Not My Fault

We are at the CMC’s caravan site at Stonehaven, the Queen Elizabeth Park or something like that. It is a small site, right on the sea front and just on the edge of town. It was a fifteen minute walk for Mr Snail to the Railway station this morning. from Aberdeen station he took a bus to the infirmary and had plenty of time in hand for his midday appointment..

The appointment went well and he does not have to return for 12 months. The consultant says if we are still in France, so long as he still feels well, Mr Snail can swap the appointment for something more convenient if necessary. So, we may be back here this time next year.

It’s pretty convenient. Sadly the open air salt water pool next door does not open until the end of May but the town has some useful shops and there is an award-winning chippy about 100 metres from the gate.

Today we took a stroll along the cliff path to go and view the Eastern end of the Highland Fault. I was wobbly about the cliff path and Mr Snail was wobbly about the fact that the path skirts the golf course, so we ended up cutting our walk short and not getting to the Point.

We are off to Glenmore tomorrow and staying for two nights. Internet reception there is poor to non-existent… so I’ll do a brief catch up on the week to date right now.

Saturday: rose early to a very grizzly day. Readied the van in very wet conditions and set off in time to grab some brunch at Tesco in Dumfries, where we picked up what few provisions we needed for the week. Rain continued until we reached the upper Clyde Valley, around Crawford, where the sun embraced the landscape to great effect.

Saturday night: wild in the car park at New Lanark Mills. We walked Nell along the Clyde for a while and then I cooked the Gousto meal we had lined up for the evening, a dish of Dal with some spiced Aubergine. All hopes of spotting badgers were dashed by what appeared to be a kids’ party and lots of lights and noise and rushing around. Of course, the smell of curry may have warded the badgers off too!

Sunday:  (ETA material regarding Wilsontown 23/3/17) beautiful morning initially but cloud built as we drove up to Forth.  We rose early and set off without breakfast so as not to be a nuisance in the New Lanark Car Park. We stopped at Wilsontown to walk Nell and to make bacon rolls. It was quite dull by the time that we arrived but we managed to stay dry on both walks, before and after our late breakfast,  and I managed to take a few photographs.

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There is not much remaining of the works but the site is rich with interpretation boards and a number of  quotations engraved on stones give pause for thought. Often the interpretation boards invite one to use imagination to bring to mind an image of the filthy belching plant sited in the middle of nowhere upon the moors. I need no imagination however… I have been to Consett!

After a brief stop at a Lidl somewhere in the Lothians (I forget) a lovely scenic ride up the East Fife coast to Cellardyke in bright sunshine followed. We stayed at the Silverdyke site for two nights. This was the same site that we stopped at on our way South in September/October last year. (This is the point where I discover that I never got round to writing that part of the trip up so I cannot link to it now – I will do it. I will. Soon…ish)

Sunday Night: dinner at The Cellar.

Monday night: Anstruther Fish Bar.

These I will write up separately.

Anstruther

Tuesday: Further good weather for the ride up here to Stonehaven. We stopped in Montrose for some KFC fodder and an item or two from B&Q.

There has been little camera action, I am afraid, and what use the camera has seen has by and large been dedicated to food. I will try to do better.

Stonehaven

As already noted – we depart from here in the morning to do 100-ish miles to Glenmore. We hope to break our journey somewhere interesting with a walk for the dog. We shall be two nights at Glenmore and then will do one further night wild or Britstopping before getting back to base.

Snow is forecast for tomorrow night. Perhaps the photos from Glenmore will be pretty ones!

We shall be busy once we arrive back in Kippford. We need to pack, to post excess baggage home, and to plan our route and stops back up Scotland to the ferry.

Soon be home now!

 

Once more, with Gousto

We treated ourselves to what may be our last Gousto box before we return to Orkney, where they do not deliver. The box arrived today, with four meals therein:

  • Chicken Katsu Curry
  • Rosemary Lamb Meatballs & Mint Sauce
  • Harissa Chorizo With White Bean Mash
  • Two-Lentil Dal & Spiced Aubergine

Tonight we plumped for the Lamb Meatballs, and very good they were too.

Rosemary Lamb Meatballs & Mint Sauce

  • Date made: 8/3/2017
  • Used: Two gas rings and the Remoska
  • I added: nothing 
  • ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Odd as it may seem I do believe that this was the first time that I ever made big meatballs for a meal other than cooking small meatballs in sauce for pasta.

The meatbal mix: lamb mince, panko breadcrumbs, stock cube, rosemary, garlic, seasoning

The timing of this meal was a bit up in the air as I roasted the potatoes in the Remoska and was uncertain how long that they would take. I did expect them to need more than the 20 – 25 minutes suggested time. I elected to leave cooking the carrots and meatballs until the potatoes showed signs of browning.

Meatballs made. Remainder of Rosemary to chop for the potatoes

Due to Mr Snail’s preoccupation with van servicing tasks, the potatoes were in the end really well browned (50 minutes total cooking time.)

Impromptu “Pestle and Mortar” for the Mint Sauce.  Yes. I am a messy cook

The potatoes went onto the Remoska, which I lined with foil.

Prepping the spuds

However when I tested the potatoes to see if they were cooked through, I found that the bottoms had stuck to the foil. I took them out, eased them off, and then chucked them back into the Remoska without the foil.

Ready to roast

I reduced the carrot liquor down to a glaze at the end of cooking

A little sparse-looking on the plate and I should have appreciated a second vegetable

I liked: all of it

I disliked: the usual shortage of accompanying vegetables

Verdict: Quick and easy. Next time I would add a second veg.  Not so sure about adding oil to the mint sauce… it seems unnecessary and adds nothing so far as I could tell.

Order again?: Probably, though it would depend what other dishes were tempting me on any given week

We are thinking probably the Katsu Curry tomorrow…

Curry in favour

Curry-cooking and van life do not sit happily together. Who wants their bedding reeking of curry, when all be said and done. Mr Snail however requires a regular infusion of curry. At home he cooks our curries from scratch and we have a vast collection of spices in our arsenal. Obviously there is no room in the van to carry everything we might need and we are normally parked somewhere far from the kind of shops that offer esoteric foodie ingredients.

There are other aspects of curry-eating that do not work well in a van. Boiling rice, for instance. At home we use the absorption method, which keeps the steam down but in the van we have been trying out various ready-cooked and microwaveable solutions (when on hookup).

We have tried various “cook-in” sauces and have in the past favoured those that come with some dry spices in the lid. Nothing really came up to scratch and we had come to terms with ready meals from the supermarket, though they are by and large disappointing.

Recently I spotted a new product in the shops. New-to-me at least, are the multi-part curry sauce kits now available. They consist of spices and sauces in pouches that need no special storage,but have a long shelf life without additives or preservatives. They have a small pack size and, best of all, produce a meal that closely resembles a fresh-as-a-daisy made-it-myself version.

The Spice Tailor

We have been using the Spice Tailor product, which we buy at Tesco. They cost a whopping £2.89 each but this is also something that we have happily come to terms with. We believe that, in our itinerant tiny-kitchen situation, this is the best way to a decent curry at home. (Waitrose are doing them for £2.00 at the moment and if I had ever seen a Waitrose I’d be in there like a shot to stock up)

Of the ten sauces currently available, we have so far tried three. Previously we have used the Punjabi Tomato and the Souther Pepper variants; tonight it was the turn of the Fiery Goan Curry. All three have been thoroughly delicious and produced curries that tasted as fresh as a made-from-scratch dish. They are a product light years ahead of the standard sauce jar.

The kit comes in a cardboard sleeve that houses two or three plastic pouches. One small pouch has the whole dry spices, including an optional additional chilli, for those who desire some extra heat. A medium sized pouch of “base sauce” may be included (depends on the variety chosen) and this can be used to marinate your chosen ingredient(s) or just cooked in the second stage if you are short on time. The largest pouch contains the “main sauce”.

Open the cardboard sleeve carefully as it bears  the simple three-step instructions. Additionally it suggest variations to the recipe and ways to make it your own.

For the basic dish you will need to add your choice of protein or vegetables.

And it really is simple:

  1. Heat oil in pan and cook the whole spices for 20 seconds
  2. Add the meat (prawns/Veg/Tofu/whatever floats your curry boat but if using fish hold it back for now) and brown lightly before adding the base sauce (unless you used it as a marinade) and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the main sauce (add fish here if using instead of meat) and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until your protein is cooked through.

That’s all that there is to it. Unless you want to complicate it. Confident curry cooks will do their own thing, the nervous cook can take confidence from the suggestions for tailoring the curry that are printed on the packet.

Want to go a step further? The Spice Tailor website has a cookbook using the sauce kits to make up a wide range of dishes –  use the Tikka Masala sauce to make a Pizza, perhaps? Why not – have Remoska, can Pizza!

Our Fiery Goan Curry

Tonight I made a meal with the Fiery Curry Goan kit.

(Standard saucepan on the induction hob)

I used all the whole spices, including the extra chilli and fried them lightly before I added Chicken Thigh Meat, which I had first marinated in the Base Sauce. After frying the meat to seal it, I added some chunky slices of Mushroom before adding the main sauce. Once the chicken was cooked and tender I added thawed Frozen Leaf Spinach and simmered the whole for another couple of minutes whilst I nuked a pouch of Tilda Basmati Rice Aromatic Spices. (Yes, that is a very expensive way to buy rice but once again, it has a small pack size, a long life and takes just two minutes to heat in the microwave and does not add to condensation issues in the van.)

Dinner done. It was delicious. Fiery Goan Chicken with Saag and Mushroom. Better than any ready meal and better than most takeaways and many restaurants. Dare I say it… perhaps even better than some of our homemade efforts too.

No photos, sorry – entirely due to my lack of discipline and the undone washing up filling my tiny worktop. Everything was too disordered.

Pasta Bake

Further Remoska experimentation. Not wholly successful, I’d say, I think that was more my fault than the Remoska’s. The pasta was overcooked and that is just a matter of timing. I think it can be fixed for future attempts.

I seem to have forgotten to take a finished dish photo. This is the point at which the Mozzarella went in

Anyway, this was my first time using the Remoska to cook hob-top type food rather than to bake or grill. Initially things went well and I liked the way that my Chorizo and peppers etc. cooked off in the pan – they were done far more quickly than I expected.

Details, as far as I can remember them, at Rumbletums.

Back in the USSR… er, UK

Having serviced the van at Loughcrew and positively disliking the idea of going cap in hand to request access to the marina yard in order to dump waste, we did not bother to fill and empty and just got away from Carlingford Marina as swiftly as possible. 

It was a glorious morning, bright and sunny with plenty of “seaside clouds” to gaze upon. We were going to cross the border and return to Northern Ireland on our slow journey back to the ferry.

Mr Snail had selected Donaghadee for our next stop in order to add to our list of tested Aires.

The site at Donaghadee Commons is a small sea front unlined car park with public conveniences (not wholly salubrious, reportedly) and a single borne offering two hookups, around 1 Km from the town. Two spaces are marked out for Motorhomes to enable use of the borne and vans are requested to move off the borne point to leave it free after use. It is more of a Motorhome Service Point (as clearly labelled) than a full aire but overnight sleeping in the car park is allowed (free). There is a tennis club adjacent, with floodlighting. Knowing this can assist with selecting a spot in which to park…

Tokens for the borne are available from a bar/restaurant in Donaghadee – Pier 36 – which is happily the first hostelry reached when walking into town along the footpath on the sea front.

Vincent at Donaghadee Commons – follow the path to the left to go fetch tokens or to sup Guinness…

We did not need to service the van and so parked away from the service point. The view across the sea included the Rhinns of Galloway and the Mull of Kintyre, but the Isle of Man was lost in the mist.

The area was extremely busy with dog walkers.

A very well kept harbour

We walked into Donaghadee for  a look around. A little more seaside-ish than Carlingford but far less commercial than Bundoran and overall, quite agreeable. The harbour is handsome. The town is a little hit and miss, with some good buildings and a few coffee shops etc. but signs of being run down and businesses going under.

Quite a good-looking town

Offshore are the Copeland Islands. Not sure why they feature on this “manhole cover” (which clearly on revisiting is nothing of the sort)!

Can anyone explain?

I fancied trying out an appealing-looking pub but we didn’t go in.

Note the Tardis-like litter bin

It turned out that this is claimed to be Ireland’s oldest established pub.

This got me very excited… but turned out to be closed

By the time that we navigated a path back to the pier we were both thirsty, so Mr Snail ventured into the aforesaid Pier 36 to see if dogs were allowed in. Dogs are not only allowed in the bar but Nell received a positive welcome, with several pats and a much-needed bowl of water before we got our Guinness.

It was very agreeable in the bar, with a crackling log fire going, and so when the hail storm began outside we did the only sensible thing and ordered more Guinness… and the menu.

After some Pulled Pork Fritters with Guacamole and a plateful of Buttery Champ fully loaded with Char-grilled Chicken breast, Smoky Bacon, Cheese and Tobacco Onions I was more than ready for a brisk walk back to the van. The storm had passed over, was on its way to Scotland and the daylight was starting to fade – a combination that yielded a wonderful skyscape that no camera had a hope of capturing the essence of.

What a sky

Back at the van we sat up front in the cab seats, watching the last of the colour fade and the light go. We sat there long after the distant lights of boats and Scottish lighthouses appeared, observing planes coming in to land at Belfast.