• Archive for April, 2013

    Country business: Amy Swann cakes

    by  • 20/04/2013 • Country craft, Country food, Country moment • 0 Comments

    To celebrate the launch of our Country Business of the Year 2013 competition for the fourth year running, we are touching base with some of the winners and runners-up from previous years…

    Amy Swann lives in Rossett, Wrexham with her husband Sion and daughter Clara Annwyl. Amy trained in textile design and specialised in surface pattern before becoming an Art teacher. She draws on this artistic background to create breathtakingly beautiful and decorative cakes for special occasions under the name Amy Swann Cakes.

    All made by hand, the level of detail in Amy’s cake decoration is extraordinarily beautiful.

    What did being shortlisted for the competition mean to you? Being shortlisted for the competition marked a major turning point in my life and gave me the confidence to build my own brand with its own strong creative identity.  Showcasing my work in Country Homes & Interiors magazine enabled me to reach out to clients all over the country and complete a variety of exciting and challenging comissions. As a result, I am really pleased with the complimentary responses I have recieved which give me the enthusiasm and motivation to be even more creative. The kudos of being featured in the magazine is something I will always value.

    How have you developed the brand? Designing and creating signature cakes was my initial priority to help showcase my style of work. This enabled me to develop and refine my brand to produce celebratory cakes of the highest standard. Those with visions of creative and romantic country weddings are attracted by my work. Using moodboards, sketches and illustrations in discussions with clients enables me to realise their dreams.

    What’s your long term goal? My vision for my business in the long term is to be able to maintain a unique brand, develop a niche market for my work and continue to push the boundaries of cake design. Seeing my work being featured regularily in lifestyle and bridal magazines is my ambition. Being in Country Homes & Interiors has been the first and very important step on this ladder.

    Amy Swann

    If you have a skill or a great idea for creating your own small business, enter our Country Business competition. You could win the expert advice you need to go it alone.

    Read more →

    Country garden inspiration

    by  • 19/04/2013 • Country moment, Country style • 0 Comments

    It looks set to be a lovely weekend, which has made gardening a hot talking point here at Country Homes & Interiors. After the long winter months we’ve been waiting for some sunshine to warm the soil and give us a chance to get out in the garden – whether it’s prepping, potting, painting (the shed) or just relaxing…we say let’s get out there and enjoy it!

    Be inspired by our Garden Chic moodboard, with bright buys that are sure to add a further touch of sunny cheer.

    Give your garden a lift with these colourful buys

    Give your garden a lift with a splash of colour

    Read more →

    Start foraging for food

    by  • 18/04/2013 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Minted pea and wild garlic soup

    The woods where I walk my dog every day are filled with wild garlic at the moment. Such a versatile ingredient, some of my favourite ways to cook with it include as the base for a risotto, finely chopping the leaves and adding them to a new potato salad, or whizzing up a few jars of wild garlic pesto with a lovely spring kick for the store cupboard. But for ease and speed, you can’t beat wild garlic soup. At the weekend I picked a basket of wild garlic and took it home to try this recipe (which serves 4) from my new favourite cookbook The Forager’s Kitchen. This one includes peas and mint (I was delighted to find the mint in my garden is thriving despite the recent cold weather and I picked a good handful of tender leaves for this, the rest going in the teapot). If you are fortunate, you may be able to forage early wild mint too. (PS The pan of soup disappeared in a flash, always a good sign…)

    100g wild garlic stalks
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    Knob of butter
    275g scrubbed new potatoes
    1 litre vegetable stock
    150g freshly shelled peas
    3 mint leaves, finely shredded
    Freshly ground black pepper
    A handful of wild garlic flowers

    Wash and finely slice the wild garlic stalks. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan and cook the stalks over a low heat for 1 minute. Cut the new potatoes into small pieces and cook with the stalks for another 1–2 minutes, stirring often. Add 800ml of the stock and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 8–10 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Add the peas and mint, and simmer for another 3 minutes to cook the peas. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow it to cool for a minute. Blend the peas and potatoes in a food processor, and return to the pan, or use a hand blender. Use the remainder of the stock to rinse around the food processor bowl, and add enough to the saucepan to reach the desired consistency. Heat over low heat to warm through, season with freshly ground pepper, and serve in warm bowls. Scatter the wild garlic flowers over the soup just before serving. If you wish, decorate with a swirl of crème fraîche.

    *Recipe taken from The Forager’s Kitchen by Fiona Bird (£16.99, CICO Books), which also has some other lovely seasonal spring foraging ideas

    Read more →

    Kaffe Fassett rose

    by  • 17/04/2013 • Country craft, Country moment • 0 Comments

    One of the main advantages to such a late spring is that summer – surely – will be following close behind. For me that means roses in the garden, and plenty of them.

    So it was great to hear that a new and especially beautiful rose is to be launched at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in July named after renowned textile artist Kaffe Fassett. It’s a glorious bush variety with clusters of deep lilac blooms that smell like a country cottage garden in the sunshine.

    Apparently as soon as Kaffe found out about his namesake rose, he designed a gorgeous needlepoint tapestry in its honour. The kit is available from Ehrman, so get sewing!


    The Kaffe Fassett rose – pretty as a picture

    Read more →

    Romantic country living room

    by  • 16/04/2013 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Warmer days are on the way and it’s great to see blossom emerging. Help the blooms along by decorating a country living room with classic florals in a soft painterly design that evokes a romantic English look.

    Make the focal point of the scheme a squishy sofa upholstered in pretty florals that could be straight from the garden, and co-ordinate with flowing floor-length curtains. This on-trend fuchsia design from Clarke & Clarke is just the thing for adding a zingy pop of colour.

    Bring a contemporary edge to the scheme with a Roman blind in co-ordinating stripes, then make yourself comfortable by layering up the sofa with cushions in toning patterned fabrics to add extra interest. Finally, accessorise with French-style pieces for an elegant  touch and team with limewashed furniture to emphasise the summery feel.

    The Margherita fabric collection consists of digital printed linen fabrics, bold woven stripes, embroidered silks, linen jacquards and textured bamboo plains, prices start at £42 a metre, Clarke & Clarke

    Read more →

    Hyacinths to feed the soul

    by  • 15/04/2013 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    This colourful grassy knoll filled with happy hyacinths bobbing in the sunshine made me smile deeply when I walked past yesterday. It reminded me of a saying by the 13th Century Persian Poet, Muslihuddin Sadi, ‘Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul’. Over the years, this phrase has come to embody the concept of beauty as a form of sustenance. I’m a great believer that the ‘little things’ we see in nature can bring us great joy so I thought I would share it with you…

    ‘Hyacinths that feed the soul’

    Read more →

    Sunday morning make…pretty seed packets

    by  • 14/04/2013 • Country craft • 0 Comments

    Seed packet made with Clarisse Wallpaper colour Sage W0026/04, Clarke & Clarke

    Seed packet made with Clarisse Wallpaper colour Sage W0026/04, Clarke & Clarke

    Celebrate National Gardening Week, which starts tomorrow, and give loved ones specially chosen seeds and a hand written message enclosed in a decorative packet made from pretty wallpaper pieces.

    You will need

    Wallpaper – an end of roll is ideal

    Cotton thread

    Sewing machine or thin sharp needle

    Pinking sheers

    Small packets of seeds of your choice

    Message written on folded notepaper

    To make cut a piece of wallpaper approximately 22cm x 22cm. Right side facing down, take one side and gently fold in by approximately 7cm. Repeat with the other side.  At the shorter ends of the folded paper, pinch and press together to keep in place, leave the longer sides unpressed. Machine stitch or sew a line of stitches 2cm in from the edge, leaving start and end threads long. Press the tube shape out to create a 3D triangular shape. Place a packet of seeds and message inside. Measure approximately 8cm from the line of the stitches to the base of the triangle. Machine stitch or sew another line of stitches at this point again leaving start and end threads long. Tie off the threads over the ends of the paper and cut to neaten. Cut the edges of the paper triangle approximately 1cm in from the ends with the pinking sheers for a decorative, neat finish.

    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?

    Read more →

    Time to browse…

    by  • 13/04/2013 • Uncategorized • 0 Comments

    Here come’s the sun… the perfect opportunity to enjoy reading your favourite magazine outdoors!  Leaf through the print version or go lightweight with the latest digital issue  of Country Homes & Interiors –  packed with ideas and inspiration for spring! Happy reading…

    Quirky new textile designs

    by  • 12/04/2013 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Good looks, with a sense of humour…what more could you ask for? I am of course referring to the quirky home textiles launched last month by Nicole Phillips England.

    Designed and created by artist Nicole Phillips, the textile collection features quirky coastal characters, culinary delights and classic botanical blooms – all printed on cushions, tea towels, aprons and other home accessories. Watch this space for the fabrics to soon be sold by the metre.

    Nicole’s trademark quirkiness is what makes this collection perfect for adding a touch of fun to the home. As someone with a penchant for Fish & Chip Fridays, I’d have to say the tea towels below are my personal favourite!

    Fish & Chips tea towels, £12 each; Blue Trailing Roses oven glove, £22; Rhubarb & Custard tea towel, £12; Crab cushion, £45, all by Nicole Phillips England.

    Fish & Chips tea towels, £12 each; Blue Trailing Roses oven glove, £22; Rhubarb & Custard tea towel, £12; Crab cushion, £45, all by Nicole Phillips England.

    A selection of cushions from top left, Geranium; Scattered Roses; Strawberries; Fish on a line; Trailing Roses, all from £25 each by Nicole Phillips.

    A selection of cushions from top left, Geranium; Scattered Roses; Strawberries; Fish on a line; Trailing Roses, all from £25 each by Nicole Phillips England.

    Read more →

    Bake your own bread

    by  • 11/04/2013 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Delicious and so easy to do: Walnut Soda Bread

    Home made bread is the flavour of the moment but it can be time consuming making your own. This easy soda bread recipe, however, is so quick to do and requires no kneading…

    Makes 1 (very) large loaf

    200g  walnuts
    450g wholemeal flour
    1 tbsp demerara sugar
    2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
    1 tsp salt
    500g plain yogurt – low-fat is fine

    1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and lightly oil a baking sheet (for a freeform, traditional loaf) or oil a 900g/2lb loaf tin for a conventional loaf shape.

    2 Divide the walnuts into two roughly equal amounts. Blitz one half in a food processor until you have a coarse powder. Chop the rest into largish chunks. Put all the walnuts into a large bowl and add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing well to ensure the bicarbonate of soda is evenly dispersed.

    3 Stir in the yogurt and mix to a soft dough. Bring it all together with your hands, but do not knead it. This bread benefits from being handled as little as possible. Turn it out onto a well-floured surface. If you are going to bake it in a loaf tin, form the bread into a log shape and drop it into the tin. If not, form it into a ball, place it on the oiled baking sheet and score a deep cross into the top, using a sharp knife.

    4 Bake for about 50 minutes, until well risen and browned. Leave to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before just adding butter and tucking in.

    *Taken from The Hedgerow Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes for Wild Food by Wild at Heart (Pavilion Books, £16.99)

    Read more →