Tags: Ginger Beer Engine, London Fields Schoolyard
Happy Autumn everyone! I’ve been super busy on other projects, mostly film-related for work and pleasure, but had to take a little time out to share this – spotted (and tasted) today at London Fields schoolyard market. Yes, it is a ginger beer wagon.
The Ginger Beer Engine travels around with barrels of delicious home-brewed beverages (ginger beer, dandelion & burdock and lemonade) that are dispensed via a series of exciting-looking pipes and taps. The kind gentleman pouring said beverages generously offered up some samples and I’m pleased to report that the GB is excellent (and just the teeniest bit alcoholic, as all good ginger beer should be).
You can find out more by visiting the Ginger Beer Engine website here. Rather thrillingly, the Engine can be hired for private events. It may make an appearance at my next birthday party.
Tags: airmail recipe cards, polyhedra rubber stamps, Present & Correct, set square beaker, stationery heaven
I was delighted to encounter, en route to the Harlequin pub this evening, the new(ish) Present & Correct shop on Arlington Way, just behind Rosebery Avenue. They have beautiful things that will appeal to any stationery lover, all beautifully laid out in a way that makes you want to buy EVERYTHING. I’ve previously recommended them as a good place to buy Famous Five suitable Christmas presents (there’s a lot that you can imagine Julian et al using at school) but why wait when there are polyhedra rubber stamps, school pencils, set square beakers and airmail recipe cards to buy?
Tags: Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, ginger biscuits, Jane Brocket
Yesterday’s reference to Five on Kirrin Island Again gave me the urge to bake a version of Joanna the Cook’s famous ginger biscuits. Joanna knows how to use food to make people happy and cheer them up when they’re sad. When poor George is forced to let her beloved dog Timmy stay on Kirrin Island with Uncle Quentin (he needs a bodyguard to protect him while he conducts top secret scientific experiments), Joanna directs the children towards the biscuit tin. “I made you some of your favourite ginger biscuits this morning”, she tells them, much to Dick’s delight:
‘”I do think good cooks deserve some kind of decoration, just as much as good soldiers, or scientists, or writers. I should give Joanna the O.B.C.B.E”.
“Whatever’s that?” said Julian.
“Order of the Best Cooks of the British Empire,” said Dick, grinning.’
As I’m off to visit Anne later (companion on such infamous adventures as Peter’s Tower in 2010 and last summer’s wet and rainy trip to the Blytonian equivalent of Mecca, Corfe Castle) I thought I would make her a batch of ginger biscuits [Anne - if you're reading this, surprise! And I hope you like ginger...].
I won’t post the recipe for these up here as it comes courtesy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer, Jane Brocket‘s excellent compendium of recipes based on food in children’s books. I’ve made several of JB’s recipes (Battenberg cake, saffron cake, pineapple upside down cake) and I have to say that they are a) delicious and b) have worked every time. Although having said that, mine look a bit pale, cracked and ugly. And they did take a little longer in the oven than JB recommends. But they taste good and that’s the most important thing, right?!
Tags: Five on Kirrin Island Again, Petit Bateau, sou'-wester, yellow raincoat
One of my favourite scenes from the Famous Five stories is perhaps not one of the most exciting moments, but is nevetheless highly evocative of the bracing pleasures of wet and windy mornings, such as today’s. It’s from Five on Kirrin Island Again when the children decide to go out for a clifftop walk in the rain. As they don mackintoshes and sou’-westers and head out into the elements, Julian comments that he really likes ‘the feel of the wind and rain buffeting against his face’.
I never knew what a sou’-wester was when I was a younger reader of the stories, but for those of you who might just be wondering, it’s a waterproof hat, generally in that glorious yellow that you associate with salty sea dog fishermen, with a wide and long section at the back to help protect the neck from the gales that come in from the prevailing south west winds. I don’t have a sou’-wester, as that’s going too far even for me, but I have recently procured the next best thing, a lovely yellow raincoat from Petit Bateau (they do stuff for grown ups as well as children). As well as being a bright and cheery colour on the outside, it’s also got a lovely warm blue and white stripey lining and capacious pockets for essentials (string, compass, Oyster card). Just the ticket as I brave the (typical day off work) weather and head out for a trip to the park.
Tags: Audley End, cricket, Cycling, Essex, Fry Art Gallery, pargetting, Saffron Walden, Thaxted
Essex is a great county to cycle round. Last Saturday Mr C [still waiting for the right Famous Five pseudonym to present itself] and I did a circular route from Audley End to well, obviously, Audley End. The towns, villages and countryside along the route are beautiful, with just the right amount of hills (I never felt like I was constantly peddling up hill but there were enough inclines to keep things interesting).
The first stop was Saffron Walden, home of the glorious Fry Art Galley which has an extensive and wonderful collection of works by Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious, Kenneth Rowntree and many more. You can get fine cakes, quiches and scones from Cafe Cou Cou but it is extremely hard to find anywhere to leave your bikes. We ended having to ask the vicar if it was ok to lock our bikes up to the church railings.
From Saffron Walden we set off in the direction of Thaxted, a sweet village with a windmill and plenty of impressive examples of pargetting, a traditional style of decorating the exterior plasterwork of buildings with patterns. Pargetting is big in this part of Essex and nearby Cambridgeshire.
We kept looking for a river or pool in which we could take a dip (temperatures exceeded 30 degrees on Saturday) but sadly this was not to be. But we did come across some very cute hens, and Mr C bought some freshly laid eggs which we had for breakfast with Brick Lane bagels the following day. This is my egg cup, Mr C is far too manly for such a thing.
Given our various stop offs, and the high temperatures, we took our time getting round the 34 mile route. By early evening we were more than ready for a drink and pub meal. We stopped off at The Cricketers Arms by Rickling Green and had a quintessentially English experience of drinking Pimms (me)/ale (Mr C) while sitting on the grass watching a game of cricket.
I’d highly recommend this ride although doing it in one day means you won’t have time to visit all of the various attractions en route (the house at Audley End, Bridge End Garden and turf maze, Saffron Walden Museum, and various churches). The route can be found here.
And here is some recommended viewing; 4 films from the East Anglian Film Archive:
The House that Essex Built (1958)
Britain’s Historic Counties: Essex (c.1955)
Ripe Earth (1938) Boulting Brothers documentary about harvest time in Essex.
Oh yes! Three of my favourite things together at last: cycling, films and lists. The BFI has put together a top ten of movies about cycling to tie in with the start of the Tour de France this weekend. There are some good selections here, and it also includes one of my old favourites, Cyclists Special, progenitor of the now legendary phrase ‘touch of the bonk’.
My post on Cyclists Special here (gosh, from nearly 4 years ago. Have I been blogging that long?!): http://famousfivestyle.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/cyclists-special/
Tags: asparagus, homemade dog biscuits, Mike Kowal, Oxford to Blenheim, pick your own, Rectory Farm
Hallo everyone! (‘hallo’ being much more Blytonian than ‘hello’) I’ve been on yet another cycle trip, although sadly my bicycle is currently sitting upside down in my flat suffering from a buckled wheel. This year Dick and I got back in the saddle and did a circular route out from Oxford. We stayed in a mildly surreal but beautiful [and cheap] resort-type hotel (for business types during the week, and families and couples who want to spa during the weekend) and managed to get in some quality hills and birthday cake along the way. Here are some snaps from my album:
My beautiful bicycle, glinting in the sunshine on the canal path between Oxford and Blenheim
I like the strips of green, white and yellow in the fields along this stretch of the cycle route, also in between Oxford and Blenheim (although we were about to hit the horrid bit of the track that runs alongside a busy main road).
A nice hot bath was just what was needed after a long and dusty day on the road.
On the way back we stopped at the smashing Rectory Farm. They have a cafe, a shop and you can pick your own strawberries and asparagus too!
…they also have bunting…
…and good lunch offerings including this salad of local broad beans and asparagus with a pullet’s egg on top (plus a much needed mug of tea).
And lastly, even Timmy wouldn’t have felt left out – homemade dog treats!
Tags: Baskervilles Tea Shop, Broomfields Park, Clissold Park, Grovelands Park, Trent Park
Last Sunday we went on a London cycle ride, from Stoke Newington up to the very edge of Zone 6, Trent Country Park. My lovely companion (who has yet to select a Famous Five pseudonym) planned an excellent route for us that wove through the parks of north London with just a small number of roads in between. I had no idea there was such a wealth of excellent green spaces on the way out to the top end of the Piccadilly line. It felt a bit like The Swimmer but with parks as opposed to pools.
Starting in Clissold Park we skirted the daddy of North London parks, Finsbury Park, and then continued on through Downhills Park (uphill in the direction we were going), Lordship Recreation Ground, Broomfields Park, Grovelands Park and Oakwood Park before reaching our final destination of the beautiful Trent Park.
Near Broomfields Park we found Baskervilles Tea Shop, a good place for a restorative cup of tea and scone, with proper cream. Later on we had healthy pure fruit ice lollies from the cafe by Grovelands Park cafe. So although it was a fairly urban adventure, we managed to cram in many Famous Five staples (including a puncture).
…and ready to set off for Caen, Normandy via London Waterloo, Portsmouth and Brittany Ferries. Plastic Timmy is raring to go, as am I, especially as I will be riding my brand new (to me) bicycle, an early 80s British bike built by Mike Kowal and restored for me by the brilliant Rob Sargent of Sargent and Co. More on all of this to follow.
Tags: E5 Bakehouse, hot cross bun, Spence Bakery
Every Easter I endeavour to make hot cross buns (you can see some of my previous efforts here and here. Oh, and also here). This Good Friday has been a little too hectic for the soothing activity of kneading dough, piping crosses and enjoying the wafting scent of fruited buns baking in the oven. This is mostly because tomorrow I set off for France for 3 days of cycling around Calvados and Camembert country and a few last minute preparations have been necessary, including the purchase of an inflatable sleeping mat and the slightly failed attempt to make my sleeping bag roll up a little bit smaller than it wanted to (this has been taking longer than you might think). Yes, camping is on the cards…
Anyway, back to buns. Where I live I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by a number of makers and purveyors of fine hot cross buns. The E5 Bakehouse does an excellent one, as reported last year, but this year I have also discovered the joys of the soft, sticky and generously sized Spence Bakery bun. Mmmm. The buns are normally £1.30 each but during Easter week they’re on special offer and going for 2 for £2 or 6 for £5. My cousin and I ate ours toasted, with plenty of butter, for breakfast this morning. If you happen to live in London I suggest hot footing it over to Stoke Newington Church Street right away. Happy Easter everyone!