Friday 7 July 2017

Cookery calendar challenge: June

This year I'm taking part in the Cookery Calendar Challenge organised by Penny. The idea is simple: the first week of every month, choose a cookery book from your shelf and, over the course of a month, make two recipes from it that you've never made before.

My pick for June was Mary Berry's Foolproof Cooking. Although we love Queen Mary's baking, it's not a book I would probably have picked up if it hadn't been a birthday present. Well, more fool me as I ended up making three recipes and all of them were winners.

Chicken noodle laksa

I've made laksa before but this is the first time I've made a spice paste to toss the chicken in before cooking it. It's a method which works really well as the chicken is already full of flavour before it goes in the broth. I'll be using this method in future.

 Pork chops with a mushroom crust

OK, so this doesn't look very exciting on the plate. It really needed something green too but we were saving ourselves for a big dessert! The pepper was an Aldi buy and very tasty: filled peppers with sundried tomato, quinoa and couscous.

But what about the pork? I confess I didn't follow the instructions to the letter though I did use exactly the same ingredients. The instructions wanted you to cook the pork chops and leave them to cool, spread the chops with mustard, cook onions and mushrooms for ages, pile them on the chops and sprinkle with breadcrumbs and cheese before putting it all in the oven. I couldn't be bothered waiting for food to cool so piled the onion/mushroom mixture on as soon as everything was ready. As far as I can tell, it didn't make any difference. I also thought I might have used too much mustard but there was just a gentle heat. Lots of lovely flavour to counteract the blandness of the pork and another I'll be making again.

Last up was  Salmon fillets with herbs and roasted peppers. We love salmon anyway but the cream cheese and garlic topping worked really well. A quick and easy weekday meal.

A hat-trick of successful recipes from Mary then and there are lots more I've highlighted to try.

Next up is Maxine Clark's risotto which may be tough as I've made lots of recipes from it before.

Have a lovely weekend everyone. x

Monday 3 July 2017

Cosy lion

Just to break up the posts from our Northumberland holiday, I thought I'd quickly show you one of my latest makes, a cafetiere cosy.

The pattern is from this book, Super-cute felt by Laura Howard, which I was lucky to find in a charity shop. There are loads of lovely projects but the lion was the one which immediately caught my eye.

I love using felt as it's so forgiving and doesn't fray all over the place. I particularly enjoyed the little bits of stitching which gave the lion some character. And, of course, all the star sequins: the older I get the more sparkle I seem to like :)

A really quick and easy make which was just what I needed in the long haul to finishing my latest quilt.

Back soon with the cookery challenge. x

Sunday 25 June 2017

Hulne Priory

Last time I showed you a seaside village from the start of our visit, this time we have a priory from the end. It was our final full day in Alnwick and it dawned bright and sunny: we decided to take a walk through Hulne Park up to the Priory. You enter via this gate next to the former lodge.

On the gate is what had become a familiar sight: a crescent, marking it out as the property of the Duke of Northumberland.

It was once part of the hunting grounds of the Percy family and there are three walks of 4-6 miles. Be aware though, if you're thinking of visiting, there are no dogs or cycles allowed. We decided to follow the red route to Hulne Priory (or Abbey, they seem to be used interchangeably).

To be honest, most of the route was pretty boring. Some great views but mostly lots of manicured, landscaped roads and paths. There are several houses and farms in the park so we did have to dodge several cars too. I can imagine it would be glorious in autumn with all the trees.

Having rejected the walk to Brizlee Tower because it was on top of a hill, it was a bit of a surprise to see that the Priory is too! OK, not that much of a hill but the day was getting hotter and we were already pretty weary by the time we arrived here.

The Priory was a monastery founded in the 13th century though the buildings are of a later date. One of the reasons I wanted to visit is that it had been used as a location for the Robin of Sherwood TV series (as Kirklees Abbey) and the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Maid Marian's home) - two of my favourites. If you're interested, you can see a clip of it in the film here.

As you enter through the gate, the former chapel is now a private home.

This is a later addition and was used as a hunting lodge. It's now being used as a wedding venue.

Walk through the archway and you come to...

...the main part of the priory ruins.

The statues guarding the gate are from the 18th century.

We thought this statue was a bit creepy. However, the rest of the Priory is really beautiful and particularly at this time of year with wildflowers scrambling over the ruins.

As we headed back to Alnwick, it was such a hot day that I was tempted to cool my feet in the shallow water over the ford.

Well, tempted until I saw the huge crowd of midges moving back and forth over the water. Hopefully you can make them out as thousands of tiny dots. Ughh!

The river did look beautiful though.

Before we turned back onto the path back to the start, we looked up and could just see the top of Brizlee Tower above the trees. It's a folly, built in 1781. You can see a full picture of it here. I would have liked to visit but it was just too hot a day to walk the extra few miles to reach it.

Tired, hot and thirsty, we called into The Origami Cafe on our way through town. It had caught our eye a few times with its origami decorations in the window and a sign advertising delicious-sounding milkshakes.

Inside it's bright and colouful with more origami decorations and lots of goodies to buy. Chickpea was in seventh heaven. It was just her kind of place with pencils shaped like lollipops, owl rubbers, cupcake money boxes and more.

The food and drink is just as good. I had a mint aero milkshake and a slice of apricot, pistachio and orange blossom cake. Judy, the owner, makes them all herself. We'd been highly recommended a slice of her raspberry and rose cake by the shop around the corner. She had sold out but managed to rustle up a small slice from somewhere - it was equally as delicious. If you're ever in Alnwick, I highly recommend a visit.

Chickpea couldn't leave without buying one of Judy's handmade origami pictures.

I still have lots to share from our holidays but it's taking a while to find time to put words to the pictures. Bear with me and we'll get there in the end! x

Sunday 18 June 2017


I mentioned in my last post that we'd just come back from a week away in beautiful Northumberland. Well, it's actually three weeks ago now and I'm only just getting around to writing about it.  I have several posts to share of the things we saw, though not necessarily in the order we saw them!

After our holiday last year I couldn't wait to go back as I'd loved Northumberland so much: all that rolling countryside and spectacular coastline. We chose to stay in exactly the same cottage in Alnwick and the weather gods blessed us again with bright, sunny conditions for most of the week.

First up is Alnmouth which is only a 15 minute drive from Alnwick and with plenty of parking for only £1.50 next to the beach.

John Wesley is reported to have described it as a 'small seaport town, famous for all kinds of wickedness'! Thankfully, none of that was in evidence on the day of our visit! Instead, it's a picturesque little place bordered by the sea and the estuary of the river Aln.

After a walk on the beach, we headed up to the main street to explore.

Lots of lovely, old stone buildings dating mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.

This is a former school and is now home to an art gallery.

Time for some lunch at the Village Tearooms and I couldn't resist trying a ham stottie which turned out to be a large bread roll. Here in Lancashire, the nearest equivalent is what we would call an oven bottom.

Back outside and we headed down towards the harbour. The small hill is known as Church Hill and was once the site of the village church, now marked only with a cross. Originally the hill was part of the village but a violent storm in 1806 changed the course of the river, cutting it off.

We were mesmerised by the masses of poppies, the most I'd ever seen up to that point, though we were to see more later in the week.

There used to be fishing boats here but now it's mainly pleasure boats.

The Ferry Hut is actually a small heritage centre and gallery! It's about 100 years old.

The beach was calling so we headed back down, passing the golf course on the way which, as you can see, claims to be the oldest nine hole links course in England. Golf, yawn.

Beautiful beach.

In the distance is Coquet Island which is an RSPB reserve and home to thousands of nesting birds, mostly puffins, terns and eider ducks.

I loved all the patterns on this pebble though I've no idea what creature caused them. Is it bird poo or something more interesting? In any case, it came home with me, as did the crab claw.

This one, which reminded me of an alien, stayed behind.

We really loved Alnmouth with its pretty buildings and gorgeous coastline. So much so that, desperate to see the sea before we headed back to our landlocked home, we drove out on our final evening as the sun was starting to go down.

The tide was out this time.

Sigh, I wish I was standing on that beach today. Alnmouth was definitely one of our favouite places and somewhere I'd go back to in a heartbeat.


Hope you're enjoying the glorious weather this weekend in the UK. Yesterday we met up with some friends in Wrenbury, a small village in Cheshire. This farm was opposite the pub where we had lunch.

My favourite thing though was this book swap in an old telephone box!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. x