I like a bold colour scheme as much as the next woman (I have in the past painted entire rooms red), and I generally adopt a permissive attitude to the life choices of the creatures that share my garden. But honestly… orange and magenta…? There’s nowhere here the eye can rest comfortably.

There has been a mass emergence of Small Tortoiseshells in the Shire over the past few days: I saw at least ten along the river bank at Eckington yesterday, and this afternoon there were four in my front garden, bickering over possession of the red valerian. It is of course lovely to see them, but their colour sense is execrable, and they simply won’t be corrected. The pyracantha is in bloom – right next to the valerian, as it happens – with glossy green leaves and frothy cream blossom, which would have set off a Small Tortoiseshell beautifully. But no – every one of them determinedly went for the most clashing plant they could have picked.

I can only apologise on their behalf.

Moving on, it’s been in my mind that I vaguely promised you a recipe for chocolate brownies a few days ago, and this seems as good a day as any to fulfil that commitment. I must stress that I didn’t make this up: it came from the New York Times, where it was described as someone or other’s famous brownie recipe, but I hadn’t heard of the someone or other and I’m afraid I can’t remember who they are. Anyway, that’s the copyright disclaimer out of the way, so here you go, and please enjoy.

275g dark chocolate
275g unsalted butter
50g white chocolate dots
50g milk chocolate dots
325g caster sugar
175g plain flour
4g baking powder
4 eggs
5ml vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 160°C.
Grease a 12″ x 8″ baking tin, and line with baking parchment.
Melt the dark chocolate and butter.
Fold in the sugar.
Add the eggs and vanilla.
Fold in the flour and baking powder, and the chocolate dots.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes. NB: the mixture will not be completely set.
Allow to cool in the tin.
Cut into 15 pieces.

Personally, I’d recommend that you put the cut brownies in a sealed container and leave them somewhere quiet for a day or two, to allow them to calm down – the texture and flavour improve over time. Unless you’re planning on burying the sealed container in the garden and never going near it again, I further recommend not thinking too hard about their calorie content.