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1st Anniversary Post

Today is the first anniversary of my blog. I would like to thank you all for reading my blog during the previous year, and for all your kind comments, which I’ve found so encouraging.  I had considered a virtual afternoon tea party, but instead, to celebrate the occasion, I thought instead we might share some English apples, and maybe, after we’ve sampled some Devonshire Quarrendens and a few early season Discovery, we might have room for toffee apple cake with, of course, Devonshire cream.

I confess to having bought the green apples you can see in the bowl above simply because I knew they would look pretty in this bowl – a good enough reason, I think!   And in this there is a story:  I bought the bowl many years ago in an antiques’ shop in Totnes.  I had seen it in the shop window over a period of several weeks, its price far too much for me to afford.  But I was patient.  Not everyone likes a bright pink lustre bowl, and sure enough, as the weeks passed, the bowl was still there and, gradually, the price was reduced until, eventually, it was a price I could afford, so I bought it.  It is a piece of Fielding’s Crown Devon ware, and I love it.

I’m a little early in celebrating apples, but on 21st October it will be Apple Day here in England.  The day is also Trafalgar Day, in celebration of the victory by Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson over the combined navies of France and Spain at the Battle of Trafalgar.  So,  if we have a glass of apple juice or Calvados on that day, we might raise our glasses first to Lord Nelson (unless, of course, you are French or Spanish!) and also to the apple.

If you have read my previous post about Riverford Field Kitchen, you might remember my husband and my visit to the farm shop where I bought a selection of apples.  One variety was the Devonshire Quarrenden, and it just so happens that in the October 1986 issue of Country Living magazine there was an illustration of this apple (I had cut it from the magazine and slipped it inside a favourite *apple book.)  This apple was first recorded as long ago in Devon as 1678 and it has been grown in the county since then as it tolerates our higher-than-average rainfall.  According to that article in Country Living, “it is an early season apple with shining crimson skin and crisp, juicy flesh of distinctive flavour, and a parent of the well-known Worcester Pearmain.”

The *apple book I have mentioned is one of my favourite books:

Roseanne Sanders is a botanical artist and this book, published in 1988 in association with the Royal Hortoicultural Society, is a glorious celebration of this fruit.

You feel you could pick the apples off the page, they are so beautifully painted, with their leaves and their blossom.  The book has 288 illustrations, 122 of them in colour.

All the paintings are delicate watercolours, and opposite the paintings are descriptions of the apples.  The book also has an essay on apple growing by Harry Baker (then) fruit officer at the RHS and one of Britain’s foremost authorities on apple growing.

Surprisingly, this most English of fruits actually comes from the Tien Shan Mountains, between China and Kazakhstan.  I have read that it is likely that apples gradually spread into Europe through the Middle East, and several manuscripts from ancient Greece refer to apples and describe apple orchards.

The Wars of the Roses and the Black Death led to a decline in the production of both apples and pears in England until Henry VIII instructed his fruiterer, Richard Harris, to identify an introduce new varieties, which were planted in his orchard in Kent.

For those unfamiliar with English history, the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487) were a series of battles between two rival factions of the Royal House of Plantagenet, the House of Lancaster (the Red Rose) and the House of York (the White Rose).  The final victory went to Henry Tudor, from the House of Lancaster, and he eventually became King Henry VII.  The Black Death (1346-1353) was a pandemic which, it is estimated, killed between 75 and 200 million people. 

The development of new varieties of apples reached its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the Ribstone Pippin (shown below, also from the Country Living magazine of 1986) was a favourite of the early Victorians and was superseded by possibly the most famous of all eating apples, Cox’s Orange Pippin.

A direct result of being in the EU meant there were no restrictions on the importing of apples from abroad and this led to English growers facing great competition from high-yielding varieties which were difficult to grow here as they required a warmer climate – Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith being examples.  This led to many English orchards being taken out of production due to lack of profitability but there is currently something of a renaissance of orchards; people no longer want just five or ten varieties of apple from which to choose in the supermarket and are attending farmer’s markets and local farm shops in order to seek out different varieties.

In the book above there are lots of lovely apple recipes, both savoury and sweet

And finally, a slice of toffee apple cake for you, with Devonshire cream (pouring cream in this instance, I reserve clotted for scones.)

I hope you have enjoyed your virtual apple-tasting, the Devonshire Quarrendens were a little sharp I admit, but the early Discovery were tasty, weren’t they?

Until next time.


About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Happy blogging anniversary, time flies doesn’t it, put the kettle on I’m coming over for some of that scrumptious cake.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Kettle’s on, Earl Grey or Builder’s? There’s some cake left if you hurry …
      Yes, you are right, time does fly. It might be a cliché, but it’s true! Here’s to the next year of posts!

  2. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    Earl Grey in the afternoon please.

  3. Happy Blogging Anniversary Margaret, sounds like I may be a tad late for a slice of cake! I would very much appreciate the recipe though, looks absolutely delicious…..

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      No, you are not late, Elaine. The cake will be readily available for the full 24 hours UK time! I’ve given this recipe before on the blog, I must check when it was or give it again. It’s very nice. It’s mainly a sponge cake mixture put into the bottom of the tin and then you peel, core and slice a couple of Braeburn (or similar) apples and saute them in butter and then some Muscavado sugar (about two dessertspoons) and when they are well and truly coated and the butter and sugar are melted and like caramel, you put it all on the top of the cake and bake. It’s nice hot as a dessert, with custard or cream, or cold with cream. I sometimes, if serving cold, sprinkle some icing sugar on the top.
      Just had a look at previous posts and the recipe was on Cooking and Baking in my post of 9th February 2017, if you can look that up, Elaine? If not, I have checked the recipe and you substitute half the amount of flour for ground almonds. The cake doesn’t rise much, but then it’s not meant to, it’s more a dessert than what I’d call ‘cake’, a soft cake, pudding-style cake. But very tasty, I assure you!

  4. Glad I’m not too late, would hate to miss out on cake! Thank you, I will look the recipe up and hopefully do some baking at the weekend, last week’s Marmalade and Sultana cake has not lasted long, my beloved loves a fruit cake of any kind.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      There’s a non-ending supply of virtual cake, Elaine, and it won’t pile on the pounds, either! I love the sound of marmalade and sultana cake, that sounds delicious. I have a recipe for a marmalade parkin cake, but I don’t recall putting sultanas in it, but they’d make it even more moist and succulent! Oh, don’t tempt me. Yes mine here also loves a fruit cake of any kind, but best of all he loves rock buns!

  5. thanks for the delicious piece of cake!! Your fantastic blog has been a constant source of enjoyment. And I love the bits of history that you add in. I also love Roseanne Sanders illustrations.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Ratnamurti, on day one of my 2nd year of the blog. How quickly that first year went. I had no idea what I would write about when I started it, but as I say, I’ve been very much encouraged by readers. I’m o glad you enjoyed the cake! Also the lovely illustrations of Rosanne Sanders. She has another book out under the name Rosie Sanders on the art of botanical painting but I don’t have that particular book (I must put it on my List!) I’m also delighted you like the little bits of history I add to my posts.

  6. Gosh you post the most interesting information and lovely pictures. Happy Anniversary! What a delicious cake that looks to be. Hope you have many, many anniversaries to come.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Jeannine, so glad you have enjoyed this post. It was buying the Devonshire Quarrenden apples that promoted this idea, they are very small apples, I think I should’ve photographed them against a ‘normal’ size apple, but they are about the size of a tomato, not a cherry tomato nor a beefsteak tomato, just an ordinary tomato. And then I found I had that illustration of one of these apples which I had kept from Country Living from 1986. Of all the apples it might’ve been, by coincidence (serendipity?) it was the self-same apple! Thank you for your good wishes on the blog’s 1st anniversary.

  7. Congratulations on your first anniversary ! A huge achievement!

    I have enjoyed all of your posts and have learnt much from you and also from the many comments. I feel like we are a lovely group of friends, like a book club – or similar.

    The Australian supermarket range of apples is also limited and consumers are looking for more variety. There is also a backlash against the larger supermarkets rejecting ‘perfect’ fruit which doesn’t meet their multipage specifications. Tonnes and tonnes of fresh bananas are rejected daily because they have inadequate or too much curvature. Can you believe it !!?? Farmers markets are popular in many cities, towns and villages and the imperfect, the organic and the old-fashioned fruits, veggies, etc are making a roaring comeback.

    I’ve now taken my slice of cake and put it aside for later. It’s late afternoon here and I had a late lunch (3pm) due to a series of mishaps. A small dinner for me after which I will enjoy my homemade cake (always better than shop bought) with cream and a cup of tea…. And of course anything eaten in pyjamas always tastes even yummier 😉

    Congratulations again xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you so much for your good wishes, Lara, and yes, I feel we have a lovely little group of friends meeting here, to discuss all kinds of things, like a book club but without the hard work of perhaps reading a book to discuss that we’re not really enjoying (life’s too short to plough through a book we don’t enjoy, unless it’s for an examination!)
      It is good to hear that the good people of Australia are also fed up with food waste because of such things as the curvature of a banana! Some of the supermarkets here are now selling boxes with the clever marketing ploy of “wonky veg” and they are always snapped up quickly, veg that might’ve otherwise been rejected. I also believe that the “use by” date is going to vanish from food before too long – at least, it’s been suggested – as before there was a “use by” date, people used their common sense and if something didn’t smell bad, they ate it. I’m sure that the “use by” date has also contributed to food waste. “Best before” which is on some food stuffs is a much better idea.
      I hope you enjoyed your homemade cake in your pyjamas, what a lovely relaxing idea.

    I love your blog. Always such interesting topics. I start looking at things with new eyes.
    We should certainly be taking more time out to ‘smell the roses’ and appreciate the beauty around us.
    Guilty of always being in a rush.
    So, if you don’t mind, please put the kettle on and I will join you for A Builder’s!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Welcome to the virtual tea party, Virginia! I’m so glad you enjoy my blog, I try and come up with something different each post. Yes, we do need to stop sometimes and “smell the roses”, to appreciate the beauty that is around us, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. I will put the kettle on again and make some fresh Builder’s Tea, that that’s left in the pot is a bit stewed now, but there’s some cake left for you, and of course, some Devonshire cream!

  9. Congratulations on your first year as a blogger. I really enjoy the content and variety of your posts , they are always interesting and informative. I am learning lots (you are never too old to learn!) Thankyou Margaret, looking forward to the next year, and hopefully many more. X

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      And thank you, Dot, for reading my blog. It’s all the nice comments I have received that have encouraged me to write on such diverse subjects as interiors in art and a trip to the zoo. I have my next post planned in my head and photos already downloaded, but first I have to clean out the fridge/freezer and the larder and put today’s food shopping away.

  10. Happy 1st Anniversary! I discovered your blog about a month ago and I absolutely love it! You write about such a wide range of topics, all of which I find interesting and often educative as well.
    Interestingly, we have 2 deckchairs from the Stripes Company from where you bought the aprons and ironing board cover. They are lovely and comfortable but we haven’t been able to use them this summer because the weather in Scotland has been so awful. We are also fans of the Somerset Cider Brandy Co and visited when we were in the area on holiday a few years ago.
    I am going to bake your Toffee Apple Cake this afternoon, it looks delicious.
    Here’s to many more years of blogging.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pamela, and I’m delighted you have found my blog, not only that, you enjoy reading it. I always wanted my blog to be like a rather pleasant magazine, something you could sit with for a few moments with a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy a variety of topics, and it seems from what readers have said, I might be achieving this.
      Oh, how lovely to have deckchairs from the Stripes Company. I love my two new aprons and as I’ve been cleaning out the larder this afternoon before putting the newly-bought food away, I’m wearing my lime green, white and red striped apron as I’m typing this!
      We have only visited Scotland twice, once for a house swap many years ago in West Linton, in the Borders, and once for a short visit to Edinburgh (where we stayed at Channings Hotel, once the home of explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.) We flew from Exeter to Edinburgh and although it was early September, my goodness, it was an overcoat colder when we stepped off the plain from what it had been here in Devon!
      I hope the toffee apple cake is a success, we love it.

  11. I couldn’t agree more with what Dot posted! Thank you for this blog, Margaret!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Beth, and thank you for your kind comments. I’m now looking forward to writing my first post of my 2nd year as a blogger. I have it all in my head and have downloaded the photos I intend to use, but I must get a few housekeeping jobs done first. As I’ve said before, all the kind comments I’ve received over the year has made me feel that my blog has been worthwhile, I have really enjoyed sharing my photos and my thoughts with so many interested readers.

  12. Happy Anniversary Margaret. I was going to cut the grass this afternoon but it started to rain quite heavily so I had the perfect excuse to make an apple cake. I use Monty Don’s windfall apple cake recipe which is printed in Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook. Unfortunately and due to the devastating late frost we had in May my apple crop is not going to be huge this year so I picked up my windfalls this morning determined to make every apple count!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      How lovely to have your own supply of apples, Sarah! I am really envious of that. I had to buy, yes buy, three Bramley apples today in order to make blackberry & apple crumble this weekend! I have Sarah Raven’s catalogue next to me as I am typing this … I shall be choosing the spring bulbs from it very soon. I think she has the most marvellous selection. Other catalogues might have equal quality bulbs but not the wonderful colour combinations that Sarah offers. I must consider buying her garden cook book even though we don’t have produce, only flowers, in our tiny garden. Thank you for your good wishes, and I am sure the cake will be delicious.

  13. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Happy anniversary, Margaret. Your blog is a delight and I, like the many others above, have really enjoyed reading it. You must be delighted to have several regular contributors.
    The apple pictures are so realistic, aren’t they. How wonderful to be able to draw like that.
    Apple cake is probably our favourite and I’ve been using my recipe for years. It’s heavier than a sponge cake, more like a ligh fruit cake. I use it as my Christmas cake recipe. I think yours would make a lovely pudding and will be sure to try it sometime.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, Eloise, I’m delighted that there are now some regular readers who read if not all, then most posts. It is reassuring, and it indicates that I’ve pitched the various posts about right, bits of everything, from trips to the Zoo or an historic house, to breakfast in bed or writing thank you letters, via lovely soaps, perfume, flowers and books.
      Yes, those paintings of apples in Rosanne Sanders’ book are wonderful, just think 122 colour paintings of this quality all in one volume. It really is one of my very favourite books. I must put her latest book on botanical painting on my list (she now goes under the diminutive of her name, Rosie Sanders, I think.)
      Yes, the toffee apple cake is a slightly heavier cake than a sponge, and it’s delicious with custard or cream, hot or cold. I must make one this weekend. Dessert apples are used for this cake, not cooking apples such as Bramley.

  14. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    You certainly have it pitched right. I am attracting over 100 (on one occasion 207) visitors a day (with an average of 3 post views each) but few comments. It is rather frustrating. Presumably they are more or less the same people each day. I can’t imagine that it is new people each day.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Since my blog was changed, after all the problems I had, with the new header, etc, I have had a lot more viewings, one almost cracked the 500 mark, but most are about 200 – 300, which is lovely. Comments are much fewer, as you will have seen. Since my blog was changed, however, it has attracted a lot more spam and I don’t think there is anything I can do about this. I won’t say how I work out they aren’t genuine comments because if I do, these awful spammers might try another tack.

  15. Happy Blogging Anniversary to you 🙂 I always enjoy your posts and learn new things. I hope you will continue to blog for many years to come.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you so much, Alison. I was just about to start a new post when your comment popped in, plus that from Eloise. I have really enjoyed having my blog this year, it’s been a pleasure, too, to have received all the lovely comments. I never expected readers to be as enthusiastic as I am over my blog, it’s really heart-warming, believe me. Glad you enjoy my posts and learn new things.

  16. My congratulations also, Margaret, on your first blog anniversary! Yours is a wonderful blog, and I enjoy reading every post. Here’s to many more blog anniversaries for you!

  17. Happy Anniversary! I have a cook book with the recipes from the British Isles and there are quite a few recipes for cooking with apples. Your recipe sounds delicious–I imagine you make it with pears, too? I have a similar American recipe that calls for pears as the fruit.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Christie, and thanks for the good wishes. No, I’ve not yet made the recipe with pears but that is a good idea. I have a variation to the recipe which makes it with rhubarb although I’ve not yet tried that. But I’m sure pears or rhubarb would be as tasty as apples.

  18. Happy first anniversary, Margaret! You have done a marvellous job shaping the flavour of your blog, as I knew you would 🙂

    Your bright pink lustre bowl is gorgeous, and the green apples complement it beautifully. What a great story; the bowl was obviously meant for you.

    And I am so honoured to share my birthday (and my husband is too) with your Apple Day – who knew! We were both born 21 October one year apart, and in different parts of New Zealand 🙂

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Thank you, Fiona. You are, of course, the midwife of this blog! You encouraged me from the start when I was very indecisive about having a blog of my own, I didn’t think I’d find the time for a start, but I’ve written 210 posts since I started and today I hope to write the first one to start my 2nd year of posts. The lovely comments I have received, too, have been most encouraging.
      Yes, the bowl was meant for me! I would go to Totnes once a week with my mother and together, after we’d done the supermarket shopping, we would stroll up the steep hill of the High Street and gaze in the shop windows, especially this antiques’ shop (no longer there) and I would see the bowl and we’d say, “It’s still there!”
      What a coincidence that you and your husband share a birthday, just one year apart! And this is Apple Day and Trafalgar Day here in the UK.

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