Making Croutons – Quick Tip

Making croutons in summer can be a nuisance – oven heated up to high temperature when only needed for 10 minutes, then it takes ages to cool down and everyone frazzles in the hot kitchen.

I needed some for Sunday Lunch Caesar Salad and thought – wonder if the Microwave ‘Crisping Plate’ would be of use? So experimented. 10 minutes later – perfect croutons.

Had mixed the bread with Olive Oil and grated Parmesan then spread them out on the plate, I did shake them up every 3 minutes to ensure that they browned evenly. Had the bonus of a moment’s relaxation – as I had not done this before I stayed near the machine and focused. Was in the moment, you could say.

Flavours From the East

Cooking every day can became a chore (‘I know’ – I hear you say) and so over the years I have attempted to introduce variations and themes to make it more interesting for both myself (the cook) and the family (the diners).

When the children were young I would have ‘themed’ dinners – ‘Curry’ nights, visits to ‘Mexico’, a ‘Taste of the Orient’. I would make two or three main dishes with traditional accompaniments giving the children an opportunity to develop their palate. I remember one year when I made a traditional banquet to celebrate Chinese New Year. There was approx. 7 courses and the only dish I did not make was a soup, which I secretly purchased from Sainsbury’s – guess which one was the only dish complimented! (Still hurts ?)

Anyhow I digress – nowadays with only husband and I to cook for I select a specific cookbook and use it for a week. It is also a way of ensuring that the cookbooks are used – many of mine have laid unopened for many a year, now once I have used a book for a week I can tell if I would use it again. If so, it goes back on the shelf – if not I put it in the charity box.

 

 

Last week’s book was ‘Sirocco’ by Sabrina Ghayour. At first, I thought it was a Persian Cookbook although once I started reading the recipes I realised that many of the recipes were her interpretation of other countries dishes given a Persian twist.

 

 

We started with ‘Seared Steak, Roasted Vegetables, Whey Dressing and Pepper Sauce’, well it was Father’s Day and he does like a steak. Although the recipe called for Sirloin Steak I used Ribeye. It looked the better choice at the Butcher’s and was very tender. I cooked it for only 3 minutes each side rather than the 4-6 suggested by the recipe. I did not have any Whey so used a good quality natural yogurt. Overall a very nice dish – no leftovers.

 

The following day I made the ChickenBerry Rice, not sure what I did wrong but the rice just would not cook. In the end I added some boiling water and left it for 10 minutes. Although it had an enjoyable subtle taste we found it rather dry – next time I will consider an accompanying sauce, more in the style of an Indian Biryani.

Tuesday was the day for Spice Roasted Duck – this was very much in the style of the Chinese dish Peking Duck yet with different tastes. I used Duck legs rather than a whole duck, basically because it was the only fresh duck I could find.  Nor could I find any Pomegranate molasses so used basic molasses and added some pomegranate juice drained from the seeds. Chinese pancakes were not available either so I used flour tortillas, this worked although was not as dainty a dish as it would have been. I had worried that the molasses sauce would be too sweet but when added to all other ingredients everything balanced nicely.

Next day was a real treat – Burgers, a rare event in our house. These were titled ‘Kofta’ Burgers and as I was not serving them in buns I added a few oven-cooked fries – an even rarer event! I am not fond of burgers, but these were enjoyable. I now wonder if it is the texture of ‘normal’ that I dislike as these were very easy to eat. I followed the instructions to work the mixture thoroughly which breaks down the protein (so it says) and results in a smoother texture.

On Thursday we ate ‘Lemon, Turmeric & Black Pepper Salmon’. Well – I didn’t have any Salmon although did have some Hake in the freezer so decided to use that. I think it worked well – and looked pretty.

The end of the week and I was planning to cook a Lamb dish but we went out to eat Tapas with our son and his girlfriend so I wasn’t In My Kitchen after all.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash   Featured Image

Photo by Christiann Koepke on Unsplash End Photo

 

 

China 2017 (Part 2)

Boarding the small boat that would take us along the River Li from Guilin to Yangshuo was a pleasant surprise as reviews we had read implied the boats were old, not very comfortable and not to expect very much for lunch – not the case at all.

 

Very modern boats and lunch was very fresh indeed, I photographed it arriving.

 

 

The scenery along the river was spectacular, I did take some photographs although mostly just stared in awe.

 

 

Each mountain is named after its appearance – Horse’s Head, Elephant Trunk etc. – some were easy to spot and others we struggled to identify. The river meanders through the hills and the sway of the boat encourages relaxation, it was a struggle to keep awake.

Yangshuo itself is a small town and the gateway to Guangxi Province. Arriving after lunch our guide and driver whisked us up into the mountains to the nearby Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. I was so excited that I would be sleeping in the same bed for two consecutive nights. Once we had deposited our luggage we were off on a two-hour bike ride (we were offered the option to walk but exercise to wake us up sounded a good idea).

It was good to see the local culture close up as we both rode and walked along the river watching the fishermen, bathers and rice farmers enjoying their day.

The Retreat (https://www.yangshuomountainretreat.com/) is set on the banks of the River Yulong amongst hills and fields away from the bustle of normal life. The rooms are simply but elegantly furnished, with no Telephones or TVs (hurrah). The hotel is committed to ecological sustainability and remains rooted to its original mission. Providing training and employment for the local population – as well as Ex-pats with skills to share. It is possible to join in classes during the stay – Yoga, Meditation and Basic language skills were on offer and appeared popular. Below is the view from my room.Whilst at the retreat we went to see a performance of the Impression Liu Sanjie on the River Li. This is an amazing production on the river using the mountains as a backdrop. It is directed by Zhang Yimou, who produced the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening show. The cast are mainly local farmers, fishermen and ethnic family groups alongside a few national stars. It tells the story of local folklore aided by lighting and moving platforms. My photos do not do it justice (taken very quickly at the end). Go, if you ever have the opportunity.

Next day we had no scheduled events and it was good to laze about in the morning exploring our local area. After lunch we decided to be brave and chanced the Yulong River Bamboo Rafting experience. Well, it was not as scary as it first looked although I did spend more time making sure I stayed on board than enjoying the passing scenery! We decided to walk the 3km rather than use a taxi – had not considered the temperature, the traffic or the narrowness of the road – added to the adventure I thought.

We ate in the Retreat Restaurant in the evenings to enjoy the quietness – would certainly recommend the food.

Soon our little respite was over and we were back on the road, this time heading to a real adventure. Ahead of us was a 4 hour drive then a 30 minute hike up a steep mountain path that had no vehicular access. The drive was picturesque as we made our way to Longji and the Dragon’s Back range of rice terraces. We were to stay in the village of Ping An at the Longji One Hotel.

Bamboo was much in evidence – everything from buildings to cooking utensils appeared to be made of this local resource. The rice is grown and harvested today just as it was hundreds of years ago, with each family having an allocated space. Initially I thought the village had a medieval air about it and worried that the young generation would be left behind their peers in other cities and countries – a wasted thought I soon discovered. Looking in houses as we walked by I noticed TVs and many other electric appliances alongside the ‘mobile phone’ in constant use with some interesting Apps. Alongside Apps for translating languages I also discovered that there was an App that identified flowers and fauna from your photographs (now on my phone and used regularly)

We walked through the mist and drizzle ever upwards to view the terraces. As we were early in the year the rice was being planted and the individual terraces and paths were very visible making it easier to understand how it all worked.

 

 

Although informed by our guides of the ‘minority’ groups in this area of China it was interesting to actual meet the people who have worked hard to maintain their regional cultures. Such as the ladies of the Miao, who we referred to as the ‘Silver Ladies’ because of the locally made ornate silverware that they decorated their costumes with.

On the way back down the mountain, the next day, we passed through a small market where we purchased some silverware and tea as gifts and persuaded a lady of Yao culture to un-braid her hair. It is their culture to only cut the hair twice in a lifetime – once as a very young child and again at the age of 18. The cut hair is saved and is incorporated into the ‘up-style’ bun daily.

Onto Sanjiang and the regional centre of the Dong Minority group. Again, the first impression is of a bygone time – but oh my – the beauty and history of the ‘Wind and Rain Bridges’.

Again Bamboo was the commonest material for buildings and furniture. Having left behind the rice planting we were surrounded by tea bushes and it was a joy to walk leisurely along the paths, although some paths were rather steep (good that I had ‘trained’ before leaving UK).

Tea is not a drink I choose although here I felt it would be impolite not to and what a delicious drink when the ‘two leaves and a bud’ travel such a short distance from plant to pot.

Up and out to catch a train and car to Zhaoxing and to see rice grown in small fields and irrigated by centuries old water wheels and ….

 

 

…..the majesty of the ‘Drum Towers’.

 

 

We attended a theatre production explaining local culture and history, walking back to the hotel in the dark with the bridges and towers illuminated was a joy (no way is my camera good enough to reproduce the sight – just take my word it was worth seeing)

Having spent a day swapping trains and spending a night in Changsha we were soon on our way to Zhangjiajie (or Avatar country as we referred to it) and two days trekking in the stunning UNESCO World Heritage park. Although I must admit – we returned each evening to our rather smart hotel. There is only so much ‘roughing it’ my husband is prepared to do. Both up in the mountains and following the river lower down was just beautiful and despite the huge number of people also visiting the area it so vast it accommodates us all easily.

The first day was the toughest – at some points we had to walk sideways through very narrow passages between the mountains or crouched low to pass under overhanging rocks. ‘How do you manage bringing overweight people here?’ asked my husband. 

 

 

Our guide replied ‘Oh, we don’t. We put them in the cable car’ ‘There’s a cable car!’ we both shouted in mock (real) horror! We used the cable car to descend – adding another opportunity to view the landscape and to escape the rain which had been with us all day. Second day the weather was dry and warm which made the river side walk even more special.

All of a sudden we realised that we had reached the end of this adventure, we intend to visit again –  going north to visit the Terracotta Army and the Wall.

It was amazing.

 

Why Perpetually 49?

Why Perpetually 49?

When my husband was approaching his 50th birthday the family tried persuading him to have a ‘big bash’. But, no matter what theme or venue was suggested, he was having none of it.

He declared he was no longer celebrating birthdays, his 49th was the last he was acknowledging, and he would stay that age foreveeer!

At work one day and chatting to Caroline about my future plans I talked of my idea for a website relating to retirement – ‘just an idea, no name or details at present’ I said.

The conversation turned to age and individual concepts of ageing – which led to me recounting the discussion with my husband, above.

‘That’s it’ she said ‘you could call your website Perpetually 49’

So I did.

(Courtesy of Google Images)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

China 2017 (Part 1)

China 2017 (Part 1)

We left Hong Kong early Sunday morning from Hunghom Train Station. I had expected the process to be like that of travelling from England to Scotland. That was not the case at all. Despite HK now once again a Chinese territory there were border controls and passport visa checks.

It was interesting watching the scenery and noticing that Chinese towns, like many countries worldwide, have a typical skyline. That of high rise buildings.

My arrival into China did not start well, in fact, I thought I was going to be refused entry.

The night before, whilst in HK, we had purchased some fruit. One orange and apple were not eaten so I had dropped them into my backpack. How was I to know that taking fruit across the border was illegal? I didn’t even that the border still existed.

Anyway, once I understood the error of my ways, had apologised profusely and signed the required documents we were on our way. (Annoying as the oranges had been sweet and juicy and I could have eaten it on the train)

We were met at the designated point by our guide. A lovely young lady who spoke English fluently. On the way to our hotel she suggested we stop for lunch. We were informed that it was ‘National Children’s Day’ so many families would also be eating out, a good way to gain a sense of the family culture.

We assured our guide that we could manage ordering food etc as she appeared to prefer not joining us. Looking at the menu and associated photographs was a little more difficult than we thought, eventually selecting Peking Duck. We understood that dish and what could be easier?? We expected shredded duck, wanton pancakes, hoisin sauce etc.

What we received was a Whole Duck!

Apparently, this dish is for the table (usually 8) rather than for individuals. We ate what we could – our guide coming to tell us how the kitchen staff had been greatly amused – brought with her some small plastic boxes to gather up what was left. We ate this as a prelude to dinner and it was just as good cold.

We spent the remainder of the day with guide and driver sightseeing in the district. We visited the Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, now an educational facility. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/chen_family.htm

 

Although at one time neglected it has recently been restored and it is easy to identify the old from the new.

 

 

 

We had a whistle stop tour of the Nanyue King Mausoleum, only discovered in 1983 it had laid quietly for centuries underneath buildings. It was ‘whistle stop’ as our guide quickly realised my husband would have stayed all day so demonstrated how to keep him moving whilst missing nothing (wish she had taught me, I still struggle to move him quickly through museums, usually take a book and meet him at the café)

https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/nanyue_king.htm

An unexpected sight was the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the city centre. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/guangdong/guangzhou/sacred-heart-cathedral.htm

Reminiscence of the Notre Dame, it demonstrates not only the skill of the craftsmen who designed and built it in the mid-19th century but also the Catholic Heritage in the city. Unfortunately, we could not enter as a service was in progress, although assured it is worth a visit.

On the way to our hotel we stopped to stretch our legs as we walked around the grounds of Dr Sun Yatsen’s Hall. Although built in 1930 it’s architecture gives it the appearance of a much older building. From what I could read Dr Sun Yatsen was a democrat supporter of a one party state and is spoken of highly and still held in great regard. https://www.chinahighlights.com/guangzhou/attraction/sun-yat-sen-memorial-hall.htm The building is still in use today, entry is free and although, other than the internal architecture, there is nothing to see it is worth calling in if you are nearby.

 

Shamian Island, where our hotel was situated, had been built in the mid-19th century for the English and French merchants who were based in the region. The gothic and baroque style buildings are still there today. Despite being a busy area there was a tranquillity amongst the parks, riverside paths and many statues portraying every day scenes.

The hotel (White Swan Hotel Guangzhou) was excellent and listed the Queen amongst its many important visitors. It was wasted on us to be truthful as we were only there one night and had little time to explore nor make use of its facilities. We decided to ‘wander out’ for dinner so I cannot comment on the food although I defy anyone not to breakfast well at the morning buffet. Such was the array of foods I could have sat all day and still not have tried all the options.

We sat and had a leisurely breakfast looking out onto the Pearl River. Different from our breakfast 30 years ago on that date which I recall was full of the last minute preparations and ‘comings and goings’ natural on a Wedding Day.

Following check-out from the hotel we had a leisurely walk around the local park with our guide. It was surprising to see the group activities that were taking place – dance classes, Tai Chi, Chess – amongst the trees. All too soon we were heading on a train to Guilin.

Arriving at Guilin we were met by our new Guide – another young lady who spoke English fluently. Although the British are noted to be commonly poor at speaking foreign languages in our defence we find it difficult as others which to practise their use of English with us. We did make attempts to learn basic words – Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You etc – in fact husband mastered approx. 12 and considered himself practically a Master!

Guilin was very busy as there was a public holiday and festival happening. Our hotel (The White House Hotel) was situated alongside the river and so, to avoid the crowds, we walked around the 4 lakes and 2 rivers before eating in the hotel. Obviously the lakes were small although it was all picturesque especially as we returned to the hotel in the dark – very clever use of lighting added to the festive atmosphere.

Whilst on our walk – and to give an example of the keenness of the locals to speak English – my husband was approached by an elderly gentleman. He asked very politely if it would be possible to have a word with him. I wondered what it would be about although stepped away as I felt the approach had not involved myself. 20 minutes later they said goodbye and the gentleman continued on his way. Turns out he was a retired University Professor of English and whilst still able to read books, journals etc in the language he worried about losing the ability to converse so took any opportunity to practise – English tourists not being common in this part of China. They had a good conversation – ranging from literature to politics (we were in the middle of an election at the time so the men compared the styles of Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May). I whiled away the time posing for photos with the locals, most likely my only experience of what it would be like to be pursued by the paparazzi.

Heading back to the hotel we had to cross the road – a terrifying experience. Standing at a zebra crossing meant nothing to passing drivers and the Pelican crossings did not work no matter how many times we pressed the switch. Following a few aborted attempts to cross we noticed a group of local people, so quickly attached ourselves to them and ran when they ran!!

Again the wonderful setting of the hotel was wasted on us as we were up and out early the next morning and on our way to the Li River for a gentle cruise to Yangshuo. Such a delightful few days that I think they deserve a ‘post’ of their own.

 

 

36 Hours in Hong Kong (2017)

36 Hours in Hong Kong

To celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary my husband thought it would be good to spend the day on the Pearl River in China (very appropriate)

Although I had always had a desire to visit the Terracotta Army the Pearl River is very much in the South, so we planned a more rural tour of the country. First stop was Hong Kong from where we would take a train to Guangzhou and start our adventure, but that is a different story.

First, I had 36 hours to show my husband where I had spent a period of my childhood. We did the tourist things – funicular train to Victoria Peak, night markets, street food and ‘real’ Chinese restaurants.

I had anticipated that the territory would be different, when I was there as a teenager it was a British Colony, American Soldiers spent time here away from the conflict in Vietnam and the poverty amongst refugees from other countries was much in evidence. Now returned to China the islands and Kowloon were bound to be different – surely?

Well, yes there were visible changes – so many more high rise buildings around the harbour, more modern buses, even more shopping malls yet so much was not changed – the crowds, noise and bustle were as I remembered, as were the small tea houses, crammed markets and street traders (my husband was nearly persuaded to be fitted for a new suit ‘ready in 24 hours, Sir?’ before I intervened). And the Star Ferries – our commonest form of transport in 1967 and in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our first evening we decided to eat in a restaurant on the Kowloon side near our hotel as we were slowing down due to ‘jet lag’. We were reminded that Hong Kong is known as the most vertical of the worlds cities when entering the restaurant of our choice and realised that the ‘front desk’ was just a doorway – we were heading for the 7th floor! A real traditional eating house with great views over the harbour, we were the only tourists which was encouraging – always a good sign if the locals eat there too.

We had forgotten an electrical adaptor and whilst not needing one in Hong Kong we thought we would need one as we travelled through China so decided to risk a purchase at a night market. A great experience if you ever have the chance. Noisy and chaotic yet very business-like. We were not overly jostled by the traders and found it simple to explain what we were looking for.

Once at the correct stall we were offered a variety at various prices. I choose a multi-country one which cost approx. £20.00 – no haggling was encouraged as I was informed it was a high-quality product and the price was already fair. I took the risk and bought it – turned out a very wise investment and has proved useful back in the UK when foreign visitors have arrived without an adaptor for their iPhone chargers etc.

Next day we went over to HK Island and travelled the Peak Train up to Victoria Peak – I swear I had been on that train ‘back in the day’ as it looked so old and so familiar.

The Views from the Peak have not overly changed although it is a much more organised tourist area with pathed walkways, tourist stalls and more eating opportunities than I remember. Even though it was busy on the paths it was not crowded and so worth the time in the queue waiting for the train upwards. We were there on a Saturday, I understand it is not so busy on weekdays.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a quick lunch then headed back down to lower levels and began looking for the ‘oldest tea house in Hong Kong’ which our guide book recommended. On the way to Lin Heung Tea House we walked through many small but busy markets. Amazing how many stalls can be fitted into the tightest of spaces, sell an enormous number of different items yet each be so visible, it was easy to identify fruit from flowers from vegetables, from fish etc. On such a small island space is obviously at a premium and every nook and cranny utilised. Below is a photo of my mother walking through a market placed on a set of steps near Aberdeen Street in 1967 – the market is still there today.

 

Entering the Tea House was like entering a different world, nothing like an orderly British Tea Room at all. You are sat at the nearest table which has the vacant number of seats you request so we were sat at a table of 8 – lucky for us our new companions seemed to know what to do so we could copy them.

Basically, you help yourself to the Dim Sum passing by on trolleys and have your card marked so that you can pay the correct bill as you leave. Our difficulty was not knowing what each of the Dim Sum were, my mistake was leaving the first purchases to my husband – he arrived back with Chicken Feet! I appreciate they may be a delicacy, but I could not put something in my mouth that needed a pedicure. Anyway – they were only a few and not filling so he managed to eat them all. The next choices were much tastier although I did not know what it was I was eating, then finally we had Lotus seed dumplings – gorgeous and so worth the trauma at the start.

I am not noted to be a tea drinker and, as you would expect the tea came regularly throughout the meal so, all I can say is I enjoyed it. Fresh, hot, not strong yet full of flavour.

I have since heard the Wellington Street/Aberdeen Street area on the island is marked for redevelopment, so the Tea House is threatened with closure – go before it is too late.

We finished off our manic run around by having dinner at a Street Diner – literally sitting on small chairs at a small table (think nursery furniture) on the street whilst cyclists and pedestrians whizzed by. Drinks were kept chilled in vast open chest fridges swimming in ice and food arrived quicker than you could say ‘instant’, there was an atmosphere of pure chaos yet there was also a sense of order. It all tasted fresh and wholesome and I felt that I belonged.

We stayed at a hotel in Kowloon and one of the first things I noticed was the sculpture in the Lobby.  There were also smaller sculptures and art works nearby, although to be truthful I was more interested in checking in then heading out to really pay attention.

Arriving back at the hotel on our first evening we were late so used a short cut through the lower ground level that during the day is a Coffee shop/Bar. As we walked through the area to the lifts I noted that the walls had some noticeable works of art displayed.  ‘The walls look like an art gallery’ I said to my husband, then noticed that is exactly what it was. Further investigations revealed that the hotel does house established and emerging artists.

http://origin-hongkong.eatonhotels.com/enews/art/mobile/index2.html
Follow the link for some examples of art on show or call in for a drink and see for yourself. The hotel is called The Eaton Hotel and is on Nathan Road, Kowloon

 

My favourite is a Statue by Chen Wenling called ‘Childhood’, I thought it so expressive of fun that despite its size I knew it was a representation of the joy that childhood should be even before I discovered its title. I said ‘hello’ every time I passed.

 

 

 

There was more to Hong Kong than I recall, although I was young and spent most of the time at school I guess. So much had changed and yet, so much was the same – the same could be said for the girl on the statue.

 

And so on to the main part of the adventure…

A Cheesy Day out

A Cheesy Day Out

Like many we find present giving often becomes difficult the longer you know someone – there are only so many purple jumpers you can give a person. Over the years Christine (my husband’s sister) and I have had several Activity days instead. Learning/improving a skill whilst spending a day away from the children does have its attractions (we love them really)

We have learnt the basic intricacies of both Thai and Indian cookery, improved our bread-making ability and made a good team creating a flavoured sausage you will never find in a butcher’s cabinet.

Our latest ‘day out’ was to the Northumberland Cheese Company. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/

The day started gently with a coffee and a chat with Martin (Manager), previously a Naval Chef he discovered a passion for cheese after leaving the service.

Once acquainted we were instructed to ‘don the appropriate gear’ – white coats, wellies and a hairnet – and had a very instructive guide through the various ‘cheese rooms’ so we could gather a sense of the process from when the milk arrives to the point of distribution of cheese to the customers.

Then it was down to the business of producing cheese – the visitors (us) have the option to observe or to join in. Well, we are both ‘hands on’ folk so having rolled up our sleeves and thoroughly washed our hands we joined in the days work. I think that doing something improves the learning of a skill – plus it provided a greater opportunity to ask questions. We had so many queries Craig must have ended the day with a headache.

Both batches were made using Jersey milk – although the morning’s cheese will differ from the afternoon’s due to the various techniques used during the maturing process.  One will sit in brine for 24 hours, the other will spend time in the Mould Room (enough science, I learnt a lot in 6 hours but not enough to give a lecture)

We added starters and Rennet when instructed. I learnt why my one previous attempt to use Rennet was a disaster – always read and abide by the instructions is now my advice.

There was great fun in cutting the curds (often performed by a rotating set of cutters – but we just had to try).

We then impersonated ‘artisans’ when we netted and transferred the curds to the moulds – overseen by Craig and Johnny, who also made sure each mould had the correct weight as it was surprising how quickly the whey separates even more and what was once a full mould becomes shallow.

We attempted to assist with the ‘turning’ of the moulds but quickly decided that really was best left to the experts, although we did help to remove the nets.

We think, in total, we assisted with making 180KG of cheese. We were not involved with the making of the Wedding Cake you will be pleased to note, although we did have the opportunity to make a small round for ourselves. Christine made sure those moulds were well filled ?

I was really surprised at the volume of whey that is left over once the curds are removed so it was good to hear how it is re-cycled back on the farm (well, excluding what we spilt on the floor – it really is a messy business)

In-between batches we were treated to lunch in the café. It is very popular so call in if you are passing and enjoy a drink and light meal. Follow the link for directions. https://www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk/cheese-loft-cafe

I tried the Cheese Soup, new to me, and very good it was too. Each day the soup is made fresh using any available cheese so each day it is different. Very recommended.

A cheese tasting session encouraged me to try cheeses I would not normally taste – the Nettle was surprisingly mild whilst my favourite was the Original, a mild cheese yet full of flavour.

Now, we must wait 12 weeks for the 500g sample of ‘our’ cheese to arrive in the post.

(note – except for photo of Cheese Company building, taken by myself, all other photos are from Google Images. We were too busy to have even thought of taking in a camera and I doubt it would have been permitted)

Photo Acknowledgement:

Featured Image – Photo by Alexander Maasch on Unsplash

 

 

 

Bangkok to Singapore 2016

Bangkok to Singapore 2016

After a crazy 24 hours in Bangkok accompanied by monsoon rains we looked forward to a relaxing journey back to Singapore aboard the luxurious Belmond train. The itinerary would take us through Thailand and Malaysia. We would be travelling for 4 days, spending 3 nights on board calling at River Kwai and Death Museum, Kuala Kangsar and Kuala Lumpar before arriving at Singapore Woodlands Station for a short car trip into Singapore city.

The purpose of the journey had been to celebrate my retirement. We started the holiday in Singapore attending the 3-day Formula 1 Grand Prix prior to flying north. Away from the noise and bustle of fast cars and large crowds – we obviously had never visited Bangkok before!

We knew we would only have a short time, so by pre-planning, we did manage to visit a variety of Temples, Palaces and markets. We used the popular local mode of transport – Boat/ferry – to move up the river then walked back towards the city centre stopping at places of interest. Well, most of the way, we did eventually give up and caught the boat back. They are very regular and behave like buses – you wait some time then two come at once.

Luckily the day we arrived was dry – and, again, luckily the next morning a monsoon arrived which changed our plans. Looking for ‘indoor’ pursuits we discovered the Jim Thompson Museum, him of Silk and architecture fame. I would recommend a visit to view the building itself alone – plus lunch in the restaurant was good. (http://www.jimthompsonhouse.com/)

Boarding the train at Hua Lampong station was interesting – meeting fellow passengers with who we would be spending the next 4 days could have been an anxious time but it was easy to see that everyone else was as excited about the coming adventure as I was. www.Belmond.com/trains

The cabins were comfortable and reasonably spacious, although not sure how someone of a larger size would negotiate the shower. We avoided the need to toss a coin as to who would climb up to the top bunk as we had twin beds. That said we did have a ‘bunk bed’ arrangement when we travelled on the Orient Express to Venice and coped well.

It is obvious that a lot of planning is undertaken by the train team to ensure everyone has a good experience – down to rotating seating plans and settings for meals. No panic if you were seated with anyone difficult to engage with as the chances were you would not see them again. We were lucky in that our fellow passengers were friendly and fun yet not encroaching when we wanted to sit quietly in the Observation Car etc.

The Observation Car was popular – it was the only place to obtain access to Wi-Fi, although few people were observed using it and then only for short periods. I used it for a few minutes daily just to send updates and photos to our children. Other than sitting peacefully watching the world go by the main source of fun in this car were the passing Palm Fronds and low hanging trees that would ‘whip’ anyone lost in a daydream – much to the entertainment of others.

For me the highlight, if I could call it that, was the trip to the River Kwai and the visit to the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre. Disembarking from the train we travelled on a slow boat along the river. The original bridge is no longer there although some iron sections of it were used when the bridge was re-built. During the boat journey an Australian expat related the history of the bridge and the many nationalities forced to suffer dire living and working conditions whilst it was built. The focus at the museum is to demonstrate the grisly events and conditions in realistic terms. Although not a vast exhibition I found it very emotive. ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’

Followed by a visit to a WW11 Cemetery, beautifully maintained as they always are, added to the poignancy of the day and it was a rather sober group that returned to the Train to continue our journey towards Malaysia.

The excellent dining experience soon lifted the mood and many found their way to the Bar to enjoy the piano playing and local traditional entertainment.  

The train also stopped at Kuala Kangsar where we visited local Museums, a Mosque and finally a Royal Palace (that was closed for renovation, so we only could walk around the perimeter)

Although a stop at Kuala Lumpar was planned our train had had to wait in a siding for a national express that was delayed, consequently we did not arrive in KL until late and so were restricted to a walk along the platform.

The train journey is a way to see local scenery and village life at a leisurely pace, providing an opportunity to gaze on paddy fields and the many uses (and abuses) of scooters as a mode of transport.

Nowadays the train terminates at Woodlands Station in north Singapore, so a short Taxi ride is required to travel to the city centre. For us this meant a journey to Raffles for a 4 night stay before our flight back to the UK.  The reputation of exceptional service and friendly staff is well deserved in this traditional hotel.

Returning to the office to render my resignation and to commence working three months’ notice did not go as planned – due to events in my absence I found myself agreeing to stay another 9 months.

Back to earth with a bump you could say.