France 2014

11/09/2014

The time has come for the annual gratuitous selfie filled summer holiday round up! Everyone got their passports ready?  Excellent!

This year’s adventure was a little bit of something old and a little bit of something new!  Instead of the annual trip to Italy with my mum I decided to revisit the summer holidays of my childhood and go camping in France with my friend, Elsie. I had all of the kit I needed (more or less and when have I ever needed an excuse to spend a fortune on rubbish I don’t really need?!) so we packed up my 6 man tent and the nice big air mattresses and off we went!

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The first day was a long flog, we set off from York at about 6am and, after the traditional breakfast at Stibbington Transport Caf and a quick stop for Costa and Krispy Kreme later on, we made it to dover in good time to join the endless traffic jam that is the Dover Ferry Port in August!  It was a smooth sailing across and then it was time to get to grips with continental driving.  I have been a passenger on the continent for many many years.  No one has ever let me drive over there before though!  Happily, I had Elsie to remind me which side of the road I was supposed to drive on and spotting oncoming vehicles for me so after not too long I felt I had adjusted nicely and it was on to St Quentin, our first stop of the journey!

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St Quentin is a lovely city and one I have stayed in many times over the years.  It’s just about the perfect journey time when coming down from Yorkshire, if you try to press on to Reims it’s just that bit too far, if you stop any earlier you just haven’t got enough miles under your belt.  This time we stayed in the Ibis Budget, my first time staying in one of these hotels.  Normally we stay in the Central Ibis but the Ibis Budget is only a short walk up the hill to get to the main square and the Basilica.  It’s a curious room arrangement, with the toilet in a cupboard for privacy but the glass walled shower right there in the room but all in all a lovely, clean, bright, modern room with one double bed and one bunk bed above.

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We wandered up to the main square and had what I had been looking forward to for weeks.  Kir, Flammekueche and Creme Brulee!  The Kir was certainly well deserved after a long day of driving. It is my go to aperitif, and I always enjoy the feeling of an aperitif, it just feels more civilised!  I can, and have, rhapsodised about the joy that is a Flammekueche here before, and it was great to be able to introduce someone new to this lovely twist on pizza.  Finally a creme brulee is the best way to finish a dinner in France.  It’s a classic for a reason!

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The next day it was up bright and early to visit a number of places on our journey south.  First stop was the citadel of Laon and it’s beautiful cathedral.  I alway love approaching Laon and seeign the citadel rise before you with the cathedral perched atop like a cake decoration!  I think it is probably my favourite cathedral of Northern France.  I always seem to spot something new when I visit.  The whole cathedral is covered with carved animals and you could spend hours stating up at it.  (For the weary traveler an excellent tip is that there  is a loo round to the right of the cathedral built into the wall about halfway along and a side door where you can slip inside.)

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The inside of the cathedral is always a delight.  It’s so light, airy and open.  It’s simply a refreshing place to exist in.

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Our next stop, after a quick picnic lunch in a village square along the way, was Reims.  There was an exhibition in the cathedral charting its destruction during the First World War and the restoration work done to repair it after, which was quite fascinating.  It’s utterly astounding to look at what seems like a building that has remained unchanged for centuries and realise that less than 100 years ago the roof had holes blown through it and the roof lead gushed from the gargoyles’ mouths as the cathedral burned!  It’s a very different cathedral to Laon but no less charming.

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We tarried too long in Reims and the Champagne region so it was a swift trip down the autoroute to Macon for our second night’s stay at a Formule 1.  I love the Formule 1s with their shared toilet and shower facilities.  I imagine it’s somewhat like living on a space ship would be like!  It’s always an adventure picking a motorway hotel as you never know if there will be anywhere to eat nearby.  After a day in the car you rarely want to drive for dinner so we were lucky to find a Campanille restaurant that was only a short walk away.  Dinner was serviceable, including the delights of a dessert buffet, and after a long day we were quite ready to fall into our beds!

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Day 3 brought us the delights of Burgundy.  Our first stop was the town of Cluny, which, for some reason, captured my heart many years ago and never quite let go.  It’s a charming town full of history and horses.  The Abbey of Cluny was one of the most powerful monastic sites in the medieval world and one of the Haras National, the French National Stud Farms, is based in the town.  There are only some parts of the Abbey still standing but it’s fascinating to walk round.  The streets of Cluny are lovely to wander around and there are Roman houses scattered amongst them.

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Following our visit to Cluny we drove out amongst the vines and through the village of Pouilly Solutré to le Roche de Solutré to take in the views, eat macarons and enjoy the scenery.  The rock is a distinctive feature of the landscape with a fascinating history and makes a lovely stop while touring Burgundy.  I really want to come back and spend more time exploring Burgundy some time as it is an area I have loved for many years and I would like very much to be able to spend more time there.  Alas, we had to head south for at the end of the day we had a tent to pitch!

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The town of Largentiere was our destination, a small medieval town situated in a tributary gorge just off the main Ardeche gorge.  I earned my continental driving stripes that day with Sat Nav taking us up and over the hills with hairpin bends aplenty!  Our campsite was Les Ranchisses and it is hands down the best campsite I have ever stayed on.  It has an adults only pool and spa area so no need to worry about being knocked unconscious by low flying children in the main pool (true story, happened to my dad on a previous stay, luckily my sister fished him out of the pool before he drowned!).  The restaurant serves the best pommes dauphinoise I have ever tasted and serves up delightfully crisp wood fired pizzas to both eat in and take away.

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We managed to get our tent pitched and everything sorted with a minimum amount of fuss and then it was straight into the pool for the first swim of the holiday.  Bliss!

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After a long journey down we took it easy for the first few days.  We walked along the mule track to Largentiere on Monday morning and then headed off to the nearby village of Balazuc in the afternoon.  The village is one of the most famous sites on the Ardeche, perched above the river the cobbled streets are a maze of twists and turns.  You can swim in the river, and I did!  I felt very proud of myself as I hate having unknown depths beneath me.  The river is shallow enough to wade across in places but where’s the fun in that?!

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On the Tuesday we walked into Largentiere again to visit the weekly market.  I bought some ridiculous trousers (something of a tradition in my family) and a whole lot of soap.  It’s lovely to wander around the market stalls and browse the produce and ridiculous things you would only ever think of buying on holiday.

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Our kitchen set up for the tent was basic but serviceable.  I had honestly intended to cook more but the wealth of options available from the restaurant meant that in all honesty, we only cooked twice.  I have all of the kit now though, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some use out of it with a few domestic camping trips next year when the warm weather rolls back around!

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Pizza was one of my main food groups on this holiday but I did make sure to try other, local, options too!  An assiette de pays of different regional charcuterie was absolutely delicious.  There was pate, ham, saucisson and caillette all of which were delicious!  I’m going to have to have a go at caillette but I’m not sure how successful that might turn out, stay tuned!  Then I had chicken in a sauce with chataignes (chestnuts) which was deliciously earthy.  The aforementioned pommes dauphinoise came into play too!  Dessert was another riff on chestnuts with an ice cream sundae of sweet chestnut and vanilla ice creams and caramelised chestnuts on top, yum!

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On Wednesday we set off for a bit of an epic adventure.  We headed even further south, into Provence, to visit Avignon.  I’d never been to Avignon before but it was well worth the trip.  The papal palace dominated the main square and made me revisit all of the fantasy novels of my youth.  The place would be perfect for landing a dragon in I’m sure!  It’s certainly in impressive bit of architecture and somehow fits in well with the later grandeur of the city.

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Then it was on to, you guessed it, LE PONT D’AVIGNON!  This is me, SUR le Pont D’Avignon.  Indeed.

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Our whistle stop tour of the south continued with a short hop across to Languedoc Roussillon and the Pont Du Gard.  It was absolutely scorching that day so my full Englishness came out in the form of a silly hat and consumption of copious quantities of ice cream!

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The Pont Du Gard is an amazing construction with a bridge and aquaducts spanning the Gardon river.  It is immense, the picture below just doesn’t do it justice, and to consider it was built by hand by the Romans and has stood there for all this time.  I am rather fond of the 1000 year old olive trees too!  After that we headed on to Uzes, another charming medieval town where you truly could get lost for hours in the narrow, winding streets or simply sit for hours in the cafes of the pleasantly shaded square.

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On Thursday we stayed local(ish) and drove the Ardeche Gorge.  The Pont D’Arc is perhaps the most famous image of the Ardeche and rightly so, it’s stunning to see it arching over the river with swarms of canoes and flocks of birds dwarfed by the cliffs.

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There are loads of balconies along the road following the gorge where you can park up, hop out and admire the view.  Which we did at most of them!  The vertigo got a good work out on this day, peering over the edges down to the river below!

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The scale of the thing is just amazing.  The power of time and water are never so clear to see, especially when you gaze down on what seems like such a calm, placid river lazily twisting along its path and then realise that this is what shaped the landscape surrounding you.

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After navigating the gorge (after which I felt like I should have earned some kind of Brownie Badge for twisty turny driving on the wrong side of the road!) we crossed over the river and stumbled over Aiguèze a, you guessed it, charming medieval village!!!  I know, there are a lot of them but they are all so lovely.  Each one is unique and you never know what a twist around a corner will greet you with!  It’s lovely to have the time to take to wander around and explore simply for the sake of exploring.

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This one really was one of the prettier villages I’ve come across and all the more charming for being so quiet too.  We lazily sauntered about the streets eating our ice creams and enjoying the silence and the sunshine.

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After a long day a meal in the restaurant was only fair.  Pizza again but this time I tried something new and different from the menu, a Salade Landaise.  I had no idea what was in it, so I ordered it.  It turned out to be warm duck gizzard and smoked magret de canard along with some delicious foie gras and was served with an accompanying glass of Vendages D’Octobre.  The salad was delicious, and all the more so as I had no idea what I was eating until later when I googled it! The real revelation was the wine though.  It was a sweet wine and tasted like peaches and sunshine!  Needless to say I bought a few bottles before coming home, dearer than my usual fare but I feel very well worth it!  Dessert was that ever pleasing option, a taster plate of many desserts!  This should be a standard item on all menus I feel, I love trying all of the options!

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On the Friday, our last full day in the Ardeche, we took on a challenge.  We canoed along the gorge for a 8km mini descent from Vallon Pont D’Arc down to just below the Pont D’arc.  I’ve never done something like that before, I wasn’t really an outward bound kinda kid, but it was so much fun!  Bloody hard work!  All of my muscles were needed to steer the boat along and over the small rapids without pitching us overboard but we did it!  There were a few hairy moments but we didn’t fall out once!

For our final meal I revisited the charcuterie de pays and then had a faux filet (again, that dauphinoise, OMG!) and a deliciously chocolaty chocolat liegeois.

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The next morning we packed up our little tent and bid farewell to the Ardeche and its delights and headed north back up to Burgundy.  This time we stopped in the city of Beaune, which is famous for its decorative tiled rooftops.  We stayed at the B&B Hotel (sud1), which is just outside the city walls and an easy walk into the centre for dinner.

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We have many traditions in my family and over many years of travelling in France there are some places we just gravitate back to.  Le Galion restaurant in Beaune is one of them.  I tried not to influence the decision of which restaurant to pick and happily Elsie chose this one so the tradition is preserved!  Kir, Oeuffs Meurette, Boeuf Bourgignon and a Moeleux au chocolate with a caramel beurre sale centre were all excellent choices.  So close to Dijon it had to be Kir (and we visited Lac Kir de Dijon the next day) and Oeuffs Meurette was suitably Burgundian without having to resort to snails. Poached eggs in a bacon, onion and red wine sauce what is not to love there? Boeuf Bourgignon was, again, a forgone conclusion, it has to be done!  And dessert was just lovely, ticking all of my boxes at once and adding another recipe to try to my list!

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We spent most of the next day driving across country between Beaune, Dijon and Troyes.  The road between Dijon and Troyes follows the course of the Seine river from the source itself as it grows and grows!  We then hopped on the autoroute and got some miles under out belts before peeling off to visit the site f the battle of Agincourt at Azincourt.  It’s a big field but I feel glad to have ticked it off my list!

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The town of St Omer was our base for the final night and a very welcome one too after what was an incredibly tiring day of driving.  Worth it but I was exhausted by the end of it! We stayed at another Ibis Budget, not quite as good as the St Quentin one but nice and close to the city centre to walk into for an explore and dinner.

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A final Kir, some more pate, another pizza and a final creme brulee book ended the holiday nicely!

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We did our shopping, packed the car up to the gunnels and then awaited our ferry back to England on the beach at Calais, looking out over the channel to the White Cliffs while eating immense baguette sandwiches and fresh frites and then that was that.  Another smooth ferry crossing and one last flog up to Yorkshire and our holiday was done!

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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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