Back in time for tea

Travelling the world, hopefully with a cuppa in hand

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Making and munching our loaves

We loved it burnt bits 'n' all

At the risk of sounding like a food blog, we’re going to tell you all about our bake day yesterday where we made our first decent loaf. After visiting the excellent Apple Day at Burwash Manor and meeting the lovely ladies of Cambridge Cookery school, we were inspired to give bread making a go ourselves. After hearing the River Cottage bread book highly praised by our friend Paul, we ordered ours last week and stocked up on some flour in anticipation of its arrival.

We’ve dived in at the deep end and are in the process of trying to make a sourdough starter. The premise is that you provide a cosy home of mixed flour, water and air and wild yeasts do the rest, bubbling and fermenting away. You then use a dollop of the starter mixture instead of yeast when making sourdough. Our starter has been going since Friday evening but there’s not much to report yet. Once it’s going, it’s a bit like having a pet. The starter needs feeding and splitting regularly. If looked after well, they last for years. Now next time we want to go travelling the question will be ‘who’s going to look after the yeast?’.

After setting that up, we got stuck into making our first white loaf. To save a bit of time we started on Friday night and left a bowl of flour, yeast and water bubbling overnight. On Saturday morning, we just had to add some more flour and salt to make a dough. The step-by-step instructions were really useful and guided us through kneading, rising, shaping and proving. As the day wore on, we felt increasingly proud of our breads and ourselves – we were baking naturals!

However, a series of mistakes later, we felt very much like the novices we are. It all started when we switched the oven on way too early (on max) while our breads still needed lots of time to prove. We followed the book here but we’ll know better next time. Secondly, thirdly and fourthly, our three loaves wouldn’t all fit in the oven at once, we cracked a pirex dish we’d put in the bottom of the oven to steam┬áthe bread and all our loaves got what could be kindly called as ‘over-browned’ but is more commonly referred to as burnt. Not to despair, we still felt proud of our achievement and even more so when we tucked into our yummy homemade bread for tea. It was soft, light and slightly doughy with a lovely nutty flavour from the pumpkin seeds on the crust. The other two loaves have been sliced and stored away in the freezer for us to enjoy another time.

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Back on broadband

We’ve finally been reconnected to the internet so I can now update you all on the big move back down to Cambridgeshire. The move itself took place last Wednesday (a week and a half ago) and went relatively well, although it was a massive effort with all our stuff only just fitting into one big luton-style van. Despite our new house being a fairly roomy two-bedroom house, we have struggled a bit to fit all our stuff in. It’s a little overwhelming to have so many possessions again after a year of living out of a backpack but at the same time it’s been really nice on an evening unpacking things that we love and haven’t seen for a long time. We’ve also been able to unpack all our souvenirs and place them around the house and they have definitely helped with making the house feel like ours along with trying out our rice cooker, making some ice cream, and having a BBQ in last weekend’s heatwave.

Today Lou will have finished her first week back at work and we’re looking forward to seeing Donna who’s visiting us this weekend.

By the way there was a slight postscript on the whole idyllic cottage that fell through. After moving in here, Cheffins, the useless lettings agents left us an answering machine message asking if we would we still be interested in it as it had come back on the market again. Who knows what had happened to the other couple, but it’s now far too late for us! We were very English in our outrage and condemnation and made absolutely clear our displeasure by deigning not to ring them back.

 

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Recipe for Torte de Limao

Our first attempt at torte de limao

It hasn’t all been hard work. On Sunday Jon’s sister invited us all around for Sunday lunch. We thought we’d try making a torte de limao which we’d tried and loved in Brasil. It’s kind of a cross between lemon cheesecake and lemon meringue pie, sweet and creamy, and can be made with lemons or limes. It went down very well after Karin’s superb lunch and so we thought we’d share it with you all.

Torte de Limao

The base
250g crushed ginger nut biscuits
75g melted butter
chopped stem ginger to taste

Mix all the base ingredients together and using the back of a spoon, press down into a greased, 22cm, loose-bottomed, deep flan or cake tin.

The middle lemon cheesecake layer
2 tins condensed milk
200ml double cream
juice and all the zest of three lemons (or five limes)

Mix (don’t whisk) lemon cheesecake layer ingredients together until the mixture stiffens (due to a reaction between the lemon juice and the condensed milk). Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and place into the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.

The meringue topping
3 medium egg whites
150g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon (or lime)

Preheat an oven to 160 degrees C (gas mark 3). Using an electric whisk on a high setting, whisk up the egg whites until stiff. Then continuing to whisk, add in a spoonful of sugar at a time and also the lemon juice. Check that the meringue forms soft peaks and spoon carefully onto the top of the cheesecake filling.

Place the tin on a rack in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes, checking carefully throughout cooking, then turn the oven off and leave the torte in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

After this time, remove the torte from the oven, cool and then chill until it’s time to serve. The torte will serve approximately 12 people.

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A house update

Well the house shenanigans are continuing. We hope to be moving in on Wednesday but still haven’t had this confirmed by the lettings agents (even though we’ve booked a van and have a sofa to pick up on Wednesday morning). With any luck it should all be confirmed by tonight. We’re keeping all our fingers crossed and are looking forward to breathing a big sigh of relief once we’re in.

In the end, after a few days mulling over the different options last week, we decided to go for one of our back-up houses – a house we’d seen while down in Cambridge at the same time as the cottage that fell through.

The house is nice and roomy with a garden and importantly for us it’s in one of the villages in south Cambridgeshire so we can try out some village living. Unfortunately it’s not a very villagey location being on one of the main roads into Cambridge and opposite a fuel station; we’re just hoping that it isn’t too noisy. The house is a bit dated inside, complete with old fashioned electric storage heaters, but hopefully will look great with all our stuff in. There’s also a really nice summer house in the garden that we both loved and intend to make use of in spite of the English winter. Most importantly we should be able to move in before Lou starts work on Monday.

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Counting our chickens too soon…

Well, all our cosy cottage dreams came to an abrupt end this morning when we found out that there had been a second application made on our little house. The final decision rested with the landlord and he chose the other applicants. ‘What?!’ we hear you cry, but sadly it’s true and now our cottage dreams are no more. We’re really disappointed as we feel the letting agents messed us around from the beginning. If they’d got their facts straight we’d have been able to view the property on Thursday and so we’d have been first on the list. Despite submitting our application ahead of the other couple, they’d viewed it on Friday, a day earlier than us and unfortunately Jon’s temporary unemployment also counted against us. Big pants.

We have a couple of other viable options that will do, even if they don’t quite fulfil the dream, so we’re waiting on the answers to a few questions and then I guess we’ll make a decision then.

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