Friday Flash Fiction – Cheese and Taxes

Dig in - it's good for you...

Dig in – it’s good for you…

It’s great discipline trying to write a story in 100 words – all those horrible fillers we are guilty of using (in order to etc.) have to be removed, which is the opposite of my other writing life where people ask for set numbers of words and I resort to fillers…

(Yup, when desperate I start writing out contractions in full.)

Anyway, on a Friday I practise “less is more” with a weekly 100-word story.


Nothing as Certain as Cheese and Taxes

Three things had changed Terry’s life that week.

First up was the discovery that cheese is really good for people’s longevity. He celebrated with a cheese omelette for breakfast, macaroni cheese and salad for lunch and ended his day with a huge pile of cheese and biscuits.

Secondly, a letter from the IRS announced the news that he’d overpaid his taxes for the last 10 years. Amazing!

Thirdly – and this was the killer – he decided to do a little cleaning up of his shop, Captive Born Reptiles.

He entered the python’s cage. Boy, it was mucky in there…

My inspiration was a couple of stories – one that cheese is good for you (excellent, excellent) and the other about a pet shop owner’s unfortunate cleaning experience.

If you enjoy writing flash fiction yourself, why not submit a story to the Friday flash fiction website or the Friday flash fiction WordPress account? This link will take you to the site and you’ll find the submission details there.

Want to Eat Well in the West?

The view from the Metropole

The view from the Metropole

Reader dear, a friend read my pathetic appeal for writing help and came to my aid. Step forward Ms Karen and take a bow. I owe you a debt of gratitude.

To recap, bored witless with my own witterings, I appealed to the generous blog reading public to guest post for me. I suppose my ‘niche’ loose as it is, is writing and food. Karen and her partner are keen foodies – in the nice way, lately the term has become something that is less than complimentary, implying snobbery and elitism. That is certainly not true of my friends who are as at home in a Wetherspoon’s pub as they are in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Anyhoos, Karen wrote me a lovely piece on her culinary adventures in Cornwall, with reviews of some of the places she went to. The tourism industry is alive and well in Cornwall, which means there are many, many places to eat.

Some of those places take advantage of the hungry hordes and trade off well-established names (ahem!) whilst others go out of their way to provide delicious, exciting food and are happy to cater for special diets. Karen’s a coeliac (celiac my American friends; your spelling makes much more sense*).

Take it away Karen…

The Metropole Hotel, Padstow

After spotting an advert in the local paper, we headed to this wonderful hotel for a spot of lunch and ended up having a 3-course lunch for £10! Absolutely amazing value and wonderful food. So good in fact, we booked for the following week…

Second time round, we both had mackerel pate on toast. As I hadn’t specified I need gluten-free, I just skipped the toast, but the pate was just delightful – just the right amount of seasoning and a lovely taste of mackerel.

For mains, my partner had fish which was cooked perfectly and well-seasoned, while I had gluten-free pasta in cream sauce, which was delicious – if rather heavy for lunch. I did mange to finish it though…

We both had lemon posset with blackberry ice cream and home made short-bread for pudding. I had a wee bite of the short-bread as it wasn’t gluten free, and it tasted delicious and buttery with just the right bite. The lemon posset was a revelation – smooth, creamy and very tangy too. It worked so well with blackberry ice cream.

We would thoroughly recommend the place. It cost us only £10 for three courses and our bill on both days came to only £26.20 as we had water and coffee at the end of the meal. Service was excellent, efficient and very friendly – the hotel is a must is anyone is in Padstow. It is a special offer though – and only on a Wednesday.

No. 6 Padstow

To start with we had a couple of cocktails: Dirty Martini for my partner, which was almost pure alcohol, and I had a Dry Manhattan which was exquisite, very drinkable.

Starters: My partner had smoked haddock with Stornoway black pudding. This was what he had the year before and loved it, but this year he was a bit disappointed as the chef had changed it slightly… (why, why do they do that??) The poached egg on top was slightly over-cooked and it didn’t run out like it did the year before. The dish was over-seasoned, although that could have been down to the fish.

I had goose and pickles. This was goose liver parfait with clotted crème brioche. Smooth parfait, exquisite pickled veg which were small pieces of cucumber, courgette, cauliflower and just the right taste of pickling liquor. The brioche (not gluten free) was melt in the mouth fantastic, definitely worth the tummy ache the following day (and that was only because it was not gluten free).

Mains: My partner had saddle of pork (served pink) with scallop and pea puree, and medley of hazelnut spring (peas, asparagus, green beans and raddish), and pork scratching. He was advised on ordering that the pork would be served pink. He loved it.  The dish also contained slices of apple (paper thin slices) to complement the pork and it worked really well. The pork was delicious and cut like a knife through butter, very moist and tasty.

I had Moorland lamb with hogget** pie, broccoli and salse verde and lamb reduction. Oh that was a divine dish! The real revelation was the hogget pie. I’ve never had hogget before and it was gorgeous, so full of flavour and the pie had pieces of lamb kidneys in it which is not something I normally like, but these were so tasty and complemented the hogget beautifully. The lamb was served pink and was very tender. It was a wonderful main meal, one not to be easily forgotten…

Desserts: We both had Chocolate “Cake”. This was recommended to us by our taxi driver and he was spot on. It consisted of pistachio and chocolate slice topped with pistachio nuts, chocolate ice cream on a bed of chocolate soil. There was also a chocolate sponge with a disc of Caramac on top.

When he presented the dish, the waiter poured hot Caramac sauce onto the disc and we sat there and watched it melt into the sponge to reveal a gooey chocolate fondant inside.  It sounds rather heavy but it was not. Surprisingly it all worked well and was actually quite light, but a definite chocolate lover’s delight.

We ended the meal with a cheese board which had six British cheeses on it. Our favourite was the Tunworth cheese. This is an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Somerset and is full flavoured with a hint of cabbage overtones – sounds weird but it worked brilliantly.

A truly brilliant meal, well worth a visit. Paul Ainsworth has a great knack of putting ordinary ingredients together and turning out sensational flavours and mouth watering meat dishes.  Our bread was home made potato and rosemary and then onion bread (gluten free was not an option on that night as I didn’t want to miss out on anything). Bread was lovely and served with Cornish butter and cod roe, mmm

So there you go. Should you ever be in the Padstow area, you’ll now where to go and when. I like any place that serves up six different kinds of cheese for a cheese board, so pennies and time permitting, my next culinary destination may well be Number 6.



*Read Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series for his explanation of the missing ‘u’ from American spellings of flavour, neighbour etc. It’s hilarious…

**Hogget is the name for a sheep between lamb and mutton stage. A teenage sheep, I guess.

I’d Like to Thank My Mum & Dad, My Fiance and My Cat…

Ooh, is there anything nicer than putting up a wee rosette on your blog?!

Ooh, is there anything nicer than putting up a wee rosette on your blog?!

Some time ago, a very nice lady called Jenny let me know she had nominated me for a Liebster award. I read her words, gasped with excitement and said to my hubbie-to-be – “Best we clear space on that awards shelf mister, another bauble is about to join it!”

Reader, I exaggerate. The awards shelf is not full to bulging. It does not, in fact, exist. In timely fashion (not), I am now taking advantage of this lovely opportunity. Jenny asked interesting questions as part of her nomination and I’m answering them below and welcoming you to the world of moi.

The rules of the Liebster award are:

  1. Cope and paste the award on your blog and say muchos gracias to the lovely person who nominated you. Of course you include a link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions from the person who nominated you, list 11 random facts about yourself and come up with 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs with 200 or less followers who you think deserve attention and leave a comment on their blog letting them know what you’ve done.
  1. If you could be a superhero for just one day, who would it be?Wonderwoman. Even though I’m er… a lady of 35+. That costume…
  2. What are your 5 favourite films?Ooh, it changes from day to day. I did see The Place Beyond The Pines yesterday and enjoyed that.
  3. What food or drink could you not live without?Cheese and red wine. Preferably together and in splendidly large quantities.
  4. Have you ever met anyone famous?Erm, does ‘meet’ include standing gawping at someone who has just passed you on the street in a very obvious and embarrassing way? Me and the rich and famous are not natural partners…
  5. Have you got anything exciting planned for 2013?I’m getting married, hooray!
  6. Where has been your favourite place to visit?I love visiting places in general, but if there is delicious food attached then my excitement levels go slightly out of control.
  7. If you were in charge and you could get anything banned forever, what would it be?Rudeness, which can cover everything. It is rude to assault, kill, invade countries etc.
  8. Are you addicted to social media?Sadly yes. For someone whose attention span is approximately… ooh, status update what’s Julie up to now, whoops, sorry about that, got distracted there… very, very short, social media is ideal!
  9. Do you have any phobias?Not a one. I am fear free.
  10. Did you want to change your name as a child?A multiple syllabled option would have been good, preferably with a French-sounding surname too. Charlotte De Guyseuse, as something rather more exotic sounding than my own humble moniker.
  11. Are we human, or are we dancers?

We’re dancers of course!

Random facts:

  • I twirl my hair obsessively
  • I can get on and off a fast-moving treadmill (so I could audition for a stunt woman in an action film)
  • I eat peanut butter BY THE JAR
  • I was born on St Patrick’s Day
  • I have run a half-marathon
  • I have walked a half-marathon (I preferred the run one, actually)
  • My cat sleeps on my bed
  • I have gone for a run in five different countries
  • I have ridden a camel
  • I have started (but sadly not finished) two books by Russian authors
  • I know an awful lot about the Tudors.

My nominees all get to answer food questions!

  1. If you were a cake, which one would you be?
  2. Butter icing, or sugar frosting?
  3. What is the weirdest food combination you like?
  4. The world is about to run out of crisp flavours and producers will now only make one kind; which will it be?
  5. Have you ever eaten in a Michelin-starred restaurant and if so where?
  6. How many celebrity chef cook books do you own?
  7. What is the most impressive thing you can cook?
  8. What is your fail-safe date menu?
  9. Sweet or savoury?
  10. What % of cocoa solids should good quality plain chocolate have? and

A Tale of Two Topics


What 500 calories looks like...

What 500 calories looks like…

Today’s blog post focuses on guest lists (urgh) and an update on the 5:2 diet.

When we initially decided to get married, I wanted a very small wedding – close family only and then a party some time later for friends. Simple, non? But working out the logistics of organising two events defeated us and the wedding began to grow arms and legs.

Several months ago, we wrote up the guest list while under the influence of a wine or two. It took on the realms of fantasy – the world and his wife were coming to see me become a wife. My fiance stuck to the sensible, I was scribbling away happily adding the Power Plate guy (I felt I owed him for the stomach muscles I now possess), the people from the corner shop who keep me supplied in diet coke even though I don’t know their full names and several others I haven’t seen in decades.

Needless to say the list was scrapped…

I’d been putting off writing it again, even though I really love writing lists (to do lists feature daily in my life). Necessity has stepped in. The New Lanark Mill Hotel is pretty small and rooms are filling up already. Getting married on a Thursday means people will also need to book time off work.

Plus my sister has been organising my hen party (I’ve mentioned I’d like cheese, wine and possibly chocolate and cakes to be involved and left her to it. It kills me as I’m a bit of a control freak, but if you ask someone to do something for you, best to leave them to it. My sister hasn’t done this before and I think she is finding it quite exciting.) so she’s sent out invites for that. I haven’t yet asked people to save the date so time to face up to my fears of the guest list.

I’ve come to the conclusion that guest lists are easiest when they are either very small (family only) or very large (when you’re a millionaire, say). In between the small and the large is the hell of the ‘who can we cross off this list?’

We wrote them out separately and are excluding children, except for close family. It feels a bit mean, but our numbers are limited to 110 and my theory is that most children get bored at weddings anyway.

Like many people I went to a lot of weddings in my 20s and saw a lot of people marry that I now haven’t seen in at least 10 years. Therefore, I haven’t invited most of them. We’ve decided not to invite most of our cousins either. And we’re rather uncharitably hoping that our currently single friends remain so for the next six months…

And so on to the 5:2 diet! I’m one week into it. The idea is that you eat normally (roughly 2,000-2,500 calories a day) for five days a week and on two days a week you eat 500-600 calories a day. I’d read it described as the easiest and most difficult diet you can follow. Funnily enough, the fasting isn’t as difficult as you might imagine. The second day I did it I felt as if I had greater and sharper mental clarity, which is why fasting is so popular with yogis I suppose.

Cutting to the chase though, I’ve lost three pounds and my stomach feels much, much flatter. Blimey, you don’t get a lot of food for your 500 calories, though! I’ve done it by eating some fruit at lunchtime and then an evening meal and if you’re looking for ideas for low-calories meals, there are some nice ones here. If you’re looking for a great calorie counter try myfitnesspal which has a website and mobile app.

As Christmas and the inevitable over-indulgence rapidly approaches (write cards! Buy presents! Make food! Meet up with various people! Why oh why does December always catch me out?) I thought I’d stick to it for another week or so. Watch this space…





Everything Good Begins with a ‘C’

Chocolate cakes made at the Tennents Training Academy

Chocolate sponge topped with chocolate butter cream, white chocolate sprinkles and chocolate truffles. Mmm-hmm…

Upmarket spa days, cocktail making classes, cupcake decorating lessons or an old-school piss up…

All appear to be options for a hen night. I’d also considered another option – no hen night – thinking along the lines of ‘once again, why this unnecessary encouragement to spend money?’ But friends asked, expectations were raised and yet again the pink, fluffy roller coaster that is wedding planning swooped me up.

Customised t’shirts, pink Stetsons, L plates and handcuffs probably won’t play any part of the night; I also want to keep costs as low as possible so that rules out options too. If I had the space at home, I’d do a home-made option – come round to my house in the afternoon, drink Cava and eat cakes I’ve made.

Alas, chairs are few and we currently own a very badly behaved cat prone to throwing up, knocking over wine glasses and partial to stealing cake off plates. (Seriously, he does.)

At the weekend, my mum, a good friend and I tried out the Tennents Training Academy’s chocolate and champagne evening. We got a one-course meal, two glasses of champagne and a lesson in making and decorating chocolate cakes. Oh, and there were plenty of chocolate sampling options for the cocoa-obsessed punter…

The evening once more confirmed to me my lack of patience (those white chocolate pencils we had to create were flippin’ hard) but was indeed great fun. Since then, I’ve had visions of good, girlie fun in the training academy despite the fact that I have mild anxiety issues around group activities (wah! Too many people! Gotta talk to them all! Are they having fun, oh no they’re really, really bored…)

The academy also does wine tasting so I’m wondering about a bit of cake making in the afternoon with wine in the evening – opt in and opt out so that no-one has to spend too much money. A solution, non?

And finally, after all the sweet stuff we need to include cheese. When human beings stumbled upon the making of cheese, it was among the finest evolutionary discoveries ever. My hen party needs, therefore, to find a way to pay tribute to the world’s most magnificent food…


Let Them Eat (and enjoy) Cake

This isn’t the world’s lightest example of cake

For a recent birthday – in traditional lady fashion I’ll be coy about its numerical value – my sister presented me with a cheesecake.

Not the soft cheese mixed with lavish amounts of cream and sugar version, but a concoction of actual cheeses layered up three-stack and decorated with trails of grapes and bay leaves. It was a thing of beauty and the top tier vanished in precisely 10 minutes (smoked cheddar – the gods of cheese production’s finest hour).

I’d like to replicate this for my wedding day (estimated cost £40), but say I were also to follow the dictates of convention and get a proper wedding cake. What does the budget bride who sadly can’t afford Choccywoccydoodah* do? Obviously, you either make your own [and there are some spectacular examples of cake-making genius here] or find a talented friend who can do it. In the meanwhile, I adapted a Good Housekeeping chocolate brownies** recipe recently and I think that may well be a wedding cake contender, once I spend time practising cake decorating via some online cake decorating tutorials. Dontcha just love the world wide web?


*Amazing, amazing chocolate cake shop in Brighton and London where very talented people do spectacular thing with chocolate and appear on TV showcasing their talents.

**Plain chocolate (85% cocoa solids – now I’m showing off), butter, eggs, sugar, flour, chopped toasted nuts and topped with fudge icing. Yum…