Sunday, 30 September 2012

apple day...



raspberry cake picture, above left, by Anne-Marie Randall 


(picture above of left to right: Silvana de Soissons, Judith Munro and me by Anne-Marie Randall)

Apples are ripe
Nuts are brown
Petticoats up
Trousers down! 

(a saucy old Suffolk saying!)

Celebrating apple day in our village, with a communal apple pressing on the great oak press, poetry and songs, cider and stew, apple bobbing, toffee apples and a baking competition judged by the fabulous Silvana de Soissons the founder of The Foodie Bugle.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

eating the view...


For over a year I have been reading amazing reviews about The Ethicurean restaurant at Barley Wood Walled Garden and wanted to visit. So today, my birthday, my husband took the day off work and we ventured off on a jaunt while the two oldest boys were in school.


The restaurant won The Observers best ethical restaurant award in 2011 and it's not hard to see why, the vegetables must jump from their beds in the amazing walled kitchen garden, through the windows and onto the plates! Forget food miles, this is food metres.


I was disappointed that there wasn't any Barley Wood Apple Juice or Cider, but like everywhere else, this years crop of apples have been poor. Owner and Head Chef Matthew Pennington joked "We can't have wassailed the trees properly!" but I don't believe that for one minute as the annual wassail looks amazing. My husband a cider and real ale connoisseur (although round here he would be called something else!) took great delight in an extensive real ale and cider menu from local breweries. He chose a goat's leap beer which was served in a jug, I chose a thirst quenching Fentiman's Victorian Lemonade.


We shared some delicious sour dough bread for starters, with oil and balsamic dip, and for our main course he chose an Arctic Char salad with new potatoes which arrived sprinkled with marigold petals, I decided upon an open rare beef sandwich, with sourdough, salad and pickled elderberries (pictured above). The food was every bit as good as we had been led to believe and the restaurant was enchanting, with mismatched furniture and a lovely relaxed vibe with tunes such as Take Five by Dave Brubeck complementing the panoramic view of the Mendips through the windows.


My husband refrained from pudding, I would never be so rude and tucked into a piece of Barley Wood sticky toffee apple cake with cream and a dusting of cinnamon, which was delicious with a cup of tea served in a vintage tea cup.



We mooched around the garden, admiring the still fruiting strawberries, courgettes, rows of salads and espaliered fruit trees, wishing we had a garden just the same. Woe betide any rabbit that ventures into this 'Mr. McGregor's' garden, they'll probably end up on the menu! All-in-all a bit of a 'garden' themed day as my husband bought me Nigel Slater's Tender cookery books for my birthday, one focuses on fruit, the other veg, which has refueled my desire to grow and eat more homegrown fare.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Five have fun on the Farm...


We raced against the setting sun last Friday, firstly along the M4 then due to heavy traffic a detour along the A40 to get to Pant yr Hwch, a Feather Down Farm in west Wales. We were greeted by lovely owners Martin and Ann Jones who showed us to our tent, as the last of the suns rays teased us before setting. Martin had called a few days earlier to make sure we had received everything, and had offered to take Ann's homemade bolognese out of the freezer for us to heat on our arrival, which was a godsend with very hungry boys, who wolfed it down and helped themselves to seconds!


Feather Down Farms, for those of you who don't know the concept, are at the posher end of camping, with comfy beds and duvets, bedrooms and a flushable loo! All are situated on working farms, and each farm has a minimum of five, maximum of ten tents, so it will never feel crowded. Life revolves around the stove, when to light it and what to cook on it, as free range children are constantly ravenous and I will always need a cup of tea!


There is an honesty shop on the farm, which stocks; thick bacon and sausages from Martin's wooly pigs, eggs from the chickens, local butter, Ann's amazing bread and cakes, homemade elderflower cordial and champagne, jams and chutneys and locally brewed beer, even marshmallows for the open fires you can light outside the tent. The welcome folder is full of information about the history of the farm and also includes recipes for damper bread and baked bananas, stuff that childhood memories are made of.


Pant yr Hwch is an 11 acre small holding with two huge wooly pigs, donkeys, chickens, ducks, bees and a small flock of beautiful badger faced sheep, that originate in this part of west Wales. Martin and Ann let you roam around the farm at your leisure and the animals, used to small children, let them get obligingly close! The boys took great delight looking after the chickens and rounding up the sheep like sheepdogs!


The highlight of the boys weekend was being allowed to drive (or rather steer) the tractor around the field, they absolutely loved it, and now want to be farmers when they grow up.


My highlight was cooking pizzas in the pizza oven, we used up the remaining bolognese on top of one pizza, which was delicious and made blackberry, fennel and goats cheese pizzas too. 


This holiday we...

read... 

visited...
Aberaeron for a drink in the Harbourmaster Inn and went crabbing on the harbour wall using kits borrowed from Pant yr Hwch, we took slices of Ann's freshly baked and still warm, blackberry and coconut cake to eat as we crabbed! Martin said the record catch was 34 crabs, we managed one!

wanted... 
to visit both Conti's Italian cafe in Lampeter for the ice cream and the 25 Mile Restaurant in Cardigan but we didn't have enough time!


We all absolutely loved our stay on the farm and are already planning our return next Easter, hopefully to see the lambs!


We stayed at Pant yr Hwch courtesy of Feather Down Farm.

I will be uploading more pics from our trip here.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

making hedgerow jam...


Straining a mixture of crab apples, blackberries and elder berries to make some hedgerow jelly, which will be our entry to our village's apple day baking competition! 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

stained fingers...


Picked even more blackberries today to make some hedgerow jam with the boys. Foraging in brambles is slightly precarious when you're carrying a baby! 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Slugs, snails & puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of...


To celebrate Stanley's christening yesterday, we decided to have a snail race. Little boys are made of slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails, according to the children's poem!


Back in 2008 we were lucky enough to visit the World snail racing championship in Norfolk. We thought we could host our own, and with the help of grandad, who cut us out a large circle of wood, we made a simple racing board. You simply put your snail in the middle and the one that reaches the edge first wins.


I found an old cup, which we had engraved at the cobblers in town with "Stanley's snail race" to present to the winning family.


My very pretty goddaughters wore their beautiful 'I love gorgeous' dresses with silver shoes and took it in turns to 'mother' little Stanley, along with our friends two year old mother hen, Evie, who just loves him!


I wanted to do a simple seasonal lunch, using blackberries as a theme and through my Pinterest board found all kinds of delicious inspiration.
Menu 

Garden vegetable tart
Homemade coleslaw
Crusty bread
Grandma's homegrown salad 
Pea, courgette and bacon saute  


followed by

Apple & blackberry crumble in teacups
Blackberry iced tea pops for the children


Obviously I completely overlooked how much blackberries stain, especially when children are in their Sunday best! 



My friend Jenny made a simple cake, decorated with a snail made out of icing! She is amazingly talented and also took the bottom four photo's. 


Excuse the middle child, no amount of cajoling could get him to stop pulling faces! Oh well at least he was good in the church.


and after a hard days racing the snails earned a quiet retirement in the compost bin! 


Thursday, 6 September 2012

through my children's eyes...


I always wonder how my sons would describe me or their childhood if they ever write an autobiography when they are older. I am always bemused when I meet siblings who grew up sharing the same parents and experiences but often have such a different take on it. When I read books it's always the descriptions of parents that really stand out, it reminds me just how important my role is as their mother is. Here are a couple of quotes from some of my favourite books; 

“I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I've also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It's sure to be a phony.” 
Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl 

"The lack of sisters and daughters was something Mother always regretted; brothers and sons being her lifetime's lot. She was a dreamy child, it seemed, with a curious, hungry mind; and she was given to airs of incongruous elegance which never quite suited her background..."

"... I don't think she ever knew what had made him desert her, though the reasons seemed clear enough. She was too honest, too natural for this frightened man; too remote from his tidy laws. She was, after all, a country girl; disordered, hysterical, loving. She was muddled and mischievous as a chimney-jackdaw, she made her nest of rags and jewels, was happy in the sunlight, squawked loudly at danger, pried and was insatiably curious, forgot when to eat or ate all day, and sang when sunsets were red. She lived by the easy laws of the hedgerow, loved the world and made no plans, had a quick holy eye for natural wonders and couldn't have kept a neat house for her life." 
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Do you ever wonder how your children would describe you? 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

lazy Sunday afternoon...


I have a new way of stopping the boys traipse mud through the house, my new (old) tin bath! Perfect for a quick dip in the garden.
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