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.

http://Author.to/JuliaIbbotsonauthor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Old-Rectory-Escape-Country-Kitchen/dp/1909593753/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502726298&sr=1-4&keywords=julia+ibbotson

Madeira: sunshine, relaxation and 29 hours at one of the world’s most dangerous airports

The beautiful island of Madeira- we love it. It’s given us 18 years’ enjoyment of the chilled out holidays in the sun we all dream about. We swim before breakfast, then over a relaxed meal on our decking overlooking the deep azure blue ocean, we decide what we feel like doing that day: will it be sailing round the coast or to the Desertas Islands, taking the ferry over to the wide hot sands of Porto Santo, walking the levadas, golfing (my husband) or reading (me) … or maybe absolutely nothing but lying in the sun getting a smooth tan, and listening to Il Divo and Adele on the CD player/laptop iTunes?

The biggest decision we have to make is which restaurant we’ll choose for dinner: our favourite The Old Fort in Funchal, or the gorgeous O Classico, or musical Goya? Or maybe our annual retro meal at Casa Velha: steak diane and crepes suzette? Or perhaps we’ll just chill out on the balcony with a freshly caught espada, parcel-baked in our oven, jacket potatoes and salad? Listening to the haunting cries of the seagulls and watching the little bright-coloured fishing boats sail out.

Wherever else we go during the year for a more active holiday, we love to return to this ‘garden isle of the Atlantic’ with its beautiful scenery, flowers and interesting history. A novel set in Madeira is swirling round my head!

Each time we like to discover new things: last year I was exploring the old town of Funchal and photographing the lovely door paintings. This year we visited the new CR7 museum (Cristiano Ronaldo) and hotel, and we took the children to the waterpark for the first time.

And finally, another first – and this one, not so good. For the first time in 18 years we were subject to a delay at the airport. It happens in Madeira; it is, after all, one of the most difficult airport landings in the world, if the winds are high and especially if there are cross-winds that drive across the runway. We arrived at the airport to find that there were, oddly, no planes out there. After we had checked in the hold luggage we found out that no planes were landing in the winds. We could see the flares of forest wildfires above Funchal. We sat in the lounge watching the planes attempting to land but wooshing off into the distance. Our plane was supposed to be taking off at 5.25pm but there was no plane to take us off the island. In fact there were no planes. Full stop.

Eventually we heard (from the internet trackers) that our plane had been diverted to Tenerife. By midnight we were told to go to collect our hold baggage again (we’d have to go through the whole process again the next day) The comfortable premier lounge (which we always book because of my spinal injury) was closed for the night. No hotel was being organised for the passengers by Jet2. Yes, folks, we spent 29 hours on the hard airport seats – with all food/drink outlets closed. The temperature that day had been 34 degrees in the shade. We eventually were given a small bottle of water around 5.00am and a voucher for food around 9.00am – I had to queue for 1.5 hours to buy a sandwich and a coffee for us.

Our flight was rescheduled for 3.00pm the next day and then was delayed again until 7.30pm, with doubts as to whether we would, in fact, be taking off at all that day. Another night in excruciating spinal pain on hard seats was simply not on. We decided to claim our baggage back again and find a hotel ourselves. We were by then in contact with a friend and knew we had a room at a lovely hotel set aside for us. But at about 7.15 we saw on the departures board a call to the gate and that our flight was boarding. We pretty much ran!

We touched down in the UK nearly midnight and arrived home around 1.30am – exhausted. So, after such a wonderful sojourn in Madeira again, thank you (said with irony) Jet2 for our first – and hopefully last – experience of your passenger care policy …

 

 

 

 

Invitation! Authors love Reviews.

Photofunia hearts

INVITATION! A SHOUT OUT FOR REVIEWS!
I’d like to invite folks to write a brief review of any of my books they fancy. Authors are always really grateful if readers do this, and often copy/paste them onto their facebook posts! I’ve now written four books: The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen ( a memoir about renovating a Victorian rectory in the heart of the English countryside – with yummy and historical recipes!); Drumbeats and Walking in the Rain (the first two of the Drumbeats trilogy) following Jess from 1960s Ghana to millennium England; and S.C.A.R.S a children’s book (9-14) about a troubled boy who slips into a fantasy medieval world. My new book, A Shape on the Air, is an adult historical time-slip into the Dark Ages. It’s magical and mystical and there’s a mystery to solve and a home to save.
I’ve now captured my direction as a writer. With a love of history and specialising in medieval language and literature, I am now focusing on historical time-slip (both adult romance and children’s adventure). My work will be focused on the medieval period, both the early Dark Ages and the Anglo-Saxon period.
I do hope you will like my books and if you do, it would warm my heart if you could post a review! Many thanks. Just click on the link below and on one of my books to write a brief review!
 http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0095XG11U

What’s Cooking? Tamworth LitFest – meet the authors

More details about the Tamworth LitFest … the first festival day is on Thursday 14th April in the evening from 5pm – 8pm. All free and including cooking demos and tastings, author signings and a Waterstones book stand. I’m signing and talking about my book The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, a memoir with recipes to soothe the soul, and a few tasters from those recipes! I hope I see you there – come and have a chat.

UK edition front coverAnd below is the schedule for the event:

Tam Lit Fest Poster A4 PDF [2574586] (1)

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?

 

 

Happy Christmas, everyone

It is the time of year when I go into hibernation for a while to devote my time to my friends and family for Christmas and the New Year. It doesn’t look as though we are going to have the dreamed-of white Christmas in the UK but we are still getting ready the mulled wine, hot mince pies and looking forward to cooking turkey with all the trimmings. Today we have baked sticky toffee pudding which will be an alternative to the Christmas plum pud with brandy sauce, and we are freezing it for The Day!

Our menu:

starters: meat antipasti platter/seafood platter with salad

main course: roast turkey with ‘pigs in blankets’, chestnut stuffing, crispy roast potatoes, carrots, honeyed roast parsnips, brussels with bacon lardons and herb butter

pudding: plum pud with brandy and Courvoisier sauce; raspberry and prosecco panna cotta terrine; limoncello buche de Noel; sticky toffee pudding

We have a lot of guests but I think we’ll be eating left-overs for weeks (hopefully!).

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and successful New Year. See you in 2016!

Chatsworth Proms 2015P1010599

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.