A sideline project for an IT guy who likes to cook

Month: July 2020

A cheeky one

IMG_4044Coffee this morning is served in a flask, we are up 6am sharp to get a march on the day.  The mountains are calling and in this case its Ben Vorlich one of the Arrochar Alps

We hit the car park around 8:30 and it’s already full to bursting of about 30+ cars.  The car park used for a number of focus points not just our hill.  I’m stumped for a few minutes at the pay point, not accepting cards today which is frustrating in contactless world of COVID.  I haven’t had any coins for months.  Our emergency supply in the van is flush for once and a blessing.

Breakfast is an overnight soak of muesli with raspberries and blue berries and we watch the excitement as people are getting their boots on.  Good to see folk meeting with friends and there is a general jostle to get out on the hill.  Amazingly the toilets are open with plenty of hand sanitisers on tap.

We are off, opting for our bikes on a part way in.  It’s not far before we hit a steep bit and there is a friendly chap meeting my pace just walking.  We discuss plans and how this his first hill this year, just wanting to start with a cheeky wee one.  He’s heading up Ben Vane a neighbour to Vorlich.  I wish him well and then I decide to catch the boss up.

It’s not long before we hit the juxta position for getting off our bikes and just as we start the long slog the rain comes in and goes out and comes back again.   A brief glimpse of the magic that surrounds these hills, before it really came in.

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After 2.5 hours we made the top with probably the quickest selfie in history.  About an hour into the descent it dried up allowing us to get a sandwich.   The bikes a welcome sight as we covered the last mile or so freewheeling.

With a nice kind of synergy, we passed the same guy we met going up.  With a cheery wave, we were all pleased with the goal being met for the day.

The sun shining in the car park and I’m reminded of the quote ‘Better a bad day on the hill than a good day in the office’.   My mind was taken to a different place of reflection and wandering.


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

Lockdown Escape

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Coffee today is from a small village at the gateway to the Cairngorms, known as Blair Atholl.

The 5 mile Scotland radius lockdown was lifted on Friday and we couldn’t wait to escape.  We’d managed to hire a small lodge in the woods for the week as a replacement to a usual summer road trip into Europe.  In one way we were sad as the usual adventure had been cancelled and in another….just relieved to break away mentally from the confines and routines of home.

The view from the bedroom window is one of trees, an abundance of green….and rain, lots of torrential rain.  The rain drops almost the size of golf balls, then with moments of blue sky and sun.  To me though the rain didn’t matter we were going to get out to soak up the fresh air and absorb the life forces that just seem to emanate from the cycle paths, the trees and the hills.

Foodwise it was a strange one…..we really had to think ahead, put a weeks’ worth of a meal plan together.  We knew there was a local village store, which we counting on for bread.  The watermill (dating back to 1590) was only for pre phoned through orders for the Saturday….and it looked like the local chippy was coming out of hibernation.

The meal plan roughly:-

  • Friday – Chicken Stew, Rhubarb Crumble
  • Saturday – Chippy (Fish and Chips)
  • Sunday – Chicken Stew, Rest of the Crumble
  • Monday – Scrambled Eggs, Beans on toast followed by Chocolate Puddle Pudding
  • Tuesday – Bacon, Pasta and Crème Fraiche rest of the Puddle Pudding
  • Wednesday – Backed Potatoes, Smoked Mackerel – Pancakes
  • Thursday – Grains, Chicken Legs – Roast Apricots with a crumble topping
  • Roughly gave me the idea for the following post around a few tips for self-catering for the home cook.

 

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We managed some of the mighty big hills (Munroe’s) in the area and my lungs and mind are feeling all the better for it.  A break from the screen, the escape and that feeling of euphoria that you get by challenging the mind through excursion.

So home now and the weekend has flown by, with jobs in the garden to catch up on.  Amazing how the weeds shoot up whilst your away.  It’s like they were sat in waiting, for that moment when nobody would be looking!

Hope your choice of beverage is both relaxing and refreshing and that you have a great week ahead.


The #WeekendCoffeeShare is an informal weekly link-up hosted by Eclectic Alli that serves as weekly heart beat and sort of of a mind-dump. Helps me reflect on my week, with a list of achievements, thoughts and rambles normally whilst drinking a beverage probably listening to music.

 

Self Catering Tips for the Home Cook

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Mainly written as an aide memoir post a rainy week away in north Scotland.  A work in progress and hopefully something you might find useful.

For the home cook the prospect of a self catering holiday can be both exciting and daunting at the same time.  I love the idea of being able to explore the local area and make up ideas on the fly, for others I sure there is a sense of dread about that prospect.  There is also the challenge of an unfamiliar kitchen and the unknown that it brings.  This is my brain dump for the essentials that help make cooking easier hope you find something you can adapt or share your thoughts.

What should you take?

There is only so much space in the car, and in my experience you need as much stuff for one night as you do for seven.  Especially if you have young children.  So the idea of taking a bunch of cooking equipment is a no no.   I do think there are a few of essentials that can make life easier.

  • A peeler – typically there is one in the drawer, but it will have seen better days.  Bringing your own will put a smile on the sous chefs face
  • A tin opener – If it’s yours you will most likely understand how it works, and that it doesn’t mangle up your tin lid so it doesn’t become a lethal weapon
  • A knife – create your own carboard sheaf and you’ll be glad of bringing your own tool of choice, especially if you’re a diced onion with every meal kind of cook.  I have one that slots into the chopping board from joseph joseph, great for picnics and although not my first choice in my kitchen….it’s like night and day between the ones that will be on offer

Prep Up Front

For me self catering is about the adventure of the holiday and talking about it at the evening meal.  Lunch is usually something on the run with the day being spent doing something busy.  So evening meal needs to be easy to cook and cognisant of the unfamiliar surroundings.  I like to make a casserole the night before travel day, slow cook with enough for two meals.  Taking tubs to re-heat.

Sometimes though the run up to holiday is stressful, there is enough to do to get ready let alone think about the gourmet meals that you might need to prepare.  If that’s the case….take a few tins.  Pulses, Chopped Tomatoes and a good curry paste.  Weigh out a couple of family portions of rice or pasta.  Worst case you bring them home again.

The Treats

Then there is the magic to a self catering holiday food wise that I’d like to think adds a few memories to our time spent around the table.

Most places I’ve been to have some sort of oven to table ware, typically in the form of a Pyrex casserole dish

Chocolate Puddle Pudding.   Really easy to take in two tubs dry ingredient wise, the sponge in one and the puddle in the other.

Crumble of some shape or form, again take the dry ingredients in one tub (100g oats, 100g wholemeal plain flour, 60g sugar).  Just stir in 100g of melted butter nearer the time

A 250g block of butter will cover both desserts, and leave a little left for pancakes if you desire.

Help and Support

This is the time to rope people in, meals needn’t be fussy and dried pasta, doesn’t get any easier if your to combine it with say a pre-prepared Bolognese.  Get the kids to put it together.

Spaghetti or tagliatelle pasta and Hot Smoked Salmon, Crème Fraiche, a little lemon juice with some tinned lentils can go a long way and my 14 year old pulled this together.

Does depend on the size of the kitchen though…..too many people in a confined space….has been known to create frustration.

Cookbook suggestions

Jamie Oliver’s 5 ingredients…..simple and effective meals with 5 ingredients just watch out for stock cupboard items.

The Camper Van Cookbook by Martin Dorey Life on 4 Wheels cooking on 2 rings…..a good ethos around cooking in different surroundings.

Washing Up

Partly why I do the cooking 🙂

Not really the fun part of self catering, you definitely need to rope people in.  Put the Nintendo Switch down and agree a rota.

I don’t know what it is about self catering pans and this just might be me.  There typically isn’t a non stick pan in sight and food seems to stick so easily.  Take a pan scrub…it’s a definite life saver!

Research

This might seem obvious, Look up where your going on google maps, find the local food places.  Clicking on the pin’s will bring up a brief description along with opening times.  In times of lockdown knowing your favourite café is closed or has reduced opening hours can be a life saver if you’ve chosen to cycle there!

A Quick List

Mainly to summarise my rambles!

Kitchen Items:

  • Pan Scrub
  • Knife
  • Tin Opener
  • Peeler

Food Shop

  • Tinned Chopped Tomatoes
  • Tinned Chick Peas
  • Curry Paste
  • Crumble Fruit
  • Crumble Mix
  • Puddle Pudding (2 tubs)
  • Eggs
  • 250g Butter
  • Family Rice Portion
  • Hot smoked salmon
  • Crème Fraiche
  • Pasta

Pre cooked suggestions items

  • Chicken Casserole
  • Slow cooked Lamb curry
  • Bolognese

 

 

 

 

 

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