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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

A Brief History Of The Perfect Pork Pie

If you live in Norfolk, when anyone mentions pork pies you know they’re likely to be talking about those made by Bray’s Cottage. In 2017, Bray’s celebrates 10 years of trading and so it was an ideal time for me to meet the founder and owner Sarah Pettegree and chat to her about the porky deliciousness of her pies and sausage rolls and also find out a little more about the woman behind the brand.

After a degree at the University of East Anglia, Sarah found employment as a civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture, working as a humble clerical assistant because “I needed a job”. The job didn’t pay particularly well and there were no career prospects but luckily Sarah later passed a Civil Service promotion board and was offered a role at HMSO (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) which surprised her seeing as she wasn’t very good at maths: a management accounting job! There was no other offer on the horizon and so Sarah bit the bullet, learned to do the job well and eventually became a qualified Chartered Accountant.

When HMSO was privatised in 1996, Sarah was made redundant and worked in various contract positions for organisations such as Norwich Union and CITB. Thanks to experience gained in her previous job, she was able to train managers on various in-house business management systems. While this meant she was moving away from accountancy, it was also giving her an opportunity to learn how people ran their businesses. At the same time, the television programme “Dragons’ Den” was in its early days and Sarah was interested to watch the start-up process surrounding new business and whether they succeeded or failed.

Sarah had always felt the pull of the countryside and once she realised she no longer wanted to work in Norwich or London, she moved to the Norfolk countryside in 2001 and took time to think about what sort of business would be sustainable. One of her early ideas was to do something using her arty skills – Sarah had studied painting and sculpture at the Open College of Arts – but realised although it would be enjoyable, she would be unlikely to earn a living from it.

Then she thought of something food-related. A friend had a couple of saddleback pigs and the idea of making pork pies was born. Sarah felt that the traditional pork pies that were generally available in supermarkets or even butchers’ shops were all quite “samey”, with no unusual or interesting flavour combinations available.

Sarah’s pies took off and her initial sales – via a website with a mail order facility -resulted in an article being written by the Food Editor of The Sunday Times. Sarah’s first big customer was “The Green Grocer” in Norwich and in 2006, they told Sarah that her pies were their best-selling product (after potatoes). They are still a valued customer today.

 

Here’s Sarah at one of the many Norfolk foodie events she attends – doing what she does best!

 

These days, you can buy Bray’s Cottage “Pies by Post” via the website otherwise you’ll find them only at independent retailers and pubs. During any given week, Brays could be making between 1,000 and 3,000 pork pies and there are seasonal spikes at times like Christmas and Valentine’s Day. You can even buy a pork pie “wedding cake”. A small range of sausage rolls was added to the Brays repertoire when one of Sarah’s retailers mentioned that the ones available elsewhere weren’t particularly good. There are now two sizes of Brays sausage rolls and two flavours: plain and with onion marmalade. Interestingly, the onion marmalade pork pie is Sarah’s best seller. Having tasted it, I can see why!

 

 

Apart from Sarah and her partner Derek (who gave up his music career a few years ago to help with the business), there are 8 members of staff at Brays who are the “bakers and makers” of the pies and sausage rolls. Derek mostly deals with administration, book-keeping and the local deliveries although Sarah pointed out that he can also bake! Sarah now focuses on growing the business, marketing, PR and maintaining a lively presence on social media.

I asked her if there had been any low points in her pork pie career and she said the early days of setting up a small business are very challenging. You have to work really hard and it takes over your life. Now, 10 years on, Sarah said it’s more manageable now there are people to whom she can delegate and she has time to appreciate the rewards: working in a great environment, supplying a product that people love and also having fun along the way.

I asked what the future holds for the Bray’s Cottage brand and Sarah said “more of the same”. She wants to grow the mail order side of the business and link up with more Norfolk and UK wide retailers. At the moment, some of the places in Norfolk where you can buy Brays pork pies are Picnic Fayre in Cley, Back to the Garden in Letheringsett, Walsingham Farm Shop, Henry’s Coffee Store in Cromer and Blakeney Deli.

There are other stockists of Bray’s further afield too e.g. London, the Midlands, Wales and the North of England. A full list of stockists is on the website.

You can find Sarah at Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of every month (during the season) and at bigger local Norfolk events including the Aylsham Show and the North Norfolk Food Festival.

And if you want to learn how to make outstanding pork pies yourself, Sarah runs classes in Norwich. Details are on the website but spaces sell out fast.

 

 

Sarah said her life now is so different from when she used to be an accountant and she thrives on the positive comments she receives about Brays’ products. “After all”, she said, “nobody ever told me I’d produced the best spreadsheet they’d ever seen”!

 

http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

 

This article originally appeared on the Norfolk Places website.

2016 -A Review

As we rapidly approach 2017, I thought I’d take some time to review my significant moments of the past year and consider what I learned from them.

As many of you know, we relocated to North Norfolk in December 2015 so for us, 2016 promised to be an exciting year. We bought a house in March and moved in just after Easter. After living in south London for almost 20 years and inhaling relentless diesel fumes, encountering the ‘angry brigade’ with alarming regularity – you know, the road ragers, the commuter ragers, the supermarket queue moaners – and being bombarded by constant noise, it has been a joy to live in a small, quiet village in the country.

We wake up to glorious silence, only broken by the occasional squawk of the pheasants or the singing of the gentler dawn chorus. What a change from our previous house which being on a rat run meant traffic noises started early, drowning out the sounds of any wildlife which dared to rear its head. Our Norfolk neighbours are friendly and always stop for a chat. Very different from say, Croydon, where if you caught anyone’s eye they’d look at you as if you were an axe murderer. Or maybe they were afraid you’d identified them as one. We support local shops and farm producers where possible and I’m sure things like potatoes taste more ‘potato-ey’ than if you buy them in a supermarket. I’ve attended various Farmers’ Markets in the area and have made contact with small, local food producers, deli owners, cafe and restaurant owners and others who are putting Norfolk on the foodie map of Great Britain. While we’re not quite leading the ‘Good Life’ (no goat called Geraldine in our garden), it’s certainly a vast improvement on our previous one.

We’re fortunate that following the move and the down-sizing involved, I’m able to work on a part-time basis while my husband stays at home as the ‘Domestic, Garden and Cocker Spaniel Manager’. In our early 50s, we’ve finally discovered the meaning of ‘work-life balance’ and it’s an excellent feeling. We bring home less money but we’re so much happier. So many well-known people have passed away in 2016 with some not that much older than us. Who really wants to work until they drop or drop before they’ve even had a chance to enjoy life? Hubby and I both had near death experiences in the last few years: he had an undiagnosed heart problem in 2012 that was almost fatal and in 2013 I was involved in a road traffic accident that nearly polished me off. As a result we decided that the time was right to take life by the horns and enjoy whatever time we have left. That’s why we’re now in Norfolk and loving it.

Once we’d settled in to our new house, I thought I’d better find a job which wasn’t as easy as it would have been in London given that my area of HR is a bit specialised, but I persevered. After a couple of false starts in jobs that weren’t right for me (memo to self – never take the first offer or the second if it’s worse than the first), I found my ideal position working as an HR Manager for a local animal sanctuary. It’s a big change from my previous HR roles in corporate type organisations: I’m based in a shed on a farm, there’s a lot of mud, and I have to walk 200 yards to a portacabin loo which can be a challenge when it’s minus 4 degrees outside or bucketing down with rain! As I write this during my lunch break, I’m wearing a woolly hat, fingerless gloves, a thermal vest, a thin fleece, a thicker fleece over the top, tights under my trousers, thick socks and walking boots. This is ‘office chic’ Norfolk country style. No more early morning decisions about what shirt to wear or whether I need to iron a suit for meetings. I may look like a bag lady – the grey hair probably doesn’t help – but I’m warm (mostly) and still getting the work done. And, even better, I have an outstanding view across the fields: I see happy cows; horses; sheep; pigs; goats and I get frequent cuddles and licks from puppies in the dog rescue centre. Unlike when I worked for a well-known telecommunications company or an equally prominent clothes, food and home goods retailer (not just any retailer, you know the one), I feel I’m doing something worthwhile and not just increasing share-holders’ profits.

The other significant change in my life is ending 2016 almost 5 ½ stone lighter than I was in January. After 30 years of yoyo dieting, the odd cranky eating regime (I don’t recommend the grapefruit and hardboiled egg diet) and even the very low calorie liquid diet that knocked off 7 stone in 6 months (regained within 18 months), I found Slimming World and it has completely changed my life.

People who have never been overweight, fat, morbidly obese, or even slightly porky will never be able to understand quite how it affects the lives of people who are. I’m generally seen as an outgoing, lively person but underneath the formerly fat, seemingly jolly exterior was a desperately unhappy individual with low self-esteem and a high level of self-loathing. If I couldn’t love myself, how could I expect anyone else to? I was very fat, extremely miserable and a compulsive eater. All this psychobabble about ‘comfort eating’ is a load of tripe in my experience. I’d eat when I was happy (to ‘celebrate’), upset (to ‘compensate’) or stressed (to ‘calm down’). I’d eat when I was hungry and when I wasn’t. Eating didn’t cheer me up or comfort me – it made me feel even worse but I was caught in a never-ending cycle and genuinely believed it would never change. While I did lose weight on the ‘good’ diets I tried such as WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley, I was always hungry. Calculating ‘points’ was time-consuming and you had to buy all the WeightWatchers paraphernalia in order to do it. I lost a stone in 2015 having attended WW for about 8 weeks but lost the will to live at that point and gave up.

When I joined Slimming World in Norfolk on 5th January 2016, I didn’t expect to have the success I’ve achieved. I thought I’d probably last a couple of months and then it would go the way of other fruitless weight loss attempts. How wrong I was. Once I’d got to grips with the plan I was off – and so were the unwanted pounds. I attended the group every week and made lots of new friends, all fighting the same battle as me. With Slimming World, there is minimal weighing and measuring of food and you can eat satisfyingly large amounts and still lose weight. Of course, over 30 years of bad habits don’t disappear overnight and I’ve had the occasional wobble when chocolate or cake has called to me very loudly but I’ve always got back on track very quickly and continued to lose weight. At the time of writing this, I’ve lost a total of 6 stone 4 ½ lbs since March 2015. By the end of March 2017, I’m certain I will have reached my target (1 and a half stone to go) and I know that I won’t ever be the fat, fiftyish, frumpy friend again because I have changed my eating habits for life thanks to Slimming World. If I can do it, anybody can. My only regret is that I wasted time and money on all those other diets over many years and ended up chunkier than ever.

One thing I’m disappointed about was not keeping up with my blog in 2016 as much as I’d planned. The house move, job hunting and the diet took up most of my time and the blog – which largely featured cakes and baking when I started it – took a back seat. I’m hoping to change that for 2017 as I enjoy writing and have quite a few ideas for new posts. I need to learn a few more technical things about WordPress and may need to upgrade so that I can do things with widgets and plug-ins (finding out what they are will be my first priority!). The focus will still be food – obviously – but geared towards healthier eating while not compromising on flavour. I plan to continue interviewing local Norfolk food producers for the blog and a Norfolk travel website, undertake product reviews and lots more.

So what did I learn in 2016? Firstly, that there is life after London and that moving to the country has benefitted my health, well-being and self-esteem enormously. Secondly, looking for a job can be challenging especially when one is over 50 (ahem!) but with some positive thinking and creative approaches, the right job is out there so never lose heart. Finally, you can change your life for the better, whether it’s a new house, a new job or a new body. In one short year, my life has improved beyond my expectations and I will be eternally grateful to every single person who has helped me along the way.

I wish you all an adventurous 2017 and hope that you achieve your dreams – they are within reach. They really are.

 

A Chat About Chutney with Candi Robertson

IMG_4756 For my first in a series of interviews with some of the best independent food producers in North Norfolk, I had the pleasure of meeting Candi Robertson, the woman behind the “Candi’s Chutney” brand. Having met Candi on a few previous occasions at Farmers’ Markets and foodie events, I was keen to hear how this former head chef ended up making award-winning products from her “chutney barn” in Holt.

Sitting down over a cup of tea with the deliciously warm, fruity smells of chutney wafting in from the kitchen next door, Candi told me that she’d worked as a chef for 22 years and during that time used to make her own small range of chutneys which she sold at local markets. The small profit that she made at these events selling a couple of dozen jars each time funded family holidays and treats for her children. When Candi had to give up working as a chef due to a shoulder problem, she had more time to spend on her own product and in 2012, she had a stand at the two day Holkham Food Festival where the 300 jars she’d taken with her sold out early on the second day. This is when Candi realised that her chutneys had a very promising future.

In the beginning, Candi’s business was home-based but rapid expansion meant that she needed to move into commercial premises in October 2015. During the interview, I had a quick peek in the kitchen and there were four huge pans of parsnip and chilli chutney (her best-selling flavour) on the go, with each pan producing 30 jars of chutney with no preservatives, artificial colours or additives in any of the flavours.

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I was surprised to learn that rather than having a team of kitchen staff, Candi makes the chutney herself so all of the ingredients are hand-prepared, grated, chopped and cooked and then each jar of chutney is hand-filled and hand-labelled. Candi admits it’s a time-consuming process but feels it’s the best way to control quality and ensure the results are consistent. Candi is in the kitchen from Mondays to Fridays and deals with other aspects of the business at weekends – that is, when she’s not attending markets or food festivals.

Currently, there are 186 stockists of Candi’s products in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire including ‘Bakers and Larners’ and ‘Jimmy’s Farm’. Tearooms, pubs and cafes also have Candi’s Chutney on the menu, for example, The Art Café in Glandford, Pensthorpe Natural Park Café and The Crown Hotel in Wells, to name but a few.

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Candi currently only sells her products within East Anglia and takes great pride in sourcing ingredients from local growers and suppliers although certain items such as cassia bark and star anise have to be obtained from further afield. Candi has won several prestigious awards for her chutney and her most recent success was “Best Norfolk Food Producer” in the Muddy Stiletto Awards 2016 and he brand has just been nominated as a Norfolk Food Hero by the Aylsham Show. Three flavours have also won “Great Taste Awards” namely the Parsnip & Chilli Chutney (2013), the Norfolk Crier Onion Marmalade (2014) and the Spiced Carrot Chutney (2015). Also in 2015, Kettle Crisps chose Candi’s Chutney as the winner of their “Business Mentoring Award”. There were also “highly commended” certificates from the “Norfolk Food & Drink Awards” in 2013 and 2014.

 

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Candi has signed up to the “Proudly Norfolk Food & Drink” labelling scheme and the idea is that products with this label stand out on the shelves when lined up with mass produced items. For the consumer, you know that you are supporting genuine local food producers who care passionately about their products.

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I asked whether, given the amount of recognition Candi’s Chutney has received from the food industry, she had plans to expand the business further. Candi replied that although it’s something she’ll have to consider, she’s is concerned that the business could lose its “small family business” element if she grew too much.

If you’d like to learn how to make chutney yourself, Candi has set up a “Chutney Club” where you can find out the secrets of how to make a good chutney, suggested ingredients and a “how to” technique. Contact Candi via her website or speak to her at one of the foodie events she attends if this is something that would interest you.

Candi will be attending the Royal Norfolk Show on 29th And 30th June 2016 so it’s an ideal opportunity to sample her chutneys and take a few jars home.

This is Candi in full sales mode – always with a smile!

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Other upcoming events for Candi are:

Saturday 2nd July 2016 – Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market

Saturday 9th July 2016 – The Norfolk Diet Farmers’ Market

Saturday 16th July 2016 – White House Farm, Norwich PYO

Sunday 17th July 2016 1pm to 5pm – Barnham Broom Village Fete

 

 

 

Candi’s website is: http://www.candischutney.vpweb.co.uk and she’s also on Facebook and Twitter (@candischutney1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A review of Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market, Norfolk

We’ve recently moved to North Norfolk from south London where every month in our small town a ‘Farmers’ Market’ took place, or rather, what a non-country town would class as one anyway. There were usually about 15 stalls and while you could buy cheese, some meat and fish, vegetables and cakes, most of the stallholders were not local and the goods weren’t particularly exciting. The Council wouldn’t allow two stalls to sell similar wares so you didn’t have the option of trying a variety of foodie things from different suppliers which I found a little disappointing.

So when I saw that Creake Abbey in North Creake, Norfolk, holds a monthly Farmers’ Market with over 50 – yes, fifty – food producers in attendance, I simply had to go and have a look. From where I live, this meant a 70 mile round trip but for a morning out where I could indulge my curiosity for all things food-related, it would be worth it. As luck would have it, it was a fine day and the drive there was easy. The traffic in Norfolk is nothing like it was near Croydon!

When I arrived at Creake Abbey on Saturday 7th May, I really didn’t know where to begin browsing as there are some permanent shops on the site, a café, a food hall as well as the various stalls run by the local producers. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop – slightly overwhelmed by the scale of it all but desperate to see as much as I could.

To sum it up and as detailed on the flyers for the market, you could buy: the finest meat and vegetables, pies, pastries, puddings and tartes, fresh juices, cordials, breads and ‘morning goods’, dairy produce, cheese, plants, herbs, beer, chocolate, fudge and more. Many of the stallholders provided tasting samples which is a great idea although my Slimming World leader may have been slightly aghast at the amount of things I had to try!

I can’t list here all the wonderful produce I saw although I’ll give a shout out to the companies whose goods I purchased on the day.

Here is the lovely Candi from “Candi’s Chutney”.

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I love a good chutney or pickle and Candi has come up with some sublime flavours. I had to sample several (ahem) but went away clutching jars of Parsnip & Chilli, Norfolk Nobbly (yes, really!) and a seasonal asparagus chutney. For me, a plus point is that Candi doesn’t fill most of her chutneys with lots of dried fruit as I really don’t like sultanas and raisins. Apparently a new flavour is under development and I’ve been told gin will be involved. Now that is one to watch out for! Candi’s website is: www.candischutney.vpweb.co.uk

I was delighted to find that the Fruit Pig Company sold their own version of an elusive sausage that I’d been hankering after for a while and so I nabbed one of the last packs of ‘merguez’. This is traditionally a red spicy mutton or beef based fresh sausage flavoured with cumin, chilli pepper and other spices and originated from Arab / North African cuisine. I first tasted it when I lived in Paris years ago but sadly you don’t see it much in the UK although you can find it at specialist or ethnic butchers. You can order your porky goodies online including some posh black pudding: www.fruitpigcompany.com

Here is the very friendly, smiley chap I bought the merguez from:

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I met Sarah who produces the most divine “Bray’s Cottage Pork Pies” and I simply had to buy a seasonal special which was pork and wild garlic. I took this home and shared it with my husband – he was a happy man! Both he and I recall the awful mass produced pork pies we used to be given in packed lunches when we went on school trips in the 1970s. Thank goodness there are people like Sarah who have elevated the humble pork pie to superstar status. The ingredients are simple but high quality: North Norfolk outdoor reared pork, a secret blend of herbs and spices and a hot water crust pastry plus other ingredients depending on the season. There is no jelly in the pies so what you taste is pure porky, herby goodness. The website is: http://www.perfectpie.co.uk

I know from personal experience that you can buy Bray’s Cottage pies in places like ‘Back to the Garden’ in Letheringsett, ‘Bakers and Larners’ in Holt and ‘Picnic Fayre’ in Cley but of course the pies are to be found elsewhere too. Here’s Sarah on the stall, which I have to say was looking extremely ‘sold out’ by the time I got there.

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Finally, I didn’t just buy things I could eat – I also found a lovely tea supplier called “Nelson & Norfolk Tea Co” run by Mark Richmond who is based in North Walsham. I purchased a couple of his fruity, caffeine free blends which smelled absolutely wonderful. Mark has over 20 years’ experience in the tea business and his range includes the very popular ‘Norfolk Tea’ (an all-day blend of black teas), ‘Norfolk Earl Grey’, chocolate tea, fruity teas and green teas.

Mark’s website is: www.nelsonandnorfolktea.co.uk

This was the tea stall on the day I visited:

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I chatted with lots of other producers – including ‘Ollands Farm Foods’, ‘Chilli Fundamentals’ and ‘Hands On Preserves’ – but sadly my spending money on the day was limited otherwise I would have bought more goodies. There’s always next time though as the Farmers’ Market is held on the first Saturday of every month (except January). If you are free on Saturday 4th June 2016, I recommend you go along as Creake Abbey definitely holds one of the best Farmers’ Markets that I’ve seen.

The website with all the details is: www.creakeabbey.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not asked to write about Creake Abbey Farmers’ Market and the above article represents my impressions on the day. I was not given any freebies or incentivised in any other way in return for a favourable review.

 

 

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