Castell Henlys, Pembrokeshire

Last weekend we were once more in Pembrokeshire and one day we had a change from our usual activities and joined the tourist trail and visited this reconstructed Iron Age Fort at Castell Henlys.

Round House Reconstruction

Round House Reconstruction

We walked up from the carpark past a stream where Brian saw a goldcrest flashing through the trees with a group of other small birds; the verges along the path were aglow with cowslips, dandelions, emerging violets and early campion.

On the hilltop plateau swirls a curve of thatched Iron Age roundhouses; from small Zeb-sized ones, to massive ones where you can imagine how to cook, spin and dye, weave, snooze, mill grain, tend the stew pot and, work with iron age tools, share meals, talk and dream. The learned guide on site was utterly charming, she wears clothes she had made from her own weavings on her warp-weighted looms. However when I asked her about Iron Age underwear she laughed and went off to talk to some children.

When you are tired you could climb onto one of the beds and fall asleep. Outside you can turn your eyes skywards and watch red kites patrolling and swallows diving, there are little hairy piglets (a cross between ancient wild boar and a Tamworth) to talk to and woolly sheep ( a small old breed).

While we were there there was a falconry display with a collection of birds from a small merlin to a Russian Steppe Eagle. I had the dogs with me so we didn’t stay for the display as an eagle swooping low over your curly ears might not have been Zeb’s idea of fun. While this has been envisaged primarily as an educational open air museum and interactive site for children, there is  something for everyone to enjoy here and there is a new turfrooved visitor centre in the last stages of being completed which will I am sure enhance the experience for visitors later this year.

If you are visiting with children in the summer, it sounds as if there is a wealth of activities to participate in and enjoy. You can find out more about Castell Henlys from their website. dogs welcome on leads, and if you are curious how an Iron Age Roundhouse was constructed there is a fun animation to watch on the BBC website and a short piece you can read about Iron Age living here which lasted in Britain for about 800 years (from c.750 BC to AD 43). As you may know the Romans moved in shortly after that and stayed for a while.

Here is a gallery of some of our photos, a mix of Brian’s camera and my iphone to give a flavour of the place. Not the easiest of places to take photos in so I hope you get something from having a peek at them!

 

 

 

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread

Yoghurt, Wheat and Spelt Bread from Zeb Bakes

I have adapted my date kefir levain bread for those of you who don’t have kefir grains and are maybe not as fond of tending small bubbling pots as I am!  This is an experiment to see if I can approximate the same loaf using  a small quantity of dried yeast and yoghurt to replace the kefir. Continue reading

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A Somerset Jaunt

One day last week the sky turned to blue and the birds tweeted and the household was very restless so it got into the car and headed off in the direction of Somerset which isn’t really very far away. We have walked the beach at Burnham a lot recently so thought we would go somewhere else.

We decided to have lunch at the Swan in Wedmore, who had tweeted us that they were dog-friendly ‘downstairs’ and go for a short walk at Ham Wall, which allows dogs on leads in parts, though not in the hides.

As we were driving down, admiring the spring lambs, we changed our minds and thought we had better walk the dogs before going for lunch as that way they would be more likely to be calm and well behaved.

JauntinSomerset.7We went across to Cheddar Reservoir, a huge high reservoir near where Brian lived as a boy and where we have been in the past to do bird watching. People walk around the huge circular reservoir, and admire the sky mostly. It is a big place and the birds are nearly always on the other side to where you are. Big rafts of bald-headed coot, groups of seagulls, overwintering tufted ducks, mallards, pairs of courting grebes, little grebes,  the occasional Northern Diver, all sorts of waterfowl can be seen here, though it is advisable to take binoculars if you are serious. There is also a sailing club that use the Reservoir but on the morning we went no one was out on the water.

JauntinSomerset.3There were two students doing a project, one of whom was dressed in a sheet, no idea why but I thought they were very sweet.

And the sky was blue and the clouds were glorious! I have spent a little time trying to figure out why the clouds looked like this, because although not that unusual, it wasn’t typical and I am not very good at clouds. I think, and do correct me if I am wrong, that the exuberant many -fingered whispy cloud reaching out in a loving embrace to the world (and I must admit that I threw my arms wide and high and tried to hug it back) is a cirrus formation. Cirrus are high clouds that form around minerals, so I guess in this case this was sand. That week the UK had been visited by Saharan sand bearing winds, which had been combining with our local pollution to create noticeable smog in the south-east of the country; we in the West had fog two days later and fine sand deposited by night rain on our car windows.

JauntinSomerset.11The cirrus clouds were moving in one direction and the lower clouds, which I can’t figure out what they should be classified as, were moving in another direction. The whole experience of being there was joyful, expansive and light. I am addicted to big skies and watching the movement of clouds and light, they lift my soul from the gloom that I find myself in all too often.

JauntinSomerset.9

If you can find a place to look at the sky and the clouds and have a walk, well it doesn’t make your unconstructive thoughts go away, but it allows some simpler thoughts to find a place in your mind and maybe balance out some of the others. As they say in all the mindfulness books, pay attention to the here and now, and allow your thoughts to come and go, like clouds they are real but they don’t have to last forever.

Lunch at the Swan in Wedmore was lovely, we had a fine Ploughman’s lunch and two desserts, a rhubarb fool, which the chef customized for Brian so it didn’t have cream in it, and I had their malt chocolate cake with salted caramel icecream. The dogs behaved fairly well, though Mme L decided to bark at a pushchair on its way through the bar. We took dog biscuits with us so we rewarded them for being ‘good’.

Puddings.1

Puddings.2

We then headed off to Ham Wall , down the bumpy road between the drains, the green pastures full of grazing swans, and wandered down the lane to the big viewing platform. We heard various bittern booming away to each other, but didn’t see any flying. From the platform we could see swans and cormorants hanging out their wings to dry, the hedgerows were jumping with great tits and dunnock. Wild plants beginning to flower..

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A glimpse of Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall

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It has become quite a busy place and I miss the way it used to be, when I first went there with Brian all those years ago and it felt like we had it to ourselves but I guess that is the way of the world. Everything changes. It was a lovely outing!

 

Spring Green

Gardeners Delight

On the windowsill it is all happening.

artichokeSowed our first seeds on 22nd February and more to sow this week.

Komatsuma

I love seeing them coming up full of promise and full of life.

1 contorta

It is one of the best things in the world.

1 primulaThe sun has got his hat on and we are going out to play! Hip Hip Hooray!

 

Ooh La La-rdy Cake!

Dan Lepard's Lardy Cake

This week I have been on a baking spree.  I made Dan Lepard’s Lard Cake, recipe in the Hand Made Loaf, after several years of thinking about it, seeing Celia have such fun making it last year and after finding a butcher who would save me some good quality pork fat to render lard from.

I followed the method for rendering fat in the oven which I found in Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes’ by Jenifer McLagen.

Two Lardy Cakes half way through prep

Brian was delighted by this treat. The recipe in the book makes over a kilo of dough which is far too much for one Brian to eat even with help from me,  so I split the dough into two lots and used  2 x 18 cm tins to bake them in and shortened the baking time by ten minutes. I found those paper cake cases the easiest way to line the tins and it made it easy to hoik the cakes out to cool without running the risk of burning sugar syrup going everywhere.

Roll up that dough

The first one with the caster sugar topping I took to Graham at Molesworth’s, a local Bristol butchers’ shop, as he had been so kind as to keep the leaf lard back for me and was one of the few butchers I spoke to who seemed to know what I wanted so I reckoned he should get to try my first (and possibly my last ) batch of lardy cakes.

As I walked down the street with my little basket feeling slightly self conscious that I was carrying a hot lardy cake and imagining a curling aroma behind me, (thinking of Desperate Dan in the Dandy)   a man in full evening dress circa 1920 and with a top hat (not imaginary this bit)  walked past me and said ” I hope you have spring flowers in your basket.” I said  “Home made lardy cake I am afraid.” He doffed his hat to me and said “Marvellous!” It was four thirty in the afternoon. Sometimes I wish I had one of those cameras on a helmet…

Demarara Topped Lardy Cake

The second one has a topping of Demerara sugar at Brian’s insistence as that was the way his Gran made it  (as you know I never argue with Brian’s ancestors) and a few raisins.

Brian's Demerara Lardy CakeIt was suggested that Brian shared his cake but apparently this is not an option. I have had a piece and I can report that it is very light, for a lard cake, but it most definitely has an aura of fine porky goodness about it, which is deeply unfashionable and will no doubt make many people rush for their kale smoothies just looking at the photos.

Old Faithful Sourdough Starter

In its favour it is of course completely dairy free and it uses a sourdough starter as well for extra fermenty goodness.

Lardy Cake Crumb Shot 1 2 crumb shots

The crusty sugary outside is pretty good and if I was going on a forced march over hill and dale I would be grateful to stop after about six hours and eat a chunky triangle of Lard Cake with a large mug of strong  black tea, but I am not so sure I could eat this very often. I did enjoy making it though! I will try most things once, always a good principle to consider.

Lunch at Matina – St Nicholas Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas's Market, Bristol

Fresh Mint Tea at Matina in St Nicholas’s Market, Bristol

I don’t really do eating out reviews as there are so many people who do them in blogworld but just this once…

I always have a good time visiting the covered market, which runs adjacent to Corn Street in the old part of Bristol City centre.  It is a small intimate space, which hums and buzzes with small independent food stalls, where you can either pick something up to take away, or sit down in one of their improvised seating areas and tuck in to a Caribbean curry, a Moroccan tagine, or a Portuguese fish lunch. There is a juice bar, a sausage shop, a pie shop, pulled port, pita and salad bar and loads more to choose from all crammed into this glass-roofed arcade of delights.

Matina is found at the far end of the market opposite the linen stall.  There is a constant queue outside and the reason is obvious. It is staffed by three busy cooks,  one making fresh breads, one on the grill and one organizing the salads. The baker sets the pace, as each order is made as it is taken. Kurdish bread is big, soft and fluffy, something like a naan.  We loved watching the baker stretching the dough over what my friend described as looking like an oversized darning cushion before positioning it inside the tandoor oven. He did the forearm slap as well!

Fresh Fresh Fresh!

Our shared mezze

The front of Matina’s is full of huge bowls of brightly coloured fresh salads, gleaming red cabbage and yellow pickles. The combination of the smell of sizzling koftas and chicken on the grill and the magical smell of freshly baking bread was enough to stay in my memory the first time I noticed it and I have now been back twice.  They offer fresh mint tea, or rose or apple tea and you can sit in an area adjacent to the kitchen where there is a communal table and benches and watch the queue move along and chat to other hungry folk seduced by the wonderful smell of freshly cooked food.

Today Brian had another enormous wrap filled with chillis and chicken and lamb and I shared a plate of mezze with a friend. We had the grilled halloumi on courgettes and aubergines, fresh lemony humus, and tzatsiki  and pickled vegetables and sauces together with a fresh bread.

We said no to the rice or couscous that was offered with it and we ate very well both of us sharing the plate.  It is incredibly good value and well worth queuing up for if you have a spare half an hour one lunch time.

There is something about eating outside in winter that appeals to people who spend so much time indoors and in the market you are both outside and inside, sheltered from any bad weather that happens to be lurking about.  It rained again this afternoon but we are promised better weather this weekend and Spring is happening regardless. Bristol’s public green spaces are full of croci at the moment. I don’t know whether there have been mass plantings last year or whether they particularly like the damp but they are so pretty, purple and yellow and white jewels brightening the roadsides and parks. I love them!

croci in Bristol

In My Kitchen March 2014

Sunrise with Pigeon

Sunrise with Pigeon

Here we go, I have a collection of stuff to share and what better place to put it than in Celia’s In My Kitchen series? Visit Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and join in by the 10th of the month, any month and have some fun seeing what everyone is sharing.

At the moment  it is not sunrise but the evening of the last day in February, there is the lingering smell of fried haddock in batter and chips from the Fish and Chip shop on Henleaze High Street, next to the Post Office and the Garden Centre. But you will have to imagine that… suffice it to say it has no particular health benefits but is quite delicious and as the temperature dropped to a miserable 4 C today plus windchill I felt it was a perfect supper, as if I need an excuse!

Pot Stickers Steaming and Rattling on the Hob!

Pot Stickers Steaming and Rattling on the Hob!

Is that a crispy bottom I see before me?

Is that a crispy bottom I see before me?

Other delights on the kitchen table have included my first attempts at pot stickers and wontons – I can’t think what inspired me to make these? Maybe something to do with a certain Sydneysider… and the fact that we have a fantastic Chinese supermarket in Eastville where you can buy dumpling wrappers and fresh won ton skins, Jimmy’s satay sauce, fresh choy, tofu, Chinese vegetables, mysterious things lurking in freezers and more.  The supermarket even tweets as @WaiYeeHong and does online orders, so it is a treasure trove of good things. We are quite spoilt in Bristol.

I could get into this making dumplings lark...

I could get into this making dumplings and wontons  lark, Celia is right, it’s very soothing…

Pork and ginger wontons in broth with choy and spring onions

Pork and ginger wontons in broth with choy and spring onions

I also attempted Fran @ TheRoadtoSerendipity‘s breakfast, on the principle that one should try everything at least once (maybe not tripe but you know what I mean)  I thought maybe if I eat her breakfast I too will be full of get up and go and zing and maybe find myself on a beach in Tasmania, magical thinking, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis etc etc … so the other morning I ground up buckwheat and turned it into porridge, dolloped tahini and date syrup and some dates on top and ate the whole bowlful. I stopped half way through and added salt. Not sure why, but there you go.  I have to say, I zinged around all day and felt most loving towards humanity and not at all hungry until at least 3 pm. On the minus side it was a bit too like school semolina in texture, though I did enjoy the taste, so I think I will move on to buckwheat granola production to use up the rest of the bag of buckwheat.

Buckwheaty goodness and dates and stuff

Buckwheaty goodness and dates and stuff

I made two small batches of marmalade. Each year I follow a different recipe, it kind of makes it a bit more interesting. This year I used Vivien Lloyd‘s crystal clear instructions to produce a very clear set marmalade. Looks very smart! I bought her e-book and also watched her video on YouTube and asked her questions on Twitter too!

Organic Sevilles which my local veg box from Leigh Court Farm added into my box on request

Organic Sevilles which my local veg box from Leigh Court Farm added into my box on request

Seville Marmalade made to a Viv Lloyd recipe

Two different recipes of Vivien Lloyd’s here, the one on the right has a little molasses in and a chunkier cut. It isn’t quite dark enough for Brian’s tastes, who likes that Oxford Style made with lots of brown sugar.

For those of you who like fancy salts and peppers, I have to confess I have got through one jar of this espelette blend from M&S and gone back for a second. It goes very well on kale chips – (I know it is a bit last year to like kale chips, but I am often at least five years behind the trends, slow but steady, that’s me).

I was sent some special lemons and a jar of quince jam from Carla’s trees in Rome and you can see them peeking out here along with a jar of kefir lurking in the background.

Espelette

I have a other few gifts to show you as well.

Fans of QI and Stephen Fry may know what these are. I was sent these as a thankyou for doing some editorial work for an old friend. They are very handsome but I think I need a party of people to help me empty one of those bowls as they are quite substantial.

Everything you need for mate tea

Everything you need for mate tea

Here is a beautiful old brioche tin from my friend Elaine, who goes to France on her holidays most years and found this for me. I am going to make brioche in it very soon but at the moment I just enjoy looking at it!

Antique Brioche tin

then there is a little round of creamy kefir cheese, made from St Helen’s Fullfat Goat’s Milk and sea salt. St Helen’s Goat’s milk is my milk of choice these days, it is mild and ‘ungoaty’ in flavour and I use it in preference to cow’s milk, particularly for kefir. It makes perfect little cheese rounds as you can see.

Goats Milk Kefir Cheese

I made ful medames loosely following Hodmedod’s recipe, though I used less sugar, and using their dried English grown fava beans.  I haven’t tried their cooked range as yet. They also have split fava beans with no skins, perfect for making falafel. They are a wonderful new company and I hope they do really well. Part of food security for any country is growing our own food and this company grows all its beans and peas here in the UK.

Ful medames a la Hodmedod

Here is a mystery photo of something in my kitchen reflecting the outside world, you might know what it is …

Can you figure out what this is?

Can you figure out what this is?

I was only going to spend half an hour doing this and time is ticking away so I am going to retire downstairs to the sofa and grab a cup of tea and an ultra healthy oaty bar from the freezer. These are based on Carl’s recipe for his son which you can find here and they are very wholesome indeed, having no added sugar (I don’t count the dark chocolate Callebaut chips) and no fat at all. I polish my halo every time I eat one !

It’s been fun doing this, i don’t normally namecheck so many companies and businesses, but once in a while it is OK I hope. Anyway you don’t have to click on the links, just thought if you were interested you can find out a bit more if I put them in.

I hope you find something you like here and don’t forget to visit Celia’s blog and see all the other kitchens this month!

Carl Energy Bar

PS In my rush to get my tea I forgot these two images that I really wanted to put in the post, so bad form I know to add after publication but here goes…

From Emily Sincerely I got this surprise handmade card  for Valentine’s Day this week !

Thank you Emily! xx

Thank you Emily! xx

and this is what it had inside … I think she (and Proust!) are spot on!

Beautiful Quote from Proust