Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lake District 2011

The Fairfield Horseshoe post was from my trip to the Lake District last year. This is a video I have put together from the whole week having been inspired by a few other people's videos recently.

The other two walks will be written up on here in due course. Enjoy!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Great Ridge

The Great Ridge and the Edale Valley seen from Lord's Seat

The Great Ridge marks the boundary between the northern Dark Peak and the southern White Peak. Running from Mam Tor in the West to Lose Hill in the east it is the high ground separating the Edale and Castleton valleys. It is also a fantastic walk which I have done a couple of times, once in winter and once in summer.
It’s not easy to make this into a sensible loop (unless your an SAS type and wish to walk the entire Edale skyline of 20+ miles), but, there is a very convenient railway line allowing you to do a linear walk. So, park in Hope and catch the train to Edale.
From Edale you have your choice of ways up to the start of the ridge. I have stuck to the footpaths north of the railway to Barber Booth and then taken the Chapel Gate Bridleway up to Rushup Edge. The high point at Lord’s Seat makes a great lunch stop, so far proving to be quieter than the Great Ridge itself. That said when I was here last summer there were people hang-gliding by launching themselves off the ridge. Rather them than me!!

On the way to Chapel Gate
The Ridge from below Chapel Gate

View back towards Brown Knoll and Kinder

Lord's Seat and the Ridge

View from Lord's Seat

Hang glider take off

Hang glider

From here head east to Mam Tor (be aware that there is quite a cleft in the ridge where the road comes over so you have a drop down and climb back up again). Mam Tor (or Mother Hill) is also known as the shivering mountain due to landslips from the unstable shale layers. There is also evidence of occupation dating back to the Bronze Age around 1200BC. From here you can enjoy your walk along the ridge past Hollins Cross, Back Tor and up onto Lose Hill. Enjoy the views along the way.

Windswept Tree - winter

Windswept Tree - summer

View back to Rushup Edge from the ascent of Mam Tor
Mam Tor
(yes, I know the white balance is off)

The way ahead form the descent off Mam Tor

The path continues to Back Tor

Back Tor
Once on Lose Hill you can look back wistfully along the Ridge before dropping down into Hope.

View from Lose Hill

This route is 9.5 miles with 3,487 feet of ascent but can be varied. Shorten it by heading directly to Mam Tor from Edale or lengthen it by ascending the northern Kinder side of the Edale valley and looping round to Rushup Edge via Brown Knoll.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Slow Roast Beef

The idea for slow roasting a piece of beef came from a Mary Berry cookbook I'd been reading: Mary-Berrys-Family-Sunday-Lunches

The suggestion is that slow cooking is better for less tender cuts of beef. Now, I had a 2lb piece of topside which should have been pretty tender to start with. However, I fancied trying to cook the beef this way as it had the advantage that a precise cooking time wasn't quite so essential. So what if it spent an extra half hour in the oven whilst I faffed about getting the mash sorted...it shouldn't matter as it is at a lower temperature.

Suffice to say this was the most tender and flavoursome piece of beef I have ever tasted and it was very easy to do. If you've not tried it then do. Sorry there are no photos but I had been faffing (generally, not just the mash!) and was trying to get it served before Great British Menu started!

Start by sweating off chopped onion and garlic in a frying pan along with some mixed herbs and black pepper. Use this mix to cover the bottom of the roasting pan. Then quickly sear the beef in the frying pan before placing it in the roasting pan on top of the onion mix.

Next add some liquid to the roasting pan. About 400mls of beef and vegetable stock along with a generous slug of port. Cover with a well fitting lid and put in the oven. My piece of beef staying in for ~3½ hours at 160C.

While the beef rests on a plate pour the roasting liquid through a sieve and slowly add to a roux to make the gravy.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

An Abandoned Fairfield Horseshoe...

Due to not being able to go walking as much as I would like this year I’m taking the opportunity to transfer some older trip reports across to the blog. An archive for me and a chance for other people to read about the walks. This walk is from last year and my first trip walking in the Lake District. I’d been there previously and done the standard touristy stuff (and very nice that is too) but this was my first ever mountain walk…
I had come up to the Lake District to meet up with some of the people off the Walking Forum who were going to be there as well.
So, having arrived in the Lake District, I set up camp in the National Trust campsite in Great Langdale - highly recommended by the way. Good facilities, friendly staff, great views and the Old Dungeon Ghyll on your doorstep - what more could you ask for

View towards Crinkle Crags from by the campsite

The next day, despite a forecast of showers I set off from Ambleside towards Fairfield intending to do the horseshoe. Walking out of town I soon found the path which took me through Rydal Park to Rydal Hall. From here the path to Nab Scar climbs quickly but does give wonderful opportunities to look back at Windermere whilst you get your breath back stop to admire the view.
View back to Windermere

However, the summit of Heron Pike soon came into view:
Heron Pike

Also visible was Helm Crag to the left. This photo also gives you an idea of how low the cloud was getting as the showers came through.

Helm Crag

Continuing on the top of Fairfield was going in and out of the clouds but I continued as, so far, the rain had come in short showers and had blown through with the clouds clearing after each shower.

Fairfield going in and out of the clouds...

Fairfield - visible again!

However the clouds were building up again as could be seen both behind and to the west:

Looking towards the Central Fells

Before too long the rain started again and the clouds had come in. Indeed, just before getting to the top of Great Rigg I was actually in the clouds. Proper clag...Thinking it would clear again I continued to follow the path but it never cleared and when I got to the top I could see about 10-20 yards. Pretty sure it was the top; big Cairns, shelter and some other poor sod who said it it was the second time he had got up there and neither time had he been able to see anything!

Anyway, given the visibility, I decided to return to Ambleside by the route of ascent rather than trying to find my way to Hart Crag in such poor visibility. Wainwright said that the route wasn’t a great idea in mist and I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. 
The Sun did come out again as I descended off Great Rigg, though it was a further half hour or so before the top of Fairfield had cleared. Did I regret turning round...No. It was the sensible decision at the time and the route will be there to do again in the future. But, now the sun was out properly I went from having winter gloves on to wishing I had sunscreen with me as I came back to the top of Nab Scar.

Windermere and Rydal Water from Nab Scar

Rydal Water and Grasmere from Nab Scar

So, while I didn't get the view off Fairfield, I did get some lovely views over Grasmere, Rydal Water and Windermere and my first 4 Wainwrights (even if I couldn't see anything from 2 of them!).
Wainwrights climbed:
Nab Scar
Heron Pike
Great Rigg

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Rhubarb and custard...

A classic combination with which you just can't go wrong...

What can I say, the first rhubarb of the season in now in the shops and I've treated myself to some. I say treated myself as, yet again, I've had to get over my annual fright about the price. I just can't help but think of the rhubarb which grew for free in my parents garden (along with the gooseberries, raspberries, plums, redcurrants and blackcurrants all of which seem hideously expensive to buy).

Anyway, rant over.

Rhubarb - the easiest way to cook rhubarb is to simply stew it. Take your rhubarb and chop it up into 1 inch lengths and add to a saucepan along with some sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water. I also tend to add some apple which has been chopped up fairly small (roughly 1cm) cubes. Put this over a very low heat and leave for an hour or so stirring occasionally. Taste towards the end and add more sugar if you want it sweeter. Rhubarb without any sugar tends to be very tart, but, if you like it that way you can omit the sugar completely.

Rhubarb stew ingredients:
Rhubarb - 1 inch lengths
Sugar (to taste)
Splash of water (or apple brandy if you want a hint of booze)
chopped apple (optional)

Custard - why does anyone use ready made custard? Seriously. Custard is easy to make and freshly made custard is so much nicer and takes about the same amount of time.

100-200mls per person (depending on how much custard you want). I tend to use full fat milk as I always have it in the fridge but you can substitute some milk for cream if you want a richer custard. Put this milk in a pan and start to gently heat it up.

In a separate bowl have some egg yolks (1 yolk per 100 mls) and caster sugar (1/2 table spoon per 100mls) which have been mixed together. When the milk is just short of boiling take it off the heat and pour some of the milk into the bowl with the egg sugar mix. Mix it well and pour back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.

Back on a low heat and keep stirring. I then add some plain flour to thicken it a bit more (about a teaspoon per 100mls). Add this gradually while stirring well or it will be lumpy and keep stirring until you take the custard off the heat and serve.

Want a really decadent custard then add some vanilla to the milk also...

Custard ingredients:
Milk/cream - as much as is needed
Egg yolks - 1 per 100mls
Caster sugar - 1/2 tablespoon per 100mls
Plain flour - ~ teaspoon per 100mls (remember thickness is a personal preference, I generally like a custard that has been thickened a bit but which still pours easily)
Vanilla (fresh or essence) to taste

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Strawberry and mint swirls.

Simple, quick and easy to make these are a great summer snack / party food.

Inspired by the Lemon and Pistachio Pinwheels in Marian Keyes' Saved by Cake (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saved-Cake-Marian-Keyes/dp/071815889X) these are sweet yet somehow refreshing with the mint.

Ready made puff pastry - 1 sheet (this is supposed to be quick and simple and, frankly, you can buy some really good ready made pastry).
Strawberry jam - 2 tablespoons
Mint, finely chopped - 1 teaspoon.


Mix the strawberry jam and the mint.
Thinly spread this mix over the sheet of puff pastry.
Roll the sheet of pasty up and then slice up. Make the slices about 1cm thick.
Place the slices on a baking tray and out in the oven at 210C for 20 minutes.

Job done. I said they were easy! Ignoring the cooking time, making them takes about 5 minutes. The only cautionary note I will add is not to add too much filling - if you do it just oozes out and is prone to catching if you are not careful.