02 November, 2007
then we hit Wales
Pembrokeshire, Pembrokeshire, we could have spent WEEKS there, visiting one gorgeous castle ruin after another. Alas, we had just one day-ish. It's hard to believe that a place as beautiful as Lamphey, Wales could exist just a few kilometres from the evil ferry port, but it's true. We drove through the smallest, narrowest roads I've ever seen, bounded by enormous hedgerows of a solidity that belies environmental reports of their demise. And fog!
We arrived at the Lamphey Court Hotel, a beautiful old pillared country house that was lusciously luxurious even in the rather austere bareness of late October. Surrounded by sheep, as you see! Avery and I had just been saying that we missed only two things in Ireland: good walking spaces and sheep, and there they were! Although in my communing with them I attracted the attention of their farmer lady who rode up on a tractor and made me promise not to worry them. They didn't look worried to me, but I was good and left them alone. So we visited the adjacent Bishop Lamphey's ruined palace instead, a place of indescribable calm and peace, and a quite wonderful scrap of medieval window left. Just gorgeous.
We all settled down to read and relax, me with Lady Diana Cooper's third volume of her memoirs, Trumpets From the Steep, and what a querulous, brave, funny, spectacularly social lady she was, with fascinating tales of the blitz, wartime farming, meetings with princes and lords, and her separation from her son as he was raised in first Long Island and then Canada, to avoid a kidnapping and blackmail temptation for her husband's political enemies, if you can imagine. Such a good read.
A cosy if unremarkable dinner in the hotel's restaurant and up the next day to head back to London. The heaviest fog you can imagine, completely obscuring the fields on either side of the tiny roads our quixotic SatNav insisted we follow. It was amusing to hear her trying to pronounce the Welsh names! Finally we reached Kidwelly Castle for a last venture back into the middle ages, and even on a rainy, foggy, unprepossessing day it was LOVELY. Rather intimidatingly tall with creepy dark winding stone stairwells and a mossy circular bit of chapel. It's well worth a visit, and we planned to see several other castles on the way home, but suddenly were ready to be home, and three or so hours later we were, with kitties very glad to see us.
Real life beckons now, or will do on Monday. Tomorrow is Avery's birthday! Having learned from last year's insanity, and with the happy coincidence of a birthday during half-term, we will not be hosting 27 gulls here in house. Instead, we're taking Avery and Anna to the Viking stronghold of York by train tomorrow, for a relaxing trip to tourist-land where someone else can be in charge of the entertainment and information. So my brief today is to produce a dish of lasagne suitable for the returning warriors tomorrow evening. I think I can handle that.
Extra Cheesey Lasagne for a Birthday Girl
(serves at least 6)
1 box lasagne sheets
2 tbsps olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, minced
1 pound beef mince
2 soup cans peeled plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 tbsps Italian seasoning
dash red wine
2 balls mozzarella
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
Saute garlic, onion and beef mince in olive oil, then add tomatoes, seasoning and wine and simmer until thick and NOT juicy. Set aside.
Cook lasagne sheets. Spray a deep dish with nonstick spray and place in bottom one layer of pasta. Spread with beef mixture and sprinkle with cheddar, then one layer of mozzarella slices. Top with another layer of pasta sheets, overlapping if necessary (you want to use the whole box, 10 sheets or so). Top with more grated cheese, more mozzarella and the whole container of mascarpone. Top with more lasagne sheets and the remainder of the meat mixture, finishing with a layer of cheese and sprinkling with pecorino or parmesan. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Absolute heaven.