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Essentially England News, November 2010 - Blizzards and a Royal Engagement
December 01, 2010

Blizzards and a Royal Engagement

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.

Winter is arriving shockingly early this year all due - no doubt - to global warming. Temperatures are dropping into the blue, forecasts threaten snow and ice - and we now have a long commute to work requiring a very early start!

On the plus side though, the cold weather is generating the most amazing coloured sunrises and now I'm up early enough to enjoy them. I've run out of ways to describe the shades of mauve, lavender, lilac, amethyst and gold that stain the few whispy clouds - and I'm seriously grateful that Steve is doing the driving!

What's New at Essentially England?

Christmas is on the way and my mind turns to food. Not your normal, everyday fare, but special foods. Things I only make once a year - like mince pies - or foods that appeal to me when the weather turns cold - like mulled wine and spiced cider.

I'm also looking out for tips and tricks, dishes to prep ahead and quirky items just perfect as stocking stuffers. You can find lots of these things in the the Christmas section of the site.

Why not check out:

The Christmas section also has information about food essentials, christmas chocolates, gifts for history lovers, music and traditions: everything you get you in the mood for a traditional English Christmas.

Travel Tips and Reviews

The top media event this month has been the announcement that Prince William is to marry his long-term girlfriend Kate Middleton on April 29th 2011.

The day will be a public holiday in the UK and - as it falls conveniently between Easter and the May Bank Holiday, many Brits will only need to take 4 days leave to have an 11 day break from the office.

Many people will take time off and - with record numbers of visitors expected in England in the weeks surrounding the Royal Wedding - I would advise anyone to book their accommodation as soon as possible. Prices are bound to go up the longer you leave it.

I'll be researching more places to stay over the next few weeks and adding them to the site. So whether you're after a guest house steeped in history, a swanky hotel or a secluded holiday cottage there should be something here to make your stay special.

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

It's the time when the Christmas markets start popping up all over the country and even cold and snow won't detract us for long from the mulled wine and mince pies.

Kissing under the mistletoe is a very English tradition said to bring good fortune to a relationship. If you visit Clifford Tower in York - the only remaining part of the great Norman castle - you'll find a replica of a Victorian kissing bough to try. Bring your better half to enjoy the experience or - maybe - find your dream partner right there!

One of my favourite places in England is the great ruin of Kenilworth Castle. I'd much rather it were in one piece, but its ruined state only makes it more romantic and brings home some of the aspects of its long and sometimes violent history. Visit on a Friday and in December and listen to tales of rebellion, deceit, excommunications, night attacks and several men called Simon de Montfort. This is the story of one of the castle’s most exciting moments in history: the 1266 siege.

Recipe of the Month - Bread and Cheese, Winter Style

Bread and cheese is an age-old, tried and tested combination, but here's a ways of eating it that you really should try. I only make this when it's cold - maybe because camembert-style cheeses are really good at this time. It makes a lovely, cozy supper for two. But you can also serve it to friends at an informal dinner party. In that case, seek out small individual rounds of cheese.

All you need is bread dough and rounds of your favourite camembert. You can add accents by using a bread mix like granary or herb and tomato bread, or you can simply add a a tablespoon of finely chopped dried rosemary to your usual bread mix.

For two, you want about 500g of bread dough, mixed, risen and ready to bake. (You can make this by hand or in a bread machine).

Now heat your oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas 6.

Flour a baking tray and line with non-stick foil or parchment.

Turn out your bread dough and shape it into a round. (Divide it into sections if you're making individual cheese breads.)

Unwrap the cheese and push it into the centre of the dough circle, so that the top of the cheese is level with the dough.

Place carefully onto your baking tray and pop into the oven. Increase the temperature to 220°C / 425°F / Gas 7 and bake for approx. 30-40 mins.

The baking time depends on the bread mix you've used. If you are making individual rolls, your baking time will be much shorter. Your bread is ready when the top is golden and risen and the base of the bread sounds hollow when tapped. (Just be careful when you turn it over as you don't want to burn your fingers or puncture the crust around the cheese!)

Leave the bread to cool on a wire rack for just a few minutes so the cheese can settle. Otherwise it will just spill out onto the plate when you cut into the bread.

Serve in wedges with salty olives, any pickles you fancy, a large green salad and plenty of red wine!

And Next Month …

I'm starting to think about next year's holidays, so look out for some musings on this topic and - of course - ideas for dealing with lots of leftover Christmas food!

Until then, keep well and think of England…

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