Celebrating RHS Chelsea Flower Show in Woburn Sands

The sweetest floral, the most delicate potted treasures and rows upon rows of, well, sandwiches.

Review: The Anchor Aspley Guise

The Anchor is a pub and restaurant in the village of Aspley Guise on the outskirts of the borough of Milton Keynes. Under new management it has recently undergone a very expensive face lift to the tune of £600k that has completely overhauled this village pub into an exciting and sophisticated social spot.

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How could I resist heading over to Aspley Guise to see exactly what’s been happening in this laid back village…?!

Recipe: Banana Crumb Muffins

As my little toddler was having a sleepover at his Nan’s, I had some free time this morning and couldn’t resist the urge to bake (I totally blame Great British Bake Off being back on our screens!).

ARTea Room: Afternoon Tea

Off the beaten track this quirky tea room is worth tiptoeing past the chickens for

Today’s #AfternoonTeaWeek visit is to ARTea Tea Rooms at Wakefield Country Courtyard in Potterspury.

Although ARTea is in Northants, it’s not at all far from Milton Keynes and is very easy to find just off the A5.

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Made up of three rooms including a beautiful loft room, ARTea is a vintage lover’s delight.

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It’s not just a tea room/café. It’s a space for Art. A gallery where Artists can display their work and customers can buy. It’s a kitsch collection of paintings, drawings, arts and crafts goodies that make your eyes jump from place to place as you try and take it all in. It seems the perfect relationship.

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Mismatched vintage teacups and saucers were already laid at the table when I sat down. I love vintage tea ware! Pretty floral patterns on delicate china cups and saucers. Whilst I ordered my English Breakfast tea I noticed the relaxing tones of 50’s classics quietly playing and felt myself relaxing into this cosy warm place.

Teapots of loose leaf tea wearing cute knitted tea cosies on their bodies proudly like winter jumpers were presented to the table (with strainers already inside – how convenient!)

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Then immediately after a two tiered vintage cake stand filled with sandwiches appeared to join them.

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Sandwiches were rustic and of various mismatched triangle shapes and kept their crusts on. White bread was used along with chunky granary/seeded bread. Feeling perfectly in keeping with the shabby chic vintage feel of the tea room.

The sandwiches were served with three different fillings:

Egg mayonnaise
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Cheese and pickle
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Ham and tomato
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So, different from elegant slender finger sandwiches but quite satisfying all the same. Ham was a great quality, egg mayonnaise had that definite homemade taste to it and my favourite, the cheese and pickle was lip smackingly tasty.

Whilst I was tucking into the sandwiches a platter plate was brought to the table. A beautiful arrangement of scones, cakes, sweets and even fresh fruit was up next.

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First scones. Two fruit scones for one happy girl. The scones were warm and clearly had come straight from the oven. You couldn’t have asked for fresher.Crisp exterior and warm, soft interior that is one of the best I’ve tasted this week.

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Pots of clotted cream and jam were of a large generous size so there was no fear of running out. Strawberry jam was particularly fruity and yum.

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Cakes/sweets came in three offerings:

Mini Victoria Sandwich
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Chocolate brownie
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Lemon posset
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All the cakes are made in-house. The Victoria Sandwich was very moreish and reminded me of my star baker’s cakes (my mum). The lemon posset was a standout winner. Light, dreamy lemon flavours danced on my tongue with just the right amount of sweetness. I’d eat another, oh and another…

On the same platter as the scones and cakes, fresh fruit was arranged. Strawberries, grapes and kiwi fruit were a pleasant and refreshing way to end the meal. A unique touch from the other teas I’ve had this week but it works.

The Afternoon Tea at ARTea is for a minimum of two and costs £12.00 per person. It does require booking in advance. There is a luxury Afternoon Tea available where a glass of sparkling wine is added for only £3 more. Mmm.  

Date of visit: 11.08.16
ARTea
Wakefield Country Courtyard
Potterspury
Northamptonshire
NN12 7QX
01327 810 245
http://www.artearoom.co.uk/

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BROWNS BRASSERIE & BAR: AFTERNOON TEA

Afternoon Tea in the City (Centre)

Browns in The Hub is a Brasserie & Bar that exudes style and refinement. A place where even the staff look the part in stylish suits and serving outfits.

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The best Christmas cake recipe ever!

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Ingredients at the ready!

It’s funny the little quirky traditions that families have. When I was a little girl I used to insist to my parents that we had to make a Christmas cake every year (despite my poor Dad being forced to eat old, dry Christmas cake until Easter). I loved standing up on a chair at the dining table helping to measure out ingredients and using the electric mixer. We were never allowed to commence baking without grabbing the one and only Christmas VHS we owned and putting it on. It was quite a dark, old film. The 1970 musical adaption of Dickens’ Christmas classic “Scrooge” starring Albert Finney. Even in later years when I had my own Christmas films, it had to be that one. Of course as I became an older teenager, the tradition faded but once I became married and started a family of my own the urge for homemade Christmas cake came back.

I’d never heard of Mary Berry before The Great British Bake Off on TV but after falling in love with her, I had to try her Christmas cake recipe. For the last few years my husband and I have been so impressed with the quality of our Christmas cakes, we can barely believe that we made them ourselves. So here is her recipe, taken from goodtoknow.co.uk. Maybe it will become your favourite Christmas cake recipe too?

Ingredients

175g (6 oz) raisins
350g (12 oz) glace cherries, rinsed, thoroughly dried and quartered
500g (1lb 2oz) currants
350g (12oz) sultanas
150ml (¼ pint) sherry, plus extra for feeding
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
250g (9oz) butter, softened
250g (9oz) light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp black treacle
75g (3oz) blanched almonds, chopped
75g (3oz) self-raising flour
175g (6oz) plain flour
1½ tsp mixed spice

To finish and decorate Mary Berry’s Christmas cake:

About 3tbsp apricot jam, sieved and warmed
Icing sugar
675g shop-bought almond paste
Packet royal icing mix to cover 23cm/9in cake

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The dried fruit before the addition of the orange zest. Beautiful!

Method

Put all the dried fruit in a container, pour over the sherry and stir in the orange zest. Cover with a lid, and leave to soak for 3 days, stirring daily. Grease and line a 23cm (9in) deep round tin with a double layer of greased greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 140C, 120C fan, gas 1.

Measure the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and almonds into a very large bowl and beat well. Add the flours and mixed spice and mix thoroughly until blended. Stir in the soaked fruit. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 4-4½ hours or until the cake feels firm to the touch and is a rich golden brown. Check after 2 hours, and, if the cake is a perfect colour, cover with foil. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

When cool, pierce the cake at intervals with a fine skewer and feed with a little extra sherry. Wrap the completely cold cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper and again in foil and store in a cool place for up to 3 months, feeding at intervals with more sherry. (Don’t remove the lining paper when storing as this helps to keep the cake moist.)

Decorate with almond paste and royal icing.

To prepare the Christmas cake ahead: Prepare the fruit and soak in sherry 3 days ahead – this is essential to plump up and flavour the fruit. Make the cake and wrap as in stage 4. Store in a cool place for up to 3 months, following stage 4. You could also freeze the cake before decorating, for up to 3 months; defrost at room temperature.

Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection is available from Amazon, RRP £16.99

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All ready to go into the oven!

 

The combination of soaking the dried fruit for three days in freshly grated orange zest and sherry is what makes this recipe so deliciously moist and tasty. No photos of our finished cake just yet, as it’s being wrapped and fed for the next few weeks before we ice it for the big day but will post photos when it’s ready. The house now smells Christmassy and I have a massive urge for more Christmas baking!

christmastreechristmastreechristmastree Do you have any family Christmas traditions when it comes to food? Or do you think you’ve got the perfect Christmas cake recipe? Let me know! christmastreechristmastreechristmastree

What’s on: Award winning Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair this weekend

After a lovely holiday in sunny Florida, I am back!

Now that autumn is here, the nights are drawing in and the weather leaves a lot to be desired. It’s good to know what events are happening in Milton Keynes and more specifically, ones that do not wholly rely on the weather.

If, like me you enjoy a bit of nostalgia, a bit of quirkiness and lots of pretty things, why don’t you head over to Stantonbury Leisure Centre this Saturday for Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair. Winner of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 ‘Best Vintage Fair in the UK’ award, they are sure not to disappoint. With a vast array of vintage fashion and home wares, as well as a vintage tea room (with the promise of proper cups and saucers!), beauty parlour AND vintage entertainment.

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I’m thinking this will be an excellent opportunity for me to make a start on my Christmas shopping, so why don’t you join me? And maybe afterwards, I’ll see you in the tea room where I fully intend to indulge in tea and cake. NOM!

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Lou Lou’s Vintage Fair
Saturday 24 October 2015
11-5pm
Stantonbury Leisure Centre
Entry is £2
(Under 12s free)