Monday, 29 June 2015

A Surprisingly Good Welsh Leek and Cheese Toasty

A Surprisingly Good Welsh Leek and Cheese Toasty

Welsh Leeks and Cheese Toasty

Welsh leeks, Double Cream, Crusty Bread and Double Gloucester Cheese

I was scrabbling around the other day thinking what we could have for a quick snack and and found this recipe for leek and cheese toasty.  I was a bit sceptical about it especially considering the amount of leeks suggested but boy was I surprised by the result.  This is an extremely tasty snack which I can highly recommend.

Serves 2

20g butter
2 Medium Leeks (being Welsh I would recommend using leeks from Wales, these came from Pembroke, but any good quality leeks will do)
1 tsp of dry thyme or a couple of sprigs of fresh, leaves only roughly chopped
3 tbs double cream
70g (I would recommend Caerphilly cheese but a strong Cheddar or Double Gloucester which I used because this was all I had left in the fridge, will do)
2 slices of good quality crusty bread
Pinch of salt and pepper to taste
Sweat the leeks
Melt the butter over a medium heat and add the leeks.  Once you hear them starting to sizzle turn the heat down and sweat gently, stirring often, for roughly 10 minutes or until they are tender.

Stir in the thyme, add the double cream and cook for a further minute or so until the cream is bubbling slightly.

Remove from the heat and add two thirds of the cheese, add salt and pepper to taste and stir.

Toast the bread lightly under the grill, when golden brown, remove and spread the leek and cheese mixture generously over the toast. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and replace under the heat and grill until the cheese is bubbling.  Serve immediately with a side salad and enjoy.

Add remaining cheese and grill

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Peacocks, Pheasants and Rabbits end of week 4 Cycle Training

Peacocks, Pheasants and Rabbits end of week 4 Cycle Training

19th June 2015

Afon Clywedog River

5.30am start with 10.3C showing on Pentre Motors Garage electronic display outside the building as I cycled past on my last ride on week 4 of my training schedule. Within a mile I cross over the bridge spanning the Clywedog river before I turn on my usual route towards Rhewl.  But this morning, as I am away over the weekend, I woun't be turning back when reaching Llanbedr but carrying on to Llanelidan, a 27 round trip.

Capel Rhewl
After 3 miles I passed the Rhewl Grade II listed Chapel built in 1844.  Luckily being attractive as a building is not prerequisite to being listed.   From here I head towards Llanbedr.

Llanelidan lies in the foothills of the distant hills
At this time of morning it is amazing how much wildlife is out and about.  Rabbits as already described in a previous blog are out in their hundreds, but also pheasants aplenty having missed the guns of the local shoots, a number of buzzards out early to get some of the rabbits but also herons patiently fishing, rooks, blackbirds, collard pigeons, thrushes and more.

After 5 miles I pass through Llanbedr and this is where my journey takes a turn south instead of my usual route back home.  I head towards Graigfechan with its excellent Three Pigeon Pub that serves Real Ales.

Three Pigeon Pub

This is where I came across a bird I did not expect to see this time or any time of the morning on the back roads of Wales, a Peacock.  This resplendent bird with shimmering feathers calmly sat on a garden wall as I cycled past. 

A mile later I passed Pentecelyn school which is shamefully under threat of closure by Denbighshire County Council.  This Welsh Medium School could possibly disappear in the next year, another blow to the Welsh language.

Ysgol (school) Pentrcelyn
Not far to Llanelidan

Once past Pentrecelyn I crossed the main Rhuthun to Wrexham road and head towards Llanelidan with 3 miles to go.

With the miles quickly disappearing I come into the old village of Llanelidan with its old pub, Leyland Arms which dates back to 1354. This is my half way point and I finally turn towards home.

View back down the Vale of Clwyd from Llanelidan towards Rhuthun

Once again I am amazed at the rolling beautiful green fields that makes up this land of ours that can only be truly be appreciate when you take time to cycle through it. After a mile from the village I join the main road from Corwen that leads into Rhuthun itself.

The road through Pwllglas
As I am now heading back down the Vale my speed picks up and I quickly pass through Pwllglas and a few miles later enter the medieval town of Rhuthun and into it's square with St. Peter's Church dominating one end of it.

Instead of carrying on the main road which would have brought me quickly home I decide to take the more peaceful back road to Gellifor, then to Llandyrnog and over the river Clwyd.  After 27 miles I arrived home, quick shower, breakfast and work another weeks training over.
Bridge over the River Clwyd with my faithful bike

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Tomato and Garlic

Bruschetta with Mozzarella, Tomato and Garlic

Crusty bread, tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil

This is such a tasty, simple snack that you can put together in no time.   It is a fabulous combination of fruity olive oil, crunchy fresh bread smothered with ripe baby tomatoes, garlic plus a slight peppery taste of basil topped with mozzarella

Ingredients Serves 4
125g Mozzarella Cheese
1 loaf of white crusty fresh bread
3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
14 baby tomatoes
20 basil leaves
salt and pepper to season
1tbs olive oil (Additional oil will be required for the bread)

Place the garlic, tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil and a twist of salt and pepper to season in a food processor and blitz till you have a smooth consistence.  Leave to stand and after a couple of minutes it will naturally thicken

Sliced white bread smothered with olive oil
Next slice the bread (2 pieces per person) and place on a grilling tray.  Smother the bread either side with olive oil, use your finger to gentle work the oil into the bread to cover the whole surface area. Then place under the grill and toast both sides till golden brown.

Spread generous amounts of the tomato, basil and garlic mix onto the bread, ensure you have the whole surface area covered, otherwise the bread will burn and then place under the grill again.  After about a minute when the the topping is cooked remove and place the sliced mozzarella on top.

Add a little bit more pepper to the mozzarella and return under the grill until the cheese has melted.


Serve the bruschetta with some salad and enjoy the vibrant taste of the garlic combined with the freshness of the basil and tomato. 

Serve with salad, an excellent snack on a warm summer's day.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Up into the land of Chapels and Churches - Week 3 of Cycling Training

Up into the Welsh Hills with 2000 ft ascent - Week 3 of Cycling Training

(to see all articles go to my London 2 Paris Page)

This week I haven't been able to get out during the week but I don't feel too guilty as I have had a couple of sessions on the spinning bike to keep up the training.  Today (14.6.15) I decided to make up for this by doing some hill training.

The aim was to cycle from my home all the way up to the Brennig Reservoir which I cycled around last week. This would take me along back roads through the small hamlets of Prion, Saron and Nantglyn before turning for home travelling through Bylchau and Denbigh.

Before I left I prepared some breast of Welsh lamb rolled up with apricots, rosemary and sage and place it in the oven on a low heat (recipe to follow) with some potatoes and carrots.  It would be something to look forward to when I arrived back home.

Llanrhaeadr Church
I started out mid-morning at a slower than usual pace as I had in front of me a 25 mile route with a 2178ft of ascent (sounds better than 664 meters), that is nearly the same as cycling from Snowdon's car park to the top and back.
First I cycled past our local church with it's famous Jesse Windows and took the next turning up towards the Glyn.  I started climbing almost immediately and for the next couple of hours I would hardly stop climbing.

Y Glyn - Turn left for Prion
Once I reached the small hamlet of The Glyn (Welsh for Glen) I turned left for Prion (which is an old word in Welsh for Perfect) From there it was a slow steady climb all the way up until I reached Pant Pastynnog Church. 

Prion (Pant Pastynnog) Church

On reaching the Church the only consolation I had was the beautiful views I had around me and a hill going down. But this was short lived because at the bottom I saw a road sign indicating a hill in front with 17% gradient.  I was wondering as I turned the corner what a 17% gradient hill looks like, I know now, bloody steep.

Capel Saron (Chapel built in 1908)
With great effort I was able to pull myself to the top and was rewarded with the sight of Saron (Israeli name meaning 'his song') Chapel which was built in 1908 in front of me.  As you are probably aware by now Wales is full of chapels and churches.  From here I turned right towards Nantglyn (Welsh for Stream in the Glen)and after a mile or so was rewarded by the first serious down hill section.  With the wind whistling in my ears I sped down into Nantglyn.  But when there is a down there is always an up.
Road down to Nantglyn
Upon reaching village I turned right to follow the sign for Soar but after only a 1/4 of a mile the road forks and here I see my first sign for the Brennig, 3 miles.  From here on it was again a slow relentless climb all the way to the top.  But once there I was rewarded by stunning views back over Nantglyn towards the Vale of Clwyd and the Clwydian Range in the distance.  Here I stopped for a bite of my small snack bar I had brought with me.  It is one of those with a 'Did you know' caption on it.  It said did you know that an elephant can walk 50 miles in a day.  I felt like screaming 'I'm sure they bloody can they have four legs and probably no hills to climb'.

Looking back down towards Nantglyn and the Clwydian Range in the distance

I cycled on knowing that it would not be long before I reached the half way mark and I could turn my nose for home.  The road now took me into the moors and from lush surrounding I was now surrounded by barren moorland.  In the distance I could see the Sportsman's Arms which use to be the highest and probably most isolated pub in Wales until it was converted into a residential dwelling.

Hiraethog Moors - Sportsman's Arms in the distance
Finally I reached the half way point at a T junction with one road leading to Pentrefoelas and in the other direction to Denbigh and home.

Halfway point, turning right for Denbigh
After a couple of miles of relatively flat road I came to Bylchau and from here on the road was definitely downhill.

The view on my right looked down again into the Vale of Clwyd but I barely noticed it as the miles disappeared quickly under my wheels.  I zoomed past the mile markers 6 then 4, 3 and finally 1 mile to Denbigh.

Only one way is down
Before I new it I was turning a corner in the road and Denbigh Castle loomed up in front of me.  This was a welcome sight but I did not linger as I imagined the pot roasted breast of lamb I had left cooking in the oven.

Denbigh Castle

Three miles later I was back home having notched up another week of training.  After a quick shower I was ready for my sumptuous meal served up with buttered mash.  Well there has to be some rewards for all this effort.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Salmon with black pepper and ginger

Salmon with Black Pepper and Ginger

Ingredients for the sauce, sugar, garlic, lemon, ginger, pepper corns, sesame oil, fish and soy sauce.
Fish is a meat that we often feel should by handled with care and should be accompanied with delicate herbs and sauces, but salmon is one of the exceptions. This recipe is bold and delivers a punch from the combination of fiery pepper corns and the zing of ginger.

This is a very quick and easy super recipe with the salmon only needing about 20 minutes marinading time with a further 15 minutes of cooking time.

Ingredients Serves 4

4 pieces of salmon fillets about 100 to 150g each

1tsp brown sugar
5 cloves of garlic
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbs Soy sauce
1/2 tbs fish sauce
1 1/2 tbs grated fresh ginger 
1 tsp black pepper corns
200ml water

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a food processor and blitz until you have a sauce mixture. Pour the sauce over the salmon and allow to marinade for about 20 minutes.

Salmon with pepper and ginger marinade
After 20 minutes take a heavy based pan and place on a medium heat. Place the salmon and sauce in the pan and once the sauce is bubbling gently, cover and turn the heat down slightly.  Cook until the salmon starts to flake (10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the fillets, add a bit of water if sauce dries up to much). Once the salmon is ready place on a bed of rice and pour over any sauce.  Or for a special dish add some cumin, coriander, peas and sweetcorn to the rice. (see ingredients below)

Rice with Coriander and Cumin

400g Rice
100g peas
100g sweetcorn
6 cardamon pods
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 vegetable stock

Place all the ingredients in either a rice cooker or in a saucepan. Add water to cover until you have one finger thick level of water above the rice.  Cook until rice is ready about 15 minutes.  

Monday, 8 June 2015

End of Week 2 Training with Hiraethog Lakes Bike Ride

End of Week 2 Training with Hiraethog Lakes Bike Ride 

7th June 2015
Llyn Alwen - Alwen Reservoir 

With Snowdonia being so close many people bypass the beautiful jewel of nature which is Hiraethog Moors.  With it stunning landscape, thick forests, tranquil lakes and open spaces it is an ideal location for walks or bike rides.  

Today was one of those beautiful blue sky days when I decided to head out to cycle around one of the reservoirs that is located on the Hiraethog moors. Alwen is not as well known or used as it's sister reservoir, Brenig.  Due to lack of use cycling the 7 miles around this lake can leave you feeling totally alone with nature.  

Part of the track that circles the lake cuts through the local forest.

The track is all off road and undulates as you go along cutting quite often through forest before opening up to open moorland.

Hiraethog Moor

At the end of the lake you cross from one side to the other over an old bridge before you face the most challenging part of the circuit with a climb up to the peak of Mwdwl Eithin.
Bridge over Llyn Alwen - Alwen Reservoir

Once you drop down on an the other side the track becomes level again except for a couple of small climbs and soon you are back at the start after crossing the gravity-arch masonry dam.

Alwen Reservoir 218.jpg
Alwen Dam

After finishing this ride I headed over to Brenig Reservoir to meet up with the rest of the family for a 9 mile bike ride around the larger of the two lakes.  Starting clockwise around the lake the route, for the first few mile or so, shares the road used by cars leaving the cafe area but then the track goes off road.

LLyn Brenir - Brenig Reservoir 
 This first section is the most challenging, especially for younger children, with quite a few small climbs.  But both my daughters managed the route well with very few grumbles.
Williams family on tour around Brenig Reservoir

The vista once you have reached the far end of the lake is stunning especially on such a clear day as today and in the distance the Aran Mountains can be viewed.
Looking down on Brenig Reservoir 

Half way round and heading back towards the lake.

View across Brenig Reservoir 
After dropping back down to the lake we stopped to have a small picnic.  Here we spotted a flock of Canadian and Greylag Geese swimming on the lake and nearer to shore in a pool the children spotted hundreds of tadpoles.

From here the track is much easier and the children sped along and we were soon back in the main car park where unfortunately for us the cafe had closed.  Once we had placed the bikes back on the their rack at the back of the car we headed down to Denbigh were we had an excellent well desreved meal in Con Amici.
Two tired children and or our dog after 9 mile Brenig Reservoir cycle ride 

Friday, 5 June 2015

15.56 miles Cycle Route

15.56 miles Cycle Route

Not many people around this morning when I first started out at 6.07am except for a flight or should that be gulp of swallows above my house.  The weather was better than usual with a beautiful burst of sun braking through the clouds above Moel Famau as I road through Rhewl (3.45 miles)
Sun over Moel Famau

Yes you have guessed it back on my familiar route around the Vale of Clwyd but this morning I have borrowed a watch that tells me my miles and times, exciting stuff!!!

I follow my usual route from home through Rhewl and up to Llanbedr.  The thing I notice more than anything this morning is the amount of rabbits that are out this time of the morning.  They are everywhere, in virtually every field I look and on the roads, there is literally a plague of rabbits in our countryside.  They have obviously recovered well from the myxomatosis that devastated the population a few years ago.  (Must make mental note to have rabbit stew)

Heading back from Llanbedr passed the Golden Lion in Llnagynhafal (where they make an excellent home made fish and chips) I then headed towards Llandyrnog.

Golden Lion Llangynhafal 
After dropping back down to Llandyrnog (10.2 miles from start at 59.32 minutes) I decided to take the road to Denbigh rather than the back road straight to Llanrhaeadr, why I have no idea.  This took me passed the St. Marcella's Church (or Llanfarchell in Welsh) which is a beautiful parish church with views looking back towards Moel Famau. (To find out more go to )

St. Marcella's Church - Llanfarchell (Also known locally as Whichchurch or Eglwys Wen)
Once passed the church I took the first left which dropped me down to Brookhouse Mill (Another good restaurant which is worth visiting) then onto the main road back home which took me according to my watch door to door being 15.56 miles and a time of 1 hour 29 minutes.  I could use this watch to show assent and decent, fastest mile on route ect but that's getting a bit geeky.

Straight in the shower, breakfast of bacon and eggs again (no carbs) then off to work.