Monday, 29 October 2012


Caramelised Onion, Bacon and Brie Tart that is...

Amazing how foods evoke memories. This one takes me back to the timber deck overlooking my garden at home in Perth, a hot summer evening with the overhead fan whirring above us, enjoying a steak cooked on the BBQ, Brie tart and a nice fresh salad. Throw in a nice crisp white wine and a few good friends and it's a favourite meal.

I only made it once in my four years in Shanghai...Brie was hideously expensive and I only found Filo pastry once in four years. Just as I was leaving I noticed my favourite grocer, Avocado Lady now kept both reasonably priced Brie and Filo  regularly. Typical!

It's not very healthy...but everything in moderation right... love how the recipe uses low fat sour cream, cheese and skim that's going to trade off all the butter and brie calories! I found  4 x 200g Brie at the local Farmer's Market for £2 so I couldn't resist taking a trip down memory crazy not to....

You will need...

6 Sheets Filo Pastry
50gm can use margarine
3 or 4 Medium Onions
3 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
3 Teaspoons Balsamic Vinegar
250g Brie or Camembert cheese (Original recipe says 125g...but trust me 250g is better)
3 Rashers Bacon
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Light Sour Cream
1/4 Cup Skim Milk
30 Reduced Fat Grated Cheese, grated

1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Coat 23cm quiche dish with oil spray
3. Place Filo sheets over base and sides of dish and spray with oil between each layer. Trim.
4. Melt butter in pan and add onions. Fry gently until soft and translucent...about 3 minutes. Add sugar and vinegar. Fry gently a further 5 minutes or until onion is tender and golden. Drain on absorbent paper.

5. Arrange onion over the filo base, followed by a layer of brie and then bacon. Eat the brie that      doesn't quite fit perfectly!

6. Combine eggs, sour cream and milk together. Pour over the filling and sprinkle with the cheese.
7. Bake for 30 minutes or until firm and golden. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

8. Enjoy with grilled steak, or chicken breast, crisp salad and a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc!

9. Go for long walk to use up all those calories!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

The Crown


 On a recent Sunday drive we noticed 'The Crown' in the little village of Cuddington, with a big sign out the front Fish and Chip Friday's 2 for £20. After consulting the Good Beer Guide and finding 'The Crown' listed, Friday's date lunch with the husband now sorted! The Crown is a heritage listed pub with a newly restored thatched roof and nice, cosy interior with interesting prints and ornaments. Lovely atmosphere, quite dark but not dingy, candles lighting the dining area.

Dining room

We grabbed a drink at the bar, my husband having the 'London Pride' which was declared 'well kept' and I had a cider. We headed for our table, which was next to the fireplace which was filled with candles. The menu looked interesting but we both ordered the Fish and Chip special, 2 Fish and Chips with a 1/2 pint of ale/cider/soft drink included. Two huge serves came out, delicious, sweet haddock encased in crisp and non oily batter served on a bed of crunchy chips, with a fabulous made on premises tartare sauce and mushy peas. Was very good, the best Fish and Chips we have had in England and the portions were big. Great value with the drink included and such a lovely atmosphere.

Real Ales

So much so that we broke our rule of not going to the same place twice and we went back to try out the a la carte menu. The car park was full, as was the dining room. We sat at the long oak bar, had a drink and perused the menu until a table became available. Looked great, with a nice selection of Starters or Light Bites, Mains and sides. Lots of specials and desserts on the blackboard. My husband chose a starter, Pan Seared Scallops with seafood and saffron broth and wasabi oil which they happily made into a main size for him. It arrived with six large and succulent scallops in a moreish seafood broth with lots of fresh bread to sop up the broth, yum! I ordered the pan fried Sea Bass, white wine and crab risotto with wilted rocket. Three sizeable pieces of sea bass, perfectly cooked with crispy skin and soft, tender flesh, went perfectly with the crab risotto and the wilted rocket added another dimension, a very nice meal. Was good value both visits, the £20 Fish and Chip meal for two with drinks included is a winner. Mains on the menu range from £9.95 to £14.95. Great pub, nice atmosphere and top quality food. Just need to remember my tripod so I can take decent photos of the food in these very low light pubs!

The Crown, Cuddington

The Crown
Aylesbury Road, Cuddington, Buckinghamshire HP18 0BB
Telephone: 01844 292222

Friday, 26 October 2012

Guiding the way 2

The second book that is guiding my little family to enjoy our new life in the UK is Pet Friendly Places to Stay, a guide to hotels, B&B's and campsites to stay with your pet! You see, our family has expanded by one since our arrival in July, in the form of a now six month old Border Collie Cross. We have no idea how long we will be living in England, could be twelve months, could be twelve years but  want to see as much as we can while we have the chance, so were delighted to find that the dog can join us on our adventures.

The book, like the Good Beer Guide is full of useful information and is separated into counties. It includes hotels, B & B's and camp sites that allow dogs. The facilities available, such as cost per dog per night, exercise areas available, any restrictions and of course what types of pets are allowed. Anything from hamsters to horses, cats, dogs and birds. Also includes a review of the establishment. There is also a list of dog friendly pubs...handy to cross reference with the Good Beer Guide!

My little family recently had a lovely stay at a very dog and people friendly B&B The Gorse Meadow Guest House in the village of Lymington in the New Forest. We found it in the Pet Friendly guide and did a search on Tripadvisor where the reviews were either really good or really bad! We thought we would make our own minds up and are glad we did. Mrs Tee, the owner and mushroom expert has a lovely, quirky Edwardian home in the countryside, which was clean and full of character. Our rooms were nice, upstairs, ours was large and overlooked beautiful countryside, the dog shared a nice downstairs room with the teen and the tween.

Gorse Meadow Lodge

Perfect spot to watch the dogs play

Our dog having a romp with the owner's dog

Morning View from our bedroom window

In the breakfast room

Mrs Tee gave us ideas for places we could go with the dog. We went for wander through Lymington, a Georgian market town and found a great street market that was established way back in the 13th Century. I managed to get myself some waterproof dog walking boots.We then headed to the beach for some exercise and fun at Milford on Sea, before finding The Smugglers Inn, a dog friendly pub to have dinner. After eating we returned to the B&B and settled after a great day out. Had a fabulous breakfast in the morning complete with famous mushrooms and a great chat with Mrs Tee about her very interesting life. Well done Pet Friendly places to stay...big tick for our first weekend adventure with the dog. The Guide makes it so easy to plan a family weekend away with the dog. Pick an area, look in the guide make a phone call or online booking and you are set to go. Looks like we have lots of weekend adventures with the family dog are coming our way. Too easy!

Market Day

Artful onions

Tea Cups

Enjoying the beach

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Year of the Dragon

It is the Chinese Year of the Dragon. The most auspicious in the Chinese zodiac with many Chinese parents eager to have their one child born under this sign. Of the twelve zodiac animals, the Dragon is the only mythical creature making it extra special. Being a Dragon gives you strength and luck. My tweenager was born in the year 2000, making her a Golden Dragon with extra strength, passion and ambition. 

It is a privilege to be born in the year of the Dragon though, it is thought that one's zodiac year is an ominous year. In China, people will wear red as protection to avoid bad things happening to them in their zodiac year. A red cord with your zodiac charm around your wrist, or new red underwear is the custom.

I was happy to see, on arrival in my quiet little English country village, that there are plenty of Dragons around, to help protect my Golden Dragon in her zodiac year.

Of course she still has the red string with Dragon charm can't be too careful!

Guiding the way 1

As an expat, you use many tools to help assimilate into your new environment and culture. Groups, sports, schools, the internet. You would imagine that as an Australian with British heritage it would be easy to move to England ...wrong..the culture is very different and it was actually easier for me to move to China. There you knew it would be a total change of life and the culture is totally different, as opposed to thinking England will be the same as home and finding otherwise!

I have three books that are helping me with the transition! The first is actually my husband's, The Good Beer Guide. Self lists the British pubs where you will find the perfect pint of real ale. A pint of good real ale is quite hard to find and must be "well kept". In Australia a well kept beer means it has been sitting in the beer fridge out the back, chilled and ready for consumption. The beer fridge will have, in close proximity a collection of stubby holders to put your tinny (can) or stubby (bottle) in to keep it cold.

In the UK it appears far more complicated, the beer must be kept at the correct temperature...different for each type of ale, an ale must be served in it's own glass, woe betide the bartender who puts a Timothy Taylor in an Old Crafty Hen glass!  With so many 'rules', The Good Beer guide is now my husband's bible in tracking down the best pubs with 'well kept' ales. Great for getting us out and British Ale connoisseur  husband gets to reacquaint himself with his favourite ales and we all get to see more of the countryside.

The Good Beer Guide has an 'All about Ales' chapter which explains the process of  making the perfect ale, looks to be quite a science. A chapter devoted to no less than a dozen  Britain's classic beer styles from Stouts to Pale Ales and best of all, a list of all the pubs in the UK that serve a well kept ale. Arranged by county, there is a description of each pub and what it has to offer in terms of  beers on tap with easy to read symbols which advise if meals or accommodation are available, if pub is of historical significance  and even if the pub has a log fire...great for winter outings.

We have discovered through The Good Beer Guide,a number of lovely little pubs close to our village that satisfy my husband's desire for a well kept pint or two and my desire for a good meal. Love how all the pubs we have been to will give you a taste of the ale before you buy, to make sure you like it. We have also had some  amazing meals, totally debunking the myth of stodgy British pub food. Look forward to travelling further affield, having lots of adventures while we discover all that this country has to offer with the promise of a well kept ale and a good meal at the end. The trusty guide in the glove box to point us in the right direction.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Dinton Hermit

We have driven by the sign leading to The Dinton Hermit many times since we arrived in the area but havn't had the opportunity to stop  in before. This Friday, we made the time and went in for lunch.

The Dinton Hermit is a lovely 16th century village pub with historical significance.  Local legend, involving  Dinton local, Simon Mayne Jnr, who sat as a King's Judge on the High Commission Court was one of those who signed the King's death warrant for King Charles I execution. Mayne was tried for High Treason and died, a prisoner at the Tower of London. He was bought back to Dinton for burial. His clerk, John Bigg, who was rumoured to be the King's executioner, came to Dinton, became a recluse, lived in a cave near Dinton Hall  and became known as the Dinton Hermit.

A  roaring log fire greeted us and even though it wasn't that chilly we took a seat next to the fire. Service was swift, drink orders taken while we perused the menu. We had a few errands to run so chose to have a quick lunch and ordered a baguette each. My husband had the pan fried local pork sausage with crispy onion and mustard dressing while I ordered the Chicken Piri Piri with sticky tomato relish. Both were very tasty and came served with a side salad and very good fries. Servings were so large we could have shared one dish with ease.

Was a nice country pub with a  relaxed atmosphere and good service, be lovely to sit outside in the large garden on a sunny day. Would be very nice to linger next to that fire on a cold winter's day too. 

Baguettes are all £7.25 and there is a selection of starters, mains and desserts for those wanting something more substantial.

The Dinton Hermit Inn
Water Lane
HP17 8XH

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sunday Morning

Have had a busy few days out having adventures and no time to sit and write, so here are a few photos of my Sunday morning to enjoy before I hit the draft folder!

The fog is lifting

The dew is beautiful

The air is fresh



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Milford on Sea

With a fine weekend forecast our little family decided to make the most of it, so we booked into a puppy friendly B&B and headed for the coast. After a lovely drive through the New Forest we headed for the beach at Milford on Sea. As ocean loving Aussies our little village is about as far from the ocean as you can get so we were all looking forward to breathing in some fresh, salty air.

I feel instantly relaxed when I can see and smell the ocean. It's like coming home, my place of comfort wherever in the world I may be and whatever the weather.

Milford on Sea is a very pretty village with a path that meanders around the seaside with lots of benches to sit back and enjoy the view over the ocean to the Isle of Wight.

There is also access down to the shingle beach to go for a stroll and get your toes wet.

Our pup enjoyed his first trip to the ocean. Had a ball racing up and down, playing fetch and having fun with other dogs on the beach. Thoughts of building sandcastles evaporated on seeing the pebble beach but at least the car wouldn't be filled with sand!

Loved all the colourful beach shacks that lined the waterfront. Many families were out and enjoying time by the sea. These huts are prized and are at the heart of many summer memories for  British families. We saw one for sale for £19 000!!! In Australia we just load up the car, pile out at the beach and stake a claim by laying out our beach towels. At the end of the day it all gets thrown back in the car, along with half a tonne of sand and a seashell or two.

After a nice long walk by the sea, we had a look around the village and ended up at Keyhaven harbour where you catch the ferry to Hurst castle. We will have to come back to this area to check out the castle and the Isle of Wight another time.

Tummies had started rumbling so we went back to the village, found the Smugglers Inn...happy to find it was dog friendly! We thought with the dog we would have to sit outside but no...dogs are fine in the dining room. Love how well accepted dogs are way you could you take your dog into a pub dining room at home!

We had a lovely meal with some mussels to share to start with then everyone enjoyed a variety of mains with the tweenager having a huge serve of fish and chips, my husband had a spectacular chicken pie, I had melt in your mouth lamb shanks and the teenager had a nice chicken pasta dish. No photos as my family didn't want to wait and dug right in...there was nothing left at the end...salt air and exercise makes you hungry!

My cider certainly tasted good after our lovely day by the seaside!


I love watching the incredible colours of a British autumn intensify every day.

Brightens up my world!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Bricklayers Arms

We were headed over to a pub, The Green Dragon, in the village my husband used to live in for our last lunch date, a great pub with traditional British pub food. Well it did have, six years ago when he lived there. It is now a very cosy looking Thai restaurant and though we are partial to Thai we both had our minds made up that we wanted a good pub meal. Not to worry, plenty around these parts so off we went, driving down winding lanes, enjoying the changing colours of autumn until we happened upon The Bricklayers Arms,a delightful 18th century pub with plenty of character inside and out, set in the rolling Chiltern hills.

We were happy to discover that lunch was still being was now close to 2pm! Whilst we perused the menu we noted that The Bricklayers Arms has a host of awards including Dining Pub of the Year from the Good Pub guide; The AA pick of the Pubs; Restaurant of the year, The Foodie Guide among others. Looking good!! The lunch menu had a large variety and everything sounded amazing so it was difficult to choose. I eventually went for the lunch special, 2 courses for £15 or 3 courses for £20 and chose the fish pie  and salad with a lemon tart and blueberry sorbet for dessert. My husband, ordered some bread to start and a Roast breast of guinea fowl, pheasant sausage and a liver mousse feuillete as a main.

The bread was lovely, soft and fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside, perfect for staving off our hunger while we waited for our mains. The menu advised to 'Please be prepared to wait a little longer for your food as all dishes are freshly prepared to order'. Our mains arrived and they looked wonderful. My Fish pie was delicious. Packed with huge chunks of fresh tuna, salmon and a very sweet and tasty white fish, coated in a divine cream sauce, topped with a quality cheese and served with a fresh, lightly dressed salad. It's very common for some restaurants to drown the fish in sauce but this one was packed with flavour with the right balance between the succulent fish and the tasty sauce with the salad cleansing the palate. Best fish pie I've ever had and as I grew up on the ocean I have had a few!

Fish Pie

My husband's meal was the star of the day though, the presentation was impeccable  the Guinea Fowl soft and succulent, the pheasant sausage so full of flavour and the liver mousse dissolved in your mouth with the pastry adding texture and crunch. On their own they tasted amazing but put together they were a delicious explosion of textures and spirited flavours. This was an incredible dish and the three elements worked together to make it extra special. It also came with a delightful creamy baked potato side dish.

Roast Breast of Guinea Fowl, pheasant sausage and a liver mousse feuillete

Then we were served the dessert! The lemon tart was creamy, the tang of citrus perfect, topped with caramelized sugar that gave an enticing crunch, the pastry just right and topped with a tangy physalis gooseberry. The marriage of the tart with the blueberry sorbet, sweet mingled with chunks of fresh berry was exquisite

After our plates were cleared, we spent the next few minutes raving about what we had just experienced. We have both eaten in many restaurants over the years, ranging from fine dining to street food and both agreed it would be hard to top the food we had just been served. The Michelin trained chef gave us a meal that delighted our taste buds, the dining room was comfortable, the high standard of service all added together and gave us an exquisite lunch. Our total bill came to £39.95, amazing value considering the standard of the food, atmosphere and service.

We were not expecting such an incredible lunch or we may have chosen a nice wine to go with our meal instead of the ale and cider we had, but even they went well with the delicious but unpretentious food. We all have many special meals in our lives but some will be remembered for years to come, this meal will be up there with my oysters, freshly shucked off the rocks in Kalbarri WA, a marvellous Moussaka at a colourful streetside cafe in Greece and cumin encrusted Uyghur lamb kebabs in nan bread in Shanghai!

All smoked fish and meat are smoked on the premises, most ingredients are local and all are fresh...loved the description of the Partridge breast on the menu, from local 'Denner hill, Great Missenden, may contain shot'! I am looking forward to checking out the dinner menu, the log fire casting a warm's my birthday next week.....

If you are in the area, do yourself a favour and run, don't walk. If you are not...come visit... I'll take you there!

Love that the back of the sign is the back of the bricklayer!

The Bricklayers Arms, Hogpits Bottom, Flaunden, Hertfordshire HP3 0PH
Phone 01442 833322