On the rink: Curling in Kent

‘Random’ can be an overused word – particularly by teenage ‘guyz’ who think everything is weird – but a trip to England’s only dedicated curling rink could justifiably be called random.

Did any of us ‘need’ to try curling that weekend? No. But a brilliant friend had a weird birthday wish that just needed to be fulfilled. Afterwards all of us were richer individuals for having shared the experience at Fenton’s Rink in Kent.

England's only curling rink

England’s only curling rink

Curling is an odd sport (but no odder than any other when you think about it). Its quirkiness and Team GB’s success adds up to the fascination it generates. It turns out curling should also not be underestimated – tiring on the thighs (and the mind) and you even have to watch a safety video.

Curling stones are ONLY made in Scotland, out of granite

Curling stones are ONLY made in Scotland, out of granite

Once everyone has the proper training, you are let lose on the ice, with groups getting full use of the rink and two coaches for support. Most people start off cautious and it is lovely to see everyone’s confidence and competitiveness grow.

Picture of people curling

The flags definitely fuel the competition

Kind of like bowling on ice, you have to get the shoes right. This aint no fashion show folks…

Image of black curling shoes

Ice shoes

To add to the quirks and charm of Fentons, it is set right in the heart of the Kent countryside and with a retro feel that transports you back to the time of Torvil and Dean. As they say, a change is as good as a rest, so while a trip curling might feel random, it might just make your weekend

The farm yard frontage adds to the mystery

The farm yard frontage adds to the mystery

So retro. So random.

So retro. So random.

Fentons Ice rink is open seven days a week and can be booked for two hour group sessions.

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Super fast birthday dinner for bad daughters

You know when its Friday night and you’re supposed to be cooking a birthday dinner for your Mum? But you finish work late and then you have to make everything in half an hour and feel like having a mental breakdown?

Maybe you don’t, because you’re probably much better at life than me.

But if you do ever need to make a super-fast, super nice birthday dinner (or any dinner), this is what I would suggest making because I have SO BEEN THERE…and this kind of works.

First – whack parma and melon on a fancy plate…simple things.

Picture of melon and parma ham

Melon and parma ham

I love Jo Pratt’s ‘lazy tray baked chicken’. You just throw the ingredients in a large roasting pan  – big pieces of chicken combined with panceta, baby potatoes, chopped red onion and carrots (or any veg you feel like really – peppers work well), along with a generous helping of lemon segments,  rosemary and a good drizzle of honey. This needs about an 1.15 in the oven at 200 degrees.

Picture of chicken

Tray baked chicken

Desert is my take on another Jo Pratt classic – plums and peaches halved, de-stoned and filled with mascarpone (mix in the zest of an orange first) combined with amaretto biscuits. Pour over a good glunk of port with some flaked almonds sprinkled on top. This needs about 25 minutes in the oven on 200 degrees.

Picture of peaches and plums

Mascarpone peaches and plums

And finally – if you are crazy like me – some part of you will have pre-empted your late finish from work and have got up at 6am to make cupcakes – because you can’t have a birthday dinner without cake. We accidentally bought golden icing, but I think this actually looks way fancier. And tastes amazing with chunks of Green and Blacks on top. Of course.

Picture of birthday cupcakes

Birthday Cupcakes

The best cupcakes start in Wandsworth

Recently, I wanted to send some cupcakes as a birthday surprise to my friend. On a Saturday, to her house, as I couldn’t make her party.

But as I sometimes tend to find, the road from ‘nice altruistic thought’ to ‘happy reality’ can take a detour via scenes of frustration, annoyance and quite honestly, ultimate resentment. By the time I  spent longer than I thought I would/should on the internet researching cupcake companies and prices, finding last-minute hurdles at the check-out with fees, timings and restrictions etc. I would have happily popped a row of 12 cupcakes like crack (in case you are concerned I’ve never genuinely dabbled in crack).

Wow I sound sour don’t I? Stay with me, this is a happy ending.

Basically (I think) I found the best place to order cupcakes from in London. And it happens to have a branch in WANDSWORTH (so biased). It is called Crumbs and Doillies (I mean you have probably all heard of this but it was news to me).

mixed_cupcakes

Cupcake quivering beauty (from the Crumbs and Doilies online gallery) – my friend has not yet sent me a picture of the ones I bought her – smacks of ‘I ate them all’

I looked into lots of other companies – those which might immediately roll off the tongue when thinking of London bakeries. But Christ they were expensive when you add on the average £25 courier fee?! (I’m not about to name/slag off these companies on the internet, just because they aren’t to my taste, as my blog isn’t really about being a bitch about cupcake companies – I mean come on).

But that said – I have never really ‘got’ this very American cupcake trend that landed in the UK years ago. Quite frankly the frosting levels are too excessive for me. I’ve never understood how you are supposed to eat them. Do you dive your face into 3cm of cochenille butter icing as if you are troughing for truffles? Or lick the frosting off with the tip of your tongue  in an awkward/sexy way? I guess you just get a fork…But I am just a bit too British and would rather nibble on a fairy cake with some traditional white sugar icing and sprinkles, like they did at fetes. In the fifties.

But  anyway…Crumbs and Doilies do cupcakes in pretty much every flavour imaginable (some of which you definitely won’t have imagined). Its all very exciting in a ‘Willy Wonker’ type of way –  from ‘buttered popcorn’ or ‘malteser’ to ‘mexican hot chocolate’ and ‘maple and bacon’ flavour (yes MAPLE AND BACON). So I was totally converted. Particularly because – crucially – you can buy the ‘mini’ size, which answers all of my practical questions on etiquette. So I bought two dozen mini cupcakes for £24 which I didn’t think was too bad.

The delivery fee is also very competitive. It depends on where you live in London and ranges from £4-£14. But you can pay extra for a set delivery time. And you get preferential treatment for living in Wandsworth. As you always really should….