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!
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!
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.https://cookalonglive.com/
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
Beat 2 eggs and add 150ml double cream, mix well. Add 100g crumbled stilton cheese and a handfull of crushed walnuts.
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!
My favourite treat when I am in France are the little strawberry tarts that are in all the superbarkets and bakeries. Here is my version, this is a sharing tart using a fluted 20cm loose bottomed tin.
Pre Heat Oven to 190 degrees
Pate Sucre (sweet pastry)
200g Plain flour
115g cold cubed butter
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 beaten egg
Place the flour and butter into a bowl and using finger tips rub the butter in until it all resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir through. Add the egg and vanilla and mix in with a flat bladed knife until a dough is formed. Wrap in film and chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
Remove from the fridge and roll out to the thickness of a pound coin. Place in the greased tin and press firmly to the bottom and sides. Run a rolling pin over the top to trim off the excess. Place in freezer to chill for about ten minutes.
Remove from freezer, lay a sheet of greaseproof onto the pastry and fill with baking beans. Cook for 15 minutes then remove paper and beans and cook for a furthur five minutes. Remove from the oven to cool.
Custard (Creme pattisserie)
30g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
1tsp vanilla paste
100g white chocolate
Whisk together the sugar, cornflour,egg yolk and vanilla in a heatproof bowl. warm the milk to almost boiling. Pour the milk on to the egg mixture whisking all the time. Return the custard to the pan and bring to a boil, stirring all the time until the custard is very thick. Add the chocolate and stir in. Leave to cool.
300ml Double Cream
1 Tbs icing sugar
Whip the cream with electric mixer until soft peaks are formed, add the icing sugar and whisk a few seconds more.
Fill the pastry shell with the cooled custard. Using about 400g strawberries sliced in half vertically cover the top of the custard leaving a margin of about two cenimetres around the edge. Using a piping bag and nozzle or just a spoon fill the margin with the cream. Using a little apricot jam mixed with hot water, brush the strawberries, this will make them shiny and special. scatter flaked toasted almonds on the cream.
I made this soup in an attempt to get my husband to eat parsnips, he hates them apparently! Not any more, I tricked him with this delicate soup, based on a German theme but rich and creamy with a hint of apples and spice! The wine can be omitted and replaced with extra stock.
1 chopped onion
400g parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large potato peeled and chopped
250ml dry white wine (Riesling)
150ml apple juice
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
200ml single cream
salt and pepper to taste
handful smoked lardons
in a large pan soften the onions in the butter then add the parsnips and potatoes, cook for a few minutes stirring all the time. Then add the wine and bring to a boil this will remove the alcohol content but leave the taste.Add the stock, mustard, apple juice and all the seasonings. Simmer about twenty minutes until the vegetables are soft. Using a hand blender stick blitz the soup until very smooth, add more stock if its a bit thick . Add the cream and let it heat gently.
Meanwhile in a frying pan cook the lardons in their own fat, it will be released as soon as it gets warm. Crisp them up.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls then swirl a little cream into it, place a spoonful of lardons in the centre and sprinkle with smoked paprika. To make this vegetarian friendly omit the lardons and replace with a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds.
This is a deliciously rich and decadent tart I created for The Taste of Kent Food Festival
50g Crushed hazelnuts
115 g butter
50g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
200 g plain flour
2 Tbs cold water
120g condensed milk
60g golden syrup
150g light brown
Large pinch smoked sea
225g 70% chocolate
175ml Double Cream
100g caster sugar
50 g hazelnuts
100 g dark chocolate
Rub all the dry ingredients together and the add egg yolk and water and form a ball. Chill in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the pastry and place in a 20cm loose bottomed flan tin. Blind bake the pastry in a pre heated 180 degree oven for 15 minutes, remove the baking beans and lining paper and continue to cook for about another 10 minutes .
Make the caramel by heating all the ingredients together in a saucepan until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees. Pour into the pastry case.
Make the ganache by very gently warming the ingredients together until melted and glossy. Pour onto the caramel.
To make the praline gently heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed fry pan, swirling as it melts not stirring. When it has become a golden colour pour over the hazelnuts. Once cooled grind together in a food processor until it is like coarse sand.
Sprinkle the praline around the circumference of the ganache.
Using melted chocolate in a small piping bag makes triangles to resemble sails. Cool in the fridge and the stand upright in the ganache.
sprinkle ground sea salt over the top of the ganache.
The Wright side of life: Following in Churchill’s footsteps
Karen Wright writes: “I like things to happen and if they don’t happen, I like to make them happen”. This is actually one of many quotes from the late, great Winston Churchill and I really feel like that too. I like ringing the changes, keeping out of a rut, and taking opportunities when I see them.
The reason I started this article with a reference to Winston Churchill is because we are staying on a campsite right next to Blenheim Palace where he was born. The palace is only one kilometre from here and makes for an easy stroll. The palace is gilded and ornate and the gardens are expansive and beautiful.Countryfile is going to be filmed here the first weekend in August so stay tuned to the telly and get a glimpse. In addition to being born here, he and loads of the other Churchills are buried at the local church in Bladon, so we had a walk there to pay our respects.
We caught the bus into Oxford and met our youngest daughter for lunch as she was researching in the Radcliffe Camera library. Oxford is magnificent, so historic, the buildings feel golden and warm. This time of year, it is rammed full of tourists.
On Wednesday we went to visit a friend of ours who lives near here. We had lots to catch up on and of course she hadn’t seen me since before The Bake Off so she wanted to hear all about it. She had recently had an armchair re upholstered and it was a glorious yellow fabric, I just had to have a photo taken sitting on it, it felt like a throne.
Thursday was a baking day in the caravan. I needed to make a birthday cake for our daughter and various other treats, so I got my apron on and got stuck in. I kept things simple with a Victoria sponge as it can be difficult to gauge ovens, especially one running on bottled gas, but it turned out well.
Friday I was invited to a launch of a new range of caravans from the manufacturer Bailey of Bristol. It was a fancy affair and held in a hotel with a hot lunch provided, which meant a sandwich for tea instead of cooking, made a nice change, simple things are often the best.
Saturday it was the birthday party. We travelled to Abingdon in the morning and we went for a birthday swim in the open-air pool. It was great. It is set in lawns and the river Thames runs parallel. We could bob about in the water and watch river boats sailing past. In the afternoon we came back to the caravan and had a mini party. Both our daughters, their chaps and our little granddaughter came. I had made a vegetarian lasagne, side salads, birthday cake and a Bakewell tart.
We are back home to Wakefield this week and I have a busy week in front of me including a training session for the radio slot, a cake to make for an event on Thursday at the Sculpture Park and a food festival next Saturday in Worcester to prepare for.
What was it that Churchill said? Make things happen!
So that’s is my round up for this week, hope everyone managed to stay cool in the heatwave. Until next week, bye bye!
I was recently lucky enough to be gifted a trip to this Holiday Parc, one of my old stomping grounds. Had a great time, really fab, here is my review.
Review of La Croix du Vieux
Pont and the Four Bed Lakeview Lodge
My husband John, myself, our
daughter and her partner and our two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter have
just returned from a wonderful holiday on this holiday parc. Our accommodation
was the four bedroomed lakeside lodge. John and I were very familiar with both
the parc and the accommodation as we have worked as seasonal maintenance within
the holiday parc industry for many years and spent two full seasons living on “Berny”. We were very excited to be invited back as holidaymakers and
perhaps see things through different eyes.
We sailed overnight into
Zeebrugge from Hull as we live in Yorkshire. We treated the crossing as a mini
cruise and set out to enjoy everything on-board. We quickly found our
comfortable cabin and then did a tour of the vessel. There are two bars on
board. One is quite lively and on this occasion a duo singing well known songs.
There was a game of bingo and a disco billed too. The other bar was a quiet
lounge and on the outward journey we enjoyed a solo guitarist who was good. On
the return we were treated to a pianist at the grand piano. We enjoyed a couple
of drinks before heading off to the self-service restaurant. There is an a la
carte restaurant too. In our restaurant there was masses of choice, all eat as
much as you fancy. Soups, crudités and salad selection (my favourite) carvery,
curries, beef casserole, lasagne. There was cheese and biscuits and desserts aplenty.
The breakfast was just the same – you name it, it was there.
Once we had docked next morning
we had a three-hour drive to the parc. An easy drive too. It is just over two
hours from Calais for anyone driving to Dover to sail, or Folkestone for Le
As you approach the site you
can’t fail to miss the beautiful, huge flower beds so carefully tended and
watered by the parc staff. This is just a taste of things to come. The parc is
quite beautiful. It is big but every inch of it is a pleasure to saunter
through. It’s like being on holiday in a park; lush, green with mature trees
around the edges but the emplacements are all so big nothing encroaches or
blocks out the sunshine. There are three lakes, for fishing, or for hiring a
canoe or pedalo. There are swans, moorhens and ducks with ducklings to enjoy.
Facilities are many but without
feeling too busy or overwhelming. Water wise there is a great pool complex with
covered/uncovered option dependant on the weather. We were there in a June
heatwave, so it was all opened to get the rays. There is a large proper
swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a toddler pool, a lazy river, and slides too. In the
middle of the parc there is a manmade swimming lake with a very sandy beach.
The water is filtered so is clean and blue. Our granddaughter loved this and I was
in there every opportunity too. Both the pools and the beach pool have a bar
restaurant too, so it really is heavenly.
There are playgrounds too and
some facilities that are available at a cost, bouncy castle, trampoline, go
carts that type of thing but the prices were fine I thought.
We did not eat at the restaurants
this time but in the past, we found them to be of a high standard. They were
always nicely busy so that speaks for itself. There is a takeaway which was
very popular. The shop in the parc was great, plenty of things to make a meal
or buy something to drink and not inflated prices. The boulangerie in the
morning was to queue for if you went late, but always plenty of baguettes and
croissants to go around, delish! The nearest supermarket is a short walk away
in the village and that is perfect for the bigger shop to get really stocked
The main bar has regular
entertainment which is lots of fun for all the family. Karaoke, kids disco,
there was a pool party too which also doubled as talent show with the Eurocamp
Reps doing the judging. That was a great night.
The Eurocamp Reps were fantastic.
There was nothing too much trouble. They clearly loved the job they were doing,
in fact they told me they did. There was such a happy positive vibration in the
guest services lodge, I was very impressed. Perhaps I might take it up again?
There is Eurocamp activities for all the family. We all took part including our
two-year-old who went to the tot’s club. Our children always loved the Eurocamp
kids’ clubs when they were small, and it still has the same appeal now. Our
oldest girl was a Eurocamp kids club rep when she was eighteen and then of
course we joined in too when we got the bug.
There are new attractions that
are up by the main bar, which include ten pin bowling and laser quest. There is
table tennis to be enjoyed and there is one tennis court. Bikes can be hired
too and there are pony rides across the road. I spotted crazy golf, zip wires
and a climbing wall.
On the parc Eurocamp offer a huge
variety of accommodation. There are huge Safari Tents which is very stylish.
There are mobile homes of different sizes and layouts to suit every families
budget. There are two, three and four bedroomed wooded lodges too. On this
occasion we were staying in a four bedroomed lodge with a lake view. It was a
strange feeling to be back inside the lodge. I could see the curtain poles and
the curtains that we had put up, felt like coming home! The emplacement all
over the site are generally large. The lodge emplacements are three times as
large as my garden back at home. It was lawn, with matures trees all around for
privacy and shade and how pretty it looked too. In front of the big deck was a
huge mass of pink wild roses, smelt beautiful.
There are steps up to the deck.
The deck has a picnic bench style table and chairs to sit ten. There is an
awning for shelter from the elements be it rain or shine (its generally shine).
Once inside there is an open plan space with lounge area, dining table and
chairs for ten and a fully equipped kitchen. The kitchen boasts full sized
integrated dish washer. A full-sized electric oven and a four-burner gas hob.
The fridge freezer is tall and of a large capacity.
There is a double bedroom
downstairs along with a loo and a large shower room.
Once up the stairs there are
three more bedrooms. The master overlooks the front and has the lake view.
There is a balcony large enough to sit out on and enjoy the view. The other
bedrooms are spacious, one has bunkbeds the other has twins with a pull out
single bed beneath each twin. There is a loo and a very large bathroom with
bath and shower over. Plenty of storage everywhere and because there are
shutters as well as curtains it is possible to keep the lodge cool when the sun
gets its hat on.
We really enjoyed our holiday, it
was over too soon. We know from our experience living there that there are very
many and varied places to go off and see but, on this occasion, we just stayed
on the parc and relaxed. We watched the world go by, we fed the ducks when they
waddled up to our deck to say good morning. As the heat of the sun ebbed away
we cooked our dinner on the BBQ and enjoyed a bottle of wine. In the mornings
we bought fresh bread and croissants and enjoyed those sitting on our lovely
deck with a cold glass of orange juice.
We had the opportunity of
inviting people in to look around our lodge, this was such a lot of fun.
Everyone seemed very impressed. We enjoyed chatting about our own experiences,
about which other sites are in the Eurocamp brochure that they might like too
and which of them we have worked on in the past.
This Holiday parc really does have something for everyone, be it just enjoying the facilities on the parc or venturing out and about to Paris, Disney or the vineyards of the Champagne region. Closer to the parc, even in the village itself there is so much history to discover, caves used as hospitals in WW1 and WW2. There are war cemeteries and only half an hour drive away is Compiegne where the Armistice was signed ending the hostilities of WW1. I can, and do, recommend this Eurocamp Holiday parc experience to everyone and I am very much looking forward to my next visit, see you there!
I was trying to develop a recipe for a savoury cheesecake using Stilton in particular, I love blue cheese with walnut or pecan and pears go so well with both that this evolved. In my mind this will be great on a buffet table with the cheeseboard or instead of. A hint of sweetness in the base with ginger biscuits in there too. My thesaurus of food pairings told me that a sweet praline might give some texture and a touch more sweetness, so the shards and then the dried pear flames were born. A juicy spicy poached pear on top of a sweet/sour relish is the King of Spain’s Daughters Golden pear as i liberally polished it up with gold spray, and a scattering of crushed pecan praline looks like sparkling jewels. Showstopper!
120g Savoury Crackers and Ginger Biscuits
80g Melted Butter
250g Full Fat Cream Cheese with Chives/Herbs/Garlic
Crush the biscuits and stir in the melted butter. In a greased and lined loose bottomed 20cm tin, press the biscuit mixture firmly down and chill in the fridge for an hour or more.
Mix all the cake ingredients together and pour on top of the base. Bake in the bottom of a 160 degree oven for about fifty minutes or until the cake is set with a slight wobble in the middle.
Put all the relish ingredients into a heavy based fry pan and bubble up until it is a jam like consistency.
Poach the pear in the sugar cinnamon water for about twenty minutes until tender
Heat the sugar and water gently in a separate pan for the brittle, do not stir, melteing the sugar and heating until it becomes caramel colored, stir in the pecans then pour it out on to grease proof sheet.
To dry the pears, slice as thinly as possible and dry in an oven on the lowest possible setting for several hours to dry out the moisture. If not using immediately store in an airtight jar.
To assemble, spoon the relish on top of the cheesecake. Place the poached pear centrally on top. Break the brittle into shards and push into the cheesecake also crushing some into smaller bits and scattering on the top. Using a small knife make slits around the cheesecake and push the dried pears into them.
I then spray some gold glitter all around for a shimmering golden pear effect.