Here’s a beautiful view, taken in Pembrokeshire last week. It’s a blackberry Victoria sponge, with blackberries baked into the cakes and sandwiched with home-made blackberry jam, some extra fresh ones, and a lot of cream.
And here’s a close runner-up – a stonking bit of coastline, on Ramsey Island, just off St David’s, Britain’s smallest city, now owned by the RSPB and home to seven breeding pairs of choughs, and at this time of year, sporting the best heather I’ve ever seen.
NOTHING to eat here, though. Or nothing I’d want to ingest to nourish either my body or my spirit. You know the cliche about Scotland, that Rab C. Nesbitt stereotype where all you can get is chips, baps filled with cheese or ham, all day breakfast? Well, it’s living and breathing in Wales – or this part, anyway.
Seals on Ramsey Island apparently roam as far as France in search of food – and when the guide on the boat told us that, I wished I could have swum that far myself.
Here are some Mummy Seals, great with child, and already planning their escape – after they’ve dropped the sprogs they’ll be off after one month, for a slap-up feast somewhere worth patronising.
For humans, there were those all-day breakfasts and chips with everything, or for those with ‘folding money’ as we had it in Yorkshire in my childhood, bland pasties at the only deli in town. (Which manages to keep open by finding a market for Cafe Direct ground coffee at five pounds fifty a bag – yes, I’m writing it in words so you know I’m not just mis-typing.) Admittedly the Cathedral has a rather nice refectory, as well as some of the most wonderful wooden ceilings I’ve ever seen anywhere:
Maybe a quick look at the outside, too?
On the second day, with some provisions still in the fridge that I’d brought with me, I made a picnic to take out with us: a version of a Yotam Ottolenghi tart, but with tweaks – caramelised garlic, spinach, rosemary and goat’s cheese tart with turmeric pastry. And some leeks (of course), cooked in a retro 1970s way – remember ‘a la Greque’, anyone? And peaches with ham. Here it is.
The weather was blustery, courtesy of Hurricane Bertha, but sunlit and warm.
It’s breathtaking around here if you speak of scenery – the coastline is wonderful, with paths threading between little villages where slate mines closed around a hundred years ago. And that heather…
Hours were spent picking our way along the National Trust coast walk, children bickering about each other’s safety so close to the edge (twins are lovely, but oh how often I thought of Lady Catherine’s comment to Mary: ‘Child, you have delighted us long enough!’).
And the social history makes you think. Tiny one-room slate cottages built in terraces have almost vanished in Abereiddy, the tiny village below our cottage, yet less than a hundred years ago people lived in what nowadays we’d see as a shed. Life expectancy in 1911 was 54 for women, with men managing four years less. Endless child-bearing trumped by life in a wet quarry breaking rock.
But toujours gai – food’s a mood enhancer in my life (how lucky I am, how very, very lucky). I made a courgette bake with salsa verde when I made it back home a couple of days ago – from a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. One of my children asked if we can eat vegetarian all week. That’s never, ever happened before…. hang out the flags (or, since I happen to have a rather apposite image by me, some traditional Welsh tapestry bunting…)
And book for my next popup on Saturday 6th September where I’ll make the Yotam Ottolenghi caramelised garlic tart for the first course – four spaces left, go here to join in!