Parkin (not Simon)

After my last horrendous attempt at baking, I finally got back on the baking horse last weekend and made some parkin (as in the cake, not the late eighties/ early nineties inhabitant of the Broom Cupboard who now happens to present the weather on Meridian) in celebration of Bonfire Night.

I used this recipe (I don’t know why they used such a blurry picture) and do you know what? It actually turned out to be delicious. I’m not going to be attempting Fraisier cake or croquembouche any time soon but at least it’s a step in the right direction…

For those of you who don’t know, parkin is a sticky cake which originates in Yorkshire and is traditionally made around November 5th. The idea is to make it at least a few days before Bonfire Night as it gets stickier and better the longer you leave it.

Happy Bonfire/ Guy Fawkes Night, everyone! (Be safe and all that.)


Yorkshire (part two): York

After saying farewell to Pickersgill Manor Farm, we headed to York for two nights. We’d been watching the reports on the news showing the flooding in York which had resulted from the wet weather on previous days and didn’t really know what to expect. However, we were staying on the outskirts of York city centre and it was mainly right down by the River Ouse where the worst of the flooding was. The racecourse (which we passed on the bus on the way into town) had also suffered badly in the rain and looked like a lake. The birds seemed to be enjoying it, but I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to have your home flooded (as some were down by the river).

Anyway, as we got to York fairly early on our first day there, it meant we effectively had two days to explore the city. Everyone I’d spoken to before going said that York was lovely, and they were right. It’s a lot like Canterbury, which happens to be my favourite town (well, city) in Kent. We also just happened to be there while the York Food Festival was on, so there was even more to see and eat than usual.  There were cakes, champagne tents, meats, preserves, and all manner of other local Yorkshire goodies on show, and I feel very foolish for not having taken any proper pictures of them…

We got lunch from York Hog Roast on our second day there. As well as their two places in York city centre they also had a stall at the food festival. I had the works- roast pork, crackling, stuffing and apple sauce. It was gooood. As we’d stuffed our faces with hog roast at lunch time, we didn’t want an enormous dinner, so we opted for tapas at Ambiente on Goodramgate. I know tapas isn’t exactly traditional Yorkshire grub, but it was probably one of the best meals we’d had while we were away. Ambiente is a small place and they could only accommodate us in the bar area, but it was just right (and an interesting challenge to fit all of our tapas plates on the tiny bar table!) The caramelised chorizo and potato and the mushrooms with caramelised shallots and tarragon cream were particular highlights. It’s worth mentioning that the restaurant has a good vegetarian and vegan selection- not just a few token dishes. I’ve had better calamari but I’m not complaining- the food went down well with a nice glass of red (or pint of light, refreshing Cruzcampo in Owen’s case) and it was a nice way to end the holiday.

Our other York-centric activities included visiting the Jorvik Viking centre, walking the walls (all of them) and visiting the (alleged) grave of Dick Turpin. And, of course, here are some photos…

Flooding in a park by the River Ouse.

Walking the walls

The Shambles: For centuries, this street was lined with butchers’ shops. Butchers’ waste such as offal and guts would be discarded into the middle of the street. Lovely!

York Minster in the evening.

Yorkshire (part one): Pickersgill Manor Farm

After visiting relatives in Cheshire for a couple of days, Owen and I began the main part of our holiday at Pickersgill Manor Farm near Silsden, on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales. Pickersgill is a working farm which is home to sheep, pigs, cattle, chickens and a duck. It has two large, comfortable B&B rooms, and we stayed in the one on the ground floor. The room was immaculate with a large en suite bathroom and beautiful views across the Yorkshire countryside (when the weather allowed it!) The photograph above was taken from the door to our room.

The breakfasts here are (literally) award winning and are cooked by Lisa, who runs the B&B while her husband Marcus runs the farm. Lisa and Marcus were friendly and welcoming, and breakfast is eaten at the family table in the kitchen. We were also invited in for tea and cake when we first arrived, which I thought was nice. A full English breakfast at Pickersgill includes, among other things, eggs from the farm’s chickens, sausages made with pork from its pigs and black pudding which is handmade locally (and which was some of the best black pudding I’ve ever tasted). On one of the days we were there we had porridge, which was lovely and creamy. I’m not sure if it was made with full fat milk or whether there was some cream in there but it was a good start to the day, especially with some local honey dolloped into it. We also sampled one of Lisa’s tray suppers on the first night we stayed there (as we didn’t really feel like venturing out). This was brought to our room and was a hearty roast lamb dinner followed by apple pie and custard (proper custard, made from scratch) and a jug of elderflower drink.

We ate at a few local restaurants after asking Lisa for recommendations- these included The Fleece in Addingham, which was lovely and cosy with friendly service and good, reasonably priced food. We’d incidentally eaten lunch earlier that day at another pub called The Fleece which was in Skipton. The name was the only similarity between the two places- our experience in The Fleece in Skipton involved walking into a pub which was eerily quiet (apart from one country music song which suddenly played over the speakers before everything went quiet again) and ordering something which was apparently a cheese toastie, but which was almost unrecognisably flattened and cooked to a greasy crisp. This was served with an enormous portion of chips in an apparent attempt to satisfy your appetite once you’d given up on the salty inedible sandwich.

On our last night at the farm, we ate at the Purple Garlic Indian restaurant in nearby Silsden. Again, the service here was friendly and welcoming and the food was excellent and very reasonably priced. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do justice to the generous portions (including onion bhajis the size of your fist), mainly because feeling under the weather had taken away my appetite and I couldn’t really taste anything properly. It was a real shame as I love curry and I hate wasting food- I’d have asked for a doggy bag if circumstances had allowed!

During this first bit of our holiday, we also visited Betty’s Tea Rooms in Ilkley. We had tea and cake (well, Owen had coffee and cake as he doesn’t drink tea because he’s odd) and it was all very civilised. This was another of Lisa’s recommendations- she’d mentioned at breakfast (while icing a cake, as you do) that she’d trained with Betty’s previously and said that it was a nice place to go on a wet day (which it was).

Apologies for the lack of pictures of food- I’m not really one for taking pictures of my food when I’m out and about but have a look at the websites if you’re interested or are looking for somewhere to stay or eat in Yorkshire!

To make up for the lack of food pictures, below are some photographs we took while walking the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. We walked the trail when I was feeling particularly snuffly and full of a cold, and had therefore only managed a bowl of Rice Krispies for breakfast. I really should have forced myself to have a bowl of porridge because the 8km walk nearly finished me off! It was very enjoyable though and the scenery was beautiful. It was also the only day the weather was good enough to do it while we were in that part of Yorkshire so I’m glad I sucked it up and just got on with it.

Tree trunk covered with coins.

Thornton Force- the most well-known waterfall on the Ingleton trail, which apparently provided inspiration for the artist William Turner.

The hump to the right of the picture is Ingleborough- one of the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks.

Bank Holiday blowout food

This weekend was the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas, and I managed to wangle a shift off from work to enable me to enjoy the whole three days off. In classic British Bank Holiday fashion, the weather forecast was for rain all weekend. “There goes my nice long bike ride in the sun,” I thought. However, yesterday was lovely and sunny and while we didn’t cycle the longer route I’d originally planned, we did have a nice cycle around the park in the sunshine (sitting down to enjoy a cheeky Calippo under a tree along the way). As I’d thought the weather was going to be rubbish all weekend, I was feeling a bit indulgent and planned a menu of tasty treats for our three days off together.

We started off on Saturday with a nice lay in (interrupted by needing to answer the door, bleary eyed and Russell Brand-haired, to the postman to take delivery of some packages from Amazon). We then enjoyed a pot of coffee and some pain au chocolat while still in our dressing gowns, watching re-runs of Time Team on the telly. Lovely. I won’t bore you with this level of detail about the rest of the weekend but it’s worth mentioning how much I appreciate not having to set an alarm and having a home filled with the smell of fresh coffee first thing in the morning.

I decided to make cream teas on Saturday, the original plan being to cycle to the park and enjoy them in the sun. As it was pissing down with rain, we enjoyed them in the comfort of our own home instead. The scone recipe I used was this one (don’t do what I did and absent-mindedly use plain flour instead of self-raising- I had to chuck out the first batch and start again when I realised they weren’t rising in the oven). We had our usual debate about whether to put the jam on first or the clotted cream- I always put my cream on first with the strawberry jam on top because I think it’s more aesthetically pleasing (which is the Devon way of doing it). However, Owen spent a large portion of his childhood and teens in Cornwall, and he and his mum will argue until they’re blue in the face that the Cornish way (jam first, cream on top) is the only correct way to serve a cream tea.

Cream teas (the Devon way). I got a bit carried away and decided to put them on my extra chintzy bone china plates.

Yesterday’s breakfast was pancakes with bacon and maple syrup- one of my favourite weekend breakfasts when I can be bothered to make it. I use the following ingredients for the two of us, adjusted from this Jamie Oliver recipe.

  • 2 eggs
  • 80g plain flour
  • 95ml milk
  • Half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Breakfast pancakes with bacon and maple syrup.

Owen did a roast for dinner last night. I’m not very good at roasts, but I do always contribute by making the stuffing balls (chopped onion, grated apple, sage and breadcrumbs bound with an egg) and Yorkshire puds. A roast is one of those meals, like a full English breakfast, which always tastes that much better when someone else cooks it for you. Owen happens to be very good at making a roast dinner (his roast potatoes in particular are excellent), which works out well for me…

Owen’s yummy roast potatoes.

I made tomato soup for lunch today using this Felicity Cloake recipe (which is my standard ‘go to’ tomato soup recipe- the balsamic vinegar lifts the flavours perfectly). I quite often make soup for lunch on a weekend, especially if the weather’s a bit miserable- I find it quite comforting with a nice bit of crusty bread for dippage.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these before they went in the oven- I just thought they looked pretty…

Tomato soup

One of the aforementioned Amazon deliveries was Lorraine Pascale’s latest book, which provided the inspiration for tonight’s dinner- prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce (the recipe wasn’t on her usual BBC page so the link is to the Mail Online- sorry about that). The only adjustments I made were to use one tin of tomatoes instead of two and enough linguine for two people instead of four. There are loads of recipes in this book that I want to try, so you’ll no doubt be hearing more about them soon…

Lorraine Pascale’s prawn linguine with chorizo and cabernet tomato sauce

So, we’re back to work tomorrow. After all this culinary naughtiness (I’ve not even mentioned the Tesco’s jumbo chocolate croissants and copious amounts of beer and wine we washed everything down with until now), I think I’ll need to get on the exercise bike and cook a few healthy meals this week to restore the balance…