Monthly Archives

June 2016

Cocktail of the Week | Lingonberry Collins

There is really only one thing to say about the 24th June 2016, MIDSOMMAR! If you needed an excuse to have a cocktail, this excuse goes without saying! The Swedes enjoy a drink and Midsommar is the start of making the most of the warmth and sun! To be fair, winter is as good a time to enjoy a drink as well!

One of the most prevalent and probably, easily recognisable Swedish fruits is the lingonberry. It is a key ingredient in many dishes. You are likely to have had a lingonberry jam at Ikea when you stop to have meatballs in the restaurant. We bought a bottle of lingonberry syrup  on a recent trip to Ikea and tried to think of a suitable cocktail to use it with. After some thinking, and a rummage in the drinks box, we decided the best drink to make the most of the flavour would be a Collins based drink. Digging out the Vodka Collins recipe from a few weeks ago, we adapted it slightly to work for the lingonberry. It was handy to learn that this cocktail is quite versatile.

For the cocktail of the week, you will need:

  • A tall Collins glass
  • 1 Measure of lingonberry syrup
  • 2 Measures of vodka
  • ½ measure of lemon juice
  • Soda water
  • Ice

Start by adding the ice to the glass and adding the measure of lingonberry, followed by the vodka and lemon juice. Stir to mix the drink before adding the soda water to fill the glass. We did not use sugar syrup for this drink, as the sugar in the lingonberry was sufficient to compensate for it. We used a jug to make this cocktail as a welcome drink for the Midsommar dinner party we had with our friends and multiplied the mix by four.

There you have a Lingonberry Collins, our fusion of a vodka Collins and a Swedish staple. It was certainly one way to start the summer off in style!


Lingonberry Collins

Orchard Blog | Lingonberry Collins
30th June 2016

How to host a Swedish Midsummer Dinner

Posted in Gather by

Last year we went of a break to Stockholm and instantly fell in love with the city and the country. One thing we learnt about on our trip was the Swedish traditions surrounding Midsummer.  On our return home we decided that it would be fun to have a go at a Swedish Midsummer party ourselves. We had our first attempt last year and we enjoyed it so much we did it again this year. This is how we created our perfect Swedish midsummer dinner:


Midsummer’s Eve is the traditional holiday to mark the start of the short Swedish summer season, involving getting back to nature and celebrating the countryside. It is one of the lightest nights of the year and was thought to be magical.  Although summer solstace falls on the 20th or 21st of June, the ever-organised Swedes celebrate on friday between 19th and 25th June. It is a public holiday and most take the opportunity to get our of the city and get back to nature.  Traditional activities involve creating and dancing around a maypole, collecting wild flowers and eating the first strawberries of the season. Traditionally unmarried girls would go out and collect seven varieties of wild flowers, it was said that if they slept with these under their pillows they’d dream of their future husbands.


A Swedish party needs Swedish food.  Not having developed a taste for the traditional pickled herring we opted to go for a meal of gravadlax followed but meatballs. Gravadlax is salmon, cured in salt and dill, we served this with a mustard and dill sauce and some rye bread. For the main course Calum made Scandinavian style meatballs from scratch and served with a potatoes salad, a beetroot salad and a cucumber salad. We had some lingonberry jam and a cream sauce gravy.

For desert Calum made a Strawberry Cream Cake. This is a midsummer classic that includes layers of sponge, strawberries and cream. We followed this recipe but there are plenty of variations to choose from. After the gorgeous cake we had a selection of nordic cheeses including Herrgardsost, Ädelost and Prästost severed with some Scandinavian style crisp breads.


A bit of researched suggested that Sweden is more of a beer drinking country than a wine one so we served up ice cold larger.  But after a bit more further research and talking to the good people at the Swedish grocery store we decided we needed some Aquavit.  We opted to go with a bottle of Lysholm Linie Aquavit (which we subsequently discovered was Norwegian, but we’ll gloss over that fact). This aquavit is fascinating, after the potato based spirit is distilled and flavoured with some herbs and spices it is placed in old sherry casts.  These casts are then loaded onto the back of a ship and go for a trip around the world, crossing the equator twice. Each bottle has a code on it so you can see where your bottle stopped off on the way.  To accompany our aquavit we tried our hand at some Swedish drinking songs, with limited success!


In Sweden they create garlands and raise a floral maypole (despite midsummer falling in June) whist we didn’t go full out and create our own maypole we did pay honour with filling old jars full of flowers. We got some Ammi visage from our local florist, it has very similar flowers to Cow Parsley and looked great with our blue and white scheme.  We got our plates, glasses, lanterns and napkin (repurposed tea towels) from Ikea, and found some vintage cutlery and a lace table runner to complete the scheme.


We loved hosting these dinners and we had a great time both this year and last. We now think this Swedish midsummer tradition will become one we keep up in the years to come. Do you think of this summer celebration, let us know your thoughts in then comments.

Top Five | MidsommarSwedish Midsummer Swedish Midsummer

Orchard Blog | Swedish Midsummer
29th June 2016

Top Five | Midsummer

Posted in Top Five by
Top Five

We have reached Midsummer and the year seems to be whizzing past too quickly! Lets have a look at this week’s top five:


Top five | International Giraffe Day

It was the International Giraffe Day on the 21st June. Interesting fact, the Swahili word for Giraffe is Twigga (pronounced Twee-ga), which Calum knows as he grew up calling them that! Giraffes are such graceful animals and to have a day that promotes and celebrates them is a great thing!


Top Five | National Garden Scheme

Each year, Rich’s parents open their garden for the National Garden Scheme.  This charity donates all the proceeds from people opening their gardens for visitors to various charities. There are three houses in Horsell that open their gardens and the local allotments open to visitors as well.  Tea and Cake is also served for people to enjoy in the surrounds of the garden.  The week before is usually a hive of activity whilst Rich’s parents prepared the garden for the day.  Thankfully, we had a good day (no rain) and a good number of people came to visit.


Top Five | Deck Chairs

As we are in-between our own property at the minute, we are trying not to buy anything that could change the type of property we buy.  However, we have been eyeing up some deck chairs in Sainsbury’s for a while and on Saturday bought a pair. We love the look of them and hope that the garden we get will do them justice.


Top Five | Nordicana

As you might have noticed, we like a bit of Scandinavian style!  For Rich’s birthday, Calum bought a copy of the Nordicana Book.  It is a great book to start understanding the Nordic culture, history and traditions.


Top Five | Midsommar

25th June was Midsommar in Sweden and we celebrated this as best we could (not being Swedish).  We will go more into this in a blog post later this week.  It is traditionally the start of the holiday period in Sweden and the Country effectively shuts to celebrate.  We invited our friends Ben and Lauren over to celebrate and enjoy some much needed fun and happiness.

27th June 2016

Cocktail of the Week | French 75

During our recent trip to France we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in some of the delights that comes from France, mainly the food and drink.   We indulged in the delights of fresh croissants, cheese, daily baguettes, ratatouille and the many wines! In one of the towns we visited, Saumur, they produce a sparking wine known as Cremant du Loire. They also have a sparking red sparkling that is a very interesting and, if you ever get the chance, you should try it! We found a particular favourite Cremant du Loire from the Ackerman Winery on a previous trip and got the opportunity to visit their caves (pronounced like calves). The winery started in 1811 by a self-taught Belgian man called Jean-Baptise Ackerman, who found that the soil in the area great for growing grapes and the caves carved out for the building stone to be perfect for making and storing the sparkling wine.

Given we were experiencing all things French, we decided that our cocktail of the week should be inspired by this trip and settled on a French 75, or in French; a Soixante Quinze! (Yes, the French have a very odd numbering system!). The drink is known to date back to World War I and was created at the New York Bar in Paris. It was further developed into the drink we know today over the 1920s. The drinks original combination included calvados, gin, grenadine and absinthe, as well as the champagne, and was said to have such a kick that it felt like you had been shelled by the French 75 field gun! I think I will give that experience a miss! It became popular in the 1940s after appearing in in a few films, most notably Casablanca.

For this weeks cocktail, you will need:

  • Champagne Flute
  • Measure of gin
  • ½ measure of lemon juice
  • Your choice of sparking white/champagne
  • Tsp of sugar

To prepare the cocktail, place the glasses in the fridge to cool them down. Take the gin, lemon juice and teaspoon of sugar and put them in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well before straining the mix into the cooled champagne glasses. Fill the rest of the glass with the sparkling wine and stir gently.

There you have the soixante qunize! A simple and refreshing drink that is perfect as an aperitif!

French 75

Orchard Blog | French 75
23rd June 2016

12 of the Best Châteaux of the Loire Valley

Posted in Explore by
Châteaux Loire Valley

We recently spent a week’s holiday in the Loire Valley, it is a beautiful part of France and home to some of the best Châteaux.  They span centuries of French history in a multitude of different architectural styles.  We visited a dozen of the best and here are our thoughts. If you have any questions or suggestions please let us know in the comments.

Château de Villandry

Best for impressive gardens

Château de Villandry

A late renaissance chateau mostly famous for its stunning gardens. The gardens were created in 1906 using 16th century designs. They are by far the most impressive of any of the gardens in the Loire and a must visit of any garden enthusiasts. Discover more…

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Best for a peaceful retreat

Château de Azay-le-Rideau

Whilst not the grandest or most historical, Château de Azay-le-Rideau wins out with its graceful architecture and peaceful setting on an island in the river Indre. Discover more…

Château d’Ussé

Best for fairytale escapism

Château d'Ussé

If you are looking for a fairy book Château d’Usse is the one for you. The chateau has countless turrets, romantic gardens and is said to have been the inspiration behind Charles Perrault’s version of Sleeping Beauty. The interiors are beautiful if a bit tired around the edges. Discover more…

Forteresse royale de Chinon

Best for military history

Forteresse royale de Chinon

An impressive fortress overlooking the town, now mostly in ruins but was once the home to medieval kings and has links to Joan of Arc. It has a good multimedia exhibition on the history of the kings that built the fortress. Discover more…

Château de Chambord

Best for majestic grandness

Château de Chambord

The largest and grandest of all the Loire chateaux with stunning renaissance architecture and a stately presence.  Built by François I as a royal hunting lodge, albeit one with over 400 rooms. In the centre is the chateau’s famous double helix staircase, reputably designed by Leonardo di Vinci. Discover more…

Château Royal de Blois

Best for gory history     

Château Royal de Blois

In the center of Blois the Château Royal has a bit of a split personality architectural speaking, with medieval, renaissance and classical wings.  It has been the site of some important events in French royal history, including a bloody murder sanctioned by King Henri III whilst he hid behind the tapestries. Discover more…

Château de Cheverny

Best for classical beauty

Château de Cheverny

A practically perfect proportioned chateau. Built in the 1630s in the French classical style, Cheverny is the epitome of elegance. Famously it was also the inspiration for Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin comics, it has an exhibition to this link in the grounds. Make sure you visit the kennels in the grounds, Cheverny hunt’s 70 fox hounds live here and are a joy to behold. Discover More…

Château d’Angers

Best for medieval history

Château d'Angers

A foreboding city center fortress was once home to the powerful Dukes of Anjou. Built overlooking the river Maine the chateaux was strategically very important in the early medieval period. It is also home to the awe inspiring Apocalypse Tapestries house in purpose built galleries added in the 1950s. Discover more…

Château de Chenonceau

Best for feminine elegance

Château de Chenonceau

Known as the Ladies’ Château due to the prominent women that built and looked after the place.  It is an extremely elegant Château that gracefully spans over the river Cher.  It has a fascinating history from medieval kings’ mistresses right up to WWII, the château spanned the border between occupied and free France. Surrounded by beautiful gardens make this one of the most enjoyable in all of the Loire valley to visit. Discover more…

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Best for inspiring gardens

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

Seemingly a perfect medieval château, Chaumont-sur-Loire was built as a defensive fortress in the 14th Century, although it was quickly developed into the renaissance style and was significantly renovated in the 19th Century. It has gorgeous views over the Loire, and wonderful gardens that are well worth exploring.  Each summer the International Garden Festival is held in the grounds, worth a visit.  The château and grounds also houses some excellent contemporary art. Discover more…

Château Royal d’Amboise

Best for impressive views

Château Royal d'Amboise

Majestically located on a rocky outcrop overlooking the charming town of Amboise.  Not much is left of the once impressive château but in the remaining rooms you still get a sense of the royal splendour from the 15th and 16th centuries. Make sure to visit the chapel of Saint-Hubert where Leonardo da Vinci, who lived in the nearby Clos Lucé, is buried. Discover more…

Château de Saumur

Best for storybook silhouette 

Château de Saumur

Situated high above the genteel town is the fairytale Château de Saumur, mostly built in the 13th century on the site of an earlier fortification it has a graceful silhouette with plenty of towers, pinnacles and chimney stacks. Discover more…

We've been discovering the best Châteaux of the Loire Valley.
22nd June 2016

Top Five | Return from our Holidays

Posted in Top Five by
Top Five

We are back from France after having an amazing holiday in The Loire Valley. It is such a beautiful part of the world, we will share our adventures in some further posts but in the mean time lets look at this weeks top five!


Top Five | Cocktails

The reason we started our Cocktail of the Week feature was because we found ourselves with far too many bottles of obscure spirits lurking in the back of the cupboard.  We have started to make a dent in these supplies so we thought we should start to replenishes them.  We have brought home, Cointreau (an Orange flavoured liqueur), Crème de Cassis (Blackberry liqueur) and Crème de Violette (Violet liqueur). We are excited to see what cocktails we can make with these new ingredients!


Top Five | Souvenirs

Finding souvenirs when we are on our travels is always a tricky endeavour. One one hand we always like to have a reminder of the places we visit but on the other hand most souvenirs are just not very good. That is why we were excited to find these Gien plates of a couple of the chateaux we visited. We have recently started collecting blue patented plates for an interior design idea we are working on.


Top Five | Elizabeth David

Staying in self catering accommodation in a tiny village meant we stayed in most nights and enjoyed cooking with local ingredients  to make lovely traditional french dishes. To help with the recipes we packed a second hand copy of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking which despite being over 50 years old is still a fantastic resource. Needless to say we had some fantastic meals accompanied by some lovely wines.


Top Five | Rosa 'Eden'

Whilst wandering around the grand gardens and the quite little towns of the Loire Valley we kept on noticing the same climbing rose again and again. These beautiful old-fashioned flowers are pink on the inside fading to a cream on the outside. Being suitably charmed by this flower we had to find it’s name, after a bit of searching (and a visit to a garden centre in Tours) we discovered it is Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ also known in the UK as the Rosa ‘Eden 88’.


Top Five | Inspiration

Every time we come back from holiday we are full of ideas and inspiration. Whilst we were in France Rich was inspired but the gardens, Calum inspired by the food and drink and we were both inspired by the property and interiors. Seeing as Rich has a love of magazines he decided to bring back Campagne Décoration to keep the ideas flowing!

20th June 2016

Cocktail of the Week | Elderflower Martini

Inspiration for cocktail of the week comes from a few places. At the minute it is mainly the garden. In Rich’s parents garden there is a fantastic elder tree that has recently gone into flower and it now covered in white elderflowers. We tend to use elderflower in a few things, oh alright, mainly drinks! We wanted to try something that would give us a good flavour of the elderflower and little else. The best thing for that was to have an Elderflower Martini!

There is no record of where a martini first came to life, but there are a fair few versions that are similar to what we know as a martini. It is thought that the brand Martini did some successful marketing in the 1860s and ended up with the drink named after them. I think I prefer the theory that the cocktail was first created by a bartender in the town of Martinez and the drink named after the town. Regardless of the source, it became a very popular drink in the USA during the 1920s prohibition due to the ease of manufacturing illegal gin. To settle any argument, a classic martini contains gin! The vodka martini first appeared in the 1930s and were popularised by James Bond.  Also, on no account should a gin martini be shaken!

For this week’s cocktail, you will need:

  • ½ Measure of Elderflower Liqueur
  • Teaspoon of dry vermouth
  • 2 measures of gin

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add the vermouth. Shake to cool the vermouth and pour into the glass. If you prefer a drier martini, you can do what Winston Churchill did and face France and bow before adding the gin. Swirl the vermouth in the glass to coat the surfaces. Add the elderflower liqueur. Then and some ice to a clean cocktail shaker pour in the gin and stir. Once the gin is sufficiently cooled, pour it into the glass.  You can then garnish how you like, as we used elderflower, we chose not to add a garnish.

There you have it, the elderflower martini. Now sit back, enjoy and if you need it drier, do what Winston would have done and tip the glass to France.

Elderflower Martini



Orchard Blog | Elderflower Martini</>div

16th June 2016

Top Five | En France

Posted in Top Five by
Top Five

We are on our holidays! So this week we might be quieter than normal…. we might also just be posting lots of pictures of France! But first let’s take a look at last week’s top five!


 Top Five | France

By the time you read this we will be holidaying in The Loire Valley. We are staying near to Tours in a little village called Courleon in a cute holiday cottage. The plan is to visit as many chateaux as possible, eat as much cheese as possible and drink as much wine. We’ll let you know how we get on!


Top Five | Concorde

France twice in one week? Well that is exactly what Calum has done, his work meant he had to go to the airbus factory in Toulouse.  This is a place that Rich’s grandfather use to visit regularly when he was a production manager on Concorde. As a reminder of Papa we have this awesome picture of Concorde on our wall, it was give to him as a retirement present, we inherited it on his passing.


Top 130616 3

As a bit of a treat to ourselves we bought this gorgeous Peppermint Tea & Thyme scent. It is part of Wax Lyrical’s range made in partnership with Fired Earth.  It was actually a tough decision which one to choose as the whole range smells gorgeous but in the end the freshness of this scent won out.


Top 130616 5

It has been busy around the cottage as Rich’s parents are frantically getting their garden really for it’s annual opening. They have been opening their garden for over 10 years as part of a village garden safari and also as part of the National Gardens Scheme. If you fancy coming along to either of these openings you’d be more than welcome!


Top 130616 4

As well as Annie the cat and Hettie the dog, the cottage has some other residents. We have a dove cote in the garden with population of white fan tailed doves. The dove coot was a 25th wedding anniversary present from Rich’s Dad to his Mum. The Doves are highly entertaining creatures, watching them go about their live gives us all no end of pleasure, especially when the baby doves (know as squabs) arrive!

13th June 2016

Cocktail of the Week | Raspberry Collins

This week we dived into the drinks cabinet to try find a bottle that was nearly finished to create our cocktail of the week. It is tough all this cocktail drinking! It is however, quite fun learning about cocktails and we will continue with the hardship of creating and sampling drinks from our random collection of spirits for you. Who knows, we might actually get good at this. In the drinks cabinet we found a bottle of Absolut Raspberry Vodka that was nearly finished. We did little bit of research to see if there was anything we could use it for and we came across the Raspberry Collins. This drink comes from the ‘Collins’ cocktail family and there appears to be many relations in this family. We will have to try these in the future.

For this weeks cocktail, you will need:

  • 1 measure of simple syrup
  • 1/2 measure of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 measures raspberry vodka
  • soda water
  • raspberries

Firstly, if you have not made a syrup before it really is simple. To make ours, we add 300 grams of sugar 60 ml of water, place it over heat and stir until it is a clear liquid. As it cools it will come a thick liquid.

To prepare the drink, start by adding some ice to a tall glass, add the syrup, lemon juice and vodka to the glass and stir well to mix them together. Fill the rest of the glass with soda water and garnish with a few raspberries. That’s it, you now have a Raspberry Collins.

The drink is refreshing and very easy to make. You can make this in a jug quite easily by multiplying the ingredients for number of people you are making it for. Perfect for an evening of drinks in the garden with friends. It will certainly be on our repertoire of cocktails in future.

Raspberry Collins

Orchard Blog | Raspberry Collins
9th June 2016

Days Out | Hardwick Hall

Posted in Explore by

A couple of weeks back, when driving north for the weekend we stopped of at the gorgeus Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire for a look around. We wanted to break our journey north somewhere and scouring the map we discovered Hardwick Hall, it was about halfway on our drive and only a few minutes away from the motorway junction. It made a very welcome break, it was a perfect bit of escapism!

Hardwick Hall 7

Hardwick Hall is an Elizabethan country house created by the indomitable ‘Bess of Hardwick’ one of the richest women in the country. Bess was born into a minor gentry family but with a succession of advantageous marriages ended up an incredibly wealthy Countess residing at Hardwick.

At Hardwick there are two building, the ruins of Hardwick Old Hall and the breathtaking Hardwick New Hall.  The old hall, started in 1587, was built on Bess Father’s estate. The new hall was started in 1590 before the old hall was even finished. They were intended to compliment each other, akin to being two wings of the same building.  Over time the old hall went to ruin, and was partially pulled down, it is now a romantic ruin.  Despite it being in ruins there is still plenty to see, including climbing to a timber viewing platform to view some of the surviving plasterwork and to enjoy some spectacular views.

A short walk away at Hardwick New Hall, Bess’ wealth was on display for all to marvel at.  The house has an abundance of glass windows, an expensive luxury at the time. The turrets are topped with the initials ES for, Elizabeth Shrewsbury, the Countess of Shrewsbury, Bess’ full name and title.  Such a grand house takes time to appreciate, there are many highlights including the long gallery and the High Great Chamber.

Looked after by The National Trust there are a couple of well presented exhibitions about previous residents of Hardwick Hall.  This first is about Lady Arbella Stuart, Bess granddaughter with royal blood and a potential heir to Queen Elizabeth. The second is about Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire the last lady to reside here. Evelyn saw the world change from stuffy Victorian society into the swinging sixties. She was an hands on countess and a lifelong friend of Queen Mary, acting as her mistress of the robes.  We loved finding out about the history of these two fascinating ladies and their time at Hardwick.

The gardens and grounds surrounding the hall offer plenty of excuses to get outside.  There are various marked walks around the estate, offering beautiful views off the Halls and of the Derbyshire countryside beyond.  We also stopped off at Standby Mill located on the estate, which shows how a 19th century flour mill would have worked.

We found a beautiful spot on the estate near the mill to have our picnic, but being a National Trust property there looked to be a very lovely cafe near the house. If you are in need of something stronger, Hardwick Inn, a traditional pub is located by the south gate to the grounds.

Hardwick is a fascinating and beautiful place, situated in a glorious location.  It has easy access from the motorway and plenty of things to see and enjoy. We loved it.

Find out more at The National Trust and English Heritage

Hardwick Hall 8
Hardwick Hall 6
Hardwick Hall 4
Hardwick Hall 3
Hardwick Hall 2
Hardwick Hall 5

Orchard Blog | Hardwick Hall
7th June 2016