Going for culinary gold at the Horticultural Show


It’s that time of year, the highlight of village life, the horticultural show. Yes, there are times I believe I do live in episodes of the Archers, but it’s a lovely event. I’ve written a few times about the show, my mixed fortunes, some rosettes, some years of disappointment.

This year because my holiday fell closer to the show then I entered more classes than ever. Which meant I had more rosettes and points than ever. There was the first prize winning biscuits:


First prize winning biscuits at the village Horticultural Show


These are one of my favourites, based on Edd Kimber’s Double Chocolate Sour Cherry Cookies, with a little extra embellishment. The embellishment may have tipped the result.

There’s the first prize winning tarte tatin:


First prize winning tarte tatin at the village Horticultural Show


God, I hate making tarte tatin, and I’m never making another one. It wasn’t great. It was the only one in the class. I still got a rosette.

There was my second prize winning cheese scones:


Second prize winning cheese scones at the village show


Have to say, was very happy with these. That thing about not twisting when you cut them out really does help with the rise.

And then there was my Victoria sponge:


My overlooked Victoria Sponge: oh the crushing disappointment!


Sadly, not even an honourable mention for this one. A little bit gutted about that. But I did win another first with my raspberry jam, and second with my tomato chutney and the lemon curd. Have to say thanks to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for the lemon curd recipe, which is a microwave recipe that was so simple, and delicious.

Which all lead up to this:


At last! My precious!

I feel a bit humbled, as this is a new cup, in memory of the lady who had won the cup for many years, and sadly passed away earlier in the year. Her husband donated the cup, and I spoke to him to say what a lovely thing it was to have done. I shall wait for it to come back from the engravers, then there may be champagne going in it!

Now, just the small matter of defending it next year!


Baking hit or miss?


Surprise inside or not? Unusual baking tin from Lakeland


I think it’s probably quite clear that I am both very fond of my baking, and therefore also have an unhealthy amount of love for Lakeland too. A new catalogue and new gadgets is always a moment of quiet joy.

So I’m really not sure about why I’m not sure about the Victoria Surprise Cake Set. I mean, I love, really love a great Victoria sponge. I love it when the filling isn’t mean. I even have a passing nostalgia for those sponge flans that my Mum used to make for buffets, even if I hope the sachet jelly is now long gone.

And so in theory the Surprise Cake Set should be a good thing. I am just not really sure if I need another set of round tins in the cupboard. Could I give my guests a surprise in a different way without it involving cupboard space? I mean, if I was looking for a gift for the baker who had everything, then I guess this would be a good gift. But for those of us with limited space then maybe not.

What do you think? Would you give it house space?


Looking for Bank Holiday food entertainment


A nice cup of tea and a sit down. And cake.


Call it a hunch, but I reckon there’ll be traffic queues and toilet queues at the grand houses of the UK today. This must be peak viewing day for National Trust properties and other national treasures such as Chatsworth, which these days is less of a trial for children, thanks to kid’s trails and playgrounds, and for food lovers, as most places have caught on pretty quick.

We made a quick dash to Belton House yesterday, our nearest National Trust property. If only because it has an amazing adventure playground for a 7 year old to blow off some steam in. I’d not been before so was keen to see where the food level was pitched at. And I was pleasantly surprised! Local produce was well featured, from Lincolnshire sausages through to local veg. There were gluten free cakes from Crimbles, which is a nice touch for not excluding anyone from tea time treats.

And there were cakes. Glorious, homemade looking cakes. Of course there was Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle cake, but was thrilled to see Chocolate Beetroot (MGG pronounced it delicious) and Parsnip and Caraway amongst others. Decent tea, Belvoir cordials and no sign of instant coffee anywhere. Perfect.

Of course, the grande dame of this sort of thing has to be Chatsworth though. Their farm shop is a thing of foodie beauty, and the coffee shop has the most idyllic view. And I’m not just talking about the cakes. I am thankful not to be there today, as I am sure it is hectically busy, but enjoyed an afternoon there a couple of Friday’s ago. Tea was delightful (and scarily, no more expensive for three drinks and three fabulous cakes than 2 mediocre coffees, a glass of water and 2 cakes at Starbucks) and the staff suitably charming. And the picture perfect scenery just added to the whole occasion.


The results of a farm shop dash at Chatsworth


The farmshop itself is upmarket, not exactly cheap, but very clearly focused on food values. Great selection that you could do your weekly shop from, or just choose some carefully edited highlights to add to the every day stuff you have. In my little haul there’s some great local salami,  slices of proper baked ham, a Lincolnshire plum loaf, Stout Porter from Tollgate Brewery, something from Peak Ales (we drank that already, so can’t check) and some Stichelton. The black pudding and oatcakes come from my earlier visit that day to the market in Hanley, which was responsible for this dish.

So, I would say planning a visit to a national treasure shouldn’t now mean compromising on your foodie values, even if you don’t take your own delightful picnic. Let me know if you think there’s a foodie treat hidden away at a national treasure near you, I’d love to notch up a few more. Although I’m going back to Chatsworth next week for the Country Fair, from 4th to 6th September. As you can imagine, it has a big food contingent. I’m pleased to see at least two very local suppliers in attendance: Belvoir Fruit Farms for great cordials and Brocklebys for the only organic Melton Mowbray pork pie around.

Advance tickets are still available, and there really will be something for all the family, whether they love their food or not. Just remember to pack a picnic for when you’re sitting in the traffic jam at the end of the day!