vintage picnics gillian bell
Do you like to picnic? I’ve always loved picnics. Proper ones, that is. Where the basket is overflowing, its bounty wrapped in some cheery print.
My Swallows & Amazons vintage-style picnics is a nod back to the picnics of my childhood – full of adventure, sticky buns and tea. Where plots were planned lying on your back staring into the dappled-green canopy overhead, opening small parcels of food from a creaking hamper was as exciting as Christmas morning, and food tasted better beside a river.
My vintage-style picnics provide you with all the picnicware you need to have yourself a proper picnic from the past, with hampers, dainty plates, Thermos’ flasks, blankets and transistor radios. And what’s to eat? Well, you can choose from a menu that’s full of home-baked tarts and pies, soup and sausage rolls, fresh sandwiches, sticky buns, biscuits, scones and cakes, jellies and puddings, iced teas, homemade cordials and lemonades. Oh, and of course, a Thermos full of piping hot tea or coffee. Everything you need for a splendid day out!
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vintage picnics gillian bell
vintage picnics gillian bell
Dawn arrived on tiptoe this morning, through soft rain. But the rain can’t dampen the promise of the day ahead.
Miss F and Mr S are getting married today and their yellow rose petal cake, the colour of sunshine, symbolises all the joy and optimism and love that will fill their day.
They chose a two tier lemon cake, in ivory fondant, wrapped in soft organza and scattered with sugar rose petals. Each petal is made by hand and individually coloured.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate”.
My very best wishes to you both. yellow roses
The rat… appeared staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon basket. “Shove that under your feet, he observed to the Mole, as he passed it down into his boat…
“What’s inside it?” asked the Mole wriggling with curiosity.
“There’s cold chicken inside it” replied the Rat briefly, “Cold chicken, cold tongue, cold ham, cold beef, pickled gherkin, salad french rolls, cress sandwiches, potted meat, ginger beer, lemonade – soda water.”
“O stop, stop!” cried the Mole in ecstasies.*
I love picnics. Something tasty to eat wrapped in pastry (which always tastes better outdoors), lying on a picnic rug staring up at the land of clouds or reading a good book, sticky cakes in tins and thermos flasks of tea.
Today is the perfect day for a picnic and I wouldn’t mind Ratty and Moles’ spread. But every picnic needs a cake, which their picnic hamper is decidedly lacking. Not a fancy one mind, but the sort that will stand up to the journey – the packing of the car or the crush of the rucksack. No, it needs to be a solid, dependable one that reassures you the moment you lift the lid of the tin that it has arrived in one piece and looking as good as if you had served it at home. So I think a sticky date and walnut loaf is in order. Buttered or not, whichever way you prefer. And I’m going to make a traditional egg and bacon pie that I can cut into big wedges when we get there and serve it with ripe tomatoes, simply sliced open and sprinkled with fresh mint and sea salt.
*From The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
My friend R lost her mum Doreen to cancer this past year.
When I first knew R she told me about her love for jam drops and how her mum made the best jam drops in the whole world. One day I baked R some jam drops which she said were delicious but they weren’t hard and crunchy like her mum’s. R likes her jam drops crunchy. I puzzled about what was in Doreen’s jam drops that brought my friend such pleasure. Of course, it was love. And probably some cornflour. jam drops cookies
To my dear friend R, Doreen will always make the best jam drops in the world. That’s just as it should be. But I have made you another batch, hoping they are crunchier, in memory of Doreen, and the love of a daughter for her mum and her jam drops.
jam drops cookies
jam drops cookies
There is a jasmine growing by our path between the gate and our front door. A jasminium polyanthum to be exact. It is heavy with masses of slim, rose-cerise buds getting pinker each day as the small white petals are preparing to emerge. And when they do, I am immediately back to when we were new to Australia and the perfumes of the scented flowers and vines hung heavily on the evening air. A jasminium polyanthum tumbled over the gate below my bedroom window and I would gather the tendrils to bring indoors because I adored its heady, soapy perfume.
The August winds are blowing hard today and I am watching my jasmine dance and sway, along with the other flowers in the garden, from my kitchen window. I like to use fresh flowers to decorate my cakes whenever I can and as spring approaches, I am up early with the birds picking blossoms from our small garden, sometimes brushing them with egg white and crystallizing them in sugar, then slowly drying them in the oven.
I grow pots of pansies and violas, the petite heartsease and alyssum, borage and nasturtium, lobelia and sweet pea, jasmines, roses and lavender. However, I can’t grow sweet violets in my garden so I buy them, dried and crystallised, from Toulouse in France which is renowned for its violets. I like to use them to bake sponges filled with violet – scented cream or make creamy violet-scented panacotta served with violet syrup or cupcakes decorated with sugared violets.
You might like to try this simple dessert:
900 ml almond milk
25g rice flour
sugar (sweeten to your taste)
1-2 drops of almond extract
sugared voilets to decorate.
Add the rice flour and sugar to the almond milk and heat in a saucepan, stirring all the time. Bring to boil and stir vigorously as milk thickens. Cool. Add almond essence to taste. Pour into some pretty glasses. Chill and serve decorated with sugared violets. You can add thickened cream to the cool almond milk if you want a creamier, richer taste, and even add a touch of violet food colouring (pink & blue) to colour your creams. But just a touch!
Could there have been a more perfect day?
Miss C was marrying Mr P, I was their chosen cake-maker, and the day was glorious!
On the morning of the wedding, I woke early and set about the final stages of the cake design – arranging the handmade sugar flowers and foliage on the completed cake. Miss C had chosen soft pinks, whites and greens as the theme for her bridal bouquet, with pink roses and white lisianthus as the main flowers. The cake was designed to reflect her bouquet.
As a wedding cake maker, it is a tremendous pleasure and privilege to be selected from amongst many talented others to create the wedding cake that a bride dreams of. Congratulations Miss C and Mr P! And thank you.
Cake: Callebaut chocolate and chocolate ganache, finished with ivory fondant, handmade sugar flowers and foliage, dove grey grosgrain trim.
Autumn is well and truly here and the weather is gorgeous! So gorgeous that I want to bottle it and splash it around like a favourite perfume on days when things are not so perfect. But I think all who live in this part of the world agree that, weather-wise, we are well and truly spoilt. The days are sunny and warm, the air clear and clean, the skies azure blue. I feel like doing a twirl just to celebrate the beauty of it all! But autumn also means cool, crisp evenings, starry starry nights – and ginger cake. Sticky, spicy, fragrant, moreish ginger cake that gets better and better as the days pass. Not that it lasts that long. But it’s special and just about the best thing to eat on an autumn evening either with lashings of tea or surrounded by a moat of hot, vanilla custard. My ginger cake contains Guinness beer, black treacle and minced, fresh ginger which I think is superior in a ginger cake to the ground, powder form. And sometimes I like to add stem ginger pieces – glacéd nuggets of ginger, like topaz-coloured sea glass, to be discovered in every slice. Mmmmmm!