What about me?

Even though I’ve been writing this blog for several months, I still feel like a newcomer. Back in December I decided to sign up for the blogging101 course, it’s just started and we’ve been given our first assignment. It’s simply to introduce ourselves. Sounds simple, right?

Well it should be really, I’ve already introduced myself in my About section which also links to my first post, much of which is still true. Yes I could keep a diary but I’d never remember to write in it, having followers and a sense of community here encourages me to keep trying, keep writing , keep coming back.

I still live in the middle of nowhere and my recipes still feature food that anyone (in theory) can get hold of, still no truffle oil here although I did stuff some chicken with sun dried tomato, olive and caper meze the other day. Lack of posh delis or even large supermarkets means that’s about as exotic as my food gets.  But it is achievable. Maybe not interesting though.

I now work part time so in theory should have more time, this is partly true, I made bread again recently (post coming soon!) and have been able to do more slow cooking, but I still keep running out of time. At least trying to blog makes me do something for myself, something I enjoy and hopefully over time my writing skills and style will improve.

My blog is not all about cooking though, the cars section is less busy but it’s there.  Why cars? I could have just written a food blog but that certainly wouldn’t reflect all I do, cars are my passion. Most of the events we go to run from April to October so there will be more posts about motorsport during that time. I definitely write for two very different crowds with little crossover, is that dangerous, after all it means most people will only ever be interested in a section of my blog, but the flipside is more people might find it and read it. That’s the theory anyway. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Autosport International 2016

Autosport International is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, car shows in the UK. Two trade days followed by two public days mean a lot of people traipsing through the halls of the NEC.

Personally, I prefer the trade days at any car show. It’s a bit quieter so it’s easier to walk around and I see more people I know.  This was my first time at the Autosport show, would it be different? In a word, no. It’s not a bad show but it’s a mix of people in motorsport networking and announcing news with the general public who may not even be that bothered about cars, they want a day out or maybe to see the Live Action Arena, mainly because someone famous is driving something there.

I like my motorsport unadulterated and grassroots. Getting involved myself and meeting people with a similar passion knocks the socks off standing around a show waiting to see Damon Hill, it knocks the socks off some of these high level, high status race meetings where not much happens and if it does then it is all off track (yes, Formula 1 I’m looking at you here!)

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One good thing from this weekend was being involved with the free passenger rides as part of the GoMotorsport campaign. The idea here is to give people an opportunity to have a taste of motorsport. You would not believe how difficult it is to get people to try something for free. I suspect a lot of them think it can only be free if we try to sell them something else during it or they think motorsport is only about BTCC or F1 and an autosolo doesn’t interest them. They forget that one is affordable and anyone can take part, yes they can rag their pride and joy round an empty car park but they don’t realise that competitions give them a safe environment to do that and they may not actually be as quick as they think they are! All said though, standing in the cold for hours and lots of people just walking past was worth it for the smiles of the 1200 people who did try it out over the weekend. Especially the kids. If just 5% of those people go on to come to an event, marshal or compete that’s still 60 new people. That was worth standing in the cold for.

A very vintage day out

Whilst the rest of the car world seemed to be at Goodwood, basking in dressing up and playing at being vintage, in a small corner of the Shropshire countryside the Vintage Sports Car Club put on a truly vintage event.

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Goodwood is, of course, highly successful and rightly so, but my heart is in grassroots motorsport and Loton Park is a wonderful example of this. I have blogged about VSCC hillclimbing here and some of the Club’s other activities here but Loton Park always holds a very special place for me.

Firstly, it is one of the most picturesque courses I have been too and secondly, whilst Prescott is ‘the’ event everyone wants to go to and has a wonderful garden party atmosphere, Loton is relaxed, has the clubbie feel and just feels a bit more like events used to be. I’m not one for unnecessary nostalgia (says she who is heavily involved with vintage cars!!)  but the old motto of the Club was ‘the right crowd and no crowding’. Everyone at Loton was there for the love of cars, the competitors all muck in to look after each other and the whole thing has a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

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Saturday started off wet with a few heavyish downpours for the unlucky early runners but once the grey sky had passed, the drivers were rewarded with a dry track for the rest of the weekend and even some sunshine on occasion. Practice was relatively event free and the time sheet revealed that the fastest pre-war car was some way ahead of his rivals.

Really everyone was waiting for the Saturday night hog roast. Kindly organised by brothers Robin and David Baker who are affectionately known as the Baker Boys, this is a real chance for marshals, competitors and guests to stand round the bar, enjoy some real ale and banter and follow it up with some rather lovey pig rolls. The real highlight of my night was being awarded the annual Baker Boys Trophy, originally awarded for Best Performance in an Aero-Engined Car, it has now grown into a ‘good egg’ trophy. I was absolutely astounded to receive it, especially as there are so many ‘good eggs’ in the Club, as demonstrated by Sunday’s events.

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Talking of which, it all started ok, the first car on the hill was an Austin 7 driven by the Club’s new Treasurer and he managed to bag himself a 2nd Handicap award. In fact the day in general went fairly smoothly with people taking a much tidier line around Triangle.

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Lunchtime provided an opportunity for competitors to give a cadet a run up the hill as a reward for the cadets undertaking car parking duties.

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After lunch, things got a little more difficult. Just out of my sight, Richard Scaldwell had a rather large off in his rather large De Dietrich, however having been checked over by the Doc, he was transferred to hospital in a friend’s camper van so that a cut could be properly cleaned and stitched. Slightly battered and bruised, the biggest dent seems to have been to his wallet for the repairs. A wonderful camaraderie was shown when one competitor towed home the stricken car with another competitor taking home the car of Richard’s wife, who had also been competing. They were by no means the only people to offer to help.

Once the incident had been tidied up, we were back under way, a slightly subdued Mark Walker in his Darraq being the first to tackle the hill, with a class win already in his pocket he had no need to do anything other than drive steady , which he did, even if it didn’t necessarily look like that to the untrained eye. The meeting finished with the very last car (although not vintage) taking Fastest Time of the Day.

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Just to prove that the Club is one of equal opportunities, that FTD was by a female driver, Phoebe Rolt, as were a number of other awards, including Jo Blakeney-Edwards (probably more competitive than all the men put together) winning Class 3 and the ever popular Sue Derbyshire (still one of my most respected drivers) taken a 2nd in her class.

Fastest Time of the Day by a Pre-War car was a three way fight and an all-male affair. Favourite before and during the meeting was Julian Grimwade (Frazer Nash Norris Special) who had set the fastest time of the three contenders in practise. Vying to deprive him of the top spot were Tony Lees in his Cognac and Tim Greenhill in his Wolsley. When it came to the final runs, Tony and Tim were in the class before and finished with just 0.2 second difference between them. However they didn’t do quite enough to beat Julian’s morning time of 65.14s, just 0.63s ahead of Phoebe’s morning time. Could he improve and beat the post-war car? He did his bit and improved to 64.85s. As you already know, Phoebe went just that little bit faster to take overall FTD.

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Loton Park, as organised by Hagley and District Light Car Club organise a number of events throughout the year, including a round of the British HillClimb Championship. To read more about one of their more modern meetings you can read this piece

So will I be at Loton or Goodwood next year? One has excellent on track action, vintage machinery you can get up close to and is a great day out, the other is in West Sussex . I’ll stick to Loton Park.

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Less cooking and not many more cars

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5 days. I feel like I’ve abandoned my blog but it’s only been 5 days. I can understand the comment made on an earlier blog about feeling like you are having an affair with WordPress (although I have told my other half that I blog now.)

Part of the reason for the lack of blogging is that since the last one, we’ve eaten at the local pub or I’ve been away playing with cars, more about that later.

We did manage to spend one night at home so I cooked mince beef enchiladas as we had some wraps and mince beef in the fridge.

500g mince beef
4-5 wraps (depending on the size of your oven dish)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tins of tomatoes
100g cheese
Onion, chopped
Handful of chopped mushroom
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Red Pepper
Oil

Gently fry the onion in the oil until it starts to soften, then add the pepper, garlic and mushrooms. Once that’s all starting to soften too, add the mince, increase the heat slightly and fry until brown. Mix in the spices then add one of the tin of tomatoes and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. You could also add a splash of red wine before the tomatoes or some Dark Soy Sauce with the tomatoes.

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Once the sauce is ready, put roughly a ladleful in the middle of a wrap and parcel it up. The wraps have a habit of sticking to the bottom of tray so I also spread a small ladleful of mixture in the bottom of the tray. Once you have filled a tray in a single layer, pour another tin of tomatoes over the top (I prefer these blended but you can leave them as normal or use passata instead) then cover with as much cheese as you want. Put into a pre-heated oven at Gas Mark 6 for about 15 minutes by which point the cheese should be starting to brown. Stick under the grill to crisp up some more, if needed, then serve.

One experiment the Other Half and I were talking about trying is using wraps instead of pasta sheets next time we make lasagne but that will wait a month or two!

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And the car bit….yesterday I went to a sprint at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) and its a slightly odd place. Its great for drivers as the bit we use for the sprint has a super grippy surface, but there’s no spectators and cameras are banned. We get a nifty little blue sticker to cover the lens for phone cameras. Saturday was more modern machinery and not really my favourite place or spectacle. Next weekend is the British Hillclimb Championship round locally so should provide a little more entertainment.

Cars not cooking

This weekend was the annual Prescott meeting for the Vintage Sports-Car Club. Explaining the draw of this meeting is easy enough but people rarely understand just how good it is until they have experienced it, especially the combination of the motorsport side with the social side in the campsite opposite.

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First of all a confession of sorts, I did not cook for 3 days and we were so tired last night that we only managed cheesy chips. Prescott campsite is land of the BBQ and, partly as I’d been working as a volunteer marshal all day, I left my mother and the Other Half to deal with that hence no cooking.

So why is VSCC Prescott such a draw? To start with there is a huge range of cars entered, from a lowly Austin 7 (we have one of those) through Bentley, Vauxhall, Riley and others until you get more exotic cars like Mark Walker’s Darraq and the fast things like the Topliss owned ERA, driven at the weekend by a very satisfied James Baxter, his final run having been the first ever pre-war car to break the 40 second barrier. Conditions must have been good as at least 4 class records tumbled as well as that outright record. Then there is the garden party feel to the spectator side of it, the pre war car park would make a lot of proper car shows jealous but these are just people out to have a picnic and watch the action. Yes there are some hooray Henry types but most people are down to earth and lovely, even more so in the active parts of the Club.

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The real draw of Prescott, for some people at least, is the social side in the campsite opposite. Three fields get turned over to the Club each year so families, friends and sometimes even strangers who have become new friends, can get together for food and drink. The BBQ is pretty much mandatory, as is the consumption of plenty of alcohol. On Saturday night, I introduced 2 friends and their 2 friends to another friend and next thing you know everyone is in one big group, sharing wine, BBQ food, crisps, pasta salad and God knows what else. The five children that we had between four couples were running round like old friends within about 30 seconds. This is a story repeated time and time again. Every VSCC person I know has a Prescott story, this is a place of beauty where memories are made and lifelong friendships are forged. I’m already counting down to next year.

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