Saturday, 18 November 2017

WILD BAKING WITH THE HERBERT'S


“Wild baking is more than being outdoors and it’s more than baking. It’s a way of cooking that is somehow more timeless, convivial, nutritious and hugely satisfying.
Tom Herbert 

Starting the campfire

At the heart of Tom and Anna Herbert’s home the kitchen is full of life, and children, and dogs. Anna has just baked a flapjack and is cutting it into chunks, offering it to us with coffee as we arrive bringing our own family-of-five chaos with us as the husband has just spent three hours at hospital with a child and a suspected broken thumb which turned out not to be. Anna is discussing with Tom the best way to froth milk, he has of course just discovered a new way using a cafetiere to froth, that pretty much sums up Tom, interested and enthusiastic about everything and always with a gadget or new way to do things!


smoke signals across the valley

We are at the Herbert’s to celebrate Tom’s new book Do Wild Baking / Food, fire and good times, published by The Do Book Company and are planning an afternoon of cooking on the fire. Tom has a box of autumn veg ready and the jewel like coloured veg is displayed alongside sweet chestnuts and medlars picked by Anna from the garden. We finish our coffee and venture down to the bottom of the garden. 



The boys set about chopping kindling and gathering sticks and logs for the fire, Tom teaching us a Canadian way of blowing the fire to get it going by making a tiny diamond shape between our thumbs and forefingers that directs the breath more precisely. My boys are then occupied for hours with saws and axes, chopping and stacking and stoking the fire, well that and scrumping the apples from Anna’s trees! 


Us trying to avoid the smoke, fuelled by tea and homemade flapjack

As the campfire burned fiercely and we chatted about nothing and everything, broken and unfinished sentences as a different child interjected or was dispatched to the kitchen to retrieve something. We all did a strange sychronised dance around the fire to stop the smoke in getting in our eyes but inevitably smoking ourselves as much as smoked kippers!  


making a seasonal veg parcel to cook buried in the fire 

We left the fire supervised whilst Tom showed us how to mill our own flour. I had visions of big stones and hours of grinding reminiscent of school trips but Tom true to form had a new mill, powered by electric but with stones inside into which he poured organic spelt and rye, and we watched hypnotised by the patterns the grain made as it filtered down. He mixed the flour with sourdough starter and fermented rosewater into a dough, popping it into a bowl topped with a shower cap to prove before making into flatbreads. 



Tom and Anna chopped seasonal veg of onion, squash and beetroot into a foil parcel with fennel seeds we then buried it in the embers as the flames died down. Then onions, tomatoes, peppers, chilli, garlic and lemon were cut in half and placed onto the ash of the fire, this was for the campfire salsa. 


cooking the veg in the embers to make campfire salsa

Once the skins had become charred and the veg cooked they were carefully lifted from the fire, squeezed from their skins and I was put to work chopping them into small chunks with the juice of the lemon squeezed over the top and fresh parsley chopped. 



Finally, the ingredients that needed the least amount of cooking were added to the fire as it was losing its intensity, the steaks and the dough, swiftly shaped into flatbreads and baked. The feast was shared between us as we huddled around the fire sat on the mossy ground, rocks and stumps, the low autumn sun creating the most magical golden light. We tucked into our feast washed down with a hoppy-cider, almost forgetting to dig up the parcel of autumn veg from under the embers! 



A feast created, shared and enjoyed. We left nourished and inspired to have more wild baking adventures. 



Do Wild Baking is out now and contains 50 recipes and all the information you need to have your own wild baking adventure, £8.99 published by The Do Book Company.


TOM'S WILD BAKING BOOK GIVEAWAY!

I have a signed and slightly smoked copy of Wild Baking that I'm giving away over on Instagram right now and I’ll randomly draw a winner after 8pm Friday 24th November.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

THE CULPEPER IN EAST LONDON


From the moment I saw glimpses of The Culpeper, situated in Spitalfields in East London on Instagram I wanted to stay there. The pictures of the cool almost 'unstyled' and 'unfinished' bedrooms, a roof terrace with greenhouse bar and a pub full of plants and pretty people ~ what's not to love?

When we arrived in the big city it was a Friday night, and the cool city kids were spilling out of the pub onto the pavement outside, all cool with blunt trendy hairdo's and beards. It was obviously the place to be.

The staff were really lovely showing us to our room, one of only five on the second floor, where the noisy pub could hardly be heard. The room had naked plastered walls, a huge comfortable bed with wooden headboard and cool decor with a very gorgeous lampshade that I'm still lusting after!


As it was a gorgeous evening the roof terrace was open and being guests at The Culpeper, we were put to the top of the waiting list for a terrace table. The views of the London skyline were amazing, the gherkin and so many cranes were a fabulous backdrop to the 'allotment style' rooftop terrace where tables were interspersed with planters full of vegetables and edible flowers.


The menu is packed with home-grown produce and is simple, seasonal and tasty, in fact everything that we wanted to do in our pub! We chose lamb and steak that was cooked on the griddle in the greenhouse bar and a couple of side dishes; mixed leaves from the rooftop, homegrown carrots that were served with their ferny carrot tops and anchovy butter and chips, which we didn't need at all but ordered out of habit! It was delicious and was washed down with a couple of cocktails and a few ciders whilst we watched the sun go down. 

When we retired to bed we could hear a murmur from the restaurant diners below on the first floor and the scraping of chairs on the terrace above but nothing so loud that it kept us awake in such a comfortable bed. In the morning we didn't wake early and lazily appeared at breakfast in the restaurant at the same time as everyone else, who had similar leisurely ideas. The breakfast included in the price of an overnight stay was again simple with fruit, pastries and granola alongside a modest amount of cooked options, the husband chose smashed avocado and eggs on sourdough whilst I greedily enjoyed a full English. 

I don't mean to gush so, but rarely is something as good in real life as it looks with Instagram filters but The Culpeper does. Dare I say it's possibly the most Instagram friendly pub in the East End and with such friendly staff too. We loved it, the decor was very 'us' with its rustic simplicity, although not sure I could pursuede the husband to have the same plastered walls! 

Rooms cost £120/night and more information, menus and pictures can be found here www.theculpeper.com

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A CAMP INSPIRED BIRTHDAY PARTY


Short on time this year I feared I had run out of inspiration for the little man's birthday, but some last minute searching online rewarded me with some simple short cuts that saved the day!

I made a chocolate cake using a recipe from Monty Don's Home cookbook, which always makes a rich, luxurious chocolate cake that rises really well. Then I covered it with a rich chocolate buttercream icing. With the 'camp' theme I made a very simple tent from card and broke off a few twigs from my twisted hazel bush in the garden and pushed them in to look like trees. Then I melted some pear drops in the oven, using baking parchment. Once the red and yellow pear drops had melted I swirled them together to create a fiery orange colour and left to cool. I snapped the cooled and now very hard sweet mixture into small shards and made a campfire by adding them to some matchmakers.


The retro Americana party bags were made with these happy camper pennants, I bought the artwork from Etsy for £4.80 and then printed them out and pegged them on some plain brown sandwich bags, £6.99 for 20 on Amazon, ready to fill with cake and small gifts, so they worked out at 59p/bag.

I found these gorgeous bear invitations on Etsy and for £9.61 (conversion rate from dollars) the artist personalised them for me within hours and sent a jpeg to print, which I thought was good value as I had plenty of kraft paper to print them out on.



I also found these cool scavenger hunt cards for a cool party game, again buying just the jpeg for £4.80 to print out at home, I'd have loved to have had the time to make my own but these were brilliant for five year olds. We also had a tiger, as an older brother wanted to dress up and surprise everyone at the party... grrrrrrreat fun!



Wednesday, 23 August 2017

REVIEW: GIFFORDS CIRCUS 2017


It's difficult to describe Giffords Circus to those that haven't had the joy of visiting. It is like stepping into another world, one created by Nell Gifford in 2000, stitched together from her childhood dreams, with dancing ponies and costumes handmade from her mothers old velvet curtains. It has grown since the early years with a bigger big top, but retains that earnest 'handmade and simple' quality of its humble beginnings.



You are drawn to its beauty, the vintage showman's wagons with their burgundy livery, adorned with festoon lights and the storytelling and slapstick humour of Tweedy, the 'vaudeville style' clown, who this year is funnier than ever with trusty sidekick Keef - an iron!



This year Giffords newcomers include Nelson and Bruno, the moustache brothers, whose acrobatic capers and slapstick style compliment Tweedy and between them have the audience roaring with laughter from the moment they enter the ring.



There is a high-energy Cuban troupe with a swing act, almost touching the canvas roof of the tent with their jaw-dropping somersaults and an eerie hushed silence as the Russian gymnast Sergei performs the most amazing balancing act and all I can do is wonder whether he was an Olympic gymnast in a former life, he is so amazing.

I look around the big top and the rest of the audience like me are mesmerised, clapping and cheering until our ribs ache!



But wait, there's more to Gifford's, the food at the circus has got even better and this year there's a new wagon serving Field Food, a bit like 'street food' but from the fields and in places foraged along the way. The boys love the pizza's from the pizza wagon that uses Chadwick Ovens, but the new field food was absolutely delicious, with pulled pork and rhubarb brioche buns that I'm still salivating over weeks later.



You can find out more by visiting www.giffordscircus.com but be quick if you want to see it this year as it ends on September 24th with a big charity performance.


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

IT'S BEEN FAR TOO LONG...


What can I say? It's been far too long. I've ignored this blog for over six months and I don't really have much of an excuse apart from life really. We left the pub at the beginning of April, not because it wasn't working, but because we'd put up with enough and couldn't see it changing over the next few years so cut our loses and moved on as quickly as we'd moved in. I couldn't talk about it for a while, well wishers sending me messages and people I didn't know asking if we'd split up, it was all a bit too much attention really. 

The boys were sad and a little confused at first, but I have never been more certain about anything in my life, it wasn't right for us. The whole pub journey was good for us, it held up a mirror and made us decide on what was more important. The business was a success and still is, a young local couple have taken it on and I hear it's doing really well but we haven't been back yet. 

The whole transition was really hard and there was a time when we didn't know if we'd be able to keep our house or find jobs and I just prayed that we'd find something. I started a new job two days after we left the pub and I hadn't realised how exhausted I was, I'd lost nearly three stone but work was therapy and a way of not having to deal with money worries. 

It's now four months later and I feel that normality has resumed, I now appreciate our house, which I hated before with it's 1970's utilitarian lack of personality, I appreciate being in the middle of a village and not in the middle of the countryside and I appreciate the time we have as a family. 

I'm sure some of you by now have shouted at this blog at my naivety, of course it was never going to be easy, of course we'd lose family time and of course breweries are notoriously difficult but hey I had my rose tinted glasses on and we wanted more than anything to create something that was ours, I still do. 

My only regret is that the children might think we've failed when all we wanted to do was make them proud and make more money for their future. It wasn't for us and there's not a day that goes by that I'm not grateful to be out of there. We learned a lot during our 'mid-life' crisis and we'd do it all over again, but maybe choose a different adventure next time!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

THIS BLOGGING MALARKY


I have just realised that in the summer this blog will be ten years old! Ten years I've been here in this little corner of the inter web writing a whole load of waffle and sharing pictures. It seems like a very long time.

I have been very slack of late writing here and I certainly don't blog as much as I used to, I often ponder whether I should just close it down and hang out on Instagram instead. I'm still undecided.

I started writing the blog and sharing bits and bobs when my second child was a babe in arms, his cot was in the spare room where the computer was and in the quiet darkness of the night when he woke for a feed, I'd power up the whirring pc and discover a world of other mums and creative types online.

It wasn't just blogs I'd read, I soon became addicted to flickr, discovering other film photographers, although I always found it strange that we'd scan in our images to make them digital to upload!

One of the best things about this blogging malarky is the people that I've met and now call friends. It cuts out that initial 'finding out about you' courtship, instead you know that you have loads in common, I guess similar to online dating.

So all that leaves me to ponder is one very big question just how do you celebrate a virtual birthday? Ideas would be most welcome...

Saturday, 11 February 2017

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE


This morning I was invited to a bloggers brunch at The Bottle of Sauce in Cheltenham, which was fab. A chance to catch up and meet new bloggers and 'grammars from around Cheltenham and the Cotswolds and set the world to rights, we should do it every Saturday! 

I heard heard about The Bottle, the latest pub from the Oxford based institution the Dodo Pub Co who also own the Rickety Press and The Rusty Bicycle in Oxford. It has a uber trendy dark grey exterior that I just love and a very cool interior, red brick walls, trendy sign writing, exposed beams and plenty of enamelware as well as a games room with table tennis table and table football. 



The menu is simple, rustic and bang up to the minute with wood fired oven fired pizzas, burgers and the all important weekend brunch featuring bottomless filter coffee and bottomless bloody Mary's! We enjoyed brunch, which included dishes such as The Boss Man - a full English for £10, really filling buttermilk pancakes for £7 and the chilli avo' smash - avocado, poached eggs, chilli, lime and coriander on sour dough toast for £7. They even have a hangover club - if the Bottle of Sauce has caused your hangover the night before they'll take 25% off your breakfast the morning after - you can't say fairer than that! I love the branding and logo too...


I'm looking forward to revisiting with the family for a game of table tennis and to order the truffle fungi pizza or maybe the pear and prosciutto pizza or even a mother clucker (buttermilk chicken) burger! decisions decisions...

www.thebottleofsauce.com
@BottleofsauceGL

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

LONDON CALLING


Parenting guilt is the worst and I seem to carry it on my shoulders as if it were my army rank and number at the moment. My children also know how to tap into this guilt as if they are targeted missiles. So after neglecting them over the past two weeks of the school holidays as the pub has been super busy we decided to treat our family to 24 hours in London with a stopover in a hotel! My husband closed the pub for the first time in six months so the minute all the customers left on Bank Holiday Monday we jumped in the car to the big smoke.


We stayed in the trendy Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, sharing a room with two double beds, perfect for the five of us to squeeze into. The room had a record player and vinyl that you could buy and take home should you wish. We wandered along Brick Lane eating warm bagels from the bagel shops and  discovered the amazing Princelet Street and the pink house pictured above.



We marvelled at the graffiti and squashed into the Photo Booth at Rough Trade for some souvenir selfies. We then travelled across town to the ice rink at the Natural History Museum to skate under the twinkly lights, which was great fun and now my favourite Christmas tradition.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...