May 2019

Illustration

The BIG news on the illustration front was my attendance at the ‘turn the page‘ Artists’ Book Fair in The Forum in Norwich on the 17th and 18th of the month. It proved to be a huge incentive to finish my two latest pop-up books – ‘British Butterflies’ and ‘Tulips’ But this month I thought I’d talk about the inspiration for a couple of my little concertina books – ‘Flowers for Butterflies’ and ‘Flowers for Bees’ shown on the nearer part of my stall.

It started at the end of the second year in my Illustration degree at the Norwich University of the Arts when we were given a project on reportage. I know we were meant to go out into the vast outdoors and draw in public but, being a very shy illustrator, I choose to interpret the brief as being outside – but in my garden.

I didn’t enjoy the experience; I recall writing in my sketchbook: “I’m sitting on a small, uncomfortable stool feeling hot and bothered. Greenfly keep landing on the page and I’m hating working outside in the sunshine”. However, all that changed when I started drawing the plants that bees were visiting and then, as often happens, an idea emerged. I drew the plants that were growing in a line at the edge of the patio, photocopied it several times and then plotted on the paths taken by various visiting bees.

Several years on, it lead me to experimenting with this horizontal format in a book all about flowers that attract bees to your garden. Below is the very first draft. I’d actually only folded some paper to mock-up the possible dimensions for the book, but then couldn’t resist inking in some flowers, and then adding a splash of colour. I undertook a bit more research into the actual flowers to include before producing the final books. And if you’re interested in planting flowers to attract butterflies and bees to your garden take a look at my blogs for December 2017 where I give the botanical name for each of the plants in the books so you know what to look for at your local garden centre.

Gardening

May is such a wonderful time in the garden, with so many plants bursting into leaf and flower. I love the play of light on the garden, throwing plants into sunlit contrast against other shaded areas.

I’m delighted with how established this area of the garden is looking as it was only added a couple of years ago. And, of course, the bees love all those alliums.

And continuing my suggestions for plants for shady areas, I’m a huge fan of the white version of camassia. They are actually a very subtle shade of off-white and perform beautifully in the shade. Flowering a week or two later than the blue version, their flowers seem to last much longer and they have such a delicate, starry appearance.

Recipes

This is the quintessentially British cake for afternoon tea in the garden. It’s one of my tried-and-tested super-easy loaf tin recipes that you can whisk up in moments. I like to make it the day before so that the flavours have a chance to all melt together. Don’t expect it to have the ‘high rise’ of modern sponge cakes with their layers of icing. This old-fashioned recipe produces a cake which may look more modest but more than makes up for it with its wonderfully dense texture and delicious taste – the perfect partner with a cuppa!

Cherry & Almond Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients

150g self-rising flour
125g glacé cherries, quartered*
125g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
125g soft butter or baking margarine
2 medium eggs
1 tsp almond extract
25g flaked almonds

You will need

a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas 3.
  • Lightly grease and line the loaf tin or use a non-stick liner.
  • Mix the flour and quartered cherries together in a bowl, stirring to ensure the cherries are all coated with flour, and then tip into a sieve.  Sift the flour into a mixing bowl retaining the cherries in the sieve.  Set these aside to fold into the cake mixture later.
  • Add all the other ingredients (except the flaked almonds) to the flour and beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for one minute.  Fold in the cherries ensuring they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Sprinkle the flaked almonds across the top and bake for about 60 minutes until the cake is well risen and springs back when the surface is lightly pressed with a finger.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.

*  If you have time, rinse the syrup from the glacé cherries and dry thoroughly before quartering.  This really helps ensure the cherries are evenly distributed throughout the cake.

Until June….

April 2019

Illustration

Its full steam ahead on making my handmade books in anticipation of the turn the page artists’ book fair which is taking place in the Forum, Norwich on Friday the 17th and Saturday the 18th May, 10.00am – 5.00pm each day. To read more about the event and other participating book artists click on the link turn the page.

I’m delighted to announce that my new ‘Tulips’ book will be launched at the event, along with my new ‘British Butterflies’ book. Both books feature my watercolour illustrations, calligraphy and, of course, pop-ups.

Both my new pop-up books will then be available in my online Etsy shop The Museum Shelves after the event.

Gardening

I’m delighted that so many tulips have made it through the Winter and have re-emerged this Spring. The bulbs in the ‘Jewel Garden’ seem to be doing particularly well – perhaps it was all that sunshine and dry weather we had last Summer?

Recipes

If you want a really easy to make fruit scones that have the wow factor then give my scone recipe a go. They’ve been designed to look like the ones you get in the National Trust tearooms and they’re super easy as you melt the butter and then stir it in rather than having to rub it into the flour like more traditional recipes. And the secret to such high rise success? Roll the dough out nice and thick (about 3cm) and then invest in a deep pastry cutter!

Fruit Scones

Makes 6-7 large scones 

100g unsalted butter
350g self-raising white flour
50g self-raising wholemeal flour
75g caster sugar
75g sultanas
150ml semi-skimmed milk

You will need

1 baking sheet
butter for greasing
7cm plain or fluted cutter

  • Gently melt the butter (either in a small pan or in the microwave) and set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and lightly grease the baking sheet with butter.
  • Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder together into a mixing bowl, add the wholemeal flour and sugar and stir to mix. 
  • Make a well in the centre of the dried ingredients and add the melted butter.  Use a flat-bladed knife to mix the melted butter into the dried ingredients. Stir in the sultanas.
  • Gradually add the milk, using just enough to make the scone mixture hold together – you want a soft but not sticky dough.
  • Lightly bring the dough together with floured hands and turn it out onto a floured surface.  Gently roll the dough (or pat it with your hands) to 3cm thick.  Cut out the scones with the 7mm cutter and place them on the baking sheet.  Lightly knead the remaining dough together and repeat the process.
  • Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until well risen and golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool briefly.
  • These are delicious warm.  If they’re not going to be eaten on the day they are baked they can be frozen as soon as they are totally cool and then taken out and thawed when required.

Until May….

March 2019

Illustration

How my books look when they come from the printers.

My ‘Tulips’ book back from the printers. The first set of four have been made and are under my pressing boards. Now busy making the next set of four.

The roll from the printer cut into individual books ready for concertina folding.

Gardening

I’d not really come across species tulips until researching for my latest pop-up artists’ book. These charming Tulipa turkestanica are multi-headed and start to flower by mid-March.

Recipes

Everyone says how chocolate-y this cake tastes yet, surprisingly, it’s made with cocoa powder and evaporated milk! These ingredients combine to produce a deliciously moist cake that would be perfect for Easter decorated with mini chocolate eggs.  

Easy 2lb Loaf Tin Chocolate Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients

6 tbsp evaporated milk
25g cocoa, sifted
125g self rising flour, sifted
125g caster sugar
125g soft butter or baking margarine (I like to use Stork)
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Fudge Icing

25g butter or margarine
125g icing sugar, sifted
15g cocoa, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp evaporated milk

You will need

a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper
Smarties, white chocolate buttons, etc (optional)

Method

  • In a small saucepan, heat the evaporated milk until hot.  Stir in the sifted cocoa and allow to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  • Lightly grease and line the loaf tin – or simply pop in a liner.
  • Place all the remaining cake ingredients into the bowl adding the cooled cocoa mixture.
  • Beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for 2 minutes then turn into the tin and level the surface.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes until well risen and the surface springs back when the surface is lightly pressed with a finger.  
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then remove it and stand on a cooling rack.
  • When the cake is cold, melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan.  Remove from heat and stir in the remaining icing ingredients.  Beat until smooth and thick.
  • Spread on top of the cake using a palette knife.  Decorate with Smarties, white chocolate buttons or other fun decoration, if using.

Recipe © Carol Kearns  

Until April….

February 2019

Illustration

I’m delighted to have found a local printer to produce some greetings cards for me. These tea and biscuit themed cards, along with a Painted Lady butterfly printed card are now available from my online shop The Museum Shelves  along with my handmade pop-up/3-D butterfly cards.

In the meantime, I’ve almost finished the illustrations for my ‘Tulips’ pop-up book and am about to start on the calligraphy. Once that’s done, I’ll have time to start making up my ‘British Butterflies’ pop-up book which I collected from the printers in January!

Gardening

I’m often asked to recommend plants for shade. This sweet scented shrub is a great choice being trouble free, evergreen – and scented! Furthermore, these flowers are out at a time of year when their modest floral display isn’t overwhelmed. A single sprig, if brought indoors, will perfume a room wonderfully. Known as sweet-scented box or Christmas box, Sarococca hookeriana looks good throughout the year.

I plant most of my crocus bulbs where they’ll get plenty of sunshine so that the beautiful colouring on the inside of the petals is revealed as the flowers open in the light. However, these ‘Cream Beauty’ bulbs from The Clare Bulb Company happily flower each year in quite considerable shade, their pale colour glowing in the gloom.

Finally, some early flowering irises. Iris reticulata ‘Pauline’ is a bulb, again purchased from the Clare Bulb Company, that produces lovely, dramatic early colour. I first encountered the pale blue versions of these early flowering irises in the gardens of Anglesey Abbey but I particularly liked this dramatic purple version.

Recipes

Hooray, I’ve at last worked out how to set up an index for my recipes – look for it in the menu. I’ll be gradually populating it as I post the recipes in my Blog. This month I’m re-issuing the recipe for Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake as it was one of the recipes requested from my ‘The Art of Baking’ website – and has been described as “the best lemon drizzle cake ever!”. I think it’s perfect for this time of year when citrus flavours work particularly well.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

(makes 8-10 slices)

Ingredients

175g self-rising flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
finely grated rind of 1 large of 1 1⁄2 smaller lemons
125g soft butter or baking margarine
2 medium eggs
1 tsp lemon extract
2 tbsp milk

For the topping

juice of 1 large or 1 1⁄2 smaller lemons
75g granulated sugar

You will need

a 2lb / 900g loaf tin
non-stick liner or butter and greaseproof paper a cocktail stick

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.
  • Lightly grease and line the loaf tin or use a non-stick liner.
  • Measure all the cake ingredients into the bowl, sifting the flour and baking powder in together.
  • Beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the mixture into the tin and level the surface.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes until the cake is well risen and springs back when the surface is lightlypressed with a finger.
  • While the cake is baking, mix the topping ingredients together.
  • As soon as the cake is taken out of the oven, deeply prick the top all over with the cocktail stick andspoon the topping evenly over the surface.
  • Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

January 2019

A new year, and a new format. In 2019 I’m going to use my blog to write a monthly newsletter with a catch up on what’s happening in the studio, the garden and the kitchen, so here goes….

Illustration

Tulips in the style of the tulip illustrations in the Rare Books Collection, John Innes Centre, Norwich
Copyright: Carol Kearns, 2019

The exciting news for January is that I’ve been accepted by Turn the Page, a book art event and so will be in The Forum in Norwich on the 17th and 18th May with my handmade artists’ books. It’s certainly given me a boost to crack on with my ‘Tulips’ book. Inspired by the Rare Books Collection at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and the exquisite tulip illustrations that I’ve seen there this book will feature the tulips that I grow in my garden. The image is the first of my illustrations and is for the title page of the book.

I finished the illustrations and calligraphy for my ‘British Butterflies’ pop-up book – the fourth of my pop-up books – just before Christmas and sent it off to the printers at the start of the year. It’s now all cut out and I’m just waiting for a moment so that I can fold the pages and ‘engineer’ the pop-ups and make the first of the books. Inspired by the JL Moore Lepidoptera Collection at Norwich Castle Museum, the book contains this illustration of a Swallowtail Butterfly. When living in Cranworth, in Norfolk I came across a vivid green marshmallow of a caterpillar little realising at the time that it would turn into such a wonderful, rare butterfly.

Swallowtail Butterfly and Caterpillar Copyright: Carol Kearns, 2019

Gardening

January can seem a very quiet month in the garden. I’m still waiting for the snowdrops to open, although the weather’s been so mild. I’m keeping a record of what flowers are in bloom each month as I’m planning on producing a Florilegium, or collection of flower illustrations. In the meantime, these early crocuses are braving the snowflakes that fell earlier today.

Copyright: Carol Kearns, 2019

I’m looking forward to a few days of sunshine when these lovely flowers will open up and provide nectar for any early bees that are about.

Copyright: Carol Kearns, 2019

Recipes

I’ve now added a ‘Recipes’ page on my website where there will be a quick link to all the recipes I post on my Blog. The next step will be to add all the previous recipes – I’m working on it! In the meantime, I’m typing this while two oranges are boiling away ready to make the Orange and Dark Chocolate Flapjack, the first of the recipes to make it to the new web page. In the meantime, I’ve discovered this recipes makes a wonderful pudding if served with a dollop of (half-fat) crème fraîche.

Orange & Dark Chocolate Flapjack Copyright: Carol Kearns, 2019

The recipe is made using a 20cm (8″) square loose-bottomed brownie tin. As readers of my former column in the Norfolk Magazine will know, I heartily dislike having to buy lots of different sized baking tins, so look out for future traybake recipes using this sized tin.

All the best until February…..