Saturday, 1 October 2016


Crumbs, where does the time go?  It is starting to feel decidedly Autumnal and it’s only just over three weeks since I went back to work after our summer holiday! Having not had more than three consecutive days off work since Christmas/New Year, I was more than ready for our summer holiday. Stuart and I had decided that, with our recent major property purchase, we wouldn't be going abroad - a decision we were both more than happy with, just being really keen to have a break from work and not having to clock-watch for a while.  It was a really nice feeling to finish up from work, knowing I had over two weeks ahead of me where I could take my time with thing, not having to cram everything in to the all too short weekend as usual.
I kicked off with some baking almost as soon as I was out of work mode, as we had been invited to a party the next day, so I made cupcakes.  I know some people think cupcakes are a confection too far, but have had their day, but I like making and eating them from time to time, so I made lemon ones with lemon butter cream and toffee with vanilla butter cream.   Having opted for applying the topping with a palette knife, trying to perfect the swirl at the top, I think I should revert to the tried and tested method of piping the topping on - much quicker and neater!  Regardless of the decoration, it didn’t affect the flavour and they seemed to go down well.
The Sunday saw us heading off to York for a four night stay, which felt rather novel as we are usually there in the winter, so feeling nice warm temperatures, seeing the floral displays around York and the colour in the gardens made it feel a bit of a different place.  It was also novel to visit the railway Museum – a place I haven’t been to since I was a child when the “new” building opened – which made me feel a bit like a child again with the height of the locomotives (the difference of not viewing them from a platform, but ground level).  The Castle Museum has gone through changes with the displays since I was last there, having appeared the same for a long time, but that’s how a museum should be, changing with the times, not remaining static. We were also in a couple of gardens, one which was relatively new – a tasting garden, accessed from the Museum Gardens and a visit to Rowntree Park, where I spent many happy hours as a kid.
We ate in Strada on the second night, which saw us seated next to a group of Morris dancers from New Zealand no less, in full costume ready to perform in King’s Square later that evening.  One lady in the group was quite demanding on the staff there, having eaten part of the way through the dish she had ordered to question what one element was – fregola.  When she was told it was a type of pasta, she announced that she was gluten intolerant!  A couple of things sprung to mind when I perused the menu to work out what she had ordered – salmon on a bed of fregola! One was, if she was unsure what that was, particularly having an intolerance, why did she not ask before she ordered it?  The other, why did she take a couple more mouthfuls before it was taken away and replaced with the salmon minus the bed of fregola?  Hmmm, I’ve seen that one done before, knowing you will get the dish again minus the “objectionable” bit at no extra cost (or even no cost).  Anyway, I got chatting with one of her fellow Morris dancers, a very nice lady, who told me that there was quite a large contingent of them in York and that they would be performing in the square a little later.
I had vowed to work my way through the hot drinks menu at York Cocoa House, but summer isn’t really the time to be wallowing in hot chocolate, so I had a chocolate espresso which was pretty damn good – strong coffee with a nice hit of chocolate.  The salted caramel truffle which came with it was pretty good too. The Graduate on  Lendal was a new try this time – the cheapest meal we had on our visit, having a fairly decent veggie burger and glass of red.  I met up with my cousin Chrissy, her son James and daughter Holly for coffee one afternoon – the time just flew by as we chatted – I thought we might get asked to leave as it was getting near closing time by the time we thought about leaving, so will have to catch up again when we visit again in a few weeks.


All in all, York was fun and it felt a longer stay as we were out and about every day, bolstered by a run every day before breakfast, and, apart from a wet start to the Monday, the weather was great.  The remainder of the holiday felt good – doing things at a nice pace – gardening most days, baking nice things for breakfast and not feeling I was getting through a massive “to do” list.  I really appreciated getting the garden shipshape again, as one or two bits have been sorely neglected.  It felt like something of an achievement to win the battle against the weeds – well, for a little while anyway. 
We had a visit to Perth one day too. We knew that the Poppy installation “Weeping Window” was on at The Black Watch Castle and Museum until the 25th September, so that was our first stop – it was definitely worth seeing.  After that we tried Small Talk – a quaint looking tearoom, which we’ve walked by so many times – so finally walked in.  Good coffee and carrot cake.  When the cake arrived, I was told by a guy, who might be one of the owners of the establishment, that it would be the best carrot cake I had ever eaten.  A bold claim, but it was a pretty fine bit of baking, the sort that would definitely encourage me back again.
I knew that the next Great British Bake Off book would be out as the first episode had aired, so that was a purchase in Perth, It wasn’t long before I had a bash at one of the recipes - roasted garlic herb twist – I decided to miss out the cheese and it probably looked a little on the “informal” side (as Mary Berry would say), but a good, tasty loaf.  As I said, I baked a few things for nice leisurely breakfasts - wholemeal muffins from the original Cranks cookbook and teacakes from Paul Hollywoods How To Bake - their the best teacakes I've managed so far - I was quite proud of them.  I have made some in the past that would have done real damage if you accidently dropped one on your foot, but these were nice and light. Success!

Lovely Teacakes

Informal bread.
So now, I'm having to accept summer has gone and, even though there is still the possibility of a few more sunny days, the mornings are dark, the nights are closing in and it's getting colder. Still, there are some nice recipes for this time of year and loads of brambles growing round about, which always cheers me up no end when I see how abundant they are.  I have picked a few with the intention of making blackberry gin again - a lovely winter drink - actually, a lovely anytime drink. 

Sterilize a large jar or a few small jars.  Take 800g of brambles and crush lightly and layer in the jar or jars with 225g of granulated sugar, then pour over a litre of gin.  Seal the jar or jars and leave in a cool dark place for 3 months.  Shake the jar from time to time and you will notice that the sugar gradually dissolves.

When you come to bottling this, strain the gin through a double layer of muslin and pour it into sterilized bottles.  Seal and label.

As well as the gin making last weekend, I also made an apple and bramble cake using the Be-Ro madeira cake recipe with three peeled and chopped eating apples stirred in at the end of mixing, along with a generous handful of brambles. A real flavour of Autumn.

1 comment:

  1. A delicious read.
    One of our friends up in Orkney told me gin is a good anti-inflammatory. I don't know if it's true, but it's a nice thought.