Month: July 2013

Citrus Celebration!

Citrus CelebrationMr Smiles made a slight mis-judgement with our supermarket delivery this week. Instead of ordering 4 individual lemons he ordered 4 bags of lemons and instead of 2 limes we have 2 bags of limes. My challenge therefore was to use 20 lemons and 10 limes and I rose to the Citrus Challenge!

My first recipe of the weekend was Lemon Curd,  closely followed by Lime Curd. Curds aren’t really preserves as they only keep for a few weeks. However they are used like preserves – spread on toast and as fillings for cakes and other desserts. I’ve never made any kind of curd before and I am converted! They are so easy to make. Even Mr Smiles enjoyed having a stir and helping pour into jars. Any fruit with a slight sharpness makes a good curd.

Lemon Curd

  • 4 x 225ml (8 fl oz) jars
  • 325g (11.5 oz) golden caster sugar
  • 4 lemons
  • 125g (4oz) unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs

Place the sugar in a large heatproof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water.

Golden Caster Sugar

Finely zest the 4 lemons and then extract the juice. I bought an amazingly efficient lemon squeezer at the weekend. Cut a lemon in half, place in the cup and squeeze the handles to make juice. Compared to my traditional lemon squeezer this is effortless juice extraction. The skin, flesh and pips can be removed in one piece for discarding and there is less mess.  No mopping up of fleshy bits and seeds, and much easier to clean afterwards. (My zested lemon is posing on top of the squeezer, which is artistic licence!) Add the juice and zest to the bowl with the sugar.

Easy Squeezer

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the mix.

Unsalted Butter

Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the other ingredients.

Lightly Beaten

The heatproof bowl rests on a saucepan on top of the simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

Simmering CurdSwirls of Curd

Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Coats the back of the Spoon

Pour the curd into hot sterilised jars, cover and seal. The curd will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

I made Lime Curd in exactly the same way although the quantities were slightly different and made 3 jars instead of 4.

Lime Curd Ingredients

  • 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • juice and finely grated zest of 5 limes
  • 150g (5 oz) unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs and 2 egg yolks

Lemon & Lime

I had successfully managed to use 4 lemons and 5 limes. Only 16 lemons and 7 limes to go! I realised that Lemon and Lime Curd wouldn’ t keep like my jams for Christmas presents. I therefore decided to get creative using the Lemon Curd in another recipe.

Mary Berry’s Lemon Meringue Ice Cream

This is a fantastic recipe, very easy to make and tastes delicious!

  • 300ml/½ pint double cream
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 jar good quality lemon curd
  • 4 meringues broken into chunky pieces
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm
  • 3 passionfruit, halved, pulp and seeds scooped out
  • sprigs of lemon balm, to garnish


Line a 450g/1lb loaf tin with clingfilm, overlapping the sides.

Whisk the cream lightly until the whisk leaves a trail. Double Cream


Add the lemon zest and juice Easy Squeezerand half the jar of lemon curd then fold in the meringue and chopped lemon balm.

Lemon Meringue Dream

At this point I discovered I had no lemon balm and neither did 3 supermarkets or a garden centre! Lemon balm is a perennial herb in the mint family. It is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas. Having asked around, a friend came to the rescue and gave me an off shoot of her plant. Beware it can spread and be invasive like mint. As I had no lemon balm I improvised and used a small piece of finely chopped lemon grass which I hoped would give a nice fresh citrus taste to the ice-cream.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. Cover with the clingfilm and freeze for at least 6 hours.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer 10- 15 minutes before turning onto a plate. Lift the ice cream from the loaf tin, invert it onto a board and remove the clingfilm.Dip a sharp knife in boiling water and cut the ice cream into thick slices.

Mix the other half of the lemon curd with the pulp and seeds from the passion fruit to make a refreshing sauce. I’ve never used passion fruit before in a recipe. On the outside they are pretty boring, dark, ugly fruits. However I thought they were quite pretty when I cut them in half. The pink flesh matched the pretty pink saucer and the white pith looked lacy like the tablecloth.

Passionfruit Place a slice of ice cream on a plate and top with a spoonful of the passion fruit sauce. Decorate with sprigs of lemon balm if you have it.

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream



I still needed to find more delicious citrus recipes to use all the lemons and limes we’d bought. I found another Mary Berry recipe was quite easy to make and also delicious.

Mary Berry’s Lemon & Lime Cheesecake

  • 10 digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 50g (1¾ oz) butter, melted
  • 25g (scant 1oz) demerara sugar
  • 150ml (5fl oz) double cream
  • 397g can full-fat condensed milk
  • 175g (6oz) full-fat cream cheese (room temperature)
  • grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons
  • grated zest and juice of 1½ limes
  • 150ml (5fl oz) double or whipping cream, to decorate
  • ½ lime, thinly sliced, to decorate

This is a really, easy recipe which looks lovely and tastes delicious.

To make the biscuit base place the biscuits in a clear plastic bag. Lay the bag on a flat surface and run a rolling pin back and forth over the biscuits until they form crumbs. I actually used a mixture of digestive biscuits and ginger biscuits. I find digestive biscuits give a more crumbly texture and I like the taste of the ginger in the base.  Biscuits
Crushed Biscuit Base





Place the crushed biscuits and the sugar in a bowl. Melt the butter and pour over the biscuits, stirring until thouroughly mixed.


Turn the biscuit mixture out into a 20 cm (8in) loose- bottomed tin and press firmly and evenly over the bottom and up the sides using the back of a metal spoon. Chill for at least 30 minutes until set.  Demerara Sugar




Double Cream


To make the filling place the double cream, condensed milk and cream cheese in a bowl with the lemon and lime zests. Mix thoroughly. Using a balloon whisk gradually whisk in the lemon and lime juices and continue whisking until the mixture thickens. You must use full-fat condensed milk and cream cheese for the recipe to work, as the filling won’t set if you use low-fat substitutes.

Citrus Fiesta

Pour the lemon and lime filling into the crumb crust and spread it evenly. Cover and chill overnight.

Up to 6 hours before serving , whip the cream and decorate the cheesecake with swirls of whipped cream and slices of lime. I must admit my swirls were more like thick blobs as I overwhipped the cream, but I was still pleased with the result! 

Lemon & Lime Cheesecake


The last recipe I followed to use up the lemons was Lemon Drizzle Cake. We were still left with 11 lemons and 3 limes, but I think I made a jolly good effort at using them!

Lemon Drizzle Cake

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 250g self raising flour, sifted
  • zest and juice 2 lemons
  • 75g (3 oz) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to Gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C. Grease a (20cm) round, deep loose-based tin and base line with baking parchment.


Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. DSC_3887

Use an electric whisk to beat the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy.



Gradually add the eggs, whisking well between additions and adding 2 tbsp of the flour with the last egg – this will prevent curdling.   DSC_3890









Sift over the remaining flour, then gently fold in with a metal spoon along with 1 tbsp hot water.   DSC_3892

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.



Bake for 50-60 minutes until it is shrinking away from the sides of the tin. A fine skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Cool in the tin for 5 mins.


Squeeze the lemon juice, then sieve to remove the bits. Stir the granulated sugar into the lemon juice. Use the fine skewer to prick the cake all over, pour over the syrup – it should sink in but leave a crunchy crust. Leave to cool completely.


So here we have it – Mrs Smiles’ Finest Lemon Drizzle Cake.



The Lemon Drizzle Cake went down very well at work. I still have 10 lemons and 3 limes left, but have run out of steam. I am leaving them for Mr Smiles to be inventive with…Do let me know if you have any favourite lemon or lime recipes.

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Elegant Elderflower

Elderflower Bonanza

There is something about freshly made Elderflower Cordial which seems to symbolise the arrival of Summer. I’ve never made my own Elderflower Cordial before so decided this weekend would be an ideal time as Sunday was a beautiful sunny day and the elder trees were in full bloom. The Elderflower Season is short  – late May to mid-July and they are best picked on a sunny day. The warmth of Summer sunshine gives the flowers the perfume needed for a good refreshing cordial.

I had a lovely time. I cycled off on my beautiful traditionally made English Pashley bicycle, complete with her very useful wicker basket. It was a joy to amble along the country lanes taking my time to enjoy the sunshine whilst looking for elderflowers. It is best to pick elderflowers off the beaten track away from any traffic pollution.

Elderflower Picking


No-one told me that quite a few of the blooms would be too high for me to reach without a step-ladder and that often the verge in front of the flowers would be full of numerous stinging nettles! In my efforts to embrace the `quintessentially English experience’ I had worn a short floaty Summer skirt and pretty sandals. Stout walking boots and a pair of long trousers would have been more approriate! Not to be put off I persevered and came back with a basket brimming with beautiful creamy scented flowers.



Elderflowers are best picked on a sunny day when you have time to use them immediately as  freshly picked flowers have the best scent. It needs to be a warm dry day as you need dry flowers. The flowers you pick need to be just opened. There is no need to worry if some of the tiny buds are still closed; these young flowers have the most scent and therefore give more flavour. Make sure there are no brown or dead flowers.

Elderflowers can be used to make a refreshing cordial which is delicious diluted with still or fizzy water or used as a flavouring in ice creams, fruit fools and many other recipes. They can also be used to make Elderflower Champagne. I decided to have a go at making both as I had picked plenty of flowers. 

Elderflower Cordial 

Fizzy Cordial



 500g white caster sugar

500g light brown sugar

1.5 litres boiling water

20 Elderflower heads, shake to remove any insects

2 lemons

75g citric acid


Pour the boiling water onto the sugar in a large tupperware container or preserving pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved.Caster Sugar I chose to use a mixture of brown and white sugar for mine as an experiment. However you could stick to simply using white caster sugar. Brown sugar gives the cordial an orange colour, whilst white keeps the cordial a fresh pale yellow colour.

Leave to cool.


Add in the Elderflower heads, Citric Acid and the sliced lemons to the pan. Citric Acid can  be quite hard to come by.  You used to be able to buy it in any chemist shop, but due to the fact that it can be used to inject heroin, a lot of chemists are now reluctant to sell it. I tried two chemists and a Health Food Shop with no luck. My local hardware store sold me some as they sell home brewing gear. I have since seen it for sale on Amazon and even Lakeland with their home brew kit. The mixture is then left for about 5 days to brew. The aroma given off by the citrus and Elderflower mixture smells like Summer!

Freshly Picked Elderflowers

Cordial Making

After 5 days strain the mixture through a muslin. I have a special stand which I bought for jam-making from Lakeland which is ideal. Mr Smiles gave me the advice that I should do this outside as he knows my cooking tends to be very messy! He was right. Although I must admit bottling up Elderflower Cordial outside on a warm Summer’s day was not a bad idea. Bottling UpPour the mixture in to clean sterilised bottles. I put some in plastic bottles and froze these for future use. You can also put the cordial in an ice cube tray. Putting 1 or 2 cubes in a glass of sparkling water for a refreshing drink works well. I bottled some in Kilner Cordial Bottles.

Elderflower Cordial is meant to be refreshing, but innocuous. My cordial was definately not innocuous. The next day having photographed a nice drink of refreshing cordial the cordial started to get bubbly. It’s not mean to be fizzy! You are meant to dilute it like squash and add your own sparkling water. I had read that if the champagne gets a bit fizzy you should release the gas off gently. Fizz  So I thought I’d have a go. BIG MISTAKE! My cordial gave an enormous bang and exploded all over me and all over the kitchen. I was covered in sugary drink and so were the kitchen units, the walls and the ceiling! It took a long time to clean up the mess.  I think the unusual heat had caused the cordial to ferment, not helped by photographing the bottle out in the mid-day sun. So beware and carefully let out your gas in the garden!

Elderflower Champagne

Elderflower Cordial


4 litres hot water

700g sugar

juice and zest of 4 lemons

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

15 Elderflower heads, in full bloom

Pinch of champagne yeast


Put the hot water and sugar into a large clean container and stir until the sugar dissolves. Top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.

Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.

Freshly Picked Elderflowers

Cover with a clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. If the brew is not beginning to gently bubble at this stage add a pinch of yeast. (now I made the mistake of leaving the mixture in a warm kitchen and I added a good generous measure of yeast as I fancied a bubbly champagne!)

Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further 4 days.

Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers. Another piece of advice – do not squeeze the bag to get out every last drop! Squeezing the bag adds unwanted sediment to the champagne.

A good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide. To avoid explosions, use strong bottles and strong seals. A really active mixture produces a lot of gas so do remember to let it off gently outside to prevent explosions! The seals on my bottles seem a bit inadequate for my gassy brew and they are still going pop unexpectedly! It is a delicious drink though!

Elderflower and Honey Ice Cream 

Home-made Elderflower Cordial can be used in many different delicious recipes. Elderflower and Gooseberries work particularly well together. Watch out for my `Gorgeous Gooseberry’ Blog Post coming soon! One recipe I enjoyed making with my Cordial was  Elderflower and Honey Ice Cream. I used a recipe compiled by Elaine Lemm.

Elderflower Bonanza

I’ve never made ice cream before. This recipe uses liquid glucose which helps create a smooth ice cream and prevents crystallisation so can be made without a machine.


4oz/ 100g caster sugar

18 fl oz / 500 ml milk

3 tsp liquid glucose

3 large egg yolks

9 oz / 250 g Creme Fraiche

1/4 pint/ 150 ml whipping cream

3 tbsp Elderflower Cordial

1 tbsp runny honey


Place the sugar, milk and liquid glucose into a large saucepan and stir well. Place over a gentle heat and warm the milk through until it is giving off steam, but not boiling.

Sugar, milk and liquid glucose

Whisk the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.

Pale and Fluffy

Continue whisking whilst slowly adding the warmed milk. Return the mixture back to the pan and gently heat. FrothyContinue stirring until the custard mixture has thickened. Do not allow the mixture to boil. If you feel it is cooking too quickly, or sticking to the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat to allow it to cool a little, lower the heat then continue cooking.

Custard Base

The more time you take over this part the better the custardy cream will be in the end. This part of the recipe did take a long time to thicken – maybe 20 minutes.

Strain the custard through a fine sieve and put to one side and allow to cool. Once the custard is cool ,add the creme fraiche, the whipping cream, cordial and honey and stir well. I must confess to not having enough whipping cream so I made up the difference with clotted cream!

Lashings of Cream

Pour the mixture into a shallow freezer container and place in the freezer. Beat the mixture three or four times as it freezes to break up any ice crystals and to create a smooth ice cream.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer ten minutes before serving to soften a little.

What better way to spend a Summer afternoon than eating home-made ice cream and drinking a thirst quenching Elderflower Cordial or sipping home-made Elderflower Champagne in the garden?

Elderflower Bonanza

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Fabulous Flushing!

Pink Cottage


I spent a fantastic week staying in a beautiful cottage in Flushing with Mr Smiles last month. Cornwall is one of my absolute favourite holiday locations. I have a real love of the coast and look forward to our Summer holiday staying in a cosy cottage. Flushing is a picturesque coastal village facing Falmouth across the Penryn River. There are many impressive houses originally owned by the Captains of Packet Ships in the village. My love of the sea feels like it is in my genes. My 3rd Great Grandfather, Henry Doidge Rundle, was a Master Mariner and was born in Penryn up the coast from Flushing in 1813. I enjoyed walking along the Penryn River on our holiday imagining life for Henry way back then.

Master's Certificate of Serice

This year we booked with Flushing Holiday Cottages. We like our holiday accomodation to be `home from home’ and this company did us proud. I have stayed in damp, musty cottages where the kitchen utensils leave a lot to be desired. We now try to choose somewhere which inspires us, where we can truly relax and feel at home, with a little bit of luxury. It also gives us a few ideas for what we would like in our next home.

This year we stayed in a pretty terraced cottage called Clottage in Flushing Village.

`Clottage is a delightful fisherman’s cottage dearly loved by its owners, who have thoughtfully decorated and furnished it to create a fresh, fun seaside retreat.  White walls with tongue and groove panel detail and pale wood floors give the interior space a light and airy feel, while quirky fabrics and pieces of art dotted around the house add colour and character with a nautical twist.   Real bonuses here are this property’s superb location opposite Flushing village’s waterfront and its own designated parking space on the quayside.’


We arrived to find a welcoming vase of flowers and a bottle of wine.  I enjoyed sitting at the bay window seat gazing out at the quayside and sketching the view. I became particularly fond of the pink cottage on the Quayside. This cottage has been sketched from every angle in my sketch book!

Ferry View

Welcoming Flowers







Room with a View


In previous years we have had a garden to sit out in. Clottage does have a pretty white walled courtyard, but no garden. When we booked our holiday I thought I might miss the lack of garden. However I didn’t. This got me thinking. My overall impression of Flushing is that it is a picture perfect traditional coastal village. How can this be, when a lot of the traditional fishermens’ cottages have very little garden? It struck me that Flushing is a fine example of gardening to maximise the most of every available space. The village is full of pretty pastel coloured cottages. Nearly every single cottage has  maximised the available outside space for growing flowers with a variety of window boxes, flowering pots and hanging baskets.  You clearly don’t need a big garden to create something pretty. Even with the smallest space you can create something beautiful.

Our cottage had a variety of welcoming tubs and pots outside the front door. It doesn’t take much effort to paint your front door a pretty colour and put a few plants in a decorative pot by the doorstep, but it creates a positive welcoming atmosphere.

Summer Pots

Clottage Pots






Clottage Pots




Delapre Cottage






I came back with fond memories of Flushing. I am training for the `Race for Life’ in a couple of weeks and as I ran through the village my overall impression was one of a pretty village in full bloom.


Window Box









Simply Hanging about





Hanging Baskets



Every window ledge had a pretty window box. Many were very simple common plants such as Geranium or Sweet William which are very easy to grow. There is something about bright red Geraniums that makes me think of Italy.

Simply Geraniums

Seaside Window BoxSimple Window Box


Each door step had a few plants growing in various pots. At home I have had an ivy leaved pink pelargonium growing in a pot on our doorstep for a couple of months. I often forget to water her, but she seems to thrive and welcomes me home each day! She was a bargain from my local farmers market.

Blue DoorFabulous Flowers Cheerful Pots


Even the Cornish walls were put to good use. I liked the simple display of lavender outside the Blue House. It smelt gorgeous as you wandered by!

The Blue HouseFlowery Wall


Most of you will know I adore roses. One day I will have my dream cottage by the sea with roses round the door! `The Sands’ blue and white cottage was up for sale, but Mr Smiles could not be persuaded to buy her!

Lovely Rose


The Sands







I peaked into one courtyard and it was brimming with foliage and colour. A true inspiration for what can be done with a small space.


I hope you enjoyed looking at the fabulous flowers of Flushing!