• Archive for January, 2013

    Lunch with John Torode

    by  • 31/01/2013 • Country food • 0 Comments

    John Torode's new collection

    At the launch of John Torode’s new collection on Monday

    When it comes to entertaining, I usually rely on old favourites when choosing wines to accompany the food. But help is at hand for anyone who, like me, struggles with matching wines according to what ingredients you’re using. This week I sampled some delicious food and wine to celebrate a new launch from everyone’s favourite Aussie, Masterchef presenter John Torode. He’s teamed up with winemaker Neil McGuigan to launch a new collection of matched food and wine. It’s such an easy idea – simply scan the QR code on any bottle of McGuigan wine with a QR code reader app on your smartphone to receive your personal recipe collection. This was my favourite dish, which works well served with a McGuigan Black Label Sparkling Rose, a lovely pink fizz with hints of strawberry and blackberry which perfectly complements fruity desserts… (Altogether a perfectly heavenly combination)

    Poached Plums with Panna Cotta (serves 6)

    1 Lightly oil six individual pudding basins or dariole moulds. Pour 250ml full fat milk and 250ml double cream into a pan and add 1 vanilla pod with the seeds scraped out and also added. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and leave to infuse for a few minutes.

    2 Soak 4 gelatine leaves in cold water. Squeeze out excess water and stir into the cream mixture until dissolved. Add 50g caster sugar and continue to stir over a low heat until dissolved. Remove the vanilla pod and add a few drops of almond extract. Pour into the basins and transfer to the fridge. Leave to chill for two hours or until completely set.

    3 Cut 300g damsons or dark skinned plums in half and remove the stones. Put into a pan with 1 split vanilla bean and 200g caster sugar. Just cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes until tender but still holding their shape. Using a slotted spoon carefully lift out the plums and set aside. Bring the poaching liquid back to the boil and reduce by half until sticky. Remove from the heat and return the plums to the liquid. Leave to cool and refrigerate until needed.

    4 To serve, fill a deep bowl with boiling water and carefully dip the basins or moulds into the water. Turn out onto individual plates. Add the plums and a little syrup. And watch them disappear.

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    Homespun ornament

    by  • 30/01/2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    The runaway success of Historical dramas, in film and on television, has spurred on our love and interest for nostalgic interior design. Liberty’s department store was, and still is, famous for its fabulously intricate and ornamental fabric patterns and we took this as our starting point for our Cottage chic story (February issue p68-72) to bring you a fresh modern take on the style. In our version the traditional fabrics designs, used for upholstery, curtains and cushions, also feature on accessories such as wellies and crokery and are teamed with furniture roughly painted in luminescent paint tones, such as aqua, Mediterranean turquoise and pea green. The result is a rustic version that is easy to achieve in today’s country home.

    Fabric, Clothkits. Cabinet, Ruby Rhino. Wellies, Webury.com.

    Fabric, Clothkits. Cabinet, Ruby Rhino. Wellies, Webury.com.

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    Cosy dining room

    by  • 29/01/2013 • Country style • 1 Comment

    When it’s cold and grey outside, the perfect antidote is to decorate with comforting rich and warm colours.

    And if you’re planning a spot of entertaining, these opulent weaves from Harlequin, with a nod towards global style and a vibrant twist of colour, help create a cosy atmosphere that’s perfect for a modern country dining room.

    Complete the look with dark grey or black furniture to give a contemporary edge and team with a stunning metallic texture wallpaper for an opulent backdrop.

    Curtains in Array 130738, £36 a metre; upholstery in Chevron 130663, £46 a metre; Twill in 130639, £40 a metre; wallpaper in Element Texture, £45 a roll; all Harlequin

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    Keeping the birds happy

    by  • 28/01/2013 • Country craft, Country moment • 1 Comment

    Thanks to the cold snap, the sales of bird seed have apparently gone through the roof. Myself and the local school kids did our bit for the welfare of our feathered friends recently, too, when we made Speedy Bird Cakes, from an RSPB recipe. Bird seed, raisins and a good helping of softened lard were all happily squished by little hands into plastic pots ready to be taken home…

    Bird seed cakes

    Three steps to the perfect nutritious meal for hungry birds

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    Plum & Ashby

    by  • 25/01/2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    I’d like to introduce Plum & Ashby, a brand new online shop – so new in fact that it’s still ‘coming soon’ (you can browse to your heart’s content but can’t officially shop until the beginning of February). Offering a contemporary take on the traditional general store, Plum & Ashby stocks homewares with an elegant country look and a timeless appeal.

    I had the pleasure of meeting founder Vicky and designer Haley last week at the inspirational interiors exhibition Home. As I was talked through the new collection of beautiful printed textiles, handcrafted leather products and British made ceramics it struck me just how charming all the designs are. Inspired by a joint passion for vintage finds Vicky and Haley wanted their designs to capture the nostalgic and comforting memories of home, but with a new  modern country style.

    Clockwise from top left; Natural & red tile print cushion, £45; Natural & grey floral print cushion, £45; Wool & Alpaca fringed throw, £xx; Bertie shaped cushion, £25; Large Bertie print cushion, £38; Natural & blue Bertie print cushion, £34, all Plum & Ashby.

    Clockwise from top left; Natural & red tile print cushion, £45; Natural & grey floral print cushion, £45; Wool & Alpaca fringed throw, £95; Bertie ticking cushion, £38;  Natural & blue Bertie print cushion, £34, all Plum & Ashby.

    Vicky’s dog Bertie is the star of the show – he’s the inspiration for the prints as well as the model!

    From left; Bertie print tea cosy, £14; Knots mug, £9.50; Plum & Ashby definition mug, £9.50; Terrier mug, £9.50, all Plum & Ashby.

    From left; Bertie print tea cosy, £14; Knots mug, £9.50; Plum & Ashby definition mug, £9.50; Terrier mug, £9.50, all Plum & Ashby.

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    Snowy weather food: Alpine pizza

    by  • 24/01/2013 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Alpine Pizza

    Straight from a snowy mountain to your kitchen: Alpine Pizza

    This week’s foodie blog takes inspiration from the snow. Up in the Alps where the air is clean, cows roam and water gurgles on its way down the mountains, there are little huts that provide refreshment for walkers and skiers. They serve simple food and, if you are lucky, a kind of Alpine pizza, roughly rolled and topped with various simple things like soft cheese, bacon and sliced onions before being popped into the oven for a quick little bake. Presented on a plate with no cutlery, these are simply crammed into the mouth as soon as possible because they smell so incredible. To make six small pizzas, you will need…

    300g strong bread flour (white, wholemeal/wholewheat, or a mixture)
    1 teaspoon dry yeast
    180g water
    1 teaspoon salt
    soft spreadable cheese of your choice such as quark
    cubed bacon, speck, lardons, pancetta or country ham
    thinly sliced red onion
    dried mixed herbs
    dried mushrooms
    semolina or coarse cornmeal, to dust the baking sheet

    1 Put the flour in a big bowl and make a well. Sprinkle the dry yeast in the well and add 100g water. Cover and allow to rest for 15 minutes. You may or may not get a beige sludge on the top of the water, but don’t worry – what is important is to dissolve the yeast. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Tip out onto the counter and knead well for 10 minutes.

    2 Pop the kneaded dough back into the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Allow to rest for 1–2 hours until doubled in size.

    3 Preheat the oven as high as you can and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Transfer the dough to a floured surface. Divide into 6 equal portions. One by one, roll them into ovals about 1⁄2 cm thick on the floury surface using a floury rolling pin. Prick each one with a fork several times so it does not puff up in the oven.

    4 Spread the cheese over the pizza bases, leaving the edges bare. Add toppings of your choice. Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven and sprinkle with semolina or coarse cornmeal. Using a scraper or spatula, carefully transfer the pizzas to the sheet and pop them in the oven for 10 minutes or so until the tops are bubbling and the dough browned. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Eat hot, but don’t burn yourself by eating them too quickly!

    *Recipe taken from All you Knead is Bread by Jane Mason (£18.99, Ryland Peters & Small), which is packed with delicious recipes for home bakers to try out. Photograph: Peter Cassidy

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    How to make an envelope cushion

    by  • 23/01/2013 • Country craft • 0 Comments

    The patterned cushions in this beautiful bedroom, which appears in our out-soon March issue, are amazingly easy to make. And if there’s one thing we love on Country Homes and Interiors it’s makes that look gorgeous but are easy, easy, easy to make – in fact they are so easy that the instructions make up just five steps.

    The fabrics – by Lewis & Wood – are some of our favourites around at the moment. Have a look for yourself and give the project a go. Once you start, you’ll have a houseful of fabulous cushions!!

    Stack in neat rows on a bed for a touch of hotel luxury.

    If you like this idea we have lots more easy craft projects for you to try. And for more country recipes, crafts and room ideas, why not buy our new Country Home Ideas app?

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    Toasty country living room

    by  • 22/01/2013 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Warm wool fabrics are perfect for cosying up a look. The clean lined sofa in this modern country living room adds a contemporary touch and, upholstered in an on trend neutral checked fabric by Moon made from undyed wools, has a natural beauty that is just right for creating an easy-on-the-eye scheme.

    Bursts of colour are introduced with accessories such as the cosy red check cushions, while mellow wooden flooring provides a practical touch if anyone comes in from the cold with snowy welly boots on – and finishes off the look beautifully. Perfect for a day indoors!

    Sofa fabric in Reflection from the Natural collection, £45.95 a metre; red check cushion in Balmoral from the Heritage collection, £45.95 a metre;  plain cushions in Silver and Stone from the Melton Wool collection, £45.95 a metre; all Moon

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    Snow beauty

    by  • 21/01/2013 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    It snowed non-stop from morning to night in our part of East Sussex yesterday. In the space of a few hours the small wood of Damson and Elder trees was turned into a magical world of beautiful shapes and sublime stillness. This was a lovely peaceful moment!

    A walk in the woods

    See our facebook page for the amazing shots that you have been sending us of your snowy worlds!

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    A little bit of loveliness

    by  • 18/01/2013 • Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    You may be familiar with the name Cinnamon Aitch. I’m sure you will have seen or maybe even sent one of their stunning greetings cards. As a natural progression from the much-loved cards came the addition last year of the Little Notebooks. Great for lists, fab ideas or things to remember, these adorable notebooks (below) are a pocket-sized dose of cheer to ward off January gloom!

    They have also just launched their first range of hand-decorated prints, so now we can decorate our homes with the pretty illustrations too. Taking inspiration from their favourite card designs, the 14 prints are just as characterful as the cards and notebooks. It’s the florals and the pretty detailing that I love so much. They’re hand finished with tiny buttons, sparkly gems and googly eyes on the cute little creatures.

    The ‘You are my Sunshine’ print below is my particular favourite for adding a sunny sentiment to winter walls.

    A selection of lovely Little Notebooks, £1.99 each, all Cinnamon Aitch.

    A selection of lovely Little Notebooks, £1.99 each, all Cinnamon Aitch.

    We love this happy Hand Decorated print, £9.99, by Cinnamon Aitch.

    We love this A4 Hand Decorated art print, £9.99, by Cinnamon Aitch.

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