28 June 2013

The Cottage - Floorplans

I thought it would be helpful to put up the floorplans of the cottage should you feel inclined to follow this thread. Having spent a rather wine fueled evening last time we were there making Joe take every measurement in the house and making our own diagrams, the builders then sent us ones that they'd made...

Ground floor - kitchen at the top with aga in the middle, downstairs loo, stairs, drawing room and office

Kitchen with Aga in the middle

First floor - from top - third bedroom, second bedroom, bathroom and master bedroom

7 June 2013

It's that time of year again...

And although the weather is terrible and we're thinking about moving I have seen fit to go and spend money on plants for the garden that I really like and will therefore be sad about leaving or insist on digging up.

Every year since we moved here four years ago I have removed shrubs I've not been keen on, cut things back and weeded. Removed trees, pruned roses, threaded jasmine and clematis and weeded. Except last year, last year I quite quickly got too pregnant to weed and then it looked like I had decided to have some sort of wildflower paddock instead of a garden which was fine but instead of wildflowers they were 5ft weeds. It became apparent that having removed things I then spent a lot of time weeding three particular patches, watching the weeds grow again, weeding etc and could never decide what to plant there. It became this massive decision. What if I planted the wrong thing?

I had to admit that I know what I like but I know nothing of the textures, height differences and colours needed to make a really spectacular garden. Knowing what you like is good - I like peonies in all colours, shapes and sizes and we have a majestic tree peony that flowers at this time every year to fill me with inspiration. I love oriental poppies, lilac, camellias and of course roses. But what of the shrubs that are oh so necessary for texture and variety and for something evergreen during the long winter months.

Luckily for me I have two people close by to help me when I'm struck with indecision and who's knowledge if far greater than mine. My lovely neighbour who's garden is like a haven of colour and calm not only puts up with my constant questions but actually comes to help me in the garden sometimes (most shamingly she had to do some weeding last year when bending over for me was not an option). And my mother, who's garden is my favourite place to be, has similar taste to me, knows what I mean when I try to describe something to her that I think I'd quite like (she had to dissuade me from having cow parsley in the church when i got married 'sad little brown things by the time people arrive darling') but she's not afraid to give me a good kick up the backside when she thinks I'm dithering. And dithering I was.

Having lovingly weeded these bald patches for four years I could not decide what was worthy enough to go in them. Something needed to be done so my mother went with me to the garden center and I got a few things to get me started. Two hellebore's, a foxglove I was too dithery to buy last year, some flax, lobelia and a hebe that I didn't need but fell in love with.

I got back to London and nothing would actually go where I had originally intended but they are in and they've worked and I love it. I think often with gardening although you need to plan and think ahead you also need to go with what you love, a little at a time and build from there. Anyway everything is in and I love it... as usual the pictures don't do it justice
Clematis - planted three years ago, first flower

Peony, Hebe and Hydrangea

Hellebore, clematis, geranium, vinca


4 June 2013

Lemon and Lime Cream Tart

Another recipe that I copied from my mother's copy of The Naked Chef. There wasn't a picture (I don't think) and I was expecting something more like the cold, set lemon tarts I usually make. But it's not, it's cooked and browned on top and completely different. Like the Simple Chocolate Tart I bought the sweet shortcrust pastry base to see if it worked better for this - it went really well with the chocolate tart base - and it was fine but I think if I had more time I probably would hand-make the pastry for this. I'll put a recipe up for this asap. I served this with raspberries but it would work just as well with strawberries.

It was incredibly easy to make and, because I was using the shop-bought base, I had leftover filling which I froze and is apparently spectacular as a sort of ice cream. I didn't get to try any, my husband ate it all. I did use the lime zest as decoration so I zested them, squeezed them into a measuring jug and topped it up with lime juice from a bottle. The 4 limes makes about 100ml.

Lemon and Lime Cream Tart

1 sweet shortcrust pastry tart shell, baked blind.
340g caster sugar
8 large free range eggs
350ml double cream
200ml lime juice
100ml lemon juice
zest of 4 limes (optional)

Egg wash the tart base and pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4

1. In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs. When they are well mixed slowly stir in the cream and juices.

2. Put the tart shell onto a baking tray and pour in the filling.

3. Bake for around 40-45 minutes until the filling is set but still semi-wobbly in the middle.

4. Put on a cooling rack and after about an hour the filling will have firmed up.

5. Dust with a little icing sugar (I forgot), sprinkle with the lime zest and serve with raspberries or strawberries.

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