Saturday, 29 September 2012

Horrible Histories - Charles Darwin

It's time for another Horrible History lesson.  Have you heard about Charles Darwin and his theory of Evolution?  

Click on the link below to see a gorilla playing drums and learn more about Darwin's voyage on HMS Beagle.  You're going to LOVE this one!

It's Natural Selection

For Jessica and Sara, because learning history is FUN!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Taking Tea in Olde England

I love living in Britain and I frequently say so, much to the irritation of the local people.  Their general response is, 'What do you like about it?'   I like the countryside.  I like the history.  I even like the weather.  That's the one that ruffles their feathers the most!  

One of the best things about living in Britain is the broad range of architecture spanning over the centuries.  It's not unusual to see 500 year old cottages for sale in the local newspaper.  While these old buildings may be protected by being 'listed', they are not preserved in aspic.   This building housing The Bridge Tea Room was built in 1502.  

Mol's Coffee House, in Exeter, was built in 1596, long before coffee was introduced to England. Legend has it that Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake used to meet there. Some say it was the first coffee shop in Britain.  Now it's a posh shop.  

Next door to Mol's is a lovely little tea shop of the same vintage.  Take tea here and you can look out the wavy old windows on to the Cathedral Green.  

Broadway House in Topsham houses the award winning Georgian Tea Rooms.   It has been said that staying in one of the rooms overnight is like 'being at an aunt's house'.   They are famous for their cream teas, complete with home made clotted cream and jam.  As you can see, Broadway House is the classic Georgian house.  

Bath is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK.  Sally Lunn's is the oldest house in Bath and home to the world famous Sally Lunn bun.  Tea is served by waitresses in proper black and white uniforms in the small, cosy rooms of the old house. It is a charming experience and the food is delicious. If you don't fancy a Sally Lunn bun for tea, you can visit the old kitchen in the basement and purchase one for later.  Be warned, they are addictive. 

For the full-on Regency experience, have tea in the Pump Room Restaurant near Bath Abbey.  You will be following in the footsteps of Jane Austen.  Tea in the Pump Room is a special treat, elegant and beautifully presented.  Sample the healing spring waters, if you dare!  

We could go on and on.  Thanks to the traditional afternoon tea, we have had the opportunity to study some fine examples of Tudor, Georgian and Regency architecture.  And they ask me why I love living in Britain!  

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lucy Goes to the Beach

Today was what I would consider to be a perfect September day.  The sun was bright but not too hot so I thought it would be a good time to take Lucy to the beach.  She hadn't been there before.  Lucy, is my car.  I know, it's a bit silly to name your car but this is Lucy.

Back in July, I took photos of LOTS of holiday makers on a very sunny beach.  Today the beach was almost empty!

The beach huts were locked up tight.

There were a few people walking along the Esplanade....

And only one little dog!

All of the holiday makers have gone home and the tourist season has come to an end.  There were only local people enjoying the seafront, like me.

Today was a perfect September day.  It was beautiful down on the beach.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Autumn Allotment

Lots of bloggers have wordless Wednesday.  I am too verbose to be totally wordless. But today I am just going to show you some photos I took early this morning as I walked through our local allotments.  Gone is the fresh, bright beauty of summer but left behind is the gentle decline and a ragged beauty of Autumn.  I think it's enchanting. 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Apple Blondies - The Best of Both Worlds

I am a purist at heart, so when I saw this recipe I wasn't sure if I wanted to try it.  I like Apple Cake and I like Blondies - why risk messing up either of those classic recipes?  But it is apple season and with my generous harvest and so many of my friends and family going to orchards to buy freshly picked fruit, we need to be brave and try some new ways to enjoy Nature's bounty.  OK, here we go, Apple Blondies!

I know what you are thinking,  these aren't the most exciting looking treat.  In fact, I was totally underwhelmed when I took them out of the oven.   I began to think of ways to dress them up.  I considered caramel frosting, or maybe a maple glaze.  Surely there could be something to make these poor, lumpy blondies look more tempting.  Then I cut a tiny piece out of the corner, just to have a taste.  No point going any further if they didn't taste better than they look.   Oh my gosh!  I tried another little nibble, yeap, they are that good

I abandoned the frosting/glaze idea.  These Apple Blondies don't need it.  They don't need a dusting of powdered sugar unless you just want to hide a few of their more gnarly bits.   But you need the recipe.....

1 cup soft brown sugar
1/2 cup butter - melted
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
1 cup apples - peeled, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans - optional (I didn't use them)

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and egg.  Stir in the vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt. Add the apples and pecans, stirring to distribute them through the batter.  

Butter a square pan (8x8 inches) and line with a piece of baking paper.  Pour the batter in to the pan, smoothing it evenly into the corners.  Bake in a preheated oven, 350F/180C, for about 30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  

The recipe says to cool thoroughly before cutting into squares.  Of course, our Apple Blondies had just reached the slightly warm temperature when we could no longer resist having a big square each.  OK, these Apple Blondies may not be pretty, but they certainly taste pretty darn GOOD!   

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Homemade Cajun Spice Mix & Cajun Pasta

Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox, it's official, it's FALL!  It feels like it,too.   Today is cool, rainy and blustery, the sort of weather when you want something a little spicy to warm the cockles, whatever those might be.  Chili and baked potatoes are the usual choice but I feel like something different.  I think something CAJUN is required!

Cajun food is very popular in the States but it's not well known in the UK.  Chef Paul and his ready-made Cajun seasonings haven't made it to this side of the pond, well, not to Devon at least.  That's not a problem, we can make our own Cajun Spice Mix.  All we need are a few basic store cupboard spices and a nice jar to store them in.  Any jar will do as long as it has a tight fitting lid. 

Here's what you need to make a spice mix that will have you cooking like a Cajun:

1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano or mixed herbs
1 teaspoon salt

Place all the spices into your jar, tightly secure the lid and shake to combine. That's it!  

I like to use this seasoning mix to make blackened fish, spice up potato wedges and seasoned rice dishes.  One of my favourite ways to use Cajun spice is to make Cajun pasta.  It's so simple, not a recipe but just a sort of technique, simply adjust the amount of pasta per person and adjust the spiciness to suit your taste.

I made pasta for two so I will give you the measurements I used.  You can increase the amounts of pasta, oil, garlic and Cajun Seasoning to accommodate any number of diners. 

Cook some pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  I used fine spaghetti. Drain the cooked pasta and set aside. 

Finely chop a clove of fresh garlic per serving.  I made pasta for two, so two cloves of finely chopped garlic.  

In the pasta pan ( yes, I use the pasta pan... it cuts down on the washing up) place 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil and 1 Tablespoon of butter.  Add the chopped garlic and cook over a low flame until the garlic is slightly softened and has seasoned the oil.   WARNING! Do not let the garlic get brown or it will taste bitter.

Pour the pasta back into the pan and stir, coating the pasta with the garlic infused oil.  

Add a heaping teaspoon of Cajun seasoning mix.  Stir gently until the pasta is hot and coated in the seasoned oil.  Taste the pasta and adjust the seasoning.  

Add a bit of chopped parsley or chives if you want to add some colour to the dish.  Serve with Cajun spiced fish or chicken or just on it's own!  YUM!

Simple, satisfying and quick to prepare, this is the sort of food I love to eat in the autumn.   I know this isn't REAL Cajun cooking but I can feel my cockles warming up already!  If you want to learn more about Chef Paul and how to cook CAJUN visit his website by clicking on the link below:

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Horrible Histories - Pachacuti

I remember studying about the Incas when I was in elementary school. Like the Egyptians, they built pyramids, too. Here's a great Horrible History song about their king, Pachacuti.  Get ready, you are going to want to dance to this one!

For Sara, Jessica and all the kids who love Horrible Histories, like ME!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Dogs of Old London by the gentle author

There is a lot of rubbish on the Internet.  I should know, I am a major rubbish contributor!  But every once in a while, you run across something so beautiful, so charming, you understand why so much time is wasted sifting through the refuse.  This blog is one of those magical things.  Please take a moment to look at these wonderful photos.  It's time well spent!

 Thanks to the gentle author for creating such a wonderful website!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Apple Crumble Muffins

Seasonal eating has become a bit of a buzz word with foodies.  I can't remember a time when we didn't eat fresh, seasonal produce.  Have you ever eaten strawberries in January?  The crate they come in tastes better!  

I know, I was lucky being brought up in a family with lots of gardeners.  I was raised on home grown fruit and veg.  Now I try to grow a few beans, soft fruits and herbs in my tiny back garden.  Of course, you've seen my apple harvest in previous posts.  

Eating seasonally does have one down side,  you find yourself eating a lot of one or two things, like apples!  Nothing is nicer than a fresh, crisp apple and there are lots of lovely ways to cook apples, too.  And in a month or two when I have to purchase apples at the shop, I'll miss my home-grown crop. 

A few days ago we made an apple crumble.  I hadn't used all the crumble topping and had popped the extra bit into a jar and put it in the fridge.  This morning I had a brainstorm, why not make a batch of Apple Crumble Muffins!

Here's the recipe:

2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg
5 fluid ounces of plain yogurt or milk
3 fluid ounces of vegetable oil
2 medium apples peeled, cored and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F.  Line a muffin tin with paper muffin liners.  I get 10 nice muffins from this recipe.  

In a large mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.  In a large measuring cup or jug stir together the milk or yogurt, egg and oil.  Pour the wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until most of the liquid has been incorporated.  Add the finely chopped apple and stir until the apple is distributed through the batter.  DO NOT OVERMIX... it's the Muffin Rule.

Divide the batter equally into the paper muffin liners.  If you have left over crumble topping use that to sprinkle over the batter - OR-

Make a crumble topping by rubbing together:

3 tablespoons cold butter
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
3 tablespoons oats

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the muffin tops are lightly browned and the muffins spring back when lightly touched.  Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a wire rack.  

I like to eat my muffins warm.  I've had another idea.  I've not tried it, yet!  I think a nice little drizzle of caramel sauce would be lovely over the top of these muffins.  

Excuse me while I go search the pantry, I know I have some caramel sauce in there somewhere.  I hope  you give these a try and enjoy the true taste of the season, APPLES!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Old Church House Inn at Torbryan

My Mum-n-Law's friend, Dorrie, is down for a short visit. She's a London girl so we wanted to treat her to a proper Devon Sunday lunch.  It's always a bit tricky finding just the right place.  We wanted great food, a lovely location and a cosy environment where we could relax and enjoy ourselves.

The Old Church House Inn  at Torbryan was the perfect choice.  This ancient inn, nestled in a lush green valley, was built in the 13th Century. 

Some of the more modern additions to the decor date back to the time of Henry VIII, including a set of Tudor skittles. 

The wooden panelling in the bar is from a Tudor galleon.

You can have a drink near the fire in the bar and chat with the locals or have a meal in one of the five dining rooms.

The food is locally sourced and delicious. We especially enjoyed the fish pie, cottage pie, and steak and ale pie. 

Afterwards, we moved to the Snug for coffee and mints.   Filled with comfy over-stuffed chairs and a huge inglenook fireplace, you could easily settle in for the afternoon.  The friendly staff would make sure you had everything you need.  

The Old Church House Inn is one of our favourite Sunday outings. After today, I think it might be one of Dorrie's favourite places, too.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

More Letters from America

I'm not one of those people who sit and wait for the Postman to deliver the mail.  It's usually just junk or bills so I don't have any great expectations when I hear the clunk of the letter box.  Every once in a while we get a nice surprise. Usually it comes in a large brown envelope marked 'Air Mail'.   This week we got one of those nice big envelopes containing more letters from America!

Inside the Air Mail parcel were two notes from our American nieces, Sara and Jessica and some wonderful artwork!  I won't tell you what the letters said, that's private, but I'd love to the share the artwork with you.  Jessica painted this beautiful parrot.  She is very interested in all sorts of animals.  I think she may grow up to be a zoologist.  

Sara did this very colourful painting featuring her name.  I think the colour combination is lovely and matches Sara's bright and bubbly personality.  Both paintings are smashing and Uncle Andy and I really enjoyed them.

I suppose that's why so many people wait in excited anticipation for the Postman to come. They just might get a big brown envelope filled with lovely surprises!

Thank you Jess and Sara for the great mail.  A BIG thank you to their mom, Jena, who so kindly arranged for our special delivery.  We really appreciate it!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The 2012 Apple Harvest

There comes a time when you have to make up your mind.  Do you pick the apples all at once or do you leave them to ripen on the tree? 

I've noticed something is eating holes into the flesh of my best apples.  If this continues, I won't have any left.  I consulted the head gardener.

He is the quiet type, doesn't say much but indicated that it was up to me and I should use my best judgement.  I went over to the apple trees and cupped a red apple in my hand.  To my surprise, it just came off!  

Right, be bold, make a decision.... pick the apples!  Some were ready to drop and didn't need any encouragement.  Others were more resistant and needed a little twist to get them off the branch.  I suppose they weren't ready to leave their summertime friends, the spiders!  Augh!

I confess, I am not good with bugs... I am worse with spiders.  This apple wasn't picked it was YANKED off the tree!  

I picked and picked apples.  I lost count around 30.  That's not bad for two little espalier trees.  My apples aren't perfect, some aren't even round!  Some are still a bit green in places but I think they will ripen.  A few have spots, but I didn't spray them.  They are as Nature intends apples to be. 

Now the little apple trees are empty except for the raggedy old leaves.  They won't hang on much longer either.  The apples trees deserve a winter rest.  They have worked very hard this year and have given me an excellent harvest. 

The head gardener would never say it, but I think he is pleased with our little crop, too!