Author / Karen

Caravan Blog September 2020 Visits

Caravan Blog, Day 9.

One of the reasons I decided to blog this trip was to ensure we got out and about and saw local attractions. It is very easy on this type of holiday to get into the groove of staying around the site and putting off venturing out. You get into the relaxing vibe, which is great sometimes but does mean you can miss out on things. So here we are on day 9 and we are heading to the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth. I last visited in the 1960s when I was a youngster, we have photographs posing by HMS Victory but of course back then the Tudor warship Mary Rose was still resting at the bottom of the Solent. So hold on to your hats off we go!

Hello Sailor!

Wow, when I spied this massive sculpture it reminded me of The Kiss by Rodin. Very passionate. Can you imagine all those sailors docking into the harbour after a stint away and their loved ones waiting to welcome them home? Its not the first thing you see when you get into the Historic Dockyard though. the first thing is HMS Victory, in all its pot bellied splendour. Fantastic, utterly breath taking. This warship was one of the most successful of all time, leading fleets in historic wars such as as The American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Wars. Nelson died on board too, another iconic moment in history. He was fatally shot on 21st October 1805.

HMS Victory

We had booked ticket to go in to see the Mary Rose. Mary Rose was a Tudor warship. It was built for Henry 8th in 1510. She fought battles for over thirty years against the French. She capsized off the coast of Portsmouth during the Battle of the Solent in 1545. Almost all of the 500 crew were lost to the seabed along with all of their possessions. For centuries she lay there and after 400 hundred years a complicated salvage operation commenced. The Mary Rose rose again in 1982 and a collection of over 19000 items were recovered and these are all on display in the Mary Rose museum. The full skeleton of the ships dog is there too, possibly a whippet, used on board to catch rats! The name for the ship was chosen by Henry 8th. Mary for his sister and the virgin Mary and Rose for the Tudor Rose, I thought that was very touching.

Mary Rose

After that we sat and had a bit of lunch watching and waiting! We had been told that one of the aircraft carriers in the harbour was due to sail at 1.00pm. We knew this would be a sight to behold so waited and waited and waited. There were crew on board and signs of things about to happen but after a couple of hours rumours came that the mission had been postponed, ah well it had been grand sitting in the sun.

Prince of Wales Aircraft Carrier

I just love a boat trip. Last year we had a cruise on the Norfolk Broads for a couple of hours (yes I know literally know how to push the boat out we do!!) So this year it had to be a ride around Portsmouth Harbour. We were on the last sailing but I am so glad we did it. The commentary was very good. We were told lots of history about pretty much everything we could see. warships, banana boats, ferries, tugs, the Spinnaker Tower and such a lot more. Worth every penny of the ten pound per head ticket.

Ship Ahoy!
Selfie, No I am not water skiing!

After a very full day we headed back to our Camping and Caravan Club site near Fareham. This site is as usual fab in itself but there is a section reserved for folks needing an overnight before setting sail to France or Spain. Brittany Ferries sail from Portsmouth, so that’s worth knowing about! The campsite has a fish and chip van visit on Friday teatimes. It came highly recommended so we decided to have treat and a rest from cooking for me. However I couldn’t resist making a starter, not something we often bother with. the words Mary Rose had been playing in my head all day. Prawn cocktail it had to be then. The pink sauce that you get on the classic retro starter was developed by the chef catering for the restoration of the Mary Rose. The cocktail has been around for years so I don’t know how true that is. What I do know is how easy it is to make. A combination of mayo, ketchup, drops of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon and that is it. So tangy and delicious! The fish and chips along with bread and butter and mushy peas were fantastic.

Plenty of salt and vinegar!

I did manage a tiny bake before we set off out for the day. One of my facebook/Twitter friends Brendan Kailer Lieb had offered me a recipe for apple topped biscuits. I still have Elgar’s apples to use so I gave them a whirl. Quick and easy and now all eaten, they were smashing, thank you Brendan.

Elgar’s apples once again.

Quite a hefty days blog but I hope you have enjoyed it. Here are a few links if you need more information

There we go , signing off for another day 🙂

Caravan Blog September 2020 Recipe

Blog on! Day 8. Caravan Tour

Day 8. Well it is incredible that a week has been and gone already. Hey though, we are just having the best weather, so lucky! If you remember back to yesterday, I know that is hard sometimes, even I am losing track and I am writing it all down in this blog/diary, we are in Hampshire. Our first day of exploring and we initially set of to have a look around Fareham. However my oldest daughter called while we were trying to find a parking spot and distracted us. She was asking about part worn replacement tyres for her car, a subject I do in fact have some knowledge of as it happens! Anyway we ended up driving off and away. I saw a sign for Porchester Castle and thought OK, lets go there, bit of spontaneity in the mix.

Porchester Castle is a medieval castle built within a former Roman fort and was taken under royal control in 1154. The monarchy controlled the castle for several centuries. It occupies a commanding position at the head of Portsmouth harbour. It has seen much action over those centuries, plenty of scrapping with the French and dastardly doings. Today the castle is a scheduled ancient monument, a grade 1 listed building and it is managed by the English Heritage.

Taking in the view
Double Selfie

We had a really good time browsing around. We took in a bite to eat in the sunshine and just watched folks come and go. Very well worth the small entrance fee, which was about six pounds each I think and free parking too.

We headed back to the campsite via the supermarket, we need some more groceries. For our had I had my mind set on that bag of apples still, remember those ones from Elgar’s orchard. I know I keep going on about them but we have loads. I decided to make an Elgar Tarte Tatin. A french upside down apple pie. I made the puff pastry from scratch but I do quite often use shop bought. It worked out beautifully as you can see from this glossy photo!

For our main, well I concocted again. This time I wanted to use up the wobble juice I bought at the farm shop in Malvern. Cider pressed from their apples. I cooked off some onion and mushrooms in a bit of butter, added cubed pork, threw in some thyme and Dijon mustard. I doused it all in a splosh of the cider and reduced it down. then I added a leek, a sprinkle of flour to thicken and finished it off with cream. OMG, it was wonderful!


So there we go. day 8 done and dusted. We watched a bit of telly and had a couple of drinks and settled down for a good nights sleep. Another busy day planned tomorrow, ship ahoy!!

Caravan Blog September 2020 Visits

Day 7: Caravan Blog Off (don’t go to sleep)

A whole week has been and gone since I decided to write this blog. A good thing about writing it is that it makes sure that I get something done each day. Caravan, motorhome or camping holidays are good news for lots of people, especially now with the pandemic causing havoc with holiday plans. It is sort of the essence of the experience that you are outdoors much of the time and social distancing is in place with everyone having their own emplacement. This style of holiday really means you can be as busy out seeing and doing as you wish or can just put your feet up and relax. I try to do a bit of each and the blog ensures I find something of interest to absorb and write about.

If you have been following the blog each day you will know we have been at Malvern in Worcestershire. Terry and his little dog Meg joined us for a few nights and we had a great time. Quite busy, with cooking antics as well as getting around the area. We waved goodbye to them and then we hitched up and pointed the Sat Nav in the direction of south. We had booked our next stop at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site near Fareham in Hampshire. It is only a handful of miles from Portsmouth and the ferry ports to France:

The weather for the journey of about 130 miles was once again great. Blue skies, full sun and the roads were surprisingly quiet. We turned off the motorway near Newbury and it all seemed very familiar to me. Each week when I was filming for The Great British Bake Off, I disembarked the train at Newbury and waited for the bakers mini bus to pick me up and take me off to the hotel. Ah happy days!

We made it!

I always love arriving at a new destination and this was a first for me. The welcome from the wardens on site was lovely. The little shop had a good selection of groceries and holiday bits and bats. We found ourselves a pitch and started the process of setting up. Now we have done this so many times it really should be a breeze but we always seem to find a problem that stumps us. This time it was getting the van level, we had the blocks and extra lumps of wood. I have a mini spirit level that I use for my cakes too. Could we hummer get it right. We sort of compromised in the end and decided that if it was a bit slope-y when we were trying to sleep we would say it was the wine we drank with dinner!

Our trusty steed, she is only about 20 years old!

Once we were up and running it was time to do a spot of people watching. From our pitch I can see one lady under a parasol crocheting, I can see one lady in a horizontal position baking herself (it is hot), one gentleman is changing a wheel on his bike and everyone else seems to be sitting with a cold drink in their hands. When we had Terry with us we didn’t bother watching TV but I fancied catching up with the goings on on Coronation Street so we got the set fixed up. Slight hitch in that we couldn’t figure out how to plug in the booster cable. the warden came down and showed us, he was so nice. I felt a bit of a goon as once you knew it was obvious!!

I had another cook a long live booked in the evening. I was hosting so I had to get myself geared up for that. The whole thing is done by zoom so a good wifi connection is important. The club wifi was fine. The dish we were cooking was egg curry. I had forgotten to buy eggs so I used a tin of butter beans and some par boiled potato. It was actually very delicious, I even saved a bit for breakfast…. I know I know but the flavours intensify overnight especially eaten cold!!

Curry for Breakfast

So just a short blog today as it was a travel day but I have a visit and a recipe in mind for tomorrow so watch this space, same time, same place tomorrow! Thanks for reading x

Baking Caravan Blog September 2020 GBBO Recipe Visits

Caravan Blog: Day 6

Eggs Benedict

How do you like your eggs in the morning? I like mine with a smile! That’s how the song goes. Well to start our day off with an energy boost I made eggs benedict, first time ever. Terry showed me the ropes as it is his regular brekkie. Very delish. it is a toasted muffin, or in our case sliced bread with grilled bacon, poached eggs and a dollop of hollondaise sauce. terry likes to add a bit of parmesan and a trimming of green herbs, we used parsley and that is it. Apparently it was invented by a chef in the 1860’s for a Mrs Benedict who was fed up of bacon and eggs. We cheated (camping allowed) and used a packet of hollondaise but I did learn a crafty trick with the poached eggs. Terry cracked each one into cling film draped over a cup and made a little bag containing each egg, twisted secure at the top. All the eggs went in the pan at the same time for three minutes, and hey presto, perfect poached eggs!

The reason we wanted a hefty breakfast was we were going to walk along the Malverns. We set off in the car and found a place to park up and began the climb along the tops. very hot and very beautiful. I decided to take Terrys little dog Meg and wait it out in the shade while John and Terry went up to the beacon. It was really grand!

Malvern Selfie

We headed back to the caravan and camping club site at Malvern where we were pitched, had a shower and cuppa and then headed off to a farm shop that had been recommended to us. Clive fruit farm – it was on the edge of Upton on Severn. We had decided on a BBQ for tea so we bought what we fancied from the butchers department. I spied a big barrel of what was called Wobble Juice so decided it was too interesting a name to ignore. Scrumpy pressed on the farm! I bought some to take back to the caravan, well it had to be done! We had an ice cream and headed back to site.

John fired up the charcoal BBQ and I assembled the Safari Chef 2 Cadac. We had lamb burgers, sausages (of course) and I skewered up some pork for kebabs, which were doused in the wobble juice! It was a real feast and the evening was still warm and sunny.

I used up some left over mash and transformed them into potato cakes, I just added plain flour, goat cheese and spices. I used the cadac to heat them up and they got a fab crusty bottom on them!

We also had afters! remember all those Elgar’s apples? Terry used some up and made apple cream horns with from scratch puff pastry, hey how about that then!!

What a great finale to our few days at Malvern. We really have had the best time. To top it off the new bakers for The Great British Bake Off 2020 were announced so BBC Hereford and Worcester called us up during our BBQ to chat on air about the bake off, icing on the cake

Baking Caravan Blog September 2020 Visits

Caravan Blog: Day 5

Day five of my travel blog already. As I mentioned yesterday Terry from my Bake Off year joined us on the campsite here at Malvern Hills. We had a great site based first day with him but I had a visit lined up for us today. I had started to follow a patisserie wholesaler on Instagram, just because their beautiful wares had taken my eye. I have always been in awe of anyone that can make the patisserie that the french are renowned for. I discovered that the company is in Cheltenham just a half hours drive from the campsite. They agreed to show us their work and premises so off we went to find them.

When we arrived we were welcomed by Bee and she gowned us up to make us Covid safe and we went in and were introduced to her husband Xavier the Patissier. Born near Geneva he moved to the UK aged twenty and worked in the likes of the Ivy and Harrods, where he met Bee. Ten years ago they set up The Patisserie Box and supply to the wholesale market. Like everyone they have been hit hard by the pandemic but are up and running now and trying to adapt the the changing world.

Here we are with Xavier who shows us how to make the most delicious chocolate mousse with a hard to spell almondy biscuit base. I was mesmerised by the beauty of everything they made and was really delighted when we were gifted a few items to take away with us to sample back at the site.

Team of Four

Here is the link to their website I suggested they apply for Bake Off The Professionals and they told us they have been approached a few times but can’t afford to close down their unit for the length of time filming would take, shame as they are great!

Once back on site we settled down to relax and just enjoy the sunshine. It was so hot, everyone was out doing their own thing which mostly seemed to involve a BBQ and cold drinks. Our little trio plus Meg the dog had other plans for supper on a really hot day you have got to have some steak pie and mash, of course you do!! It was Terry’s turn to do the hospitality and he made a de constructed steak pie, the pastry was made from scratch, puff too! It was exceptional, as you can see I almost forgot to take a photo as we tucked right in, so excuse the half eaten potato tower!

Our plans for tomorrow include a walk up and along the Malverns and a trip into Upton on Severn. It will be our last night at the Malvern site and we are going to have a BBQ. Terry will be leaving to return home and we will head south but that’s all another day and another blog. So for today readers, cheers for staying with me and there is two more weeks of blog to come so stay tuned!

Baking Caravan Blog September 2020 GBBO Visits

Caravan Blog: Day 4

Here we are on day four already. Still the sun shines, it is so fantastic and makes a big difference to a trip. Terry – my friend that I met while we were both competitors on The Great British Bake Off – arrived onsite. He drove down from his home in his motorhome. It was so brilliant to see him again, we keep on touch by zoom but its always better in real life. We decided that we would do a local bake on site and video it. We came up with a Malvern Pudding. It is normally steamed but we decided to bake it in the oven to save the gas, steaming takes so long. The bake itself is like an apple cake (remember all those apples from Elgar’s orchard!) We made a caramel sauce to pour over the top. Everything worked out fine and the elderly gentleman next to us was intrigued with our antics. He said ‘please get an article in the Caravan and Motorhome magazine’ as he thought it would prove to be of interest to members, perhaps we will 🙂

See on this photo, Terry’s little dog Meg got a piece of the action. She is such a little princess and just as fluffy and even tempered as a teddy bear. gorgeous!

Remember the pizza dough I made yesterday? Well here is the result. We enjoyed it sat in the sun and we also had something very special to wash it down with. Terry has his own craft brewery and as a surprise brought us a big crate of three of his finest. I am not a beer connoisseur but these were really fine and a little history with each bottle. Also he brought cheese from his own cheese place and some honey from his bees.

We had a meal in our caravan. I made something from Rick Stein, not fish though, it was a Croatian pot roast, slow cooked in balsamic vinegar and red wine with dates and apples in the mix! Beautiful!!

So that was day four. A steady day all on the campsite. Next up is a trip to a patisserie in Cheltenham, see how the professionals do it, very excited to see. Watch this space, will report asap!

Caravan Blog September 2020 Visits

Caravan Blog: Day 3

Days are flying by on this trip, I seem to have to gallop to keep up to things. So day three was very steady, we had a grocery trip out, I love supermarket shopping, perhaps its because of all the inspiration I get from browsing the aisles. I did need some specific things as I was hosting the cookalong live I referred to last blog. We were making Thai pork meatballs and I needed bits and bobs for that. In addition my friend of the Bake Off Terry is joining us, did I say that already? We are going to bake together on the pitch. I also wanted to make some pizza for lunch so out there in the sunshine before 8 in the morning I was having a workout with some pizza dough!

After our shopping trip I was getting set up for the zoom cook a long. I did consider doing it outside but folks were chilling out on their emplacements and I thought better of it. In the caravan I had a few tense moments with technology, nothing new there, I am learning on the hoof so to speak and I do have some worrying episodes. Last week I was casting a Youtube video to play on our TV at home but instead it landed over the road on our neighbours’ telly, embarrassing!!

I got there in the end and here I am looking all jolly with my tripod and laptop. I was not frying those limes by the way!

The Thai pork meatballs were easy to make, except one of the ingredients was toasted ground rice. Toasting I managed but I resorted to a rolling pin and a plastic cup as I do not have a pestle and mortar, raised a few eyebrows on site by folks wandering past as I sat grinding and pounding away.

We ate the meatballs for our tea, had a couple of bevvies and settled down for Last Night of the Proms. We clapped and sang our hearts out, especially the Elgar tunes having been to say hello to him just the day before.

Well readers, if you have stayed with me so far, that’s fab, must dash I have a Croatian Pot Roast to deal with, I know, I know, blazing hot day and I choose a pot roast!

Caravan Blog September 2020 Visits

Caravan Blog: Day 2

Day two of our trip turned out grand. We both slept very well, all the fresh air here in the Malverns maybe. As its once again the Last Night of the Proms this weekend and there has been some controvesy around it too, it seemed appropriate to check out the composer Elgar. He was born close to here and is buried just a few miles up the road. We visited the grave first. The churyard was indeed serene but we were not alone. A very pert kitten, jet black was sitting by the grave. As we got closer it approached us, all around our legs, very friendly. then it jumped right up and the notice board. It was a bit eerie, then it sat back on the grave. When we left it pranced along with us, tail ramrod straight. I was concerened it would follow us to the car but no. As we got to the vicarage it just sat down and let us leave. Spooky wooky!

We drove over to Elgars birthplace. Normally open to the public but currently closed. We spoke at length the the gardener Dawn, she told us plenty about Elgar and then she very kindly filled us a bag with apples from the orchard. So I need to make an Elgar apple pie in his honour! Here is a link if ever you fancy visiting in the future.

We toddled off and picked up a bit of shopping from the very lovely Upton on Severn. Quaint and plenty of antique shops which I intend to go back to when Terry arrives as he is keen on a browse around.

For dinner I made a beef strogonoff, very easy and soon I will be cooking this on The Great British Food Festival cook along live, here is the link to it.

We are well settled in now to the groove here on the campsite. Blessed with fine weather there is a great atmosphere on site. Most people busy doing nothing much.

That winds up day two readers. Got a busy couple of days now, there will be plenty to report!

Caravan Blog September 2020

Karen Wright’s Caravan Blog

Hitching UP

Now I have heard the word blog loads of times since I took part in The Great British Bake Off in 2018 but I never had a go at writing one until today. Its like a diary I guess, except its not top secret like when you are young writing “Dear Diary” and exposing your secrets to nosy siblings!

Thing is, this year 2020 the pandemic called Covid19 has kiboshed everyones plans great and small and we have all had to manouvre our mindsets around the “new Normal” We were going to Britanny with the Caravan and Motorhome Club in June, cancelled of course, we rebooked for September, cancelled of course,so here we are in the Great British Staycation. Is that a new word? I decided to stretch myself a wee bit and see if I could navigate myself around my under used website and blog our trip, for my own records and amusement really but you never know, other folks might enjoy my antics.

With me so far? great, seat belts fastened lets get this road trip rolling! We keep our ancient caravan in a storage yard as we cant fit it on our drive at home so this week we took a couple of trips to get it ready. It was pretty grubby and we cant get any access to water down there so we had to fill the water carrier up at home and armed with our kitchen sweeping brush off we toddled to give the van a spruce up, That done and all possible checks done we collected the van and hitched up and away.

Last trip I took the decision to have a bash at towing, and I did in fact cope, even on the M25 but our first leg of this journey it was over to John and I was co pilot in charge of operations like choosing the music, tearing up mouthfills of egg sandwiches and popping them into his bouche as we drove from home in Wakefield to our first destination, the Caravan and Motorhome Club site in the Malvern Hills. Why is it I wonder that when we go on a long trip it is always egg sarnies. They have to be the smelliest and least travel friendly option on the planet, well maybe sardines might slot into that category too. The answer my friends is that when you go away on holiday you inevitiably have eggs at home that need using up, hence egg butties!

We arrived at the site without problems. The drive uneventfull but exciting as we could see that hump of Britain called the Malvern Hills getting closer, bit like who can see the sea first and you know your desination is minutes away. We were welcomed into a very Covid secure reception and off we toddled to choose our white peg pitch. We found one, started operation set up, legs down, unhitch, electric cable plugged in, usual routine and I went back to say which pitch we were on only to find that is was spoken for, by that a motorhomer had got it but had jiggered off for the day without marking their pitch as taken. Oh dear, back to John, “stop stop” says I and explained the score to him. Anyway, we moved and lo and behold found a pitch with the best view of the Malverns, so there we go karma!

When I am away in the caravan I love to challenge myself to cook and bake just as I would at home. For our first meal of the trip I needed to use up some fresh tomatoes and mushrooms brought from home, waste not etc!! So I bought some chicken thighs and a bit of chorizo and put together a pan of Spanish Chicken. All very well but part way through the cooking of it I tried the lights, typical, two of them not working. We always, always have snags when we first get pitched up. Already John discovered he had forgotten a bit that he used to connect the water, he grappled with that and came up with some sort of solution so now to the lights. Mini argument as I say “leave it until tomorrow I am cooking now” but no. Toolbox out, electrical checking gadget out, lights taken to bits, drinks cabinet emptied to unscrew an access hatch. I was simmering along with the chicken. No can fixie. All put back together and then we try a switch we rediscovered by the door, that switch works those two lights!

Spanish Chicken

Now for many years John and I worked as a maintenance team for a holiday company, John was engineer, I his assistant, you wouldn’t have thought so how we framed with that issue but hey ho, we got there in the end.

Finally we relaxed into the evening, ate the very tasty meal, John said it was a bit spicy, but nothing new there. Then I got the munchies. How is it that when you go away from home it is so difficult to watch your calorie intake. I am on a Slimming World programme and doing OK. Lindt Chocolate teddy bears however are not on the plan. I had spied one in the shop yesterday and bought one for our almost four year old grandaughter Silke. Lovely thing in gold wrapper with a red ribbon and red heart around its neck. I only bought it in the afternoon. I ate it!! Oh no, why oh why did I give in to it. Somehow all those eat carrot sticks if you feel snacky go out of the window. Oh well, there were plenty more on the shelf in the shop!

Baking Recipe

Stilton, Pear,Walnut Tart

Its that time of year when Summer is drifting away and Autumn comes calling. Orchard fruits are everywhere and here I use pears as a crown on a bed of stilton custard and walnut pastry. its another alternative to a cheese board or a great starter to a fancy meal. It is a quiche but dressed up to impress!

Walnut Pastry

175g plain flour. 90g butter. 2 Tbs cold water. 50g walnuts (blitz in food processor) Pinch salt.

Using fingertips rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add salt and walnuts. Add the water a little at a time and mix until it makes a firm dough. Wrap in film and chill in the fridge for half an hour. Heat the oven to 190 degrees. Grease a 20cm loose bottomed tin. remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to the thickness of a pound coin. Lift the pastry and line the tin with it, easing in with thumbs and fingers. Run the rolling pin over the top to trim the excess. Put the tin into the freezer for ten minutes to chill down. Place a sheet of greaeproof paper over the chilled pastry and fill with baking beans (or dried pasta/rice) this is to partially blind bake the pastry to prevent a soggy bottom. Pop this in the oven and bake for ten minutes, then remove paper and beans and bake for a further five minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 160 degrees. remove the pastry from the oven.

Savoury custard

Beat 2 eggs and add 150ml double cream, mix well. Add 100g crumbled stilton cheese and a handfull of crushed walnuts.

Poached Pears

Peel four small pears and place in a pan containing 100g sugar,100ml white wine and 100ml red wine and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Bring to boil and then simmer until the pears are tender. Remove from syrup and cool. Slice the bottoms off to so they will stand upright.

Place the custard into the pastry shell and then stand the pears in the custard. Bake in the oven until the custard is just set. Serve hot or Cold. The image shows apricots set into the custard too, which is another option!