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Essentially England News, February 2009 -- Snow, Pancakes and Rhubarb Fool
February 24, 2009

Snow, Pancakes and Rhubarb Fool

A cheerful welcome to everyone who subscribed to Essentially England News during the last month! Here you'll find England news, site news, travel tips, reviews and our Recipe of the Month, all in one easy-to-digest email.

Today is Pancake Day, so by rights I should be in Olney in Buckinghamshire, watching England’s oldest pancake race being run. Instead, I’ve a day off from work and can spend a bit more time working on the site.

February’s been a truly astonishing month, as England got bogged down in snow. Yes, really! Not just the odd flake here and there we usually get this time of year, but proper snow that stayed on the ground for a few days. The cold wind and icy roads that went with it weren’t quite so enjoyable, but that didn’t stop many of the kids (and adults, too!) from producing the most marvellous snow sculptures.

When we were children we mainly built snowmen, but I’ve seen cats, dogs, rabbits and even a sphinx on the walk through the village. And igloos were well up there, too!

What's New at Essentially England?

This month I’ve added pages about one of my favourite England holiday destinations: Norfolk. We love the enormous skies and the marshes, where the boundary between land and sea blurs until it feels like you’re walking in a dreamscape. We love the little lanes, perfect for exploring on tandem, and we love the food. Fresh strawberries and asparagus anyone?

And while I was reading up on bits of Norfolk that I'd forgotten about, I came across this upbeat North Norfolk blog, which really captures the spirit of this wonderful coastline.

Just off the drawing board are the first pages about the neighbouring county of Suffolk, which we visited for the first time last June. It’s supremely peaceful, even better for exploring by bike and has some marvellous historical sites. While we know Norfolk quite well by now, we’ve barely scratched the surface in Suffolk and will definitely be going back for more, so if that area of the country interests you, keep an eye out for more.

Travel Tips and Reviews

I mentioned this last month, but for anyone who hasn’t seen it: the National Trust is still running its special membership offer. For a whole year, that gets you free entry into every NT property in the country, no matter which county you’re exploring. Join The National Trust online and get 12 months membership for the price of 9.

English rail operators don’t have the best reputation, so they’re working extra hard at the moment to persuade us to go by train. But that’s all to the good. Most operators are still offering their Go by Train promotions, where you can claim 2 for 1 entry to a number of popular attractions simply by downloading the voucher and showing your train ticket.

If you want to visit London (for example) this can save you £16 on a ticket to the Zoo, £13.25 on a ticket for the London Aquarium or £20 on a ticket to the London Dungeon. These deals are available all round the country, so just google your local rail operator and print out the vouchers before you go.

Dorset Buses have expanded their tour packages. From Salisbury train station (and also the city centre) you can now catch a bus and explore both William the Conqueror's castle at Old Sarum and Stonehenge, one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, with a single ticket and the help of a professional guide.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

You would think that with the weather still so dismal, not much would be going on in England. But you could not be more wrong. Today (and for the rest of the week), there will be much pancake-based mischief and mayhem around the country.

As it's also half-term, many towns and historic sites have laid on pancake races, and games for the kids.

And if it's history that gets you going, have a juggle with these ideas:

  • Try your hand living like a medieval knight at Corfe Castle
  • or
  • Explore Charles Darwin's home, which has re-opened just in time for his 200th birthday after a lengthy refurbishment

Recipe of the Month - Pink Rhubarb Fool

After spending most of February knee-deep in marmalade, now it’s time for something a little more delicate. Towards the end of February, we get the first pink rhubarb from Yorkshire. Tart and sweet in equal measure, its pretty pink colour is a welcome contrast to all the grey outside.

And it doesn't just look good. Pink rhubarb makes an eye-catching, mouthwatering dessert. It's very easy to do, but you need to allow it time to chill ... so plan ahead.

All you need is

  • 2-3 stalks of pink rhubarb per person
  • a little sugar to taste
  • 300ml of double (thick) cream

Cut the rhubarb into bite-sized pieces and peel if necessary. Place in a saucepan with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Clap on a lid and poach over a very gentle heat until tender.

Leave to cool, then put a few pieces of rhubarb aside for decoration and blend the rest into a lovely pink purée. Taste and add sugar if it needs it.

Next whip the cream until it holds its shape, then find your prettiest pudding dishes. Wine glasses also go well.

Fill the glasses with alternate layers of cream and pink rhubarb purée finishing with cream. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve, then top with the reserved rhubarb pieces.

And there you have it ... a stunning looking dessert just right for the end of a romantic meal!

And Next Month …

There will be more Suffolk pages next month. But we're also planning to spend a week with cameras in tow in Devon, so I'm sure you can guess what's on the drawing board ...

Until next month, keep well and think of England…

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