Summer!

I promise you I have not completely disappeared … I just took an unplanned break … doing some summer things …

… like sitting with my hubby drinking wine, chatting and enjoying the evening sun coming through our windows …

… witnessing glorious sunsets …

… eating lots of fresh asparagus (between you and me I think L might wake up one morning and find his wife has turned into a stalk of asparagus ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) …

… reading books on the Cathedral Green …

… attending the lovely wedding of lovely friends …

… and taking photos of fresh, juicy, bright red tomatoes! Not really a must-do summer activity, but come on, the colour has got to make you smile, right?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

What are you doing with your summer?

This evening

The last few days we have had beautiful weather! Blue skies, hot sun, light breeze! Lots of sun, but not too hot – just right! ๐Ÿ™‚

Right now the evening sun is pouring through my windows!

I love that our main kitchen/dining/living room faces west, and so catches lots of sunlight and golden shadows!

It even makes my crowded little tea shelf appear semi-attractive! ๐Ÿ˜‰

As those of you who have read my blog for long will know – I love taking photos of sunlight and shadow – even if that’s my dining room chair!! ๐Ÿ˜›

In this light my sun catcher comes into its own and looks beautiful!

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of my beautiful flowers in the sunlight! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ok, so maybe I’m a little obsessed with this whole sun-and-shadow-photo-thing … !

While blogging and doing craft, I’m enjoying a big old bowl of fresh salad …

… and a little glass of white wine! Mmm ๐Ÿ™‚

What are you doing this evening?!

A little post about a big risotto

I’ve noticed it’s been too long since I posted about what I’ve been cooking. How did that happen?

Well don’t panic! Just in case you were missing my slightly steam-obscured photos and slap-together dishes, here’s a little treat for you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

I hack some butternut squash into manageable sized pieces and slipped them into the oven with some olive oil, salt and pepper and mixed herbs. They took 20 minutes to get to a lovely sweet, soft, brown stage – ready just when I needed them.

I used red onion just because it’s what I had, but it does look pretty! ๐Ÿ™‚

I fried in olive oil, addedย  2 or 3 chopped garlic cloves and some cubed bacon – mmm, smelt yum!

After adding a reasonable-looking portion of risotto/arborio rice and frying until starting to turn translucent, I add a good splash of white wine (about a glass maybe?!?) and let that be absorbed before adding chicken stock.

By chicken stock I mean hot water from the kettle and a chicken stock cube crumbled into the pan … ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh, and yes, the picture is out of focus, but try taking a close-up photo with one hand, while trying to pour a limited amount of a bottle of wine into a hot pan, and you’ll see why … ๐Ÿ˜‰

I added chopped leek, asparagus and broccoli to the pan just after the first lot of stock, along with some frozen peas, salt and pepper and my choice ofย  dried herbs.

My most often used herb combo is about 1/2 tsp each of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sometimes a bit of sage.

I add my stock in small, but regular quantities, as I fins this produces the consistency L and I like best – not too sloppy, but not at all dry – just to be very clear about it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

When the rice was just soft all the way through, I added grated cheddar, some powdered parmesan and the roasted squash from the oven. The cheese really does make a big difference (even without being biased, honest!), as it holds it altogether and adds a slightly richer, creamier quality to the risotto.

The finished risotto!

i reckeon it take about 30-40 minutes all preperation included.

Scrummy, though I say so myself! ๐Ÿ˜‰

And big – it ended up providing three meals in total! ๐Ÿ˜›

Whiskey Tasting at NoBody Inn

Last Wednesday evening L, myself and five of our friends were at The NoBody Inn.

The NoBody Inn is a country pub and restaurant, filled with character and set in the small Devon village of Doddiscombsleigh.

The staff are very welcoming and make you feel like giving you the best service possible will make their day!

The mix of locals, regulars and first-time visitors lend a gentle buzz and friendly atmosphere to the charm of the old-word interior.

There is an extensive selection of beers, ales, wines and something they are more widely noted for – their whiskey collection.

They have amongst their collection a particularly rare single malt that will only be opened if you guarantee to buy at least a third of the bottle …

That expensive bottle wasn’t one of the whiskeys featured at the tasting evening!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The evening included a five coarse meal – and what a meal! I had been imagining five small, daintily sized portions – after all, there were going to be five of them! Each of these courses was a generous size and those of our group who consumed the whole lot went away from the table very well satisfied! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The food was truly delicious and beautifully presented. I have a special fondness for food being served on slate plates, so I was a happy girl! ๐Ÿ˜‰ The smoked salmon was smoked and grilled at the inn and was the best fish I’ve ever eaten! As with all of their menus, as much of the food as possible is sourced locally or from within Devon.

Oh yes, and have you noticed the cheese? Such good cheese! Yum!

ย The seven of us sat at the far end of the table, which out to be a good thing, as we were definitely the youngest and noisiest group round the table! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The whiskey tasting was led by Bill Hutcheson of Gordon & MacPhail specialists of Single Malt whiskeys.

We were led through the history, aroma and taste of seven whiskeys in total, so even with some of the glasses being cleared away between courses, there was a very impressive amount of glassware on the table by the end of the evening!

My personal favourites out of all the whiskeys was the 6th glass, which was a Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 12 year old. This was one of two whiskeys served with the cheese course and no, of course my liking for this whiskey was not influced by having cheese with it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Our wonderfully generous and thoughtful friends not only gave us a an evening filled with laughter, the best whiskeys, delicious food, good company and lots of memories …

… they also booked us a room for the night at the NoBody Inn. It was wonderfully spacious and comfortable with lots of character.

There was an attention to details in the decorations that made it a lot more homely and welcoming then many other hotel rooms … the attention to detail didn’t end with dcor and a nightcap of sherry …

… but extended all the way to folding the bath towels into an elephant! ๐Ÿ™‚

The NoBody Inn is an exceptional experience for lunch, supper and staying overnight.

The welcoming staff, delicious and local food, fine quality wines, ales and whiskeys and breathtaking surroundings inside and out make this country inn a visit to remember!

So do yourself a favour and next time you’re in Devon, have a meal at the NoBody Inn!

Garunteed satisfaction.

Talk of Haggis – Edinburgh Part 2

I’ve spent most of the last week and a half looking after a sick husband, who’s cold gave into a call for antibiotics – which, I can’t stop myself from mentioning, too a whole 2 hours (yes, that’s right! TWO HOURS!!) to get out of the pharmacy five minutes up the street … but that’s an entirely different story right there …

For now, let’s talk about Haggis.

The ingredients of this traditional Scottish dish might make the vegetarians ans squeamish among you … well, squirm.

Sheep liver, heart and lung is combined with onions, oatmeal and various herbs and spices, before being stuffed into a cooked sheep’s stomach and boiled for about 3 hours.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Traditionally served on Burn’s Night (a day in February which commemorates the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns) with “neeps and tatties” – mashed potatoes and sweed to us – Haggis is eaten all year round in Scotland.

Apparently it also makes up an essential part of a traditional Scottish cooked breakfast – being hungrily tucked into by my hubby, soon after he had given his 8:30am presentation at the conference! ๐Ÿ˜€

Whether or not this plate of Haggis, Black Pudding (blood pudding), sausage, bacon, beans, eggs and potato scone is genuinely a Scottish cooked breakfast, I’m not convinced about, as it was eaten in a Turkish greasy-spoon-cafe …

I didn’t consider myself equal to devouringย  a plate of Big Meat Breakfast, so I had my haggis with some toast – yes, I really do like Haggis!! ๐Ÿ˜› Cook it like a bugger, stuff it in a bread roll with cheese, ketchup and lettuce, don’t think about the ingredients and it’s amazing!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Two wonderful things about this cafe: they gave you proper big mugs of tea, instead of a couple of mouthfuls in a little cup and they spelled toast “toasts”! ๐Ÿ™‚

For those of you are seriously beginning to doubt my good taste in food, presuming that you ever thought I had any in the first place! ๐Ÿ˜‰ …

That very same evening we had the most amazing steak, chips and grilled tomatoes with fiery peppercorn sauce for L and mushroom sauce for me – It. Was. Delicious.

This restaurant was one of the best I can remember visiting – a wonderful atmosphere, beautiful flowers, warm candles, red walls, quirky cellar building, live piano music and the most discreet staff ever!

I find it rather intimidating when the servers are constantly coming up and asking how your meal was and if we need anything else to drink! They stand around watching you and fiddling with other table settings and I find it impossible to relax, get very self-conscious and feel pressurized to leave as soon as possible – like I’m inconveniencing them by staying any longer after my last bite is swallowed. As you can tell, I have quite an opinion on this! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ryan’s Bar wasn’t high-end dinning, or posh/formal, so there wasn’t an abundance of cutlery options, napkins laid on your knees by gloved waiters in tails (not the kind of establishment I’m in the habit of visiting by the way! :P), but on the other hand, we only ate there because we had a card which gave us two meals for the price of one!

The food was scrummy the wine was really tasty, but the service was truly outstanding!

They gave us a good while to read the menu and choose our drinks before asking what we wanted to order. They did ask which of us wanted to taste the wine (a custom in many English restaurants), but were relaxed enough to make a joke about it. They brought the meal promptly, only asked once if we liked the food, and the head waiter simply removed the empty wine bottle without comment as he kept walking past the table, so as not to interrupt our conversation – brilliant! I felt genuinely relaxed and they didn’t bring us the bill or come for payment until we asked, allowing us to stay and enjoy our time together and our wine without any pressure at all.

The live piano jazz was the perfect icing on a very yummy cake! ๐Ÿ˜‰

If you find yourself in Edinburgh, visit the cellar restraint part of Ryan’s Bar. Go on – you can see how loquacious I’ve got about it!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A Sumptuous Dinner Party!

On Saturday evening L, myself and a number of our other friends went to a dinner party, hosted by our lovely friend SA, who is one of the happiest and most generous people I know!! ๐Ÿ™‚

After a glass of bubbly Cava, the food kicked off with a selection of canapes for a starter …

… Quails Eggs with Truffle Mayonnaise …

… Blinis, with Wasabi
Creme Freche and Prawns …

… Cocktail Sausages, Mini Bacon and Cheese Quiche and Spinach and Feta Quiche …

… and Crispy Pancakes topped with homemade Green Pesto, Motzeraella andย  … get this people! … CAVIAR!!!ย  Caviar (Sturgeon roe/Sturgeon (a particular kind of fish) eggs) is one of those things I absolutely never dreamed of tasting!!

When I was little my sisters and I played many different imaginary games, many of which involved the very highest kind of Historical English Society: ie. Champagne and Caviar and every politely historical phrase we knew thrown in to even things out …

I had, until Saturday, lived under the impression that you had to be a wealthy high-society flyer to enjoy such decadence … apparently us mere mortals can indulge in these delights from time to time! I am glad to have been so mistaken!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next course was slow-cooked Beef Brisket, served with all the trimmings – roast potatoes, roast parsnips, Yorkshire Puddings, carrots, cauliflower cheese and lots of thick gravy … yum, YUM, YUM!!! ๐Ÿ˜›

Oh, and not to forget the red wine we enjoyed …

… finished with homemade Apple Pie and custard …

… or kiwi and pineapple fruit salad.

After all that, we didn’t have the energy to do much more than sit on comfy sofas …

… chat …

… make silly faces (yes, that is me making the silly face! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) …

… finish our wine and drink tea …

… and smile at the camera of course!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

We got to dress up, spend time with close friends, eat sumptuous food, laugh, enjoy wine together, have fun and relax – who could ask for a better way to spend their Saturday night?!? ๐Ÿ™‚