Saturday, 15 September 2018

Slowing Down at Chateau Montfreville

As much as I love a European city break, camping is where it's at for me right now. Longer term readers will know that I am fairly obsessed with camping at West Dean Chilli Fiesta (Summer round-up to follow). This year we extended our UK camping weekend into a French camping week and I don't mean to sound dramatic but it FED MY SOUL. 

Camping holidays have their own pace. You're forced to follow the command of the seasons: wake up with the sun, feel the breeze on your face and the grass (or mud) between your toes. Showering is optional (but encouraged) and campfire food is earned. Fires bowls light up the evenings, the stars come out like never before and you sleep in total darkness. Are you sold yet?

Now I don't want to mislead you. We were definitely not slumming it. Our beautiful campsite was Chateau Montfreville: a freakin' castle. Not only a castle, but the ancestral home of Walt Disney no less. With a turret. I shall go on.

There were real inside showers (oooh, aaah) and proper toilets and washing up facilities in the base of the castle itself. Outhouses contained a small shop, a games room and a log store as well as a small kitchen for the food nights and a long fairy-lit hallway for dining. Whilst there we had a Moule Frites night (vegans read: 'loads of chips') and a pizza night with a real-life-outside-pizza-oven. 

The whole place was beautifully styled by the wonderful hosts. Two pigs, two horses, a donkey, two cats, a dog and some chickens pottered around being idyllic (and cats sneaking into tents). Oh, and there was a pool and hot tub. But it was STILL camping, ok?



Friday, 14 September 2018

Mexican Tortilla Bowls

Sometimes you have to take a cold hard look in the fridge and realise that this week you shopped for no recipes. You picked up the usual weekly stuff (bread, crisps, salad, hummus) and the odd impulsive item (chocolate soya milk, raspberries, agave syrup) but during the week you go through the kitchen to realise that you bought NOTHING that makes ANYTHING.

So it's time to get inventive. This week I had such a day. Luckily, I was feeling super dreamy and wholesome: I had just done Day 2 of Yoga With Adrienne's '10 day Yoga for All' challenge and I was suitably smug about it. I lit some candles in our kitchen/dining room and turned on the chilli fairy lights that encircle our spice rack and created this little number: Mexican Tortilla Bowls with Assorted Sprinkly Accompaniments. 

To make the tortilla bowls (to serve 2) you'll need:

Tortilla wraps (we had 5 left from the week before and they were totally fine)
Tin of kidney beans (or any tinned bean but kidney beans are the cheapest)
Paprika (only use the smoky stuff if you hate food)
Garlic (1 or 2 cloves depending on your near future kissing status)
Tin of sweetcorn
Fresh coriander 
A little bit of any oil that's kicking about
A muffin tin

Some suggested accompaniments:

Hummus (sprinkled with cayenne pepper like my mama learned me)
Romaine lettuce
Avocado (if the Avo Gods have blessed you with a ripe one)
Bell pepper
Lime (do it)

Preheat your oven to 190-ish and put a small pan on a low heat on the hob. Drain and rinse the kidney beans and chuck them enthusiastically into the pan. This is why the phrase 'cookin' on gas' was invented. Put on some music. I'm big into soundtracks right now so it's got to be either the Chef or the Mamma Mia 2 soundtrack. I will not be judged. Crush a clove or two of garlic into the beans. Don't bother removing the skins before sticking them into the crusher. No time. Sprinkle in about a teaspoon of paprika and cook the beans on a low heat for a minute until they start to break up a little. We want to cook out the raw garlic and powdery paprika taste here.

Meanwhile, grab a muffin tray. Brush the whole thing with a very light coating of oil just to stop any sticking. Stack up your tortilla wraps and cut off four edges to make them into squares. Take each square and gently smoosh it into the cups of the muffin tin. When your bean mixture is ready, spoon equally between your cups. For me, one tin of beans filled the five tortilla cups I had made. Drain and tin of sweetcorn and spoon on top.

BONUS RECIPE and very thrifty indeed: lightly oil the offcuts of the tortilla wraps and sprinkle with paprika. Spread these out on the muffin tray between your tortilla cups any way they fit. These will crisp up into lovely tortilla chips. The bendiness of the muffin tray makes the perfect shape for scooping hummus. 

Place the tray in the oven for about fifteen minutes but don't go away because the edges of the wraps can catch really quickly. We just want them to crisp up and for the filling to warm through. If you need to, you can remove the off-cut crisps before the cups are done so they don't get burned. 

Assemble your accoutrement. Cut up romaine lettuce, avocado and pepper. Finely chop some coriander. Chop a lime into squeezable wedges. Dust your hummus with cayenne pepper. Arrange on a tray in little cups for bonus points. 

Remove your cups from the oven and sprinkle with coriander. This whole meal is very sprinkle based. Squeeze with lime, pile up your plate and eat messily.


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