• Archive for April, 2011

    All-purpose muffins recipe

    by  • 12/04/2011 • Country craft, Country food • 2 Comments

    Delicious home baked muffins with a variety of fillings

    I love a recipe like this one, where the filling can be varied according to what’s in season or what you fancy. And they’re perfect for making with the children in the Easter holidays. It’s from Bake! By Nick Malgieri (£20, Kyle Cathie), a brilliant new cookbook that’s just come out. Here is the basic muffin batter, then don’t forget to choose a filling from the suggestions listed. This recipe makes 12 standard-size muffins and you will need a 12-hole standard-size muffin tin with paper liners.

    You will need…

    260g plain flour

    110g sugar

    1 tbsp baking powder

    ¼ tsp salt

    110g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

    1 medium egg

    240ml full fat milk

    Filling – choose from list below

    Set a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 190˚C/gas mark 5. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Pour the butter into a mixing bowl and thoroughly whisk in the egg, then whisk in the milk. Whisk about one third of the flour mixture into the liquid until absorbed. Whisk in another third, again until the liquid is absorbed. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the last of the flour mixture. Gently fold in the filling of your choice and transfer the batter to the muffin pan. Bake the muffins until they are well risen and golden, and the point of a paring knife inserted in the centre of one muffin emerges dry. This will take about 20 minutes. Cool the muffins in the tin on a rack and lift them out when they have cooled completely.

    Choose your filling…

    Blueberry: Add 1 tsp grated lemon zest to the liquid mixture. After mixing the batter, fold in 200g rinsed and dried blueberries. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with 2 tbsps sugar mixed with ¼ tsp ground cinnamon before baking.

    Lemon Poppy Seed: Add 2 tbsps poppy seeds to the flour mixture, and add 1 tbsp of finely grated lemon zest to the liquid mixture.

    Old-Fashioned Jam: Add 2 tsps vanilla extract and 2 tsps finely grated lemon zest to the liquid mixture. Half fill the holes in the muffin tins and drop 1 tsp of your favourite jam in the centre of the batter. Add the rest of the batter, being careful to cover the jam completely.

    Chocolate Chip: Add 2 tsps vanilla extract to the liquid mixture. After mixing the batter, fold in one 170g milk or dark chocolate chips. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins before baking with 2 tbsps unflavoured sugar.

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    Simple displays

    by  • 09/04/2011 • Country style • 1 Comment

    Following on from my blog on displaying magnolia, Anna Roseman at Ikea’s inspirational interiors blog Livet Hemma (Life at Home) sent me these images for making the most of spring bulbs and flowers inside. Lovely, aren’t they?

    vintage display

    Delicate pinks and white vessels

    spring bulbs

    Spring bulbs and flowers in glass and ceramics

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    Win Blue Laurel collection from House of Fraser

    by  • 08/04/2011 • Country style • 0 Comments

    To help celebrate the royal wedding in style we have two sets of the pretty new Blue Laurel tableware from House of Fraser to giveaway. From the new spring/summer 2011 home collection, the set includes a teapot, cake stand, sugar pot, creamer, and four each of the following: dinner plate, side plate, bowls and teacup and saucer, worth £174.50.

    Blue Laurel dinnerware

    The Blue Laurel dinnerware - perfect for afternoon tea

    To enter please send your name, address and telephone number to Columba Colivet, Country Homes & Interiors/House of Fraser competition, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SU by 20th April.

    Country Homes & Interiors and IPC would like to contact you by post or telephone to promote and ask your opinion on our magazines and services.  Please write ‘No, Country Homes & Interiors’ if you prefer not to hear from us.

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    Bathroom storage

    by  • 07/04/2011 • Country style • 2 Comments

    A distressed console table provides an elegant way to store towels and nick nacks

    Houses Editor Vivienne Ayers recently visited the home of Lou and Adam Black.  Lou’s home is a successful blend of modern and antique, with some beautiful distressed pieces.  Viv particularly loved this stunning console table from Mangan Antiques (07947 108823, antiques-trade-warehouse.co.uk), which you wouldn’t expect to find in a bathroom, but which works beautifully, providing elegant and handy storage. For more clever ideas for your home, see the rest of Lou’s lovely house in the May issue of Country Homes.

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    Wonderwool Wales

    by  • 06/04/2011 • Country craft, Country moment • 1 Comment

    Knitters, spinners, felters and fibre crafters have a treat in store this weekend: Wonderwool Wales at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. Supported by The Campaign for Wool, it was set up to promote wool production and use in Wales – go along to enjoy demonstrations, classes and shopping, and even a display of fibre-producing animals: sheep, as you’d expect, plus alpacas and angora rabbits.  With new lambs appearing in the fields at last it’s the perfect time to find out where the wool goes!

    Gorgeous knitted strawberries at last year's Wonderwool Wales

    Gorgeous knitted strawberries and cupcakes at last year's Wonderwool Wales

    A pretty felted pansy at Wonderwool Wales 2010

    A pretty felted pansy at Wonderwool Wales 2010

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    Doily biscuits for a tea party

    by  • 05/04/2011 • Country craft, Country food • 2 Comments

    These pretty biscuits are so easy to make

    Paper doilies are a big trend this summer – no afternoon tea with the vicar would be complete without them! Perfect for fetes and tea parties, these biscuits are so easy to make and the recipe makes 30. It is from innovative cake baker Fiona Cairns new book Bake & Decorate, which is just out. We’ve just heard she’s doing William and Kate’s wedding cake, so congratulations Fiona.

    370g plain flour

    ½ tsp salt

    250g unsalted butter, diced

    125g golden caster sugar

    1 egg yolk

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    plain flour, to dust

    8cm heart cutter and some small cutters (Lakeland has a good selection)

    Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Cream together the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract, and mix well, then work in the flour until the mixture comes together as a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour. Roll out the biscuit dough to about 3mm thick on a floured board. Once rolled, rest it in the refrigerator before cutting out 30 heart shapes. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 170ºC/350ºF/ gas mark 4. Lay the biscuits out on baking parchment and cut shapes from each with the tiny cutters. Using a fine skewer, pierce tiny holes in the biscuits to form a pattern you like. Bake for 12–15 minutes until pale gold. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes before very carefully transferring to a wire rack. They will firm up as they cool. Display on a plate or cake stand with or without a paper doily.

    Bake & Decorate by Fiona Cairns is published by Quadrille (£12.99, paperback). Photograph by Laura Hynd

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    Butterfly watch

    by  • 04/04/2011 • Country moment • 4 Comments

    Have you seen any butterflies in your garden yet? In the current issue, we have a really useful feature called ‘Plants for butterflies’. It tells you all about our favourite wild-winged beauties and how you can attract them. Here’s a snap of a tortoiseshell that I took last year. Feel free to paste your own pictures on our facebook page…


    Tortoiseshells love the perennial Verbena bonariensis
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    Lambing time

    by  • 04/04/2011 • Country moment • 2 Comments

    It’s just lovely to see the first lambs on Romney Marsh. Having watched the ‘big mamas’ (as my children call them) getting plumper and plumper, it’s a joy to see them snuggled up with their babies in the early morning light as I drive to the train station.

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    Alternative Flooring

    by  • 01/04/2011 • Country style • 6 Comments

    Inspired by true British style is a new and adventurous runners collection by Alternative Flooring. Our decorating team went to the launch yesterday to preview the Quirky Collection that embraces bold pattern, vivid colour and whimsical designs with witty names such as Dotty, Fling, Tess and Skinny. Proudly designed and made in Britain, Quirky can be used as runners, on stairways, seamed together for rugs or joined for wall-to-wall carpets. I like the fun Dotty stair runner, which design takes your fancy?

    quirky flooring collection from Alternative Flooring

    Dotty Damson, from £96 per linear metre, Alternative Flooring.

    Dotty in Damson and Fling in Pink, £96 per linear metre, Alternative Flooring.

    Dotty in Damson and Fling in Pink, £96 per linear metre, Alternative Flooring.

    Dotty and Tess made up into rugs, duck egg, £96 per linear metre, Alternative Flooring.

    Dotty and Tess made up into rugs, duck egg, £96 per linear metre, Alternative Flooring.

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