• Where to go woodland foraging

    by  • 09/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Mushroom foraging | Country Days | AlamyThe wet weather of the past few weeks means that mushrooms are popping up all over the woods, so now is the time to get out searching for fungi! If you’re new to foraging, always opt for an expert-led course. Here are a handful of our favourites in Herefordshire, North Yorkshire, Cork, Hampshire and Devon. Be sure to book early as places go quickly…

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    Mushroom, Potato and Ale Pie

    by  • 08/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Ready_Mushroom Potato and Ale Pie

    Inspired by a British classic, this comforting vegan pie packed with mushrooms and potatoes proves that not all pies need to be meaty to taste delicious.

    Serves 4

    200g large white mushrooms
    400g mixed mushrooms (depending on the season, porcini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shiitake, chanterelles, etc)
    2 waxy potatoes
    1 large onion
    1 clove of garlic
    1 stick of celery
    2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
    2 tbsp neutral-flavoured vegetable oil
    20g soy margarine
    1-2 level tbsp cornflour
    3 tbsp dark miso paste
    1-2 level tbsp vegetable stock powder
    1 pinch salt
    1 pinch ground white pepper
    250ml ale
    250g vegan puff pastry
    Neutral-flavoured vegetable oil for brushing

    1. Prepare the mushrooms, wipe with a damp cloth or wash and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Peel the potatoes and cut into 3/4 inch pieces. Peel the onions and the garlic, wash and prepare the celery and dice everything finely. Pluck the thyme leaves.
    2. Heat the oil and the margarine in a frying pan. Fry the potato and celery cubes with the onions and the garlic for 4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the thyme leaves and fry for a further 5 minutes.
    3. Dissolve the cornflour/cornstarch, miso paste, vegetable stock powder and seasoning in the ale and add to the mushrooms. Leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Pour into an oven-proof tin and allow to cool.
    4. Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Roll out the puff pastry and prick finely with a fork so that it rises evenly when baking. Cover the tin with the pastry. Brush the pastry with oil and bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes.

    Vegan Love Story, HILTL & TIBITS The Cookbook, published by New Internationalist Publications.

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    Cosy up with woolly cushions

    by  • 07/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Ready_group copyIn celebration of Wool Week UK (5-11 October), we chat to Catherine Nelson of WoolSoft, a ‘nuts & bolts’ business that makes 100% British wool-filled inserts for scatter cushions, floor cushions, bolsters, pouffes and more. Her most recent venture sees a complete cushion collection, all covered in beautiful tartan wool fabrics (above) – perfect for cosy autumnal room schemes!

    How did WoolSoft come about?
    I was brought up in North Wales, Lleyn Peninsula and everything at home had to be wool otherwise it was ‘no good’ – according to my late mother! I saw for myself how hard a life it was for shepherds, but they kept going, and deep down I always felt I owed them something for their labours. I feel that WoolSoft is my nod to them and those who have followed them.

    Describe the making process.
    Our inserts are not rolled off a production line, we make the casings ourselves, all of which bear the British Wool Marketing Board label. As for the wool, we are passionate about that as you can imagine! It must be of a high quality. It’s hard work sorting it all out as it’s worked by hand and larger items such as bits of twig and hay, have to be taken out before being stuffed into the casings!

    Why is it so important to you to use British wool?
    Apart from the obvious economic benefits to sheep farmers and wool producers, the UK have a huge variety of sheep breeds that produce wool for all sorts of uses, from carpeting to fine fabrics and knitwear. As far as I’m concerned it’s the best.

    In what way do you promote and support the use of British wool?
    In any way possible! I personally will only buy wool products made using British wool. I’m a keen support of the Campaign for Wool, which has made a huge difference to the appreciation of this wonderful fibre. I never stop ‘bleating’ on about it! There’s no doubt that since the Campaign began there has been an upsurge in the use of wool. Whilst the price has gone up, farmers now get a better return and this in turn leads to better quality wool all round.

    What do you love about working and living in the countryside?
    The truth is you’re never lonely. I live in a tiny community and we all know each other. I have marvellous neighbours and the wildlife is wonderful – there’s always something to see and hear, different creatures and birds! Every day is different and even in the worst weather there is still something to admire and appreciate.


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    Mix it up with checks and stripes

    by  • 06/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Country kitchen diner

    Grey may be the new white, especially when it comes to kitchen colour schemes, but there’s no doubt that it can benefit from a little warming up. This super chic country kitchen demonstrates how on-trend grey teamed with accents of toasty red can create a cosy look that’s guaranteed to get you in the mood for those chilly days ahead.

    Because it’s practical and versatile, grey is the perfect shade to use in a kitchen. Not only is it a neutral colour that goes with anything, but it brings a sophisticated edge to a scheme. A good way of making an impact is by experimenting with different tones of grey – here an easy-on-the-eye mid grey creates classic cabinets, while a rich charcoal adds definition to the walls and splashback, as well as updating a rustic  farmhouse table.

    Introduce fabrics featuring bold red checks and stripes for the perfect rustic contrast to grey (mixing and matching patterns gives a country kitchen a contemporary feel). These gorgeous fabrics are from the Serenity collection by British textile designers Barker & Barker, and they look stunning made into chair covers, table runners and curtains.

    Then incorporate industrial light fittings and vintage enamelware into your scheme for the perfect finishing touches.

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    Support Wool Week

    by  • 05/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Wool Week 2016The beauty and benefits of wool are being celebrated in its many forms from today until 11 October. Wool Week UK unites leading interiors and fashion brands for a week of activities across the country.

    If you’re in London, pop along to the wool lounge at the Capsu-Wool pop-up. Designed to preview some of the top interior styles for the coming season, you’ll see fabulous flooring, fabrics and furnishings in on-trend colours that capture the versatility of real wool for design and decor in the home. There are also knitting craft workshops taking place so book a place.

    You can also support the cause by celebrating Woolly Hat Day on 9 October with free downloadable patterns from Debbie Bliss, Marie Wallin, Craft Revolution, Wool & the Gang and R&B.

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    Get creative with pressed flowers

    by  • 04/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Ready_rt_808648Picked at their colourful best and then preserved, pressed flowers and foliage retain the beauty of summer long after the fresh versions fade. Transform diaries, journals and notebooks by decorating paper covers with your favourite dried blooms.

    It couldn’t be simpler to do. Invest in an flower press or do it the old fashioned way: place blotting paper between the pages of a heavy book (moisture from the flowers will wrinkle the pages, so bear this in mind when choosing) and lay your flowers flat inside before closing. Pile heavy books on top and store somewhere dry. Change the blotting paper every few days. After a couple of weeks the flowers will be completely dry. They’re delicate so remove very carefully – tweezers are a good idea!

    To make a book cover, cut good quality paper to size: lay the book open and measure the width, adding 6 inches; measure the height, adding 3 inches. Place the book in the centre, fold over the edges and secure with tape. Adorn with your favourite flowers and foliage, and tie with a piece of rustic twine for decoration.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – boot room storage buys

    by  • 03/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Ready_boot roomsDon’t you just love autumn? Patchworks of coppery fallen leaves… Cosy layers… Soul-warming suppers and, not to put a dampener on it – but inevitably, a whole lot of rain!

    Don’t despair! In preparation for a season of splattered wellies, soggy coats and unruly dog leads we’ve rounded-up three essential boot room buys to prevent muddy footprints from wandering inside.

    Opt for stylish storage. The versatile Henley Basket Storage Bench, £288, from Rowen & Wren features a slender frame and clever discreet storage – the perfect space saving solution for a snug boot room. Use it to stow away shoes, scarves and hats, and take a perch to pull your walking boots on and off!

    Clear the clutter and give shoes a new home with this new large wooden box unit, £300, from Cox & Cox. Made from hand selected spruce that is both robust and hardwearing, this rustic design with twelve cubby holes is inspired by old fashioned shoe lockers. Add comfy cushions to the top to transform into a handy bench.

    Hang sodden outer layers to dry on a country-chic peg rail. The Suffolk 6 Ft Coat Rack, £180, from Neptune is an elegant solution for any cloak room. This piece is painted in Honed Slate as standard, but an additional hand painting service is available in a range of Neptune’s custom colours.

    Boot rooms often see more traffic than the front door so now you can keep things tidy with these super finds!




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    Go on a cookery course…

    by  • 01/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Cookery SchoolAs the nights get cooler, it’s time to whip up some delicious family meals and comforting treats! Be inspired to try new recipes and techniques with the help of cookery schools that teach students in small relaxed groups. Try a Seasonal Dinner Party course featuring starters, mains, desserts and bakes, a Charcuterie workshop or a Cheese-making course at these welcoming cookery schools in Gloucesterhire, Hampshire and Cheshire…

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    Smokey Fishcakes with Dill and Horseradish Mayo

    by  • 01/10/2015 • 0 Comments

    Ready_Smokey Fishcakes with Dill and Horseradish Mayonaise p.77 copy

    This recipe is a delicious way of making a little smoked salmon go far. Scandinavian-style mayonnaise goes beautifully with any smoked fish and it’s particularly at home here with these lovely, comforting fishcakes.

    Makes 4 large or 8 small fishcakes

    50g (2oz) butter
    75g (3oz) shallots, peeled and chopped
    1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
    375g (13oz) smoked haddock (ask for undyed), cut into 1cm (1/2in) dice
    100g (31/2oz) smoked salmon, finely chopped
    1/2 tsp salt
    Good twist of black pepper
    300g (11oz) cold mashed potato
    1 tbsp chopped dill
    1 egg, beaten
    A little flour (optional)

    For the dill and horseradish mayonnaise

    1 egg yolk
    1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    2 tsp cider vinegar
    2 tsp honey
    15g (1/2oz) grated horseradish 1 tbsp chopped dill
    Pinch of salt
    Twist of black pepper
    100ml (31/2fl oz) sunflower oil


    1. First, make the mayonnaise. Put all the ingredients except the sunflower oil into a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the oil in a very slow trickle, whisking constantly (either by hand or using a hand-held electric beater). When all the oil has been added you should have a soft thick consistency. Adjust the seasoning and put in the fridge while you make the fishcakes.
    2. Melt half the butter in a saucepan on a medium heat, add the shallot and garlic, cover the pan and cook for 5–6 minutes until softened. When soft, add the haddock and salmon and season with salt and pepper. Cook, uncovered, stirring frequently, until cooked thoroughly. Leave the fish mixture to cool.
    3. Mix the cold fish with the cold mashed potato. Add the dill and beaten egg and season to taste. Mix again, then form into 4 large or 8 small patties (flour your hands if you need to).
    4. Heat the remaining butter in a frying pan on a medium heat until foaming. Fry the patties for 4–5 minutes on each side until golden brown and hot right through.
    5. Serve the fishcakes with the dill and horseradish mayonnaise and a green salad.

    Coast: Recipes from Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Coast by Rachel Allen is published by HarperCollins, photography by Maja Smend.

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    Love pretty prints

    by  • 30/09/2015 • 0 Comments

    taraDesigners and lifelong friends, Kate and Jo established their business, Katey and Josephine, in 2012. After dropping their children off at school they step into their ‘business shoes’ (i.e. slippers!), put the kettle on and get to work, designing stylish home textiles and accessories from their studio in Yorkshire…

    How did Katey and Josephine come about?
    Way back in 1984, we met at school, aged 7, and have been friends ever since, enjoying many art and textiles lessons together. In 1998 we talked about owning our own business and selling our homemade wares, but life got in the way. It wasn’t until 2012 that we decided to really make a go of it.

    Describe the design process.
    Our starting points are very varied, and that’s what keeps it interesting for us. For example, we may stitch, collage, draw, or paint, to create the initial design. We scan in these designs in order to rework them digitally, finishing with a digital pattern that may then need to be adapted – we always consider the end product and how the design is translated onto it.

    What inspires your designs?
    Having been friends for so many years, our interests and likes are often very similar, and so our inspiration is often very similar too. We love colour, pattern, natural features, unusual ways of seeing things and discovering art in the mundane. We also enjoy finding inspiration in local galleries, art and architecture.

    What’s the secret to a happy partnership in business?
    30 years of friendship!

    How do you choose your manufacturers and why?
    It is important to us that all our products are ‘Made in the UK’. We like to visit our manufacturers and build a relationship with them – this can only help to create quality products that we are proud of. Many of our manufacturers are family-run businesses and so there is a mutual appreciation and support for how small businesses run.

    What’s your favourite countryside moment?
    Living in Yorkshire there are many that we have shared together, but we both have very happy memories of climbing Snowdonia together in the late 90s. It was a stunning autumnal scene with amazing views

    Describe your creative style in three words.
    Authentic, fresh and friendly.

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    Love a cosy country living room

    by  • 29/09/2015 • 1 Comment

    autumnal country living room

    Neutral backdrops are perfect for introducing seasonal colour, and here’s a country living room that oozes cosy autumnal loveliness.

    Choosing a pair of sofas and positioning them opposite each other adds symmetry to a room and increases the sociability factor. It also makes for extra toastiness when situated on either side of the fireplace.

    An upholstered footstool in between adds a decorative touch, as well as providing a practical place for displaying items or for a tray of hot drinks.

    What really lifts the scheme is the mix of beautiful fabrics in the same warm tones. From the Devonshire collection by Prestigious Textiles, the fabrics speak for themselves and comprise designs including an embroidered Jacobean trail,  sprigs of blossom and a woven stripe that work beautifully together on upholstered furniture, curtains, cushions and throws.

    Make the focal point of the room a fire with a wooden surround for extra warmth and and team with painted furniture for a classic country look that exudes elegance.

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    Wild apple windfalls

    by  • 28/09/2015 • 0 Comments

    Wild apple windfallCountry Days donned its forager’s hat this weekend and was out and about picking wild apples from local woods and walkways. These haphazard fruit trees are those that have grown from seed rather than a named nursery cultivar that has been grafted onto rootstock. It means you don’t know what variety they are or how good they will taste, but there is real pleasure in knowing that someone walked that way a good few years back, tossed an apple core and now there is a lovely tree laden with its offspring.

    The secret to collecting these apples is to cut one open and smell the apple to see how sweet it is and note how dense it is. Back home, chop and slice carefully to remove any unwanted beasties. Then pop in a dish with masses of brown sugar and a cinnamon flavoured crumble.

    Food for free at its best! What have you been picking this month?

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