Lavender & Lovage is a fresh & innovative blog featuring Food & Travel that is written by Karen Burns-Booth. She is a freelance writer and recipe developer with a passion for art, travel, books, photography, seasonal food and especially cheese
Keeping in Touch with Home whilst you Travel – If you travel a lot, it becomes hard to maintain friendships and relationships. If you are rarely at home, it’s all too easy to lose touch with people. Here’s some ideas how to keep in touch with home.
A life filled with travel can be a fulfilling one. Is there anything better than seeing the world? Trying new foods, learning new recipes, meeting people from different backgrounds and seeing as much as you possibly can? If you are lucky enough to be able to travel, then you absolutely should. It can change your outlook, help you to appreciate everything that you have got and give you a new way to look at the world. It’s an opportunity to learn new languages and skills and make lifelong friends. Travel can be fun, it can be exciting, and it gives your life a great sense of worthiness that you’ll never get sitting on your sofa.
But, if you travel a lot, it becomes hard to maintain friendships and relationships. If you are rarely at home, it’s all too easy to lose touch with people. When you do come home for a while, it can feel as though even though you’ve got loads to talk about, your relationships have stalled, and things don’t feel quite right anymore.
Your travels won’t be the same if you’ve got no one to share your adventures with: no one to tell and no one to be there for you when you need help and advice. When you are travelling the world, it’s always a good idea to have people back home that you can turn to when you need to. People that you can ring for a chat when you are feeling a little homesick and good friends that can pick you up when you need a boost or get you out of a tricky situation when one presents itself.
You might also need to keep in touch with work, of course. If you work as a freelancer, making money as you travel, you might need a good wifi connection to send work and communicate with clients or agencies. But, for now, let’s focus on the more enjoyable task of keeping in touch with your friends and family, and some of the fabulous ways that you can do it.
Modern technology, apps and devices have very much taken over how we communicate. Even sat in our own homes, we can text our partner downstairs to ask for a coffee. Most of us talk to people on Twitter more than we speak to people in our houses, and it’s not uncommon for people working in offices to send emails across the room throughout the day. When was the last time you wrote a letter? If you are under 25, have you ever written a letter?
Postcards have become something that we buy when we’re on holiday to get a pretty picture to keep for ourselves. We rarely think of sending them to other people back home. But, there’s something rather romantic about a good old fashioned postcard, and your friends and family will love receiving them. It also gives them something that they can keep if they choose to.
Get into the habit of sending a quick postcard to a loved one if something special happens or when you arrive at a new location. It’s an easy and fast way to share a memory and create a keepsake.
Sometimes we don’t keep in touch because we’ve got nothing to say. Then, as time goes by without contact, it becomes harder to say anything at all. Sending recipes can be a great way to keep in touch when nothing much is happening, and there’s nothing worthwhile to report. Jot down a quick recipe for a local delicacy on a card and pop it in the post. It keeps the lines of communication open, offers a great gift to a friend, and means that you’ll always have access to these recipes. In the future, going back and looking at all of the recipes that you’ve sent over the years can bring back some fantastic memories.
Use Social Media
Social media is huge nowadays. Businesses use them to build their audience and communicate with their customers. People make friends online; they develop relationships and reunited with old friends. We share our lives; sometimes if we’re honest, we share a little too much.
However you feel about social media; it is a great way to keep in touch with your friends and family and share some of your adventures with them while you travel. You might want to keep your accounts private, and either delete some old friends or create a private list of close friends, so that you are only sharing with specific people instead of the whole world.
Most of us take countless photos when we travel. We photograph people that we meet and the sights that we see. You might have plenty of pictures of your legs sat by pools around the world or beach selfies. Even if you share these on Instagram, you can’t guarantee that your loved ones will see them. If they follow a lot of people, it’s easy to miss the more important things.
So, create a Google Photos account. It’s a great way to save space on your phone and camera, and an easy way to share photos with your friends and family back home. Just share your albums with them, and they’ll have access as soon as you upload new images. If you plan to use the cloud often, an Unlimited plan SIM can help to ensure you never run out of data when you need it.
Perhaps the best way to keep in touch with home isn’t anything creative or unusual. It’s a good old phone call. Ring your friends and family for a good chat whenever you’ve got some free time, or you feel a little homesick.
Some of us love video calling. Others aren’t as keen and find the idea of being on camera awkward and uncomfortable. But, there’s no denying that it’s a great way to communicate while you travel. Being able to see people, as well as hear them can help you to feel closer. It also gives you a way to have a more in-depth conversation, as you watch their body language and read them in a way that you can’t do over the phone or via text.
Stick to Regular Communication
Make regular appointments to communicate, either on video or phone call, and stick to it. But, remember to be realistic. Don’t tell every friend and family member that you will call them every evening. You won’t have time. You’ll start forgetting and people will be upset. Stick to a realistic goal like once a week. Then, whatever happens, keep this appointment even if it’s just a quick hello.
Start a Blog
Blogging can be a great way to earn money and reach a wide audience. But, it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be something that you commit hours to and take seriously if you don’t want to. It can just be a way to share videos, photos and stories from your travels with interested people. If you aren’t worried about turning your blog into something more professional, it doesn’t have to take time or cost money. It can just be a cool hobby and an exciting way to share your travels.
Set Reminders for Important Dates
The last thing that you want to do while you are away is to forget important dates like birthdays and anniversaries. Your friends and family back home will feel like you’ve forgotten them. They might be hurt and upset. Some, won’t mind, but in other cases missing too many events could start to affect your relationship.
So, make sure you put anything that you want to remember in your Google Calendar, and set a reminder for a few days before and another for on the day. Use online card services, or just send a quick celebratory text to let them know that you are thinking about them.
[Ad] An Indulgent Escape to Gran Canaria with Jet2 Holidays and Seaside Hotels. Enjoy a mini-break in the sun with great food and wine, with access to the Hotel’s Spa, as well as the famous Maspalomas Dunes
The sea sparkled as we flew over the sandy dunes and mountains on our approach in to Las Palmas, and the excitement of a sunny mini-break suddenly became a reality. We were on an Indulgent EscapesJet2 Holiday for four nights in Gran Canaria, which is one of the islands that form the Canary Islands, the other islands being Tenerife, La Palma, El Hierro, La Gomera, Fuertaventura, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria. From the moment we checked on online to when we landed in Las Palmas, the whole procedure with Jet2 was flawless, with great personal customer service. As part of our Indulgent Escapes holiday with Jet2, we were able to choose our seats and check on online in advance, had a priority lane pass at Manchester Airport, which meant beating the queues for security checks at the airport, we received complimentary in-flight drinks, had a generous 25kg baggage allowance and were whisked to and from our hotel in comfort and style by private transfer. And, we were able to choose one of the exclusive Jet2 Indulgent Escapes hotels to stay in too.
Our Indulgent Escape Hotel was the Five Star Seaside Palm Beach Hotel in Maspolmas which is right next to the famous Maspalomas Sand Dunes, and a short walk away from the old El Faro lighthouse and town centre. The hotel is part of the Design Hotels group and is charmingly retro in looks. Artfully fashioned by a Parisian architect, splashes of colour, graphic prints and mid-century furnishings create a truly unique space. Amid the ancient palm garden, you can enjoy pure escapism by relaxing on one of the many sun beds by the blue lagoon pools next to the Spa. The hotel is renown for its gastronomy with seasonal local flavours, creative flair and fine wines on offer in all of it’s three gourmet restaurants. Freshly squeezed juices, flaky pastries and artisan bread from the hotel’s bakery are just some of the treats you can expect on the al-fresco buffet breakfast in the morning, along with exotic fresh fruit, an omelette station, charcutiere, pancakes, waffles and cheeses from all over the world.
We had a lovely Luxury Balcony room that overlooked the beach and sand dunes, which was large and roomy for the two of us. As part of the Indulgent Escapes Jet2 package, we had fresh fruit and water in our room, which was replenished daily as well as a complimentary spa session. And, we both received a complimentary luxury gift on arrival in our room, a very handy fold-up beach bag with a key ring and a luggage strap! The hotel was spacious with the most beautiful landscaping and gardens in and amongst the various pools and restaurants. Breakfast is buffet style, and on three nights of the week there is a specially themed BBQ night – we enjoyed an Asian and Italian BBQ night whilst we were there. We also dined in the alternative restaurants on two nights – Esencia which is fine dining a la carte and serves a range of international and local cuisine, and La Bodega, which is also a la carte and serves a range of Spanish and local cuisine. (we were on a Full Board package which compromises buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main restaurant) At lunch time, we would grab a fresh salad in the Pool Bar, which also offers Tapas, burgers and sandwiches etc. The food in all of the restaurants really was delicious, all carefully prepared with lots of local specialities and choice on offer.
After all the indulgent wining and dining, it’s nice to be able to relax in the Spa, and as a treat, we decided to book TWO Spa treatments. The hotel Spa offers sauna, steam room and massage treatments, as well as beauty treatments too, so we indulged in a neck and shoulder massage and a full facial, with pedicure and manicure. Such a lovely way to spend the day! There’s also an on-site hairdresser, which we both used on the last day and several boutique shops selling jewellery, clothing and luggage. For those who want to keep in shape, the hotel offers a gym with cardio fitness training equipment, free weights area, fixed strength equipment, sauna and steam room, ans daily Aqua aerobics in the Spa pool as well as yoga. Although we did venture out on a couple of days, with so much space and all these facilities, I can see why most people decided to stay on site for most of the day. The hotel caters for children as well as adults and if you so fancy a dip in the sea, it’s only 50 metres away, so you really do have the best of both worlds – pool AND beach.
Our mini-break holiday experience with Jet2 Holidays and Seaside Palm Beach Hotel was exemplary from start to finish, and the Indulgent Escapes package is perfect for those who want to add a little more luxury into their holiday. Going Full Board wasn’t at all restrictive, as on the days we went out we were able to grab a snack from the Pool Bar either just before or after we got back to the hotel. The location to the beach, El Tablero Shopping Centre and El Mercado Municipal markets was handy, it’s just a short 5 to 10 minute walk away, and the bus station was just up the road. We took a bus into Puerto de Moganone day, which is about 30 minutes away; it’s a picturesque fishing village and resort on the southwest coast of the island. The canals and bridges of its seawater inlet have earned it the nickname “Little Venice.” Along the marina, you’ll find an assortment of restaurants and bars, while the old town area is full of quaint, Mediterranean homes and cottages climbing up the hillside. Puerto de Mogan is a major stop for ocean yachts travelling from the Atlantic to the Caribbean, and indeed we saw yachts from all over the world, including Wales, as we wandered around. It’s here that you can also take special Dolphin and Whale watching excursions from, which we did when we were there. For other things and places to do and see, the hotel website has a list here: Things to see and do in the area.
Official rating: 5 star
Jet2holidays rating: 5 star
Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel
Bed And Breakfast
50m from the beach
150m from the nearest shops, bars and restaurants
1km from the Masplaomas resort centre
3km from Playa Del Ingles.
Approximate transfer time 35 minutes
2 bars including a pool bar and lounge bar serving a range of local and international drinks
3 a la carte restaurants serving a range of international, local, Spanish, Italian and Japanese cuisine
I WAS A GUEST OF JET2 HOLIDAYS AND SEASIDE HOTELS, AND ALL OF MY TRANSPORT, TRANSFERS, FOOD AND ACCOMMODATION WERE INCLUDED IN THIS COMPLIMENTARY PRESS TRIP; ALL VIEWS AND OPINIONS REMAIN MY OWN AND I WAS NOT ASKED TO WRITE A FAVOURABLE REVIEW, NOR WAS I PAID TO ATTEND THIS TRIP.
For all those lucky people who are on a cruise of 12 days or longer, Viking Cruises put on a very special brunch, set in and around the main pool and in the Winter Garden; this is a stylish brunch for brunch connoisseurs, with everything from steamed dumplings, eggs Benedict, sweet pastries and cakes to seafood, freshly baked bread with cheese, and grilled meat kebabs.
I was spoilt for choice with what was on offer, and can there be anywhere more beautiful and relaxing then dining al fresco around the main pool, whilst waiters bring a selection of cold drinks, beers and champagne to your seat (or sun lounger) It was a feast for the eyes as well as my tummy, with all of the food exquisitely arranged and set out in separate stations for brunching selection.
My particular favourite was the cheese and bread station, where the bakers had demonstrated their artistic flair as well as their skill with yeast. There were giant plaited loaves coated with toasted sesame seeds, boules, sourdough, flutes and baguettes with crisp, golden crusts. There was also a fabulous bready arrangement of palm trees, and coloured breads made with vegetables.
Alongside the freshly baked bread were crackers, bread sticks and cheese. As someone who has a “savoury tooth”, and who is a bit of a “cheeseaholic”, the sight of so many cheeses, and from all over the world, was very enticing. I was able to pick and choose a dizzying selection of cheeses to accompany my crackers and fresh bread, all accompanied by fresh fruit, chutney and pickles.
There was a cake and gateaux station to rival any Viennese or French patisserie, with cheesecakes, macarons, chocolate gateau and squidgy tray bakes topped with buttercream and cherries that would not looked out of place as part of an elegant afternoon tea. There were also cookies and tall glasses filled with creamy mousse and compotes – there really was something for everyone.
As a seafood lover, the seafood, sashimi and sushi that were on offer were exceptional. With snow crab, langoustine and prawns, not forgetting some rather delicious carpaccio of scallops, this was fine dining at its very best, but all served in a relaxed and comfortable environment. Plump prawns were set out next to slices of lemon and Marie Rose sauce for impromptu prawn cocktail or open sandwich making.
Danish pastries and croissants? No problem, there was a special section dedicated to just that, with pain au chocolat, cinnamon raisin buns, assorted sticky breakfast buns and some rather enticing fresh waffles and pancakes being cooked to order too. And between all of these freshly baked breakfast and brunch treats, was exquisitely carved fruit displays, which were just the icing on the cake when it came to brunching in style.
Inside the Winter Garden was a fabulous ice carving, of a Viking, of course. Another example of just how much thought had gone into the display of this special brunch. He was melting slightly, under the intense heat of the Asian sun, but still retained his all-important Viking helmet and horns!
Eggs Benedict was available, along with the usual breakfast and brunch suspects of bacon and sausages. And, for those who like steak in the morning, there was a special grilling station where the chef was grilling steak skewers, some with prawns for a “Surf and Turf” option. Next to the grill was a fabulous array of Chinese style steamed buns nestled in bamboo baskets – some of them in vibrant colours such as pink and green, they were all offered with a selection of salty, soy based dips and sweet chilli sauces.
I have travelled all over the world to many different places, but this was truly a magnificent brunch, beautifully set out and arranged with thought, passion and expertise. And, which brought the world to you, all in one place, through the amazing range of global food on offer. For anyone travelling on a Viking Cruise that is 12 days or longer, this is definitely not a meal, (or should I say a feast) to miss.
South East Asia is home to some of the best and most exciting food in the region, and whilst on a recent cruise with Viking, I was lucky enough to enjoy some wonderful dishes. Think fresh, zingy vegetables and piles of aromatic herbs with chilli heat and vegetable broths. There’s also a plethora of fish and seafood to enjoy and my personal favourites are the fusion dishes that the area has, such as Franco-Vietnamese cuisine. The list below is by no means definitive, but it will hopefully give you a real taste of South East Asia and some of what it has to offer.
Image: Nations Online Org
(Geographical note: Southeast Asia is a very diverse region, historically also known as Indochina; it comprises parts of Eastern India, South East China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and West Malaysia)
You cannot visit Vietnam without trying a bowl of Pho; pronounced “Fuh”, it is probably the nation’s most famous and iconic of dishes. Pho is basically a bowl of spicy soup, and can be made with beef and chicken, as well as just vegetables for a veggie version. The essentials are a rich broth, made with beef bones for the meaty version, rice noodles and oodles of fresh vegetables and herbs, including ginger, lemon grass and chillies. It’s street food at its very best and costs about £1 for a big bowl.
Staying in Vietnam, we have another classic street food dish that has Franco-Vietnamese fusion written all over it. Bánh Mì is a sandwich, a meal in itself and is made with a baguette that’s filled with mayonnaise, pickles, vegetables, barbecued meats, pate and aromatic herbs, making it very east meets west. The influence of Vietnam’s French Colonial past is an essential part of the sandwich, with the baguette, mayonnaise and pate making a Gallic appearance. The word Bánh Mì means any type of food including bread and wheat, so it literally means “wheat bread”.
Thailand is a beautiful country, and it’s also home to some of the best curries in the region. Thai Green curry and Thai Red curry are well known in the West, but to experience the authentic version, you need to sit down in a little kiosk on the side of the beach and enjoy a bowl of this hot, spicy and fragrant curry in the tropical surroundings when it originated from. Onions, shallots, garlic and chillies are the main protagonists in this fiery dish, and the addition of coconut milk soothes the high hot notes and makes it milder.
When in Cambodia, you must try Amok Fish; this is probably the country’s most famous dish and is delicious. It’s basically a coconut infused fish cake that is wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf. The steamed and spiced fish parcels are then served with sticky rice and chilli sauce in the side. The fish is first marinated or quickly cooked in a curry paste before being mixed with spinach, coconut milk and galangal before being shaped and steamed in the banana leaf. This delicious street food treat can be found in every small village, town and cry.
Both Thailand and Laos lay claim to this fabulous regional dish, and I’ve enjoyed it in Thailand with green papaya as part of a main course salad. It’s basically garlic, chillies, tamarind, tomatoes, palm sugar and lime juice (and shrimp paste sometimes) that is pounded and then macerated with shredded green papaya – you then serve it with a bowl of herbal broth for dipping and dunking. Like lots of regional dishes, there are many ways of serving it, but that’s how I enjoyed it when I was last in Thailand. It’s also a handy dish for any visiting vegetarians, but you must check that there’s no fish or shrimp paste added though.
In Myanmar (formerly Burma) this is what you will find on every street corner. Mohinga is a rice noodle and fish soup that is widely considered to be the national dish of the country. It is usually eaten for breakfast, as a spicy “pick-me-up”, but can be enjoyed throughout the rest of the day too. The main ingredients are chickpea flour, garlic, onions, lemongrass, banana tree stems, ginger, fish paste, fish sauce and fish that are cooked in a rich broth. Crispy chick pea or lentil fritters and sliced boiled eggs are often added as extras.
Nasi Lemak is one of my favourite meals when travelling in SE Asia; it’s usually associated with Malaysia, but I’ve also enjoyed it in Singapore too. It’s also considered to be a breakfast dish, but I’ve enjoyed it in the evening whilst travelling in Malaysia, and it made for a filling, cheap and cheerful snack! Coconut infused rice is cooked in a Pandan leaf and is then served with fried anchovies and onions, toasted peanuts and sambals of cucumber, boiled eggs and chilli sauce. The Pandan leaf adds a unique flavour to the dish that is hard to replicate outside of the region.
CHINESE STEAMED DUMPLINGS
A generic dish to add I know, but you cannot travel in SE Asia without seeing steamed dumplings of some sort. On my recent cruise in the region, I disembarked in China and was fortunate enough to see a fabulous dumpling restaurant as I walked about Haikou. Here I saw mountains of bamboo boxes piled high with dainty dumplings ready for steaming. Usually associated with Dim Sum, the Chinese style steamed dumpling is ubiquitous the area both in an outside of China.
CHOW FAN FRIED RICE
I always associate Chow Fan with Hong Kong, where I was brought up and lived for 12 years. It is a regional dish that is linked to Cantonese cuisine and is simply fired rice with bits and bobs added. Also called Yangzhou fried rice or Yeung Chow fried rice, it is found in all street food stalls as well as in more formal dining restaurants. This is the way I remember it – it is egg fried rice with bacon, prawns, spring onions and peas. However, you will find hundreds of variations of the dish throughout SE Asia.
I cannot miss this delectable curry dish of the list. Rendang is a spicy meat dish that originated in Indonesia, but is now more closely associated with Malaysia. Rendang is traditionally prepared by the Minangkabau community during festive occasions such as traditional ceremonies, wedding feasts and Hari Raya, but I have eaten this curry many times in Singapore and Malaysia where they have special restaurants that just serve this famous dish. Beef Rendang is the most popular version of this recipe, but you can also get chicken and prawn Rendang too.
Essential Stuff to do before a Road Trip – Some ideas what to do and how to prepare before a road trip, to make your journey safer and more enjoyable.
Preparing for a Road Trip
Travel is hugely popular now, and with the growing reliability of personal vehicles these days, there’s a lot of travellers who decide to take a road trip by car, both at home and overseas. For me, it reminds me of my trips thought the USA many years ago, a very “Route 66 moment”…….cruising down a long stretch of highway, the wind in my hair, listening to some great music on the radio, but in the comfort of my own car which made it more enjoyable. Would you like to travel along Route 66, is that a trip that may be on your “bucket list” of travel plans?
But if you or someone you know is about to go off to see the world from the comfort of their own cockpit, you (and they) need to be prepared. A road trip isn’t the easiest way to travel sometimes, and you need to make sure your car, as well as you, is well prepared and ready for it! You can run out of fuel, you can run out water and snacks, and you will probably have times when you are too hot or cold, as well as being tired. So, it’s best to make sure you are really well prepared before you set off on your road trip adventure, and take a spare fuel can, a box of snacks and plenty of water, and don’t forget to take regular breaks from driving too.
Essentials for Car Maintenance
Cars have a habit of breaking down from time to time. Of course, a recently serviced and well looked after car will usually be very reliable, but you can never be sure before you set off. So make sure you or the person who is taking the road trip has a comprehensive tool kit, and don’t forget a spare wheel in the back of the car in case you or they need to make roadside repairs.
You’ll need a good car tool kit, so you’ll definitely need to buy one if you don’t have one already. Don’t buy something that’s too expensive, especially if it’s just one trip, you won’t need 500 different spanners, just a decent tool kit to help out if you break down. You’re going to need about 5 combination spanners, an adjustable spanner, some screwdrivers (with Phillips heads at least), an allen key, a pair of pliers, and a foot pump to go along with the can of oil to help keep things moving.
A New Number Plate
Aside from the essentials of car maintenance, you could treat yourself (or someone else) to something a little more cosmetic for the road trip – a personalised number plate. Not only does this give the car they’re going off in a little more personal style, meaning some great travel pictures can be taken featuring it, but it’s a great way to easily identify the errant traveller in your family!
Get them something that relates to them or yourself, maybe just their name or initials in licence plate form, it could be a lovely leaving gift for you, as well as someone else. You can look up Personalised number plates very easily online, and you might even find some going rather cheap that is fun and a great way to personalise your car and the journey ahead of you. It’s not essential of course, but it’s just a fun idea before setting off to do your own version of Route 66, and why not!
Whole Roast Cauliflower Cheese with Wild Garlic: A stunning and very easy to prepare cauliflower cheese that has wild garlic added to the quick cheese sauce. Perfect for any Spring supper or weekend luncheon.
A May Day Spring Recipe
Our back garden is currently swathed in bright green leaves with star-like white blossoms, it’s that time of year again and I’m so lucky to have wild garlic growing right on my doorstep. There is an army of lush, green leaves that are intermingled with bluebells in a shady flower border next to the back door of the main schoolhouse, so it’s not so much foraging for me, but a quick step outside with a pair of scissors! I love wild garlic, and remember eating it fresh from the edge of the woods on my long walk to school when we lived in Hampshire. I have lots of wild garlic recipes on Lavender & Lovage, and today’s recipe for Whole Roast Cauliflower Cheese with Wild Garlic is my latest wild garlic offering.
I have shared a whole roasted cauliflower recipe before, and there’s a recipe in my travel cookbook too, but today’s recipe is a twist on a classic cauliflower cheese recipe, with a very quick and easy cheese sauce. It’s a whole cauliflower recipe that is humble enough for a simple family supper, or that would make a lovely centrepiece for any vegetarian lunch or dinner. Obviously, as well as the cauliflower and cheese, the other essential ingredient is wild garlic, and when it is out of season, you can use a mixture of spring onion tops and diced garlic in place of these pungent green leaves. I used a lovely vintage Cheddar cheese in the sauce, which was man enough to stand up to the wild garlic without overpowering it.
The recipe is shared below on a printable recipe card, and I think that it’s the perfect May Day and a very Spring-like recipe. The first of May is a special day in my family, it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday and it is the prelude to a month of many family birthdays and anniversary celebrations, of which one is mine. It’s also a wonderful day of merriment and flowers……a day to dance and have fun. I know the weather in the UK is not very summery at present, and I am sure that if you were planning on dancing around a May Pole you might have a very soggy time of it unfortunately!
I hope you enjoy this recipe for Whole Roast Cauliflower Cheese with Wild Garlic if you make it, and do let me know how it turned out. If you have time to make a classic white cheese sauce, then by all means make that. However, I love this easy cheese sauce recipe, (with the added egg for coating properties) and it suspends the chopped wild garlic in the sauce well too. I’ve shared some more wild garlic recipes below, whilst it’s in season, and I wish you all a VERY HAPPY MAY DAY! Karen
You can buy my book here:
Lavender & Lovage:
A Culinary Notebook of Memories & Recipes From Home & Abroad
Born from her eponymous award winning blog this book contains 160 unique recipes, all beautifully photographed by the author. They showcase the breadth and depth of her travel. Karen has lived and travelled all over the world and has brought some of her favourite recipes, experiences, and memories to share here with her readers.
A stunning and very easy to prepare cauliflower cheese that has wild garlic added to the quick cheese sauce.
1 x medium fresh cauliflower (trimmed and tough stem cut off)
Olive or rapeseed oil
225g grated vintage Cheddar cheese
225ml creme fraiche
1 large free-range egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 wild garlic leaves (finely diced)
Wild garlic flowers (to garnish)
A stunning and very easy to prepare cauliflower cheese that has wild garlic added to the quick cheese sauce. Perfect for spring lunches and simple suppers.
Pre-heat oven to 220C/450F/Gas mark 7.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and then add the whole cauliflower. Simmer the cauliflower, covered, for 30 minutes, turning it over half way through. Take the cauliflower out of the poaching water and sit it in a colander to cool whilst you make the sauce.
Mix all of the sauce ingredients together until they form a smooth, thick paste.
Sit the drained and cooled cauliflower in an oven-proof dish. Brush the olive or rapeseed oil over the cauliflower - I used a spray oil.
Spoon the sauce over the cauliflower and the bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is golden brown and bubbling.
Remove from the oven and cut into slices or into quarters, serving with the excess sauce from the baking dish and a scattering of wild garlic flowers. Fabulous when served with crusty bread and a seasonal salad.
[ad] Keeping Track of Life whilst Travelling – One of the most common causes of anxiety for a lot of people when they’re travelling is how they’re going to keep on top of the bills etc. Here’s a few tips that I find help me when I am travelling.
For some people the best kind of lifestyle is not settling in one place for too long. And many people find travelling is one of the best and most exciting things in the world. What could be better than being able to see new places and try new things all the time? I’m sure that kind of life is incredibly rewarding for those with a true spirit of adventure, and I’m sure there’s are lots of people who love being a “rolling stone”. However, it does come with its own set of challenges. The most significant challenge is that it can often be hard to juggle the various aspects of your life when you’re always on the go. With that in mind, here are a few tips how to keep on top of things if like me, you’re always travelling, and how you can enrich your education too.
Enrichment through Learning
If you’re trying to improve yourself or become more qualified to enhance your career,it can often feel very overwhelming and almost impossible when you’re always moving around. After all, how are you supposed to attend lectures and classes when you’re in a different country? Well, thanks to the internet it’s never been easier to learn on the go. Something like an online MBA program allows you to study no matter where in the world you are, giving you a certain amount of learning freedom. It may not be exactly what you imagine when you thinking about studying, but many online courses are just as well-regarded as the more traditional “contact hours” ones where you will need to attend in person. I completed my own “on-line” photography course a few years ago, and whilst travelling – I found it quite easy to follow the syllabus whilst I was on the move, especially as some of the tasks were to take photos locally, which added even more enrichment to the learning process.
Paying your bills
One of the most common causes of anxiety for a lot of people when they’re travelling is how they’re going to keep on top of their bills. Well, once again the internet comes to the rescue. One of the best things about the modern age is that it’s never been easier to find temporary work, even if you’re only in a certain place for a couple of months or less. Apps like Fiverr allow you to take on local temporary work so that you’re able to pay your way whilst you’re travelling. This is obviously more suited to Gap Year students maybe, but I do know many adult friends who have used this app and have got work overseas whilst they were travelling, so it IS for all ages! And, if like me you are travelling for work and don’t need to find a job, I keep on top of all my bills with on-line banking apps, which are very secure and easy to use.
Keeping in touch with your loved ones
Travelling is exciting and exhilarating, but it can also be lonely. Being away from the people you love is always going to be tough. Luckily, there are things like social media, instant messaging, and Skype to help you keep in touch with people no matter how far away you might be. I use Whatsapp to send my family messages as well as being able to call them through the app too. I think one of the most important things to remember is that there’s no reason to stop you from seeing the world. We live in an age where keeping in touch, whatever it may be for, is easy and becoming more affordable – many phone companies now offer unlimited data and overseas roaming packages which give you almost unlimited access to study, pay your bills and keep in touch with your family. So, if you have wanderlust, then it’s never better time to travel and explore the world!
Waltzing down the Danube on a River Cruise – Visit 5 countries in 8 days on a relaxing and enriching river cruise with Viking River Cruises. I loved my time on-board Viking Vilhjalm as we sailed down to the river Danube from Passau to Budapest.
Viking River Cruises
Vilhjalm – Name of Norman Rulers Vilhjalm Langaspjót, or William I Longsword as he is also known, was the half-brother of Kadlin and the son of “Rolf the Ganger,” a Viking chief and first Duke of Normandy. Following in his famous father’s footsteps, William ruled Normandy from 927 until 942.
Image: Viking Cruises
Image: Viking Cruises
Regular readers will know that I’m a bit of a cruise addict – it all started five years ago when I first sailed around the Mediterranean, and before that as I was lucky enough to sail on ocean liners (pre-cruise liners) all over the world. Since then I have undertaken several cruises every year, both river and ocean, and it’s certainly a very pleasurable way of travelling. You can unwind and have a wonderful holiday where the ship takes you to a new port without the need to check in and of hotels and brave the check in and security queues for flights, trains or coaches. You board, unpack and are taken to numerous exciting destinations whilst having your own space for the length of the voyage. For me, that is the beauty of taking a cruise, whether it be an ocean cruise or a river cruise.
I’ve been on ocean cruises and river cruises, and they are quite different. I find river cruising more intimate, and perhaps it’s a good entry-level way of “travelling on water” for those aren’t sure if a cruise is for them. Whereas you get “sea days” on an ocean cruise, days where you’re sailing and aren’t docking in any ports, you will usually visit a new destination every day on a river cruise. My “Danube Waltz” river cruise with Viking was a truly enjoyable and memorable experience, with a new destination to discover every day. Viking is probably my favourite cruise company – I love their “Scandi” chic style of ships, both ocean and long ships, and their no-nonsense approach of included WiFi and included excursions, as well as the very high standard of on-board accommodation and their food is always exemplary. Sailing on the Danube on Viking Vilhjalm was a fabulous and culturally rewarding experience, and my Danube River Cruise was no exception, being one of the best I’ve been on.
As well as the obvious excitement and enrichment of visiting new destinations, as I mentioned before the food on Viking is always fabulous, with fresh salads, innovative and regional menus on offer, and the little added extras as freshly made cookies and sweet pastries which are always available 24hrs a day next to the coffee and tea stations. Every day our executive chef Roman Paput would share his personal recommendations with us, which is a great way to try new dishes and explore regional cuisine. The on-board entertainment was also wonderful, with local shows and singers boarding the ship and fun quiz evenings, hosted by the effervescent Terry Turnbull (Programme Director) Terry would showcase a Port Talk and Briefing before arriving at each new destination, as well as talking us through all the scenic cruises as we sailed down the Danube.
Hungarian Parliament Budapest
I’ll share a full “Fact Box” below about the costs, ships and other incidentals, but for now I would like to share some of the destinations and excursions that I visited and undertook, along with a photo gallery. I took advantage of all of the included excursions, which were extremely inclusive and well planned, as well as two optional excursions in Vienna and Budapest.
Danube Waltz Itinerary
Day 1 and 2: Passau, Germany – Set at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers, enchanting Passau is home to elegant coloured buildings, graceful arcades and some fabulous shops, especially chocolate shops. Founded by the Celts more than 2,000 years ago, Passau is one of Bavaria’s oldest cities and it was a fabulous way to start my Danube waltz river cruise. St Stephen’s Cathedral was also included on our walking tour and the ceiling frescos/paintings and ornate organ was simply stunning.
St Stephen’s Cathedral Organ
St Stephen’s Cathedral Passau
Day 3: Linz, Austria – Originally known as Lentia in its days as a 1st-century Roman castle-settlement, Linz is today’s provincial capital of Upper Austria. I didn’t take advantage of the included excursion of Linz but chose to take the other included tour to Český Krumlov in the Czech Replublic (where I have been before but during the winter) Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the town is simply breathtaking and it was lovely to explore this riverside town.
Trompe l’œil detail on the Castle Tower in Český Krumlov
Day 4: Krems, Austria – The crown jewel of the Wachau Valley is the splendid Benedictine Abbey of Göttweig, a working monastery for more than 900 years, which I visited on an included excursion. Göttweig Abbey was fascinating and sits high above the valley with beautiful, far-reaching views.
Day 5: Vienna, Austria – Today’s included excursion was a bus ride along the Ringstrasse, which replaced the city walls in the mid-19th century. From the bus I saw some of the city’s baroque architecture, including the world-famous Opera House, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Hofburg Palace. In the evening, I went on an optional excursion, to the Mozart and Strauss Concert by The Vienna Residence Orchestra. The concert was wonderful and included a glass of champagne in the interval, as well as magical nocturnal journey through Vienna by night.
Day 6: Bratislava, Slovakia – Bratislava was a huge surprise, such a beautifully elegant city with stunning architecture and quirky little shops. The capital of Slovakia, Bratislava is filled with lovingly restored baroque city palaces and dominated by an enormous castle 300 feet above the Danube, which I saw as soon as we were moored in the centre of the city. One of the funniest highlights on our walking tour was the “ČUMIL – Man at work” – a bronze statue that is sunk into the ground. The story says that your wishes will come true if you touch the head of the man, but you must keep your wish a secret forever.
Day 7 and 8: Budapest, Hungary – We sailed into Budapest at night, and this is has to be one of the most beautiful scenic sails I have ever done. Budapest by night is simply breathtaking and the city didn’t disappoint by day either. I went on the included walking tour in the morning, and then treated myself to the GRAND MARKET: TASTE OF HUNGARY & PANCAKE KITCHEN excursion in the afternoon, which included a tram ride on one of the iconic yellow trams. Part of the excursion is to visit the market hall, followed by a lesson in preparing a favourite local dish. The city’s Grand Market Hall is an emporium of food stalls and countless other local goods. A sprawling three-story marketplace, the historic hall was built in the late 19th century.
I loved the walking tour, where I had the chance to taste locally produced pickles, sausage, wine, honey and other specialities. After some free time to browse, we met in at the restaurant Fakanál, which translates into “wooden spoon,” a name which befits its home-style cooking. Here, I enjoyed a demonstration of Hungarian palacsinta, which is a crepe-like pancake that is served with a sweet or savoury filling. We all helped to mix the batter and prepare the filling, before sampling the results. The morning’s excursion took in highlights of the once separate towns of Buda and Pest, starting with Pest’s National Opera House and historic Heroes’ Square. In Buda, I walked along Castle Hill to Fishermen’s Bastion and Matthias Church.
Budapest by night
Chain Bridge, Budapest
Budapest by night
One last thing to share, I was very moved at seeing the Sixty Shoes of Budapest; the shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer* to honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. They were located just 5 minutes walk away from the ship, and although very sad, it well worth visiting them. *The sculptor created sixty pairs of period-appropriate shoes out of iron. The shoes are attached to the stone embankment, and behind them lies a 40 metre long, 70 cm high stone bench. At three points are cast iron signs, with the following text in Hungarian, English, and Hebrew: “To the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944–45. Erected 16 April 2005.”
I WAS A GUEST OF VIKING RIVER CRUISES, AND ALL OF MY TRANSPORT, TRANSFERS, FOOD, ACCOMMODATION AND EXCURSIONS WERE INCLUDED IN THIS COMPLIMENTARY PRESS TRIP; ALL VIEWS AND OPINIONS REMAIN MY OWN AND I WAS NOT ASKED TO WRITE A FAVOURABLE REVIEW, NOR WAS I PAID TO ATTEND THIS TRIP.
With thanks to all the ship’s crew, especially Thomas Preidelt, Hotel Manager; Alexandar Jovic, Maitre D’; Miriam Kajuchova, Housekeeper; Terry Turnbill, Programme Director; Roman Paput, Executive Chef; Marian Sulak, Captain and for our two regular waiters, Aryen and Jay, Milan the lethal cocktail maker and Jiggs the omelette maker extraordinaire.
Cruise packages in a standard stateroom in April 2019 start from £1,195 per person.
The package includes:
* One included excursion in every port of call
* Complimentary Wi-Fi
* Beer, wine & soft drinks with on board dinner & lunch
* Other included beverages such as specialty coffees, teas & bottled water
* Port taxes & fees
* Airport transfers
Viking Vilhjalm Longship
The Viking Vilhjalm sails the Danube Waltz and Oberammergau with Salzburg river cruise itineraries. The ship
was, christened in Amsterdam on March 1st, 2016.
There are 95 outside staterooms
(25 standard staterooms, 22
French Balcony Staterooms, 39 Veranda Staterooms, 7 Veranda Suites and 2 Explorer Suites)
There is a sun-deck with 360-degree views and shaded sitting area, organic herb garden, solar panels, putting green and walking track.
The ship, as with all Viking Longships boasts an Aquavit Terrace & Lounge, a revolutionary indoor/outdoor viewing area for al-fresco dining.
There is a library and an on-board shop. A lift from the Middle to Upper deck only. Free WiFi, laundry service, 40” flat-screen TV with infotainment system featuring movies on demand.
The ship has ecologically friendly hybrid engines producing less vibrations for a smoother ride.
For more Danube Waltz information and videos, visit my three friends and colleagues sites below to see and read more!
Viking European River Cruises - 6 Key Must-Knows Before You Go - YouTube
Happy Easter, Joyeuses Pâques, Pasg Hapus…..whether it be in English, French or Welsh, I’m wishing all my readers a fabulous and very happy Easter with some of my top Easter recipes in one post, making it easier for you to plan, cook and bake your Easter Feast this year.
An Easter Cookbook
As we approach the end of Easter Week, I’d like to share some of my most popular and much-loved family recipes today. From traditional Hot Cross Buns and sumptuous cakes, to savoury snacks, roast dinners and of course eggs! I hope you will all find something to inspire you to make from the list today, whether it be a sweet and indulgent treat or a classic roast with all the trimmings. All that remains for me to say is Happy Easter, or Pasg Hapus as we say here in North Wales. Karen
This is a Victoria Sandwich Sponge with a few delicious additions. Fresh oranges and lemons, lemon curd, crystallised violets and mascarpone cheese make this basic sponge cake moist and special enough for the Easter Sunday tea-time table, or for Mum on Mothering Sunday. I used lemon curd for the icing, but orange curd would also work if you wanted a mellow flavour. The recipe for the crystallised violets is posted on my blog here: Crystallised Violets. If you don’t have any fresh violets, use some sugar paste flowers or cake decorations that work for you – the object is to make a posy of flowers on top of the cake.
This delightful diary-free cake hides a fun secret – cut into its light as a feather crumb, and you will see a myriad of rainbow flecks inside, like confetti, hence its rather jolly name of a Funfetti or a Confetti Cake! Chiffon Cake recipe adapted from Woman and Home. (You MUST use the correct type of “sprinkles”, the wax coated ones, and not the sugar paste ones – I used Rainbow Jimmies by Wilton from Amazon.co.uk)
Pretty little vanilla sponge cakes that have been baked in mini bundt moulds and are drizzled with white chocolate; these mini bundts are then decorated with mini chocolate eggs and seasonal sprinkles or hundreds and thousands. Just perfectly pretty (and delicious) for the Easter Sunday tea time table!
My recipe for Creme Egg Chocolate Drizzle Cake was commissioned by Great British Chefs, and if you fancy making this fabulous cake, then the recipe is here:Creme Egg Chocolate Drizzle Cake on Great British Chefs. But, I’ve not finished just yet with my chocolate baking, so do pop back after the weekend to see what other Easter treats I have up my sleeve……and if you fancy something chocolate for breakfast, then why not make a batch of my CHOCOLATE ORANGE CURD to spread on your toast, or even your Hot Cross Buns.
This recipe is a real show-stopper, it’s a gateau style cake that will grace any afternoon tea-table, posh picnic or when served as a weekend family treat, but it is extremely easy to make. The basic cake is made with a classic Victoria Sandwich recipe and then poached Bramley apples are added to the layers along with tangy lemon curd, before the cake is decorated with aromatic elderflower cordial drizzle icing and some sweet little edible wafer flowers (daisies)
It’s Easter Saturday in a day’s time, and not long from all enjoying those Easter Egg hunts and waking up to see what Easter bunny has left for us this year! Now, I don’t know about you, but I have been loving the advertisement on the TV lately, for those cute little Stork Easter Nest Cup Cakes, or Fairy Cakes as I call them; it’s a fabulous recipe that works on so many levels – they appear to be very easy to make, they look very “Easter-ish”, the cakes have that GREAT chocolate crispy thing on top – you know the ones you used to make when you were little – and, the cakes have mini chocolate eggs on top, so it is a win, win, win recipe all around. So, when I was contacted by Stork and asked to have a go at making them this weekend, I replied with some alacrity!
Hot on the heels of another Spring Recipe Post, for Apple Rose Tarts for Mother’s Day (Mothering Sunday)that I published a few days ago, I am very pleased to present with a chocolatey flourish, a brand new Easter baking recipe (or a non-baking recipe as it happens) for No-Bake Creme Egg & Malteser Chocolate Tiffin Bundt Cake. This is a trashy, over-the-top, indulgent cake that is very easy to make and even easier to eat…..it contains a suitably impressive amount of chocolate, biscuits, maltesers as well as the ubiquitous Cadbury’s creme eggs, which seem to abound in rude quantities on the run up to the Easter season, and as it is a no-bake cake, it’s the perfect cake to make with the kiddie-winkies in the Easter kitchen.
This year I have decided to go a little “off piste” with my buns, in a manner of speaking! I will be using my old family recipe, as it really is a winner, but, I will be baking these buns in a muffin tray this year, (as you can see from my photos) in the manner of a French Brioche.I decided that we are going to go dainty for Easter tea, with smaller buns that are also a pretty shape; I was going to bake them in some traditional brioche moulds, but as they are vintage moulds, they are considerably smaller than the modern-day silicone moulds, and greed overtook “dainty” on that score! Plus, using a large muffin tray is easier than individual moulds. However, I was DELIGHTED how well these buns baked, and they were just as delicious as my usual “trencherman” buns.
Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns – These no-knead sourdough hot cross buns take 24hrs to make, from start to finish, but it’s all passive time. I use a mix of Wholemeal Spelt and White Flour for a lovely nutty taste and texture. I’ve become an avid sourdough baker over the last few months, after I was sent some sourdough starter by my friend Elaine. My starter is called Sally and she proves to be very reliable on a regular basis, with fresh loaves, bread buns, crumpets and pancakes being a common sight on my kitchen table.
These delicious, buttery little Brioches à Tête are easy to make and are popped in the fridge overnight for a slow first rise, all ready to bake next morning for breakfast or brunch. Swerve them with butter, jam, preserves and a big pot of fresh coffee for a classic French treat. Once baked they freeze well.
A fabulous sourdough loaf that is packed with toasted nuts and has a lovely moist texture and nutty flavour. KAMUT® Khorasan is an ancient grain that is low in gluten, so it will not rise as much as normal strong bread flour, but when added to your usual sourdough mixture, it adds a wonderful taste and flavour.
An easy recipe for Easter Saturday, perfect for the tea-time table or a picnic, or even as a filling for a baked spud as a simple Saturday supper, why not make a batch of this divine cheesy spread today – I bet most of you will have all the ingredients to hand in your fridge and pantry. Batch number THREE has already been made by me, and I plan to take it along tomorrow, for a seaside picnic with friends, avec baguette et vin of course.
Using ready-made puff pastry means that these delicious Le Rustique Camembert and Hazelnut Parcels are perfect for an easy mid-week family supper, or for a lazy Saturday lunch. Shallots and hazelnuts are gently fried in a little olive oil for a tasty twist that works so well with the cheese; the fruit and honey chutney is the final “pièce de résistance” for these flaky cheese pies, which cuts through the richness of the filling.
Tomorrow, the 19th April, is Good Friday; or, Hot Cross Bun day as I used to call it when I was little! Although many Christians observe a “no meat Friday” every week of the year, it’s probably true to say that most people regardless of their religion also adopt a meat-free meal on Good Friday, with fish being the most popular ingredient on the menu.Normally I would cook fish, and not just any fish, but a big family-sized fish pie, such as one of these recipes: Easy Cheesy Family Fish Pie Recipe for the 5:2 Diet (300 calories), Old-Fashioned Fish Pie with Cheesy Mash or Yorkshire Fish Pie with a Rosti Potato Topping. However, this Good Friday I have decided to make and share a new recipe for Wild Garlic and Blue Wensleydale Tart – a vegetarian tart made with seasonal wild garlic, fresh free-range eggs and a wedge of some gloriously creamy and mild Blue Wensleydale cheese, or Wensleydale Blue as it is also called.
A fabulous French inspired recipe for slow roast lamb with a Dijon mustard crust, fresh herbs and garlic; this recipe makes its own red wine gravy that is infused with the herbs and garlic and is perfect for any special celebratory meal such as Easter or Mothering Sunday, as well as for a wonderful family Sunday lunch.
This recipe is so easy to make and takes advantage of two seasonal stars of Spring, Jersey Royal potatoes and Wild Garlic. It’s made a little more decadent by the addition of cheese which melts over the roast potatoes – and who doesn’t love cheesy potatoes.
A stunning and elegant way to serve a whole salmon, and this is also easy to prepare, as the salmon is poached with herbs and a little wine in a foil parcel in the oven. Serve with herb mayonnaise, orange buttered spring greens and minted new potatoes for a special family lunch or celebration meal. A whole salmon will feed four to five people with ease, with enough left for some tasty leftover dishes; or, serve as one meal for up to eight or nine people. Use organic wild Scottish salmon for the best taste and quality, as well as being rich in Omega 3 oils, which is essential for good health.
An elegant and delicious twist on the classic Salmon Coulibiac; this version is less rich and uses fresh seasonal watercress as a base for the rice filling, as well as spring onions. Can be served warm or cold and freezes beautifully.
These little Topsy Turvy Blackcurrant Cheescake Trifles are easy to make, gluten-free, vegetarian and will appeal to all the family; use any seasonal fruit you have to hand, such as gooseberries, raspberries or strawberries, or a mixture of soft fruit.
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday and the start of the long Easter weekend, which is one of my Favourite times of the year; this recipe isn’t my own, which regular readers of Lavender and Lovage will know is rare, but, as things are a little upside down this year, I was glad of an easy to follow recipe, and one that will be tasty and bit of fun for our Easter tea time table.
A light and fluffy two chocolate mousse that is perfect as a light dessert for Easter or even Christmas and Mothering Sunday; this French inspired recipe uses white and milk chocolate and is decorated with seasonal chocolates on top of whipped cream.
A classic gooseberry fool but served in the style of a trifle with elderflower cordial, and with ready-made custard for speed and convenience; organic ready-made custard can be bought in most supermarkets, or you can make your own custard.
A delicious summery trifle that’s made with fresh raspberries, fresh peaches, Cream Sherry soaked cake, creamy custard & whipped cream, decorated with more fruit and amaretti biscuits. (The prep time includes the time it takes the custard to cool and set)
[AD] Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns – These no-knead sourdough hot cross buns take 24hrs to make, from start to finish, but it’s all passive time. I use a mix of Wholemeal Spelt and White Flour for a lovely nutty taste and texture.
with Doves Farm for Easter
With Easter just under three weeks away, I’ve been experimenting with my sourdough starter and I’m pleased to share a brand new recipe for Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns with you today. I’ve become an avid sourdough baker over the last few months, after I was sent some sourdough starter by my friend Elaine. My starter is called Sally and she proves to be very reliable on a regular basis, with fresh loaves, bread buns, crumpets and pancakes being a common sight on my kitchen table. I make my own Hot Cross Buns every year, and so this year I wanted to try my hand at making a sourdough version, and with an ancient grain, namely Doves Farm Organic Wholemeal Spelt Flour. Spelt (triticum speltum), was widely grown in Roman times. It is an ancestor of modern wheat and it’s genetic heritage lies in crossing Emmer with wild grass, producing a grain that is closely related to modern wheat varieties. I love using it in baking, as it has a wonderful sweet, nutty taste and texture.
Regular readers of Lavender & Lovage may remember I made some delicious savoury muffins earlier in this month, Bacon, Cheese & Onion Spelt Muffins, with Doves Farm white spelt flour. However for today’s’ recipe for Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns, I wanted a wholemeal bun, so I used an equal amount of wholemeal spelt flour with strong white bread flour, and with amazing results. The hot cross buns were moist with a lovely wholemeal texture, as well as being nutty with a soft interior crumb. This recipe is simplicity itself, with hardly any “hands on” time required, and lots of passive “proving” time, which suits my busy schedule.
Using a sourdough starter adds just a bit of that desired sourness, which enhances the wholemeal spelt flour and although you don’t get the holes that you would in a normal sourdough bread, as you can see from the photos the rise and texture is light, airy and a lovely surprise, given that using wholemeal flour can sometimes yield a very heavy bread bun or loaf of bread. The warmth of the aromatic spices also adds to the sweetness of the spelt flour, and I like my hot cross buns packed with fruit, so I’ve suggested using 125g of dried mixed fruit, but you could increase that to 150g for a really fruity bun.
I hope you enjoy these sourdough hot cross buns as much as we did if you make them. I’m going to experiment with a higher amount of wholemeal spelt flour next time, although the texture and crumb was just perfect in this batch. You can make these ahead of time as they freeze well, and just need to be taken out of the freezer to defrost overnight, then warmed up in an oven, or toasted with lashings of lovely butter. This recipe is based on my master sourdough recipe (that I adapted from the lovely Elaine, the giver of sourdough starter) and is very easy. I usually add an egg to my hot cross buns, but I found there was no need this time. The recipe is shared below, and PLEASE do let me know if you make these, and how they turned out. Karen
*Disclaimer: Paid collaborative post with Doves Farm. I have full control over all creative content*
Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns - These no-knead sourdough hot cross buns take 24hrs to make, from start to finish, but it's all passive time. I use a mix of Wholemeal Spelt and White Flour for a lovely nutty taste and texture.
150g recently fed sourdough starter (Feed it with 90g flour and 90g water 2 to 3 hours before you need to use it)
10g sea salt
300ml tepid filtered water
80g melted butter
2 teaspoons mixed spice
50g white caster sugar
250g Doves Farm organic wholemeal spelt flour
250g Doves Farm organic strong white bread flour
125g mixed dried fruit and peel
50g plain flour with water to mix to a stiff paste
25g white caster sugar mixed with 30ml water
Easy No Knead Sourdough Hot Cross Buns - These no-knead sourdough hot cross buns take 24hrs to make, from start to finish, but it's all passive time. I use a mix of Wholemeal Spelt and White Flour for a lovely nutty taste and texture.
2 to 3 hours before you want to start your sourdough bread, take the starter out of the fridge and feed it with 90g filtered water and 90g strong white bread flour. Mix well, cover with cling film (or a shower cap) and set to one side to start working. After 2 to 3 hours the starter should be frothy and light with lots of bubbles and it may be making a noise, as in singing! It's now ready to use. Put the covered starter back in the fridge until it is needed next time you want to bake.
Place the sourdough starter into a large bowl and add the salt, water, melted butter, mixed spice, sugar and both flours. Mix until it has all come together in a rough ball.
After an hour, uncover it and with your hands, bring the dough from the outside, and fold it into the middle. Then add the dried mixed fruit and fold them into the dough. Do this for about 15 to 20 times - I find it is easier if I rotate the bowl at the same time. Cover it and set to one side.
Do the folding and turning action two or three more times over the next few hours, by this time the dough will be smooth, elastic and sticky. I start this at about 3pm to 4pm and the dough is ready to bulk prove overnight at about 8pm to 9pm.
Once the dough is smooth and elastic (see above) and it will have risen by now too, cover with cling film/shower cap and set to one side in a cool place to prove overnight. (I use my pantry which is about 14 degrees C)
In the morning, the dough will have risen overnight and you will have a large, round ball of smooth dough that's ready to bake after the buns have been shaped. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/400F/375F Fan/Gas mark 6 and line a large baking tray/sheet with non-stick baking parchment.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Place the buns onto the prepared baking tray/sheet. Cover the buns with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes whilst you make the crosses.
Mix the flour and water to a stiff paste, but make sure it is thin enough to pipe. Make the glaze too - heat the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved and set aside.
Pipe a cross on each bun and then bake the buns in the pre-heated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pale golden-brown, and when they are turned over and tapped underneath they sound hollow. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the sugar and water syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm, split and spread with butter, or serve toasted, split and spread with butter. The cooked buns can be frozen for up to 3 months; allow 6 hours for them to defrost and serve as above.