Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Short notes on a sustainable holiday

One of the first things people tend to ask me, when they discover we don't have a car, is 'What do you do on holiday?' (actually, the first things they tend to ask are 'Why?' and 'How do you do your shopping?', but we'll leave those aside for the purposes of this note!) So, to answer this perennial question, yes, it is possible to go on holiday in the UK without a car.

Dawlish, Devon

WH and I have just got back from a short break for our wedding anniversary. We used a combination of public transport and our own two feet to get us from A to B, B to C, C to B, etc, and not at any point did we cry 'Oh, I wish we had a car!' (Of course, I wasn't dragging the suitcase). Here is how we did it:

Day 1: Train from Reading to Dawlish, Devon (direct).
Arriving at Dawlish station - you can see it's right on the sea front.

The B&B in Dawlish was just a ten minute walk (uphill, admittedly) from the station. Arriving early afternoon, we then took in a short walk up the coast to Dawlish Warren along the sea wall (about 1.5 miles), then back to Dawlish for some very fresh fish and chips (the fish was fresh, the chips less so).
Day 2: Train from Dawlish to Torquay. Walk from the railway station through the town and up the hill to Babbacombe, to visit the model village (about 3 miles). We then walked back into town, indulged in a short game of crazy golf and then went to a lovely restaurant on the harbourside, Seaspray, which had great locally-sourced food (although WH did plump for the scottish salmon, I had a plaice fillet, which had been caught locally). Back to Dawlish by train.
Day 3: Bus from Dawlish to Bishopsteignton, then a walk up to a local vineyard (only 1 mile, but all uphill!). Old Walls Vineyard is one of five vineyards in the district and is family-owned - we were treated to a fantastic and very detailed tour by the owner himself. There was a break half-way for lunch, then a tasting to finish. Needless to say we came away with a bottle....
Back down the hill to the bus stop, then back to Dawlish. Dinner that evening was at a local bistro, Too Delicious, where we enjoyed some more locally-sourced produce in our starter of Brixham crab cakes, followed by steak for WH and chilli con carne for myself.
Day 4: Train from Dawlish to Exeter, where we spent the day discovering the city and buying some souvenirs. Back to Dawlish by train, and back to Too Delicious for dinner (it was that good). This time we both opted for fish and chips, which were definitely delicious and I finished with an amazing Devon cheese board.
Day 5: Another walk along to Dawlish Warren with another round of crazy golf (it was a different course, after all!), then back for lunch in Old Mill tea room before catching our train back to Reading.

Holidaying without a car:
  • Yes, you do have to choose destinations that can be reached by public transport, but that isn't really a large restriction!
  • Yes, you do have to plan your activities a bit more carefully. But that just involves a trip to the local tourist information at the start of your break to get local bus and/or train timetables.
  • Yes, you do have to do some walking. But it's good for you. So there. It also serves as a great excuse for stuffing yourself at every opportunity (I neglected to mention the cream teas and ice creams we enjoyed - all from Devon, of course!)
  • No, you don't have to camp - I had enough of that as a child and fortunately WH enjoys the benefits of a nice comfy bed and private bathroom facilities just as much as I do. Indeed, campsites are often more difficult to get to without a car (not to mention carrying all that gear).

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Garlic, grass and great recipes

It has been a funny old weekend - this is probably our last lazy weekend in August, as next weekend we'll be starting to pack in preparation for moving into our new house towards the end of the month - it's all very exciting!

So, we've been making the most of it. The garden has had a good old tidy up, with WH getting stuck in to the small rainforest that was the lawn (I followed with a rake - we had enough moss to build a deluxe bird hotel!).

Fighting with the lawnmower

The parsley has gone mad with all the rain we've had!

I lifted the garlic today, as the leaves had completely wilted. I was concerned by a number of articles I read this morning about needing to stop watering garlic for a few weeks in advance of harvesting, but this worry turned out to be premature, as our garlic looks fine. It's certainly giving off a tantalising scent - WH is throwing it into tonight's dinner (see below) - and we've got enough to attempt to store a couple of bulbs (we didn't plant a lot, but given this year's success I'll definitely be doing a lot more next year, as we use garlic in almost everything). The bulbs, including roots and leaves, are currently drying gently in the greenhouse. I'll bring them in mid-week to prepare for storing.

Bulbs drying in the greenhouse

The remaining crops in the garden are looking very promising - particularly the toms, although they're still all frustratingly green. We're going to harvest the last spring onions later this week, then we'll only have the tomatoes, courgettes and pea/bean tubs to move to our new home. Needless to say, the courgette harvest continues apace - the Summer Ball F1 hybrids we're growing are lovely thrown in a griddle pan with a little oil, then added to risottos, omlettes, anything really!

There are plenty of bite-sized fruits on the Gardener's Delight plants

The two Moneymakers that survived are also fruiting well.

And the Roma's continue to grow and grow...

We even discovered we had an escapee! At some point, when pruning, I've tossed the off-cut down next to the pot and not tidied up. A fairly vigorous little plant has resulted.

And the beans just keep on growing - some are at about 10cms. We need to wait until they're at 13/14 to harvest though - we tried the other week and although the pod was a decent size, the beans inside were smaller than my little fingernail :(

I've also had fun this weekend making watermelon ice lollies and croissants. The latter didn't turn out quite like shop-bought (they weren't terribly flakey) but they were tasty! Hopefully the ice lollies will be more successful ...

Marrow stuffed with 'italian' mince
(Tonight's dinner serves 2, with enough mince filling left over to make two portions of spag bol for tomorrow)

1 small/medium marrow
450g beef mince
Small onion
Pinch of mixed herbs
2 cloves of garlic (this is fresh from the garden today!)
400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
herbs and seasoning
Glass of red wine
Grated cheese for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4.
  2. Chop the garlic and onion and sweat in a little olive oil in a large pan. Once they are transparent and beginning to colour, add the mince, tomatoes, s/dried tomato paste, wine and herbs to the pan and cook until the liquid has reduced - probably about 20 minutes. You could add stock at this stage as well, if you wanted even more flavour.
  3. Slice the marrow into chunky rings and scoop out the seeds. Place on a roasing tray
  4. Once your filling is ready, spoon it into the marrow rings and top with some cheese. Cover the roasting tray with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Cook until piping hot and the marrow is just tender (NB this just took more like an hour rather than 30 mins!). Check the marrow is done by testing the flesh with a knife - a little resistance means it is done - very firm, then give it a few more minutes.
Lovely served with rosemary roast potatoes.

Watermelon ice lollies
(makes about 12)

1 mini watermelon (this came with our Abel & Cole box), de-seeded, mushed and sieved to make 1 pint of watermelon juice (NB this is incredibly messy - wear an apron and clear lots of room on the work surface, with plenty of cleaning cloths to hand...!)
100ml lime juice
125g caster sugar
125ml water
Vanilla essence
  1. Put the sugar and water in a pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add a couple of drops of vanilla essence and place the liquid in the fridge
  2. Once cool, add the watermelon juice and lime juice.
  3. Pour into molds and place in the freezer.

The croissant recipe was just out of my breadmachine recipe book. I might try a different one next time to see if the results differ ...