From Bath we headed for the M6, stopping outside the city at a cute little tearoom for tea and a scone with cream and jam. Though I had been impressed by the scenic countryside on our drive into Bath from Heathrow, I was also quite exhausted at the time and so now saw the beauty of the Avon river valley with fresh eyes as the sun washed over the green hills and pastures dotted with sheep, stone walls and hedgerows separating fields and farms and turning the landscape into a pastoral patchwork quilt.
I know that our drive was a long and taxing one with a lot of traffic, but I really don’t remember that part so much. As we approached our destination, I became overwhelmed with the beauty of the landscape as the thin smoky line on the horizon took shape and a chain of mountains was soon visible. Many in the distance were still a hazy grey color, some were a sandy shade, and others were green, covered with trees and pasture. For seven days I would never tire of such sights, etching them into my memory as the most beautiful natural scenes that I have ever beheld.
Our directions to the village became difficult to follow once we left the highway for the narrow roads flanked with stone walls wrapped in thick, high hedges. Some ways were poorly marked, but a quick stop to ask for directions had us headed directly to Cartmel.
Sweet village, awash with sun…flowers spilling out from seemingly every corner. Treasures waiting to be discovered amongst it’s few winding little streets. Pleasant smells wafting through the doors of pubs and restaurants. A simply lovely village store with gourmet delights and beautiful gifts.
We quickly grew accustomed to village life. Walking down the lane to pop a postcard into a red “Royal Mail” box, around the corner to the grocery for vegetables or kindling for the fire, wandering in to the store in the village square to pick up some delicacies or fresh eggs or amazing local sausages…or some sticky toffee pudding, for that is where you will find it!
When I said to my husband “I’m going to go shopping for some gifts for the kids,” I meant that I was stepping out the door and walking past a few houses, through the kissing gate and the churchyard to the row of beautiful shops that lay at the end of my short stroll.
I would drink in the stone walls and the flowers and the sheep on the pasture in the middle of the village and the seventeenth century cottages and the quietness of the place.
And, rising above it all…
A breathtaking medieval priory with an interesting bit of history to go along with it. It is one of two existing structures of this kind with the bell tower set on the diagonal.
Ah, Littlecroft! Haven of beauty and rest. Happy setting of many tranquil hours. I couldn’t have been more delighted with our lovely little cottage. We especially enjoyed preparing meals together in the light-filled kitchen…we became experts in the field of The Full English Breakfast, but I’ll do a food post later and give more detail on our culinary adventures. However, I must introduce you to…
As promised, I am posting the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding that we discovered on our return. It was most happily and greedily taste-tested in my kitchen and received our hearty stamp of approval. I must warn you, I wanted to make plenty so we had enough to share with the kids, so I doubled the cake recipe, and also knowing that the sauce is key to making this dessert the most incredible thing you’ve ever tasted, I quadrupled the sauce recipe. So if you are making it for two and you don’t care for rich, buttery, gooey toffee sauce, then by all means reduce the recipe accordingly. Oh, and lest you think I’m ripping this off the internet and not giving appropriate credit, that’s impossible, for I’m not sure I have ever prepared a recipe according the the directions…ever…I’m just too much of a “tweaker”! So this is my little spin on a foodnetwork recipe.
Sticky Toffee Pudding
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 t. baking powder
2 cups pitted dates, chopped very fine (I use 24-30 dates)
2 1/2 cups boiling water
2 t. baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane juice (or 1 c. dark brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups white sugar)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 T. pure vanilla extract
2 cups (1 lb. package) of unsalted butter
1 pint heavy cream
4 cups packed dark brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large glass or metal baking dish (I don’t even own a 9×13 anymore…I think it’s 10×14? Or you can break this up into smaller dishes to share or freeze). Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan and then add the dates and baking soda; set aside. In an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture. Fold in date mixture until blended. Pour cake mixture into prepared baking dish(es). Bake until set and firm on top (approximately 40 minutes for one large cake).
Sauce: Combine butter, cream and sugar in a medium size heavy gauge saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil gently over medium low heat until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring contantly. Preheat broiler. Poke holes into the cake (I poke a lot! We want that sauce to get way in there!). Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the pudding, spreading evenly. Place under broiler until top is bubbly 1-3 minutes.
Serve warm with extra sauce drizzled over, with ice cream or in a bath of heavy cream. To heat up an individual portion after the pudding has been refrigerated, microwave from 30-60 seconds, until sauce is runny.
My son David can’t have dates, but he loves the toffee sauce over some ice cream…not a bad idea!!