Saturday, 23 February 2013

A simple supper...

A couple of weeks ago a friend came round for dinner and a catch up. No pictures as it seemed a bit rude to be taking pictures of the food whilst cooking and generally having a good chinwag. The meal was delicious though (even if I do say so myself) and on that basis I will at least talk about the meal.

I wanted to do something which I could prepare while waiting for my friend to arrive and which would then be quick and easy to make whilst being sociable and starting on the wine.  

A leaf through the recipe books for some ideas and I came up with this:
Chicken and Mozzarella wrapped in Parma Ham, mashed potato and a Tarragon Beurre Blanc.

Mashed potato: take some nice floury potatoes (not waxy ones). Cut up into small pieces and place in a pan of water. Add some salt and bring to the boil. Then allow to simmer until the potatoes are just starting to break up. At this point, drain the water and add a a splash of milk, small knob of butter and some pepper and then mash it all together with your weapon of choice. I tend to use a fork if the potatoes are soft enough as, frankly, a proper masher is a pain to clean afterwards. Just make sure you’ve got rid of the lumps!

The main part of the meal is simplicity itself - take a chicken breast, put some generous slices of mozzarella on top and wrap the lot up with some Parma ham. Put this onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 25 minutes (200C).

Tarragon Beurre Blanc sauce - finely chop 2 challots and place in a saucepan with 4 tablespoons of vermouth (or dry white wine) and 2½ tablespoons white wine vinegar. Bring the liquid to the boil and keep boiling and stirring until the liquid has almost gone. At this point turn the heat right down and then take 250g of cold butter and add it a chunk at a time. Put each chunk of butter into the pan and keep whisking. Add the next chunk just before the previous one has completely melted. The idea is to create an emulsion of butter and the remaining liquid. When all the butter is incorporated sieve out the challots and add 1-2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon. Be careful with the temperature as too cold and the butter won’t melt, too hot and the butter will separate (cool it down with an ice cube).

Place the mash and chicken on the plate and pour the sauce over the top. Thoroughly enjoyed by the pair of us with a good dry Muscat.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Cookies - Choc Chip and Vanilla

A quick and easy one this time: Cookies!

Mmmm, cookies...
Also: hadn't realized how close this plate was to the edge until I took the photo!

Very easy to make, the basic cookie recipe is very adaptable. Here I've added chocolate chips and some vanilla extract.

230 gram unsalted butter
200 grams caster sugar
50 grams muscovado sugar
170 grams condensed milk
350 grams plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
chocolate sprinkles / drops / fine chopped chocolate to taste…

1) Cream the butter and sugar and then mix in the condensed milk and vanilla extract. Then mix the flour and baking powder/bicarb together and mix this in with the wet mix. Finally, add as many chocolate chips as you fancy.
2) Take a bit of mix and roll it in your hand so that you have a ball about an inch across. Flatten this ball out and place on a non-stick baking tray. Give the flattened balls plenty of space on the tray as they will spread out to give you cookies about 4 inches across...Make them as big or as small as you like.
3) Place in a preheated oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
4) Carefully slide onto a rack (they will still be quite soft!) allow them to cool and set.
5) Share and enjoy. I've done two batches of these recently - one shared with the walkers in the Peak District and the other with work colleagues. Both times greatly enjoyed by all...

Best eaten when still slightly warm and soft in the middle but very nice cold as well.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A wet walk in the Peaks…

Now, if from the title you assume this walk was under leaden skies with rain lashing down around us you would be wrong. Blue skies and sunshine were the order of the day. However, the snowmelt meant it was very wet underfoot. Not muddy, just very, very wet. Indeed there were several footpaths that looked like streams in spate rather than something to walk along. But, more of that later…

Another walk with friends we all met up by Grindleford Station (note: not in Grindleford, more Upper Padley). Deep in shade this spot was still full of snow and ice but we all managed to park without crashing into anything and once suited and booted we started to walk up towards Froggatt Edge.

The gritstone edges of the Peak District are, in fact, a series of escarpments, the sheer gritstone walls towering above the valleys below. Make the effort to get on top of them though and they afford some great views…

Anyway, back to the walk. out of Grindleford Station we took the footpath up the inaptly named Tumbling Hill. I say inaptly as a) none of us tumbled and b) I’m not sure there was ever a chance of that on such a good path. Still I’m sure there is a story behind the name. From here it was a simple case of following Hay Wood to the A625, or at least that’s what Bob led us to believe…

Tumbling Hill

Just before the road there was the small matter of a stream to cross. Unfortunately, all the snow melt had turned this small stream into something much wider and faster and tricky to cross. Cue 5 walkers all staring forlornly at the water and poking at it with walking poles as we tried to find a place to cross. Eventually a place was found and a crossing fashioned but it came at a cost as I managed to lose a pole in the water. So 5 walkers safely over the water and dry but now down 1 pole. Grrrrrr… This is the stream (and I don’t think this photo does justice to the impressive flow of water) so if anyone finds a pole here it’s mine!

"The Stream"

From here cross the road and enjoy the views as you wander along Froggatt Edge. Eyam, Sir William Hill, Stanage and the Entrance to the Hope Valley…

Various view from Froggatt Edge

However, the reverie was soon to be broken...Here we were admiring this little waterfall / fast flowing stream off Froggatt Edge and those of us with cameras were maneuvering for a better view when Bob announced that the stream was actually the path! Now, in hindsight this shouldn’t be surprising as the water was following the line of least resistance and there was a lot of water. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth Bob stepped forward and led us down as we scrambled our way down staying just above the water. Not always easy to find the path at times but somehow we made it down with both dignity and dry feet...well, dry feet anyway… But, another surprise was in store as just before we reached the road to Froggatt Bridge we came across another new stream crossing the path. This one looked rather shallower though and after confirming that with my remaining pole I quickly forded across it and the others followed (this was probably the one moment in the day I was in front and not lagging behind - must get hill fitter as it is just too flat where I live).

2 views of the new "Froggatt Falls"

After a short break we walked up to Eyam where we settled down for lunch, the cookies I had brought (recipe to appear here soon) and erudite conversation (not really…). However, as we set off again we came to the plague cottages and started to read about how whole families living there had ended up dying and how scary and depressing it must have been for the dwindling number of people left behind. Indeed, when the plague came to Eyam in 1665 the North of England had been relatively unaffected so the whole village quarantined itself so as not to spread the disease even though it meant many villagers died. See for more information.

However sobering this moment we had to press on with the walk and from here it was an ascent up onto Eyam Edge via Beech Hurst and thence over Bole Hill and past what appears to be an old engine house from Ladywash Mine. A fluorspar mine it closed in 1979. From here we nipped down Sir William Hill Road before taking to Eyam Moor as we headed towards Leam. Now here was some proper snow. Most of it was probably about 12 inches or so deep but I was occasionally going into it up to my knees! The other snowmelt also seemed to be running under the snow as when your feet went all the way through the snow you found some really wet slippery ground. No photos here as the camera was safely in my pocket. One slip for me (and one for Sioban) but no damage done by the soft snow. Just one wet hand from some slushy stuff - thankfully it dried out without freezing my hand off!

Views back towards Eyam

From here we worked our way down to Leadmill Bridge and followed the River Derwent for a while before working our way up again. Thankfully not much up left at this point as we crossed under the railway, past Kettle House and through Rough Wood before ending up back at Grindleford Station just before it got dark.

View to Higger Tor and Over Owler Tor

All in all a great day with a fantastic bunch of eccentrics friends. 11.2 miles, 3,356 feet of climb, lost one pole and very stiff the next day. Great, great day though!