Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Tasty muffins at the new Caracoli coffee shop above Steamer Trading in Guildford - lots of other fabulous ingredients too!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Truffle shuffle

Using an adaption of a truffle recipe from the Sainsbury's magazine this month I made a couple of batches of chocolate coated truffles. White coated peppermint truffles with silver dusting and milk chocolate coated violet truffles with edible purple glitter. The violet flavouring came from Patiwizz in France and the glitter from Hobbeycraft!

For the truffle filling you need to melt together 100ml double cream, 100g chocolate and 25g butter. Flavour with a little essence (just a little!) and then leave to set in the fridge. Shape into balls, I used a teaspoon measure, then pop in the freezer to harden, reshape if necessary and chill again. Then melt 150g chocolate, cool and then dip the chilled truffle centres in it. Dust with glitter and allow to set!

While I had the violet aroma out I also made some macaroons from bubble and sweet's recipe! And some violet creams.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


More tasty cakes! This time a lemon and cranberry muffin at Pomegranate in Solihul.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The bell

On Thursday I went wedding dress hunting with Sarah, Juul, Lotte and Laura. As a treat afterwards we all went to the Bell near Alderminster for lunch, and what a treat it was!! We had yummy starters including a smoked mackerel pate, then roast partridge and finally I had chocolate brownies for dessert, though really that could have fed all four of us!! The decor was delightful - I simply loved the reindeer horns strung with Christmas baubles and feather boas!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Tasty cupcakes and interesting drinks at Shake - I had a fry orange cream hot chocolate - I think they literally melted a bar into some milk. Very yummy but very sweet!!


Yesterday we had a rather fantastic afternoon - first seeing the new Harry Potter movie and then going out for dinner. Nick took me to Opus, with a little drinky at All Bar one first! The dinner was magnificent, as was the wine - a K-Naia verdejo and rueda from Spain.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Party Food

We had a little party for Nick's Birthday and our engagement, and after many requests for the recipes here they are.

Aubergine Parmigiana
Put 25g flour in a bowl and add seasoning. In another bowl put a little evapourated milk. Then dip sliced aubergines (from 2 aubergines cut into 5mm slices) in the evapourated milk and then into the flour. Place the aubergine into a large lasange dish. When all the aubergine is in the dish, bake (175 C) for 30min. Then cover the aubergines with 500g passata. Mix 50g parmesan with 100ml evapourated milk and spoon this over the passata. Bake in the oven (175 C) for 25min.

Sausage stew
Brown 12 chipolatas and 200g smokey bacon lardons. Drain on a piece of kitchen towel. Fry a finely chopped onion and 3 cloves of garlic in a little oil until softened. Add the diced flesh of a butternut squash and saute for 10min. Add 200ml white wine and reduce by half. Then add in the browned sausages and bacon, along with 600ml stock and some fresh thyme leaves. Add 500g leftover roast chicken or turkey. Simmer for 30min. Add 2 tins of cannellini beans (rinsed) and simmer for another 10min. Stir in 4 tablespoons of creme fraiche and a handful of freshly chopped parsley.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


This evening we went down to the planetarium at Birmingham's Thinktank (the science museum etc) to see the showing of Continuum by Paul Grimmer. This brilliant piece of performance, made for fulldome screening, was mesmerizing. Born out of residencies at the MRC virology labs, Allenheads Contemporary Arts and Dance City there was also a tinge of menace which seemed perfect from the presumed viral inspiration. We also got to see a little of the usual space and astronomy presentation - I was full of wonder!

Friday, November 12, 2010

2011 Diary

I got feb up of trying to buy a diary with vertical appointments - which is very handy for planning experiments! - so I have made my own on lulu. It even turned out to be cheaper than a shop bought one. A proof is ordered, fingers crossed it turns out well!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Butterfly cakes

These are our first attempt at some gluten free cupcakes (using Nigella's Quadruple chocolate loaf as the base recipe). They are exceedingly chocolatey!! We may have to tone that down a bit! The edible butterflies are from Sugar Robot.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More cupcakes please!

Following the success of the angel cakes we whipped up a selection of cupcakes - vanilla, chocolate and gingerbread with luscious icing, thins time with a bit of butter in that sticky meringue mix. And I tried out a lebkuken recipe too - all very yummy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Angel cakes

Whilst in Winchester I bought a new cook book and on Wednesday night we had lots of fun trying out the angel cakes - the cakes themselves were a very straight forward recipe but the icing was something new - marshmallow frosting. It required us to whisk the egg whites at 60C but having broken my sugar thermometer we resorted to using the electronic temperature probe (aka NASA control) that dangles out of the kitchen window!

Take 250g sugar, 4 egg whites, 1 tbsp water and a pinch of salt and put in a bain marie and whisk gently until they reach 60C. Then tip into another bowl and whisk briskly for about 3min until it makes stiff glossy peaks. Then pipe on top of your cakes - a very sticky business.


Last weekend we had a super time in Winchester with Vicki, Seb, Adrian and Sarah. Lots of good food and laughs, and even a visit to Arthur's round table.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Liverpool Biennial

We popped up to Liverpool last Sunday to see a few of the exhibits at the Liverpool Biennial. Here we have Laura Belem, Do Ho Suh and Hector Zamora's works. Its on til the 28th November, so plenty of time to go and see them!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kathmandu again!

I can't believe we're back in Kathmandu again. After leaving Shigatse we cycled out into the countryside (and I got a puncture from a wayward piece of glass in the road) for many nights of camping. We rejoined the main road after taking the southern and quieter road to Shigatse, but it didn't make too much difference as the road heads straight to Everest Base Camp and the border so wasn't too busy. There were plenty of Tibetan villages to cycle through to start with but they got sparser the further we went. A few days in we took the turning towards Everest Base Camp over the Pang La. The road was the only untarred one we took in Tibet, and boy it was bad - lots of pot holes and corrugations. Nick and I managed 10km up the pass, through sticky mud and rain before calling it a day. Then at the top we stopped to look out on the view - a bit cloudy but there were lots of ammonites to distract us! On the way down the road was still bad and I managed to catch an edge in a rut and fell off the bike into one of the large concrete bollards, thankfully otherwise I would have been off the edge. A bit rattled I tried to reattach the rear wheel, that had come off, and didn't quite manage it, so I was happy when the minivan scooped me up and ferried me to the camp where Doug easily fixed it! Must have been the shock. The following day we rode up to Everest Base Camp, which had stunning views but it was a little bit weird. There were lots of yak hair tents set out in a big rectangle (like around a football pitch) and each proclaimed to be a hotel - my favourite was the 'Metal Yak Grand Hotel'!!!

As the exit road was out (landslide) we made it back to the tarmac where we had turned off a few days before and cycled through Tingri, again with stunning views of Everest and Choy Oyu. That night we camped next to a local inn and got the chance to pop in for a nosey and a beer - it was a real highlight to see how the people where living. Unfortunately the town was full of dogs that howled all through the night! Onwards and we only had two passes left and I happily made it up both of them and through the headwind on the otherside. We caught sight of Shishipangma too! We camped at the top of the gorge leading to Nyalam, and even visited the town for a hot shower, the first in a week! Then we started the 160km descent to Nepal. We swooped down the mountain and into the mist, which made it pretty treacherous! I must have made it all the way through one set of brake blocks! Near the border were a couple of dodgy little towns and then we were having our passports checked 3 times to leave China! We said goodbye to Goncho, our Tibetan guide, and headed to a little hostelry for lunch on the Nepalese side. We made a decision to cycle to The Last Resort for the night. The road was abysmal, as were the dogs that chased us! We went over several landslides, dragging our bikes through the mud! We did it again the following morning but they petered out by lunch time as we continued to descend. But after lunch we cycled through the heat of the day and I was rather unwell with lack of salt, 6 rehydration salts packets later and all was well again. Nick made it up the final climb to Dhulikel, where we spent the night. This morning we cycled the last 30km into Kathmandu, the traffic was terrible, as was the road surface. Just as well we were all on mountain bikes! And so we're back in the Holy Himalaya Hotel, in reach of good food and the Internet again, having cycled 622miles!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Tashi Lungpo Monastery

Today has been our rest day and so we spent a lot of time doing not a lot and then some time cleaning and taking care of the bicycles, before wandering down to the Tashi Lungpo Monastery, which is the home of the Panchen Lamas. There were several monks about and a few pilgrims, but mostly tourists again. I reflected that I don't feel like I've got under the skin of Tibet at all yet. Though last night we ended up at the Yak's Head Tibetan Restaurant, where much sign language and pointing were required to get something to eat. We had momos, knuckle stew, soup and even yak cheese and homemade pasta (which was really vile!). It was the most hilarious evening and I hope we provided some entertainment for the local people in the restaurant too, as we laughed away the evening, drinking beer from shot glasses (which seems to be the norm). What the next 10days will bring, save massive passes, I don't know, I'll let you know when we get to Kathmandu!

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Last night I had Tibetan curry for dinner - yak meat and potatoes in a fragrant spicy sauce, very yummy. We tried to get momos (really yummy dumplings) but they had sold out! This morning we eschewed the hotel restarant and headed back to the Yak Western restaurant for chocolate pancakes! Then it was a fairly straight forward 90km down to Shigatse, it has been the first really hot and sunny day and many people were out in the fields collecting in the harvest. Surprisingly they left their shoes by the road and did the harvest in bare feet. Needless to say there were plenty of hellos and high fives! We cycled through wide open plains, with what looked like aluvial fans coming down from the mountains, but no glaciers. We cruised into Shigatse at around 12.00 which was a bit early, we could proabaly have taken a bit longer to cycle and have had longer banana stops. But the Manasarovar Hotel was a welcome sight with its baths and even oxygen machines next to the beds!! After showers and a little washing Nick and I went out to see what we could find. We wandered through one of the Tibetan markets full of load speakers and non-touristy useful stuff, like shirts and soap. Then back to the hotel to cool down, having an ice cream along the way.
Here are a couple of photos from the trip - the to of the Khamba La pass and the riding today, across a large open plain.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

We also saw some birds that looked like whoopoos - could they be or are they woodpeckers? And some sparrow like birds that had dark pink fronts - any suggestions? And lots of grebes


We left Lhasa in glorious sunshine, pottering up for a team shot outside the Potala Palace where we became a tourist attraction ourselves as the Chinese tourists joining us for pictures! Then came our first full day of cycling (90km) up to the bottom of the Khamba La pass. It was interesting cycling lots to see and lots of traffic to keep an eye on. There were several large Buddhas painted on the side of the rocks and the river rushed by threatening to burst its banks. We camped in what looked like a farmers field but right next to the road, so when the lorries laboured by in the night they made a lot of noisy. It was sunny til about 6 and then there was an almighty thunderstorm, and this pattern has been followed every afternoon. It stopped in the night (except last night!) and then was gloomy in the morning. We started early to climb 1200m over 35km (or in 30 km as I thought!). I struggled for breath from the start and at 29km got off my bike wanting to lie down and catch my breath but I struggled on on foot for another 2 km til the minivan found me and very thankfully scooped me up and took me to the top of the pass. All the others had made it! the view down to Scorpion Lake was spectacular - turquoise waters and green mountains. We raced down the other side, with a splitting headache from the altitude that made its presence known over every little bump. After a few kms we stopped for lunch and I opted to take the minivan the last 30km to the campsite where I happily had a lie down and a diamox.
The following day we set off again to cycle over Karo La - a shorter ascent but to over 5000m, this time I got really close to the top (2km) before the minivan found me. The top was decorated with prayer flags and was strangely warm, we must have been sheltered from the wind. Then we whizzed down the mountain to have lunch looking along a valley bordered by snow capped mountains. It was another 40km to the campsite as the normal one had been washed away by the excessive rains. We camped next to a turquoise reservoir, a beautiful waterfall and an abandoned village. There were even belemnites on the ground! During the day we saw men spinning yak wool and lots of birds including choughs with red beaks.
Today we set off in the rain and went over Simi La (I got right to the top!) and then it was all down hill to Gyatse. The fields here are still full of barley and there are people pottering about in their horse drawn carts. The streets are filthy but somehow feel a lot more authentic than Lhasa. We walked up to the Pachu Monastery which has one of the last chortens left untouched in Tibet but there are no monks and very few pilgrims. The chorten is beautifully decorated and has a great view over the town towards the Dzong (fortress). Tonight we're in a hotel (with showers!!) and tomorrow we cycle to Shigatse for two nights in a hotel and our rest day, but its 90km away on the flat so some effort is required to get there. Its also another 150m below where we are now so hopefully that will be good!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Test ride

Last night we went up to the New Manadal restaurant at the end of Barkhour Square to have a little Nepalese food, instead of Tibetan noodles - very fine rice and dhal. We fancied some ice cream and so decided to try Dico's, the local equivalent of McDonalds. We opted for ice cream and chocolate sauce - which all turned out to be faintly yak flavoured. If you're wondering why we tried Dico's its because we found pea flavoured ice cream in the local shops!

After a good night's sleep we were saddled up to go at 9 and cycled west out of the city following the river up stream. The road was good - smooth and not too busy. We came past lots of prayer flags on the mountains and saw people stopping their cars to put fragrant herbs into the little burning ovens by the stupas. Strangely there were seagulls and terns (no black cap). Other birds included a bee eater/bulbul shaped bird with a russet front and dark back, geese and chickens. We also saw our first yaks ambling down the road and plenty of cows in the fields. There were also lots of poly tunnels growing aubergines, melons, pak choi, tomatoes and doubtless many other fruits and veggies. We took a turning up to a tourist eco camp but only found a military barracks and some grumpy guards. But it was up a bit of a hill so good practise - I got quite out of breath whilst cycling but it all subsided very quickly we stopped. After 15miles we stopped for a drink in a cafe and then returned by the same route, calling in at the Tourist Toilet on the way back - better than most others we have visited but still not a fabulous experience. I think it will only get worse as the trip progresses.

Back in town we had noodles at the Lhasa Kitchen and picked up some chocolate - their brand seems to be Dove but I'm pretty sure its Galaxy! Tonight we'll have a farewell meal (to Lhasa) and then tomorrow the tough stuff begins. I think it may be 4 days until I can blog again but it might be all the way back to Kathmandu if we're unlucky in Shigatse with the internet.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jokang Temple and Sera Monastery

After more noodles last night and a yummy omelette for breakfast we headed off to the centre of old Lhasa - to Barkhour Square. Its this the pilgrims have been circling and we were allowed to go in for 15min to see the splendours inside. The temple hasn't been renovated like the Potala Palace and the centuries of butter lamp smoke have blackened the walls but the central buddha still shines brightly, and the woodwork where the people have past and held the wood has a brilliant patina. The floors were coated in many years of butter too so it was quite slippery under foot. After our brief glimpse we headed up on to the roof where there were lots of golden chimneys and a stunning view across to the Potala Palace. Above the crowds we could easily take pictures, even of the stamping soldiers. The ladies mending the roof were rhythmically tamping it into place and singing, very lovely. Under the square there was a butter lamp manufacturer , where there were a few lads continuously pouring melted butter into the little brass goblets and putting in wicks. There were also a couple of ladies already lighting them. The floor was super slippery and the room really hot. Then we joined the throng and made a circuit of the temple before heading to the 'First West Cake House' for excellent muffins and lemonade.

This afternoon we saddled up and took Gongcho on his first cycle in years, up to the Sera Monastery. the roads were busy but we mostly had our own cycle path, even though it was used by cars and bikes going in both directions. The breathing was good! and we recovered easily after the little climb to the security post. Then on foot we wandered around what must have been a hive of activity, it was quite strange to see it as an open air museum with a handful of monks. At 3 on the dot a gong was sounded and all the tourists headed into a courtyard to watch the younger monks testing each other on the scriptures, making the hands in acknowledgment of correct answers. It was fun to watch and they all see to be having a good time, but it was rather goldfish-bowl-esque. Then a longer route back to the hotel,circling the Potala Palace and braving the traffic. Time for a little more cake and a rest/shower (its been about 25C) before dinns and then tomorrow we'll try a long distance!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Potala Palace and Barkhour Square

After a bit of a noisy night (lots of horns on the main road) we had tsampa and fruit for breakfast, the tsampa was a bit like ready brek! Then we hot footed it down to the Potala Palace, but our allotted entrance time wasn't til 9 so we hung about the gardens and took some photos. Then we were allowed in and started climbing up the steps - a hard job, Zoe said her heart rate was three times its normal. At the top we came in to a courtyard and entered into the palace itself. There were many beautiful paintings and many many Buddhas, tombs from Dalai Lamas, covered in gold. turquoise and other precious stones, including elephant pearl, which apparently comes from their brains (didn't fancy that much!). We only had a short time and soon we were out on the other side descending the steps to a large lake where we caught the bus over to the Summer Palace. This was set in beautiful gardens and filled with flowers in pots. The rooms were smaller but no less ornate. The Tibetan white and blue drapes they use for celebratory tents hung above doorways and windows making a very jolly air. By 11.30 we were all starving (apparently you use more calories at altitude!) so we set of for lunch back near the old part of Lhasa. We went up some steps and found a large room with low benches and ordered lots of noodles and some yak momos, but unfortunately the momosd turned out to be filled with yak cheese - really horrible! Sort of sweet and crunchy and yaky/goaty! The butter tea was similar, with lots of salt in too. While we were having lunch Gongcho got a phone call saying the bikes had arrived from Kathmandu on the truck, so we scarpered back to the hotel to assemble them and make sure they were working. An hour or so later it was done, I had also visited the bank and changed some money (making the teller giggle when I asked for small notes and receiving a really big wad!). Then out to find some puncture patches and postcards before browsing through the market in Barkour Square. We always seemed to be heading against the tide of pilgrims but we saw all kinds of interesting things - lots of massive pieces of amber and turquoise, ancient stirrups and bells, rugs, national costumes and much more. We went to a covered market and stocked up on boiled sweets and biscuits for our trip. Tomorrow we'll take our first cycle out to Sera monastery, but first its time to put the feeties up and have a rest!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


After a super Tibetan meal last night, giant fried momos (sylbanet or something like that) and a bit of a delay in the airport we were off to Lhasa from Kathmandu around lunch time. They said the weather was bad in Lhasa, and after hearing of two planes crashed yesterday we were happy to wait. Then all of a sudden it was all systems go. As we spiralled up out of Kathmandu valley we breached the clouds and as we flew to the East we could just glimpse the tops of some really big mountains, one of them must have been Everest!! As we flew onwards the clouds thinned and we could see the arid mountains and flooded valleys below. As we neared Lhasa the flood of the Bramaputra filled the whole valley but it looked like a regular occurrence as the roads were skirting the edge and the bridge spanned the entire width of the valley floor. We spiralled down again and then we had arrived! We were greeted at the airport by Gongcho our guide and lots of white scarves! There was a 65km drive up to the city, alongside the flood plain and buddhas carved on the rocks and distant prayer flags on mountain tops, looking like myriad spiders' webs. The city was something of a surprise! Lots of low rise fairly modern buildings and shops, but we caught a glimpse of the Potala Palace where we will visit tomorrow. A swift check in (to a cigarette small impregnated room!) and we went out to find some dinner, wandering through the little alley ways of old Lhasa up to Barkhour square. I was quite shocked by the number of security cameras and military police in full riot gear! Gongcho took us past  hundreds of little stalls full of really beautiful things - necklaces, buddhist cymbals, bells, fruit and much more. We ended up at a local restaurant which ace! No momos tonight but lots of noodle soup, of various descriptions and also yak - in the soup and also as milk in the tea - tasted quite goaty! Amazingly it only cost us 1GBP each!! Nick and i wandered back past more stalls - lots of biscuits, which we may have to stock up on before the ride, but even with the time change we're quite tired so an early night I think is called for!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Patan and Swayambhunath

Last night we went to the Utse hotel, which has a fab Tibetan restaurant, lots more momos were consumed! I had Tibetan noodle soup (that thuk or something similar) and Grant (intrepid Aussie who'll try anything) had some of the fermented millet drink (Tongka?). I thought it was quite tasty but he really didn't like it, it was sort of like hot sherry.

Today we were up bright and early to hand over our bikes which are being driven to Lhasa by Durbah and his crew, hopefully there won't have been any landslides as they will have to carry them over! We were also supposed to be going for a sight seeing tour but it was really tipping it down so we rearranged to go after lunch. So Nick and I commandeered the hotel bus and a driver and went down to Patan, just to the south of Kathmandu. We were dropped off in the Durbar square and had a very pleasant wander through the area. There were loads of people about and even a queue to get into the Hindu temple. We later found out that its a special festival today and every one was having a lovely time. We stopped off in the Old House cafe for hot lemon and black tea, served by a young lad who looked about 12.

Back up at the hotel we bumped into the rest of the group about to go for lunch at the Gaia restaurant again, so we joined up with them, again a good lunch. The we all piled into the bus and went out to Swayambhunath, the monkey temple. We made it up the 360 odd steps to the top and were greeted by a fabulous view out across the valley. The temple was a stupa and equally crowded with Hindu pilgrims. Our bus picked us up on the other side of the hill and we drove towards the Kathmandu Durbar square and went for a great big walk around the area. We stopped in to see the Kumari, the living goddess, a girl of about 5 or 6, a rather weird experience, sort of like going to the zoo, with all the tourists gawping up at her as she made an appearance over a balcony. We walked back to the hotel past the markets Nick and I saw yesterday. Thankfully the rain has stopped, last dinner in Kathmandu tonight and then off to Lhasa first thing in the morning!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bikes and Boudhanath

After our team talk we all headed out to the Rum Doodle restaurant for a little butter chicken masala and a welcome beer, but then we all caved in for an early night! This morning we first went to choose bikes for Nick and Zoe (a zoologist and keen cyclist), calling in at two cycle shops. The second had rented to Red Spokes before, so they gave us a very good price! And they promised to put new cables and cogs etc on to the bikes. As that happened very quickly we had plenty of time for a good explore, Nick and I wended our way down to Durban square, past many temples and shrines, through many muddy puddles and market stalls. On the way back we stopped at the Gaia restaurant for lunch, just around the corner from the hotel and 5min later the rest of the group dribbled in too! I had momos - exceedingly delicious steamed dumplings! After lunch we met up with a guide from Eco Tours and he took us down to the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, where it was teaming with people, Sadhus and there were at least 3 cremations going on. From there we went to Boudhanath Buddhist stupa, this was much quieter even though there were lots of people making the circuit around, turning the prayer wheels. The rain was gently falling again and we went up to the Saturday Cafe for a chocolate brownie and a cup of tea. Nick's gone off to pick up his bike and we await Joyti our Nepalese guide to tell us if we're on a flight tomorrow or Thursday out to Lhasa!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


After many hours in the air we have arrived in Kathmandu! What excitement!! It was fairly chilly as we left London, roasting at 5am in Doha and then raining in Kathmandu when we arrived at 4pm. An interesting trip through the rush hour traffic and we arrived at the Holy Himalaya Hotel. The staff are very friendly and loaned us some umbrellas and we had a 20min walk down the road and back. Fabulous smells and sights, really exciting. Off for a team talk with Douglas our guide.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Toms and peppers from the garden

Haul of fruit/veg from the garden! Not bad for a place where it seems to rain rather a lot!


So we're all packed, I've just come back from seeing Nick at Red Kite Cycles who very kindly took off my pedals and gave the brakes a once over. Bertie is in his box and everything is in our rucksacks. Its really started throwing it down, I hope this is not a sign that the rest of the holiday will be the same! The weather forecasts are not promising wall to wall sunshine. So we've slipped in some washing up gloves and shower caps for extra waterproofing (though we might look at bit silly!)!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


On Saturday Nick and I will fly out to Kathmandu to start our BIG trip. We're joining Red Spokes to cycle from Lhasa back to Kathmandu. But if we're flying to Kathmandu how do we get to Lhasa? As we're joining a tour we're allowed to fly into China from Nepal, which makes life a bit simpler than having to fly to Beijing and then get tot Tibet!

Its approximately 600miles and the map above gives my estimate of the route and the approximate positions of some of the really big passes in red (many over 5000m - eek!). I have also drawn in the detour to Everest basecamp and the Rongbuk monastery, though as its not marked on the map, that looks a bit wild!

We have a lot of kit - we need to deal with it being hot in Kathmandu (35 C) and maybe -15 C up on the Tibetan plateau! I'm not sure how we'll squeeze it all in and a bicy
cle (Bertie, Nick will rent one in Kathmandu) - currently I'm at 10kg stuff and 12kg bike!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Cafe Soya

We had a super trip to Cafe Soya in the Arcadian, with Kira - exceptionally tasty food, like the wontons above and the monk noodles below, and also the summer noodles!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Black Rock Desert Rocket Launch!

Bliss! For the first time in a week I have had a shower! I have been out in the Black Rock Desert with the rest of the team from HAB laanching rockets with the Rocket Mavericks, NASA and Sony. We had designed an experiment to collect and analyse microbes up in the stratosphere. Unfortunately, despite lots of planning and excitement, the rocket we were on plummeted to the earth without a proper parachute and so our air sample was expelled on impact and our little device was made into a paperweight!! Nevertheless, we have all had a fabulous time - even sneaking into the Fly Geyser and the Frogpond thermal spring for a wash! (the frogs were as big as my size 7 feet!!). We have a few days to go before we head home, hopefully we'll pop into NASA Ames to give a seminar.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Cyanotyping for Black Rock

In a couple of weeks I am off to the Black Rock Desert for an amazing trip - to launch balloons and rockets that will contain a device we have made for sampling the air in the Stratosphere to try and detect microbes at 41km above the surface of the earth - above the ozone layer. We'll be sampling the air around the launch sites to check how many microbes are present at ground level and I wanted to record the plates by using what we'll have a lot of - sunshine. So I have used some agar dishes (one with bacteria on the right and one without on the left) as 'masks' on a cyanoprint. And you can really see the little bugs!! The cyanotyping takes advantage of the photochemical properties of iron hexacyanoferrate (which you might know as Prussian blue). I simply painted the light sensitive chemical on to some paper in the dark, left it to dry and then in the sunshine place the two dishes on top for 2 and a half minutes before washing in cold water to stop the process.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Olivetto and gardens

We had a super weekend in the new garden in Guildford, visiting Olivetto for dinner - very tasty pasta with porcini mushrooms and lots of yummy deserts. Then a trip to the Springwatch Fair to view the sun through special telescope (DO NOT try it at home!!). Then farewell to Dougal and Soazig again!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

At the Hay Festival

We had a fabulous day at the Hay festival! We got up early and drove down so that we got there for elevenses (Bara Brith) and plenty of time to browse around the bookshops. I found a couple of 200 year old books!! Then after a light lunch we wandered back to the festival site for Marcus de Sautoy's talk about maths. Afterwards we did the Arts trail, doing some kirigami, seeing the amazon in 3D and even hearing opera in a shed! Then we heard Micheal Jacob's talk about the Andes, in a rather eccentric & eclectic manner before heading home again, fuelled by Welsh cakes.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

sunny cycling

A heat wave! And so we went for a peddle down to Hatton, returning along the canal cycling up numerous locks, and past this one cooling the air with a little water spray.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fish Pie

We've had a fabulous weekend enjoying lots of really good food. Here is our fish pie - chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream with a hint of Talisker. We made some little moulds for fish shaped chocolates on the top!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Or may be we should have.....

Thom's tea bread

A recipe gleaned from a parents evening that S&J went to for their son Thom. Its very yummy with a nice sourness from the apple and a very clean taste.

25g porrige oats
55g brown suger
1 medium bramley apple core, peeled and grated
6 tbsp apple juice
4 tbsp olive oil
115g self raising flour
115g sultanas
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
1 medium egg beaten

Put oats, sugar, apple juice & olive oil into a bowl, mix and leave 15 mins. Then add the flour, sultanas, spice, baking powder & egg. Mix lightly, spoon into a loaf tin and bake at 180°C for 45min. Cool and then eat!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hecticium is FIVE!!!

On Friday this week my blog will be five! I can hardly believe the time has gone by so quickly. So I have been thinking what I should make - may be these macaroons? (3 medium egg whites whisked with 60g caster sugar and then folded into 100g ground almonds and 140g icing sugar, baked at 140°C for 15min, and sandwiched together with butter icing).


I was in Rome last week for a couple of days for work, but we managed to get in some brilliant dinners, both near the Pantheon in the very centre on Rome. I discovered, thanks to our Italian hosts two new grape varieties - Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Greco di Tufo, a red and a white respectively. Both very yummy! And of course its already strawberry season in Italy so I had a lovely big bowl of the wild ones - the fragoline!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

NESTA-NASA competition

(image from the NESTA website)

Do you know a budding you scientist doing their A levels? Would they like to win a trip to accompany us to NASA Ames and see a rocket launch in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, and help us with our experiments? Go to the NESTA-NASA link here!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Harrogate continued

So we did indeed head off to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal which is a world heritage site. We wandered down to the the ruined abbey sheltered in a beautiful sheltered valley. The abbey was built in 1132 and must have been a sight to see - even the ruins are enormous. Of course with the dissolution of the monasteries it came to an end, but there are still lots of buildings and beautiful tiles. A favourite spot was the cellarium, still with its beautiful vaulted ceiling. Walking along the river we saw myriad flowers - forget-me-nots, bluebells, wild garlic, cowslips. We went up to the surprise view at Anne Boleyn's seat and the temple of fame! Then of course some tasty chocolate cake overlooking the lake before retuning to the car and pottering through the hills to Brimham Rocks, where we tried out our bouldering skills. N then took me on a tour of the area up to Addingham and Ilkely and ending up at the Cow and Calf Rocks for a vast vista across the valley, liberally sprinkled with dry stone walls and emerald green fields in the first flush of spring grass. Back in Harrogate we went out for an early tea, hungry after our wanderings. We headed for the Chinese Royal Baths, where they had renovated the atrium to the Turkish baths for a restaurant. The setting was stunning and the food was pretty tasty too!
This morning we pottered into town for coffee and muffins for breakfast, checked out of the eccentric Majestic Hotel and then started our journey south. Near Wakefield we checked out Nostell Priory. I particularly liked the library and the butlers pantry - so well ordered! After rhubarb scones we pottered onto the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It must be seven or eight years since I had been and it looked a bit different with a very modern and lovely visitor centre, but the Henry Moore sculptures were still resplendent in the country park. And there was this beautiful sheepie too. Having dodged the rain and hail successfully we headed home, for a rest!

Sunday, May 02, 2010


We came up to Harrogate on Friday night for a little relaxing weekend. N had booked us into the Majestic Hotel and as we pulled up I tried to imagine what this enormous building had been before a hotel - a hospital perhaps when judged from the outside, or may be a huge retirement home when we got inside - but it had been built in 1900 as a spa hotel. Our room on the fourth floor looks out over the lawns towards the old royal baths, and has a lovely oldy worldy feel with a giant bathroom with white tiles with little pink flowers on them all. Dinner on Friday was in the hotel itself, the menu was a delight but the room we dined in was something like a school refectory and though all the elements of the courses were wonderful the execution and presentation were somewhat peculiar. N said it was like the chef had read some great books about cuisine but had never actually seen anything!
In the morning we went for a potter into Harrogate. Breakfast was had at Cocoa - free delicious danish pastries with every hot drink (strawberry tea for me) and good bacon butties! After a little browsing we decided to walk up to Harlow Carr, stopping at Cupcakes by Charley for blueberry cheesecake and chocolate orange cupcakes on the way. It was a super walk up Cold Bath Road (named after a spring with really cold water that was good for the eyes - I wonder if the Coldbath Road in Brum has the same claim to fame!). We past lots of beautiful houses and trees in blossom. At Harlow Carr it was Tulip Madness! We walked down to the lower garden, past the willow whale to see a drum band filling the air with fabulous music. Then up to the log maze and past the logness monster and back to the tulips at the front.
Back in town we found some lovely looking restaurants for dinner and managed to book a table at the fantastic Drum and Monkey fish restaurant in the Montpellier area. So with some time to spare before dinner we headed off to the jacuzzi and sauna for a little relaxation. There were a couple of weddings going on in the hotel so when we went down to the bar later the place was filled with men in kilts and ladies in pretty dresses!! We went into town early and had a drink in the Winter Gardens too - it must have been a grand place to visit at the turn of the last century! Then on to the restaurant. We were greeted by the smell of fantastic food and were shown into a cosy front room to eat at a marble topped old cast iron sewing table with the drum and monkey looking down at us from the window. What a choice of dishes, it was hard to choose! But eventually N went for Niddledale smoked trout and then Malaysian fish brochettes and I had croustade of fish mourney and then monk fish with lemon and capers. These were all delicious and N nearly booked a table for tonight too! We were just about the last to leave as we lingered over our glasses of wine, too full for desserts too!
This morning we have been to Betty's tea rooms for breakfast. Bircher muesli, croissants with smoked salmon or bacon and cheese and the raspberry macaroon above! Fantastic!! And as the rain as gone off, it was only a light shower anyway, we shall go out and explore Fountains Abbey, Brimham Rocks and Ilkely.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Webskins with Kira

For the first time my photos were exhibited at the University, at the recent Immunosenescence conference. They are pictures I took with Kira last autumn in Laura's garage, which had lots of great old spiders webs. Kira draped them over her arms, and they look just like stockings. They're really close up, so in the picture on the far right hand side you can just see the little hairs on Kira's arm and the wisps of the spider silk. Many thanks to Kira for including them in her exhibit, mounting and putting up the images.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring in Long Bennington

Out for a little potter through the village in the first warm sunshine of the year we saw lots of pretty flowers!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Edinburgh - day 8

We were up especially early this morning and after a quick muffiny breakfast we headed out of St Andrews, peddling surprisingly quickly up the hills. We reached Glenrothes by 11 and stopped in Kirkcauldy for lunch at Miss Maudes. Then a long slog round to the Forth Road Bridge, along a rather badly damaged sea wall where we had to carry the bikes over 2 meter holes! Over the bridge and into Queensferry for more cake and coffee before the last gasp into Edinburgh. 62 miles today and some 450 in total.

Getting close!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

St Andrews - day 7

More sunshine this morning! We peddled out of Montrose and down to Arbroath for carrot cake and coffee. Over the hills and further south, with a bit of wind again. At Broughty Ferry we went into the Glass Pavillion for lunch. A super art deco place with live music in the evenings. We showed our driving licenses at the Port of Dundee entrance and took a short cut past lots of sheds, then up onto the Tay bridge by a lift! Around the coast on the otherside we went off road through the Tentmuir forest, where N spotted a red squirrel whereas I only saw some bunnies. Then a last push in to St Andrews for a very nice Thai tea. 54 miles.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Montrose - day 6

what a difference - brilliant sunshine greeted us as we left the youth hostel and pottered over the hills to Stonehaven. We met up with Auntie Kath at Mollies cafe for hot chocolate and coffee, then another quick uphill and a brief look at Dunnottar Castle. Then, saying bye to Auntie Kath, we peddled through the sunshine down to Inverbervie for jacket potatoes for a late lunch. We pottled over the hills and down the coastal path at Jonhshaven and into Montrose, arriving for once at a reasonable time! Staying at the lovely Links Hotel we enjoyed a really super dinner and the music drifting up from the folk and jazz club. 48 miles.

Dunnottar Castle

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Aberdeen - day 5

The weather forecast was not good - 30mile an hour winds from the south and we were heading south, so they were in our faces all day! We set off from Rattray and headed in land and south, over a few small hills. Average speed about 5mph! We headed for Cruden Bay, hoping for a cafe but unfortunately there wasn't anything. Instead we bought some rowies and hot chocolate from the shoppie down by the harbour in Port Errol and sat outside, sheltering from the wind and rain. We peddled onwards to Newburgh, still no cafe, but at least the sun came out as we sat on a bench outside another shop for sandwiches. The wind was still mammothly strong and we battled to Aberdeen to the SYHA, 50miles.

Monday, April 05, 2010

To Rattray head - day 4

The weather wasn't quite so nice as last night as we squelched our way up the hill out of Cullen. Our first stop was Portsoy for rowies, from the local bakery, for breakfast down by the harbour. It was windy and wet but onwards we went and took refuge in The Coffee Pot Cafe in Banff. The owner did a fine line in sausage sandwiches (and also blackpudding sandwiches) and took pitty on us as we left giving us some lollipops to keep us going. We battled in to the wind up to Fraserburgh and spent only a few minutes looking round the harbour beofre ploughing on to Rattray Head where we were staying at the ecohostel, which is in the old lighthouse keepers house. Its was lovely, and we had it to ourselves - stoking up the fire and cooking up a lot of pasta. 52miles

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Cullen - day 3

Setting off from Inverness we turned East and started our two days across the top. We pottered along next to the water and past Benromach and Glenmoranjie distilleries. We found a super place called the Loft for lunch (braised lamb shank) and as we came to Buckie the sun came out and we had a really good view out across the sea. The last leg was along a coastal path and then an old railway route over the viaduct into Cullen. We were booked into the Cullen Harbour Hostel and as we arrived they offered us some tea - roast pheasant no less! What a way to finish the day, watching the sun go down over the harbour. 68 miles

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Inverness again - day 2

We slept like logs! But we up at 7.30 to have breakfast and set off again. Naomi from the hostel promised fewer hills and we bowled along to Golspie, where we had cupcakes in Poppies cafe. Past the Clynlish distillery. Onwards along the coast and past lichen clad trees. There were seals and lots of birds - oyster catchers, red shanks?, little waders, godwits and many more. For lunch we stopped in Tain, just past Glenmoranjie, at the SUnflower cafe, where they had haggis lasagne on the menu! THen in to the hills to Alness and a sneaky hop across the A9 bridge before heading on to the small roads through Culbokie and finally to Inverness. A massive 72 miles but in 10h so much better going than yesterday!

Friday, April 02, 2010

Helmsdale - still day 1

From Inverness we got a wee train up to WIck, passing by snow topped mountains and deer filled moors, even seeing a small heather fire. Quite strange as there was snow on the ground too. At Wick a Spanish woman asked which way to go with her bicycle to John O'Groats - very brave without a map! We pointed her north and set out south - into the wind. The sun was shining and though it was hard work we made good progress. And then the big hills began! The biggest had a 13% gradient and I made it up about halfway before having to push, quickly being over taken by a walker! Then we were rewarded with a full 4miles swooping downhill into Helmsdale and to a lovely little youth hostel in an old gymnasium with super high ceilings. In all 42 miles (including the 7 we did in Brum), arived at 8.20! SO the WIck to Helmsdale strtetch was 37miles in 5 & 1/2h!


NSCR Wick to Edinburgh day 1

Last night we set off in the rain to New Street, being conscious of the new bike (Bertie) I locked him to Nick's bike on the train to
Crewe, using my new kryptonite gold standard lock. As we came to get off the lock wouldn't unlock but we lifted the bikes off the train together. The station master lent us a hack saw but we had to pay a visit to the fire station to get Dave, Phil and Chris to cut the lock off with an angle grinder as the key eventually fatigued and broke in the lock and there was no way to get it off, they even tried those pneumatic pliers which were damaged by the lock! Tough lock but not so the key! But we made it and got on the train to Inverness. It was freezing!! As the sun came up we saw a beautiful snow covered landscape and now we're in Inverness for a spot of breakfast before the next train to Wick.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You can now advertise your Blurb books!

You can now advertise your books with a preview - what do you think?! This is just a selection of pages. USe the arrows or click on a page to turn to the next page.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Birthday treats!

Lovely birthday treats - including a home made carrot cake with vanilla frosting!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Eating out in Brum

Smoked haddock pasta at Red Peppers in the Mailbox - very yummy!

Extremely delicious ramen at Wagamama's with Sally!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Cookies

We saw some cookies very much like these in Fortnum's when we were out for the Monopoly project a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I'd make some for today!

Friday, January 22, 2010

140 years of the periodic table

Catching up on reading Nature I spotted that it was 140 years since Dmitri Mendeleev came up with the first periodic table back in December. So to celebrate Nick and I have rustled up a simple sponge and decorated with icing for all the elements, though didn't quite have enough space for the lanthanides and actinides. It tastes very yummy!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Years Eve Dinner - with the Mafia

For New Year's Eve we had Vicki, Seb and Adrian round for dinner in a Mafia style party - all dressed in black and looking very swish! And of course a Mafia inspired menu to go with it!

Homemade minestrone soup

This one was adapted from a soup book I have had for ages but haven't really used - shame on me! Its very yummy and well worth the effort.

1 smoked gammon (~1kg)
1 onion quartered
1 cellery stick roughly chopped
1 tsp black pepper corns
1 bayleaf
4 litres water

1 tbsp olive oil
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely copped
70g tomato puree
2 beef tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped

pasta made from 1 egg and strong white flour, shapped as orrichette

fresh parsley and parmesan to serve

Roast the gammon and onions in a 200C oven, then trim off the excess fat and boil with the peppercorns, onion and bayleaf for 2 hours, uncovered, topping up with the water as you go, especially as 4 litres proabaly won't fit in one pan. Then remove the meat from the stock, keep the meat and strain the stock through muslin. Put everything in the fridge overnight.

The following day skim off any fat from the stock and shred the meat, removing any chewy looking bits. Fry off the new celery and carrots in the olive oil for a couple of minutes before adding the meat, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes. Then add the stock and simmer for 20min. Add the pasta and simmer for another 30min or until cooked. Serve with parsley, parmesan and seasoning.

Rum marinaded Sirloin with roast potaotes and green beans

This was inspired by a recipe from The Kitchen of Light but we didn't have any vodka, so substituted white rum instead. We took a 1kg peice of beautiful matured sirloin and marinaded in for 3 days in 1tbsp coarse seasalt, 2 tbsp crushed black peppercorns, 3 tbsp chopped parsley, 1 tsp fresh thyme, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 100ml white rum and 70ml olive oil. It was roasted at 200C for about 50min (though 40 would proably have done for a rarer roast) and served with yummy roasted potatoes and crunchy green beans.

Bombino! A melon wrapped in black icing to look like a bomb!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...