• Archive for November, 2013

    Country garden: herb garland

    by  • 30/11/2013 • Country moment • 1 Comment

    We’re especially partial to natural decorations here on Country Homes & Interiors, and with just over three weeks to Christmas, it’s time to start thinking of ways to welcome in the festive season with beautiful foliage gathered from the countryside or our gardens.

    We love this gorgeous green garland from Wiggly Wigglers. The combination of fresh, glossy bay leaves and sprigs of silvery rosemary is simply beautiful, and imagine how fragrant it will be hanging from a kitchen mantelpiece or along a banister to be enjoyed by everyone.

    You can also find more festive country decorating ideas at housetohome.co.uk.

    Bay and rosemary garland, £29 a metre, Wiggly Wigglers

    Bay and rosemary garland, £29 a metre, Wiggly Wigglers

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    Country buy: Christmas countdown

    by  • 29/11/2013 • Country style • 0 Comments

    We’re making a ’Things to do’ list and checking it twice…as we prepare to count down the days to Christmas.

    [1] First things first, the advent calendar.

    It’s always good to get creative and avoid over indulging with a chocolate every day – we love this clever idea of tying on a present or treat of your choice.

    Personalised Advent calendar on the Country Homes and Interiors Blog

    Personalised Advent calendar, £25, Spann & Willis.

    [2] The decorating of the tree.

    This event is a big family affair in my house; it’s a great way to get everyone into the festive spirit.

    Christmas decorating on the Country Homes and Interiors blog

    Baubles galore at Not on the High Street.

    [3] Send out Season’s greetings.

    You can’t beat a hand-written card in the post, especially one that brings an instant smile…

    Christmas cards on the Country Homes and Interiors blog

    ‘Cats in Hats’ Christmas cards, £2.45 each, Jo Clark Designs.

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    Country food: festive eclairs

    by  • 28/11/2013 • Country food • 1 Comment

    Christmas wreath eclairs

    Here’s what we’re making this week: Christmas wreath eclairs

    Cream filled choux pastry is a classic – add some chocolate and you’re in patisserie heaven. We’re big fans of chocolate eclairs at Country Homes & Interiors and we love this festive spin. Baking your own eclairs is not as difficult as you’d think and this recipe delivers the lightest choux every time. These eclairs are generously sized and we’ve included a choice of two glazes: a sophisticated dark one or a lighter and sweeter version aimed at children (seen on the plate with the fork).

    Makes 6

    50g unsalted butter, softened, in pieces, plus more for the trays (optional)
    pinch of fine salt
    ½ tsp caster sugar
    80g plain flour, sifted
    2 free range eggs

    For the filling:
    250ml double cream
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tbsp icing sugar

    For the dark chocolate icing:
    150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
    1 tbsp unsalted butter
    1 tbsp icing sugar

    For the light chocolate icing:
    150g icing sugar
    3 tsp cocoa
    1 tsp liquid glucose

    To decorate: tiny gold edible stars
    You will also need a large piping bag fitted with 1–1.5cm nozzle

    1 Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/425°F/gas mark 7. Line two baking trays with baking parchment, or butter two trays well.

    2 Put the butter and 125ml of water, the salt and sugar into a pan and place over a gentle heat until melted, then increase the heat and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the pan. Reduce the heat to very low and beat for 30 seconds to dry the mixture a little, but not too much or the éclairs will crack in the oven. Cool for three or four minutes.

    3 Set aside one egg, place in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Crack the other egg into the mixture and beat it in. Gradually add the remaining egg, beating hard after each addition. You may not need it all. The dough will become shiny and fall from the spoon.

    4 Spoon the mixture into the piping bag, and pipe six 10cm diameter circles on the baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and bake for 15–20 minutes, until crisp. Slit the side of each and leave to cool.

    5 For the filling, whip the cream to soft peaks, then add the vanilla and icing sugar. Split the éclairs in half and pipe in the cream.

    6 For the dark icing, place a heatproof bowl over simmering water; the bowl should not touch the water. Place the chocolate, 2 tbsp of water and the butter in the bowl and melt. Sift in the icing sugar, mix and cool slightly. For the lighter icing, sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Stir in 4–5 tsp of water and the liquid glucose, aiming for the consistency of double cream. Spread your choice of icing over the éclairs, allow to set slightly and finally sprinkle with stars.

    *Recipe from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (£25). Photograph by Dan Jones

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    Country style: Planning the table

    by  • 27/11/2013 • Country style • 1 Comment

    Its nice to create a tabletop for Christmas day that has impact, to make the day memorable rather than repeating what you did the year before. One way to do this is to mix and match china – a new accent plate, with a bold pattern, will really update your existing china and wine glasses and reduce the cost of investing from scratch. New placemats, napkins, candles, sparklers and fir cones will also add a new twist.

    Perhaps the most dramatic and festive of all the Christmas table styles is Ski Chalet Luxe, (shown here) a style that mixes traditional red and white with accent plates decorated with folk art patterns in black. A felt placemat completes the look. For more Christmas decorating ideas, using this dramatic colour scheme, see our December issue, out now!

    Place mat, Cargo Homeshop. Bottom dinner plate, Wine glass, Villeroy and Boch. Top plate, Wild and Wolf. Placemats (used as napkins), Linum. Bowl, T&G Woodware. Cutlery,  Lost and Found. Crackers, House of Fraser. Birch candle, Nordic House. Gold candles, Gisela Graham.


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    Country moment: sweet chestnuts

    by  • 26/11/2013 • Country food, Country moment, Country style • 0 Comments

    The most lovely surprises don’t always look good on first impression. The sweet chestnut with its spiny exterior is a good Autumn example. I spent a happy hour with my six-year-old son on Saturday collecting these sometimes soggy, sometimes spiky ‘cupules’ from the local woods. Broken open the gleaming nuts were like little nuggets of treasure inside.

    We hot-footed it home and roasted them on the fire that night. Perfect!

    Prickly on the outside, glossy and beautiful on the inside

    Prickly on the outside, glossy and beautiful on the inside

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    Country room: cheery chalet bedroom

    by  • 25/11/2013 • Country style • 2 Comments

    Keep warm in a country bedroom on chilly winter’s evenings with a cosy chalet-style scheme.

    Red is the perfect shade to team with wooden panelling and exposed stone walls to create a festive feel that’s just right for this time of year. Pick classic plaid bedlinen (this is from The Range) and team with matching curtains for a homely heart of the highlands look. Dress the rest of the bed in plain red linen and layer up with neutral woollen cushions and throws for a calming touch.

    Stripped wooden floorboards can instantly be warmed underfoot with snuggly sheepskin rugs, while artisan wooden furniture adds a rustic element.

    Kelso tartan duvet set in red or charcoal, starts at £10.99 for a single, from The Range

    Kelso tartan duvet set in red, starts at £10.99 for a single duvet and one pillowcase, from The Range

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    Country craft: fabric covered pots

    by  • 24/11/2013 • Country craft • 0 Comments

    Make fabric covered pots with Country Homes and Interiors blog

    Cover pots with favourite fabrics for a festive floral display

    Make a stunning table arrangement with a line of beautiful amaryllis flowers displayed in stylish fabric covered pots. This idea, seen in the current issue of Country Homes & Interiors, is simple to make and transforms old or plain pots. Follow these easy to follow step-by-step instructions to discover how to make.

    You will need
    Amaryllis plants in small pots
    A selection of pots (slightly larger than the first)
    Garden twine
    Hot glue gun

    To make, measure the height of the larger pot. Triple this measurement and add the diameter of the pot base. Draw and cut a circular template from the newspaper with the same diameter as the total measurement. Pin onto one of the fabrics and cut around. Place the pot in the middle of the fabric circle. Gather the material up and push inside the pot. Stick the fabric to the inside of the pot with a hot glue gun. Tie garden twine around the outside of the pot, position an amaryllis plant inside then transfer to a table.

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

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    Country garden: wonderful trees

    by  • 23/11/2013 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    While we’re enjoying rustling through fallen leaves and the spectacular autumn colours all over the countryside, it seems appropriate to celebrate the start of National Tree Week, organised by The Tree Council to mark tree-planting season.

    As well as helping the environment, trees add structure, welcome shade and a home for wildlife. They can also give your garden interest all year round, providing colour and texture with bark, blossom, autumn foliage and fruits.

    Late autumn is the best time to plant bare-rooted trees, before winter takes a grip and when plenty of rainfall encourages roots to grow. If you’re not sure what to choose for your garden, take inspiration from Majestic Trees’ list of top ten trees to plant this autumn (see some of our favourites below). For the full list and for tips on growing trees, turn to the HTA’s website.

    Unmissable colour from maple Acer fremanii 'Autumn Blaze'

    Unmissable colour from maple Acer fremanii ‘Autumn Blaze’

    The ghostly glow of a silver birch, Betula utilis var jacquemontii

    The ghostly glow of a silver birch, Betula utilis var jacquemontii

    Beautiful blossom on crab apple Malus 'Rudolph'

    Beautiful blossom on crab apple Malus ‘Rudolph’

    Snowy mespilus Amelanchier_lamarckii

    Aptly named snowy mespilus, Amelanchier lamarckii

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    Cosy weekend moodboard

    by  • 22/11/2013 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Cosy weekend

    Set the scene for a cosy warm weekend with lazy lie-ins and breakfast in bed!

    I don’t know about you but I long for my lie-in on colder winter weekends.   This cosy looking moodboard encourages those well-deserved hours in bed.  Make sure to wrap up warm with extra thick socks and buy a woolly hot water bottle guaranteed to keep you warm ‘til morning.  Neutral colours and soft tones will help create a tranquil, calm ambiance.  Mix in knits and textured throws to add comfort and extra warmth.

    Perhaps even treat a loved one to breakfast in bed too or be treated yourself!…which for me is the perfect way to kick start my wintry weekend!

    Mmmm…maybe the winter months aren’t so bad after all 😉

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    Country food: easy supper

    by  • 21/11/2013 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Vegetable Moussaka

    It’s a one-dish wonder: vegetable moussaka

    We love this simple take on vegetable moussaka with a lovely creamy yogurt based sauce instead of heavy béchamel. To serve 6, you will need:

    1 ½ tbsp olive oil
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 carrot, finely diced
    2 x 400g tins green lentils, drained
    200ml vegetable stock
    400g chopped tomatoes
    1 tbsp tomato puree
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    Small bunch or oregano, chopped
    1 bay leaf
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    2 aubergines sliced
    300ml 0% fat natural yogurt – we love Yeo Valley
    1 free range egg
    50g Parmesan, grated

    1 Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. In a large pan with a lid, heat 2 tsp of oil and gently fry the onions for 3-4 mins until they are soft, add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the carrot, lentils, stock, tomatoes, cinnamon and oregano and stir well. Drop in the bay leaf and season to taste. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 10 minutes  until the lentils and carrots are tender and the juices have reduced, leaving a thick sauce. Check the seasoning.

    2 While the lentils are cooking, mix together the remaining oil and the lemon juice and brush a thin layer onto the aubergine slices. Heat the grill and brown on both sides.

    3 In a separate bowl, mix the yogurt, egg and half the Parmesan. Remove the bay leaf from the lentils, spread half the mixture in the bottom of a large lasagne dish and add a layer of aubergine. Repeat, finishing with an aubergine layer. Pour the yogurt mixture over the top and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes until the top is golden brown.

    *Recipe by Yeo Valley. For more inspirational ideas, visit yeovalley.co.uk

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