Tag Archives: beer

Welsh Rabbit or is it a Rarebit?

Welsh Rarebit is one of those recipes that people mistake for cheese on toast but it is so much more than that.  Aldin’s cafe in Market Harborough makes a Welsh Rarebit that will have you weeping with joy and scraping furiously at your arteries with a teaspoon, but by Jove it’s worth it.

The dish seems to have originated in the 18th century as a tasty supper or tavern dish.  The origin of the name seems a bit hazy and ‘rarebit’ could have been a version of the word ‘rabbit’.  It may have alluded to the fact that many Welsh people were poor and rarely had meat, and rabbit was considered poor man’s meat.  It all sounds a bit tenuous to me – we always called it Welsh Rabbit at home.  And frankly, I’m so posh that when I say ‘rabbit’ it sounds like ‘rarebit’ anyway.  I also read a children’s story on The Light Programme.


So much more than cheese on toast

1 x grater
1 x heavy saucepan

2oz / 60g butter
8oz / 240g Cheddar cheese – grated
½ teaspoon English mustard powder
1-2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons beer
4 slices of tasty bread – toasted

Melt the butter in the saucepan over a low heat
Stir in the cheese and mustard until melted– season to taste
If it starts to separate, add the egg yolks one at a time
Stir in the beer
Spread the mixture on the toast and pop under the grill until starting to brown nicely
Alternatively, put the toast on a plate, spread the cheese on top and brown with a kitchen blow torch

Today’s blog is dedicated to Phyllis Browning


Filed under Food, Recipes, Regional, Storecupboard

Excuses Excuses

Forgive my slight tardiness in writing articles so far this year but I do have good reasons. Honest Govs.

Excuse Number 1:
As you know, I have been involved in a battle with the insurance companies regarding the car accident I had on 27th October.  The girl who hit me who, at the time of the accident admitted liability, later claimed that we were both at fault, and is now claiming that it was not her fault at all, that she was stationary and I hit her.  This has involved many ‘phone calls and a lot of paperwork.

My courtesy car has been withdrawn because the insurance company are not certain that they’ll recoup their money (3rd Party you see) and I was left without a vehicle.  I have therefore been obliged to pay for the repairs myself while the insurance companies fight it out and decide whether or not to take it to court.  I am very fortunate that I have the best mechanics in the world (GA Autocare in Desborough) who have done a fantastic job at a very reasonable price.  However, it’s still money I didn’t have sitting around idle, so please all keep your fingers crossed for a speedy resolution.

Excuse Number 2:
Boy the Elder took the entrance exam for the second Grammar School, passed (hurrah) and was immediately  recalled for interview.  We were both very anxious about it and trying not to let it show.  The first part of the interview was the “Are you a decent sort of chap?” sort which wasn’t a problem.  The second part was completely unexpected as they started asking him difficult maths questions and asking in depth questions about ‘Macbeth’.  BTE realised there was a problem when they kept calling him ‘Tom’ and it transpired that they had been scrutinising him based on someone else’s paper.

Regarding Macbeth, he hadn’t covered any of the stuff they asked him and he was too embarrassed to explain to them that this was because his English classes are so frequently disrupted that no-one can keep track of what they’ve done.  He came out of the interview in tears because he felt he had done so badly, although he is a bit of an emotional sort and felt much better about it by the evening.

We are now waiting.  My friend told me that there are only three places available for Year 9 so I can’t imagine that they’d give one of those places to a non-fee payer but you never know.  Please keep another set of fingers crossed for this one too.

Excuse Number 3:
Due to changing circumstances, I have had to make a very big decision about whether to declare myself self employed.  This has involved a lot of soul-searching, lots of meetings with the appropriate organisations, many phone calls to the Inland Revenue and associated bodies etc and an enormous amount of help and support from my friend and mentor at Freelance Unbound.   

This is all extremely exciting and you will be the first to know when the change happens but it also feels as though I’m doing a parachute jump in the dark on the edge of a large city.  I might hit the ground running in a fragrant meadow with only a moderate amount of cow pats.  I might equally break both legs and sustain internal injuries on a trunk road at rush hour.  In Birmingham.  I would be grateful if you would start plaiting your toes.

This has all happened this week.  However, the good news is that today I bought myself a lovely wing-backed fireside chair to replace the oversized and urine-soaked sofa bed which Jeremiah ruined.  I spent the afternoon curled up in it, with chocolate and large mugs of tea, watching Stephen Poliakoff’s wonderful film ‘The Lost Prince’.

I also discovered a bottle of one of my favourite beers, The Langton Brewery’s Inclined Plane’ lurking in the back of the larder and I am enjoying it whilst writing this blog.  Feel much better now.


Filed under Education, Life in general

Inclined to take the air : The Foxton Locks Inclined Plane

This afternoon, the boys and I went for our first After School Walk of the year.  I always feel that after a day of sitting in classrooms or scrubbing houses, we all need a breath of fresh air before embarking on the end of the day chores such as tidying bedrooms, doing homework, cooking dinner and writing scintillating blogs.  One of our favourite local beauty spots is Foxton Locks (in Leicestershire for my overseas readers).

The lock system on this part of the Grand Union Canal is a wonder of engineering. I get rather excited about engineering I’m afraid; show me a Cornish beam engine and I’ll be entertained for ages as long as it involves a cup of tea and a slice of jam sponge at some point in the proceedings, but I digress.  In many cities and towns, the canals are often dirty, neglected and silted up, but in the 18th and 19th centuries, the canals provided two thousand miles of ‘motorways’ that allowed the transport of goods which kept the shops, industries and economy going.

Most canals were cut before mechanical tools were invented and thousands of navvies (from the word ‘navigation’) created the waterways using shovels, picks, barrows and horses.  Early canals followed the contours of the landscape, but as more and more goods were transported this way, it became necessary to construct flights of locks, aqueducts and tunnels to speed things up.

In 1810, an engineer called Benjamin Bevin designed a staircase of two sets of five locks which take boats up and down the 75 feet between the top and bottom of the steep hill at Foxton.  A trip through these ten locks takes about 45 minutes, but if there are lots of other boats queuing up it can take half a day.  This is the largest flight of locks on the English canal system and is a marvellous sight.

However, by the end of the 19th century, the canal was in poor condition and, coupled with the coming of the railways, competition for methods of transport was stiff.  Steam tugs had arrived and companies needed wider barges to carry coal from the north to the London factories.

The decision was taken to build an inclined plane.  This was a counter balanced lift with two huge tanks, each of which could carry two narrow boats or one wide barge, weighing 230 tons, up a 1:4 gradient.  Once the boats were inside the giant metal tanks (or caissons), the guillotine gates closed keeping the water inside the tanks.  A huge winding drum at the top of the slope reeled in the thick steel cable attached to the upward moving tank, whilst at the same time letting out the cable attached to the descending tank.  The whole wondrous thing was powered by a 25 horsepower steam engine and took just 12 minutes.  The rails upon which the tanks moved were taken from Brunel’s defunct broad gauge railway.

Unfortunately, the Foxton Inclined Plane had been built on the understanding that the canals at both Watford Gap and Foxton would be widened in order to cope with the increased traffic, but the widening never happened and the lift became uneconomic (plus ca change) and it was decommissioned in 1911.  It was maintained for a few years but in 1928 the machinery was sold for scrap.

What is left now is a grassy slope with trenches in which The Boys and I play World War I.  This usually consists of them hiding in the trenches while I pretend to be a Sopwith Camel shooting them down like dogs.  This game goes on for hours.  Hours I tell you, but at least there is the promise of a cup of tea and cake or ice cream at the end of it.

The Foxton Inclined Plane Trust is currently fundraising like billy-o to get the Inclined Plane restored as a tourist attraction and educational facility.  For more information click on the link.  Better still, pay it a visit.  There’s a café halfway down, a great spit and sawdust pub that sells good beer called Bridge 61 at the bottom, where they sometimes have live folk music, The Foxton Locks Inn which is more family orientated and the new Boathouse restaurant.  There is also a museum and shop and fantastic views over the Leicestershire countryside.  And did I mention tea and cake?  Oh and bring your own bi-plane.

Shooting them down like dogs


Filed under History, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Transport

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit (and dumplings)

Rabbit is a monumentally overlooked and cheap food.  Even in butchers’ shops, a whole rabbit (prepared) can usually be bought for a couple of quid or one can buy it ready cut up into chunks, although if you live anywhere near someone who goes shooting, I would recommend snuggling up to them and they will surely bag one for you.  The flavour is somewhere between chicken and pheasant and it’s very low in fat.  If you are using a whole rabbit, do just watch out for little bones, just as you would with any small game. Just for interest, the correct term for gutting a rabbit is ‘paunching’. 

Incidentally, don’t be afraid of dumplings.  They key to making them light is not to overwork them; use quick light movements, lifting the mixture into the air and they will be deliciously fluffy.  If you add dumplings, you don’t need potatoes as well (unless you move about more than I do). 

I wish to thank The Mad Hatter’s Wife for the scrumptious rabbit we ate tonight; so delicious was it that I forgot to photograph it before tucking in.


1 x large casserole dish
1 x meat cleaver or large sharp knife
1 x chopping board
1 x vegetable peeler
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x mini chopper for making breadcrumbs

Ingredients for Rabbit Stew:
1 Rabbit – cut into 4 pieces (I would suggest back legs into 2, mid section and front)
2 pints (1 ¼ litres) chicken stock
½ pint (300ml) bitter beer
2 large carrots – chopped into big chunks
2 leeks – sliced
1 small or ½ large swede – peeled and chopped into cubes
1 large parsnip – peeled and chopped into chunks
1 heaped tblspn parsley
1 flat tblspn thyme
Plain flour for coating
2 tblspn oil for frying

Ingredients for dumplings:
4oz (120g) self raising flour
4oz (120g) fresh white breadcrumbs
4oz (120g) beef suet (can be substituted with vegetable suet)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tblespn fresh
1 tsp thyme (double it for fresh)
1 tsp sage (as above)

Heat the oil in the casserole dish
Coat the rabbit in the flour and brown quickly in the pan
Add the stock and the beer
Add the vegetables and herbs
Cover the casserole dish and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes

Meanwhile make the dumplings
Put the flour, breadcrumbs, suet and herbs into a bowl and mix thoroughly
Beat the eggs and pour into the flour mixture
Mix thoroughly but lightly with your hands, lifting the mixture into the air.  Don’t do this for long or the dumplings will be stodgy
Divide the mixture into four and then make four dumplings from each piece
After the stew has cooked for 20 minutes, put the dumplings on top and cook for a further half hour.
Serve.  I like to serve a nice dark green vegetable with it.  Savoy cabbage or Kale is particularly nice.


Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes