Ever tried Sticky Toffee Pudding? Well if you have you have my wife’s Uncle to thank.
Francis Coulson is my wife’s Uncle and despite the many claims and counter-claims, the original Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe was created by Francis Coulson at Sharrow Bay in the 1970s, and it is said that the featherlight sweet figgy sponge drenched in toffee sauce is ‘still the finest you will find anywhere in the world’.
Francis Coulson’s original, secret recipe is the stuff of culinary legend, anecdotally inspired by Brian Sack’s time as an RAF Spitfire pilot, where he saw Canadian RAF Pilots use Maple Syrup. This was pre Food Air Miles, so necessity became the mother of invention!
Staff at Sharrow Bay have signed a secrecy agreement to not disclose the secret recipe that is held in the hotel’s vaults, nor must ex-staff ever use the recipe at any other business.
I only met Francis once and he was an extremely nice man but unfortunately he never told us the recipe! Just think if we had a £1 for every toffee pudding ever eaten I’d be writing this from a beach somewhere!!
In 2007, an anonymous bidder paid £32,000 to the Children in Need charity in order to stay at Sharrow Bay and be allowed to make the pudding alongside the pastry chef.
C’est la vie as the French would say, life wouldn’t be any fun if it was easy.
So next time you fancy a really sweet delicious pudding grab yourself a sticky toffee one and quietly thank Uncle Francis for creating this superbly sweet treat. And don’t worry I really don’t want to live on an idyllic beach honest!!!!
This young Robin was practicing his Christmas card poses in the garden earlier this week. Hopefully get some pictures of him soon as his redbreast is starting to develop.
Last one from the show at the weekend a beautiful eagle.
This is Meg a three year old Bengal Eagle Owl from the display this weekend. She wouldn’t sit still!!
This stunning bird was photographed at my local nature reserves open day where a local bird of prey enthusiast was showing his birds. More to follow.
Aviemore in the heart of Scotland is a great place to see ospreys in the wild. These fish eating raptors return here from Africa each summer to breed and raise their young. Extinct in the UK until being reintroduced in Scotland in the 50’s they are now thriving and with a strong base in Scotland have spread around the country and down into Northern England.
Aviemore Ospreys allow you to get up close to these stunning birds in a couple of hides set up to allow you to watch and photograph them as they come in to fish on a small pond stocked with trout. On their website is a gallery of images and so at 3.45am I set off to try and snap something similar. The hides are located behind the main hotel in the town and during the day would be busy with guests and children on the nearby play area, but at 4am the only people about were 5 hardy photographers and Gordon the guide. Gordon settled us into the hides and explained what he hoped would happen before disappearing to the carpark with his walkie talkie to provide the running commentary. As the hides are built low down at water level it’s difficult to see the birds coming in so Gordons commentary keeps you aware of what’s in the sky and if any bird looks like diving in he lets you know.
The birds soon arrived but in the dark dawn light my pictures were quite frankly rubbish as I struggled to get the settings anywhere near what’s needed. However just seeing these birds plunge into the water and on most occasions emerge with a sizeable fish is something really special.
Eventually the light slowly improved and so did my pictures but nowhere near the quality of what the professionals get.
It’s a tough morning photography wise and the window of opportunity is small to correct and readjust what you think the settings need to be as by 8am it was all over and the ospreys had moved on to other fishing grounds.
The above osprey is a 7 year old male ringed locally in 2010.
I take my hat off to the photographers who take such stunning pictures of these birds and it shows me I still have lots to learn to improve my pictures. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but was disappointed with my photo’s.
While chatting in the hide I learnt of a nearby nest which was fairly accessible so guess where I went the following day?
Last month I was due to go on a diving gannet photography day from Bridlington on the East Coast. Unfortunately the weather put paid to that trip so my plans got rearranged and I set off instead for a day at Bempton Cliffs.
Known locally as the Seabird City Bempton Cliffs are home to a staggering number of gannets, razorbills, fulmars, puffins, shag, herring gull, kittiwake and guillemots. In fact this year has proved to be a record year with almost 450,000 birds counted.
The gannets are the most numerous with over 200,000 visiting the cliffs from March to October to breed or in the case of youngsters get used to being a gannet as it’ll be 5 years before they breed. These Northern Gannets return to Bempton every year from their wintering sites in West Africa and they return to the same nest site with the same partner every year.
Although very affectionate to each other when they are crammed up close and personal on their very small nest spaces tempers can easily get frayed and some violence can ensue. They are our largest seabird with a wingspan up to 2 metres which allows them to effortlessly soar above the cliffs or travel great distances to feed. They eat larger fish such as mackerel and cod and the availability of these has been key in the recent rises in population as they successfully raise their chicks.
An onshore wind holding the birds above the cliffs offers some spectacular photo opportunities especially when they are gathering grass and plants to adorn their nests or offer as gifts to their partners. I’m not sure about nettles though as a suitable nesting material!
Just for you Betty, a Kingfisher dancing.