18 July 2010

Days out no 7,342: Whitby

We had a fantastic time in Whitby yesterday. I'd not been for years - mainly because it's quite a hike from Newcastle. There's lots to do though - we headed to the Pannett Art Gallery (part of Whitby Museum) to see an exhibition by Len Tabner. M loved the seascapes and the cases showing his sketchbooks, oil paints and pastels. We speculated whether he'd sketched everything out, and then gone home to his studio to paint - but it turns out most of these pretty enormous canvases were done by Len on site, whether on the deck of a ship or out on the beach. Not sure how he managed it...

Next to the gallery is Pannett Park, which has one of the best children's playgrounds I've seen in a long time. It's all done on a nautical theme - I loved the wooden sea monster hidden in the ground, and the pirate ship that rocked to and fro on springs. Swinging in the hammock made me feel seasick...so let's hope it's *very* calm when we sail from Harwich to Denmark later this summer.

We wandered along the harbour front and found a crab line for Cornwall (may need advice on what to actually do with the damn things if we catch them), and marvelled at the range of tat and Dracula material on display. The pier was great (and extremely windy), and the view out to sea/along the coast was stupendous. The weather did one of those things it often does up on the Northumberland coast in the evening - the wind dropped, the sun came out, and bathed the town in light.

We finished off our day with fish and chips (and mushy peas - M's Grandad will be very proud). A perfect day trip.

14 July 2010

Books, books and more books: food for kids

I got sent a cookbook from the nice people at Little Dish the other day. I have to confess, I'd not heard about them before, probably because (a) M has long since left the days of toddlerdom behind at the grand old age of almost 5 and (b) I've never really gone down the route of ready meals, either for children or grown ups (although fruit purees have been a good lunchbox standby for a long time).

But I'm very glad they did send me the book - the Little Dish Favourites Cookbook - because it's one of the best children's cookbooks I've read for a while. It's that rare beast - a cookbook that has
  • recipes aimed at kids, which the whole family will enjoy
  • recipes that kids can help to make, that aren't just fairy cakes or chocolate cornflakes
The book doesn't have huge numbers of recipes - there's just over 60 - but the ones it does have are simple and easy to understand. Most importantly of all, they're the sort of easy, comforting food that it's a pleasure to make at the end of a long day of chasing about. There's some nice purees and things for early eaters, although if you want an enormous range of combinations you really need the guru herself, Annabel Karmel.

But then there's a whole section on family food - and here's where it scores really highly with me. I'm passionate about the whole family eating together (we do this every day with M - although I realise that we have it fairly easy just dealing with one child, rather than two or more). There's everything from staple Italian favourites like lasagne or meatballs, to some good vegetarian ideas like green pie. I like the way that each recipe tells you how many children/adults/family members it serves - and a lot of the recipes are easy enough that you can really get kids involved in cooking them.

The design's good - although I suspect that some people will find the lack of pictures of the food disconcerting (it doesn't bother me, but then I cook a lot, and have a fair idea of what things should look like at each stage). I do like the fact that it's a very user-friendly book - as well as a decent index, there's a great recipe planner at the back, which divides dishes up into:
  • simple, straightforward, slight degree of complexity
  • make ahead
  • freezes well
  • child participation
  • meal matchers (recipes that go well together)
All in all, it's a great book - and would make a good gift.

13 July 2010

Oh heck

I'm not quite sure how it got to nearly the middle of July without me noticing. Perhaps it was the ridiculous workload (cue usual freelance gripe of having either no work or five projects that ALL NEED FINISHING THIS MINUTE OR ELSE), or maybe it was just my caffeine-induced stupor (I've finally managed to track down a cheap Nespresso machine on eBay).

Anyway, it might at last be time to return to the blogosphere. There's about 500 posts I need to write (including one going back as far as April when we went to Paris, which is just ridiculous). I may have to add them all to my TeuxDeux list.

There's not been much going on over at Recipes for Millie either - I suspect meals in our house haven't been particularly inspired recently. What exotic cooking there has been has been focused on whatever there is going spare at the allotment - so I seem to have made 947 jars of gooseberry jam (well, 14), lots of strawberry jam, and more things involving chard than you can shake a bamboo cane at.

UPDATE: Right, new recipes now include

Gooseberry ice cream
Chorizo and chard tart

To follow soon - a review of a rather fantastic new cookery book from the folks at Little Dish.