Field Trip! Beningbrough Hall Parkland and Home Farm Shop

25/07/2014

 

 

 

This week’s Filed Trip! was to Beningbrough Hall Parkland and Home Farm Farmshop.  Beningbrough Hall is a gorgeous National Trust property located just to the north of York off the A19.  The walled gardens are one of my favourite places to visit in the whole world.  I’m just lucky that I live 15 minutes away!  The house is interesting and if you’re into portraiture they collaborate with the National Portrait Gallery for exhibitions.  However, they don’t allow dogs in to the gardens so I haven’t been in since I got Darcy.  Boo!

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However, the parklands surrounding the house are open to dogs and there are several walks through the woods and fields.  The longest one circumnavigating the whole property takes us about 1.5 – 2 hours at a fairly leisurely pace.  They have a great leaflet showing the short, medium and longer walks.  It can get a little muddy in the winter and if there has been a lot of rain then flooding can be an issue along  the river banks.  In good weather though the dogs love to go for a swim at the furthest point where the Nidd joins the Ouse!

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The National Trust have a lovely restaurant inside the grounds but, again, no dogs allowed.  Luckily Home Farm Shop is located just the other side of the car park (National Trust members can park for free) and has plenty of outside seating.  It’s very popular with dog walkers and cyclists and serves a delicious range of food and drink.  Just what you need after a good long walk!

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I almost always go for the Home Farm Burger.  You get to eat the cows you just walked past!!! (This pleases me greatly and I always make a point to tell them how delicious they are.  Weird, yes, but I feel they should know what a good job they’re doing eating grass and getting all delicious!)  My friend favours the Ploughmans and the portions are always generous.  The dogs usually split a sausage roll!  The selection of cakes is always good and everything I’ve tried has been great, I’ve never once been disappointed!

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Homemade Egg McMuffin

17/07/2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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People keep asking me how on earth I make an Egg McMuffin at home and seem really surprised that I do it… I thought it was a pretty obvious one but, just to put the mystery to rest, here is my super simple DIY Egg McMuffin Recipe!

1 english muffin
3 rashers streaky bacon / 1 Frozen Lorne sausage (Iceland) / 2 regular sausages skin removed and mashed into one patty (BACON IS EASIER AND QUICKER!)
1 egg
1 cheese single
ketchup (they really should put this in an Egg McMuffin!)

- Heat a dribble of oil in a small blini/egg pan on a low heat.
– Heat a small frying pan on a low heat.
– Slice your muffin in half and pop in the toaster.  Not too high!
– Crack your egg into the blini/egg pan.
– Place your bacon in the frying pan.  (Or sausage but the sausage wants to cook for longer so adjust your timings accordingly and get it going before you fetch the muffin!)
– When the white is just set, flip your egg.  The longer you leave it now the more solid your yolk will be.  Runny yolk is delicious but messy!
– POP!
– Place the first half of the muffin on a plate, add ketchup.
– Add bacon.
– Add fried egg.
– Add cheese single.
– Add more ketchup.  (What? I like ketchup!)
– Top with the remaining half of your toasted muffin.
– PLACE A BOWL OVER THE TOP AND LEAVE IT FOR 2-5 MINUTES.  This is the important part.  You know how your muffin gets all wrapped up and is nice and soft when you eat it?  This is why!

Enjoy!

 

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

14/07/2014

A popular deli counter option but did you know how quick and easy roasted vegetable couscous could be to prepare?  Really, all it takes is a tiny bit of chopping and the rest is time!

You can roast whatever vegetables you fancy too.  If you really can’t stand roasted tomatoes, leave them out!  Love roasted cauliflower (and you should!), then pop it in!  Got some leftover parsnips looking a bit suspicious? Hey, shove them in, no one will notice!   I like to stick to Mediterranean vegetables for the most part, with the occasional bit of cauliflower or sweet potato thrown in for fun!  The quantities don’t really matter and this is a great way to use up odds and ends in the fridge.

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Serves 4

Mediterranean Vegetables, For Example:
~ 1/2 aubergine
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 courgette
2 red onions
1 teacup of dry couscous
1/2 a vegetable stock cube

- Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Chop up your veggies into bite sized pieces.
– Place on a roasting tray.
– Drizzle with olive oil.
– Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
– Roast for 30 minutes.
– Take 1 teacup of dry couscous and your stock cube and put it in a serving bowl.
– Take 1 teacup of boiling water and add to the couscous.
– Give it a little swirl and then leave it for ~ 20 minutes.
– Come back and fluff it up with a fork.
– Take your veggies out of the oven and tip into the couscous.
– Mix and enjoy!  Can be served hot or cold, however you fancy it.  Makes a fabulous main or a nice little side dish.

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The roasted veggies are super versatile and the couscous super quick!  Make up a huge tray of veggies and save yourself some prep work for meals later in the week!

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Field Trip! Helmsley Walled Gardens

11/07/2014

Darcy has settled in well and has been allowed out and about for 5 weeks now!  This means ADVENTURES!  Therefore I thought I’d start a new series about the adventures we’ve been on so far and share our findings with you all!  It’s often difficult to plan a day out that works for our four legged friends as well as it does for us and often you need some insider knowledge to plan a truly brilliant outing for everyone.

So I thought I’d tell you about our first dog friendly adventure to Helmsley Walled Garden.  Tucked round the back of Helmsley Castle (which is English Heritage so dogs can get in here too!) this walled garden is one of those little gems you simultaneously want to tell everybody about and keep to yourself!

 

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Every part of it is beautifully planned and executed and every area has something different to delight!  You start by the glass houses and work your way through beautiful borders, wildflower meadows, orchards, vegetables, chicken and bees, water features, you name it, this place has it!

 

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It’s the most wonderful place to retreat to for contemplation and inspiration.  I’ve never yet left the place without another plant that I’ve seen in situ here and just had to add to my own garden!  (And the shop is very well priced, none of the extortion you usually see in places like this!)

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The paths are well laid out, well maintained and, although I have no first hand experience, look to be easily accessible to push chairs and wheelchairs.  There are plenty of benches dotted about for you to sit and take a moment to enjoy the surroundings (or have a rest if necessary).

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They also have a gorgeous cafe in The Vine House.  There’s plenty of outside seating, very comfortable, with umbrellas for shade.  The lunch menu is served from midday to 3pm and, although I didn’t partake this time around, I will definitely be planning another trip soon because it all sounded fantastic!

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We went for a scone for myself and a slice of chocolate cake for my mum to go with our tea.  I have to say I was a bit disappointed when the scone arrived as there really didn’t seem to be enough jam but it was such beautifully sweet, tart, flavoursome jam that it worked wonderfully even with only a little bit!  (I’m also a cream rather than butter girl but sometimes sacrifices must be made!) I specifically hadn’t chosen the chocolate as it looked a little dry… How wrong I was! It was divine!  Beautifully moist and deeply chocolaty!  I can’t wait to sample the other cakey offerings (which were plentiful!) it all looked so good that there will surely be something to tempt everyone!

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(No, I don’t know how he sees out either but he doesn’t walk into walls so clearly it works!)

 

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All in all a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.  There’s plenty of parking in Helmsley on the market place and the longer stay car park (which is more convenient for the Walled Garden) and it’s not too dear either, I think you’ll want to allow yourself at least 2 hours for the garden and afternoon tea!  The rest of the town is lovely too with several coffee shops allowing dogs in or at least with outside seating.  Entrance to the garden is £6 (and you’ll want to complete a gift aid form ;o)

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Falafel

09/07/2014

 

 

 

Falafel is something I have had a troubled relationship with.  For years I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t!  Everything was ether too bland or too spicy or too mushy or just not right!  However, with this recipe I really feel like I’ve cracked it.  And I feel that the key is to really amp up the spices.  Not too much chili, but spices, the cumin and coriander, and a good dash of salt and pepper, are what are going to make your falafel sing! 
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It helps if you think of your falafel as portable hummous.  Just as a bland humous is nobody’s friend, so too for falafel so even if you look at these quantities and think I’m crazy, remember, chickpeas are delicious but only with the proper accessories!

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The wonderful thing about this falafel recipe is that it healthy and simple.  You basically put everything in a food processor and blitz it up! Simple!  And to keep the calorie count down on these falafel I oven bake them rather than frying them.  Would frying them make them tastier… well, yeah, probably! But I can’t afford those calories so oven baking it is!  That’s why we amp up the spices, what you lose in fat you can make up in flavour!

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Makes ~15 falafel balls

2 x 400g tins of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 LARGE cloves of garlic, peeled
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh coriander
2 tbsp plain flour
~ 2 tbsp water if necessary

- Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Put everything except the water in the food processor.
– Blitz, scrape down the bowl, blitz again.  You want to keep blitzing until you have about half coarse mix, half smooth paste in there.  You don’t want to keep going until you get hummous!
– If it’s just not coming together into a paste at all then you might just need a little extra moisture to bind it so gradually add a little water at a time until it just comes together.  You don’t want to add too much or you get a soft, sticky falafel!
– Using your hands (or if you’re weird about these things feel free to use spoons/a small ice cream scoop) grab a ping pong ball sized amount of mixture and gently shape it into a nice round ball.
– Place on a very lightly greased baking tray (a quick spray with olive oil will do) and repeat until your mixture is all gone.
– Give all of your falafel a light spritz with an olive oil spray.
– Place in the top of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.  The falafel should just be turning brown in places and should be crisp to the touch.
– Serve with salad, pita and haydari… or whatever else takes your fancy!

Mushroom, Asparagus and Spinach Bruschetta / Frittata

23/06/2014

 

 

 

As a busy single gal with a job, a home, a garden and puppy to tend to these days my cooking choices are dictated mostly by time.  I am a big fan of batch cooking, my freezer is worth its weight in gold, and if I can make a dish do double duty and provide me with not one but two meals I am all over that!  This is a perfect example of multipurpose cooking.  I had a light supper for 2 and breakfast for 4 days out of this one quick session in the kitchen.  If that’s not efficient I don’t know what is!

Crispy crunchy bruschetta!

 

I started with the bruschetta.  I had visited York’s Food Festival on Sunday and grabbed a Haxby Bakehouse baguette.  After having some with roast chicken and salad on Sunday night, and another hunk for Monday lunch’s sandwich I was still left with about half a baguette day old baguette.  Perfect for bruschetta!  Once you’re done these will also keep well for an extra few days so don’t worry if you don’t want to eat them all at once, they’ll keep!

For the Bruschetta:

- Heat your oven to Gas 6 / 200C.
– Slice a baguette about 1/2″ thick.
– Place on a baking tray and spray both sides lightly with olive oil.
(- Cut open a clove of garlic and rub over the surface of the bread. )
– Place in the oven and bake for ~15-20 minutes.  The longer they’re in the crunchier they get!  It’s up to you how dark and crispy you want them to be.  You can stop when they’re just lightly browning and more toast like or keep going until they’re totally crisp and a deep, even brown!
– Keep warm if desired or allow to cool and then they can be boxed up to keep for a few days.
– TURN DOWN THE OVEN TEMPERATURE TO GAS 4 /180C *

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Now for the Topping!  Basically, I grabbed what I had on hand, which was mushrooms, asparagus and spinach, but the possibilities are just about endless!

~6 largish closed cup or chestnut mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
1 large handful spinach
75g cream cheese
1 tbsp creme fraiche

- Heat a splash of oil in a frying pan.
– Thinly slice the mushrooms.
– Sautee the mushrooms.
– Snap the woody stems off the asparagus and slice into bite-sized bits.
– Add the asparagus and stir while cooking for about 3 minutes.
– Add the spinach to the top of the pan and leave to wilt over a low heat giving a little poke to mix it if necessary.
– REMOVE HALF OF THE MIXTURE TO YOUR SKILLET.  *
– Add the cream cheese and creme  fraiche to the remaining mixture, stir until melted and well mixed.
– Add a sprinkle of salt and a good grind of pepper to taste.

*See below.

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Carefully spoon on top of your bruschetta and plate up.  A little shaving of parmesan is a delight too! (And spot the cheeky little cheese on toasts added to the plate, I had 2 spare bruschetta and some Monterey Jack in front of me, add a quick blow torch et voila! Cheesy Toasts!)  I suggest a nice chardonnay and a sunny evening to enjoy these but they would be just as good by the fire on a winter’s evening too I’m sure!

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Now, what were we doing with our mysterious other half of the veggie mixture? Well, this is where the Frittata comes in! Or you can call it an omelette or a crustless quiche or whatever you fancy, I kinda just like saying Frittata in a kinda Hakuna Matata fashion!

* For the Fritatta:

- While you are cooking your veggies in your first frying pan heat a little splash of oil in a cast iron skillet.  Make sure the oil has coated the pan nicely this will stop it sticking.  (Skillet seems like such an Americanism but it just feels right for this kind of pan, you know?)
– In a jug or bowl beat 4 eggs, a splash of milk (~50-75ml), a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh black pepper.
– Add the veggies to the pan and pour over the egg mix.
– Top with slices of cheese, I went with Monterey Jack but any cheddary cheese would work.
– Place in your preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes until set through.  It will puff up beautifully!
– Remove from the oven and allow to cool (it will sadly deflate but no matter!).
– Slice into 4 and place in a box in the fridge ready to grab a slice for breakfast each day.  You can eat this hot or cold, if you would like a hot breakfast simply heat in the microwave for 1 minute.

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So there you go, supper for 2 and breakfast for the next few days in one quick dash around the kitchen.  The fritatta can bake while you are eating your bruschetta, just remember to go back and get it out of the oven or bad things will happen!

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The Shed

26/05/2014

One of the major plus points to my new garden was that it came with its own shed.  A shed is a fantastically useful thing and it would have been a real stretch to find room in the budget for a new shed.  Paint, however, paint I can afford!  I have always wanted a Forget-Me-Not Blue shed.  Don’t ask why but it’s always been a ‘thing’.  I have never really painted anything so I jumped right in with my usual “How hard can it be?” approach.  If you ever wish to paint something… put down a drop cloth would you?

 

The first wall gets it's new look!

The first wall gets its new look!

 

The front wall and door hadn’t weathered half as much as the other walls so before I painted this one I gave it a quick sand down to get rid of some of the darker stain.  The rear and side walls had a bit of an algae problem but a quick brush over with some thin bleach took care of that without any hassle (Try not to drip on your nice clothes… in fact, just don’t wear anything nice to do these jobs!)

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And finally, a little bit of white for the trim!  Now all I have to do is figure out if I can move it without it breaking as whoever decided to put it a good foot away from the fence needs shooting, WHY?

 

Thai Noodle Crab Cakes

19/05/2014

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These were a bit of an experiment, hashed together from a few different ideas I’d seen about the place.  I may tweak the recipe further still but for now I like this one!  I love crab cakes but they tend to be rather calorific (I recently saw a crab cake starter clocking in at 789 calories!!!) The idea here was to cut down on the calorie count and embrace more “eat clean” ideas in my diet.  These are quick and simple to whip together and taste great!  I served them here with sticky rice, edamame and tsuyu dipping sauce but they’re equally good with a bit of sweet chilli sauce.  (And, yes, spot the deliberate mistake, I forgot to buy the spring onions when I cooked them in these pictures, it adds a nice aspect in both taste and colour but they work just fine without them!)  These also make a nice addition to a picnic or lunchbox as they don’t fall apart!  I’d even be tempted to make them into mini cakes for a picnic or party.

Makes 6

50g vermicelli rice noodles
1 Frozen Coley portion ~90g
1 tin crab meat, drained
2 egg whites
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp tinned sweetcorn
3 spring onions, sliced

- Boil some water and pour over the noodles in a bowl, leave to stand.
– Put the frozen coley on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes (Your microwave may vary, you want the fish to be defrosted and just cooked)
– Shred the coley in to a bowl, you can use fingers or forks to gently flake it apart into small shreds.
– Add the crab meat, the egg whites, the fish sauce and the sweet chilli sauce and give it a good stir.
– Add the corn flour and again, stir well to combine.  If the mixture is still very wet looking you can add more corn flour, you want to be able to take a scoop of it.
– Drain the noodles well and roughly chop them then add them to the mixture.
– Add the tinned sweetcorn and the spring onions and mix well.
– Heat some oil in a large flat bottomed frying pan.
– You should be able to make 6 patties out of this mixture, take a scoop, roughly shape it and place it in the pan where you can tidy up the edges a little if you like.
– Leave to cook on the first side for 3-5 minutes until the cake is cooked about halfway up, you should be able to see the difference in texture as it cooks.
– Carefully flip over the cake and leave to cook for another 3-5 minutes on this side without moving it.
– The cakes should be dry and firm to the touch when fully cooked.
– Serve with whatever sauce you prefer and may be some rice and veggies, they also go nicely with salad!

 

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Meet the new member of the family!

15/05/2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everyone, this is Darcy!  And this gorgeous bundle of fluff is why things have gone quiet again!  He came home 3 weeks ago and it’s been brilliant and exhausting getting him settled in and adjusting routines.  I now get up at 6:30am.  Anyone who knows me is crying with laughter reading that!

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He is an absolute sweetheart and has settled in brilliantly, he pretty much goes everywhere with me and it’s great having a little pal!  He’s still got another 2 weeks under house arrest before he can go walkies and I am looking forward to it so much!  I can’t wait to introduce him to the world!

We’ve managed to get into more of a routine now, although this changes daily as he grows and learns!  But I hope that now that the disruption is over I’ll be able to blog more about what I’m getting up to in the kitchen, the garden and, hopefully, be able to do some write ups of dog friendly places around Yorkshire for you all too!

 

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Death to the Mare’s Tails!

17/04/2014

They look kinda funny, don’t they? Like weird asparagus.  But BEWARE! These are Mare’s Tails and you will never defeat them.

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We once had an allotment.  We dug that place over religiously, we weedkilled, we rotovated, we pulled and we grafted.  We never got them all.  So to discover that the entire left hand border of my garden is infested with them was… well, vexing.  But I shall not go down without a fight!  The first wave to poke their heads above ground got zapped with Roundup Gel.  Then the next day the whole border was hit with a good soaking of the strongest glyphosate I could buy and each stem bruised to allow it to penetrate.

There go my dreams of keeping things organic (my go to weed killer is neat vinegar) but organic won’t win this fight.  The best I am hoping for is to kill as much of it as I can before raking up the gravel and laying weed suppresant fabric and just keeping things in pots along that border rather than planting direct into the soil.  This is a fight I know I won’t ever really win but I can cheat and run away!


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