The Black Venus, Challacombe, Devon


River Barle on Exmoor

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A delightful pub on Exmoor and ideally placed if you go walking up to Pinkery Pond. I went with D&J on a wet wintry night but there was a warm cosy welcome inside and we were soon drinking some ale and looking at the blackboard menu being careful not to bump our heads on the low beams.
We all had the home made beef and ale pie with flaky pastry. They were served with home cooked vegetables – delicious fresh leeks and carrots. There was a choice of chips or potatoes. I went for the potato option and it was a relief to have good fresh cooked food that hadn’t been messed about with. There were many temptations on the menu. As well as some good starters there was Exmoor Beast – gammon steak. The lamb shank with redcurrant sauce and rosemary looked very tempting.
For pudding I had the plum crumble with custard that went down very well with a cup of tea to finish. I heartily recommend it.

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Pumpkin Curry


Pumpkin

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

I love growing pumpkins although rarely successful and this year’s crop was lamentable. About 8 small sized pumpkins was the result of immense effort with many seedlings. I like to grow giant ones and all sorts of strange shaped squashes. The dreams in March are immense but all I end up with is a few orange ones as usual.
Anyway, I made this wonderful pumpkin curry. I mix and match the curry specifications with whatever comes to hand so don’t worry too much about exact measurements. I also added some leaks to the recipe below just because I had some. Careful with the chilies. I got the mixture in my mouth and eyes which is very painful especially wearing contact lens. Serve the dish with rice and drink cider or lager to take the pain away. yoghurt is good for cooling the effects of the chilly and curry.
I love the colour of pumpkins and prefer cooking it as a savoury dish rather than the american way. I also don’t like the festival of haloween but it does mean you can buy very cheap pumpkins in the shops after the 1st November if your own harvest fails.
Ingredients
1 onion
garlic cloves
2 teaspoons of ginger
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 tablespoons curry paste
1 1/4 lb of pumpkin chopped up into small pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
vegetable stock
1 can chickpeas
2 chilies
1 large banana

What to do
Fry the onion, chilies and ginger in some oil in one pan add the spices and leave for while until the onion is soft.
Put the pumpkin pieces in a bowl and cover with the curry paste. Fry in some olive oil in another pan.
Add the tomatoes, chilies and stock to the onions. Add the pumkin mix and cook for about 20 minutes. Towards the end, add the banana. Serve with rice and yoghut.

Lemon Drizzle Cake


Lemon Drizzle Cake

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

This is a wonderful light cake that my mother makes. It is simple to make and very heart warming.
Ingredients
250 g unsalted butter
250g castor sugar
4 large eggs
zest of a lemon
250 g self -raising flour
8 tablespoons milk.
For the syrup
juice of 3 lemons and 200g icing sugar

Cream the sugar and buuter. Add the eggs with a little of the flour add the meon zest. Fold the flour into the mixture with milk. Spoon into a cake tin and cook at about 180C for about 45 minutes.
Syrup
Prepare the syrup whilst the cake is cooking and enjoy a cup of tea. Just put the lemon juice into a suacepan with the icing sugar and heat until the sugar disolves. When the cake is done, spike the top with a skewer and pour the syrup over the top to soak in. Leave in the tin until the cake is cooled.

Wild Swimming


Bassenthwaite Lake

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

In the Lakes for a week so I decided I really wanted to try some wild swimming, inspired by Roger Deakin’s Waterlog. The question was – when and where. It was cold that week and the weather raining and grim. This was not conducive to swimming. I was staying in Braithwaite and I eyed up the local river where it is dammed just above the village forming a good pool that looked deep enough to swim in. But the water was freezing – it had been a cold summer. Even a dog dipped its paw in and turned away in disgust.
Then on the last day, early in the morning to Bassenthwaite lake to take some early morning photos. The clouds were down and the light not great for photography but suddenly the calm water drew me in. Fortunaly there is a little gravel beach so it is possible to walk into the water without getting muddy. It is shallow at first and then it shelves quickly so in no time at all I was swimming in the Lakes District’s one and only true Lake and it was glorious. The water not too cold and it was good to have a fresh perspective on the surrounding mountains.
No sign of the otters or osprey that are living nearby, in fact there seemed to be no birds or wildlife aound at this early hour. Just the faint swish of cars on the main road.