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July 24th  

If you’re lucky enough to have access to homegrown strawberries, you’ve probably spent the last couple of weeks eating them fresh for breakfast or lunch. There’s nothing as British as sweet, ripe, fresh strawberries, and eating them straight from the plant is definitely our favourite way to do it. If you’ve got a glut of fruit, though, and you’re tired to making it into jam, here are a few quick and easy ideas for making the most of this seasonal treat. If you don’t have your own garden strawberries, try making a trip out to a farmers’ market or pick-your-own farm to stock up – you can freeze any surplus and use it for compotes, coulis and preserves.

Quick strawberry tarts

Quick and easy dessert

These are perfect for throwing together for unexpected guests for lunch, and there’s no cooking involved. They need to be assembled no more than an hour or so in advance, though, or the pastry goes soggy.

You’ll need one individual ready-made sweet pastry tart case per person. Allow one tablespoon of Greek yogurt and one tablespoon of creme fraiche per person, and beat them together. Spoon into the pastry cases. Top with strawberries, cut in half. Put one tablespoon of strawberry or other red fruit jam in a small heatproof dish, and melt it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Brush it onto the strawberries with a pastry brush, and serve.

Strawberry and feta cheese salad

Transform a seasonal glut into a tasty salad

Strawberries aren’t only for sweet dishes, they also work very well in salads. For each person, put a handful of young salad leaves on a plate. Chop baby plum tomatoes in half and scatter them over. Add chopped avocado, crumbled feta cheese, sliced strawberries and croutons, and drizzle over some good quality balsamic vinegar. Serve with crusty bread.

Strawberry cooler

Homemade milkshakes are a great way of using up over-ripe fruit

Allow about 280ml milk and 20 – 25 strawberries per person. Put both ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Add strawberry syrup to taste, pour over ice and garnish with a mint sprig and a straw.

Strawberry brunch

Don’t over cook the strawberries, they should still retain some shape.

This is brilliant for using up damaged fruit, or berries that are over or under ripe. Put the fruit in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with a drop of water (just enough to prevent the fruit sticking to the bottom of the pan), and heat gently until the berries just start to lose their shape. Add a tiny pinch of cinnamon and sugar to taste. Don’t let the fruit cook for too long as it will go mushy. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and serve with thick Greek yogurt, toasted muffins and clear honey to drizzle.

We love these strawberry themed home accessories:

Strawberry tea towel, Thornback & Peel

This white linen union tea towel hand printed with a luscious red strawberry will remind you of summer all year long. £12.95, available from Annabel James.

Grow your own strawberry, Julie Dodsworth

These pretty ceramic pots featuring floral designs by Julie Dodsworth contain all you need to grow your own plant. These wild strawberries won’t yield much jam, but they’re ideal for decorating cakes and puddings. The kit costs £6.99, available from The Oak Room.

Strawberry and pomegranate gift set, Blancreme

An original gift compromising a bottle of foam bath, pot of body scrub and a pot of body lotion all in cute jam jars and bottle packaging with a delicious strawberry and pomegranate fragrance. £24.50, available from Boutique Provence.

By Sara Walker

July 23rd  

Floral style chest of drawers for a shabby chic cosy home


This is a very pretty chest of drawers, with its floral themed shabby chic style.

The furniture is designed and made in Denmark by Nordal and features four drawers that are all decorated in slightly different floral designs. In line with the shabby chic style, it’s got a slightly distressed look, giving it the feel of an aged chest.

It’s a lovely piece and perfect for a cosy home! It’s available to order from the Idea Home Co shop on Other similar designs are available too.

July 22nd  

Born and bred in North Wales, multi media artist Niki Cotton studied art at college before setting up her current business Niki Cotton Art.

Inspired by the sea near her home, Niki’s fascinated by texture and shape and loves the process of re-creating an image between different mediums, watching  how it changes on the way.

“A lot of my artwork starts with a photograph or a drawing, then goes through various steps,” she explains. “At the moment, I’m working a lot with making prints, such as lino cuts where I’ll create a template from linoleum and use it to print an image.

I’ve also just started experimenting with gelatine plates, which makes a lovely soft print, a really nice effect. I learnt how to do the gelatine on a course, and I’ve just discovered that you can buy a readymade silicone plate which is going to make life a lot easier.”

Niki’s work with fabric.

Niki also works with fabric, lining it with Bondaweb, an iron-on backing material which permanently adheres to the fabric when ironed on.

“Bondaweb is brilliant – it means I can run the fabric through a printing process, the sewing machine or paint over it to get different effects,” says Niki. “It’s all about building up a really textural, three dimension piece of work.”

Part of the beach life series

Niki lives two minutes walk from the beach, and visits it twice a day with her dog, Nufhka, a Malamut/Northern Inuit cross, or with her children, using her camera as a sketchbook to try and capture the emotions inspired by her environment.

Part of the ghost series.

“At the moment, I’m working on my ‘ghost series’, which is a set of studies of seed heads,” she says. “I love the idea that you’ve got something that’s dead that’s on the point of creating hundreds of new lives. Things I notice around me tend to sit in my subconscious for a while before I’m ready to get the ink or paints out, while I decide how to treat them.”

“I’m the first to admit that one of the reasons I love to work with different media is a short attention span!” she laughs. “When I’ve got an idea buzzing around in my brain, I can’t wait to get it down somehow in case it evaporates. I like to use monoprinting, which is drawing on a piece of Perspex, as it gives an instant result.

I paint mostly in acrylics, and use wax to create glazes and areas of transparency. I can even scratch into the paint to create more texture. I work quick to capture the energy and movement of the idea, and using acrylics mean I can change something if necessary.

Multi media artist Niki in her studio.

“My whole life is lived by the sea, really. It informs me every day – whether I’m driving past it or walking on the beach. I love the colours of the sky against the water and the constant, ever-changing shifting of light that makes the same scene look different every time I see it. It gives me a real sense of freedom.”

At the moment, Niki’s artwork is available online and in local exhibitions, but she’d love to open a studio space for other artists to display their work as well.

A commissioned piece using circus-style lettering

“Working by yourself can be lonely,” she says. “If you’re struggling with something, it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off someone, and at the moment I’m getting that from an online community who are incredibly supportive.

I’d love to work in more of a cooperative, though, and have the opportunity to create bigger pieces, as at the moment I’m limited by the size of my studio. More space would mean I could create really energetic work, and capture movements with no restriction.”

Niki’s limited edition mounted signed prints start at £30, while original artwork starts at £75. For more information, please visit

July 17th  

With their sweet scent, bright colours and huge variation, the rose could claim to be summer’s favourite flower. It’s also one of the most romantic, with deep red roses and rose petals being traditional symbols of love. Whether your favourite is pretty pink English garden roses, wild dog roses, climbers, deep, sultry red roses or pastel colours, bring the outside in this summer with our pick of the best rose-inspired accessories for your home.

1. Rose garden rug, Rug Couture


“I beg your pardon, I never offered you a rose garden…” Sorry, our mistake – it turns out that rose gardens are actually very accessible, in the shape of this lovely hand made to measure rug. In a choice of hand-tufted pure wool, hand knotted wool, art silk, silk or any mixture, it’s also available in a range of sizes and colours from Rug Couture. Prices start at around £250.

2. Rose petal candle, beeloved

This rose petal scented candle in recycled glass with bee motif has a delicious, light floral aroma from essential oils. These candles contain no chemicals. When the candle’s finished, wash the container out and re-use it as a tea light holder. £7.50, available from Annabel James.

3. Rose silk cushion, Le Cocon

This luxurious cushion features a contemporary rose silhouette, perfect for any conservatory or garden room. The cushion includes a duck feature pad, measures 18″ by 18″ and costs £64 (was £80) from Swanky Maison.

4. Rose creamer and sugar set, In Spaces

This simple, white porcelain sugar and creamer set features a delicate rose on the lid and handle. Ideal for afternoon tea in the garden, with the scent of honeysuckle and the droning of bees. The set also features a teapot. Was £31, now £21.70 from In Spaces.

5. Rose and bee biscuit barrel, Emma Bridgewater

Emma Bridgewater has a whole range of accessories in this pretty rose and bee pattern. This biscuit barrel has an airtight lid, and is a perfect home for those homemade shortbread biscuits to go with afternoon tea. £15, available from One Brown Cow.

6. Paper rose fairy lights, Berry Rose

An elegant chain of fairy lights made of paper roses in soft shades of pink with creamy cotton stamen, these rose lights have a lovely warm and welcoming glow and be perfect for adding a little sparkle to a summer party or a romantic feel to a bedroom. For indoor use only. £18 from Berry Red.

7. Nicky rose screen, Arthouse


This screen from Arthouse is perfect for screening off any less tidy areas of a bedroom, partitioning a room or screening off anything you don’t want on view. Its bold colour scheme and pattern of  full blown roses would suit a sitting room, conservatory, garden room or bedroom and at £75 it’s a budget way of changing the look of a room.

8. Rose mug, Sophie Allport

Part of the Rose collection from Sophie Allport, this fine bone china mug features a delicate pattern of blossoms and the hand written words ‘English Rose’. Available in two sizes, prices start at £9.50. The range also includes a tea pot, crockery and kitchen textiles.

9. French style a la rose pitcher: Love from Rosie

This French style ceramic pitcher jug has a pretty floral design and features the words ‘Savon au parfum de Paris – a la rose’, and would look perfect in a kitchen or sitting room, filled with fresh garden roses. Available from Love from Rosie, priced at £24.95.

10. Vintage rose garland, Live Laugh Love

This pretty shabby chic garland features 15 cream roses, and would look lovely draped around a mirror, mantelpiece or doorway for summer party. £11.95, available from Live Laugh Love.

By Sara Walker

July 11th  

If you’re feeling inspired by our post on the top 10 preserving products, then why not try making your own jam?

There’s nothing more satisfying than making your own jam. For full brownie points, it should be made from your own homegrown fruit, but as this isn’t an option for many of us you can always trying planning a trip to your local pick-your-own farm or farmers’ market.

Currently coming into season are blackcurrants (late June to August) and raspberries (at their best in June and July). Both are simple to preserve, although both have low levels of pectin (the natural polysaccharide that causes jam to set), so need a little lemon juice adding to help them along.

Although it’s perfectly possible to manage without special equipment when you’re making jam, investing in a proper preserving (maslin) pan, jam funnel and sugar thermometer will make life a lot easier, particularly if you’re a preserving novice.

Here’s our favourite recipe for blackcurrant jam, which works just as well with raspberries.

Photo by Jerzy Opioła












You’ll need


  • preserving pan
  • long-handled wooden spoon
  • jam funnel
  • two to three jam jars with close fitting lids
  • saucer
  • jam thermometer
  • baking tray
  • 450g fresh blackcurrants
  • 450g sugar
  • juice of one large lemon

Photo by 3268zauber

How to make blackcurrant jam

Photo by Quadell

  1. Start by preparing the fruit. Wash it, then pick through it and remove any stalks, leaves or discoloured berries, then transfer to the preserving pan. Put the saucer in the fridge to chill.
  2. Boil the kettle, and add 375ml of boiling water to the blackcurrants. Bring the mixture to the boil and let it simmer slowly for 20 to 25 minutes, until the skins of the blackcurrants are tender. The liquid should have greatly reduced, as well.
  3. Meanwhile, wash and dry the jars and put them on a baking tray in the oven. Turn the oven on to 120 degrees Celsius, and leave for 15 to 20 minutes until you’re ready for them. Sterilise the lids and jam funnel by bringing to the boil in a large pan of water (if you’re only using one or two jars, you can use this method for them, as well.)
  4. Add the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add the lemon juice.
  5. Bring the mixture back to the boil, and cook until the temperature reaches 105 degrees Celsius on the thermometer (this might be marked as the ‘jam set’ point).
  6. Remove the pan from the heat, and drip a few drops onto the chilled saucer. Turn the plate sideways, and the jam should stay rather than sliding off.
  7. Remove the jars from the oven and put on a heatproof surface. Put the jam funnel in the first jar, and spoon or pour in the jam. Cover and seal while still hot, then label with the date.
  8. Store for 6 to 8 months in a cool place, away from bright sunlight. Your jam will probably keep for longer than this, but is best eaten fresher as it will gradually start to lose its flavour.
How to eat jam

* As jam, of course! Delicious on scones, toast, teacakes, in jam tarts or the filling in sponge cakes

* As a quick, easy sauce for ice cream – just melt in the microwave or a saucepan, and add a little creme de cassis.

* Make a traditional, old school jam roly poly pudding with proper custard

* Heat a tablespoonful of jam, pass it through a sieve and allow to cool. Use to glaze fruit tarts.

* Stir a spoonful into savoury beef or venison stews to add depth and flavour.

* Use up less-than-perfect summery fruit in an easy compote. Put strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and raspberries into a saucepan and add a little water or apple juice. Simmer until the fruit is soft and tender. Stir in a spoonful or two of blackcurrant jam to taste, allow to cool and serve with creme fraiche.

By Sara Walker

July 4th  

With soft fruit such as gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries and currants just starting to come into season, we’ve picked out our top ten favourite preserving products to get your jam-making off to a flying start.

1. Worktop saver, Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley British larder worktop saver

We do love making jam – but everything from preparing the fruit to cooking it makes a mess! The messiest part of all can be filling the jars, especially if you don’t have a jam funnel, so this generously sized work top saver, £15 from Laura Ashley, will come in useful and even features a recipe for blackberry jam. For more information and stockists, visit the Laura Ashley website.

2. Jam-making set, Mrs Allsorts

Jam-making set, Mrs Allsorts

Homemade jams and jellies make an ideal gift, and these pretty old-fashioned jars will make your present even nicer. The set contains four jars, covers, lids, tie strings and labels, in a gift box. Available from Mrs Allsorts, priced at £10.

3. Cottage Flower preserve starter set, Katie Alice

Starter preserve kit

This kit from Katie Alice contains all you need to get started with jam-making except a preserving pan. With six jam jars, a jam funnel, a sugar thermometer, and 24 decorative covers, wax sealing discs and rubber bands, it’s an ideal starter pack for yourself or a gift for a country-minded friend. Priced at £27, available from Louis Potts.

4. Lidded jam pot, Sophie Allport

Sophie Allport jam pot

Show off your delicious preserves in style by presenting them in this cute bone china pot at the breakfast table. Available in several designs including bees, strawberries, butterflies and roses, the pot retails at £12 and is available from Sophie Allport.

5. Strawberry and marmalade pots, Tesco

Tesco jam pots

For a budget option, these ceramic marmalade or strawberry jam pots are just the job to go with your breakfast toast. They come with a matching soon, and cost £5 each. For more information, visit the Tesco website.

6. Chalkboard jars, nkuku

Chalkboard jam jars

These chunky glass jars are something a bit different, sturdy enough to be sterlised for jam making and attractive enough to leave out on display on a shelf. The little integral chalkboard means you can label the contents clearly, and they’d make lovely gift jars too. Available in two different sizes, prices start at £16.95 from nkuku.

7. Wedding favour jam labels, Wildflower Favour

The perfect present

Here’s a very sweet idea. Give your wedding guests a wedding favour they’ll really appreciate with miniature jars of homemade jam, themed for the time of year, then add a set of personalised labels with your wedding details and jam variety. The set comes as a pack of 18 self-adhesive recycled Kraft manilla labels and 18 recycled tags printed with the jam/chutney variety, comes complete with twine for tying and costs £6.99 from Wildflower Favours.

8. Moustache chalkboard stickers, Ginger Ray

Moustache chalkboard stickers

We simply can’t resist these labels. Made to look like novelty moustaches, they’re reusable, come with a stick of chalk and are perfect for labelling jam jars so they won’t get lost on the breakfast or tea table. £3.99 for a set of 12 from Ginger Ray.

9. Jam jar tongs, Kilner

Save your fingers from boiling water

These tongs may look like they belong in a laboratory, but they’re actually for lifting jam jars out of boiling water after they’ve been sterilised. A brilliant, simple idea that will save you from getting scalded or splashed, they’re also perfect for moving the hot, filled jars out of the way once they’re sealed and finished. £4, available from John Lewis.

10. Personalised label stamp, Stomp Stamps

The finishing touch

Make sure everyone knows who to thank when you give a pot of jam away, by labelling it with a homemade label made from your own personalised stamp. £29.95, available from John Lewis as before.

by Sara Walker


July 2nd  

Your house may have seemed big when you first moved in, but by the time furniture, accessories and all your personal possessions are added, rooms can start to feel cluttered and smaller. Whether you live in a small city centre apartment, have regular overnight guests or are simply struggling to fit in to your current home, space saving furniture can be a lifesaver. So many of us have home offices which double up as guest bedrooms, children’s rooms routinely contain desks which need to be fitted in, and then there are all those DVDs and CDs which need to be stored somewhere. If you’re in need of ways to help make your home feel bigger and less cluttered, then here are 10 space saving furniture ideas that could make a difference.

1. Box expandable coffee or dining table with glass top

This is a beautiful piece of furniture and one you would choose even if you had plenty of room. The coffee table, designed by Studio Ozeta, turns into a dining table which seats ten people. The box expandable coffee / dining table with glass top costs £1,995 from Onedeko.

2. Lollipop

Here is one for the home office. The Lollipop is a wall bunk bed system which has a completely integrated ladder which also functions as a bed support and a safety rail for the top bunk. You can also buy it it with a fold-out desk mounted to the front of the lower bunk and optional folding headboards. This is the ideal bed for occasional use in a home office. It is available from Resource Furniture.

3. Cubista Ottoman

We do love this cubista ottoman from Bonbon. It converts into five little padded stools – a fabulous idea for when you have extra guests, and much better than having a garden shed full of extra chairs.

4. Kip chair bed

John Lewis sells this kip chair bed which looks easy enough to assemble. There is nothing worse than trying to work out how  a sofa bed goes together when it is late at night and you are tired. This couldn’t be easier and costs £450.

5. Customisable fold-away wall bed, desk and wardrobe combination

Trendy Products sells this customisable fold-away wall bed, desk and wardrobe combination which saves you looking for separate pieces. For £2,200 you get a wall bed, desk and wardrobe.

6. Oakham solid oak coffee table

Coffee table with storage

The living room can get cluttered at times, what with books, magazines, CDs, DVDs. With this Oakham solid oak coffee table you can store everything away in the drawers and shelves underneath. It is available from Next for £475, along with coordinating pieces of furniture.

7. Oregon hideaway table

Compact space saving dining table

This looks great if you have a small home but still need a dining table from time to time. The Oregon hideaway table has a 165cm table top which folds down. It also has drawers in the base for storage of tableware. It costs £109 from Very.

8. Igma mirrored rotating bathroom / shoe storage cabinet

Many of us have bathrooms which are very small and trying to fit in all of our toiletries can be a bit of a struggle. We love this Igma mirrored rotating bathroom / shoe storage cabinet which Furniture in Fashion sells for £179.95. The 195cm tall cabinet rotates. On one side you have a mirror, on the other you have ample storage.

9. Drop front recycle bin

Most recycle bins are not easy on the eye. They can clutter up the kitchen. But this drop front recycle bin is colourful and attractive looking. Made from polypropylene, the drop front recycle bins can stack up to three high and alternatively could be used for storing children’s toys. The bins open wide for easy access and have a handled insert that makes emptying them easy. Price is £35.20 each from The Container Store.

10. Songmics 4 tier shoe rack

Amazon sells this Songmics 4 tier shoe rack for £5.50. It is lightweight and easy to move and keeps your shoes organised and easy to find. Perfect!

July 1st  

Liberty of London have just launched an exclusive print collection of English-made kitchenware, textiles and gifts. The range features three distinctive floral pattern designs – Theodora, Betsy and Wiltshire – each with their own distinctive characteristics, colour and style.

Floral prints for a cosy home

The Theodora range is based on a new hand-painted watercolour design featuring a a wild meadow full of delicate blooming flowers. It’s fresh and light and an ideal way of bringing some colour into your kitchen or dining room. It’s got a lovely summery feel to it, so you could use it for outdoor dining during the warmer months.

Liberty floral prints for a cosy home

If you’re a fan of Liberty prints, then you may well recognise Betsy, as this stylised floral design was originally developed in 1933. It’s a pattern that hasn’t dated and the purple colours have a contemporary vibe to them. The all over print works well on items like trays and tea towels, whereas the individual, slightly larger flowers, stand out well against the plain backgrounds of the china dining pieces, such as the teapot, mugs and cake stand.

Liberty London floral prints for a cosy home

Finally, the Wiltshire range features one of Liberty’s classic prints, in warm berry colours. The bold leaf and berry design has an uplifting feel to it and the chinaware complements the kitchen textiles. Colour-wise this collection is lively for use now, but could take you straight through to the winter, when the berry shades would add a bit of zing to a winter dining table.

All three of the new Flowers of Liberty collections feature a range of useful products, including dining essentials such as plates, bowls, cups, tablemats and mugs, as well as kitchen accessories, such as aprons, oven gloves, trays and tea towels.

June 24th  

Now that Summer is finally here, we’re spending more time in the Cosy Home garden and enjoying the benefits of all our hard work. The weather’s warm enough to start spending our coffee breaks outside with a cup of tea, as well as eat meals outside, so our garden furniture is now out and back in use. If you’ve not used your furniture since last summer and it’s looking a bit tired and worse for wear, here are some ideas for tidying it up and giving it a new lease of life.

Cleaning and repairing

If your garden furniture has spent the winter under cover, get it out and inspect it. Teak furniture will probably need a good brush off with a stiff brush, and possibly a wipe down with warm water and washing up liquid to remove any bird stains or dirt that was missed in the winter. Clean any hinges and oil them, as well.

Clean metal furniture with a scrubbing brush and soap and water. Inspect it carefully for rust spots, and if you find any remove them with a wire brush and re-paint the area so the damage doesn’t spread. If you find several areas of rust, it might be time to re-paint completely. Wash the furniture and remove all the rust before applying a rust inhibiting undercoat, then the top coat of your choice. We love Farrow and Ball’s muted colour range.

Farrow and ball paints

Canvas deckchairs and parasols should have been put away clean at the end of last year, but don’t panic if you forgot. Use the vacuum on a low setting to remove any cobwebs, then brush with a stiff brush to remove loose dirt. Spots and stains can be sponged with warm water and washing up liquid, and allowed to dry. Some fabrics are designed to be completely removed and washed in a washing machine, but do check care labels first.

If the parasol or chair was put away damp or stored in a damp location over the winter, it might have mildew spots when you get it out again. For non-washable canvas, dissolve 60g of borax in 500ml of hot water. Put on some rubber gloves, soak a sponge or cloth in the liquid and rub at the marks. If you can’t find borox, you can get borax substitutes in most pharmacies and some supermarkets.

Finally, adding new cushions gives furniture a new lease of life and is cheaper than replacing it. We love:

Weather resistant garden seat cushions, Lily Matthews

Weather resistant garden cushions

These seat pad cushions come in a range of styles and colours, and are made from fabric engineered for use on yachts. Stain resistant, you can simply shake them dry if they get wet. £35 each from Oscar and Eve.

Outdoor cushions, Delightful living

Outdoor cushions

These cushions are made in Wales from recycled wool from the tweed industry, and feature a hard wearing waterproof fabric backing and a large loop for easy carrying and storing. These are ideal for stopping you getting damp if your furniture isn’t quite dry, but don’t forget to whisk them inside if it rains! £22 each, available from Delightful Living.

New garden furniture

If you decide your existing furniture is past saving or you just fancy a change, there are lots of options on the market.

Harrison table and chairs set, Alium

Harrison set by Alium

This budget set by Alium is great value, retailing at £149.99 (was £209.99). Made from sturdy cast aluminium, it’s lightweight, durable and low maintenance. Ideal for smaller gardens, it’s available from Alium.

Chastleton bench, Mobius Living

Chastleton bench

This beautiful reclaimed teak bench isn’t cheap at £525, but it’s an investment that’ll give you please in your garden for years to come. Available from Mobius Living.

Primrose chair, Oliver Bonas

Primrose chair

This quirky little chair comes in various different colours or with a matching table, and will add an individual note to a cottage garden. £59, available from Oliver Bonas

June 17th  

Did you know that the UK holds a National Picnic Week every year, aiming to share advice, tips, recipes and information to make sure everything from the food and drink to the location and surroundings are spot on? Since the event was founded a decade ago it’s become more and more popular, and this year it takes place from 16th to 22nd June. With the warmer weather coming, picnicking is a great way to get out and about and make the most of your local area.

We’ve put together a selection of our favourite recipes and accessories to inspire you to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Happy picnicking!

Fresh fig and feta cheese tart

Fresh figs make this simple tart special

A delicious and slightly unusual main course, this tart is best packed on the baking tray and served in situ.

Serves 4.

You’ll need:

  • 1 x 375g rectangular ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 60g butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme sprigs
  • 6 fresh figs (slightly underripe if possible)
  • 200g pack of feta cheese

What to do:

  1. Preheat the over to 200 degrees Celsuis. Grease a baking tray, and lay the pastry on it.
  2. In a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat the butter and oil over a low heat and add the onions. Cook slowly until transparent, then add the garlic. Cook for a further five minutes, then add one tablespoon of vinegar. Cook for a further two to three minutes, then spread over the pastry.
  3. Cut the figs into quarters, and distribute over the tart. Crumble over the cheese, and scatter over the thyme.
  4. Bake for around 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown on top and the pastry edges are well-risen. Sprinkle over the remaining vinegar, and allow to cool completely. Cover the baking tray with foil, and pack.

Lemon and poppy seed cake

Photo by Jason Lam.

This moist, citrussy cake is perfect for picnics. Transport it whole, and slice it when you’re ready to serve to stop it drying out.

To serve 6-8, you’ll need:

  • 50g poppy seeds
  • 190ml  milk
  • 3 freerange eggs
  • 30g self-raising flour
  • 200g butter or margarine
  • 220g sugar
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 300g icing sugar
What to do:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.
  2. Beat together the sugar and 185g of the butter until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs and milk. Add the flour, poppy seeds and lemon rind and beat until full combined.
  3. Spoon into the tin and level off the top with a spoon. Bake for 40 minutes until well-risen and cooked through. Turn out onto a cooling rack.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Mix in the icing sugar and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Spoon over the cake. Wrap and pack.

Heavenly hampers

For a real old-fashioned day out, you can’t beat a traditional picnic hamper. Here’s our pick:

1. Picnic hamper for four, Dupere

Dine in style with Dupere

This stylish wicker picnic basket has a domed lid, shoulder carrying strap and leather handle, and contains cutlery with wooden handles for four, bottle opener, salt and pepper holders, four wine glasses and four china plates as well as room for your picnic. £84, available from Dupere Design.

2. Barrel hamper for two, Willow Direct

Two’s company with this unusual hamper

We love the shape of this hamper, which has twin-lidded access and straps to secure two wine bottles. It also contains plates, wine glasses, bottle opener and cutlery for two. Available from Cotswold Trading, priced at £73.

3. Kissing robins hamper for four, Annabel James

Life is tweet with this kissing robins hamper

Perfect for an outdoor feast for four, this kissing robins picnic hamper contains ceramic plates, wine glasses, cutlery and bottle opener while the printed napkins and lining add a fun touch. £94.95, available from Annabel James.




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