Tuesday, 19 May 2015

ASPARAFEST!

The lovely people at Over Farm Market on the outskirts of Gloucester invited me to visit last week and see how they grow their asparagus and then take some home to create some delicious recipes. So this weekend I've been in asparagus heaven, testing (and eating) lots of different recipes! But do remember the British asparagus season only lasts from April-June so get yours quickly.

DIPPY EGG & ASPARAGUS SOLDIERS

Simple and delicious, griddled asparagus soldiers, cooked in olive oil and a pinch of salt with soft boiled eggs (boiled for three minutes in boiling water).

GRIDDLED ASPARAGUS WITH HOLLANDAISE

Griddled asparagus as before but this time served with hollandaise sauce and a few marigold petals.

Ingredients for hollandaise sauce:
4 x large egg yolks
250g unsalted butter
2 table spoons of water
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Method:
1. over a very low heat melt the butter, water and egg yolks together whisking at all times (ignore small children, doorbells and the phone!)
2. once the mixture has melted keep mixing and turn up heat to medium (although if it starts to steam turn it down) the sauce should thicken up.
3. once the sauce is thicker stir in the lemon juice and serve straight away over the asparagus.

Top tip: use the egg whites to make a meringue with delicious new season Over Farm strawberries - just about to ripen!

ASPARAGUS & PEA TART

Ingredients:
asparagus spears
5 eggs
200ml tub of crème fraiche
100ml whole milk
handful of grated cheddar cheese
handful of peas
olive oil

Method:
1. Mix in a bowl the five eggs, crème fraiche, milk, cheese and peas
2. oil a 20cm dish so that the tart doesn't stick
3. add the mixture to the dish - breaking the asparagus spears to fit and pushing the bottoms into the mixture with the peas.
4. bake in a preheated oven at 180oC for 30 minutes or until it stops wobbling in the middle


ASPARAGUS & RICOTTA PIZZA

I use the Hobbs House pizza base recipe to make the base. Then add tomato sauce, half griddled asparagus and ricotta and a little back pepper as a topping - delicious and so quick and easy in a hot oven!


ASPARAGUS FACE MASK

Ingredients:
5 asparagus spears - boiled so they're easy to mash
1 tablespoon of honey
1 handful of oats

mix all together and smear on face, leave until beautiful!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

THE PRETTIEST ALLOTMENT








I just had to share some pictures of the prettiest allotment in the village, hidden away and adorned with bunting. Wouldn't it be magical to lay a table right in the middle for supper or string some festoon lights from the apple trees? I dream of one day owning a garden just like this.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

CAMPFIRE POPCORN


It's camping season again - yippee! It's time to unpack the bell tent and head off for some adventures, but first we've been testing our campfire popcorn making machine in the garden. We wired together two sieves (bought from the charity shop) and attached them to a long stick. Then we soaked some corn in oil so it would burn and put it in the sieve before holding it over the hot ashes to pop ~ watch it pop below. 

video

It's not perfect and you do get burnt ones, but it's so much fun to watch them pop! 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

BE MORE ORGANISED!


I've just treated myself to some new stationary in an attempt to be more organised at home! I saw this fab weekly 'post-it' pad and monthly planner book on Instagram from company Naked Lunge and ordered it straight away, so I can write down all the things I need to remember and do. Well in theory anyway. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

7 SIGNS THAT SUMMER IS ON THE WAY


1. The blossom on the blackthorn is first to bloom in the hedgerows, quickly followed by hawthorn and cherry blossom.

2. The birds sing loudly at dawn and dusk in the most beautiful chorus. Soon they nest, if we're lucky, in the boxes in our garden to raise their chicks.

3. Air balloons appear in the evening sky like baubles in the air!

4. The days get warmer and once again I can be found on my annual forage in the bottom of my wardrobe looking for a matching pair of sandals, before realising my feet could do with a pedicure!

5. Swifts and swallows return on their annual summer migration from Africa to screech around towns and villages.

6. Cow parsley explodes along country lanes, luring me with its beauty.

7. Honey bees buzz around the flowers collecting nectar to take to the hive and make honey, the taste of summer.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

DISCOVERING THE KINGS HEAD HOTEL IN CIRENCESTER


I was privileged and so excited to be invited to the launch of the Kings Head Hotel in Cirencester's new summer menu last week. The menu has been carefully crafted and was introduced by the Kings Head's new executive chef, the talented Dave Watts (pictured below). 


Dave spent his early years, eight of them in fact, at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir and as a result has a passion for the best local and seasonal ingredients which is showcased in his new Summer menu. As part of a small invited group, we were looked after by general manager Stephen Mannock and greeted upon arrival with margaritas and a tour of this amazing hotel, from the impressive wine cellar, to the gorgeous spa nestled neatly into the vaulted cellars. The design is rustic but luxurious with plush sofa's, old industrial tables and quirky touches, such as the polo mallets hung on the wall (pictured below), a nod to the local polo tradition in Cirencester. 


The hotel has taken eight years to develop and cost over £7 million pounds, and thank goodness there are people out there that will take on a project of this magnitude as everywhere you dig in Cirencester you find something Roman, which then requires painstaking excavation. You can find pieces from the dig on display around the hotel and in the reception there is a glass floor overlooking a Roman mosaic, understandably as in 4 AD Cirencester was second only to London in importance! 


There was even the most bizarre detail on the staircase where the iron balustrade had a face engraved, and as you climbed the three stories the face aged from unbearded young man to an old man with no hair and long beard! 



I digress, back to the food! We were treated to plates of food which we shared enthusiastically,  marveling over each dish as it was presented. Starting with nibbles the melt-in-your-mouth grilled sticky lamb ribs (£3.95) were to die for and quail's scotch eggs (£3.45) were amazing! 

The new concept behind this menu is to share, this restaurant doesn't turn its tables, it's all about the quality, experience and the enjoyment of food. The main courses are rustic but refined and mainly cooked over hot charcoal on the Robarta Grill (in Japanese cuisine, robatayaki means fireside-cooking). 

What followed was a dining experience like no other, we were treated to plate after plate of the most delicious food; English asparagus, poached egg yolk and bacon (£5.45); spring greens, wild garlic and pine nuts (£4.45); fired diver caught scallop cauliflower and chorizo (£6.45). My personal highlights included the most tender pork fillet I have ever tasted, accompanied with chard, apple and cider sauce (£10.45), The venison was equally tender and served with delicious braised red cabbage, chocolate and hazelnuts (£9.95) and I just have to mention the 220gm USDA prime grade Sirloin steak, hand cut chips and béarnaise sauce (£59.95 to share) and the white asparagus, rapeseed oil and baked duck egg (£11.50) was exceptional. 

And then there were the puddings...

The custard tart with milk ice cream (£4.95) was the lightest custard tart I have ever tasted (top picture), I reluctantly passed it to my neighbour, but in return he passed me the most delicious warm rice pudding (£4.95) a good trade indeed. When I enquired about the ingredients for the rice pudding, they were the same that I use at home; pudding rice, whole milk, caster sugar and a vanilla pod, but my pudds never taste as good! The chocolate pudding with pistachio ice-cream (£5.45) and white chocolate and blood orange cheesecake with orange sorbet (£4.95) were equally amazing and just enough to render me immobile! 

We ate, shared, compared, laughed and passed the plates around the table, in the communal way in which it is intended to be enjoyed. The Romans' knew how to dine all those years ago, it seems only right that thousands of years later the Kings Head is going back to traditional Cirencester dining! 

The Kings Head also has five 'cheese champions', staff trained by Neal's Yard and passionate about showcasing fine cheese from across the UK. We sampled seven cheeses each presented to us by Miles that we enjoyed with crackers and quince jam, I particularly enjoyed the Isle of Mull cheddar, light in colour and with a fruity tang.  


After an evening of pure gastronomy it was time for bed and I was treated to a complimentary stay in one of the hotels 45 rooms, thank goodness after drinking margaritas and the finest red wine! I fell into the huge bed and propped myself up with the pillows to watch the election coverage, I was however, asleep in seconds!



The bedroom was beautifully furnished, the carpet luxuriously deep, the bathroom beautifully big and light with lovely pure-wool blind at the huge window and the bed huge and oh so comfortable, so much so, I overslept! 


I will certainly return to the Kings Head to take my family and use the spa with friends, I am still dreaming about the barbecued lamb ribs! Although not far from home, I've never really explored Cirencester and I really enjoyed time off from 'mum duties' to take the time to notice the amazing architecture and listen to the organ music wafting from the Abbey in the heart of the town. This is the perfect place to meet friends, enjoy the spa, eat out with family or sneak away with the other half, the hotel is rustic and relaxed but the attention to detail and exceptional service really raise the bar and sets The Kings Head apart from any other hotel I've stayed in! 

To celebrate the opening of the Vaulted Spa at the Kings Head hotel receive 20% off all treatments booked during the month of May so if you are in need of a manicure or pedicure, fancy a facial or hoping to unwind after a stressful day or just for some space to relax this is an opportunity not to miss. Please quote celebrate at time of booking.
 
T&C’s
 
20% discount applies to treatments booked during the month of May to take place between 1stMay and 31st May 2015, treatments available Monday to Friday and exclude weekends and bank holidays, normal cancellation policy applies, subject to availability at time of booking and for new bookings only.

The Kings Head is situated in the Market Place in Cirencester, at the heart of the Cotswold's and less than two hours from London by road or rail. Visit www.kingshead-hotel.co.uk to find out more.

MEETING EMILY QUINTON AT THE HAMBLEDON


It was an absolute pleasure to be invited to an Emily Quinton Instagram workshop at The Hambledon, Cowley Manor as part of Emily's book tour to promote her new book, Makers Spaces. Emily teaches bloggers and makers how to get the most out of taking photographs for their work in her 'Makelight' courses and at the workshop she shared hints, tips and tools of the trade on how she has built up a huge Instagram following. She was lovely and open about what had worked for her and what hadn't, enthusiastically answering our many questions.


The workshop took place in The Hambledon at Cowley Manor, the smaller younger sister of the trend setting store The Hambledon, Winchester. The Hambledon at Cowley Manor is a small boutique shop with gorgeous clothes, books, jewellery, party things, festoon lights and great cards. Gorgeous things, beautifully styled for people looking to buy something a little bit different.


After the workshop we popped into Cowley Manor next door for lunch where we enjoyed bowls of pleasingly green coloured, pea and dill soup before we strolled around the gorgeous grounds in the sunshine.

The next workshops at The Hambledon Cowley are on the 28th May with Meri Meri, see here for more information.
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