Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Taste Of Winter In Summer

After making the cake for Lyds birthday I was left with a remainder of marzipan kicking about that I wanted to do something with.  I really had no ideas; I'm not the biggest cake baker and nor am I the biggest marzipan fan.

So I asked my friends on Facebook what I should do with 200g of marzipan and Ben Frazer (who was also in the Bake Off this year) came up with the genius suggestion of stollen.  Not only is it something I had never tried (which therefore appealed) but its also a firm favourite of Tasha's!

After some searching of the Internet (and also of my cupboard) this was the recipe I stuck together.  Its strongly based on something by Delia, but tweaked based upon others I read and what ingredients were available to me.

350g bread flour
150g milk
50g caster sugar
10g dried yeast
2g salt
110g butter
1 egg
90g raisins (you could split this with sultanas or currants)
40g chopped dried apricots
25g glace cherries (quartered)
25g mixed candied peel
25g ground almonds
25g whole almonds
200g marzipan
a good glug of Sailor Jerry

Here's what ya do....

1) get your raisins and apricots in a bowl and give them a good glug of rum to soak in.  Let them soak for as long as you can.  I've since found a jar marked "boozy fruits '08 which I'll be using next time!
2) warm the milk, add a little of the caster sugar and the yeast.  Set aside and watch it form a foamy head
3) in a mixing bowl add 325g of the flour (notice that is not all of it), the milk from step 2, butter, remaining sugar, salt and egg (beaten).
4) mix it all together and then add the fruits and nuts. (don't add the surplus Sailor Jerry, this dough is wet enough as it is!)
5) knead it on your worktop for 5 mins, clean the mixing bowl, get the dough back in the bowl and cover with clingfilm.  Set it aside to double.  Don't rush these things, mine sat for 2 hours.
6) turn the dough back out onto your worktop and add the remaining 25g of flour.  Knock it back and give it a good knead for a few minutes.
7) push the dough out till its roughly the size of a magazine.  Roll out the marzipan until its roughly the width of your dough.  Place the marzipan at the top of your dough and roll up the dough, tightly wrapping your marzipan within your doughy goodness.
8) set the oven to 190 degrees, dust your baking tray and place your unbaked stollen into the middle.  Lightly oil some clingfilm (this stops it sticking to the dough) and cover the dough once more to double in size.
9) once doubled bake for 35 minutes. 

This will give you a great stollen, equally perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea.  As you can see I went with more of an afternoon tea focus with mine and mixed 110g icing sugar with a tablespoon (plus a squeeze) of lemon juice to make a sweet glaze.

Save this recipe, you'll want it when December arrives I promise you!

Birthdays at Hugh Fearnley-Whatshisnames Place

A few weeks back (Sat 13th August) we were once again bundled into the Mighty Benz at a much too early hour to embark on a day trip to Devon.  With the memories of my previous effort still at the forefront of my mind I was being a right grumpy old man about the trip.

We were celebrating Tasha's Mum's birthday (even though it was actually Michi's birthday) and were looking forward to surprising her with a visit to the River Cottage canteen/deli in Axminster.  I have to be honest, there were a few occasions when I might have mentioned about the eateries we could have visited if we had saved the cash we would be spending on fuel and gone somewhere closer to home - my early morning grump really was in full swing!

Thankfully my grumbles were all proven to be wide of the mark, our early start meaning we beat the traffic and arrived in Axminster to meet up with the rest of the troop by mid-morning!  What was even more surprising was that Lyd hadn't managed to work out where we were going and she seemed over the moon with our choice of venue!

You can't reserve tables at the deli, and so we killed some time around the local shops before the canteen section of the deli opened at Midday for lunch.  After ogling the tasty treats in the deli we queued up eagerly waiting to be seated.

As we peeked inside through the open doors everything looked very 'River Cottage' ...

... and with Tim (yeah, him off the telly!) driving the ovens this was the most eagerly anticipated lunches I'd had in a very long time!

With the chalkboard menus and the wooden dining furniture it had a real rustic canteen feel to it, and one that I found very welcoming and comfortable.  I felt quite happy to wander about and explore the place and take a load of photo's!  I forget the menu's, apart from the fact mussels and chips were ordered, but the drinks menu is a little clearer in my mind ...

And what cracking mussels and chips they were too.  Seriously, THE BEST chips I have EVER had!

Of course Alfie dived in too and stole as much of our lunch as he could before turning back to his own.  He had a sausage/pasta dish, something I had forgotten until I saw this photo.  It would appear he couldn't quite fit it all into his mouth in one hit (either that or he's pooing mid mouthful).

And I'm guessing I pointed this out to him at the time as I was greeted with the following unimpressed expression;

As we were celebrating birthdays Michi and I had made cake the night before (making cake for her own party, how much does that suck!) and we all enjoyed a coffee and walnut battenburg to end the meal.  You'll be pleased to know it looked better than the one I threw together on the Bake Off ... but my squares still weren't equal.  I just can't trim things down, I'm a 'more cake' kinda guy lol.

With our empty plates cleared I was despatched to get Tim to sign Lyd's recently gifted River Cottage book and then figured it would be fitting to grab a photo of the family at the table;

but instead I seem to have only succeeded in capturing the moment my son 'checked out' the passing waitress! 

If you scroll back up to the photo of the drinks menu you will see it's hung on the side of a little balcony.  In my adventures I had discovered this leads out to a gorgeous little roof terrace!  I bet this is a brilliant place to be when the sun is shining and the cider is flowing!

Ammie had planned for us to head to Lyme Regis once we finished our lunch; after all we still had most of the day left and it would be crazy not to make the most of a daytrip to Devon.  For some reason the years of visiting my Nan & Granded as a child had left me with the impression that Lyme Regis wasn't exactly the most glamorous place in the world.  I warned the others as such, and therefore I like to think that me setting such low expectations in some ways contributed to how lovely the place was!  Lyme Regis was perfect Devon with a sandy beach, fishing trips, people walking dogs, and even old men riding old motorbikes!

It was only a short trip down to Lyme Regis, but after a long day Alfie decided to take this opportunity to grab a moment of shut eye.  It was a bit chilly, a typical British day in August, so we zipped him inside my top and went in search of the ice cream and the beach!

With the beach successfully found, and a wicked ice cream stall sourced, Alfie promptly awoke from his slumber not wanting to miss the tasty treats!  Isn't it amazing how kids always manage to do that!

For the rest of the afternoon we played a little on the beach, and wandered around the cool selection of shops.  We found a particularly fascinating antique shop which Tash and I could probably have spent hundreds in!  But Alfie preferred the beach.

With a long return journey ahead of us our departure time came all too soon, and we left Lyme Regis looking to click off some miles before stopping for our dinner.  We found a Little Chef to stop and enjoy our grub (pie's bought from River Cottage no less) and settled in the comfort of the boot of the Benz to enjoy our treats.

As I went for a wander with Harry to stretch his legs I thought to myself that this is a perfectly placed eatery.  Fred, Lyd, Ammie, Tom and Michie were making the journey home in their Skoda and I wondered if they too might stop there.  Oddly enough just seconds later I saw a very familiar silver Fabia pull into the car park!!  And so once more we were all seated around the dinner table together!

I haven't been to a Little Chef for years, and I was quite looking forward to seeing what Heston had done to the place.  I had to try one of the cherry pancakes that I remember enjoying so much as a child!  I'm pleased to say the coffee they serve was lovely, sadly their pancakes weren't. 

Feeling somewhat disappointed at my childhood memory being shattered there was only one thing that could save the day and cheer me up for the journey home.  Did they still have the takeaway treat to enjoy in the car?  YOUBETYA!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

VSCC at Prescott Hillclimb

This happened back on Sunday 7th August.  There was two weeks to go 'till RRG11 and David and I made the trip through the Cotswold countryside to see Prescott in full swing.  We wanted one final chance to chat with the staff, evaluate how our planned layout might work, and see how a well established event got the most out of such a prestigious and attractive venue.

We love the VSCC guys, they were 'in attendance' at our first event in 2007, and they filled the paddock with some awesome machinery.  And educated me on how a fireguard should really be used!

I wasn't there to take snaps, but there were a huge number of cars that caught the eye.  And some impressive machinery being pedalled up the hill!

The Cotswold countryside makes such a beautiful backdrop, I swear its impossible not to have a good time at Prescott.

And much like the Goodwood Revival, folk like to really get in the mood.  Be that with a luxury picnic in the orchard ...

... or watching the track action from the comfort of your sofa (in the back of your truck!)


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just take 5 minutes ...

August is crazy.  It always is.  My show, Retro Rides Gathering takes place on the 21st, and so my mind focuses on nothing else until it is over and done with.  Tash frequently utters the words "next August we are moving out!"

I have a lot of blogging to catch up on!  We've had days out to River Cottage, planned a cycle to Gibraltar and got my face in a book ... but I can't concentrate on any of it until after the Gathering.

The Great British Bake Off gets its first airing tonight, and currently I'm not sure if I'm going to manage to sit down to see it!  I promise to blog about all this, and of course the final part in my Bake-Off adventure, sometime over the next week or so.

Having said all that, I just clicked on something posted by my friend Paul Cullen and was so mesmerised I spent a complete 5 minutes thinking of nothing apart from "wow, that is totally insane, I wish I could do that".  So go grab yourself a cup of Assam Tea, get yourself comfy, and forget about everything else in life!