Monday, 28 June 2010

A Cake Idea for Gooseberries

I picked some wonderful gooseberries at Netherton Pick Your Own Fruit Farm, near Newton Abbot.

I used a very simple  Tesco recipe to make a gooseberry and yoghurt cake:


  • 75 g (3oz) butter (thanks, Choclette!)
  • 75 g (3oz) natural yoghurt
  • 125 g (4oz) unrefined caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g (5oz) self-raising flour
  • 25 g (1oz) butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 300 g (10oz) gooseberries


  1. Heat the oven to Gas 4,180°C, 350°F.
  2. Butter a 20cm (8in) loose-bottomed cake tin.
  3. Beat together the 75g of butter, yogurt, sugar and eggs until blended. Fold in the flour until smooth. Spoon the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Melt the 25g of butter and golden syrup together. Add the gooseberries and mix well.
  5. Carefully pull the shelf out of the oven a little and quickly spoon over the gooseberry mix. Bake for a further 30 minutes, until golden.
  6. Remove and run a knife around edge to release the cake. Cool.
  7. Using a palette knife, release the cake from the base and transfer to a serving plate. For a picnic, simply leave in the tin.
The generous dollop of Total Greek Yoghurt (I must declare an interest - the yoghurt was a freebie from the people at Total) really adds a lightness and tang to the sponge.   

This was my second cake (first one eaten by my greedy family before I took a photo) and was delivered to a friend for his 40th birthday - I was told that the gooseberries looked like onions - perhaps it's not the most photogenic cake, but it tastes great.  Gooseberry season in Devon is now in full swing.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Wimbledon and South Devon Strawberries

The start of Wimbledon, combined with the fantastic sunny June weather we are currently enjoying, has turned my thoughts to strawberries rather than tennis.  Neither gifted with a racquet nor having the funds or connections to wangle tickets to Centre Court matches, the best way for me to enjoy the quintessential English summer day is to find a Pick Your Own strawberry farm.  During the last week I have picked and sampled the produce at two such farms.

Shute Fruit in Bishopsteigton opened their farm gates for the season on Friday18 June.  They are currently offering Pick Your Own (PYO) strawberries and ready-cut new season broad beans.  I was the second customer through the door (yes, very keen indeed) and was eager to be let loose on the strawberry field.

The farm is run by Lori Reich and David Lamboll and is situated in a magnificent location, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the banks of the Teign Estuary.  They work very hard to produce magnificent crops.  Lori is well known on the farmers' market and food festival circuit for her award-winning jams, chutneys and for her cookery demonstrations.  Last summer I saw her rustle up an impressive cream tea from the raw ingredients in under thirty minutes, on stage at the Abbfest Beer and Food Festival.

She is a mine of information about other local food producers and passionate about her favourite home-style recipes.  The Shute Fruit website provides useful information on how to make microwave strawberry jam.  This is ideal if, like me, you find that once you've started picking strawberries, it's very difficult to stop and you end up with punnet-loads more than you can eat fresh.

The Pegasus variety of strawberries that I picked with my friend were heavenly - Lori encourages you to 'try before you buy', although prefers people to just sample one or two of each variety.  I was impressed by the sweetness and perfume of the strawberries - incredibly sweet and juicy, only a real sweet-tooth would need to put any sugar on these beauties.  There were masses of plump, large fruit to be collected, shining out like hidden jewels amongst the golden straw and green foliage.  We collected six large punnets in under an hour.

You can check  the website to see what crops are available on the day you want to visit - this is updated daily.  There are some benches for you to enjoy the sunshine, the passing trains, the wildlife and your fruit feast (after paying at the caravan with makeshift shop counter), perhaps with a punnet of ice cream or clotted cream?

On the opposite side of the River Teign, Netherton  PYO will be a prolific soft fruit producer for the next two months or so.  I visited last weekend with a 19 month old strawberry fan. She couldn't believe her luck!  She gorged herself on the sweet red Elsanta strawberries.  Her father was kind and honest enough to pay an extra contribution for the extra unweighed fruit that his daughter had consumed before making it back to the scales!

The Elsanta strawberries are a useful early variety (often found in supermarkets) but they don't have the depth of flavour of the more traditional perfumed varieties such as Pegasus and Pandora.

A trip to Netherton can be a great family afternoon out - most kids, parents and grandparents love the thrill of seeking out the largest, weirdest or sweetest fruit - there can certainly be a competitive element.  It's also great to remind children where their food comes from and how lucky we are in Devon to have such bounty on our doorsteps.  Netherton also provides a tea shack and picnic benches offering homemade cakes, clotted cream, ice creams, teas and coffees and (rather cleverly) jam sugar to take home for your preserves.

The sign at Netherton warns people not to 'oversample' their strawberries and to be honest and pay for what they pick - fruit farms have been struggling to survive in recent years.  We certainly wouldn't want to see them shut down.

The season is so short, I'm going to make the most of them over the next few months and try to visit them on a weekly basis.  So, whether it's tennis or football, let's remember to take a break from all the sport on television and get out in the sunshine, pick fresh berries and enjoy the fruits of the local farmers' labours - it's almost as healthy as playing tennis.

Another PYO that I haven't yet visited in the South Devon area is Boyces Nursery and Fruit Farm at Shillingford St George, nr Exeter - comments welcome.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Polpeor Cafe, The Lizard, Doughnut with Clotted Cream

This is my guilitiest pleasure in the whole world.  The Most Southerly Cafe in England is Polpeor Cafe, perched on the clifftop at the point of The Lizard in Cornwall.  They serve all sorts of wicked goodies, including the Cornish Heava Cake (full of fruit and doughy).  My sinful indulgence is the freshly fried doughnuts served hot with strawberry jam and a huge dollop of clotters on the top.  This is the most calorific food imaginable and should really only be consumed by Michael Phelps and marathon runners.  And me.

This is their knickerbocker glory, conjured up by visiting fairies:

The views from this cafe are awesome.  Sitting here is a real spiritual tonic - you feel renewed by the sea air and the expanse of ocean - it's also quite exciting feeling that at any point you might be the MOST southerly person on the English mainland.  The dramatic cliffs slope down to white-flecked turquoize waters (if you're lucky enough to be there on a sunny day).  From the cafe seating area you can sight the rare chough (similar to a crow, with a red beak and feet) that first started renesting within a few hundred yards of the cafe a couple of years ago.  There are currently thought to be eight of them.  Twitchers with binoculars abound.  Seals are frequent visitors to the waters below and we have spotted them several times while tucking into doughnuts and knickerbocker glories.  One day when we got down to the beach after a trip to the cafe, the seal approached us like a friendly dog - he was as curious about us as we were about him - sadly, no pictures!

Friday, 11 June 2010

Devon Contemporary Craft Fair, Bovey Tracey - Review

The Contemporary Craft Fair in Bovey Tracey, Devon kicked off today with crowds of people, lots of glorious sunshine and several tentfuls or art, craft attended by their talented creators.  This was a specially built 'sustainable garden'

I made sure I found time to find and chat to Christine Kaltoft as I had previously admired her line-based and chicken influenced jewellery from photos.  Today I found that I was admiring them even more up close. 

It was lovely to meet Christine - her works is beautiful and I enjoyed my conversation with her.  This was one of her beautiful necklaces in oxidised silver and gold:

Another of my favourite stalls out of the hundreds of fantastic stalls was a local artist, Emma Molony whose stand just looked incredible as it was decorated with her own wallpaper that she designs.  It has a fairytale theme based on Saki's stories from his childhood in North Devon.  Her prints (particularly Winter Trees) and wallpaper were exquisite so I was even more delighted to discover that she is local and works in Exeter.  I had no purse with me today - sensible girl - but I feel I will inevitably make a purchase from this fine selection of goodies.  Thanks to Catherine Cartwright (also an artist but not exhibiting today), her lovely assistant, who filled me in on all the info!

The fair was buzzy and busy - this was the lunchtime scene when I bumped into a couple of local mums (J and A-M) visiting with their kids:

I helped out as a volunteer in the Children's Craft Tent 

100 local school children visited and had a great time - Jackie had organised a feast of crafty treats:  making Egyptian jewellery, creating clay artefacts, decorating brown paper bags (amazingly popular with teenagers), rag-rugging, dipping candles, finger knitting and giant communal mosaic making.

This wool mountain looked good enough to dive into - I think some of the kids probably did.

The food stalls were enticing and beautifully presented - this one bedecked with freshly cut flowers:

An amazing event that must take the organisers a huge amount of time and effort - top notch artists, inspiration for all, fun for kids and a great day out.

Sign outside the craft tent (sensible advice at any time....)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Shaldon Coffee Rush Cafe, Devon

Shaldon Coffee Rush is in the quaint, yes I use the word unashamedly, fishing village of Shaldon (good pubs, pleasant enough beach, lovely clifftop walks, crab fishing, a couple of local shops, a pitch and putt golf course and a Wildlife Trust mini zoo with rare species).  You can easily spend a day or two in this place.

The cafe is beautifully painted with soothing colours, it (sometimes) has free parking outside, it has friendly, welcoming staff, a buzzing atmosphere with plenty of locals popping in, appealing food and is just everything you would want in a cafe.  A great place to meet a friend and have a catch-up.

 They allow dogs in the back room (two comfy sofas with magazines) which isn't great for me as I'm really allergic to them, so I've learnt to sit at the front of the cafe which is lighter and airier anyway.

My biggest thumbs up is for their tea: real tea leaves in one of those clever teapots that doesn't require a tea strainer.  They managed to serve it with fresh slices of lemon - just the thing for Earl Grey.  We resisted the cakes, but the fresh croissants and Danish pastries looked superb.  This cafe has the feel of a proper village cafe for locals and visitors alike.  We heart Shaldon Coffee Rush - and we're not the only ones - they were Runners Up in 2009 Devon Life (magazine) Best Devon Coffee Shop!

Am I ever going to write a negative review of a cafe?  I have realised that my blog postings, up until now, have been entirely upbeat, and positively glowing recommendations and yet, I pride myself on my honesty and independence.  The problem being that I'm not really tempted to go into cafes that look overly fusty, musty or serving tired old pre-packed, factory-prepared food.  And usually these first impressions from the outside, the decor, menu, the look and feel of the place - the customer's gut instinct are usually proven to be right.

My  negative feedback about a local cafe will be directed at Global Aroma in Teignmouth.  This is a singularly uninspiring place.  Radio music in the background, uncomfortable seats, unattractive lighting and decor, a really substandard toilet and food that it is unappealing and unimaginative.  I won't be going back there.  There, I have made a negative comment.  I feel a bit uncomfortable about doing it, but hey, it's just one person's feeling.  There are often plenty of people in that cafe, so others must disagree with me.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Great North Devon Campsite

We have just spent four nights camping at the fantastic Little Meadow campsite on the north coast of Devon between Ilfracombe and Coombe Martin.  The 50 tent pitches ALL overlook the cliffs, a vast expanse of sea and dramatically sloping green Devonshire hills.  It is absolutely beautiful in the sunshine and the view looks partly like this:

The site is quiet, uncommercial, friendly and eco!  Small children's play area, shop selling organic produce and table tennis table are the only recreational facilities, but that's all you need with these views - you can just sit outside your tent and gaze......

It's in the Cool Camping book and also featured in the Torygraph Top 25 UK Campsites, but I'm certainly not a Torygraph reader, so I won't link to that one.

You can access the South West Coastal Path from the campsite and you can also walk down to the tiny Watermouth harbour where my daughter took a great photo of this fishing boat (wow = colours):

Monday, 7 June 2010

Michaelmas Goose Cafe, Teignmouth - Revisited!

I posted a review of the lovely Michaelmas Goose Cafe on 25 May 2010, but forgot to take pictures of the cake.  This was a convenient excuse to pop in there today with my kids and buy some more cake (just so I could take pictures of course).  The chocolate cake (£2.85) and the chocolate brownie (£2.50) were as heavenly as usual.  And the huge pot of Earl Grey for one went on for ever and ever....cafes as they should be.

The best cafe in Teignmouth?  I think so.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

8 Children's Chocolate Birthday Cake 'Ideas'

Our good friends came to stay during the Half Term  break and it was A's birthday, so my daughter and I cooked up this little treat.

It was supposed to be a Victoria sandwich, but little E said 'I only like chocolate cake'.  We'd already done a three egg sponge batter (using Hugh F-W's method: weigh the eggs and use the same weight of SR flour, butter and caster sugar), so just sieved in some Green and Black's Cocoa Powder, put it in the oven and rustled up some chocolate butter cream.

A was delighted to receive this for her 39th birthday - I could tell she particularly liked the ballerina on the top!

While I'm here I'm going to show you some of the other birthday cakes I've made.  They're definitely not particularly perfect or immaculate, but they're pretty funny....this one was for my daughter's Puppy Party - her 8th birthday:

This was for my son's 8th birthday (yes, they both love chocolate buttercream icing unfortunately, it's got to be one of the unhealthiest things in the world.)

Oh look, there's the ballerina again, with some rather melting Maltesers!

This one's looking fairly understated...just candles, flakes, mini stars and writing.

This one is a scary-looking hedgehog - those chocolate fingers kept falling off:

This was for my daughter's 'Fashion Party' - heart shaped cake with loads of Barbie shoes and a tiara on top.

....and another hedgehog cake - that's what my son wants every year - it looks kind of like a rat.

There, I feel that I've really 'shared' with you all.  Perhaps I should submit them to - no actually, I don't think they're good enough for that - the cakes on that site are actually amazingly made - these are just proper Mummy made chocolate-fest, unhealthy but fun, messy cakes.

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