• Archive for May, 2012

    Simple summer cooking

    by  • 31/05/2012 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Kneading the dough the expert way

    Last week I was lucky enough to attend an Italian cookery masterclass with Giancarlo and Kate Caldesi at La Cucina Caldesi. The focus is on Italian country cooking, handmade pasta and fresh simple sauces. We kneaded and rolled our gloriously green fresh spinach pasta, then hand fed it through the machine until it had the desired ‘stretch’ factor. Then we tweeked it into ravioli parcels stuffed with ricotta and smoked mozzarella, and lovely ribbons of tagliatelle and served it up with a simple fresh cherry tomato, garlic and basil sauce. Such simple food and so right for now. I also loved the pesto recipe (the real thing from Tuscany), so unbelievably good and bearing no resemblance whatsoever to those sad little supermarket jars padded out with potato flakes and sweetened with sugar. If your pot of basil is flourishing on the windowsill now summer’s here at last, there’s no excuse for not making your own. Here’s the recipe…

    50g pine nuts (make sure you get the real thing – the long kernels not the squat ones from China)

    50g Pecorino cheese, grated (use the hard ‘Stagionato’ type)

    200ml extra virgin olive oil (nothing else will do)

    1 clove of garlic

    big bunch of fresh basil

    Put the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a pestle and mortar and crush until reduced to a paste. Add the olive oil and Pecorino cheese and mix well. That’s it! You can use a food mixer but it feels much more authentic to grind it yourself – if you’ve got the time, that is…

    Home made tagliatelle with fresh cherry tomato and basil sauce

    Home made tagliatelle with fresh cherry tomato and basil sauce

    For more information on cookery classes, visit caldesi.com

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    The village fete

    by  • 30/05/2012 • Country style • 0 Comments

    We all love a get together here at County Homes & Interiors. Well I do! I’m not sure we get together enough in England, as they do in the Mediterranean, where there are fiestas all summer long. This year gives us the excuse to party in the streets from this Jubilee weekend right up until the Olympics. With this in mind we thought we’d do a village fete summer shopping feature, June issue, p74-79 celebrating all things British when it comes to fetes, from cake baking, flower arranging, tombola stalls, rosettes, balloons, home made lemonade, the great British cuppa and of course the outfit you’d like to wear! Small hint, it’s from Joules, a perfect show stopping dress, to see it take a look at p 75.

    Balloons and Helium from Hobbycraft.

    Balloons and Helium from Hobbycraft.

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    Country style boy’s bedroom

    by  • 29/05/2012 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Decorating a children’s room is always difficult as you don’t want to end up with something so age-themed that it has to be changed after a couple of years. This scheme for a boy’s room caught my eye – the map of the world on the wall is a fantastic way of helping children learn where different countries are and makes a great feature in the room. Teamed with a classic white country style bed and elegant white plantation shutters from Hillarys, it’s a scheme that can be updated easily as they grow up.

    Craftwood Silk White Shutters by Hillarys, prices start at £287 per sq metre for orders over three sq metres, measured, made and fitted

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    A trip to Ercol

    by  • 28/05/2012 • Country moment, Country style • 0 Comments

    There’s nothing like talking to the British craftspeople who fashion and create beautiful furniture for our homes. So when I was invited to tour the Ercol factory last week, I happily accepted. Well-known for its retro Forties and Fifties ‘Originals’ designs, this company really does set the standard for British design, quality and functionality. From a state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly factory to an airy showroom where you can browse the entire range, this Princes Risbourough- based company is passionate about its ninety years of chair-making heritage but has its foot firmly in the 21st century.

    Here is a snap from inside the factory…and my favourite collection for country homes

    Floor to ceiling windows allow sunlight into the Ercol factory

    I love the Pinto collection for living, dining and sleeping - just right for the modern country home

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    Beautiful paper roses

    by  • 25/05/2012 • Country style • 0 Comments

    With flowers being the hot topic of the week, thanks to the delights at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, it was great timing when a gorgeous single stem rose appeared on my desk. However this rose was not like those you’ll be used to seeing in the garden, it’s from a company called Bookish and the clue is in the title, it’s made entirely by hand from old books.

    What a lovely idea to have a rose that will last forever, it always saddens me when real cut flowers wilt away. You could be creative with a few individual roses and create your own country-style display. They would also make an ideal gift for a wedding or an anniversary.

    Paper rose, £8, Bookish.

    Paper rose, £8, Bookish.

    Dozen paper roses bouquet, £75, Bookish.

    Dozen paper roses bouquet, £75, Bookish.

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    Cheers to the sun! Sweet Eve strawberry cocktail

    by  • 24/05/2012 • Country food • 3 Comments

    At last the sun is properly shining and my thoughts, of course, are turning to summer drinks… I bought my first punnet of Sweet Eve strawberries from Waitrose at the weekend. A truly British strawberry, both bred and grown in this country, it has been developed specifically for our climate, meaning it is sweeter and packed with flavour. This cocktail is just perfect for this time of year. The flavours of summer – strawberry, elderflower and mint – lend sweetness and colour to a nice flinty Prosecco and the Campari adds a slightly bitter note. Serve in chilled champagne flutes, with fresh strawberries to decorate. To serve 6 (happy to be at your house) people you will need…

    300g Sweet Eve strawberries

    6 sugar cubes (optional)

    3 shots of elderflower cordial

    3 shots of Campari

    1 bottle of Prosecco or other sparkling wine

    Chill 6 champagne flutes in the fridge. Hull all the strawberries and chop and blend half of them. Strain the strawberry puree into a jug through a sieve, to get rid of any seeds. When you are ready to serve the cocktail place a cube of sugar at the bottom of each glass (or if you prefer your cocktails less sweet leave the sugar out). Pour half a shot of elderflower into each glass, followed by half a shot of Campari and half a shot of the strained strawberry puree. Top each flute with Prosecco. Mix with a cocktail stirrer and serve as the sun stretches over the yardarm with the remaining Sweet Eve strawberries.

    Celebrate the sun with a strawberry cocktail

    For more Sweet Eve recipes, go to sweetevestrawberry.co.uk

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    How to make a ribbon curtain

    by  • 23/05/2012 • Country craft, Country style • 6 Comments

    Country Homes & Interiors’ latest do-it-yourself project shows you how to make a no-sew curtain for a back door using just lengths of ribbon, pretty butterfly clips and a piece of dowelling.

    This is a wonderfully quick idea – all you do is loop the lengths of ribbon over the dowelling and hold them in place with the clips. Then just hang above your door. The movement of the breeze gently wafting the ribbons will help keep the summer insects at bay.

    Tailor the curtain to match your decorating scheme for a great alternative to the primary-colour plastic versions you often see. We used a selection of fresh-green ribbons from VV Rouleaux and lots of places stock lovely butterflies – some come with sprung clips, but those with attachment wires and magnet fittings are also available. Abercorn & Co, Fairy Goodies and VV Rouleaux all have good selections.

    Choose ribbon in contrasting but complementary shades. We used pretty greens and butterfly clips in yellow.

    Loop each length of ribbon over the dowelling and secure in place with a butterfly clip.

    Illustration Michael A Hill

    If you like this idea, we have lots more easy craft projects for you to try…

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    Plankbridge Hutmakers’ garden at Chelsea

    by  • 22/05/2012 • Country moment • 1 Comment

    Congratulations to Dorset-based Plankbridge Hutmakers who have won a silver medal for their beautiful garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show! For me, the garden was one of the highlights of the show and it was lovely to meet Plankbridge owners Jane Dennison and Richard Lee there because we have a gorgeous feature about them in the August issue of Country Homes & Interiors (look out for it on sale on 5th July).

    The Plankbridge Shepherd’s Hut garden is a beautiful wildflower garden inspired by the Dorset countryside and designed by Woolcott and Smith. The traditional-style shepherd’s hut at the heart of it is slightly smaller than Plankbridge’s usual huts and was themed as a writer’s retreat (in fact, author Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring worked on her new novel in the hut yesterday).

    I loved the attention to detail in the garden – the hut was ‘aged’ by scenic artist Jonathan Holbrook, who’s worked on films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and Woolcott and Smith also incorporated a dog basket underneath the hut and rabbit droppings on the path. Do look out for it if you visit the show.

    The inspirational Plankbridge Shepherd's Hut Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show

    The inspirational Plankbridge Shepherd’s Hut Garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show

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    RHS Chelsea Flower Show best buy

    by  • 21/05/2012 • Country craft • 1 Comment

    I am just off to RHS Chelsea Flower Show for some garden inspiration for up and coming issues of Country Homes & Interiors. Our Garden Editor Janine Wookey was there yesterday and has just sent me her best country-style garden buy from the show gardens. ‘Made by Carmel Meade, a textile artist, this handmade patchwork hammock is absolutely beautiful for its intricate details,’ she says. You can see it on Jo Thompson’s nostalgic garden for The Caravan Club.

    Carmel Meade

    Carmel Meade's beautiful hammock in The Caravan Club show garden at Chelsea Flower Show

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    Fit for a King

    by  • 19/05/2012 • Country food, Country moment • 0 Comments

    I ventured back in time this week to 6th February 1789 when ‘mad’ King George III was declared fit to dine with cutlery again at Kew Palace …Master Cook William Wybrow immediately set about preparing a celebratory feast in the Royal Kitchens featuring the King’s favourite dishes -soupe barley, mutton steaks smoured in a frying panne, and chocolate tart…

    The kitchens served Kew Palace and White House but they closed after Queen Charlotte’s death in 1818 and remained untouched for the next 200 years! Thanks to restoration by Historic Royal Palaces, the kitchens are now open to the public, offering a magnificent showcase of cookery in Georgian times.

    The Great Kitchen at Kew Palace (Credit-Forster_HRP)

    The Great Kitchen at Kew Palace

    Visitors can see how food was prepared and cooked with 18th century ovens and sturdy bakehouse tables. Upstairs there are fine examples of Georgian décor, including the office of the Kitchen Clerk who kept meticulous records of meals and budgets.

    The Clerk's Office Ledger

    The Kitchen Clerk's Ledger

    Today’s visitor’s can enjoy lively  cookery demonstrations at the palace on special occasions… or dare to test the King’s favourite recipes at home? We would love to hear if you do…

    The Great Kitchen, Kew Palace

    Chefs cook up a royal feast at Kew Palace

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