Sunday, 29 November 2015

A luxury weekend with Olivers Travels in Devon, England

Life in London is fantastic but so incredibility hectic at the moment. Please don't take me wrong, I love London and everything it offers from entertainment, leisure, restaurants, bars, and endless opportunities.  However, the idea of a luxury country retreat is not to be sniffed at. Once in a while is great to get away from it all and enjoy a bit of peace to reorganise my thoughts. So when the invitation to enjoy a luxury weekend in Devon come in I was thrilled and counting the days to my next adventure with Olivers Travels.

The great escape happened on a Friday lunchtime. I took the train from Waterloo to Exeter in Devon, and then about 45 minutes drive through winding roads adorned by the beautiful Autumnal scenery. The weather was wet and blustery It looked like a scene from an Agatha Christie film. As the car approached the foot of a hill I looked up I could see a church tower at the top of it- 'that's Chumleigh the property, Amberstone Manor, is just behind the church' - I was told.

Suddenly,  we hit local traffic! Beautiful shires horses were taken back to their stables after their afternoon exercise. English country roads are beautiful!  As we were going up the hill, the scenery kept changing. Eventually, we arrived in Chulmleigh a tiny village,  peppered with pale coloured thatched houses, two pubs, one coffee/deli shop, one Spar (mini market), one bank (open two days a week from 10am-2pm), a couple of antique stores and that's about it.  It takes about 10 minutes to walk the whole high street (main road) that run through the village.

The village couldn't be more quaint, and I couldn't be happier to finally arrive at this stunning property that sits on 5 acres of land, landscaped gardens, a big swimming pool, sauna, majestic hot tube and enough space to accommodate about 24 people.
Let's not forget two kitchens, one is for professional catering purposes.   The property has amazing spaces and places that take your breath away including a strong masculine feel games room and an impressive swimming pool.

Amberstone Manor is one of many properties on Olivers Travels books; They represent over 2,000  properties around the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain, The Caribbean, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, and many ski destinations.  From beachfront properties, villas, cottages to quirky to castles. Their concierge service really looked after our party and ready to accommodate any special requirements from dietary to formal and celebration catering to exercise classes to horse riding and more.  Some properties are dog-friendly.

Olivers Travels really made a weekend remember with lots of fun - in particular the wine quiz, relaxation - just enjoying the fresh air and calm of the surroundings and very pleasant - a food styling section and a beautiful candle lite dinner by Le Belle Assiette.

This is a perfect way to spend time with loved ones on vacation, a group of excellent friends for a long weekend,  a celebration weekend / week. The size of properties varies, and so do the costs. Highly recommended.

Amberstone Manor highlights 

tennis court

tree house

the set of our beautiful candle lit dinner by La Belle Assiette.

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Disclosure: I was a guest fo Olivers Travels on this weekend. All views are my own.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Brazilian recipe, festive shrimp and lobster in Pumpkin

Shrimp in Pumpkin  (Camarão na moranga) is a typical dish of Brazilian coastal cuisine this delightful recipe is served and prepared with pumpkin, stuffed with shrimp, cream cheese and herbs. The origin of this recipe is said to be Ubatuba, 2nd largest island on the North Coast of São Paulo, with over 800 hectares of lush Atlantic Forest in the midst of mountains and pristine beaches.

The pumpkin seeds are known to have medicinal powers, so the local population began to plant pumpkin because of its seeds to obtain a powerful de-wormer that plagued the area in the 30's.

According to local legend, during one of the island's crossings to the mainland, one of the pumpkins fell into the sea and sank quickly because there was a hole in the place of the stalk. A few weeks later the fruit reappeared about 5 km from where it had sunk. A lady, who had a restaurant on the beach,  found the fruit and did not think twice, stuck a whole pumpkin to be boiled. When she opened the pumpkin, she found inside more than two kilograms of shrimp. Seeing this, she had the brilliant idea of removing the seeds and add green onions, coriander, tomato, garlic, and cream cheese together with the shrimps.

This is how this dish came about - a real 'caiçara' cuisine:  " Shrimp in Pumpkin ", this delicious dish has become part of the menu of many coastal restaurants throughout Brazil. 

 In this particular recipe, I added lobster for a different end of the year celebration dish paired with the splendid  Champagne Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs. Blanc de Blancs is white Champagne made exclusively from white-wine grapes; the phrase Blanc de Blancs is French for "white of whites." made with 100% Chardonnay grapes.  This Chardonnay cuvée has been elaborated from the five grand cru vineyards of the Côte des Blancs. This champagne paired well with the light shrimp and delicate sweetness of the lobster in the creaminess of the pumpkin sauce. Thanks to Champagne Billecart-Salmon for  sending a bottle of this delightful champagne (my favourite tipple).

Champagne Billecart-Salmon is a delicate champagne with fine bubbles and buttered brioche and mineral aromas, fresh and elegant finish.

Shrimp and lobster in Pumpkin recipe

Serves: 4 
1 large pumpkin 
Olive oil to taste
8 garlic cloves
1 and 1/2 large white onions
1kg fresh prawns, clean and deveined
 250g of lobster meat, already cooked (optional)
 2 lobster tails (optional)
 1 lemon or lime
 Salt and pepper to taste
 2 large and ripe tomatoes. peeled and chopped
 1 bunch cilantro (coriander), chopped
 150ml of double (heavy) cream
 3 tablespoons of cream cheese, I use Puck Cheese Spread
1) Open the pumpkin, cutting a lid and remove the seeds. pre-heat the oven 180C
2)In a pestle and mortar, make a paste by pressing five cloves of finely chopped garlic, salt and black pepper to taste, half sliced onion and olive oil. Place the paste inside the pumpkin and rubbing inside to season it.
3)Cover the pumpkin, wrap with foil and bake for about an hour, until it is cooked.
4)Season the prawns with the juice of one lemon, salt and black pepper to taste.

5)Fry in plenty of olive oil, three cloves of garlic and chopped onion. When they are lightly golden add two tomatoes and parsley (or cilantro/coriander) finely chopped. Sauté everything until the tomatoes look cooked. Now add and sauté the shrimp for a few minutes and check for doneness by color: pink they are ready. Add cream and cream cheese to the mix. Make sure everything is well mixed and check for salt and pepper. Add the lobster meat.  If necessary, thicken the sauce with flour dissolved in water.
6) Steam the raw lobster tails for 20-30 minutes till they are pink. If using already cooked, steam for 10 minutes only.
7)Remove the squash from the oven and pour all the water from inside. 

8) With a spoon scoop the cooked pumpkin flesh and mix with the shrimp and lobster filling.
9) Fill the pumpkin and bake for about five minutes.
10)Decorate with lobster tails and serve hot with rice.

Happy Festivities!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Autumn baking, Apple lavender and brown butter tart

Autumn baking

With the arrival of autumn, baking is a perfect way to enjoy comfort food and the ideal option to use up a glut of fruit.  Apple season is upon us, and I bought quite a few bags to juice and to bake with.  There are some many English apple varieties to rediscover this autumn. The best way is to explore the local farmers markets where smaller growers proudly display their produce and farm shops.  Apple, as well as tasty, has considerable nutritional value.It contains vitamins B1, B2, minerals such as phosphorus and iron. 

Apart from apples, another inspiration for this recipe is brown butter. That is made by just melting butter until the milk evaporates and the solids start to burn; the result is a caramel coloured and nut flavoured liquid. Simply divine!

1) you can use any other nuts you prefer - I have used Brazil nuts, and it's spectacular!
2)I froze the butter for the pastry for a better result.

This post was first published at GBChefs : Apple, lavender and brown butter tart for the recipe: Great British Chefs

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