Friday, 30 March 2012

Sweet Lamb

No, not the rally stage but rather an idea I had for cooking some lamb today. Very much a first try it turned out tasting very nice indeed, though it is far from a finished idea.

Simply, I was putting a half leg of lamb in a roasting dish and wondered what would happen if I put some light muscovado sugar over the top. So, lamb in the dish, a quartered onion, mixed herbs and then a covering of muscovado and into the oven...

When the lamb was cooked the sugar and herbs were scraped off into the dish and the lamb put to rest. The dish went onto the hob and the juices (with the dissolved sugar) brought to the boil. Splash of madeira and the whole lot was thickened up with a roux. This was then poured over the sliced lamb and mashed potato.

The lamb was certainly sweet but it wasn't overpowered by the sweetness. It was a very good piece of lamb anyway and just seemed lifted somehow.

However, not a finished dish. Too much sauce on the plate and I'd thickened it far too much. Tempted to try and simply thicken it with some corn flour next time.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Pea Soup

The thought of making my own pea soup had crossed my mind earlier in the week. Specifically, could you make a cream of pea soup? After all, if you can have a cream of asparagus / tomato etc, why not pea?

Also, spring is definitely in the air and while peas aren't actually in season yet I'm sure that most people (like me) will have a bag of peas in the freezer and a lovely fresh looking meal was really appealing.

Making this really was simple.

Fill a medium sized saucepan with frozen peas, some water and half a vegetable stock cube. Bring to the boil, let them simmer for a couple of minutes before draining the water off. Then blitz the peas with a hand blender, add some mint and then continue blitzing while slowly adding some single cream until you have your desired consistency. Pour into a bowl and add a little swirl of cream to finish it off.

Tuck in and enjoy an indulgently rich but delicious pea soup. Want to make it even more of a treat then serve it with some freshly baked bread...

Single cream
1/2 vegetable stock cube

Friday, 16 March 2012

Tea Loaf

Why tea loaf? The simple answer is that I really like it. Moist, moreish and suitable for any occasion. Easy to make, it also keeps well in an airtight container.
Having been fiddling with the recipe a bit I was eager to try it out and see what people thought. Therefore, having baked a loaf I left it cool, sliced it up and took it with me to the Meopham March. Needless to say, everyone really enjoyed it.
Sorry for only having a photo of a slice - I absentmindedly started to slice it before I photographed the whole loaf...Must remember I’m writing a blog!

2 mugs fruit (for example: raisins, chopped dates, candied peel etc)
½ mug caster sugar, ½ mug light muscovado sugar
125g butter
1 mug strong black tea
Splash of madeira
2 mugs plain flour
1 ½  tsp mixed spice
half teaspoon salt
1 ¼ tsp baking powder

2lb loaf tin
Baking parchment to line tin
NB: 1 mug is 300mls

1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Put the wet ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes remove from the heat and allow to cool. Careful not to let it cool too much as it does thicken up as it cool but you need to let it cool enough to burn your hands as you mix into the dry ingredients.

3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well, put into a lined loaf tin. 

4. Bake in the oven for up to 90 minutes at 160 degree C fan. A skewer should come out wet but clean (i.e. no mix stuck to it).
5. Turn out and allow to cool on a rack.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Meopham March...

And welcome to the first walk report on here. I really wanted to get out for a walk at the weekend as the forecast was saying good weather and, having been stuck inside for a couple of weeks, it would be good to get some fresh air.
I’m a member of a internet based walking group ( and there was a meet happening not too far away in Kent. So, having said I would join them for the day I was really pleased with the forecast. There was a bit of confusion at the start of the day though. I got to the meeting point and found loads and loads of walkers but not one I recognised. It turned out another group happened to be meeting in exactly the same place! Well, if it is that popular it must be good and thankfully some familiar faces started to appear quite quickly. Panic over!
Once everyone was ready we set off on our walk and immediately left Meopham and went  around Shipley Hills looking towards Gorse Bottom (stop sniggering at the back) before going along Elbows Wood (where do these names come from?). The day was also warming up nicely as some early morning mist burnt off. Mmmmm sunshine...I’d almost forgotten what a warm day felt like. Spring is definitely in the air.
Gorse Bottom

A bit more walking revealed more woods with a very nice shady glade and some convenient fallen trees to sit on. Cue universal decision for an early lunch stop now and to have a further cake stop later. So after a sandwich and a drink we continued on towards Hedon Hill before looping through Beechen wood and onto Priestwood Green. We were also amused by a sign at the end of someone’s garden. At least, I presume it’s a joke!
Hedon Hill


This whole area is a very pretty part of the country with lovely green rolling hills and lots of attractive views. Very different to the mountainous parts of the country. That’s not to say one is better than the other, it’s nice to get some variety. However, I did find myself wishing I’d taken my better camera with a wide angle lens - oh well, an excuse to go back sometime.
Back to the days events - Priestwood Green led to our cake stop and the Tea Loaf I had brought with me was dished out. Having been fiddling with the recipe I’d brought it with me for a second opinion or 10! I needn’t have worried as everyone really enjoyed it. Yes, the recipe will appear here soon.
My smugness was soon punctured though as I had a bit of a Dougal moment...

See the tiny pony above...I spent a couple of minutes thinking it was a horse in the distance...then realised I was standing next to it and it was tiny. D’oh!!! Guess I’ll stick to walking and food rather than equine studies…
On that note we continued through Dunstan Wood and over a couple of final hills back into Meopham and the pub - A welcome sight as it was now getting decently warm with a blue sky. The hills by Meopham Green are a nice place to loiter (and I’m guessing would make a great picnic site on a warm day) but the thought of a cold drink was very appealing.
Meopham Green
Looking back down the path we had just walked up and the previous hill. 

Looking across from Meopham Green

All in all 9.7 miles and 1,296 feet climbed. Not a massive amount but after a winter of no walking I have to admit my legs were feeling it a bit towards the end.
Two final points - if anyone is into walking and is UK based then do check out the Walking Forum. A great bunch of friendly people. Also I do want to try and put a map of the route into here and will add it in when I have figured out how to do it without breaking copyright (if you know then please feel free to comment below).

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Fish Pie and Béchamel Sauce.

Fish pie - I don’t know about any one else but this is indulgent comfort food for me. One of those lovely warm comforting dishes that is just great on a cold day. This is my generic fish pic recipe and will vary slightly each time depending on what ingredients I’ve got at the time. It’s actually quite simple, even though I know some people break out in a cold sweat at the mention of words like “Béchamel”.
I’ll describe the Béchamel sauce first then go on to describe how I do the fish pie.
Béchamel is one of Escoffier’s five mother sauces of French cuisine. Start off with a saucepan of milk and add a quartered onion and a few cloves. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out the onion and cloves and keep the milk to one side. In another pan add equal quantities of flour and butter. Mix the flour into the butter as it melts and keep stirring on a low heat for a couple of minutes - you need to cook the flour out but you don’t want it browning. At this point slowly add in the milk whilst continuing to stir the mixture. The ratio of milk to flour and butter will dictate how thick the sauce is - adjust to suit as you prefer. 
Why is this called a mother sauce - whilst it is a sauce in itself, it is also the base for other sauces. Add some grated cheese to your Béchamel and it becomes a Mornay sauce for example.
Fiddly - maybe, but I think it is worth the effort.
Difficult - No!
Right, onto the fish pie. I’m not giving out any specific quantities as they will vary depending on the size of your pie dish and how many people you are cooking for. And, to be honest, I only measured out one thing at the beginning - I three quarter filled the pie dish with milk in order to see how much sauce I needed. That milk then went in a saucepan for the Béchamel.
Next, add some veg to the bottom of the dish. Yes, you read that correctly, vegetables! I like to add a bit of colour and texture and it makes the pie more of a complete meal in itself. Usually this will be some peas and a carrot which has been diced up into ~ ½ cm cubes. On top of this put the fish - put enough to cover the bottom of the dish and vegetables. Here you can use any fish you like. In this case I used some haddock, salmon and smocked pollock and then put the rest of the vegetables on top along with the onion I had strained out of the béchamel (remember to throw the cloves away though - don’t add them to the pie!).
Pour your Béchamel sauce over the top and give the dish a few gentle taps on the work top to make sure the sauce distributes evenly. Finally add mashed potato over the top of the sauce - just try not to make it too “thin” as I did here - bit too much milk added hence the way it looks. Whoops! Still, no one’s perfect and it tasted good.
Now just pop it in the oven. 45 minutes, 180C Fan and enjoy.
Plain flour.
Fish Pie:
Fish (I used salmon, haddock and smoked pollock here but use whatever you like. Cod, prawns also work well)
Veg - your choice but I find peas and a diced carrot work well.
Béchamel sauce
Mashed potato

Friday, 9 March 2012


Welcome to my new blog!

Why have I decided to do this I hear you ask? Well, I've considered starting a website to record my walks for sometime. I figure it would act as a nice record for me and if anyone else wants to see them then they can. However, despite reading other people's walking blogs (and food blogs) and enjoying them, I never got round to it myself.

So, I have finally signed up and here we are. Expect food posts, walking trip reports and anything else that catches my fancy along the way.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I will.