Posts by Diane:


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Every year it happens and some years I manage to make it there: The Royal Cornwall Show is Cornwall’s biggest annual event. It was once a show for farmers, but the economy dictated that it become an agricultural show for the general public. It is organised by The Royal Cornwall Agricultural Association and has been held at the showground at Wadebridge, North Cornwall since 1960. The show has actually been going since 1793 and known as Royal since 1858. The wellies are still worn, more for fashion than practicality; and tractors still have a presence, but more so to entertain the little ones than farm the land. There is now something for everyone. The food hall has expanded; shopping marquees have sprung up; there are dog shows, rabbit and poultry competitions as well as those for large livestock; a flower show; and a fun fair with candy floss and cuddly toys. Despite the commercialisation the Show is still quintessentially an occasion for farmers and country folk. The tweed jackets, Barbour coats and Hunter wellington boots remain strongly the dress code. Very befitting of its association with royalty and regular visitor Prince Charles, who is a keen supporter of farming communities.  It is always held at the beginning of June, just when the weather should be bright and warm and the days longer. Unfortunately, it being England, the weather can be unpredictable and woolly jumpers, raincoats and wellies are sometimes the order of the day; not in 2015 though. The sun did shine and the rain stayed away, but there was a chilly north east wind to remind us that summer had not quite arrived. This was no deterrent. On the Saturday when we were there, so were most of Cornwall! The gates open at 7am, but only for the privileged few; otherwise the ticket office opens at 8.30. We arrived at 8.50 and, whilst the fields were already lined with vehicles, we did not have to queue. A very different story was told by midday when there was queuing everywhere, so the moral of this story is ‘get there early’.

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Old tractors and new must be the starting point of an agricultural show, especially for the men. Even for me though, I do feel a great deal of nostalgia in the colours and designs of the vintage vehicles. Modern versions may be faster, sleeker and more efficient, but I believe they do fit more readily in a sci-fi film than on the field.

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Before I move onto the Show that appeals most to me, we must not forget its origin as a show ground for animals, horse eventing and farming the land. I did want to share with you pictures of some of the sizeable cattle that were parading, but the popularity of this event precluded me from elbowing my way through the crowds and shoot a bit of beef; shooting with a camera and the beef being cattle! I did manage to get close to some chicks hatching in the dairy tent and catch a glimpse of some horse trial, I say ‘some horse event’ because, in my ignorance, I know very little about horses and such activities .

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My personal favourite attraction is the food of Cornwall market hall; stall upon stall of predominantly locally grown produce and locally produced fare: pasties, cheeses, bread, cakes, chocolate, ciders, meats, fish, cream, asparagus and pates. My favourite cheese this year was the mature Cornish Gouda from the Cornish Gouda company; big rounds of gold piled high. Of course, I bought a chunk of the creamy, tasty cheese, which was consumed with homemade oat biscuits and pickle; melted over sliced avocado on a base of toasted muffin; and thinly sliced with fresh rocket leaves and vine tomatoes and sandwiched between freshly baked granary bread. I wish I had bought more.

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I would normally sample some of the local ciders, gin, creamy liqueurs and wines, but I decided it was wiser to keep a level head this time. But I did nibble at biscuits, brownies and cream, bread, cheese, pies and pate.

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Bread you can really taste at Vicky’s. Fine artisan bakes and all handmade in Helston, Cornwall. I would strongly recommend that you take a look at Vicky’s website; it is quite a charming story that is told.

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There was more than one artisan baker there and I can truly recommend, regular, Baker Tom. Not only does the bread excel, but so do the buns, baguettes, pastries, flapjacks and brownies.

With all this talk of bread, I  can only think of cheese. There is something very special, but very simple, about freshly baked bread and a wedge of quality, creamy cheese. Just add a little homemade pickle and it is quality rustic food heaven.

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Cornish Yarg: a nettle wrapped cheese made from pasteurised cows’ milk. It has a subtle lemony undertone and is quite creamy under the rind with a slightly crumbly centre. Very tasty and very satisfying.

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Cornish Smuggler cheese made by Whalesborough Farm Foods of Bude, North Cornwall. It tastes luxurious, just as you would expect from its opulent marbled appearance.

The Cornish Cheese Company not only produces creamy, delicately rich blue cheese, but deliciously fruity cheese pates too. I particularly loved the pate with figs. I heard another lady approve of the pear and walnut pate as she fumbled for her purse.  The company’s story can be found at

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Rodda’s is a well known family Cornish Dairy,  Just as Trewithen is too, Both were offering the typically English summer dessert of strawberries and clotted cream, served sometimes with freshly baked scones. Not best for the waistline, but absolutely delightful for the sanity.

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And now, I offer you a gallery of all the other delights to be found in the food hall.

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Grumpies of Cornwall golden pies and pastries. See the whole range at:

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The Cornish pasty by Grumpies. There were other Cornish pasty makers at the show, but Grumpies caught my eye. I now wish that I had bought one to try, but they did and do look scrumptious.

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Biscuits and pastries by Simply Cornish at: I bought a box of the strawberries and cream and apple crumble shortbread biscuits as gifts and a treat for the grandmas back home.

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And something to drink; something refreshingly non-alcoholic and something refreshingly naughty!

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Fruit juices from Helford Creek apple juice and cider maker,

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Flavoursome apple juices and ciders by Cornish Orchards, The drinks are made from the fruit of small and old Cornish orchards, hence the name.

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Speciality ciders in St Ives, Expert wine making is combined with cider making techniques.

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Ninemaidens Mead of Cornwall ferments honey and flavours it to make its range of exclusive meads. Mead should be drunk like sherry or dessert wine, as an aperitif, in small glasses at room temperature or chilled.  All these drinks are produced in Cornwall using Cornish produce where possible.

As you would expect from an agricultural show there was plenty of fresh, local produce too. Perfectly formed strawberries and wholesome, crisp looking vegetables. The strawberries from Boddington’s Berries at: And the asparagus from Tregassow Manor Farm at St Erme, near Truro, Cornwall. Riviera Produce is well known for its cauliflowers and spring greens. The apples featured here were not for consuming; they were decoration on an old 19th Century apple crusher at Ben Jones reclaimed architectural granite stand, Old granite has become increasingly popular over the years as garden ornaments; a less practical purpose than intended for the original designs, but at least they live on beyond their original use..

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Colourful flower and plant displays were in abundance in the flower tent. Awards are presented to the best displays and nurseries, and fun competitions take place such as design a shoe with nature. I would be very happy to wear the design seen here, if only there were two!

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Orange flowers were a popular theme this year. As I have said in an earlier message, I do love the vibrancy of orange and it appears that others do too. I guess it shouts summer sun and sand.

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The Royal Cornwall Show is a fun day out for everyone and one could easily spend the full three days there, to do it justice. There is just too much to see and do in one day, especially if you want to take advantage of all the varying places to dine, snack and drink. Coffee Bean bars abound, along with beer, wine and cider tents. Food from chips to veggie burgers to fine lobster can be consumed. All these things take time and as much time as you can get is what is needed when you visit the Royal Cornwall Show. The dates for next year, 2016, are: 9, 10 and 11th June. Pop these in the diary now!

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Before I go, I just need to share these wonderful wooden rabbits with you. They were found perched on outdoor wooden seating by outdoor furniture makers Fry’s Teak Garden Designs. The company also offers exquisite teak root, life size horse sculptures: Whilst the horse sculptures are amazing craftsmanship the wooden rabbits made me smile; and that is what The Royal Cornwall Show should be about: bringing a smile to everyone’s face. Maybe next year I’ll make it to the fairground. This year I had no more time for play, instead I raced home with some of my newly purchased produce with which to make a cake: Strawberry, Lime and Cream Sponge. I was off to a friend’s birthday barbecue that evening and what could be more apt than a birthday surprise full of fresh, Cornish fare. Happy birthday to Sally.

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Diane x



I had never been to Henley-on-Thames before, so it seemed obvious that, as I was in Oxfordshire, it was a place I should visit and that is what I did. I did not do it alone; it was when I was on holiday with the family recently and, with a friend living in the county, it was a great spot to meet up with her and her two charming daughters. There we were six girls against two boys – lucky boys! I am not sure if they saw it that way; we dragged them from clothes boutique to homes store; there are quite a few interesting shops in Henley. They did enjoy the walk along the river though; the river so famous for its boating, boat races, rowing and regattas, especially the Henley Royal Regatta held every summer. The 2015 Royal Regatta is being held from 1st until the 5th July. On those occasions everyone dresses up and I believe it to be a little busier than the day of our excursion.

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If my sources are correct, I believe the five arched bridge was built in 1786. A few boats have passed under it since then! The river also has its own island with an interesting collection of exclusive homes, only accessible by boat, but a prime viewing spot for the river activities. If you are tempted to visit, Henley can be found just 36 miles west of London and just 23 miles south east of Oxford.

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Island living above. It offers accommodation for more than just people, but wildlife too. All that we need is a boat to get across. I guess that the blue and white part constructions below are in preparation for the regatta season, soon upon us, when there will be plenty of boats mulling around.

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With all the exercise we were quite parched and tummies rumbling, so we stopped for cake. And upon my friend’s recommendation, we stopped at Patisserie Valerie in Market Place where, on a warm day, you can sit outside, which we did. Of course, where there is plenty of cake, we eat cake; large slices of light and creamy chocolate cake, black forest gateau, chocolate brownies and fruit tarts. They made me feel as though I wanted to rush home and bake.

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Henley also has a park by the river for younger children to play, families to picnic and couples to relax. There are plenty of benches to rest on and large trees to offer shade from rain and shine. Vessels of all shapes and sizes trundle by; there is no need to hurry here. Not only do boats occupy the river and use the slip ways, but the swans and other bird life do too. In particular, one swan had chosen her very public nesting place from where to hatch her cygnets. She was being protectively watched by ducks and fellow swans.

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It was a lovely day had by all. But, with so much walking, indulgent eating and shopping, all that we wanted to do by the end of it all was to flop down and stretch out; just as my friend’s dog, Gracie, had done the night before. That’s right! We had all enjoyed another long walk, the previous night, along a more northerly stretch of the river Thames, where we were entertained by the melodies of wood pigeons and cuckoos. They were not the only ones making noise, as the four daughters we have between us, my two teenagers and my friend’s teenager and 21 year old, chattered happily as they caught up with all their gossip. My friend and I could not resist a good natter too, having not seen each other for a few months. The big boy and teenage boy amongst us simply fooled around, as boys do! The day was finished off with barbecued meat, tasty salads and more cake. What more could a girl want to end a perfect stroll along the Thames? Oh yes, a glass of chilled white wine!

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Diane x




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Just as we returned from our lovely trip away, to another lovely part of the country, our equally lovely neighbours invited us for a Chinese dinner. “Do not bring pudding,” was the order, “we cannot eat pudding after Chinese”. You see, I always make pudding. I am sorry to say: it is so hard for me not to make something sweet when we are invited to dine with friends and this was no exception. So, rather than a full on indulgent dessert, I decided to create some bite-size cream tarts with a variety of simple fillings from store cupboard finds; I had no time to visit the markets. I could not find my plain tart cutters, a plain edge I do prefer, so these tarts are fluted. And because they are creamy patisseries I decided to give them a French title – mini-tartes a la crème. I  apologise if my translation is a little clumsy as my French has never been a strength of mine. I had a few homemade chocolate truffles left over from a recent present making session and added those to the platter as edible decoration. There were: chocolate and walnut tarts, banoffee tarts, blackcurrant and Cointreau tarts, and strawberries and cream tarts; something for everyone, I anticipated. Coincidentally, our wonderfully sweet neighbours had prepared a big bowl of mixed fruit that complemented the tarts perfectly.

To make the pastry cases (24 tarts):

  • 340g (12oz) plain flour
  • 180g (6oz) butter
  • 125g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • a 8cm (3″) round pastry cutter, preferably smooth edged
  • 2 x 24 hole tart tins, lightly buttered/oiled

For the fillings and cream:

  • 600ml (20floz) double cream
  • 50g (2oz) dark chocolate, 4tbsp double cream, 2tsp icing sugar, 50g (2oz) chopped walnuts for the chocolate filling
  • 4tbsp caramel condensed milk (dulce de leche), 6 slices of banana, 1tbsp dark chocolate shavings for the banoffee tarts
  • 4tbsp strawberry conserve, 3 strawberries (halved) for the strawberries and cream tarts
  • 4tbsp blackcurrant conserve, 2tbsp Cointreau, 2tbsp dark chocolate shavings for the blackcurrant tarts

Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan oven) mark 6

Put the first three pastry ingredients into a food processor and blitz until resembling bread crumbs. Add the whole egg and blend to make a dough. On a floured board lightly knead the dough together and with a rolling pin roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm. With the cutter make 24 rounds. Place a pastry round into one of the tart tin holes and smooth down to shape. Repeat until all the holes have been lined with the pastry rounds. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 15 minutes until the pastry is golden. Cool in the tins.

Whilst the pastry cases are cooling prepare the fillings. Whip the cream and place a quarter of it into a separate bowl.

For the chocolate filling: melt the dark chocolate and cream over a bowl of gently simmering water and when melted beat in the icing sugar until fully blended into a thick sauce. Stir in most of the chopped walnuts, keeping a little back to decorate. Share the chocolate mixture between 6 of the pastry cases. With an icing bag pipe a large swirl of cream over the top and sprinkle with the reserved walnuts.

For the banoffee tarts: share the caramel sauce between 6 of the pastry cases. Top each with a slice of banana and pipe a large swirl of cream over the top and dust with chocolate shavings.

For the strawberry tarts: share the strawberry jam between 6 of the pastry cases. Pipe a large swirl of the whipped cream over the top of the conserve and top each with a half of strawberry.

For the blackcurrant tarts: split the blackcurrant conserve amongst the last remaining 6 cases. Mix the Cointreau into the quarter of whipped cream put to one side and stir in the chocolate shavings. Pipe into large swirls over the top of each tart. If you happen to have some fresh blackcurrants to hand then top each tart with a blackcurrant or two to decorate.

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Place all the tarts onto a large serving platter and allow everyone to tuck into their favourites. These can be eaten at anytime; equally great with a glass of champagne or a steaming hot coffee, and for the children, homemade lemonade.

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Diane x


When we were away last week, sometimes in Berkshire and sometimes in Oxfordshire, it was my mother’s birthday. We did feel a little guilty at leaving her at such a special time, but it was the first opportunity this year for us to steal time away with the children. It was half term week and not one of them had another commitment; the eldest went skiing during the Easter break in April; my younger daughter has had a couple of practice runs for her bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award; and February half term was just too chilly to contemplate a holiday. Mum understood, I think. She did ask if there was room in the car though; I think she was joking! We have a five seater car and with my two, my wonderful partner, his son and me that makes five and the car was full. So, to compensate for our absence, my daughters decided to make grandma a birthday cake. After a little discussion we all agreed that grandma’s favourite cake, the one that she nearly always orders when we take her for morning coffee, is coffee and walnut cake, and that it would be wonderful if the girls created their own variation, with a little help from me, of course. This was the moment when grandma’s cappuccino and walnut cake was born – two coffee and walnut sponges sandwiched together and topped with a creamy butter icing, then finished with a dusting of chocolate powder; just as you would expect to find your hot cappuccino.

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My daughters used and you will need:

  • 2 x 19cm (7.5″) round sandwich cake tins (or very similar), base lined with baking paper
  • 200g (7oz) butter
  • 85g (3oz) caster sugar
  • 85g (3oz) light soft brown sugar
  • 200 (7oz) self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 50ml (2fl.oz) coffee essence or 3tbsp strong black coffee (espresso would do nicely)
  • 25ml (1fl.oz) milk
  • 50g (2oz) chopped walnuts (plus approx. 25g (1oz) extra for decorating)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4 

Put all the ingredients, except the nuts, into a large mixing bowl and with an electric mixer cream together for a few minutes (approx. 3), until thoroughly blended. Stir the 50g of chopped walnuts into the cake mixture. (If preferred, this can all be done by hand by beating the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then adding the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Once thoroughly mixed add all the other ingredients and fold through.)  Divide this between the two tins and put them into the oven for approximately 25 minutes. A skewer, when inserted into the cakes, should return dry and the cakes should be spongy to the touch. After 5 minutes turn the cakes out of the tins and cool on a wire rack. In the meantime the filling and topping can be prepared as follows.

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For the creamy butter icing:

  • 340g (12oz) icing sugar
  • 150g (5oz) butter, softened
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2tbsp double cream
  • the walnuts saved back from earlier
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder

In a large bowl beat the butter and icing sugar together until blended, then add the vanilla essence and cream and combine. (The latter two ingredients can be added earlier if the butter and icing are not blending well.) When the mixture is creamy and the cakes have cooled, sandwich the cakes together with two thirds of the vanilla butter cream. Spread the remaining third of the butter icing over the top of the sandwiched cake. Scatter over the reserved chopped walnuts and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve in slices on its own or with a little pouring cream.

Grandma loves a hot cappuccino and she confirmed that she enjoyed it all the more with a slice of her special birthday cappuccino and walnut cake. Happy birthday to grandma x

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The girls were a little camera shy when making grandma’s cake this time around. It was a very different story a few years ago when they giggled their way through baking a surprise for grandma. There is always a laugh to be enjoyed when girls get together in the kitchen. Actually, if I am truthful, there have been some tears too; when too much baking powder was put into the brownie mixture and it exploded in the oven, when the Victoria sponge was flat as a pancake because not enough baking powder was added, and when the biscuits burnt because they were forgotten about when in the oven. But that is life in the kitchen – a surprise every time!

Diane, India and Clementine x



From time to time we all need a break from normality; even if that normality is not so bad. Last week we took a few days away with the children and headed to a good friend’s house in the beautiful English county of Berkshire. My dear friend and her partner were off to the sunshine of Italy and offered their home to us. With another dear friend living just across the border in Oxfordshire, it was an opportunity we could not miss. My eldest was a little traumatised by the idea, being slap bang in the middle of her GCSEs, but we managed to convince her that: one, she could still study whilst away and secondly, a break here and there would do her studying some good. She conceded and off we went.

My friend, the one sunning herself in Italy, lives just a few miles from the stereo-typical English village of Goring. It straddles the river Thames with quaint wisteria covered cottages, white-washed houses and grander brick, flint and stone mansions. I may be corrected by those in the know here, because Goring does not really straddle the river, its adjoining village of Streatley does one side, but, as they appear to merge into one another close to the river, I believe them to be one of the same. They share a railway station and the same cluster of shops, pubs and restaurants in support of my argument. But, Streatley is in Berkshire, as my one friend’s house is, and Goring is in Oxfordshire, where my other friend’s house is; so, I’ll let you make the final decision on whether or not they are one of the same? Whatever the conclusion, I think everyone will agree that Goring and its neighbour occupy a desirable part of the English countryside. So, there we were, having travelled from one delightful part of the country, that is the south west, to another, to enjoy a break from our normality. I say that, but as anyone with children know, wherever you are with the kids they somehow manage to keep things normal!

I won’t bore you with pictures of the dear ones, not yet anyway, but I will share with you some of the wonderful sights that we enjoyed on the Berkshire and Oxfordshire border. We walked and, sometimes, talked along the river in both directions and met with many a fluffy gosling, duckling and signet. Colourful narrow boats, glossy speed boats, shiny motor cruisers and grand gin palaces chugged by, passing the bubbling weir and steering a way through the village lock.

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I could imagine the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, sitting here, next to the river, with his easel and large palette of colourful oils. He would be painting one of his famously styled water lily interpretations; like the many he created during his prolific water lily period of 1909-1926.

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The goslings scurried away, and the geese cautioned us. The swans just glided nonchalantly across the water with one sneaky signet catching a ride.

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But, of course, being so close to water does mean that all things revolve around it, in it and across it. Buttercups were starting to flourish in the meadows and sheep were grazing on the grass along the river banks. Boats were moored up at random along the water’s edge. I saw one playful couple having a game of badminton on the pasture close to their small river cruiser. Youngsters could be heard yelling with excitement as they battled to stay dry in their rowing vessel and a hum of an engine could nearly always be heard, somewhere close by. During one evening’s walk we spotted an attractive bright orange growth on the side of a tree; some kind of fungus, I guessed. It looked as though someone had hacked a chunk off and we pondered if it was edible. I know very little about such foods and we left well alone. The air was so still on another occasion that the river reflected images as a mirror. Along one section of the Thames, south of Goring, trees had been lopped to give better visibility for those on the water as well as those of us on land. They became accidental sculptures.

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With a railway station on the main network line between Oxford and London, Goring is easily accessible for visitors and commuters. And, if you do find yourself spending some relaxing time in Goring, I can recommend a friendly place to eat; whether this be just for a slice of delicious homemade cake and hot coffee or a more substantial lunch time fuelling. Pierreponts café, which is a mere one minute walk east of the Goring and Streatley bridge, is open for breakfast from 8am and closes it doors at 5pm. From porridge and full fried English breakfast to tasty wholesome snacks and lunches, there is freshly made, home cooked food to suit most tastes. For a sweet treat, during our morning coffee break, I enjoyed the delicately light and creamy, custard, maple syrup and hazelnut tart; I would recommend this one The brownies were very tasty too, so the children confirmed, and it all looked wonderful. We were fortunate that the sun was shining and an outside table was vacated just as we approached. Cake, coffee, family and sun, and all at the same time; what more could a girl want? Actually, I almost forgot to mention that there is a small, but well stocked, art gallery in the village; simply called Art at Goring. If you love art, as I do, then this gallery is worth a visit.

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There is more to come about our family trip away, but I thought sharing the delights of our accommodation location was a good place to start.

Diane x


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It has been a busy few days in the garden. The mixture of sun and rain has brought the grass on and the seedlings are maturing; flowers are starting to bloom and the apple trees blossom has sprinkled the orchard with confetti. Not only have the lawns required mowing, but the hedging needed a hair cut; planting containers needed a good clear out and the seedlings needed larger vessels.

A few weeks ago, and in readiness for the summer time garden, we sowed the seeds of sweetpeas, marigolds, pansies, and a few more that I must remind myself of what they are called; I am not a natural gardener and have only recently begun the long journey in finding my green fingers. But, I am proud to announce that the hydrangea cuttings, that I nurtured from last year, are almost ready for finding their new home amongst the elders.

And with it all starting to look so lovely and the sun shining I could not resist taking a few pictures from our garden and sharing them with you.

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The garden is lit up by the vibrant colour of a young hydrangea.  It is incredible to think that this was just a tiny sprig stolen from one of the giants last year. It is now time to find it a more permanent home, along with the other six!

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The white and yellow daisy-like flowers and bright purple plumes are flora that just keep emerging year after year in our planting containers. They were showing off all their finery in the spring sun.

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Gunnera is a spectacular herbaceous plant that loves a damp location and we managed to find two soggy spots in the garden for our plants to thrive. They were small plants when they were bought for a very special birthday, for a very special person, just two years ago, and they have established themselves very well. We now have great aspirations for them becoming monster attractions in our garden. The brazen shock of red flowers, as seen above, compete for attention against the layers of sculptural green leaves. And, when the sun shines bright, the leaves become almost transparent creating a maze of intricate pattern, as seen below.

Without my knowledge at the time, a cheeky fly just sneaked into the shot.

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Diane x


The sun makes most of us feel cheerful and I am no exception. I woke to the warmth of the early morning sun bursting through the bedroom window a couple of days ago and I just had to race outside to capture some of its glory; just in case it was a brief visit. I found the plants starting to flourish in the garden and birds singing from the tree tops. I started to think of flimsy summer dresses, straw hats and my daughters heading down to the beach with their friends like a gaggle of excited geese. But, we are not quite there yet; even though I did put on my lime-coloured cotton dress and starlet sunglasses; unfortunately, teamed with sensible boots, rather than bare feet, to cut through the dewy spring grass. I strolled through the garden and circumnavigated the much larger front lawns and orchard; those very same fields that will soon be bustling with visitors. We open up our large front garden to summertime camping; when the usual chaos of family life bubbles more fervently with joyous chatter, children giggles and rustling of canvas; oh, and we must not forget the glorious smells of smouldering barbeques and sounds of sizzling sausages. And this brings me to the matter of food; but not merely that of fuel, that of pleasure; cheesecake pleasure. Pure indulgence with a hint of summer on the way.

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To enjoy this simple but tasty treat, you will need:

  • 20cm (8inch) round loose bottomed cake tin, buttered and base lined
  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 125g (4.5oz) digestive (or other plain) biscuits, digestives do work well though
  • 150g (5oz) white chocolate
  • 350ml (12 fluid oz) double cream
  • 450g (1lb) cream cheese
  • 100g (4oz) icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g (5oz) raspberries or other soft berry fruit

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To begin, chop the butter into chunks and place in a small glass or ceramic bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave for approximately 20-30 seconds until almost runny. (Alternatively, the butter can be melted over a saucepan of warm water). Meanwhile, crush the biscuits until they resemble breadcrumbs. This can be done in a food processor, but I prefer to do it manually, by placing the biscuits in a large food bag and rolling over and over them with a rolling pin, until all are crushed. The kids love doing this one.

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Then, add the biscuits to the butter, mix together thoroughly and tip into the prepared tin. Flatten down with the back of a spoon and pop this into a fridge to harden and cool.

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In the meantime, break the chocolate into its pieces and place in a glass bowl. Place over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water as the chocolate will burn and turn grainy. A smooth cream consistency is required. Set aside to cool slightly.

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Whilst the chocolate is resting, place the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence into a bowl and stir to slightly mix; fully blended is not required here.

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Pour the cream into a large mixing bowl and whisk until just starting to thicken; it will hold its shape if pulled by the whisk. Tip the cream cheese mixture into the cream and whisk again, or simply stir through, until well blended this time. Add the chocolate and stir until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

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Wash the raspberries and allow to drain.

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Remove the tin from the fridge and scatter the drained raspberries over the biscuit base. You can increase or decrease the quantity of fruit to taste.

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Spoon over the cheesecake mixture and smooth the surface to level. Place the cheesecake, still in the tin, back into the fridge to cool for at least one hour. Almost there!Food 055

When ready to serve remove the cheesecake from the tin by easing a knife around the edge of the dessert to loosen and push the base upwards. Slide carefully onto a serving plate or board.

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Dust with icing sugar or sprinkle over white chocolate flakes to decorate if so desired. This cheesecake is good enough to serve on its own, but for extra richness it can be accompanied by pouring cream, soft berry coulis (puree) or a scattering of soft berries; or all three options, as I do sometimes, for a truly delightful experience!

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This is a treat to be enjoyed inside or out; on your own, with the kids or with a gathering of friends.

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It can be packed in a tin and transported for picnics; or served at home for afternoon tea, an after school snack or dressed up on fine china for a special dinner date.

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Sometimes, for a sweeter alternative and for longer keeping (even though having to keep it very rarely happens),  I abandon the fresh fruit altogether and place the filling directly onto the base. And when I am ready to serve, I top it with a high fruit jam or preserve; the children love strawberry or blackcurrant, I prefer cherry, but it could be tried with apricot or marmalade too! If topped with marmalade I wonder if it could be categorised as a breakfast staple?

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Easily makes 10 tasty portions.

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And the only things left to do; are wash up and ponder at the artistic creation before you!

I say artistic because this cheesecake reminds me of summer and the richly coloured in the park paintings created by French post-impressionist artist Georges-Pierre Seurat (1859- 1891). His most famous picnic interpretation being that of ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’, 1884-86. He used the method of applying tiny dots of rich coloured pigment to the 3 metre wide canvas, to be optically blended by the observer; this method is known as chromoluminarism and pointillism.


And I imagine ruminating by a pond; a pond celebrated as much as those painted by the French impressionist artist, Claude Monet (1840-1926). I would have my blanket spread across the grass whilst savouring the delicateness of raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, washed down with a delicately floral Muscat dessert wine. I have my own acrylic on canvas interpretation of water lilies; but I am not sure if it matches up to that of Monet’s? I never intended to paint lilies in water, but the colour that was evolving on the canvas was so reminiscent of the those much adored Monet  creations, that the content could be no other.



Art and cooking are not so different really, both are created to be viewed, relished and remembered. x



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I could not resist sharing the pictures of her delicious bakes with you, but and unfortunately, I cannot share the recipe with you. Clementine used a cookery book found buried amongst a pile of books in a stored box and to there it returned, before I was able to record its author. I do have my own muffin recipe though and I will share it with you very soon. I admit to not having made them for a while, so, I do feel that I should make a batch first to ensure that the recipe is as good as I remember. In the meantime, I do hope that you enjoy admiring Clementine’s efforts.

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During the making process an abstract art form was created with the olive oil and sugar combination. When they were baking the blueberries bubbled through the golden batter creating a wonderful marble design. Not only are blueberries packed full of nutritional benefits, but they are pretty colourful too!

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I can never resist turning something simple like a plate of Clementine’s blueberry muffin bake into a colourful picture. However they were for eating and eat we did. Delicious when still warm and unadorned or dressed up with cream or ice cream; great with yogurt too, so my youngest informs me. My eldest quite enjoyed hers with custard. Muffins fit well into a snack box, picnic hamper and the palm of your hand, so, they can be enjoyed anywhere and anytime.

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A big plate of blueberry muffins made by Clementine for sharing and a recipe will be shared with you here, soon. x



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I believe them to be the gooiest, moreish, most decadent brownies ever, that are equally as delicious warm or cold and dressed with whatever accessory you like!

Chocolate brownies originated in the late nineteenth century and that of American invention. They join the list of other great delights, such as maple syrup pancakes, cookies, doughnuts, pumpkin pie and bagels, to have crossed the Atlantic and into our hearts, as well as the waistline. Where ever you go, a café, a restaurant, a hotel, a baker’s, a friend’s house or popping round to the family, brownies are frequently on the menu and frequently chosen from the list. They are a mix between a cake and a cookie and can be more like one or the other depending on the recipe you use. Sometimes they are rich and truffle-like, sometimes warm and squidgy as a dessert and sometimes dressed up more like a soft cookie and great to enjoy with a good cup of tea or coffee. Brownies can be a simple, plain chocolate indulgent or crunchy with added nuts, sweet when packed with fruit, chewy with marshmallows and a chocolate dream when laden with chocolate chips.

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My recipe happened by accident when I did not have all the usual ingredients for my old brownie recipe, but I still had a daughter with her friends wanting to enjoy a summer’s evening by the river indulging themselves in chocolate heaven. The store cupboard was duly raided and armed with what I could find my new and better brownie recipe evolved. Sometimes the best things in life happen by accident and this one certainly did. So, I will not keep you waiting any longer and here follows what I believe to be the best ever chocolate brownies. You will need:

  • a greased and lined 17x27cm (7x11inches) rectangular baking tin, the baking paper should extend the rim by 2cm
  • 75g (3oz) dark chocolate with at least 70% chocolate solids
  • 150g (5oz) butter
  • 3 large eggs
  •  250g (8oz) golden caster sugar
  • 100g (4oz) soft brown sugar
  • 75g (3oz) plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven) mark 4.

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First you need to break the chocolate into small pieces and chop the butter into small chunks and place all into a heat proof glass bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the bowl touch the water or allow the water to boil as the chocolate will burn and become bitter and grainy.

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Whilst the chocolate and butter are gently melting put all the other ingredients, that is the sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder, into a large mixing bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended and a smooth batter has formed. You can do this by hand with the usual creaming method of firstly whisking the sugar and eggs together with a wooden spoon until creamy and then folding in the dry ingredients to make a soft batter.

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By this time the butter and chocolate should have melted. Stir these together to make a smooth chocolate sauce. Pour this into the batter.

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Stir thoroughly until a smooth chocolate batter is formed and the marble effect disappears. At this point if you wish you could add a handful of toasted chopped nuts, cherries, cranberries, crystallised orange peel, chocolate chips, desiccated coconut or marshmallows. A little more about this at the end of the recipe.

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Pour the chocolate batter into your pre-prepared lined baking tin and put it into the middle of the oven for 30-40minutes. This will vary slightly depending on how squidgy or cakey you prefer your brownies. After 30minutes remove from the oven and the brownie should resist slightly when the surface is pushed with your finger. You can also use the skewer test which after being inserted should not be coated in soft batter. The mixture will have risen during the baking, but will sink soon after removing from the oven; this is as it should be.

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Leave in the tin to cool. When cooled remove from the tin by grabbing the paper from each side and pulling up. Place onto a clean surface and cut to the desired size and shape, that being either into squares, rectangles or triangles. Do not worry too much about the presentation though as they will not last long enough for anyone to notice! This recipe should make approximately 24 portions. All that is left, is to eat!

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I like my brownies slightly warm with pouring cream, ice cream, clotted cream or whipped cream flavoured with Baileys Irish Cream or Amaretto. If the cake has cooled just pop it into the microwave for about 20 seconds to loosen the consistency, turning from cake to pudding. Brownies are equally as delightful cold with afternoon tea, elevenses break, in the lunch box or a sneaky anytime snack. My eldest daughter even likes hers with warm custard, when they morph into a rich chocolate pudding. They are a delicious accompaniment to fruit especially with kirsch soaked fresh cherries and a dollop of luxury vanilla ice cream. The possibilities are endless and as I write I keep thinking of different ways that the simple brownie could be served.

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You will find that one tray bake will not be enough and I often double up the quantities and make two trays; one plain and the other with the addition of: toasted nuts (chopped and toasted in the oven at 180°C for 5-8mins), dried cranberries or glace cherries, fresh cherries or raspberries soaked in a little liqueur of your choice to flavour; or to delight the kids, a few chocolate chips or marshmallows, the latter making for an even chewier and gooier treat. You can add as much or as little extras as you like, but usually I find a handful adequate. I had a coconut brownie once; it was delightful, but I have yet to try this in my recipe, maybe soon I will be sharing this one with you. But for now I will grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy my mornings bake!

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I hope that you enjoy your most indulgent chocolate brownie ever, as much as I do!

Diane X


When the sun shines, a simply painted wooden table becomes so much more than just a painted wooden table.

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The colour takes priority over the table itself.

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And very quickly a whole new image is created and soon the table will no longer resemble a table.

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I love colour, form, the unexpected and pattern. x