Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

First egg

It's only small, but it's definitely an egg

The Builder had it on toast for breakfast - with some bacon, mushrooms and tomato

In the meantime, I made some elderflower cordial. Very tasty. But not on eggs!

Right.  That's enough about chickens and eggs.  Any further reports will be on the garden blog

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And it turned out that it wasn't, after all, the turbo head thingy that needed replacing at over £800, but some valve or another which controlled fuel and air which needed replacing for something less than £300.  Much better!  And so is the car.  It drives now with a purring sound and without the jolting and juddering and coughing and puffs of black, black smoke :-)

In the meantime, I had been pondering what to do about being car-less for the weekend.  I ordered supermarket necessities online, due to arrive around 7pm on Saturday.  We can go to the market in Chesterfield for the veg and meaty requirements. Come to that, there's a perfectly good butcher in Tupton, although no greengrocer. The village shop does sell veg but not much and it's not very fresh.  But that's OK.  We can get to Chesterfield easily enough on the bus.  Sorted.

And then, of course, we weren't car-less for the weekend. So we wandered off to Chatsworth and pottered around in the countryside and called into the garden centre.  We pootled about in the garden in the sunshine and let the chickens out to play. The Builder did lots of useful things.  I did fewer useful things but did do quite a lot of baking.

Ham and sausage pie with salad
And then it was Sunday and the country stopped to watch the England football team perform quite remarkably appallingly in the world cup.  I went for a stroll around Tupton just after kick-off and found the place almost entirely deserted.  I ran across one of the elderly gentlemen who sit, in Last of the Summer Wine style, on one of the benches on Queen Victoria Road.  He was on his way from his daughter's house, where he had been having Sunday lunch, back to his flat a few doors away so he could watch the match.  I saw another of the elderly gentlemen on a bench which was not his customary one.  And I saw a lady out for a walk.
Tupton, supporting England

And that was it.  Everyone was inside and (I assume) watching the soccer.  I went home and settled down to be equally appalled and slightly amused by the England attempt to play soccer, in the Skype company of Austin in Japan and Ant, Christian and Zoy all (I think) in Melbourne.  Skype conference calls are a wonderful thing!

And then I went outside to gather in red currants.  I let the chickens out while I was about it.  There weren't many red currants but I figured we might as well garner them in.  Went off to grab my glass and came back to find the chickens having a merry feast of the red currants in my harvesting basket!!!!!!  You can't blame them.  They will have naturally assumed that tasty treats in baskets left lying about on the lawn will, of course, be for them! There won't be much red currant jelly this year!!  There should be quite a bit of white currant jelly though.  The white currant bushes are, comparatively speaking, quite laden.

I started off this year's lot of elderflower fizz too.  We opened a bottle of last year's and it fizzed excitedly everywhere.  Managed to get most of it into glasses in the end - and it was absolutely delicious.  Has the advantage of not being alcoholic so you can drink it on a sunny Sunday morning without shame or guilt!

I woke up this morning to the sound of a persistent tapping noise outside.  wondered what on earth it was.  It was only about quarter to four although it was pretty much light.  I got up to investigate.  It was a steady stream of water falling from the sky.  Not something we have seen much of recently.  Alas, it didn't last long.  The kitchen water butt remains obdurately empty.  The sun is out again now, in Sheffield at least.

Just had a message from The Builder.  When he went down to clean out the coop this morning, there was one, small, light brown egg in the egg boxes.  That's not bad going.  We've only had the chooks a week!  (He says it's sunny in Tupton now too)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frannie covered in flour - again!

I'm beginning to think I should change the name of the blog!!

But I did spend quite a bit of the weekend covered in flour.  And there is still flour all over the kitchen floor - I ran out of time to sweep it up :-S

It was all inspired by this recipe in the July edition of the BBC's Good food magazine.  I saw it when I was reading the magazine on the train last week and thought it would make a rather nice weekday lunch addition.

So when we were at Chatsworth on Saturday I bought two pork boneless shoulder chops.  They had a bit of fat on them, enough to make juicy sausage meat, but not so much that I would end up thinking that they were simply too fatty.  I put the chops, chopped into pieces, through my mincer (this activity vastly intrigued the cat!!), and then put a couple of chunks of bread through the mincer to push the last of the pork out and to provide breadcrumbs for the sausage meat.  I diced half a bramley apple and finely sliced several fresh sage leaves, then I mooshed it all together with a little real apple cider to form a proper sausage meat.

I had intended to use shortcrust pastry for the base of the pie but simply couldn't be bothered making it by hand (my food processor has upped and died on me, you may remember). So I lined my springed cake tin with ready-made puff pastry.  I lined that with slices of boiled ham, put in half the sausage meat, topped that with more boiled ham then finished off with the rest of the sausage meat and a puff pastry lid.  And cooked it at 150d for around an hour.  It is extremely delicious.

I was thinking that next time I might add hard boiled eggs or maybe dried apricots, just as a variation.  The possibilities are pretty much endless :-)

Picnic Pie, as inspired by Good food

I used the left over puff pastry to make pasties.  These are not austerity pasties.  I used rib-eye steak :-S  But only a small piece and the potatoes, carrots and onions were much more plentiful and also much, much cheaper!  The pasties are in the freezer, ready for lunches and picnics.

I made this year's batch of elderflower fizz too.  And we broached a bottle of last year's.  It was EXTREMELY lively and fizzed everywhere when I opened the bottle.  But it was also extremely delicious and has the extra advantage of being alcohol free.  So we could have some mid-morning with the first of the raspberries from the allotment

Friday, June 25, 2010

Alas, poor Vixen. I knew her, dear reader

Shall we take roses when visiting the patient?
No, no.  It's OK.  The car isn't actually dead, just very sick :-(

For some time now, it's been losing its oomph.  Not taking off at intersections or pulling away at roundabouts (a bit of a worry that one). Feeling like it wants to cough when driving along.  And, from time to time, actually coughing and emitting clouds of blackness from the exhaust.  Highly undesirable.  Especially as we're going to Axminster next Friday.  We don't want a dodgy car if travelling long-ish distances!!

It's been in a couple of times and had expensive new parts fitted.  These have not helped and the situation has got steadily worse.  After I had brought the car into work and back on Wednesday and not been entirely confident that it would manage to get up the hill towards Dronfield, I declared that I wasn't driving it again on my own until it was repaired!! 

It went in for investigation yesterday.  Nick and his pal sucked their teeth and declared it to be the turbo head (or some such thing).  £850 for a new one.  EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?  They'd better be damned sure that it really is a new turbo thingy that is needed. 

They called for a second opinion and The Builder seduced a nice lady at the bank.  The nice lady came good with a small loan.  The second opinion thought that it probably wasn't the turbo head.  So now the vixen is properly in hospital, having lots of tests to determine a diagnosis.

I came to work on the bus and the train.  Was quite nice, but then the sun was shining, I walked onto a bus and onto a train without having to wait for any length of time. It's not quite as enticing in the depths of winter. And the bacon sandwiches they sell at the station don't smell quite as unresistably tempting during the summer as they do in the winter!

I went out this morning for a potter in the garden before coming in to work. It was extremely difficult to drag myself away again.  It was one of those mornings that are described so eloquently in novels and children's books from the 1950s, describing summers that probably didn't really exist then and don't often happen now.  The sun was shining and there was the gentlest of gentle breezes.

Cheerful cornflowers

The birds were singing and the bees were buzzing around lazily.  The flowers were beautifully scented.

Poppies growing happily among the cabbages

The cat was asleep in the sun on the little table by the pond.  The chooks were clucking in their run and munching on clover. The strawberries are pretty much ready, there are oh-so-nearly peas ready for snacking on.

Ideal weather for a cat

Why, oh why would you throw yourself on the mercy of buses and trains and workplaces when you could don your apron and bake things in the kitchen, or get your garden shoes and a wide brimmed straw hat and potter about deadheading the roses and picking herbs and sorting out the cabbages, or gather in rhubarb and make rhubarb jam ...

Fairly acceptable for the chickens, too

Something about contractual arrangements?  Oh - OK.  And so to work I came

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chooks. And Fruit

The chickens have arrived!

We drove up to somewhere in the countryside, outside of Barnsley last evening and collected them.  Two Lohmans and two Black Rocks.  They seemed quite happy when we let them out into their run when we got back.  The cat was less happy.  He hasn't seen chickens before as far as I am aware, wasn't sure entirely what they were and wasn't hugely delighted to find them in his back garden!

We'll keep them confined to the run until they've got used to us, then let them out when there's someone around to keep and eye on them.  They are so far showing no huge interest in the outside world (other than wondering what the noise is when the passenger trains hurtle past on the railway line!).

I was going to call the Lohmans Sage and Onion (so encouraging them to lay eggs in order to avert being filled with the aforementioned sage and onion!!) but then I realised that this might well cause confusion should we happen to be referring to my niece who is also called Sage (There was a notable time when Roger at work dolefully announced the death of George and was a bit surprised by the reaction of the people around him.  We thought he meant our colleague George who happened to be off sick at the time.  In fact, he meant his son's hamster!!!!!)  So I have abandoned that idea and called them Marjoram and Parsley.

The Black Rocks are called Kiev and Schnitzel  :-)

You may remember that I said that the fruit trees weren't doing very well this year.  It's true.  They're not.  But here are some sights to make us happy.

And I noticed yesterday evening that the strawberries are nearly ready to pick.  No chickens out loose until after the strawberry season is over!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The intention had been to spend the weekend mostly in the garden and on the allotment.  There is, after all, lots to do, the forecast was set fair, and the flower garden in particular desperately needs rescuing.

Somehow it didn't happen that way.

I seemed to spend quite a lot of time covered in flour

The Builder built the chicken run.

I spent Saturday afternoon watching the soccer (which is emphatically not something I habitually do!!)  I watched the Australia match with: The Builder in Tupton with me, Austin in Nagoya and Simon in Melbourne - all down to the magic that is SKYPE.  Was rather a nice way to watch sport :-)  Can't say that I was mightily impressed with the quality of the soccer this weekend, though.  England hardly seemed to be trying in their match and certainly didn't seem to care.  Australia was trying and did care but couldn't quite pull it off, having been reduced to ten players when one was sent off - a bit unluckily, I thought.  And Japan went down in a valiant game against the Netherlands.  But Japan remains the only one of "my" teams to have won a match.  I might have to adorn the house with Japanese flags!!  (Many of the houses in Tupton are adorned to some degree or another with St George's flags.  There's one house up by the school which is absolutely swathed in flags and has lots of red and white garden windmills (the  little plastic ones you dot about your garden beds to deter birds) about the place.  And when England is playing, they have a twice life-sized inflatable England football player in the front garden.  It looks amazing!!)

We have found a whole new pet supply and garden centre tucked away just beyond the Brimington roundabout.  We bought supplies for the forthcoming chickens, admired the snakes, gawped at the koi carp, boggled at the parrots and ambled around the plants and trees and landscaping materials. It was amazing!  And we had had no idea that it was there.  A useful find.

I researched the availability of chickens in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.  Found a couple of likely suppliers.  Emailed one and got an almost immediate reply saying that they had black rock and lohman chickens available at point of lay.  I ordered two of each.  We're hoping to get them tomorrow after  I finish work.  I wonder if they will all fit in the cat travel box.  I wonder what the cat will think about his travel box being converted into a chook travel box.  Come to that  I wonder how he will take to the advent of four chooks into his orchard?!?!?!?

I wasn't expecting anything to report from this morning's trip to work.  There is so seldom anything much to say about coming to work.  This morning we were passing through Chesterfield in a line of traffic.  There was a bicycle in front of us, a car in front of the bike.  Proceeding along, we were, when all of a sudden the bicycle abruptly flew to the right and the rider flew to the left and collided with the wheel of a car parked alongside.  We came to an abrupt halt so as not to run him or the bike over.  It seemed that his chain had snapped and got tangled with the front wheel.  He assured us he was all right, although he thought he had hurt his neck a bit.  His helmet was smashed to pieces!  Just as well he was wearing it.  You should always, always, but ALWAYS wear a helmet when riding a bicycle.  You just never know when your steed will chuck you off and you will connect with a stationary object with your head.  But I hope the rider gets his head and neck checked out.  He gave the car a mighty whack.  The bike, I think, will need replacing.  The helmet certainly will.

Solstice report

We are not going to do very well for fruit this year, I fear.  We had lots of blossom, but the high winds earlier in June have blown off all the baby fruits.  I think we will do all right for apples and maybe the morello cherries, but there's not much left on the other trees.  A small number of sweet cherries, one plum that I can see, no pears or peaches.  And not many black currants for some reason, although the red and white currants are looking quite well-endowed.  And we should be fine for raspberries and even gooseberries.  The blueberry plants got busried under a wilderness of grass.  I've cut the grass back and we dug some rhododendron feed in around them - blueberries like quite acidic soil.  So no fruit this year, but I am hopeful of next (assuming I remember to feed them again in the autumn and spring.

We were beginning to despair of the cabbages and cauliflowers.  They were doing absolutely nothing at all.  The cabbages showed a slight tendency to heart, but nothing very exciting.  So we began eating them anyway.  The leaves were nice and tasty, just not very prolific.  But now - the cauliflowers are finally flowering and we are getting very tasty small caulis from them.  And the cabbages are finally, finally hearting properly.  They're still on the small side but I don't think they're going to get much bigger.  Well, they're definitely not going to get much bigger because we're eating them!!!!

We are doing extremely well for carrots.

And I have taken to growing the saladings in the wooden boxes The Builder made for me a couple of years back.  They're in the driveway along the house wall and the wall dividing us from next door.  We've also inherited the wooden boxes The Builder made for Barb.  She has no further use for them.  I am using them to grow pea shoots and pak choi and basil and lettuces.  I've got tumbling tomatoes in the hanging baskets by the back door.  It's so much easier to keep them watered and safe from slugs and snails in the boxes.  And so much easier to harvest them in the mornings when I'm doing the lunches.

Kudos to Tozer seeds, by the way.  I ordered 500g of pea seeds at lunch time on Friday.  They arrived in the Saturday morning post.  And were accompanied by a complimentary packet of purple basil seeds.  I was deeply impressed.  The Builder is going to plant the peas up on the allotment this afternoon.  I shall press him to make me another wooden box to plant the basil seeds in!!

You remember the poor orange tree, frozen to death in the greenhouse over the winter?  I went to pull it up this weekend so I could prepare the ground for a replacement.  Seems it's not dead after all.  It's shooting again from just above the graft.  A dilemma.  Will be years before it grows properly again.  But it seems a bit harsh to rip out a plant that is doing its damnedest to survive!

I have a problem taking the solstice photos this year.  We've replaced the window with one that doesn't open outwards!  I am going to have to be more inventive when I get home this evening

Frannie, covered in flour

I mostly spent yesterday baking.  I made:

Bread rolls (there were six but The Builder had one with cheese and chutney for lunch)

Sticky bread with an orange and cinnamon glaze

And carrot fairy cakes, covered in a lemon icing

I also broke the food processor and had to make the Yorkshire pudding batter by hand!!!!!

Not sure what to do about the food processor.  I don't really want to buy a whole new one.  All the bits for the existing one are working perfectly.  It's just the base unit that has gone doolally.  And I'm not sure if you can buy base units on their own.  Will have to investigate.

On the other hand, it would certainly be in keeping with George Osbourne's austerity program were I to do my mixing in a ceramic bowl with a wooden spoon.  Might keep me quite fit, as well!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Freyja has also joined the ranks of the newly promoted ...

... and also not by application or request.  She was talking to her boss the other day and mentioned that, given the new projects they had undertaken, they could do with another body or two to deal with the office admin and stuff.  Hmm, said he.  In that case we really also need a team leader to keep the bodies under control.  Should probably be full time.  But that's OK.  You can do it 4 days a week until such time as you happen to leave and then we'll put someone on 5 days a week.  Now ... How much extra should we pay you?

How come I never get jobs like this?  I'd be happy to have new jobs at extra pay if I didn't have to fill in job applications!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chicken coop

Not really sure which blog to put the chicken coop on.  I think in future I'll put chicken related matters on the garden blog.  But that is in serious need of updating and I don't have time at the moment.  But just so as you know ...

... The chicken coop has arrived :-)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Taffa's Birthday weekend

We did manage to get away to Cambridge on time and had a good run down, arriving in the middle of the day.

In addition to it being Tabitha's birthday, it was also the weekend of the Cambridge town and country fair on Parker's Piece.  So, having unpacked the car and sorted ourselves out we all trundled into town, in the sunshine, for a poke about.  And we rather enjoyed it.  There was lots of food for lunch.  There were horses and sheep and chickens. There were food tents and craft tents.  There were amazing ball things you could run about in.  And there was a parajump tower, hosted by the army.  Somehow, we persuaded Gaz to have a go on that!! The sun shone, the crowds were amiable, there was lots going on, no one was driving so we all ambled around clutching a glass of wine or beer.  We had a good time. And then repaired to a pub for a couple of pints to rest our aching feet and The Builder's back. 

We were remarkably lucky with the weather!!

So lucky, in fact, that we decided to have a Clayton's barbecue (the barbecue you have when you're not having a barbecue) for dinner.  We called into the little Sainsbury's in town and acquired barbecue meats and salads and potatoes and went home and cooked everything inside and then ate it outside, enjoying the lovely evening - and the sound of the England  v America World Cup Match commentary being piped through the window.  The match was a not very exciting 1-all draw (although that was considerably better than the 4-0 drubbing Germany inflicted on Australia on Sunday evening!!!)

All in all - it was a good day!

Sunday was a good day too.  It was Tabitha's birthday and she had lots of skype-calls and cards and merriment. We had decided to have a Sunday roast at home, so I had brought a Pork loin roast from one of Farmer Jane's pigs.  And we had it with roasties and lovely vegetables and an apple and sage gravy.  We had a Frannie-made apple pie for dessert.  Joan joined us for lunch.  She seemed fit, well and happy and was in very good form. She appeared to enjoy her lunch - she doesn't have a very large appetite any more, but made a good job of her plates of food.  We had a lovely afternoon.  And the sun continued to shine.  Right up until The Builder and I were approaching Derbyshire on our way home when the skies clouded over and the rain finally found us!!

I was strangely tired yesterday morning :-)

Tabitha has a new job!  She went away for a super-duper long weekend over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend at the end of May.  When she got back she discovered that one of the checkout team leaders had left and the Powers that Be had decided not to advertise the job but to give it to her.  She's quite pleased.  Not to mention surprised!!

I've just had a message from The Builder.  The chicken coop has arrived at home!!!  I wonder if he's busy assembling it even as we speak ...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Eyre Arms, Hassop

We went last evening to the Eyre Arms with Richard.  It's a lovely pub out in the tiny village of Hassop out in the Peak District.

It serves fresh cooked pub food, using mainly locally sourced ingredients. It's not a fancy menu, but there is plenty of choice and even the seafood ingredients (which are obviously not locally sourced!) are fresh and tasty. My only "complaint" would be that the cream sauce with my chicken hartington was pretty much just a plain  white sauce with nothing remarkable about it at all. If it had cream, or even hartington cheese, they were undetectable. But the chicken was beautifully cooked and the vegetables were lovely, I got a finger bowl with my starter crevettes (something that is so often forgotten!) and the chocolate pancakes that The Builder and I shared were lovely.  And you absolutely can't fault the portion sizes.  I'm not at all sure I could have finished the rabbit pie, which Richard had!

Richard thoroughly enjoyed his rabbit pie. The Builder was impressed with his scampi. There is a range of local ales and the wine list isn't bad.  And it was fairly quiet when we were there, which might be a bit of a worry on a Friday evening in June, were it not for the fact that the World Cup had just started and people were mainly at home watching the opening matches.  They were expecting a very quiet evening on Saturday when England was playing its first match.

You wouldn't go if you were looking for fine dining, but it is an excellent example of the good country pub. We will certainly go again.  I am a bit tempted to try their Sunday lunch.  So often pubs which do perfectly good food at other times fail completely at Sunday lunch!!  If you can find one that does a good roast, it's worth remembering it!!

The Builder has met the bloke next door

No, no.  Not Steve.  We know Steve.  Other side! 

I've been wondering for some time what it is about our partner semi that attracts people who live in the dark with the curtains closed, who are seldom heard, seldom seen and who never, ever use the back yard.  I asked Facebook one day, and had a series of serial killer vampires diagnosed!

We knew a new bloke had moved in because we saw him carrying stuff in, and we occasionally hear the front door closing.  But he seemed to be yet another serial killer vampire.  We never heard him, seldom saw him and the curtains remained obdurately closed.  This time it was even weirder because we knew he had an Alsatian.  We had seen him taking it out in the mornings, but had never seen it in the yard and had never heard it.

Then on Wednesday The Builder was putting out the rubbish bin when the bloke walked past and stopped to talk to him. Turns out he isn't a serial killer vampire.  He's a chef, somewhere in Dronfield.  And he heads out at about 10 in the morning and doesn't get home again until after 10 at night.  He takes the dog with him.  And he works more or less seven days a week.  So that explains that, then.  I never see or hear him because I've gone by the time he gets up in the mornings and have gone to bed when he gets back.  The Builder says he seems quite pleasant.  Sean the Chef.  And Spirit the Alsatian.

I was pottering about in the kitchen on Thursday evening when The Builder ambled in with the phone.  It was Richard with a sad, sad tale.  He had been expecting to go out to dinner last night with not one but two beautiful ladies.  He'd booked a table at a country pub and everything.  And the beautiful ladies had now stood him up.  So, in their absence, he would be willing to put up with us, if we fancied dinner out in a country pub in the Peak District.

As it happened, we were free last evening and were delighted to join him at the Eyre Arms in Hassop. It was a beautiful evening. Richard was driving. The Peak District was looking beautiful.  And the food at the Eyre Arms isn't bad at all. You'll find a description of the meal here, should you be interested.  It was a good evening - and all the better for being unexpected.  Retirement seems to be agreeing with Richard.  Though he also seems to be extremely busy.  He's been doing some exam invigilating for us during our exam period but otherwise is merrily keeping occupied with the many projects that he used to squeeze into his spare time when he was working for us full time.

Right.  Must get up.  We're supposed to be going to Cambridge this morning and there is lots to do before we go.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


We are not having much luck with the cucumbers!

The first plant simply turned up its toes and died on us.  We couldn't see what was wrong - until I pulled it up to replace it.  It had no root system at all!!

The second and third plants were doing quite nicely.  Until we had an extremely windy afternoon and evening and one of the plants got snapped right off.  So now we have one cucumber plant, one pumpkin and one butternut squash in the first bed.  I also have some watermelon, zucchini and more squash seedlings in the greenhouse.

Although - it has been getting quite hot in the greenhouse and we can't keep the seedling watered.  So I've moved them up into the propagating tents. The plastic has weathered on them so they are sheltered from the wind on the sides, but the tops are now open to the elements.  But they seem to be doing all right.  I must getting around to potting them on, though.

The flower garden is very pretty at the moment, but it is in a sad state of disarray.  It desperately, desperately needs weeding, and all the paths have disappeared.  I just don't seem to have the time or the inclination to do anything about it.  The orchard and vegetable gardens are looking ok, though, although the raspberry, gooseberry and currant beds could do with weeding too.

In the meantime, the Under-gardener has been industriously digging on the allotment.  He's doing a fine job indeed.

You will find pictures here

Monday, June 07, 2010

Monkey bread

I ran across this recipe for Monkey Bread in a Lakeland email and thought it looked quite interesting so I decided to give it a go.

It was only after I had started mixing that I realised quite how enormous the quantities were!!!  I had, of course, read through the recipe but mostly to make sure I had all the ingredients required and that I was capable of actually following the recipe.  I hadn't looked at the amounts involved.  I should have!!!

Also, I wasn't sure whether I had misread the quantities or whether the recipe has them wrong, but the resulting dough was very, very liquid.  More like a thick cake batter than a bread mix.  You most certainly couldn't have rolled it into balls.  I've just had a look at the reviews on the Lakeland website and it seems I am not the only one to have made this discovery! It more or less flobbed into the baking tin and ended up looking more like cake than bread.

I baked it anyway, and it was quite tasty, although a bit sweet for my palate and rather heavier than I had expected it to be.  The Builder seemed  to enjoy his.

But I've decided to try again, cutting the quantities in half and reducing the liquid a bit while slightly upping the flour.  I was going to give it a whirl yesterday evening but in the end decided to bake cinnamon scrolls instead.  I can more or less make the recipe up for them!! 

Although - I am not sure that cinnamon scrolls for breakfast will aid my mid-term goal to reduce my girth so I fit into my summer linen trousers!!!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Goodness, but that was an exciting storm

It's been threatening thunder and rain and wind all morning.  And now the thunderstorm has arrived.

There's been bright lightning and loud thunder claps, followed by a rolling grumble of thunder echoing around the valley.  Mostly it sounds grumpy rather than angry.

Until just now when there was an enormously bright flash of lightning, followed immediately by such a deafeningly loud clap of thunder that it almost made the windows rattle.  It certainly made us jump.  And all the birds flew in a mighty woosh up into the large trees in the field.  Marlo is somehwere out on the farm.  I am expecting him back very shortly, dripping wet and wanting to be towelled dry!!

And it's such a contrast to yesterday.  Yesterday was sunny and warm and bright and shiny.  We pottered about and ambled lazily out to Chatsworth and pootled around in the garden centre, pottered around in the shop and came home via the Wingerworth garden centre - where we hardly ever go for some reason. Not sure why, because it's quite a nice little garden centre.  We sat outside in the late afternoon and evening sunshine and drank wine and thought about the garden and allotment and gently drifted along.

I do not think we will be sitting outside this afternoon or evening!!

So we are sitting inside now, waiting for our roast lamb and roast potatoes to be ready.  About 2:00, I think.  I have opened a bottle of red wine to accompany it.  And I am about to dash outside between rain showers for some oregano for the gravy.  I am hopeful of a peaceful and leisurely afternoon and evening

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I enjoyed that weekend

For me, it was a super-duper long weekend.  Monday was the Spring Bank Holiday.  Tuesday the University was closed.

So, we took the opportunity to make a longer trip to Salisbury than we can usually manage.  Two nights, instead of one.  At The Swan.  Excellent! (You may have noticed that we like The Swan, though I do try to mute our enthusiasm on these pages!!!)

First, though, we dropped to Bakewell to inspect a house that my friend Jo had put an offer on.  It's up on the hillside, behind the church, almost out of the village.  And it's beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.  I am considering selling The Builder on eBay and gazumping Jo!!!

Then we made our way across country down to Salisbury, stopping on the way for lunch.  We didn't do too badly for traffic, except that parts of the M6 we closed and we had to divert around Wolverhampton.  So we were late to Barb's where we were supposed to be going for afternoon tea.  We went anyway, but skipped afternoon tea so as not to spoil our dinners!!  Afternoon tea postponed to Monday.

They had put us in the rather swanky first room at The Swan.  It was extremely comfortable. Four poster bed and everything :-)

Sunday dawned bright and shiny.  And we went with Gwen to Whiteley, where we found Ian and Sophie, and Mike and Rosie.  Oh, and, of course, Jeanette, Matthew, Rebecca and Evie.  As you would expect.  It being their house and all!  We had a barbecue lunch and sat out in the sunshine and drank wine and played with Mike and Rosie's dog and generally had a lovely afternoon.

On Monday we took Gwen to Street, near Glastonbury, where there is an outlet shopping complex.  Gwen's children are all more than happy to go and collect her shopping for her, whenever she needs anything, but she does rather miss going and pottering about in the shops.  We had nothing pressing to do and so had the time to take her shopping.  And I think she had a nice afternoon of it.  She certainly came home with lots of parcels.  We did not.  I am looking for some pasta bowls - but I want some that will at least complement the three I already have (used to have four but dropped one, alas).  And I want a pair of surf sandals.  But I have quite specific sandals in mind and there weren't any.  There also weren't any satisfactory pasta bowls.  No worries.  I can be patient.  And also, of course, am unexpectedly short of funds this month!!!!!

We meandered back across country to Barb's place and sat outside and ate scones and drank fizzy wine (or Barb and I did - The Builder and Gwen had tea). Then we delivered Gwen back to her place and meandered on home ourselves.

On Tuesday, I mainly baked.  Cheesy damper.  Rhubarb fairy cakes.  Flapjack.  And slow roasted gammon for dinner.  It was a lovely day (not the weather, which was cool and damp).  I need more baking days!

You will find the various pubs we visited over the weekend here.  And my chip obsession here


I have been trying to decide why I get so stroppy when I am served disappointing or badly cooked chips.  And I do.  I get very stroppy.  Especially when I am eating in places that otherwise do remarkably good food (sorry, Matthew; I shouldn't have shouted at you ;-(  )

I think I have decided that it's because there is almost nothing nicer in the world than a well-cooked chip.  But chips are extremely expensive in terms of calories, fat and other dubious dietary elements so they have to be worth the investment if you are going to eat them - if you see what I mean.  There is no point eating a hard, uncrispy chip.  You don't get sufficient pleasure to make the calorie and fat intake worthwhile.

Anyway.  I decide to make chips last night instead of roasties to go with the roast gammon.  And I decided to thrice cook them.  I don't usually bother.  I always twice fry, but have never bothered to steam or boil the potatoes first.

Last night I did.  I used Shetland Blacks, which roast beautifully.  I figured that they would also fry nicely.  I boiled them only for a couple of minutes (they are a VERY floury potato and disintegrate if boiled for any length of time) and put them in a bowl of cold water.  Then I patted them dry, fried them in very hot sunflower oil until they were just starting to change colour, drained the fat off them and left them to sit until I needed them.

I know that some cooks dip their chips in flour for the final frying, but I'm not quite sure how that works and didn't want to risk it. Shetland Blacks are not the cheapest potato in the box!  So I made up a very, very thin tempura style batter and dropped them in that before frying them the second time.  And I tell you what - they were wonderful.  Absolutely wonderful.  Absolutely worth the investment of calories and fat!!  They were fluffy in the middle and really crispy on the outside. The very thin batter really set them off.

It would be extremely greedy to have chips again tonight.  Wouldn't it?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A weekend filled with pubs

We visited rather more pubs than we had expected to last weekend.

First was one whose name I forget, near Wolverhampton.  We had been diverted off the motorway.  I was getting hungry.  My one small Vegemite sandwich had long since worn off.  The Builder pulled into a pub we were passing so we could grab some lunch.

It's a pity I don't remember its name because although it looked rather unprepossessing, it actually did not bad food.  Not great food, but more than acceptable. We both had sizzling platters - The Builder had gammon, I had chicken.  Not bad at all.  Even the chips were all right.

Then there was The Swan.  Breakfast at The Swan is one of the great pleasures life has to offer.  But I had something of a dilemma.  We were off to Jeanette and Matthew's for lunch and experience over many visits suggests that I cannot have a full breakfast and a full Sunday lunch and do justice to both.  I couldn't have the eggs benedict, which I often do under such circumstances, because I had had them the previous evening for my starter. And eggs benedict twice in twelve hours, no matter how very delicious, seemed excessive even by my standards!! I decided to have the cold platter with toast instead of croissants.  And it was absolutely delicious.  Fluffy toast, a large chunk of cheese, beautiful ham.  And crisp apple and crunchy pear and sweet strawberries and an unexpected couple of cape gooseberries (I love cape gooseberries!!) and even a little pile of carrot sticks.  It was lovely.  I had it again on Monday morning (having had eggs benedict again on Sunday night, with some vegetables as a light supper).  Yum diddly yum yum!!!  Their kitchen may have lost its ability to fry chips (but I'll do a separate chip entry) but you can't fault its capacity to poach eggs and prepare breakfasts.  The Builder had his habitual full English while I was chomping healthily on fruit and cheese.  Judging by the way he scraped his plate clean, he thoroughly enjoyed that too. (Actually, he scraped his plate clean for everything he ate there.  Except that I made him offer me some of the toffee sauce that came with his sticky toffee pudding for my ice cream!!)

No physalis or carrot on Monday but still a lovely platter of food

And so to Monday.

We were pottering around in Somerset, hunting for a pub to have lunch in.  We accidentally drove past a couple of likely candidates, then deliberately drove past another couple that did not entice us.  Then we saw a brown sign for the Waggon and Horses.  We decided to try there.  After all, if they put up brown "food" signs they must have at least a passing interest in food.  On we drove, following the signs.  Off the main road we turned, still following the signs.  Out into the middle of nowhere, drove we.  And finally we got there.  And it really was something of a find.

It markets home-cooked food, and home-cooked food is exactly what you get.  My chicken in tarragon sauce was moist and tender.  The sauce had lots of tarragon and was very creamy.  The vegetables were not badly cooked.  The new potatoes (I'd given up on chips by then!) were lovely.  The Builder had scampi and chips.  Gwen had cod.  Nothing pretentious.  They'd get no points for presentation.  But it was lovely, plain food. We all ate every scrap.  If you should happen to find yourself in the wilds of Somerset, near Shepton Mallet, looking for a spot of lunch, you could do a lot worse than follow the signs to the Waggon and Horses.