Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Young To Feed

It is so wonderful watching the wildlife from my art studio windows. A family of blue tits have taken over under the eaves of the roof. Each morning the parents gather grubs from the garden to feed their young and it is amazing how many flights a day they make  to ensure their babes are well looked after. 

This shot would make a great painting!.

Elderflower Cordial Recipe

Elderflower Cordial,
So easy!

Elderflowers and lemons

I have made my own elderflower cordial for years now and it's always loved by family and friends. It now seems a very fashionable drink to buy in supermarkets and stores,often at a wonderfully expensive price. But it only costs a few lemons and a bag of sugar to make several bottles and its so easy too!

This is my own very easy version and it does taste delicious!


Five large sprays of Elderflower heads, the size of your hand. Make sure they are fresh, just open flowers and wonderfully perfumed. This adds to the experience of making your own cordial! Discard any flowers that are already going brown or dying!

One bag of granulated sugar 2lbs 2 ozs

2-3 lemons

Citric Acid  Can be purchased from a chemist of pharmacy. Use two to three teaspoons.

Boiling Water


In a large bowl place the sugar.. Next half the lemons and squeeze their juice over the sugar in the bowl, after that throw in the whole lemon pieces too! Now  place your elderflowers on top. Add two to three teaspoons of Cirtic Acid and cover with hot boiling water. Stir well.

Now the hard part, cover it with a plate and leave it for  24 hours. It's that easy!

 Toimorrow strain the mixture well and  pour into bottles with tops.

Now your cordial is ready to drink. Pour into glasses on top of ice cubes, add cold water and sprigs of mint to decorate or add slices of fresh lemon.

Be warned the sugar content means this is not calorie free but you can add less if you wish. In fact you can vary the recipe however you like with more lemons, less or no citric acid which gives the sharp, refreshing, sherbet flavouring.

It's yummy,easy to make and so much cheaper than buying from a shop.

To me the very best part  is  walking my dog Bailey to look for the elderflowers at this time of year! 

Have fun!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Ducklings 2011

First Swim


Yesterday afternoon we saw the first ducklings of 2011 in our garden. It was such a gorgeous day with  brilliant sunshine so perfect for a first swim. Watching the mother duck lead her offspring into the water from the bank was  a very special moment.

She has thirteen  tiny fluffballs at the moment.The sounds they make as they glide along in their family goup is wonderful to hear.

Now we feel we need to be vigilant as last year  magpies  killed all but one duckling from one  brood. It was so sad to witness but the female duckling grew and stayed with us all summer becoming very tame to feed.

I can't help but wonder is this the same  female as she does seem very familiar!

I will keep my blog updtaed with images  because they are so cute to watch grow.

Last years ducklings

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tadpoles 2011

Tadpoles recently hatched 2011

The tadpoles have  almost all hatched now and are moving around quite quickly in our pond. This afternoon in sunshine it was fascinating watching the formations and clusters of black wriggling shapes. 

I think they are line dancing in the photograph below!

Line Dancing Tadpoles 2011

Spring Garden 2011

 Spring Garden 2011

Just sharing a walk in my garden this afternoon. A wonderful place for inspiration as an artist and to paint.

Gorgeous Daffodils surround the cottage

Muscari line a border making a beautiful splash of blue.

Dwarf Tulips giving a vibrant shock of colour in another border.

The old, huge Camelia tree that stands at the front of our home is now covered in amazing white flowers

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Friendship Egg Tree

Friendship Egg Tree

This is such a wonderful idea. Every year I hang egg ornaments on branches from the garden which I bring into my home  to place in a huge vase or jug. This is my egg tree. I  do this before every Easter and each year my tree gets prettier as the ornaments on it grow in number.

The painted eggs are often given to me by friends and stored safely until each new year. They are easy to make or buy from many stores. I used to paint goose eggs to give away  to friends by painting them and decorating them with scenes of primrose or easter rabbits. Now I am  sorry to say my free time is limited so I keep a look out for new unusual eggs to buy to give away each year.

It's rather a nice thought looking at a tree  and thinking of people who have touched your heart.  Buying eggs to remember special friends who can't be with us anymore is also a lovely way to remember them. 

I think everyuone should have a friendship tree!


Fruits of Cooking

Fresh Fruit Salad

I have two rather poorly pets at the moment so I am finding myself spending time in the kitchen and near where they are rather than working in my art studio constantly. This morning I made a fresh fruit salad which led to an idea for my next dish and invention.

I placed pork steaks in a dish with slices of fresh pear, added seasoning and fresh ginger. Next I made a simple stock from juices of the pork and added  a small amount of ginger cordial.The aroma is fabulous when combined. I've pre baked the dish so that tonight I can reheat and have a relaxed evening with my convalescing four legged family.
I feel as though I am turning into a Delia Smith or Nigella Lawson this week!

They are back!

  March 2011

This morning I looked out of my window to see two Canadian Geese on our lawn. Last year they had beautiful goslings that were so delightful to watch. I raced for  my camera and one happily posed for me whilst waiting for food.

My joy was a little shortlived when I remembered how much mess they made but the happy memories to come  I am sure will make up for it!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Pheasant Pate

Pheasant Pate

Freshly made this morning

Having realised I had pheasant in the freezer that needed to be used I decided to cook pheasant pate. This recipe is so simple and  very low in cost to make. A pair of pheasant cost five pounds at our local 

I roasted the defrosted pair until they were tender. I then took all the meat off the bones, which will be used for pheasant soup, and minced it with two chopped onions. Next I added one chopped hard boiled egg and some melted butter. Adding my favourite seasoning came next with lots of freshly ground black pepper. The  last addition of sour cream until the consistency was just right left me with enough pate to fill six suitable dishes. Four will go into the freezer to be used when guests arrive in a variety of forms for appetisers. One is a gift for a wonderful friend and the other will be demolished pretty quickly by the look of it.

This morning I had banana and blueberry muffins in the oven which smelt delicious, the bones from the pheasant were in a large pot simmering in preparation for the pheasant soup I will make later today and  I was in the middle of making the pate when a caterer arrived as I have a special birthday party in our garden this summer.  They must have thought catering was my own profession as the kitchen smelt fantastic at this point!

Now it is time for me to enjoy the sunshine and paint in my garden,what I have been longing to do all day

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Frogs 2011

Frogspawn 2011

This time last year the pond in the woodland at the foot of our garden was covered in frogspawn.Unfortunately the pond was such a mess in our new home that we knew a decision to renovate was  necessary. So at the end of last summer we completely changed the pond. It now has a waterfall which looks and sounds really beautiful.

Waterfall built to feed water into the pond.

My main fear was that the frogs wouldn't like it and not return to their annual centre for mating. But I needn't have worried. A few weeks ago the pond was full of toads and frogs all  mating. Soon the masses of frogspawn began to appear. Once the base of the pond was covered the adult frogs and toads disappeared leaving their  offspring to fend for itself as the creative circle of life began.

 I have been watching daily as jelly like  clumps  start to  float to the top of the pond. Nature really is incredible. I feel like a five year old as I eagerly make my way to the pond every day to see if there are any changes there.

 Frogspawn 2010 

I have also noticed Hector the Heron  has begun to visit more frequently!

Cap'n Hector on our boat! 

The next few months are going to be so fascinating as new life from ducklings,moorhen chicks and the frogs develop giving my camera wonderful memories to capture. 

I hope to share many here!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

A Sense of Home

Home Cooking..........Again!

Belgium Choc Chip Cakes

The cookery bug has hit me as the air of Spring settles on our cottage.This is the first year living here without the dreaded thought of unpacking boxes or moving. I have lived in os many countries but I am loving the feeling of being in a home which will be filled with many happy memories in the years to come.

Maybe it was typing about my step mother here that reminded me of my childhood. Fridays were always days of cake baking.The house would be filled with a delicious aroma from the kitchen where a variety of cakes were made to last the week ahead while my step mother was working.

Every Friday there would always be a home cooked large fruit cake, a Victoria sponge,Welsh cakes and small buns. These would be made, carfeully stored in cake tins and  eaten with the sheer joy of knowing they were  made with love for all who tasted them.

Today the sun is shining brightly, daffodils are everywhere in the garden and primroses really are looking beautiful in small  clumps dotted here and there. The colour from my kitchen window is delightful. All that was missing this morning was the scent of home cooked cakes so  instead of wielding my paint brushes I took time out to cook some small cakes instead. I have been preparing for two major exhibitions and a charity event so the break was a welcome change.

We went to Belgium for the Christmas Markets last year and I was given a gift by a wonderful chocolatier of  a bag of gorgeous Belgium choc chips. I hadn't used them so  it was a perfect excuse to try them out.

I know friends may want a recipe but all I did was place 300gms of Self Raising Flour in a bowl with 150 gms of castor sugar and 125 gms of butter. I mixed these ingredients together then added one egg mixed with  milk to make a good cake consistency and then added the small choc chips. After  mixing I placed spoonfuls in  muffin trays and cooked for  twenty five minutes.

They taste delicious but the next batch will be made with choc chip and banana. After that there is always that jar of ginger  from Christmas that could make another wonderful version with apple..........

 My imagination is about to run riot with combinations and flavour additions  again!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Shepherds Delight

Home made Shepherds Pie

I don't know whether it's being an artist that makes me enjoy being in the kitchen cooking just a little bit more. But I often find food combinations as exciting as the colour combinations when I am working in watercolour.

Yesterday was a typically dull English day with rain and grey skies. This is the kind of weather that seems to call for comfort food rather than anything more exotic. As I had cooked a lamb roast the day before I decided to make a wonderful mash topping for the remaining lamb which I used as a base in a tasty gravy with fresh vegeltables of carrots and peas. With just a touch of seasoning so as not to detract from the delicious tender fresh lamb this made a wonderful supper.

I remember my  step mother who was a terrific cook always making three meals out of a joint of meat. Lamb would always start as a roast on a Sunday, turn into a shepherds pie on a Tuesday followed by amazing lamb patties  on a Wednesday. Food in her home was never frozen as fresh meals were planned ahead, looked forward to and enjoyed.  Different vegetables were used with each dish to ring the changes. It was a way of life in my childhood that I look back at and wonder how families of today  will  create memories from the many fast food and ready prepared meals now available in stores. These my step mother completely frowned upon because she was never convinced all the vitamins or goodness was in them. As a working mother she took a pride in what she placed on the table every day, how it was presented and how it was enjoyed. She was a humble lady from a large family of thirteen, mainly brothers who went down the mines as soon as they were old enough. She told many stories of hardship and making do. Creating culinary delights out of next to nothing was an ability she carried that I admired. Even potatoe peelings were deep fried, topped with  salt and served as a side dish hot from the pan and delicious. Nothing was wasted. I had to smile when I saw these on a menu in an upmarket restaurant recently. The mention of a particular rock salt topping made them  a speciality dish!

My life is very different now but I never forget all the wonderful lessons she taught me especially in the kitchen. Cooking meals like shepherds pie brings my feet firmly back down to earth  and gives me time to reflect on how lucky I am.

All from one simple meal.

Living in a cottage I will look forward to making the popular cottage pie which is the same but with beef as the base in the coming months.

I adore cooking but looking forward to eating this was even better!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Home Cooking

Goodness it is ages since I have been on my cottage blog but I will try to add more now that spring is here!  

Home Cooking at the Cottage

Yesterday was so cold that I  really found myself thinking of classic warming puddings. I love cooking! I had some beautiful bread that was begging to be used so I made a  quick Bread and Butter Pudding. Time was short as I had a busy day ahead. However the minute I mentioned this  pudding to friends I was asked for the recipe.To be honest it is so easy to make!

 Bread and Butter Pudding

 Years ago this recipe was mainly for using left over bread. Stale  bread was often used which is why milk is added to soften it and make it more palatable. It was a  pudding that was cheap, filling and comforting on cold winter days. But today it is taking on a rather more elgant role as leading chefs add their own interpretations to make it more "posh"!

 Let's start with the basic ingredients

A few slices of bread
A handful of Sultanas
Cinnamon or Nutmeg

Butter the bread, layer it in a bowl with the sugar and sultanas. I break the bread up into pieces using sliced white or even a broken up fresh baguette as seen in the photograph above.  Use as much butter as you wish remembering that it will be very rich if you use too much! When you layer add as many sultanas or as little as you like. I prefer to use only a handful interspersed at random through the layers. The amount of sugar to be used is  personal.Too much and the  pudding is too sweet,too little and it's boring in flavour. A few spoonfuls should be enough,one for each layer! Next I use two eggs and  beat them before adding half a pint of milk.  This mixture I pour over the ingredients in the bowl and leave it to stand for a few minutes before placing in the oven at 180. Sprinkle  the nutmeg or cinnamon  on top or  in the layers. Then I forget about it for about half an hour to forty five minutes by which time the kitchen starts smelling rather yummy.

The amount of cooking time and the amount of liquid you need varies depending on the size bowl you are using and amount of bread. It is so easy that you can't really go wrong!

You will know when it is cooked when the top if slightly golden and  the pudding seems almost set.Don't overcook it as there is something  extar yummy about eating a desert that is nicely soft and custardy! Even so the bread should be solid in the mix not mushy!

You can play with the basic recipe and  design a Bread and Butter Pudding of your own. Try  making it with croissants which is my favouriteversion! Add Baileys Irish Cream for a more decadent result, add lemon zest or orange peel. For youngsters as in adults who haven't grown up yet add choc chips in the layers or cocoa powder to the milk  and egg mix.

There are a million ways you can make your own interpretation!

Like my art my cooking is often unqiue without measuring. I just go  with my heart on what feels right and it somehow luckily works!

Have fun and enjoy!

Now who thought I had forgotten to share the recipe? Hands up!