My Newest Haunt (Yes It’s A Place With Food)!

the interior of Joshuas in Sturminster Newton Dorset

lemon and amaretto biscotti

coffee and walnut cake

a worried looking Miles

You are completely forgiven if you think that my life almost completely revolves around food (well, it does a bit) or that I spend the majority of my time, going out to eat cake and drink tea. There are two explanations for this; firstly, the weather has, once again, turned dismal and if I don’t get out and do something I can end up being marooned at home by the rain. Secondly, I am on a mission to discover as many Dorset places and events as possible and where better to start than the county’s myriad of wonderful cafes and tea shops.

The weather was so utterly wet on Friday that my friend and I (and her gorgeous son, Miles) took off to Sturminster Newton to seek a warm refuge in Joshua’s cafe. It is such a friendly, relaxed place to go. You receive a lovely welcome (from Joshua himself) and their cakes and chai lattes are delicious. We had heaps of coffee and walnut cake, pots of tea, chai lattes and it didn’t take much persuading for us to try their amaretto and lemon biscotti.  Miles was more interested in chewing the head of his squeaky giraffe than in our treats, but he did spend a fair amount of time covering a large radius of space around us in home-made sweet potato muffins and pea fritters.

If you are out near Stur and feel like enjoying a calm cup of tea without feeling hassled, head for Joshua’s… and if you see me (probably with empty tea cups surrounding me), please come and say hi!

x

Ooh, and I need to add… if you have any interesting suggestions for my next excursion, please drop them in a comment below. H x

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A Sweet Send-Off

sweet potato and butternut squash soup

pretty glass tea light candle

stag head on the wall at the barn cafe

the most amazing rocky road cake

In my day-job-life as opposed to my blog-life, I am about to start at a new workplace.  An exciting change but also a sad departure from a place where I have been very happy for many years.  On my last few days, I was spoilt with cakes and presents, beautiful cards and good wishes and last Friday, we went out for a wonderfully indulgent lunch at The Barn Cafe.

Situated on the outskirts of Lytchett Matravers and nestled within a courtyard of shops, the Barn Cafe boasts a mesmerising selection of beautiful cakes and a great lunch menu, which includes freshly made soups and sandwiches.

I was relieved that we had reserved a table as it was so busy and the day was too cold to make use of the pretty outside seating area. In the short breaks in-between all of the chatting, we ordered rounds of pea and mint soup, butternut squash and sweet potato soup, as well as brie and bacon paninis with tortilla chips and salad.  Everyone had their eyes on a particular cake for pudding and it wasn’t long after our main course had been polished off, that we welcomed the arrival of enormous slices of Rocky Road, a rice crispy cake with chocolate topping, lemon sponge and a creamy chai latte (for me)! I am having a serious chai latte obsession right now (I think it’s because of the cold weather that we’ve been having and it’s just so warming and yummy)!

Our table was booked for someone else at 3:30pm and we’d all exclaimed at the beginning of the lunch how we would be long-gone by then… we all had different plans for the afternoon and in any case, we’d arrived at 12pm – what could we have to chat about for that long?! So you can imagine the shrieks when we realised that it was well past 3 and we were likely to be turfed out at any moment!

H x

 

What’s Growing On My Windowsill?

thyme seedlings in hand

cornflower seedlings on my windowsill

rosemary seeds on my palm

Dark and moody photos for a dark and moody few days.  Having not been able to get out into the garden to do any jobs, I’ve been resorting to greening up my kitchen windowsill in the hope that I can get seeds started before they have to cope with the crazy weather outside.

I was given a packet of Cornflower seeds by a friend along with a pretty, greeny-blue bucket to plant them in (I think you can get these in Marks and Spencer).  Although it is supposed to be a patio arrangement, the instructions suggested planting inside first, which I did.  I couldn’t get over how fast these seeds germinated; there were mounds of soil being pushed up by the sprouting seeds within 2 days. By the end of day 4, there were little green heads covering the soil’s surface.  The only downside to their speediness is that they have been very quickly bending their leaves to face the light and I need to continually turn the bucket around to encourage them to grow straight up. The minute the weather looks as if it is going to settle, I’ll put them outside to be surrounded by sunlight (ha)!

Mr D-F bought me a little present the last time he was out – a packet of Thyme and a packet of Rosemary seeds. Isn’t he a cutie?! The Thyme has germinated quickly, thanks to the warmth in the kitchen, but the small shoots have grown on much more slowly compared to the lightening-fast Cornflowers. I’ve been a bit disappointed with the Rosemary seeds as they haven’t germinated at all. It’s been roughly two weeks now and not a sign. I think I’ll need to ditch the seed idea and buy a small Rosemary plant instead.  At least that will mean that I can use the leaves in my cooking much sooner!

Please leave me a comment below if you’ve done any planting recently and let me know what you went for. x

A Large Fish And A Celebrity Dog ~ Oh, And A Trip To Compton Acres


pretty pink pom pom plant
view of the pond at Compton Acres in Dorsetlight pink camelia

The sun appeared a little this week – did you manage to see it?! And although it was pretty windy, nothing was going to stop me from getting outside, so a friend and I headed out to Compton Acres (a privately owned garden in Poole, Dorset). The plan was to have a walk around the gardens, stop for tea and have a wander in amongst the plants in their garden shop.

Even though the recent cold weather seemed to have had an effect and many plants were only just showing their faces (or leaves), there were still Magnolia, Camellia and alpine plants to enjoy.  We also spent time gawping at the enormous leaves on some of the rhododendron specimens. They were so big – like bigger than your head big!

My friend brought her beautiful little dog (a jack russell/border terrier cross in case you are wondering – we got asked so many times)! Her dog is amazingly well-behaved and she has such an expressive face that she quickly became a celebrity: we were stopped, talked to, had photos taken… all because of little madam here. It was really funny and she loved every minute.

little dog sniffing the waters edgelittle jack russell border terrier crossbeautiful little jack russell border terrier crosslittle dog and coi carp almost kissing

She was particularly taken with the gargantuan Koi Carp in the Japanese gardens. They almost had a kiss at one point! She wasn’t growling or barking at them, we think that she just wanted to get close enough for a sniff and to check out what sort of thing they were. There were three very dark coloured Koi, that would appear from the shadows like stealthy ninjas and they were quite sinister in the way that they lurked about.

brie and cranberry sandwich

After an hour or so walking through the various parts of the gardens and taking funny photos with the statues, we were hungry and in need of a cup of tea. The people in the cafe were incredibly helpful, friendly and had no problem with us bringing a little dog in to sit beneath our feet.  The only issue with this was that we spent most of our lunchtime in deep conversation with a couple sitting next to us about the pros and cons of different dog breeds, how beautiful our little companion terrier was and wasn’t she a good girl?…

You get the picture!

x

My Budget Friendly New Houseplant

ivy propagated in pot

close up of variegated ivy

With the clocks going forward to signify the start of British Summer Time (ha ha – ironic, since we’ve only just seen the snow melt away), we thought that it would be time to give the mantlepiece a refresh.  Instead of fairy lights, candles and cosiness we wanted a feeling of nature and the outside. It didn’t take much for me to decide on the fact that more greenery was needed!

As we are slowly working our way through the list of finishing touches to the office, our budget is tied up with that room and my excitement at the thought of a shopping spree at the garden centre was quickly quelled by Mr D-F waving the list of ‘office things to buy‘ in front of me.

So after a momentary harrumph, I set to work discovering a way that I could have a new plant without spending anything.

A while back, a lovely friend had given me the prettiest hyacinth in a taupe, grey container. Once the hyacinth had flowered and had begun to die back, I planted him in the garden so that I could re-use the container.

I took a cutting from an ivy plant that I bought for our winter hanging basket last year and, after checking carefully that I had chosen a section with long, healthy roots, I planted him into his new home.  As the container doesn’t have drainage holes, I filled about 2 cm of the bottom with pebbles before topping it up with container-planting compost.

After doing a short amount of research, I have discovered that ivy can make a good houseplant if given enough light (otherwise its colour tends to drain) and will continue to grow healthily if the soil is allowed to dry a little between waterings.

I’m so pleased with our new mantlepiece addition and it was all created from bits that we already had. Such a bonus! …and, I don’t have my eye on a new Calathea plant, oh no, not at all…

Have a lovely rest of the week x

 

This Week’s Bakes

This Week’s Bakes

green granny smith applesraisins in a bowlingredients in a bowl

I don’t need much of an excuse to mess about in the kitchen and this cold weather over the weekend had me pretty much setting up camp inbetween the kettle and the oven.

This recipe for Chewy Sultana Cookies by Deliciously Ella caught my eye and I had to try it out… no flour, no refined sugar and full of delicious fruits and filling oats. Plus, one massive bonus, is that the recipe doesn’t require any food processing. I had a majorly sad moment yesterday when I came to use my processor to find a massive crack in the bowl. I think the regular making of nut butters has taken its toll on my machine. As an aside, if anyone has a great recommendation for a pretty heavy-duty food processor, please leave me a comment. My current one is a KitchenAid and although I love it, I don’t think it’s up to the job. 

Each cookie has a healthy amount of grated apple (I substituted red apples for green), oats, sultanas (I used raisins), mashed bananas, cinnamon and honey. Once baked, these cookies have a lovely crunch to the outside and then a soft centre, which gave a nice hit of banana flavour.  We enjoyed them that afternoon and were happy in the knowledge that they were packed full of goodness.

Today, I’m going to indulge Mr D-F by making his all-time-favourite raspberry and pistachio brownies from the book Ready Steady Glow by Madeleine Shaw. All I can say is, if you can get your hands on the recipe – try them – you really will thank me! (…and Madeleine of course, who created them)!

I’ll post some photos on Instagram once I’ve made the brownies and if I can get to them in time before they’re eaten!

Have a great day x

 

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Plan Your Way To Healthier Meals ~ Free Downloadable Meal Planner

Plan Your Way To Healthier Meals ~ Free Downloadable Meal Planner

Many of you know that I’ve been trialling different menus and foods over the last year. We have embarked upon a primarily, whole-food based diet for two main reasons; enjoying experimenting being one of them and Mr D-F’s gluten and dairy intolerance being another.  We have also cut out all refined sugar – a big initial challenge but so worth while in the end.

Oh my goodness what a difference this shift has made to us both. More energy throughout the day and less cravings for snacks – I have always been a major grazer, no intolerance related effects for Mr D-F and the most amazing thing is that our meals are full of different flavours, packed full of nutrients and are in no way meagre! I must insert a link here to the first book that helped us to make this transition; Madeleine Shaw’s Get The Glow.

So this has all been great so far but what it has meant is that we’ve had to be mega-organised when it comes to shopping and meal prep, especially when we initially started out on this new food fun.  Most of our weekly menus up until this point have been scribbled on the back of a bit of paper, which would be totally fine, except that we’ve started to accidentally mis-read the menu meaning that some foods haven’t made it to the shopping list or ended up on there twice!

To solve this problem, I’ve created two menu planners, which are completely free for you to download and print as many times as you like. They have a space for each day of the week, so that you can plan out your breakfast, lunch, snack and supper. There’s also a space for the date, which I designed mainly for me, as I keep all of our old menus ensuring that if there was a particularly amazing week, we could recycle the ideas without re-writing!

I’ve made a Monday – Sunday version but the one I use the most is the Saturday – Friday version as we do our weekly shop on a Saturday and that’s when our menu for the week begins. You’ll find the links for the downloads below the photos.

 

Dorset Finca Meal Planner

Dorset Finca Meal Planner with favourite books

Click the gold link here for the Monday – Sunday planner: meal planner

Click the gold link here for the planner that starts on a Saturday: meal planner starting saturday

I hope you find these useful and if you want to keep updated with the various happenings on The Dorset Finca blog, please subscribe using the button on the right. x

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.