Best Beloved and I often find struggling bumblebees on garden pathways and the lawn. They may be exhausted by flying in the wind, have worked too hard without rest or refreshment, they may be sick, or even too cold. (If their wings are ragged, they may simply be very old.)
The quickest way to revive a struggling bumblebee is with a sugary solution. (Never a honey solution, though. Bees can catch viruses if they eat honey from other hives.)
While enjoying a lovely spot of tea outside at Syke Farm Tearoom, BB and I took note of a large bumblebee’s drunken descent to our table. When it landed, it remained immobile.
Emergency rations were called for. A handy sugar cube with a couple of drops of water was quickly administered.
Ms. Bumble liked it.
She liked it very much!
Why do we think she’s a female? Well, she’s a White-tailed Bumblebee. White-tailed queens and workers have a pure white tail and two lemon-yellow bands. The males have more yellow hair on the abdomen, and yellow tufts on the head and face. Males have longer antennae, too.
When she’d lapped up her fill, Ms. Bumble took it upon herself to make friends with BB.
She climbed up and had a bit of a walkabout on his hand.
So comfortable and full was she, that a nap was in order. She found a warm spot, folded down her antennae and nodded off.
Luckily, we had plenty of time to sit in the sun and relax with Ms. Bumble before she buzzed off to the autumnal blooms of Syke Farm.
BB, the Bumblebee Whisperer. He has me charmed, too.
P.S. We cleaned up the sugary puddle before leaving.
A small bowl of summer berries and a lonely lemon were languishing on my countertop this morning…
And it’s Monday. If any day needs cake, it’s Monday.
I have been a little leery of baking cakes in the two-oven AGA. Today, I set out to conquer my fear, and with one of my favourite cakes – a Lemon & Berry Polenta Cake. It’s a simple cake, and ideal for building confidence in AGA baking skills.
Fragrant lemon and ripe berries are the stars of this buttery, light cake. And I love the polenta-crunchy edge.
When asked his opinion, my Best Beloved described it as, “A light, lemony sponge with fruity flavour bombs. Yummy.”
In a two-oven AGA, position a rack at the bottom of the Roasting Oven, and have the plain shelf ready to use. Or set conventional oven to 350f/180c.
Lightly butter a 25 cm cake tin (10 in cake pan) and line the bottom with a circle of baking parchment. Lightly flour the sides of the pan, tapping out the excess. Set the pan aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk or sieve together the dry ingredients - flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well blended.
In a large bowl (using a stand mixer or hand mixer), beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time and stir until just blended. Don't worry if it looks a bit 'curdled', it'll be okay!
Using either a large metal spoon or a spatula, fold in half of dry ingredients, then add milk & lemon juice, then fold in the final half of the dry ingredients.
Pour batter into prepared tin, spreading evenly.
Place cold Plain Sheet on second set of runners in Roasting Oven, and put the filled cake tin on the grid on the oven bottom. Close the door and set your timer for 15 minutes.
During those 15 minutes, combine the berries and the remaining flour and sugar. Also, you may want to have a cup of tea, or check your social media.
When the timer alerts you that 15 minutes have passed, carefully slide the cake out of the oven, leaving the door ajar. Scatter the berries over the cake, evenly. (Discard any remaining flour mixture.
Carefully slide cake back into oven and continue baking it for another 15 minutes. Then turn cake around and back another 5 minutes, or until a cake tester (skewer, toothpick...) comes out clean from centre of cake.
Cool cake in the tin for 15 minutes. Then gently run a knife around the inside edge of the tin to make sure it is loose. Invert the cake over a rack and peel off the parchment.
Lay a flat serving plate on the bottom of the cake and carefully flip the cake once more, so that the berries are on top. Lovely.
Serve the cake warm (if, like us, you have been overwhelmed by buttery fumes and cannot help yourself) or at room temperature.
You could substitute buttermilk for the milk. You could also use other fruits: maybe fresh figs with orange instead of lemon, apricots with blackberries... Or you could leave the fruit out and enjoy a beautiful, simple lemon polenta cake.
Where did Cockermouth get its just-shy-of-rude name, you may wonder?
Simple, it’s situated just where the River Cocker flows into the River Derwent. The mouth of the River Cocker, said name apparently derived from a Celtic word for crooked. (As for whence it flows, there are four River Derwents in England. The others are in Yorkshire, Durham and Derbyshire. I’m sure this never causes confusion… )
So, off to Cockermouth I toodled this morning. It’s our closest town and I’m growing rather fond of it. I had a couple of appointments with an hour to fill between them, so decided to clock up a few steps and treat myself to something not baked in the Red AGA.
Cockermouth is a pretty market town, its shopping streets lined with a rainbow of old buildings, hanging baskets, and celebratory bunting. There are lots of independent shops and restaurants. They’ve struck a very happy medium between these smaller businesses and the larger chains, allowing Cockermouth to maintain choice and encouraging originality.
Did I mention that I intended to treat myself to something while out? I headed to the Coffee Kitchen, just off the beaten track. In truth, it’s not a very photogenic place, but the coffee and bread and lemon curd are delightful. (They have a bakery on the next street over, at which they offer baking classes. Interesting… )
I decide to break from my norm and choose a fruity flapjack with my coffee.
Here in England, a flapjack is sort-of like a granola bar which has gone to the buttery and sticky, chewy dark-side. Not health food: they are basically oats + butter + golden syrup + sugar. (Golden syrup, deliciousness that it is, deserves its own post.)
British friends, flapjacks are synonymous with American pancakes in the US. This may be helpful information when you’re ordering breakfast on holiday in the States.
I did somewhat regret not getting the toast and lemon curd which I previously relished. A bit too crumbly, and too sweet for me. Even with the coffee. Never mind, live and learn, my friends. Now I know.
With all of that caffeine and carbohydrate fuel, I power back up the street.
I wonder if the people who have lived here all their lives notice how pretty their shopping streets are?
The rainbow colours and Georgian fronts of some areas remind me very much of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC. I like this happy coincidence.
En route, I may have done a quick bit of window shopping.
I have a soft spot for tea cosies/cozies. Look at these handmade cuties in the window of the Percy House Gallery!
Thanks for joining me on my quick jaunt into town!
Today is Friday and, more importantly, it is National Cream Tea Day here in Britain. Though it is only a minor holiday, I feel that failing to celebrate it would be rude.
The precise origin of the cream tea is unknown and disputed, especially between the two most south-westerly counties in England, Devon and Cornwall. Historians in Devon claim to have found proof of monks serving bread with clotted cream and strawberry jam amongst the eleventh century manuscripts of Tavistock’s Benedictine Abbey. Definitive proof? I think not.
I’m of the mind that, in a land blessed with good dairy cream and glistening berries, the combination of baked goods with cream and preserved fruit was eaten long before someone thought to write down the fact.
Besides, look at the variations between cream teas: Whipped double cream or clotted cream? Fruited or plain scone? Jam first (Cornwall) or cream first (Devon)? What type of jam? Tea in cups or tea in mugs?
Oh my… There isn’t even agreement on how to pronounce the word ‘scone’. Should it rhyme with ‘gone’ or with ‘throne’? A study by Cambridge University tells us that if you’re from The North (orange) it’s the former, which is the pronunciation I notice used by most Cumbrians.
Some folk in Cornwall would say a cream tea should only be enjoyed with a traditional sweet bun called a Cornish Split, not a scone at all. (See! It’s almost as contentious as barbecue!)
At least aficionados can all agree on one thing – Cream Teas are delicious. Make that two things – it has to be served with tea. (This is where Tavistock’s 11th century claim really fails. No tea. Sorry, Devon.)
Syke Farm is a working farm in Buttermere, and is owned and run by a local family. At milking time you can watch the red-brown and white Ayrshire cows (of ice cream fame) going to the barn to be milked. And there are sure to be farm dogs around and about. Or sheep. Or chickens.
They offer seating inside and out. Today was a bit cloudy, so we chose inside and upstairs.
It has been a long week, and we’re ready for a relaxed bit of caloric intake!
Syke Farm Tearoom is dog friendly, has a wood-burning stove downstairs, and serves a good selection for breakfast, lunch and in-between times. And the ice cream selection is ever-changing and really good.
They’re often busy, but always friendly.
Ahhh, the cream tea. Not afternoon tea. That is an altogether different affair requiring dainty sandwiches and pastries. No, not today.
Today’s cream tea is a lightly fruited scone, clotted cream, raspberry jam, and a bright cup of loose-leaf tea.
Clotted Cream is made by heating whole milk, then letting it rest until cooled clots of cream collect on the surface and the liquid drains away. It’s considered clotted cream once there is a golden crust above and thick, silky cream below. You’ll find it rich and almost-buttery.
I do have a personal preference for my cream teas. Plain scone. Cream on bottom, if clotted, or on top, if whipped. As for jam I like something with a sweet-tartness, say damson or a sharp raspberry.
Personal partialities aside, both BB and I really enjoy the cream teas at Sykes Farm Tearoom. Especially when there is a sofa free to lounge upon, as we swirl the cares of the world away with tea and scones. Happy days.
Right. Cream tea enjoyed, now we’ve got to do a bit of moving about.