Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Another Day in Kent

Dinner last night at Wheelers was nice, however i didn't feel as happy with it as i expected to. i don't think that was due to the food though. i had a £10 mixed seafood platter (crab meat, shell on prawns, shell off prawns, a crevette, brown shrimps, crayfish, 2 whole baby octopus, mussels, smoked mussels, cockles) with a slice of bread. even through i was still hungry after (i mean room for a dessert, not that the main course wasn't enough as a main course), mentally i just didn't feel like it, so i forgot the cheese and biscuit, picked up a grapefruit at a local somerfield and headed back to the B&B. i think my mood was due to sheer exhaustion because i woke this morning feling a lot better.

Well, it's been a mixed day. Breakfast was a bowl of mixed fruit (fresh, stewed and dried) (pears, prunes, apricots, melon, grapefruit, cranberries, raisins, figs, crytalized ginger) and a slice of toast. My day got all the more exciting at breakfast when Richard Briers walked in with hs wife and sat down to breakfast. i was suddenly filled with this nervous excitement. i felt like i wanted to jump up and down and tell the world but the most i could do was text mum. being a big fan of The Good Life and also Monach of the Glen i recognised him instantly.

i wanted to ask for a photo, and had plenty of opportunity when i stood talking to him and his wife for a good 5 minutes outside our rooms (they are opposite me) after breakfast. but i don't want to be rude or intrude. i'm sure with his level of fame he gets asked a lot but they are here on their own break visiting friends, not here for a photo shoot. so i didn't ask this morning, however i hope i get the chance tomorrow because if i don't do it i will kick myself.

so anyway, after my brief visit to Herne Bay yesterday and discovering there didn't seem to be much there (apart from the place i found for lunch) i asked Linda and Hugh the B&B owners for suggestions. Linda said Broadstairs was a lot prettier and would only take about 30 minutes to get to. so that's where i went. i wondered along the beach there and then through the town, then headed back to Herne Bay for lunch.

Lunch was something i've been wanting to try for a long time but have only know to be available in London and not in the parts of London that i normally go to either - Stewed eels, mash and liquor. the liquor didn't really have much flavour other than the flour they add to the liquid from the eels, and the colour comes from the parsley, but the flavour from that didn't come through. i enjoyed it nevertheless, i just wish the fish was easier to eat, i still can't eat the skin like some people do and there are the odd little bones that detatch themselves from the main spine.

After lunch i headed back along the coast stopping at Reculver Roman fort and villa and then into Canterbury town centre. i wanted to find a farmers market shop, The Goods Shed. i was convinced it was next to Canterbury East station, but no - it was next to Canterbury West. so i walked across town but found a wholefoods store on the way (i had put this on my list of places to visit in town but i left the list in the car!) and bought a big spaghetti squash for £1.50.

i found The Goods Shed, but didn't see anything i felt i had to buy, so i stopped at the cafe for a pear and ginger juice. on my way back into the town centre i spotted my restaurant i'd booked for dinner. After a wander through the town centre to by a lip balm for my poor chapped lips (i think the sea breeze got to them) i stopped for a cuppa and to warm up. i found a M&S Kitchen, a new franchise that M&S seem to have started. apparently this is their trial branch, the only one so far.

then i got the crowded bus back to the car and drove to a car park closer to the restaurant, Cafe Belge. They advertise "mussel 50 different ways", and i went there especially for the mussels. in the end i chose them with tomato, garlic, celery and onion. 1kg pot mussels, a small white crusty bagette and a side salad (i had the salad instead of the frites) just the perfect end to a lovely day and great value for money at £9.95. the service there was lovely and friendly and attentive too and although i booked i don't think i really needed to midweek.

now though i feel like i don't want to go home. i still have a day left though, which i think will be the morning and lunch in whitstable and then the afternoon/evening at Bluewater for a spot of retail therapy, not that i have any plans to buy anything so i might watch a film instead maybe. who knows, lets see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Picnic Hamper part 2

i decided to finish the salad, melba toasts and tiramisu this morning as i wasn't sure if they would keep over night.

so after waking at 6.30am and sewing the fake leather to line the basket, when i heard mum and david awake i went downstairs and started on the tiramisu. i followed the recipe, using marsala instead of amaretto, put then in the glasses i'd bought especially, to a photo and put it in the fridge door as that was the only place in the fridge that they would fit.

i then started on the salad, i put the spinach and watercress in the bowl, the water was boiling for the eggs, i went to put the salad leaves back in the fridge, opened the door and one of the tiramisu glasses fell out and smashed at my feet.

needless to say there were lots of tears, and it had all been going so well. anyway once i had calmed down and david had cleared up the mess for me i realised i still had enough of everything to make more. i think i was just annoyed more that they wouldn't look nice because the glasses would be different, but nevertheless i made another once, so the crisis was averted.

i then boiled, peeled and halved the quail's eggs, added them to the salad leaves, cook the pancetta and added that to the salad when cooled as it couldn't fit through the neck of the bottle i had out for the dressing. made the dressing and thought i was finished - but them remembered the melba toast. i decided to use a coulpe of pitta breads. so put them in the toasted so they opened up, cut them in half, toasted lightly again and then cut into pieces whilst still warm. then i truely was finished!

i packed it all into the basket (thank goodness it fitted!) and presented mum and david with their lunch.

feedback when i spoke to them at lunch time was that it was lovely, david prefered the port and stilton pate whereas mum prefered the fish one. david was starting the salad when i was on the phone to mum so i don't know her thoughts on it yet, and when i spoke to them later i forgot to ask about the pudding, but there weren't any complaints so i guess it went down ok.

Hello from Whistable!

well i made it!

i got to faversham at about 12 midday, except i thought it was 1pm and lunch time because i had forgotten to change the clock in my car and on my phone....oopps! so anyway i just had a little more time to kill, which didn't turn out to be such a bad thing as it took me a while to find somewhere suitable for lunch.

by the time i'd had lunch at a coffee shop near a craft centre which i found when i popped into a farm shop. i bought a very ripe kaki (to keep my poor confused brain going until lunch!) and a guava, something i haven't tried before, and i have to say won't be trying again!



by the time i'd had a bowl of tomato and coriander soup for lunch and a cuppa it was half 2 and time to start looking for the B&B, which wasn't that hard to find.

my room is lovely and cozy with views over the sea looking right over to southend. with an ensuite shower and toilet it's all i need.

after being show my room, meeting the dogs and the cat then dumping my bags, coats and laptop i decided to drive through whitstable town centre to find where i'm booked for dinner tonight, which i again found with no problem but i still have quite worked out where i'm going to park. so then i headed onto Herne Bay. doesn't seem to be all that much there, however i did find a pie and mash place, so i'm going to head back there for lunch tomorrow to have some stewed eels and maybe mash, depending how breakfast goes in the morning.

i've got about half hour now until i think i need to leave to find dinner in time. time to blog about part 2 of the picnic hamper i think!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Picnic Hamper part 1

well i've made half of it, and so far it all seems to have been successful.
so far i've made the Smoked Mackerel and Avocado Pâté. That was pretty straightforward, although the supposed Tescos Finest Smoked Mackerel Fillets still had about ten bones in each. it said they were hand filleted on the packed - well in which case they need to employ some new staff and sack the current ones!!

i chose the Finest ones because the packet size was smaller. the weight on it was less than 200g where as the smallest normal pack was about 220g and i would have only needed half of that. so after taking the skin off and bones out, i flaked it in large chunks. i had already blended the cream cheese, lemon juice and avocado so that when i added the mackerel i could simply pulse that so that the flakes didn't break up too much. i've put it in the ramekins and covered them with foil and they are now in the fridge. i'm just hoping the colour of the avocado doesn't spoil too much.




the Port and Stilton Pâté was also fairly straightforward, however when finished the colour wasn't good, but maybe that will change once it's set. but it tasted fine despite it's looks...


i made them whilst my pastry for the quice was cooking and i think i may have solved the issue of last time, which was that it just didn't seem to cook through.
but then when david noticed i had the grill tray in the small oven still he explained that when it is in grill mode the heat comes from only the top but when in oven mode it comes from the bottom too and the grill tray was probably blocking the heat coming from the bottom which is why it wasn't cooking through on the bottom.

so i took the grill tray out and within 10-15 minutes is was cooked through perfectly!

i also cooked the mushrooms and bacon out more this time to get rid of more of the liquid, then i added the rocket to wilt and then drained the lot on kitchen paper to make sure all of the water was released, whisked the egg and milk, added the cooked and cooled filling ingredients put back in the oven at a lower temperature for 40 minutes
seems to have worked. the pastry seems crisper than a bought quiche, but maybe thats because it has to sit on shop shelves for a while.


so still to make tomorrow morning is the salad, the melba toasts and the tiramisu

Friday, 26 October 2007

Fruits I've Tried

Temperate fruits
Rosaceae family
The pome fruits:


The stone fruits:

Berries


Other berries not in the Rosaceae or Ericaceae:

Fruits of Asian origin

Fruits of North American origin

Cacti and other succulents

Podocarps

Herbaceous annuals fruits

Accessory fruits

Mediterranean and subtropical fruits


Other subtropical fruits:

Tropical fruits

Unsorted

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Veggies i've tried

Asian brassicas

leaf and salad vegetables

Fruiting and flowering vegetables

Podded Vegetables

Bulb and stem vegetables

Root and tuberous vegetables

Sea vegetables

Thrifty pumpkin soup

one of the great things about halloween is the fact that everybody wants to carve pumpkins. well its good for me but it is a shame that the people who are carving them don't also want to eat these beautiful autumn vegetables.

it's good for me because it means with such a demand the supermarkets sell them at such a cheap rate. the ones that tescos are selling for 99p are probably those that they can't normally sell as food because they fall outside the food grade/size, which is silly really because they are perfectly edible and probably very handy if you have a large family or are having a dinner party.


so for me it is the perfect chance to make a batch of soup for the freezer, which is exactly what i did with this one! i halved, deseeded it and cut it into wedges - with a carving knife and meat cleever due to its size! after 45 minutes roasting in the oven at 180 degrees celcius (well, maybe a bit more as i was upstairs and didn't hear the timer going off and by the time i realised and went downstairs it had stopped bleeping, so it must have been going a while.....) it was falling off the skin beautfully.





i had enough to make two batches in the blender and still have a wedge left over. so out of one pumkin for 99p i had enough for 7 lunches. thats just over 14p a portion! with my left over wedge i reheated it at lunch time, peeled and chunked and put in a hot toasted pitta bread with some lettuce. and the 6 portions of soup went in the freezer ready for a cold day - not that isn't cold already but i'm sure it will get colder!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Belgique - lunch in epping

Now that mum's office has moved dow the other end of the high street, it's too far to walk to get to Euro Cafe where we used to meet for lunch. the nearest nice place to eat is Belgique - other than that its Poppy's which is more like the cafe in Eastenders! Greasy, fatty, burgers, fry-ups etc.

i was really worried that i wouldn't find anything suitable for lunch for me but in some ways it's probably one of the best options. being a deli and bakery although hey have a set menu they pretty much make sandwiches to order. so i was able to chose my bread/roll and chose my filling and even get it without butter! I learnt what a bagnat is - well i'm not sure i did really, i learnt what they call a Bagnat, which seemed to be a seed/grain topped crusty roll. i simply asked for it with salad, the girl asked me if i wanted butter (most impressed that she asked), i said no and all my anxieties faded!

like i say although they have their set menu of sandwiches, bagettes, ham and pate platters, cheese platters, quiches, tarts and other hot things like cheese and ham on toast or mushrooms on toast, they also have a section on the menu where you can chose your bread/roll (crusty roll, wholemeal Bagnat, wholemeal bagette, white bagette, bagel, or soda bread) and then there are 3 pricing option:
  1. with jam and butter (served in opts on the side so you don't even need to add them!)
  2. with cream cheese and/or salad
  3. with any deli filling (so anything from their deli counter)

items on the deli counter inlude a range of cheeses, meats, salami, pates, olives, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, crab salad, anchovies, shrimps.

so basically the choice is endless.

and then if your feeling really indulgent they have a huge range of pastries and little cakes, however to me they are more works of art than anything else.

service was prompt, attentive and efficient.

my only one complaint with the place - it seems when they redecorated, very nicely too i might add, they seemed to have missed a bit - the toilet! it was in severe need of repair and redecoration!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

24 hours in the land of Farming and Cider


A mixed weekend of Exhaustion, Relaxation, Stress, Anxiety and Depressive shopping, in Somerset and Cirencester.

David wanted to go to a railway group meeting thing, because it was the only place he could get hold of some specific things he wanted, so we drove to Wells dropped David off at the meeting and then Mum and i drove onto Clarks Shopping Village. a factory outlet village in Street. there were plenty of shops and plenty of choice but Mum and I just couldn't find anything we liked. we started with lunch in the Food Factory, where we made up our own lunch with choices from the salad bar. then worked our way round the shops. what did we manage to buy in almost 4 hours other than lunch? - An apple corer...... something we did need at least i guess.....

so then we headed back and picked david up and went into Wells for a walk around and a drink. Ended up here. nice quiet cosy place, but wouldn't want to be there at 8pm when the rugby started!

we then headed to Wookey to find the B&B, The Burcott Mill. Dinner was just across the road in the form of The Burcott Inn. The basic menu was nothing exciting, however the specials board was more enticing. The 4 Main course specials were braised rabbit, guineafowl, shoulder or lamb or mediteranian monkfish casserole. Mum went for the lamb (£13), David chose steak and ale pie (£8.50) and i chose the monkfish (£11). the shoulder of lamb that mum chose was exactly that! - A WHOLE shoulder of lamb! plus carrots and courgettes and new potates... the meat was enough to feed 2 or three by our noraml portion sizes. needless to say mum didn't finish it all. David seemed very pleased with his pie which came dished up on a plate with the puff pastry lid placed on top, again served with carrots and courgettes and also chips. my monfisk was in a tomato, leek, pepper and mushroom casserole sauce and came with carrots and courgettes - i requested it with out the new potatoes though. with a cheese plate for pudding of Cheddar, Stilton, Biscuits, Celery and a couple of orange wedges the food was superb in every respect. the service was attentive and the landlord provided a welcoming and warming atmosphere. even when the locals came in to waatch the rugby (there can't have been more than 10 of them!) they went into a seperate room from the bar area (we chose to eat there rather than in the dining area) it still wasn't too roudy and remained a pleasant atmosphere.
so then back to the B&B for a restful nights sleep.

breakfast this morning consisted of a full english (sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and a fried egg) for david and scrambled egg for mum. bread, both white and brown (made with flour from the mill by a local baker) was on the side for you to help yourself to make toast etc, as well as homemade jams, marmalades, mustards and local honey. also on offer were a selection of cereals, yogurts and fruit.

we then headed on towards cirencester to see david's parents. on route we stopped at farringtons farm shop where we came away with some oatmeal (for my home made veggie haggis), a bottle of pear cider and a bottle of Bath beer/ale.

The toilets @Farrington farm shop

our only other hold up on the way was the queue to get into Westonbirt Arboretum to see the autumn colours.

a quick stop at Waitrose for flowers and wine for David's parents proved succesful for me also in that i found some McSween's Vegetarian Haggis there, so bought 3 to stock up the freezer!

after lunch at david's parents' in cirencester (which proved to me i'm not able to eat at other people's houses even if i can eat out at a restaurant/cafe) and a walk round cirencester, which a little retail therapy for me it was home. we made it by about half 7pm finally with some busy motorways.

so a mixed weeked from my point of view i guess.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Stupid Digibox!!

well luckily being a friday night there isn't anything of note worth watching on the TV. and its a good job too as my digibox has decided not to work.

the picture was all scrambled on the screen so i decided to re-search for the channels which of course then resets them all.... except it then didn't find most of them again including BBC1 and 2, channel 4 and 5.

i've done a google search and can't find anything helpful, and i don't have a manual or anything as i got it from a freecycler in stansted......

so i guess i shouldn't complain really as it was free......

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

hello from the Lion and Lamb!

Yay wireless works!!

i tried it in McDonalds this morning, now that all McDonalds have free wifi. but for some reason i just couldn't get it to work. i think is was actuallly a poor connection their end. because i could see them (or their server/router) but just couldn't get a connection between the 2.

yet here i had no trouble.

so at least i know it works now for when i go away to kent in 10 days time!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Favourite Vegetable - Beetroot

i never used to like beetroot. maybe it was because i had only tried the nasty pickled stuff you buy in a jar, or maybe, like many other things (fish, shellfish, mushrooms etc) i tried it once as a child decided there and then that hated it and refused to try it again. if have found recentlyby retrying many foods that my taste buds have matured and have found a new love for many foods. if you do have a food you "think" you don't like give it a try again, you may be surprised.

or if you have kids take a look at The Great Vegetable Challenge. A superb mother and son, in fact whole family effort.

so to beetroot. well, from my previous post you will see i've had great success growing it this year. and when i found my new love for this under-rated vegetable, i then planted some more seeds, however although they have grown to the size of mini/baby beetroot, i think i may have left it too late and i'm not sure if they will grow any more. however if they don't, i was reading last night, in my research for this post that if you leave them over winter and then let them grow for a second season, this is when they then flower and produce seed.






in fact i'm preciously treasuring the few i have left that are a good size in my own garden that i have been buying them from a lady in the village who has a large garden and fruit trees and sells lots of the veg she grows. from her its 50p for a bunch which normally contains about 8 large golf ball sized beet.

  • Tescos only have about 5 in a bunch i think for a lot more money (i can't find it on their website, they only have cooked beetroot and jarred beetroot on there).
  • Sainsburys fresh beetroot is £1.39 for 500g. however i did find a different variety of beetroot in my local recently













if you compare this to a few organic veg sites from a google search though:


i also found beetroot juice at a local farmers market, which i tried. It's by James White. it's 90% beetroot and 10% apple. a quick solution when i can't be bothered to get my juicer out and juice my own.

so how do you grow beetroot? well i'm aware that this post is getting longer than i planned (as usual!) so have a look here. my method - make a shallow trench plant seed at about every 4 inches, cover with soil, leave to its own devices, remember to water now and again and thin out when you remember to. i did try it in pots but they didn't even grow to the size of baby beets.
As for eating and cooking, it makes a fab risotto















i tried beetroot crisps (but got impatient and turned it to grill which them burnt half of them - shall try again today on a high heat but oven NOT grill!)










they should have looked like this













raw in a salad is lovely








grated and then layered with goats cheese in a ring mould and baked in the oven for about 15 mins is another favourite.






of course beetroot soup












and last night i added it to a cauliflower cheese so it was a "Beetroot and cauliflower cheese", as mum is always saying how well it goes with cheese.











cooked and sliced with salad leaves and soft goats cheese.





raw grated mixed with raw grated pumpkin in a pitta with salad leaves and soft cheese

one i keep meaning to try is baking them sweet as a dessert.

want to learn more on beetroot? have a look at these websites:

so go on give it a go - just please DON'T try the pickled jar stuff first!

Monday, 15 October 2007

2007 fruit and veg garden summery

A friend on face book asked what i grew in the garden when i mentioned one of my hobbies was gardening. i know the list this year is longer than ever so i thought i'd do a blog entry with photos of each item, not that most of them are harvested and finished for the year. so here goes, i'm not sure where to start and no doubt i'll forget some of them and have to edit the post/list at a later date.


  • carrots

  • parsnips

  • butternut squash


  • pumpkin


  • acorn squash

  • strawberries





  • blueberries

  • raspberries




  • cherry tomatoes




  • beefsteak tomatoes


  • beetroot


  • swiss chard

  • lettuce

  • sugarsnap peas






  • runner beans

  • sunflowers


  • onions


  • red cabbage
  • celeriac
  • courgettes
  • french beans
  • radishes
  • rocket
  • "normal" tomatoes
  • white cabbage

a tiring but satisfying weekend

you know that feeling where you feel shattered but it doesn't make you grumpy?

we had such a busy weekend.

saturday:

  1. took recycling to tescos (21 green clubcard points) while mum got petrol
  2. took extra DIY/Bathroom bits back to B&Q and wickes for refunds
  3. went to North Wield Market in the morning. only went for potatoes, mushrooms and fennel. didn't find the fennel but came home with:
  • a sack of potatoes
  • 3 giant flat mushroom and some closecup mushrooms
  • 5 kaki -although only 3 made it home..... i got the munchies...
  • 2 cauliflower
  • loads of AA batteries
  • comfort fabric conditioner
  • 2 tubes of toothpaste
  • 2 3-pack boxes of lucozade pouches
  • 2 tubes of gherkin relish

why is it we can never simply buy what go looking for?

never mind, still didn't get the fennel though.... mum's going to look in epping market today for me.

Sunday:

yesterday we painted/varnished/treated the garden furniture and had a good tidy up in the garden. we brought in the rest of the cherry tomatoes and the tomatoes in the "greenhouse" to ripen indoors. we sorted out the pots on the patio, putting the less hardy plants into the greenhouse and i decided to plant out the lettuces, may as well give them a go. the other ones i planted out are thriving (more about them later). got rid of the courgette plant. its just been too damp recently and any veg thats formed has just gone mushy, sadly.

i'm sure we did more than that, but actually it was lots of little things, where one job lead to another.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Another fun fact from The Wright Stuff's paper review

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/21781/Bangers-and-mash-for-dinner?-You’re-going-to-be-ditched


what are you cooking tonight?

Like a Proud Parent........

For the first time this year i tried growing some squash and pumpkin plants mainly because i only really started eating it towards the end of last year when i went veggie mad. so i saved some seeds from the veg i bought from the supermarket and then planted them at the beginning of this year.

of course when i then potted up the seedlings from the seed tray i forgot to label them.... i knew i had butternut squash, pumpkin and acorn squash - but other than that they all looked so similar and i knew until the fruit started to develop i would be none the wiser. An element of suprise in the garden is always fun! i also managed to aquire a few self set plants as well!

so here's a photo diary of a squash plant's life and death:


squash seeds - 23rd March 2007
23rd March 2007
squash - 24/03/07
24th March 2007
squash - 29/03/07
29th March 2007
Little Spare Bedroom of Horrors!!
IMG_3844
May 6th 2007
squash
22nd May 2007
squash
2nd July
butternut squash
2nd August 2007





16th September 2007


I harvested my first butternut squash the other night (7th October), grinning like a proud parent. it was the smaller of the 2 that has grown but it seemed to have started to crack and split. initially i didn't think it was ripe as the skin still had green is on the outside, however when i gave it a tap it sounded quite hollow, so i decided to bring it in and have it for dinner.


i left it on the windows sill for a couple of days, in the hope it might ripen some more. i'm not sure whether it actually did anything to help or not. however what i was suprised to find when i cut it in half was the lack of seeds, however this was also some thing i noticed with Nan's home grown Romero peppers (she has the luxury of a greenhouse so has far more success with these than i do - my plants haven't even managed flowers this year. i think i left it a bit late though)

anyway the flesh felt firm yet juicy and tasted superb, so i decided to proceed and put it in the over to bake, which gave to time to decide exactly what i was going to create with this prescious vegetable. i decided on a butternut, fennel and goats cheese bake with red onion.

one the butternut was cooked i peeled off the skin and mashed it with the goats cheese, mixed in the diced/chopped fennel and put a layer in the bottom of my new individual gratin dish (no expense spared - 99p from wilkos!) then i put a layer of sliced red onion and topped with another layerof the butternut mix.

i had a bit of the cooked butternut left over, a nice little snack with some balsamic vinegar, while i was waiting for dinner to cook! i certainly wasn't going to waste any of my beautiful butternut.