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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!


My Column this Week

The Wright side of life: Following in Churchill’s footsteps

Karen at Blenheim Palace
Karen at Blenheim Palace

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.

Karen sitting on her friend's reupholstered chair
Karen sitting on her friend’s reupholstered chair

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!

Wakefield curry house ‘highly commended’ in Asian Restaurant Awards 2019


Review of Holiday with Eurocamp at La Croix du Vieux Pont (Berny)

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 Shuttle.

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 up.

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!

Visits Yorkshire

Karen’s News Round

Closing words of my presentation.
Rounding up my Presentation

This week I made a New Year’s Resolution, I know I know, I am over two weeks late stepping up to the mark, but I have finally done it. I need to get the extra weight off that has been accumulating since my exciting summer in the Bake-Off tent. The first couple of weeks in the New Year most of us have odds and ends in the house that it would be a crime to throw away so hence I am two weeks late getting into my new regime. My husband John still has his instructions from me as to what his lunches must be, in fact he just poked his head around the door and asked if he was still on pate and cheese duties!

So, day one of my regime and I made brunch for myself. Not everyone can face spicy food early in the day, but I am not one of them, never too early in my book. I started by looking in my vegetable box and found a big cauliflower looking up at me, then a sweet potato that looked a wee bit sorry for itself, then half a yellow pepper was glinting at me and finally a red onion. Quick rummage around in my spice tin and before you could say “Bob’s your Uncle” I had a delicious veggie curry in my tummy. Just for the record I don’t have an Uncle Bob, but it sounded better than Uncle Graham or Uncle David, who are my actual Uncles.

That is a very healthy plate, and it is Veganuary too, so I am for once on trend!

A friend has asked me to make a small cake for her friends Birthday next week. It has a theme, everyone wants a theme these days. When I was small the theme that set a cake apart from any other cake at birthday time was having a candle stuck into it. Now you need a very good imagination, or a friend called Google to find inspiration for a cake. This cake’s theme is Game of Thrones. I have heard of the programme but not seen it. Google to the rescue. One of the many things that my experience on the Bake Off taught me was to think outside of the box, so using this lesson I have made a crown as I know crowns are significant on the programme, I have bought some cocktail stick swords to poke into the crown and I have filled the crown with Quality Street as crown jewels. When I make the cake next week, I will have red ganache (chocolate melted with cream) dripping down the cake as blood and my crown triumphantly on the top.

Tonight, I have been invited to speak at a local Women’s Institute meeting I need to spruce myself up and get my stripes out of the wardrobe. Everyone is very keen to hear the Bake-Off story and I love to tell it, so it is a good match. They want me to judge their bakes, but I can’t as I am on my healthy regime now and with the best will in the world, I can’t get Victoria sponges and scones to fit in the regime. Think outside of the box, what to do? My trusty husband John, better known as a human dustbin will come along, he can taste I can look, between us we will work it out, teamwork!

Visits Yorkshire

Rhubarb Rhubarb Rhubarb

Glorious Pink Stalks

Its the first week in January and I hear on the rhubarb line that the first forced juicy pink stalks are out of the sheds and in the farm shop. I am keen to get my hands on some as I am doing a live food demo this year at Wakefield Rhubarb Festival (Sunday 24th February 2019) and need to practice some ideas.

When I arrived at the Rhubarb Triangle Farm Shop and explained my mission I was invited to have a quick peek in the forcing sheds, what a privilege! I have seen inside on the TV before but never expected to be in among the beautiful pink stalks in person. The sheds were dark and warm, it was a bit muddy underfoot. Despite this, the atmosphere strangely serene, with the pretty pink stalks standing proud with their crowns of soft green leaves like a bouffant beehive hairdo – I think of them as ladies, pink ladies. If you listen very carefully you can hear them squeak as they grow. Off I went back into the shop, picked my selection and off away to my kitchen to think up some delicious ways to cook it up.