Sunday, 24 February 2013

Departure of a dear friend...

Departure of a dear friend...

No, no funerals involved. But 'Snoop' our bongo camper has had to go. Never let us down, always happy to be part of our daft plans has finally gone to someone who will hopefully enjoy ownership as much as we have. 

Insurance and tax due imminently and the oil leak that would see another few hundred pounds gone, combined with the problems of where to safely park and the fact that we would have to find somewhere to store it when we eventually get to London and the fact that its just not getting used (about 100 mikes this year, 4000 in the last 18 months!) lead to a hasty decision to list him on eBay last weekend. Oh and the fact that I have really had enough of trudging the towpaths back to get the van, I want to get off the canal system when I go for a hike! 

I am sure Graham and Mandy will have a great summer with snoop (send us a camping pic guys)

Well, back on to the adventure, like a lot of boaters our chosen winter mooring comes to an end on the 28th, Yippie!! Jess is coming to join us for our first cruise followed by Pip a few days later to celebrate Debs birthday. As we are so close, Coventry basin beckons and will give us an opportunity to get a few bits in town now such excursions need to be a little more thought out. 

Next stop will be Braunston where we will camp on Midland chandlers doorstep until they announce their spring 'Freaky Friday' discount day and we can get our new fridge! So look out for the 'Apples and Pears' and give us a knock, who knows we may even have a fresh batch of Welsh cakes on the go. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Time to celebrate...

Remembering anniversaries has never been one of my strong points. Well not entirely true, at home we regularly had drawers full of cards bought but not sent. 

There have been two milestones passed in the last week. I've managed to make it through another year and happily celebrated the day with Deb finishing the day with a great meal in the Grayhound all organised and paid for over the phone by mum and dad. I was quite surprised that a canal side pub in a very average kind of wider neighbourhood would have its restaurant fully booked on a drizzley Tuesday evening in February. That is testament to the atmosphere, quality of the food and beer and the pleasant relaxed nature of the staff who, in the restaurant at least, were working at full pelt for the three hours we were there.

The other notable but very surprising milestone that I was aware of but missed by a couple of days was a blog milestone. I originally planned to write our travels and my thoughts and musings for our perusal only using word or similar on the pc. I would have liked to have had the skills to keep a neat and tidy paper journal but as well as impractical the logistics behind referencing photos and reading whilst following the pictures on the pc made it prohibitive. The chances are that my hundred or so posts would have been read no more than a couple of times so it not only surprises me but was quite shocking to see the 'posts read' soaring past the 10,000 mark this week! 

Have you lot not got anything better to do? :) :)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Not just for the Welsh folk...

I was dragged up in Wales in an area where nobody ate welsh cakes and virtually nobody spoke welsh. My best mate at school was related to just about everyone, frequently I would hear him say "no chance, she is my cousin as well!" His dad was a baker, he didn't make welsh cakes either. The costal seafood was both prolific and fantastic. There was no fishmonger. I left as soon as I passed my bike test. 

Granddad had stayed in London. We visited him occasionally at his flat in the cheap seats in Dulwich, a stones throw from the train station and the bright lights of the city centre. Why had we moved. He used to get the train to our local train station a mere thirty miles away. Either dad or my auntie would pick him up. I would always always have a batch of welsh cakes cooking on the electric griddle for his arrival. Enough to last his whole stay and be the preferred choice for suppa with a cuppa. Its quite ironic that thirty five years on he lives there and I am (nearly) on my way to London, all be it just for the spring.

As usual I digress. I love welsh cakes and appreciate the versatility of how they can be cooked. I haven't got a griddle but I have got a thick frying pan type insert from our Cobb BBQ. It cooks welsh cakes well on a hob, just about ok on the wood burner (you have to keep turning it to keep the heat even) and of course fantastically on the Cobb after the heat has died down a bit. Welsh cakes are best eaten straight from the griddle but it you can't manage the whole batch in one go, warming them directly on top of the stove and scoffing with a knob of butter on top is a good alternative. 

So how do you make them. Most patisserie recipes are quite complex and ingredient weights and methods are nothing short of alchemy, my style is more a considered approach but using recipes as a guide only so most of my sweet tooth cooking is quick and easy. For welsh cakes and most pastry type items I use a mini blender. The type that also has an attachment for blending soup or smoothies and sometimes a whisk. Ready?

8oz of self raising flour, 4oz of butter, stork or what ever you've got and 3oz of sugar (ideally caster sugar, but I use straight granulated) goes into the blender for a quick blitz to bread crumb texture. Pour this lot into a mixing bowl and add about 3oz of currants or sultanas. Make a bit of a well in the middle and crack an egg into it. Give the egg a bit of a mix (you can mix the egg in a separate bowl if you really like washing up) using the same fork start mixing the egg and flour mix together. It is going to be a bit dry so add the odd splash of milk to get to a pastry consistency. Don't over do the milk or you'll have a big sticky mess. If in doubt just use a little milk and give it a few minutes to absorb, if its still too dry add a little more. As long as its not a hot day you can roll out the pastry straight away, if it is warm cool it in the fridge first. Roll to about a quarter of an inch thick (they are better too thick than too thin) and cut circles with a cutter or glass arraying them overlapping on a plate or piece of baking parchment. 

A medium to low heat is needed for griddling the welsh cakes. Very lightly grease a non stick griddle and cook for a few minutes each side. The raising agent in the flour will puff them up slightly. Once the first side has browned to a light golden colour it is safe to carefully turn them with a palate knife. With the second side cooking you can gently push the cooked top, if there is still any movement between the two surfaces they are not quite done, but nearly there so get the kettle on!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Facebook, Marmite, love it or hate it?...

I've always been a bit (lot) anti Facebook. I have always been pretty bad with firing back emails and regretting what I'd written, to the extent that all professional emails I used to wright got dumped in the drafts folder ready for rereading at suitable intervals prior to sending. Facebook was just a bit too instant for me. Potentially dangerous.

Everyone knows someone with a horror story to tell. A colleague at a different branch to mine was forced to hand in her notice after her boss (and Facebook friend!) read that her status had been changed with the note 'got in to work late again today, cried like a baby and got sent home - result - off down the beach!' - I kid you not. 

I've been a big fan of internet forums though where you can be part of a community with common interests and often similar aspirations. I like the way you can almost change your persona with the click of a button go from discussing the repercussions of mooring changes imposed by our new waterways charity, to how many miles per gallon your Mazda bongo managed and who hates old MacDonald most (one of my recent online guitar lessons). Forums (or are they fora) can get a bit clique-y though and very frequent posters can try and steer the way it all flows. 

Just Canals is a really good forum but I mainly read rather than write. There is nowhere better to go for technical queries and some of the advice I have received has been priceless over the past couple of years. I even posted my whole 'lives board' budget to find out if I was on the right lines and that was before we started looking at boats. I even took it on the chin when I got laughed at for budgeting £160 per month for food (managed £139 in January!) But sometimes forums can be a little formal and that's where Just Canals Facebook page comes in. I resurrected an old unused Facebook account recently so I could ask a question that I really needed a quick answer to and the replies were practically instant no doubt because a lot of Facebook users use smart phones rather than computers. Reading recent posts it was obvious that it was all a bit more relaxed. There are no separate sections that relate to different topics they just come one after another. 

So the next post on my blog is a request from a couple of people for my welsh cake recipe after I posted a quick picture a couple of evenings ago. 

Yum Welsh caked for supper!

PS I like marmite :-) 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Time for the six...

The sun is out, the sky is blue
Power from solar coming through
Porridge for breakie, out of weetabix
Now sat here waiting for my rugby fix

Comon boys you can beat the Scotts
We're all behind you in front of the telly box
You've got the team, no need for luck
So bring us home the Calcutta Cup!