A picture of the dessert selection available daily at the Aquila Porto Hotel, cure Rethymno, Crete.
Fresh bread is an everyday little luxury for me. The smell of baking bread is just divine and if it didn’t make me feel so hungry, I almost feel I could live on that alone. My fresh bread almost always comes from my breadmaker. I set it so it comes in time to present me with a fresh loaf first thing. I find this helps with the gorgeous scent of fresh bread making me hungry, because it’s breakfast time anyway when I get up so I don’t feel hungry for long. There’s something magical about getting up and smelling fresh bread which has been made for you while you slept.
Another thing that I find amazing about making my own fresh bread is that something so tasty can be created from so few ingredients. My normal white loaf, that I make most often, only contains 4 ingredients: water, flour, salt and yeast. They don’t look very promising when you put them into the bread bucket (the bit that the dough goes into that acts as mixing bowl and baking pan), but alchemy is at work to turn these humble ingredients into culinary gold.
My recipe for a simple white loaf requires the following ingredients:
- 350ml/ 12 fl oz water
- 500g/ 1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon yeast (the dried, suitable for breadmaker sort)
Put the ingredients into the bread bucket in the order they are listed. Choose the basic white bread setting for your breadmaker with a bread size of 1.5lb. Then 3 hours later you’ll have your bread. Bare in mind that it is difficult to slice when warm, so allow for some cooling time. I like eating it best when there is still a touch of residual warmth left from the cooking process, but it’s cooled enough to slice fairly easily. It doesn’t keep for too long, so eat on day 1 or 2 as fresh. After two days toast it. The toast it makes is like nectar too.
The Japanese would agree with me that setting aside a little while to enjoy the cherry blossom is well worth doing. In Japan they have a special word for ‘flower viewing’: hanami. Cherry blossom in Japanese is ‘sakura’ and in Japan they celebrate this time of year by having an outdoor party, by day or by night, under a flowering cherry tree. Often lanterns are hung in the trees to allow them to be enjoyed when it is darker, so precious are the couple of weeks that the trees are blossoming.
The latin name for the cherry tree is ‘prunus’ and there are many different varieties. In Britain flowering cherry trees are common roadside and garden trees. Many of these have been cultivated purely for their flowers and are ornamental only so they do not produce cherries.
Most of us don’t have to go too far to find a cherry tree and whilst a single tree can look wonderful, there is something to be said for seeing them in larger groups. A good place to go to see cherry trees is Batsford Arboreteum, near Moreton in Marsh, in Gloucestershire. The arboreteum holds the National Collection of Japanese Flowering Cherries. It’s a pleasant place to visit at any time of year and if you’ve read Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, you’ll be interested to know that Batsford Park (the big house in the middle of Batsford Arboreteum) was the Mitford family home until just after the first world war. Keele University also has an arboreteum also have a national collection of cherry trees and you can download a guided walk from their website. There isn’t a charge for visiting, although there are parking charges Monday to Friday.
Herbal teas make up the majority of my cups of tea through the day. I was sent Green Tea Chai and Cinnamon Higher Living teas to review. Green Tea Chai is a lightly spiced tea with cardamon, cinnamon, clove and orange peel. Cinnamon Spice is described as an aromatic and warming blend of cinnamon, whole fennel seeds, licorice, citrus peel and ginger.
I really enjoyed the Green Tea Chai from Higher Living. It had the restorative effects of green tea with an extra warmth and depth added by the spices. It’s a great way to ring the changes slightly if you drink green tea for health reasons and want to spice it up a little. I’d be happy to buy Green Tea Chai in the future.
The Cinnamon Spice tea was less appealing to me. I’ve had cinnamon teas before and enjoyed them, so I don’t think it was the cinnamon that was the problem. In fact, I found that when I was drinking the tea, it had a pleasant taste to start with and it was the last taste in my mouth that was less attractive. I think this was the liquorice. I’ve drunk fennel tea and ginger tea in the past and had no problems and I think liquorice is the only flavour present that I haven’t encountered before in teas. I’m not very keen on liquorice generally, so I think this is down to personal taste.
All the teas are organic and the ingredients are high quality. The packaging is simple and pretty. Each teabag is individually wrapped to maintain freshness.
We were recently sent one of these handsome looking Easter eggs to test out. The Tesco Finest Belgian Plain Egg with Gold Lustre and Mini Eggs comprises a large dark chocolate egg which is decorated with edible, glittery gold lustre. It’s accompanied by 3 matching, hand decorated mini eggs.
This egg is one of a new Tesco Finest range of eggs which are made using gourmet Belgian chocolate. The chocolate has been created from premium grade beans from some of the world’s best cocoa harvests. Master chocolatiers created these artisan chocolate easter eggs by combining natural ingredients and flavours.
So what did we think? The chocolate is good and thick: the egg takes a bit of breaking into to. My 6-year-old son had one of the mini eggs and it took him quite a while to make a hole. It’s good quality chocolate too with that hint of bitterness that you get with the best dark chocolate. The easter egg is a good generous size too and it makes a lovely looking gift because the packaging looks the part too. It’s nice that you can share the mini eggs and still keep the big egg to yourself. The mini eggs are a reasonable size too as they are about the size of a hen’s egg.