Tea Pot – grow your own tea

Tea Pot – grow your own tea

I’ve blogged quite a bit about the various pots in my garden, but thought I’d do a post all of its own for my special ‘Tea Pot’. 

I’m a complete tea addict, and drink gallons of green tea every day. 

Inspired by a visit a while ago to Sarah Raven’s fabulous garden at Perch Hill, where I tried some of her herbal tisanes, I thought I would give it a go myself. They taste good, and don’t have any caffeine.  

She has written a good article for the Telegraph here, and there is a nice video on her website here

I decided to grow the ones she ranks as the best. I’d be interested to hear other recommendations. So I’ve gone for Perlagonium Attar of Roses, (which really does smell like Turkish Delight), Black peppermint, Moroccan mint, Orange mint and Lemon Verbena. The Perlagonium and Verbena are from Sarah Raven and the mints from the very lovely people at Pepper Pot Herbs. Who have the most incredible selection of herbs. Way more than anyone else I’ve seen. I’m also going to add in lemon basil and lime basil, but I’m growing them from seed, which I got from Nicky’s Nursery

I bought a nice big pot from Priory Farm Nursery, which I filled with compost and some polystyrene (to make it a bit lighter!

Here it is just planted up in early May 2017. 

This is the pot on the 3rd June. I moved the perlagonium to the front as the mints had got so tall!

So far I’ve tried the perlagonium, which smells and tastes amazing, and the lemon verbena, which is also really delicious. You need to leave them to brew for about 5 minutes, and they were both lovely mild, fresh favours. I used 4 leaves in a small teapot. Add more leaves if you want it stronger.  Pictures below. Perlagonium at the top, lemon verbena the bottom two. 

Next to try the mints…


Wheelbarrow Fairy Garden

Wheelbarrow Fairy Garden

My daughter and I share an obsession with fairy gardens. Actually she is obsessed with faries, and I’m obsessed with gardens.

We did some serious Pinterest gazing for ideas before embarking on our first garden, which was in a shallow pot.

I then saw some wheelbarrow fairy gardens, and realise I had one knocking around that had a wheel that I couldn’t fix.  So here is the new and improved fairy garden.

The fairy is a solar light and lights up at night.

The plants are mostly succulents with a few pansies for colour. There is also Corsican mint, which will spread and give ground cover.

We’re not done yet.  We’re going to make a fairy house out of a bird box, and Holly wants to make a swing. We also need more stones to make more of a path.

Updates soon…

Pot luck – round three

Pot luck – round three

I was pretty happy with my pots last year (see post ‘Pot Luck – round 2).  But I’m trying to cut down the work the garden requires, so this year I’m trying more perennials in pots. 

I couldn’t resist some of my favourite annual plug plants, but I’m gradually introducing perennials. 

I potted up a lot at the beginning of May, so they are the first photos,  and I am gradually adding in second photos to show what they look like when they are in full bloom. 

Lollipop verbena (perennial) under planted with verbena Aztec magic silver (annual). 

Wine crate planted with summer jasmine and honeysuckle (to climb the fence) with lavender and aubretia (all perennials). 

Cherry tree and fairy rose, both under planted with aubretia (perennial) lobelia (annual). I’m hoping the aubretia will tumble down the sides of the pots over time. But for now I’ve added lobelia that will do it in one season!

Osteopermum (3d violet ice), verbena Aztec magic (silver), surfinia (rose vein). All annuals. First photo early May, second is end of June. I think they look amazing together. 

Petunia (phantom), bidens (golden eye), calibrachoa (can can coral reef) (all annuals). First photo early May, second end of  June. Looks particularly good because the petunia in the pot next to it is a very similar colour. 

Euphorbia x martini (perennial) , underplanted with helichrysum (golden) (annual). 

Petunia (tumbelina Susanna), verbena Aztec magic (white), verbena Aztec (coral). All annuals. 

Petunia (cascadia Indian summer), Calibrachoa (can can double dark yellow), verbena Aztec (coral). All annuals. 

Scabiosa (blue jean). Perennial. Except it’s not. It’s achillea summer berries!

Coreopsis (golden joy). Perennial. 

Osteopermum (serenity blue eyed beauty), Diascia (little dancer), verbena Aztec magic (plum). All annuals. 

Perennial wallflower (planted last year), under planted with 3 annuals –  Scaevola (blue print), verbena Aztec (violet wink), calibrachoa (cabaret deep blue). 

Tanacetum coccineum (Robinsons red). Perennial. 

Sweet pea Cupid pink (annual). 

Salvia superba (snow hills). Perennial. 

Gaillardia snappy. Perennial. 

Gazania daybreak tiger stripe mixed. I think this is a perennial but people grow it as an annual. 

Potentilla nepalensis (Mcbeath). Perennial. 
That’s not actually all of them. But they are all new for this year. 

Look out for an update in June/July!


Tulip Love

Tulip Love

I thought it was about time to make my flower cutting patch work a little harder. So last autumn I planted masses of tulip bulbs and some wallflowers in the raised bed. I leave my dahlias in place all year, so just planted around them. 

I got bulbs (specific varieties I liked the look of) and wallflowers (plug plants) from Sarah Raven and more bulbs (some mixed collections) from Thompson & Morgan

I have to say, I’ve been totally thrilled with the outcome. I’ve had at least 10 gorgeous bunches of tulips. In completely different colours to ones that you can buy in the shops. I never realised I loved tulips so much. And I’ve had loads of comments when I posted pictures on Facebook. 

The tulips have flowered at different times, so it’s been pretty constantly in flower for about a month, in fact I’ve given some away as I’ve had so many in bloom at times. Definitely pay attention to flowering times when choosing bulbs so you don’t get too many at once. 

This is the cutting bed fairly early in spring. I had a net over them over winter so the cats/foxes/squirrels didn’t interfere. Once  they started to bloom I removed it. 

And here are some of the bunches of tulips. I love them so much!

Favourites include Mistress Grey, Bruine Wimpel, and Brown Sugar. 

The wallflowers haven’t been so good. I think I wouldn’t grownthem for cutting again, but they do look great interplanted with tulips for admiring in a pot. 

Interested to see what happens next year. Im going to leave them in situ and plant my annuals in the gaps whilst the leaves for back. 


Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways

Low Syn Rice Pudding – two ways

I completely love rice pudding. And as rice is free on the slimming world plan then I thought I would experiment with trying to get the lowest syn, tastiest rice pudding possible. This is basically my low fat rice pudding recipe tweaked to make it slimming world friendly, and with the syns calculated. 

I have two options- so take your pick. Or try both and see which you like best. Both serve 4 and take around two hours to make (well 5 minutes making and 2 hours in the oven!). And I’ve frozen rice pudding made with milk before, so I imagine the both would freeze well. 

Both assume you are using the milk as your healthy extra A, (HEXA), but I’ve also given the syns in case you are not. 

Option 1 – with almond milk  – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 14 for the whole dish syns (3.5 per person) if not using milk as HEXA

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) I prefer this to sweetener as it’s natural and doesn’t have an aftertaste. I don’t like it too sweet, so you may need to add more. You can always add more at the end. 

1 litre unsweetened almond milk. I used Alpro as it was on offer for £1 in my local Coop! (This whole litre can be your Healthy Extra A, or you can syn it – 5 syns for the whole litre)

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1syn) or use vanilla extract and save yourself a syn (as that’s free), but I like the paste as it makes things taste amazing and you get the little vanilla bean flecks in your food. 

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. For a runny rice pudding reduce the cooking time. 

This is yummy, but you can definitely taste the almond. So if that’s not for you, try this…

Option 2 – with skimmed milk – 9 syns for the whole thing, (2.25 syns per serving). Or 29 for the whole dish syns (7.25 per person) if not using milk as HEXA. So definitely one you would want to use your HEXA for. It doesn’t use the whole of your milk allowance (250ml if you have 1/4 of the pudding) so still 100 ml spare for other things. 

120g pudding rice

4 level tbsp Sweet Freedom Fruit Syrup (8 syns) 

1 litre skimmed milk

1tsp vanilla bean paste (1 syn)

Chuck it all in a pot, give it a stir and cook at 150degrees for about 2 hours. Give it a stir half way through. If you like it runny cook for less time. 
And if you want to switch it up – here are some other options:

Semi skimmed milk – same quantity. Would use up all of your HEXA allowance for the day if you had 1/4 of the pudding

Seeetner instead of sweet freedom – would reduce the syns to 3 syns for the dish or less than 1 per person) as its only 1/2 syn per tablespoon

Sugar instead of sweet freedom – would increase the syns to 13 for the whole dish (3.25 per person) as its 3 syns per tbsp. 

Vanilla extract instead of paste – saves you one syn on the whole dish

Choc shot to make a chocolate rice pudding – replace the sweet freedom with choc shot – would be the same syn value. 

Make it sweeter – each tablespoon of Sweet Freedom is 2 syns. 


Max – King of The Wild Things

Max – King of The Wild Things

Just a quick blog to share my daughters Max costume. 

Her school celebrates World Book Day ever year, where the kids dress up as characters from books. This year she decided she wanted to be one of the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are, which is a brilliant book written in 1963 by Maurice Sendak. 

With only one week to prepare, I thought that might be too difficult. 

So I persuaded her to be Max, who is the little boy who becomes the King Of The Wild Things. 

For inspiration we checked out Pinterest (my favourite), and spent ages cooing over cute babies dressed as Max.

When he meets the wild ones he is dressed in his wolf suit, so that is what we tried to recreate. 

We didn’t have much at home that we could use, so I did have to buy a few things. 

I wanted a fluffy white onesie, but couldn’t find one for her age (7), so I got a plain one online from plaintshirts.co.uk which I ordered at the weekend and it arrived on Thursday. It’s actually really nice quality, and she will definitely wear it again. 

The crown was made from gold card and the feet from thin foam (both WHSmith). 

I cut the feet shapes and then attached thin elastic which went under her feet to keep them in place. Felt would work just as well as foam. 

The tail is part of a set (wolf ears and tail) that I got online from Amazon. It came with elastic which went round the waist, but I cut that off and just safety pinned it to the back of the onesie. 

A bit of fur fabric would work just as well, or For those with a bit more time, I’ve seen some awesome tutorials for making tails from acrylic wool and a pet brush!

And finally a bit of black face paint for the wolf nose and whiskers. 

And here she is…

If I had more time I would have sewed felt buttons onto the front of the onesie and put some fur fabric around the bottom of the crown, but I’m pretty happy with the result. It looks homemade, but I like that. 


Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Brown Butter Maple Glazed Cinnamon Buns

Oh My God!

These might be the best thing I’ve ever baked. I have a secret passion for Starbucks cinnamon buns and I think these are even better! The brown butter was a revelation. I have had a hankering to use it after seeing it on Benjamina from (Bake Off 2016)’s blog. 

I made these as a practice for bread week in the work bake off. I need to practice, as bread isn’t really my thing. 

I used two different recipes for this, and as they are both from The US, I’ve converted them into metric and made a few tweaks of my own. 

Buns and filling were from this recipe here and the salted maple icing from here


175ml milk

60g butter

450g strong bread flour

1 x 7g package instant yeast 

50g white sugar

½ teaspoon salt

Up to 60ml water

1 egg


220g muscovado sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

60g butter


60g butter

250g icing sugar

3tbsp maple syrup

2-4 tbsp milk

Sea salt flakes

Make the buns:

Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. 

Mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together then mix in the egg, milk/butter mix and some of the water to make a rough dough. I did this in the stand mixer with a dough hook. You might not need all of the water. 

Then knead to a lovely smooth dough. About 5-10 minutes. 

Put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove for around 2 hours until it doubles in size. This is my warm place!

And this is what it looks like when doubled in size. 

Whilst the dough is proving make the brown butter. You can do it in a pan or the microwave. I did it in the microwave, but it did spill everywhere! Basically you hear it until it goes brown. There is some good info in making brown butter here on the Bon Appetit website. It really does smell incredible. And when mixed with the muscovado sugar tastes out of this world. 

When the dough has risen knock it back and roll out into a 25cm x 30cm rectangle. 

Mix together the muscovado sugar and cinnamon. 

Brush some of the butter onto the dough. Then mix the rest into the sugar/cinnamon mix. 

Spread this over the dough. 

At this point it smells amazing!

Roll it up and then punch the join to help it stick. 

Cut into 12 even slices and pop into a baking tray. 

Leave to prove again for about 30 minutes. 

Until lovely and risen. All cuddled up against each other!

If you fancy you can brush with a bit more melted butter. 

Bake for about 17-20 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade until lovely and brown. 

Whilst they are cooking, make the icing:

Melt the butter and mix in the icing sugar and maple syrup. It is thick, like this

Then add in some milk until it’s the texture you want. I used about 2 tbsp. 

I then spread a little over the buns when they came out

And then the rest when they had cooled a bit more. 

Then (if you fancy) sprinkle with a little sea salt flakes. 

We managed to let them cool a while before diving in. They might not look so pretty, but they taste amazing amazing amazing.