summer fun

Strawberry Fields Forever…

No-bake strawberry cheesecake

We’re in the midst of a heatwave here, and it brings with it a huge wave of nostalgia for the long hot summers of my childhood.  I’ve been talking with Harry a lot about the things we used to do – running through sprinklers, building endless sandcastles, forts and dams at the beach, and picking soft fruit at farms along the roadside.  I promised him that we’d work our way through the same list too (and add a few more; because everyone should be allowed to create a new bit of history after all..), so last week we gathered up our hats, sturdy sandals and appetites and went in search of the first of the season’s strawberries…

Strawberry fields PYO

strawberry farm pick your own

the perfect strawberry

We picked and picked (and taste-tested) our way through the field until our punnets were full and our mouths a tell-tale red.  The picking was great fun in itself; the strawberries almost an afterthought.  We carefully transported them home and put them to good use, making no-bake strawberry cheesecake desserts, and then homemade strawberry cheesecake caramel ice-cream with the leftovers.  I promise you that these are both delicious and incredibly simple… give them a whirl;

Strawberry cheesecake recipe from KatesCreativeSpace

Firstly wash, hull and slice your strawberries into halves, then set aside…

chopped strawberries

Empty your biscuits/crackers into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin until they are nothing more than crumbs.  To help with this stage, imagine you are whacking a small critter that has shot out from under the cupboard, and needs to be stopped dead in its tracks.  Bash them a bit more.  Now tip into a bowl and pour over your melted butter, and stir well.  Heap spoonfuls of the crumb mixture into the base of 6 cocktail glasses (you can use to fill a standard 23cm baking pan if you’d rather make a single cheesecake).  Place in the fridge to chill.

digestives

Now for the cheesecake filling; blend together the cream cheese and icing sugar, and then scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add these in too, blending again.  Pour in the double cream and mix well.  Pour or spoon your mixture over the crumb base in the cocktail glasses (or pie dish), and then leave to set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

whisk

Now spoon your strawberries over the top and serve to gasps of admiration and gastronomic lust.  Honestly, trust me on this.  Visually, this is a just a more elegant way of serving a sort of deconstructed European cheesecake (never oven-baked, like those in North America, and thus a slightly sharper, more creamy taste).  You can prepare it ahead of time and whip out at the moment critique, and I’m all for desserts like that…

dessert trio

When I was playing around making these I ended up with more of the cheesecake base than I needed, so I was delighted to stumble across a recipe idea from Waitrose (pic below) for homemade strawberry & cookies ice-cream.  I adapted this and mixed my leftover crumb base with some slightly softened vanilla ice-cream, some chopped strawberries and a dollop of caramel sauce.  Mix it up well and then refreeze, and you have an awesomly more-ish homemade ice cream dish…

homemade strawberry cheesecake ice cream

So there you have it; a fun summer activity and then two divine desserts to make with the treasures you bring home.  Bliss…

And finally… thank you for the lovely comments and kind wishes for our wedding anniversary last week; we had a divinely decadent afternoon in the sunshine at a local hotel, being served a seemingly endless afternoon tea; I’m mildly ashamed to say we drank Assam despite the exotic array of teas on offer…

champagne afternoon tea

But were much more adventurous and dedicated in working our way through the entire dessert selection… champagne tea 2

And now I must go; penance beckons, in the form of a very long (and very slow) run…

Have a great sunshiny weekend when it comes!

Kate

The Little House

The Little House in Winter

House-painting can be a relentless, unforgiving task.  Slaving away in the burning sun and occasional rain, painting never-ending woodwork atop a wobbly ladder.  My advice?  Buy yourself a house that’s all of 8 foot high and you’ll find you can paint it in approximately an hour, including varnishing.  Trust me; it’s enormously satisfying.  A little small, perhaps, for the whole family, but perfectly proportioned for a 3yr old.

You may remember we bought a second-hand playhouse (above) for Harry’s birthday last winter, and it has sat looking picturesque but slightly weary through the harsh winter months.  Soon after buying it I added curtains made from tea towels and a slate ‘Little House’ sign, but we waited until the Springtime before tackling the interior.  Last weekend I gave it a proper overhaul, painting sills and gables, planting up hanging baskets and turning the bare interior into a proper bachelor pad. If you’ve time for a cup of pretend tea and a plastic cake, come on inside and have the tour…

the little house sign

When the playhouse was delivered, the inside was bare wood – and somewhat battered from having legions of small feet pattering in and out over the years in its former home.

playhouse renovation

We gave it a couple of coats of whitewash and glued inexpensive carpet tiles to the floor, and then decked out the interior with Harry’s play BBQ, table and chairs…

playhouse interior

harrys kitchen diner

All of these furnishings have simply been moved out from the playroom for the summer, freeing up some valuable space indoors.

Here’s the ‘loft’ sleeping platform before….

harrys loft before

And after…

little house loft

Above the sleeping platform hangs – securely –  a watchful angel; in reality a photograph I took of a folk-art Christmas decoration I bought years ago in New England.

little house angel

There’s enough space to hang your hat above your pillow, and a clock to wake you from a nap, should the bird chorus outside fail.  A decorative driftwood garland hangs by the ladder, and some well-worn old linens make for a comfortable den to retire to with a favourite book.  The paper animal garland was leftover from Harry’s first birthday party a couple of years ago and has found renewed purpose in bedecking the playhouse walls – I give it a few more months before it is declared too babyish and relegated to the (real) loft.

play loft

Do you remember Harry’s Hardware Store (below)?  With the advent of warm weather this has found a natural home inside the playhouse, where young drivers can park their scooters, pedal cars and balance bikes at the door and come in for tools, coffee or petrol.  It does a roaring trade..

harry store main shot

playhouse with built in store

Externally, The Little House is ready for summer; I exchanged the faux-topiary balls of winter for some low hanging baskets which Harry and I planted up with strawberries; they are just reachable for 3yr old hands, but tantalisingly out of reach for slugs.  Geraniums burst from the window box, mirroring those of the main house, and a passion flower climbs alongside the door.   A bird box mounted near the eaves will hopefully attract residents next winter, and a brightly painted cockerel weather vane adds a distinctive finishing touch.  And finally, I can’t forget our sunflowers, which now sit along the side of the Little House, where they can turn to the late afternoon sun, protected from the mayhem of small people crashing in and out of the playhouse itself.

The Little House in Springtime

the little house exterior

Work over, we all hunched inside for a celebratory cup of tea, served up with a hard, wooden play sausage and half a head of garlic.  Whatever else Harry does in his life, I doubt that a future in the kitchen beckons.

amish star

And finally, before I go; this week Pinterest is launching formally here in the UK, to great excitement.  For those who haven’t yet come across it, Pinterest is a very visual way of collecting together all the things you love, by ‘pinning’ images to your boards from all across the wide world of the web.  For those who are already converts, you can find me (and images from all of the projects on my site) here, or by searching under pinners  for ‘Kate Curates’; for those who are new and want to explore for the first time, you can register using the link here.  One word of advice; don’t do this if you have a deadline looming, or a child soon to wake from a nap, or indeed anything which requires your undivided attention for some time; it can be absolutely, deliciously addictive…