Dinner at the Cley windmill

Cley windmill

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

The windmill is in a superb position on the edge of the salt marshes in North Norfolk. You can stay there and it is also open for dinner so I couldn’t wait to book in.
When you arrive you are shown into the sitting room. It is a cosy room with a fire going in the wood burning stove. There are old books in the bookcases, some cosy sofas and the hexagonal walls have small windows looking out onto the night sky.
According to the literature, if you go there in the summer you can stand out on the balcony looking over the marshes but it was blowing a gale outside and in fact I felt more like I was in a lighthouse than a windmill.
There is a set course menu so no choices to be made but we were shown a wine list to order something to drink for dinner but strangely we were not offered a pre prandial drink. Instead we had a glass of Merlot each to drink and then to take in to dinner.
The room is small so you are almost forced to talk to the other guests. They were a convivial bunch. A couple who had retired to the village and a couple who had got married here last year and were back again. You can hire out the whole place and I think quite a few people use it for wedding receptions.
According to the waitress, the owner was coming for dinner as well with his family and when he arrived he went and poked the fire around in a proprietorial manner although it was difficult to talk as we knew who he was but he didn’t know that we knew …anyway it was soon time to go into the candlelit dining room.
The starter was very tasty and served by the two pleasant waitresses. Smoked chicken and rocket salad was then followed by pork with mashed potatoes and red cabbage with a selection of vegetables. This was rather ordinary and seemed rather like a catering product than home cooked fresh cooking but maybe I am doing them an unjustice. The Chocolate and orange pavola was a bit too sweet for me. The ambiance however won over. The candle lights, low beamed ceiling and intimate atmosphere makes it a very pleasant and unusual place to eat. Do try it.


Snape Maltings

Beach sculpture

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Everyone seems to be writing about Snape Maltings so I thought I ought to pen somethings because it is the strangest of places.
Coming out of the wilderness of Suffolk to Snape is like travelling through the snow of Norway and finding yourself in Santa’s grotto, almost. I often think of Suffolk as the best wilderness of England. Remote coastal heaths and marshes with spectacular birds. Where else can you see a bittern and a group of bearded tits in one morning? In the afternoon you can wander around Dunwich heath and see red deer. Maybe spend a week on the Walberswick marshes looking out for barn owls or wandering along the remote eleven mile shingle spit that is Orford Ness.
Then you go to Snape to visit the The Maltings. What a strange name and redolent of music and Radio broadcasts – “Welcome to the Aldeburgh Festival and tonight’s concert is broadcast live from The Snape Maltings…” From seeing no-one to being with everyone, that is the Zen of the place. The place is packed on a Sunday afternoon. There are gift shops, book shops, art galleries and a kitchen shop so huge and throbbing with people it seems as if the entire county’s population is packed into one place. All the papers write about the lush restaurant but the Ravenous Rambler doesn’t have time for such indulgences and retreats to the tea shop. Here, buxom waitresses serve home made cakes and sandwiches with lashings of tea and hot water. The seating area is surrounded by art and photography which gives me a great feeling of inner warmth. There is seating outside too but it’s too cold even if the sun is shining.
It’s worth a visit as it is so unusual but it is being built up even more outside. The old maltings are being turned into luxury homes for the very rich who can afford an extra holiday home. Maybe just pop by on your way back home on a Sunday afternoon

Red Cabbage

This is an excellent winter vegetable to have with casserole of pheasant.
1 red cabbage
2-3 cooking apples
2 or 3 large onions
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
sherry glass of wine vinegar
What to do
Chop cabbage into 1/4s remove stalk and slice the apples and onions.
Put a layer of cabbage in the saucepan followed by a layer of onions, apples, brown sugar and seasoning. Repeat until you have used up all the vegetables. Pour over the wine vinegar. Cook on a low heat and stir frequently.

Pumpkin Chutney

Pumpkin Chutney is a great accompaniment for all sorts of dishes. I like it on a ploughman’s lunch with good cheddar cheese and homemade bread.

21/2 lbs pumpkin
1lb tomatoes
1/2 ib onions
2oz sultanas
3/4 lb soft dark brown sugar
3/4 ibs caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger, black peppar and allspice,
2 cloves of garlic
1 pint wine vinegar or cider vinegar
What to do
Peel pumpkin, discard seeds and the pith. SLice and cut in pieces. Pour boiling water over tomatoes skin and slice. Peel and slice onions and garlic.
Put all solid ingredients including spices and sugar in the pan. Add vinegar. Boil gently and cook until the mixture is jammy. It will take about 50 minutes, stir frequently and skim.

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.

Pumpkin Curry


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.
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.
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.
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.