I've been away in the Scottish borders for a week - it's a part of the country I love more each time I go there. It has idyllic scenery packed full of romantic architecture and history, we saw a deer in the garden (it was a badger last time), there are house martins nesting above the windows, we heard wood peckers in the trees behind the house, and there's a particularly brilliant bookshop a couple of villages away - what's not to love. We're lucky to have a particularly comfortable flat to borrow, it has an aga in it which has rather added to my love affair with the location and basically means I've spent the last week living a pleasantly middle class dream.
With the aga waiting for me part of my holiday packing was the River Cottage 'Bread' handbook. I can't remember now if it was the first or second book from the River Cottage series that I bought but it was certainly the one that sold me on them, I think it's the best basic bread guide around - I've certainly not seen anything to beat it yet. What I particularly like about all the handbooks is the general format they share. The size is convenient, they feel nice, and you get a lot of information packed into a neat little package. In this case there are instructions for making an outdoor bread oven, a few recipes for left over bread (the summer pudding is excellent) and things to put on it (nettle pesto, beetroot houmous), and of course there are a lot of bread recipes.
The basic loaf is fool proof - thanks to the very good instructions that explain not only what you do to make a successful loaf, but also why you do it - which I always like to know. Just recently though I've discovered a love of English Muffins - it's taken me a while, I'm not sure why it's taken me all these years to discover them but it has, still now I've discovered them there's no holding back. I had looked up Dan Lepard's recipe but good as it sounds it's also quite a long winded take on the humble muffin. Daniel Stevens version here is rather simpler, relatively quick to make (nothing with yeast is quite instant) and absolutely delicious. The recipe is here.
Other holiday highlights included a couple of visits to the excellent Mainstreet Trading Company, it's a
combination of bookshop, cafe, home ware stuff, and now a deli. The bookshop part is one of those fantastic independent stores which manage to cram all sorts of good things into quite a small space without feeling in the least bit crowded. The cafe is very nice as is the deli and all the other bits. It's a great example of how this kind of thing should be done - every time I've been there it's been busy and is over all far more than the sum of it's parts. There was also plenty of time for reading, as well as just sitting enjoying the scenery (whilst drinking champagne and eating scones) so basically the perfect getaway.