Welcome to my Country Days Blog!

I’ve lived in Devon for over 30 years and while I spend most of my time working in my studio, or in front of a TV camera or on an exhibition stand, country living does give me some time and space… to think about my next project!

A crafter in the country is never bored – nature is a huge treasure trove! Beachcombing, walking on Dartmoor, or rummaging about in hedgerows (while Richard pretends not to notice) produces all sorts of goodies. Shells, feathers, wildflowers, leaves – natural things are so often the ‘light bulb moment’ that gives me an idea for something new!

I have hundreds – actually, make that thousands ­– of ideas and projects from crafts to cookery to flowers that I thought I could share with you through a weekly country-inspired blog.

I love hearing from fellow crafters and swapping ideas and useful hints and tips, so do please feedback your comments on my blog, I’m sure it will be a lot of fun!

Say ‘Happy Easter!’ with this lovely bunny card

If there is an Easter Bunny (how can we doubt it?) then I am sure he would be really happy curled up in a basket like this one! I think this card is a really sweet way of saying ‘Happy Easter’ to someone special – young or old.

Here, I have used a straightforward card that has an extra couple of folds to make the ‘mountain and valley’ effect at the front. The grass can be made several ways – there are lots of grassy die cuts or you could perhaps use some fringing scissors.

The chocolate card for the egg is given a lovely extra chocolately texture by embossing. You can then cut the egg shape with a template or with a die.

The dear little rabbit is from our House-Mouse Happy Hoppers range and is called ‘Special Baby’. Hehas been inked with a Memento pad and then coloured with Promarkers – Almond and Warm Grey2 for the bunny, Vanilla and Khaki for the basket and Ivory, Blossom, Tea Green and Lavender for the eggs!

It’s then assembled using double sided tape and Pinflair Glue Gel. Then all you have to do, is give it to someone special… along with a nice big chocolate Easter Egg!

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend with family or friends and that the sun shines on us all!

Smiles, Joanna

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The cream of Devon!

It may not be healthy and it may not be slimming – but it is utterly delicious! I’m talking about a Devon cream tea and, with this spell of glorious weather, l’ve spotted lots of lucky people sitting outside cafés and in pub gardens all tucking into this simple yet scrummy treat. But is it that simple…?

I always think of Devon as the home of the clotted cream tea… but is it? It’s a debate that has been rumbling on for years between the Devonians and the Cornish. Devon has a pretty strong claim to it as, apparently, there is evidence of people eating bread with cream and jam at Tavistock Abbey in Devon as far back as the 11th century!

In Devon, we start by halving a freshly baked scone, where as in Cornwall, the cream tea was traditionally served with a ‘Cornish split’, a type of slightly sweet white bread roll. But it seems that nowadays, the Cornish have seen sense and have moved over to scones too.

Then there’s the really crucial question: which is correct – do you put the jam or the cream on first? I’m a fan of jam first, it gives you a firm base to then dollop on – I mean delicately spread – the cream. Put the cream on first and it can all get a bit slippery and the jam slides off. But there are plenty of people who insist cream first is right. What do you think?

And is it jam, then cream in Devon, and cream then jam in Cornwall…? Or the other way around? I can tell you, it is a regular topic of heated debate in this part of the world! Feelings run so high that a couple of years ago, the organisers of a Devon food festival had to commission a new publicity poster after the first one featured a cream tea made the Cornish way. Trouble is, what they said was the Cornish way, is what I call the Devon was – jam first. Oh dear!

It’s all so complicated… and we haven’t even considered the jam itself. For me, it has to be strawberry. I’m told raspberry is very good too, while some racy people even opt for damson. Surely not!

All I know is that my Mother, Diana, makes the most perfect cream tea. She’s of a generation that can turn out two dozen scones at the drop of a hat and always seems to have clotted cream to hand. She makes her own jam, of course and, with the addition of a few slices of fresh strawberry as an added treat, can produce the most delicious cream tea you’ll find anywhere. Lucky me!

 

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Salmon & Ginger Pie, with Lemon Thyme & Lime

This exceptional pie is highly recommended! The recipe uses salmon’s special flavour to the full.

Serves 4-6

You will need:

4 salmon fillets (The flat shape, not the chunky ones) weighing 800g/1¾ lb

3 tbsp walnut oil

1 tbsp lime juice

2 tsp chopped fresh lemon thyme

2 tbsp white wine

Salt and pepper

400g/14oz puff pastry

50g/2oz flaked almonds

3-4 pieces stem ginger in syrup, chopped.

  1. Place the four salmon fillets in a shallow dish. Mix the oil, lime juice, thyme, wine and pepper, and pour over the fish. Leave to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Divide the pastry into two pieces, one slightly larger then the other, and roll out – the smaller piece should be large enough to take two of the salmon fillets and the second piece about 5cm/2in larger all round. Drain the fillets and discard the marinade.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/350ºF/gas 5. Place two of the fillets on the smaller piece of pastry, and season. Add the almonds and ginger and cover with the other two fillets.
  4. Season again, cover with the second piece of pastry and seal well. Brush with beaten egg and decorate with any leftover pastry. Bake for 40 minutes.

 

 

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Herbs for colour…

I always have to restrain myself at this time of year – unlike me I know! Yes, it’s spring and everything is bursting into life, but no, it is not *quite* time to start rushing outside and planting things as we are not safely free of frost yet.

Some of my veg growing friends have got their beds prepared and have planted their early potatoes but generally, it’s best to hang on just a week or so longer…

Luckily, one of my favourite pastimes is buying packets of seeds and looking through seed catalogues or, more likely nowadays, browsing websites full of beautiful photos of plants and herbs.

Although I don’t have time to grow veg, I do like to cultivate herbs. Herbs are so wonderful – they look gorgeous, they smell wonderful and they are delicious too.

If you intend to grow some herbs this year, now is the time to start planning and, if you can, sowing seeds indoors or in the greenhouse.

I made a list of some of the prettiest herbs I could think of and thought I’d share that with you as you might like to try something new. 

Borage
Rich blue, for salads and summer drinks, it grows like wildfire in this part of the world!

Lavender
That lovely soft purple, for scent, pot-pourri and also cooking

Nasturtiums
Vivid reds and yellows, easy to grow and lovely to add pepperiness and beauty to a salad or garnish

Violets
Purple, for medicines and crystalised decorations

Elderflowers
White and fragrant for wines, cordials and favouring fruit dishes. Again, grow freely everywhere! 

Pot marigolds or calendulas
Vivid orange for salads, pot-pourri and food colouring

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Carrot Cake with Geranium Cheese

At a pinch, you can justify carrot cake as being good for you – at least this is an excuse for taking a good many calories on board! But the flavour is worth it.

You will need:

To make one cake

  • 2-3 scented geranium leaves (preferably with a lemon scent
  • 225g/8oz cups icing sugar
  • 115g/4oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • 200g/7oz soft brown sugar
  • 225g/8oz grated carrot
  • 150g/5oz sultanas
  • 150g/5oz finely shopped preserved stem ginger
  • 150g/5oz pecan nuts
  • 150g/5oz sunflower oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Butter to grease tin

Cream cheese topping

  • 30g/1/4 oz softened butter
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind
  1. Put the geraniums leaves, torn into small to medium-sized pieces, in a small bowl and mix with the icing sugar. Leave in a warm place overnight for the sugar to take up the scent of the leaves.
  2. Sift the flour, soda and spices together. Add the soft brown sugar, carrots, sultanas, ginger and pecans. Stir well then add the oil and beaten eggs. Mix with an electric beater for about 5 minutes, or 10-15 minutes longer by hand.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease a 13 x 23cm/5 x 9 in loaf tin, line the base with greaseproof paper, and then grease the paper. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for about 1 hour. Remove the cake from the oven, leave to stand for a few minutes, and then turn it out on to a wire rack to cool.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese topping. Remove the pieces of geranium leaf from the icing sugar and discard them. Place the cream cheese, butter and lemon rind in a bowl. Using an electric beater or a wire whisk, gradually add the icing sugar, beating well until smooth
  5. Once the cake has cooled, cover the top with the cream cheese mixture…. And enjoy!

 

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