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Essentially England News, April 2009 - Spears to Slay a Dragon with?
April 22, 2009

Spears to Slay a Dragon With?

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.

First, I owe all existing subscribers a big apology. I’ve no idea how I did it, but I managed to send out last months newsletter twice in an hour. I hope my battle with technology didn’t cause too much annoyance.

Easter is over and the kids are back in school … so traffic is mad again and commuting takes a lot longer. More time to think of pages to add to the site. And muse about technology. As an impromptu experiment I’ve joined twitter …. if you’re in with the tweets, maybe you want to look me up. Tweet esseng.

What's New at Essentially England?

Weather over Easter was frightful and hubby was working some of the days off. So the site benefited big time. For some reason I found I had too many apples in the house and promptly got hooked on researching apples and traditional apple recipes.

House smelled like a bakery for the whole weekend as something was always bubbling away in the oven. And no, I didn’t go as far as making Toffee Apples. For my money they belong firmly to Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night and we’re still a whole summer away from that.

For those who like to read, I’ve added a travel stories page to the site to complement the pictures of England one. If you have any funny, sad or memorable stories … please share. I’m not the only one who’d like to hear them.

Travel Tips and Reviews

Got spare Euros you don’t know what to do with? Visiting England from Europe? You’re both in luck, apparently.

The papers report that more English families will spend their holidays in England this year. We’re also expecting more European visitors as the exchange rate is very favourable at the moment – as if we had not noticed …

So a few tourist spots, amongst them Bournemouth and Poole in Dorset and Dunster in Somerset, have decided to accept Euros alongside Pound Sterling for goods and services. Great news for European visitors and great news for those of us who have Euros left over from previous holidays. Almost amounts to free treats, doesn’t it?

Fairs, Festivals and Things to Do

England’s food festivals really get underway tomorrow with the start of the Asparagus Festival. If you’re in Stratford on Avon, watch the procession of the Asparatorches (really, I’m not making this up) as they accompany a string of Morgan sports cars loaded with fresh asparagus through the town. Lunch on the fresh green spears, then take a stroll along the river. If the weather holds, this will make a wonderful day out ! Shame some of us have got to work!

St George’s Day is also celebrated around the rest of the country. Birmingham is laying on a smoke-breathing dragon in the city centre and lots of fun for the kids. Corfe Castle runs its Knight School until the weekend, so if you fancy you could watch your kids slay the dragon.

Recipe of the Month - Asparagus x2 - Just to celebrate

I was trying to come up with an extra delicious treat for St George’s Day, but the papers have gone all Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding and I don’t feel like that at all. The weather’s just been too nice.

So instead – and because it’s my favourite vegetable – here are two quick and easy ways with the bright green stems. Both make wonderful lunches or light suppers with maybe a pink rhubarb fool to follow.

  1. Grilled Asparagus with Bacon
    Take two large bunches of asparagus. Snap off the ends if they seem dry. Wash and pat dry. Take each spear and wrap it carefully into a rasher of bacon. Pick good bacon and a cure that you like. Line them up on a baking tray. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Place under a very hot grill until the bacon is cooked and the asparagus is almost tender. (You’ll want some bite left in it.) Serve on thin crisp toast with – maybe – a little watercress on the side.
  2. Griddled Asparagus with Olives, Parmesan and Balsamic Vinegar
    This is one of my favourite ways of having asparagus for lunch. You need about 6-8 spears per person, plus a slice of toast each. Wash and trim the spears. Rub all over with a little olive oil and cook on a very hot griddle for maybe 4-5 minutes. (this depends a bit on the thickness of your asparagus spears). They’re done when they’re bright green and still have some bite. Place them on the toast – which you can rub with a clove of garlic if you must – and drizzle with some olive oil. Shave Parmesan over the top, add a handful of good quality Kalamata olives and dribble over a tiny bit of old balsamic vinegar.

I know what I’ll be eating this weekend!

And Next Month …

Devon is still more or less on the drawing board. But it’s coming. And May is the month for fresh watercress, complete with festival, and more asparagus mayhem. Elderflowers, too, are getting ready to appear in cordial and wonderful creamy puddings. And then, there may be the first strawberries. I see busy times looming ahead.

Until next month, keep well and think of England…

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