Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Felt like Dick Whittington ...part 1

A week ago as I walked down our drive to catch a lift with a friend to the station, I couldnt help but feel like Dick Whittington. Duchess the cat set off to follow me until I shooed her back. It was just a quick 36 hours in London but very much action packed. I had out in an entry in the Boutique Hoteliers awards to which Kuba who works at the Feathers in Helmsley had got through to the finals. I try to travel light,carrying only a shoulder bag. As I marched down the road enjoying the morning sunshine made me think of Whittington. I love going to London. We travellled intercity like the men do and duly arrived just before noon. I was in a party of 8 so we split up. Mary,Kuba and myself jumped in a taxi and set off to a dear friend who has an Italian deli/bistro in Fitzrovia. Experiencing Italian hospitality first hand is something to be tresured. The French "La vie est belle,"is nothing compared to the Italian "Goditi la vita" We have know Giovanni or Italian John as we affectionately call him for around quarter of a century and over the years enjoyed his generous hospitality. He equally enjoys coming up to North Yorkshire. We may not see him from one year to the next 5 but he is a true friend as we pick up as if it was yesterday. The last time I had seen Simone was when he was 4 at this baby brother's christening. Simone is now 24 and works along side his Papa in the business..We had the most amazing 4 hours with him, eating the best food,some drinking the fine Italian wine and meeting "new" friends who all seemed to have been to Helmsley. What a wonderful atmosphere H T Harris generates.It is a busy,busy place as the area has a lot of offices and so the people who frequent H T Harris, work in the area calling in most days for their breakfast or lunch. There is a coffee club were the most interesting people congregate and visiting celebraties to the nearby BBC just "drop" in. A place to see and be seen. Seemed rude to ask to have a selfie taken with them when they were just enjoy the time out. A bit like when I once met Tracey Emin at a funeral tea - it just didnt seem right. It is hard to describe the experience I can say is if you are going to London to make a detour. Enjoy hot dishes of truffled pastas or if you prefer a pannini with enough stuffing to fill a giant.Or just sit enjoy a coffee on the street and watch the world go by. As the afternoon wore on I felt I needed to have a look around the streets close by. I passed this truly amazing dress shop. Saw the Langham Hotel, the Tree House with this huge "bird" outside. Took a selfie outside the BBC and the church nearby has a striking steeple. The streets were relatively quiet, but very near to Regents Street. So if you ever in the area of Great Titchfield Street stock up with Italian goodies. Just remember to take a large shopping bag as you will be spolit for choice and they have some ideal Christmas presents for your foodie friends too.

Monday, 11 October 2021

The grand man of 99 - Father

He is George to most, Granddad to others and Mr Lupton when he gets his "Sunday best" name. To me, he is my Dad who I have been known to call him Georgie Porgie. On September 25th 2021 was his 99th birthday entering his 100th year.. We had a few days of getting out and about. He had just been over into the Dales to buy 100 plus sheep and then on the Wednesday we were off to Filey for a 99 icecream - well you just have to do it. Often he has been too busy in the garden to go to the seaside but with glorious weather and chnace of a spin out in Jacks vehicle we sent off in style. Those disability badges are good things as we parked up on the sea front to enjoy the icecream and look out to sea.then I popped in to the seafood cabin on the Cobble landing to get a sandwich to take home- 2 prawns and 2 crab for his tea. We called in to see his old friend,Frank Turner, who is a butcher in Rillington as he wanted some pickled tongues to cook. Frank was out and there were no tongues in the shop so slight disppointment. All in all he had a good day. Friday brought two friends from the village who brought him some biscuits. One day in the week he had been with Robin to pick some field peas and then shelled them for his dinner. I had gone to the house and he wasnt in and thought he must be down the garden. next thing he zooms into the yard on th emule. Another day someone arrived with homemade pickle. He got 20 cards and was busy be ringing everyone up to say his thank yous. He couldnt believe it when a surprise package arrived from Betty's and all he kept saying was what have I done to deserve this. His request for his Sunday dinner was to have some beef from one of the heifers that Nicholas had taken to have cut up to be then sold in the Wass Farm Shop. It was very good and like any true Yorkshire man on his plate was Yorkshire puddings too.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Harvest and Sunshine in North Yorkshire

It was always a known fact that when I was a child when we went back to school in September that the weather would turn nice again and we enjoyed Indian Summers. Was this summers, like they had in India or something that the Red Indians enjoyed, I might never know .It has been glorious weather here for over 2 weeks now even though we were told heavy rain was on the way. I was out with the hose pipe last night and pots of flowers and herbs were reaching out for a drink. Again this morning bright blue skies, it might well be the middle of Summer as the temperature raises into the low 20s. Jack being the early bird says the dew on the grass is heavier now and there is that feel in the air that autumn is just waiting. Me, being the night owl noticed how much the nights are drawing in as I finished watering the pants the outside lights automatically came on. We have mushrooms and other fungi objects popping up in the woods.Strangely enough there is honeysuckle out and Jack saw some buttercups this morning. The bees are still busy bringing in th elast of the nectar from the Himalayan balsam. I read a post from our friends on the Netherlands they had been on a foraging course over the weekend and the seeds from the balsam are quite okay to eat, so I might give them a try. My onions will soon be ready for pulling up. Don't ask me the name of them but they look like those really strong ones. The red cabbage did not fare very well as they were attacked by the white butterfly and the leaves as pretty as they looked lke lace with lots of holes in them. Also they looked very bitter and old now so I have just been and put those int he wheel barrow. I fill the wheel barrow and Jack carts it away,we make a good team. I have some cyclamen to plant out and hopefully they will last for years . I must have had one for 30 years now and it seem to revive itself with little ado and spreads ever so slowly but it survives and that is the main thing. As we continue to have a full house of guests they report back the heather is finally fading. Turning brown, now leaving behind just memories of carpets of purple.

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Coconut Haystacks

As a child coconut haystacks were a luxury. My Aunty Marma made the best haystack maker in the whole wide world, well in my world as a 3 year old. Marma's real name was Florence Marjorie and she had been a nurse at one time at the isolation fever hospital in York, which is now Fairfield Manor. On her days off she used to come back to stay at the family home and make treats of coconut haystacks. I would only be around three years of age and allowed to sit on the kitchen table and help mix in the sugar and eggs to the coconut. That was the easy bit stirring up the mixture. The next stage was harder as the shape was formed by wetting the inside of an egg cup and then pressing the mixture in tightly. Shaking it out on to a baking tray was far too skillful for a 3 year old. Any attempted usually ended up with what they would these days call a 'deconstructed haystack' in other words a disaster. The next testing time was having to wait for them to bake and to come out of Granny Preston's oven. Why on earth, when she was only about 4ft 10, was the cooker stacked up on 3 bricks in height. She couldnt even look on the pans to see how the contents were cooking. Deep frying was a potential danger, but on Fridays, Mrs Maw the housekeeper would take her role on as cook with great gusto. Beating the batter with the strength of a heavy weight boxer to coat the fish. It made the best fish and chips. My Grandfather insisted on mushy peas been home made. They were disgusting and to this day I still turn my nose up at them . He used to dry his old peas out that he had grown in the garden. These were passed their best and if they had been cooked like that would have been like trying to eat bullets. They were then stored in a old Horlicks jar and kept on the top shelf in the pantry. When they were needed they would be put in a bowl and with a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and soaked in water overnight. Anyway now the coconut haystack are ready to be taken out of the oven. Thank you Mary Berry for the recipe as I could actually remember the ratio of ingrediants. The haystacks should be crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. Slightly brown at the top of the hay stack. Mary made hers' pink but Marma used to put a quarter of a glazed cherry on top if there was any spare in the pantry before they were baked.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

First time in York

Cant believe how long it has been since I was in York Centre during the day . The last time I was there was 27th Jan 2020. I was drawn to the City as I was attending a Welcome 2 Yorkshire PSMG board meeting at the Grand. I have been on the board now for nearly 10 years. As a meeting was long overdue I wasn't going to miss this one. It was held at 2pm,so perfect timing as I was able to catch up with Heidi Hatfield, who I have known for years. Heidi worked at the Tontine when it was taken over after the MCCoys sold it.It never was quite the same after they went. Heidi left too, for the bright lights of London ,Twickenham to be exact. Heidi has now taken a position up at the Grand in sales ,so it was a perfect place to grab a bite of lunch before the meeting. Knowing a lot of the same people in the industry we found plenty to talk about. We were both tempted to have the Scotch egg which came with perfectly runny yokes. It always amazes me how chefs can get the eggs peeled and coated in sausage meat without breaking them. Maybe that is why they are called chefs and I am just a cook. Glad Jack is happy with a hardboiled egg underneath the sausage meat. There were some beautiful flower arrangements in the foyer and I kick myself that I didnt take a photo of them. Out into the still bright sunshine at 4 0'clock. I got my camera out, even after seeing the Minster in the distance hundreds upon hundreds of times I still took the obiligatory photo of it .Well after all this time away I did feel rather like a tourist.

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

August and we are into the 8th month

Can't believe where time has gone this year. The garden though I must say is about as good as it has ever been and guests like to sit up in the raised patio as it is sheltered and west facing so the best way to end the day. Although it has been known on more than one occasion that breakfast has been enjoyed up there too. It is getting to look more as I want it now and less of a plain shelter. I have mixed flowers and vegetables and fruit so from lavender to rhubarb there is something popping up every few day. I have harvested the angelica and collected so many seeds to grow on .It is a very easy plant to grow and looks quite exotic so if you are coming to stay and would like to have some seeds, please think to ask me for some when you are here. The strawberries are more or less finished now. The raspberries have been a poor crop as only got 2 good pickings from them this year. I am disappointed with the tomatoes too, dont think the bees got to them enough to pollinate them. So glad my Dads supply of tomatoes is more plentiful. I think I must have put too much Tomarite on the flowering pots as they have gone leggy and rather out of shape but hey ho they are full of colour and the bees dont disapprove. Minty, our little cocker spaniel, is enjoying the garden too and the attention from guests.She enjoying following the hose pipe about as I water the pots .For those of you who love herbs I cant recommend the Daisy Plant Centre,just off the roundabout at Kirkbymoorside, enough. As I am far from green fingered, I dont take any gift of gardening from my parents, but the herbs seem like to living here and are in abundance under the dining room window. Hope you are enjoying all your gardens and if you havent a garden then the parks. It is hard to believable that in London with all the parks and balconies that bees produce more honey than they do out here in the countryside. We have the benefit of heather on the Moors and as the bees fly is less than a milehere for them to collect the nectar. . The Moors are a carpet of purple at the moment and well worth a visit. When I was a child, we used to go in my Dads little black Morris Minor, RWX 872, with its split windscreen up to the Moor. Choicing a big sprig of heather then sticking it into the chrome radiator cover next to the chrome and yellow AA sign. That little Morris Minor used to have red leather seats. Swinging our legs from the seats, on the way home we used to sing 'Show me the way to go home" little did I know that the words drinking meaning someone had had too much to drink rather, I thougth it was drinking water as we used to stop down Wass Bank at the spring that comes out of the woods and cup our hands together and drinking the ice cold water.Happy Days.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

This is newest top secret to be exposed . Nonna's Supper Club

Nonna is the Italian name for grandmother ,granny ,grandma and all the rest of the names we call our Parents mother. These are the ladies who tend teach us things,spoil and treat us and pass down family traditions. This Nonna is quite special and comes in the shape of Jill Greetham. A woman extradionaire who admits she has had a long love affair with Italy. There is a website you need to read about Jill and her family . A brave and resilent woman who will not have had an easy journey through life. I have nothing but admiration for her and for her food and that is what I want to tell you about. Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of going along to eat at one of these special events she has started up. Who better to take with me than long standing friend ,Mary Oneil who used to live in Nunnington where Nonnas Supper Club is based. It was a set meal of tiny plates ,not so tiny even in Yorkshire terms. It is bring your own drinks as they do not have a licence. Even better as you can take your own tipple along without the hiked up prices you can pay when you go out to eat. We arrived at 6.45pm in time to eat at 7pm. Fast forward to 10.50pm when I next looked at my watch, where had nearly 4 hours gone. The answer was on a culinery trip around Italy as we sampled delights as the delighful bambinos served up the courses. They were as good as any professional waiters and did put some who work in 5 star restaurants to shame. Although Nonna and la mamma were looking after us too. The setting was in the garden surrounded by herbs,lavender and a good crop of peas hanging which I kick myself now for not taking a photo. The photos I have taken will take you through our dining experience which cost only £35. The finale or near finale was the best panna cotta I have ever had. We had gnudi, melon and parma harm ,veal, and greens even for me, who is the most ungreeny eater, they were cooked and seasoned to perfection. It was such a relaxed affair. The night was balmy and the food divine.The atmosphere what you get on the best holidays with friends I could have happily nodded off. I will not be watching the football, but if the food is anything to go Italy will beat the rest hands down. Word spreads quickly so recommend you get booked in soon as I am sure it will soon be hard to book a table at one of these dining dates. Jill did tell me that when time and virus allows she will be offering cookery days and I am sure you can guess which one I will be going on . So thank you Jill, Abi, Jessie and Jessies beau. All details are on There is a facebook page too

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Well Summer is finally here and so was Marcus Aurelius

28 degrees here today and glorious. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going down to Derbyshire with a metal detector who sometimes comes on our land. He along with his friend had found some Roman finds in the local area and they were up for auction. It was an early start and oh my it was such a lovely morning which as soon as he got out of Yorkshire the Heavens opened and it was so cold. They were really excited as they thought they were very rare and very old in fact they were nearly 2,000 years old. I thought they may have been replicas the children had played with and left behind. Probably bought in Barnitts of York as replicas for the garden and were duly named the "Barnitt Bits". I fact they were the real Mccoy. One of the detector is friends with my Dad as they share gardeneing tips and talk about budgies. Before they went to be registered he bought them along for him to see. The grandchildren saw them too - what a lockdown History lesson that was . I went with a friend to see them in York after they had being cleaned up and always game for a photo opportunity asked if I could hold them. It was at Hansons who finally took them on board to sell. I even got a photo with Charles Hanson, who is sometimes on the television as he was selling them. They were articled as The Ryedale Roman Rituals and it was quite unreal as the reached the final bid and with a £60k auctioneers fee on made just short of a quarter of a million pounds ! It was the £185k bid that secured them. They went to a private buyer in London and so after living nearly 2,000 years in the countryside Marcus has gone to live in the bright lights of London. When they were first discovered James was not sure how to keep them safe or where to put them. He worked out on the rigs. So he wrapped them up in a yellow towel popped them in a plastic food container and stuffed them in his work bag and they went off shore for a while. So I think I am right to say Marcus since he was unearthed has had quite an interesting trip

Monday, 31 May 2021

Bank Holiday Monday

We hear of people going here and there. Having nice lunches out,even better afternoon teas and sharing glorious photos after they have battled through traffic jams to get to their destination. Lockdown seems a million miles away for a lot of people as they head off into the crowds. Here we did what we did last year and enjoyed our surroundings. So many of our guests enjoying sitting out at the front of the house but we like to be up in the trees. It is like another world up there and guests are welcome to enjoy this space too. The added bonus is there is a stream too. We did the same yesterday with an acception we had a snooze on the grass first then Molly came with us. Yesterday Molly decided we didnt need to sleep and kept coming back and splashing us with her wet coat and stand on us with her muddy paws .Then she chased the cat who was for one moment we thought on her way to Heaven. The cat fought back and ruled the world once more climbing on to some logs and striking Molly in her forehead. Cats often strike near dogs eyes or on their noses so it is always safer to keep puppies and cats apart. There was still some bluebells out and wood anemones. An empty nut shell split in half as the squirrel has dined on his winter store. I thought Monty Don would be in his element here. I am sure if it was transported to Chelsea Flower Show it would certainly win a prize. How I would take the butterflies and dragonflies is another question and the birds are more than happy to stay singing in the trees here. As we walked back the wild mint was startng to grow. For a few minutes the mint over ruled the smell of the wild garlic which is in full flower now .