Saturday, 18 August 2012


I think we all seek approval at some point in our lives whether it be from our parents as we grow up, from our peers, a partner and even in the workplace.
For people that take a big chance on sinking all their money and life savings into a new venture, like a business, approval is paramount. Public reviews can make or break a business and in this age of internet it seems reviews are becoming increasingly popular. Ebay and Amazon, just 2 examples of public services that always ask you to rate your buying experience.
 Skylark Farm and The Farmhouse Cafe, at present, seems to be quite often under review on Trip Advisor.
I think the hardest thing about reviews is that what one person may really like another may really hate so how do you decide what to believe and what not to?
So far we have attained an 80% recommendation rate which is good though obviously 100% would be better! But i would like to share with you the review published today which, to me, seems to be someone with a nasty grudge rather than constructive criticism.

"This cafe is in an idyllic setting, overlooking rolling hills with chickens roaming free. Absolutely beautiful. This is where the dream ends...
The cafe, with it's stupid scrumptidious menus ( I hate the misuse of the English language in such a banal way) has sticky tables that need a good wipe as well as others that simply needed the dirty plates clearing away. My two friends an I had cream teas that consisted of stale, crumbly scones with whipped cream rather than clotted ( or even double) with a large pot of stewed tea served in dirty cups ( with lipstick on, yuck!!). We daren't complain as the lady in charge ( we think she was the owner, very large brown haired woman) was so harassed that she served us in a most aggressive manner. We felt very unwelcome and we were so looking forward to a quiet afternoon off work to forget our troubles that she completly spoilt it for us. The man who took our money at the till was, however, her polar opposite. We all agreed that we'd never return "

For me there was no need to describe the person you thought was the owner as " very large" and if the wording on the menu is not to your liking, then so what, you dont eat the wording!! Ignorance on what they were eating made me chuckle as they did indeed have clotted cream so they obviously arent the food connoisseur they believe themselves to be. Personally i am glad they have made the decision not to return but how demonstrative to this business, which is still in it's infancy, could the review possibly be?
On that note i would like to leave you with a better review and i chose this one mainly because of the title, "Oh what wonderful pies!!!!" (Like i said, we all like some approval!)

"I have been to the Skylark Restaurant and Farm Shop on more than one occasion - alone, as one half of a couple and with varying members of my Family too! The venue is lovely - simply furnished with good, wholesome freshly prepared food on offer all served by Friendly Folk. The menu does state that as the food is freshly prepared it can take a little time - especially when it's busy - to prepare - it isn't a fast food joint and doesn't pretend to be!!!!!!! But it's well worth a little wait and you can relax and enjoy the stunning views over rolling countryside till food arrives. The pies are 'proper' pies - packed with filing and all cooked encased in a light crisp pastry! The coffee is great too! All the food has been consistently good over the year I have been visiting and I really believe it's great value for money - I've been to far too many other places where similar or even higher prices are charged for Pre-packed, mass produced mush pretending to be good food! For 2 x2 courses and drink we average £30 and every time I go I 'm reminded why I may never set foot in a McDonalds or it's like again! "

Many thanks for popping by and taking time to read this post. Please feel free to comment at the end of it and just take time to think next time you review a product, or a service, of the consequences and effects your words have on the people you are reviewing.

Monday, 23 July 2012


After the success of my Strawberry and Chocolate Trifle i thought i would attempt another variation of the classic trifle dessert and so was invented "Sticky Toffee and Apple Trifle" this week at Skylark Farm.
Break up some sticky toffee sponge and put in the base of your glass. You can find the recipe for the sponge here . If you dont want to make the sponge then purchase some Jamaican Ginger Cake as that would taste great in it's place.
Chop a couple of cooking apples and put in a saucepan and cook til soft, then spoon over the sponge pieces.

Cover the apple mixture with my homemade toffee sauce, recipe can be found here
Leave to cool and set in the fridge. When set, pipe some whipped cream on the top,& maybe sprinkle some chocolate shavings for effect

All that's left now is to eat and enjoy!!

I'm entering this post in the weekly Handmade Monday link party over at Handmade Harbour.
 Pop over to see what other clever crafters have been up to this week.

Sunday, 8 July 2012


I never intended to become a chef when i was younger. Infact, i got unclassified in my cookery O level at school and trained as a nanny at college before realising that children actually really annoyed me!!!
To me, nowadays ,my job cooking is as much a handmade craft as is my hobby of sewing. Each dish i create contains as much passion, time and patience as any other craft.
Over the years my forte has become Handmade Pies. Infact it was one of my steak and ale pies that secured my job as head chef at Skylark Farm last year!!
So imagine my sense of pride this week when a lady popped into the cafe asking for 8 pies to take home to Oxfordshire with her and would pop into the local town to kill time whilst i cooked them for her.
And then, the following day, a very posh lady from the village came to see me with 2 large dishes. She was having a dinner party and could i make her 2 large pies , enough to feed 9 guests!
For me that was the best praise for my work that anyone could give and i was truely proud.

I now produce several pies per week for our farm shop.
Below are a batch of Chicken, Bacon and Leek straight from the oven. If you look closely you will see i even put a pastry chicken shape on top of each one.
And here are a batch of Steak and Ale. Look closely and see the pastry cow shape on!

So that's my week, now pop over to Handmade Monday blog hop to see what other passionate crafters have been up to this week

Sunday, 1 July 2012


It's that time of year again for tennis, strawberries and rain!!!
I have only been to Wimbledon once in my life and that was 28 years ago in my final days of school. I remember it well though. The sun shone and it was a scorcher. I wore sunglasses all day and ended up with a big ribbing from class mates for having "panda" eyes and we all got star struck seeing Cliff Richard watch Sue Barker play.
Ahh the good ole days! 
Nowadays I dont tend to take much interest in sport tho still enjoy a lovely bowl of strawberries and cream in summer.

This week one of our customers treated us to some strawberries that she had picked from a local farm. Sam said to me could i make something wonderful with them!! I dont quite know about wonderful but i could definately make something!

Just by chance we had made a chocolate sponge the day before that had broken in half as we tried to wrap it. So i broke it further into chunky pieces and put in the bottom of a sundae glass.
I then sliced the strawberries and put on top.
I  melted 200g plain chocolate in a pan and  slowly stirred in 150ml boiling water and 3 tbsps strawberry jam. Once all combined i poured over my strawberry/sponge and filled the glass. I put them to cool and set in the fridge.
When they had set i piped on some stiffly whisked double cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.

Comment of the day today from a customer was that "the trifle was to die for!"  How chuffed was i!!!
I'm entering this post into handmade monday blog link, why dont you pop along for a great read and creative inspiration!
Thanks for popping by.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


If you are of a certain age,  like myself, you will probably have grown up with the concept of Friday being fish day.
Before writing this post i googled Fish Friday to look at where it originated from. There seems to be lots of theories, all of which lead back to religious reasons, so probably best for me to stop my curiosity there!!
Now that Sunday Lunch at Skylark Farm seems to be quite well established my attention has turned to build regular "theme" days on our specials board to gain a more steady clientele through the week. A lot of food establishments these days offer deals, like 2 for 1 but we dont really want to go down that route and are looking to offer something a bit different.
So we have decided Friday will be fish day.
Each Friday you will always find scampi on the specials board and fresh beer battered cod, using local Nobby's Ale in the batter mix.

To add to these i will also be on the lookout each week for good, homemade, fish recipes so that the choice we offer will always be varied.
This week i journeyed back into The Hairy Bikers Perfect Pie book for inspiration and found this great recipe for Salmon,Dill and New PotatoTart.

The Hairy Bikers PERFECT PIES from Amazon

First job was to make some shortcrust pastry, roll and line my tart cases and bake blind.
Whilst they baked I boiled some new potatoes  until tender, then cut into thick slices.
When the pastry cases were baked I lay my potato slices within them and added flaked, raw salmon and finely chopped spring onions. I then snipped some fresh dill over the top.
Salmon,Dill And New Potato Tarts
 Beat together 200ml double cream,200ml creme fraiche and 3 large (beaten) eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture into each tart and return to the oven to bake for 35-40 mins on 170C/Fan 150C/Gas Mark 3.5 until the filling is just set and the top beginning to brown

Salmon,Dill And New Potato Tart.
Cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing and serving.
I would love to show you a photo after baking but like a numpty i let the battery in my camera run out!!
Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions of other tasty meals for Fish Friday and thank you for popping by.

Monday, 11 June 2012


SUNDAY ROAST is getting popular here at Skylark Farm and i like to keep as fresh with ideas for desserts as i can.
Having been given some soft lemons from the farmshop at the weekend i googled recipes with lemon in and came up with BANANA LEMON TART.

First thing needed is sweet shortcrust pastry.
*250g Plain Flour
*50g Icing Sugar
*125g Butter
*1 Large Free Range Egg (beaten)
*Splash Milk

Sieve the flour and sugar.
Rub in the butter.
Add the egg and milk to form a dough.
Wrap in clingfilm and rest for 1 hour in the fridge.
The lemon flavouring in the tart comes in the form of lemon curd so whilst the sweet pastry was chilling i popped over to one of my favourite blogs RosMadeMe where i knew Ros had a recipe for making lemon curd. You can find that recipe here
SO, having made my lemon curd i began on the tart.

First roll out the pastry dough and lay into a 9ins flan dish. Prick the bottom of the tart case. Bake blind on 160C (Fan Oven)/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10 minutes, then remove the paper and beans. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Spread 4Tbsps Strawberry Jam over the base of the pastry case.

Slice 3 Ripe Bananas and arrange evenly on the top.
Take your Lemon Curd from the chiller and measure out 5Tbsps.
Whisk in 2 beaten Free Range Eggs and 250g Creme Fraiche or Fromage Frais (entirely your preference).
Pour over the bananas.
Pop it back in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the filling is set and slightly browned.

Banana Lemon Tart

Leave to cool to room temperature before serving.
Once again i'm entering into Handmade Monday to see what the crafting community have been up to this week.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


WE use such a huge amount of bread at Skylark for our breakfasts each week that we end up with a pile of crusts from the ends of the loaves.
I tend to store them in the fridge for a week then process them into a big batch of breadcrumbs. I never realised until starting this job just how many things breadcrumbs can be used for. Our main use most weeks are for the sage and onion stuffing for Sunday lunch or our Homemade scotch eggs. Meatballs are a firm favourite too!

For our fruit crumbles i usually just make a topping from flour,sugar and rubbed in butter but this week discovered a new method using breadcrumbs so i decided to try it out and so glad i did.

Today the farm's shop had given me some soft strawberries, plums and peaches that couldnt be sold so i chopped them all up and put in a heatproof dish with a sprinkle of water and a shaking of sugar over the top. I put this in the oven for 10 minutes for the fruit to soften.
In a bowl i measured out 100g breadcrumbs, 100g oats, 100g sugar and then rubbed into the mixture 60g butter.
I took the fruit out of the oven and covered with my crumble topping and baked for a further 15 minutes.
Served with some gorgeous homemade custard this deliciously crunchy crumble sold on the specials board in no time at all!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


IT'S been a special weekend in the UK with the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations. On any royal occasion i always get a lump in my throat and a real sense of British pride when seeing The Mall, leading up to Buckingham Palace, packed with supporters.
The Mall on Diamond Jubilee Weekend

It wasnt such a big crowd at Skylark this weekend but we also celebrated a 60th occasion. The cafe was hired Saturday for it's first evening event, a 60th birthday party. The buffet was to be all handmade so it was a long day for me.
Buffet Food
I prepared 5 vegetable quiches, Scotch Eggs, my own square vol-au-vents (filled with prawns and coronation chicken) and sausage rolls.
Buffet Food
Wraps filled with ham and mustard mayonnaise, beef and horseradish mayonnaise, and cheese and farmhouse chutney.
Even homemade breaded mushrooms. Coleslaw and savoury rice accompanied the finger food.
Buffet Food

After the savouries we served homemade strawberry cheesecake, banoffee pie and chocolate orange trifle but unfortunately i didnt manage photos of these.
It was hard work but a successful evening and hopefully the first of many.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Malteser Tree

I'm rather proud of my youngest son.
He's one of those kids that excels in everything he does,and he DOES everything! Football,rugby,saxaphone, clarinet,golf,pool,snooker,fishing,scouts, to mention but a few.
 He also knows you have to work hard for things and since January has washed the plates and pots on a Saturday at Skylark Farm to earn his own money. Here he is on the right of the photo with one of my chefs.
Today he even came the other side of the kitchen as we were short staffed and i taught him the basics so he could help out.
So in the week when he asked me to help him make a malteser tree, similar to one my sister had made me at christmas,as a gift for his English teacher, who was leaving, i was happy to help.

We started with a terracotta pot and filled it with melted chocolate and put a stick in the middle topped with a polystyrene ball and left it to set.

We then poured some melted chocolate on the ball and stuck maltesers on it.
We carried on until the ball was covered.
We colured some fondant icing orange and green and made lots of flowers.
Which we stuck between the maltesers.
I tied some ribbon around the stick for decoration.
Made a gift tag.
And the end result, a gorgeous Malteser Tree.
His English teacher was extremely "touched" by the gesture and loved it.

I'm entering this post in this weeks Handmade Monday which can be found on Handmade Harbour blog organised by Wendy of 1st Unique Gifts.
 I'm off there now to see what other crafters have been up to this week.

Friday, 1 June 2012


We had a BBC camera crew in just over a week ago doing a feature on free range eggs and EU rules.
Here is my boss on the news

Unfortunately they didnt film the cafe so my 5 minutes of fame will have to wait!

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Oranges And Lemons  say the bells of St Clements.

Did you know this is a line from an old English nursery rhyme and singing game which refers to the bells of several churches, all within or close to the city of London? To see the full version of the rhyme take a look at Wikipedia
To me it refers to what i did with a box of fruit i was given today from the farm shop which was not good enough to be displayed on the shelf any more!
Oranges and Lemons

It was a very, very hot day and i remembered a recipe i had used once before to make old fashioned traditional lemonade and thought it would work just as well combining oranges and lemons to make a very refreshing St Clements drink.

1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Freshly Squeezed Orange And Lemon Juice
3-4 Cups Cold Water

Put 1 cup of water with the sugar in a pan and boil until all the sugar is dissolved and a syrup is formed. Add the juice and carry on boiling for a few minutes. Take the pan off the stove and add 3-4 cups of cold water, depending on how strong a flavour you prefer. Refridgerate until cold. Add lots of ice when serving for a very tasty refreshing fruit drink. Perfect for the extremely hot weather we are experiencing at the moment!

Skylark Homemade Orange And Lemon "St Clements" Drink
I obviously made this in a much larger quantity for the cafe. All in all we have sold 8 jugs of juice this weekend and lots of people have commented on how tasty it was, so go on give it a go!

This week i'm entering this post in Handmade Monday which can be found at Handmade Harbour and is organised by Wendy of 1st Unique Gifts in the hope that a few of you may be tempted to give the recipe a try.
I'm off there now to see what has been happening in the world of handmade this week.

Friday, 25 May 2012


Today saw the arrival of the new summer menu at the Farmhouse cafe.
Designed by Create-a-Brand  , a local marketing company, the menu has a warm feel to it with a large sunny egg on the front.
The breakfasts remain constant as always.
Skylark Farm Summer Menu
Teacakes and homemade scones are still there.

Lovely photos of the farmers breakfast and sunday roast.
Farmers Breakfast and Sunday Roast
Sandwiches now come with a flowerpot full of chunky chips and side salad.
Brie and Bacon Sandwich served with Flowerpot chips and Side Salad
And introducing the new summer salad.
Scampi Salad

Truely scrumptious in the heart of the beautiful Northamptonshire countryside. Hope to see you there soon.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


So the warm weather has finally arrived and the view from Skylark Fields Farmhouse Cafe is beautiful. What better way to spend your lunch break or day off than on our new picnic benches looking out over the yellow sun drenched Northamptonshire fields.
Our new menu is planned for the weekend too so it's hopefully going to be busy, busy, busy this weekend.
View From Skylark Fields Farm
 As the warmer weather comes many people like to have days out with picnics and what nicer picnic food than homemade Scotch Eggs. So easy to make and tasty either hot or cold.

So first hard boil your eggs. Put them in a pan of water, bring to the boil then time them for 10 minutes. Remove from the stove and run the cold water tap over them til cooled. Peel when cooled.

Hard Boiled Free Range Eggs

Wrap sausage meat around the eggs until you can see no white. It's a little fiddly but be patient.

Set out 3 bowls. One with seasoned plain flour, one with an egg and milk mixture ( i used 2 eggs and 1/4pint milk), and the 3rd with breadcrumbs.
Take each egg, roll in the flour then in the egg mixture, then cover with breadcrumbs.
Deep fry for 5 minutes at 170C. Then finish off in the oven at 160C for a further 15 minutes to ensure the sausage meat is cooked through.
Leave to cool for your picnic lunch or serve for tea with chips and beans. If you've never tasted hot scotch eggs before i recommend you try them as they taste lush!!
Scotch Eggs
*TOP TIP* Once you have mastered these have a go at curried scotch eggs by adding some curry paste and mango chutney to the sausage meat before wrapping it around your egg. A taste sensation!!

Thanks for popping by.