• Archive for January, 2012

    Heavenly macaroons

    by  • 31/01/2012 • Country food • 4 Comments

    Last week I met national treasure Mary Berry at the launch party for her new book, Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook. She is just as lovely as you would expect. As you would imagine, the canapés at the party were fabulous and included these stunning Pink Almond Macaroons (only 113 calories each…) If you’re a fan of Mary, make sure you get hold of a copy of our April issue, out at the beginning of March, which has an interview with her. To make 40 macaroons, you will need…

    200g icing sugar, sifted

    200g ground almonds

    200g caster sugar

    4 tbsp cold water

    4 large eggs, separated

    1 tsp almond extract red food colouring

    90 g soft butter

    150g icing sugar, sifted

    raspberry jam

    piping bag fitted with 1cm plain nozzle

    1 Line two baking trays with baking parchment. Combine the icing sugar and almonds in a bowl, and set aside. Put the caster sugar and water into a stainless steel pan. Heat gently over a low heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, and boil for a few minutes without stirring, until you have a shiny, clear syrup, the consistency of single cream. If you have a sugar thermometer it should read 110°C, no more. Remove from the heat, and leave to cool slightly.

    2 Put two of the egg whites into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk on high speed until stiff but not dry. Slowly pour in the sugar syrup in a thin, steady stream, beating constantly until all the syrup is used and you have a shiny meringue.

    3 Add the remaining two unbeaten egg whites to the sugar and almonds, and mix to a very thick paste with a wooden spoon. Add the almond extract, and stir in just enough food colouring to make the mixture pink. Add a heaped tablespoonful of the meringue, beat well, then carefully fold in the remaining meringue until the mixture is an even pink colour. Do not overmix or it will be too runny.

    4 Fill the piping bag with the mixture. Pipe 40 small rounds, each about 3.5cm in diameter, on to each baking tray. If you do not have a piping bag, use two teaspoons to spoon the mixture on to the trays. Set aside to dry for about an hour until a skin forms on top.

    5 Bake in a preheated oven at 150°C (130°C fan, Gas 2) for about 25 minutes until firm and glossy on top. Turn the oven off, and leave the macaroons to cool in the oven for about an hour. Transfer to a wire rack with a damp palette knife, and leave to cool completely.

    6 To make the filling: cream the butter and half of the icing sugar in a bowl, beating until pale and fluffy. Beat in the remaining sugar a little at a time until the mixture is smooth. Using a small palette knife, spread a little jam and butter cream over the bottom of 40 macaroons, then sandwich together with the remaining macaroons.

    Mary's new book, published by DK, is out now

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    Country Business of the Year competition

    by  • 30/01/2012 • Country business, Country style • 1 Comment

    Our March issue goes on sale on Thursday (2nd February) and, for the third year running, we are launching our Country Business of the Year competition. The search is on for a fledgling startup that we can help get off the ground with a winning prize of £6,000 of advice from Business Talent.

    Over the last two competitions, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the winners and runners-up at our annual Country Homes & Interiors Garden Party. Emma Cowlam was one of these in 2010. A young illustrator with a lovely personality who was obviously determined to take her talent for ‘drawing with a needle and thread’ and make career out of it. Emma contacted me today to say,

    ‘Becoming a prize winner in the competition gave me the confidence to pursue illustration as a full-time career.  At the time I had only recently graduated and had just returned to the UK, having interned in design in New York. Firstly, I started by approaching magazines to get press exposure about my work as well as formulating my ideas to develop my illustrations into product, which has always been the ultimate aim.

    ‘My work was featured on a few influential blogs, and in magazines such as Elle Sweden, Living etc, and Elle Decoration. In the Spring of 2011 I contacted the head buyer at the V&A Museum and, after an extremely positive meeting, was asked to produce 60 bespoke illustrations for their shop’s Autumn/Winter collection. The collection was a complete sell out. I am launching my next collection at Liberty on 14th February.’

    I’m delighted that Emma has done so well. If you have a talent or a business idea you think could work, why not have a go and enter…

    Emma Cowlam

    Emma Cowlam's hand-stitched pictures are truly amazing, £75

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    New Sanderson fabrics

    by  • 27/01/2012 • Country style • 3 Comments

    On seeing this new photography from Sanderson of its latest Colour for living collection, I was struck by the richness of the burnt orange and russet toned colour palette, the delightful mix of patterns and by how cute the deers are!

    The retro-inspired graphics and painterly florals are both set to be big news for spring/summer. Animal motifs are also having their moment in the spotlight – the fabric design Deer Park has been translated from a pen and ink sketch of reindeers into a charming embroidered fabric. And the lovely deer buttons from The Oak Room would make a pretty finishing touch – I just wanted to share them with you!

    Cushions fabrics, all from a selection at Sanderson.

    Bolster cushion, Canvas £49 a metre; Cushions from left Mandarin Flowers, £42 a metre; Shuna, £35 a metre; Ellipse, £39 a metre; Deer Park, £55 a metre; Shuna, £44 a metre, all Sanderson.

    From left; Mandarin Flowers, £42 a metre; Deer Park, £55 a metre; Ellipse, £39 a metre, all Sanderson.

    From left; Mandarin Flowers, £42 a metre; Deer Park, £55 a metre; Ellipse, £39 a metre, all Sanderson.

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    Contemporary barn dining room

    by  • 26/01/2012 • Country style • 1 Comment

    I could spend hours whiling away my time in this open plan casual style kitchen come dining area. I am a huge fan of using whites and creams when teamed with traditional oak beams as shown in this gorgeous barn, which is featured in ‘More Dream Homes’ by Andreas Von Einsiedel and Johanna Thornycroft (Merrell £19.95), available on amazon.co.uk. As the barn has such a warm feeling, colour would only detract from the beauty of the architecture rather than add to it. Would you love to live in a place like this?

    More Dream Homes by Andreas von Einsiedel and Johanna Thornycroft (Merrell £19.95). Image copyright Andreas von Einsiedel

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    Sew slip-on covers for seat pads

    by  • 25/01/2012 • Country craft, Country style • 2 Comments

    These pretty cushion covers feature in our up-and-coming March issue and are made in a beautiful Nina Campbell fabric, Montacute, from Osborne & Little.

    The floral pattern livens up a neutral room and because you’re not using a lot of fabric it means you can refresh a scheme without it costing the earth – you could even use a plain cotton fabric on the underside of the seat pads.

    You’ll find the instructions for making the covers here, and for more sewing projects like this one, visit the Housetohome website.

    A floral fabric will breathe life into a neutral scheme.

    Use a sew-on hook and loop fastener so you can easily remove the cover for washing and, if your seat pad has ties, the fastener will fit snugly together around them.

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    Country pub revival

    by  • 24/01/2012 • Country moment • 1 Comment

    A glass of wine or two at The Akeman

    With so many pubs closing down every week in the UK, it’s a joy finding a country pub that’s holding its own. Today I was at The Akeman in Tring. It’s a stylish modern pub that multi tasks: you can meet friends there for a lazy breakfast, morning coffee, a relaxed lunch or a more formal dinner. They also hold wine tasting evenings (with truly delicious canapés), which come complete with spa-style pampering mini-treatments. Now that’s what we call innovation. Every village deserves a pub like this, a real hub for the local community. Perhaps you know of somewhere that rivals The Akeman… if so we’d love to hear about it (http://www.theakeman.co.uk)

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    Winter warmers from Toast

    by  • 20/01/2012 • Country style • 1 Comment

    It has felt like a rather long week, with the dark mornings, wet days and cold evenings. So this weekend is one for staying in, keeping cosy and taking time out to relax. These gorgeous images from Toast instantly ignite the desire for a long lie in, snuggling down under the covers with a good book wearing a pair of knitted socks and enjoying a cup of something hot! This checked flannel bedlinen layered with tactile wool throws, is the perfect antidote for these cold winter nights.

    Aldwyn bedlinen, from £9 to £55, Toast.

    Aldwyn bedlinen, from £9 to £55, Toast.

    Fair Isle socks, from £14 to £18, Toast.

    Fair Isle socks, from £14 to £18, Toast.

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    Pretty country bedroom

    by  • 19/01/2012 • Country style • 1 Comment

    With two young boys, my days of lying in bed at the weekends are long gone! If I did have an hour or two to spare, I would relish spending time in this country style shabby chic bedroom. I love the mix and match feel of the striped valance with the floral cushions, all from Cabbages & Roses 2012 collection. When it is raining outside, what could be more appealing than shutting out the cold and spending the day relaxing in a bedroom like this? If only…

    Curtains in Burleigh Pink, £45pm. Big cushion in Aldernay Grey, £45pm, small cushion in Belmont, £45pm, Avery Range, all Cabbages & Roses (available from mid March). A selection of antiques is available in store.

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    Living with technology

    by  • 18/01/2012 • Country style • 2 Comments

    I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty useless when it comes to home entertainment technology. All I know is that our homes are pretty full of it, which raises the question of what to do with it when you have a family home, whatever it’s decorative style rather that an ultra slick minimalist apartment where appliances seem to slip seamlessly into the decor. Hence our home tech decorating story Feb issue p76-81 which takes a practical view and answers the questions, where do I put it if I can’t hide it away and where can I store it when I’m not using it, hopefully in a way that you don’t have to be a ‘super geek’ to understand!

    AcerZ3751 Desktop PC, Intel Pentium 3.2GHz, 3GB Ram, 500GB with 21.5in Touch Screen, £499, John Lewis

    AcerZ3751 Desktop PC, Intel Pentium 3.2GHz, 3GB Ram, 500GB with 21.5in Touch Screen, £499, John Lewis

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    Lamb and red wine casserole

    by  • 17/01/2012 • Country food • 1 Comment

    On cold evenings nothing beats coming home to a casserole. It takes just 15 minutes to prep this lamb and red wine recipe, and while it’s cooking you can kick back and enjoy the rest of the bottle…

    One pot wonder

    To serve 6, you will need…

    1.2kg lamb leg meat, cut into 3cm chunks

    2 tbsp sunflower oil

    12 shallots, peeled and halved

    2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

    4 rashers rindless streaky bacon, sliced into 1cm pieces

    1 lamb stock cube

    250ml red wine

    2 tbsp tomato purée

    2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

    1 bay leaf

    350g button mushrooms, halved

    1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp cold water to make a smooth paste

    freshly ground black pepper

    1 Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5. Season the lamb with ground black pepper. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meat in three batches until well browned, turning frequently, adding a little more oil if necessary. Transfer the lamb to a large flame proof casserole and set aside.

    2 Heat the remaining oil in the frying pan and cook the shallots and garlic for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned, then set aside. Add the bacon to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until crisp, then add to the lamb.

    3 Dissolve the stock cube in 400ml boiling water and pour over the lamb. Add the red wine, tomato purée, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 hour.

    4 Remove the casserole from the oven and stir in the shallots, garlic, mushrooms and cornflour paste.  Return to the oven for a further 30 minutes until the lamb is tender. Season to taste and serve with a selection of vegetables.

    Cook’s tip: Use a leg of lamb, either remove the meat from the bone yourself or ask your butcher to do it, or use diced lamb purchased from the butcher, thawed if frozen.

    For more delicious recipes using lamb, visit loveourlamb.co.uk.


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