A curious mushroom liqueur

cepe essence culinary speciality bottle
Photo from http://www.distillerie-perigord.com

We found this intriguing liqueur in the supermarket in France last weekend; it seems to be an alcoholic essence of ceps. Here’s the blurb from the bottle:

Sublimez simplement vos plats avec la Spécialité Culinaire au parfum de Cèpe. Notre spécialité culinaire est élaborée au cœur du Périgord à partir de cèpes soigneusement sélectionnés.
Idéale pour déglacer, mariner, flamber vos volailles et autres viandes ainsi que vos poissons. Peut également être utilisée pour parfumer vos risottos, veloutés et purées. Versez 1 cuillère à soupe par personne en fin de cuisson, remuez, servez. (Aucun assaisonnement supplémentaire nécessaire).

Rough translation: “Easily enhance your cooking with this cep essence ‘culinary speciality’. Our culinary speciality has been created in the heart of the Périgord [province] from carefully selected ceps.”

“It is perfect for deglazing, marinating, or flambéing poultry, meat and fish dishes. It can also be used to flavour risottos, soups and purées. Add one soup spoon per person at the end of cooking, stir and serve. (No extra seasoning is required).”

Never having seen it before, I’m fascinated to see what can be made with this unusual product. The only recipe provided on the distilling company’s website is for a very rich-sounding scrambled eggs with ‘virtual’ ceps, which doesn’t appeal much!

I’m thinking of adding some to garlic mushrooms or a sauce for chicken or steak. It is very strongly flavoured so it’s probably not intended for drinking, although having Googled, there do seem to be mushroom flavoured cocktails around.

Have you ever used essence of ceps?


Christmas Countdown | 21 | The Waterloo Battlefield

While we were in Brussels, we took a day trip to the Waterloo Battlefield. T. is a big Napoleonic history buff, so this was a favourite for him.

As you may know, 2015 was the 200th anniversary of the Battle. There has been huge investment in a new museum and various commemorations, culminating in a series of large scale reenactments in the summer, with thousands of participants and spectators. However, we visited in December on a week day and we had the whole place practically to ourselves.

A note on getting there: Waterloo is not particularly easy to get to on public transport. The site is very much set up for visitors to come by car and by coach. There’s either the W bus from Brussels Gare du Midi (takes an hour or more through Uccle) or the train to Braine l’Alleud and then the W bus going in the other direction. Either way, you end up at a seemingly random traffic intersection where you’ll have to pick your way to the start of the shiny, new, 200th anniversary footpath and entry road.

On the plus side, the Lion Mound is clearly visible above the trees and the bus drivers are helpful, so you’ll know you’re in the right place!

On the bus to Waterloo jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Trying to look continental on the W bus.

The Panorama and the Lion Mound are the oldest parts of the memorials at Waterloo. The Panorama dates to 1912 and has a famous immersive oil painting/mural with 3D elements and sound effects.

Inside the Panorama.
Inside the Panorama.

The Lion Mound was completed in 1826 and famously commemorates the Prince of Orange, William II of the Netherlands, who was wounded in the Battle. The views from the top are perfect for taking in the shape of the battlefield and the key sites.

Waterloo Lions Mound jennybegoode.wordpress.com
The Lion Mound – you’ll need to be fit, it’s 226 steps.
Diagram of battle lines.
The Panorama from the outside.

The new underground museum was incredibly good and overwhelmingly detailed. I’m sure even the most dedicated military history buff would learn something new. For me, the political, philosophical and economic contexts were more interesting, as well as plenty of human history about the soldiers etc. We liked the interpretation information, which seemed to be working hard to take a neutral/historical standpoint.

Waterloo Council of War jennybegoode.wordpress.com

Apart from traditional exhibits, like artefacts and mannequins, there were loads of hi-tech and interactive elements. For example, the audio devices (which we didn’t really use) have various historical figures acting as virtual tour guides to choose between and the highlight of the museum is a 3D movie experience on a 180° screen, which was thrilling – make sure to save time for it at the end.

Waterloo new museum jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Hi-tech elements. E.g. the guillotine had a slideshow of those who met their fate!

Waterloo Uniforms jennybegoode.wordpress.com

Eventually we moved on to Hougoumont Farm. A shuttle is provided for the short hop, but we opted to walk as we were running out of time before closing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHougoumont Farm jennybegoode.wordpress.comOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We found the video installation, into which we were hustled at Hougoumont, a bit disappointing. It was very loud and bombastic, taking place in a darkened barn and involving a lot of moving parts (which we could see breaking down before long). It seemed very long and unfortunately, by the time it was over, it was almost too dark to see the memorial to the British soldiers who fought and died in the Battle.

In hindsight, I think we should have gone to Hougoumont first and the museum later on, but of course in the summer, it wouldn’t have mattered so much.


Hopefully these notes could be of use to anyone planning a trip to Waterloo this year. There’s also a good Telegraph article about all the various sites you can visit in the area here: LINK. and here’s the website for the Memorial complex itself: LINK. Incidentally, we got a combined ticket – which included entry to the vintage Panorama, the Lion’s Mound, the new Memorial 1815 and Hougoumont Farm – for 16 Euro. There’s a 19 Euro ticket which includes a couple of other museums in the area – I think you’d need a car to see them all in a day!

On the road to Hougoumont jennybegoode.wordpress.com

This month, I’m again attempting to blog every day to turn this corner of the internet into a sort of advent calendar. Posts will be tagged ChristmasCountdown2015 or you can look at the calendar in the sidebar ⇒

Christmas Countdown | 18 | Brussels Christmas Lights

Grand Place at Christmas jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Grand Place at Christmas

So earlier this month we went for a long weekend in Brussels. I lived in Brussels a long time ago and I haven’t been back for years, so I was really looking forward to the trip. Little did I know it would be taking place the weekend before we moved house!

Grand Place at Christmas is always good value. It’s not filled with Christmas Market stalls, so you can move around, there’s a son et lumière and a crèche with live sheep (no really – apparently they used to have other animals too, but people would steal them!)

Grand Place at Christmas jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Grand Place at Christmas

The main parts of the Christmas Market are around Bourse (the Stock Exchange) and Place Ste Catherine (lots of fish restaurants). It blows my mind that the Boulevard outside the Bourse is closed to traffic – it used to be a super-highway!

Bourse at Christmas jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Bourse at Christmas
Ste Catherine at Christmas jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Ste Catherine at Christmas

We didn’t go on the big wheel because it was absolutely freezing and blowing a gale!

The Grande Roue jennybegoode.wordpress.com
The Grande Roue

Now, these daisies were up on the inner ring road near Trône metro station and I’m not sure if they are Christmas decorations or there all year round. It certainly wouldn’t be unimaginable for the Brussels local government to decide that junctions could do with brightening up. This is a country that used to put heart-shaped filters over red traffic lights at Valentine’s. I wonder if they still do?

Christmas daisies? jennybegoode.wordpress.com
Christmas daisies?

Finally, one of the new European Parliament buildings. It’s not Christmassy, but I love this rainbow effect!

European Parliament jennybegoode.wordpress.com
European Parliament

This month, I’m again attempting to blog every day to turn this corner of the internet into a sort of advent calendar. Posts will be tagged ChristmasCountdown2015 or you can look at the calendar in the sidebar ⇒

“Fashion on the Ration”

“A decline in clothing standards may be accompanied by a decline in self respect and a consequent slackness of the mind.”

– Memo from the Women’s Group on Public Welfare regarding the Make [Do] and Mend campaign, as displayed at the Imperial War Museum London ‘Fashion on the Ration’ exhibition, which is on till the end of the month. I visited earlier this week with my Mum – a rare chance to get away.

An ambitious project and a leap of faith

Helen Pack GDS 2015 landscapeWhat do my little sister, a Shakespeare/zombie mash-up and the Edinburgh Fringe 2015 have in common?

Answer: Thread Theatre Company!

My sister Helen (that’s her in the boater) is making a brave move into freelance theatre production. She’s been working in amateur theatre for years, producing multiple shows annually, making money for the company and gaining loads of experience at the sharp end of theatre. I’ve been to several plays she’s been involved in and the production values are very high. I know she can make a success of this career, if she can get a foot in the door.

This summer she has a big opportunity to go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and work on two plays with Thread Theatre Company. This is huge because it means a professional credit on her CV – as with many professions, theatre production has the chicken and egg situation that you can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job!

Thread sounds like a fantastic outfit.

It was set up by a self-starting, feisty gang of women who are taking big risks to help themselves carve out careers in professional theatre. An “emerging company producing new writing and innovative takes on classic plays”, Thread made their Edinburgh debut last year with “Much ado about Zombies” – a death-defying take on the Shakespeare love story.

“With such an intriguing name, the cynical part of me was almost prepared to be let down. How could this show possibly live up to its title? Happily, Thread Theatre Company has done an admirable job of delivering on their premise…there are many laughs to be had”

Participating in the Fringe is great experience and exposure for young and talented theatre groups. But here’s the rub – it costs a bomb and groups are much more likely to lose money than to break even on ticket sales. To make sure the show goes on, Thread have launched a fundraising campaign on indiegogo.

*** As I write, they are just £610 away from their fundraising target***

I think it’s testament to my sister’s skills of persuasion and ability to leverage contacts that she not only got me to donate to the fundraiser, but to help publicise it all over social media!

If anyone reading this would like to learn more about Thread and the productions they are taking to Edinburgh or would like to donate a few pounds to help them get there, then please click through to indiegogo below:


Not only would you be helping Helen and Thread Theatre (a female-led company who are “particularly passionate about new writing which gives women a voice both on and off stage”), but you would also be helping to support anti-human trafficking charity “Stop the Traffic”  for which the company will be fundraising whilst in Edinburgh. One of their plays is a new piece of writing dealing with the issue of sex trafficking in Europe.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they have a really successful season!

Update (29.07.15): Thread Theatre beat their fundraising target by some way and are off to Edinburgh! Hooray!

I wonder if I can get a cheap flight…? 

A day trip to Burnham-on-Sea

Burnham-on-Sea blue sky 2This weekend I had the feeling it was time to see the sea. It was a beautiful clear and sunny day and pretty mild too. So we drove out to Burnham-on-Sea.

Unfortunately the sea was out for the afternoon – somewhere out there, beyond a very wide, silty beach and a channel and a sandbar!

Burnham-on-SeaWe took loads of photos of the wave patterns instead of the waves.

Burnham-on-Sea silhouetteSilhouettes and shadows.

Burnham-on-Sea diptychThe beach wasn’t as empty as it may appear. There were a lot of dog walkers and families about. We even saw two girls with rolled up trouser legs, paddling in the tide pools. In February! The enthusiasm of youth, eh?

Burnham-on-Sea fogAs we turned back and back onto the esplanade, the sea mist rolled in and everything got very atmospheric. In Scotland, they call the sea mist the ‘haar’; I wonder what the old Somerset word would be?

Burnham-on-Sea is an easy 45-minute drive from Bristol – perfect for summer day trips I think.