It’s been a funny old year!!!!

Isn’t it funny, we get to every New Year’s Eve and wish each other a happy new year and then say “Let’s hope this year is better than the last….” Well you’ve got 365 days in which to try and ensure that it IS better than the last, but ultimately something has probably happened within the year that makes us say that same sentence year in, year out…. Well in our case, I really do hope that 2015 is better than the last few years!!!

The start of 2014 was thankfully quiet and just like any other, until we got to Easter and Kim having to go in for yet more surgery, but thankfully it was all successful and it’s benefits are slowly being felt.

The summer was pretty uneventful and just enjoyed the many hot days that we had, although some of them were a little too hot for our two long haired German Shepherds who were happy to lay in the lounge in front of two fans blowing at full tilt.

Then we got into Autumn and a visit to my mother-in-law (Kim’s mum) which was hot and I do mean HOT!!! That’s what happens when you end up dropping a freshly boiled kettle and cooking yourself; A whole new meaning to boil in the bag, but thankfully after a visit to a couple of burns units and a month of pain, I have healed incredibly well and didn’t require any skin grafting, thank god.

Before I come to more recent times, I’m sure a few readers have thought how come their blog is called Lullingstone Photography when the majority of posts are about Kim’s baking? Well just like people, a blog grows and develops over time and in fact can end up becoming quite a different entity to what you first envisaged. The same is true for our blog and this year I plan on splitting our blog so that one can concentrate on Kim’s baking and non photographic posts whilst the other is purely about photography. This does mean though that I actually need to get my camera out, dust it off and start shooting more images. If truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I actually pressed the shutter and have spent a good part of the year learning, in depth, Photoshop CC and finally getting to grips with Adobe Lightroom. It’s been a year of learning and the majority of the photographs that I have actually put through post production have been Kim’s work, so I look forward to the next 12 months and actually seeing what I can do.

Now I come to the end of 2014!!! We normally alternate each Christmas between staying at home or going and spending Christmas with Kim’s mum. This year it was the turn of Kim’s mum and so we departed for Somerset on the Tuesday before Christmas. After a very smooth and uneventful run down it was inevitable for us that something was going to happen and it most certainly did when we pulled up outside the house and I couldn’t get out the car!!!! It had nothing to do with mother-in-law jokes or not wanting to be there, but because my back had gone and I just couldn’t move OUCH!!! After taking some pain relief and giving plenty of time for it to work, we had the choice of either leaving me in the car over Christmas or having to call for an ambulance. Even my dear wife agreed that we should opt for the latter!!! LOL. So I get carted off to A&E and given some tablets as apparently falling down a flight of stairs on your back three months earlier can actually bruise your coccyx and there is nothing that can be done about that.

So I’m finally home and in my mother-in-law house and we’re ready to celebrate Christmas…. Yippee!!! HOLD ON, don’t be pleased for us just yet…. So I’ve been home a few hours and our two German Shepherds have been fed and we’re all sitting chatting and watching TV, when our dogs ask to go in the garden to the loo. It’s at this point I realise that my big lad isn’t at all right and behaving very oddly.

He was trying to vomit but producing nothing and his stomach was distended and rock hard. Thankfully Kim and I knew he had all the signs of a Gastric Torsion (GDV) / bloat (click here for information on torsions) and immediately contacted an emergency vet. Eight minutes later and he’s seeing this lovely lady vet, Beth Hayman at Delaware Veterinary Group, who examines him and with ultrasound confirms what we suspected. We will do a separate post about gastric torsions over the next month once I’ve done further research. In short, Beth gets him into theatre and starts emergency surgery. Whilst it was cold and dark outside, Kim and I sat together in the empty waiting room tears a plenty and just praying for him to be ok. After the longest hour of our lives, we got the best news ever… Our hairy hoolie had survived the operation and was, snoring his head off in a recovery crate!!!! Beth Hayman was amazing and kept us updated every step of the way.

Since then we have kept a very close eye on him as one of us has been with him at all times, even throughout the night we take it in turns at utilising our veterinary nursing skills!!! LOL.

So tomorrow is 10 days post-op and so the fun can begin as his usual vet will have the pleasure in removing his sutures which will most definitely be fun…. I wish his usual vet the utmost luck, she’s going to need it!!!!

It’s times like this that we appreciate our friends and family more; Our dogs are most definitely family to us. That being said, that one night at a veterinary practice in Somerset sadly made me realise one thing, how I’m going to feel the day I lose my big lad, how much it’s going to hit me and what on earth am I going to do without him? Thankfully that event has been put back for, what I hope will be, a good few years yet.

We’ve been through a lot over our time together, but we face everything together and our love strengthens and deepens. What’s the old saying about things making one stronger?

Kim will do a separate end of year baking blog shortly as I’m most definitely NOT qualified to do that on her behalf. We are not sure when the next bake will be seeing we are still munching our way through chocolates, Christmas pudding and Christmas cake!!!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited our blog and read our posts over the past twelve months…. With your help, you have all made 2014 the most successful yet with some 47,000 views…. WOW!!!

We wish you all a VERY Happy and Prosperous New Year and may 2015 be a great year for you all….

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WordPress’ 2014 Review of the Lullingstone Photography Blog

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 42,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 16 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Week Ninety Seven – Mary Berry’s Sultana & Orange Tray Bake

Welcome to week ninety seven- almost at the hundredth blog for our site- that’s quite an achievement and an awful lot of blogs!  Thank you to all who stop by to have a look at our blog, our stats show that we have now had over 60,000 visitors – so welcome, feel free to stop and look around for a while!

60000 visitors

I delved with less enthusiasm than usual into Mary Berry’s Baking Bible this week, I don’t know why, perhaps it was because The Great British Bake Off has finished? I must say before I continue with my blog that I was pleased that Nancy won and thought the standard generally of the baking skills this year was exceptional and enjoyed watching every episode- I have now downloaded the Masterclass episodes to ease the pang of no more Bake Off for another year…..

Mary Berry's sultana & orange tray bake

Any how, back to my bake, I only chose one recipe this week, as was my woe and I chose Mary’s sultana and orange tray bake. The recipe was simply one of Mary’s throw all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Pour into a tray bake tin ( Thank you Lakeland for my trusty foil tins!) I set my timer and into the oven it went. About 40 minutes later it was ready to come out and sit on my cooling rack. Mary suggests either putting some demerara sugar on the top about 10 minutes before the end of the bake so it caramelises or to use some fresh orange juice and icing sugar to make an orange icing for the topping. I opted for the orange icing. I then cut it into squares and sent some in a tin to my chief tasters and put mine on my stand.

Kim's sultana & orange tray bake

I would like to dedicate this week’s post to my friend Caron, a former colleague and a friend who sadly passed away today , taken too soon. Rest in peace my friend, your smile and energy will be sorely missed. I know you read my blog when you could and am proud to dedicate this week in your memory xx

my friend Caron

Week Ninety Five – Mary Berry’s Crown Loaf and Griddle Scones

Week ninety five here already and after the excitement of last week, I browsed through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible looking for some more savoury recipes after the richness of last week’s recipes and I was wiped out by a migraine which set all my usual housework jobs back by a day. I settle on Mary’s crown loaf and griddle scones.

Mary Berry's Crown Loaf

I began the dough this morning , mixing all the ingredients together for the crown loaf and then spending five minutes kneading it before setting it into an oiled bowl to prove for 1 1/2 hours. After this time, the dough was nicely risen and I had to then knock it back and knead again, divide into 12 balls and set these inside a springfold tin and cover with clingfilm and leave to prove for another half an hour.

Finally , once the last prove is done, bake in a hot over for 25 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack. The crown loaf looked lovely and the smell of freshly baked bread is a winner in our house.

Kim's Crown Loaf

The second recipe was Mary’s griddle scones, these are thicker than drop scones and I followed Mary’s recipe carefully to make the dough, I then rolled it into a circle and cut into segments. I heated a heavy based pan and cooked the segments for about five minutes each side and left them to cool on a rack.

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Mary suggests eating them fresh with butter but we ate some of the crown loaf first for lunch and look forward to these for supper. Sorry chief tasters, no sharing with you guys this week- but I am guessing that you are still wading through your dobaz torte from Thursday.

Kim's Griddle Scones

The Great British Bake Off is coming up to quarter finals now and the three contestants I initially named are still in it so far- lets see how they do this week and if Mary has any more recipes I have yet to do?

Countdown now reaches 78.

Week Ninety Three- Mary Berry’s Treacle Spice Traybake & Frangipane Tartlets

Week 93 and it’s taken a while to find the time to put this blog on even though it was done last weekend! I delved as usual into Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and found these two recipes. It has occurred to me that quite a few of the recipes left for Mary are complicated or rich cakes so i will have to endeavour to find some occasions to bake them! They are not your every day bakes. I started this week with the treacle spice tray bake. I took my new mixer for a “test drive” – and it didn’t dissapoint- it mixed this all in one recipe like a dream. ( Thank you again x) I lined a tray bake tin, poured it in and into the oven it went.

Mary Berry's Treacle Spice Tray Bake

The final bake was a lovely glossy brown with the most heavenly aroma and it is keeping really well under my cake glass dome.

Kim's Treacle Spice Tray Bake

The second recipe was Mary’s frangipane tartlets. I followed Mary’s instructions about making the pastry carefully, lined the mini tartlet tins ad put them in the fridge to chill while I made the frangipane filling. I had decided to make four slightly larger tarts rather than the 12 tiny ones that Mary says her recipe will make. Once the frangipane filling was made, I filled the tart cases and put them in the oven to bake one I had sprinkled flaked almonds on the top.

Mary Berry's Frangipane Tartlets

The tartlets, once cooked needed a final touch with a glaze of apricot jam, warmed through and a sprinkle of ground almonds.

Kim's Frangipane Tartlet

The Great British Bake Off is heating up now, and my initial three names that I blogged about are still in it so far. I must say that one of the bakes this week has again inspired me to attempt a bake I had been putting off in Mary’s book. More of that soon, this week’s bakes will be done over several days. one this weekend as we still have some treacle tray bake left and one roughly midweek-watch this space.

Week Ninety One – Mary Berry’s Honey Glazed Walnut Bread & Glazed Lemon Tart

Week ninety one and I obviously had a bit of a “glazed” feel to this weeks bakes! I dipped into Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and was inspired to try another bread recipe after watching the efforts on The Great British Bake Off for bread week.  The honey glazed walnut bread sounded scrummy and Mary assures you in the recipe that it also makes fantastic toast (If it lasts that long- take note please chief tasters!!) I added all the ingredients into a bowl, added the dough hooks to my mixer and set it off. Mary says allow five minutes mixing/kneading for a machine or 10 minutes by hand. This is where it was all going so well….until plumes of smoke were coming off my machine! The dough was too much and the motor had burnt out so the machine went to the electrical scrap heap in the sky and I finished the kneading by hand. I left the dough to prove and set about getting the other recipe bits together.

Mary Berry's Honey Glazed Walnut Bread

The proving time was done and I put the bread into the oven to bake, the recipe makes 2 good sized loaves. 25 minutes later, they were done and had that hollow sound when tapped on the bottom!

Kim's Honey Glazed Walnut Loaf

The second recipe was the glazed lemon tart. Firstly Mary asks you to make the pate sucree pastry- its a sweet shortcrust pastry. Then line a flan tin with it and chill while making the topping. Add the other ingredients together and beat well. ( with no mixer, I developed muscles I didn’t know I had!) Pour the mix into the pastry case and bake until brown and set.

Mary Berry's Glazed Lemon Tart Recipe

While this is cooling- and Mary says you can eat it like this if you like, thinly slice a lemon, remove any pips, boils some water and sugar, add the lemon slices to this, boil again and leave in a bowl to cool for 2 hours. Then drain the lemons, arrange them on the tart, and glaze with some apricot jam that has been warmed through.

Kim's Glazed Lemon Tart

This looks and smells lovely and we will be eating some after dinner later!

There have been some strange goings on in my garden lately. It has all become a little overgrown with the bamboo I had planted some years ago, pretty much taking over the garden and with the recent rain, you could barely see up my garden through it all. I looked from my kitchen up the garden recently and found that the local wildlife had diversified somewhat from the native species! I know who to thank for this and will ensure that your garden enjoys a similar experience!
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I was also sad to say goodbye to my trusty mixer- it was the best of both worlds, I could detach the mixer and use it as a hand mixer or attach it to the stand and use with the bowl  which could rotate if I needed it to.

 

Breville Stand mixerI threw it in the chief taster’s trailer to go to the tip ( yes- it went in dirty- it’s going to the tip!) and waved it goodbye.

RIP

 

Eek – I think my fairy god mother is looking after me…..I was telling the sorrowful tale of my mixer and with BIG thanks to one of my chief taster’s. I have a new mixer on the way- YAY!! xxx

 

Week Seventy Seven – Mary Berry’s Iced Gingerbread with Stem Ginger & Fork Biscuits

Week seventy seven and what a week it has been! I had returned to work on half days and was thoroughly exhausted and hubby had a rather unpleasant encounter with a hot kettle! Plenty of wet towels, an ambulance ride and a six hour wait in A&E and we eventually got home. Not the ideal evening I had planned curled up on the sofa with painkillers and my trusty hot water bottle but needs must. I am now a dab hand with Jelonet and  latex-free bandages…more skills to add to my repertoire!

Evil Kettle

I picked up Mary Berry’s Baking Bible with a heavy heart this week given the recent events and the fact that I seem to be eternally tired while I continue to recover from my op. I scoured through Mary’s recipes trying to summon up some enthusiasm and having given up on that, settled on gingerbread and fork biscuits. The gingerbread recipe was quite simple and was one of her ( I am eternally grateful) throw everything pretty much in a bowl and mix. The only variance to this was adding the bicarb and milk to the mix and beating it in. I then poured the mix into my prepared tin and into the oven it went. I had to set the timer for an hour and then after an hour, turn the oven down and bake for a further half an hour.

Mary Berry's Iced Gingerbread with Stem Ginger

I think my oven is getting old and temperamental as from the time the gingerbread went in to the time it came out, the oven door was not opened once yet the cake sank in the middle….and no, I didn’t open the door, even the tiniest bit to check it! I looked through the window with the light on. So I turn the cake out and ice it upside down so all the icing doesn’t pool in the middle of the cake! Oh and thanks to hubby, I didn’t add the chopped up stem ginger to the icing as he “wasn’t keen”!!!!

Kim's Gingerbread Kim's Iced Gingerbread

The second recipe had to wait until the gingerbread had cooked as it required a hotter oven. It was Mary’s fork biscuit recipe which looked quick and simple and I used her suggestion at the bottom of making them citrusy by adding some grated orange peel. The recipe was again quite simple, mix the four ingredients together, and form a dough. Divide the dough into approximately 16 walnut size balls and use a fork to flatten the biscuits. Bake for about 15 minutes.

Mary Berry's Fork Biscuits

The resulting biscuits didn’t spread out as much as Mary suggests they do but they were light and quite tasty. I am keen on the Mary philosophy that they don’t all need to be the same size either to taste okay!  I might consider doing these again.

Kim's Fork Biscuits

I am missing all my favourite programmes at the moment- no more Great British Bake Off, no more Mary Berry Cooks and no more Dr Who at the moment. Having been off for a few weeks recovering though, I have watched an awful lot of TV lately and when I list what I have watched and enjoyed recently, you will get an insight into my TV tastes…lol….so here we go…..Haven, The Mentalist, The new Ironside, Hawaii Five O, The Following, Revolution, About a Boy, Grimm……see no soap operas in sight …..