Saturday, 23 June 2018

Walking with alpacas & sparkling afternoon tea

I awoke very early Thursday morning with much excitement for a 50 something year old women. 

About 5 years ago I was introduced to a lovely lady who had moved into one of our offices. We soon found we had a lot in common and have become firm friends with trips to The Festival of Quilts  and Yarndale becoming an annual pilgrimage.   

I have seen many  adverts for walking with alpacas but never thought anyone would be mad enough to come with me, but you guessed it she was up for it. Her husband is convinced we are coming up with some sort of weird and wonderful bucket list.  Not sure that the zip wire experience in Wales is one I am up for as I am terrified of heights. 

There is something about the face of an alpaca they just melt my heart and the crazy hair styles they are given after shearing. They make my worst hair day look good.

We booked through Charnwood Forest Alpacas based on the Leicestershire/Derbyshire border. There are quite often special offers on  their facebook page groupon or wowcher and the booking system is very simple. 

Upon arrival you are given a talk about the alpacas you'll be walking with and all the do's and don'ts. They use the boys for the walks as the females are either expecting a crie or are a nursing mum.

They also have their stud boys that are kept separate from those who go walking.   We had Pundit and Saunders and they were just the gentlest of nature.

As part of your walk you go past the maternity paddock and get to see the cria's and their mothers. There was a little one who had only been born an hour before we arrived who was a bit of a surprise as he wasn't due to arrive until July.

Half way you stop in a beautiful wooded area where you can take lots of photographs and you get to feed your alpaca.  They are very astute when it comes to where you may have hidden the food.  We were warned that if you put it in your pocket they would find it and be eating it and the paper bag it comes in before you got to the woods.  They have even been known to get themselves in your handbag to find the goods.  Mine was secured in my the pocket of my jumper underneath my bodywarmer so Pundit didn't manage to find it but once we got to the woods he was definitely expecting something for his efforts. 

There are different experiences that you can book through the website we went for the 60 minute walk followed by a sparkling afternoon tea.  Nothing was too much trouble for the staff in the Chilli Bean cafe even offering to take your photograph to complete your day.  I would definitely recommend you walking with alpacas if there is somewhere in your area.  


Friday, 15 June 2018

St Clements Tart

Oranges  and lemons

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings, 
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich.
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow

Here comes a candle to light you to bed, 
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

The lyrics above are to a nursery rhyme about the churches in the east end of London. I am originally from London but the North West of London, nowhere near the East End. It is a standing joke that D thinks that being from London means you are a cockney, he originates from Southampton. I still have my London accent even though I have not lived there for 30 years but it's a very different accent from those who come from the east end. Not that there is anything wrong with coming from the east end of London or  being a cockney but in order to be classed a true cockney you have to have been born within earshot of the Bow Bells and I definitely wasn't. 

This Sunday in the UK is Father's Day.  The bearded one is the most difficult person to buy for he never knows what he wants and we as a family dread, Christmas, his birthday and father's day as what do you buy for the man who has everything he wants. You would think we would have resolved this issue after 18 years but NO would be the answer to that particular problem. So generally it is cards and a token present, usually chocolate. The weather has been a little inclement over the last few days the aftermath of Hurricane Hector I believe. All this is fine so long as the weather come Sunday sticks to what is predicted and is glorious sunshine with a little light breeze later into the afternoon. This will give us enough time to venture out somewhere with or without the furry paws. 

My culinary plan for Father's Day involves Tom Kerridge's Pulled Pork as I can put this in the oven first thing and leave to slow cook over the course of the day. Desert on the other hand I will make a head of time and leave in the fridge. 

 I make both a lemon tart and an orange tart but sometimes I use both to make a St. Clements tart, as in the nursery rhyme 'oranges & lemons says the bells of St Clements'. 

To make the tart you will need a rolling pin, 9"/23cm loose bottom flan/quiche tin and a baking sheet. 

Although I make my own pastry sometimes when time is of the essence I will use ready made and both this tart and the quiche I make work equally as well with ready made pastry.  If you're not confident with pastry and want to have a go  then you will need to look for ready rolled sweet short crust pastry and you will normally find this in the chilled section of the supermarket. 

To make your pastry from scratch you will need           For the St Clements cream you will need

225g/8oz plain flour                                                            5 medium eggs
115g/4oz butter diced                                                          150g caster sugar
2tbsp icing sugar                                                                  85mls of freshly squeezed juice from the 
1 egg                                                                                        orange & lemon
1tsp of vanilla extract                                                           2tbsp of orange & lemon zest
1tbsp of chilled water                                                           150mls of double cream

  • To make the pastry sift the flour into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and stir in the icing sugar. 
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and most of the chilled water, and work into a soft dough
  • On a lightly floured surface knead lightly until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or util needed. 
  • For the cream filling, mix together the eggs, sugar and orange/lemon juice and zest and whisk for few seconds. Add the cream and whisk before placing in the fridge until needed. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry until about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the pastry over the rolling pin and gently unroll over your flan/quiche tin. Gently guide the pastry into the tin and tick into the bottom edge so that it fits well. Take a piece of excess pastry and push the pastry into the sides of the tin. 
  • Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and leave any excess pastry for now as you will trim once you have added the filling. return to the refrigerator for 30 mins or until you are ready to make your tart (this will help prevent shrinkage when you bake your tart).
  • Preheat your oven to 200/400/gas mark 6 not forgetting to put your baking sheet in the oven at the same time so that it gets nice and hot ready to start baking the bottom of your pastry case as soon as you put it in the oven.
  • When you are ready to make your tart remove the pastry case and your cream from the fridge and give it 5 minutes to come up to room temperature. 
  • Add the cream mixture to your pastry case and trim off the excess pastry.
  • Place your tart on the hot baking sheet and reduce the heat of your oven to 180/350/gas mark 4 and bake for 35-45 minutes until the filling is just set and your pastry is golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Serve with cream or Ice cream.
And there you have it should you wish to have ago

If you are celebrating Father's Day this weekend I hope you have a lovely time whatever you have planned. 


Sunday, 10 June 2018

A little bit of this & a little bit of that

As always I look forward to my time off from work,  but as usual it went far far too quickly and before I know it I'm back at my desk once more. I  start off with all good intentions with a list of things I am going to achieve whilst I am off.  It usually involves a number of chores needing doing around the house or the garden that I've just not had the time to do on a weekend or finishing off a crafting project of which there are usually quite a few but if I can complete one that's an accomplishment.  The weather was glorious again over the bank holiday weekend and we did manage to get a few jobs completed but then the weather turned on us.  I had arranged for friends to come for lunch on the Tuesday, fully expecting that we would be able to eat alfresco as we so often end up eating aldesko when we are at work. It would have been lovely to  follow this with a long leisurely walk with the furry paws. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas so it was lunch around the kitchen table with a lot of chatter about various subjects putting the world to rights as we always do, a lot of food was consumed and tea drunk as you can imagine.

As the week went on the weather did improve. The garden is still very much a work in progress and will be for the foreseeable.  It's lovely having such a big garden but it's almost a little overwhelming.  The bearded one would like everything done yesterday and constantly asks me what else needs to be done, but I like to be able to formulate a plan and bring out my inner Alan Titchmarsh not just plonk anything anywhere just to fill a space.  I think he finds this a little exasperating. I want the garden to be a wildlife friendly garden and attract lots of bird, bees and butterflies. We already get the odd little field mouse but it would be lovely to see Hedgehogs in the garden, so any suggestions of plants would be gratefully received. 

It's taken the best part of a year but the bird feeders are now very much established and in demand on a daily basis. We joke that we must have the fattest sparrows in the area. We have been visited by the resident sparrows but we have also had chaffinches, blue tits, great tits and there was great excitement (by me) when we had long tail tits and gold finches pay us a visit,  we even get queues of birds along the picket fence waiting to get a turn to get to the feeder.  The local garden centre definitely does well out of us for peanuts, fat balls and bird seed. 

The Swallows are back and have been nesting up in the eves and I can hear them calling to their parents in the mornings for yet more food. The hedges are in desperate need of clipping but at the moment they are like the local maternity ward, full of nesting birds.  It's been lovely to see the little fledglings in the garden and how attentive the parents are in encouraging them to take flight.  To see these little balls of fluff getting ready to make their way into the big wide world is wonderful. 

The human boys went off training spotting for some of the week which meant I got to catch up on my crafting projects. 


cross stitching 

My little hedgehog cross stitching. I now have approximately 400 stitches to go plus the back stitching to go

and even started on writing up and making a little cardigan to form part of the layette set for my new grand baby, which I will share with you when it's finished.

There was of course a little baking and making going on at the farm house over the course of the week and I did make time to catch up on writing up posts and blog reading.

Eventually the weather brightened later in the week,  which meant we could get out and about with the furry boys for walks.  We are still on a journey of discovery of all the best places to walk them.  I am still astounded that living in the idyllic countryside that people do not pick up after their dogs when they go out walking.   We found a lovely woodland walk but having got 100 yards a long the path found that we were playing dodge the poo and had to turn back........... we continue on this particular journey.

Finally it must now be summer as the starlings arrived back en mass on Wednesday evening taking over the back lawn for a little R & R before taking flight once more. Watching the murmuration of these birds is simply magical but it did remind me of a scene from Hitchcock's 'The Birds' and what was even more bizarre was the next night on each of the back posts sat a crow which then made me feel that any moment now the music from 'The Omen' would start.

Lastly The bearded one was sporting a very orange T'shirt which I think this little bee thought meant he was a giant gerbera daisy as it kept coming and sitting  before on him eventually staying on his thumb. It stayed a while before deciding that maybe he wasn't a giant gerbera after all.

Our teen has ASD and attends an additional needs school, they always move up to their next class the term before summer to give them a chance to get settled before the summer holidays.  This means he is now a year 10 student and quite a lot of changes for him in the coming months. I hope for those of you with school age children that the first week back has not proved too problematic I can't believe we are in June already and that the summer break will be here again before we know it. 

Hope you have a good week one & all.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Vegetarian Tart with Cheese Pastry

As this is my last day before returning to work tomorrow I thought I would try and catch up with one more of my recent makes that I promised to share with you.

We are not a vegetarian household but there are some things I like to make that are and this is one of them.

I said in my previous post on Potato Pastry Quiche that there are two types of pastry I like to make for savory dishes and this is the second one. This pastry is a cheese pastry, I'm afraid there are few of my recipe's that are for those on a diet most are very calorific and this is no exception.

You will need a quiche/flan tin and a baking sheet to put it on, other than that its just a bowl, a grater and a set of scales.

For the pastry you will need

225g/8oz plain flour
175g/6oz butter
2tsp of paprika
115g/4oz Parmesan cheese grated
1 egg
1 tbsp of cold water

  • To make your pastry sift the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs, now stir in the paprika and Parmesan cheese.
  • Beat together the egg and chilled water. 
  • Make a well in the centre of your breadcrumb mixture and add the egg and water and bring together to make a soft dough.
  • Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.  

For your filling you will need

25g/1oz butter
1 onion finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
350g/12 oz mushrooms (I tend to use chestnut mushrooms) roughly chopped
2tsp of dried mixed herbs
1tbsp fresh parsley chopped
50g/2oz fresh breadcrumbs
1tbsp of Dijon mustard
salt & ground black pepper

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add the onions and cook out until tender. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes stirring occasionally. If necessary increase the heat to evaporate any excess liquid.

Now I still have this nifty little gadget from when my kids were small. I used it when it came to weaning them so its quite ancient now but you can still get them but these days I use it when I need to chop small quantities of things and and it is great at making breadcrumbs so in this instance I put the bread and the fresh/dried herbs in to make the breadcrumb and herb mixture. But if you don't have one of these  or something that does the job equally as well, then chop up as finely as you can. 

  • Remove the pan from the heat and add your herbs and breadcrumbs and season with the salt and black pepper and allow to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5 and put your baking sheet in the oven at the same time to get hot.

  • On a lightly floured surface roll out your pastry and fit to your quiche/flan tin but don't trim yet and return to the fridge to chill. 
For the cheese topping

25g/1oz butter
25g/1oz flour
300mls/1/4 pint warm milk
25g/1oz Parmesan cheese grated
75g/3oz cheddar cheese grated
1/4 tsp English mustard powder
1 egg separated

  • Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Having warmed your milk through first to prevent lumps gradually add to the butter and flour mixture and blend together stirring constantly. Once it has reached just below boiling point remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the cheese, mustard powder and the egg (yolk only) season and beat until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the egg white until it holds soft peaks, then fold into the cheese mixture. 

To finish off

  • Remove the pastry case from the fridge. Spread the Dijon mustard over the base of the pastry case. 

  • Spoon in the mushroom mixture 

  • Pour over the cheese topping and trim the excess pastry from around the edge. 
  • Placing directly onto the hot baking sheet, bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes until golden.

And there you have it, a lovely summer tart to have with salad and new potato's and of course a nice chilled glass of wine or beverage of your choice.  It's another one that you can prepare in advance and keep in the fridge until needed and can be eaten hot or cold.  If you're wanting to prepare in advance but eat hot, keep in the fridge overnight take out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature (so probably 15-30 minutes) whilst the oven is getting hot not forgetting to put your baking sheet in at the same time so it gets hot too and then bake your tart for 35-45 minutes and serve hot.



Saturday, 2 June 2018

Bootees, Mittens & Hat (newborn-3 months) in DK

Well its been a while since I last made one of these little sets.  This was one of the first things I was taught to knit as a child, I suppose because they were small items with a little bit of technical know how required but something we wouldn't get bored with too quickly and quite frankly fifty years ago there was always someone in the family or the wider circle of friends that were having babies, that and the school fete and local church bizarre who required small items for sale. My mother and grandmother rarely worked from a pattern everything was tucked away inside their heads ready to be bought to the forefront when the next expected baby was announced. In those days you didn't have a baby shower like they do now you were made a layette set which always from memory consisted of a blanket and or shawl, bootees, mittens and hats and two or three little cardigans oh and a little knitted teddy all presented in a little box or basket.  It's funny that even after all these years that these patterns have stayed lodged in my ageing brain too so I thought it was about time I started writing them down, I suppose it's no different to all the recipes we store in there we don't all turn to a recipe book to know how to make a shepherds pie.

This little set is made with Stylecraft Special DK in cream for the main colour and parchment as the contrast.

If you fancy having ago you can of course use whatever colour you fancy the bootees and mittens take about 50g of each colour so great for leftovers from your stash, but if you're making the hat as well to complete the set then you will need 100g of the main colour and 50g of your contrast colour, you may of course wish to make in a single colour then you will need 100g to make the set. You will need needle size 2.75mm and 3.25mm for a newborn or 3.75mm and 4mm for 0-3 month size.  Or as my mum would have said size 12 and size 10 or size 9 and 8.  The set in the picture is for a newborn.

Where to start??


With the smaller needle and your contrast colour cast on 30 stitches and starting with purl work in 2 x 2 rib for 30 rows increasing one stitch at the end of the last row.

Change to your larger needle and main colour and working in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl) starting with knit work two rows.

Shaping the instep 

1st row - knit
2nd row - purl 21 and  turn
3rd row - knit 11 and turn

working on these 11 stitches only work 7 rows in stocking stitch

Decrease rows

11th row - k2togtbl (knit 2 together through back of loop) knit to the last 2 stitches K2tog (knit 2 together) (9 stitches)

12th row - purl
13th row - K2togtbl, knit to the last 2 stitches K2tog (7 stitches)
14th row  - purl

you now have 7 stitches.
Break off the yarn

With the wrong side facing rejoin to the 10 stitches on the left hand needle and purl to the end.

pick up & knit 10 stitches along right side of the instep

Next row - K10 and now pick up  and knit 10 stitches along the right side of the instep, knit across the 7 stitches and then pick up and knit 10 stitches along the left side of the instep and then across the remaining 10 stitches (47 stitches in total).

47 stitches in total 

Starting with a purl row work 5 rows more in stocking stitch.

Shape foot

1st row - K1, S1 (slip 1), K1,  PSSO (pass the slip stitch over), K16, K2tog, K5, K2tog, K16, K2tog, K1
(43 stitches)
2nd row knit
3rd row - K1, S1,  K1, PSSO, K15, K2tog, K3, K2tog, K15, K2tog, K1 (39)
4th row knit
5th row - K1, S1. K1, PSSO. K14, K2tog, K1, K2tog, K14, K2tog, K1 (35)
6th row knit
7th row - K1, S1, K1, PSSO, K13, S1, K2tog, PSSO, K13, K2tog, K1 (31 stitches)
8th row - Knit
Cast off

To make up join the foot and back seam reversing when you get to the rib and join on the right side so that you can't see the seam once you have turned the top down. Now you just have to make a second to make a pair.


Using your smaller needles and contrast colour cast on 26 stitches and starting with a purl stitch work 2 x 2 rib for 30 rows., increasing one stitch at the end of the last row.(27 stitches)

Change to your larger needles and main colour and continue in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl) and work 12 rows.

Shape the top

1st row - K2togtbl (K2 together through back of loop), K9, K2tog (knit 2 together), K1, K2togtbl, K9, K2tog (23 stitches)
2nd row - purl
3rd row - K2togtbl, K7, K2tog, K1, K2togtbl, K7, K2tog (19 stitches)
4th row - purl
5th row - K2togtbl, K5, K2tog, K1, K2togtbl, K5, K2tog (15 stitches)
6th row - purl

cast off .

To make up join your rib on the right side for turn down and on the reverse for you top and side seam of your mitten and now  make your second to complete your pair.


For your hat you can if you have a 40cm circular needle in the required sizes or on 4 dpns make your hat without a back seam if you choose to use a circular needle you may need to swap to dpns when shaping the crown if it becomes too tight to carryout the decrease rows.

With your smaller needle and contrast colour cast on 84 stitches and starting with a purl work 2 x 2 rib for 30 rows increasing one stitch at the end of the last row  (or round if using circular needles or dpns). (85 stitches)

Now change to larger needles and main colour and continue in stocking stitch (one row knit one row purl unless using circular needle or dpn where you will knit only) until your work measures 17cms.

Shape the crown

1st row - K4, k2tog (knit 2 together) 14 times, K1 (71 stitches)
2nd row - purl (or work another round without decreasing)
3rd row - K3, K2tog, 14 times, K1 (57 stitches)
4th row - purl (or work another round without decreasing)
5th row - K2, K2tog, 14 times, K1 (43 stitches)
6th row - purl (or work another round without decreasing)
7th row - K1, K2tog, 14 times, K1 (29 stitches)
8th row - purl (or work another round without decreasing)
9th row - K2tog, 14 times, K1 (15 stitches)

Break off the yarn and run through the remaining stitches and draw up and fasten off.

and there you have it my little bootees, mitten and hat set should you wish to have ago.


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