Posts Tagged ‘ice cream’

Two trips to the Farne Islands (18 & 19 July 2011)

Thursday, August 4th, 2011
View To Inner Farne Island

View To Inner Farne Island

Ticket Sheds For Trips To Farne and Holy Islands

Ticket Sheds For Trips To Farne and Holy Islands

Jay was desperate to go and see the puffins on the Farne Islands, so he insisted we went on Monday with its ominous, dark and brooding clouds.  Sure enough it began to drizzle as we drove out of High Newton-by-the-Sea.  We booked our tickets at Billy Shiels Boat Trips; we Steenbergs have always gone with Billy Shiels, while my Steenberg cousins now go with Serenity Tours.  The round trip with landing on Inner Farne cost £35 for 2 adults (£13 each), 1 child (£9 each) and various harbour fees.  There is free entry onto the Farnes as we are National Trust members but otherwise this costs extra; they generally have a good joining deal going so it is a good time to renew any lapsed memberships.  The National Trust look after the islands with quite a large number of wardens on the islands, protecting the chicks and seal pups.

Billy Shiels Glad Tidings Boat

Billy Shiels Glad Tidings Boat

We were late for the sailing, so had to charge down to the end of the pier as Glad Tidings was about to leave.  All Billy Shiels boats are named Glad Tidings and range from the original few which are open boats to the large Glad Tidings V, which is for the non-landing tour and is mainly covered.  We sailed on Glad Tidings III which is also partly covered but not so large.  The North Sea was quite choppy and we rolled with the waves, which I find quite exhilarating, but Jay was far less keen about.  By now it was windy, raining and the waves were getting up.

At this time of year, there were still kittiwakes with their nests perched on ledges on the cliff faces, plus a few guillemots and razorbills still either on ledges or strutting on the top of rock stacks jutting out of the sea.  Most of these can be found on the dramatic Pinnacles off Staple Island and if you come in May – June these are chocka with these auks.  As you drive past, you can see the black silhouettes of shags and fewer cormorants, breaking the skyline; often these can be see with their strange bat-like posture of holding out their wings to dry in the wind or sun as they do not have any oil on their feathers, so must hang them out literally to dry.  In the water, you will often see their snake-like heads poking out of the sea as they drift and fish along the island edges and further out to sea.  Puffins congregated on the cliff tops, huddling together against the wind that buffeted against the rocks, while kittiwakes seemed to move tighter into the nooks upon the crags where they nested. [Many more photos of birds at http://www.flickr.com/photos/steenbergs/sets/72157624111478125/]

Puffins On Wall On Inner Farne

Puffins On Wall On Inner Farne

Arctic Tern Coming In To Land

Arctic Tern Coming In To Land

Puffin A'flying

Puffin A'flying

Then, you drive further out to Longstone Island and the lighthouse that is famed for Grace Darling.  Famously, on 7th September 1838, Grace Darling and her father rowed out twice to Big Harcar to rescue nine survivors from the paddle steamer, the SS Forfarshire, which had run aground.  Their amazing daring made her a national heroine.  I do find it odd that you are still told all this in spite of exciting waters – some of the boats did not go out today and there were certainly few takers for the tour on the Monday!  I remember many a trip out when a child in rough waters – once we went out with my aunt and cousin from Germany when the waves were vast to the eyes of a small child, then the boatman asked us to haul a tarpaulin over us for protection from the spray.  However, whenever someone moved water coursed all over the unlucky person at the end, plus passengers were being sick over the edge.  But we got to shore safely in spite of what seemed a scary trip.

We were so wet through, with frozen hands and wet feet that we took shelter in the Pinnacle Bazaar and bought some cut-price trousers and changed into these there and then.  Oh the joy of being dry!  We nipped next door to the Pinnacle Fish & Chip Shop and sat to eat cod and chips with mushy peas (£6.25) with a warming mug of tea, with scampi and chips (£7.95) for Jay with a cup of water.  Slowly life came back into frozen hands, feet and stomach.  The batter was light, the fish fresh and succulent, the peas just right and the tea spot on.  The hunger was talking, but it was still a delicious lunch.  Afterwards, the rain had abated and we had ice creams from Coxons opposite – a 99 for me (£1.75) and a Refresher for Jay – or you can get ice creams at Pinnacles which tasted suspiciously similar to those at Coxons but cheaper at £1.20 for a 99.  Through rose tinted spectacles, this could even have been summer.

Pinnacle Fish & Chips

Pinnacle Fish & Chips

Coxons Ice Cream

Coxons Ice Cream

On Tuesday, the day was different: no wind and a blue sky.  We decided to go again and enjoy a dry trip to the Farnes.  This time the crossing was faster and smooth, but on the downside all the boats were out so there were more grockles like us and the birds were out on the water, so on Inner Farne there were less birds onshore. 

We watched the puffins bob on the water, then either skim across the water as our boat (Glad Tidings IV) approached or break the water clumsily, running on the surface then taking flight like torpedoes flapping furiously in the air.  Puffins are the little comedians of the seabird world, with oversized feet that waddled along like clowns whacky-quacky shoes and they fly with a style that Charlie Chaplin would have approved of.  Shags and cormorants floated closer to the islands, darting under water every so often to catch a fish.  Gannets flew past in small flocks of 5 or 6, with large wings moving in slow motion elegant against the skyline, so different from the puffins.  A few guillemots patrolled the top of the stacks, while kittiwakes every clung to ledges.  [Many more photos of birds at http://www.flickr.com/photos/steenbergs/sets/72157624111478125/]

Kittiwakes On Ledges At Inner Farne

Kittiwakes On Ledges At Inner Farne

Off all the islands, but especially Northern Hares and Wamses, grey seals lazed on wrack covered rocks.  Every so often they barked at each other and a few would waddle, then slide into the water, switching from overweight clumsiness on land to fleet swimmers in the sea, poking their curious and mischievous heads out of the water, watching us looking at them.

Grey Seal At Farne Islands

Grey Seal At Farne Islands

Then again to Inner Farne where you could enjoy the puffins again and watch the Arctic terns and their acrobatic flying and gaze at their elegant shapes.  Mothers protected nest by dive bombing and screeching a nasal kee-arr.  We enjoyed the view which shows the importance of this area to early Northumbrian power: Lindisfarne and the Celtic Christian church to the North on Lindisfarne, then the rock that was the base of Northern thanes, jarls and kings of Bamburgh Castle and the holy retreat of Inner Farne, with Dunstanburgh Castle to the South.  And of course the Inner Farne was the refuge for St Cuthbert, the most important Northern Saint, and where St Aidan came for contemplation every Easter (the Celtic Easter).

Back in Seahouses, we ate fish & chips at Lewis’ where we have eaten for many years.  The batter was light, but the fish less fresh, though the chips were good.  The peas came whole rather than mushed and my tea was forgotten.  Good but not as good as Pinnacles, which was not helped by a sign saying fresh crab sandwiches outside that were not available – we were told tomorrow, but I think it was the never reached mañana.  I did not try Neptune which is the other choice, but my sister went with her family and said it was excellent.

Lewis's Fish Restaurant

Lewis's Fish Restaurant, Seahouses

Wheelbirks Ice Cream

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Wheelbirks Farm Near Stocksfield

Wheelbirks Farm Near Stocksfield

On the way back from Scotland, we went through Northumberland and on a “memory lane detour” went via Wheelbirks Farm which is near Stocksfield.  Memory lane because I was brought up on Wheelbirks Jersey Milk when the farm used to have a milk round, and so were my father and grandparents.

Orchard At Wheelbirks Farm In Northumberland

Orchard At Wheelbirks Farm In Northumberland

The Richardsons have since started making their own ice cream using their deliciously creamy Jersey milk for the base.  You drive past a little village called Hindley and then up their farm drive and through the farmyard to the Ice Cream Parlour at the back.  Other than the food, there is an decent play area in the orchard at the back, and for smaller children inside, and a small barn that you can look in to see some calves and a bull, plus as a working farm so you might see loads of other comings and goings.  I love the web site where you can see pictures of past prize winning cows and current pictures of other ones, which shows their love of their Jersey herd.

Ice Cream Parlour At Wheelbirks Farm

Ice Cream Parlour At Wheelbirks Farm

The actual Ice Cream Parlour has been very tastefully decked out and split into two – half bright, light and functional looking like a 60s American joint while the other half is all dark wood for a warmer, more natural English country kitchen feel.  They make their own ice cream using a tiny little machine that pasteurises the milk, then make the ice cream before they all get busy packing off the ice cream by hand into tubs for sale in the shop or sending off to Alnwick Castle.

There is a delicious range of flavours including New York Cheesecake, Licquorice & Caramel, Blueberry Muffin, Strawberry, Cookies & Cream, Triple Chocolate, Mint Choc Chip, Peach & Raspberry and Amaretto & Honeycomb.  Prices are £1.15, £2.65 and £3.65 for single, double or triple scoop ice creams.  Alternatively, you can go for tubs, or slices of cake for £1.90 each; I had a huge slice of Coffee & Walnut cake then scavenged tastes of the ice creams from the kids.

My Father Enjoying His Ice Cream

My Father Enjoying His Ice Cream

The ice cream is deliciously rich and creamy in flavour, while the flavours are interesting and full of amazing taste.  Really a luxurious place for a treat.  Our favourites are New York Cheesecake which I could eat all day, Cookies & Cream and Blueberry Muffin, which were all seductively gorgeous.

If you can, you should also buy a bottle of their unpasteurised, unhomogenised full fat milk, which is tasty milk the way it should be, with a thick slick of heavy cream floating on the top of the milk for 80p.  You can also buy Wheelbirks unpasteurised cream at 70p for 142ml, or try the Longley Farm Luxury Jersey Butter at £1.25 per pat of butter and uses their milk, which the Richardsons send down to Longley Farm’s factory in Holmfirth.  It’s good to know that one of my favourites – the rich, natural tasting creamy butter from Longley farm – comes from a source that I like and respect.

Wheelbirks Ice Cream easily gets to the top of our list of favourite ice cream shops we have visited, so try and make a trip to enjoy it.

Great British Ice Cream Parlours

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

One of the great changes caused by the decline of agriculture in the UK has been farmer diversification, and one of the wonderful changes made by dairy farmers has been home-made ice cream.  Some of these are real gems.

Yesterday, my daughter and I visited one on the Military Road outside of Corbridge in Northumberland, while my son was watching football on the TV.  I enjoyed a Blueberry and Lime Ice Cream while she had a mix of Mint Choc Chip and Caramel Toffee Fudge, both of these were in cones.  We took back a Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream for her brother.  I loved the clean taste of the Bluberry and Lime, while the Caramel Toffee Fudge was to die for.

The ice cream parlour is called Vallum Farm – see www.vallumfarm.com and you can enjoy tea and cakes there as well, and shop at Bywell Fish & Game as well as for some other kit.  It’s run by the Moffitt family and the milk comes from the well-known Hunday herd (at least well known in Northumberland) and now includes Brown Swiss Cows.  I remember the farm from when I was a kid as I studied it at school when Peter’s dad ran the herd, while I trialled working as a vet when Vallum Farm was involved in cattle semen – quite a change to ice cream parlour!

It made my daughter and I decide on our favourite rural ice cream parlours, which is obviously completely biased as they have to be places we’ve visited.  Our short list is as follows:

  1. Cream O’Galloway – organic and delicious ice cream, including tours and make your own ice cream, plus nature walks, wildlife activities and an indoor and outdoor play area.  This tops our list and is perfect for families and it’s well worth travelling all the way to beautiful unspoilt Dumfries and Galloway just for this – http://www.creamogalloway.co.uk/
  2. Vallum Farm
  3. Mr Moo’s – this is in Yorkshire on the coast at Skipsea and near Bridlington.  They have a great range of ice creams and the food is delicious, plus there’s an interesting walk to the Yorkshire beaches past World War 1 and World War 2 machine gun outposts and a nuclear war bunker.  Good hearty Yorkshire ice cream.  See http://www.mrmoos.co.uk/

We’d love to hear of where else we should be going to taste some great ice cream, but we’re not interested in anything really commercial or that you can get in the high street retailers.

Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

 

Ingredients

 

·         2 organic Fairtrade vanilla pods

·         250g Fairtrade caster sugar

·         500ml milk

·         6 medium free range egg yolks

·         500ml double cream

 

What to do

 

1.       Make sure all your surfaces and utensils are really clean as using real ingredients can have the potential for a bacterial field-day.

2.       Slice the organic vanilla pods into 2 long pieces and carefully scrape out the seeds onto a plate. Add a little of the sugar to the plate and work with the seeds until you have a grey, speckly mixture. Scrape this into a large bowl, then add the rest of the sugar. Put the milk into a saucepan and add the emptied vanilla pods. Bring this to nearly boiling point – make sure it does not actually boil.

3.       Add the egg yolks to the sugar in the bowl and whisk until it thickens slightly and lightens in colour. This process takes about 2 – 3 minutes. Pour in the scalded milk over the eggs and sugar and whisk energetically. Remove the vanilla pods.

4.       Wipe the milk-pan clean and return the ice-cream mixture to it. Place over a gentle heat and cook until it is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. This takes quite a long time, so be patient – it’s worth it. You could use a rubber spatula to ensure that all parts of the pan are stirred. When you think the mixture is thick enough, dip a spoon in the mixture and then run your finger across the back. If a clear and stable path is left, then you are ready. If you want to use a thermometer, you should heat until it gets to 85oC. Add the cream to this custard and mix well. Pour through a fine sieve and allow to cool before freezing.

5.       Freezing can be done in an ice-cream machine. Alternatively, place in 2 litre stainless steel bowl and every 30 minutes remove from freezer and whisk thoroughly. When you have a half-defrosted ice-cream that looks like a thick slurry, in which the solids and water have frozen together, you can then stop stirring and leave it to freeze.

Variations:

To make chocolate ice-cream: add the best quality Fairtrade cocoa powder to the vanilla base as it is cooling.

 

To make stracciatella ice cream: freeze a block of high quality plain chocolate. With a sharp knife, chisel small scrapings and curls from the block. When you have a large pile, add this three-quarters through the freezing and whisking process

 

To make coffee ice cream: make a large expresso, then allow to cool and filter. Add this to the mixture just before freezing.

 

To make caramel ice cream: make the vanilla ice-cream but use 100g Fairtrade caster sugar and not 250g. Also do not add the double cream. Allow to cool but do not freeze. Place a further 250g Fairtrade caster sugar in a wide stainless steel pan and place over a medium flame. In a minute or two the sugar will melt and then colour. DO NOT STIR: instead swirl the pan gently so the sugar melts and colours evenly. The caramel must go dark brown and when it is ready a lighter brown foam will form on top. As soon as this stage is reached, remove the caramel from the heat and pour in the cream – it will splutter and the caramel and the caramel will set into lattice-like crystals. Now you can stir and do so over a medium flame until the mixture boils and the crystals disappear. Add this to the vanilla base and proceed with the freezing process.