May 2020 round up

A second full month in lockdown. Lockdown has changed a bit, with some easing of restrictions, so that we’ve been able to travel a bit for exercise (which is good as we like to do lots of walking) and that exercise can be unlimited.

That has been perfect for us, as we’ve resumed our quest to walk the Leicestershire Round in small loops. Doing this has definitely kept us socially distant. As soon as we leave a village then we hardly see anyone for the rest of the walk, bar the odd dog walker. There were a few more people having distanced picnics on the village green in Hallaton on one walk, but once we left the village we didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day.

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It’s been another warm and sunny month, and definitely another month for missing the pub. Without lockdown we would have been camping for at least three weekends, and both of our bank holiday trips were cancelled long ago. One has moved to the following year, the other is TBR (to be rearranged).

There have been three constants (apart from an enormous workload) throughout May 2020.

  1. Regular beer deliveries from The Needle & Pin
  2. Weekly pub quiz from The Needle & Pin
  3. Getting out for daily exercise wherever possible

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The first May bank holiday was shifted to a Friday for VE Day celebrations. This was dreamed up in a pre-COVID world, so most of us (apart from those seen doing the not socially distanced conga on BBC News reports) did things at home. We had a classic afternoon tea in the garden. Scones with jam first, and cream on top. Always jam first.

It was a warm weekend so we even had dinner outside a couple of times, making the garden the much missed pub beer garden. We also had another click and collect from our favourite local chippy, George’s. As with April, it was the only thing that I didn’t have to cook all month. We are definitely missing that feeling of going out to the pub and not knowing what you might have.

I’ve still not had time to bake sourdough, take up new hobbies, learn new skills, or even write loads of blog posts. I’ve still not had any time to finish off old blog posts, or catch up with other things that I want to write about.

Favourite beers of the month have been dominated by Kernel and Sussex Small Batch. Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin by The Kernel Brewery was probably my favourite, super fresh and super tasty. Tiramisu Stout by Sussex Small Batch was a great balance of sweetness, coffee and vanilla. WxY⁵ by Wylam was tropical hop sherbet which contrasted well against an Oude Gueuze by Hanssens Artisanaal, supreme funky sourness with so much going on. Other lovely Kernel beers were Pale Ale Simcoe and Table Beer Galaxy Enigma. It’s been so long since I had any Kernel, they make consistently good beers.

As I said last month, one day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Hopefully we are getting a bit closer to that day.

April 2020 round up

A full month in lockdown. So much has changed, so much has remained the same. It’s been the warmest April on record, which has been very welcome when getting out for daily exercise.

Easter was a strange one. The first time we’ve not been away for Easter since 2003. The good weather meant that we could recreate a pub lunch at home, including this wonderful birthday ploughman’s and a pint. Probably my favourite beer delivery of the month was the birthday box of Padstow Brewing Co beers from Mrs MOFAD. Very “traditional” beers in bottles and more modern/funky stuff (brut IPA, negroni sour) in cans. We met them at the Good Food Show in 2018, lovely people. This pint of Padstow Pride was perfect for a lunchtime pint.

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We had a lovely (socially distant) bike ride after lunch, and then there was just time for a beer delivery from the Needle & Pin (who are now publishing a weekly stock list for you to order from) and a click and collect from our favourite local chippy, George’s. You order online, they give you a collection time, You turn up, your order comes out. You go home and eat lovely fish’n’chips. It was the only thing that I didn’t have to cook all month.

The Easter weekend was very pleasant, we got out for more daily exercise, we watched the Hacienda live stream, and Mrs MOFAD even camped out in the garden on the Saturday night. We had virtual Easter Monday drinks to replace our usual pub family lunch and had beer and birthday cake in the garden in the afternoon.

The rest of the week was a bit odd. Mrs MOFAD is still going out to work each day whilst my day job had given everyone (who hadn’t been furloughed) the whole week off, even though we have an enormous amount of work to do in the next 2 months. So I was off on daily bike rides in the sunshine, as well as doing some bike repairs (replacing snapped front derailleur cable). Anything to avoid staring at computers all day. Another Needle & Pin beer delivery arrived, which was nice.

We managed another nice walk the following weekend. After that, work returned, and everything went a bit nuts. Actually, a lot nuts. Not quite sure how I’ve made it through the other side of “do it now” deadlines and back to back Teams, Adobe Connect, Zoom, Blackboard Collaborate, Skype and Jabber meetings. Another weekend walk helped as well as another “home beer garden” lunch.

A “sort of day off” saw us in Derby for vehicle recall repairs and maintenance. Doing a conference call from the car park of a commerical vehicle garage in Derby is just another part of the new normal.

Sunday nights have been virtual pub quiz nights, with the Needle & Pin pub quiz moving online. This has meant that we can actually participate, watching on Facebook on one laptop whilst the other one dials up regular “My Pointless Friend Richard” team members Karon & John. After a few rounds I’m usually serving up dinner, which we eat during the picture round, and then finish the quiz. We have come close several times, but not won yet.

I’ve not had time to bake sourdough, take up new hobbies, learn new skills, or even write loads of blog posts. With a laptop on for ten hours a day for the day job, the last thing you want to do is open up another laptop and stare at a screen for another four hours.

Favourite beers of the month have been Midnight Anthracite by Vibrant Forest Brewery (Port Charlotte peaty smokiness), Patrons Project 10.07 // Northern Bloc // Culinary Concepts // HOMES // Ology // Fruited Sour IPA by Northern Monk, Padstow Pride, Lobster Tale, Breakfast in Luxembourg and Padstow May Day.

As I said last month, one day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Hopefully we are getting a bit closer to that day.

March 2020 round up

The month it all changed. We’re all sick of the c word by now, but Covid-19 has led to unprecedented use of the word unprecedented. Let’s look back at the longest March that there has ever been in history. I mean, that’s what it’s felt like hasn’t it? At least I’ve made it three out of three for monthly round ups.

We did manage to get out a couple of times before lockdown came down hard. We went to see Amanda Owen at the town hall, and indulged in a pizza and some salad in The Jam House, which is a new pub in town. Well, a new pub in name, it used to be The Orange Tree.

The pizza was pretty decent, and the salad wasn’t just limp iceberg. Sadly, the pint was pretty meh, I think we need to tell Japanese breweries that a “hoppy session ale” should have hops in it. Swing Low from Fuller’s was a malty caramel bitter.

Our last meal out proved to be just a couple of days later, when we went to a Miller & Carter Steakhouse for Mrs MOFAD’s birthday. The beer selection was rubbish, but there was good gin for Mrs MOFAD, and I was driving. The food was excellent, and neither of us had steak, so they are good at other things too. My pork was lovely as was Mrs MOFAD’s fish dish.

The chocolate hazelnut bombe was the pièce de résistance, like a super dense and much better Ferrero Rocher. Mrs M’s peach, mango and passion fruit Eton mess was also very zingy, but you know my feelings on this matter. The chocolate pudding is always the one to go for.

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So that was it for “out out”. Just a couple of days later I started working from home full time, and just a week later we were all put on to our current “lockdown” with only essential journeys permitted, and physical distancing required to help stop the spread of the virus.

What this has meant is that I can buy more stuff online from some of my favourite suppliers, because I’ll always be at home to receive the delivery. I’ve had some lovely beers from new Norfolk brewery Duration (super fast and super fresh beer), the last online sales (for a bit) from Elusive Brewing, and also the last online sales (for a bit) from Sauce Shop in Nottingham.

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There was also time for a couple of deliveries from my local, The Needle & Pin, who always keep me topped up with great beer from around the UK and further afield.

Now is the perfect time to support all of those small producers who will have lost many of their routes to customers, so if they are still delivering direct to your door (with no-contact couriers) then it’s time to stock up. Much better than bumping into people panic buying toilet rolls in Tesco.

Every beer bar one (that poor one mentioned earlier) has been at home. Favourites this month have been 2020 by CR/AK, Patrons Project 26.01 // Sarah Harris // Culinary Adventures: Edinburgh // Pilot // Deep-Fried Caramel Chocolate Bar Stout by Northern Monk,  Wanderlust by Alefarm, and I think my very favourite was Dessert In A Can – Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Brownie by Amundsen Bryggeri – super sweet peanut butter and it contains no nuts. Lovely stuff.

One day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Mine’s a pint!

February 2020 round up

My resolution to do at least one post a month is going well so far, so let’s look back on February 2020.

A “double win” to start the month, with a trip to my favourite Leicestershire fish’n’chip shop, which was also (allegedly) where Sven-Göran Eriksson used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager. A fish supper at Rothley Fisheries is obviously good brain food, since it powered My Pointless Friend Richard to another win in the Intercare annual pub quiz. A rather nice raffle prize was won too 🙂

Despite being an Everards pub (the Leicestershire brewery that hasn’t brewed in Leicestershire since 2017), there was a nice pint on, Hop & Stagger’s Triple Hop IPA, a gentle English IPA with First Gold, Target & Celeia hops.

A day out in the sunshine (a rare thing in this six month long winter of constant rain) a few days later, wandering around East Leake, with a stop for lunch at The Three Horseshoes. They’ve had a bit of a makeover since we were last in, but there’s still a walker-friendly bar area where you can have lunch with slightly muddy boots (you can wash them in Sheepwash Brook just outside). It’s a local chain (PubPeople.com) pub, where the food was very nice and the beer was rubbish, so a refreshing pint of lime and soda was in order.

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The next week saw our only visit to the Leicester comedy festival for this year (another show was cancelled due to Storm Dennis). We used our usual pre Y Theatre dining venue of the Parcel Yard next to the station. Tasty Friday night burgers served on silly tin trays as usual. A tasty pint of Hackney Hopster from London Fields was a good accompaniment. A pub that serves good food and good beer is exactly what you should be able to find in every city, town and village across the nation.

A much needed beer delivery arrived just two days later, including the latest dark beer selection box from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, and the Tiny Rebel 8th Birthday Beer Box, with 4 pairs of beers designed to be drunk apart and mixed together. And some funky Cwtch socks.

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Not much more on the out and about front this month as we’ve been working on some decorating projects for much of it. However, there was time for the first meet the brewer event at The Needle & Pin, with the very nice Ryan from Pentrich Brewing Co, from not too far across the border in Derbyshire. It was another great night of beer and chat and a chance to catch up with what’s been happening and plans for the future.

Metronome was probably the best pint of the night, a lovely fruity pale ale. Mild Chaos had a classic Citra profile and Blank Maps was a simple stout with lots of bitter roastiness. We also had a taster of the freshly canned Daydreaming DIPA as well as some Fragments pale ale.

With the extra leap day, there was time for one more pub trip, but the beer was not up to scratch, so it was another lime and soda night, to go with some tasty chicken burgers at The Clock Warehouse.

So, on to the beers of the month.

Number of the Yeast from Cloudwater was by far and away the winner. Huge sweetness, thick and boozy and it has aged very nicely. A To Øl Mr Blue 2018 was another that has aged nicely, fruity, smooth, soft, sour. A big blueberry unit, which pairs well with boeuf bourguignon. Death By Caribbean Chocolate Cake from Siren Craft Brew was the other winner this month, deep woody goodness with spicy notes.

Chicken a la King

A classic from the past, revived for the 21st century. We had this on holiday last year, and decided that we should start cooking it. There are loads of recipes out there so here’s my one…

Serves 6

4 chicken breasts
3 sweet peppers (long pointy ones like romano or ramiro)
400g mushrooms
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper
400ml chicken stock (I make my own, but a cube plus water will do the job)
100ml white wine (anything you have to hand)
150ml creme fraiche, cream or double cream (your choice)

Cut your chicken breast into bite size pieces, cubes of about an inch.
Slice your mushrooms to around the thickness of a couple of pound coins.
Deseed and chop your sweet pepper into squares of about an inch.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chicken over a high heat until it starts to brown. Once the chicken is brown enough for your liking, add the mushrooms and fry them until they are well cooked.

Then add the sweet peppers and cook for a few minutes. Now add the salt, pepper and flour and cook for a minute or so. Don’t worry if some of the flour starts to stick, it will soon blend in.

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Now add the wine and cook for a minute – it will start to pick up some of the flour from the pan. Now add the chicken stock and cook for a few minutes.

Then add the creme fraiche/cream/double cream and give everything a good stir around until it starts to bubble gently.

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When it looks like that, it’s pretty much done, serve with rice of some kind, perhaps a mixture of red, brown and wild rice.

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A simple and tasty tea.

Getting back in the habit?

Apparently, I haven’t posted a recipe in over 3 years. It’s just one sign of how far behind I’ve got with my blogging. I averaged about 3 posts a month last year, down from 12 a month in 2018, and nearly 24 a month in 2017. I haven’t done a beer of the month for 2 years.

I’m going to fix some of that tonight, with a recipe post imminent. I’m also going to try and do at least a monthly round up each month, as I’ve kind of got out of the habit of blogging and I need to find my way back into it. We got a slow cooker just before Xmas, so I’m hoping this will inspire more recipe posts, as we’ve definitely been making good use of it so far.

I’m not far away from what feels like a big milestone of 1,000 posts. I got to 900 in September 2018, so things have definitely slowed down. This is a rather belated resolution to try and write more stuff in 2020. There’ll be plenty of things to write about, so I have to make the time. Perhaps I might even catch up with a few posts from last year too.

January 2020 round up

This is an attempt to try and write a little something each month, to get out of the bad habits of 2019 when I didn’t write very much at all. Rather than piling up 10 or more drafts a month and never finishing any of them, getting at least one round up published might be the way forward. It’s got to be worth a try.

So what’s been happening in January 2020? A lovely trip to the Lakes concluded with some fantastic pizza from The Sourdough Pizza Co in Ambleside. They are not really geared up for visiting customers at the moment, with a distinct lack of counter facilities, but we didn’t have time to wait for a delivery, so collection was the quickest optio. Pulled pork and apple sauce pizza? Yes please!

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There was also the customary trip to The Mortal Man, via Wansfell as usual, a lovely pub with good food and a warm welcome. The MOFAD card left many years ago is still there. It’s a fantastic walk and it was a great day to do it.

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The only other pub trip this month was a quick pint in The Ale Stop, with MOFAD companion Andy, whilst we were waiting for our curries to be cooked. A lovely little micro pub in the centre of Buxton, full of lively locals. The only other trip “out out” this month featured a pleasant new carbonara pizza at Pizza Express (no sign of Prince Andrew), before we went to see Bad Boys For Life (quality action nonsense).

Some of my favourite beers this month have been Donzoko Northern Helles (great lager, believe the hype), Escape Pod by Pressure Drop (liquid Bounty bar mixed with crude oil) and the fantastic Sunshine by Brass Castle, a good old fashioned fantastic IPA. No adjuncts, no lactose, no fruit purées. Just a great balance of malts and hops.

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The aforementioned Andy and I also shared some big unit stouts and porters like Tokyo* Death and Siren’s 2019 Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

My least favourite beers were all of the Lidl ones, brewed under the made up “Hatherwood Craft Beer Company” name. They were very cheap, but not very good. If you pay a pound for an IPA, you get a pound’s worth of IPA.

Recipe of the month was probably slow cooker jerk chicken. Looking forward to refining that one a bit more.

So that was the first 2020 round up, hopefully I’ll get to do one each month. February should see a few more trips out, with the Leicester comedy festival tempting us into a couple of trips…