Cabbage?

No, I’m not talking about Cabbage Patch Kids. Or lazy sofa-loving people. No, I’m on a quest to buy more seasonal vegetables and do my bit to support British farmers, so I’ve been trying out recipes with cabbage. Not a vegetable I’d usually really want, but I’ve got about 15 growing in my vegetable patch, so I thought it was best I try out some now in preparation for the glut I’m sure to have in the coming months!

To be honest, apart from red cabbage with a Sunday roast, I’d never really tried cooking with it before and wasn’t expecting to come out with a meal that we’d want to eat again.

Mr TCG is a huge pasta fan – if he was single, he would live on the stuff – so I thought I’d be safe and go for cabbage pasta. Still sounding bland, but at least there would be substance to it. I was however surprised to come out with a recipe that is both super delicious and quick, so will surely be a regular after-work dinner in our little cottage.

Creamy lemon & cabbage pasta with breadcrumbs (For 2 people)

Ingredients

2 greedy handfuls fresh breadcrumbs 

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

200g pasta – I used spaghetti but it would work equally well with farfalle, penne, etc

1 medium onion, chopped

125ml white wine

1 tsp lemon juice

140g crème fraîche

½ small head Savoy cabbage , cut into thin strips

2-3 rashers of free range bacon (optional)

1. Cook your pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes. Add the cabbage to the water and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.

2. To make the breadcrumbs take 2 slices of fresh or – even better – stale bread and whizz it up in a food processor until it forms breadcrumbs. 

3. Put a little oil in a frying pan and gently cook half of the garlic for 2 minutes before adding the breadcrumbs. Stir! They will look like they are not doing anything for a few minutes but can suddenly burn so keep an eye on them. Remove from the heat when they are golden brown. 

4. When the pasta is cooked, drain and put to the side. Heat a little oil in the pan, add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until softened. Add the wine and lemon juice and let it reduce for a few minutes.

5. Remove from the heat and add the creme fraiche, stir and dunk in the cooked pasta. 

6. Stir in 1/3 of the breadcrumbs, plate up and top with the rest of the breadcrumbs.

7. If you want some meat like Mr TCG did, quickly fry a couple of rashers of bacon until crispy, then break them up into small pieces and sprinkle these on top too.

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The Manor, Weston on the Green

It was my birthday last Friday (yeah, thanks for remembering guys) and as a treat Mr TCG booked a room at The Manor at Weston on the Green – just outside of Oxford. I was coming back from a rather wine-heavy night in London, so Oxford was an easy place to meet up.

I lived near Bath whilst I was at school, in Oxford for three years while I was at University, and have lived in Gloucestershire for the rest of my life, so I’m pretty clued up on the Cotswold area. I therefore know about pretty much every hotel, restaurant and tourist attraction in the Cotswolds, but I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this one before. Not good news, I thought.

After the short 10 minute drive from Oxford train station to Weston on the Green, we turned into the tree lined drive leading up to the hotel. I was quietly relieved to find a very grand and imposing cotswold stone manor with a big oak front door. Things are looking up.

The Manor, Weston on the Green

The Manor, Weston on the Green

In the middle of the drive were two topiary sheep – apparently who are the main part of the hotel’s logo. I love sheep and these were so lovely, I just wish I had the patience and energy to do these at home!

Topiary sheep at The Manor

Topiary sheep at The Manor

Walking through the front door you arrive straight into a smart sitting room, with a large open fireplace and cosy sofas. The reception is just off to the left, where a polite and cheerful receptionist took our details, told us where everything was and then showed us to our room. When we reached the room we found a large dark wood-panelled room with a 4 poster bed, with lovely views out over the landscaped gardens, but a slightly dated interior. After speaking to the hotel manager, we were told that the hotel was privately bought last year and was under renovation and redecoration throughout. Having seen the rest of the hotel I have no doubt that room will look amazing when it’s finished.

Mr TCG was pretty pleased as we’d arrived just in time to turn on the telly and switch on the England v Scotland 6 Nations game. Lucky me. I fell asleep within the first 10 minutes and slept through the whole thing, as did avid rugby fan Mr TCG – so I suppose you could say the beds are comfy!

An hour before dinner we went downstairs to the small but cosy bar for a drink and to have a peek at the menu. We both opted for the 5 course tasting menu (£45 per person), which consisted of mushroom soup, tandoori prawns and noodles, venison, vanilla panna cotta & granola and finally a chocolate mousse.  As I’m not a huge fan of meat (being a vegetarian and all..) I asked if I could swap the venison for the seabass from another menu and was expecting a grumpy refusal, but the waiter happily changed the dish, resulting in a rather relieved me!

When dinner was ready we moved in to the very grand dining room. Again with hand-carved dark wood panelling surrounding the room and an amazing beamed ceiling, it was definitely one of the most impressive rooms I’ve ever seen. The food didn’t disappoint and neither did the service. I’m a bit of a food critic when I go to fancy hotels and restaurants – I don’t see the point in paying top dollar for a meal if the atmosphere is great but I’d get better service or food at my local pub (which is a really good pub) and unfortunately I find that this is the case far to often. Our dinner at The Manor however was excellent and the waiters were very smart without being snobbish, which gave a lovely relaxed atmosphere to the evening.

You’ll have to forgive me for this really awful photo – taking photos on my phone when it’s dark doesn’t really work!

dinner

The mushroom soup was amazingly creamy and rich, the prawns were a good change, seabass perfectly cooked and the puddings were super. Not that I could eat all of the chocolate mouse by that point as I was so full, but Mr TCG managed to eat the rest of mine as well as his. We also had a delicious Rioja to wash it all down with, so all in all I was a very happy bunny.

After dessert we moved in front of the fire (in the room by the front door) for tea and coffee, where I found an American magazine with the top 50 eligible bachelors in the world. Not bad, but I think I’ll stick with my one. Though I wouldn’t say no to Prince Harry…

Fireplace

I’m afraid I can’t give much of a review of the breakfast, as I was still full from dinner, so we just opted for croissants and toast. After I cheekily asked to have a quick peek of one of the rooms that had been redecorated, which despite being one of their smallest rooms was very light and cosy and I really look forward to seeing the hotel when it’s all finished.

new-room

We both left The Manor feeling very relaxed and impressed by the brilliant service and delicious food – a definite go-to for dinner for anyone living near Oxford, but also well worth a weekend away for anyone looking for a relaxed and calm retreat. It’s also only a few minutes drive from Bicester Village – shopping central for anyone looking for a bargain. If you fancy heading into Oxford instead, make sure you pop in to the Covered Market for a pie at Pieminister and a milkshake from Moo Moos. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of The Manor before, but I have no doubt word of it’s new reputation will spread fast. I would definitely suggest asking for one of the re-decorated rooms until it’s all finished, but otherwise you can’t go far wrong.

For more information or to book go to The Manor, Weston on the Green’s website here.

29% Horse Burgers

There are times when I am really pleased that I am a (very bad) vegetarian. Ok, so the story is a bit old now but I feel it’s still relevant. Disgraced supermarkets and fast food chains suddenly realising that their 29p burgers aren’t actually all beef. Surprise surprise. But did we not all know this already? It’s pretty clear to see from the ingredients label that says “contains 50% beef” that these beef burgers aren’t actually beef.

I understand that some people can’t afford to shop at Waitrose or that they can’t afford organic meat, but surely a little good quality meat is better than lots of meat with the texture and flavour of a cardboard box?

I personally tend to make my burgers (veggie or meat) from scratch because it takes less than 2 minutes and I like to know what exactly I’m eating. Just whack some mince in a bowl, chop up an apple, onion or perhaps a chili and a twist of salt and pepper. Pat into a burger shape. Cook. Really, it’s not that difficult. And buying meat from the butcher not only means that you can get to know your lovely cheery butcher (they are always cheery – I am yet to meet one to goes against this rule), but also you get to ask what is best and when and also get some corking cuts of meat that you wouldn’t otherwise know about.

Oh and obviously, you get to ask where it’s come from. Probably just down the road. Unlike the polish horse meat in Irish made burgers sold all over the UK.

I’ve recently come across a super website called Simply Beef & Lamb run by the British beef and sheep organisation. Not only does it have some brilliant recipes on it, but you can also find their butcher’s top tips, information on butchery at home and find your local and trustworthy butcher. There’s also a kids zone to get your children more clued up on responsible farming and eating.

My favourite part of the website however gives details on where different cuts come from on lamb and beef and how to cook them. I’ve always been a big fan of the old-fashioned prints of the cuts of beef and pork and having seen these I need some for the kitchen. I’ve found some great ones on The Poster Gallery or if you fancy something more colourful this one from Not on the High Street might be more your cup of tea. Oh wait, they do them in a set of four here. That’s me sorted.

Cuts of pork

 

Aside

Do a little good

You know those adverts on TV. The ones that make you feel guilty about spending the £20 on your new scarf. Or £4.50 on a panini (?!!). Or £15 on a shopping basket full of cakes, biscuits and ice cream that will only make you fat and unhappy. When you could spend only £1 a month to save a starving child in Africa, or £1 a month to the RSPCA to stop animal cruelty, or £1 a month to help alleviate cancer. Yeah, those ones? That make you cry every single time? No, just me then.

Well, you just ignore them don’t you? Yes. Well I’ve got a way to rid you of your guilt and make you a more generous and happy person for February! But obviously, I suggest you donate anyway – I mean does anyone actually notice £1 less in their bank account per month?

I’m holding a silent auction in aid of two greyhound charities, GRWE and EGLR – the ones that Tilly & Aggie came from – to raise funds for care of their dogs. Both charities are currently full to the brim with dogs needing homes, none of the dogs they care for are put to sleep for needing a home and some of the cases they deal with are really really horrible. By bidding in the auction you will be helping these poor dogs, winning something lovely for yourself and feeling more generous and happy all at once. Et voila!

If you don’t know what a silent auction is: the lots or prizes will be advertised on this blog and people can contact me via the contact form here or via Twitter or Facebook with their bids. You will have up to 3 weeks to give me your final bids and at the end of this the highest bidder will receive the item.

Whilst I have had some extremely kind donations from various businesses, I am still in need of more prizes for the auction. If you can help in any way please do let me know and both myself and the charities would be extremely grateful. All money from the auction will go directly to the two charities.

The auction will go live on the 20th of February, so please keep an eye out and give as generously as you can to help dogs like Aggie. Obviously Aggie isn’t in need of your help any more, she’s very spoilt now!

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Beating the January Blues

I seem to have got myself into a rut. An ‘I’d rather stay in with a bottle of wine’ kind of rut. Or even a ‘but silent witness is on tonight‘ kind of rut. Either way, I’m becoming a bit of a lazy sod.

As it’s my birthday this weekend I have decided to force myself out from under my cozy blankets and head down to London for a night out with friends. They always seem to perk me up – even if I wanted to have a quiet one I wouldn’t have a choice. From now on (very late New Years resolution) I am going to get out the kitchen more and see what’s going on around the county.

I’ve decided to help you do the same. Unless you already are super-active, in which case you are making me feel really guilty. So here is a little nugget of what’s going on in the Cotswold’s this weekend – you’ll have to tell me how it goes as I won’t be around!

28th January – 2nd February – 39 Steps is on at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham.

“Direct from the West End, Broadway and 25 countries around the globe comes ‘a joyous version of the Alfred Hitchcock classic’ (Sun Times) spy thriller, The 39 Steps, brilliantly and hilariously recreated as the smash hit Olivier Award Winning Best New Comedy.”

If you haven’t seen this already it is a brilliant story and I would highly recommend it – you’ll have to be quick though as most of the tickets have already gone.

2nd February – Gloucester v Bath Rugby at Kingsholm in Gloucester.

GLLLLLLOOOOOUUCCCCCCCCCCSSSSSSSTTTTTTTTEEEEEEEER! A great afternoon out for all the family – wrap up warm and prepare your lungs for a good ol’ shout! Tickets available from Gloucester Rugby’s website or available on the gate (though this is always a busy one – so maybe don’t leave it too late!).

Every weekend in February  – Colesbourne Gardens Open Day near Cheltenham.

Colesbourne Gardens are only open for 5 weekends in the year, so if you fancy a nice weekend walk with the family or dogs, this is a great time to go and see the snowdrops. Entry is £7 for adults and free to under 16’s and with loads of local pubs you can work up an appetite as you go!

Colesbourne Gardens

2nd February – Jimmy Carr at New Theatre in Oxford.

Fancy some light relief? Jimmy Carr live for one-night-only at the New Theatre in Oxford. Tickets are still available – though very limited, so you’ll have to get in there fast. Click here to see availability.

Italian Styley

I do love a good pizza. When I went out to Venice a couple of years ago we found the most extraordinary pizzeria which made delicious pizzas that were absolutely huge. I mean, at least 2 times bigger than your usual XL pizza. I ate it all, which definitely goes against the ‘don’t eat anything bigger than your head’ rule.

My friend and I seem to get bombarded by pizza takeaway text messages – we clearly ordered from them once or twice (ok, lots of times…) and now they have our numbers to pester us. We forward any messages we get on to each other, despite the fact we live at opposite ends of the country. But it always makes me crave a good ol’ tomato and mozzarella with pineapple from Dominos or Pizza Hut.

I’ve have now however, mastered the technique of making my own. Not only do they taste really good, but they are also pretty healthy compared to their takeaway counterparts and so easy to make. You do have to wait a while while the dough rises though, so making it early on in the day is probably a good idea.

Mr TCG is a big fan of the whole mozzarella and tomato combination, whereas I love goats cheese so went for goats cheese and caramelised balsamic onions. But obviously you can cover the pizzas in whatever you fancy.

Oh and this recipe is the Pizza Express’ own – so for anyone that loves their pizzas or dough balls, this will get you the same at home.

 

Pizza Express pizzas at home / dough balls and garlic butter

 

For the pizza dough:

(Makes 2 pizza bases)

150ml warm water

1 tbsp sugar

15g fresh yeast or 2 level tsp dried yeast

225g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

 

For garlic butter:

3 or 4 garlic cloves

100g butter

 

For pizzas:

4 tbsp passata

Any cheese, meat, fish or vegetable combo you fancy!

 

1. Sprinkle the yeast in a mixing bowl with the yeast and stir until dissolved. Leave for 10 minutes for it to start to ferment.

 

2. Add all other dough ingredients into the yeast mixture and stir until it comes together. Turn out on to a lightly floured worktop and knead for 5-10 minutes until it is silky and smooth.

3. Leave the dough in a bowl covered with a tea towel or cling film for an hour or until doubled in size.

4. Take the dough out and ‘knock back’ onto the worktop to remove any air. If you are making dough balls roll the dough into a sausage shape and cut into 2cm portions and roll into small balls. Lay these out on a baking sheet, spread apart so they can grow in size, cover and leave for another hour.

If you are making pizzas split the dough into 2 balls and then put into separate bowls, cover and leave for a further hour.

5. If you are having dough balls uncover the dough and place in the oven for 8-12 minutes until light brown. Whilst they are baking finely chop the garlic and mash into the butter until it is well mixed. When the dough balls are ready east immediately with the garlic butter.

If you’re making pizzas roll the dough out on a lightly floured worktop into a square or circle with a rolling pin. Place the dough onto your baking tray, bake-o-glide or  – if you have one – a pizza stone  before you put on the toppings or you won’t be able to move them! Put on whatever toppings you fancy, put in the oven for 15-20 minutes and eat straight away.

 

 

 

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Fashion Friday – Guest post by Tolly Dolly Posh

Hello Cotswold Girls! I’m back with another Fashion Post for Fashion Friday!

Today we’re going for a simple look which mixes basic trends with classic country style – perfect for popping to the pub!

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Warehouse Smock Panel Tunic Dress £60.00 (House of Fraser), Hobbs NW3 Check Orwell Blazer £169.00 (House of Fraser), Faith Sepia Velvet Ankle Boots £50.00 (ASOS) & Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Pure Color Lipstick SPF 15 £22.50 (Boots)

The smock dress is a staple item from the S/S 13 Catwalks and it is also perfect for the pub! It’s casual, yet you could style it up if you wanted to! The print on the blazer is classic, and the grey/green tone looks great with blue! They really do compliment each other. For the shoes, go for casual Chelsea Boots which look great and are a comfortable cut, but also have that bit of height for added glam! Add a nice coat of YSL Pure Color Lipstick and you’ll ready to go!

I hope you enjoyed this post and it gave you some inspiration! Thanks!

Hope you like it! xxx


Tolly Dolly Posh
xx

Dream. Create. Inspire
www.tollydollyposhfashion.com

Fish & Chip Friday

I do love a takeaway. We have some absolute corkers around here and I would quite happily eat a good Indian (meal – not an actual Indian) a couple of times a week. I don’t of course, or I would end up looking like a blonde whale and I would have no money left to spend on other important things. Like shoes and pretty things. Or the mortgage if you must.

So I’m pretty good at making home-made-not-to-takeaways. Last time I made a curry Mr TCG asked where it came from – which I am still not sure if I should take as a compliment or insult. But I digress. Today is a Friday, which of course means fish and chips. And mushy peas – you really can’t forget the mushy peas, they’re my favourite part!

I’m pleased to say that the AGA makes really good oven chips. Healthy, fluffy on the inside and crunchy outside and really tasty. Thats 1-0 against the AGA haters. And deep-fat fryers. But of course you can make them in a normal oven, just whack it up to 200C.

This meal takes only 30 minutes to make, so is cheaper and quicker than popping to your local chippy. Unless you live right next to one. But even then you should still try this!

 

Oven fish & chips with mushy peas

 

Ingredients:

2 White fish fillets – try to use a sustainable variety if possible – such as Pollock or Coley (to find out more about sustainable fish click here)

1 egg

Breadcrumbs – see note below

2 tbsp dried or fresh herbs – parsley, coriander or thyme

200g frozen peas (I use way more than this because I love them!)

1-2 tbsp creme fraiche (if you don’t have this plain yoghurt or mayonnaise mixed with 1/2 tsp malt vinegar would work)

4 large potatoes

 

1. To make the breadcrumbs, take some bread – stale is better and a great way to use it up – put on a baking tray and bake at 200C for 5 minutes until it has dried out and become crispy. Whack the cooked bread in a food processor and blitz into breadcrumbs. I do this when my bread has become stale so always have a tub of these to hand, which is great for pasta dishes, gratins or fish!

2. Cut the potatoes into thick chips or wedges. You don’t need to peel them. Spread them out on a baking tray and drizzle a little oil and a good pinch of the herbs over them, then rub the chips around so they are all coated in it. Season with salt and pepper and put in the oven for 20-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

3. To yummify your breadcrumbs mix in the herbs and season with pepper, then pour onto a plate. Then take your egg and beat it then pour onto another plate. Coat the fish in the egg and then dunk into the breadcrumbs, making sure it is completely coated. Place on a baking tray and cover the top with more breadcrumbs so it has a thick layer which will give a good crunch. Whack it in the oven for 15-20 minutes to cook.

DSC00156

4. Finally to make your mushy peas, boil the peas until cooked in a pan of water or cook in the microwave. When cooked, put them in a blender with the creme fraiche and a pinch of salt and pepper and whiz up until you have a thick puree.

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Et voila!

Warming up

I have been in London for the last couple of days and came back on the train last night to find more snow at home. Lots of snow. More in 5 hours than we’d had in 3 days worth last week. So driving home was rather… exciting.

There is nothing more I love to do in the cold weather than to wrap up under mounds of blankets with my dogs. They seem to appreciate it too. The only thing I’m missing is some fur to snuggle up to.

I’m a big fan of fur. I’m not saying it needs to be real –  a good quality faux fur just can be just as warm and soft as the real thing – which is just as well as real fur is pretty hard to find.

fur

1. Rare breed sheepskin rug, £35, Farmer Lamb  2.  Alpaca fur throw, £550, Samantha Jones  3.  Faux Sherling wooly Cushion in cream, £15, John Lewis  4.  Faux deer fur throw, £70, Next   5.  Faux fur natural cushion, £12, Next 6. Luxury faux fur dog cushion, £35, Next

 

An alternative option to buying faux fur cushions and throws is simply to make one yourself. There are various eBay sellers that stock furs, or Fabric Online  and Faux Throw both stock a good range of high quality furs available by the metre.

To make a faux faur throw you’l need:

  •  Length of faux fur fabric, cut to size. 150 x 200cm works well
  •  Length of faux suede / fleece fabric for the reverse, cut the same size as your fur
  •  Matching sewing thread
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle
  1. Place the fur right side up on the floor. Center the suede right side down on top of the fur, then pin the two layers together.
  2. Sew with the suede side up around the edges of the fabric, leaving around 2cm for a seam allowance.
  3. Double-stitch the corners to reinforce them.Cut off the excess fabric on the corner points once you’ve stitched them so that they do not create bulk.
  4. Remember to leave a 6-8″ opening at the middle of one side.
  5. Pull the throw through the opening so it is right side out.
  6. Hand stitch the hole and you’re done!