Tuesday, 22 December 2015


Just three days to go! Are you all set? We've got the turkey in the fridge, the presents under the tree and now a wreath on our door so we're good to go in the Take Courage household. There's something particularly special about Christmas this year - it will be our very first Christmas in our little home and I feel so lucky. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

P.S. You can see more of the wreath I made over on the Laura Ashley blog.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Caramelised Christmas Clementine Cake

So you may have noticed that I've been absent from this little space for a while - if you wondered where I'd gone, I just needed a breather from the internet and to spend a bit of time in the real world - it's good for the soul, you know!

I've been spending my spare time decorating the house with pine garlands, wrapping Christmas presents, and I've even managed to find an hour or two to bake.  To get into the festive spirit, I thought I'd bake a Christmas cake but I'm afraid the Texan is not a big fan of boozy fruit cakes (although I personally can't get enough of Christmas pud). So I thought I'd try an alternative Christmas cake, made with clementines - the smell of which never fail to remind me of Christmasses gone by. Here's how you can bake one too, if you fancy it.

You will need  |  250g unsalted butter  |  75g light muscovado sugar  |  1 tsp vanilla extract  |  5 clementines  |  225g caster sugar  |  3 eggs  |  225g plain flour  |  1.5 tsp baking powder  |  Honey  |  Creme fraiche

Step 1: Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius / 160 degrees celsius fan / gas mark 4, and butter and line with baking paper a 20cm loose-based cake tin.

Step 2: In a pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Then add the muscovado sugar and vanilla extract.  Cook over a low heat, continuously stirring until the sugar has melted away into the butter and you have a glossy, smooth mixture (this should take about 3 minutes).  

Step 3: Pour the caramel into your cake tin and spread a thin layer across the entire base.

Step 4: With the peel on, slice your clementines into three, across the segments.  Then carefully pull the peel away so you're left with slices of clementine.

Step 5: Arrange the slices of clementine in a circle, layered on top of the caramel.  Leave to one side.

Step 6: In a bowl, beat the remaining butter with the caster sugar using a wooden spoon (not your electric hand mixer, as I originally did, or else you will get showered in sugar! Be warned!).

Step 7: Add the eggs one at time, beating - now with your electric hand mixer - after each addition.  Then add the flour and baking powder, and mix together well using a wooden spoon.

Step 8: Pour the mixture into your cake tin, covering the sliced clementines.  Bake for 50 minutes, or a little longer if needed until a skewer comes out clean.

Step 9: Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes.  Then place a large plate on top of the cake tin, turn it over and carefully remove the tin.

Step 10: Drizzle your fabulous cake with a generous helping of honey, and enjoy with a dollop of creme fraiche!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Ightham Mote

After finishing Rebecca, I have been dreaming of a visit to Manderley. For those of you who haven't read/seen Rebecca, Manderley is the magnificent, grand old house that the protagonist, the new Mrs de Winter, moves into after she marries. Manderley is the book's anchor, and in many ways it features so heavily that it becomes a living, breathing character in and of itself.

I couldn't help but think of Manderley when we visited Ightham Mote yesterday. This beautiful, charming house dates from the 14th century (hard to believe!) and is surrounded by a moat and acres of gardens and orchards. Each of its 70 rooms is filled with fine antique furniture - including, much to our surprise, a Charles II daybed which we also have (if you remember, we found it in pieces, discarded in the street on Camberwell Grove!). No detail has been overlooked at Ightham Mote - the painted wallpaper, the linen on the beds, the wood paneling on the walls - it is enviable, that's for sure.

Unfortunately for me I struggled a bit, hobbling around Ightham Mote after slipping over in the rain on Friday, straight onto my knee... The worst part was two people walked by whilst I was on the ground, clearly in pain, but no one offered me any help - what is with that? Are people embarrassed or just don't care? I find it odd that you would just walk on by, and choose not to help someone who is clearly in need of it. It really upset me!

Oh well, nothing that a good National Trust property can't cure, eh?