What’s cooking? My best secrets shared!

Posted on June 21st, 2011 -

When I reach for the cooking pots the sun is sure to shine! Despite the dismal forecast today, I am once again es conched in the kitchen while the rest of Cornwall is on the beach! Never mind, Surf Club this evening for the children so I will be there too! In the mean time I have been meaning to share some of my cooking secrets, so while they are fresh in my mind and my meals are cooling for the freezer here goes:

Top Tips
1. Never be afraid to experiment, if it sounds a tasty combination or a logical short cut it probably is!

2. Always cook casseroles longer at a lower temperature than it says in any recipe – makes all meat more melt in the mouth

3. Use a large pot, the meat may look lost in a pot at the start but by the time your veg and marinade have all gone in you will be surprised how it all fills up!

4. When cooking for children make the veg pieces small, I often blend into the gravy / sauce or chop into mince size pieces where they are mistaken for meat. My children hate mushrooms and onions, but actually eat them all the time!

5. 1 pot does all! I can’t be doing with the fry this and set aside type recipes. In my experience if you start any casserole by browning the meat, then toss in and mix the flour before adding stock / liquids and chopped veg it will all turn out just fine!

My 2 recipes today are:
Pork in honey Casserole and Gammon in Cider. They are both recipes I have developed over time and they freeze really well.

Pork in honey
Shoulder or leg of pork chopped into chunks
Sauce: Chicken stock, Soy sauce, white wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, brown sugar 
Veg to suit, I have used roughly chopped carrots, mushrooms, onions and potatoes
Method : Just follow my tip 2 and 5 above. That simple!

As the puff pastry is really quick to cook I cook it separately to the casserole and add it on at the end. I usually cheat on this one and use ready to roll but if I run short it is actually very quick and easy to make.

Gammon in Cider
Hock or Gammon joint chopped into large chunks
Sauce: Good cider, tinned chopped tomatoes, paprika
Veg to suit, I have used onions, mushrooms, carrots and garlic
Follow my golden tips 2 and 5 but with gammon I do boil lightly for 10 mins first and drain so as not to make the finished dish too salty
I top this one with creamy mashed potato which goes really well with the sauce

If you are staying with us please help yourself to these meals from the freezer and leave us a note in the book as usual.  Enjoy!

I would love any feedback if you have tried my meals of if you want any more information on them. I haven’t added quantities as I never measure anything and just judge it all based on my meat quantities but do give them a go. They are all simple to make and tasty!

Dear Diary – A Wet Sunday 12th June ’11

Posted on June 12th, 2011 -

I woke this morning to a wet and miserable summer Sunday. After the beautiful and prolonged good weather we have had for months it really was a bit of a shock to the system. As I peered out the window early on to see the rain hammering down on the veranda, I could not possibly have imagined the lovely family day upon which I now find myself reflecting.

Deciding not to be a wimp about the weather I put on my coat and wellies and joined my husband (farmer Nick) for the daily tractor ride where all our newly arrived guests get to be hands on with our animals. Taking pictures in the rain was tricky but I was soon motivated by the determination of our guests to ignore the weather and just enjoy the ride! The funny thing is I really think the children are quite oblivious to the weather. 3 of our children joined in wearing summer gear, crocs and no coats! The guests were more sensibly dressed but again the children were dashing around hunting for an egg and feeding the animals seemingly unaware they were being drenched in the process! 

We have a lovely facebook picture album tell the tail


Here is one of my favourite pics from the feed run album:
Theo and Clio with the polish banthan chicks
After all returning home for coffee and hot chocolate, Nick and Theo drove off to St Austell to buy a new Billy Goat and female in kid while I cracked on with a good old family roast lunch for their return. With all the beautiful weather this year none of us could remember our last family lunch time roast and everyone present (parties, clubs and play dates invariably involve someone!). I am a great believer in family meal times and while it is not practical every day we all enjoy them when we can. It does now take both my ovens to cope with the quantities for a family of 8! It was gone 3pm before our monster roast and my legendary crumble and custard were finished. The rain pitter pattering outside was strangely comforting and helped us all chill and enjoy the time with no urgency to move on (well that and the glass of wine!).

And a cheeky glass of Red for Nick and I!
Mixed fruit crumble and custard – yum!

Theo and Nick took us to see how the new Billy and his girl were settling into their new field after lunch. We were all glad of the walk and pleased to see the new comers looking very happy with their new surroundings and new friends.
Like a true Billy, he really has an unmistakable goatee stink. A good sign we hope for fathering next year’s kids!

Settling in at Coombe Mill!
The children were keen to keep me out on the farm so we went off round the lake where they wanted to show me the mini frogs they have been watching since tadpoles in the spring. It was not a difficult hunt, I couldn’t believe how many there were!
Nice one boys!
Our tour round the carp lake also revealed some naughty escape goats enjoying the lush surroundings! Bold as brass, they were not inclined to move when we came up but instead quite happy for a pat and a cuddle. Houdini has clearly been teaching the others all her special fence hoping tricks!

The sneaky group!
Dusty our kid goat is everyone’s favourite!

We rounded off the afternoon pebble skimming in the river.  One of those challenges where you always want ‘just one more try’ to see if you can beat the record! I have to concede that Theo was better than me however I do suspect he has wasted many an hour practicing before challenging me today! Never the less it was a lovely use of the afternoon and reminded me just how much there is to do at Coombe Mill, even on a wet Sunday. With just a little imagination and there is hours of fun to be had on the farm.

It might not look like a winning pose but it certainly worked!

With all the family now tucked up in bed, and Felix and Theo packed ready for school camp in the morning, I am so pleased we had such a lovely day together here at Coombe Mill. I hope you will have the chance to come and stay with us one day and enjoy all there is to do on the farm, what ever the weather!!

Dear Diary – Cycling the Camel Trail to Padstow 22nd May 2011

Posted on May 23rd, 2011 -

A favourite summer time day out for all our family is cycling the Camel trail to Padstow. You can join the trail anywhere from the start, just a mile from Coombe Mill, to just 2 miles out of Padstow and then cycle right to the heart of the town. We took the bikes with us to Wadebridge and cycled from there. That sounds straight forward but with all 8 of us just getting to Wadebridge with the bikes is quite an achievement. This is definitely a family day for us as Nick fills the trailer with all the bikes and I worry about jumpers, water and sun cream! I don’t think reversing with a large trailer on the back in small lanes will ever make its way up my ‘must learn to do list’!! As for the children, they spend much time dancing around and finding their bikes from the last hedge or field they dumped them in on the farm and not much more!

The trail is ideal for children as it is all off road and flat using the old railway line. The faster ones are quite safe rushing on ahead while I wait back with the slower ones to make sure they all make it. Pasties, chips and ice cream are a great bribe for anyone struggling!
 http://www.cornwall.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=13412 ( more details on the trail itself)

Setting off from Wadebridge
You can hire bikes, buggies, chariots, follow on bikes and more at Wadebridge http://www.bridgebikehire.co.uk/home/
or Bodmin along trail or if you bring them from home we have safe lock ups in the back of our log store or you can keep them on your veranda or in your garden if you prefer.

Dad and Clio en route

“Where are Guy and Jed?”


“There they are…..raced ahead to the
beach searching for treasure!”
There are plenty of bike lock up places in Padstow and lots to do when you arrive. We were running quite late by the time we had finished the feed run and arrived so headed straight for lunch.  I reckon the best Cornish pasties are to be found at the Chough bakery in Padstow, worth the cycle ride just to justify one of these, http://www.thechoughbakery.co.uk/ or if you are looking for fish and chips Rick Stein takes some beating! http://www.rickstein.com/Steins-Fish-and-Chips.html Armed with our purchases (a mix of all of the above!) we headed straight for our secret picnic location, a sheltered fully enclosed area with stunning views out over the estuary.

All hungry for a late lunch

Safely walled and fenced with
all the views

 We found this spot years ago when the children were very young and the lack of railings around the harbour with 6 children under 6 made Padstow far from relaxing. Just let me know if you are staying and heading off there and I will let you into our secret, it makes for a much more relaxing picnic lunch!

All involved!
After lunch I skipped of into town for a brisk browse round the shops, all the lovely surfing and sailing brands can be found here, meanwhile Nick set the children up fishing and crabbing off the slipway. So often we watch others catching crabs while our lines remain empty but not today. The children were thrilled with their bucket of crabs and Felix caught a fish so big it took the silver bate, line and all with it whist being reeled in – or so he and Dad had me believe!

Proof of the catch!

Off duty?

It was such a lovely afternoon when I came back from my quick gallop round the shops Nick was fast asleep on the slipway in the sun while the boys and Clio were still engrossed in their crabbing. I joined them and took in the holiday atmosphere as the Padstow brass band played just behind us…

We headed back after this but if you are making a full day of it then the ferry over to Rock is very regular, the speed boats round the harbour great fun for age 5 and over and the Jubilee Queen is a lovely hour long leisurely cruise out to sea for all ages (we take the grandparents) and you can often spot seals off the side of the boat – we have before! Fishing boat trips are also fun and run from the quay side in the summer months.

Cycling back to Wadebridge the wind was in our favour and we made excellent time. Felix and I decided to help load the others up and cycle the whole way home!

This was the 1st long ride ever for Felix and the 1st time this year for me. We both had a magical time telling stories and I taught Felix to ride no handed too, I am now regarded as a ‘cool Mum’! I was just delighted that with a bit of practice I could still do it myself. More than anything else we both savoured the 1 on 1 time together, these times are precious and so important in a large family. It is a day we will both remember for a long time to come….22 miles on a bike age 11 will be one for ‘big writing’ at school tomorrow!

Me Time, do you get enough?

Posted on May 17th, 2011 -

Juggling parenthood, career, housewife and more as today’s modern, do it all Mummy can be tough and leave you frazzled, torn in many directions and constantly feeling like you are not giving any one area of your life the attention it deserves. If this sounds familiar then you will also know that it can be even harder to justify adding in time for yourself! The guilty thought of time for the things you want to do when everyone and everything is pulling at your every moment can make it all feel too much. I have found over the years that being selfish about time for me actually makes me much better at all the other aspects of my life! I am now quite unashamedly selfish in finding time each day (well most days) for the things that are for me!
What you take time out for is up to you, that you do it is important. For me it is exercise, I don’t run marathons or swim the English Channel but I do enjoy a gentle jog in the morning to sort out my plans for the day or a few lengths of the local pool. It makes me feel good, makes me thankful of all that is truly wonderful in my life and helps me approach all other areas of my life in a positive manner. I don’t resent working late at night if I know I can take time out for me in the morning. It doesn’t have to be exercise, that’s just what works for me, a walk in the park, or relax in the garden with a magazine could be what works for you, just think about what you would really like to do if only you had 1/2 hour and DO IT! Where there is a will there’s a way. If you are a stay at home Mum, try an hour of baby sharing with your friends children so you each get an hour of ‘me time’.

My real ‘Me Time’ treat is a girly spa break! A group of us set this one up a couple years ago for the first time and are now planning our 3rd trip! We come back from one planning the next, the feel good factor of having another trip on the horizon is great for positive thoughts on life! Our secret paradise get a way is The Bay Spa Hotel at Fistral beach Newquay

This close to the beach!

Perfect for us surfer dude Mums, we can watch the waves from our bedrooms and check out the best time to grab our boards! OK. so you are thinking, “jammy mummy, how does she do that one with kids to look after and wow expensive!” Actually they do an amazing Sunday night deal for around £80 per person to include dinner, b&b and wonderful full body massage. Just can’t fault it! As we are staying we get full use of the amazing gym, lovely pool with twinkling lights and water fall and relaxing sauna, steam room and jacuzzi….beam me there now!

the lovely spa pool  

Us girls lost in a cloudy haze of the jacuzzi!

All gym, spa & surfed out &
 enjoying a pre dinner drink
 watching the waves!

For just one night and 2 days our partners manage the kids – we give them plenty of warning and come back so happy and chilled they are almost asking when we are off again!! The Bay Spa cater for families too and have different offers on other nights of the week. Why not treat the family to a night on the end or start of a holiday to Coombe Mill, (just under 1/2 hour from us) then suggest what a good idea it would be to do something similar with your friends!!

I would love to hear your ‘me time’ treats, the little or big things that make you feel really good about life, appreciate your family more and make you a more tolerant person all round .


Cloth nappies or disposables – its YOUR choice!

Posted on May 8th, 2011 -

Times change and ideas change, so like with all advise and suggestions, read mine, steal with pride the ideas you like and use them, then ignore anything you don’t! The important thing is to consider the options, learn from those who have been there, then do what feels right for you and your child!
I was effectively an only child growing up, babies never entered my world before my own and I was clueless in the extreme. It took at least 3 nappy changes in hospital with guidance from the midwife before I was even ready to try on my own! 5 children later I look back and laugh, but we all have to start somewhere!

13 years ago when Alistair was born real nappies were only for the seriously ethical right on ‘weirdo’ types. Consequently, labeling myself as more muddling mainstream, I went straight for disposables. After mastering the technique they really are easy. I wouldn’t blame anyone for taking the ‘easy’ route in motherhood (I did) as there is so much new stuff to get to grips with.

Nick and I with our 6 children 

The 6 hiding under our
 home made changing unit!

In our modern age of environmental awareness where the ‘weirdo’ types are invading the mainstream, I would definitely recommend at least considering cloth nappies. My last 3 children all came as one in the form of triplets just as real nappies were taking off, I ‘poo pooed’ (excuse the pun!) the idea of trying cloth nappies with triplets and now wish I had given the idea a bit more consideration. They have come on so far from the old terry towelling days and are now very competitive on price (saving around £500 per child), much less hassle than you might imagine and much better for our planet! The biggest downside is the initial outlay, but if you can find friends to let you have a try then do give it a go, or if you are coming to Coombe Mill we offer free cloth nappies on trial from lollipop http://www.teamlollipop.co.uk/  to take away the expense of trialing. If you do fancy trying them with us on holiday do remember to pack larger trousers for boys and some dresses for girls as they are more bulky than disposables!

Modern cloth nappy

It’s real nappy week from the 16th May and Green Mums are keen to promote real nappies – Tracy at Green Mums has used cloth nappies on both her children and is happy to give advise. We have teamed up Green Mums to offer a holiday here at Coombe Mill, cloth nappy trials and a wonderful baby and toddler holiday all in one! Visit their site for more details of the competition at http://www.greenmums.co.uk/
Hope to see you at Coombe Mill on holiday soon!