Wednesday, 30 July 2008
What I did on my Summer Holidays, Part Deux
The cottage we stayed in up in Cumbria was the same one as we had stayed in several years ago. Outside a sleepy village and down a winding lane . . . right in the lovely Mallerstang Dale, it stands on the top of a hill. It boasts spectacular views no matter which way you happen to look and we were so impressed with both it's situation and comfort the last time we were there, we just had to stay there again. Ing Hill Lodge is a place I would highly recommend to anyone wishing to visit that beautiful area. Not far away from both the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, it sits virtually on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales National Park.
There is an air of wildness and romance inspired by it's natural beauty and legend in the Mallerstang Dale. The name in itself sounds both ethereal and mystically mysterious, but in fact simply means . . . Duck Pool.
It is said that the Mallerstang is a land where witches and fairies dance . . . a land, where, in days gone by, fearful stories filled men's imaginations. Early inhabitants actually conjured up the frightening image of a dragon to haunt the Eden Valley . . . where our cottage lay and . . . in fact, the dragon was an image often associated with places sacred to pagan people.
It lay at the foot of the hill on which our holiday home away from home sat . . . an easy and picturesque walk of several hundred yards or so . . . Pendragon Castle . . . named for the man made mound on which it lays. "Pen" being the Celtic word for hill . . . and the "Dragon" being the legendary beast, once thought to have lived within the mound and a symbol of the power of ancient beliefs and myths . . . giving birth to yet another myth and legend . . . that the castle itself was the home of Uther Pendragon . . . father to King Arthur . . .
It stands on the top of the mound. Easily visible from our cottage home . . . imposing and romantic. Largely a ruin, where sheep amble in and out amongst the stones and shadows . . . where grass and fern grown and spring from out of the most unlikely places. The view from it's crumbling stone walls is spectacular to say the least and one could sit there for hours just breathing in the beauty of the Eden Valley and the Mallerstang Dale.
The river Eden winds and twists it's way alongside of the base of the mound in places and then trickles on down the valley, cutting a peaceable swathe amongst the rolling hills filled with bleating sheep, trickling over stones and pebbles in some places, and coursing over rocks in others.
It is a pleasant walk down to the castle and back along a narrow roadway, flanked on either side by the ever present stone walls, decorated beautifully with the wild flowers that grow freely along their length and girth . . . Red Campion, Queen Anne's Lace, Thistle to name but a few . . . swallows swoop and swirl in an aerial dance above our heads . . . it is a glorious day. The sun is shining and there is scarce a cloud in the sky. This feeling of wonder and amazement is priceless . . . another holiday treasure to store within our beating hearts . . . a feeling that tugs us back to this place time and time again . . . and probably will for years to come . . .
Oh my, but we have been having very hot and humid weather these past few days! Not that I am complaining, but I AM COMPLAINING! haha I am not a person that copes with with heat and humidity combined! It seems to sap all my energy and strength. These are salad days . . . one scarcely dares put the stove on and risk the extra heat it brings to the kitchen . . .
*Tomato, Mozzarella and Avocado Salad*
Best eaten straight away to maintain the freshness of the basil and avocado, this salad is perfect for these hot summer evenings when one doesn't really have the appetite to eat much more than this. Delicious with thick slices of fresh crusty bread, it pleases on many levels . . . colourful and full of wonderful flavours and textures.
2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
5 1/2 ounces of fresh mozzarella cheese (I like to use Buffalo as it has a lovely flavour)
2 ripe Haas avocados
4 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 tsp coarse grainy Dijon mustard
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a few fresh basil leaves torn into pieces
several handfuls of fresh salad leaves
20 black olives
Using a sharp knife, cut the tomatoes into thick wedges. (I never refrigerate my tomatoes. I leave them on the counter and allow them to get ripe and juicy at room temperature. This brings out the most delicious flavours)
Drain the mozzarella cheese and tear it roughly into pieces. Cut the Avocados in half and remove the stones. Slip off the skins and then cut them into slices.
Place the salad leaves in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, avocado slices and torn mozzarella over top.
Whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and scatter the basil and olives over top.
Serve immediately along side of some fresh crusty bread.