This weekend was predicted as the last BBQ weekend of the year. Saturday was a little dismal and overcast, but by 11 a.m. on sunday, the sun beams were visible through a hazy blue sky and we bundled M and a picnic into the car and drove into Wales.
Our destinations were Raglan and Usk castles, about 40 miles away.
L and I had previously visited the fortress that is Raglan, but we were delighted to take M for a run around the curtain walls. Raglan has a vast hexagonal keep with a water filled moat and upon painting all the features to M, she repeated 'Moo' for moat. It is lovely to hear children's interpretations of words and I'm sure those of you with children will remember the excitement fondly.
Usk castle is privately owned. The grounds of the ruin are almost littered with hippish ornaments and deliberately placed plants. As you walk up to the castle gate, a sign warns of two geese on guard, and sure enough, as we pushed it open, there they were.
We found a bench, laid out the picnic blanket and began to dish out our sandwiches. The rustling of L's crisp bag awakened a second castle garrision and we suddenly realised that three chickens and their cockerel king were rushing towards us as if they were a stampede of elephants. It could not have been more ironic that the lunch they were so interested in included egg sandwiches and we felt cruel shaking the rug out once we had hurriedly eaten. They were terribly persistant, harrassing our every mouthful and one even took bread straight from M's hand. Perhaps it didn't help that she was practically offering her food to the hen.
We were subsequently stalked around the castle and although M was excited to run around somewhere new, a quick glance over her shoulder reminded her that this was not her domain and a cold stare from a chicken left her a little over whelmed and we left soon afterwards.
Exhausted from our our travels and an early morning wake up from the baby, we arrived at home wanting little more than a cup of tea and light evening meal followed by an early night.
Goat's cheese crostini with herbed orchard fruits
100g ripe goat's cheese log
1 small pain flute
2tbsp agave nectar
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5.
Slice the pain flute into slanted rounds and place them on a baking tray. Set aside.
Wash the apple and the pear and pat dry.
Slice the fruits as thinly as you can, use a mandolin if you prefer, so they are no more than 3mm thick. Repeat the process on both sides until you reach the pips.
Scatter the fruit into a second baking tray with a rim.
Drizzle the agave nectar over and strip the rosemary twig over the fruits.
Cook the fruit on the topshelf in the oven for 10mins until soft and some are just beginning to crisp. Place the slices of bread on the lower shelf to warm through and turn after five minutes.
Slice the goats cheese into rounds.
When cooked, remove the bread to plates and place a cheese disk on top of each.
Transfer some of the cooked fruits onto the top of the cheese with rosemary and any juices that may have formed.
Serve immediately with a simply dressed crisp green salad.