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‘Live life’ Category

  1. Papua New Guinea

    October 14, 2017 by sarah

    This year our main holiday was to the other end of the world, figuratively and literally, to Papua New Guinea! It was one of the most extraordinary countries I have ever been to. My overwhelming memory of the holiday is the people; friendly and open, quiet but happy, unassuming and generous. Much like my previous favourite place in the world, Vanuatu. We saw some wonderful and unique things and had a variety of special experiences, of which these photos only touch the surface.

    It was very hard to go back through these photos to prepare them to be viewed. For a start there were nearly 6000! Secondary, I did not want to spoil the magic by looking back at photographs rather than memories but actually having a space of a few months then going back through the photos has allowed me to re-enjoy the holiday again. In the interests of brevity, I have not included many of my ‘arty’ photos, instead concentrating on ones which tell the story of Papua New Guinea and our holiday. I have captioned most of them – please ask me any questions!

  2. Thame food festival – prize winning cakes

    October 1, 2017 by sarah

    After the village show this year, I decided to enter a bigger cake competition to acquire new skills and stretch my existing ones and so I entered the Thame Food Festival Bake Off. I chose to enter a fun category (Lotte’s kitsch cakes, judged by Lotte Duncan), a seasonal one to use up all those apples from the garden (harvest festival happiness, judged by Jane Beedle from the Great British Bake Off) and a challenging category (choux pastry, judged by Chris Wheeler). When I got the cakes to the show this morning (after a hideous 6am start), I was really chuffed with what I had achieved. And then I was even more proud to found that I had won two first prizes! I got these cute star baker medals too!



















    I definitely had fun with the kitsch cake, thinking of what to do to make it as kitsch as possible but still tasty and then how to make the decorations to complete my vision. I made a cake I titled ‘Little Red Riding Hood in the Black Forest (gateau)’ with my delicious chocolate buttermilk layer cake (recipe here) and Swiss meringue buttercream flavoured with cherry cordial and coloured pink. I made all the decorations except the figurine for Little Red Riding Hood and the squirrel, both of which I found in charity shops. There were Italian meringue trees and bushes, meringue mushrooms decorated coloured white chocolate (recipe here, but I used food colouring powder to colour the white chocolate so it didn’t seize this time), a fondant wolf and a red cape for Little Red Riding Hood, a bowler hat for the squirrel and mini fondant mushrooms and flowers. A few sprinkles and a bit of glitter and it was done! I was really pleased that my cake beat five others in this category, one of the largest in the show.













    I must of been mad when I chose something challenging and then chose to make choux! If I had known how difficult this pastry is and how challenging weather would be then I am not sure I would have chosen this category. I must be the only mad one as I was the only entrant in this category! These final eclairs are the culmination of about 10 hours of baking trials and 6 different lots. Different ingredients, different recipes, different piping nozzles, to streusel or not streusel top, different baking temperatures and timings… I will write a full post on what I learnt, even if it is only for prosperity and I never make them again! Today was so humid that within seconds the choux had softened. Anyway, here are my rhubarb, custard and white chocolate eclairs – choux eclairs filled with rhubarb, vanilla cremeux and rhubarb gel topped with white chocolate and a rhubarb twirl.

    My harvest cake wasn’t placed but I was still happy with it. I knew I wanted an apple cake but after the flop of an apple cake at the village show (a little too moist), I knew I needed to up my game. It actually took several recipes over several weeks to find one I liked and then tweak it so that it came out how I imagined it. It may not have been placed but I am pleased with it – cinnamon apple cake with honey from our garden and cider soaked walnuts, honey glaze and buttered walnuts and dried apple slices to decorate. Recipe coming up in a future post.

    I will need to enter next year and try to win the Magimix Patissier machine, especially as they didn’t even have any for sale at the show! It was definitely challenging weather today as it was so humid that when we collected the cakes, the sugar work was weeping! We had a lovely day going around the stalls, sampling delicious food and drink and spending all of our pocket money!

  3. Honey, honey, honey… and now everything is sticky!

    September 21, 2017 by sarah

    This past week we (other half and I) have been busy with the honey harvest! The bees are really my husbands hobby, but I help out when I can. We have two hives at the back of the garden, behind the chickens. They are fascinating creatures to watch and generally placid as they are too busy going about their business collecting nectar and pollen. I say ‘mainly’ placid as I got stung on the face a few weeks ago though I was strimming the weeds around the hive without any bee suit on and Jim got stung multiple times last week when he was merging two hives together and they didn’t appreciate the move (he was only wearing a half length bee suit and so he got stung on the ankles – ow!).

    The honey harvest! The jars on the bottom look darker as there are other jars behind them.












    But now it is time for us to get our first honey harvest. This is the third year we have had bees and only the first time we have got any honey from them. It takes a couple of years for the colony to be strong enough to harvest and the first colony died in its first winter. We had a fair amount of ‘fun’ with the bees this year, what with swarming several times. Part of the merging of hives was to get rid of a weak queen (in a humane way, she was euthanised) and then bring together to the two smaller hives so they stand a better chance of surviving the winter. Which meant we only got to harvest the other hive.

    We turned the conservatory over to honey extraction as we could keep the cat out and minimise stickiness (to a degree!).


















    Keeping bees is not a cheap hobby and the cost of the honey nowhere near covers the real costs of producing it which is why real, locally produced honey is the price it is. But you can come and meet the bees if you like and at least see where they live. Very low food miles! This honey is very local, totally natural (no added sugar unlike some supermarket stuff) and is raw (supermarket stuff is pasteurised which kills off the good enzymes). I also have a couple of jars of capping for sale – these are full of natural wax, pollen and propolis so are really good for you, especially if you suffer from hayfever. I am very pleased with the harvest – 26 jars of 1lb (454g). Some of the jars also have chunks of comb in.

    The capped honey waiting to be extracted from the comb.

















    Did you know that to produce one pound of honey, 2 million flowers need to be harvested? In its lifetime, one honey bee will only collect 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey! Wow, that is a lot of trips out and it is all very weather dependant; bees make great weather forecasters. In the middle of a summer, the hive will contain about 50,000 bees all under the care of one queen! And that 80% of our fruit, vegetable and seed production depends on the pollination of insects like bees!


    The swarm when it was in next door’s pear tree!

    Putting the swarm in a temporary box as the second hive hadn’t arrived yet.

    Jim up a ladder collecting the swarm the first time.

    Can you see the queen? She is marked with white.

    Jim inspecting sub-hive 2!

    Watch out for the camera!

    Removing the super full of honey!

    The honey ‘tap’ is called a honey gate and it makes a nice clean job of getting sticky honey into a jar with minimal stickiness!

    A frame of honey in the extractor – beautiful!

    This process is called uncapping – removing the wax caps from the cells of honey so it can be extracted.

    Frames waiting to be extracted – a nearly full super.

  4. A historic baking day

    September 16, 2017 by sarah

    Today I spent a lovely day at the Chiltern Open Air Museum near Chalfont St.Giles on a historic baking day. I discovered this delightful museum quite by chance when looking online for something to do when my parents were visiting. Together we had a lovely time wandering around the rescued building from the local area and talking to the volunteers there – I was very impressed with the allotment! My Mother booked me on this baking day as a Birthday treat (still 3 months off I might add) as it looked different.

























    There were only 5 of us and we spent the day in an 18th Century cottage with volunteer Jenny Templeton, preparing bread and learning how to get the oven up to temperature (over 2 hours of feeding it wood). The bread was very slow to rise as it was a cold Autumnal day and we were glad for the work out kneading the dough. I had a delicious light lunch in the tea room, including this slice of green and jasmine tea cake (unfortunately couldn’t taste green tea or jasmine but nice light sponge) and some Fentiman’s rose lemonade. In the afternoon we shaped the dough and while it was having a final rise, we made pastry and decorated jam tarts; I took along some of my lovely ‘Autumn Glut’ jam (windfall apples and pears with damsons and brambles from the hedgerows) which went down well.  Then the bread went in the prepared oven, sealed with clay to keep the heat in. We made some butter while the bread was baking; double cream beaten with a variety of authentic implements. The butter took a lot of elbow grease to make; it so much easier with a machine! During the day and at the end I had time to wander around the museum a little and get a good look in some of the buildings. Finally our bread and tarts were baked and the butter patted and wrapped and then time to go home. I lovely day playing at a different way of baking.

  5. Alps Trip

    June 10, 2017 by sarah

    Here are some photos from our latest holiday!

  6. I won a photography competition!

    November 27, 2016 by sarah

    I can’t believe it! This summer I won a competition for my food photography! I have never won anything before with my photography and in fact the only thing I remember winning is a bottle of blend whisky in a veterinary raffle! Here is my winning photo.


























    And here is the photo I was emulating. And I had to make the recipe too, which you can find on an earlier blog entry here.
























    I have to be realistic though that it is not a major competition, just a food magazine competition. Nether the less, I won a set of professional knives worth £700. They arrived this week and I couldn’t wait to unpack them. Until this point in time I have had only one knife capable of cutting anything firmer than a tomato and now I have a set of eight! I think I’ll look at entering some more food photography competitions!

    knives-4 knives-3 knives-2 knives

  7. Essaouira, Morocco – holiday

    November 21, 2016 by sarah

    A couple of weeks ago we spent a lovely week in a small town called Essaouira on the coast of Morocco. We spent a wonderfully relaxing week wandering the souks, tickling cats,  reading books that I have been meaning to read for years, taking morning ‘nos-nos’ coffee and pastry and afternoon mint tea and pastries, eating delicious tagines/pastilla/grilled sardines, going to a real local hammam for a scrub and a touristy but luxuriant spa for a massage, watching a film (Ex Machina) in the open-air cinema… And spending time together, talking and getting to know each other again. All this (flights for two and a nice riad hotel in the centre) cost less than renting a cottage in damp, cold England! The world is crazy!

  8. The Chocolate Show, London

    October 17, 2016 by sarah

    Yesterday, I answered that long-standing question – can you ever eat too much chocolate? I can now confirm the answer – yes! We went into London to The Chocolate Show, being held at Olympia. I originally found out about this show through the International Chocolate Awards, which were holding their ceremony at the show (but I missed it as it was on Friday when I could not attend). I could not believe there was so much high quality chocolate on one site! I spied lots of famous chocolatiers, including Paul A Young. We tried his chocolate afternoon tea at the show, which I have to say was the biggest disappointment (soggy bread, dense scones, dulche de leche instead of made caramel sauce, crystallised ganache). We signed up to a monthly chocolate subscription service so we can continue to eat good chocolate all year and I brought home a huge bag of chocolates and bars to try. It was also very inspirational in regards my amateur attempts at chocolate making – yuzu is the in thing, along with bean-to-bar producers.

  9. Photos from Svalbard

    July 31, 2016 by sarah

    After a couple of weeks I have finally finished my photos from Svalbard. I was a bit of a mammoth operation, getting over 5500 photos down to 2000 – don’t worry, I’ve got it to about 150 photos for this gallery! Please enjoy looking at them. We are having a few printed in special ways so we can finally put some of our own art work on the walls rather than complaining ‘we can do that, and better’!!!

    This is the first time I have used a gallery within WordPress – please let me know what you think. If you’d like to view the pictures full page, click on one and then you can use the right and left buttons on your keyboard to scroll forward and back. I haven’t worked out how to make it do an automatic slideshow yet!