Saturday, August 31, 2013

Center Parcs

We have just returned from a lovely few days at the Sherwood Forest Center Parcs - swimming, archery, adventure golf, boating, the works! We were there on the mid-week stay, Monday to Friday and it was just right - if we had been there any longer I would have been forced to clean the bathroom and vacuum!! Oh and wash the shower towels which never quite managed to fully dry each day - bit damp!

There were 2 other things that tickled me - Zachary got into the habit of calling the living accommodation 'valets' (a hybrid of my 'chalets' and Leigh's 'villas') and in the toy gift shop, they had a range of those wooden calendars which have two cubes at the top which you rotate to change the day number. ALL of them were set to 27 January, which is my birthday! Clearly whichever date they chose for the calendars would be someone's birthday, but it made me smile.

The boys want to go back. Again!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Veg Box No. 4

Veg box number 4 was bumper this week - and included a free fruit box. So fruit-wise we had about a gazillion (techincal term) pears, plus apples, grapes, a melon and plums. Then in the veg box we had padron peppers again, chard, tomatoes, mushrooms, runner beans, courgettes, cucumbers and beetroot (and possibly some other bits I can't remember!).

Leigh made pear and vanilla butter with the pears and we've eaten all the rest of the fruit. The cucumbers made a lovely oriental salad with some peppers, thank you Leigh, and we managed to eat quite a lot of the other veg in meals. I also made a bumper lasagne this weekend to eat at Center Parcs next week and that included all the tomatoes, mushrooms and courgettes, plus a layer of chard between mince layers.

And the beetroot...chocolate and beetroot cake of course!

This was a Nigel Slater recipe - the cake looks great (haven't tried it yet - also provisions for Center Parcs!) but it did use nearly every bowl and implement in the kitchen! The beetroot needs cooking, cooling, peeling and then food mixing into a rough puree. You then melt the chocolate, add espresso and melt the butter in the cooling liquid. Sift the dry ingredients together. Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks into a frenzy. Fold those into the chocolate mixture and then also the beetroot. Finally whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, fold in caster sugar. Fold all of this into the chocolate mess (ahem), mixture, and the finally fold in the dry ingredients. It'd better be worth it!!!!

And just for good measure I've also made the next biscuit on my Miranda list - Bedtime Biscuits. These have oats and malted milk powder in the mix. We have a tub of Horlicks powder in the cupboard which I used for these, unfortunately the powder had formed itself into a solid lump. Luckily the mortar and pestle did its job well!!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Telling Tales

The boys LOVE telling tales on each other - mind you, I'm pretty sure that was how it was with me and my sister too. But it's very interesting hearing to a tale unfold...and let me preface this by saying that the boys are now in bunk beds and Leo has been told (on many occasions) that at bedtime he is not allowed up in Zachary's bed.

Leo crying - 'Zachary hit me in the face'
Zachary - 'But Leo tipped water all over my bed'
Me - 'Leo you know you're not allowed in Zachary's bed'
More crying
Leo - 'Zachary asked me to get his water cup for him from his bed.'


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Culinary Escapades - a post script

Not being one to easily shake off my slightly clumsy/inept persona there was one kitchen casualty over the weekend. We have a great set of measuring spoons which are magnetic so all stick together and to the fridge and are double-ended - one end with a regular 'spoon' sort of shape and the other end a bit more of an oval, which is absolutely perfect for fitting into jars and containers with slightly narrower necks, for example spice jars.

As I was putting the courgette loaves (delicious - especially spread with butter!) into the oven to bake I failed to notice that the teaspoon measure had attached itself to the side of the loaf tin.... bye bye sweet teaspoon measure.

Culinary Escapades

It's being a bit of a foodie weekend.

Leigh has been working mainly with fruit - it's jam season and we still have a boatload of strawberries in the freezer from a few weekends ago when we headed off to Scaddows Farm to pick them. Added to that, Leigh's Mum gave him a box full of blackberries from her garden so he's been catching up on some jam-making this weekend. He made strawberry, apple and lime jam, and a blackberry chutney yesterday, and there's a spiced blackberry jelly straining in the kitchen as I type. Wonderful!

I've been doing things with vegetables. We have started getting a veg box again, from Riverford Organic Farms - it's still a little expensive compared to what I would spend normally at the supermarket, but it is making us eat veg I wouldn't normally buy, which is a good thing. We've had 3 boxes so far and have managed to eat our way through all of them so far which we're very pleased about. The first couple of weeks we had bags of pod peas which we gave to Leigh's Dad (he's a huge fan!), and then were able to use up anything else we didn't eat during the week in a large spaghetti bolognese!

This week we had a bag of spinach, 4 apples, 6 pears, a melon, 2 globe artichokes, a bag of salad leaves, 2 cucumbers, 4 courgettes and some padron peppers.

So last night I attempted to cook the globe artichokes and the padron peppers, neither of which I have eaten or seen prepared before. Riverford provided us with cooking information for both of them - the artichokes had to have their outer leaves removed, remove the hairy choke with a teaspoon and then boil whole in salted acidulated water for 20-40 minutes. To start with I had no idea how much of the leafy layer to remove, so I went until the leaves turned from dark green to a light greeny-yellow colour and then scraped out the middle. I'm not sure this was quite right as there were still very tough fibrous leaves even after cooking that couldn't be eaten, so should probably have removed more. The middle of the artichoke was good - although it did seem a lot of time and effort and bits you couldn't eat for a very small part of the vegetable! I think this may require further research.

The padron peppers were easier to deal with. You basically fry them whole until the skins are wrinkled and blistered, sprinkle with salt and then eat whole. They were delicious, but incredibly hot and spicy!!! Neither of us could eat as many as we wanted!

And then finally I've turned 3 of the 4 courgettes into 2 courgette loaves - one to freeze and one to take to a friend's house this afternoon.

Added to all this, we went over to Kedleston Hall yesterday for the Derbyshire Food and Craft Fair. Not great weather and not very many people there but the boys managed to pick up a wooden hazel whistle each, I got some lovely gin from these people, and Leigh bought some delicious mayonnaise from these people. Very good for dipping artichole and padron peppers in!

This trip had the added bonus that as National Trust members we then had a visit around Kedleston Hall itself which was amazing. Whay have we not been before? We will definitely be returning.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jammy Dodgers!

I have reached the jammy dodgers page in my Biscuits book! I didn't read the recipe through before I started and so didn't realise that - (a) the jam isn't cooked in the biscuits, you simply sandwich two of the vanilla biscuits together when cool with it, and (b) Miranda suggests that you leave them for a day after putting them together to allow them to stick together properly and for the jam to absorb slightly into the biscuits. Yes. Well if she thinks that a batch of biscuits can be made in this house without being sampled the day they're made....

And a note on the jam - nothing specific was mentioned in the recipe, but jam with big bits in (like the mixed fruit jam  Leigh makes) will not work very well - I managed to break a biscuit trying to squash it down over the lumps! Sieved jam worked much better!!

Stage I - bake the biscuits individually

Stage II - sandwich with jam!!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Camping on the Isle of Wight

We've just returned from a great 4 days on the Isle of Wight. We've never been before but have friends who have been with their caravan several times and have always seemed to have a great holiday. The Isle of Wight does seem to have a bit of a 'stuck in the 50's' reputation but we found more than enough to fill our 4 days and plenty that we'll try and do on our return next year!

We bought a new tent this year to try camping with the boys (the old tent got chewed through by a mouse in the shed!) and had a trial run in my Mum's garden a few weeks ago. Emboldened by the success of that night, we booked a holiday on the Isle.

We stayed at Beaper Farm campsite which was ace. Lovely big pitches, clean facilities and a playground for the boys.

It was just outside Ryde and very close to the ferry terminal. We managed to get pitched fairly quickly after we arrived

and went to Sandown for a walk along the seafront. The pier was great - we managed to get some dinner

and then played Lost Cities adventure golf - the first of 4 games of adventure golf over the 4 days we were there!

The boys slept really well in the tent - later bedtime than usual, but both of them slept till about 7 each morning which was bliss! Saturday saw us going to St Helen's beach in the morning for rock pooling. We were surprised by all the beaches we visited - all beautifully clean and not crowded at all. A lot of the beaches were very shingly but all the boys were interested in was fishing!! We didn't get very much, but there were a lot of shells and we saw lots of other people catching crabs with their bags of sausage meat - next time, next time!

In the afternoon we sent back to Sandown to Dinosaur Isle, the big dinosaur museum there which was excellent, and the evening saw us at the Waltzing Waters, which was a rather bizarre but compelling theatrical experience - the boys loved it!

On Sunday we drove across the island to the Needles.

The Needles are at Alum Bay which is a kind of seaside resort in itself - rides, shops, a chairlift down to the beach - where much paddling and falling into the sea was done!

a sweet factory and glass blowing workshop...and of course the obligatory filling of containers with layers of different coloured sand! 

We also walked along the cliff top to the National Trust centres right on the tip of the coast - the Old Battery which was a Victorian defensive fort, and then you can walk up the cliff a bit to the New Battery which was a secret rocket testing station. They're not as flashy as some of the big houses, but just as interesting - even more so in some ways. There was a great display with photos of people who had worked on the rockets then with a more up to date photo alongside it and some information about the job they did. 

Monday saw us visiting Shanklin seafront - played another 2 games of adventure golf (crazy golf and Pirate Adventure golf!)

We were hoping to go up to Shankling Chine which sounded lovely (gorge and waterfall) but we didn't quite make it and ended up for dinner back at the Baywatch on the Beach Cafe in St Helens which was fab. Another trip to the Waltzing Waters (our free return visit!) and then a wet strike on Tuesday morning. Could have done without that, but after a beautiful day here today the tent is finally dry and all packed up again.

Brilliant holiday - we didn't have time for the other National Trust or English Heritage properties, Black Gang Chine park, Robin Hill park, more beach time, either of the zoos, the butterfly and fountain we need to return!