Chickens, Cakes, Elderflowers and Olive Oil

… last weekend had it all.

As I write, it’s raining outside, but then it is Wimbledon season. My childhood memories of these occasions are, mum’s washing drying on the wooden clothes-horse (clothes dryer to those much younger than I ) in front of a coal fire and no children’s tv (we had a black and white one then and only a few hours of televised programs as well) because of the tennis. Those memories and the steamy windows still linger with me to today, which could be one reasons I have very little interest in tennis unless something really exciting happens in the case of this year’s line up with Nadal and Federer missing.

Can I suggest all the media leave Murray to get on with what he does best and that is to play tennis. He will win Wimbledon one day.

Anyway, back to my reason for this post. last weekend was a busy one. On Friday morning I drove to Northampton to see Vanessa Kimbell ( a Fair Trade ambassador) at her home at  Juniper & Rose Kitchen Garden Cookery School.

The idea was to spend the afternoon baking and creating some new cake recipes. One of which was adapted from her book Prepped. A visiting student Mary, also lent a helping hand and between us we created a chocolate & beetroot cake with Moroccan spices and a Moroccan Mint frosted filling. The batter tasted great, but the end result, although pleasant for my pallet, did need a little tweaking, e.g. less spices and Vanessa agreed. But I love experimenting with flavours, it’s something I want to do at future workshops with Vanessa later in the year. So watch this space. As you can see by the picture below, I have already begun to add to my spice collection and keep them in a very nice container very kindly given to me by Vanessa.


During the day Philip from Pelia Olive Oil called in to see Vanessa. He very kindly gave me a 3L box, which I have to say is rather nice olive oil. Full of warm comforting tones of olives with none of the hidden unpleasant bland back tastes that you get with some supermarket olive oils.

I’m a great fan of good quality oils Mrs Middleton’s Rape Seed oil being one of them which I’ve mentioned before on this blog, this Olive oil is also in my favourite file.

So far I’ve used it in pizza bases, drizzled on chopped tomatoes for salads, and I’m in the proces of adding it to cakes for some Olive Oil cake recipes, so another watch this space moment.

Pelia Olive Oil

Vanessa’s mum Flora, a really lovely lady who I could and did listen to all night long until after midnight, invited me to stay over at their lovely house. For dinner that evening, Flora – a fully trained chef, cooked a lovely chicken with potatoes and leeks. Followed by a bowl of strawberries and cream. We washed this down with a bottle of wine from their own vineyard. It’s won a few medals. I just had to buy a bottle when I came home.

Such a lovely garden Flora and Bill have, I took a picture from the bedroom window to show my husband when I got home. But people’s privacy for such things prevent me from showing it here. Besides I want to keep this view all to myself. What I can say is that the garden and view were so private there was no need to draw the curtains at night. So I slept with the moonlight shining through my window which was pretty ‘cool’ as in trendy and not cold, as it was the day after summer solstice. Sometimes you just have to capture those moments in life that you just know you will want to remember. This was one of them.

Fleur Fields English Regional Wine

Saturday morning came and I woke early to catch up with admin and emails for CCC. I showered and dressed and waiting for me in the kitchen was a cup of tea. Flora, like Vanessa, kept chickens and for breakfast I had an egg on toast. I’ve never seen or tasted such wonderful eggs before, bright yellow sunny looking yolks full of flavour, I say this because Flora very kindly gave me a dozen to bring home with me and I made cakes, Egg mayonnaise sandwiches, boiled for salads or eaten just on their own with toast. Each egg was as good as the last.


Flora told me about her chickens, vineyard, garden, family and her career as a chef. We laughed at some of her stories.  But soon it was time to pop down the road for the main event of the weekend Clandestine Cake Club Northampton which was being help at Vanessa’s home.

Cakes were displayed in various rooms and several very talented children bakers also attended. Baking stars in the making. See the flower pot cake in the picture below as an example. And Hannah in the next picture with her wonderful chocolate cake.



My iPad takes a lovely picture, which is why these picture were taken. The phone is not worth bothering with, and the camera that I have is a pain to transfer over to the laptop and then to the blog.

It was a wonderful day meeting lots of people and I finally got to meet CCC members and organisers who I’d only conversed with via email, but of course I met up again with Gillian the organiser of the CCC Northampton group who’d I’d already met last year at the AOG in Leeds.

image image image image

I drove home later in the afternoon when everyone had a gone and just after Vanessa did one last audio interview with me. See the result here on Vanessa’s blog apologies for the sugar rush appearance.

Sunday  morning came and I went to the allotment with my friend Jane. For years I was always filled with good intentions to make Elderflower syrup but if you blink, the season can be over and those delicate white blooms become past their best and you have to wait unit next year. But that sunday morning they were perfect, so I cut about 34 flower sprigs leaving many left to mature into berries for the birds to eat later and made 1.5 ltrs of Elderflower and Lime syrup using a lot less sugar than most recipes suggested.

I’ve decided not to post the recipe yet until I know that it works, e.g. taste and shelf life. Plus a little more research about how long to leave steeping before bottling. I left mine for 48 hours. BTW it does taste nice and sharp. I’ll be making syrup cakes for a while. If there are any decent (pristine creamy white) flowers left on the allotment this weekend, I’ll make some more and post the recipe.

image Elderflower and Lime Syrup

So as you can see it was a great weekend, a road trip to remember, only slightly marred by the fact that I took a wrong turning on the A14 going East instead of West towards the M1. My friend Jane says I should get a sat nav Ooo, it’s my birthday soon. Hint hint to hubby and family.

Thanks Vanessa, Flora, Gillian and all the members of CCC. Philip for his lovely Olive Oil. Plus Flora’s Chickens for their lovely eggs, her vineyard for the lovely wine, and Flora’s stories from her chefing days. None of which will be revealed in this blog. 🙂

Until the next time. x


3 thoughts on “Chickens, Cakes, Elderflowers and Olive Oil

  1. What a weekend of deliciousness! All of the cakes look sublime, and I love Hannah’s chocolate cake with raspberries. That picture of the cake with the blackberries on top of it makes me wonder how the sponges came out of the tins so perfectly round the edges. I made a sponge today and, as usual, bits of it stuck to the tin, just a little, but enough that it doesn’t look smooth like the sides of that blackberry one. I greased the tin really well and used non-stick silicon paper on the bottom. Is there a trick I could be using?

  2. Just to say what a wonderful experience Lynn. Thankyou for the info and lovely photo’s of delicious looking cakes.

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