• Archive for March, 2016

    Rhubarb and vanilla cordial

    by  • 31/03/2016 • Country food • 1 Comment


    With the sun shining and rhubarb season about to come into full swing, we couldn’t resist this delicious, prettily coloured cordial made with tender pink rhubarb. Serve topped up with chilled sparkling water (about one part cordial to two parts water), or magic up a quick Bellini and make it the star of your summer drinks menu, by adding it to Champagne or Prosecco.

    Makes 1 litre of cordial

    1 kg rhubarb, trimmed and roughly chopped
    350g caster sugar
    3 tbsp lemon juice
    2 tsp vanilla bean paste such as Nielsen-Massey

    1 Put the rhubarb in a saucepan with 250ml water and bring just to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover with a lid and cook gently for 12-15 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and tender.

    2 Line a large sieve with a sheet of kitchen paper and rest the sieve over a bowl. Ladle the rhubarb through the sieve and press the juice through with the back of the ladle. It’s easiest to do this in two batches, discarding the first lot of pulp before straining the second batch.

    3 Rinse out the pan and add the rhubarb juice and sugar. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Cook for 3 minutes then stir in the lemon juice and vanilla bean paste. Pour into sterilised bottles with clip, screw tops or corks. If refrigerated, this will keep for up to 3 months.


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    Meet Zoe Glencross, the winner of the 2015 My Country Business Awards

    by  • 31/03/2016 • Country business • 0 Comments

    Ready_Zoe Glencross

    Enter the 2016 My Country Business Awards in association with Notonthehighstreet.com now and you could be like Zoe Glencross of Zoe Glencross Fabric & Home, the winner of last year’s Interiors Award.

    The beautiful fabrics that Zoe creates combine illustrations with stripes and are inspired by the views from her Cheshire barn home.

    What did winning mean to you? I have loved interior design for many years and so felt especially privileged to win in the interiors category. It gave my brand a great kick start.

    How have you developed the brand? I’ve just launched ready-made linen lampshades and new woven plain linens in shades of grey that co-ordinate with my Meadowlands Collection.

    What’s your long-term goal? I’m planning to launch new collections each year and grow the business to be able to offer customers ready-made products as well as fabric by the metre online.

    How helpful was the support you got from winning? The mentoring sessions are an inspired idea. Having an industry relevant mentor when you have a new business is a blessing. I have had great advice and clear guidance from fabric designer Susie Watson, who couldn’t have been more positive.

    Don’t forget to enter the My Country Business awards now at housetohome.co.uk/business

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    The Campaign for Wool’s Carpet & Rug Awards 2016 – winner revealed!

    by  • 30/03/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    The Campaign for Wool’s first International Wool Carpet & Rug Awards 2016 took place last week as part of the new Wool Floor Show London, and it was a privilege to be invited to sponsor the category for ‘best use of pattern and texture in the modern home’. Editor of Country Homes & Interiors, Rhoda Parry, says “I love the British Wool ethos of ‘fleece to floor’. You can’t beat British Wool for quality, warmth and longevity.”

    We’re delighted to announce our amazing winner…

    Benbecula by Anta Scotland
    Ticking all the boxes for everything Country Homes & Interiors is passionate about. We love the pixelated tweed for a modern twist on a heritage design, beautifully complimented by a timeless palette of country-inspired colours. An heirloom piece with true wow-factor.


    A big congratulations also to our two deserving finalists…

    Pebble Houndstooth by Brintons Carpets
    A fun yet sophisticated update on a classic country pattern that works well in both period and contemporary country homes. The quality tufted design makes it a suitable choice for any room – stylish and practical, too.


    Isis Reed by Roger Oates
    You can’t fault a stripe, especially one reminiscent of rustic grain sacks and linens! Hand-finished by fine craftsmen, this country classic flatweave will never go out of style.


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    Morning glory

    by  • 29/03/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    country dining room

    If you have a neutral scheme, injecting pastel green accents into it is the ideal way to create a fresh spring-like feel.

    The starting point for this pretty country dining room, the perfect spot for breakfast, are two country classics – a smart striped wallpaper on the feature wall and an elegant farmhouse table.

    The farmhouse table is given a modern country twist with white and sage green mid-century chairs creating an on-trend look, while the mix of colours teams with the wallpaper and adds interest. Pretty green accessories are used to pull the scheme together.

    The choice of lighting emphasises the modern feel with metal pendants over the table and a tripod table lamp on the nearby sideboard. (Sideboard, table, dining chairs, wallpaper, lights, all Laura Ashley).

    Stained wooden floorboards and a natural flooring rug finish off the room beautifully.


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    Enter the 2016 My Country Business Awards

    by  • 28/03/2016 • Country business • 0 Comments


    Have you set up a small country business? Or perhaps you have a great idea you’d like to get off the ground? If so, now is your chance to enter the 2016 Country Homes & Interiors My Country Business Awards in association with Notonthehighstreet.com. Six entrepreneurs will win a money-can’t-buy package of advice and support from the UK’s most talented business advisers and owners.

    The My Country Business Awards are celebrating their seventh fantastic year and aim to promote and empower country-based start-ups. Setting up your own business is no mean feat – you need to find the funds, write a business plan, buy a domain name, learn the finer points of marketing through social media, ensure your company complies with current legislation, and much more. Finding the right people to guide you through this process is crucial, so enter now and take the first steps on your journey to success.

    The Awards categories are…

    Notonthehighstreet.com Emerging Creative Talent Award
    Have you graduated or left college within the past two years? We’re looking for a new creative talent who makes things that we’d like to sell – from art and jewellery to homewares and food.

    Home Accessory Crafters and Makers
    This category recognises nearly everything that goes in the home. From unique door-stoppers to stunning cushions, we love it all! Craft is a
    seemingly vast category focusing on textiles, ceramic, wood, glass and more. If you make it by hand, we’d love to see it.

    Fabric, Furniture and Wallpaper Designers
    If you’re creating the key pieces that decorate and furnish the surfaces and rooms in our homes, this one’s for you.

    Retailers are companies selling multiple brands. If you’re a bricks-and-mortar store or an online platform, we’d love to see the work you do.

    Food Producers
    If you can eat it, we want to know about it. From baked goods to jams, beverages to pâtés, we’d love to taste your wares and learn about your brand.

    Hospitality and Leisure
    This category celebrates everything from B&Bs, hotels, campsites, pubs

    The prizes
    The 2016 winners will receive an invaluable package of mentoring, as well as promotion in Country Homes & Interiors. Starting up your own
    business can often be a daunting experience, but our expert panel of Awards mentors will guide and support the winners, allowing them to learn new skills and perspectives, while also providing priceless advice and insight. The package includes:
    * Three mentoring sessions with one of our leading industry category partners.
    * Coverage in the My Country Business 2016 winners feature in the November 2016 issue of Country Homes & Interiors.
    * Coverage in a Country Days blog feature.

    To enter
    Visit housetohome.co.uk/business for more details of this competition, as well as an entry form for you to complete and return by the closing date of Friday 10th June 2016.

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    30 Country Style Icons: the range cooker

    by  • 27/03/2016 • Country style • 0 Comments

    Country Homes & Interiors is 30 this year! First published in April 1986, we’ve been showcasing the best of modern country style ever since. In celebration, we’ve picked 30 of our all-time favourite design classics that have stood the test of time, thanks to their real sense of history, craftsmanship and purpose, to share with you over the coming weeks.

    24. The rangecooker

    Talk to any owner of a cast-iron range and they’ll tell you that nothing comes close to the way it cooks or the warmth it brings to a home. Unlike a standard oven, it’s ‘always on’ and cooks with ambient heat that gives succulent roasts, crispier potatoes, deeply-flavoured one-pot dishes and legendary toast! A standard metre-wide Aga has two ovens, one for simmering and one for roasting, while larger models also have a baking oven and a warming drawer. Which cavity you use and where you place your dish decide the cooking time, while the top hotplate takes several pans that you move round to vary the cooking temperature.

    There is a good choice of fuel options available, and some designs have a back boiler to run your central heating too. Modern day features include Aga’s Total Control, allowing you to switch the range on and off on demand! Two-oven Agas start at £6,295.

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    Meet Dee Hardwicke

    by  • 27/03/2016 • Country business • 2 Comments

    Ready_DeeHardwicke_groupArtist and designer Dee Hardwicke is renowned for her soft illustrative style and has recently collaborated with the National Trust to create a beautiful fine china tableware collection; Cottage Garden (shown above, available from the National Trust shop). We discover the inspiration behind her delicate designs…

    How did you get into designing and making?
    I really can’t remember a time when I haven’t been making things. My earliest memories include designing clothes for my dolls and compiling little illustrated storybooks. I’ve always loved the entire creative process, whether I’m working with clay, paper, paint or wool.

    Tell us a little bit about your latest collaboration with the National Trust.
    It seemed such a natural union as I’m constantly looking to nature for inspiration. The Cottage Garden collection is inspired by the gardens at Barrington Court, a magnificent Tudor manor house in Somerset. I spent an idyllic afternoon there last summer, wandering through the flowers and making sketches that formed the basis of the final designs.

    What’s your working space like?
    My studio is in the historic market town of Monmouth in Wales. It’s full of colour and texture – a real treasure trove! There are piles of sketchbooks and baskets brimming with yarn, as well as pots full of paintbrushes and knitting needles. I love storage boxes, and each one is a little world of inspiration, filled with all sorts of swatches and materials!

    Are there any designer/makers that truly inspire you?
    Beatrix Potter is a real inspiration. Her botanical watercolours are incredible and she was such a passionate conservationist, as well as being an early supporter of the National Trust.

    What’s been your proudest moment?
    I wandered into a little National Trust shop in Brockhampton, Herefordshire last year and came across a beautiful display of a previous collection of mine. The lovely staff there were so enthusiastic about the range and the pieces had been so lovingly and imaginatively arranged. I was completely overwhelmed!

    Sum up your creative style in three words.
    Celebration of nature.

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    The Country Decorator’s shopping shortlist – Easter decorating essentials

    by  • 26/03/2016 • Country style, Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    Ready_NeptuneChocolate by the bucket load, hide-and-seek egg hunts, adorable chirping chicks – Easter certainly likes to bring out the joy and inner child in all of us! Here at Country Days, we’re firm believers that the home should join in on the celebrations too, so we’ve rounded-up some glee-enhancing last-minute decorating buys to help you add that eggstra finishing touch and bring the smiliest of nearest and dearest together…

    Lay on some freshly-picked details (all puns intended) by hanging pretty decorations from a lovely twiggy branch to make a delightful mantel feature or table centrepiece. Cluster assorted eggs in mini nests to delight guests over the lunchtime feast. We love Neptune’s collection of hand-painted eggs (shown above) – light and delicately coloured, they’re the perfect pick to reference Easter elegantly. Bantam Large Hanging Eggs, £6 for a set of 6; and Legbar Small Alpines Eggs, £3 for a set of 6, both from Neptune.

    Ready_TCHFor a modern take on the traditional Easter bonnet, opt for a beautifully blossoming seasonal wreath. This Rose Garden Easter Wreath (above), £45, by Gisela Graham at The Contemporary Home, features natural twigs, gorgeous dusty pink and white roses and viburnum foliage – it’s just the thing to add a springtime flourish of pastel perfection to your hallway or front door.

    Ready_NordicWho knew eggs could be so versatile? For a simply gorgeous display, stagger egg cups and fill with assorted candles and succulents or flower heads. We’re smitten by these dear little Bunny Cups (above), £5 for a pair, from Nordic House – they’re the perfect fit with these Hen Egg Candles with Yolk (above, top), £7.95 for a set of 6, also from Nordic House – an adorable breakfast for all to enjoy!

    It’s time to hop-to-it… Wishing all of our lovely readers an Easter decorated with cotton-tailed bunnies, country living and loving, full of the joys of spring!


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    Enjoy an Easter afternoon tea!

    by  • 25/03/2016 • Country moment • 0 Comments

    Enjoy an Easter themed afternoon teaWhat better way to celebrate Easter time than a scrumptious afternoon tea in a beautiful countryside location. We’ve rounded up three places for you to enjoy this delicious treat with fun for the family thrown in too! Choose from teas with an adventure quiz path at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, storytelling with artisan bakes at RHS Wisley gardens in Surrey, or an Easter themed tea and chocolate bunny trail at Wiveton House in Essex.

    Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Bedfordshire
    The tradition of taking tea originated here in the 1840’s, when Duchess Anna Maria entertained friends at the Abbey. Head to The Duchess Tea Room where afternoon tea is served. Outdoors children can head along the Easter Trail (25 March to 28 March) to go in search of little blue rabbits and colourful lanterns. Each bunny holds a clue leading to an anagram and a prize, though be sure to look out for other animals who try to distract visitors along the trail. Afternoon Tea £14 (includes garden entry), Easter trail £1 per child.

    Wivenhoe House, Essex
    Step in to this magnificent 18th century house near Colchester, where an Easter-decorated afternoon tea awaits in the elegant drawing rooms. Don’t worry about over-indulging,  there’s plenty of parkland to explore and a special Easter egg trail to follow with the reward of an eggstra-chocolaty Easter treat! From 25 to 28 March, £24.95 per person. Book here.

    RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey
    Tuck in to afternoon tea in the restaurant of these beautiful gardens near Woking. Indulge in traditional marzipan-topped simnel cake or rice crispy cake studded with chocolate eggs, or pick up some fresh artisan hot cross buns. Children can go in search of a chocolate bunny outdoors or partake in, art, music, storytelling and craft sessions to celebrate the season. From 19 March to 10 April, garden entry fees apply, find out more here.


    Where is your favourite place to enjoy afternoon tea? We would love to hear…

    Want more inspiration for weekends in the country? Sign up for your weekly Country Post!


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    Sticky, fruity hot cross buns

    by  • 24/03/2016 • Country food • 0 Comments


    If you’ve never tried making your own hot cross buns, have a go at this Easter favourite from scratch for a delicious homemade treat, then serve straight from the oven with a thick spread of butter – mmmmmmm. They’ll be ready in 50 minutes, plus proving. This recipe makes 15 buns.

    500g plain strong white flour
    1 level tsp salt
    7g sachet easy-blend/fast-action dried yeast
    2 rounded tsp mixed spice
    1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
    60g caster sugar
    60g butter
    250ml full-cream milk
    zest of 1 large orange
    1 large egg, beaten
    250g mixed dried fruit
    butter, to serve

    For the crosses and glaze

    60g plain flour
    1tsp sunflower oil
    2-3tbsp apricot jam, warmed, or golden syrup

    You will need
    a baking tray, well buttered, and a paper piping bag

    1 Put flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large bowl. Stir in the salt, yeast, spices and sugar. Warm the butter in a small pan until just melted. Add the milk and warm for 1 minute, until tepid.

    2 Add the zest to the milk mixture. Pour the buttery milk, then the egg, into the flour. Knead with the dough hook for 3-4 minutes until smooth and elastic, or turn it out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 5 minutes. Work in the dried fruit, then knead for another 5 minutes by hand.

    3 Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingflm and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size. (We put it in the oven at 40-50°c, to speed up the process.)

    4 Weigh the dough, divide it into 15 equal pieces and roll these into balls. Put them spaced apart on the baking tray. Cover loosely with oiled cling flm and put in a warm place again for 1 hour, until well risen.

    5 Heat the oven to 200°c, gas 6. To make the crosses, mix the flour with the oil and blend in around 4tbsp water until smooth. Put the mixture in the piping bag. Snip the end and pipe crosses on to the buns. If there are any bits of fruit sticking out, push them in, otherwise they’ll burn. Bake for 20 minutes.

    6 Take the buns out of the oven and brush with warmed apricot jam or golden syrup.

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