The Beechwood Hotel, Norfolk – A Review

 

 

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The Beechwood Hotel is an attractive country house hotel located on the edge of the market town of North Walsham. The award-winning, fine-dining restaurant seats up to 60 people and offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to residents and non-residents alike. The hotel has an interesting history: from the 1930s to the mid 1960s it was a private house owned by two doctors who were close friends of the crime writer Agatha Christie. Indeed, she spent a lot of time there and used to disappear off to the summerhouse in the garden where she spent time writing. There is various memorabilia and photographs in the hotel available for guests to look at. The crime-writing connection has inspired the owners to put on successful “murder mystery” evenings which offer a delicious three course evening meal while the intrepid diners try to work out “whodunit”.

 

Chef Steven Norgate is passionate about local Norfolk produce and sources most ingredients for his innovative modern British menu from within ten miles of the hotel, such as Morston mussels, Cromer crabs, Sheringham lobsters and outstanding 21 day aged beef that melts in the mouth.

 

The dinner menu could include a starter such as Tavern Tasty ham hock terrine, pea puree, tomato chutney, sourdough crisps, capers, rocket and a mustard dressing followed by Bunwell Estate venison and local, seasonal vegetables. And to round off an excellent meal, I highly recommend the sticky toffee pudding when available or the “trio of Belgian chocolate” dessert.

 

There is always a vegetarian option on the menu too, for example a rosti potato pancake filled with goat’s curd, wild mushrooms, cauliflower puree and onion marmalade served with apple and rocket salad.

 

Whether you go to the Beechwood Hotel for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner or a “special occasion” meal, you won’t be disappointed. With polite and attentive staff, elegant surroundings and food by one of the best chefs in the area, the Beechwood Hotel is most definitely one of the gems in Norfolk’s crown!

 

 

www.beechwood-hotel.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Traditional English Puddings: hot, sticky & delicious

image2 - Copy (33)Is there anyone who doesn’t like a pudding? I’m talking about those sweet, hot, steaming desserts that are so comforting yet feel ever so slightly indulgent. Having spotted a gap in the market for high quality, handmade and quintessentially English puddings, after 18 months of research and recipe development Kate Lyons and her husband Max started their company “pudd’Eng” in 2016.

The current range consists of six puddings: marmalade; sticky toffee; syrup; chocolate & ale; treacle & walnut and spotted dick. Despite being a comparatively young business, the company has already won an award: the chocolate & ale pudding – made with Valrhona chocolate and ale from the Norfolk based Why Not Brewery – won the “Sweet Bakes” category in the 2016 Great British Food Awards. There are three sizes available: half-pint, pint and two pint and there are no artificial preservatives in the puddings.

The flavours are exceptionally good, for example, a hint of Earl Grey tea and lemon in the spotted dick; English whisky in the treacle and walnut pudding and a touch of ginger in the sticky toffee pudding which is topped with a velvety butterscotch sauce. When you’re ready to eat your chosen pudding, it can be steamed or if you really can’t wait, it can be popped in a microwave.

The pudd’Eng range is sold at selected retail outlets in Norfolk (and Suffolk) including: Walsingham Farm Shop, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett and City Farm Shop in Norwich. Kate will also be attending events such as The Royal Norfolk Show, The Aylsham Show and The North Norfolk Food Festival. However, if you live further afield the puddings are now available by mail order via the website and there are plans to develop partnerships with retailers in other parts of the UK. If you want to stock up, the puddings can be frozen and eaten at a later date – if you can wait that long!

www.puddeng.com

Twitter: @eatpuddeng

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eatpuddeng

 

 

 

 

Beginning Our New Life In Norfolk!

I’m back! After taking the plunge and leaving London in December 2015 to move to the country, we’re now living in our new permanent house in a North Norfolk village. “We” means my husband, Millie the cocker spaniel and me. Our adult children remain living down south, our son in Surrey and our daughter in Hampshire.

And I have to tell you that I’m not the same person that I was in December. Not only do I feel more relaxed and much happier being out of London but I’m currently almost 3 stone lighter than I was when we moved. This is mostly due to the fact that I joined a local Slimming World group in January but also because I haven’t done any baking ‘for pleasure’ at all since we’ve been Norfolk residents. This wasn’t a conscious choice – our temporary accommodation before we moved had a very tiny kitchen and all our possessions were in storage – but it has certainly helped my waistline! However I also don’t have anyone to bake for as most of my cakes were previously eaten by work colleagues and at the moment I don’t have any of those!

There was however some baking that needed to be done. The village where we were living between leaving London and moving to Norfolk held a street party on Sunday 15th May in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday. The date was mid way between her actual birthday in April and her official one in June and fortunately the weather was good. I ended up making a celebration cake for the event as the organisers thought they had been let down by the person who had promised to make one. On the day, the other person did in fact produce a cake which I have to say, wasn’t quite the all singing, all dancing, ‘showstopper’ they had promised as you can see from this photo.

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My cake was small but perfectly formed which was lucky as I only had a day’s notice to make it. I wanted to make it fit the theme so hence the red, white and blue colour scheme. I even made a little plaque by hand which I was quite chuffed with. Here it is – what do you think?

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The street party was attended by the local MP Norman Lamb who was very friendly and entered into the spirit of the event as you can see from these pictures:

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Norman is obviously a man of good taste as he thought my cake was delightful – I noticed he scoffed a large chunk once it had been cut up!

Anyway, between sorting out the house, baking for the street party and finding employment  (I’ve just got a job with a local hotel chain which will be very different to my previous HR roles) I’m focusing on losing some more weight and getting into shape while not neglecting my blog any more. I have to say that I’ve tried pretty much every diet going and if you love food, I can honestly say that Slimming World is excellent. Decent portions, nothing forbidden and no wretched points to count – what’s not to like?

I’ve really missed writing this blog and I’m glad I can now focus on it again. Watch this space for some tasty recipes, various reviews and of course, some random thoughts.

I’ve set up another blog where I’ll be posting things that are relevant to Norfolk such as local events, local foodie producers and so on. This will be at: www.midlifenorfolkwife.com – have a look in the next few days when it’s up and running.

If you press a button you can ‘follow’ my blog and you’ll receive an email as soon as I’ve posted a new article.

Tracy x

 

 

Scarlett & Mustard product reviews with recipes

I was asked by ‘My Foodie Heaven’ to try out and review some products made by Scarlett & Mustard. I’d already heard of the company and had seen some of their products with their quirky labelling in the shops so I was keen to see what they were like.

I received a parcel containing the delightfully named ‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’, an English rapeseed oil flavoured with truffle (oil, not chocolates!) and a blackcurrant and star anise curd.

When I’m asked to review any food product, rather than just sticking my finger in the jar, tasting it and rating it out of ten, where possible I try to create a recipe that will really bring out the flavour. At the moment, we’re in the middle of moving from Surrey to Norfolk and so it’s slightly chaotic in our house . However, we still need to eat but as my kitchen facilities are now rather basic, any food I prepare has to be quick and easy.

With that in mind, I came up with two recipes using the Left Overs Curry Sauce and the truffle rapeseed oil and decided to test the blackcurrant and star anise curd out as part of a traditional afternoon tea.

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‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’ is an oil free dressing full of fruity, tangy flavours and it will, quite simply, transform your left overs from one meal into a tasty dish for another. You don’t have to limit yourself to using it for left overs though: I used it to make a light ‘coronation’ style sauce to have with chicken which was delicious. By mixing Greek yoghurt with Rudolph’s in a 2:1 ratio, I had a simple sauce which was far superior to the heavy ‘coronation chicken’ dish I recall from the 1970s (which was basically curry powder mixed with mayonnaise). What I liked about Rudolph’s is that you could actually taste the fruit in it (mango chutney, apricots and sultanas) and the heat from the ginger and curry powder was subtle.

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Scarlett & Mustard also recommend Rudolph’s with roasts (including your Christmas bird if you plan to have one), on rice and peas, on potatoes and even on salads. What you do with it is only limited by your imagination. I’m sorry the photo of my chicken dish isn’t brilliant – my ‘staging’ props for my photos have been packed away but you get the idea.

 

For the English truffle rapeseed oil, I thought a potato recipe would be in order as it would be blending two wonderfully earthy flavours together. Readers of this blog will be aware from previous posts that I love the versatility of the humble spud and for this recipe I turned once again to Maris Pipers but you could use any floury potato for this dish.

 

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Truffled Crushed Potatoes

Ingredients – for 2 servings

300g Maris Piper potatoes

150mls semi skimmed milk (or use soya milk for vegan option)

I twig of fresh rosemary

1 tbsp Scarlett & Mustard English Rapeseed Truffle Oil

3 tbsp single cream (or use vegan cream)

 

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into chunks and put in a large saucepan with the milk and add a little water to cover. Season with a little salt if required. Once boiling, allow to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Add the rosemary twig about 5 minutes before the end so it infuses the cooking liquid.
  2. Drain the potatoes leaving a little of the cooking liquid but throw away the rosemary.
  3. Using a potato masher, gently crush the potatoes to break them up. You aren’t looking for mashed potatoes so go carefully!
  4. Add the truffle oil and the cream to the potatoes and turn them gently to coat.
  5. Tip the potatoes into an ovenproof dish and place under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the top.
  6. If you’ve made the potatoes to eat later, you can reheat them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 180 C / 200 C fan or gas mark 6 until the top goes golden.
  7. Eat and enjoy.

I’m afraid there isn’t a photo of this dish as it was demolished as soon as it came out of the oven!

 

Finally, for the blackcurrant and star anise curd, I used it to fill Viennese whirls and I also sampled it on a scone with butter. I was apprehensive about how the star anise would affect the flavour of the blackcurrant but I have to say that it’s an inspired combination. The blackcurrant is not over-sweet or sugary and the star anise gives it a real warmth without overshadowing the fruity flavour.

 

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I used my friend Kevin’s recipe for the Viennese whirls – you can find it on his blog www.thecraftylarder.co.uk – and dipped them in white chocolate and sprinkles. Bit of a girly moment!

 

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I can confirm that based on my tasting of the products I was sent, Scarlett & Mustard are purveyors of excellent foodie items and I recommend you look out for them in your local shops. They’d make ideal Christmas presents and would look particularly stylish in an elegant hamper.

 

All Scarlett & Mustard products can be found on their website: www.scarlettandmustard.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a package of Scarlett & Mustard goods to review and I was not paid. My review reflects my honest opinion of the items I was given.

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Win FREE Tickets to The Bakes & Cakes Show, London, 13th – 15th November 2015

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The awfully nice people who organise The Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show have given me 2 free tickets for the show, to pass onto a lucky reader of this blog!

The tickets are valid for either Friday 13th or Sunday 15th November 2015. The Show is at Olympia this year, so it’s easy to reach on public transport.

All you have to do to enter the draw is *FOLLOW MY BLOG* and ideally post a comment underneath this post.

I’ll draw for the winner on Sunday 1st November and announce who the lucky person is on Twitter later in the day. I can only post the tickets to a UK address.

Don’t miss your chance to win tickets to a great day out – you’ll be able to see various cakey bakey celebrities like Great British Bake Off alumni John Whaite, Luis Troyano, and Mary and Paul of course.

See you there!

Tracy x

“Ravens’ Nests” – John Whaite’s Sophisticated Hallowe’en Dessert

John Whaite Raven's Nest

In the lead up to this year’s Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London (13th – 15th November 2015 in London), the awfully nice people who organise it are allowing me to share a dessert by John White, the charismatic winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012. It’s not just any old dessert though – John has created a chocolate cherry delight that will wow your guests at any time, but would go down particularly well at Hallowe’ en.

So if you fancy making – and eating – a rich chocolate cake topped with a light cherry mousse and decorated with chocolate ‘feathers’, read John’s reminiscences about how his mum planned Hallowe’ en and what inspired him to create this recipe. Then go for it!

RAVENS’ NESTS

MAKES 4

Essential equipment

3 disposable piping bags, one fitted with 10mm nozzle, one fitted with a large star nozzle and one with a number 1 writing nozzle

4 mini savarin moulds, greased, frozen, greased again then dusted with flour

Sheet of acetate/baking paper

For the cake

30g cocoa powder

100g dark muscovado sugar

50g hot water

50g Greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 tsp coffee extract (optional)

50g dark chocolate, melted in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g plain flour

For the cherry mousse

2 gelatine leaves

200g pitted cherries (frozen are cheaper, defrost first)

80g golden caster sugar

250g whipping cream

Red food colouring paste

For the feather decorations

100g dark chocolate, tempered

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

 

When I was a tot mum used to throw the best Halloween parties for us: bin bags torn up and hung from the doorways, cobwebs covering the entire ceiling, and even disco lights in the dining room to create an eerie environment. Bin bags, however effective in the Nineties, wouldn’t quite cut it nowadays, and so I need to impress my guests with food. These little rounds of cake, filled with cherry mousse and adorned with a tempered chocolate plume of feathers, are just the thing for an adult Halloween party. They were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, that haunting poem of waiting and fear. These beautifully light chocolate, cherry and coffee cakes are well worth the wait.

 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Place the cocoa powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed and fairly lumpfree. Add the hot water and stir to a smooth paste, then beat in the yoghurt, egg, extract if using, and the melted chocolate. Sift over the bicarbonate of soda and flour and fold to a smooth batter. Put the batter into the piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and divide between the 4 prepared moulds.

3 Bake for 10–14 minutes, or until a skewer gently inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and de-mould immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

4 To make the cherry mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in a jug of cold water – put them into the water one at a time or else they’ll stick together and never dissolve. Blitz the cherries to a mush in a food processor or with a stick blender, then put into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Bring the cherry pulp and sugar to a boil, then simmer and allow to reduce down to a loose compote consistency. While the cherries are still hot, squeeze the surplus moisture out of the gelatine leaves and add to the pan with the cherries. Add the food colouring. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then allow to cool completely, but don’t let it set.

5 When the cherry compote is cool, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and gently fold together with the cherry compote. Put the mousse into the piping bag fitted with large star nozzle.

6 Place the chocolate nests on serving plates, and pipe a large, indulgent swirl of the cherry mousse in the centre of each one. Chill until needed.

7 For the tempered chocolate feather, put the tempered chocolate into the piping bag with small writing nozzle. Pipe a fairly thick line of chocolate about 10cm long, then, with the tip of the nozzle, drag the chocolate out diagonally on either side of the line to create a feather shape. Make 12 in total, each a slightly different size, and allow to set at room temperature.

8 Once set, place 3 into the mousse of each Raven’s Nest to create a dramatic, haunting finish. Sift over some cocoa powder if desired.

How I Became a Food Blogger

I was off work last week due to minor surgery on my toe which was accompanied by a rotten cold so I was feeling rather miserable. However, sitting at home on the sofa with my foot elevated for a couple of days did allow for some time for contemplation.

I’m inherently quite a curious (alright, nosey) person and I love hearing about how people ended up doing the jobs they do or leading the lives they have. I then started to think about how I came to set up my blog because I find the history of such things fascinating. Bloggers all have different stories to tell about how they began so I thought I’d share mine.

Two and a half years ago, I was sitting on the same sofa with my leg elevated but for a far more serious reason. In March 2013, I was hit by a car as I was running across a road (after my dog which had scarpered during a walk in the park) and subsequently suffered a badly broken right leg and a head injury. I think the fact that I’m quite a generously proportioned lady of a certain age (!) and therefore quite robustly built was what ensured that I wasn’t killed (the driver must have been doing at least 50 mph in a 30 mph zone) because apparently I was thrown through the air and landed in the middle of a crossroads. I don’t remember the impact or the landing – as I was knocked unconscious and the next few days were a blur due to the vast amounts of morphine I was given. At least the dog was OK.

Only a few months before the accident I’d set up my small home baking business (to run alongside my day job in HR) having registered with my local Council, completed an online Food Hygiene course and given my new enterprise the name of ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ because my kitchen is quite small and the walls are pink. I attended a cupcake decorating workshop run by the 2011 Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was the first time I’d really played around with cutters, moulds and sugar paste and I was hooked from the start. Orders were steadily coming in and I did a few bake sales and got my name out there locally. All things considered, I was feeling rather good about things at that time.

But then, the accident changed my life. I got over the head injury relatively quickly – although I must say that you do get quite a bad headache when your head comes into contact with a road from a great height! The leg took longer as initially I had a ‘tibial nail’ holding it together (basically a titanium rod from knee to ankle – with screws in) but the bone didn’t heal so after 6 months it was removed and I had a plate put in, which on the X-ray looked like a long piece of meccano. (If you are under the age of 40, you’ll probably have to google ‘meccano’.)

With these surgeries came a lengthy recuperation period involving crutches, no weight-bearing with no cast, then light weight-bearing with a cast (I had a pink one!) then an air boot all followed by months of physiotherapy learning how to walk again. It took almost two years for life to get back to a relative ‘normal’ state. My poor husband didn’t know whether he was coming or going as he had to look after me and the dog as well as trying to do his job. It was a very difficult and emotional time for both of us.

Although I couldn’t do any baking or cooking for several months, I kept my hand in with the cakey bakey world via Twitter (mostly) and other social media using my trusty iPad. Well, it was a better option than watching day time television – I think that really would have finished me off.

I was delighted to find such an active online baking community on Twitter. I made contact with a lot of home bakers and people who had started their own baking and cake businesses, both on a small and a large scale. I was surprised to find that people who wrote blogs could make serious money by doing it. I remember thinking that it must be wonderful to earn a living doing something you love. I work in HR dealing with the problematic side of people management, things like disciplinary hearings, poor performance and absence so a lot of what I deal with on a daily basis can be quite negative and it definitely drains you. Making cakes and pottering around the kitchen makes me happy and the worst thing for me about the accident was that I couldn’t do it for months.

As time went on, I got back into the kitchen and started baking again, just on a small scale for pleasure. I found baking to be very therapeutic: it took my mind off my troubles and there was something nice to eat at the end. At the same time, the thought of returning to my job was not making me feel particularly happy. It was a very large company with over 16,000 employees and there had been a lot of changes while I’d been away. I think my managers were wondering if I’d ever come back given the recovery time after the operations and I sensed that their sympathy was waning, which to be honest was quite hurtful. Anyway, an opportunity came for me to leave in mid 2014 when there was a restructure and I took it because financially it was worth it and it felt like a great relief.

Since then, I’ve found alternative HR work that I enjoy and I’m now baking and cooking much more often and feeling a lot happier. I’ve attended courses at Squires Kitchen and a celebration cake decorating course at Konditor and Cook at Borough Market and I highly recommend both. Late last year I started writing monthly articles and recipes for a local newspaper but this offered only limited opportunities going forward. It was at that point that I had a ‘light bulb moment’ when I realised that if I set up my own blog, I could write about anything I liked, with no limits.

So what did I like? Well, cakes and baking obviously but I also love trying out new kitchen gadgets, visiting food festivals, cake and baking shows, developing recipes, reviewing books, products, cafes, tea shops and so much more. So www.thelittlepinkkitchen.com was born earlier this year after a brief time writing under a WordPress heading.

Recently I’ve been actively making new foodie contacts and networking as although I write my blog for pleasure and don’t make any money from it (one day perhaps…..) I would like it to contain things that people really want to read about and find entertaining. I have some projects in the pipeline which I’m very excited about and have been sent some items to review so I’ll be getting around to that very soon.

What’s the selling point for my blog, I hear you ask. Well, I’m an all-round foodie (as my waistline makes only too clear) so I cover quite a range of topics which adds variety to my blog. I’ve received feedback that I have an engaging style of writing with a quirky sense of humour that comes through in my posts. I’m not paid to write posts so my opinions are my own which means I can be totally honest although I would never be unkind or malicious. (See my earlier post on ‘blogger blackmail’ for an insight of what can happen when bloggers are unreasonable.)

I’ll finish by saying that it’s been interesting for me to reflect on events over the last two years and I can honestly say that if the accident hadn’t happened, my blog probably wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have made friends with some wonderful people via Twitter, especially the Sunday Baking Club crowd.

You all know who you are. Thank you for your on-going friendship and support.