Category Archives: Top Topiary

Get Your Kids Involved In The Kitchen This Holiday Season

By: Jake Stimpson

April school holidays are just around the corner. With little hands grabbing snacks out of the refrigerator and cupboards and muddy feet tracking across our shiny kitchen floors, the upcoming weeks are going to be challenging for a lot of us.

So what is a better way for us to keep watch on our little darlings while they are in the kitchen? The answer is to ask them to help us out. I know the idea of asking the kids to come into our personal domains might sound kind of crazy to some unenlightened parents. However, to many child behaviourists and nutritionists it really makes a lot of sense. How is that possible, you might be asking.

There are several reasons actually, including:

– It will keep them busy and you’ll know where they’re at.
They will learn new creative skills.
– You can teach them all about nutrition while you are cooking.
– Preparing food on their own will make them appreciate it even more.

What can be learned in the kitchen by school aged children?

What chores can you have the kids help you with? Behaviorists say it’s a really good time to have them learn how to:

Measure and Count. Let them measure ingredients themselves and also learn how a conversion table works. For example, two cups of flour is equal to 250g.

Ownership. This is very clever and it one of our favorites. Let your kids have aprons of their own and also personal cookery boxes that have colorful measuring cups, spoons, a rolling pin and other kitchen accessories. They should be responsible for caring for them. Consider letting them help with planning menus for the next day.

Design. Allow your little ones to lay our starters for the plates, along with side dishes. This will show off their creativity. Have them think about what utensils are needed to serve the dishes.

Vegetable preparation. Teach kids about using a blender, chopping, mincing julienning and dicing while you are around to supervise.

Tidying and cleaning. Other things you can show them how to do include clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and unloading it and putting the dishes away in the cupboards once they are clean.

Of course if you teach their big sisters and brothers various kitchen tips it will make toddlers and pre-schoolers want to be involved as well. That is perfectly fine. There are lots of things to help them learn and keep occupied with at the very same time, including:

Counting. Have your two or three year old count out the teaspoons of ingredients that are going into a bowl. A four or five year old can learn how to measure out liquids and level rounded teaspoons.

Combining ingredients. Young children love to stir. Preschoolers can learn to whisk and also pour ingredients into cooking and bakery dishes.

Vegetable and salad preparation. A toddler can rinse and peel soft fruits like oranges and bananas. Preschoolers can prepare fruit that is easy to cut, like strawberries, using a blunt knife. You can also teach them how to crack eggs at this age.

Fortunately, most kids do love to bake, cook and help to prepare food. They really love the magic of making something that smells and tastes wonderful and looks completely different and is created from some liquid and a couple of dry ingredients. They really like that they have helped with it. We believe that having kids help out with the cooking is one of the best things you can do to keep them from being under your feel over the school spring break. Trust us, we have been there!

5 Unique Recipes That Feature Bay Leaves

By: Isabelle Acatauassú Alves Almeida

When you have your own bay tree, you never have to worry about running out of bay leaves. If you love Italian cooking, you will find plenty of uses for your bay leaves. Bay leaves are also extensively utilized in Spanish cooking, and chili just isn’t the same without a bay leaf added in for good measure. The humble bay leaf is enjoying a surge in popularity and creative chefs from all over the globe have come up with some unusual recipes that feature them. Whether you are in the mood for hot cup of bay leaf tea or crave a scoop of bay leaf ice cream, you will find out how to create these culinary delights below. Read on to discover 5 mouth watering bay leaf recipes.

Bay Leaf Tea

One of the best things about hot tea is the aroma, and bay leaf tea has an aroma that you won’t believe. Bay leaves make great tea and just breathing in the smell will relax you and give you a feeling of well-being. The best thing is the recipe is simple. You can make two cups of fragrant tea by bringing 475 ml of water and 3 bay leaves to a boil. Let the leaves and water boil for three minutes then take the pot off the heat. Steep the tea for four minutes then take out the leaves and enjoy your drink. You can drink the tea plain, or add milk and sugar to your taste.

Enjoy A Scoop Of Bay Leaf Ice Cream

Most people don’t associate bay leaves with ice cream, but it makes one of the most delicious tasting ice creams in existence. Your mouth will water and you will be begging for more once you give it a try. To make this delectable treat you will need:

1000 grams of milk
1000 grams of cream
3 grams of salt
225 grams of dextrose
150 grams of sugar
82.5 grams of glucose powder
10 grams of ice cream stabilizer
Bay leaves to taste

While this may seem like a ton of ingredients, the final product is well worth it. First you will mix the cream and milk together. Cold infuse the bay leaves into the milk and cream for 24 hours so the flavor is strong. Next, you will remove the leaves and heat the milk and cream. Whisk in the dextrose, glucose powder and sugar while gently heating this mix. Bring the mixture to a boil then add the stabilizer using your whisk. Put this ice cream base through a chinoise and ice bath. When it is cool, just put it in your ice cream machine and let it run. Soon you will have the best tasting ice cream you have ever had.

Make Amazing Bay Leaf Potatoes

Potatoes are good for you, but eating them the same way over and over again gets old fast. Bay leaves will spice up your potatoes and give them a flavor you can’t resist. They are super easy to make as well. Just gather 4 baking potatoes, 4 bay leaves, 500 grams of coarse sea salt and butter. Preheat your oven and while it is heating, cut the potatoes lengthwise without cutting them in half. Put a bay leaf into each slit and spread the sea salt onto the bottom of the baking dish. Place the potatoes into the dish with the cut sides up and bake until they are done, typically 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Butter them when done and enjoy the savory flavor.

Bake Up Some Savillum

Savillum comes from an ancient Roman recipe and is a type of cheesecake. It is low fat and impressive at parties. Even better, it tastes amazing! Gather:

120 ml of all-purpose flour
230 grams of ricotta
3 eggs
120 ml of honey
15 bay leaves
5 ml of lemon juice
5 ml of grated orange zest

Preheat the oven to 225 C. Get out an oven proof bowl and place it into the oven. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl, then add the ricotta, honey, orange zest and lemon juice. Next, stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth and looks even. Place the bay leaves on the bottom of a springform pie pan then pour in the batter. Bake the cheesecake for 35-40 minutes until the top is browned. You can serve the cheesecake warm or cold. It is delicious either way!

Enjoy A Bowl Of Bay Leaf Porridge

If you are getting sick of oatmeal, bay leaf porridge will start your day off right. This hearty recipe is delicious and the bay leaf taste will wake up your senses. Here are the ingredients:

240 ml of medium oatmeal
475 ml of water
120 ml of 1% milk
Cinnamon bark (1 piece)
Cardamom pod seeds (1 pod)
1 bay leaf
2 large eggs
1 lemon (cut up into wedges)
200 grams of smoked haddock
Sea salt (a pinch)
Black pepper (as desired)

Cook the oatmeal in a bain marie if you have one. If not, put a heatproof bowl inside a pot of water and cook the oatmeal for 7 minutes. Be sure to stir it frequently. Tie up the bay leaf, cinnamon bark, and cardamom seeds with a muslin square and place in the oatmeal. Stir in the milk and black pepper. Once is is totally mixed, cook the mixture for 3 more minutes. Poach the haddock as the oatmeal cooks. Whisk up the eggs and slowly add them to the oatmeal. When the oatmeal is thick, take it off the burner and remove the muslin. Pour your oatmeal into a bowl then flake the haddock and place it on top of the oatmeal. Use the lemon wedges to season it to your taste.

5 Creative Bay Leaf Recipes

By: Bob Peterson

If you happen to have a bay tree of your own, then you know that the best thing about that is you always have fresh bay leaves available for cooking with. Just about any Italian pasta sauce will include these aromatic and tasty leaves, and unless there is a bay leaf in a Blood Mary, it simply isn’t a real Bloody Mary.

However, chefs use bay leaves in many other different ways. So we wanted to share five of the more delicious-sounding, unusual and interesting bay leaf recipes that we have found along the way.

Aromatic Tea

Aroma is one of the major points to tea. So you shouldn’t be too surprised that tea can be made from the strong-smelling leaves of a bay leaf. Just sit back and take in their sweet aroma. It will definitely make you feel at ease and relaxed. The recipe is very easy and simple. Here is what you need to make two cups:

3 large bay leaves
475 milliliters of water

You can also add sugar or milk if you want to, but it is optional.

Place the water and leaves in a pot. Let it come to a boil, and then allow it to boil for around 3 minutes. Take the pot of tea off of the burner. Allow it to steep for around 4 minutes. Strain the bay leaves out and enjoy your tea!

Bay Leaf Ice Cream

I am sure that your taste buds are starting to water already! Make this for the next party you throw. Everybody will be dying for more. Here is what you need:

1000 grams cream
1000 grams milk
Bay leaves to taste
3 grams salt
10 grams ice cream stabilizer
82 1/2 grams glucose powder
150 grams sugar
25 grams dextrose
An ice cream machine and a chinoise

This recipe is more complicated, as you can see from the list of ingredients. However, the extra effort is well worth it. First mix the cream and milk together. Next the bay leaves need to be cold infused into the mix. Allow it to sit for a day so that the flavour in the bay leaves thoroughly gets into the cream and milk. Once the bay leaves have been in for 24 hours, pass them out, and then heat up the milk and cream. Whisk in the glucose powder, dextrose and sugar while you are heating the mixture. After it begins to boil, use a whisk to mix in the stabilizer. Then run your mixture through an ice bath and chinoise. After it has cooled down, spin it inside your ice cream machine. Now, enjoy your delicious ice cream!

Bay Leaf Potatoes

After a while, regular baked potatoes have a tendency to be a little boring. However, this recipe will give you an an injection of flavor nobody will be able to resist. What’s so great about this is you won’t need to do anything all that different! Here are the ingredients that you need:

4 bay leaves
4 baking potatoes
Butter (to taste)
500 grams coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven. While you are waiting for it to reach the temperature that you want, cut the potatoes lengthwise. Don’t cut them all the way in half. Place one bay leaf into each slit. Get out a baking dish and spread sea salt on the bottom of it. Place the potatoes in the baking dish so that the cuts face up. Bake the potatoes until they are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. This usually takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hours. Then add butter and eat!

Savillum

If you are planning to have a toga party, then you can really wow your guest by making this ancient Roman authentic cheesecake. What’s even better is this tasty treat is low in fat. You will need:

230 grams ricotta
120 ml all-purpose flour
15 bay leaves
3 egg
5 ml grated orange zest
5 ml lemon juice
120 ml honey

Preheat oven to 225 degrees Celsius. Take out an oven-proof bowl and pour water into it before placing it inside the oven. Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl and then add the orange zest, lemon juice, ricotta and honey. Mix the flour in next. Be sure everything is stirred until it is even and smooth. Place bay leaves on the bottom of a springform pie pan until it is covered, then carefully pour the batter on top. Bake your cheesecake for 30 to 40 minute until it browns. Serve it cold or warm. It is delicious either way.

Hearty Porridge

If you’d like something a bit less milky and soggy than the oatmeal you usually have in the morning, the try this. The bay leaf porridge is hearty and think- and delicious as well. You need:

475 ml water
240 ml medium oatmeal
120 ml 1% mil
1 pod cardamon pod see
2 large eggs
1 bay leaf
200 grams smoked haddock
Lemon wedges cut from 1 lemon
Black pepper (to taste)
Pinch of sea salt

Cook the oatmeal in a bain marie if you have one. If not, use a pot of water with a heatproof bowl placed inside. Cook for 7 minutes and stir frequently. Tie the bay leaf, cinnamon bark and cardamon leaves up in a muslin square and put into the oatmeal. Then add the milk and black pepper. Thoroughly mix these in before you cook the oatmeal for an additional 3 minutes. Poach the haddock as it is cooking. Whisk the eggs quickly, then add to the oatmeal slowly as it continues to cook. After it gets thick, take the oatmeal off of the burner and remove the muslin. Pour your oatmeal into a bowl. Flake the haddock and garnish with lemon wedges.

2. Bay Trees: Past Uses, Present Trends

They say a picture paints a thousand words. But trees, shrubs and plants speak a simpler language; although these days, it can often seem like not many people are listening. The noble bay tree has played a prominent role in history, literature, religion and even medicine from Ancient Greek and Roman times onwards.

To the Victor, the Spoils

The laurel was said to symbolise courage, strength and victory, which is why it was often used in laurel wreaths presented to the winners of everything from poetry competitions to the early Olympic Games. Even now, this association lingers on, when winners of the Grand Prix motor racing are presented with laurel wreaths. In some parts of Italy, you’ll see university students wearing laurel wreaths as they celebrate graduation, instead of the traditional mortar boards worn in the UK. The tradition lives on today in the UK in words like ‘poet laureate’ and ‘baccalaureate’.

But what’s the significance of placing bay trees beside doorways, usually in pairs? Yes, they look great and many people use them to frame an entrance or an exit stylishly. But there’s also a deeper meaning – they’re reputed to offer protection to the dwelling they grow by. Specifically, in Roman times, the laurel was thought to protect from lightning strikes – the Emperor Tiberius, apparently, always wore a laurel wreath when it rained for this very reason. Subsequently, doctors throughout the ages have used bay tree leaves not only to cure disease but also to ward illness off. We’re not making any guarantees for these claims, but it can’t harm to try, we suppose!

Portable gardening, anyone?

The symbolism behind the bay tree would therefore make it an ideal house-warming present. But small-scale shrubs and plants that can grow comfortably and attractively in pots are generally becoming increasingly desirable. One of the consequences of the housing crisis is that outdoor space is increasingly at a premium. People can afford less, which often means they compromise on garden space. It’s becoming increasingly common to rent rather than to buy, and why spend money on a garden you don’t own? And so the trend is moving towards ‘portable’ gardens. Pots and planters will add colour, texture and ambience to an outdoor space, but will take up less room. They can be moved with you if and when you move home. And they can be multi-functional: use them to frame an entrance, front or back, on a day-to-day basis, but move them around as necessary when entertaining outdoors. Bay trees are ideal for this kind of purpose, to add some instant Mediterranean glamour to any space, large or small. What’s more, they are independent and hardy enough to withstand moving position, or even home, if you need to.

Spicing up life, Mediterranean-style

‘Grow your own’ is also in vogue right now. Why not supplement your herb garden with a bay tree? Remember that the leaves can be really bitter when fresh, so unlike many other herbs, it’s best to dry them before you use them in your cookery. It’s really easy to do. Simply select full-size leaves, preferably without any imperfections, and lay them on an absorbent paper towel, not overlapping each other. Store in a dark, well-ventilated place until dry – around a week usually does the trick. Place the dried leaves in an air-tight container and keep out of direct sunlight – and they should easily last for a year or so.

Overall, the versatile laurus nobilis is an enduring classic and one we’re proud to offer for sale. If you keep its dark green foliage neatly clipped (you can use one of our frames if you’re not confident doing it freehand, as it were), it’ll make an attractive, welcoming feature for any home or garden. And as we’ve seen, it’s a highly practical choice too!

1. The Constant and Enduring Appeal of the Bay Tree

One of the more enduringly popular shrubs in our experience is the bay tree (or laurus nobilis, to give it the formal name) – an evergreen which is literally timeless in its appeal. It’s been a classic since Ancient Greek times, perhaps even longer. In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing trend towards giving them to friends or loved ones as gifts, individually or in pairs, to commemorate birthdays, weddings or anniversaries; or even as house-warming presents. But why is it so well thought of?

The Laurel is Hardy

Back in the mists of time, when the climate was more humid, laurel forests spread rampantly throughout the Mediterranean basin. However, they fell victim to climate change (it’s somehow reassuring to know we’re not the only ones). Luckily, the shrub was hardy enough for it not to have died out completely: today, tiny remnants of these vast forests still exist in Europe and Asia. However, in our gardens here in the UK, these slender, graceful trees will usually thrive, even with minimal care and attention.

A lot of people don’t consider themselves to be gardeners, or green-fingered, in any way. But that is the beauty of the bay tree. It can be bought ready grown and is relatively easy to maintain. It will grow up to 7.5m (23ft) in the ground unless clipped; but it is equally as happy confined to the right-sized pot. It doesn’t ask much of life: while it prefers full sun or partial shade, it can withstand temperatures as low as -5oC (23oF), or even lower if it’s placed in a sheltered position or planted in the ground.

Cutting corners…

If you want the bay trees in your garden to grow as naturally as possible, then there is no need to prune them as long as you have enough room. However, most people nowadays are won over by the decorative effect of topiary. If this is your aim, you can buy shrubs ready-shaped and subsequently, a regular trim will help keep them looking good. You’ll find your shrub will benefit most from a vigorous pruning twice yearly – April and August is generally considered best. The spring ‘haircut’ can be as severe as is necessary to remove any brown leaves caused by winter frosts or wind burn – and also to remove any untidy growth. The August chop comes towards the end of the growing season, so you’re setting the standard before the tree falls dormant for the winter, hopefully leaving you with fresh, green foliage to brighten up the gloomy winter months. The odd stray branch that fails to conform can, of course, be tidied up as and when necessary between prunings.

Topiary for Tree Trunks

If you’d like to add a ‘twist’ to your garden decor, one thing you will see a lot of on our website and in garden centres alike is a range of twisted stem specimens. These often appeal to people with a sense of fun, or who want something a little bit quirky in their garden. How is this effect achieved? It’s quite simple when you know what you’re doing. When the saplings are still young and pliable, the soft trunk is gently trained into a spiral shape by winding it around a small support. As the tree grows, it naturally keeps the shape, even when the support is removed at a later date. Pure magic! The double corkscrew effect is slightly trickier to achieve, as it takes two young trees, planted extremely close together. As they grow, the young stems are twisted round each other to achieve the desired effect. They obligingly continue to grow this way in future.

Next time, find out more about the bay tree, from myth to modern-day, practical applications.