Quorn & Woodhouse Edwardian Rail Station and Tea in an Air Raid Shelter

At the weekend I went to visit friends in the peculiarly named village of Quorn in Leicestershire. It used to be called Quorndon but this caused confusion with another village not too far away called Quarndon so the “don” was dropped in 1889. The village is home to a wonderfully preserved Edwardian train station with a tea room in the air raid shelter and steam and diesel trains coming and going. I loved the old printed tin sheet adverts for mustard, bleach and so on. The bunker tea room is decked out with period furniture, posters, a coal fire and has 40s music playing. Tea and biscuits are served and there seemed to be not much else but just on the other side of the rail track is a new cafe with cakes and sandwiches. If you want a cosy NAAFI style tea and biscuit then you must go down to the air raid shelter for one. The station is run by volunteers who mostly wear period uniforms and is open most days. You can go on the steam trains too along the Great Central Railway which runs through Leicestershire. We also went for a walk in Bradgate Country Park which is home to the ruins of Bradgate House and dozens of red and fallow deer. The park is beautiful with gentle hills and sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. We were even lucky enough to see some deer rutting as the season has started.

For more information on the station click here and on Bradgate Park click here.

       

       

       

     

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Halloween Treats: Snake and Cake Skewers

Make a sticky wormy mess for Halloween with snakes peeping from sponge, a nest of liquorice lace and skewered with cubes of cake onto cocktail sticks. This treat takes 10 minutes to put together (once you’ve made the sponge of course!). I can’t remember actually doing Trick or Treat myself as a child and was a little horrified to hear thumps and bangs at my door this evening along with hands clawing at the letter slot and then voices screeching through “We know you’re in there!”, “Open up!” and “Come out!” I think not with a tone like that! I carefully slinked out later to cycle off to Tranky Doo practice and found the poor marmalade cat cowering behind the railings until he saw me, then shot in in an orange flash not unlike the orange unspun wool in the photos!

What you need:

Cocktail sticks

Gummy snakes/ spiders/ whatever you can get your paws on

Black food dye

A box of icing sugar

Liquorice lace

A square or rectangular sponge such as this recipe for cardamom cake (you can omit the cardamom) or just buy a sponge loaf cake (I feel ok saying this as this is the kind of thing Nigella might say!)

What you need to do:

1. Cut a rectangular slice from the cake, around 2cm deep,  then cut the rest of the cake into cubes.

2. If the black food colouring is the sticky almost gel like one, mix it with a touch of water, otherwise just put the food colouring in a bowl with the icing sugar. Mix until you reach a thick glossy consistency, adding more colouring and/ or water if necessary.

3. Dip the squares of cake into the icing and skewer between two gummy snakes/ spiders, or whatever you have, on a cocktail stick.

4. Place the rectangle of cake on a surface and tuck some snakes or spiders underneath so they are poking out as if emerging from the sponge. Pour the rest of the black icing over the rectangle of sponge.

5. Arrange nests of liquorice lace on top, then stick the cocktail stick skewers of cake and snakes into the sponge.

6. Alternatively use small bowls or espresso cups to make individual liquorice nests with the skewered cakes sticking out of them.

Enjoy!

Hot Udon at Koya, Soho

    

Last night I went to Koya, 49 Frith Street W1D, for dinner with a friend. It’s a popular Soho noodle place with snaking queues outside the door even on a Monday night. As soon as I walked in I could understand its popularity, it smelled amazing! We sat at the back at a bar right by the open kitchen so could see everything being chopped and cooked. The menu is mainly of dishes of the thick but light udon noodle. This special noodle originates from the Sanuki region in Japan and is often eaten with simply a few drops of soy sauce. Koya’s menu also had some variations of miso soup such as mushroom and walnut which I found rather tempting but I opted for the salmon tempura hot udon and was thrilled to see a side of tempura on the menu so ordered that to sprinkle on my dish. My friend had the mackerel and green leaves hot udon and was very satisfied with her choice. I will definitely be heading back soon.

Koya is open every day and does not take bookings but is worth the wait.

Homemade Pasta No. 3: Beetroot and Pea Ravioli

I’m getting so into my pasta machine that I think I will start turning my nose up at dried pasta soon! These ravioli were really good and a real authentic genuine Italian ate them and said they were “buonissimi” so they have had the stamp of approval. Phew! When I served them everyone said that they had never tried beetroot or pea ravioli before (nor had I). I have often made a risotto with random ingredients and Italian friends have said “Oh, I’ve never heard of that one”. There are lots of standard dishes in Italian food and I got the feeling when living there that veering from the normal recipes was seen as a bit quirky! As long as the colours look good (green/ pea and purple/ beetroot) and the taste is great, I’m satisfied! (I especially love how the purple juice of the beetroot bled into the pasta dyeing it a bit.)

Serves 6.

What you need:

240g 00 flour

100g semolina

4 eggs

150g frozen peas

2 medium sized beetroots

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Pecorino, to grate at the table

What you need to do:

1. Wash the beetroots then boil them (whole) until tender in a pan with enough water to cover them generously. This could take about 30-40 mins.

2. In a large bowl mix the flour and semolina together, create a well in the middle and crack the eggs in.

3. Gradually bring the ingredients together with your fingers working them until you form a ball of dough.

4. Place the ball on a floured surface and knead it for a good few minutes.

5. Divide the ball into 3. Take each piece of dough and roll it out with a rolling pin into a long strip.

6. Feed the lengths of pasta into the pasta machine set on a thin setting, flour a surface and lay the thinned strips on it. You may need to cut the strips in half if they are too long to handle.

7. Put each strip through the machine twice, then leave on the floured surface to dry a little whilst you prepare the other ingredients.

8. Boil the frozen peas for 3 minutes, drain and place in a blender with a glug of olive oil. Blitz them briefly until they form a purée and tip them out into a bowl.

9. When the beetroots are tender, drain them and slice into chunks (be careful with their seriously purple juice! It can be very tricky to get off clothes) and blitz until they form a purée.

10. Now you can put the ravioli together. Lay two lengths of pasta side by side and put small blobs of the pea or beetroot purée down it spaced evenly with about 2cm space between them.

11. Then take the other strip of pasta and place it on top of the one with the purée. Gently pat down the top strip between each blob of filling making sure you expel the air. Then cut out each raviolo.

12. Put a large pan of lightly salted water on the hob and boil while you repeat this process until you have used all the filling and strips of pasta.

13. Once all the ravioli are ready put them in the boiling water for 4 minutes.

14. Serve the ravioli with a scrunch of black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some grated pecorino.

p.s. Homemade Pasta Number 1: Trofie

Homemade Pasta Number 2: Spaghetti

Homemade Pasta No. 2: Spaghetti

Hot on the heels of the wheel as the greatest invention is my pasta machine! Finally I got it out of its box and put it to work at the weekend. My helper and I made lots of spaghetti for a Carbonara Italian style – not Brit style with pools of cream. I heard recently that cream in Carbonara was an addition in restaurants to keep the dish warm as the traditional version with an egg cracked on top at the end would cool too fast from kitchen to table. Well, unless you dine in a banquet hall I think it’s safe to say the traditional version will still be hot when it reaches your table.

Serves 4.

What you need:

160g 00 flour

70g semolina

3 eggs (for the pasta)

1 rasher of organic bacon per person

2 eggs (for the Carbonara)

Extra Virgin olive oil

Freshly grated parmesan for people to help themselves at the table

What you need to do:

1. In a large bowl mix the flour and semolina together, create a well in the middle and crack the eggs in.

2. Gradually bring the ingredients together with your fingers working it until it forms a ball of dough.

3. Place the ball on a floured surface and work it more with your fingers for a good few minutes.

4. Divide the ball into 3. Take each piece of dough and roll it out with a rolling pin into a long strip.

5. Feed the lengths of pasta into the pasta machine set on a thin setting, flour a surface and lay the thinned strips on it. You may need to cut the strips in half if they are too long to handle.

6. Put each strip through the machine twice, then leave on the floured surface to dry for two minutes whilst you prepare the other ingredients. The pasta cooks very quickly so this will be the last thing you do to prepare the Carbonara.

7. Put a large pan of water on the hob to boil with a shake of salt.

8. Cut the rashers of bacon into small pieces, around 1cm by 1cm, and fry in a little olive oil on a gentle heat. Once they have cooked a bit, about 2 minutes, pour the fatty juices away and continue frying so they crisp up.

9. Turn the heat off the bacon and start feeding the pasta strips through the machine in the spaghetti attachment. Put the pasta in the boiling water as soon as you have rolled it through the machine. If the spaghetti is sticking together as it comes out of the machine the strips need to dry for a few more minutes.

10. Once you have made all the spaghetti and boiled it for 2 minutes, drain it, place it back in the pot and stir the bacon in with a glug of olive oil. Then crack 2 eggs on top and stir quickly to coat the pasta.

11. Serve immediately.

p.s. Homemade Pasta Number 1: Trofie