Saturday, 23 October 2010

generations of be-ro

The little be-ro cookbook has been the staple recipe book for baking in generations of my family. It is the alpha & omega of baking. All the best pastry, cake, bun, pudding etc. recipes have been adapted from the basic be-ro wonders. The cookbook on the left is my mother's, the maroon one in the centre belonged to my grandmother and the blue one on the right is mine. The recipes are almost exactly the same in all three and they make truly wonderful cakes. So, instead of posting the recipe I used to make rock cakes this morning I am doing a shout-out to Be-Ro who can always be relied upon to make a great cake when you cannot be bothered/don't want to make up a new recipe. You can even write to Be-Ro (at the same address as for the cookbook) and they will send you free advice on home baking. My kind of people! To send off for a Be-Ro cookbook, or send a cheque/postal-order for £1.50 to The Be-Ro Kitchen, PO Box 100, Blackburn, Lancs, BB01GR Vick. @vclinde

Thursday, 21 October 2010

green tomato jam


This is a very pic 'n' mix recipe from various sources, unfortunately from before I started keeping records so I can't attribute properly. It is slow but in a weekend sort of a way rather than a rushing around trying to finish way. The result is very sweet with a unique but yummy flavour and a great cheese accompaniment. 


Green Tomato Jam. 5lbs green tomatoes 1kilo sugar 1 lemon 1 lime 4 cardamom pods star anise Wash, de-seed and finely chop the green tomatoes. (Probably should be done in stages as it's pretty labour intensive) Pop the chopped tomatoes into a preserving pan. To de-seed the tomatoes cut them in half through the 'stalk' and then cut around the central stalk of each half lifting out the seeds with it. Add the sugar and the juice from the lemon and the lime to the tomatoes. Once the fruit has been juiced chop the flesh and place into a spice bag with the cardamom and anise and add to the pan as well. Leave for about 12 hours to infuse and for the water to be drawn out of the tomatoes.

Remove the spice bag and discard. Bring to the boil and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes and then leave to infuse for two hours. Put back on a medium-high heat and keep on a rolling boil until setting point has been reached. To check for setting point drop a little of the jam onto a cold plate, if a skin forms after 20 seconds then the jam is ready. 

Bottle into sterilised jam jars. It is ready to eat straight away.


cold day at calke abbey

This time of year I always end up spending a lot of time in National Trust properties before they all close for the winter. The closest one to where I am currently living is Calke Abbey which is a reasonably pretty house set in stunning grounds. The gardens are always worth looking around, whatever the time of year. It is well cared for and has a hugely interesting range of plants, both flowers and vegetables. My favourite part is the drive up to the house from the road which is lined with trees and varies from a vivid green to deep gold depending on seasonal changes. Oh, and they have cows! The house itself has some beautiful rooms although the pictures are rather rubbish because neither flash nor tripods are allowed inside. They are doing some fascinating restoration in the library as well. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon! Vick. @vclinde

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Today I miss: Philadelphia

I went to Philadelphia in the winter of 2008 and had such a great time I was even interviewed about it later on. I was only in the city for a few short days but I spent all of my time walking around and seeing as much as possible.

My top five things about Philadelphia.

1. Rodin Museum This is the main reason that Philadelphia was on my list of places to see while I was in America. I am a huge Rodin fan and the museum, although small is wonderful.

2. Mrs K's I had breakfast here on my last morning in the city. Great food, and more importantly, great people. I was the only tourist in the place and people were super friendly and talkative. This place can be found at 325 Chestnut Street if you're in the area.

(Clearly, I forgot to take a picture of this one, so you've got a view of the city from City Hall looking down Benjamin Franklin Parkway instead)

3. New City Hall This was recommended to me by a ranger I met at the Liberty Bell. You can go all the way up the tower and get an amazing view of the city below. It only costs $5 and when I went I was the only person up there. The guide was fantastic and pointed out all of the sights across the city. I would recommend this as something to do to start with so that you can get your bearings and see what you want to do with the rest of the time in the city. It's also right next door to the Masonic Hall which is a geometrical wonder of architectural weirdness and well worth a look at.

4. The Library This is a great building even if you don't want to go and read anything when you are there. I almost always go to the library when I visit a new city and Philadelphia was one of the best that I saw while I was in the States. The statue outside (pictured) is the Shakespeare Memorial. Once inside, straight in front of you is a stunning staircase. The whole library was wonderful to wander around and the people who worked there were brilliantly helpful. They recently survived an attempt to close the libraries to save money and so are even more deserving of support and a great example to the UK of how much libraries really matter to people.

5. Independence Hall Okay, it may be very touristy and when I was there the obligatory hoard of school-children were blundering around but I am a politics graduate. I had to go. It was in fact very interesting and all of the staff around there are great. You can easily do Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Congress Hall and the Old City Hall. The buildings themselves are much more worthy of your time than the visitor centres which were disappointingly twee and uninformative. Probably a lot more appealing if you have kids though.

I also feel that I should point out the wonderful hostel I stayed in while I was there. I met some great people and the staff were helpful and good fun. I stayed in a 28 person room and it didn't feel at all over-populated.

Vick. @vclinde

Monday, 11 October 2010

in which i eat tofu

I've been on a diet for the past six months (ish...) now and it's been going pretty well but I have so far avoided tofu, which has been highly recommended by the diet-gurus on high. So I picked some medium-soft tofu up when I was at the supermarket the other day. Two days ago I had some marinated in a teriyaki style sauce and then added to a basic veggie stir-fry. End result was okay but certainly nothing stunning and I could live without it. Happily. Today I wanted to try having it with a salad but because the tofu is quite soft, and bland, and very white, I wanted to do something more interesting with it. Crispy tofu with chunky salad. Mix a marinade with rice vinegar, galangal, tamarind paste, ginger, garlic, agave syrup (or honey, sugar, maple syrup, sugar etc.), lemon juice and light soy sauce. This is what my marinade consisted of but of course this can easily be changed for whatever you like! Cut tofu into edible chunks/slices as you prefer and plonk into the marinade, swishing it around so all of the lovely curdiness (not really selling it am I?) is covered. Slice up your salad. This recipe is really all about experimenting with tofu but for my salad I had apple (I used cox's orange pippin), pepper, mangetout, cucumber, de-seeded tomatoes and rice in really hefty chunks. Take the tofu carefully out of the marinade and lightly dust with seasoned flour. Heat a little light oil (nothing too strongly flavoured because of the mildness of the tofu) in a frying pan and add the tofu pieces letting the side furthest away from you drop into the oil last to avoid nasty oil burns. They take between a minute and a minute and a half to crisp up and cook. Take the tofu out of the pan and place on kitchen paper to dry any remaining oil. Drop on top of your salad. This is a nice way of cooking medium tofu and by changing the marinade, the seasoning in the flour and the salad there are oodles of recipe options. Vick. @vclinde

Friday, 8 October 2010

more north

due north

I have a strange affection for service stations – they are places where you are allowed to buy chocolate and coffee and all in the name of ‘travelling’ rather than ‘gorging’. The food however is less than appealing and so after two hours on the M1/A1(M)/A1 we pulled off the road and drove about ten minutes out of our way to Ripon.
I’d wanted to see Ripon for a long time because I love visiting Cathedrals. I looked up the route, planned places to park and eat in advance and was thoroughly excited. It was a complete let down.
The Cathedral had no atmosphere, and didn’t feel at all like a place of worship or faith (marking another one against organised religion). The windows were pretty but not breath-taking or even very symbolic. On the whole it felt, and was largely treated, like a tourist attraction rather than a Church. They have a crypt which is interesting and quite different. Otherwise, not very impressive. We ate at a café called ‘Dish’s’ which had been recommended and had huge meals, nothing fancy but well-cooked and tasty. It seemed popular and the staff were lovely.
Onwards and upwards to Northumberland. I have been three, or perhaps four, times before and it is one of my favourite places to spend time. The walking is lovely, people are kind and generous (to generalise of course) and the scenery some of the best you will find. Usually I spend most of my time near the coast but this time I was keen to explore inland a bit more. I arrived quite late and spent the first evening happily reading and writing whilst looking out at the lovely view from the Bed & Breakfast.
Day One consisted of heading into Alnwick for a wander-around and morning tea at Grannies Café (on Narrowgate, if you’re interested) and then a drive out to an outdoor shop which had a cracking café attached to it and off to Holy Island to look out on the Causeway. Had a brief walk around the island but not far because the weather was miserable!
I decided on the Coastal route to get back down towards Alnwick, because it’s beautiful even in the pouring rain. I got out of the car at Boulmer, rugged up, and went for a walk on the beach. Lots and lots of very slimy seaweed but also gorgeous views. The weather finally cleared up on the way back and I got to see the hills in the light of the almost-setting sun.
Day Two was so completely different weather the landscape was barely recognisable. The sun was out and so straight after breakfast I walked around Lordenshaws, an ancient site with cup and ring markings. I didn’t spend too long here because I took advantage of the weather and had a good long walk around the local hills. Three hours, lots of mud, marshes, wrong turns and climbing later I returned to the bed and breakfast, exhausted but happy.
Not up for much walking afterwards I had lunch at Wallington which was one of the best meals I have eaten in a very long time. The house was less than impressive. Nothing to report, really, the library and reading room were nice but not very special. Bit of a let down and the weather was starting to close in again soI didn't go around the gardens and instead headed to Otterburn with the promise of Afternoon Tea calling me. I had hoped to go to a hotel there which looked beautiful but we were told, firmly, that as we were not residents we could have a coffee in the bar but not afternoon tea. Grump. So we left, after taking a couple of pictures.
On the way there we had seen a sign for a strange cafe called Goats on the Roof and we headed back there to try our luck. It was getting pretty late when we arrived but we made it in time for a welcome cup of tea with a stonking view of the hills.
Day Three was mostly about the rain. First things first I headed to Barter Books (which I have written about here) I came home with ten books for a bargain price, very happy. Morning coffee was taken at the same cafe followed by a brief, sodden wander around Alnwick. I then had a peek at Warkworth Castle (from inside the car) and after some more driving along the Coastal route we headed back to have lunch with the goats again. I had a completely wonderful bowl of soup followed by a mug of hot-chocolate.
Afterwards it was back to the B&B to relax in the lounge and pack for the journey home.
Vick. @vclinde