Saturday, 17 August 2013

Busy, Busy, Busy

So sorry I've been so quiet recently. The summer holidays are always a time for catching with friends and family and having the time to do all the jobs I've been putting off for the rest of the year. We've visited the doctor and dentist, found time for some crafting (although my mojo has only recently decided to visit me again) and spent some time away in beautiful countryside. My children decided to spend a week with their grandparents so my dh and I booked a cottage for a week in the Peak District. Bliss. Surprisingly, for a National Park which is the second busiest in terms of visitor numbers, it was really quiet. I don't know if it was because everyone was heading to the beach or because last summer was so rotten that everyone was abroad but we loved it. Here are some of the things we did.

Cycling on the High Peak Trail and Tissington Trail - 44 miles in one day which I was extraordinarily proud of even though they are both old train lines so quite flat ;).

Drinking the spa water in Buxton. Weirdly it was warm.

Picking and eating wild raspberries - little mouthfuls of sweetness.

Cycling the Monsal Trail - every time we came out of a tunnel, we were greeted with a beautiful view.

Walking along the Limestone Way into Matlock and we then walked back along the Derwent Way. It was a beautiful walk and we didn't meet anyone on the walk. Even getting caught in a downpour was fun.

Walking up and over Mam Tor, near Castleton. You can just see Hope Quarry in the distance in the photo.

Whilst the weather wasn't great it didn't stop us walking and cycling all week. We even managed to get to the Bakewell Show.

This was about 9am and it became a lot busier during the day (thousands of people).

So, if you ever get the chance, the Peak District is definitely worth a visit. Now I'm off the defrost the freezer - another one of those holiday jobs :) I'll be back soon to show you some of the things I've been making and baking this holiday. 

Monday, 5 August 2013


I love holidays that can rejuvenate and revitalise (although I'm sitting here writing this post in the cottage we've rented with a very sore posterior from the cycle ride we went on yesterday). Apologies that posting will be kept to a minimum this week as I'm having too much fun in the Peak District. This is truly a beautiful part of the UK and the word of the week so far has been AWESOME. The views are beautiful and we're hoping to walk straight out from the cottage this morning, not using the car at all and then get the bus back from the end of our walk. Even the rain is refusing to dampen my spirits. We've done and seen so much in the two days we've been here - walking, cycling, Bakewell, Buxton....

The view from our cycle ride

Buxton Water (which was warm)

Just a few pictures with more to follow. Hope you're having a lovely week.

Puff Pastry Pizza

What do you make to take to a friend's house when your job is to provide a main dish and the weather is so hot, you don't want to spend any time in the kitchen? Puff pastry pizza. This is the easiest 'pizza' to make and allows you to spend a minimal amount of time in the oven. I started by roasting two peppers in the morning (when it was slightly cooler outside). I used a red and orange pepper. As far as I'm concerned, green peppers should never be used a they're just not sweet enough and even with the caramelisation process of roasting, they still don't work.

I roasted these for about 20 minutes, turning once. About an hour before I was due to go out, I unrolled the puff pastry. Now, usually I go for the cheaper option and but the block of puff pastry and roll it out myself but it was just way too hot yesterday to expend any excess energy. I placed the puff pastry on two oiled baking sheets and scored around the edge. This is to encourage the outer edge to puff up. I covered one sheet in homemade tomato sauce and the other with pesto (from a jar). I always use the Sacla organic pesto as that's the only one which is vegetarian.

I then topped both sheets with sliced baby tomatoes, mushrooms and roasted peppers. Having forgotten to pick up mozarella at the the supermarket in the morning, I topped it all off with grated cheddar cheese.

I then baked it for approx 15 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. The mistake I made was not to prick the base first as the middle section puffed up during cooking so I had to put a fork in the base when I took it out to let the steam out. Apart from that, the dinner party guests seemed to enjoy my offering. It was so warm on Thursday night that we had drinks on the patio of my friend's house and then dinner on the lawn. This is really turning out to be a warm summer (although it is raining as I write this).

Friday, 2 August 2013

Redcurrant Harvest

I planted a redcurrant bush in our garden a couple of years ago. My granny and mum used to make meringue and redcurrant tarts which were delicious so I bought the bush as a memory of those kitchen times. I harvested the redcurrants yesterday as I knew they would start to rot if I left them for any longer. Here they are in their luscious glory.

I also harvested the rhubarb but I'm not sure what I'm going to make other it yet. Before making anything with the redcurrants I took them off their stalks and cleaned them.

It was so hot yesterday so I didn't spend a lot of time outdoors, only enough to hang up and take down the washing which dried in super quick time. I've been getting all the washing done in preparation for some time away. While I was inside trying to stay cool, I thought I'd search for some redcurrant recipes which are surprisingly few and far between. I stumbled across a recipe for a lemon cake with redcurrants and I decided to take the topping from there. So this is what I did. I made up a Victoria Sponge recipe as normal.

175g margarine or butter
175g caster sugar (I used the unrefined sugar)
175g self raising flour
3 medium eggs

I creamed the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Added an egg one at a time with a spoonful of the flour and then I added all the flour. At this point I added half the redcurrants and folded them into the mixture to prevent them breaking down. I divided the mixture between two greased and floured cake tins and baked for 25 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade. While the cakes were in the oven, I mixed the juice of 4 lemons (I only had 3 lemons left so I had to use some squirty lemon juice from the fridge) with 150-200g of demerara sugar. Once the cakes were out of the oven I spooned half the mixture over them, leaving the other half for the other two cakes I made with the second half of the redcurrants. I decided to cut the cake into finger sized pieces. I tried some and it was delicious but as we're going away, I've put the rest in the freezer ready for my next tea party.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Busy Days

It's been a really busy couple of days. Normally, at the start of the summer holidays, I'm so tired that all I do is lie around for the first week. My husband never allows us to book a holiday away at the beginning as he says I'm so miserable and grumpy it's not worth it and to be fair, normally he has a point. Except for this time. I've been having a lovely time visiting different places. On Monday, I dropped my son off at the Cranleigh Arts Centre for the Challenge and then spent the day doing the pre-reading I'd been sent for the SENCO (special educational needs co-ordinator for those who don't work in the world of English education) course I'm taking next academic year at Roehampton University. I started off on a bench in Cranleigh church with this as my view

and moved around all the benches as the wind brought down the leaves of the tree I was sitting under, then it started to rain so I ended up sitting in the porch of the church. I love churchyards as you can imagine the lives of the people that have gone before you. I then spent some time pottering around Cranleigh high street (not much to see I'm afraid) and then moved on to a local village - Ewhurst - which had a very pretty church. I finished off my reading in this churchyard which was a lovely experience (except for the tree surgery that was going on next to it).

I parked by this gate and then walked up a path to the left to this church

At one point, I stretched my legs and walked all round the church.

After finishing my reading, I set back off down the path. I was happily minding my own business, reading the grave stones when I happened to look up. At the bottom of the path was a mother deer with her two children just staring back at me. I tried to get a picture but the light wasn't good enough. It was a lovely, peaceful day and I also managed to complete all my pre-reading. Result.

Tuesday meant I had to do the drop off in Cranleigh again but this time I decided to visit the banks in Guildford to update all our savings books (always a task for the holidays). Having completed that, I happened to bump into one of my best friends in the high street and we ended up shopping and lunching together. Here are some photos of the Abbots Hospital at the top of the high street. It's a beautiful old building and residents of Guildford who are on low incomes can apply to live here.

This is the door into the courtyard of the building.

And here is one side of the quadrangle. We popped into Da Gennaro's for lunch. This is a family run Italian restaurant that I highly recommend. They do a lunch special Monday-Saturday which includes a starter and main from a set list and a soft drink or glass of house wine for £7.50. Absolute bargain. Here's the starter we both had - bruschetta.

By this time I was starting to flag a bit but I still had one more drop off in Cranleigh which was yesterday morning. As the pick wasn't until 8pm, I decided to do something a little bit different - something I've never done before. I drove to Brighton on my own. Normally, I go with the family but as I was on my own I thought I'd give it a try. It was a fantastic day. I pottered around the shops, including the Lanes and North Laines, popped into Infinity Foods (wonderful shop) and even had lunch on my own at Bombay Aloo which is a Indian vegetarian buffet restaurant. The food was nice although the sauces were a bit watery and the service was appalling. The waiter didn't speak to me once just put a plate down in front of me and didn't ask if I wanted a drink so I don't think I'll be going back there in a hurry.

There was a good choice of curries but you can see the watery consistency in the picture.

The best part of the day was the free cinema on Brighton beach - I stayed long enough to see Indian Jones - Raiders of the Lost Ark on the beach. It was brilliant all be it a little surreal.

This was just before the movie where three authors were being interviewed. I even managed to nab one of the bean bag chairs for the movie. I was so sure that someone was going to tell me that they were only for important people but they didn't. Thank goodness I didn't have to sit on the pebbles for 3 hours. I also managed to paddle in the sea even though the weather wasn't great.

This picture made me laugh as it looks like I'm wearing anklets when in fact it's the seaweed wrapping itself round me. The water was really refreshing and I managed to collect some mini shell pieces that I'm hoping to turn into earrings - maybe today's job.

As you can imagine, I'm feeling quite tired today so no more visiting and lunching just time spent at home checking at the pictures from the last few days.

If you have the luxury of having time off during the summer, I hope you're having a lovely time.