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Christmas recipes with a twist

Sam Bertram

6 November 2018

We spoke to The Wiltshire Liqueur Company’s Tiffinie Pride about her favourite recipes & cocktails using her liqueurs, and why we should be stocking up for Christmas. Why should we be buying your liqueurs? ‘They are incredibly versatile – they are great on their own but also brilliant as a basis for cocktails and in cooking. We have lots of cocktail and recipe ideas on our website - they’re perfect to keep drinks and food interesting through the festive season. My favourite cocktail is one I conceived after a hard day’s slog in the office. It’s still my go to drink after a long day.  ‘Damson in Distress’ has Damson Vodka, Ginger Ale and Ice and if I’m feeling flush I add a mint leaf. My favourite recipe is a bit summery but it’s just so delicious I have to share. At a fair someone once told me they mix Blood Orange with Olive Oil and mustard to make a salad dressing. We’ve eaten it with fresh peas, mozzarella and Parma ham and it is so yummy.  Perfect for dinner parties as a light starter. Craft is a bar in Greenwich in London that stock our liqueurs. They make a delicious cocktail called SE10 made up of our Wild Strawberry, Gin, honey and black pepper. It is amazing!’ What should we be cooking up for Christmas? ‘Christmas cake soaked in Blood Orange rather than brandy is so good. People are starting to make their Christmas cakes at this time of year so if you’re looking to do something different this could be the answer. You just feed your cake with Blood Orange in the same way you would with brandy. We’ve also got a great Nigel Slater recipe on the website.  Pheasant and Sloe Gin – really good and perfect with the shooting season upon us, and lots of winter entertaining to be done. On Christmas day serve any of our liqueurs with Champagne.  We have a name for every combination – Sloepagne, Damshame, Bloodyfizz & Chamberry. And it doesn’t just have to be Christmas day it could be Christmas Eve or Boxing Day or indeed any time you’re drinking during the festive season! Another Christmassy treat is Sloe Gin or Blood Orange chocolate truffles. Really yummy and they make great homemade presents to thank someone for their hospitality or serve with coffee. I’m thinking of having a gift box at fairs which has some small liqueur bottles and truffles. So if you see me at any fairs please do ask about them and tell me what you think.  Everything else is available to buy online so you can get it anytime and even better the price includes postage and packaging. There’s no excuse for not getting creative in the kitchen this season!’ And Christmas Gifts? ‘All our full size bottles can be ordered online and have personalised labels at no extra cost. We’ve had some funny requests for labels. The one that sticks in my mind the most is ‘Kevin loves pink ponies’. I didn’t like to delve too deep about what that was about! Most people put a name and there are lots of puns on the word sloe ‘for your Sloe investment’ or ‘Drink it Sloe-ly’.  Our gift packs of smaller bottles are only available at fairs. We can be found at Marlborough Feast of Food, Beaufort Hunt, Highclere Castle and a couple of school Christmas fairs like Pinewood and St Francis in Pewsey. Check our website to see where else we’ll be. Our liqueurs are also extremely popular for corporate gifts. You could give every employee a bottle with their name on the label – we’ve done that in the past and it went down a storm. Or give them to clients with your company name on the label or a cracking phrase to show your creativity! http://www.wiltshireliqueur.com/  

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Nordic Walk & get ski fit

Sam Bertram

7 September 2017

The start of the school year signals change for not only the young but for everyone. September is the new ‘New Year’ when we re-access priorities and think about our work, life balance and wellbeing. We spoke to Ashley Sandy of Nordic Walking with Ashley to find out why Nordic Walking is becoming such a popular form of exercise. So, what’s so great about Nordic Walking? ‘The best part of Nordic Walking is that we exercise outside. We live in such a beautiful part of the county and there are such a variety of places to walk. One of my walkers, who recently moved to the area, said she hadn’t realised how beautiful this area is. Nordic walking helped her discover places she would never have found on her own. Even people who’ve lived here for ages are surprised by the new places we visit. People love the fact that it’s extremely social and that brings them back time after time. There aren’t that many exercises where you can socialise at the same time. I teach people how to Nordic Walk and, more often than not, people come back and walk with the groups rather than go off on their own. It’s so much fun and many of my walkers have made friendships for life with lots of great connections being made.  It’s great for both toning and cardio. We do different kinds of walks – some short and fast paced and others longer while keeping up a good pace to get the best workout.  Using poles utilises upper body muscles you wouldn’t normally use and help you keep a good posture. If you have injuries you can really benefit from walking with poles. Another lady in my group broke her back and Nordic Walking has really improved her fitness and movement in her lower back. If you have hip or knee issues poles help take the weight off them.  And finally, it’s great for all ages.  I’m looking at doing some more intense hour sessions to suit those who don’t have the time for something longer.’ Which are your favourite walks? ‘I absolutely love Avebury – I’ve got several walks in that area including ones to the Valley of the Stones and Fyfield Downs. Pewsey Vale is also fabulous – I love walking from Knapp Hill to Martinsell – the views are spectacular. Although views are incredibly rewarding I also love the walks in the forests of Savernake and West Woods. There are so many wonderful trees. Walking on the canal from Wilton to Great Bedwyn and up to The Brails is lovely and we always find a good spot for coffee!’ Tell us about the ski fit training you’re planning ‘So many of us never get ski fit, but you can really minimise the thigh burn if you do some preparation before your ski holiday. ‘Nordic Walking UK have a specific ski fit training programme so I’m planning some sessions. They will be an hour of outdoor circuit training - possibly a six-week programme in the run up to Christmas and one after Christmas. The training focuses on strength, balance and posture. We will use poles, bands and there will be some basic Nordic walking training. I’d love to hear from people on what times suit best.  I’m thinking of straight after school drop off – around 9.30 but open to suggestions - please get in touch if you’re interested.’ http://www.ashleysandy.com  

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Quintessentially English accessories

Sam Bertram

4 August 2017

Picture it – the breakfast table laid with stunning plates & cups with the smell of fresh coffee & bacon wafting through the air. A scene where Dragonfly & Blossom’s beautiful illustrated fine bone china and fabric home accessories would feel right at home. We talked to founder Sarah Holton from her home in Malmesbury to find out more about her gorgeous range of products for the home. Tell us briefly about the inspiration behind your range of home accessories ‘With a background in arts, graphic design and brand management I always wanted to make a quality product that’s not only made locally but the best it can be.  Originally from Gloucestershire, the countryside has always been a major part of my life. My illustrations are inspired by nature – whether it’s the insect range featuring bees, dragonflies, ladybirds or butterflies or the countryside collection including hares, stags, chickens & pheasants.  I wanted to create a distinct understated quality brand, with broad appeal, so all my illustrations are black on white.  I’ve always enjoyed pencil drawing which is perfect for my products. I started with fine bone china (mugs, teacups, bowls, plates, jugs & jam pots) but have since added candles, fabric accessories (lampshades, cushions & noticeboards) and more recently notebooks & box files.’ You mention some new products – tell us about those  ‘The most recent addition to my range is a bigger farmyard mug where I’m donating 10% of all product sales to Jamie’s Farm, a charity enabling disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally. The mug is not only bigger than previous mugs, but is the first design to deviate from the black illustration on white. It’s on a grey background, features pigs, cows and geese, is fun and perfect for morning coffee! I’ve introduced the grey background to other products too. It’s on the new notebooks and box files which are hand finished, and on the aprons, tea towels, book bags and gift wrap. All our new products have been launched in the most popular design – the bee & hare. With the aprons and tea towels it’s not always practical to have a clean white design so the grey background offers a more user-friendly solution. We’ve also introduced a range of greeting cards & doorstops. There are new additions to our fine bone china range too with tea bag tidies and spoon rests. We launched them at the Cotswold Show recently and they went down a storm.’ What’s next for Dragonfly & Blossom ‘The exciting part is the brand is starting to get recognised and known. At the Cotswold Show so many people came in to give us some wonderful feedback on our products. I love shows as that’s when you get to meet your customers and see people’s reactions. We’re always looking to introduce new products & ideas. Our next stop is Christmas when we’re going to launch some gift collections. If you’ve got any ideas of what you’d like to see please let us know.’  http://www.dragonflyandblossom.co.uk

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2017 bucket list

Sam Bertram

4 January 2017

Here’s our suggestions on some resolutions & what you should be aiming to see & do in 2017 to make the most of this beautiful county. Plan for one a quarter and you’ll find it incredibly achievable and rewarding! 1. Our environment is in a fragile state but it’s not that hard to all do our bit to help. Local Devizes company Meadow in my Garden make wild flower seed mixes that encourage pollinators to gardens and sell animal homes for some of our precious wildlife. You don’t need to have a big garden for wild flowers & they not only look stunning but also help our busy bees, butterflies and ladybirds. They’re also looking for volunteers to help fill public spaces with wild flowers. Get in touch if you think you can help. 2. Look at your grocery list and think what you can source locally – there’s so much fabulous food & drink available right here in Wiltshire. Visit your local butcher or deli or become a regular at a Wiltshire Farmers Market so that local always makes its way onto your table. If you feel like a tipple look no further than The Wiltshire liqueur Company – also fabulous ingredients for any recipe. It not only supports your local economy but when it hasn’t travelled it’s better for the environment and tastes better too! 3. Experience some of the amazing pubs & restaurants in the county - It’s important to support your local pub & restaurant, but once in a while it’s worth going further afield.  In Wiltshire we have The Good Food Guide’s best dining pub in the country - The Michelin Starred Red Lion, East Chisenbury.  Recently shortlisted in the top 3 for Wiltshire life’s best pub in the county is The Swan in Enford. Don't miss The Three Tuns, Great Bedwyn described by Tom Parker Bowles as ‘Three steps to foodie heaven’, The George & Dragon in Rowde with their fabulous seafood & rustic luxurious rooms with a touch of Soho House, AP McCoy’s pub The Outside Chance, The Michelin starred Harrow at Little Bedwyn which has been AA and Decanter’s Restaurant of the Year amongst other accolades, and The Pear Tree in Purton, The Good Hotel Guide’s Best Country Hotel in 2015. For a casual lunch try the lovely Sticks & Stones in their lifestyle shop in Woodborough. 4. Regular bracing walks are a great way to stay fit. Visit a new part of the Wiltshire countryside & walk somewhere new – there are stunning walks from the North Wessex Downs to the Nadder Valley. Our members have lots of top tips on things to do – whether it’s walking the ancient Ridgeway, a dog walk on Old Drover's Road, an invigorating walk across Salisbury Plain or a walk on the Roman Road in Grovely Woods or around Fonthill Lake near Tisbury you’ll be pleased you ventured there.  5. Look after yourself. We’re launching a wellbeing section in a couple of weeks time so keep an eye out but in the meantime if you’re keen to eat better (not less but just more of the right kind of food) Love Food has fabulous nutritional cookery courses which teach you how to eat well and feel good and are bound to set you on the right track. 6. Make it to at least one of Wiltshire’s events or festivals. Racehorses have been trained in Wiltshire for over a Century so have fun watching Barbury Races – a great day out for all the family. Kick off your shoes at a music festival or there are plenty of Arts Festivals around the county - Salisbury, Trowbridge & Devizes and fabulous theatre at Illford Arts Festival near Bradford on Avon. Marlborough have a literature festival & there are plenty of Food & Drink Festivals throughout the summer. See our events calendar. 7. Take in one of our national treasures – Stourhead near Mere is the second most visited National Trust Property. However, there are plenty more to choose from – Avebury (the ‘better’ stone circle), Lacock Abbey, Wardour Castle near Tisbury, Great Chalfield Manor and Garden (featured in ‘Wolf Hall’), The Courts Garden in Holt or Old Sarum near Salisbury.  And don’t forget the marvellous Salisbury Cathedral and Malmesbury Abbey or Castle Combe, said by many to be the prettiest village in England or The Merchant's House in Marlborough to see how a wealthy 17th Century Merchant would have lived. 8. Learn something new - how often do you wish you could do something better? There are plenty of places offering courses – Marlborough College Summer School has every course you can imagine and it’s a fun way to spend a week. Wagon Yard Artists have fantastic ceramic courses and Delushious Home Comforts in Devizes offers cookery courses for adults & children. 9. Don’t always default to Amazon – if you’re looking for a gift or new items for the home stop and think if you could buy from a small local company.  You’ll be amazed at the unique things available as well as how affordable they are too.  We have lots of gift ideas for both him and her so check those out before going global!  And lots of ideas for the home too. 10. Finally Christmas isn’t the only time to look after your loved ones. Contact and visit them regularly. Everyone loves to receive a card and Simply Bluebell does wonderful greeting cards by local rural artists. Receiving flowers puts a smile on everyone’s face and Pod & Pip do wonderful natural flowers with handwritten note that can be sent anywhere in the UK. Here's to a fabulous 2017!

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