Afternoon Tea Week!

It’s Afternoon Tea Week this week and I’m sharing a couple of recipes from my book The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen, soon to be re-released by Endeavour Press (a week on Friday, 25th August). Wait for 25th as it’ll be available on Amazon and cheaper, in ebook and paperback!

The book has received many 5* reviews including “enchantingly told”, ” delightful”, ” a most engaging read”.

Cream Tea Scones

makes 10–12

A staple of the traditional English cream tea.

You’ll need:

50 g. (2 oz.) butter

25 g. (1 oz.) caster sugar

5tbsp milk

1 egg

225 g. (9 oz.) self raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch salt

A little beaten egg or milk to glaze

Strawberry jam and double whipped cream (or Cornish clotted cream) to sandwich the scones, and a little icing sugar to dust the tops.

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and roll out to about 1 cm. (0.5 in.) thickness. Cut into rounds with a 5-cm. (2-in.) cutter and place the scones on a greased baking sheet. Brush lightly with milk or a lightly beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 12–15 minutes. Cool on a wire cooling tray. Split each scone and spread with a layer of good fruity strawberry jam, topped with a dollop of whipped double cream, then place the other half on the top and dust with sieved icing sugar.


Lemon Iced Buns

makes 8

 You’ll need:

250 g. (9 oz.) strong white flour, sifted

250 g. (9 oz.) plain flour, sifted

7 g. (0.25 oz.) fast-action dried yeast

2 tsp. fine sea salt

50 g. (2 oz.) caster sugar

125 ml. (4 fl. oz.) warmed milk

125 g. (4 fl. oz.) warmed water

1 egg, beaten

50 g. (2 oz.) butter, cut into cubes

Zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for greasing

For the icing:

50 g. (2 oz.) icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Sift the flours and salt into a bowl. Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and lemon zest and mix with a fork until combined. Add the beaten egg and butter and continue to mix until the mixture is a sticky dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretches like elastic. Lightly oil a bowl with some of the vegetable oil. Turn the dough into the bowl and carefully turn until it is entirely coated with oil. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. The dough should have doubled in size. Lightly grease two baking trays. Knock the dough back to its original size and then turn onto a floured board again. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into fingers or rounds. Place on the greased baking sheets, ensuring plenty of space. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Bake in the oven for about 20–25 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove the buns from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.

The icing for the top: Made by simply combining the icing sugar and fresh lemon juice until smooth. When the buns are cool, spread icing over each bun and set aside until hardened. You can decorate with a little lemon zest for that extra oomph.

Sweet and sticky, with a little zestiness from the lemon, these buns are a favourite for afternoon tea.

New Year, New Me – and keep it up, Julia – after January

Here I come, 2016! Have you made your resolutions? And are you still keeping them in the second week of January? So many of us (me included. most years) start to give up by the middle of January and have completely forgotten what they were by the end of the month. My main resolution this year is to keep my other resolutions ALL YEAR …

I love food, I love cooking: hot comfort food when it’s cold outside. But then I hate to get a fat tum!

P1010494P1010146OK, so eat but then you need exercise.When it’s rainy, snowy and miserable in January and February,  I don’t feel like going out for a walk, getting soaked and cold. I want to sit by the fire, reading and eating.  So there’s a clear front runner for my resolutions. but will I keep to them?

 If you’re anything like me, you know It’s a lot easier if you choose carefully: ones that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. In other words, the good old SMART targets. Anything unrealistic or dependent on chance or fate or someone else, are not going to be achievable.

 “Lose weight” is a no-go. But “lose one stone in weight by July by means of diet and exercise” leads on to three other targets:
(1) use the Mediterranean diet/ reduce my portions by a third/ cut out bread as much as possible
(2) go to the gym three times a week/ take classes in yoga, aqua aerobics, Pilates/ swim 10 lengths all three visits
(3) weigh myself once a week and keep records of weight/body fat/measurements.
I could add “walk in the countryside once a week” or “use my exercise bike/power plate”, or whatever.

 Nobody is saying it will be easy (if it was, there wouldn’t be much point in doing it) but if it’s something that’s possible without changing your whole lifestyle, then it’s do-able. At my gym you have to book classes and if you don’t go, there are (apparently) dire consequences! Aaargh!  I don’t know what, but I daren’t find out! I’m trusted to be responsible and I’m accountable.

I need a reward for all my efforts, apart. of course, from being fitter and healthier. My “new me” is going to be so fit and healthy and slim by July that I will reward myself with a new dress.

I have a couple of others, with regard to choir and writing.

Choir is generalised, but re-join the local community choir and join Rock Choir – those are specific and do-able …I’ve checked my diary and the locations. OK.

Anything BIG like “publish a new book” is vague, generalised, and unspecific. But “complete the second draft of my WIP manuscript by the end of March” hits all the buttons of SMART.

So, there I go! I’m determined. What about you?



What! No Prosecco? Summer dieting and all that stuff …

JuliadeopgardIt’s June already and I haven’t posted for ages! Mainly because I’ve been embroiled in loads of writing, writerly events – work-related stuff and a lot of travelling, parties and receptions, and a bit of illness too. But I am now the proud member of a London club and the proud possessor of an Oyster card, although I did get jammed in the pincer-like claws of the underground barriers, bags on one side, myself and my pull-along case on the other, totally immovably stuck. Well, it’s  a long story… At least I didn’t fall down the escalator this time. And the odd thing was that nobody, not a single person, took any notice. It’s not as if I’m so fat it was inevitable that I get trapped in the gates. I’m not fat at all, in fact.

But all these parties and receptions made me think: I must get summer-ready. I seem to have focused my life on eating and drinking for some time now, and the evidence is there on my tum for all to see. So … a large leaf to turn over, in the shape of a diet and lots of exercise. I’m trying the 5:2 again but also reducing on the 5 day bit: drastically reducing the bread (ahh, I love French and artisan bread!) and potatoes (I love roast potatoes!), and wine (can’t resist Prosecco and cava; champagne if poss!). Absolutely no cake or biscuits. Got to keep it down to around 1500 calories tops. It’s going to be tough.

On my two “fasting days”, which apparently don’t actually have to be an actual fast, as in, no food at all, but simply (haha!) keeping down to 500 calories and low fat, I’ve got it worked out:

On rising, interval training on my exercise bike for 20 minutes. Apparently it’s more effective on an empty stomach and then to have carbs afterwards.

Breakfast: small bowl of porridge oats, green tea. Lots of green tea and water all day.

Lunch: 2 dark rye ryvita with a scrape of lowest fat cream cheese/or low cal low fat soup, banana, satsuma

Walk and yoga, swim, or exercise bike if rainy and stormy

Dinner: small salad, one slice of fat-less cold meat (chicken), absolutely no dressing/mayo/coleslaw other than a dribble of low cal/low fat French dressing, strawberries/blueberries/pineapple.

30 mins on exercise bike again.

There is a science base to all this, but I can’t go into it – I must be getting back on my bike …

And, hopefully, after a big family wedding that’s coming up shortly (down south!), things will settle down a little.

So I must then focus on my manuscript for the review from the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The novel is called A Shape on the Air and it is a time-slip, parallel universe story where our heroine, after a traumatic revelation, finds herself in a parallel life in the early middle ages with equally difficult life – issues. How will it all resolve itself? Well, I’m wondering that myself …

Thrilled to bits about my contract with Endeavour Press for the ebook of Drumbeats, and the publication of the sequel Walking in the Rain. Coming next week, in time for Midsummer’s Day the following week, a blog on dreams, and the launch day of a lovely funny new novel.