Tuesday, 29 April 2008

There's no place like home.

Well, we're back home in the grey drizzly Chilterns. I haven't had internet access for the past few days so I'll update the new 'missing days' tomorrow after a long sleep and a long bath....there's so much to tell you. See you tomorrow, foodiemumfriends.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Day Twenty Six-Stiffkey blues and Cley smoke house-Norfolk

Day twenty five-Yorkshire to Norfolk.

Poor old Jason spent his birthday today on the M1. Eight hours of driving Ruby while she pretended to be a yacht. Sailing along, she was having a great time. For an old girl that’s 36 years old, she’s completely in her element speeding along on the motorway with the wind on her high top. Rube's definitely faster with a wind behind her.

Just before dark Ruby broke down at a petrol station. As before (on day one) nothing happened when we turned the key and floored her acelerator. Oh, but this time we were prepared. Supplied with a jump start power pack from Halfords we tried to jump start her. After trying for 15 torturous minutes, with a series of local squaddies in uniform, parking up behind us for petrol and then realising we had broken down. We reached for the phone. Jason started ringing Green flag and I thought I would give her one more go...with a bit of a polite cough as though she was clearing her throat she started! I think she just wanted a little rest after the long drive from Yorkshire. She is an old lady after all.

Two hours later we were lost in the darks of Norfolk. Using the combined power of Jason’s wonder phone and directions from a lurching man residing outside the Star pub in Lessingham we found our way to Ingham our first Norfolk pit shop and to Rookery barn bed and breakfast. Run by Lynda and Tony a former pilot, ex Himalayan trekking guide, successful restaurateur and professional photographer. This was meant to be Jason birthday treat. As Oskar had slept most of the day away we watched children’s cartoons and drank service station champagne until midnight. Then we all sunk down into the biggest, comfiest double bed and slept.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Day Twenty four-Stow House Hotel-Wensleydale,Yorkshire

Stow house hotel, Aysgarth, is a genteel type of hotel. One could imagine playing croquet on the lawn with characters from a PG Wodehouse novel or discovering that the quiet old lady knitting in the corner is actually the infamous amateur sleuth Miss Marple.

We had the whole of this splendid home (the former family residence of the talented amateur photographer Reverend Fenwick William Stow) to ourselves. Irene our host kindly allowed us to take the Master room at a reduced rate and so Jason slept in a four poster bed for first time in his life. The panoramic views of the Dales from our room were breathtaking. Tiny dry stone walls captured small squares of green, miniature sheep grazed and the shadows of the clouds danced across the landscape turning patches of gold into blue grey and back again. I was mesmerised and could have watched it forever.

Fighter jets occasionally roared overhead much to Oskar and Jason’s enjoyment destroying the peace temporarily as they ducked and dived through the clouds.

Rather than going out to eat we bought a selection of local yummies from nearby Hawes. Wensleydale cheese, bread from the local baker, homemade black pudding, lobster pate and early strawberries from nearby Gate Helmsley. All eaten as a picnic on the four poster bed.

Wish you were here?

Day Twenty four-Yorkshire

Jasons birthday tomorrow!

Day Twenty four-Waterfalls and carpets of herbs-Yorkshire Dales.

What's the sky like where you are today?

This is what it looks like here. An atmospheric ocean of deep bluebell blue.

I've been up hill and down dale today exploring the Yorkshire Dales and the tumbling water of the three tiered waterfalls at Aysgarth Falls. We all have happy glowing faces kissed by the dales wind and sun. My grin is especially broad as I have discovered that the Dales is carpeted in a plentiful supply of wildfood plants and herbs.

Wild Thyme

Wild strawberry
Thyme has unwisely partnered itself next to fragile young violets and wild garlic plunges over the banks of the falls mimicing the frothing water. Wild strawberry plants creep over the verdant green moss their infant flowers the first indication of their fragrant fruits yet to come. The copised Hazel has left us with a few out of season nets to nibble. Salad burnet finds itself crushed under my feet and the smell of fresh cucumber wafts up to meet me.

HazelSalad Burnet

A good excuse to have a Pimms if every I saw one. The Yorkshire Dales National Park has rules on conservation and picking wild plants is frowned. I don't think they would begrudge me my couple of hazel nuts but i think they would have something to say if I actually gathered all I found. So, I was a good foodiemum and just gathered pictures. I was very tempted though.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Day Twenty three-A start in the dark-Yorkshire Dales

Oskar decided to wake up at 3am this morning. Yes it was still dark and we were desperately trying to get back to sleep in the infamous Ruby.

Jason and I sleep in the back of Ruby. The chair folds down to become a bijou double bed complete with chair cushions that are sometimes perfectly comfortable but occasionaly are annoyingly mobile.They creep around so you spend your entire night in a half slumber trying to find the comfortable bits.
Oskar has a bunk that fits over the two front seats and he enjoys it very much. Especially when he gets posted into it.

Anyway at 3am Oskar was awake and shouting.Loudly. No amount of passifying, ignoring or pleading worked. Even our pathetic: "but look, it's still dark outside, even the birds aren't up yet" didn't work.

So, we had a masterful plan- well it was masterful at 3 in the morning. Squeeze all three of us on the magically moving bijou double bed and pop a Magic Roundabout DVD in the laptop. I balanced it on my knees while still trying to sleep. It worked for an hour and a half. Jason and I have become experts at answering questions while still sleeping. Then the magical distraction wore off and so, still before the birds were up, we left Northumberland for the Yorkshire Dales.

We had planned to go back to Holy island today as yesterday I spotted winkles, mussels and a yummy seaweed called enteromorpha which is delicious briefly deep fried then tossed with seseme oil and a small amount of brown sugar. But the tide was still in and our beautiful boy was in no mood for waiting around. So off to the Yorkshire Dales it was.

Our thanks go out to the coffee shop near Newcastle for providing us with a bucket of very hot strong black coffee each and for not complainging when grunted at them. They were very sympathetic. Oskar got carrot cake and told to behave. Thankfully he did. Cake as second breakfast? We were weak and very desperate.

Now we are in a hotel complete with double bed, gramaphone and a decanter of sherry. Oskar is asleep having enjoyed his day dispite the early start and I have had two baths already. Its the one thing our dear Ruby lacks. A decent, hot relaxing bubbly bath. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh. Goodnight.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Day Twenty two-Lavender tearooms and singing hinnies-Etal, Northumberland

The Lavender tea rooms at Etal has only been in the capable hands of its new owner for 12 weeks but already she has made a considerable difference. The once cluttered shop has been opened up and a new line of Lavender tea rooms products including Jams and biscuits line the shelves. The tea rooms come village shop come post office are at the centre of this unspoilt village. The other main focus is the imposing Etal castle. The new propietor originally is from Melbourne in Australia and after living in Sheffield she felt it was time to create a new more idyllic life for her husband and two daughters. When the opportunity to take over the Lavender Tea rooms came up she jumped at the chance.”We always thought we wanted to have our own coffee shop or tea rooms so when this came up we took it”. With a friendly and chatty persona I’ve no doubt ‘The Lavender tea rooms’ will be a success.

The Lavender Tearooms traditional Northumbrian Singing Hinnie.

This is the size of a large teaplate and can be eaten with butter and jam or for a heartier tea have it with fried eggs and bacon.
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
30g butter, and a bit extra for greasing the pan
30g lard, and a bit extra for greasing the pan
1 1/2 tbsp currants
2/3 cup of skimmed milk*
extra butter to serve
· Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.Rub in the fats and stir in the currants. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk.
· Stir to make a softish dough (about the consistency of scone dough) - Divide and form into rounds. Roll each round on a floured board to a thickness of one centimetre.
· Heat a heavy pan.When hot, grease the pan with a bit of butter and lard and when it is "singing", lower heat, put in the hinnies and cook over moderate heat, turning after five minutes.
· Expect the cooked side to be speckled with darker patches.
· Cook the other side, cool briefly and either slather with butter and cut into wedges or cut into wedges, split carefully and put a knob of butter inside.
* This would originally have been made with the skimmed milk remaining after separating the milk to make cream Makes: 2 x 12cm rounds

Day twenty one-Lindisfarne mead-Holy Island

Yes, we made it to Lindisfarne. Holy Island is the 'cradle of Christianity' in the UK and they also know how to make a wicked brew. Lindisfarne Mead. Originally it was brewed by the monks of Holy Island but now you can witness the entire procedure at the Lindisfarne, St Aidans Winery where disappointingly it’s not made by mystical chanting cowled monks but by some perfectly ordinary looking people. Still, they have a skill that seems pretty mystical to me. I thought that the honey would come from aperies on Holy island or at least from very nearby, but as it states on the bottle,the honey comes from:
"the four corners of the world".
It is then mixed with an assortment of spirits and grape juice to refine the taste and keep the product consistent. I am a little disappointed that they don’t use local ingredients but they have retained the ‘local knowledge’ of how to make the Lindisfarne Mead and they do make a considerable effort to educate the general public in the history and the processes of creating the mead...and that at least is something. Keeping the old stories alive enables us to create new stories-and more delightful Lindisfarne mead.

Day Twenty two-Northumbria

Northumbria is a captivating mix of borders castles, yellow light,huge horned sheep, meandering unspoilt rivers and clean salty air. The fields at the moment are full of fat cock pheasents and scampering lambs. It was a revelation. Clean, everyone was friendly and there is a noticeable focus on providing local food. Mead, crab, lamb, confusingly named cakes and a winning substitute for extra virgin olive oil. (Oleifera)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Day Twenty-off tomorrow-Lake District.

I think we'll be off again tomorrow....the Pennines? Linisfarne? We'll decide tonight while dinning at the Drunken Duck.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Day Nineteen-Fire engines and Boats-Lake District

I took Oskar on a ride in a Fire Engine today in Bowness on Windermere. He donned a firemans hat and jacket and was so excited he actually sat still, with a huge fixed grin on his face, clutching my hand for the whole time. We even had the sirens and flashing lights. Oooo it was great and yes, I think I enjoyed myself nearly as much as Oz did.

I'm starting to get twitchy about wild food again. As always I've been on the look out. I never stop looking because thats when you miss a real treat! It didn't help that we went on a stunning boat trip around Lake Windermere. I found myself wondering if you could catch trout on a line, the same way you do Mackreal?

Friday, 18 April 2008

Day Eighteen-Bumpety bump,The Pudding Room and Lucy's-Lake District

Jason has had his first 'bump' in 20 years of driving. Entirely not his fault. Ruby is unscathed and everyone is ok. Basically someone had their very low sports car right behind Ruby when we had to reverse to allow someone to reverse into a parking space. He was right in the blind spot and far too near. So Ruby’s tow bar knocked off his number plate and cracked the bumper behind it. Jason even took his time reversing especially as the reverse gear popped out and he had to put it back in and try again. A job for the sports cars insurance me thinks.

What a discovery- The Pudding Room. Sticky old fashioned homemade puds all homemade on the shores of Lake Coniston here in the Lakes by Helen who comes from a background of professional catering and training in a Swiss patisserie. We had a Rum n raisin sticky date pudding which was rich, warm and rummy. Spicy with the type of texture that just makes you want to keep digging your spoon in again and again. It actually comes very attractively hand wrapped in brown paper complete with a wooden spoon just in case you can't wait until you get home. Now we tried the Rum n raisin I'm going to work through the full spectrum of Pudding Room puddings. This is an extremely hard job but someone’s got to do it. I urge you to try a Pudding Room pod'. Order by ringing Helen direct on 07769 697868. Let me know if you do!

Lucy's of Ambleside
The first spears of Spring asparagus, slices of smoked Cumbrian ham 1 cm thick, locally made bread including a fabulous poppy seed covered 'donker'. Lucy's is the place to buy locally sourced food from the Lakes. Have a look at the site and discover Lucy's for yourself at http://www.lucysofambleside.co.uk/.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Day Seventeen-Haven Cottage B&B,Ambleside-Lake District

Haven Cottage in Ambleside was recommended to us when we first came up with the idea to organise this crazy food trip. We stayed for 2 nights to have a bit of a rest from the quirky but decidedly cosy life we lead in Ruby.

When we arrived we were treated to locally made hot crumpets and locally blended fresh coffee. Oskar surprised us by eating 3 crumpets and Tim generously offered to toast us some more.

We came down each morning to breakfast to find Christmas cracker puzzles left to amuse us while our freshly cooked Cumbrian breakfast was being readied.

Here's the astonishing list that shows Haven cottage's dedication to local food. I wish all B&Bs had a list like this:

The cottage is decorated in old hunting prints and interesting knickknacks. The most intriguing is an old RAF jacket worn displayed in the living room. Tim’s fathers who was instrumental in 'The Great Escape' from Stalag Luft III. He drew up the escape tunnel maps for the escape parties. An experience that apparent ally changed him for the rest of his life into a very focused extraordinary individual.

Tim sometimes serves homemade local Lakeland Tatie Scones with breakfast. Here's the recipe:

250g(8oz)self raising flour
125g(4oz) boiled mashed potatoes
60g(2oz)strong cheese -grated
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Black pepper
Splash of milk

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c(Gas mark 6). Rub the flour and lard together to make breadcrumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add enough milk to make a stiff dough. Roll out on a floured board to a thickness of about 2 cm. Place on a greased baking paper in the oven and brown for 10 minutes on either side. Serve hot with butter. Great with a full breakfast.

Day Seventeen-Obsession-Lake District

“I want to go on the cable cars.......“

Oskar has a beautiful new obsessional chant complete with a melody. Every other sentence today had been a request to go on the cable cars again. Much better than requests for hyper driven chocolate wizzo sticks or violent cartoons. His previous obessional chant was for model villages, which was much easier to cater for.

We’ve now moved onto the Lake district which is the most beautiful and breathtaking place I’ve ever seen. Moss flows over the sharp craggy rocks, trees grow knarled and twisted on fairytale mounds. Green grey hills reach the sky and the silver lakes flow on forever.

Day Sixteen-Heights of Abraham-Peak District

We scaled the Heights of Abraham today in a cable car. Oskar loved it and would have ridden in cable cars all day if it was possible.

Day sixteen-tick tock Bakewell-Peak District

The Rutland arms in Bakewell should be the setting for a detective novel. It’s crammed full of antiquated clocks of all descriptions. Each clock is set a couple of minutes off the time of its neighbour so not to chime at the same time. What was the story about the man whole tried to set all the clocks in a huge house to the same time and ended up insane? There are parts of working clocks mounted on the walls-their huge pendulums swinging rhythmically from side to side. Tick tock, tick tock, grandmother clock cases with no faces stand in the corners of rooms while the portraits of long dead nobles stare studiously down on them. A clocking in machine sits, now dormant in the entrance hall. The clocking in times of men long gone still stamped on its reel.
Ladies of a certain age, huddle together gossiping around the huge log fire, pashminas and tartan scarves strewn absentmindedly around their tweed shoulders. A coffee table full of large glasses of thick red wine, Earl grey and abandoned forks still sticky from small cakey indulgences.

“Oh I shouldn’t, Oh go on then”.

The Rutland Arms has definitely tried its utmost to get the best of local food into its dining room. Locally sourced loin of longhorn beef, Rillettes of pork and rabbit and cauliflower soup with wild sorrel grace its menu. Beautiful food but we had to wait over an hour in a quiet period to receive our main course.

Still the succession of sequentially chiming clocks entertained us and Oskar had a new Thomas the Tank engine magazine which luckily came with a free Thomas story book.
I would eat there again, but I think that you are required to be relaxed about the speed of service, fill the gaps with wine and gossip. It’s more of an adult friendly environment , although Oskar behaved himself impeccably. He’s such a star.

Bakewell is a bit short of venues to dine in after dark. There’s an Italian completely decorated in cream colours, the cream decor being enough to put off anyone with children. An Indian and the Rutland Arms. The town seems to be set up for the hordes of daylight visitors . There are plenty of coffee houses serving traditional Bakewell puddings(www.Postapudding.co.uk) and cafe food (Sandwiches and something and chips). Pubs with real ales and locally made pies featuring local meat and a really good award winning butchers Andrew Armstrong (Farmers & Butchers) Ltd . Market day is on Mondays and is reported to be well worth a visit with the majority of the stalls selling local produce.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Day fifteen-Abandon ship and Bakewell pudding-Peak district

Our stomachs laden by the Crown Inns monster faggots, we ventured on up to the Peak district. Happy in the knowledge that we could travel for days if need be and not need to eat again. Oskar snoozed peacefully in his tipped back seat in the front of Ruby after many choruses of 'Clap hands' and a 'Crocodile sat on my lap'.

We've been teaching him, colour I spy. He starts with "I spy with my little eye something that is yellow..... We look around and he watches us. His little shining expectant eyes, following ours as we look around. It took us a long while to realise that he was waiting until we mentioned something yellow that he liked and not something he had spied. Still, we all enjoy the game and he is getting it now.

We pulled into a campsite that promised everything and more. A Stable bar serving local ales, a camp shop, selling local produce, family run and an adventure playground for Oskar. Clean hot showers and a little cafe. Unfortunately nearly everything was closed but we paid for our pitch an looked at the ominous dark clouds creeping menacingly towards us. ...the clouds opened and the biggest hailstones I've ever seem started to bombard Ruby. This onslaught was followed by high winds and torrential rains. Ruby couldn't take it anymore and started to leak. With cries of "Abandon ship". We left the site with rain water still trickling through her side door into Oskar’s emergency potty. It was evening now and the first place we found that took children was the Rutland Arms, Bakewell. The home of the original Bakewell pudding.

The story goes that the Bakewell Pudding originated through a mistake by the cook here. A Strawberry Tart was ordered for the guest. Instead of stirring the egg mixture into the pastry, the cook poured it over the strawberry jam. The pudding was so well received by the guest that the recipe became recognised as the Bakewell Pudding.

Recipe for Bakewell pudding


200g puff pastry
85g butter
85g caster sugar
3 free range egg yolks lightly beaten
2 free range egg whites
1/4tsp of almond essence
3 tbsps strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 210 degrees c (gas mark 7). Place a flat baking sheet in to warm up (the bottom of the pie needs extra heat to cook the pastry)Roll the pastry out and use to line a very well floured pie plate about seven inches across and one inch deep with a tiny lip all the way round. Traditionally it should be an oval shape, but it won't change the flavour. Spread the jam thinly on the bottom of the pastry. This is your jam tart, now you need your half made cakeCream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, and work in the egg yolks and almond essence bit by bit. In a separate, clean dry bowl, whisk the egg whites with a clean dry whisk until the mix makes soft peaks (very apt as we are in the Peak District), then beat into the butter and sugar mix. The mixture should be thick but pourable
Pour your cake into your puff pastry, and place in the oven on the pre-heated baking sheet. After about fifteen minutes, check the pie to see if the top is browning. If it is getting quite dark, reduce the heat down to 180 degrees c (gas mark 4). Bake for a further 20-25 minutes. After this time, the pastry should have puffed at the edges, the mix should be risen up and dark on top. It won't be thoroughly solid, but it's actually meant to be slightly soft.Allow to cool slightly. The top will sink very slightly but it’s meant to. Serve with cream, custard or ice cream.

Day fifteen-Monster Faggots-Worcestershire

The Crown Inn Withybed Lane, Alvechurch, sells serious food. Food to weight you down and stop you from leaving, food that means that after one meal you don't have to eat for a week. This is 'nothing fancy food' and it's solid. We had homemade faggots the size of a wrestlers fist, chips and mushy peas. The faggots were well cooked, full of sage and seasoned to perfection. They seem to be very popular around here and many of the men in this 'locals' pub said they ate them more than once a week.

Recipe for Worcestershire faggots.

Feeds six very hungry people.

Time to cook Approximately 1 hour 40 minutes - 2 hours Oven temperature 180°C, Gas mark 4,


450g (1lb) lean minced beef

100g (4oz) lamb’s liver, finely chopped

100g (4oz) streaky bacon, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1tbsp freshly chopped parsley

2tbsp freshly chopped sage

2tsp fresh thyme leaves

50g (2oz) breadcrumbs

2tsp English mustard

Salt and pepper

Onion Gravy:

1tbsp sunflower oil

2 large onions, finely chopped

1tbsp plain flour

300ml (1/2pint) ale

1pint good, hot beef stock

Dash Worcestershire sauce

2tsp dried mixed herbs

Make Prepare the onion gravy; heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and cook over a moderate heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Gradually stir in the ale, stock, Worcestershire or brown sauce, seasoning and dried mixed herbs. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Make the faggots; in a large bowl mix together the faggot ingredients and shape into 12 golf ball-sized balls. Transfer to a 2pint rectangular ovenproof dish or roasting tin and carefully pour over the gravy. Cover with foil and cook in a preheated oven for 1 1/2-2 hours. 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil and return to the oven. Guaranteed to put meat on your bones and hairs on your chest.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Day fourteen-dormant in the Clent hills-Worcestershire

Today I've been dormant. We've been catching up on domestic chores and uploading everything that has been waiting in the wings for a mobile internet signal. The rain is beating the hell out of Ruby but Oskar still sleeps on peacefully in his bunk. He's loving this.

Day thirteen-Lambs and magic eggs-Wiltshire then the Clent hills

Last night I was on lambing duty. Neil has a flock of 20 Jacob ewes on his holding and the last three woolly girls were ready to pop. We parked Ruby in the barn next to the sheep, thinking that this would be the night where all three of them would lamb with triplets. I checked on them at 1.30 and 4 in the morning but nothing other than a cheeky escapee lamb and the orphan lamb (Josh the girl) standing in her pen, bleating at her bottle, hoping it would magically give her some early breakfast. She really was quite hopeful. The disrupted sleep didn’t bother me, Oskar generally wakes up a few times during the night and what a night. Foxes cried to each other in their strange eerie banshee cry. Bat flitting through the umber mooned inky sky and that beautiful trick that the night plays on you-that the whole world is entirely yours.

We slept on in the morning. Probably because of our late night reminiscing with Neil and Jackie, a bottle of Camel Valleys finest, and the fact that the barn cast a subdued light on us in Ruby. When we woke and readied ourselves for breakfast we found that dawn pixies had left 6 eggs on our doorstep. Or it may have been Sasha and Harry Jackie and Neils daughters.

One of the ewesnext door was sniffing the strawy floor and making a nest. I mentioned it to Jason and we packed up Ruby ready for our next leg of the tour to the Clent Hills in Worcestershire. Jason looked over the wall and said in a hushed tone. Jade, Oskar look. Next to the ewe was a wobbly little lamb. Its mother nudged it and soon it was standing on its feet and drinking from its mother. Perfect.

Day twelve-Jackie and Neils' and their smallholding family-Wiltshire

Jackies Sourdough recipe direct from the lady herself:
"OK, sourdough bread is along the lines of - for the original recipe it was a lot more, but what I do is put half a cup of flour (rye is good) and half a cup of water in a bowl, cover it over with muslin and an elastic band - you have to keep foreign bodies out, but let the yeasts in - and then the next day, transfer to a clean bowl, add another half cup of flour, and another half cup of water. So on for about 6 or 7 days - it has to be past the bubbling stage and smell 'winey'. Then you use about a pint of the gloop (put the rest in a jar in the fridge, it will keep for a week, then you've got to restart it with more water and flour. Don't forget to always keep some starter to carry on with) and add about another half pint of warm water, and flour (spelt is especially good, but any kind works) and a teaspoon or so of salt. Add enough flour to make a dough, knead for 15 mins til soft and elastic, put it in your tins, and leave to rise - this should make a couple of medium loaves. It takes a long time to rise. Four hours or so in a warmish place, overnight in a cooler place. Cook at 175 /350 for about an hour."

And her yummy homemade baked beans recipe
"Baked beans - soak and cook haricot or similar beans. Heat some fat in a pan - ideally one that is good on stove top and in the oven and has a tight fitting lid - and chop up an onion, I used a red one, and chuck it in the fat. Then add in some bacon bits, garlic, anything you fancy really. Cook until soft. Chuck in beans, with water to cover, couple of tablespoons of molasses, squirt or two of tomato paste, teaspoon of mustard, salt pepper - put the lid on and bung in the oven on what ever temperature it has managed for some hours. Four maybe. Or more ! Make sure there is enough water all the time. Take the lid off for the last bit."
To be continued shortly...

Day Twelve-Ponies, overlapping food and near crash-Exmoor

From Dorset we journeyed on to Exmoor. Just for one night. On the way we saw there was a sign for a toll so that you could avoid Porlock Hill. Why waste money we thought? Its only a hill.. As we plumented towards the bottom of the hill. Ruby in 1st gear yelling at the idiot would was stareing at us hurtling towards them we thought otherwise.She didn't move and we landed in a hedge. We were very, very lucky. Porlock Hill is the steepest hill in England. We should have treated her with more respect. Remember, pay the toll, pay the toll........

Here's where we stayed the night Burrowhayes Farm in West Luccombe. I think we'll be back in the summer.

We left Burrowhayes Farm vowing never to attempt Porlock Hill again. West Luccombe is full of trickling streams, welly-booted childrens laughter and the musty scent of the wet but contented Exmoor ponies grazing in the adjacent paddock. Surrounding the village are intense wooded hills. The type that you can’t help but feel have hidden stories and treasures in them. Enchanted m' thinks. I’m not the only one to be inspired by this countryside; this is,R.D Blackmores, Lorna Doone Country.
I’ve fallen in love with Exmoor in a big way. In Ruby we travelled for hours and didn’t see one power line. On foot you could get fair lost in the dense deciduous woodland, wild craggy hills and deep valleys splashed with garish, mustard yellow Gorse bushes and the quite eyes of the native ponies. After our crabby feast last night, we were still replete although Jason and Oskar managed to partake of a little everlasting Bridport cheese and wild garlic, on thick door steps of Polperro granary toast.
A dilemma I have is that I keep buying excitable amounts of local food and as we move to each new area the food from the previous area overlaps with the current areas food. Ruby is practically groaning. We aren’t. Off to Wiltshire later, and to a wonderful family who strive to be self sufficient.

Day eleven-Camel Valley vineyard-Cornwall

By 10.30 this morning I had drunk four different varieties of wine. No, I haven't turned into a alcoholic, or had a bad morning, neither had I succumbed to the type of Victorian shock which required me to be 'attended to'. It was because I had stumbled upon the glorious awarding winning Camel Valley Vineyard. Known for its unstinting dedication to producing the best of English wines. And boy do they deliver.

For £19.99 you can have a bottle of 2006 CAMEL VALLEY BRUT 'CORNWALL' Traditional Method Quality Sparkling Wine. Described as :

'Most impressive English wine on the market today' - Matthew Jukes.

'Delicious and so elegant, the nose is so pure and fresh' - Tom Stevenson, author Christie's Champagne Guide.

'Fresh, lovely bright, fruity style, good stuff!' - Oz Clarke

And that’s just the bubbly stuff!

We arrived after negotiating the thin Cornish country lanes swathed in wild garlic at the top of the Camel Valley, named after the river Camel that winds its way along the bottom. Acres of carefully tended vines stood, row after row like soldiers standing to attention. As we walked down to the shop Sam the wine expert bounced past us, hair flying and grinning like a maniac intent on getting to the shop to welcome us. I think visitors are few and far between out of season.
In the shop you can taste or take a glass of your favourite wine to the terrace overlooking the vineyard and gaze at the inspiring view. I'm sure it would become even more inspiring after a few glasses of Camel Valleys vineyards best. We tasted and I was really impressed. I've come to expect English wines not to be up to the standard of the rest of the wines of the rest of the world. Here I was wrong. The Bacchus was dry, very crisp, and had a slight metallic edge. Interestingly it was incredibly pale which Sam said some people find hard to fathom. The general thinking being that a white wine must have colour or else it's insipid. This had flavour by the bucket load, although it wasn't over powering. It definitely had one of those devilish finishes that leave you wanting more.

The quality dry wine was equally good,with green notes that rolled around your tongue not wanting to let go. I thought the Camel valley red wasn't quite up to the standard of the whites but was still exceptional. With a beautiful fruity tone it was a very light and indeed the colour was almost beetroot pink which was absolutely beautiful. I generally prefer heavy tanniny reds such as Merlots and Shiraz’s so it was probably that it wasn't to my preferred taste. I imagine though it would be to many other people.

We left clutching our two bottles of Cornish pleasure- a bottle of the 2006 CAMEL VALLEY BRUT 'CORNWALL' and a bottle of the 2006 CAMEL VALLEY BACCHUS QUALITY WINE.

Day Eleven-Warm, sea beet, crab and wild garlic pasta salad-Cornwall

This is a warming heavy pasta salad that combines the taste of the seaside and with the comfort of warm pasta. A great chilly spring time dish to share with friends over a glass of cold crisp white wine or local golden ale such as Tribute a St Austell beer. To serve 4 of your most deserving mates:

· 300g good pasta
· 2 large handfuls of seabeet (mine was collected from Polperro)
· 1 large edible crab
· ½ dozen free range local eggs
· 3 heaped tablespoons capers
· 1 handful of wild garlic- flowers included.
· Large pinch of sea salt
· 20 black peppercorns –crushed
· Good olive oil

“Al dente” pasta is what you need for this dish so that the ingredients can be tossed together without forming a solid lump at the bottom of your serving bowl. The secret to perfect al dente pasta is that for every 100 grams of dry pasta you need 1 litre of water (preferably not hard water).Boil the water slowly. Add about 10g of salt pour in the pasta and turn up the heat so that you get a rolling boil. Stir with a wooden utensil and let the pasta cook for the recommended time (usually on the packet). Test the pasta if you are not sure by trying a bit. It should resist a little when you bite it. When ready add a cup of cold water and drain then toss in olive oil to stop it sticking to its self.

Cook the pasta and hard boil the eggs-I know some people who do this in the same saucepan. Drain the pasta and pop it into a large serving bowl. While the pasta is cooking rinse your seabeet and place in a small covered saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and a knob of butter for about 3-4 minutes. Finely chop up the wild garlic. You may want to put the edible flowers to one side to decorate the dish just before serving. Take the shells off and chop the hardboiled eggs into quarters. Scoop out the crab meat from the shell, the claws and the large legs if you are really dedicated. Combine the eggs, sea beet-including the buttery juices from the pan, Capers,the wild garlic and finally add the crab meat to the pasta. Season with crushed black pepper and sea salt and decorate with wild garlic flowers. Allow your friends to serve themselves straight from the bowl. Then sit down pour a large glass of wine and allow yourself to be congratulated. Easy peasy.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Day Eleven-Fish and chips the Rick Stein way-Cornwall

Padstow, or Padstein as the locals are starting to mockingly call it was our lunchtime destination. We had the kind of light this afternoon, that artists rave about bright, clear, crisp. All the colours of Cornwall leaped out at us demanding our attention. Padstow has a healthy fishing industry and the carefully kept fishing boats rested in the harbour for all to see; neighboured by a couplet of Rick Steins’ enterprises on the quay side. A very shiny fish and chip shop followed by an equally shiny Deli in a brand new shiny, shiny architect designed nautical building. All very shiny and contrived, commercial and welcoming.

On the left there is a traditional fish and chip counter. Traditional looking in every way except the staff, nearly all are French and answer to a chef.

On the right is a dining area. A cross between Wagamama tables where you sit next to people you don’t know and the clinical look of blue and white bathroom. It even has fake stones grouted to the sides of the waiters station. Skinny women wearing oversized sunglasses and bleached blond, aged lotharios sit check by jowl amongst bemused middle aged Mums and Dads and their expectant children. All waiting for Rick Steins fish and chips. Surely the best fish and chips we have ever tasted?

I actually applaud the fact the serve alcoholic drinks with the meals. I know it is reported that the late Queen mother’s favourite meal was fish and chips accompanied by a glass of champagne with an ice cube in it. No one dared question her. I felt I had had my champagne earlier (an English equivalent of course) at the Camel Valley Vineyard but opted for a small glass of Chenin blanc. I’ve always thought Fish and chip should sell alcoholic drinks. Who doesn’t enjoy occasionally saying NO, to the cooker and having a Carb’ rich evening in front of the telly with a good bottle of wine?

The service was second to none, the maître Dee was an efficient woman who dealt with us extremely professionally and had a beautiful rich Cornish accent. She anticipated our ever wish and as Oskar was napping on Jason’s chest came and popped his untouched food into a takeaway cardboard box.

The chips were perfectly fried in beef lard, which maybe to a lot of people taste but I couldn’t see the benefit? I know animal fats allow the taste of food to be exentuated in the mouth but I found it an odd though not unpleasant taste. I had grilled Cornish sardines and Jason had battered cod with the best homemade tartar sauce I’ve ever tasted. Lemony and mustardy a perfect accompaniment to his melt in the mouth cod in a very light but satisfying batter with a good crunch.

The food was good but we did spent £30 on Fish and Chips and too be honest I don’t think it was value for money. It wasn’t that much better than my local chippie in Chesham and where we can treat ourselves to a fish and chip supper for under a fiver.

Still Rick Stein has and is still helping local fishermen and is raising the profile of the work they do and the problems they encounter and for that I really do give a standing ovation to him. I just wish the focus was more to do with good seafood and less to do with the man; Rick Stein.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Day Ten-Trehaven Manor Hotel-Cornwall

Wonderful breakfasts full of local food including Dartmoor Salmon,accomadating hosts (Ella and her husband) a honesty bar,soft comfortable beds (including a special one for Oskar with rocket duvet). We stayed for 2 nights and were completely recharged. I particulary liked listening to classical music while we trawled through our supendous breakfasts. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Day nine-laughable Cornish Italian resturant

After a day of making sandcastles and spotting tiny crabs scuttling along the bottom of the clear turquoise harbour. And me stopping every 5 minutes to study a wild green - usually embedded in one of the sheer cliff walls that characterise Looe. We headed out to Papa Nicos in East Looe. Our criteria had been, that our restaurant of choice had to be:

• Child friendly
• Serve local seafood
• Open (a lot of places don't seem to be open out of season)

A blackboard outside of Papa Nicos boasted that it served local lobsters, scallops and had a catch of the day. We had been advised that they were child friendly.

Ducking down through the dark low door we entered a small cavern with walls be-decked with dusty straw covered Chianti bottles and china vegetables. An Italian plate positioned prominately advertised the recipe for bolognaise sauce. I hoped it wasn't there to be referred to.

Making ourselves comfortable by leaning on the scratchy wall as we stood and waited to be seated didn't seem to attract the waitress. Papa Nicos is the size of a postage stamp and she only had one table to see too. Telling. Shifting our bodies around in a modestly uncomfortable way also didn't attract this resilient woman. Oskar(3 years) making a lot of noise did. He's a very useful chap.

We were waved to our table with a none committal back wave of her hand and we sat eating the thin packets of bread sticks with the use by date carefully covered up by thick black permanent marker. Waiting seemed to be the name of the game around here; so we waited and waited and waited. As you can imagine we were just dropping off when she enquired about drinks. Seemingly startled to see a 'child' (even though she had seen Oskar when we entered) she gathered together a thoroughly used tome of colouring pictures and a small handful of irritating colouring pencils with most of their tips missing.

Used to waiting now, we had started to see this as an endurance test and gave each other sly looks and giggled. As an afterthought, the menus were dropped on the table. I ordered Scallops in a white wine and ginger sauce, Jason had Spaghetti mussels and tomatoe sauce and Oskar had meat balls.

The 'Specials' were scrawled on the chalk board but also were printed on a heavily used laminated sheet. The Specials obviously weren’t so special after all. The food wasn't awful, but was overpriced and with the adage of the aged waitress rushing about making an art of fafiness and occasionally crossing words with the chef (whose' turtle like head would come out and just stare at the whole two tables of people then retreat). Our drinks arrived long after our food. We were relieved to leave, admittedly though with smiles of our faces from our hosts antics.

Day seven-Jades Jammy pheasant-Dorset

These two beautiful pheasents were a gift from my Dorset cousin Stephen who occasionally gets to take part in a shoot on the estate where he is a shepherd. If you pay to go on this shoot it's about £40 a bird. Ridiculous I know but they were beautiful birds with no shot in them that we could find. Proabably becuase they have to shoot them really high here because of the Downs. We were very glad to have them and I felt I had to do them justise with this recipe of mine. The jam gives the meat a caramalised fruity coating which combined with the ginger and the pep of the pepper gives you a distinctively oriental taste. Think plum sauce and forget knives and forks this is sticky finger food to put a smile on your face....and sauce around your mouth.

1 pot homemade jam (mine was some fantastic Damson jam from my Ashdown forest friend Katie)
1 pheasent
Chives 1 large handful
Dorset cider
Black pepper
Ginger 1 thumb sized piece or you could use ground ginger.

Spatchcock the pheasent by cutting along its backbone with a large knife. Turn the bird over and push down until it's flat-usually with a satifying crunch.

Lightly brown the skin side on the barbeque then turn over. This means that you don't have to over cook it later.

Tuck herbs along the V-down the sides of the legs and at the bottom of the breast. The herbs will infuse the meat and keep it moist. I like to use oniony herbs such as chives or wild garlic becuase this adds to the nod towards an oriental taste. Lemony herbs would work as well. If you have no herbs use finely sliced onion.

Cover the top of the pheasent with jam and add half the grated ginger or several good shakes of ground ginger. Season with lots of pepper.

Cover with a metal dish or saucepan. This allows the pheasent to start to cook through and also starts to caramalise the jam so it sticks to it when you turn it over.

Turn the pheasent over and add the nearly all rest of the jam, ginger, and pepper. Cover with the metal dish again. Use a skewer to prod the pheasent and check if there are any bloody juices coming out. This is time to bbq any veg you want to accompany it.Ours was from Fivepenny farm, Dorset.

When its cooked. Place it inside the metal dish on top of the BBQ and add a good slosh of cider then leave for about 4 minutes for the sauce to reduce. Take off the BBQ

Allow roughly 10 minutes for the meat to relax..or however long you can keep your hands off it. Then pull apart and serve with the liquor from the bowl.