Monthly Archives: November 2012

Souper Duper – Leek & Sweet Potato

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Snuggled down enjoying the final slices of last year’s Christmas cakes. Just clearing out before embarking on this season’s bake-athon. Cosy warmth on a chilly evening. Just need something little stronger to sip now.

Apologies for the title of this post. I love a good pun, I love a bad pun. Hey ho. But I do have some soup related stories and recipes to dazzle you with. I have mentioned before that one of the Little Man’s favourite dishes is soup – delicious, nutritious, easy to eat and, ahem, is easy on the digestive system.

We work on a rough weekly rota in an attempt to avoid the ’empty your fridge into a pot and hope for the best’ style soup. One week I tend to whizz up a ‘red’ soup, (a selection of carrots, swede, peppers, a few fresh tomatoes, possibly a sweet potato or two and thickened with red lentils or yellow split peas and flavoured with tumeric and cumin or paprika) whilst the following week the soup is green (cabbage, kale, broccoli or spinach with white potatoes, herbs and possibly a few beans). All are made with a base of onions and garlic.

This week, however, I decided to create two soups that require a more specific recipe.

Everybody knows of Leek and Potato soup but my friend recently introduced me to Leek and Sweet Potato. Smooth, silky, tasty, I loved it. Having no recipe I just made it up and, I have to say, the results were delicious.
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Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

In a pan, sweat 2 chopped onions and 3 garlic cloves, crushed.

Obviously vegetables vary greatly in size but ensure you include enough potato to obtain a silky texture. I used 3 large leeks and 6 medium sweet potatoes along with 3 carrots. Add these to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 2 tsp ground coriander and enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Boil for 20 minutes until everything is soft.

Blend until smooth then season to taste.

Of course, don’t forget the final touch:

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Some fresh bread. Scrummy!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Tomorrow I shall share the other with you tomorrow.

What’s your favourite soup?

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Filed under Dinner, Food

Hex Machine

Aw, just look at him, isn’t he gorgeous?! (Slightly bias, I know). Thought I’d put a little toothy smile up to greet you all.

I hope you’ve all had a marvellous weekend. The Little Man and I had a wonderful time visiting lovely friends. Good company, good food, good times had by all.

It’s so lovely to be here even if my blogging has been a little sporadic over the last few weeks. I have to admit that I haven’t quite been in the right head space as we’ve had a rather dramatic sleep relapse due to teething and a cold. Poor Little Man. We had just managed to encourage him to sleep through and we had enjoyed more than a fortnight of blissful, uninterrupted sleep before it all went topsy-turvy. Ah well, we’ll get back into good habits when he’s all well again and he finally has top teeth!

However, that is not the only reason for my lack of blogging action over the last week or so. At the end of October I made a resolution to pick up a bit of speed with my Patchwork Granny Blanket CAL and, indeed, I am pleased to announce that I have been true to my word.

After speeding ahead creating a large pile of hexagons still attached to the yarn, I took advantage of an extra long nap time to make a colour plan.

I am far too uptight to work randomly – it would draw my eye to have a colour twice in the same row/column or to have the same pattern repeated. No, no. Planned disorder in my blankets, thank you very much.

Balls of Stylecraft were spread merrily across the carpet before quickly being bundled away before the Little Man could get his chubby little mitts on them!

Then came the fun part. In spare minutes I grabbed the blanket and completed the last five sides of a hexagon.

Day by day, night by night it grew and grew. So exciting!

This is where it is at now:

I am totally in love with this blanket in all its crazy, multicoloured glory. I spend many an hour gazing at it, choosing my favourite flower. It changes daily with my mood.

I haven’t really made much progress over the last week as I have been experimenting with another little project but there’s no rush! Hope to have something to show about that soon.

What’re you hooking up at the moment? xxxx

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Filed under Blanket, Crochet

Easy Peasy Apple Cake

Red at night, Shepherds’ Delight.

The old adage proved correct and Saturday night’s wonderful sunset was followed by a marvellous day on Sunday. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the air was warm – more like September than mid-November.

The Little Man and I trotted over the road to revel in the sunshine, all too unusual around here at the moment.

It was early afternoon but there was hardly anybody out except a few fishermen and a little girl learning to ride her bike. Where was everybody?! Was the blue sky not beckoning, the sunlight shining through the windows not calling them out from their homes?

Having been inspired by the lovely breads that Lillian stores in her cupboard I have dusted off the bread machine recently. It has been wonderful having fresh, homemade bread around the place. I love making bread – kneading, shaping, eating – but that is just not going to happen at the moment. The machine is therefore a practical and convenient way to enjoy my own loaves until a window opens for me to indulge in some more hands-on yeasty baking.

As I make small loaves (so that the bread is always fresh and they can fit in hubby’s lunchbox!) we end up having a lot more ends left over. All the more to feed to the ducks then!

The Little Man was fascinated by the geese honking around by his feet and the gulls flying above his head. However it was the blue sky that was capturing my attention.

Just look at that colour.

I could not stop gazing at it.

We walked round to the second lake to find a few more hungry beaks.

There were plenty to be found! The beige cygnets from earlier in the Summer (see here) are now completing the final stages in their transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.

When we returned hubby took on the responsibility of childcare whilst I set about preparing Sunday dinner for my family. The dessert I chose has become a firm favourite since I discovered it in The National Trust’s Complete Traditional Recipe Book. It can be served warm as a pudding or left to cool and eaten as a cake.

Apple Cake

Place 175 g self-raising flour, 1 tsp mixed spice and 225 g sugar in a bowl (I use half caster, half demerara for taste and texture).

Add 225 g chopped butter but do not rub it in.

Peel and slice in 700 g cooking apples and stir in 2 beaten eggs and enough milk to make a stiff batter.

Place in a 23 x 23 cm tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours in a moderate oven (190°C). (The butter melts and caramelises the top so it is important not to take it out too early).

Easy peasy!

What’s your favourite comfort pudding? xxx

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Filed under Cakes, Desserts, Food, Snapshot, Trips and outings

Sing a Song of Sunset

4:15 pm Saturday evening. My lovely sister and her hubby-to-be were entertaining the Little Man when I looked up and this glorious sunset caught my eye. I rushed outside to revel in the spectacular show.

To the South the sky was blushing a delicate rose…

…whereas golden yellow flames dashed the sky to the West:

Let me take you through the trees and around the lake.

The colours, the ducks, the symmetry. So beautiful, so peaceful, so memorable. Thank you for sharing this experience with me. 🙂

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Filed under Snapshot

The English Riviera

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!

Ah, take a deep breath in and smell that salty air, feel the spray tickle your cheek bones and hear the harsh screeching of the gulls riding the currents. Is there anywhere in the world I would rather have been at that moment? I think not.

Of course, those white horses crashing towards the beach were the product of a ‘refreshing’ (read bracing) wind that tousled our hair and chilled our finger tips but nothing could dampen my glee (I did point out that it was warmer than our beach outings during our Summer holiday!). My darling hubby grinned through it all, indulging my giddiness and refraining from commenting when we had to return to the apartment when it transpired that I had left my purse behind.

As I mentioned here, it was decided within minutes of arriving on the English Riviera it had been decided that we would be visiting Paignton. I cannot resist a good pier. Walking out into the middle of the sea gazing towards the horizon makes me forget the world around me.

Admittedly some of the romance faded when I entered the building and this sight met my eyes:

Amusement arcades do not really do anything for me. I cannot get excited about the idea of placing 2p into one slot in the hope that 4p comes out of another. I do not see the point. What is exciting about the idea of pressing a yellow button when you know that the computer will make the blue button win? Boring and what a waste of money!

There is one arcade game that I do enjoy and that is the Camel Derby where you have to roll the balls up the alley to make your camel win the race. At least you actually have to do something other than just gamble. A seasoned pro, I thrashed hubby and won 30 tickets. As this was the only game we played I quickly cashed them in to claim my prize!

Whoop whoop!

Much as we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll around Paignton, I have to say I feel that we saw all that we needed to see. I am not sure quite how I feel about our traditional piers being crammed with arcade games. I don’t mind the arcade itself so much but I wish they would leave the outdoor area free to enjoy and be at one with the sea. I have visited various seaside resorts around the country and I find the row of amusement arcade/fast food venue/amusement arcade/holiday camp that graces many an esplanade rather depressing. However, I did notice that the towns and villages of the English Riviera appear to be finding a balance. Yes, the  tackiness was all too evident in parts, but the hotels and guesthouses were well painted (in all manner of delightful colours!) and tidy, not displaying the financial difficulties that are plaguing many of our traditional (particularly Northern) seaside towns.

We left all of this behind as we moved onto our next destination.

Welcome to the utterly delightful Babbacombe, a district of Torquay. From the moment we entered this place I fell in love. It was quiet, quaint, tidy and enchanting.

I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:
“Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”

No brass bands on a Monday afternoon in November but there is something so romantic about strolling along a promenade, arm and arm with your beau, even if I was not exactly adorned in Edwardian finery and swinging a parasol. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, all was well with the world.

The views over the bay were breathtaking. The turquoise sea was incredibly vast, spread out in front of us, bordered by tree covered cliffs. Indeed, I seem to have spent so much time absorbing the view that I didn’t manage to photograph it properly. Take my word for it though, if you ever find yourself in South Devon, visit Babbacombe. Hubby and I both agreed that we shall return sometime and when we do we shall visit the Model Village and ride upon its famous Cliff Railway, unfortunately closed for maintenance on Monday.

Whilst in Babbacombe, it struck us that we required sustenance. The sea air does whet the appetite so, you know. Luckily, we spotted the magic words ‘cream tea’ on a little sign outside the rather inconspicuous ‘Angels Tea Room’.

We were rather taken aback when, as we entered, a lady asked if we had booked. Er, no, this is a cafe, isn’t it?! Well no, it appears this is not just any cafe, but a social hub of Torquay! If you are after a quiet, relaxing experience then you may have to choose your moment to visit carefully, but if you are looking for an indulgent afternoon tea then this is the place to find it.

Delicate? Not necessarily. Decadent? Definitely! Apologies for the awful photograph, I was attempting to restrain the Little Man who was making a grab for any food that he could lay his little mitts on.

So, what did this High Tea consist of? First of all, we chose sandwiches: Bacon and Brie on granary bread for me, Pesto and Mozerella for hubby. This was followed by some scrumptious slices of cinnamon toast. Why have I never had this before? Thickly sliced white bread toasted and spread with lashings of cinnamon butter. Amazing! Then we chose a cake to share – lemon drizzle, if you please. Finally, the pièce de résistance, the scone. Not just any scone.

This was my ginger scone with gooseberry jam and clotted cream. Wow. This is a scone that I have got to add to my repertoire. Expect to hear more about ginger scones around here soon!

Once we had eaten our fill (and packed some away for later, we’re not that greedy you know!) and absorbed as much sea and sunshine as we could cram in we set off again. As the weather was marvellous and this was only a short break we decided that the journey needed to be part of the holiday. Instead of whizzing up the main road we ambled along the coast road so as to keep the sea in sight for as long as possible.

Our final stop-off was at Teignmouth. I could not resist all of those cute little boats bobbing in the harbour.

As I have already waxed lyrical at great length about two beaches I have decided to change tack and offer you a few fascinating facts about the town of Teignmouth.

Fact one: There has been a ferry service across the Teign estuary since the 13th century. Still going strong, the present boat is reputed to be the oldest working ferryboat in the country.

Can you see that bridge spanning the water in the background? That is the Shaldon Bridge. When it opened as a wooden toll bridge in 1827 it was the longest bridge in the country. The present one replaced it in 1931 (fact two!).

Teignmouth is also the proud owner of a pier heading out majestically into the sea. Crammed with all manner of arcade games, this one was closed but we did get to admire it from the sand. I love the legs – they have a sort of sculptural quality.

Fact three: The Grand Pier was first constructed in 1865 and measured 700 feet in length. It was later extended with buildings for dances, concerts and steamer trips. It is now back to its original length but the tourist board claims that it ‘still provides great delight’.

Look at this adorable mini lighthouse.

It cost £300 to build in the 1840s to guide ships into the harbour (final!). I am not sure when the bicycle wheels were added but they’re awesome. They look like sweeties out of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

We left as the sun was beginning its descent below the horizon, the sky still a deep blue and the breeze barely causing a stir over the water.

So just let me be beside the seaside
I’ll be beside myself with glee

We only had to stop off once more before we arrived home for dinner and change for bed. Little Man was super as ever and even managed to eat in this ridiculous ‘high chair’ – it was low and had no tray. Where was his food meant to go?! Luckily he managed to cope with dipping his corn puffs in cabbage soup without too much mess. Bless.

It was an amazing little holiday. Only a short break but so much joy, so much laughter, so much tranquility. I hope you have not been too bored by my waffle but I wanted to record each moment of sun and sea air to look back on when I am feeling in need of a boost.

I am not pretending everything was perfect. The poor Little Man is still waiting for his top teeth to break through and screamed more on Saturday night/Sunday afternoon than he has done in the last month but we are loving our family holidays. Yes, they are a bit slower and the amount of stuff need is incredible but he is just so adorable.

Something different next time, be back soon! 🙂 xxxxxx

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Filed under Beach, Holidays, Trips and outings

Galmpton and Greenway

See that cute, little hut above the garage in the picture? That is Rozel Apartment, our delightful home for the weekend. Only recently converted it was a modern, stylish place and a wonderful place to live for a few days.

Of course, we managed to give it a suitably ‘lived in’ look within five minutes of entering with the Little Man and all his paraphernalia. He did enjoy exploring his new surroundings, especially with the light streaming through the huge window.

Luckily, he has proved to be a relatively transportable baby, even if he does require a lot of stuff. He is an excellent eater so we can take him out and about and there’s always something that he can scoff but I did take the hand blender so I could make him some soup (his current food of choice) to balance the restaurant pickings that he devoured when given the opportunity.

The apartment was located in the charming little village of Galmpton near Brixham. This choice was not purely incidental. Firstly, it was near my lovely sister-in-law’s home in Chudleigh Knighton, secondly, it was near the coast (I was Desperate to visit the seaside) and, thirdly, Galmpton has an interesting literary connection.

Galmpton happens to be the location of Greenway Estate, the holiday home of the British crime writer Agatha Christie. As soon as I saw this I knew we Had to stay there and Had to visit her home.

As the National Trust has the annoying habit of closing its properties for the winter we were lucky that this Sunday was the final opening before the house was to be ‘put to bed’.

Originally Georgian (18 th century), the house is laid out as it would have been in the 1950s and is chock-a-block with items collected by the family since Christie bought it in the 1930s. Little Man was in the sling and slept through most of the visit indoors which meant that hubby and I could take our time really enjoy the artefacts. (Much as I love my Moby, I was glad to put him down after 90 minutes though – that boy is Heavy!).

Incidently, did you know that the Guinness Book of Records has Agatha Christie down as the best-selling novelist of all time, ranking her stories as the third most widely published books worldwide EVER! (Only the Bible and Shakespeare have been more widely distributed and they both have a few years on Christie).

The weather whilst we were away was somewhat ‘hit and miss’ but we certainly hit lucky here. As we explored the inside of Greenway, the rain beat down heavily on the glass panes and black clouds filled the sky. This was not the time to go walking, especially with a buggy. However, by the time we’d had a nosey around the gift shop the clouds had cleared and we were treated to dazzling sunshine as we navigated the winding paths through the gardens.

The estate is a mixture of cultivated gardens and woodland, full of trees gathered by the family over the years (these people were obsessive collectors!).

I adored these tiny archways. When I was younger I was always fascinated by the film ‘The Secret Garden’ and loved the idea of a garden hidden behind stone walls, shrouded with trailing plants. There is something so appealing about having a special area to hide in that is only yours.

Enclosed inside these walls were vegetable gardens with beautifully restored greenhouses.

The estate has grown figs and nectarines for many years and the tradition continues to this day. One of the things that hubby and I really enjoy about visiting National Trust properties is the carefully tended gardens, particularly the vegetable plots. I know he particularly dreams of owning an amazing garden overflowing with wild flowers and tasty produce. One day, maybe!

We continued walking along the path into the woods. I could not stop gazing up at the amazing canopy and the sapphire blue skies beyond. If there is one thing Greenway does properly it is trees.

Just look at the width of that trunk! Incredible.

I loved the lichen (?!) growing over this one. So delicate, I imagine that there are fairies dancing over the branches, springing over the soft, mossy covering.

The mystical atmosphere continued as we strolled through dappled shade encountering luscious, lily covered ponds…

…and enchanting hidey-holes with tinkling fountains and delicate ferns.

Eventually we reached the top of the path, turned a corner and this is what met our eyes:

Neither the camera I had nor my photography skills could do justice to this scene. The scale was breathtaking. The little white houses climbing up the hillside and the tall masts of the boats bobbing gracefully on the rippling water – I wanted to soak it up and fix it in my memory forever.

Such a wonderful visit.

Next time we shall have a change of scene and visit the seaside. xxxxx

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Filed under Holidays, Trips and outings

Coffee and Walnut Cake

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I wrote a post yesterday. It was full of pictures, fascinating anecdotes (of course) and a recipe. It had it all. I published it, the little bar moved along until it reached 100 %. All good. Then the post disappeared. There is no trace of it anywhere. Gutted. I have no idea what happened but I have still not got over it.

Today I am going to try again. If it fails, I shall cry.

On a brighter note, this post is coming to you live from the English Riviera. As hubby has a long weekend we packed our bags and cashed in our Tesco tokens before setting out on the long drive to South Devon.

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We broke up our journey with a delicious car picnic of crusty bread, cheese, antipasto, juicy tomatoes and caramelised onion chutney. Yum yum. I was particularly impressed with hubby’s cheese selection: an amazingly creamy Mustard Cheddar and a semi-soft French cheese, Petit Reblochon.

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The Little Man was trying out his new forward facing car seat. As he had been getting somewhat squished in his baby seat he seemed to enjoy the space and the opportunity to look around. It made him much more part of the journey as he was able to look at us and chatter away merrily. So sweet.

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By late afternoon we reached the seaside. Rather wet and windy, I cannot believe how early darkness falls now the clocks have gone back. Dreary as the weather was the view was far from dismal. The photo above is of Babbacombe, which looked so inviting with its twinkling lights and ferris wheel. (Ed. It is actually Torquay in the picture and Babbacombe is round the corner. Ah well!) And you see that wall? Behind that is The Sea! I cannot wait to go and explore tomorrow. On the drive down I also spied a pier in Paignton and I do love a good pier!

Of course, we have been out and about today but I have not planned my recount of those adventures yet. Instead I need to share what I wrote about yesterday because otherwise I shall not sleep!

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So, in other news. Wednesday was an exciting day for our family, not just because it was Halloween! We celebrated both my mom and my aunt’s 60th birthdays yet (yes, they are twins) and also my sister’s birthday. To mark this auspicious occasion we took my mom out to a fancy hotel for dinner – The Fairlawns.

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The meal began with a complimentary amuse-bouche,  pumpkin in honour of the season, which added an elegance to the proceedings. Maybe I’m just easily pleased but I feel that any meal gets off to a good start when you are offered teeny-tiny cups of soup to ‘cleanse the palate’. Anyway, the pate (cannot do accents on here) and duck did not fail to impress.

We ended our meal with birthday cake. Coffee and Walnut Cake with Chocolate and Coffee Buttercream and it was delicious, even if I do say so myself!

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The cake was made using Delia Smith’s fail-safe all-in-one method. This recipe makes two 20 cm/8 inch sponges.

In a mixer place:
6 oz/175 g self-raising flour
6 oz/175 g caster sugar
6 oz/175 g softened butter
1 heaped tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
Mix until smooth but do not over whisk.
Stir in 2 oz/55 g crushed walnuts.

Split the batter between two lined and greased tins.
Bake for 30 minutes until the sponge is firm.
*Remember* Do not open the oven until the time is up or your sponge may sink.

For the topping, beat 8 oz/225 g icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa powder with 4 oz/110 g softened butter and 1 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water.
Use 1/3 of the mixture to sandwich the sponges together then use the rest to cover the outside of the cake.

Finally, enjoy!

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I really hope this post has not lost too much from being ‘retold’! I shall be back soon to share some highlights from the English Riviera. xxxx

Edited to add the eggs – thank you to a lovely friend for pointing out my omission!

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Filed under Baby, Cakes, Food, Holidays, Recipes, Trips and outings