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

David Austin Roses Tearoom

I am sure that any keen gardener will have heard of David Austin Roses, synonymous with the  breeding of English Roses. I am almost ashamed to admit that they are only around a 20 minute car journey from where I live, and I have never been. Located at Albrighton, Shropshire their Rose Garden contains the National Collection of English Roses. 

Tearoom David Austin Roses
David Austin Roses Tea Room

Although with all the rain earlier in the week roses that were in bloom were not at their best. But to be honest the Roses were not the purpose of the visit, my sister and I were going to put the tearoom through it's paces. 
David Austin Roses - Gift Shop!!
On route to the tearoom we passed through the gift shop. Wow what an amazing gift shop, oh my, there were so many wonderful gifts and treats. I really could of gone to town, there were some wonderful kitchen china, soft furnishings, purses, gift ideas I could go on and on. 
Coconut and raspberry cake
Having received two recommendations for the tearoom, one from my aunt and another from an on line acquaintance Julie, I had great expectations. We were not disappointed, I selected the rich chocolate cake with creme fresh and raspberries and my sister had a rather large piece of coconut and raspberry cake. I fancied a cup of coffee for a change, my sister order tea and she had a huge teapot all to herself. Both our drinks were served with  I think a lovely almond butter biscuit, very melt in your mouth. I loved the fabric of the curtains in the tea room, would of been lovely if the waiting-on staff had some matching pinnies! The teapot and teacups were a design especially made for David Austin Roses which was of course available in the gift shop. 
Chocolate cake with raspberries
Can not wait to go back with my mum and both my sisters for afternoon tea, hopefully next Summer when all the roses will be in full bloom.
Alnwick Rose David Austin Roses
Alnwick Rose - David Austin Roses
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Hairy Dieters Sparkling Lemonade and Lime Jelly Recipe

Lemonade and Lime Jelly from the Hairy Bikers. I have rather indulged in too many cakes and biscuits of late and wanted to make something a little less calorie laden. My sister has raved about the Hairy Dieters recipe book, which she has kindly lent to me. I will return - promise! Whilst looking through I found this perfect light low calorie dessert.

Lemonade and Lime Jelly Recipe
Sparking Lemonade and Lime Jelly recipe can be found on page 165 The Hairy Dieters cookery book.

The recipe is for six jellies, I halved the ingredients and still made four small jellies. 

3 sheets of leaf gelatine
2 tbsp Lime squash 
25 ml water
300 ml diet lemonade
the recipe in the book suggested blueberries and raspberries. However I used a handful of raspberries from my garden (not many left now) and cheated and opened a tin of peaches!

  • soak the gelatine for 5 minutes in water
  • add the cordial and water into a saucepan and warm through, then remove from heat
  • take the gelatine and squeeze out the excess water then add it to the pan of water and stir, it should dissolve almost immediately
  • pour the lemonade into a jug add the gelatine mixture and stir, watch out this will fizz up.  
  • add the fruit to your glasses then pour in most of the jelly, keep some back but do not put this in the fridge. 
  • pop your jellies in the fridge to set for 3 hours, take out and stir the wobbly jelly this will activate the extra bubbles.  Top off with the remaining jelly mixture you kept back.

I liked this recipe it gives you scope to be creative.  Using different fruit you may have growing in the garden, or which tins of fruit are in your cupboards. I thought I may try this with tonic water,  ginger ale or of course champagne. Obviously you will need to watch your ingredients if you still want to maintain this dessert as a diet option.

This post is part of the Hairy Bikers Bloggers Know Best Challenge #2 hosted by Jo's Kitchen.

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How to Save Cornflower Seeds

Enjoyed a display of beautiful Cornflowers? I will show you how to save your Cornflower seeds, for another display next year. 
How to Save Cornflower seeds
Dwarf Cornflower collected seed heads
Six years ago I bought myself a packet of Dwarf Cornflower seeds, which I planted and cared for resulting in a wonderful display of bright blue flowers. At the end of the year I collected the seeds from the flowers and stored them. I'll admit to not really knowing what I was doing, I was new to gardening back then. The following year I planted the very seeds I had collected and again was rewarded with an abundance of little blue Cornflowers. I have repeated this exercise every year since, although I do get the odd pink Cornflower make an appearance amongst all the blue.

So again this year I let the remaining flower heads go to seed, then collected the dried seed heads. By rubbing the seed head between my thumb and finger all the tiny seeds drop out, it is best to do this in the greenhouse or house as one whiff of a breeze and the seeds will disappear on the wind. Place into a paper bag or seed bag and label clearly, store in a cool dark place. I keep mine in a seed tin in the garage. 
How to Save Cornflower seeds
Dwarf Cornflower Seeds
If you have any flowers in the garden that have now gone to seed, be sure to collect those seeds ready for a free display of colour next year. Marigolds are particularly easy to collect and sow.
How to Save Cornflower seeds

How to save flower seeds gardening tutorial

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Whitworths Great Office Bake Off - October Shortbread #GOBO

Last week saw the second of the Great Office Bake Off take place at work, and the challenge for October was a technical bake with a twist.  Nothing too tricky mind it needed to attract bakers of all experience, so I selected Shortbread and the twist, the option of adding one other ingredient of the bakers choice. 

Everyone at work was conscious that we used a recipe I had not made before, not that we were competitive you understand.  I selected the Whitworths Sugar Shortbread recipe, everyone had the choice to shape and bake the biscuits to their own design. 

Lavender Shortbread

I chose to add lavender as my secret ingredient (one tablespoon) and decided on a round biscuit, I was very pleased indeed with the result. Although I would recommend some extra flour.  There were five entrants in all, and as you can see from the photographs even though we all used the same recipe they are all very different. There were plenty of people wanting to sample and judge the bakes, it was a tricky task and there were only three points between the top three bakes. I have to confess that I really loved the Chocolate Chip Shortbread that won, I munched my way through quite a few of these in the afternoon!

The winners of the Great Office Bake Off were:
              1st Place -  A) Chocolate Chip Shortbread
              2nd Place  - E) Lavender Shortbread
              3rd Place -  B) Classic Shortbread

The shortbread was then sold to raise money for the Royal British Legion.

If you enjoyed this then be sure to read about last months #GOBO challenge when we made Loaf Bakes, which resulted in a real variety of bakes.

If you want to organise your own Great Office Bake Off you can download everything you need from the Whitworths  Great Office Bake Off #GOBO Toolkit. You can also follow Whitworths Sugar on Twitter, and share your bakes via a tweet. 

Disclosure: I was sent Whitworths sugar for baking and compensated for this post.
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Rainy day? Pinterest Inspiration!

A rather wet and cold Autumn day led me to browse around my Pinterest boards. Which in turn led to some impromptu card making and in the months to come hopefully save me a few pennies.  I already had to hand all the bits and pieces including the blank cards, lots of paper and fabric off cuts.

All of the cards I made following designs or inspiration found on Pinterest.  I'll admit that some are not as perfect as as they could be - but hey I am a newcomer to all this crafting malarkey!  If you really want you can even follow me on Pinterest, be sure to let me know if you are on Pinterest - leave me a comment below.

Apologies for the poor quality photographs.

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Chocolate Cake in a Mug recipe

Need cake but do not want to wait for the oven to heat up and then wait for your bake - the answer you need is Cake in a Mug recipe! In just over the time it takes to make yourself a cup of tea or a hot chocolate, you can have homemade cake. Technically my cake is in a cup and not a mug, this I know, but the cake inside is just the same whether it be a mug or cup.
Cake in a Cup
Perfect Cake in a mug Recipe

Recipe: Hot Chocolate Cake in a Mug 

1 egg
2 oz self raising flour
2 oz butter softened
2 oz caster sugar
replace 1 teaspoon on flour with cocoa powder

Mix the ingredients above well so they are well combined, the ingredients above are sufficient for one mug or two smaller cups. If you do not want chocolate cake then do not replace the flour with cocoa.
Fill your cup half full with mixture
Depending on the power of your microwave and the size of your mug/cup cook on high for one minute to two and a half minutes. Just keep checking, you do not want to overcook your cake!

The perfect cake in a cup recipe
Decorate with a swirl of fresh cream, top with a cherry and a grating of dark chocolate. I find this type of cake best served whilst still slightly warm.
The cherry on the top of a cake in a mug recipe

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Garlic the Harvest

Garlic a disappointing harvest
It is easy to share the successes when it comes to gardening or baking, but it is never easy confessing the failures. But here goes...do you remember the Garlic I planted last year, well the results are in. It all started well and the bulbs appeared to be grow healthy until it came to harvesting time last month. 

There was only one bulb that really resembled a garlic bulb, the rest were either almost separate cloves or did not have the bulb outer covering on them.

The only thing I can think that may have caused this disappointment is a lack of water during the really hot weather in July. I think I will probably be giving garlic a miss in the garden for a year or two.

I would love to know of any other opinions of what may have caused this poor harvest, do let me know what you think.
planting time
a promising start
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Showstopper Chequerboard Cake Recipe with Home Bargains

Would I like to bake a Showstopper Cake? The lovely people at Home Bargains have sent me a selection of some of their great products so I can get involved with the #GBBO craze and bake my very own Showstopper cake. I turned to my Great British Bake Off book and had a flick through for inspiration and decided on a recipe for Chocolate Checkerboard cake.

Chocolate Checkerboard Cake Recipe
Chocolate Checkerboard Cake Recipe
The  cake was quite straight forward, make a vanilla sponge mix which you then split and  add some cocoa and  milk  to one half.  Then using two  piping bags, pipe the two sponge mixes into the cake pans. I used the Home Bargains round  silicone cake trays, I made sure  these were greased and  have to say  the cake  turned out easily and perfectly using the stainless steel spatula.

Home bargains baking
Home Bargains baking goodies
Whilst I waited for the cake to cool, I made some white chocolate and some plain chocolate ganache. The pink silicone trivet £0.79 was most useful at protecting the work surface as I was mixing the heated cream into the chocolate. It also takes up less room than a traditional wooden trivet.  I have to say the white chocolate ganache was absolutely gorgeous, I thoroughly indulged in eating the leftovers! 

silicone cake tray

silicone trivet
Trivet time

The two cakes were sandwiched together with the white chocolate ganache, and then the fun began smothering the cake with rich dark chocolate ganache. Now this is where the Stainless Steel spatula really came into its own, I was very impressed it is slightly offset which makes it easier to work with and priced at only £0.99 it really is a Home Bargains bargain!

Easy checkerboard cake recipe

Easy recipe checkerboard cake
Easy checkerboard cake recipe
The cake was transported down to Worcestershire where the 50 years young birthday boy was waiting. As you can see below when you cut a slice of cake the checkerboard effect can be seen, how very clever! What a tasty and wonderful Home Bargains Showstopper Cake it was, will now try and persuade my niece to have this cake in pink for her next birthday.

Loved the spatula with measurements from Home Bargains
I  am looking forward to using the  super cute  Woodland animals cake cases during  the forthcoming school holidays when my niece and I can bake some fairy cakes.

Easy recipe checkerboard cake
Catch the cake quick before it all goes!
I have to say you can always rely on finding a huge variety of products at fabulous prices from the now well established Home Bargains. 

I was sent a selection of items from Home Bargains for the purposes of review, all opinions expressed are my own.
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