strawberry season

Strawberry season in England goes from May to September and soon we'll have Wimbledon where strawberries and cream have been served since the first tournament in 1877. In anticipation, let's get ready for some fun and games with this delicious recipe.

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Strawberries and cream cake

Ingredients

For the sponge:

4 eggs

1 pinch salt

100 g sugar

1 tbsp vanilla sugar

lemon juice

75 g flour

1 tsp baking powder

40 g ground almonds

2 tbsp starch

 

For filling:

Approx. 750 g strawberries

100 g strawberry jam

6 sheets white gelatin

400 g cream cheese

250 g curd

60 g powdered sugar

2 tbsp vanilla sugar

250 ml cream

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Line a cake tin with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180°C. 

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites and add the salt. Then stir the egg yolks into the sugar, the vanilla sugar and the lemon until frothy. 

Mix in the flour, the baking powder, the almonds and the starch, and gradually add the egg white mixture. Pour the dough into the cake tin, smooth and bake in the pre-warmed oven for 30-35 minutes. 

Then remove from the oven, allow to cool, remove from the mold and allow to cool completely on a cake rack. 

Wash, clean and dry the strawberries. Cut about a third of the strawberries in half. 

Cut the sponge into two slices. Coat both halves with the jam.  

Place the lower slice on a cake plate and cover with a removable pie ring. Place the whole strawberries on the top of the base slice. 

Soak the gelatine in cold water. Mix the cream cheese with the curd, powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. 

Place the gelatine in a small saucepan at low temperature, heat it, melt it, and then stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture. Then take off the heat. 

Add the cream to the cream cheese mixture. Carefully pour the mixture onto the strawberries and smooth over. Add the top slice of the sponge (the jam side touching the cream) and press gently. 

Then leave the cake so it cools for at least 4 hours.

Before serving, remove the ring and dust the cake with powdered sugar.

The Art of Slow Living

Federica Barbaranelli left the stresses of the city to find happiness in the country. 

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There are people who seem endlessly inspired and full of ideas, and they are inspiring for that very reason. Federica Barbaranelli is one of these talented people. After years owning and running one of Madrid's most iconic shops, Federica & Co, she decided to pack her bags and her dogs and together with her husband, they went looking for a better life in the North of Spain, to a region called Cantabria, that is green and pleasant just like England but, some may argue, with better food. Indeed, food is one of Federica's passions and she has made her mission to promote the Slow Food Movement she has embraced.  The country has also become a wonderful canvas for Federica's many projects. After finding an abandoned old house in the village of Novales, the couple spent countless weekends painting and decorating it to create their dream country home. This is now their permanent base where they run a new online business and a small b&b, a lifestyle project under the same name as her previous urban incarnation. The house acts as a showroom and many of the Swedish and French antiques, tableware, textiles and decorative objects are for sale so things change pretty quickly!

Federica, who’s also a chef, offers cooking lessons and workshops. Her cuisine is inspired by her Italian heritage and you’ll find lots of pasta and parmesan in her pantry! She also loves French food from Provence and the Perigord.  An interesting fact about Novales is that despite being in the Atlantic Coast, it is in a valley that enjoys a microclimate and this allows for the cultivation of citruses and other Mediterranean staple. Federica’s garden is filled with orange and lemon trees and she also has an extensive organic potager. Her love of animals is one of the reasons she moved to the country. Her dogs love the freedom of running in the wild and swimming in the nearby sea. Her donkey, Darwin, is a new addition to her ‘animal family’ and she simply adores watching them enjoying the freedom of nature.

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For the interior design of her home, Federica is not afraid of using florals on walls and ceilings to create a timeless look reminiscent of the 19th century European style. Painted shutters, antique dressers, armoires and chandeliers give a timeless charm to the sunlit rooms. A blue entrance door decorated with lattice and a big slate heart welcomes you to the entrance hall where a pair of turquoise curtains by Jim Thomson announce something very special: the kitchen. This is no doubt the hub of the life at Federica's and where all the meals are prepared convivially for guests and among friends. Federica's love for florals is present here too. The soft green hues of the wallpaper contrasts with a rustic farmhouse table. It’s a beautiful room inspired by a by-gone era that defies the rule book kitchens of today.

The original staircase has been painted white as well as the floorboards and decorated with a large mirror and antique wall lights. Upstairs, we find the three guest bedrooms for those urbanites who wish to spend a few days enjoying country life and gastronomy. During their stay, they can learn to cook, practice yoga or simply use the house as a base to explore the region. The bedrooms are each decorated in a different colour and wallpapered in classic Laura Ashley florals in blue, yellow and red. Each guest room has a name (Towanda, Blixen and Marlin) and most contain antiques and objects that are also for sale. The magic and love with which Federica has infused this place is evident in every detail and spending a few days here is a lesson in slow living and in appreciating the beauty of every day.

www.federicaandco.com

Read more in Issue 14

Paris in Bloom

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In 2015 we had the pleasure to interview photographer Georgianna Lane, and were very pleased she used the name of our interview to name her lovely book! Here's the interview again:

You may have seen them hanging on a wall, in books and magazines...Georgianna Lane's photographs open your eyes to a stunning world: Through her lens, flowers become even more beautiful, cities become dreamy and magical and the details that one would pass without noticing, become treasures. Intrigued, we quizzed her on her art and one of her favourite subjects...Paris...

How did it all begin? 

I’ve been taking photographs from a very young age. Everyone in my family was an avid photographer as I was growing up but I am the one that went farthest with it professionally. About 10 years ago, I made the decision to make photography my full time occupation. It was a leap of faith but has been very rewarding, full of adventure and satisfying artistically. 

How did your life change? 

Since I am self-employed, I work harder and longer hours than I used to but never find it a struggle. I am grateful every day that I can work at something I love doing and make a living at it. 

Could you tell us a little bit about your technique as a photographer? 

I believe it’s vital  to be well-trained so I am constantly studying and working to improve my skills. But even more important than technique is narrowing in on what I want to communicate with my images, how I want viewers to respond and feel when they see them.

I work these two things back and forth – improving my skills to better communicate the mood or message of my images and refining it accordingly. That might include using a different kind of lens, a different technique for post processing or just experimenting to see which version of an image is closest to what I envision.

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What do you search for in your travels?

In researching travel locations, I look for places that appeal to my favorite photographic subjects and that includes  extensive gardens, classical architecture or some other features of beauty. I also love markets and elegant details so Paris and other cities in Europe are perfect locations.

Paris is one of the cities you have been photographing for many years, do you ever get tired of Paris? 

I definitely don’t get tired of visiting or photographing Paris. It is endlessly fascinating and exploring the various neighbourhoods never grows old. It has layers and layers of history that you can see right in the architecture. Paris has an innate sense of style – almost everything is exquisitely presented creating a visual feast for the visitor.

A first or fond memory of Paris would be…

My first trip to Paris was with my Mother when I was 14. We stayed in Saint Germain, had picnics on the grounds of Notre Dame and walked along the Seine at night. A very special and defining trip for both of us.

You have an amazing eye for detail, did you always have it or can we train ours?

Thank you! I love texture, pattern, fine craftsmanship and narrowing in on the essential elements of a place. I have also done extensive macro photography of flowers which perhaps has trained me to look for and see small elements of a whole. I believe anything can be learned so, yes, anyone can train their eye to focus on detail. But I think you have to enjoy it – I get a thrill from getting in close to an exquisite carving or flower petal. Beautiful creations, natural and made by man, are truly awe-inspiring and uplifting emotionally. I believe one can more fully appreciate them by observing the details. 

Something about Paris we are likely not to know…

Paris is becoming a more welcoming and friendly city than its previous reputation might imply. It’s delightful to interact with the residents and various shop keepers. And it is a very safe city. I am out and about day and night and always feel perfectly secure.

What do you like capturing the most in Paris? 

It’s a long list! But definitely flower shops, doors and architecture, quiet places of beauty such as a tranquil square or garden. As well, 

I have a particular fondness for cafe chairs and the variety of patterns and colours here is staggering. It is like a unique art form.

Do you capture the Paris you see or the one you want to see? 

I have to say I try to capture the Paris that is my vision of what I want to see. That doesn’t mean I alter it (or not much), I just seek out those parts that fit what I want to communicate about the city. Fortunately, there are many.

Do you have a plan to photograph certain places or do you photograph as you go along? 

I always start with a very detailed and well-researched plan but allow myself to veer off of it if something interesting presents itself. If I stumble upon an intriguing little street or shop or garden, I’ll always investigate even though it’s not part of the original plan. But generally I do extensive research and have a long list of locations and subjects before I ever get on the plane.

Paris in the spring, cliché or a real treat? 

Like any place, it depends on the weather. It can be cold and gloomy but on a sunny day, when the trees are in bloom, it’s definitely magical. So, I would say a real treat. But though there are clusters of blooming trees like cherry trees around the city, it is not like New York or London where they seem to be on every block. You kind of have to know where to find them. The best place is probably the gardens at Notre Dame.

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Is there anything you have always wanted to photograph in Paris but you have not done so yet? 

Always! I haven’t been to many of the parks, for example, and some neighbourhoods I’ve never set foot in. The list goes on. 

Image © Georgianna Lane

Read more

Mallorcan Snow

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If you visit Mallorca in the winter, you discover much more than empty beaches, as the countryside offers beauty and romance.

 

Away from its beaches, Mallorca's countryside offers extraordinary Mediterranean beauty, especially in winter during the months of January and February,  when the 4 million+ almond trees on the island begin to blossom. As the season unfolds, a white and pink quilt - the blossom of the sweet almond is white whereas the bitter almond is pink - forms on the ground, the so called “Mallorcan snow”. 

The scenes around Mallorca at this time of year, particularly around the mountains of the Sierra de Tramuntana or the central western area of Marratxí, Bunyola, Santa María, Sencelles, Lloseta and Selva, are spectacular. Another area particularly  known for this is Llucmajor and, in general, the whole Pla de Mallorca, in the central area of he island. From the Puig de Randa Mountain you can see an excellent panoramic view of the Pla de Mallorca. Walking through an almond orchard, stopping and smelling its fragrant flower, is an unforgettable experience. Many hotels arrange a special trip to enable you to see the blossoms or you can explore them yourself by bicycle. To finish the almond blossom route, visit a traditional bakery in one of the Majorcan towns and taste some of the local desserts made with almonds. You will find out that they are an essential part of Mallorcan gastronomy with many typical Mallorcan dishes such as the local almond sponge cake or gató and the Turrón, the typical Christmas sweet, among many others being made with almonds. The flowers are harbingers of Spring and symbolise hope - that after a winter there is always a Spring. The flowers are collected during February to make perfumes, soaps and other artisanal beauty products. This year, the annual Almond Blossom Fair (known as the Fira de la flor d’ametler) is to be held on 5 February in the grounds of Ses Cases de Ca s’Hereu, a finca in the old town of Son Servera in the North East of Mallorca. The event aims to promote this important crop and other almond related products, including almond oil, perfume, scented candles and soap. As you can imagine, the almond is very important to Mallorca’s trade - Spain being the second largest producer of almonds in the world after California - and the Mallorcan almond is one of the highest quality. 

For the romantic minded, the idyllic landscape, the canopy of flowers, the sunny days and mild temperatures, make this island the perfect scenario for a winter country wedding. Hotels offer special prices at this time of the year so it is worth a visit if you love the Mediterranean without the tourists. Chopin stayed in the island in the winter of 1838 with his lover, the French novelist known as George Sand. Their stay was rather unhappy (as described by Sand in her work 'Winter in Mallorca') but Chopin managed to compose some of his most well known works while on the island. As George Sand explained in her autobiography, "It was there he composed these most beautiful of short pages which he modestly entitled the Preludes. They are masterpieces. Several bring to mind visions of deceased monks and the sound of funeral chants; others are melancholy and fragrant; they came to him in times of sun and health, in the clamor of laughing children under the window, the faraway sound of guitars, birdsongs from the moist leaves, in the sight of the small pale roses coming in bloom on the snow"… They left on 11 February after a few harsh months of inclement weather, most probably missing the blossoming of the almond trees. Who knows what Chopin would have been inspired to compose had he seen them...

Chic & Country Issue 11