Celebrate the start of spring

We have been blessed with some glorious sunny days recently and hurray, it was the official start of spring on Saturday.

It’s always a cause for celebration with the days getting longer, the weather warming up – very welcome after such a harsh winter – and lambs frolicking in the fields. Herald the start of spring with a splash of colour next to your front door. Not only will it cheer you every time you get home but it will please those who pass by or come to visit too.

Pansy and Tulip Basket

Elegant apricot yellow tulips, early flowering mixed pansies and dramatic trailing variegated ivy make a stylish combination in this unusual – and delightful – late spring hanging basket.

Pansy and Tulip BasketPlant in early spring for mid to late spring flowering.
Can be completed in about an hour.

Plants you need
20 bulbs of Tulipa batalinii ‘Apricot Jewel’ in pots.
Mixed pansies – here there are six different coloured varieties.
Four pots of trailing variegated ivy (Hedera helix).

Equipment you need
Hanging basket with hook and chain.
Hanging basket liner (plastic, hessian, felt or moulded paper).
Potting compost.

1 Line your hanging basket to prevent the compost falling out, then add a layer of compost at the bottom.

2 Position the four ivy plants first, setting them at equal distances around the edge of the basket, firming them into the compost at the bottom and feeding the foliage through the holes in the side. Add more compost around and on top of the ivy.

3 Next position the tulip bulbs, spacing them as evenly as possible but setting them in at least two distinct layers around the basket, adding more compost and firming in as you go.

4 Finally put in the pansies. Tuck these in as close together as possible, pushing the foliage through the side holes and firming the soil all around the rootballs. Finish by planting pansies across the top and centre of the basket covering all the bare compost – but leaving the centre slightly lower than the sides to make watering easier.

5 Water thoroughly with a fine rose. Then hang the basket in its final position, making sure that the hanging bracket or eye is secure and can take the considerable weight of the basket.

To maintain the good appearance of the display and to keep the plants flowering as long as possible, deadhead frequently. This will encourage new flowers to form. Don’t allow the pansies to set seed. Regularly remove any dead or discoloured leaves from the ivy.

Leaving at least 2.5-5cm (1-2in) of space above the compost in the basket assists with water retention.

Hanging baskets and window boxes contain a lot of plants for the amount of soil in their container, so feed regularly throughout the growing/flowering season with a liquid fertiliser or with fertiliser spikes inserted into the compost at planting time. Water frequently to ensure the plants don’t dry out – especially, if the basket is hanging in a sheltered position where rain can’t reach too easily.

Tulip and Pansy Basket is taken from Seasonal Garden Ideas.


New cookbook plans

Nail-biting times in the office this week. We are awaiting a crucial print quote that decides the fate of our next cookery book.

Of the three ideas, this project is definitely my favourite and I really hope we can afford to do it! It’s a very different environment to those hazy days of the Milk Marketing Board when they had pots of money to spend on their cookery books. I am lucky to get 20 pence these days!

However, I am very determined and quite optimistic, so I may just get my dream project – to create that cookery bible, which is indispensable in every home. Fingers crossed everyone for Dairy Book of Home Cookery new edition for the 2010s.

The re-think of this book has inspired me to go back to basics at home and cook some real classics. Many can benefit from age-worn recipes handed down through their family (see Recipe cards on the table) but sadly I have no such luxury. My Grandad was a fantastic cook – cooking for the troups in the war with meagre rations – but sadly I don’t think he ever recorded any of his culinary creations on paper. So, it’s the Dairy Book of Home Cookery for me and my first old-school recipe shall be Rice Pudding. I am ashamed to say I have never cooked it before. If you’re watching from somewhere, sorry Grandad!

Rice Pudding

Who can resist home-made rice pudding?

Rice Pudding50g (2oz) pudding rice
600ml (1 pint) milk
25g (1oz) caster sugar
1 strip lemon rind
Ground nutmeg
15g (½oz) butter

1 Wash rice and drain well. Put into a 900ml (1½ pint) greased ovenproof dish and stir in milk, sugar and lemon rind.

2 Sprinkle top with nutmeg. Dot with butter.

3 Bake at 150°C/300°F/Gas 2 for 2-21/2 hours.

Recipe taken from the forthcoming new edition of The Dairy Book of Home Cookery


Rumbledethumps – such a great name! – originates from the Border regions of Scotland and is a fabulous dish at this time of year using in-season cabbage and comforting mashed potatoes.

RumbledethumpsPreparation time – 15 minutes plus
10 minutes standing
Cooking time – 30 minutes
Calories per portion – 225 Kcal
Fat per portion – 12g
of which saturated – 7.4g
Serves – 4
Suitable for vegetarians

Mashing potatoes, such as Maris Piper 450g (1lb)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Green or white cabbage 450g (1lb)
Milk 2 tbsp
Unsalted butter 25g (21oz)
Chopped chives 4 tbsp
Scottish Cheddar cheese 75g (3oz), grated

1 Peel the potatoes and cut into small pieces. Place in a saucepan with 1⁄2 tsp salt and cover with water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10–12 minutes until tender. Drain well and leave in the colander for 10 minutes to dry.

2 Meanwhile, trim any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Remove the core, and then slice the leaves finely. Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and add the cabbage; cover and cook for 5 minutes until just tender. Drain well, shaking to remove excess water.

3 Preheat the grill to a medium/hot setting. Return the drained potatoes to the saucepan and mash well with the milk and butter. Season well. Mix the cabbage and chives into the mashed potato and place in an ovenproof shallow dish. Sprinkle with grated cheese.

4 Cook under the grill for about 5 minutes until melted, golden and bubbling. Serve in individual ovenproof dishes with grilled tomatoes on the vine, or as a side dish to accompany stews.

Cook’s tips
• If preferred, omit the cheese and serve the mashed vegetables as a simple side dish.
• Alternatively, for a non-vegetarian version, add freshly cooked crispy bacon to the mash and cabbage  mixture .

Save £4 when you buy Around Britain Dairy Cookbook

Rumbledethumps is taken from the popular Around Britain Dairy Cookbook which is available for a short period at the incredible price of just £2.99 while stocks last.

Seasonal Garden Ideas to add beauty to your garden

The big news this week is the launch of Seasonal Garden Ideas: a new gardening book that will inspire both novice and experienced gardeners this spring.

Seasonal Garden IdeasSeasonal Garden Ideas is a beautiful book featuring easy half-day projects to add beauty to any garden throughout the year.

Each of the 77 projects is presented like a RECIPE; with ingredients, step-by-step instructions, hints and tips, time required, when to start and aftercare. Now doesn’t that sound simple?

When you turn to a project you will be delighted with how the information is clearly laid out to make the task so straightforward. Each project is illustrated with a beautiful colour photograph.

Excellent value at just £9.75.
Order it from your milkman or online while stocks last.

Celebrate St David’s day with a fantastic Welsh lamb dish

I love Welsh lamb and this Minty Lamb Pattie is the perfect excuse to support Welsh farmers and enjoy one of the best ‘burgers’ you’ll ever taste. Sounds naughty, but this is a nicely balanced meal. Try it and I think you’ll add it to your ‘favourites’.

Save £4 when you buy Around Britain Dairy Cookbook

Minty Lamb Pattie is taken from the popular Around Britain Dairy Cookbook which is available for a short period at the incredible price of just £2.99 while stocks last.

Minty Lamb Patties

Wales is famous for its mountains, valleys, rivers, and of course its lamb. For centuries it has been home to several breeds of sheep. Welsh Lamb is considered to have a good colour and a sweet, succulent flavour.

Lamb Mint PattiesPreparation time – 10 minutes
Cooking time – 30 minutes
Calories per portion – 386 Kcal
Fat per portion – 17g
of which saturated – 7.9g
Serves – 4
Suitable for freezing

Minced lamb 450g (1lb)
Onion 1 small, peeled and finely chopped
Breadcrumbs 110g (4oz)
Lemon ½ , finely grated rind only
Chopped mint 3 tbsp
Egg 1, beaten
Plain flour 2 tbsp
Cucumber ½ , cut into 5cm (2in) lengths and then into quarter wedges
Spring onions 6, trimmed and cut into 5mm ( ¼ in) pieces
Chicken stock 200ml (7fl oz)
Dry sherry 1 tbsp

1 In a large bowl, mix the lamb, onion, breadcrumbs, lemon rind, 1 tbsp of the mint and the egg. Shape the mixture into eight flatish balls and coat in the flour.

2 Dry fry the patties in a large, lidded frying pan for about 5 minutes, until browned all over. Add the cucumber, spring onions, stock and sherry and the remaining mint. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the meat is tender.

Serve with peas.

Cook’s tip
If you are cooking for two, follow the recipe above but only fry four of the patties. Wrap the remaining four (unfloured) in cling film and freeze until required. Defrost overnight in the fridge and grill for 10–15 minutes, until browned. Serve in burger buns with a large salad.

Recipe taken from Around Britain Dairy Cookbook, available for just £2.99 for a limited period.

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