Friday, 31 May 2013

Lycian Jollies

I could literally talk about Turkey, and the Lycian Coast specifically, for days but will try to resist. Glyn and I had a slightly more luxurious and sedate holiday in Kalkan than usual as we were joined by my parents and stayed in a fantastic villa for 10 days. 

Highlights: Catching up with all our lovely Turkish friends, having tortoises in the garden, celebrating our friend Sarah's birthday with fireworks and sparklers, adopting lots of cats, drinking endless glasses of Turkish รงay and jumping out of bed and (literally) straight into the pool. 

Low points: Getting a little burnt for the first time in 10 years (the shame!), coming home.

"Smelly", one of our villa cats
Ataturk statue in Kas
Wheelbarrow o' towels
Pretty shop and a pretty cat
I want a pink shop!
Mediterranean Blue 

Turkish Cay is the new Yorkshire Tea

Lunch under the pergola
The view from my bed

Villa cat no.2, named Teeny

My mum and dad
Sarah's amazing birthday cake
Me and Glyn
Me and my lovely mum
Do you think it's dinner time?
Flaming veggie moussaka, bit scary on a breezy evening

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Perfect Cup of Tea

I came across this short BFI film from 1941 this week and thought it deserved a share! All the golden rules of tea-making are in here.

"Don't spoil good tea by bad preparation."

Tea Making Tips (1941)


Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Ultimate Brownie Recipe

I'm a tough crowd when it comes to brownies. They have to be extremely chocolatey, moist, squidgy and rich, or what's the point? Shop-bought brownies are usually dry, heavy and disappointing, and many homemade ones are just as bad. I had never baked brownies before as I'd eaten so many rubbish ones that I thought it was inevitable that they turned out dry and flavourless unless you added huge amounts of oil. Then I discovered that there was a secret ingredient you could add to your brownie mixture in place of oil. It retained the rich, moist texture oil provides while also lightening the calories and fat:

I located a few mayo-brownie recipes online but all used full-fat mayonnaise. I only had Hellmann's Light in the fridge so tried that and it worked just fine, plus, it lightened the calories and fat even further. By the way, did you know Hellmann's only use free-range eggs in their mayo and have done for the past few years?

These brownies are among the best I've ever tasted. If you like your brownies rich, gooey, dense and chocolatey, this is the recipe for you!
Ultimate Brownie Recipe, adapted from this one


Makes 24 brownie bites or 12 large brownies

  • 85g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into small pieces
  • 85g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 40g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium free-range egg
  • 2 tbsp buttermilk (I made my own substitute with semi-skimmed milk and a squirt of lemon juice)
  • 100g light mayonnaise
  • Handful of chocolate chips (optional)

1. Heat oven to Gas Mark 4/180C. Melt the chopped chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring occasionally and being careful not to over-heat as the chocolate will go gritty. Once it's melted, leave it to cool slightly.

2. Line the base of a square cake tin with baking parchment  and lightly grease the sides. Add the caster and muscovado sugars to the melted chocolate and stir in with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla extract and buttermilk and one tablespoon of warm water. Beat in the egg then gently stir in the mayonnaise. Finally, add the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda. Gently fold in until well combined. Add the chocolate chips if using and gently stir in.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin, gently spreading it into the corners. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean with a few chocolatey crumbs stuck to it.

4. Leave to cool then tip out onto a large plate and slice into the desired number of squares. The brownies will keep for three days in an airtight container...if they last that long.


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

In search of Mr Darcy

I've wanted to visit Lyme Park for years and finally made it there this weekend. The largest house in Cheshire, it's probably best known for its appearance as Mr Darcy's Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. The gift shop is full of Mr Darcy memorabilia but - how shall I put this? - it was all a little tacky, even for me. And I own a heart-shaped, glittery Pope John Paul II keyring. Instead, I came away with a National Trust membership (is this how middle age starts?) and some yummy homemade fudge. 

I am totally in love with Lyme Park. I've been to Tatton Hall and Chatsworth several times but I think Lyme's my new favourite. Photography is prohibited inside the house due to the delicate items on show but it's a beautiful, slightly quirky house. The home of the Legh family for many generations until 1946, it's still got a real lived-in feel despite its grandeur and size. There aren't many roped-off areas or displays contained behind glass so even if you can't actually touch anything, you're very aware that you could and it feels much more hands-on and accessible than other stately homes.

The solitary structure of the Cage up on the top of the hill behind the house, previously used as a hunting lodge, is a definite highlight and affords amazing views over the Cheshire Plain and the mountains of the Peak District. It's only open 14 weekends a year and , luckily, was open for our visit. If you don't mind narrow, winding staircases, it's definitely worth climbing to the top for the spectacular views and a small display on the history of the Cage.

The house is surrounded by beautiful parkland and the landscape seems a little more rugged than other stately home grounds. There are miles and miles of walking trails through woods, meadows, gardens and parkland and I'll definitely be back this summer. 

and of course, just time for a smoldering Darcy pic...