Thursday, 31 May 2012

The beautiful coast of south west Scotland

Last week we spent a couple of relaxing days on the south west coast of Scotland at the Woodland Bay Hotel just outside Girvan in South Ayrshire. After several weeks of very miserable weather here in the UK, the sun finally decided to put in an appearance and certainly managed to time it right - arriving in the mist, we couldn't have asked for more with the warm temperatures around 28C and lots of beautiful blue sky.

Apologies for the (excessive) amount of sunset pics but both evenings were beautiful - you will have to indulge me just this once! It was so nice just to sit on the shoreline at 10pm and gaze at the wonderful changing glow on the horizon.

I will let the pictures show you how chilled-out it was..........

The quayside in Girvan
Looking back towards the town, sea mist coming in
Navigation lights in the harbour
E on the beach with Syd. Ailsa Craig on the left, navigation lights on right.
Syd decided to go for a dip!
Someone making sure we left the car park via the correct exit!
Fishing nets drying on the quayside
Lots of reflections and calm waters
Ailsa Craig, with Arran in the distance, viewed from the beach at Woodland Bay

Syd goes walkabout. Woodland Bay hotel in background.
So calm..........
..........and tranquil
The sun's rays catching the remains of the tide

Our window overlooked the bay and the Isle of Arran.....bliss!

Fishing floats made from discs of tyre
'Rambler' - in for repairs
Ok, it's a bike stand but I liked the fact that it needed no words.
All sorts of different seaweed in beautiful clear water
Croy Bay, next to Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle through the mist
Croy Bay (Ailsa Craig in the distance)

Sunset on the second evening
Ailsa Craig with it's own mist
An oystercatcher looks for his supper

By this time (9.30pm-ish) the sea was like a mill pond

More like 'tropical' than 'Scotland'!
We were watching the sun from behind the rocks when a seal appeared!
Then a nosey oystercatcher!
So hard to believe how wet the weather has been recently


Yep, all in all a wonderfully relaxing couple of days in south west Scotland.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

How to make your own bread

Last year my husband decided he wanted to have a go at breadmaking. We both like to watch cookery programmes, keeping up to date with all the 'usual suspects' (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver,  The Hairy Bikers, Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater etc) and whatever they are creating recipe-wise. We watch Saturday Kitchen too, Masterchef (in it's various forms) and The Great British Bake-off with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whose Easy White Bread recipe is the one that E uses the most after finding that he gets excellent results....and I have to say that I agree! After producing quite a few of these loaves he has made a couple of his own modifications, but other than that it is pretty much the same.

To make this loaf you will need the following......

500g/1lb strong white flour
40g/1½oz soft butter (we also use sunflower margarine)
12g/2 sachets fast action dried yeast
2tsp (we use 1tsp) salt
300ml/10¾oz tepid water
A little olive or sunflower oil

You will also need a small roasting tin or deep dish with half an inch of water in the bottom.

Your oven temperature will need to be 220C or Gas Mk 7 but this doesn't need to go on until halfway through the second proving.

With the flour in a large mixing bowl add your yeast on one side of the flour. Then add your salt on the other side of the flour because to put these two directly together will kill the yeast.

Add the butter.....

........and combine all the ingredients.

Make a well in the centre, add half of the tepid water and start to combine the ingredients.

Then add the rest of the water. At this stage you will need to use your fingers to bring all the ingredients together into a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Use the teaspoon of oil to grease your worksurface and then fold the dough in on itself several times until it is coated in the oil. Knead the dough for 4-5 mins until it starts to become stretchy.

Form the dough into a ball, place it back in the mixing bowl and cover with a teatowel, leaving it to prove at room temperature for an hour........

......after which time it should have at least doubled in size.

The dough should then be turned out on to a floured work surface and kneaded to take out all the air.

Form the dough into it's final loaf shape and add the desired pattern.

Place the dough on a floured or non-stick baking tray and leave to prove for a further hour under the teatowel........

........after which time it will have doubled in size again! (and you should have had your oven pre-heating).

Sprinkle some flour on top of the dough and then put tray into the oven on the middle shelf. You should now put the dish of water in the bottom of the oven - this creates steam which gives the baked loaf a nice crisp crust.

Bake the loaf for 30-40mins or until it has a lovely golden colour.

You can tell if the bread is cooked by holding it upside down in a teatowel (as it will be hot!) and tapping the base, which should sound hollow.

Leave on a wire rack to cool (although it sometimes doesn't get that far in our house, especially if we are having it with homemade soup!)

This recipe and method really does make an excellent loaf that keeps well for several days. Made yesterday, we had some of it for lunch today with tomatoes and Feta cheese and I will be taking some of it to work tomorrow too.

Go on, give it a go!!!