Sausage, butternut squash and kale traybake

11 Nov IMG_7035-0

Super easy to make and delicious. 

Serves 4


1 x pack of chipolata sausages 

1/2 tbsp olive oil 

1 x butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced

1 tsp of cumin seeds

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 x 150g pot natural yoghurt

Juice of 1/2 lemon 

1 x 200g pack of kale 


Preheat oven to 200°, fan 180°, gas mark 6. Put the sausages, squash, cumin, chilli and oil into a large roasting dish. Toss well and roast for 40 minutes, turning halfway through. 

Meanwhile, stir the yoghurt with the garlic, lemon juice and pinch of salt. Put the kale into a colander in the sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over it. Drain.

After the 40 minutes, add the kale to the tin, toss and return to the oven for 5 minutes. 

Serve with the yoghurt drizzled over.  


Italian beef, porcini and red wine stew

9 Nov

This is utterly delicious.  I served it with sweet potato wedges.


1 x 40g pack of dried porcini mushrooms

3 tbsp oil plus more if required

1 x 206g pack cubetti di pancetta

2 kg braising steak, cut into 5 cm pieces

50g butter

2 large onions, halved and sliced

1 tbsp light brown sugar

4 garlic cloves, crushed

75g Plain flour

1 litre beef stock

100ml red wine

100ml port or masala

6 bay leaves

6 sprigs of Thyme, leaves only

2 tbsp Worcester sauce

1 x 200g pack of cooked peeled chestnuts


Put the porcini into a bowl and cover with 250ml of boiled water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, strain the mushrooms through a sieve, catching the liquid in a spare bowl, pressing as much liquid through as possible.  Set aside the mushrooms and strain the soaking liquid through a kitchen paper lined sieve to catch any grit; discard this and set aside the strained liquid.

Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large non stick casserole dish. Add the pancetta and fry for 5 minutes until golden.  Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Brown a few pieces of the steak at a time in the casserole, adding a little more oil if needed. Set aside with the pancetta.

Add 25g of the butter to the pan and gently brown the onions. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and fry until soft and browned.

Heat the oven to 150, fan 130, gas mark 2. Add the garlic to the onions and fry out for 2 minutes.

Add the 50g of the flour, cook out and then add: porcini, bay leaves, thyme leaves, Worcester sauce, beef, pancetta, wine, port and porcini soaking liquid, season well. Bring to the boil and then place in the oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, add chestnuts and place back in oven for another 1 hour until beef is meltingly tender.

In a small bowl, mash together the remaining 25g flour with the remaining butter, softened, using a fork to make a paste. Bring the stew to a simmer on the stove, then stir in the paste, bring back to a simmer and cook out to thicken juices.


Smoky Chipotle Chicken stew

8 Nov

Super easy to make and smells utterly delicious. 


4 tbsp sunflower oil

16 skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets (2 x 615g packs), halved

3 red onions, cut into wedges

2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced

1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp spicy chipotle chilli paste (from a 90g jar)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

2 x 380g cartons black beans, rinsed and drained

300ml chicken stock

coriander leaves, to serve


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, lidded flameproof casserole dish. Season the chicken thigh fillets and brown them in batches over a high heat, removing to a plate as they are done. Preheat the oven to 150°C, fan 130°C, gas 2.

Add the remaining oil to the casserole and cook the onions and red and green peppers over a medium-high heat for about 8 minutes or until starting to colour at the edges. Add the garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle chilli paste and cocoa powder and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to bring out the flavours.

Return the browned chicken to the casserole and stir to coat in the spicy mixture. Add the tomatoes and the rinsed black beans, stock and some seasoning. Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 45 minutes, until the chicken is beautifully tender.



20 Oct IMG_6553-0

I never take for granted living in the Lake District. So glad my ex made me run away to the lakes all those years ago. It’s nice staying away for the night so near to home, playing tourist in your home county. 

I was lucky to have an offer to stay a night at The Duke of Portland Boathouse on the shores of Ullswater.   I have driven past it many times and stopped to take its pic. I was intrigued to see what it was like inside. 

It originally belonged to the 3rd Duke of Portland (1738-1809), but he became involved in a nine-year legal battle with Sir James Lowther over lands in Carlisle they both claimed, and had to sell his Cumbrian assets to save himself from bankruptcy.

Ullswater is my favourite lake, so tranquil and not as busy as its cousins. Wordsworth called Ullswater “the happiest combination of beauty and grandeur, which any of the lakes affords”.  He was right. 

The boathouse has been beautifully renovated. I loved the deep Japanese teak wooden bath, when filled with bubbles I needed a life buoy! 

No better view from the bedroom window. 

Amazing view to wake up to. 

   Luckily I did the naked shot before the hoards of photographers were on the shore at dawn to photograph the house. If you can’t beat them, join them! 

A truly wonderful stay, thank you David from Lake District Holidays for letting me stay at this wonderful property.

A few more snaps, then back to reality to adult day care. 


Hallin Fell – The final one for Ria

19 Oct IMG_6452-0

Hallin fell is a great hill and was my first official wainwright when I started from scratch in Jan 2012.  Earlier this year when walking with Ria, we were having a count up of ones she had left and more importantly what would she finish on?! We said to her Hallin was a great fell and one that her husband Bob (who doesn’t do fellwalking) would enjoy. I said it would be great to go to The Howtown hotel afterwards but if she wanted to do that, had to be ready for final one before the end of October, as the hotel shuts for winter. So with this in mind Ria ticked of the remaining ones and a date was set for the final one! 

As the Twitter walking group social secretary, I said to Ria I would sort it. A few messages and there was 22 and 3 dogs turned up to walk the final wainwright. After squeezing all the cars in the lay-bys just past the Howtown hotel. We set off. 

The plan was to walk round the lake and zig zag our way to the summit. The weather gods were being nice and Ullswater was looking rather lovely. 

 As we made our way along the group split up as we all caught up with each other. 

I had forgotten what a steep drag it was up but that just meant plenty of view stops! 

 Soon the summit was in sight, June and Graham were waiting for us on the top as got delayed travelling down. 

Summit touched and another member of the 214 club. Time to get out the prosecco and brownies!! 

 It is a fabulous summit. Lots of pictures before heading off. 

It’s only about a 15 walk back down to the car and then to the Howtown hotel for walkers reward. 

 Welcome to the club Ria 👏🏻

Halls fell ridge 

19 Oct IMG_6018-0

I have been wanting to do this route up to Blencathra all year. Hall’s Fell Ridge, topping out at the highest point of Blencathra, is as Wainwright describes: “For active walkers and scramblers, this route is positively the finest way to any mountain top in the district” – a very high accolade indeed.Ray our poet reciting fell legend had mentioned doing this route after we had finished the Wainwrights. Being a social butterfly and the weather not being great when we did have time for fells meant it took until October to do this. I text me friend Stewart to see if he wanted to join us as said give me shout when you are going to do it. Stewart takes the most amazing mountain photographs, I was surprised when he said he would come but he got vertigo. He said if I held his hand and fed him brownies, he would survive.

So we arranged to meet at the Blease road carpark at 9, there is parking for about 10 cars and though free (unheard of in the lakes) there is an honesty box. The weather was not looking perfect but there was a promise of the cloud lifting.

It was a gentle ascent up, as we stopped before the first climb admiring the view and Ray relaying a history fact, a man who’d arrived at the same time as us caught us up. As you do in the hills, start talking to random strangers and were having a crack about where we were going. Rob as we found that was his name, wasn’t sure where he was going to walk. So we said we were going up the ridge and was more than happy for him to join us. So he did. We found he was on twitter and followed lots of mutual people! That’s what I love about the fells, it unites people and it’s a very friendly place.

hen we were upon the ridge. I don’t think I would like to on the ridge in wet, windy or icy conditions. It was very tricky in places, there are easier paths you can use if the ridge gets too tricky for you. I do like a good scramble and you need to keep your wits about you. It’s a great ridge and had good views down to Threlkeld and towards Keswick in between the clouds. I would agree with Wainwright it’s a good way to climb to Blencathra. Checked that Stewart was ok and he seemed to be enjoying it. There was still the promise of Brownies to keep him going.

 The ridge done and I had a blonde moment! My sense of direction sometimes is a bit off kilter. I said “looking into the distance, are we going onto Blencathra?” which was met with deafening laughter and me having the piss taken out of me for the rest of the walk. In my defence, when I was last on the summit it was cloudy!! For such a high mountain it has an underwhelming summit marker of a stone circle in the ground. After the laughter stopped we followed the ridge along towards Blease fell and stopped for bait and brownies.

 Refreshed, we followed the clearly marked path down heading back towards the car park. Not a long walk but was quite challenging in parts.  Was very cold on the way back and was glad of my hat and gloves! 

 Of course then it was to head off for our “walkers reward” at the Horse and Farrier in the village of Threlkeld.  


Fell time fun

12 Oct IMG_6279-0

With terrible weather (yes I’m a fair weather walker judge away) and being a social butterfly I had not been fell walking since May.  So with a favourable forecast I text my friend Ria to see what Wainwrights she still had to do. Fellbarrow in the western fells was her penultimate one so that was the plan, plus it’s not far to one of my favourite pubs The Kirkstile Inn. 

I messaged Stu, Ray and Gary to see if they fancied a bimble, quick response was a resounding yes! Think the thought of brownies helped influence their decision hehe. 

So we decided to meet in Thackthwaite, free parking is very limited but we got parked. The weather was stunning. So with the obligatory selfie off we went. 

We decided we would do Low Fell too as was next to it, plus made more of a walk. It was so good to be back out in the fells. Though despite running, I could feel I wasn’t fell fit. It’s a nice gentle walk up. 

We took a small divert off the path to summit Watching Crag which gave you amazing views before the summit of Low Fell. 

The summit of Low Fell is only 423m but has one of the best views down to Crummock water. Perfect place to have a bait stop and brownies. 

Such a gorgeous day, it was a short walk to the summit of Fellbarrow. 213 for Ria. I decided I would try and climb the trig point. We were in ripples of laughter at me trying to do this. But with a leg up from Stu I was the “Angel of the Lakes”. 

Removed from the trig point, we followed the path back down to the car. 

Then the best bit, walkers reward in the Kirkstile Inn. 

It was a great day in the fells, good craic and good company.  One of my favourite walks. So just Hallin fell to do until Ria will be in the 214 club! 

Running challenges

11 Oct IMG_0146-0

Apart from cross country at school I had not really run.  Back in 1997, my husband at the time had put me off cycling for life.  I needed a new exercise to do so I didn’t end up a tubby.  A friend suggested running, so sports bra and new trainers purchased and off I trotted.  I Managed 2 miles without stopping, not too bad I thought and my love of running was born.

I did my first proper event back in 1998, my brother had been diagnosed with Leukaemia, so I ran the Great North Run for Leukaemia research and The Anthony Nolan trust.  He needed a life saving bone marrow transplant, I wasn’t a match, so decided to fundraise instead.  A half marathon is a huge challenge.  I have learnt a lot from my training mistakes over the years.

I did my first marathon when I was 30, I think naivety is a good training tool. As you don’t fully understand the enormity of the task ahead.  The key is balance, whilst training for an event can feel all consuming, you need to still have a life.  If you miss a session it’s ok, don’t try to overtrain to make it up.  Rest is an important part of training, finally listening after my physio friend Graham constantly telling me this.  I have now run 6 half and 4 marathon races. 

Having a race to train for is perfect motivation for getting out. When I was training for London this year, most of the time it was biblical rain and into head winds. But it can’t matter, you just have to put your trainers on and go, skin is waterproof right? 

So with motivation in mind I have set myself quite a task for the months ahead. I had followed with interest people completing this year’s Lakeland 50. The Lakeland 50 is a 50 mile trail race to be completed within 24 hours.  Quite a challenge and as I was poised to enter I thought what the hell am I doing?  Having a slight panic excited feeling as I pressed the enter button.  That’s it I’m in!  The event is very popular and sold out in 6 minutes!  The event is not until July 2016 so I have plenty of time to train.  Allowing time to train is essential to make the arduous task ahead easier.   I am very lucky that I have a friend Kat who is doing the event too and we can train together.  I am really looking forward to running on the trails and Kat is like minded as training runs will involve cake!

After doing the London marathon this year I lost my running mojo, it’s quite nice to not be on the treadmill of a training plan.  But then with an over active knife and fork, I love my food.  Not doing exercise meant piling on the pounds, so running shoes on.  I decided to enter the Lancaster half marathon as a goal to get fit this started me thinking about challenges ahead.

With the long term training goal of next July I am going to run 5 events. Starting with Lancaster half marathon in November, Grizedale trail marathon in February, London marathon in April, the new Brathay half marathon in May and culminating in the Lakeland 50 in July.  I raised money for Brathay. Trust this year and am continuing that again. ;

Brathay trust is a local charity to me.  They are based in Brathay just outside Ambleside.  I was lucky to be invited up for lunch after the marathon to see the work they do first hand and see where the money I raised was being used.  They do such diverse work.  On the day I went, there was a group from John Lewis partnership doing a team building week, a group of teenagers from the Prince’s trust and a family from a deprived area.  The boy in the family was about 5 years old, the look of sheer joy on his face as he experienced splashing in the lake in his wetsuit bought a tear to my eye.  A stark reminder that there are children not as lucky as my 2 stepsons.  The money I hope to raise will help purchase a new minibus, kayaks and canoes and support Brathay’s work with sexually exploited girls, young people leaving care, and vulnerable children and young adults in the Furness area.

I am incredibly honoured to be running the new Brathay Half marathon as number 1! Though I won’t be finishing first.  I ran the full Brathay marathon in 2014, a tough but beautiful course running around the longest lake in The Lake District, Lake Windermere.  No better finishing line in my opinion, running up the drive to Brathay Hall and seeing the lake in front of you.  It’s very special indeed.  2016 is a big year for Brathay, it’s their 70th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of the Brathay marathon.  So this year, they have decided to include a half marathon.  It will follow the marathon course down to Esthwaite water and then back to Brathay, on the way back you will have one of my favourite views of the Langdale pikes to keep you company.  To enter, follow this link.

The event is May 22nd 2016, so if you fancy a challenge, you have ages to train.  Not a runner? Try the coach potato to 5k and build from there

There are lots of training plans out there, I like the Bupa training plans.

So what’s stopping you?? Get your trainers on and let’s run! 


Singapore style prawn laska

9 Oct IMG_5704-0

This is a delicious supper and quite to make. 


1½ tbsp rapeseed oil 
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk

750ml hot chicken stock

1 tbsp soft light brown sugar

3 nests (175g) dried rice noodles

1 x 600g bag frozen raw shell-on jumbo king prawns, defrosted and peeled 

2 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 x 225g tin sliced bamboo shoots, drained

100g fresh beansprouts

5cm piece cucumber, deseeded and cut into thin matchsticks

2 spring onions, trimmed, halved and finely shredded

1 x 31g pack coriander, leaves only

1 small red chilli, thinly sliced

lime wedges, to serve

For the curry paste

3 large dried red chillies, deseeded 

1 large red chilli, deseeded

1 tsp Thai shrimp paste

2 lemongrass stalks, core chopped

15g unsalted cashew nuts

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

25g piece peeled root ginger, roughly chopped

1½ tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

75g shallots, roughly chopped

1½ tbsp sunflower oil


For the curry paste, cover the dried chillies in hot water and leave to soak for 30 minutes or until soft; drain well. In a mini food processor, blend all the curry paste ingredients to a smooth paste, adding a tiny splash of water to get the mixture moving if necessary. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil for the noodles.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan, add the curry paste and fry gently for 3 minutes, stirring, until fragrant. Add the coconut milk, stock and sugar, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Drop the noodles into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes; drain.

Add the prawns, fish sauce and bamboo shoots to the laksa; simmer for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are cooked. Season with salt if necessary.

Divide the noodles between 4 deep bowls, ladle over the laksa and garnish with the beansprouts, cucumber, spring onions, coriander and sliced chilli. Serve with the lime wedges.


The perfect selfie 

12 Sep IMG_4603

It’s fair to say I’m a fan of the selfie. The other day a friend said you’re like the Kim Kardashian of Kendal. Though I’m not quite as prolific at them as my friend Hayley. She has a machine gun finger and I was in awe at her selfie skills. My youngest says she’s my selfie compatible as her “best” side is opposite to mine! Perfect. 

I’m always so critical when it comes to having my picture taken at least with a selfie I can only blame myself. 

The pose

A good angle. Instead of taking the picture head on hold the camera slightly higher than your head so that it’s pointing down on you. It will make your eyes look bigger and face thinner.

Know your “good side” and take the photo from that side of your face. It’s the side of your face that looks the most balanced and symmetrical.

Angle the camera slightly above yourself and taking a picture of your face and chest will highlight your cleavage. 

Facial expression 

Be sure to smile or do something cheerful. A sad face or a frown does not look good. A closed-mouth coy smile can be just as good and just as flattering as a wide, laughing grin. No matter what, a smile is one of the most flattering expressions you can wear. Though some say it’s a bit passé I’m partial to a pouting selfie. 

Always have good light

Good light is a photographers friend.  If you try to take a selfie in a dimly-lit room or one with harsh fluorescent lighting, it won’t turn out the way you want it to. Natural light is the most flattering kind, so try to take your selfie near a window or outdoors. 

Keep the sun or other light source in front of you, a bit above eye level, for the most flattering shot. The light will brighten and soften your features, rather than casting harsh shadows across your face. If it’s off to the side or behind you, you can appear shadowy. 

Don’t use your flash if you can help it. It’ll create a forehead glare, distort your appearance.

As with every selfie taker you need to take at least 20 until you’re happy with one to unleash into the world. 

Full length selfies

You will need to stand in front of a full-length mirror to capture your body from head to foot.

Take full body shots in a clutter-free space. The photo should focus completely on you, not on random objects in the background. People will zoom in to nosey.

You can appear thinner by slightly cocking your hip to the same side you are holding your camera in. Your opposite shoulder should come forward a bit, and your free arm should either dangle to your side or your free hand can rest on your hip, creating a skinny arm.  The chest should lean forward naturally, and the legs should be crossed at the ankle.


Consider the background of your picture. The best selfies have more than just a face. There’s something interesting to look at in the background, too. Whether you take your selfie inside or outdoors, check around you first to see what’s going on in the background. Position yourself so that you’re in front of the background you want people to see.


Before you snap your selfie, take a quick look around to make sure that no one and nothing is lurking in the shadows, waiting to ruin your moment. Though sometimes a photo bomber makes the picture! 

Group selfies – Gelfies

Grab a few more people to be in the photo. The first requirement of a selfie is that you have be in it, but there’s no rule that says you have to be alone! Grab some friends, your dog, and other people to take a picture with you. The picture won’t be as controlled but still fun. Either use a selfie stick or get the person with the longest arms to to take it! 


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