c April 2013 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Sowing Carrots and Preparing Soil

Preparing soil for growing carrots
Preparing soil for growing carrots

Growing Carrots - I am a little later than planned at sowing my carrots this year, for me it's not just a case of sprinkling a few seeds into the soil. I like to make sure the soil is prepared well to ensure a harvest of big, strong cylindrical Carrots.

As my carrots are sown in one of my raised beds, it results in them being well protected from carrot fly. This also means minimum bending for me. The Carrots of choice for me this year are Autumn King and Early Nantes 2.

Using a trowel I remove the soil where I will sow the Carrot seeds creating a channel, just past wrist deep. Then the fun starts - using a large garden sieve rub the soil through, you will then be left in the sieve with small and large stones. Watch out for worms though, you do not want to end up grating worm! I  chose not to shake the soil through the sieve, I do not have the arm muscles. You will be left with a channel filled with stone free soil for your carrots to grow straight and long without hitting any obstructions.  

Tip - it is best to sieve the soil when the soil is reasonably dry, if we have had days of rain you will find the sieving impossible.

Photographs taken using my phone.
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Afternoon Tea - Goldstone Hall, Shropshire

Afternoon Tea Goldstone Hall Shropshire
Sandwiches, cake and tea perfect!
What a delightful Afternoon Tea my sister and I enjoyed last week at Goldstone Hall near Market Drayton, Shropshire.  

Goldstone Hall - Afternoon Tea Menu

Roast beef and horseradish
Ham and grain mustard
Farmhouse Mature Cheddar and Goldstone tomato chutney

Homemade fruit scone with mixed berry jam
and Devonshire clotted cream

Chocolate eclair

Victoria sponge

I was pleasantly surprised by the array of teas available, I selected Citric Lemon which is similar to Earl Grey with oil of bergamot. My sister chose Keemun Black China a delicate flavour and a light body, both were delightfully refreshing.

The sandwiches were presented on a slate, the bread light and fresh. The ham in the sandwiches was really tasty, and sourced locally from Buttercross Farm (which also do some amazing sausages too). There was just the right balance of cakes not too much or over rich, the chocolate eclair was perfectly dinky!

Afternoon Tea at Goldstone Hall cost £12.50 - fabulous value for money and with some lovely extra touches. Such as the ribbon tied napkins, our plates were cleared once we had finished the sandwiches and we're given new plates to tuck into to the cakes. 
Goldstone Hall gardens
We even had a brief stroll around the gardens, which were looking very tidy and manicured. They had a fabulous outside area that would make a most enjoyable afternoon tea in the Summer overlooking the gardens. They have some planned openings for the National Gardening Scheme during the year. 

Goldstone Hall is definitely a place a will visit again and certainly epitomises Shropshire's Best.
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How does my garlic grow?

How does your garlic grow
Back in January I planted my gleaming white garlic cloves courtesy of a competition win from Woollygreen. For months there were no signs of life in the soil. A few weeks ago in preparation for  planting up the raised beds, they were covered with an old shower curtain and some bin bags. A simple blanket to help warm the soil up.

Earlier this week I peeked under the covers and behold - I found green shoots of garlic. Long may the sunshine and my garlic grow.
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How to spend one million Nectar points

If you were given 1,000,000 Nectar points to spend, how would you splash out. That's just what Confused.com are asking pinners to do, then show everyone what you would buy by creating your very own Pinterest board. 

So I have been busy virtually transforming my kitchen with a new cooker, fridge freezer and plenty of other gadgets and gizmos all for one million nectar points. As someone who loves to a bake my oven has its limitations and the grill can be somewhat temperamental to say the least - so a nice new oven would solve that problem. Gadgets - make life so much easier and are great time savers and a stand mixer would mean making marshmallows trouble free.

You can pop over to Pinterest to see my One Million Nectar Points Blowout boardand all the wonderful items from Argos, Sainsbury's and Homebase I have pinned.

There are 50 prizes of 2,000 real Nectar points up for grabs, which would certainly treat me to some new Pyrex bowls.

Or there is one special prize of 60,000 Nectar points awarded to a blogger. How could I resist a chance to add to the 13,374 Nectar points I currently have, which I have been saving to treat myself. So 73,000 Nectar points = kitchen gadget and happy days!
I have entered PIN FOR POINTS from confused.com

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Recipe - Chocolate and Honey Madeleines

Chocolate and Honey Madeleines Recipe
Makes 12-14
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C

60g unsalted butter - melted
1 large egg
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour

2 teaspoons cocoa powder
tablespoon or two of honey

Chocolate and Honey Madeleines

  • Melt the butter, use some of the melted butter to liberally grease the Madeleine tray.  Put the rest of the butter to one side to cool. 
  • Whisk the egg and caster sugar together until it is thick and fluffy, the whisk should leave a ribbon trail when you lift it out of the mixture.
  • Measure the flour then remove 2 teaspoons of the flour and replace it with 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder.
  • Sift the flour and cocoa into the egg and sugar mixture and fold in.  
  • Add 3 tablespoons of the cooled melted butter, again fold into the mixture.
  • Half fill each mould and bake for just 8 minutes, until firm to the touch. 
  • Leave in the tin for a few minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.
  • Whilst the Chocolate Madeleines are still warm brush them with a little warmed honey using a pastry brush.
If you enjoyed this recipe you may also like to try Lemon Madeleines.

I love it when a recipe fits into two baking challenges. This is my entry to April's Classic French baking challenge theme of Madeleines at Blue Kitchen Bakes.   

I am also entering these Madeleines into April's We Should Cocoa, over at Chocolate Log Blog this months ingredient being Honey with Chocolate.

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It's a Candle no wait its a CAKE!

I know you are looking at the picture above and you are thinking it's a candle - when in fact it's a CAKE, not  a drop of wax in sight.

I had a most enjoyable time a few weeks ago at a cake decorating class run by Louise Scofield. You may remember in December I attended another of Louise's decorating classes and made the Vintage Bauble Cake.  Well I was back again, picking up more new skills and techniques to create this wonderful Candle Cake. It really is hassle free to arrive and know everything you need will be provided and set out for you, and there will be no disruptions and even a cup of coffee waiting for you!
click on the photo to enlarge
I have done my best with the photographs but it is quite tricky to capture the lustre and shimmer of the candle. 

The cake itself is fruit cake, then covered with marzipan and sugar paste. Sounds easy, but there is a real trick to getting sugar paste to look like melted wax on the top of the cake.

I'm always asked one question when anyone sees a photo of this cake - What is the wick made of? It is simply made from a small amount of rolled petal paste, painted with black colouring gel. 

Below are photos of the Candle Cakes made by my fellow course attendees and of course Louise the tutor. I think you'll agree they are all magnificent! The finishing touches really do give the candle its realism, the customised detail to the front - in my case the little bird, and the ceramic stand the candle is displayed on which was included in the course. 

I'm sure I will be back at Louise's again to create another exciting cake. 

You will be pleased to know that the cake travelled safely home, and was eaten the very next day.
Candle cakes galore
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Giveaway - Pure Vanilla Recipe Book (closed)

Do you remember back in January I reviewed the wonderful recipe book Pure Vanilla by Shauna Server. There are some truly delicious recipes in this book, such as the Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies to name but one.  The lovely people over at PG Books are giving one of my lucky blog readers in the UK and Ireland the chance to win your very own copy of this book.

Big, Soft, Frosted Vanilla Cookie
To be in with a chance of winning follow the instructions below and complete your entry using the Rafflecopter widget below. Entering a Rafflecopter giveaway is easy. Sign into the giveaway widget with either your Facebook account or your name and email address and follow the instructions. Once you've completed a task that is listed on the widget, you will receive entries into the promotion.

If you have problems seeing the Rafflecopter widget refresh this webpage, sometimes it can take a little while for it to appear.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Review - Pure Rain Garden Spray Gun

I was intrigued when I was asked if I wanted to review a new range of garden hose products for watering the garden.  With the claim "New Technology Recreates Rainwater to Boost Plant Growth" really? How can you recreate rainwater - I mean it falls from a cloud. In fact they are referring to the technology contained within the mechanism of the hose that oxygenates tap water.

"Pure RainTM  products add millions of microscopic nano-bubbles to ordinary tap water, re-oxygenating it to recreate the natural composition of rainwater. The extra oxygen delivered by the nano-bubbles helps plants absorb nutrients quickly, making them healthier, stronger and more disease resistant."
"The technology is proven to make leafy plants grow up to 30 per cent larger than conventional watering systems and the range has a whole host of other benefits, including: 
  • Chemical free and eco-friendly, meaning less need for fertilisers and pesticides  
  • Produces larger, more robust plants with stronger roots 
  • 5-year warranty"
The last few months have not been the ideal time to be using a hose in the garden! We have had plenty of rain and then of cause came the snow, just when the garden was starting to show the colours of Spring. But come Summer I will be putting the Pure Rain hose gun to the test, "30 per cent larger leafy plants" are bold claims and I will be keeping a few pots to  water from my watering can and doing my own comparison to those watered with the Pure Rain™ hose gun. I will keep you posted through the Summer.

I was sent a Pure Rain hose gun for the purposes of this review, all opinions expressed are my own.
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