Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bread Making with Conibear's Kitchen

Middle Aged of Middle England
Bread Making at Conibear's Kitchen - My End Result!

A bread making course run by Angela of Conibears Kitchen was the start of my middle-aged foray into making bread from scratch.  Ange immediately put us at ease with introductions and chat over coffee and her homemade beetroot and chocolate muffins.  This may sound a weird flavour combo, to those uninitiated to veggies in cake, but the taste was deliciously moist and chocolatie.

Then we got stuck straight into the business of bread making.   I’ve made dough before (mainly for pizza bases, I have to confess) but Ange showed us a technique of making dough much wetter than I’d normally make and using a spatula to scrape, stretch and slap the dough, rather than the kneading and pummelling technique (or food processor) I’ve used in the past. 
Middle Aged of Middle England
Slapping it about

Middle Aged of Middle England
Fougass - Ready for the Oven
Although tentative at first, we all quickly got the hang of this new technique, with one of the participants slapping her dough down so hard, it shot off the work station, narrowly missing Angela.  It was great fun and great therapy, although I must have put a bit too much welly into it as I ended up with a blister on my finger.   On the plus side, I think it has helped to sort out the old bingo wings!

We made Fougass,  a French leaf shaped bread, ideal for dunking in balsamic and oil; a white tin loaf and then some brown rolls and the morning just flew by.  We saved some dough from our loaf to make into our lunch – a pizza base which we topped with lovely home-made tomato, garlic and basil sauce to which I added goats cheese, yellow courgettes, grated cheddar, a few chilli flakes and sliced green and red peppers. 

Over lunch I chatted to Ange and the other two friendly women who’d come on the course and who had been bread making novices but now felt much more confident, with one saying she was going to chuck out her bread maker and make bread from scratch, it was so easy.

 Our end products looked great and we all proudly wrapped up our breads ready to take home.  As the old cliché goes,  the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and although my bread looked great (I thought!),  it now had to pass the family taste test who do not hold back on their opinions. 

 “It’s really good Mum,” was the verdict from the teen as he rooted around in the cupboard to get the balsamic and olive oil - complaining it wasn’t extra-virgin!  -  I’d have been happy with a bit of butter at his age.

I have to say the white loaf did taste a-ma-zing – still fresh and warm from the oven and I hope the brown rolls taste as good because as greedy as we are, we couldn’t manage eight brown rolls in one day, but they’re in the freezer and will be a lunch to look forward to.

 The Good:  It was great to do something a bit different, enjoying making bread from scratch and having a laugh alongside it. 

The Not so Good: My baking blister – didn’t expect that!

Go again?  Yes definitely.  I’d  recommend Conibear’s Kitchen.  Ange is a warm, patient, fun trainer with her passion for bread making coming over strongly.  I’d also be interested in going on one of  the pasta making courses she’s planning for the future.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Launde Abbey, Leicestershire - Away with the chattering monkeys...

Launde Abbey, Leicestershire

Launde Abbey, Leicestershire

Now work is no longer so much in the way, I’m hoping to get back to this blog and once again share the lovely things of Middle England.

So, time on my side for a while, DMAF (who has the summer holidays off) and I decided to go on a trip.  “Launde Abbey,” she declared:  “Not too far and if it rains we can skip the walk, have a coffee and come home.”  Who can argue with that?

So off we drove, up the A47 and through the gorgeous village of East Norton with its drool-worthy houses until we found the signs pointing us in the direction of Launde Abbey.  Hardly a car in the car-park, we parked, and had a nose around the public areas of this beautiful stone abbey which dates back to the 12th century.

We checked out the café, having a coffee sitting outside in the pretty courtyard which was very quiet.   And quietness is the essence of this historic place.  Afterall, it is an abbey and offers residential retreats and quiet days although DMAF and I were definitely here for chats, cappuccino and catching up. 
Cafe Launde Abbey Leicestershire

Launde Abbey Café

The peaceful atmosphere was no bad thing though as we’ve both been quite frazzled lately and I must admit I have had a dabble with a mindfulness CD, but maybe Launde would quieten the chattering monkeys in my head?

Launde Abbey Lakes

Launde Abbey Lakes

A helpful man in reception gave us a choice of circular walks from the Abbey and obviously we opted for the one that would lead us back to lunch in the quickest time which was a 2 mile walk, going around the lakes and Withcote Lodge. 
Not much help!
Clutching our piece of paper, we strolled through rolling Leicestershire countryside, stopping at the lakes to watch the skimming of a dragon fly, on through fields with hay bales that could be out of a Constable painting.  And then, of course, we got lost! 

The map and directions must have been old as no matter how hard we looked and turned the paper upside down, we couldn't find the continuation of the path.  A few false starts and stinging nettles later, we came across a couple of walkers who looked very professional with their ordnance survey map and who put us on the right track back to the abbey.
Still sunny, so we ordered baguettes and elder flower pressés for outside in the courtyard.  Our waitress let us know that the pressé wasn’t cold, but she could put ice in it which I thought was good service.  Often you get a drink plonked down warm in front of you, no option.

My baguette was filled with tender roast beef and hot horseradish with a serving of very fresh salad (maybe grown in their Victorian kitchen garden).   DMAF went a little adventurous with tuna AND pesto AND olives, not a combination either of us had tried before but one we both thought we might copy to liven up lunch at home in future.  Delicious and good value for money at around £7.00 each.

The Good: Lovely walks, very tranquil setting, generous hospitality to all whether you visit for spiritual reasons or simply to enjoy,  with no charge for car parking or the walk map.

 The not so good: Think the maps need to be updated as we got lost – or maybe it was us!

 Go again:  Definitely do another walk and the Pudding Nights held once a month where you try six delicious puddings sounds good.  Don’t think DMAF and I will be opting for the silent retreat though!