October, 2013

Oct 13



Nestled in the heart of the Langdale Valley, Brimstone is the newest addition to the Langdale Estate, a small leisure complex that offers self-catering accommodation and timeshares in the English Lake District.

Brimstone is different. The hotel was opened this May, so is very new, and was opened with the intention of offering the best rooms in the Lake District. The hotel itself is very impressive. A slick, new building constructed from Lakeland slate, fitting in with the surroundings very well. It has just a total of sixteen rooms and suites making it a very small and comfortable place to stay. It’s situated on three floors, with the ground floor being the underground car park, and a lift connecting all floors, with automatically opening doors along the way. This makes getting around so easy, with step-free access all the way from the car to the rooms, which was great for us, in terms of getting our luggage to our rooms.

The rooms are seriously luxurious and modern. They’d definitely be a hit with anyone liking technology, with light buttons instead of switches to adjust the lights to the occasion, from ‘perky’ when you’re getting up for the morning, to ‘tinkle’ if you were to wake up in the night. There are two interactive televisions in the room, should you wish to tweet from the TV, and a whole host of TV channels and iPlayer available through the television. Even the curtains are opertated electronically. All these gadgets don’t feel gimmicky. The room is decorated very tastefully in subtle greys, with a spotless white bathroom. It is clear that every detail in the rooms at Brimstone has been very carefully considered and is of top quality.

One of the most unusual features about Brimstone is that there is no Reception desk. Guests are looked after by the hotel’s Hosts, who are available by telephone at any time, for literally anything you could want. There is just one communal room, the Reading Room, which is great. It has plenty of comfy seating, a TV and a good selection of books, magazines and newspapers. It also has a back wall bar with refreshments, including a Nespresso machine, bottled water, wine, beer and soft drinks available free and in unlimited quantities to guests at any time of the day or night. There are also cakes and fruit throughout the day, sandwiches to take out with you for the day available in the morning and cheese and biscuits to enjoy after dinner. They really have thought of everything, and this is a very popular service with guests, understandably. I was touched when Harriet, our host, brought us gluten free brownies especially to take out with us for the day.

There were three different hosts on duty whilst we were staying and all were great. They’re there to help with luggage, bring you breakfast in your room, call to see if you would like a turn down service, and help you with any other needs you might have.

The Langdale Estate is a great place to stay in the Lake District, particularly if you enjoy outdoor activities. It is around 15 minutes drive from Ambleside, the nearest town, but is a very short distance from many of the finest walks in Lakeland. There are also plenty of activities on the Estate, with a swimming pool and spa on site. The Spa is absolutely brilliant. It’s just a minute’s walk from Brimstone to get into the main building. On the first night, I enjoyed a manicure and pedicure with Kelly in the Spa. It was lovely to have an evening appointment, as the spa was quiet and I could relax and chat to Kelly, who was a complete delight and did a wonderful job of my treatment using OPI nail polishes. I had so many compliments afterwards. On the second night, I had an Anne Semonin Facial with Rachel. Again, this treatment was fantastic. Rachel was just lovely: very experienced and knowledgeable, and gave me so much information on the gorgeous Anne Semonin products, including a huge range of samples to try at home.

While staying at Brimstone, it makes sense to dine on the Langstone Estate, unless you fancy a fairly long drive elsewhere. There isn’t anywhere in Brimstone to eat, as all the restaurants and kitchens are over in the main building. Breakfast is great however, as guests at Brimstone are given a card in the room on which to choose what you want to eat, and leave it outside the room for the morning. There are 15 minute slots for delivery, and we found our food arriving bang on time. There is a really good choice of food available and the quality is good and there is no extra service charge for this.

There are several dinner options available on the Estate. We dined in Purdey’s Restaurant, the flagship restaurant for each night of our stay.  It is a relaxed, unstuffy place to dine with very attentive, friendly service. There is a good selection of wines and the staff are keen to advise. Portions are generous – so much so that we couldn’t manage dessert. We retired to the Reading Room at Brimstone for an espresso and found other residents in there enjoying wine and cheese after dinner.

What is clear about Brimstone is how great the staff are. It is particularly nice to speak to staff who clearly love their jobs and care about where they work and their guests.

Brimstone is a fantastic place to stay in the Lakes. The rooms are just gorgeous and extremely comfortable. We particularly liked how autonomous you feel staying here – it’s a hotel room with hotel service, but a bit more freedom and privacy than some hotels to relax and do as you please during your stay. It’s so private, you could get away with hardly seeing a person during your stay if you wished.  We met a couple staying who were on their third visit since May, they loved it so much. Have they succeeded in creating the best rooms in the Lakes? A good number of guests we encountered seemed to think so.

Oct 13

Almond Cannellé

Almond canelle

One of the most fun aspects about baking is experimentation. I love to try different cake tins and these are the best ones I’ve found recently. They are actually for Italian Pandoro or French Cannellé. They are made from silicone and are sold online through The Cook’s Kitchen.

Pandoro is a delicious light and sweet dough cake, not dissimilar to pannetone. Sadly, like any dough recipes, they are very hard to adapt to being gluten free. So, using the mould, I have come up with a delicious and easy version of French cannellé, which would be perfect at any time of the year, but particularly at Christmas.

I should add that the mould does come with a recipe for traditional Pandoro, which I have made, and is delicious.

Almond Cannellé

Makes 6


150g butter or dairy-free spread

150g golden caster sugar

3 medium free-range eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

150g ground almonds

1 heaped tbsp. gluten free plain flour

4 tbsp honey, warmed until runny


Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease your moulds as best you can. Quick release spray is a godsend here. Set the mould aside.

Place the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs gradually and beat well after each addition. Now, add the vanilla extract and cinnamon and beat well.

Finally, add the almonds and four and gently fold in. Carefully spoon the mixture into the moulds. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and risen.

Allow to cool in the mould for 20 minutes before removing and allowing to cool fully on a wire rack.

Drizzle with warmed honey and serve.

Oct 13

Gilpin Lake House


The Lake District is, without doubt one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places to stay in England, and I have just discovered possibly the most special place in which to enjoy the peace and quiet and beautiful scenery.

Gilpin Lake House is a seriously unique place to stay. It is, in fact, the newly opened sister hotel to the highly reputable Gilpin Lodge, part of the exceptional Relais et Chateaux hotel group, and is located just a mile or so away, up a narrow and winding lane, leading to Knipe Tarn, on whose banks Gilpin Lake House sits. Its location can only be described as idyllic, with 100 very private acres and wide-reaching views for guests to enjoy.

Guests buzz through to the house from the large, black iron gates to enter, and by the time we had driven up to the house, staff were waiting outside, armed with umbrellas to greet us on arrival. We certainly felt pretty special and well looked after from the moment we arrived at Gilpin.

First of all, we were shown up to our room on the first floor; Maud, to find chilled champagne waiting for us, and we had a short while to settle in and unpack our luggage. Our room was lovely – centrally positioned in the building, up in the eaves on the top floor, with views over the garden and tarn. We had plenty of space to sit, relax, store our luggage and get ready. It was extremely comfortable and very tastefully decorated. The white marble bathroom was small, but very nice, and equipped with everything you could need, including Gilpin’s own range of Organic products, which were great to use.

What struck us first of all about Gilpin Lake House, was the seriously elegant and stylish décor. This is a very luxurious house, a mixture of slick, modern designs and elegant country-house features. Every room is full of books and magazines – many of which I would have loved to look at, if I’d had time. I almost wished we had, not only had longer at Gilpin, but a wet day so that we could have had some quiet time to enjoy more of the house. What makes this a particularly unique place to stay is just how homely the hotel feels. It is a very unstuffy, informal and personal place to stay, despite its gorgeous, luxurious surroundings.

We arrived mid-afternoon, and had a short while to get ourselves ready before embarking on the Jetty Spa Trail, which is the in-house spa; The Jetty, Lake House Spa’s signature treatment, which is designed specifically for couples. Jo Evans, the delightful Spa Manager came to fetch us from our room, and we headed off to the brand new custom-built wooden spa, nestled amongst the trees on the banks of the tarn. This treatment takes all afternoon, and is specifically tailored to every guest.

First of all, we sat with Jo in the spa with a drink of freshly made cucumber and mint water, whilst Jo created our own blend of essential oils for us each to use in our massages. Jo was very exacting when creating our blend, ensuring it was a combination of three balanced fragrances that we absolutely loved. We then had around 45 minutes to enjoy the swimming pool and salt snug to ourselves. One of the particularly special facts about the Jetty Spa Trail is that all the facilities you use are closed to other guests, so only you are able to use them at that time. Such privacy is quite unique.

Following our time in the salt snug, we each had a salt scrub shower, followed by a half hour massage using our personalized essential oil blends. The treatment room in The Jetty is just incredible. There are two treatment rooms which can be opened up to form one large room for couples. The entire exterior wall is, in fact, a glass window, with fabulous views over the tarn. It is so private, and feels very intimate. In keeping with the rest of the house, it is very tastefully decorated and would be an amazing experience both in the summer, with the windows open, and in winter, with the log burners lit. The massages were extremely relaxing, and I certainly enjoyed the fact that Jo was so entirely focused on me and my comfort throughout.

We finished the treatment with some time to relax in the Boat House, again, it is completely private, and looks over the tarn. We snuggled up under the heated fur blanket and had some time to read magazines whilst we drank tea and nibbled on some appetisers. Finally, we were shown to the outdoor hot tub, where we enjoyed a bottle of champagne together before it was time to go and get ready for dinner.

Dinner at Gilpin is a very special affair. It is purposefully served at Gilpin Lodge, its sister hotel, just a short distance away, to preserve the tranquility of the hotel. To make life special for the guests, the Lake House has its own chauffeur to take guests to Gilpin Lodge and back. Andrew, our driver was brilliant, and we felt really special being driven there and back in their Jaguar. What is great about it is that you feel like you’ve had an evening out, but you don’t have to worry about taxis, cash or being the designated driver. Andrew waits for you in the Reception area whilst you dine, so you can return whenever you like.

Dinner at Gilpin Lodge was everything we expected. The lounges and dining rooms are lovely. We were hungry, so we chose to go straight to our table instead of enjoying an aperitif in the bar. Staff were really friendly, knowledgeable and keen to advise on wines. Three menus are on offer every day: the tasting menu, the a la carte menu and the grill menu. We ordered from the a la carte and the grill menu.

The highlight for me was the steak. It was in fact a locally sourced fillet steak on the bone. It had been grilled using the Big Green Egg Charcoal grill and was exquisite. We really enjoyed the free range chicken too, which was served with some delicious sides. We loved the grilled corn with coriander and sesame green beans.

The service at Gilpin is exceptional. We genuinely felt in very safe hands. What is also exceptional is how lovely all the furnishings and décor are. This is a hotel that is immaculately kept in every area. It is unusual to stay in such a small hotel, but the Lake House is genuinely the best of both worlds, with pretty much every facility you could want available to guests. We felt as though there were no compromises being a small hotel, but you were able to enjoy a much more intimate experience as a result. This is a very special place to stay and perfect for couples. It would be a really lovely place to stay for a special occasion – you can even hire out the entire hotel, should you wish, which would be seriously amazing.

One night’s accommodation with a Jetty Spa Trail with dinner, wine and the chauffeur is around £900 per night, per couple.

Oct 13

Autumn slaw


Just because the summer’s over doesn’t mean salads have to be off the menu. This is one of my favourite salads. It’s crunchy, fresh and full of flavour. It’s also super healthy if you, like me, are looking for alternatives to winter stodge at this time of year.

The trick to making a really great slaw is to slice the vegetables really thinly. I mean so thin they are almost transparent. Fennel can be really tough, but thinly slicing it brings out its sweetness and much more tender to eat. A really sharp knife is what you need to use here. I have been loving these gorgeous knives made by Edge of Belgravia – a favourite of the Fabulous Baker Brothers. They make easy work of any tough vegetable and enable you to cut things really, really thinly.

Autumn slaw

Serves 4 as a side


For the slaw

1 bulb of fennel, very thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 large eating apple, thinly sliced

75g walnuts

50g sultanas

1 tbsp freshly chopped mint

For the dressing

2 tbsp mayonnaise

1 tsp wholegrain mustard


Place the slaw ingredients (except the mint) into a bowl and stir together well.

Mix they mayonnaise and mustard together until smooth and well-combined.

Stir the dressing evenly through the slaw. Serve on a plate topped generously with fresh mint. Serve and enjoy immediately, as the fennel and apple will brown quickly.

Oct 13

Pork and Fennel Ragu

Pork Fennel Ragu

When the days start to get shorter and the weather a touch cooler, there’s nothing like a warm, comforting meal in the evening.

If you’re busy, like me, and want something delicious for supper, but don’t have much time to spend cooking, allow me to introduce my new kitchen savior: the slow cooker.

For me, it is an absolute godsend, as it is just so easy to prepare a good meal in advance with the minimum amount of input. Not only that, but it’s great for batch cooking, which is a great way of saving time, as any extra portions can be individually frozen and reheated when you are in need of a quick meal.

I highly recommend my CrockPot digital slow cooker. It’s easily programmable for up to 20 hours, and has a digital timer, so if you’re at home, you can keep track of how long you have left. It also has a helpful keep warm function which would be great if you are cooking for guests.

I’m a total convert. Our favourite meals so far have included this Pulled Pork recipe which is ridiculously easy and delicious, and my Pork and Fennel Ragu. It makes a really interesting alternative to bolognaise sauce, and has very quickly become a firm favourite. Adjust the fennel and garlic to taste – we like both flavours to be very prominent in the dish.

Pork and Fennel Ragu

Serves 8


1 tbsp olive oil

1kg free-range pork, minced

1 bulb garlic

2 tbsp fennel seeds (adjust to taste)

1 x 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes

2 x tubes tomato purée

1 x tube sundried tomato purée

100ml water

1 large glass red wine

3 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


Place the oil into a large pan. Add the pork and brown lightly. Add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook for around 5 minutes until fragrant.

Transfer the meat to the slow cooker, followed by the remaining ingredients. Stir well and allow to cook for at least 3 hours until the ragù has become rich and thick. I have been known to cook this for 8 hours on a low heat.

Serve with your choice of pasta. I used pappardelle in the photo, but you can use any gluten free pasta or spaghetti.

It is lovely topped with some finely grated Parmesan cheese. And it tastes even better the next day!

Featuring WPMU Bloglist Widget by YD WordPress Developer