Saturday, 22 December 2012


Just to say thank you to those of you who have started to follow / read this blog.

It's been a very busy year on the non-walking/cooking front leaving me with rather less time than I thought I would have had for this.

However, I should now have more time which means that there will be plenty of things to come next year. Enjoy Christmas and New Year and I'll see you in January!


Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Penshurst Loop

Just a quick trip report this one. I've been meaning to do it for a few weeks but stuff has just kept getting in the way.

A good walk with some friends around a rather muddy Kent. Loop from Penshurst via Chiddingstone. Pictures below:

Lovely crisp winters day..

Swans on a pond

Chiddingstone Church

Autumnal tree

Oast House

The flock...

The Chidingstone itself

Old pill box

Ramshakle building


Penshurst Place

Inside Penshurst Church

Friday, 30 November 2012

Duck with an Orange and Juniper Sauce

Duck and orange - a classic combination...So, why mess about with it?

Well, I don't know about you, but, personally I find that an orange sauce by itself can be a bit too sweet and the juniper just cuts through the sweetness without overpowering the duck. I'd love to show you a picture but for some reason I never took one...Sorry.

First up - the duck. I roasted off a couple of duck breasts. Just for the record I only had one hot with the sauce, the other was allowed to cool and made a wonderful sandwich the next day...

Anyway, take the breasts, score the skin a few times and then place skin side down in a medium-hot frying pan. Allow them to cook for 5 minutes so the skin is nicely coloured and then turn them over just long enough to seal the other side of the breasts. Take them out of the pan and place on a roasting tray and put in the oven 180C for 18 minutes for well done. I know some people say you can have duck rare but I prefer mine well done and these came out with just a hint of pink and very juicy still. Allow 10 minutes to rest before serving.

Secondly - the sauce. This will do enough for 2.  Take a pan and melt a decent sized knob of butter and then mix in some sugar. Add to this a generous slug of Triple-Sec, the juice of a large orange, half a dozen crushed juniper berries and 1 egg yolk (as you may have guessed - if I'm not baking I don't tend to measure much). Mix together well and keep mixing whilst the sauce reduces. When it has reached the right consistency (think runny honey) it's ready to use (just remember to pass it through a sieve in order to separate out the berries along with any bits of orange, pips etc...).


Friday, 19 October 2012


...and an apology as I've not done much recently. One thing I have done though is to bake some batches of shortbread. No photos for these (and to be honest they looked like shortbread). Simple, easy to make and very moreish though.

Almond Shortbread:

175g plain flour
50g ground almonds
50g caster sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
150g unsalted butter

Mix the dry ingredients and then add the butter (easiest with a food mixer but you can do rub it in by hand) until you get a breadcrumb appearance.

Squeeze this all together to get your "dough". Then simply roll out to about 1cm thick and cut out the shapes you want. I usually use a 2inch pastry cutter. Place on a baking sheet and into the oven for about 20 minutes at 160C.
Place on a rack, dust with caster sugar and allow to cool.

Melt in the mouth Lemon Shortbread:

250g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
250g plain flour
125g polenta
pinch of salt
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp lemon extract

Cream the butter and sugar, add the lemon zest and extract, then slowly add in the flour, polenta and salt until they come together as a dough. chill for 30 minutes then roll it out and cut to shape as above. However, these go in the oven for 15 minutes at 190C (and keep an eye on them as they will overcook and burn very quickly if you leave them in too long). Again, place on a rack, dust with caster sugar and allow to cool.

To make these look more impressive feel free to decorate them with patterns, almond pieces etc...They will also keep in an airtight tin for a few days (probably longer but I've usually eaten them by then!)

Friday, 21 September 2012

Sweet Orange Polenta Cake...

Orange Polenta Cake - just after turning it out...

I’ve been meaning to try and make one of these for a while and the first attempt a couple of weeks ago was a limited success as it didn’t turn out of the tin. Still, the bits tasted nice so I’ve had another go…

250 grams soft, unsalted butter
300 grams caster sugar
3 large eggs (beaten)
100 grams polenta
250 grams ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
2 oranges
icing sugar

In a bowl mix the polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.

Now get another bowl and cream the caster butter and sugar together before adding the eggs a bit at a time making sure it’s all well mixed.

Now slowly add the almond / polenta mix - add a bit at a time making sure it is well mixed as you go along.

Finally add the zest of the orange and half the juice. Mix well and put into a well greased cake tin. 180C for ~ 50 minutes.

Take out of the oven, prick the top well and add the remaining orange juice. Finally take the juice of another orange, heat in a pan and add icing sugar until no more will dissolve. Pour this over the top of the cake and allow to cool.

Once cool remove from tin.

p.s. Some of you may find this too sweet with all the icing. You could easily halve the orange and icing sugar mix (or forego the icing altogether) to have it less sweet.

p.p.s. Polenta also means it is anoth entry for this month's alphabakes hosted by Caroline of Caroline makes and Ros from The more than occasional baker.

Friday, 14 September 2012



...maybe? I don’t know if anyone else would consider this to be a true jambalaya but it’s near enough for me and tasty to boot. Rice, meat, veg and a nice dose of chilli and paprika. Mmmmmmmmmm... I’ll describe the one in the photo but it is very adaptable to whatever you happen to have hanging around.

Start off by slowly sweating off some onions in a deep frying pan. Really let these sweat down before adding some garlic and diced peppers and frying these also. Next add the meat. In this case I used some chilli sausages that were in the fridge and chopped them up into rough meatballs. Traditionally the meat is chicken or seafood but I don’t see why you can’t use whatever you want...Just remember to add some chilli if it’s not in with the meat! Add a good helping of paprika as well at this point and cook the meat out.

Once cooked add some white wine to deglaze the pan. Put in the rice and give it a good stir so the rice starts to absorb the flavour. Next add some chicken or vegetable stock to the pan and let it simmer for 20 minutes by which time the stock will be nearly all absorbed and you have a lovely tasting jambalaya.

Part way through absorbing the stock..

Whilst it is simmering I also tend to add a little bit of finely chopped veg for extra colour and texture e.g. peas, finely diced carrot. As I said earlier, it’s a good way of using up what you have in the fridge...

Finally I've added some chopped tomato and chives over the top. Delicious!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Raspberry Puffs…

...or another thing to do with left over puff pastry.

Raspberry Puffs

Having bought some ready made puff pastry for the Tarte Tartin I had a bit left over in the fridge to use. These really are very simple:

Take the pastry and cut it into approximately 2 inch squares. Liberally make holes in the centre with a fork so that the centre doesn’t rise. Leave about a 1cm margin around the edge to rise.

In the centre put some raspberry jam and on top of that place some raspberries. 

Then pop in the oven for 10-15 mins at 220C. Only having 4 in the oven these cooked a bit too quickly and are just starting to catch. Should have got them out a couple of minutes earlier!! Oh well…

Also, as puff begins with P I’ll enter them for Alphabakes hosted by Caroline of Caroline makes and Ros from The more than occasional baker.


I was going to enter a polenta cake but that turned out to be an epic fail (or didn’t turn out as the case may be…). Still, might have another crack at that later in the week.

Friday, 31 August 2012

An Honest Tarte Tartin...

The end result!

Something from Tuesday evening - Why a Tarte Tartin I hear you ask. Well, having seen the contestants on Celebrity Masterchef last week make a bit of a hash of it I uttered the words beloved of insurance companies everywhere…”How hard can it be?”

After all, caramel, apples, pastry, oven...nothing to it is there?

Well the answer to the question is not as hard as some of them made it look, but, not quite as easy as I thought it would be either…

To start off we need to make some caramel. Fine thinks I. Frying pan, 3 tablespoons or so of water and then add 150g caster sugar. Mix the sugar into the water and then gently heat until the mixture starts to caramelise. Mistake number 1: If you are going to add cinnamon, don’t do it now as the mix instantly turns a caramel colour and you can’t tell what the sugar is doing… Anyway, unable to see what it was doing I kept it on the heat stirring it to try and see when it got to the right consistency. What happened - the sugar crystalized all of a sudden. I assumed I had let it get a bit too dry so added some apple brandy to the pan and most of the sugar did seem to dissolve again. Mistake number 2 and disaster averted (a point to which I will return).

At this point off the heat and add the slices of apple to the pan. I suspect that apples such as Cox’s or Granny Smith would probably work best but I used what I happened to have (Mistake number 3), a mix of 2 overly ripe Braeburns and 2 Pink Ladies. In hindsight something a little less juicy would have been better. Try to arrange the apple slices neatly as they will be seen remember! (Mistake number 4).

Once done add the pastry on top of the apples. I used puff pastry from the supermarket but you can use shortcrust or even make your own if you are feeling daring! Once the pastry is in place put it in the oven (190C for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden).

So, at this point I’m feeling fairly smug; caramel rescued, cinnamon to go with the apples and a boozy little kick from the apple brandy. Sounds good to me anyway. So, having got it in the oven in the nick of time I could sit down and watch Great British Bake Off (I promise I don’t just watch cookery shows). First thing they have to make: Tarte Tartin! OK, lets see how they do? Some of them looked divine, others...not quite so sure. That said I’m not feeling quite so smug anymore as Paul Hollywood explains to one of the contestants that the reason their sugar crystalized is because they were stirring it. Apparently you just give an initial stir to mix the sugar and water, after that leave it alone!

You stand accused of stirring the sugar...How do you plead? Guilty M’Lud…

Anyway, 30 minutes is up and I get it out of the oven. Pastry looks nicely looked, certainly smells good. Get a plate over the pan and quickly turn it over...and dribble hot, runny caramel over the worktop. Could have been worse - could have been my foot and at least all this caramel (which I presume has come from the juicy apples) has dissolved all the sugar. The other problem is that this liquid is now turing what was a nice crispy top into a soggy bottom!

So why am I blogging this? Well, I’m not a professional chef and I don’t claim to be perfect in a kitchen. Secondly, you can learn from my mistakes. Thirdly, despite the above, it tasted great - lovely caramel apples, cinnamon and a bit of warmth off the brandy. So what if the pastry had gone a bit soggy, I still enjoyed it!

So, what would I do differently next time?
    • Add the cinnamon later…
    • Don’t stir the sugar…
    • Less juicy apples and, having done a bit more reading, slice them the day before so they then can dry out a bit in the fridge. yes they will discolour but you won’t see that once cooked in the caramel...
    • Arrange the apples nicely...

Friday, 24 August 2012


Where has August gone...?

Time has really flown by this month. Between work and sorting out the garden in a rare moment of sunshine (I know, sunshine in August in the UK, who'd believe it!!) the month is almost over.

Anyway, I should have something proper for you all next week...

The other thing I would like to say is "Thank you!" to Heelwalker for recommending this blog via Twitter. Very pleasantly surprised to see that...
Find her blog at Follow her on Twitter also (@

Friday, 10 August 2012

Idiots guide to cooking fish....

Take 1 piece of fish....

Place on a piece of foil along with a knob of butter...

Add any other flavourings (herbs / pepper / lemon etc )...

Wrap the foil around to make a parcel, sealing everything in with the fish...

Put that in an other foil parcel to ensure it is sealed...

Place in an oven at 180C for 30-40 minutes...

Take out of oven and enjoy a moist piece of fish...

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Ivinghoe Beacon video...

And, in what looks like the beginnings of a tradition, here is the video montage for your delectation...

Ivinghoe Beacon

A good forecast after all the rain we’ve had recently got me looking at the maps to plan a walk. The idea of walking over the Ivinghoe Beacon quickly seeded itself and a route was envisaged amongst a cornucopia of paths. All that was then needed was to go down there with my walking boots...

Starting at the car park at SP955149 (National Trust and free) Ivinghoe Beacon can be seen by crossing the road. However, that was to be the end of todays walk...I had decided to start by heading southwest along the Ridgeway.

View to the Ivinghoe Beacon from by the car park.

The Ridgeway runs between Overton Hill (Wiltshire) and the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire). Thought to be Britain's oldest road it dates back about 5000 years. Walking a route that has been trodden for so long feels quite humbling as you stand there with a view that stretches out for miles over the plains. These hills may not be the highest in the country, but, they punch above their weight in terms of vista to be admired. Very easy to linger round here…

Panoramic view

Tree on the first little hill

However, I was here to walk, so walk I did. Follow the Ridgeway over Pitstone Hill and down to Westland Farm. Enjoy the views all the way, whether they be the views off the escarpment, through gaps in the trees or even just the dappled light on the woody path. Once here it is on to the Herfordshire way, follow the path round past Church Farm into Aldbury.

The view back from Pitstone Hill
View from the woods


Aldbury Church

If you ever want to go and see a quintessential English country village then this is the place to go. I know it is a cliche to say “chocolate box image” but it is. Swap the modern cars for a few Morris Minors and this could be a scene from the 1950’s...


From here though you have to climb as you head up the hill towards the Bridgewater monument. A word of caution here - as you climb the hill  you come to a V-junction in the path. The OS map makes it look as if the monument is on the lower isn’t, it is on the higher one! Head for the NT symbol. Signs like this one don’t help either. Yes, I know I need to keep going but...

Which way???

The Monument itself was built on the Ashridge Estate in 1832 in memory of Francis Egerton, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater (1736–1803), "the father of inland navigation". So called as he was the commissioner of the Bridgewater Canal, arguably the first true canal in Britain and the modern world. It is 108 feet (33 m) tall, with 170 steps inside. You can climb to the top and look out towards Ashridge House. I didn’t do this today as it was absolutely heaving with people here as it is part of the National Trust and it was a gloriously good day. More disappointingly though the cafe was packed as well - no tea and cake for me! Still, probably better for the waist line!!

Bridgewater Monument

One final note - the Monument was built away from Ashridge House as his mother wanted "not to see or be reminded of my infernal son". Family eh...

From here though it is time to enter the woods as you follow the tracks past Sallow Copse. This was the point where I was really glad I had put proper walking boots on. I’d been debating trail shoes earlier on but choose boots given all the rain recently. At first the paths had been very dry, occasional muddy patch in the shade of the trees but nothing that couldn’t be side stepped. Here though it was proper mud with my feet sinking deeply enough into the brown stuff that I’d have had wet feet in shoes. I have to say as well that these woodland tracks weren’t always brilliantly marked and there was a definite detour into the car park at SP981143 with the marked footpaths on the map not always visible on the ground.

Entering the woods

From here on though the going improved again. Follow the path around the reservoir and in front of Ringshall Coppice. Here was a an interesting broken bough (maybe even a whole tree) and some very nice fields in which to linger for lunch. Whilst here came across the cutest Westie in the world. Being walked by his owner, with whom I had exchanged a few pleasantries about the weather, he just sat there and wouldn’t go past. Thinking he might be scared of the big strange man I took a few steps back off the path and crouched down, but, he still just stood there refusing to go despite the owner calling and encouraging him. Eventually we realized he was scared of my rucksack! As soon as I moved it he raced past to his owner. Awwww!

Broken boughs

Grass and Sky

Anyway I digress. Continue along this path past Ward’s Hurst Farm and then through The Coombe as you pick up the Icknield Way Trail. This runs from the Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire) to Knettishall Heath (Suffolk) and is another of Britain's most ancient Trackways. Along with the Ridgeway it forms part of the Greater Ridgeway. A 583 kilometre long distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis (Dorset) to Hunstanton (Norfolk). This is made up of four long distance footpaths - the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.

Sheep on the Farm

However, rather than follow it directly to Ivinghoe Beacon I decided to take a little detour. As you come out of The Coombe turn right and follow the footpath along the fields and up to Gallows Hill. This give you some lovely views up to Beacon Hill and towards the White Lion.  Created in 1933 it is on the slope beneath Whipsnade Wildlife Park which it effectively advertises.

Whipsnade White Lion

Path back down the hill

Fields, Hills and Sky

From here just follow the ridge (and enjoy the cooling breeze) as you walk up to Ivinghoe Beacon itself. Only 233m (757 feet) above sea level it nevertheless provides a sumptuous vista and is rightly popular with all the people and families who were there enjoying the view. 

View from Ivinghoe Beacon

Another view from Ivinghoe Beacon
From here the end is also in sight as we step back onto the Ridgeway and follow it over Steps Hill and around Incombe Hole to the car park.

Look down into Incombe Hole

Look back at the path around Incombe Hole

All in all a great walk on a great day. I shall have to go back again some other day...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pike O'Blisco

The last of my Lake District walks from last year.

Pike O'Blisco

Walked straight out of the National Trust's Great Langdale campsite, initially follow the lane past Wall End Farm before taking the path that initially follows and then crosses Redacre Gill. As this path climbs you have a really good pitched path that is easy to climb and follow.

Crinkle Crags from by Wall End farm. The Band on the right and the edge of Pike O'Blisco on the left
View back from the start of the Redacre Gill path
View back to Great Langdale and Side Pike
View Across to the Langdale Pikes

View ahead to the summit

As the above photo shows the pitched path does end after a while but the walking is still fairly easy underfoot in the main.

View to Bowfell
Bowfell close up

Another view of the Langdale Pikes from higher up Pike O'Blisco

Keep heading towards the summit and there is only one scrambly bit which, if you aren't good at that hand on rock malarky, can be manfully avoided by skirting around to the left. The advantage of this is that you then get this nice viewpoint towards Windermere:

Windermere viewpoint

Once at the summit enjoy the views (which, for some reason, I neglected to take a photo from!! D'oh!!!) as they are fantastic. Crinkles, Bowfell, Langdale Pikes all look majestic. Once it is time to descend take the path down to the Northern side of Red Tarn.

Last year this path wasn't brilliant underfoot. However, there were also plenty of rock bags in evidence so I presume Fix the Fells were around and this path may well now be in a better state.

Red Tarn looking southwest

From Red Tarn follow the path past Browney Gill and Brown Howe back to Oxendale. The just take the path past the bottom of the Band and Stool End Farm back to the campsite and the Old Dungeon Ghyll.

Scree over the path back to Oxendale
Crinkle Crags seen on the descent 

View down to Oxendale and Great Langdale

Crinkle Crags above a relatively dry Oxendale Beck

All in all a lovely walk I'd like to repeat, possible extending it over the Crinkle Crags themselves and maybe even Bowfell on a good day.