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Don’t blame me, it’s the title of a rather wonderful little book that tells you all you need to know about baking, including, of course, how to avoid a soggy bottom (to your pies)!  And if you don’t know what to do with yourself now that The Great British Bake Off has finished, this is for you.

Written, rather brilliantly, by Gerard Baker, this book gives you a mini history of how cakes, bread and biscuits all evolved over time, as well as the scientific basis for how the ingredients work.  Thus you find out the difference between puff pastry and flaky pastry, how biscuits got their name and how to avoid some common baking problems.  Each section comes with a simple, well described recipe.

I love the histories in this book, but also that it manages to teach the basics without sounding condescending.  It’s beautifully written and designed and should absolutely have a place on the shelves of every baker, new or experienced.

How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom and Other Secrets to Achieving a Good Bake by Gerard Baker

I have to admit that I’ve only stopped off here for a late night coffee, but Le Train Bleu restaurant quickly became one of my favourite places.  Despite a rather unpromising location above the Gare de Lyon in Paris, it’s full of atmosphere, and transports you to another time and place, whilst leaving you feeling impossibly glamorous!  That’s quite an achievement for a cup of coffee and a couple of macaroons!

Open since 1901, the café claims Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau,  Salvador Dali, Jean Gabin and Marcel Pagnol as regular customers.  The restaurant certainly lends itself to rendezvous of all kinds!

The main restaurant.

The main restaurant. (c) Le Train Bleu

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

Coffee and macaroons!

Coffee and macaroons!

 

Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, Paris

While we were visiting Abbey Home Farm, we also dropped in for a look at nearby Bibury, a gorgeous small village in the Cotswolds, which claims to be home to the most photographed view in Britain.  And here it is:

arlingtonrow

This is Arlington Row, first built in 1380, but converted into weavers cottages in the 17th century, and now owned by the National Trust.

Modern Bibury attracts tour buses and is unfortunately dominated by a trout farm (picturesque as that trout farm may be in this setting!), which is a visitor ‘attraction’.  However, we did manage a lovely wander round the village, a couple of purchases in the gift shop and a good veggie lunch in garden of the Catherine Wheel pub.  All that gorgeous Cotswold stone, a babbling brook and a couple of black swans, all make Bibury well worth the visit.

the bridge in the centre of Bibury

the bridge in the centre of Bibury

The end of Arlington Row

The end of Arlington Row

FrPonds1

Looking for a day out with a difference, we were told about Frensham Ponds, a couple of lakeside beaches, deep in the heart of Surrey.  The ponds were originally created as fishing lakes in the 13th century, to supply Farnham Castle.  The pictures here are of the Great Pond, where the bathers gather in surprisingly large numbers, given that this place was so new to us.  The first beach nearest the car park was the busiest, but we kept walking to the second beach and found a quieter spot.  The water was pretty freezing, but there were one or two brave souls taking a dip!

As well as the sandy beaches, the lakes are surrounded by heathland, where there are footpaths for when you’ve had enough of sunbathing (well, you never know!), including a loop around the pond.  There’s a takeaway café (with a couple of veggie options), toilets and information on site as well as plenty of parking.

Frensham Little Pond is managed by the National Trust, who also have a gorgeous looking holiday cottage nearby!

FrPonds2

I visited Swansea’s indoor market recently for the first time in many years and I’m happy to report that it appeared to be thriving!  It’s a bright and open market hall with a full array of fruit and veg stalls, clothes, bric a brac, etc, and a lively selection of places to sit and eat or buy takeaway.

The market has been on it’s present site since 1897, when the market was fully covered for the first time.  Made of wrought iron and glass, it was the larget structure of it’s kind when it was built!

The original Oxford Street market, seen here on the right.

By the 1920’s Swansea Market had over 670 stalls

Sadly this building was badly bombed during the 2nd World War, and the rebuilt market was opened in 1961.

Devastated by bombs in WWII

One of the highlights of a trip to Swansea market is the fresh laverbread on sale – this seaweed is a staple of the full welsh breakfast, rolled in oatmeal and fried.  Laverbread is a nutrition powerhouse, full of protein, iron, iodine and vitamins A, C, D and B2.  My favourite thing about our visit, though, was the fresh welsh cakes being cooked on the spot.  Welsh cakes are a little like flat scones, but usually eaten without any topping.  They usually contain raisins or currants and a sprinkling of nutmeg or cinnamon.  A bag of warm welsh cakes, eaten as you meander round the market is a wonderful thing to do on cold November day!

Welshcakes cooking on the griddle

Swansea Indoor Market
Oxford Street, Swansea, SA1 3PQ

Open daily Monday to Friday from 8.00am to 5.30pm
Saturday from 7.30am to 5.30pm

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