Today I woke up feeling ok-ish. That’s quite an achievement in its self but I was extra thankful given that today is the day of The North Lonsdale Show.
In a nutshell, it’s a country and livestock show about 10 minutes drive from my house. I have pretty fond memories of going when I was younger, amazed that there were so many types of sheep, chicken, horse, cow. As with all things like this, I was a little worried that my rose tinted memories of it just wouldn’t live up but Mum and I decided to go anyway and thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
Just like when I was little, I walked around the sheep pens, choosing my favourite. This time it was the Kerry Hill:
I loved the panda like markings around the eyes. They seemed like a gentle breed too which always wins points in my book. The judges weren’t looking for cuteness, but these had plenty of rosettes anyway.
Next we managed to catch the youngest handlers with their calves. What’s cuter than little people dressed in uniforms, leading a baby animal? Not much. This little boy had a particularly boisterous bullock that provided some comedy moments when it decided the grass looked good or fancied a rest. Never the less, the kids looked proud as punch showing off their stock.
We watched for the tags coming past to catch names. Dorly Norma was my favourite.
We headed towards a row of big white tents full of peas, squash, Victoria Sponges, flower arrangements and art. WI would have had a field day.
I enjoyed looking at the junior entries, particularly the new category for this year ‘mixed medium mobile phone case’, most equipped with some form of cardboard cushioning. I’m not quite sure what the judges were looking for in the winning entry but it was nice to see the show “moving with the times”.
If I had to judge a category though, it would be the ‘home brewed alcohol’. There were so many types of gin and of course the judges need to sample them all. I could think of worse things to do on a sunny afternoon.
The flower arrangements were pretty but not really my thing. Do any of you green thumbs know what these are? They were my favourite.
After a wander around the crafts, we were ready for some food. As a child I remember people selling freshly squeezed juices and burgers as big as my face. I mean, where better to buy a burger than a livestock show? The queue was huge today but our noses led us to something much more exciting:
How awesome do they look? You don’t get smoked fish any fresher than this. I’m a bit of a smoked food fiend too so of course we had to get some. The kind gent took 5 small kippers straight from the smoker for us for the show special price of 5 for £5. There were plenty of dessert options too:
Last but not least, a show wouldn’t be complete without a fairground and a fortune teller. There were plenty of bouncy castles, trampolines and slides, I was just disappointed I didn’t have one of my friend’s kids with me to “help out” on a ride.
The Romany Gypsy’s tent was rather quiet when we walked past. Have you ever have your palm or tarot cards read? I think fortunes are best left untold.We made it back to the car just before the heavens opened – perfect timing.
Home dry, I warmed up a kipper for an afternoon snack using the Smoker’s secret to no stink kipper cooking: heat a skillet on high, add a knob of butter then take it outside, adding the kipper and turning it every thirty seconds until heated through. Lovely hot kipper, no smelly house.
Today was a success I think. It was nice to go on a little adventure.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, I love a bit of Springsteen. To me he’s one of those musicians that are few and far between. He’s up there with the best names. Only Jay Z has ever had more Us number 1 albums. He beats Elvis, Queen, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Madonna…
He was a ‘must see’ for me, so when my Parent’s offered to treat me to tickets, I was very excited! We were only going for one night but sometimes that’s all you need to feel like a ‘break’. We booked ourselves in to The Park Inn by Radisson, nice and central and only a tiny walk to the stadium and the main shops/restaurants. Perfect… or so we thought.
After a long drive, we arrived in the hotel lobby (left photo below) and were pretty impressed by the modern bar, seating area and general design. We headed upstairs to check out our 4th floor room and encountered our first issue. 1 lift out of order, and the other bouncing between ground floor and the basement. Wonderful start…
As we opened the door to the fourth floor we were greeted by a faint smell of sewage. Unlocking our room’s door, the smell hit you in the face like nothing else. There was something seriously wrong. Oh, and we had a twin room, not the double we’d booked.
In a rush to get out and find food before the gig, we quickly changed and raised the issue with reception on the way out. We were told they’d look in to it and hopefully get something sorted before we got back.
We grabbed tea in Carluccio’s and made our way to the Millenium Stadium to see The Boss. Despite a long wait and being up in the gods (check the ant like people out in photo 2 above), we were in for a treat.
3 and half hours of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. A real good mix of classics and new material. As usual he took requests from the audience and had people up to “Dancing in the Dark” but a real highlight for me was him inviting a young boy up, who’d queued for hours with his Dad to get to the front, to sing with him. A real “aww…” moment.
They’d played past the curfew and the stage crew arrived to start dismantling. ”Ignore the boys, just follow me…” they strung a few more songs on the end whilst the crew patiently waited (left photo above).
They finished the encores and the lights came up. People started to make their way out and just as we neared the doors, he broke in to an acoustic set. The men in yellow jackets began to take the stage down around him as we were spoilt with a solo version of Thunder Road (right photo above). This man loves performing and you can see it in every second that he’s on that stage. We were all in utter awe of his energy. It felt like he wanted to savour every last moment of this tour – it might be his last.
We decided to head back for a few drinks before heading to bed. It was still hot so we sat out on the Hotel’s veranda and enjoyed the warm night.
Back in the hotel room, things were still not good. The sewage smell was stronger than ever and nothing had been done. I called down to reception and the shift manager came up to investigate. She offered us air freshener and a complimentary drink, I really didn’t think that was enough but the hotel was full, we couldn’t be moved.
After a night in the sewage stench, we were glad to check out. Our toothbrushes had absorbed the smell, it was foul. The shift manager acknowledged the issue and said had we have booked with them rather than with lastminute.com, he’d have given us a full discount. How does that work? Surely the hotel still get their cut and our statutory rights as paying customers still stand?
We headed in to Cardiff to spend far too much on sushi and treat ourselves in the shops to makeup for the horrendous stay.
What a whirlwind 24 hours. It might have been a short break but it was a much needed one. The hotel situation continues… I got in touch with their customer services who again, only offered a 50% discount on a future booking. Do you think that’s good enough? I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to that hotel, or any other in the chain after the service we’ve received.
Nothing makes me happier than the arrival of a beautiful new born so I was very pleased this week to hear of the safe arrival of Prince George.
To celebrate, Twinings have created a gift range of perfectly packaged teas that make a wonderful gift for new Mums. They sent me the baby girl celebration gift to take a look at – knowing I’m a tea lover. (N.B. Don’t read in to this – there won’t be a patter of tiny feet anytime soon)
It comes in a large matte black box with a gloss spot print of the Royal coat of arms Lion, wrapped with gold trimmed black ribbon. It feels luxurious. Something special is inside…
The box contains two caddies, one cream, one very light pink (or blue if you get the boy set). Each decorated in a cute gold print of tea pots, rattles, nappy pins, prams, storks and tea cups.
You lift the lid to a band of gold “congratulations” and the crisp, white packaging of the loose leaf tea. I think this all sits so nicely against the black.
The pink caddy contains China White, the cream has Peppermint and the blue caddy in the boys set has Yunnan.
The China White tea in this gift set deserves a special mention. The flavour is so very delicate and the tea leaves themselves are beautiful. White tea is the least processed tea available. It’s simply the new leaves, only available for a few days each season, picked and laid to dry on roof tops. It’s naturally low in caffeine and jam packed with more antioxidants than green tea. It’s a highly treasured tea and it makes sense that it was picked for a gift like this.
This set is £27.50 which I think is just right for a ‘New Mum’ treat but there’s single caddies for £10 and a trio for £36.50. They’re available on the Twinings website and luckily for you, there’s a 10% discount code running on them at the moment: WRB0713
I’m glad we never booked a holiday for this Summer, it’s so rare we get heat like this that it would be such a shame to miss it. I’m taking full advantage of this heatwave and using the first of the seasons tomatoes in glorious sun dried fashion.
Now, I say dried but these are more sun blushed tomatoes. The type that you buy in the supermarket, kept in oil or from the deli. They’re so simple to make with a throw together marinade and they’re a great way to cling on to the best of Summers produce.
It’s not very often we could sun dry anything in the UK so I’m getting stuck in.
As I mentioned in my Blackened Salsa post, it’s important to buy the best quality tomatoes you can find. We want these to be super tasty! If I may say so myself, this marinade is absolutely spot on. They taste exactly like my favourite deli tomatoes. Drool…
To make your own sunblush tomatoes, you’ll need:
500g tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons of garlic infused olive oil (or add 1/4 tsp dried garlic to plain)
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Begin by tossing all the ingredients together in a bowl. Remove the tomatoes, discarding any oil left in the bottom.
Ideally, lay out a cooling rack in a large ceramic or stoneware baking dish, place the tomatoes on top and cover with cling film. Make a small hole with a knife every 2cm. The rack gives room for your tomatoes to breathe and air to circulate, helping them dry evenly. The cling film keeps bugs at bay and the tiny holes let out any evaporated moisture.
Pop them out in direct sunlight on a hot day. Anything 23 or over should be fine in the UK. Now go and put your feet up or get on with your jobs.
The change won’t happen quickly, this is quite a lengthy process (two hot days) but little fuss is needed. It’s quite interesting to see the plain tomato transformed in to it’s sweeter, tastier, sun dried alter ego. Here’s 3 hours in. You can just start to see some signs of drying.
Obviously how long they need depends on the size of tomato and the strength of the sun that day. If you think they’re going to take longer than two days, you’ll be best off finishing them in the oven (instructions below). If they take too long to dry, you start getting in to potential nasties territory so don’t attempt to dry them outside if we aren’t in full swing heat wave.
If the sun isn’t doing it’s thing you can finish them off in an oven or just cheat all together. To be a sneaky cheater, preheat your oven to 180 degrees, lay them on a rack in a stoneware dish and pop them in the oven, turning it off as soon as you put them in. You’re still looking at around 8 hours that way but any quicker and you’d end up with tomato leather.
You keep these in the fridge for 5 days or freeze them for future use. I’m sure there’s a way to preserve them in oil in the cupboard but I’m not clued up enough on that to advise you. If you know more about it, please do leave a comment and I’ll update the post.
A great addition to salads
Use to make Spanish stuffed roast chicken
Try adding to spaggetti olio or other pasta dishes
Add to risottos
Stuff in to a chicken breast with some mozzarella, wrap with parma ham & bake
Whizz in the blender to make a sun dried tomato spread, layer in sandwiches or on bruschetta
Blend with chickpeas & a little more garlic oil for sun dried tomato hummus.
Mix with cubes of feta for an easy side
So yesterday I showed you what I’d made for my Mum’s Birthday meal as the main course, Spanish Stuffed Chicken. Now, it’s time for dessert.
Sweet, maple caramelised peaches in a crisp filo parcel. A pleasure to break in to.
Again, like yesterday, I apologise for the photo that follows. It’s far from the standard I’d like but I didn’t want to keep a table waiting so these are quick snaps. Perhaps I’ll come back to this at some point and update them with better shots. This was taken literally 1 minute after plating. See the melting ice cream? Yeah, it’s been that hot.
To make 6 parcels:
6 peaches, stoned and quartered
100g filo pastry
2 knobs of butter, one melted for glazing
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
icing sugar to finish
First up, we’ll caramelise the peaches. With a skillet on a medium heat, add a knob of butter and the peaches. Drizzle the maple syrup and vanilla over.
Leave to bubble away, turning occasionally until browning, sticky and softened. Turn off and leave to cool whilst we prepare our pastry.
Set the oven to 200 degrees.
Now we’ll cut the pastry. Imagine the size of your original peaches, cut squares of pastry about 2inches wider than the peach on both sides.
Lay a square of filo pastry over a ramekin and lightly press down in to the bottom, brush with melted butter and lay another layer. Brush again and lay again. Fill with 4 segments of peach and gather the pastry around the top. Pinch together and brush the top of the parcel.
When you’ve prepared them all, place on a baking tray and bake for around 20minutes, or until the pastry is golden.
Pop from the ramekins, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a handful of your favourite nuts.
Try adding crushed pecans whilst the peaches caramelise
If you like things tart, add raspberries just before baking