Great views and great coffee

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Meeting up with family near to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, I really did fancy a coffee.

Up on the hill overlooking the bridge is the Clifton Observatory. A former mill, built in 1766, was damaged by fire just eleven years later and lay derelict for over fifty years until, an artist by the name of William West rented it as a studio. West installed telescopes and a camera obscura, which were used by artists of the Bristol School to draw the Avon Gorge and Leigh Woods on the opposite side.

Clifton Observatory

I’ve not been to the cafe in the Clifton Observatory before, but it looked like table service was off limits, due to Coivd-19, but they were doing a takeaway service.

They served a range of coffees, which was nice, so I went with my usual choice of a flat white.

This was served with a smile and a contactless payment later I was handed my coffee. The flavour of the coffee was excellent and the milk velvety and smooth as it should be. Really excellent coffee.

Great friendly service and the coffee was delicious.

French Tassimo

At the end of July we went on an Eurocamp holiday in France. Though I wanted to take my Tassimo coffee machine, I was overruled so we took a cafetière that worked well.

However when visiting French supermarkets, as well as the campsite shop I was intrigued to see the different Tassimo offerings available.

Over the last year or so, Tassimo in the UK only appears to offer either pods for espresso or really large mugs of coffee.

So it was interesting to see what you could get in France. They had a much wider range of espresso coffees, but they also had a range of longer coffees, or café long.

In the end I did buy two packs of café long pods, Classique…

…and Intense.

I couldn’t try them whilst on holiday, but had one when I got home and really enjoyed it.

I thought I might be able to order these (and other) pods from the Tassimo French website. 

Going through the site though, it looks like they will only deliver to French addresses… which is a pity.

So I will need to ration my consumption of these café long pods, though they won’t last nearly long enough until I get back to France.

Self-catering at La Croix Du Vieux Pont

One of the reasons I blog, it’s more for me than other people. It’s a useful reminder for me about what I have eaten, what I have cooked, and as in this post challenges when cooking on holiday.

At the end of July we went on an Eurocamp holiday in France. Having visited Brittany last year and stayed at a Eurocamp site I had anticipated blogging about my  self-catering experience and what worked and what didn’t, but for some reason never got around to it. I wish I had as it would have made this trip a little easier. 

I did post my challenges with self-catering when we went to Calpe in 2016 and 2017.

This year we went with another Eurocamp to La Croix Du Vieux Pont in Picardy or Hauts-de-France in Northern France. So I have decided to quickly write up some of those experiences in preparing for self-catering.

My previous experience of self-catering apartments was from the Greek Ionian islands and Cyprus. This was before children, so it was me and my other half. We rarely used the self-catering facilities for cooking, as we would eat out a bit, but it was useful to have a hob, a fridge and a few utensils and crockery. The “kitchen” in the apartments I experience were very minimal and not really sufficient for anything more than snacks and hot drinks. Also the local shopping environment wasn’t exactly great for self-catering, with very small supermarkets.

When we booked our Calpe holiday in 2016, due to dietary requirements (gluten free) we wanted to ensure we had not only a self-catering kitchen, but a decent enough kitchen for actual real cooking. We found the kitchens in caravans in the UK great for self-catering, if a little cramped. However I would usually take a range of ingredients and kitchen utensils to make my life easier when cooking. So I did something similar when we went to France this year.

At La Croix Du Vieux Pont, we had a three bedroom caravan which came with a well-equipped kitchen including a proper gas hob, an oven and an outside gas barbecue as well.

This was in many ways better than the equipment I have had at UK holiday parks, for example there was a washing up bowl and a draining rack! This made clearing up after a meal so much easier than just having the sink and draining board.

I took the following items with me to make cooking and catering easier.

Chopping board – for some reason the only chopping board I find in caravans are glass ones! So I always take a plastic chopping board with me.

Knives – I have found the knives on holiday either blunt or broken, so I have a large kitchen knife and a bread knife that I use on self-catering holidays.

I took a sieve with me, but in the end didn’t use it, as the caravan was equipped with a colander.

I took a spare baking tray, as usually there is only one in the caravans I have been in, in addition I took a pair of tongs which is useful for turning items on the grill. There was a long-handled barbecue tongs were provided which worked well for the outdoor barbecue.

Though I wanted to take my Tassimo coffee machine, I was overruled so we took a cafetière that worked well.

I took a potato peeler and I also took a pair of scissors, but there was one in the caravan.

The other things I take with me our sandwich bags, cling film and foil. This is easier to store uneaten food but also for packed lunches.

To help with washing up and cleaning, I took some steel scourers, washing up spongs, j cloths, washing up liquid and tea towels. In addition I take spare bin  liners as well.

I also took the following ingredients, though I know I could get some of these in French supermarkets, I wanted to avoid spending extra money on basics that I already had in the kitchen.

      • Pasta
      • Rice
      • Tomato pasta sauce
      • Pesto
      • Sunflower oil
      • Olive oil
      • Salt
      • Pepper
      • Parmesan
      • Various seasonings
      • Onions
      • Pepper
      • Butter

As two of our household are gluten free I also took a range of gluten free items as well.

I pack the fresh food in a cool box, which if we get a small fridge I use during the week as supplementary fresh food storage. The fridge though we got was pretty big and I didn’t use the cool box.

Overall I don’t think I missed anything, apart from some mustard and white wine vinegar to make a French dressing, so in the end we bought some dressing from the supermarket.

Chipolatas on the Barbecue

One of the nice things I have enjoyed when self-catering at a Eurocamp in France is the gas barbecue that is outside every caravan. Something I have never experienced in the UK (maybe it rains too much).

One of the advantages of the barbecue is that you can avoid using the oven or grill in the caravan which can heat up the living area considerably, which when it is hot anyhow, makes it very uncomfortable.

On the first evening of our recent holiday to France, we popped to the local campsite shop for some quick extra supplies (we had brought some basics with us, as well as enough food for the first meal). However as we had time we thought we might get some French food for the evening meal.

I picked up a pack of Chipolatas sausages, which I grilled on the barbecue.

These were really nice, meaty, tasty and delicious. We had these quite a few times over the holiday.

Over the week, as well as Chipolatas I also did Merguez sausages, lemon chicken and some nice peppered rump steaks.

Most of the time we had these with salad, though I did cook Pommes Rissolées a couple of times, and also made a (gluten free) pasta salad as well.

The only challenge was on the final evening, though I regularly cleaned the griddle part of the barbecue, the bottom part did have too much grease on it, so we had some flames which resulted in certain pieces of food getting somewhat charred! When we go again I will clean this part of the barbecue as well.

Part of the (new) housekeeping agreement with Eurocamp, as well as emptying the fridge and doing the washing up, you also had to clean the barbecue.

Knowing this in advance, I did bring some metal scouring pads and cloths for this purpose. It came up okay, but having some proper cleaning spray or similar would have been useful. However I got there in the end.

I really enjoyed cooking on the barbecue during the week, it was quick to light up and made catering much quicker and easier.

Gluten Free Colourful Victoria Sponge

Gluten Free Colourful Victoria Sponge

This is a tasty but colourful gluten free colourful Victoria sponge cake.

The recipe is based on the weight of two eggs

Ingredients

For each layer of the cake

      • 3 standard eggs
      • Take the same weight of two of the eggs of soft butter
      • Take the same weight of two of the eggs in caster sugar
      • Take the same weight of two of the eggs in self-raising gluten-free flour
      • Vanilla essence
      • Food colouring (different colour for each layer)

For the filling

      • Strawberry jam
      • Whipped cream

Method

Cream the sugar and butter until you have a smooth consistency. I try and leave the butter out so that it is really soft.

Beat the eggs, add some vanilla essence. I then added athe food colouring to brighten the cake mixture.

Stir the eggs into the creamed butter and sugar with some of the flour, until the mixture is smooth and consistent.

Then fold in the remaining flour until it is combined with the rest of the mixture.

Spoon the mixture into a greased cake tin.

Repeat the process for the second (and if required third layer).

The bake the cake in a 180º normal oven or 160º fan oven for 25-30 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool and then construct the cake, spreading jam and then cream.

Finally dust the cake with icing sugar.

Time for Gluten Free Scotch Eggs

Gluten Free Scotch Eggs

Myself and others in the family quite enjoy scotch eggs, however now with a couple of people in the family on gluten free diets I was set the challenge of making some gluten free scotch eggs. The main issue with shop bought scotch eggs is the wheat in the breadcrumbs on the outside and potentially wheat in the sausage meat.

So remembering a cookery programme where they had cooked scotch eggs (I think it was Professional Masterchef) I went out and bought some ingredients.

As well as the medium sized free range eggs, I got some gluten free chipolata sausages. I did think if I should make my own gluten free breadcrumbs, but in the end I did find a packet of gluten free breadcrumbs from Morrisons.

I decided to use these as they would ensure the scotch eggs looked like the ones you could buy in the shops.

I hard boiled the eggs for ten minutes and then left them to cool. I did think about doing soft boiled eggs with a runny yolk, as they did on the telly, but in the end I wasn’t sure of the timings.

Having peeled the eggs I took the sausage meat from a single chipolata. I did this by gently slicing the skin of the sausage and removing it. I patted the sausage meat into a thin circle before wrapping it around the egg. One tip I had picked up from the cooking programme was to ensure that the sausagement was an even layer around the egg, which I think I managed to do.

The scotch egg was then rolled and covered in gluten free plain flour, then covered in beaten egg, before being covered in the gluten free breadcrumbs.

The resulting scotch egg was then deep fried in hot oil. It’s at times like this I wish I had a proper deep fat fryer, but in the end I cooked them in a smallish pan one at a time.

Once I thought the sausagemeat was cooked, the scotch egg was removed from the oil and drained on kitchen paper.

Well the end result was an authentic looking, tasting scotch egg with the texture one would expect. I was well pleased and they were very tasty.

Pommes Rissolées

When we went on holiday last year to France one thing we tried and enjoyed were Pommes Rissolées. We bought the frozen variety from the local supermarket and then cooked them in the oven.

Of course when we came home, we couldn’t find them on sale in our supermarkets. However they are pretty easy to do yourself.

I take Maris Piper potatoes and after peeling them, I then used my new kitchen toy I got for my birthday, a mandolin,  (other similar models can be had on Amazon) to dice the potatoes into cubes, about 1cm big.

Then in a large frying pan I shallow fry them (I don’t have a deep fat fryer) and when they start to brown, I remove and drain them on kitchen towel.

I then finish them off in the oven with a couple of pieces of butter to aid the browning process and add some flavour. So they’re not quite Pommes Rissolées as we had them in France, but close enough.

Time for a Caesar Salad

I did quite fancy a Caesar salad for lunch, but I don’t buy the kits, partly as I prefer making my own, partly, as I like more than croutons and parmesan, and mainly as I need to have gluten free croutons.

For my Caesar salad I took some Romaine Lettuce and cut in half and set them across the plate. To this I added some white anchovies, quartered small tomatoes and peelings of parmesan.

For the croutons, I took the crusts of a Schär white loaf and sliced it into cubes. In a hot pan I added some olive oil and some butter, to which I added the cubes of bread and some dried Italian herbs. Once the croutons are browned I took them out of the pan and drained them on some kitchen paper.

These were then added to the salad, followed with some freshly ground black pepper.

I have variations, sometimes I prefer sun-dried tomatoes, but then I do like fresh, it’s a preference. 

I do sometimes add Caesar salad dressing, but usually have it on the side.

A bizarre breakfast

Not going out to eat over the last three months has meant that I’ve had no meals or dishes to blog about. I have caught up with some recent meals, but have now been going back further into my photo library to see if there were dishes and meals that I may have not blogged about. One of these was a breakfast, which was not amazing!

In August of 2019 (only last year) we went to Brittany in France for our summer holiday. We took the ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg before driving down to a Eurocamp close to Dol-de-Bretagne.

Though the weather wasn’t that great, we did have a nice holiday.

We drove down to Portsmouth to catch the morning ferry. I hoped we could have breakfast at the port, but the process was very much queue up for passport control and then board the ship.

We were catching the fast ferry, the Normandie Express. It is a high-speed catamaran cruise ferry, owned and operated by Brittany Ferries.

The car deck was packed with cars and we scrambled through to the passenger deck.

Knowing that everyone was hungry we went straight to the café to get some breakfast and avoid any queuing or no seating.

I was anticipating something rather special, as I had seem this video on the Brittany Ferries website.

The menu looked a little bit strange, but I ordered some croissants, a few cooked breakfasts as well as some gluten free rolls. Oh and of course some coffee!

The breakfast looked like this!

There was some bacon, sausages, scrambled egg and bizarrely mashed potato!

It was an interesting experience, not one I would want to repeat. The sausages were fine, the egg was passable, however the mashed potato was just bizarre and the bacon did not taste like bacon.

The croissants were okay, fluffy and the French butter was very tasty. As for the gluten free rolls, well they were not very nice.

I think this could have been so much better and it was a bit of a flat start to our holiday. One of the reasons I wanted to go to France was for the food.

The breakfast was completely forgotten about though once we reached the open sea, as the water was very choppy and there were strong winds.

The day before the service had actually been cancelled due to the weather, and though the wind was not as strong as the day before, the waves were still there and it was a very rough crossing.

We had a lovely holiday and some great food. On the way back, we took a homemade packed lunch!

Waffling

This is one of our quick favourite meals, savoury grilled waffles.

I had an electric waffle iron for years (over twenty) and then it eventually stopped working, so we bought a double sized waffle iron, so we could make two at once.

My waffle mix is as follows, take a cup of self-raising gluten free flour, a cup of milk and one egg, Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.

If you are making sweet waffles add some sugar and some vanilla essence.

I cook the waffles in the iron and then set them aside.

You can then choose which toppings you want. Some in the family like the classic ham and cheese, whilst others (like me) go for spinach,  mushrooms with onions and pepper, with cheese on top.

The waffles, complete with toppings are then finished off in a hot oven for about ten minutes.