Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Thames Path

After 6 years of living in Tooting I thought I knew the Thames quite well.  I'd walked along the South Bank, the Peace Mile at Battersea Park and even along the river at Richmond (hint - London's best day-walk is Wimbledon Park to Richmond).

I always knew that the Thames 'came from somewhere' but was somewhat vague as to where that was.  It was only in the latter years of my time in London that I started exploring the more suburban stretches of the Thames.  I won't say the rural stretches of the Thames just in case a resident of Oxfordshire pipes up to to remind me that this blog post still describes a stretch well within the M25!

So on a sunny day in April we packed our day-packs and took an early train down to Hampton Court.  The plan was to walk at least as far as as Walton-on-Thames with a view that a late lunch would give us an opportunity to decide whether or not to push onto Staines.  A quick 30 minute journey from Clapham Junction and we were at the start - staring across the river at the impressive site of Hampton Court Palace.

The Thames at East Molesey

The Thames at Hampton Ferry

Walking down this section of the Thames it is easy to forget that you only a short hop from Zone 6.  It would be possible to forget you are near Heathrow if it wasn't for the planes flying overhead - still its surprisingly peaceful to walk along this stretch of the river.

A lovely lunch stop was the Anglers at Walton-on-Thames which is right on the towpath.  I would go into what I had to eat but I cannot remember and have no photos.  Suffice it to say that food is of the gastro-persuasion and clientele of the Yummy-Mummy/little Freddie and Francesca  brigade - nice food and beer choice though with a fantastic view of the Thames in both directions from the top floor.

Swans at Walton-on-Thames

D'Oyly Carte Island

A nice lunch and walk along the rest of the towpath to Weybridge left us waiting for the Shepperton ferry to continue the rest of the walk

Shepperton Ferry Landing

At this point interested readers should pickup the descriptions from the excellent The Thames Path website.  I remember the section after Shepperton being even more interesting (lots of very imposing houses with private moorings, the water meadows at Chertsey) however my photos do not reflect this!

As for Staines...well what can I say?  The riverside is actually quite nice but to be honest we were pretty tired by this point and caught the first train back to Clapham Junction.

UPDATE:  subwarrier on made me aware of a free CD/mp3 audio guide offered by Elmbridge council about the history of some of this stretch of the river.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Recipe: Buffalo Wings

Americans can do simple food so well - so many times across that country I have stepped foot into a random bar and had a great burger, or a fantastic breakfast or my favourite; a whole bucket of chicken wings washed down with a whole bucket of beer.

So Buffalo Wings - cheap, cheerful and so I thought completely undoable this side of the pond.  Firstly - where can you find chicken wings?  Normally when I order these anywhere I receive pathetic excuses for wings with a quantity of meat that makes me feel sorry for the scrawny beast that probably never really used them.  I've seen organic and free range chicken wings for sale in Waitrose at £5 for 4.  Given I eat about a dozen in a sitting it wasn't going to work.

One of the benefits of moving out to the suburbs has meant access to a car and a quick look on the internets found me a couple of decent butchers.

My first attempt used chicken wings sourced from the greats Bevan's butchers at Garsons Garden Centre in Esher.  I asked for a dozen chicken wings at something like £5/kilo and received about 1.2kg.  Fantastic free-range chicken meant these wings were mahoosive examples of their kind and fed two adults (sparingly) for 2 days.

Attempt number two took me to the Game Larder in Claygate where the butcher had no fresh chicken wings but kindly sold me about 25 frozen wings for £2.  Yes - thats £2.  Although this is a bargain the wings were much smaller than the examples at Garsons and I always feel a bit icky eating battery chicken.

Next on the shopping list is the sauce.  There can be only one authentic sauce and that's Frank's Hot Sauce .

Frank's Hot Sauce

I've seen this in Waitrose before - you need to add melted butter to it for Buffalo Wings.  Alternatively you can buy Frank's Buffalo Wing sauce which from what I can tell is Frank's and butter - I've only seen this in Garsons Farm Shop.

I adapted this recipe as I wanted to bake, not fry the wings.  I've tried cooking them on a raised rack but this just results in the sauce falling off!  At this point there are 2 choices.

  1. Dip the refrigerated wings in the sauce before cooking per the recipe above - aka the wife-friendly option.  This delivers non-messy wings that are spicy but truthfully are not buffalo wings.  They are better the next day than option 2 though.
  2. Cook without sauce.  This delivers exceptionally crispy chicken wings that you then dip into the hot, buttery sauce that you've heated on the hob (the flour coating gives the sauce something to stick to).  These are the wings I'd been craving!

Result.  Chicken wings with home-made coleslaw and potato salad.  3 days worth!

Buffalo Wings

Are you ready? Good...then I shall begin.

I've tried to write a blog before.  It was a short-lived affair reviewing restaurants in South-West London.  Although I absolutely love eating out I don't think I went out enough to give it the content it deserved - nor did I make the effort to spread the word and increase my audience.  Rubbish really.

This time...oh but this time it will be different (I tell myself)!  This time I'm going to write about all the things I've researched to death that make friends and colleagues ask me for advice on the weirdest of topics.  Contrary to popular blog wisdom I'm not picking my niche and sticking with it which may be a mistake - I'm just going to follow my nose for now, but my nose can smell the following topics...

  • Booze
  • Good cheap food
  • Cooking
  • Living in the 'burbs and working in London.
  • Useful software and websites.
  • New tech 
  • Travel
  • The Outdoors
  • Politics and Economics.
  • Other blogs I read
  • Stuff I'm not enthusiastic about and why.