Hidden Britain: day trips without the crowds in the Cotswolds

Published on The Times on 18th July 2020:

Malmesbury, Wiltshire

Jostling for space is quite the norm in the Cotswolds. But Malmesbury, a modest market town between Cirencester and Chippenham, has somehow escaped that plight — a surprise given its rich history as England’s oldest borough.

Athelstan, the first king of all England; the philosopher Thomas Hobbes; and the historian William of Malmesbury have all called this honey-coloured town home. So did Eilmer, the Benedictine monk who strapped on a pair of wings and leapt off the church tower in an 11th-century foray into aviation — although unlike Icarus before him, the amateur aviator did live to tell the tale.

Read more at The Times

For art lovers – The Royal Academy

Published on The Times website on 10th March 2011:

The new restaurant at the Royal Academy is an art lovers’ delight with  golden-lit sculptures at the heart of the room and plush red armchairs in  contrast to the slate floor. It’s very chic, very Parisian. The nuances of  texture and colour are also reflected in the afternoon teas. “The Joshua” offers a choice of cold-cuts including fine-grained wild boar mortadella and  country terrine, salami and dry cured ham. “The Royal”, meanwhile, offers  fresh Mersea Island oysters, sea bass carpaccio, cured salmon and prawn  cocktail. For those in search of tradition, “The Classic” has a daily  changing assortment of finger sandwiches. Chocolate cake, banoffee tart and  mini scones accompany all three on a three-tiered stand, with Cornish  clotted cream, Peyton and Byrne jam and a berry trifle to the side. Let’s  not forget the tea – with 15 black, green, white and herbal blends on offer,  there’s plenty to choose from.

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BD; tel.  0207 300 5608; www.royalacademy.org.uk.  The Classic, Joshua and Royal Afternoon Teas are available from 3pm – 5.30pm  daily at £16.50, £19.50, and £25 respectively. There is the option of  upgrading with either prosecco (Manzanilla for Joshua) or champagne.

Christmas food quiz

Published on The Times website on 14th December 2010:

Think you’re a foodie? Try our festive food quiz and test your seasonal knowledge

1. Which of the following isn’t traditionally served at Christmas?

a) Stollen
b) Panettone
c) Pumpkin pie

2. From which part of the cinnamon plant is the spice extracted?

a) The bark
b) The seeds
c) The roots

3. What do the Danish call Danish pastries?

a) Viennese bread
b) Danish pastries
c) French pastries

4. In the 17th century, who made the eating of mince pies illegal in  Britain?

a) King Charles I
b) King Charles II
c) Oliver Cromwell

5. What are capers?

a) A variety of shellfish
b) Seeds from a fruit
c) Flower buds from the caper tree

6. These lyrics are from which Christmas song?

“Everybody knows a turkey and mistletoe, help to make the season bright”.

7. Which of the following fruits has the highest sugar content?

a) Honeydew melons
b) Strawberries
c) Blueberries

8. Which of these is not an edible wildflower?

a) Dandelion
b) Cornflower
c) Buttercup

9. Which is the driest type of sherry?

a) Manzanilla
b) Fino
c) Oloroso

10. What is Kopi Luwak?

a) A pre-dining ritual in Japan
b) Civet coffee
c) A Malaysian fish dish

11. What is traditionally made on Stir-up Sunday?

a) Sticky toffee pudding
b) Rice pudding
c) Christmas pudding

12. What is the oldest restaurant in London?

13. Which of the following sauces contains tamarind?

a) Ketchup
b) Worcestershire sauce
c) Brown sauce

14. Which part of a cow is brisket from?

a) Front
b) Middle
c) Back

15. Bishop, glögg and glühwein are all variety of what Christmas drink?

16. In which county does “cheese rolling” take place?

a) Ayrshire
b) Gloucestershire
c) Berkshire

17. Which of the following is not a type of pasta?

a) Bucatini
b) Carnaroli
c) Ditalini

18. What was the cookbook in the foodie movie, “Julie & Julia”?

19. Which of these celebrity chefs famously cooked up a ten-bird roast?

a) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
b) Jean-Christophe Novelli
c) Heston Blumenthal

20. What was the candy on the minds of the children in the poem “A visit  from Saint Nicholas (Twas the Night before Christmas)”?

a) Sugar plums
b) Humbugs
c) Bon bons

21. Mayonnaise, mustard and mint sauce are also known as condiments. What are  jams, chutneys and curds also known as?

22. Which of the following is not a cheese?

a) Bonchester
b) Wigmore
c) Coupe

23. What is the seaweed used to wrap sushi?

a) Nori
b) Dulse
c) Wakame

24. Which famous cookery writer wrote a book on household management?

25. Bratwurst, chorizo and boerewors are all…?

Qin Xie writes about food on her blog: In Pursuit of Food


1. c) Pumpkin pie. 2. a) The bark. 3. a) Viennese bread. 4. c) Oliver  Cromwell. 5. c) Flower buds from the caper tree. 6. The Christmas Song  (Chestnuts roasting over an open fire). 7. c) Blueberries. 8. c) Buttercup.  9. b) Fino. 10. b) Civet coffee. 11. c) Christmas pudding. 12. Rules. 13. c)  Brown sauce. 14. a) Front. 15. Mulled wine. 16. b) Gloucestershire. 17. b)  Carnaroli. 18. Mastering the Art of French Cooking. 19. a) Hugh  Fearnley-Whittingstall. 20. a) Sugar plums. 21. Preserves. 22. c) Coupe. 23.  a) Nori. 24. Mrs Beeton. 25. Sausages.