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What to Do? Tip Top Tips for Our Guests and Others


Parwich Hall and gardens

There is so much happening always, it is hard to pick out the top top tips. However, it is really important to point out that this Saturday, 9.30 – 5.00 it is the Manifold Show at Ilam. This is our really favourite show, and conveniently very local. It is small, friendly fun and not too commercial although of course there are stalls selling everything from Barbours to pots of honey. There is also a slow tractor race, lots of vintage tractors, carriage driving and racing terriers! A couple of years ago we took Liza and Harry, some very great friends of ours, there and before we knew where we were Liza had bought two rare breed hens and a cockerel which also came to spend the weekend with us and woke all and sundry at dawn the next morning.

Fischer's, from the gardens

Next Saturday, 18th August, it is the Ashbourne Show which we also love although it is much much bigger and slicker, but not too much so. At the end of the month – the weekend beginning Friday 31st August is the Chatsworth Country Fair which is very big and slick – ‘one of England’s most spectacular annual outdoor events’, full of wonderful events from the Red Arrows to sheepdog trials, ferret racing and parachuting – very well worth a trip if the weather is good.

Not until next month but I have to put it in, Robert and Alice Shields are opening their gardens at Parwich Hall in aid of the Friends of the Peak District which should be a lovely event especially if the weather is good and if you’re staying here it is only a few hundred yards away so not far to go.If all this activity has worked up a bit of an appetite, a real top top tip is to book yourself in at Fischer’s for their 20.12 Luncheon. We can vouch for this personally and cannot recommend it too highly. You can of course add another course, and wine…but you need not if you wish to keep to budget. Needless to say we did not. Afterwards you can stroll in the lovely garden and admire their organic veg patch or if the weather is obliging, just sit in the sun and feel happy that you came! The offer goes on until the end of November. We shall certainly be returning, several times.

Relaxing at Orchard Farm: What Not to Do

This will be very speedy, unadorned by photos of birds, in flight or otherwise: it is a merely a short and happy post just to say hello again. I feel as if I have been under a stone for the past fortnight and now I have emerged. This will probably turn out to be one of those blog posts which serve no better purpose than to make me feel better when I have written it.

What not to do if you want to relax here, or indeed anywhere, is embark on a massive marmalade making exercise half way through January just as you realise there is several months of catching up to do before being anywhere near meeting the dreaded January 31 panic deadline for tax returns. Neither Seville Oranges nor her Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or whatever they call themselves now will wait.

Bleary eyed and dreary has it been but we are almost there! And suddenly life has begun to feel positively cheerful again. There is still another four loads of marmalade to go but that is no hardship, especially when compared with spreadsheets of figures that start to make even less sense than they once did. We have such a good recipe I have started using now, with less sugar than conventionally so the end result is just how we like it and we hope our guests all do too, pleasantly sharp and very orange-y. It probably helps having very fresh, organic (Riverford) oranges too.

There is a sting in the tail; wait for it… Returning from Pilates this evening, chatting with a friend as we strolled home in the dark and starlit night (any sign – we thought there might be a hint – of the northern lights?) everything seemed delightfully calm. The newly restored sense of peace and equanimity received an unexpected blow. A telephone message from a Visit Britain Quality in Tourism inspector let us know she was hoping to arrange an inspection of both barns, tomorrow!!!

We managed to suggest that Wednesday would suit everyone better. The barns are spotless already and there’s nothing to worry about there apart from the fact the previous inspector said we ought to supply small tumblers as well as regular ones and as that didn’t seem a big priority we had put that chore to the very back of our minds; the lamp shade over Tom’s Barn kitchen table has cracked so we need to replace that, smartish.

Slightly more worryingly, there’s a lot of paper work that needs to be tackled too – policies and inventories and a summary of any new purchases and improvements made since the last inspection so it looks like tomorrow will be another busy day. We’ll get there – and it is always better to work under pressure…

How not to relax!

Thumbs Up for the Druid

Good Food not too far from Tom's and Douglas's Barns

Enticed by a post in the Parwich Blog and encouraged by the fact that we had had a busy day and there didn’t seem much prospect of a decent home-cooked meal tonight from the chefs at Orchard Farm  we eagerly set off for the Druid this evening to undertake some vital research.

And how glad we are that we did! We were greeted pleasantly but not pushily when we arrived at the bar, where several people were sitting at tables eating, drinking and chatting quietly. We ordered a glass of wine, asked to look at the dinner menu and quickly decided to stay while we chatted to the new(ish) young owners and staff trying to find out a bit more about the current Druid situation.

The new owners took over in January, have a new chef who has scaled down and refined the menu,  which they descibe as ‘modern Derbyshire’ (with not a hint of the previous owners favoured black pudding as far as we could see)  and is making most of what they serve in house, from tomato ketchup up. Apparently it was his night off tonight but we both had an excellent meal. John had ‘Sheffield’ fish cake and chips which was a new one on us (and possibly not totally ‘Derbyshire’ either…). It was layers of white fish and potato, in a crisp batter and quite delicious; it came with mushy peas and the statutary  criss coss arrangement of fat chips. I had herby pancakes with ‘mushrooms in a creamy sauce, spinach and feta’, plus a salad and hot green beans and red onion. I loved every mouthful!

Just coffee and no puds for me but John had some ice cream described as vanilla but rather more interesting than that but neither of us could identify what the flavour was. It tasted home made, but we didn’t check. The whole came to £41 I think including tip and two large glasses of wine, so good value whilst certainly not not cheap.

We asked for some sample menus but they didn’t have any and suggested we looked on the website; the website however appears still to be under construction so we didn’t get very far there! However, we shall certainly recommend it to our guests and any friends that ask, and let’s hope the current owners make a go of it (there were only six of us in the dining room…). We are only too aware that owners come and go and repuations go up and down, so we’d be very grateful to be kept up to date and would welcome all comments (please!).

Lemon, Lime & Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake

As many of you know, I enjoy making – as well as eating – cakes; the regular Friday cake-baking session for our guests is never a chore. A couple of weekends ago I found myself offering to make two large ‘traybakes’ for the Flaxdale Open Garden and as I am always on the look out for new recipes decided to try one of Mary Berry’s Poppy Seed cake recipes.

It turned out OK but looked very speckly and I did wonder whether the crowds at Flaxdale might be a bit apprehensive – it even just occured to me that some of the older visitors might have wondered for a horrible moment about weevils. Remember them? Anyway, nobody mentioned weevils and in fact I was rather surprised but very delighted that everybody seemed to simply love it (thanks, Mary Berry!); lots asked for the recipe.

So by genuine popular demand I reproduce the recipe, which I adapted slightly to incorporate what I did/didn’t have in the larder. I made a large amount in a large Aga Baking tray. Halve it if you want a normal tray bake tin size (sorry to be so scientific). Apparently it is an Australian recipe, and I have just checked up with Sara (in Sydney) who confirms that you certainly so see it around (also ‘Lamingtons’).

Lemon, Lime & Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake
450g SR flour
450g sugar
6 eggs
350g soft margarine
3 level tsp baking powder
Grated rind 2 lemons & 2 limes
12 tbs milk
80g poppy seeds

Crunchy Topping
350g Demerara or granulated sugar
Juice of the 2 lemons & 2 limes

Line your baking tin with foil or whatever you normally use. Grease well.
Put all the cake ingredients into a mixer or bowl and beat well until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour the cake mixture into the tin.
Bake in an electric oven at 180’ or in an Aga (top oven, lowest runners with the cold plain sheet in the second set of runners) for about 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown and coming away slightly at the sides.
Remove the cake from the oven. Mix the lemon/lime juice into the topping sugar and pour it all over the top of the still hot cake. When it is almost cold take the cake out of the tin.


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