Tuesday, 5 July 2011

A Taste of Summer

When I go on holiday, I know I am going to miss my kitties. What I wasn't expecting was how much I'd miss my kitchen. It was as lovely to put my pinny back on as it was to be headbutted awake by William. Probably more so to be honest.

As it's been warm and I'm still officially "on holiday", I sunbathed in the garden. We are lucky to share a garden that is beautifully maintained by Terra Firma in Hexham. Rosie has planted the garden so that from April to October we always have flowers and as one plant wilts, another blooms, like a firework display in slow motion. Yesterday the smell of the lavender wafted over to me and reminded me to make lavender cupcakes.

Flower-infused confectionery isn't everybody's cup of tea ("ugh, Parma Violets") but over the past ten years, after a trip to Frinton-on-Sea when the spirit of a little old lady jumped inside me, I have been obsessed with violet creams. I also like rose and lavender creams, but my favourites are the violet ones, not least so I can make my little joke by calling them "violent". 

To infuse the cupcakes, you soak a few tablespoons of dried lavender flowers in milk for a day, then add it to the batter and to the frosting. The scent of warm lavender when the cupcakes come out of the oven is beautiful. The recipe suggested decorating the frosting with sprigs of lavender, but I didn't really want a little twig on my cake so I made some purple lavender blossoms. OK, they are way way bigger than a lavender flower and yes, I've used a jasmine cutter, but the colour is pretty close and look, I've even added a yellow centre with cocoa butter.  
The lavender in the garden is visited by bees, the big fat bumbling ones that look like they're about to suffer engine malfunction and fall to the ground. They are slow easy prey for the cats, who I worry might get stung on their mouths. I keep shouting "not the stripy ones!" as they sail through the air after an insect. When Mia was a kitten, she was stung on her paw and refused to walk on grass for the next six months, convinced it was this that had made her little foot swell up.
Poor baby
The safest kind of bees are made of cake and dipped in chocolate. It seemed the perfect excuse to bring out Callebaut's new honey flavoured milk chocolate. I was very excited to discover honey flavour chocolate, which is absolutely delicious. The bees' little wings are made of florist paste, which I picked off when I ate one, feeling like an evil schoolboy.
So that's my taste of English summer - lavender and honey. While William keeps a lookout for bees.

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