Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Pubs in Stratford upon Avon

Over the weekend we had one of those mini breaks in Stratford Upon Avon.I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the wonderful old English pubs in Stratford.
messing about on the Avon
We stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel which is part of the Best Western Group.  I can honestly recommend it.  We had a good room, nicely furnished and quite large, the food was very good, the staff were pleasant and the price was really good value for money.
Peter outside the Grosvenor Hotel
Below Peter examining the credentials of the Golden Bee in Sheep street.  There have been properties on the site of Sheep Street since 1196.  The first battle of the English Civil War was fought on 12 miles away and some of the Parliamentarians were billeted at 40 Sheep street. The buidling is still there.
The Golden Bee
The building below is Harvard House and the Garrick. They were built in 1524.
Harvard House and the Garrick
The Old Thatch  is now the only thatched building in the town.  It must have been outside the boundaries at one time because thatched roofs were banned in the seventeenth century because of the risk of fire. We saw this from the roof of the open topped bus which takes you all around the area and you can hop on and off all day long. 
The Old Thatch
Below is the Dirty Duck or the Black Swan.  This is near the Swan theatre and is where all the theatre crowd meet.   It was given the name Dirty Duck by the American G.Is who were camped just across the river in World War 11. 

The Black Swan
Dirty Duck
 We had lunch there
lunch at the Black Swan.
It was a glorious day and we sat next to the river. What could be nicer?  English Pubs at their best. These are just a few of them

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

What is it About Dens and Ice Cream?

When we were young we would spend hours building dens.
Off we would go on our bikes with a few sandwiches (usually eaten by half past ten) and a bottle of Corona and we would spend the day frantically dragging bits of wood, branches and twigs to make a shelter.  We worked all day and would agree with friends to meet up the following day "at the den" when we would add to it and include such luxuries as a dried grass floor and leafy thatch.  This would continue until such time as some other children would come along and take delight in demolishing our hard work.

So when we took two of our grandchildren to Kedleston Hall earlier this week we were delighted to see the sign in this picture.

My husband joined the children with great gusto and as the three of them seemed quite happy I
wandered off on my own.   He has been having his childhood over again ever since our children were born and now our grandchildren are delighted to find he joins in this kind of this not as an adult but as one on them!!! 

I left them working hard.
The farther I walked the more I was enjoying the peace, the solitude and the beautiful surroundings

I saw trees, bushes, shrubs and rabbit holes and badger sets, birds, insects, fungus..........

lace-like grasses; nature's own beautiful garden

blackberries which will ripen in a few weeks

elderberries ready to become ripe fruit

Until I decided I'd better go back. I needn't have hurried. They were still happy and hard at work and so was Grandad. 

The den isn't finished yet and I had to drag the three of them away with the promise of ice cream in a tall glass eaten with a soda spoon and with strawberries on top!


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.comReasons to be CheerfulCountry Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays CornwallManneskjur

Apples for Over Forty Years

Our apple tree is dead.  It was here (along with two others) when we moved into this house over forty years ago.  It was an old tree even then.  We are going to ask a friend to cut it down in return for the wood.  I believe apple wood is nice to burn in a kitchen stove.
The apples it produced were absolutely delicious.  They were sweet and juicy and it was fruiting right up until last year.  In fact last summer it produced a bumper crop.  It was its swansong. 
 When we first moved here there was a smallholding at the bottom of the garden and the pigs once broke down the fence in order to reach the windfall apples.
I remember filling harvest baskets for the children to take to school on harvest festival.

My favourite things to do with the apples,apart from eating them straight off the tree,was to make them into salad along with celery ,sesame seeds and white wine vinegar and soy sauce. 
the apples last year

 I also used  to core them, stuff them full of dried fruits and bake them for dessert when I was in a hurry. I did them in the microwave. ..lovely served hot with cold ice cream. Or I made applecake.

We sell these handy apple sectioners which take out the core and cut the apple into sections.  I find them very useful, especially when I made fruit salad and added apple  to it or when the children wanted to eat an apple..

It seems like the end of an era.  The other trees went years ago.  So goodbye old friend.  I wonder how long it will take another tree to grow?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chocolate Cake with Courgettes.

You may need to use up your courgettes. We have a glut of courgettes at the moment. I decided to use some in my baking this week. so for those of you looking for a way to use up those courgettes this is a great recipe.  You seem to get a much bigger cake and it is lovely and moist.

Chocolate Cake with Courgettes
You need
350g S.R. flour
50g Cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon salt
175g olive oil
375 castor sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 courgettes grated. (If you grate them and put them in a measuring jug they should come up to about the 500ml mark) Here is a useful little grater.
140g roughly chopped walnuts

1. Place the grated courgettes in a clean cloth and squeeze out some of the liquid and discard the liquid.
2.Heat oven to 180C/160Cfan/gas mark 4.
3. Combine flour, cocoa powder, mixed spice and 1 teaspoon salt in one bowl.
4. In another bowl mix olive oil, sugar,eggs, vanilla essence and the grated courgette.
5. Combine them all in one bowl until just combined and then fold in the walnuts.
6. Line a 24cm cake tin with greaseproof paper (yes, that's right - it makes a large cake.)
7. Bake it for  about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of it comes out clean.  It may take longer.
8. Cool in the tin for a little while and then cool on a wire rack.
While it is cooling make the icing:
Icing Ingredients
200g dark chocolate
100ml single cream

Break the chocolate into really small pieces. Bring cream to boil in small saucepan.  Pour boiling milk onto the chocolate in a bowl and stir till smooth and melted. Cool slightly then spread over the cake.

Lick bowl!! Eat cake!

Casa Costello

Friday, 25 July 2014

Honey and Banana Teabread for Afternoon Tea

Do you have a fussy eater in the family?  When my children were growing up they weren't fussy eaters.  They ate just about everything I put in front of them. I wasn't prepared to mess about and they knew it. Now I have grandchildren the situation is quite different.  The youngest grandson was even fussy when tiny about the texture of food.  Even now he will eat raw carrots but not cooked carrots but he will eat carrot soup.  It isn't about taste it seems to be about texture so I think I get it!
     He doesn't like  to eat raw bananas but loved this Honey and Banana tea bread.  As his grandmother I feel it is my duty to spoil him and so it is now virtually all gone! This is also absolutely perfect for afternoon tea.

Honey and Banana Tea Bread

225g SR Flour
Pinch grated nutmeg
100g butter
225g bananas
100g castor sugar
grated peel of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons of thick pale honey
You need to line the bottom of a greased 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and preheat the oven to 160C , 140C fan or gas mark 3

Measure the flour and nutmeg into a bowl and rub in butter until it is like breadcrumbs

Peel and mash the bananas with a fork and stir into the flour mixture together with the sugar, lemon peel, eggs and the honey and beat.
Put into the prepared tin.
Bake for approx 1 hour 15 mins and test with a skewer stuck in the centre comes out clean. You might have to cover loosely with foil towards the end if it browns too much.
Cool for a few minutes in the tin then turn onto a cooling rack.
Topping (optional)
Warm another 2 tablespoons of honey in a small pan (very gently), brush over top of cold tea bread and sprinkle with sugar.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Garden and Park Picnics. How does your Garden Grow?

How does your garden grow?  There has been quite a lot to do in ours recently but it is producing a few vegetables and herbs recently. We have broad beans and courgettes and salad leaves all of which are ready and which we have been using.
We have some beautiful roses

Some lovely pots of flowers

containing begonias, bizzy lizzies, petunias etc.

we have hanging baskets

And gorgeous lavender.  next week the lilies will be out and so will the agapanthus. It is lovely to sit in the garden and watch the bees on the lilac.

We went to Belper River Gardens this week and took these pictures of the riverside walk


Lovely time to have meals in the garden and picnics in the park.