic plant, so either grow in a pot to try and contain it, or find some growing wild, as Julia has done here.

Wild mint & pea soup

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + extra for serving
  • 25g butter
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced or/and wild garlic leaves
  • 750g fresh peas, shelled (frozen peas are great!!)
  • 75g wild mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preparation:

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and cook on a gentle heat for 10 minutes or until the onion is soft but not brown. Add the garlic (if using) and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Add 3/4 of the peas, the chopped mint leaves, the wild garlic leaves (if using) and 3/4 stock. Cover the saucepan with a tight fitting lid and cook on a medium boil for 10 minutes.

Blend the soup in a food processor; you will have a thick purée. Return the purée to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the remaining peas and stock. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with crusty, fresh bread.

This soup is absolutely delicious hot or cold.

You can find out more about Julia’s foraging courses here.

 

 

 

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Peonies & clematis… a little bit different!

Much as I love looking at my flowers in the garden, it seems a shame that so many of them are out of sight when you are in the house and so I really enjoy bringing them indoors even if they are likely to be short lived.

I have this arrangement on my desk and it brings me huge pleasure every time I look at it. Peonies are such an amazing flower – and the stems of clematis wrapped around the arrangement just bring a careless country feel to it.

Start with a glass cube vase – they’re endlessly useful and can be bought from garden centres, Ikea and numerous other household type places. Soak some green Oasis in water for an hour or so while you are picking the flowers. Then place the well soaked Oasis in the cube and top up with a couple of inches of water. Take a large wide leaf – it could be a fern, an exotic plant in the garden like a banana leaf or a palm. We are lucky down here and the temperate climate (sometimes!) allows these plants to flourish.  Fix it with a folded hairpin of wire. Then place the peonies low and spread across the vase – in this arrangement I used six. I would usually stick to an odd number but I just couldn’t fit the seventh one in so put it in a bud vase!

The freesias in the arrangement were not from the garden, I cheated as I saw a small bunch in the supermarket and couldn’t resist! Finally cut some long strands of clematis and wind around the vase, again holding in place with wire. I made the clematis into a sort of mini wreath and then lowered it over the flowers and tucked just one long wire hairpin into the oasis to make sure it didn’t slip.

Just something pretty and a little bit different!

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My Top 10 TV Series…

Richard and I seem to watch a fairly small amount of TV – it’s the old problem of nothing being on when we want to sit and watch and then missing really good things because we are away or working. So we have started buying whole TV series or recording them to watch when it suits us – here are my Top Ten TV series that I have been watching lately – all of them are available on DVDs so you can buy them fairly cheaply on eBay or Amazon!

  1. Castle – a detective series where the two detectives fall in love…. the actor Nathan Fillion is rather nice looking too!
  2. Nashville – a relatively new series based in Nashville about country music – lovely actors and the soundtrack is wonderful – can you tell I am a country fan?Well it seems lots of other people liked it too as they have commissioned a second series.
  3. House – a medical puzzle series with Hugh Laurie. I have long been a fan of his, and this is just wonderful!
  4. The Good Wife – a series about a strong woman. Lovely actress Julianna Margulies plays a lawyer and we were fascinated by this one.
  5. The Big Bang Theory – if you have a geeky husband and relations as I do, this makes me laugh over and over, far too close for comfort on some of the characters! It’s about a group of scientists that share a flat and friendships, while working at a university in the research departments.
  6. Grey’s Anatomy – another medical drama. I am watching this one currently and really enjoying it, another good looking actor to spot, Patrick Dempsey. There are umpteen (well nine) series so far, so it must be well-loved.
  7. Game of Thrones – when Richard first started watching this I thought I would do some crafting and keep out of the way but I found myself drawn into it and really enjoyed it.
  8. Merlin – the best ever portrayal of the Arthurian legend in my opinion – I just love it! 
  9. The Inspector Morse series – I know these are quite old, but they were beautifully written, filmed and acted and I still enjoy them. Wasn’t John Thaw an amazing actor?
  10. The Blackadder series – last but not least! I have to include Blackadder – old and often watched, but I still laugh and the comedians are all such world-class talented guys. Very British humour and priceless!

Do you have any favourites?

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Lemon Drizzle Cake with Cream Cheese filling

I was so thrilled how well this cake turned out and the fruit decoration looks stunning but more importantly it goes really well with the cake. The addition of the fresh fruit can lift it from a tea time treat into a lovely pudding… err with some clotted cream? No OK, maybe that’s too many calories!

The filling is delicious and not overly sickly as it’s a Philadelphia base – so try it!

Cake

  • 210g Caster Sugar
  • 210g Butter
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g SR Flour
  • 50g Ground Almonds

Preheat oven to 180ºc/160ºc fan, grease and line an 8” tin.

Beat sugar and butter until creamy, mix in lemon zest and then the eggs one at a time, fold in the flour and ground almonds until just combined. Pour into a prepared tin and bake for about 30-40mins.

Drizzle

  • 75g Caster sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Mix together until sugar dissolved. Once the cake has cooled, prick the top and drizzle over the liquid.

Cream Cheese Filling

  • 1 tub (300g) Philidelphia cream cheese
  • 100g Icing Sugar
  • 1 Lemon (juice & zest)

Mix all together until smooth, use as much or as little icing sugar depending on how sweet you would like it to be and add lemon juice a little at a time, to ensure mixture does not get too runny.

Split the cake in two, spread with the filling, finish by dusting with icing sugar and lemon zest. Then decorate with fruits as in the icture, or choose strawberries, raspberries or any other fresh fruit of your choice. 

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Stencilled cupcakes

Cupcakes are so popular these days, here are a couple of very pretty design ideas for you – butterfly stencilled cupcakes and a sweet embossed and painted cupcake. 

I have used the ‘Butterfly A6 Stencil Starter Kit’ which you can buy from our website. This provides everything you need apart from the cupcakes and fondant!

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes (any of your choice) – homemade or cheat and buy some!
  • Butter-cream icing
  • Coloured Fondant Icing
  • Butterfly Stencil Kit
  • Round cutter (roughly the same size as the cake tops)

Method

Put a small amount of butter-cream onto the top of each cupcake and smooth, this will ensure the fondant will stay put and will smooth out any bumps on the cake.

Roll out the fondant to about 3-5mm thick. Take the stencil and press down lightly, then  brush over the surface with the brush and powder provided in the kit, try not to leave too much residue on the stencil. Carefully peel off the stencil, then use the round cutter and place the finished discs on the cupcakes, being careful not to touch the stencilled surface too much. 

Katy Sue Designs Cupcake Mould

Ingredients

  • Cupcakes
  • Small amount of butter cream
  • Corn flour
  • Floral Meadow Cupcake Mould
  • Fondant
  • Edible food pens (Dusky Pink/Grape Violet/Yellow/Holly Ivy Green)

Method

Take a cupcake and smooth a little butter cream onto it – this will stop the fondant slipping or falling off. Rub a little corn flour into the mould to prevent the fondant sticking. Take the fondant and make a ball, then flatten until the same size as the Floral Meadow mould, press the fondant into the mould, ensuring it does not move about once pushed in. Carefully peel the mould away from the fondant and place this on to the cupcake, leave fondant to harden a little before colouring in with the edible food pens.

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