Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Posts tagged ‘vacation’

Couch Potato Olympics!

Well !  How tiring was that?  Great to see all the old rockers at the Olympic closing ceremony.  Makes you feel good to have survived without the need for too many non prescription drugs.  And marvel at the superlative effects of looking after yourself with the help of coaches, advisers, managers – and the occasional botox injection if you are a Spice Girl (possibly)?

It just feels supremely ironic that:

  1. Most of us watched prodigious amounts of TV entirely sedentary and now want to become the new fit for GB legacy
  2. The cynics at day 4 (no gold rush yet) have stopped saying ‘told you so’ and now want to bask in the reflected glory?
  3. The best commentators on BBC knew when not to comment
  4. The men cried more than the women
  5. This government is still selling off school playing fields

The Blubolympics one of the Gamesmakers called them.  And wasn’t it wonderful that the longest and most sustained standing ovation was reserved for them?  They really did us proud.

I will not need to stock more Kleenex tissues now – the blubbing is over.  My favourite moment?  Jessica Ennis taking her private moment as she won the 800 metres to cap her glorious Heptathlon victory.  Eyes shut, arms extended and smiling and drinking it all in.  Wow.  And she doesn’t normally win that race – but wanted to put  show on for the fans.  Double wow!

Jessica Ennis flying over the 100m hurdles to take Olympic Heptathlon Gold commemorated on Royal Mail stamp

Yes – we can all buy the stamp (and I bet they sell out as well as the seats did eventually…)

That’s the link if you want to look at the whole range of stamps.


One of the athletes said he wanted to thank two people.  My cynical hat thought here we go – mum, god, coach, EPO or whatever.  Ban that cynical view!  he said “The Gamesmakers and the crowd”.  And, come to think of it – Gamesmakers – what a stunning name for the volunteers?

The other thing that seemed in abundance was sportsmanship.  Astonishing that Victoria Pendleton held aloft the hand of her nemesis the pusher from Australia, Anna Meares, after being relegated in the first session of the Sprint final.  There were many other moments like that (Chris Hoy being hugged by Steve Redgrave, cheers for the brave injured who crossed the line last, Mo Farrah and Usain Bolt doing their opposite trademark poses – and you will all have your faves too).

I’m a football fan, and was desperately trying to Hoover up all the last crumbs of the last day of the games and dip into the Charity Shield match between Chelsea and Man City.  They didn’t feel like they had learned anything from the Olympic spirit.

Can’t wait for the Paralympics now!


Guest Blog – Jay’s Special birthday

Phil made a public promise that there would be an occasional guest blog from me – so here it is – the ramblings of a virgin blogger!

A few weeks ago I had a significant birthday – one of those ones that ends in zero, and having got over the disappointment that I have to wait another 3 years to get my bus pass, I decided that I wanted to spend my birthday walking and camping in the sunshine in the Pyrenees.

A birthday bridge?

If you ever get the chance to go to Andorra – jump at it, it’s beautiful, clean and peaceful and while very few people speak English, they seemed content to let me rabbit on in sentences that mixed my vocabulary from my schoolboy French, German, Spanish and English. So with the help of arm waving and speaking slowly and loudly I assembled the ingredients for my birthday dinner – a superb piece of wild boar Serrano ham, a sheep’s milk hard cheese, some olives, and a few pickles for a starter, and a beautiful piece of steak, some new potatoes and selection of fresh vegetables. Yes you can imagine the gestures and noises to establish that the ham was from a wild boar, and the cheese from a sheep.

On B day minus 1, I found the perfect spot for the special dinner – about 30 minute’s walk from the head of the valley road, fantastic views, a small bridge over a babbling stream of snow melt water, space for a wild camp site and a barbecue base for an open fire – just the party I had imagined.

B day turned into the biggest low pressure system stuck over Andorra, with thunder, lightning and torrential rain – the vision was no longer realistic, the location at least would have to be changed – more arm waving and jumbled languages established that the sun was shining further south and east in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees. So to a camp site run by Frau Grumpy – more of her special brand of customer service in another guest blog.

And to begin…

Well the location had changed but I still had the wild mint and thyme picked the day before, and I had my trusty Primus Eta Express – the best lightweight camp stove I’ve ever owned – boils enough water for a pint mug of tea in less than 2 minutes. But could I still recreate the vision, with a single burner stove and a one litre pot? Or should I take the easy but disappointing option of a one pot stew, or the even easier or more disappointing option from Frau Grumpy’ s camp site “restaurant” of sausage und salat. How did a miserable German end up running a camp site in a beautiful part of Spain?

I can still be a petulant 60 year old child – I had dreamed of steak, minted new potatoes, and roasted vegetables – and Frau Grumpy helped reinforce that desire.

Could the Eta Express deliver – well why would you ever doubt it, just a bit of creative thought required. First almost cook the potatoes with the fresh mountain mint, drain, plate up wrap in a T towel and stuff in the sleeping bag to finish cooking and keep warm. Then with an excellent Spanish olive oil blast the chopped onions, courgette, peppers and mushrooms with some fresh mountain thyme – crunchy and bronzed, and while they keep warm in the cooking pot use the lid to quickly fry off the perfect rare steak.

The main event

Now I was pretty pleased, but of course the 2004 Gran Reserva Rioja may have had something to do with that.

Horse & Groom, Mortimer Common

Sometimes you just come across a pub by sheer luck.  We tend to use the Good Pub Guide – which does take a lot of the hit and miss of taking a chance out of the equation.  It is usually pretty accurate.  But this week we found a lunch time place just by saying “this will have to do”.  That’s how we came up with The Horse and Groom.


Mortimer Common is a pretty village south of Reading.  We were there to update our efforts with Old Bull and Bush – the treatment for our TV prog is out for consideration at the moment.   (see web site – )  Jay and I always had a rule when we set the company up – all meetings had to be in pubs!  That is our only rule in the business.  Bet you wish that was your Mission Statement!!

The specials included Rabbit Ballotine with dumplings.  The dumplings were the European variety – incredibly filling, and a surprise because they look like mashed spud!

A rabbit aside, here.  I was running a course at a local posh hotel this week, and we had dinner.  It was an all female senior management team.  I ordered roast rabbit for starter – and there was a huge protest from all the women! I hoped it was not serious – but they said I couldn’t have a pretty little bunny to eat!  So I had Ham terrine.  I like pigs, both to look at and eat.  But hey, it prevented being sent to Coventry…

Craig and Marcelle run both this pub and The Red Lion close by.  They also have an Michelin level place called The Eagle at Little Coxwell.  That level of food know how shone through in this dish.  Jay and I were really very quiet during lunch.  It was quite splendid.  What was even more impressive was the level of service at this place.  Attentive, attention to detail and a real love of people and food – all of this adds to the experience.  Well worth seeking out.

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