Sunday, 26 April 2015

Gardening, Reading, Baking

Hello! The fine spell that we've been enjoying of late has finally broken, and we had grey skies and light rain yesterday. However I didn't mind at all because the garden was in desperate need of a drink. We've had to water it a few times lately as the soil was very dry indeed. So I seized the opportunity to go shopping at a nearby garden centre to buy some plants for our hanging basket as I've not yet got round to planting any seeds. I only had an hour there, and after a quick whoosh around the polytunnels choosing a small selection of brightly-coloured annuals, I treated myself to a raspberry milkshake. Here it is along with my purchases - a jolly good start to the weekend, I think.

Over the Easter holidays I started reading H is for Hawk which is Helen Macdonald's story of how she trained a goshawk whilst grieving for her father. I found it a poignant and well-written novel and just couldn't put it down. Macdonald describes in great detail her beautiful wild hawk and the art of falconry as well as how she came to terms with her father's death. It was a brilliant read, engrossing and intense.

 I finished it last week and I knew that whatever followed it would need to be quite different. I found the perfect book - The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Atlee. A description of the history of citrus-growing in Italy, it's full of history, horticulture and cookery, and I'm loving it.

Inspired by this lovely book, the lemon and orange groves of Italy were calling me. Instead I lit one of my scented candles - Sicilian Lemon of course! Close your eyes, and you could be there. There's something about citrus smells; they're almost more like perfumes than food smells.

All this reading about lemons, oranges and the like has meant that I felt the urge to bake.

First of all I made some of Sue's Lime and Coconut Muffins and they went down very well indeed with a cup of tea.

 But my citrus-fest didn't stop there. I also made a Grapefruit Cake by replacing the lemon zest and juice in a lemon cake with those of a grapefruit. I adapted a recipe from a lunchbox ideas leaflet that we were given free when my children were at primary school. Here it is:

 Granny's Lemon Cake

200g self-raising flour
2 large eggs
125g butter or margerine
1 lemon
200g caster sugar
1/2 small cup of milk
1 tbsp hot water
pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 2

Rub the butter or margerine into the flour. Add 150g of the caster sugar. Grate in the lemon rind. In another bowl, beat together the eggs, milk and water, then add to the flour mixture. Bake in a 20cm greased cake tin for about 1 hour. Mix together the lemon juice and remaining caster sugar, ready to pour over the cake when it comes out of the oven. Now leave to cool in its tin.

I've made this recipe many times and it always goes down well, and this grapefruit version was a success - several pieces have disappeared already. Time to bake something orangey next, I think ...

Whilst I was at the garden centre I was drawn to these fabulous orange and lemon trees. They were quite expensive so I didn't buy one, but I'm thinking that I might have a go at planting some pips to see if they grow. I've read that it's quite easy to grow them from seed. Have you tried it? I'd be interested to hear how it went, if you did.

Right, time for me to go now as we're heading off to the woods this afternoon ... I'll tell you why next time.

Hope you're having a relaxing weekend, and thank you for dropping by x


  1. Those orange trees look fabulous. My mother-in-law has a lemon tree which produces beautifully and the lemons taste very different to supermarket lemons when they are fresh off the tree. I've never thought to try and grow from pip but my Dad always used to tell be about Johnny Appleseed who went all over planting apple pips which grew into trees! X

  2. I have both lemon and lime plants still very small about six inches grown from pip, I read a tip saying to wash all the fruit away from the pip, I then placed the pips onto of moist soil on a warm window sill above a radiator. I now have an orange pip with small new growth. This is the first time I have had success growing pips, my aim is to get them to fruit stage, how every long it takes.

  3. I love lemons too, the plants and the fruit. I've grown them from seeds, they get quite big and I'm not sure if they fruit. You could look out for a cheap plant at Wilkinson's, they have them sometimes. The lemon book looks like a great read. I love the first picture. I know what you mean about having to water the garden, I had the hose out last week. CJ xx

  4. Great post. I loved 'H is for Hawk' too and I rather fancy the citrus growing one. Lime and coconut muffins sound delicious. I've never tried growing lemons or oranges from pips but I'm quite tempted to give it a go! I'll be interested to see how you get on. Have a great week. xx

  5. Great post, those books look great, will add to my (already far too long) list. Yum cake, and candle, I can smell the lemon from here :)

  6. I am reading your blog seeing you in the comments on Above the River, such a lovely weekend you have had. Thank you.

  7. Hi Cathy, first of all I want to say "happy blog birthday"! Here in Milan the weather is changing it rains a lot....saturday we went to a flower market too to take two jasmines for our balcony. I'll try to do your recipe! Thank you for sharing!
    Have a nice week!

  8. Lovely post, my dad had quite a collection of orange trees at one time. All grown from pips. They made lovely plants, the foliage is nice. I would like a lemon tree too but yes they are quite pricey x

  9. A lovely post - I am reading 'H is for Hawk' at the moment and really enjoying it, I am a little over half way. Your citrus recipes sound great, I don't like coconut but my husband loves it and was drooling when I told him about your Lime and Coconut muffins so I will be making some very soon! xx

  10. I love lemon cake .... but gluten free for me please ..... happy bloggyaniversary !

  11. Books, muffins, milkshake, candles and a visit to the garden center, my idea of heaven Cathy!

  12. i love all the citrus in this post and the book recommendations. I shall have to see if I cam get a copy of "The land where lemons grow",before our visit to Italy. Sarah x


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