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Essentially England News, June 2010 - The Essence of an English Summer
June 28, 2010

The Essence of an English Summer

A cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month! Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

England in June – there’s simply nowhere like it! Long balmy evenings, strawberries and cream, Muse and the Editors at Glastonbury, epic Wimbledon … even the football can’t spoil what’s turning into a wonderful summer.

What's New at Essentially England?

We had a great week exploring Lincolnshire by tandem. Actually, I feel as if I ate my way round the county! There’s plum bread and haslet and stuffed chine and Lincolnshire Poacher (cheese) and more fresh vegetables than you can throw a frying pan at. Look out for reports on all of these in the new Lincolnshire section of the site, which should go live in a week or two.

Have you ever watched Mr Bean, the Vicar of Dibley, Red Dwarf or Blackadder? If you have, then you’ve also come across the music of Howard Goodall. As well as film and TV scores he writes the most beautiful choral music – and I was given an opportunity to ask him a few questions. I found his answers very interesting, so I’ve posted the Howard Goodall interview in the music section of the site.

And in case you hadn’t noticed yet, there’s a new section on the site called All About England. Here you can ask England questions, share photos, recipes and travel stories, recommend your favourite English company or product and check out the latest deals and special offers.

Travel Tips and Reviews

England’s main holiday season is all but upon us, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has their holiday plans all laid out. There’s still time to rent a holiday cottage or book a tour and here are a couple of pages that might help you make your mind up:
  • Places to Stay in England has listings of holiday cottages in various counties and some stunning hotels

  • In the England holidays section you can find reviews and ideas for great England holidays.

  • If you like to explore by bike, then check out these self-guided cycling tours.

  • And finally, here’s something really special. Check out this luxurious, all-inclusive tour of Northumberland. Whether you like to trace your family tree, explore Roman remains, stay in a castle or admire the architecture of a Norman cathedral – this holiday fits the bill. It also has lots of glorious landscape, miles of empty beaches and even professional entertainment!

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

Summer is always a wonderful time in England, with lots of fairs and festivals. But there are also some rarer events that make the most of the season and ensure that you bring home memories that are quite out of the ordinary.

If you love history then you should make your way to Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire on July 17th and 18th for the Festival of History, the biggest historical festival in Europe! No matter whether your favourite period is Roman or Medieval or if you’d rather admire WWII tanks, the Festival of History covers the lot, plus lots more besides. Get details and tickets here…

Eltham Palace is a bit of English eccentricity: a medieval palace refurbished in the most delicicious Art Deco style. And on July 7th (and September 1st) you can enjoy a specialist guided Art Deco tour. Booking is essential, so make sure you don’t lose out. (And if medieval history is more your thing, there will be medieval guided tours of Eltham in August and October)

And, of course, there are plenty of Food Festivals to choose from: there’s the Chertsey Black Cherry Fair, the Whitstable Oyster Festival, and – for those who love the stuff – the Pontefract Liqorice Festival on July 11th.

Recipe of the Month - Decadent Strawberry Dessert

I’ve read that it was Cardinal Wolseley, of Tudor fame, who first thought of serving strawberries and cream to his guests. I’ve no idea if that’s true or not, but at any rate the man had good taste.

This little recipe turns strawberries and cream in to a very decadent looking, tasty dessert. Just the thing to impress the in-laws or serve to friends at the end of a lazy summer lunch out in the garden.

The dessert consists of shortbread, strawberries and cream, cunningly arranged in layers. The only thing that needs cooking here is the shortbread. And I suppose you could cheat and use some you’ve bought earlier. But it’s really not difficult to make yourself.


  • 235g / 9 oz plain flour
  • 160g / 6 oz unsalted butter
  • 10g / 1/3 oz cornflour
  • 60g / 2 ˝ oz caster sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz together. Don’t overmix the dough. It’s better to finish it off by hand. Wrap the dough into cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 170C / 325F / Gas 3.

Roll out the shortbread dough to about ˝ cm thickness and stamp out rectangles (2 per person). Be careful! The dough will be rather crumbly.

Place the shortbreads carefully onto a greased baking tray and cook for 10-12 mins or until golden.

Leave to cool.

To Serve:
Allow two shortbread rectangles per person. Plus as many strawberries as you have and a couple of good dollops of cream.

Place a shortbread rectangle on a plate and cover with halved strawberries. Add a dollop of cream and place another rectangle of shortbread on top. Sit whole strawberries, point up, all over the shortbread and pipe or dollop cream between them.

Dust with sugar, decorate with mint leaves and serve.

In the last newsletter I posted a recipe for Northumbrian Girdle Cakes. One of our subscribers, Mary from the US, has contacted me to point out that if you make the cakes with self-raising flour as sold stateside, they come out rather salty. If you find that this is the case, either omit the salt from the recipe or use plain flour and a teaspoon of baking powder to make the mixture. And very many thanks to Mary for pointing that out!

And Next Month …

Watch out for the all-new Lincolnshire section, plus lots of ideas for family days out in the holidays…

Until then, keep well and think of England…

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