Thursday, 31 March 2011

Paddy's day pasting

Chiefs took on London Irish in their home stadium the Madejski on Saturday. As this was the nearest game they had to St Patricks day the 'Exiles' [London Irish] had duly designated it their annual Paddy's Day Party with bands, inflatables and beer tankers galore. And tries galore. Against us. Oh. Dear. :-( The first was over the line within a minute of the start and the second followed 5 minutes later! Not an auspicious start and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game as we missed a conversion and London Irish carried on scoring. We seemed to come back a bit after the half time break, managing to get within a single point but the end score was 39-17 to the Irish. A deserved win it must be said and we enjoyed our visit. The atmosphere was great and the fans welcoming, several stopping us to shake our hands after the game. The old man next to me certainly enjoyed himself though I must admit to only understanding about 1 in every 3 words he said to me!!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Well I got my wish and managed to christen the new fork before going off for my training course. The angled handle really makes a difference when you go to do the first lift and turn of a spit. The handle is some sort of soft grip effect and nice to work with. I like my new toy!! If you're looking for an inexpensive set of tools you could do worse than keep an eye out for these 2 when they're on offer together.
The end of last week took me to London for training on the new IT systems we'll be using in a weeks time. We go live with them on the first day of our new term - brilliant timing!! Not looking forwards to that. I was staying in a hotel just off the end of Brick Lane - with this great juxtaposition of a view outside. Rundown graffitied derelict buildings in the foreground with the shiny gherkin behind. It's near Aldgate East station - one of those with a few odd original bits left like the fantastically retro looking [except presumably they're original so therefore can't really be called 'retro'? Vintage maybe? Answers on a postcard please!] signs telling you which way to go. I love those little individualistic notes in an otherwise rushed world; people with no time to notice them as they pass by on their way to and from the daily grind. Sad really. Or maybe I'm assuming too much apathy on their behalf and these little touches are what keeps people living in and loving London. Who knows?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lovely things

The lovely Chap got me a present yesterday as a surprise. A brand spanking new garden fork and spade set!! I've felt bereft since breaking my fork recently, and he was worried the spade may be going the same way as they both have wooden handles and have been out in the weather for the last 3 years. These are Spear & Jackson ones - with nice sized comfy feeling grips on the handle and an angled shaft to make the digging easier. They have a 5 year guarantee on and were £20 for the set of 2 from Screwfix.* [We'd been looking at potential replacements last week.] Chap said if you bought them individually they'd set you back £15 each instead, or £30 for the pair. Needless to say I'm delighted - what a star he is! Thank you darling!! I can't wait to get down the plot and try them out - I'm hoping to get away from work close enough to on time tonight to nip in and have a quick go before it gets too dark. Otherwise it'll have to wait to next week as I'm off for a training course for work tomorrow and Friday, then we're catching the Chiefs game at London Irish on Saturday. Fingers crossed for the Chiefs! *Can't seem to see them as a set of 2 there now - perhaps it was a limited time offer. The set had three 5 star reviews though so I'm expecting good things. :-)

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Veggie 'meat' FTW

I finally got round to trying out home made fake meat using the wheat gluten Littleblackfox so kindly sent me a little while back. I used this recipe on the net I've had kicking around for some time. It's got a lot of ingredients but that's essential for the flavour - you can experiment and adapt to what works for you or what you may need for a specific recipe / cuisine. The lovely Jeni from the Heathen Vegan site has very kindly given me permission to post the recipe so here it is, in her words:

Quick Homemade Seitan
Dry Ingredients
1 cup wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp garlic salt
2 tsps pepper (I use white)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary

Liquid Ingredients
3/4 cup Bisto gravy (made really thick) [Red bisto is veggie - fact!]
2 Tblsp Tamarind Sauce
2 Tblsp Olive Oil
1/2 Tblsp Soy Sauce
1 Clove of garlic squeezed through a garlic mincer
2 Tblsp Water

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, really well. Mix liquid ingredients in a separate bowl then add to dry ingredients. Whisk well with a fork so as everything is incorporated and forms into a dough. Knead dough for a few mins.
Double wrap in lightly oiled tin foil. If you want to shape the dough into a sausage then do so, rolling the foil round tightly and then twisting the ends.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 200 degrees [Gas 6] for 90 mins - turning over halfway through. Unwrap the seitan and leave to cool completely.

When I got to the kneading stage I halved the mix and left one half as was and added to the other half:
0.5 tsp basil
0.5 tsp smoked paprika
0.25tsp cayenne
0.25tsp fennel - I had seeds rather than ground and am similarly bereft of a pestle and mortar so did my best to crush them in my fingers. Needless to say the result wasn't exactly even but hey - I'm sure I keep seeing 'rustic' on menus these days so it's virtually de rigueur to have lumps nowadays isn't it? :-D
The idea of this was to get some sort of spicy Italian sausage style end product.
Now I'd never made this before so had no idea how, or indeed if, it would work. I was very hopeful that it would prove to be tasty, have a good texture and be versatile enough to use in a variety of dishes. This would then mean I had a whole new panoply of fake meat options to explore!
Well - I like it. It was very very easy to make, took hardly any time to mix up, a quick and easy knead [I did add a sprinkle or so extra wheat gluten at the kneading stage as I found it quite sticky] then was happily bunged in the oven. They mention turning half way through cooking - I think this is a 'needed turn'; my 2 foil wrapped sausages were turned after an hour and there was a detectable difference in colouring from one side to another so I think if they were left for the whole cooking time unturned the difference would be too much. ['Needed turn' as opposed to things like oven chips / hash browns which tell you to turn them but I routinely ignore. Life's too short y'ken?]
I have to say I will be tweaking the flavourings next time - halving the tamarind as 2 tbsp means you can taste it too clearly in the end product, rather than amalgamated into part of the overall flavour. Also at least halving the white pepper - this much was a bit hot for me at the expense of the other aspects. The Italian type I made was pretty spicy - I guess having used half the mix with the original flavourings already in and then adding cayenne to it might have something to do with that...
All in all a very definite win for the 'fake meat' brigade - even the meat eating Chap gave grudging approval - meaning that he'd eat it rather than it being totally minging like some pretend meat products are, as we all know. [Linda McCartney - I'm thinking of your sausages here.] This was so quick and easy I'm looking forward to experimenting with flavour combos and cooking methods. So far we've tried it fresh roasted as it came out of the foil, and thickly sliced then oven braised with celery and leeks as part of a roast. Both worked. As long as you can get your hands on the *wheat gluten I urge you to try this. I can see it becoming a bit of a pet project with me!
*Wheat Gluten seems to be one of those things widely available in America [where many of the recipes I've seen come from judging by their use of cups as measurements] but not however quite so easy to come by here in the UK. Littleblackfox kindly told me they sell it online at The Flourbin, although it must be said they have a minimum order value of £10 (at time of writing) and you'll need to add £6.95 P&P to that. Otherwise search it out locally or there is a manual extraction method that I don't know and am hoping to get away with not knowing. Good luck. ;-)

Monday, 21 March 2011

Slow Cooker Barley Lentil Stew

Had a busy weekend down at the allotment so decided to knock up a quick (in prep terms) dish in the SC for dinner after a hard days graft. This came out thicker than I expected so you could add up to another half pint of stock to loosen it a little. Could also be adapted to your preferred flavour / herb combo; just use the recipe as a blueprint and adapt away.

SC Barley & Lentil Stew
2 small onions
2 cloves garlic
1 tin tomatoes
1.5 - 2 pints stock - see note above
2 bay leaves
1tsp rosemary
1tsp parsley
1tsp oregano
2 sticks celery
1 large carrot / 2 smaller
0.5 cup pearl barley (approx 3oz/75g)
0.5 cup red lentils (approx 3.5oz/100g-ish)

Chop onions. Crush and finely chop garlic, add both to SC.
Drain tin tomatoes - if ready chopped add pieces to SC, if whole ones slice into about 6 pieces each and add to SC.
Chop celery and carrot into small dice and add to SC.
Add barley and lentils, herbs and stock and cook on High, at least 4 hours.
I cooked for 6 hours in the end which was a little too much - one edge was starting to stick. As mentioned this turned out pretty thick - adjust the amount of stock used to your preference.
All in all tasty, ideal for cold evenings, filling and very time frugal to make. You could add more veg as well - a good recipe to use up odds and ends in the cupboard and fridge.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Irish food fail

Well, I got in last night full of ideas for soup but thinking that first I and the Chap would get some seeds sorted. We've been meaning to do this for a week now! So now was the time. Cleared stuff off kitchen table - check. Cleared stuff in lounge window bay - cd rack, 2 small tables, footstool - check. Extricated table from kitchen, round corner, down hall and into bay in lounge where it'll get the best light - check. Plastic sheeting on floor - check. Compost carried in - check. Varied plastic trays and receptacles - check. Big box of toilet roll inners - check. [For growing beans in for the uninitiated - they give a deeper root run and as the beans dislike disturbance to their roots you can plant the entire things out when the time comes.] Chap filled a module tray for his chillies &c; I filled up toilet roll inners for various Broad Beans [including some exciting crimson flowered heritage ones] and some sweet peas [Arthur Hellyer in case you're wondering]. Having omitted to keep back an empty 1 pint plastic milk carton to use for a handy compost scoop/funnel (cut off the base and leave lid on to use as a scoop. Remove lid to use as a funnel) I ended up using the jam funnel. TBH given my various poor efforts at preserve making so far this may be the best use for it! It worked very well so if you want something prettier to fill up your toilet roll liners with than an empty milk carton [though if you're using toilet roll liners in the first place it suggests to me you're not too worried about prettiness where this stage of veg growing is concerned] I'd recommend one. Expect to pay around the £3-4 mark, mine was from The Range for filling flasks with soup since we moved to our new and microwave-less building. Long story!
Anyway, a while later we had a neatly filled module tray, 4 sets of broad bean filled loo roll inners, one set of sweet pea filled ones and I'd laid out all the potatoes to chit and labelled their cardboard egg trays and *fridge egg trays as well.
Thoughts turned to dinner. And eyes turned to the time... :-O
Needless to say at 10 to 10 in the evening I'm afraid I no longer had the will to start making bread; not even soda bread, nor soup from scratch. We had veg and hash browns (cacky emergency freezer food I'm know - though the veg were fresh) with some grated cheese over the top of the veg. So - er - potato cakes are kinda Irish right? [Although I don't think LIDL is...]
I did chop the veg for a soup in the slow cooker overnight so I wasn't completely slack, and it meant I could have fresh home made potato, leek and Dorset Blue Vinney soup today for lunch at my aforementioned work sans microwave. Yum. Anyway, I'm pleased with the seed sowing, we, and especially the Chap, were getting a little twitchy feeling we were behind. Chap has the bad fortune to be working the weekend so I'm planning on getting a lot more seeds and planning done [and rugby watching - final weekend of the 6 nations people!]. Enjoy the weekend and any sun it brings your way! :-)
*You may remember (or not) me wittering on about these previously. I am currently coercing work colleagues into giving them up to me. Mwah ha ha haaa.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Well...I am a little bit Irish...

Beannacht Lá Fhéile Pádraig!
Or more conventionally Happy St Patrick's Day! Now as I'm a person that would celebrate this in a non-secular fashion [and tbh I'm just an eighth Irish] I have been looking up some foodie ideas for a veggie Irish dinner tonight. Looks like it's gonna be either Irish Potato Soup or Leek and Oatmeal soup with soda bread. I must admit I'm leaning towards the Oatmeal version; or 'Brotchán Foltchep’ [Brotchán meaning 'broth' and Foltchep the oatmeal.] It's also known as ’Brotchán Roy’ - King's Soup. I'm not sure whether this is because it was regarded as fit for a king or because it was actually a favoured dish of some historical monarch but I fancy giving it a go. And soda bread is great; warm from the oven slathered in butter - ok maybe not the healthiest but tasty and true to what seems to me to be the basic roots of much traditional Irish cooking - made with easily available inexpensive ingredients but nourishing all the same. Anyway - I shall let you know what combo I go with on the morrow
I can't claim credit for this cake - a colleague made it and brought it into work for us but I can attest that's it's very very good (and I don't eat a lot of cake) and you can't taste the Guinness in it - it just seems to add depth of flavour. Good for me as I can't stand the stuff personally! Enjoy the day, and celebrate the food of the Emerald Isle with me.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Cheese - it's spesh and you know it!

Well I promised to tell you more about our cheese purchases yesterday and here you go. I mentioned the Beenleigh Blue - it's made by Tickelmore Cheese in Devon. It's a blue cheese made from Sheeps milk. Slightly misleading to look at as it doesn't show a lot of blue veins but it's a robust and strong flavoured blue, although not too 'claggy' or 'wipe out' with the taste. Very very nice, although also fairly expensive, do try it if you see it available anywhere.
The others we got were a good bit of Dorset Blue Vinney, some tasty mature cheddar - Brue Valley Vintage, a Capricorn goats cheese (not pictured) and some Raclette - I've wanted to try this Swiss speciality that's eaten melted for a while so I'm looking forward to having it. We got the 2 jars of loveliness pictured as well; now for a lazy evening dining on cheese, crackers, chutnies, olives and the like. Ah bliss!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Speedy 'Hola'

We had a nice weekend both in Dorset and at the allotment. Beautifully sunny day and much digging yesterday has left me rather knackered today!
Over the weekend we had lunch in the Wise Man pub in West Stafford. Pretty little village and a lovely looking pub, nicely done up inside. It is a meat eaters menu though, very definitely. There was a total of one veggie and one fish choice on the main menu; and as the fish was battered I chose the veggie option of sweet potato and butternut squash Thai curry. Oh dear - it was quite hideously sweet. Now - I'm not an idiot so I know both the veg in this are naturally sweet and I also eat and actively like both of them. However the sauce this was done in tasted basically like apricot jam had been used to make it. I found it quite inedible I'm afraid. That was once I'd waited 10 minutes to even try my meal as the dish was supernova heat when it was brought out!!
The chap had a steak purporting to be medium-rare but which was a little overcooked on arrival. As his plate was also supernova it was a lot more overcooked looking once a few minutes had passed but he said it was nice. Ma and big sis had a pork, cider and apple casserole and aside from leaving a few larger lumps of apple on the side of the plate declared it very good. A mixed bag then. I did mention to the guy who collected the plates that I found the curry to be very sweet. 'Mentioned' you'll note, not complained. Anyway he came back and told me that the chef said that 'all Thai curries are sweet' said in a slightly bolshy 'you're an idiot' manner that I found pretty offensive. [I used to work in customer service and in fact used to be a manager so I do know what you do and don't act like to customers even if they're kicking right off, or downright lying or whatever. None of which I was doing.] This was a shame as otherwise, as previously mentioned, this was a nice pub sympathetically done up after a fire a few years back. Also - as a big afficionado of Thai Green curry [to the extent of keeping a jar of the paste at work] I take issue with being told all Thai curries are sweet. No they're bloody not. A lot of them have coconut in yes - that does not however equate to sweet. Anyway - if you're a meat eater you'd probably find something to tempt you here, personally I don't think we'll be returning though.
As for the rest of the weekend Chap fixed some leadwork on Ma's roof and took apart the old coal bunker, earning brownie points in the process I'm sure! We visited the Fridge, a very good deli in Dorchester and spent the best part of £20 [!] on cheese, medlar jelly and a jar of pickled walnut chutney!! [Very nice cheese though - of which more tomorrow.] We watched the home nation rugby games in the 6 nations - unfortunately missing Italy beat France for the first time ever [YAY!] as that's when we were lunching.
We also dug over more at the allotment [oh woe my broken fork - how I miss thee] and now I'm aching a wee bit. At least the sun came out and I could get my hands in the earth once again. :-D

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Quick quick post

Another 'one good and one bad thing' post.
Love this ingenious use of a recycled tin and a party popper casing for bird feeders here - seen at the local St Bridget Nursery. These have holes punched in the base and a seed & fat mixture inside. And yes; if you're wondering we were there buying seeds! I just can't stop myself... We got these nifty little free guides as well. Also - by searching the ranges available we got the radish seeds for £2.29 for 60 from the Suttons range as opposed to the first pack we picked up - £3.99 for 30 seeds from Unwins! Half the seeds for nearly double the price, go figure. (As an aside to this I find Mr Fothergills good value for money and they don't charge P&P for seed only orders as opposed to T&M who do and take longer to dispatch.)

Gutted and really rather annoyed at myself - managed to break my trusty fork at the weekend trying to extract a big tuffet of grass from a path on the allotment. I can't believe my honourable friend is busted. :-( Think I'll have to borrow the chaps until I decide on a replacement - his already has a broken tine though!

Well, off to Dorset for the weekend for Ma's birthday, fingers crossed for the sun!

Rugby round up

There's been 2 home games over the last couple of weekends for the Chiefs with one loss and one win. First up was a local Westcountry derby V Bath on the 26th Feb. The start time for this had been pushed back to 8pm for the telly. This meant that we could watch the 6 nations games first [including watching England cream France] but meant we were all, er, rather tired by the end. [As attested to by fuzzy nature of the pic here!] Sadly we lost 9-12 in a penalties only game which saw our normally reliable Steenson miss a couple in the high winds. It was another packed crowd though for this sell out game; and according to rumour we statistically can't go down now despite stubbornly sticking at position 9 in the table.
Rather more happily our last game on March 6th was a 30-9 win against Northampton Saints including 3 tries scored by us in the glorious Devon sunshine. We narrowly missed out on a bonus point but were happy to add to the Saints losing run. (6th game in a row now.) We're still 9th in the table, but as long as it's the Premiership table we're in I don't think we mind too much.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Foraged Seafood Stew

Limpets - hmm. The books seem divided on these with Hugh F-W enthusiastic about them; although admitting to their rubbery qualities, and John Wright of Edible Seashore rather more disparaging - describing eating them as like eating pencil erasers dipped in fish paste!! Not exactly encouraging but I didn't share that section with the boys when we were collecting the things. ;-D
We'd placed them in salted water [35g sea salt to 1l water] until we were ready to use them in an effort to purge them - ie rid them of the grit in their stomaches.
Anyway, having seen a few too many references to rubberyness we decided that a long cooking time would be the way to go so we'd use the slow cooker for this stew. It was an experiment really but I was hopeful they'd prove palatable being an easy forage that's not exactly hard to find. I also added some Sea Beet we'd foraged from the same stretch of beach - this is a common seashore plant that we'd never tried before that John Wright was rather more complimentary about than the limpets; likening it to a superior kind of spinach as it doesn't lose it's shape on cooking as spinach does. This is how it went then.

Slow cooker Limpet stew
3 small onions
2 cloves garlic
2tbsp EVOO
0.25 pint white wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes - drain but retain juice
1tsp smoked paprika
Limpets - we had 3.25lb of them in their shells
0.75 pint fish / veg stock
2-3 potatoes
3 white fish fillets chopped into chunks
Sea beet - 3 handfuls
Frozen prawns - 1 handful
Frozen cockles - a handful
Lemon juice

Put EVOO in pan to heat. Finely chop onion and garlic and fry off to soften.
Place wine and drained tomatoes in the SC on high - retain the juices from the toms though.
Add smoked paprika to the frying pan with the onions and garlic and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring well then add the lot to the SC.
Scrub the limpets and add to the SC in their shells. Switch to 'low' setting and add fish stock to cover - I used 0.75 pint made from a cube. Add the tom juice at this point if more liquid is necessary to nearly cover all those shells.
After 8 hours the limpets will fall from their shells with ease; pick the shells out being careful not to burn fingers!
Add the potatoes, chopped into smallish dice and leave for another 2 hours to cook through.
At end of this time try the limpets and discover they're still disappointingly rubbery in texture so decide to try Mr Wright's tip of blending the things.
Blend mainly the limpets and chunks of potato with a little of the liquid. Be startled at the - er - 'interesting' shade of green it goes. [At this point it's fair to say I was getting a little more perturbed as to whether this increasingly long-winded process was actually going to produce something fit to eat. Looks appetising deosn't it?!] Return to SC where the sauce has been cooking away for another half hour.
Add the 3 white fish fillets (I buy the value packs of frozen ones in the stupormarket) to the SC and leave for a further half an hour.
Strip the stems out of the sea beet - they are a remarkably obliging plant in that these tear out very easily. Add them to the SC. Taste for seasoning - I added salt.
Add handful of defrosted prawns and cockles to the SC and stir in. Leave until fully heated through at least.
Immediately prior to serving add a splosh of lemon juice to taste.

Hmm - we all liked this to start with - although liquidizing the whole limpets (rubbery foot and dark stomach section) had left a bit of grit in - solved by just serving from the top of the pot. However after a while the taste becomes a bit much. Having tried this at various points in it's creation I think that next time the best use for limpets would be to simmer them in stock / toms; whatever you want, to give a basis for a bouillabaisse type soup or stew then discard the limpets themselves. The taste of the liquid before blending the limpets into it was better I think.
Anyway - you have to try these things and now we know. Try yourself and make up your own minds though - it may be a taste/texture combo you love but for me - it just didn't live up to the ones I'd had in garlic butter in Madeira a couple of years ago. As you can see from the shells though they're not the same variety as our native type. Perhaps the shore is the best place for me to leave those in future. :-)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Foodie day!!

Well - it's pancake day anyway - but I also learnt today that it's British Pie week. Oh - and it's International Women's Day. So - off you go and think up something to combine those 3! I'm planning on pancakes tonight - although which ones out of regular, scotch (drop/griddle scones), crepes, blini, boxty, oriental, american buttermilk... hmmm - flat foodstuff is evidently a universal constant huh? Enjoy if you too are partaking and I promise I'll have a proper post for you tomorrow - all about limpets no less!
Oh - just in case - basic pancake batter recipe:
4oz plain flour - but if all you've got is self raising that's fine
0.5 pint milk
1 egg
Whisk egg and milk together then whisk in sieved flour bit by bit. Add a pinch of salt if they're to be served savoury. Oh - or sieve flour into bowl then add whisked milk and egg to it bit by bit. Either or. So long as you sieve the flour and you've got a half decent balloon whisk - metal for preference - it'll only take a couple of mins to get a double cream consistency smooth lump-free batter. Not worth getting the FP out for I'd say.
Heat oil in pan - fry.
That's it! Have fun. :-)

Monday, 7 March 2011

Fishing fail on the North coast

Over the half term Chap's son was with us [I promise I'm catching up!] we went fishing at Ilfracombe in North Devon. You may recall I was a little unsure how I'd take to this but the issue didn't come up. I caught not a thing - absolutely nowt!! We'd arrived early to be there as the tide came in - apparently that's the best time as the fish come in feeding with it. It was an enjoyable few hours standing staring at the sea and coast line in this beautiful part of the world. Chap's son caught a baby ling - whilst I'd nipped off to the lavatories - but they did show me a pic so I'll believe them. As it was a little 'un they returned it back to the sea. Other than that I almost got a crab but he let go as we pulled the end bit of the line [surely there's a technical term for that - hooks &c?] out of the water, waving a cheeky claw at us as he went -whether in thanks for his brekkie or defiance at nearly catching him I'm not sure. [Tackle - it's tackle!!] It was a mostly dry albeit grey morning though and certainly got some healthy sea air roaring into our lungs.
After a fish and chip lunch by the sea [from a place on the Quay road by the harbour - rubbish. Undercooked and soggy and they forgot to give us the curry sauce so we had to go back] we decided to have a drive along the coast. Originally heading for Hartland but we decided to stop at Clovelly [or 'clover-ly' as the Chap insists on pronouncing it - lol.] If you haven't come across Clovelly before it's a little fishing village built pretty much down a cliff face on the North Coast of Devon. It's very steep and cobbled and famous for pictures of donkeys that used to carry people and goods up and down. Now most people seem to have these nifty sledges made from bread delivery trays. There's a hotel right on the front as well as a pub further up the 'hill' [it's a cliff - admit it Clovellyites] and a fair few wee shops selling touristy stuff and some rather good ice-cream. There's a rocky shore past the harbour and a waterfall down the cliff a little way along the beach. If like me, you walk along beaches staring at the floor and have a penchant for stripy pebbles you'll love it here - just remember that you have to carry any 'finds' back up the hill! Unless of course you opt for the cheaty landrover service to take you back to the car parks - there's no visitor parking in Clovelly at all unless you're booked into the hotel. There seems to be a large number of cats in Clovelly as well, not sure wyt that should be. There's also a donkey stables and visitor centre if you end up in the main car park. Oh - in looking up that link I've just found out that Clovelly is privately owned and you're supposed to pay to get into it!! We ended up in a little parking area by the recycling bins and didn't pay as there was no one asking us to as we giant-strode down the steep tarmaced road that comes in to the west side of the village. Oops - sshh!! It's a pretty place but I don't think I'd be happy paying nigh on £7 to get in. Anyway, you pays your money [or not] and you takes your choice. :-)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Start Point and a seaside forage

Wednesday we took a little jaunt down the coast to Start Point; off past the end of Torbay, Brixham and Dartmouth here. Having parked up in very windy conditions [after following some comedically tiny roads to get there] we had an amble down to the point, looked at the view, got blown about, saw the lighthouse was shut and headed back up the hill. After a sarnie or two we decided to coast hop our way back up; stopping first at Hallsands, where we gathered some limpets and sea beet with the idea of making a seafood stew loosely based on one in the River Cottage 'Fish' book. It was great fun I must admit - we came across some rocks with masses of limpets on [and loads of tiny mussels - noted for later in the year once they've grown] and took a few from each spot. It's important to vary the size if you go foraging for limpets as they change sex half way through their lives therefore the small ones are male and the large female. If you only went for the big 'uns you'd cause a population imbalance; aparently the larger ones can be tougher too. Needless to say as well that if you're going to forage for any seafood check water cleanliness, time of year, local byelaws etc. Equip yourself with some expert knowledge like this - that's what we did. I take no responsibility &c &c &c!!
We also found some dog whelks and these eggs - not sure what they are but intriguing!
We carried on up the coast - incidentally a lovely part of the world, then crossed the Dart estuary on the ferry and headed for Churston Court for a pint in front of the huge 13th C fireplaces. This place is brilliant; quirky, old, fascinating and serving lovely food and pints it's worth a visit just to have a poke about. There's at least 2 suits of armour as well!

Week of half term

Hell, it's a long time since half term meant owt to me but this one brought the arival of the Chap's 14 year old son to spend the week. As previously mentioned I was a little trepidatious about this having a) never met him before and b) no experience with kids as I have none nor do my big sis's. Eek - what do you do with them for a week??!
Well...technically it wasn't a whole week. Son arrived on Monday arvo to the Chap's peres where we all had dinner and spent the evening sat around nattering. We then retired upstairs and had a poke bout on t'internet for options for the next day - we were in the son's hands!
Tuesday brought the decision of a trip to Paignton Zoo - or 'Environmental Park' as it appears to have rebranded itself on the signs at least if not their website. I'm a bit mixed on zoos - it's not where any animal should be out of it's natural habitat but I'm well aware there're some species we'd be pretty much without if it wasn't for them.
Paignton is an impressively large site split into areas roughly equating to habitat type. There's a lot of impressive bits to it and it will easily fill an entire day to look around. A lot of it was well done, informative and interesting. The whole place obviously cares about it's charges and about educating it's audience about them and the consequences of our actions upon the world. Sadly this doesn't alter the fact that some creatures just don't seem to adapt so well to captivity. The Echidna in particular seemed intent on tracing it's path round the edge of it's enclosure; although to be fair this may be regular behaviour for them. For the pub-quiz-factoid lovers amongst you the Echidna is one of only 2 mammal types on the planet that lay eggs, the other being the duck-billed platypus; an animal made from the bin-ends if ever I saw one! The Echidna looks a little like a long nosed, extra-long spined hedgehog/porcupine sort of thing. The Cheetah also had a path worn round the edge of it's enclosure; although when we saw it it was lazing on top of it's shelter eyeing a fat wood pigeon pecking amongst the trees not far off. The rest of the big cats we missed out on only getting to the park for the afternoon. :-(
The ape house also made me sad - as well as marvelling at the sheer size of a gorilla. Most animals you get an idea of their size off the tv but gorillas in the flesh - they really are huge. And gentle and therefore oh so sad, for me at least. The rest of the park was interesting and informative though. Bear in mind my personal responses to the place are no reflection on it and the running of it!
A few pictures then - a lot of the creatures were behind glass so you're spared masses of them!An impressive bunch of bananas on entry to the reptile house.One of several groovy little frogs - the only one where the pic even vaguely came out due to the low light levels and my stubborn refusal to blind the poor things with the flash.Big cactus. The animals had been moved from the desert house for the winter - all except a group of large fat guineapigs!
Giraffes from above.
Our winner of fave for the day - the comically bewhiskered Red River Hog. Shorter bodied than the domestic pigs we're used to seeing here it's very much a rectangle with a leg on each corner. We liked him although I've told the Chap the back garden just isn't big enough for one yet...

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Shoreline at Shaldon

I'm hoping this post goes smoothly today! I want to share with you a little beach off the back of Shaldon in Devon. Go to the Ness car park, shown here and follow the signs for the tunnel through the cliffs to the beach itself. The Devon red rocks are interspersed with bands of deposits, giving interesting patterns as they various layers wear at different rates. I think the protruding part here looks like a big tongue coming from the cliff!
There are warning notices all over the place as cliff falls are not exactly infrequent so do be careful looking around!

We had a lovely walk along the beach spotting pretty shells and rocks. Chap saw a tiny starfish that was immediately washed away by the next wave but then I spotted it as well on the returning wave. Here it is before we safely returned it to the welcoming embrace of the sea. A baby razor clam shell.
The afternoon ticked away as we dawdled along the coast, scrambling over rocks and picking up varied pieces of wood, rock and an unattached buoy. [I have grand plans for this to do with sea foraging.] As the sun dropped in the sky we left and made our way over to Teignmouth on the other side of the estuary for a welcome pint in the last rays of the day.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Test pic

Well that worked so it isn't the pic glitching up the post as I thought it may be. Hmm - I may have to split it up and see if that works. Harumph!
Well I made the post shorter and that showed me a glitchy looking line which I removed and retyped and it worked! It's put the post down there ¬ as it keeps it where you originally started writing it. Ah well, fingers crossed that's all the naughty tech for this week!

Bad tech / ware

I'm currently tussling mightily with the net / Blogger and don't seem to be able to get my post up that I wrote yesterday. Grrr. Bear with me chickadees! :-/

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

So many potential posts, so little time...

Where to start? Hmm - chronological order always has a certain something about it don't you think? Lol.
This then was an adapted risotto dish I made on the Saturday prior to Chap's son arriving on the Monday. I'd fancied trying Risotto Milanese for a while - I love risotto and the Milanese variant was the first dish I had at the Chap's peres - me being a pescatarian really threw them so his dad looked this up especially and it was gorgeous. It's a fairly basic risotto flavoured with saffron and parmesan. We however were quite hungry on Saturday so I adapted the recipe I had from the BBC Good Food website and bulked it out with some additional veg to end up with the dish below.
Risotto Milanese-ish
2 small onions finely chopped
50g butter
8ish mushrooms finely sliced
250g / 8ozish risotto rice [sort-grained; pudding stuff also works]
0.25 pint white wine
2 good pinches saffron strands
1 pint veg stock
Cupped handful broccoli florets
75g / 2-3ozish parmesan + few shavings to top
S+P as needed

Gently melt half the butter in a wide based deepish frying pan.
Add the onions and stir then cover whilst you slice the mushrooms.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook gently for few minutes to soften. Keep the lid on to keep in all the nice mushroomy juices.
Once the onion and shrooms are lightly cooked add the rice and stir it all around to coat in the butter and juices.
Add the wine and turn the heat up. Simmer to evaporate off the alcohol, just leaving the wine taste behind.
Add the saffron and a splosh [1/4 pint ish] of stock. Stir until the stock has been absorbed - the heat should be enough to keep a gentle simmer going.
Add another splosh of stock and stir until absorbed.
Repeat until almost all stock used - should be 15-20 mins for all of it. [Risotto rice (arborio) should end up creamy with a hint of bite left to it.]
With the last splosh or 2 of stock add the broccoli florets so they get 3ish mins cooking.
Beat in the remaining butter and the parmesan. Taste and season if necessary.
Serve with a few shavings of parmesan sprinkled over the top.
This was tasty and more than enough for the 2 of us, even ravenous as we were. I think the saffron was lost a bit under the mushroom taste but it was nice to give it a try.
Risotto is one of those p*ss easy dishes that actually don't take that long if you don't subscribe to the 'one ladleful at a time' school of stock-addition; which I don't. Just don't walk away from it - it must have constant stirring or you'll end up with a sticky mass burnt onto the bottom of the pan!
Woop - finally got this to post, albeit minus the pic. That's up there ^ see? Blogger does like to test me sometimes...