Mark is a dab hand in the kitchen, so when given the opportunity to review a curry making kit he jumped to the challenge.
The kit, from Yutaka, consisted of Panko (Japanese style breadcrumbs), Sushi Rice and Katsu Japanese Style Curry.
We are both quite partial to a good curry and love Japanese cuisine.
Working nights means that we rarely get the chance to sit and eat together so to have a meal together is a treat.
While I was at work last Saturday night, Mark set about cooking up a storm.
For instructions on how to make this curry you can pop over to the Yutaka website for a step by step guide.
The kit is easy to use and the only issue we had was down to our error.
The instructions are very easy to follow and the meal is ready in about 30 mins in total.
First up was the rice. Instructions tell you to add the rice to a bowl and rinse several times, draining in a sieve. The rice was put in a sieve and rinsed until the water was clear.
It was then added to a saucepan of water and was put on a simmer for 10 mins before leaving to stand for 20-30 mins.
The Chicken needed the addition of an egg and some plain flour.
First up, you have to trim and score the chicken and coat it in flour, then you dip it in egg and then finally in the breadcrumbs. Now the next bit is where we made an error.
We have a kitchen thermometer and Mark went to check the heat of the oil that you have to deep fry the Chicken in and realised that the battery had died in it. So the chicken was deep fried and then finished off in the oven. Ordinarily, it would be deep fried on each side until it floats. (In our case we deep fried until brown, drained and finished it off in the oven)
Then the sauce. You initially fry an onion until soft and then you add 800mls of water and the 100g block of sauce. That is brought to the boil and then allowed to simmer for 8 mins.
Then all being well you end up with something that looks a bit like this…..
I have to say the level of spice was just right for me, the chicken was lovely and so was the rice. It was a really delicious meal and something that we will certainly be investing in when shopping in the future (along with batteries for our thermometer).
A few weeks ago, I was browsing for places that I would like to visit for Breakfast or Afternoon Tea and stumbled across Crook Hall and Gardens.
My knowledge of unique places in and around Durham is getting better, but I can honestly say I had not heard of Crook Hall and Gardens. When we decided to pay them a visit we had no idea what to expect.
There are so many words I could use to describe the gem that Crook Halls and Gardens is. You will see as you read through this what we mean and although we tried hard to capture every ounce of the charm, character and magic that is on offer, a visit is a must to take it all in for yourself. Hopefully I may tempt you in to doing so.
First and foremost we pulled up and paid a visit to “The Garden Gate Cafe”. Parking on site is limited but there is plenty of parking on the street and it is located a couple of minutes away Sidegate Car Park.
We were greeted by Maggie (Maggie and Keith own Crook Hall and Gardens) and her team in the Cafe. We were made to feel so very welcome and picked a table right next to the Garden Window.
The Cafe is pretty with some lovely additions including items for sale such as Clocks, Artwork and locally made preserves.
The Menu is fabulous and all the cakes and bakes are made on site. We had the pleasure later on in our tour, to see the aga that is used for a lot of the baking.
On first glances I have to say it is very reasonably priced.
We ordered Tea, Mark normal and me Peppermint and they were served in some very pretty teapots.
Teapots and Saucers make me so happy ….
For Breakfast Mark ordered ….
Bacon & Egg on Brioche Bread with a Tomato Relish and Side Salad
and I ordered….
Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese on a Toasted Bagel
Not something I order very often I must admit, but I savoured every mouth full.
The Apartment sits above “The Garden Gate Cafe” and is a luxury apartment that has been designed with pure relaxation in mind. It has two bedrooms, one is twin and the other is a twin room that can be changed in to a double if preferred. It has a lovely bathroom and a utility room that has a toilet in it. The kitchen is very well equipped with everything you may want and the living room is spacious with a TV to watch. Why you would need the TV with the Balcony Terrace I have no idea however. To sit there on a night with your feet up, a hot toddy or a glass of wine in hand, with the sound of the birds singing and the river flowing……perfection. The Apartment is available for hire via the Website.
Now what followed was truly beyond our expectations, when you look at The Gardens from the roadside, or even sat in the cafe you can not see the extent of what treasures there are too come.
At this point I am going to say that I will let the pictures do most of the talking for The Gardens….
The Shakespeare Garden, it has a very theatrical appearance, with the Garden Gate to enter, trees and hidden nooks that could well be the stage for a scene from a Midsummers Night Dream or such like. The statues set it off nicely.
The Orchard plays host to some rather large fruit trees, with our visit being in Autumn there was a wealth of apples on the trees and on the ground. We were very encouraged to hear that they use as much as they can of the produce they grow, in the Cafe and the Tea Rooms.
The Silver and White Garden holds a very heart warming little story to it. The previous owners of Crook Hall and Gardens, Mr and Mrs Hawgood, had, whilst in residence, celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary. As a present to his wife, Mr Hawgood had the Silver and White Garden planted, only to contain Silver and White Flowers and Trees, so no matter what time of the year you visit the Gardens there will be something Silver and White to see.
From there you wander up through the trees in to the The Moat and Pools. This part of the Garden is so enchanting. The fairies must have been hiding while we were there but it is the most perfect fairytale home for them. We were told about events gone by and how they used to have lights on the pond on night time events. Looking at the Facebook Page I have found pictures of this and it looks to have been such a special experience.
The Moat and Pools area plays host to the current Outdoor Wedding area. With a very charming little Bandstand/Gazebo and plentiful space for seating under the old trees. There is also a swing hanging from the branches of the Trees.
The aisle to walk down is scattered with leaves because of the time of the year but the Uncommon Toad stands proudly watching over the proceedings.
Crook Hall and Gardens have recently employed another gardener and between herself and the gardener they already had, they are working to create a new area for ceremonies. The Woodland Setting is fabulous, with stumps to sit on in the middle of the woodland.
The faires and other woodland creatures would watch on, in what is set to be a true fairytale setting. Currently they are working on a Woodland Archway for people to get married under.
The Vegetable Garden followed and it is exactly how it is described. A fully functioning Vegetable Garden with mini pumpkins galore. A lot of the salad and bush grown fruit used in the Cafe comes from the Vegetable Garden. Mark was quite taken by the fellow that looks on in the corner of the garden.
The Secret Garden along with The Walled Gardens are so very pretty and you really do feel like you are a millions miles away from the busy city. I have to say if I mentioned Alice in Wonderland a million times, then Wedding Vow renewals was used just as frequently.
The autumnal colours are amazing and before long the trees will be bare. It was so relaxing to wander and see what delights the Gardens held, what surprise was lurking round each corner and how they all linked together.
From here we ventured on in to Crook Hall.
Walking through the door in to The Screens Passage you are immediately hit with the warmth from the roaring fires throughout the building.
The passage leads on to the Medieval Hall where indoor weddings and functions are held.
The hall is cosy and grand, with the features remaining beautifully original. Steeped in historical facts for you too read as you go around, you are left with no doubt as to what the building has been used for in years gone by.
As you wander through the Hall there are some beautiful pieces of art. A lot of them are painted by Keith. He has a studio upstairs that he paints from. A very talented artist indeed. They also host exhibitions from local artists and their art is also for sale.
There are various displays of memorabilia as you wander through the house including a very charming display of Royal Family collectables from through the years. (I thought I had a few bits and pieces but this collection was lovely)
We wandered on and went upstairs to view The Attic Room. This is the room that brides get ready in, the room that Santa borrows at Christmas and it is also used for many other purposes. At the top of the building the room is simple but is perfect for its many purposes. (Personally I would have to remove my shoes before attempting the staircase in 3 inch heels, or maybe just wear flats)
Down the stairs from the Attic Room is The Minstrels Gallery and this is used as extra seating for Events. The Gallery overlooks the The Medieval Hall and adds to the character.
On the way down the stairs I was intrigued to find out if there had been any ghostly goings on over the years. A property that age must have some spooks…..well apparently, Maggie and Keith have experienced some goings on around the unused staircase just round the corner from The Medieval Hall. A lady is said to have made her presence known over the years.
Wandering down to the other end of the house, where afternoon teas are held, we bumped in to Maggie again, who was busy in the kitchen. She showed us the rooms that are used for afternoon tea and also as extra space for events. We spoke about the events that they plan, the Afternoon Teas, Weddings and the book collections that are present in one of the Tea Rooms.
It is very clear to see the passion that Maggie has for Crook Hall and Gardens and that rubs off in to the people that work there. You get a sense of family as you wander through and meet the staff around the property. We were quite simply blown away. Not for one minute did either of us expect to come away totally in love with the place. (Now for me that is no easy task to achieve, but for Mark to come away totally speechless and in love, well then it is simply a must see)
As we said our thanks and goodbyes and wandered back down the garden path to the exit we had a look through some of the pictures and views that Mark had managed to capture on our way round. The view of the gardens, and Durham are second to none.
We will certainly be going back, I have had a good look at the list of events that are coming up and I would love to get more involved with Crook Hall and Gardens and their events in the near future.
Thank you for having us and I can’t wait to see you all soon….