Mudeford Spit

As you can see from my header photo (of Hayling Island), I have an irrational fondness for beach huts.  I’m obviously not alone, since many of them around the UK are now so popular, that to buy one will set you back more than the cost of a castle in Scotland.  I was particularly taken with these huts on Mudeford Spit, which overlooks Christchurch Harbour on the South Coast.  They are also famously expensive – Hut 39 is currently for sale, price £250,000.  Many of them are micro designer crash pads, some even having upstairs areas for beds, as well as gorgeous views whichever way you look, with the harbour on one side and a soft sandy beach the other.  But there is no road access and residents have to use a toilet and shower block.  Still, they really captured my imagination and I really did fancy staying in one for a while!

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cheesey man cookieOver the last few cold weeks, I’ve had a touch of the munchies, which of course, can lead you to scoff too many cakes and crisps.  These tasty little nibbles, have been keeping me going, and without overloading on the baddies, as well as being a good excuse to use my gingerbread men cutter!

Cheeseyman Cookies

225g (8oz) wholemeal spelt flour (or regular wholemeal flour)
175g (6oz) butter
175g (6oz) grated cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon English Mustard

Set the oven to 220 C and grease a baking tray.

Rub the butter into the flour, then add the cheese, pepper and mustard.  Bring together into a ball of dough.

Flour the surface and roll out the dough quite thinly and cut out using a gingerbread men cutter (or any other shape!).  Place on the baking tray and prick with a fork.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until just browning.  Once cooked leave the cookies to cool on the tray and start to crisp up before moving them to a cooling rack.  These keep well in an airtight container for a few days.

vegetating Just Vegetating: A Memoir

What does the gardener do during the long winter evenings when pottering in the garden simply isn’t an option?  Well, at the moment, I’m dipping into a memoir by Joy Larkcom.  Aside from having a glorious name, Joy is a gardening writer, who, during the 70’s, toured Europe to find out how people grew vegetables in different parts of the continent and to bring back rare varieties to the UK.  Her work changed how we grow our veg today, as well as recording, in some cases, practices that were disappearing from the landscape.  This memoir includes Joy’s writing from that trip, as well as her later discoveries in China and her own gardens back in the UK and later in Ireland.  A wonderful companion for those winter evenings.

Just Vegetating: A Memoir by Joy Larkcom

Check out some of Joy’s other books about growing vegetables: 
The Organic Salad Garden
Creative Vegetable Gardening
Grow Your Own Vegetables
Oriental Vegetables

I’ve  been planning to try this recipe from Abel and Cole for months and have now finally got around to it!  The recipe looks a bit fiddly at first, but is actually pretty easy as everything gets whizzed in a food processor.  I liked these as nibbles by themselves, but as Spaghetti and ‘Meatballs’, I really enjoyed the change from plain old tomato sauce!  The original recipe called for breadcrumbs, which I swapped for gluten free Orgran rice crumbs.

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Aubergine No-Meat Meatballs

A few splashes of olive oil
2 aubergines, cut into a small dice
1 smallish onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 lemon
A handful of pitted black olives
1 red chilli, finely chopped (or a pinch of chilli powder)
A large handful of fresh basil or 1 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 mug of gluten free breadcrumbs

Fry the aubergine, onion and garlic on medium heat in a bit of oil till soft and starting to colour. Add more oil, if need. Season well.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and grate over a good bit of the zest.

Tip it into a food processor with the olives, chilli, balsamic vinegar and breadcrumbs. Whizz it up till everything comes together. If you don’t have a processor, just chop and mix everything up on a large cutting board.
Taste the mix, then add more herbs or spice if needed.  Also, if it’s a bit dry, add a splash of olive oil, or if it’s too wet, add more breadcrumbs. Shape into balls. Two aubergines will give you about a dozen rounded tablespoon-sized balls.
Fry the balls in olive oil till golden all over and serve with a mound of sauced spaghetti, or just nibble them on their own.

gloucServs

No sooner has one service station featured on these pages, than we feel compelled to write about another.  The new Gloucester Services on the M5 is run by the Westmorland Family group who also run Tebay Services, serving home made food from local producers.  Currently the services are only open on the northbound side, but the southbound will be opening next year.

The vegetarian and vegan food is being supplied by The Parsnipship, a great, Cardiff based company, producing unique seasonal food.  In-house bakers have also apparently perfected a gluten free Chocolate and Almond cake – check out the recipe on their blog.

We haven’t had the chance to visit yet, but that all sounds like a services should, and the pictures show a lovely, inspiring design, making for a relaxing break.  We can’t wait to go, but if you get the chance, let us know what you think!

Gloucester Services, between J11a and J12 on the M5 northbound (sounthbound 2015)

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