life in Somerset

I thought I’d share with you some of my thoughts about life in Somerset.

I moved to Somerset back in October last year. Less than 6 weeks previous to moving, I had been living and working in Australia (latterly in Perth) so you imagine the small anti-climax Bridgwater proved to be. Needless to say, it took me a while appreciate my new surroundings. To the newcomer, Somerset seems to have little more to offer than cider. It is far enough west to be inconveniently isolated, but not far enough to be considered a desirable holiday destination like its superior neighbour Devon. Bridgwater itself could be a picturesque old town but unfortunately my best description would be ‘like Andover’. My first residence was on a dreary modern housing estate, where all the houses were identical and the roads crammed full of cars. The traffic was horrendous and it rained everyday. I don’t even need to mention my pervy Landlord. Are you getting the picture? It wasn’t love at first sight.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. As soon as I ventured to the Quantocks, I realised how beautiful Somerset can be. On a glorious autumnal Saturday morning, I took the A39 west out of Bridgwater not knowing exactly where I heading. Suddenly the landscape transformed into lush rolling hills, open fields and cute old villages. I stopped at a village shop and asked for some nice walks in the area and the old lady pointed me in the direction of Kilve beach. 5 minutes later, I was parked up, and with ordance survey app in hand, I headed off to explore.

Since my first adventure to the east Somerset coast, I have been keen find out what else the area has to offer. Here is a glimpse of what’s on offer…

(n.b. WordPress has a ridiculously bad and hard to format layout. So where headers and photos are oddly placed around the page, believe me, it’s not for want of trying…)

Kilve (Nov ’11)

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Sunset at Burnham-on-Sea Beach (Nov ’11)

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Cheddar Gorge (Dec ’11)

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(These photos do not do Cheddar justice – it was a cold wet day!)

The Mendips (Dec ’11)

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Glastonbury (Jan ’12 and Aug ’12)

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Cothelstone Hill (Oct ’12)

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Dunster and Porklock Weir (Sept’ 12 and Oct ’12)

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Bagborough to Triscombe (Quantocks) (Oct ’12)

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Near Dead Woman’s Ditch (Quantocks) (Nov ’12)

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So I hope you get the gist. Somerset is beautiful – and definitely worth a visit (as am I?). And not many people seem to know that (this sentence is meant to refer to the fact that you should now know that Somerset is worth visiting. You should already know that I am worth visiting*). (I digress) Unlike Devon and Cornwall, the cute villages remain relatively undiscovered. The Quantock hills can get busy on a sunny Sunday, but it’s nice to see people enjoying the countryside. The cider is cheap, and the sun does shine. Just don’t visit us this weekend

*Incase you were unaware, I now live in Taunton. It’s much nicer. No pervy landlord.

Post by Ali

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fruity vodka

I’m not sure if I ever intimated that this isn’t a ‘how to’ blog but rather a ‘look what we did – feel free to do the same and learn from our mistakes’ blog. And here is a great example…

Last Christmas I was given some sloe vodka by a dear friend and it was delicious. Even my mother drank it. On that note, I decided to create a few different flavoured vodkas for Christmas this year, sloes being top of my list. For those of you who partake in ‘sloe activities’ I don’t need to tell you that there simply haven’t been any the year, at least not in Hampshire. The two wet idiots in a field in Romsey one lunchtime last month? That was my boss and I. We came back to the office ‘sloeless’, albeit with about 20 blackberries.

I decided to buy some raspberries and blueberries to bulk out my fruit stock and made a blackberry and raspberry vodka and also a blueberry vodka. My method? Trial and error. You can see from the pictures how much fruit I added to just short of a litre of vodka and added some sugar. I have been adding about 50g sugar a week per bottle. They have been sat for just over a month now, I’ll keep you posted on the flavour. Fingers crossed…

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Post by Lizzi

making the most of your pumpkin

In the last week I have been delighted by just how much my £1.49 pumpkin has contributed to our evening meals – not to mention the amusement in carving it and latterly peeling it to death (bit sinister, sorry).

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After lovingly carving a smiley face into it, I used the hollowed out innards and set to work cooking pumpkin, halloumi and chilli omelettes. These were fairly easy, I just cubed and fried the 3 aforementioned ingredients until soft and then poured over a mixture of eggs, milk and butter. I served mine with rocket and sundries tomatoes.

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Using the stringier product from the pumpkin, I made a stew using chicken and herb stock, a bay leaf and I added the pumpkin seeds to flavour them. I simmered this for a while, then removed the pumpkin seeds and put them on a baking tray and into the oven at about 150 degrees for 10 minutes . Meanwhile, I added Sainsbury’s country vegetable mix (lentils, pulses, split peas etc..) and cooked for a further 45 minutes, stirring in a lump of blue cheese to serve. The end results was a delicious pumpkin and blue cheese stew and a pile of crunchy seeds to snack on.

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After a few days of our happy illuminated pumpkin staring back at us from the kitchen table, I decided it was time to have our final batch of ingredients from him and then say goodbye. The inside had started to go mouldy through not being in the fridge and having tea lights inside so I thought I would shave the outside using a vegetable peeler. This resulted in (and I felt quite sadistic at times) a skinned pumpkin and a pile of pumpkin noodles/string pieces. I used these to make a pumpkin, spinach and mozzarella lasagne this evening which was delicious but of course not to the taste of the meat needy boyfriend. (You can’t please everyone, I say)

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I had more than enough pumpkin for the lasagne and used the rest with some chicken stock, spinach, garlic, paprika and nutmeg to make some soup which will do nicely for lunch tomorrow.

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So long pumpkin and thank you for the wealth of ingredients you gave us.

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Post by Lizzi

this weekend? cakes.

I have spent the majority of time in the kitchen at various houses catering for a baby shower for a dear heavily pregnant friend and afternoon tea and birthday cake for Mother and older sister this weekend. I must add however, that I have not operated alone and owe big thanks to friends for all pulling together to put on such a spread for the shower. Both events were a success, with the odd miniature disaster here and there such as burnt shortbread, forgetting to pack the blade for the breadmaker and horrendous traffic to and from the supermarket on the morning of the shower. Feast your eyes on this calorific banquet (the theme was autumn) and think of me out running and eating salad this week. Who am I kidding…?

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Wholemeal bread dough

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Wholemeal bread rolls ready for the oven

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A congregation of homewares waiting patiently to be arranged

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Ginger muffins. To ice or not to ice?

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I decided to just dust them and add the cardboard toppers

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No table would be complete…

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…without flowers!

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Presents for the expectant one.

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Carrot cupcakes with butter icing and white chocolate carrot toppers

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Those bread rolls!

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Ready!

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Carrot cupcakes, rusks (couldn’t resist), wholemeal breadrolls and tiger bread with pâté, a pastry covered marzipan ring, salted popcorn, ginger muffins and out of sight: Ali’s salmon and watercress quiche.

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And there we have it, the autumnal baby shower.

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For the birthday cake the next day I tried Lorraine Pascale’s chocolate malteaser cake. Sickly 🙂

Post by Lizzi

vegetarian chilli because it’s chilly

I have been meaning to attempt a vegetarian chilli for some time. Having been keen to incorporate a meatless Monday into our routine – metaphorically speaking as it is in fact Wednesday – I have been looking for some tasty veggie options to satisfy my carnivorous boyfriend. I can confirm it was delicious and my aforementioned dinner companion described it as ‘nice’. He’s never been one for fancy adjectives…

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And last but not least, thank you Jamie Oliver for the recipe!

Post by Lizzi

fruits of our efforts

Our journey into growing veg for the first time began back in March when we set about weeding the vegetable plot at the end of the garden. Not knowing where to start (despite me having green-fingered parents) stalled the project somewhat. It wasn’t until a free truck load of wood appeared in the garden, that the idea to build some more manageable (and pretty!) vegetable boxes, that the project really took off.

These boxes turned out to be a great success. Not only are they reasonably aesthetic (I think!) but they protect your veg a little better from the critters that might take a fancy to what your growing in the veggie patch.

As with most projects, you learn from your mistakes. Our mistakes: to underestimate the consuming power of the caterpillar; to underestimate the growing power of the courgette plant. Both points are nicely illustrated in the photo above…

However, it wasn’t all bad news. The late-planted beetroot did exceptionally well, as did the lettuces, and the tomatoes weren’t too bad, once they eventually ripened.

Most important lessened learned – the more you plant, the more you harvest. And stagger planting, unless you want all your veg at once. Next year we intend to grow a lot more, starting earlier and and now we have a feel for how the different veggies grow, we might have a bit more success!

Here are a few more pics of our home grown delights…

Post by Ali

germany in the autumn time

Whilst we hope to focus this blog on embracing the changing seasons by exploring cooking, home crafts, the great outdoors and a general sense of well being and healthy living I shall kick off with a post dedicated to a recent trip to Germany. The weather had just turned bringing bright chilly days and I managed to take some great photos that really capture The Black Forest in autumn. The trip was filled with delicious traditional food, hiking and taking pictures. Enjoy.

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Post by Lizzi