Friday, 31 July 2015

Church Barn, Perranuthnoe

It's already a week since we returned home from Cornwall. A week ago at this time we were stuck in the slowly crawling traffic jam, still in Cornwall. The trip was horrendous. And it was bucketing all day long. We have recovered from our ordeal and are already planning a trip for next summer.
We were late last year to book a stay at our favourite cottage in Perranuthnoe, and the choice of where to stay was very limited. Either a villa for almost two thousand per week or a smaller size cottage by the church. We didn't want to change the village (I'm sure there are lots of other splendid places to stay in Cornwall), as we love the location. My older son sleeps with an old battered Holidays in Cornwall brochure, which features Perranuthnoe among other places. Every night as he settles to sleep, I come in his bedroom to tuck him in and whisper in his ear, wishing him sweet dreams of our holiday by the sea.
We've been staying in Perranuthnoe for one week in summer for the last five years
As it happens, the Church Barn is the third cottage in the village where we chose to stay.

We knew it would be smaller in size compared to the cottage where we stayed for three years in a row, but as my Mum didn't travel with us this time, this cottage was just right for the four of us. There are two bedrooms on the ground floor, and a big dining/sitting room with an open plan kitchen and a big open veranda.
As it's a converted church barn, the cottage is literally bordering the church cemetery with rows upon rows of old graves. They surely make quiet neighbours, but I did find it a bit disquieting, especially that one day they were digging a new grave in the new part of the cemetery, and the next day the funeral took place as we were sitting on the veranda, having cream tea.

Church Barn, Perranuthnoe, view from outside the shed and from the cemetery by the church
This is a view of the graveyard, the church and the sea. Quite something. We particularly enjoyed watching how the sea changed its colour through the day, from lazure blue to grey slate, depending on the weather and the time of the day.

Every cottage we stayed in the village offers a welcome foodie gift, usually a plate of scones, with the clotted cream and jam in the fridge, a bottle of milk as well as teabags. After a long journey by car I was looking forward to having a cream tea.
Imagine my surprise and delight, when we were greeted by a welcome hamper in the cottage which included tea, a jar of jam, a bottle of Prosecco and homemade scones (the clotted cream and milk were safely in the fridge). There was also a greetings card with our names, such a lovely touch.

The sitting-dining room with an open plan kitchen is a big airy room with a high vaulted ceiling and sky windows. There is a wood burning stove, which we haven't used, but I guess it would make the house warm and cozy in damp and cold weather. The owners clearly enjoyed decorating the room, with the work of the local artists and photographers. There is a beautiful watercolour of Perranuthnoe village, and some modern art too.

I wasn't sure about the painting of a woman sitting in the loo with a glass of wine which is displayed in the toilet at the entrance. Eddie was left in stitches though, he thought it was very funny.

During that week we surely made good use of the veranda, where you can find a big round table with a glass top and four chairs. The breeze from the sea is lovely, and so are the views of the garden around the cottage.

We had numerous cups of tea and coffee, both indoors and outdoors. I brought my favourite Russian Caravan tea with me, and also bought a pack of Cornish tea to try. We had some excellent jam and of course incomparable Rodda's clotted cream on scones.

Drinking tea from splendid Cornishware mugs made it even more pleasurable. I love Cornishware, and have a few mugs in my collection. Whenever I look at them, I think of Cornwall. It's very strange, that we, as a mixed nationality family, have such an affinity with Cornwall, but we are in love with it. If ever I won a lottery, I'd buy a house there (fat chance, I know, especially that I don't even play lottery these days).

We spent hours on the beach, then had leisurely lunches and dinners on the veranda, weather permitting (we did have a couple of rainy days, when we had to have meals indoors).

We had naps on the sofa in the sitting room, and reclined on the sun loungers in the garden (not more than a few minutes though, as there was too much to explore around).

The views were beautiful in the day time...

Panorama view of the garden from veranda
and atmospheric in the approaching evening hours...

We admired the beautiful terraced garden, with its rows of agapanthus and most glorious rosemary bushes.

There were white strawberries and some interesting flowers (don't ask me what they are called, my knowledge of botany is quite basic).

Bedrooms on the ground floor were small and in need of airing daily, but the beds were comfortable enough. I just wish there was some spare bedding in the closets, like it happens to be in the other cottages. It so happened that both of my boys caught a stomach bug, and were poorly in the night. We had to do all the washing and drying through the night, and the washing machine takes ages to go through even a so called cycle. I am comparing it to our eco-friendly washing machine at home which offers shorter cycles.
Rather than that, I cannot find any faults.
Church Barn suits perfectly a small family of three or four, perhaps five at a stretch if one of the kids won't mind sleeping in the sitting room (the sofa is not big enough for an adult).
Aspects Holidays also sells it as a place suitable for two couples, but mind you, the walls are very thin there, and you can hear everything. I could hear the fridge in the room above very well in the night, so I presume if you are in the amorous mood, you'll have to be very quiet so as not to disturb your friends or kids.
Overall, the cottage proved to be much better than I expected. Visit the link above if you want to see the images of the bedrooms, prices etc. But if you want to book it, don't delay, the properties in this village get snapped pretty much in advance, as we found out.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Pickled fennel

A few days ago, when I saw some fennel at a reduced price in Waitrose, I grabbed a couple of bulbs. I had a "cunning plan" in mind of making a jar of fresh pickled fennel. Having a good googling around, I came across a really nice recipe on Strawberryplum blog - Quick pickled fennel. Her recipe became my starting point. I have adapted it a bit and changed some ingredients. I recommend reading Sarah's blog post as apart from the recipe, she has some great suggestions on the ways of using the pickled fennel.
Me, I just eat it straight from the jar, picking it out with a fork. It's cold, crunchy, fresh, aromatic and just plain tasty.

Pickled fennel
2 bulbs of fennel (about 375g)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/4tsp mustard seeds
1/2tsp pickling spice (coriander seeds, allspice, peppercorn, bay leaf etc)
1 bay leaf
300ml vinegar (malt and cyder vinegar half-half)
230ml water
125g granulated sugar
3tsp sea salt
a handful of fresh dill
a handful of baby tomatoes (optional)

Slice your fennel very thinly, if you have a mandolin slicer, now it's a good time to take it out of the hiding place. In a small pan quickly toast a scattering of fennel and mustard seeds. Add the pickling spice too.
In a medium bowl heat up vinegar, all the spices and water, bring to boil and simmer until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
Place a handful of fresh dill at the bottom of a medium sized jar, then pack in the sliced fennel tightly. The jar should be pasteurized in advance. Pour the pickling liquid in a jar through a sieve. You might have some liquid left. I had about half a mug of brine left, and used it to pickle a big onion bulb. I have also added a handful of baby tomatoes at the very top, just because we have a glut of tomatoes in the greenhouse.
Let the sealed/closed jar cool down before placing it in the fridge. The pickles will be ready in 24 hours.

And now we're talking business. Add to any salads, or as a side dish to roast meat or fish. I will definitely be pickling more fennel, a jar at a time, so that I can enjoy it freshly pickled.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Furchester Hotel Magazine

Give a warm welcome to a brand new magazine for children - The Furchester Hotel. I don't know about you, but we spend a small fortune on magazines for kids. I'm quite embarrassed to say just how many of the kids' magazines we buy regularly.

There are so many different magazines available, catering for any tastes and preferences. Many of CBeebies shows have their own magazine - like Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly, Dora the Explorer, Postman Pat etc etc.
Today a new CBeebies magazine has been launched - for fans of Elmo, the Cookie Monster, Phoebe and other furry creatures.
The Furchester Hotel Magazine will be on sale every four weeks priced at £2.75, quite reasonably priced in comparison to some children's magazines which retail at £3.99-4.99. It is aimed at children aged 3-6 years, with the core audience of 4-year-olds.
This magazine is based on a TV series about a half-star hotel run by the cute monsters - the Furchester-Fuzz family. Your children might know some of the characters from the much loved series Sesame Street as well as from The Furchester Hotel show itself.
You will find adorable Elmo and Cookie Monster, full of mischief and ready for adventures.
The magazine follows the problem-solving aspect of the show by introducing its audience to lots of fun activities, from stories to puzzles, from colouring to counting.
This is a light reading magazine, which has been created to support the Early Years Curriculum, thus adding an educational twist to a fun interactive magazine.

Eddie immediately spotted a crafting set on the cover, and was very enthusiastic about creating mini-portraits of the Furchester Hotel furry monsters. The little set had lots of paper and fabric cut-outs, frames for portraits, stickers and double-sided pads.

Like all CBeebies magazines, it comes with stickers and activity book tasks for little people.

It has amusing colouring pages.

And of course, there are stories to be read together and enjoyed.

There is a mask to cut out on the back cover of the magazine. We love making masks, though Eddie reasonably suggested that we needed to cut out the holes for eyes first.
We enjoyed the new magazine, and are looking forward to new issues.

Disclosure: we received a copy of the new magazine for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are Eddie's and mine. We will also receive a year's subscription to the new magazine.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Heirloom tomato and roasted lemon salad

I have always loved a roasted lemon, and whenever I cook a roast chicken or any other meat, I like to add a lemon, cut in half or quarters. The flavours of lemon, roasted with the meat juices, are a mix of sour and savoury. But for some reason it never crossed my mind to roast the lemon for the salad. That is, until I came across an Ottolenghi's tomato and roasted lemon salad via a Pin that I loved. I didn't happen to have at least half of the ingredients of the original salad, but hope I will make it one day.
My version was very tasty.

Heirloom tomato and roasted lemon salad
1 lemon, sliced thinly
1tbsp olive oil
sea salt
2tbsp Coconom coconut sugar with turmeric and tamarind
1tsp Spice Parisienne
5 heirloom tomatoes, of different sizes and colours
mixed salad leaves
1 small sized goat's cheese (about 100g)
1tbsp olive oil to drizzle over

Slice a lemon into thin circles, spread over a foil on a baking/roasting tray and drizzle some olive oil over. Season with sea salt and sprinkle about 2 tbsp of coconut sugar with turmeric and tamarind (on both sides) and a teaspoon of Spice Parisienne. Roast at 180C for about 20+ minutes.

While the lemon is being roasted, slice the tomatoes and sprinkle generously with salt. Assemble the plates by first layering some mixed salad leaves. Then add the tomato slices, roasted lemon slices and sliced goat's cheese. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the salad before serving with a nice chunk of bread.

I used Coconom turmeric and tamarind coconut sugar for the roasted lemons, which I received in the last Degustabox monthly food box, and by now there's not much left of the sugar, as I used it in a few recipes. It is a versatile ingredient which enhances the flavour of many dishes. If you haven't tried it yet, have a look at my recipe for Coconut sugar cookies.

This is a lovely flavourful salad. Roasted lemons are a great addition to my repertoire of salads, and I will definitely be making this salad again.
Now it's a season of tomatoes, and you can find a big variety of tomatoes in supermarkets and farmer's markets. I love the so called heirloom tomatoes as they are so colourful and unique.

Adding my recipe to Ren Behan's Simple and In Season linky.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Photo diary: week 30, 365

I have taken a break from Project 365 for a few weeks, but as the last week was quite eventful and colourful, and I took one zillion of photos, I am joining in again this week. It will be a slightly longer post of 8 days, including the Friday 17 July when our trip commenced.
It took us eight and a half hours to travel by car from Oxfordshire to Perranuthnoe in Cornwall. We were pretty exhausted, but after a quick unpacking and exploring of our new cottage, we went to the beach. It was the time of the high tide, and the enormous beach was completely covered with water. Both boys were delighted to watch the waves anyway. Eddie was busy making friends with a local girl and trying to impress her with his pebbles-throwing technique.
As you can guess from Eddie's outfit, it was verrry fresh.

18 July: The next evening we walked to a distant beach, along the coast, with the beautiful views of the sea and St Michael's Mount. We always stop by an old cannon and an anchor on someone's farm. Their gates are open for visitors. The evening was much warmer than the previous one.

19 July: Our routine was the same every day, we went to the beach in the late morning or early afternoon, when the tide was low. Eddie was digging, building the sandcastles, exploring the rock pools, paddling in the water and running away from the waves. It was too cold to have a proper dip, though Sash didn't mind the cold, he was in the water, wading through the waves and smiling like an angel.

20 July: I have been trying to take a few panorama shots. This photo was taken on our walk to the distant beach, with St Michael's Mount in the background. It is a very picturesque walk, with the fields and hills rolling down, and the sea coming closer and closer.

21 July: On a sunny day what could be better than jumping in the waves?!

22 July: We were having dinner on the open veranda, when I spotted these birds. They were quite far from our cottage, so I zoomed them closer with my camera. They looked just like musical notes.

23 July: Sasha loves Cornwall. For him it's the place, where he feels the happiest. He would stay in the sea all day, if we didn't drag him out. The water was pretty cold, but he didn't seem to mind at all. He loves everything about the sea: the smell, the taste, the sound and the feel of it.

It was raining when we said Good bye to the Church Barn cottage with its beautiful terraced garden. All the agapanthus and tropical plants looked soggy and the sky was grey. It took us almost nine hours to get home, by which time we were all miserable and tired.

We didn't have time to recuperate for too long, as on Saturday we celebrated Eddie's 5th birthday with a big party at the play centre Darcy Bear. My little man didn't show any signs of being tired, climbing and sliding, and playing with his friends. I couldn't catch him staying still long enough to take a good photo, as he ran away from me, laughing.

Eggless butter cookies

Hello, hello! Have you missed me? Maybe just a little bit?! I haven't posted for a week, as my family and I had a week-long holiday in Cornwall. I did take my ipad with me, but I don't like blogging on ipad, and to be honest, I didn't have much time either. After all, we were in Cornwall to enjoy the outdoors. We were mostly lucky with the weather, there were some showers, of course, but we braved the elements and walked by the sea.
I did miss my blog, and even more, I missed baking.
Today we are cooped at home, what with this horrendous rain, and Eddie asked me to bake some cookies for him. I first told him that I don't have any eggs left, as I used the last ones for making salad for lunch. Then I googled and found  a recipe for eggless chocolate chip cookies.
I have adapted the recipe and converted cups into grams. It took me less than half an hour from start to finish, and we are now enjoying them with a cuppa.
I wanted to use some glorious looking Cornish farmhouse butter from Rodda's which I brought with me from Cornwall. I have tried this delicious butter last year, but it is not available locally. I was delighted to find out that I could buy it online, when I did the food shopping for our Cornish cottage, and ordered two blocks of butter. It is yellow, creamy and oh so tasty.

I also got a bottle of Rodda's semi-skimmed milk to take with us, and it survived the 9-hours-long drive in the cooler bag (mind you, it wasn't a warm day, so that helped).

Eggless butter cookies
140g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
25g ground almonds (optional)
55g granulated sugar
55g light muscovado sugar
2tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1tsp vanilla essence
110g butter, melted
70g chopped cooking chocolate (mix of dark and milk, about half-half)

Mix all the dry ingredients in a deep mixing bowl, add the milk, vanilla essence and melted butter and mix well again. Chop the chocolate finely or use the chocolate chips (I didn't have any, so used the remains of two cooking chocolate bars).
Using hands, roll the cookie dough into small balls, then flatten them and place well apart on a tray covered with the parchment paper. If you fancy, press the fork over the top to make a stripey design. I had two trays of raw cookies to bake.
Place the trays in the oven preheated to 180C and bake for about 10 minutes.
The cookies will still be very soft, when you take the trays out, so judge the readiness by the colour, which is golden brown.

Let the cookies cool a bit before placing carefully on a plate.
There are about 15 cookies in total, and all my three men declared them very tasty. They are quite rustic-looking and are not evenly shaped, but they surely disappear fast.