Plain homemade yogurt with honey
Making your own yogurt is very satisfying and much cheaper once you’ve started as you keep a little back from each batch to make the next.
Preparation 10 minutes plus setting Makes about 750ml
Straining the yogurt through a muslin bag gives a Greek-style version.
750ml whole milk (unhomogenised, if possible)
2 tablespoons whole milk natural yogurt
1 Bring the milk to the boil in a pan set over a medium heat. Take off the heat and allow to cool to about 43ºC. Put the yogurt in a large ceramic or earthenware bowl
2 When the milk has cooled to the correct temperature, remove the skin and whisk into the yogurt
3 Put the ceramic bowl into another larger bowl and pour boiling water in between. Wrap the bowls in a large towel, covering the yogurt completely, and leave in a warm place, ideally an airing cupboard, for at least 4 hours. The yogurt should set firm. If not, check again after an hour – the longer you leave it the thicker and sharper tasting it will be. Store in the fridge until needed for up to a week.
Extracted from A Country Cook’s Kitchen by Alison Walker
Rhubarb and orange loaf cake. Photo: Cristian Barnett
Baking is always a pleasing weekend occupation and this fruity loaf cake makes the most of a delicious early spring ingredient.
Rhubarb and orange loaf cake
Preparation: 30 minutes Cooking: 1 hour Makes 10 slices
175g butter, melted
225g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
Zest of 1 orange
2 egg whites
225g self-raising flour, sifted
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g rhubarb, cut into 1cm pieces
For the topping
30g plain flour, sifted
10g demerara sugar
1/2tsp ground ginger
10g flaked almonds
1 Heat the oven to 180ºC (160º fan oven) gas mark 4. Lightly grease and line a 900g loaf tin.
2 To make the topping: rub together the flour and butter to form rough breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, ground ginger and almonds. Set aside.
3 Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, whole eggs and orange zest until thickened. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
4 Fold the flour, almonds and baking powder into the whisked butter mixture, followed by the rhubarb.
5 Fold in the whisked egg whites. Pour into the prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle with the ginger topping. Bake for 1 hour until risen and golden brown – a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out to cool on a wire rack
The Grand Hotel Eastbourne
This weekend I was lucky enough to stay for a night at the five-star Grand Hotel, Eastbourne. This impressive building, all pillars, turrets and balconies, appears like a vast wedding cake on the seafront, a gleaming white palace in front of the sparkling sea. If you fancy a real treat, this hotel feels like stepping back in time to a more genteel era where people still dress for dinner, the service is exemplary and the grandeur of the Victorian age lives on.
The Grand Hotel
From the moment a smart uniformed doorman smiles to guide you to an allocated parking space this experience is special. Inside the hotel doesn’t disappoint. The Great Hall has dramatic Corinthian columns, soaring ceilings, opulent chandeliers, stained glass and palatial dining rooms. Upstairs bedrooms are comfortable with sea views and some have vast terraces. There are indoor and outdoor pools, shops, a spa and several dining options which mean that whilst this hotel is situated just next to the eastern edge of the South Downs National Park you could easily succumb to full-on pampering and do little more than take a stroll along the seafront.
I had dinner in the Mirabelle, with a tasting menu which paired suggested wines with modern European cuisine – including a number of amuse-bouches. The food was terrific, inventive and beautifully presented. Deservedly this restaurant has been awarded a Michelin star – the only restaurant on the coast with this accolade.
Unlike some seaside resort towns Eastbourne has held onto much of its architectural elegance, hence it was used as the location for the recent remake of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. Its blue and white painted pier, which stretches out on stilts is still beautifully preseved. It has six theatres, a great art gallery, The Towner which opened in a contemporary building in 2009 with exhibitions of C20th-century and contemporary art. The extensive promenade gardens are beautifully landscaped. There are several Martello Towers, a fortress and an unusual Neo-Grecian bandstand dating from the 1930s which hosts outdoor concerts and firework displays.
Nearby, dramatic Beachy Head and The Seven Sisters shelter the town from westerly winds and make this the sunniest spot in the UK. I realise this sounds like a glowing promotion but the town’s gentle and picturesque charms are often overlooked and seem more unique than ever today. The seaside how it used to be.
Photograph: Philip Webb
Keep this delicious cake wrapped up for a few days before tucking in - it becomes marvellously sticky and full of flavour if left to mature and is perfect for a Sunday afternoon treat.
Chocolate and ginger loaf cake
Preparation: 30 minutes Cooking: 45 minutes Makes 1 x 20cm square cake
150g butter, plus extra for greasing
150g soft dark brown sugar
150g black treacle
225g plain flour, sifted
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 large egg, beaten
100g plain chocolate, chopped
1 Heat the oven to 150ºC (130ºC fan oven) gas mark 2. Lightly grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.
2 Put the butter, sugar and treacle into a large pan and stir over a low heat until melted. Cool for a few minutes.
3 Quickly beat in the flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda, followed by the milk egg and chocolate until smooth. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on your oven) until risen and a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Don’t be tempted to open the oven for at least 30 minutes as it will sink in the middle. Leave in the tin set on a wire rack until cold. You can eat this cake straightaway but, if you can resist it, benefits from keeping for three days wrapped in greaseproof paper and stored in an airtight cake tin.
Shepherds’ huts used to be a regular feature of our landscape. Since the 1800s, these simple wooden, and later corrugated iron, sheds on wheels provided a mobile living space for rural workers so that they could shelter and sleep out in the fields near to their livestock – especially important in the lambing season. The huts worked best in lowland landscapes and were common in dowland areas where they could be transported about the fields most easily.
By the 1970s these portable huts were redundant, as farming practices changed and they could be seen silently rusting away in the corner of fields, half-burried in nettles and often as not used as storage space for sacks of fertiliser.
Museum English Rural Life, Reading University
In recent years these basic huts on wheels have been completely reinvented by companies making traditional styles or rennovating old vans for a whole new clientele. Today they have found popularity as summerhouses, home offices, children’s play dens or even as extra accommodation for visitors. They can be fitted out with wooden flooring, lined inside with tongue and groove timber or kitted out with everything from a bed, to a stove for heating and cooking or broadband for a laptop. Outside they can be traditional black-tarred or painted in subtle shades to suit a country garden.
Museum English Rural Life, Reading University
To see a good selection of huts visit The Weald & Dowland Museum – one of my favourites - an open air museum with a terrific selection of historic rural buildings rescued and ressurected in beautiful downland scenery.
Read David Morris’ informative new book on these quirky huts with interesting historical background (Shepherds’ Huts & Living Vans, £16.99, Amberley Books
For new huts try: Plankbridge , Blackdown Shepherd Huts or Roundill Shepherd’s Huts
Apple and mustard pork casserole. Photo: Philip Webb
Pork and apple is a classic pairing and just right for early spring when you need something warming but not too hearty. I go for a walk while it’s cooking which, somehow, always makes it taste even better…
Apple and mustard pork casserole
Apples are a traditional accompaniment to pork and these caramelised slices make a delicious garnish.
Preparation: 30 minutes Cooking: about 2 hours Serves 4
1kg pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks
1 tablespoon seasoned flour
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
100g smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 large leeks, cut into 3cm chunks
1 garlic clove, crushed
500ml dry cider
250ml hot chicken stock
3-4 tablespoons soured cream
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
2 Cox’s Orange Pippin apples, cored
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 Heat the oven to 170ºC (150ºC fan oven) gas mark 3. Toss the pork in the seasoned flour. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large hob proof casserole dish. Brown the pork in batches over a medium to high heat and set aside.
2 Gently fry the bacon in the casserole to release the fat then turn up the heat and fry until golden. Set aside with the pork.
3 Fry the leek until lightly golden, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in any leftover seasoned flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually blend in the cider and stock and bring to the boil.
4 Return the pork and bacon to the casserole, cover and cook in the oven for 1-1½ hours until the pork is tender.
5 Remove the pork, bacon and leeks with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Put the casserole over a medium heat. If the sauce is thin, reduce a little until syrupy. Add the cream and simmer for 2 minutes until thickened. Stir in the mustard. Check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.
6 Meanwhile, halve the apples, then cut into 1cm thick slices. Melt the butter in a pan with the sugar. When it’s stopped foaming, add the apples and fry gently for 3-5 minutes until tender and caramelised. Serve the pork casserole garnished with the apple slices and sage.
If you’re anything like us at the Country Living office this year, Shrove Tuesday will have taken you a bit by surprise. To help you out recipe-wise, we’ve delved into the CL archives for this little number which promises both tastiness and foolproofness. Perfect. Don’t forget to buy lemons and let us know your favourite toppings. I start with lemon and sugar then move onto Nutella and sliced bananas. Bliss!
Makes approx 16
250g plain flour
golden caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
3 large eggs and 2 egg yolks
600ml full cream milk
40g unsalted butter, melted
1. To prepare the pancakes by hand, place the flour, sugar (a tablespoon for sweet pancakes and a pinch for savoury) and salt in a large bowl, add the eggs and yolks and mix to a lumpy wet paste using a spoon. Now whisk in the milk, a little to begin with to smooth out the lumps, then in bolder streams once you have a creamy batter. Alternatively place all the ingredients except for the butter in a blender and whizz until smooth. Give the sides and bottom of the blender a stir to make sure there’s no flour clinging, and whizz again. Leave the batter to stand for at least 30 minutes, then stir in the melted butter, transferring the batter to a bowl if you’ve made it in a blender.
2. Heat a frying pan with an 18cm base (a 24cm pan) over a medium-high heat for several minutes – if you want to speed things up, have two on the go.
3. Ladle in just enough batter to coat the base, tipping it to allow it to run evenly over the surface. When the pan is hot enough, the pancake mixture should sizzle as it hits the pan. Cook for 30 seconds until the top side appears dry and lacy at the edges and it is golden and lacy underneath. Loosen the edges using a palette knife or spatula, slip this underneath and flip it over. Give it another 30 seconds and then slip it onto a plate. Once you’ve done three or four, you really get into the swing of it. Cook the remainder likewise.
4. You can either dish up the pancakes as they are cooked, or pile them up on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. They can be made in advance, too – cover and chill them once they are cool, and reheat them briefly on each side in
a dry frying pan. In this case, they keep well for several days.
5. Serve them rolled or folded.
Monk’s House Garden Photograph by Caroline Arber
Designer and craftswoman Caroline Zoob has contributed to the magazine over the years and is a great supporter of our shows. Her inspiring stands at the Country Living Fair which combine her trademark delicate embroideries or china designs together with antiques and vintage accessories are always beautifully staged and have attracted a dedicated following.
For ten years, Caroline was the tenant of Monk’s House, home of the writer Virginia Woolf, at Rodmell in East Sussex (National Trust). Whilst custodian of the house she became passionate about the garden and spent a great deal of her energy researching and restoring it. These photographs are taken from her recently published book, Virginia Woolf”s Garden, £30, Jackie Small publishing. With atmospheric photographs, the book interweaves an account of the making of the garden with Virginia’s writings and current developments in the garden. Husband, Leonard, was the gardener here, though the garden ineviitably influenced Virginia’s writing, much of which was done in her little writing hut in the orchard, with views out over the Ouse Valley to Mount Caburn.
Monk’s House garden photograph by Caroline Arber
Over the Downs at nearby Charleston Farmhouse, her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell created a colourful walled garden filled with exuberant flowers and fruit in a cottage garden style, with Mediterranaean influences. This garden been brought back to life, restored and replanted extensively, as recently as the 1980s. It now hosts a literary festival in May. Look out for a feature on it in Country Living this summer.
House and garden for both properties open to the public from April to October and are well worth a visit. You could combine both easily in a day trip.