Chargrilled asparagus with peppered goat’s cheese

Asparagus

 

Asparagus is one of my all-time favourite vegetables, and I’m making the most of it being in season right now. This is now of my favourite ways to enjoy asparagus; with hot, melting goat’s cheese.

This really is a doddle to make and works as a superb lunch, light supper or starter. I like to make it for supper, so that I can really indulge my love for asparagus – I can easily devour a whole pack in one sitting. 

The goats cheese I find works best for this is Capricorn, made in Somerset. It’s the right balance between firm and soft – it won’t melt too much in the pan and loose its shape, but the inside will become soft and unctuous. 

I will gladly serve this at a summer dinner party, as it’s a very simple dish to make for a number of people. When you are using raw ingredients this good, you really don’t need to do much to them to make something very special.

Chargrilled asparagus with peppered goat's cheese
Serves 2
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Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
87 calories
5 g
0 g
7 g
3 g
1 g
128 g
80 g
2 g
0 g
6 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
128g
Servings
2
Amount Per Serving
Calories 87
Calories from Fat 61
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 7g
11%
Saturated Fat 1g
5%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 80mg
3%
Total Carbohydrates 5g
2%
Dietary Fiber 3g
11%
Sugars 2g
Protein 3g
Vitamin A
18%
Vitamin C
11%
Calcium
3%
Iron
15%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. Around 12 spears of asparagus
  2. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  3. Sea Salt
  4. 1 round goats cheese - I like the Capricorn, made in Somerset
  5. Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. I find my Le Creuset griddle pan works best for cooking the asparagus, but you can use any frying pan you have.
  2. Start by preheating the pan. It needs to be hot.
  3. Cut or snap the woody ends off the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle over the salt and massage to evenly coat the asparagus spears.
  4. Place onto the griddle and cook, turning regularly for around 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the cheese in half, around the middle to form two quite flat cylinders. Grind a good quantity of black pepper onto the cut side. Place this side face down into a hot pan (you may need to pre-heat a second frying pan, depending on the size of your pans) and cook for 3 minutes.
  6. Your asparagus will be done now, so turn off the heat.
  7. Serve the asparagus on a warmed plate, topped with the freshly cooked goats cheese immediately.
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calories
87
fat
7g
protein
3g
carbs
5g
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Charlotte's Kitchen Diary http://www.charlotteskitchendiary.com/

A guide to Snowdonia Mountains and Coast

Snowdonia

Snowdonia

 Snowdonia, or Eryri, as it’s known in Welsh, is North Wales’s National Park, covering 823 square miles. It is a popular, yet unspoilt destination for travellers from over the world. Famous for it’s breathtaking scenery, endless activities and superb Welsh produce, I recently paid a visit to check out the very best things to see, do, eat and where to stay in the area.

What to do

The choice of activities in Snowdonia is wide and varied. As you would expect from a National Park, the scenery is astonishingly beautiful and there are a wealth of walks, cycle rides, train journeys and drives to choose from to take in the spectacular surroundings. The area also covers the Llŷn Peninsula and Cambrian Coastline, and the combined area offers a wealth of things to do. I have included our favourite destinations here, but to find out about the many other attractions, I recommend visiting the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast page. 

There is genuinely something for people of all ages in Snowdonia, encompassing both young and old, single adventurers, couples, families and older visitors, but Snowdonia is particularly brilliant for family adventures in the UK, and for those with children of all ages.

Keen to encompass our inner adventurers and give some new activities a try, we found some really fun adventures to attempt across the area.

Snowdonia riding

Snowdonia Riding Stables

Starting the weekend off gently, we visited Snowdonia Riding Stables. Situated at the border of Snowdonia National Park, it is a very well equipped stable that caters from beginner riders to all-day hacks. We went for a guided group ride with Kelly, a really lovely girl who has worked at the stables for several years. We took our horses up a steep track, across a dramatic river and up the hills along the Snowdonia National Railway track to admire the views across to Anglesey. Our horses had a lovely nature, and we were able to improve our riding skills very quickly. Not only did we have an incredibly enjoyable and memorable ride, we left feeling as though we had really made progress under Kelly’s guidance. I cannot recommend a visit more highly as all levels are catered for, and there is plenty of tuition and provision for children to ride, too.

Llechwedd

The view from the top of Zip World Titan

Next, we drove down to Blaenau Ffestiniog, which was formerly a major slate mining town on the edge of the Snowdonian mountains. With the decline of mining in the area taking hold, Llechwedd Slate Caverns, a former hive of industry, has been converted into a tourist attraction. We absolutely loved it here. It is a really unique experience to travel underground and see the mines first hand. The tours are excellent and staff were a delight, which really made it a brilliant experience. However, there is much more to the site than this. In what felt like a brave move, I found myself being drivien to the top of a mountain looking over the mine to zip wire down to the ground. Zip World Titan is the world’s largest zip zone, which takes you over moor, mountain and mine shaft. The uplift minibus takes you up and up to the top of the hills, and the view is spectacular when you arrive at the summit. I did have a mini-wobble as I was being strapped in to the equipment, but the experience is quite unique. You can travel down at the same time as your party, on parallel wires, which makes it a particularly fun group experience. The feeling of exhilaration is quite something when you get to the end, and the views are astonishing. We completed the dare-devil experience at Llechwedd by visiting Bounce Below, which is an extremely unique experience taking you through rooms, cages and slides, inside a mine cavern in a series of bouncy rope cubes. Catering for children, and your inner child, it is such a fun and almost surreal way to spend an hour, it must be experienced whilst you’re here. With so many activities at Llechwedd, you could easily spend a day here. We left exhilarated from the experience.

Snowdonia 3

Driving towards Snowdon

The most famous attraction of the region is, of course, Mount Snowdon. As keen fell walkers, it was on our list as a major summit to conquer. Sadly, weather conditions were unusually against us when we visited. But we did manage to take the Snowdon Mountian Railway from Llanberis to just over half way up Snowdon to Rocky Valley.

The view from Snowdon Railway

The view from Snowdon Railway

Despite the weather, it was an remarkable experience and one I will be sure to do next time. The train climbs steeply almost immediately after leaving the station in Llanberis, and crosses two waterfalls before climbing up through the valleys to the summit. It is a truly wonderful feat of engineering and a wonderful experience – particularly special for anyone who is unable or unwilling to climb Snowdon. Both children and adults on our train were in awe of the experience. The reward is always the view at the top and being able to experience that without the walk is remarkable. Highly recommended.  

Anyone who is interested in trains will also enjoy the Ffestiniog & Welsh Highland Railway, providing another opportunity to enjoy the outstanding scenery.

And for adventurous bike riders will enjoy Coed-y-Brenin Forest Park to ride the trails, or the trails at Llechwedd.

POrtmeirion

Portmeirion Village

For some more relaxed sightseeing, I highly recommend a visit to Portmeirion. I didn’t really know what to expect, but we loved it here. It is just so eclectic and characterful, and walking around the village is quite unlike anywhere else you’ll see anywhere in the UK. 

Where to stay 

When choosing somewhere to stay, I found the Snowdonia Mountains and Coast website most useful, offering a wide choice of accommodation, from hotels to bed and breakfast, and all of which have been vetted and come recommended.

Tyddyn Mawr

My choice for the stay was Tyddyn Mawr bed and breakfast, situated at the foot of Cadair Idris and around three miles from Dolgellau in Southern Snowdonia. I chose it based on its excellent reviews online and was delighted with the choice. 

I can only describe it as a very traditional Welsh farmhouse, inside and out, situated in the most delightful spot. The welcome we received from the owner, Olwen, was incredibly warm and genuine, making it abundantly clear from the off that we would be looked after in the most experienced hands. Olwen had thought of everything, from pre-booking a selection of tables for us to choose from for dinner, to arranging a number of gluten free options in advance. 

Arriving in the dark on a Friday night after a long, long drive, Tyddyn Mawr immediately felt like the warm and cosy retreat we needed for the night. The rooms are large, comfortable and spotlessly clean. They have been thoughtfully decorated in a traditional Welsh farmhouse style, as you’ll see throughout the property, with furniture and doors custom made from local Welsh wood.

Localism is a theme at Tyddyn Mawr. Olwyn and her family are proud of their Welsh heritage and Olwyn’s language skills were most informative in my attempts to improve my knowledge of the Welsh language. In fact, in Gwynedd, Welsh is widely spoken, taught in schools, and spoken in shops, cafes and restaurants.

Being situated so close to the coast, fish features on the breakfast at Tyddyn Mawr, and we enjoyed some delicious hot mackerel and smoked salmon for breakfast. Olwyn also uses eggs from the farm next door, Welsh yoghurt from Llaeth Y Llan near Conwy and makes her own muesli, which is made using local honey from Dolgellau. Homemade jams made from fruit from a family garden also feature on the breakfast table. Gluten free options were no trouble at all. It is the breakfast you need to set yourself up for a busy day ahead.

Location wise, Tyddyn Mawr was superb. You could sit in your room and watch lambs bounding around the fields, or walk directly from the B&B up Cadair Idris, one of the most unspoilt and dramatic walks in Snowdonia. Dolgellau is an easy, short drive away, and from there, you are connected to major roads to explore the area further.

Snowdonia Sheep

Snowdonia Sheep

Where to eat

Our most delicious and memorable meal of the visit was at Y Sospan in Dolgellau. We enjoyed a very nice dinner here one night, with a good choice of tasty, well cooked, hearty meals. This isn’t fancy food, but really good cooking, and we thoroughly enjoyed everything we had, from a meltingly tender pork belly, to a giant fillet of perfectly cooked salmon and a lovely bottle of Gewürztraminer to accompany. This is exactly the kind of food you want to eat after a day in the great outdoors.

Bwyty Mawddach restaurant near Dolgellau is a good choice for a smarter meal. Their Sunday lunch is highly recommended. The menu is really lovely and the surroundings are gorgeous. It is definitely the place to go to smarten up and enjoy a special dinner. Be sure to book ahead though, as they do run a number of large events and tables to book up quickly.

A good café in Snowdonia is Conwy Falls Café in Betws-y-Coed. Great service and they do a nice breakfast as well as lunch, and Amelie’s Café in Conwy is a very nice stop off for a light lunch and an excellent slice of cake.

 

Thank you to Snowdonia Mountains and Coast for inviting me to visit Snowdonia.

A foodie guide to Dublin

Number 31. Photo: Hidden Ireland

Number 31. Photo: Hidden Ireland

I recently paid a short visit to Dublin to check out the ever-changing food scene. Dublin is such a wonderful city to visit; either for a weekend mini-break or for a longer stay. It is a city that offers something for everyone, young or old, whether you’re interested in culture, history, or just a fun time. 

The Irish food scene has been growing exponentially over the last decade, with a reputation for superb quality produce and a growing desire to celebrate the best of Irish cooking, translating it for a modern, International audience. 

Always in search of interesting and exceptionally good places to stay and eat when away from home, and keen to get away from big chains, I set about visiting the most exciting independent establishments in Dublin right now.

Where to stay

My base for this trip was Number 31, situated south of St Stephen’s Green, which is one of the most frequented areas of the city centre. Describing itself as a boutique guesthouse, Number 31 offers all the luxury and service you’d expect in a top hotel, but with the peace, quiet and hospitality you’d expect in the very best bed and breakfast establishment. It is a member of Hidden Ireland – a collection of exceptional independent historic houses. 

Two gorgeous buildings are cleverly fused together to form this elegant city centre retreat; a Georgian townhouse and a most interesting Modernist mews designed by notable Irish architect, Sam Stephenson. Connected by a lovely, private garden and a most stylish central space featuring a sunken lounge and mezzanine breakfast room, it is certainly a characterful retreat.

The welcome could not have been warmer, and gave me time to relax with an excellent cup of coffee and some homemade biscuits after a long journey. Once shown to my room, I was given a key as guests are free to come and go as they please, adding to the relaxed atmosphere. Rooms are spacious and decorated in the same super-stylish décor as the rest of the property. Beds are wonderfully comfortable, the sheets are top quality and the bathrooms are deeply luxurious making it the private and relaxing space I needed for my trip.

Breakfast is taken in the mezzanine area in the main building. The choice is superb, including homemade muesli, fresh natural yoghurt, and a gorgeous rhubarb and strawberry compote. Everything here is homemade and done really, really well. There is a wide and tempting choice of cooked breakfasts, excellent coffee and of course, delicious homemade soda bread and cake. It really is a veritable feast to start the day off well.

It is worth mentioning just how delightful all the staff who were I met whilst staying. From the owners, to the young man who helped me with my cases, to the girl who served me at breakfast. They were all brilliant. It’s no wonder Number 31 is a secret Dublin bolt hole to so many famous faces. A stay here was a faultless experience and I’m looking forward to returning already.

Where to eat

The most exciting opening of late, in my opinion, in Dublin is The Fumbally. Its creation is the culmination of four years of cooking and experimentation before launching, and the food is just brilliant. Open for breakfast and lunch every day, offering an enticing blend of Middle Eastern spices, Mediterranean and Irish ingredients, I found it is one of those rare and wonderful places to eat where just everything is excellent. Go, as soon as you can.

If you are looking for a lovely place to buy lunch or coffee in central Dublin, I highly recommend Emer’s Kitchen. It hasn’t been opened long, and Emer herself is in there every day serving here loyal customers. It’s a cool new café and deli, again situated just off the Southeastern corner of St. Stephen’s Green. The coffee is excellent, the lunch menu is fresh, imaginative and prepared using well-sourced ingredients and the cake is divine. If I worked nearby, I’d be calling in everyday for my lunch. A takeaway lunch from here would make the perfect picnic to enjoy in a sunny spot in the square.

Ananda Indian restaurant in Dundrum is another exciting discovery. It is the leading Indian restaurant in Dublin and takes curry to another level. Every dish is beautifully presented, and executed with real skill by Executive Chef Sunil Ghal, and his team, who devised Ananda’s menu in partnership with Michelin-starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar. 

Number 31, The Fumbally, Emer’s Kitchen and Ananda all offer a number of interesting options for dietary requirements.

What to do 

Visitors to Dublin are spoilt for choice for things to see and do. Fortunately, the City Centre is quite compact, so it is very easy to cover ground on foot.

Culturally, there is much to do, from visiting Trinity College, the Irish Government buildings, the Castle and a huge variety of museums.

Those in search of fun will enjoy a visit to the Guinness Storehouse, and a drink and some music in the Temple Bar area, situated very near Trinity College.

For shopping, I think the best shop in Ireland, by far, is the Brown Thomas department store. Staggeringly elegant and jam-packed with carefully picked lines from clothing, to kitchen kit, wines and cookery books, it is the epitome of style from top to bottom. The Kilkenny shop is a very interesting place to explore Irish crafts and sells a lovely range of pottery and glassware.

Thank you to Number 31 for inviting me to stay.