Monthly Archives: March 2017

Best Ever Family Recipes: Country Beef Bake


Country Beef Cake

This comforting bake is a winner with all the family.

I do have to finely chop the onion and mushrooms so they go unnoticed, but the children love to help make (and eat) it!


Country Beef Bake

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Calories 458 per portion
Fat 22g (11.6g sat) per portion
Suitable for freezing


  • 450g (1lb) lean minced beef 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 110g (4oz) mushrooms, wiped and sliced
  • 198g can sweetcorn with peppers
  • 225ml (8fl oz) beef stock
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 40g (1½oz) Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 40g (1½oz) Double Gloucester cheese, grated
  • 450g (1lb) Mashed Potato


  1. Dry fry mince in a non-stick frying pan until browned. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sweetcorn, stock and herbs. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Top up with stock if neccessary.
  2. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Mix together cheeses and stir half into the mashed potato. Spoon on top of meat. Sprinkle remaining cheese over potato. Bake at 190°C (375°F) Mark 5 for 30 minutes.


Dairy Book of Home CookeryThis recipe is taken from the iconic #DairyBookofHomeCookery.

This best-selling family cookery bible is available to buy online here.

Please feel free to share your family favourites; the more the merrier (use #BestEverFamilyRecipes).





Recipe of the Week: Decadent Red Velvet Cake

This recipe needs specialist cake decorator’s food colouring, but wow is it worth it!

What a showstopper! And perfect for Mothering Sunday.

P.S. Don’t forget to put your clocks forward this evening.



Decadent Red Velvet Cake

Decadent Red Velvet Cake

Decadent Red Velvet Cake

  • Servings: 16
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 500 per portion
Fat 29g (18g sat) per portion
Suitable for vegetarians


  • Unsalted butter 475g (1lb 1oz)
  • Caster sugar 250g (9oz)
  • Eggs 3 large, separated
  • Vanilla extract 2 tsp
  • White wine vinegar 1 tsp
  • Specialist cake decorator’s red food colouring paste 1 tsp
  • Cocoa powder 1½ tbsp
  • Bicarbonate of soda 1 tsp
  • Self-raising flour 275g (10oz)
  • Buttermilk 284ml pot
  • Icing sugar 425g (15oz)
  • Full fat soft cheese 180g tub


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°fan/Gas 4. Grease and line a round deep 20cm (8in) tin.
  2. In a large bowl cream together 250g (9oz) butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, vanilla, vinegar and colouring. Sift in cocoa, bicarbonate and half the flour, then mix in half the buttermilk.
  3. Mix in remaining flour and buttermilk. In a separate bowl whisk egg whites until foamy then fold into cake mixture.
  4. Spoon into tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in tin until cold.
  5. Level top and cut in half horizontally, reserving crumbs. Beat together icing sugar, remaining butter and cheese. Use to sandwich cake together and spread around sides and top. Sprinkle with cake crumbs.





Spring Begins Today!

Make 2017 a Colourful Year

The herald of spring is the perfect opportunity to plan your garden.

While you’re pondering on seeds, plants and bulbs, have a read through this extract from the 2017 Dairy Diary. It gives some great advice on how to plant for year-round colour.



Gardening for colour

Gardening for Colour

The garden is a naturally colourful place – green grass, brown earth, painted fences and sheds. But it’s the plants and foliage that provide that added zing, and with a little creative planning and judicious planting, they can provide it all year round.  

In poet Thomas Edward Brown’s estimation, ‘a garden is a lovesome thing’ and so it is, and it can be an even lovelier place if you think about what colours you want to see at different times of year. Haphazard planting has a lot going for it because it’s easy and can result in the garden looking beautifully chaotic for part of the year, although it can look a bit dull for the rest of the time. However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your

However, much of the pleasure in having a garden lies in deciding how you want it to look, and then watching your masterplan come to life. No need to stick rigidly to the rules of colour theory; taking note of the general ideas can be enough, and experimenting is part of the fun. It’s your garden, after all. You can have a glorious mass of different colours if you like – and, in nature, they never seem to clash – but knowing how to use colour effectively throughout the year can make a big difference.

Whether you want your patch to be bright and cheery or a haven of peace and tranquillity will influence your colour choices. The hot colours – red, orange, yellow – are exciting, stimulating and demand attention; the cool colours – green, blue, purple – are restful, calming and recede into the background. If various sections of the garden are to have different purposes, or moods, the transitions between them are important, too, requiring subtler shades and whites.

Key effects 

  • The colour value of the plants you are intending to grow is important, too, i.e. how bright, pale or dark the flowers and foliage are likely to be, bearing in mind this is likely to change during the year.
  •  A small area of light colour in a sea of much darker vegetation creates a powerful effect.
  •  Repetition is an old trick that helps to avoid the garden looking too much of a riot. If you love red, for example, have more than one area of it.
  •  Pale colours reflect light and brighten up a shady corner.
  •  Bright colours can look wonderful and vibrant in full sun, while pastel colours will look washed out.
  •  Cool and pale colours bring a sense of depth; bright colours appear to be closer. Planted at the end of a border, pale colours make it look longer while bright colours foreshorten it.
  •  Silvery grey foliage lightens the area and cools down any nearby hot colours.

Growing plans

When choosing your plants, first and foremost, select those suited to the location and soil type of your garden, and plan to position them in the ideal spot for their individual requirements of light and shade. Otherwise, think about containers, not too big so you have the option of moving them. If you are experimenting with colours, it may be that you will want to move some plants to try other combinations; but shrubs, once established, are mostly better not moved, so be sure to plant them where you want them to be.

Shrubs and perennials are lower maintenance than annuals, and since perennials benefit from being divided every few years, they could be a good bet, augmented by bulbs and, in summer, by annuals. These are often flamboyantly colourful. Remember to deadhead to prolong flowering. Some perennials give very good value, such as Phlomis russeliana, which flowers from late spring to early autumn and has attractive seedheads in winter, dianthus with its pink flowers and silver-grey foliage, and penstemon, which flowers to first frosts.

Also, when planning a colourful border or bed, remember to choose plants that will flower at the same time in order to achieve the desired effect. As well as colour and flowering season, think about height and contrasts in shape. Tall, upright plants, such as irises, daylilies and foxgloves, mix well with those that have wide flowerheads, such as sedum and yarrow, and spherical flowerheads, such as alliums.

Foliage is an integral part of any garden display, whether used as background or as a focus in its own right. Shrubs such as cotinus and Fatsia japonica have eye-catchingly colourful foliage. Others, including berberis, viburnum and holly, have red or orange berries in autumn and flowers in spring.

Among all the possibilities, don’t forget roses. A fragrant shrub, climber or floribunda that blooms continuously throughout the summer can do wonders for your garden.

Year-round colour

Spring brings sunny yellows and greens, fresh pinks and blues and white morphing into the vivid mix of summer and the warm burnt oranges and deep reds of autumn. Come winter, if you think of the garden as being a colour-free zone, think again. Flowers, berries and dramatic foliage can lift it from the gloom.


Shrubs: azaleas, California lilac, euphorbia, forsythia

Perennials: aubrieta, elephant’s ears, forget-me-nots, polyanthus

Bulbs: crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths, tulips, anemones


Shrubs: rock roses, fuchsia, potentilla, mock orange, buddleia

Perennials: delphiniums, peonies, crocosmias, geraniums

Bulbs: alliums, irises, lilies, gladioli, begonias

Annuals: Busy Lizzies, lobelias, heliotropes, cornflowers, poppies, marigolds, tobacco plants


Shrubs: spindle tree, rhus, plumbago, Japanese maple

Perennials: chrysanthemums, asters, Chinese lanterns, ligularia, Michaelmas daisies

Bulbs: colchicums, nerines


Shrubs: winter jasmine, mahonia, dogwood, daphne, skimmia, winter heath, clematis

Perennials: winter pansies, violas, hellebores, hepatica

Bulbs: snowdrops, aconites, cyclamen (grows from tubers)


You can have a glorious
mass of different colours.


Garden colour schemes

Colour schemes

The colour wheel, a circle divided into six or twelve, shows how colours relate to each other and gives clues to the effects of juxtaposing them. For gardeners, the six-point colour wheel, made up of primary (red, yellow, blue) and secondary (orange, green, purple) colours, is a useful guide. It may be a good idea to make one as a reference (look it up online), and bear in mind the enormous variety of shades, tones and tints that exist in gardening and in nature, so the colours can be liberally interpreted.

Complementary Also called opposing, these are colours that fall directly opposite each other on the colour wheel: red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange. Positioned next to each other, they seem especially vibrant, so complementary colour schemes can be eye-catching and lively. A small area of hot complementaries balances a larger area of cool ones.

Contrasting Colours equally spaced around the colour wheel are thought of as contrasting: orange, green, purple. They tend to go well grouped together – vibrant colours and green foliage.

Harmonising Analogous, or harmonising, colours are those that lie next to each other on the colour wheel, e.g. red and purple, yellow and orange, blue and green. Harmonious colour schemes can be elegant and serene, or, with hot colours, invigorating.

Monochromatic Using just one colour can be very effective, but challenging. Some contrast is necessary or the result can seem somewhat bland, so use all the shades, tones and tints at your disposal, and plenty of interesting foliage.


Harmonious colour schemes
can be elegant and serene.


Gardens to visit in 2017

Gardens to visit

If you’re short of ideas, or just want to soak up the atmosphere created by talented garden designers, why not take a trip to one of the hundreds of gardens around the country that are open to visitors? Many show the influence of Gertrude Jekyll (born in 1843), whom we have to thank for introducing colour-themed ‘rooms’ into the garden. Some are renowned for something extra special:

The white garden at Sissinghurst, Kent

Hidcote, in Gloucestershire, famed for its twin red borders

The winter gardens at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Great Dixter in East Sussex, for unusual colour schemes

Beth Chatto Gardens, Essex, for garden artistry

The herbaceous border at Arley Hall, Cheshire

Harlow Carr, the RHS garden in Yorkshire, pushing the boundaries of design and planting styles

Barnsdale Gardens, Rutland, described as a ‘theme park for gardeners’

Check opening times and facilities before visiting.








Recipe of the Week: Minced Lamb Pie plus Win a Pie Maker!

Minced Lamb Pie

Celebrate #BritishPieWeek with this gorgeous Lamb Pie

It’s wonderful served with a scoop of creamy mash and a few green beans.

This recipe (below) is taken from Dairy Diary Favourites which features 100 recipes from 35 years of the Dairy Diary.

From speedy weekday meals to show-stopping crowd-pleasers, there is something for everyone in this fabulous cookbook.

Click here to find out more.



Win a Pie Maker

Fancy winning a Pie Maker?

If you would like a helping hand with making your pies than enter our competition to win this fabulous double pie maker.






Minced Lamb Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Calories 618 per portion
Fat 41g (17g sat) per portion


  • Butter 25g (1oz)
  • Olive oil 1 tbsp
  • Onion 1 large, peeled and chopped
  • Carrot 1 large, peeled and finely diced
  • Minced lamb 500g (1lb 2oz)
  • Plain flour 2 tbsp
  • Lamb or chicken stock 150ml (¼ pint)
  • Chopped rosemary 4 tsp or 2 tsp dried
  • Tomato purée 4 tsp
  • Worcestershire sauce 1 tbsp
  • Sherry 2 tbsp (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Shortcrust pastry 400g (14oz)
  • Egg 1, beaten
  • Cheddar cheese 50g (2oz), grated
  • Mash and green beans to serve (optional)


  1. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan, add the onion and carrot and cook until softened. Add the lamb and cook until browned all over. Stir in the flour then add the stock, rosemary, tomato purée, Worcestershire sauce, sherry, if using, and seasoning. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°fan/Gas 6.
  3. Roll out half of the pastry and line a 25cm (10in) enamel pie plate. Fill with the lamb mixture.
  4. Roll out the remaining pastry until large enough to cover the pie. Brush the edge of the pastry in the tin with water, cover with the rolled-out pastry and press the edges together to seal. Trim and decorate the edge, brush with egg and make a small hole in the centre.
  5. Place on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake for a further 15–20 minutes until the pastry is golden. Serve with mash and steamed green beans, if you like.

Cook’s tips
If you don’t have an enamel pie plate then line a 23cm (9in) shallow loose bottomed tart tin with half the pastry, add the filling and roll out the remaining pastry to just a little bigger than the top of the tin then press the pastry edges together and trim off the excess before glazing and topping with cheese.



Dairy Diary Favourites cookbookMinced Lamb Pie recipe is taken from Dairy Diary Favourites, which features 100 recipes from 35 years of the Dairy Diary.

From speedy weekday meals to show-stopping crowd-pleasers, there is something for everyone in this fabulous cookbook.

Click here to find out more.














How to make a difference and clear your clutter

Clear Your Clutter Day

10 top tips for clearing clutter

I am a serial declutterer. Whilst I am not a minimalist fan (I love to be surrounded by things that evoke memories), I do feel happier and calmer in a tidy home.

As well as enjoying tidiness, I get a warm fuzzy feeling from the email I get from Barnardo’s, which tells me how much my unwanted goods have sold for. As I have a gift aid number with the charity, it’s linked to my email address, and any goods sold are totted up and reported back to me.

Seeing the pounds rack up gives a real sense of making a difference.

Clear Your Clutter Day is a great
opportunity to have a good sort

out and donate your stuff to charity.

Here are a few tips:

1 Hang a reusable shopping bag in a cupboard or on a hook, so you have a constant receptacle for unwanted items.

2 Read about your chosen charity online. Their good work will inspire you to declutter and donate.

3 Have you worn something that you felt didn’t really suit you? Pop it in the wash, then into the charity bag.

4 Once you’ve read a novel, donate it. How often do you ever read a book twice?

5 Apart from ‘occasion’ clothes, if there’s something you haven’t worn for 6 months, give it away.

6 Just tackle one ‘area’ at a time. Choose a cupboard/wardrobe etc. and spend half an hour sorting through it. Empty out the ‘area’ and think about if you when you last used each item or if you really love it. Ditch unused or unloved things.

7 Buy an inexpensive but pretty set of baskets or boxes for your cupboards/shelves. They help to keep everything tidy and discourage you from putting junk back.

8 Don’t forget the kitchen! How many mugs and Tupperware boxes (without lids?) do you really need?

9 Sort through your make-up and throw away anything that’s over 12 months old as they can harbour nasty bacteria. Mascaras should be renewed every 3 months.

10 Empty your handbag of all its papers and receipts. Write down appointments and notes in your Dairy Diary and stow anything crucial in the pocket.





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