I’m very pleased to announce that today, we’re able to ‘go public’ that from the 31st August 2010, both myself and my wife Jolene, will be leasing a luxurious boutique hotel in Farnham, Surrey, called ‘Hotel de Vie‘ (Hotel of Life).
This is a venture we’ve been in discussions regarding, for nearly 9 months now. The training is nearly complete, papers have been signed, and we should all be good to go in less than 3 weeks.
How did we do it?
I was fortunate to be speaking with the owner prior to the massive renovation project of the previously run down property. After sharing a few ideas with them, and keeping in contact over the past few years, at the end of a recent visit the owners mentioned they were looking to potentially expand the business (subject to finding a new suitable venue), so were keen to find a suitable couple to run the existing one.
Both myself and Jolene excitedly discussed the idea at length on the journey home, and gave them a call back as soon as we were home, offering ourselves for the purpose.
The rest as they say, is history.
We’ll be adding a few things to the hotel website over the coming months, but do feel free to check it out anytime on www.Hotel de Vie.com
Being a lacto-vegetarian for health reasons (I can’t eat eggs, or any of the meat/fish/poultry stuff), I’ve been on the lookout for a great chocolate sponge cake for a while.
This is an adapted recipe from Lisa Glanville, but as she used eggs and cup measures, I needed to find an alternative way around, plus I use weights and ml. 🙂
This recipe has proved so successfully, it’s now available and rebranded as ‘metta cake’ (‘love and kindness cake’) after being picked up by one of the volunteers at the Vipassana training center. So after 10 days of meditation, this is one of the items to help reground the participants.
N.B., don’t be put off by the fact it’s an egg free, vegan recipe. Everyone I’ve had try it haven’t noticed, but they all comment on how deliciously rich, moist and delicious it is!
Printable PDF version
Makes 16 adult slices.
- 225g – Plain Flour
- 75g – Cocoa Powder
- 1 1/2 tsp – Bicarbonate of Soda
- 4 1/2 tsp – Baking Powder
- 275g – Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp – Vanilla Essence
- 300g – Egg Free Mayo (ie Mayola by GranoVita)
- 250ml – water
- 250g – Icing Sugar
- 4 tbls – Cocoa Powder
- 100g – Vegan margarine
- 1 1/2 tsp – Vanilla Essence
(you may want to multiply these icing levels, by 1.5 times, if you want to cover the cake fully more easily on the sides, middle and top).
- Preheat oven to around 180 degrees Centigrade (350F)
- Prepare two non-stick 8 or 9 inch round cake pans (or grease and line if not using non-stick)
- In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and baking powder, and mix lightly. Then set-aside
- In a mixer if you have one, (or a large bowl if not), combine the sugar, vanilla essence, and tub of egg free mayo.
- Mix together for a couple of minutes (but don’t be put off by the strong mayo smell.. that disappears quickly with cooking)
- Add the sifted dry ingredients slowly, alternating with the water, into the mixer, and combine slowly but thoroughly.
- Pour into the two prepared cake tins (about 550g of mix per tin), and bake for 35-40 minutes (until a skewer inserted into the middle, comes out clean). Try not to open the oven too early though.
- Remove from oven, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, before turning out onto wire cooling rack.
- You can eat it without the icing, but if you do want the icing, wait until it’s almost cool before adding (otherwise it melts).
- Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a clean mixing bowl
- Add the butter, and vanilla essence.
- Whisk thoroughly (ideally with an electric mixer on slow).. It will seem too dry for a good few minutes, but keep with it, it will suddenly change to lovely smooth icing.
- Add about a third of the icing between the layers, another third on top, and the remaining icing around the sides.
- This cake seems to last 3 days without any loss to taste or texture, if kept in under cover (ie an up-turned large bowl). I can’t tell you how much longer though, it’s always eaten pretty quickly!
- Don’t try and eat too much too soon. It’s surprisingly rich, and very moorish, but pace yourself!
- You could also add some thick clotted cream or rich vanilla ice-cream when serving, but it works just as well without too.
I had a very nice visit last week, from my Great Uncle and Great Aunt, Owen and Peg, who were over visiting from the USA.
It was great seeing them again (I’m sure it’s been over 15 years since the last time), and through finding out a little more about them this time, was amazed to hear that Owen (on the far right of the photo below), at aged 77, still does 150 press-ups every day!
Personally I think that’s very impressive (I think I might be able to do around 10% of that at the moment!), so if he can do that at 77, it gives me a great focus of what I should be able to do at 33!
Many thanks guys. Lovely to see you both again.
Butternut squash risotto
This is one of my favourite risottos, it tastes very creamy, is extremely easy to eat (very morish), and seems pretty healthy too!
We make it with vegan margarine, but I know it also works just as well with proper butter.
Do sort out the squash first though, it normally takes longer than you’d expect to peel and chop!
This also goes very well with freshly made Garlic Bread.
Printable PDF version
- Half a medium butternut squash, peeled and diced in small pieces.
- One large onion, finely chopped.
- 2 freshly crushed garlic cloves / or a good teaspoon of garlic paste (optional)
- Approx 50g butter / margarine (or more)
- 1.5pts (750ml) vegetable stock (make it as two veggie stock cubes disolved in 1.5 pts boiling water)
- 250g risotto rice
- A few shavings of Parmesan (if you’re not veggie), a vegetarian alternative to Parmesan if you are veggie, or omit the cheese bit entirely if you’re vegan (it’s still great as is)
- In a large saucepan, fry the onion for a few minutes with the butter, until very slightly browning, then add the crushed garlic (or garlic puree)
- Add the dry risotto rice to the fried onions & butter, and toss until mixed, then fry for a minute or two.
- Add the vegetable stock, mix, bring to boil. Then add diced squash.
- Simmer until liquid has been absorbed (around 15 minutes), mixing occasionally. Adding a little more boiling water as necessary
- Season to taste.
- Add the Parmesan if you have it.