Friday 22 April 2011

Happy Easter - Fabulous food by Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry and Rick Stein

Hot cross buns!                                                       
Hot cross buns!
One ha' penny, two ha' penny,               

Hot cross buns!
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons
One ha' penny,
Two ha' penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

But why Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday?

Buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted, on Good Friday, and some say that the cross on the top represents the crucifixion. However, although the first recorded use of the term "hot cross bun" was not until 1733, it is believed that buns were eaten in Saxon times in honour of the goddess Eostre (the cross is thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon). Eostre is probably the origin of the name Easter, but don't ask me when that was though - we need an historian to tell us.

English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become mouldy during the next year (ha ha). Sharing a hot cross bun is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. They have been associated with Easter tradition since at least the 1300s, when a monk distributed buns to the poor on Good Friday.  The cross on the top denoted that these were of inferior quality and therefore the ones to give to poor people, apparently.

Red Magazine tested and tasted Hot Cross Buns across the High Street and their findings are that Sainsburys ‘Taste the Difference’ are tops. The Guardian also did their taste test with the same conclusion, so Sainsbury's are tops for the third year running.  I tried Tesco's which sadly were a tad dry.  It all depends really on how much spice you like in a bun, how much fruit, white, brown, etc. so everyone’s choice of a good bun is a moveable feast.  You can, of course, bake your own and adapt the recipe so that your taste-buds are delighted with each bite.  I would recommend Master Baker Paul Hollywood’s recipe.

Fish on Friday
From Wikimedia Commons

JOHN DORY is a flat, round fish which can weigh up to 7lbs.  It is yellow/olive green with a silver belly (the French word dorée means gilded) and has spines along its back. The phrase ‘swim like a fish’ doesn’t really come into it as it is a poor swimmer.  It has another name too: St Pierre (or Saint Peter).  The reason for this comes from the dark spot on its flank which is said to be St Peter’s thumbprint.  It is actually there to ward off and confuse predators as it looks like a huge eye.  Rick Stein's recipe for fillets of John Dory with cucumber and Noilly Prat (pronounced prat NOT praaaa) is sublime.

SIMNEL CAKE           
From Wikimedia Commons
In the 17th century, female servants would bake a rich fruit rich cake to take home on their rare visits to their mother's on Mothering Sunday which is always on the fourth Sunday during Lent.

The word Simnel comes from the Latin word Simila which means fine wheaten flour and this was the type of flour which was originally used.four centuries ago. 

Simnel cake is a symbolic Easter cake: Eleven marzipan balls or figures are placed around the circular marzipan-coated cake to represent the  remaining disciples (without Judas Iscariot who had betrayed Jesus and hung himself). Some Simnel Cakes will have a larger figure or ball in the centre of the cake to signify Jesus.

My favourite recipe for this delicious cake is Mary Berry's.

Fancy Pans Café wishes everyone a Happy Easter and hopes you enjoy today’s food and recipes.

HOT CROSS BUNS  Recipe by Paul Hollywood

SIMNEL CAKE – an Easter treat. My favourite recipe by Mary Berry

Tuesday 19 April 2011

The Best Billet on The Somme

Bonjour mes amis!  We have travelled across the channel (La Manche) for a spell in France and Belgium.  Still not sure about the Channel Tunnel; a slow boat to Calais is more relaxing and doesn't have tonnes of seawater pressing downwards.  The tunnel also lacks a willing dutch boy to poke his finger into a leaky hole should one appear.  Definitely the Ferry; I'd sooner be on top of millions of gallons of water than underneath it.

When driving to Dover, we discovered it's best not to buy petrol on the Motorway (too expensive) but to wait until just outside the Ferry Port, or, even better, buy it in France as fuel costs much less per litre.  The drive south from Calais to Combles in Picardy took around ninety minutes and on almost empty roads is actually a pleasure.  The Department de la Somme is very flat and in April is a patchwork of colour as the farmers cultivate the chalky land. 

 In France, the only way to start the day, has to be with croissants,
pain au chocolat and delicious, crusty french bread and jam (fraise, quatre fruits, abricot, rhubarbe) with lashings of hot, strong coffee. 

This is best experienced at the Best Billet on the Somme which has to be:

 Orchard Farm in Combles, run by Kate and Martin Pegler and their two gorgeous cats. 

This small, friendly B&B has one double en-suite bedroom (with a fantastic comfy bed: like sleeping on a marsh-mallow), a twin room and a family room.  There is also a fabulous Gite separate from the main house with its own kitchen, TV, washing machine, and much more.   In addition to first class accommodation and wonderful hospitality, tours of the area are offered, by car or motorcycle.  Orchard Farm is very popular with Bikers.  Martin has written a number of books and is an authority on Militaria, in fact, you may well have seen him on The Antiques Roadshow  from time-to-time.   Martin's collection of guns (including a Vickers Machine Gun) and WW1 memorabilia run throughout the house.

Close by are the towns of Amiens, Arras, Perone, Albert, Bethune, to name but a few and we shall be visiting them all very soon.

The First World War began on 4th August 1914 and raged until At 11 a.m. on  11th November 1918 when a ceasefire came into effect with Germany.  A formal state of war between the two sides persisted for another seven months, until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919.  Millions died and the cemeteries and battlefields of France are a physical reminder of this terrible and tragic waste of life.

Combles has a Military Cemetery containing the graves of: UK 1462, Canada 7, Australia 22, South Africa 11, Total Burials: 1508
The village was entered in the early morning of the 26th August, 1916, by units of the 56th (London) Division and of the French Army; and it remained in Allied occupation until the 24th March, 1918, when the place was captured by the German Army after a stubborn stand by the South African Brigade at Marrieres Wood. It was retaken on the 29th August, 1918, by the 18th Division.

                                               THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE


Tuesday 5 April 2011

Twycross Zoo - chef's day off - let's go eat somewhere else - Monkey Business!

On the menu today: Monkey Brains – only joking! Chef’s day off so we ate elsewhere.

Fancy Pans Café had a staff outing and we visited the World Primate Centre – Twycross Zoo.

On 26 May 1963, Miss Mollie Badham and Miss Nathalie Evans first opened the doors (or should I say gates) of Twycross to the public. It has developed dramatically over nearly forty eight years and is now the World Primate Centre. Twycross is open 364 days of the year.

The South American Tropical House was opened by Elizabeth Hurley in 2005 and Brian Blessed opened the Borneo Longhouse in 2007.

We arrived in beautiful spring sunshine and entered through The Himalya, which is a 300-seater restaurant with an enormous glass wall giving spectacular views of two snow leopards in their mountainside home.

The food on offer is both gorgeous and reasonable. We ate in The Himalaya although there are lots of other places to eat throughout the complex. It was difficult to choose: home-made soup, casserole or roast dinner, jacket potatoes with various fillings, fish and chips, plus loads of sandwiches. There is also a children’s menu. Best of all was the selection of fabulous cakes and at only £2.65 for a huge slice – excellent value.

The cakes we chose were delicious and generous, washed down with fair-trade tea.

After all that we needed to burn off the calories. It doesn’t take too long to walk around the whole complex and with over 1,000 animals to see, you are never very far from a good photo. The giraffes are enormous, the meerkats cute, the elephants, so stately, but the stars of the show are definitely the monkeys, apes and chimpanzees.

Do you know the difference between a monkey and a chimpanzee? Well, perhaps the most obvious difference is that monkeys have tails, and chimpanzees do not.   Do you remember the PG Chimps?  Well they were Twycross chimps.

Then, down came the rain so most people either fled for home or huddled inside one of the animal houses. We stayed with mother red-faced black spider monkey, who was spark-out on the floor with her baby climbing and jumping all over her (while dad sat on a ledge out of the way). The reason for the prone position on the tiles was – under-floor heating.

The rain eased, the sun came out and we moved on to gorillas and penguins. The gorillas stayed indoors as it was cold and wet, snoring happily on their warm, underfloor-heated beds, apart from one chap who was having his tea - broccoli, parsnips, carrots and fruit.  Gorillas are best seen during the day.

Another 'monkey' fact is if they have a downturned mouth, they are happy, but if they are grinning, they are not, apparently 

We finally left for home almost as the gates were closing at 5.30 and drove past the flamingo pool, flanked with the beautiful pink birds who were settling down for a good night’s kip after a busyday.

I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Twycross Zoo. Prices for both admittance and food are incredibly reasonable.

On the downside though, you will find that you smell of monkeys when you get home!


Sunday 3 April 2011

Elvis, Bollinger, Michel Roux, Gene Hunt - imagination personified, and stretched

Well, what an occasion!   Fancy Pans opened in style with fabulous, fancy food, exhilarating entertainment and a fanciful mixture of folks.  When opening a fantasy cafe it has to have the best food, cooked by the best chef and guests drinking the best champagne.  The best in entertainment is also expected along with larger-than-life guests who only fit together in a fantasy cafe.

Chef prepared a banquet fit for Royalty (or Hogwarts):

The Menu:
Coquille  St. Jacques   

Boeuf or Mushroom Stroganoff 
Bitter Chocolate and Praline Indulgence 

Plus a selection of fabulous British cheeses.

If you would like to experience similar food, you will need to go to Mayfair's 
as ours was eaten in no time – with relish (that is with delight not with de-sauce).

As for drinks, well it could only be Bollinger
The champagne fountain flowed well into the night and as this is Fancy Pans, no-one was even a little tipsy. 

The entertainment began, and ended with, in my opinion, THE best band in the country – any country, and I’m talking about The Bombshellettes here.

The Bugle Call Beauties feature 15 of the UK’s finest female jazz musicians.

Sandwiched between these lovely lasses was our Headline ‘act’ – Mr Fancy Pants himself – Elvis Aaron Presley.  (No he isn’t working in a chip shop.)  He sang, amongst others, and by special request, In the Ghetto (my favourite).
Time is an unreal commodity here at Fancy Pans – Elvis didn’t look a day older than he did forty years ago – and check out those fancy pants.

Our last guests left at around four in the morning (someone called Fitzwilliam Darcy who must have been perspiring profusely as his shirt was clinging to his toned body, as was his friend, who I think said his name was Charles Bingley, or was it Bing Crosby?).

Well, it will take a while to wash all the champagne glasses and get the kitchen back to some semblance of normality (Chef is very particular), so on with the Marigolds and I shall let you know when (and where) we next open our doors.



Friday 1 April 2011

Welcome to the Fancy Pans Cafe

Fancy Pans is a fantasy ‘café’ providing culinary interest and a travel log (not Travel Lodge), plus emancipated musings.

Therefore, the writing will be reviews of food and travel with a few extras thrown in like celebrities and events (and the emancipated musings).  Sometimes the people and places will be real, sometimes imaginary, and, hopefully, always entertaining.  Links will guide you to recipes and restaurants as well as places of interest and related sites.

Some days though, we may be on rations – depending on where the fantasy café is.

You can read about The Grand Opening, which is a pure flight of imagination, in the next blog. The guest list is impressive, so is the food. I hope you will enjoy it. 

Fancy Pans believes that a little bit of what you fancy does you good, so indulge away and I hope you will take pleasure in Fancy Pans.

Proprietor of the Fancy Pans Cafe