Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownies

This is an alternative recipe for Chocolate Brownies, don’t be put off by seeing the main ingredient is sweet potatoes, they are delicious and a healthy alternative!

600g sweet potatoes
14 Medjool dates, pitted
80g ground almonds
100g wholemeal flour
8 tablespoons coco powder
3 tablespoons honey
Pinch salt
Chocolate brownies cooling

Chocolate brownies cooling

  • Heat over to 180 degrees
  • Peel sweet potatoes and cook until soft, either steam or boil
  • Put into a food processor with the dates and blend until smooth
  • Add remaining ingredients and mix well
  • Put the mixture in a dish that has been lined with grease proof paper
  • Cook for about 30 mins or until a sharp knife comes out of the mixture clean
  • Allow to cool before cutting into bite size portions
Brownies ready to served at a lunch time dinner with friends in Vielle-Adour

Brownies ready to served at a lunch time dinner with friends in Vielle-Adour

This is based on a recipe from Deliciously Ella – I had to substitute some of ingredients as required by Ella as they are not available in the local supermarket in France.

 

Journey to PMT brings new life to the TT600R

Percy and Tony arrived at Pyrenees Motorcycle Tours for a short break driving down from Caen which took them about 9 hours in the van which was mainly loaded with Tracy’s weekend essentials (Percy’s better half) and two bikes, one belonging to another friend Dennis and the soon to be infamous Yamaha TT600R just recently purchased off Ebay by Tony with the immortal words ‘shouldn’t need much to get it going’.

TT600R can just be seen to the right of Dennis's 1000DS Ducati Multistrada

TT600R can just be seen to the right of Dennis’s 1000DS Ducati Multistrada

The symptoms of the poorly bike were these, very hard to start (kick start only) and often kicked back, would only run on tick over and cut out as soon as the revs picked up.  Luckily we had a donor bike available and soon started to eliminate the obvious.  One and a half days later, much swearing and scratching of heads the ‘three ace mechanics’ (Percy, Tony and Mr PMT) thought they had found the problem.

Two flywheels, spot the difference?

Two flywheels, spot the difference?

On comparing the flywheels, both should have been identical but the one from Tonys bike, we found out later, was taken off a TT600RE (electric start) which I’m sure all you anoraks will know uses a different CDI unit.  The raised parts on the outer circumference of the flywheel that trigger the sensor are in the wrong place for the kick start models.

TT600R undergoing surgery.

TT600R undergoing surgery.

A replacement part was found the next evening, thanks to Ebay but unfortunately the only one we could find had to come from Australia where these bikes are quite popular.  We were fairly convinced this would make the bike go as it should and in the video that follows you can see the result.

‘I became a biker at 53’!!

Being a country kid from a small Kentish village my first means of independence was my cycle and I loved it, it meant fun and freedom and a gang of us would always be out and about.  So I’m surprised in retrospect I didn’t take to motorcycling at a young age – don’t think my Dad would have approved though.  At 17 I had my first beaten up old 1965 mini with a dubious subframe partially attached, well it was only £60 and my 4 wheeled days had begun.  It was only when my son in his early teens had a mate with 5 acres of ground and picking him up one afternoon was given a bumpy off road experience that I thought of biking again, it was fun!!

Christal with 'Mr Pickle' Honda cbf 125cc

Christal with ‘Mr Pickle’ Honda cbf 125cc

So when my husband (a biker in his teens but moving onto 4 wheels in his early 20’s ) decided in his mid 40’s with a job move to congested Croydon, that the only way to still see each other would be if he purchased a motorbike for his commute.

Wasn’t long before I was pillion on days out at the weekend and apart from the very first mile where he nearly lost me off the back at Staplehurst railway bridge, I was hooked!  We holidayed at home and abroad but the bug to ride myself only really came when my 22 year old daughter said she would like to try, so we had a 2 hour experience session on 125cc bikes and booked our CBT’s .

Day out with 'Mr Pickle' Honda CBF 125cc

Day out with ‘Mr Pickle’ Honda CBF 125cc

I then purchased a sharing Honda CBF 125cc – aka Mr Pickle – and rode approx 1500 miles on my short work commute to Tunbridge Wells and fun days with friends at weekends .

Phoenix Motorcycles, under the wonderful tutorage of Mark Jaffe, then offered a try a big bike session and all my fears of weight /power /size subsided, it was true what friends has said I did feel safer on the bigger bike.  Mod 1 and mod 2 were booked for the cold week of 20th December 2014 and on passing I purchased my Yamaha MT-07 after a wonderful day at the NEC Birmingham Bike show which was great, you could sit on everything all in one place and find the best fit.

Christal with her Mod 2 certificate, one very happy lady!

Christal with her Mod 2 certificate, one very happy lady!

So at 53 I became a biker!!

Finally picked “ARNIE“ up over the Christmas holidays and have been riding approx 2 times per week up till now and my first trip abroad is planned in April to Brugge, I would love to think I could join the Morocco fun the lads have enjoyed over the last few winters, we shall see !!!

Christal and Yamaha MT-07 'ARNIE' !

Christal and Yamaha MT-07 ‘ARNIE’ !

What a great achievement Christal we hope to see you in the Pyrenees on ‘Arnie’ sometime in the future!

Sticky date cake with butter caramel

Sticky date cake with butter caramel

Sticky date cake with butter caramel


This is the second attempt at baking this cake and it has turned out much better this time – practice makes perfect!  The first cake was for lunch when visiting friends Andie and Graham and this one is for lunch tomorrow with girl friends.

If you would like to have a go at baking it here is the recipe care of Woman and Home magazine.

For the sponge:
175g stoned dates, chopped
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g caster sugar
tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
225g SR flour

for the caramel:
100g sugar
35g salted butter
50ml double cream

for the filling:
150ml double cream

20cm cake tin, buttered and lightly floured (I use silicone baking 'tins')

1. Heat oven to 180c, gas 4.  Place chopped dates in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and 300ml boiling water.  Stir and set aside.  
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.
2. Add the flour, beat well, pour in dates and all the liquid and mix well.  Pour into the tin (it's runny).  Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-50 mins, 
until cooked.
3. Make caramel.  Place the sugar in a pan and cook over a gentle heat for 5 to 8 mins until you have a rich caramel.  Remove from heat, add butter 
stirring constantly.  Add cream when the butter is melted, stir until glossy.  Put to one side to cool.
4. For the filling whop the cream until just under firm.  Remove cake from tin, when cool cut in half and fill the middle with the cream and drizzle 
the caramel over the top, if its too firm to spread add a little more warm cream and stir again.
It will keep in the fridge for 3 days. (haha not in our house!)
Mr PMT licking the pan that the caramel sauce was made in

Mr PMT licking the pan that the caramel sauce was made in

Why an FJR you ask?

Paul at the Ace Cafe

Paul at the Ace Cafe

I started riding when I turned 16 (1978), a brand new DT50 followed 6 months later by a brand new Honda CB250N Superdream, it didn’t take me long to add fairing, top box and panniers and I was heading off exploring the UK with my girlfriend, 2 years and 34,000 miles later it gave up the ghost and I realised I needed something that would carry me and a passenger to pastures new in comfort. So in 1982 the Superdream went to auction and with the proceeds together with my life savings, I purchased a gleaming CB750FB.

7 days later, yes 7, I was heading off to the Bol D’or at the Paul Ricard Circuit, not much spending money and no breakdown or travel insurance. What was I thinking.  Little did I realise that the experience of that ‘holiday’ was to prove the catalyst to future adventures.

Work, House, Family and other finance commitments saw me back on an old CB250N, which brought the memories flooding back.

Paul with his first FJR, Cirque du Litor, Pyrenees Motorcycle Tour

Paul with his first FJR, Cirque du Litor, Pyrenees Motorcycle Tour

In 1994, my newly arrived next door neighbour had a rusty Yamaha XJ600 for sale, I wasn’t on it long as I was knocked off by a young lady who ‘didn’t see me’.  The bike wasn’t a right-off and it went off for repair, I got the call to say it was ready but they also had a customer in the shop who wanted to buy it …. SOLD, I screamed over the phone.

The next day I went bike shopping and fell in love with a 1996 Yamaha Thundercat, the first ride out was so exciting that it took me a couple of days to stop shaking, this bike was awesome!

Another ‘incident’ meant I was looking for another bike, it was quickly replaced with a newer Thundercat, the years rolled by and the bikes were replaced, a Yamaha R6 was followed by an ’03 R1 and then an ’05 R1.

The R1 was a superb motorcycle, touring was hard work but I was very happy to continue with it, however, in 2007 all this changed,  I was visiting my local motorcycle dealers and stood in the centre of the showroom was a new model FJR1300.

Paul at Col d'Aubisque with MR PMT and Gary

Paul at Col d’Aubisque with MR PMT and Gary

Aged 45 and not getting any younger, it didn’t take me long to come to my senses and agree a deal, so 7 days later I was the proud owner of my first FJR.  In the 7 years I have had her, she has never once let me down, even when riding hard over the Pyrenees or even on the odd track day.

She’s a bit overweight, the bike I mean, but on the open road with full luggage and a passenger on the back it all makes perfect sense. I have learnt to handle and respect the weight especially at low speed, I hardly think about it now.

A visit to the Birmingham Bike Show in 2013 and then again in 2014, convinced me that my next bike was going to be the new model FJR, so, by juggling my finances, I managed to scrape enough together to p/x my 2007 FJR for a 2013 Model.

Paul picking up his new FJR1300 from Flitwick Motorcycles Bedfordshire. loving the big grin :)

It is sat in the garage right now, unfortunately the weather here at the moment is awful and I just haven’t got the heart to take her out in this until the gritters have stopped putting salt on the roads.

A trip to Germany in April is already booked with some good friends and so is a 2 week trip to the South of France to take in the Bol D’Or at the Paul Ricard Circuit in September, so you see folks at the age of 52 I will have come full circle, even though it has taken me 33 years.

Hopefully there are many more to come.

Safe biking,

Cheers, Paul

Paul enjoying a beer at Pont d'Espagne

Paul enjoying a beer at Pont d’Espagne

Le Grand Tourmalet – skiing in the Pyrenees

Le Grand Tourmalet is the largest ski resort in the French Pyrenees (under an hours drive from Pyrenees Motorcycle Tours) and opens Saturday 29th November until Monday 6th April, with more than 100km of runs at an altitude between 1250m and 2877m.  Tourmalet is the second oldest ski resort in France, Chamonix in the Alps being the oldest and the host of the 1924 Winter Olympics.  On the east side the village of La Mongie and to the west Bareges, the two resorts join on the Col du Tourmalet, one of the well know climbs for Le Tour de France during summer and in winter its covered in snow and becomes part of Le Grand Tourmalet.

Le Grand Tourmalet offers fun at all levels, the resort has 22 green, 21 blue pistes and for the more advanced skier there are 23 red runs and now 6 black runs, as well as lots of off-piste potential.  The lift to the observatory on the Pic du Midi is open to anyone wishing to attempt the off-piste descent from an altitude of 2877m down into the Bareges side of the resort.

A 50 million euro investment program spread over seven years until 2020 will increase Le Grand Tourmalet from 200 to 360 hectaires.

 

Vielle-Adour – home to Pyrenees Motorcycle Tours

Pyrenees Motorcycle Tours is based in the village of Vielle-Adour, South West France, in the region of Midi-Pyrenees, department Hautes-Pyrenees, district of Tarbes, the village Marie is Jean-Christian Danos.  At an altitude of 407m (min) to 558m (max), we live here with 501 other habitants.  The Canal d’Alaric flows all year round through the village, fed by the main Adour river, the source of which is Pic du Midi (Col de Tourmalet) and flows into the Atlantic Ocean through Bayonne.

Seperate entrances for boys and girls at the school Cows going to the fields

Tour de France 2015

The 2015 Tour de France route was announced at the ‘Palais des Congrès’ in Paris yesterday, being the 102th tour.  Good news for us, the tour will be in the regions for three days, busy times ahead 🙂

Stage 10 Tarbes / La Pierre-Saint-Martin 167km

Profile

 Stage 11 Pau /Cauterets – Vallée se Saint-Savin 188km

Profile

Stage 12 Lannemezan / Palteau de Beille 195km

Profile

Bagneres de Bigorre

We often get asked ‘what is the weather like’? or ‘when is the best time to visit the Pyrenees’?

October, again, has been a beautiful month with temperature in the high 20’s, Monday it was 30 degrees, what more can we say.

Here are selection of photos taken in Bagneres this afternoon.

Beautiful cake shop

Beautiful cake shop

Too good to eat cakes

Too good to eat cakes

Shoes made in Italy

Shoes made in Italy

Through the arch

Through the arch

Private residence

Private residence

Renovated house

Renovated house

Art called 'Venus'

Art called ‘Venus’

Shutters

Shutters

Painted toe nails

Painted toe nails

A drink in the sunshine

A drink in the sunshine

Ice cream anyone?

Ice cream anyone?

Roundabout in the Park

Roundabout in the Park

Its a mans game, petanque in the park

Its a mans game, petanque in the park

By the Adour steam that runs through Bagneres

By the Adour steam that runs through Bagneres

Cloud walking

At the end of last week we took the opportunity to have a few nights away in our VW Campervan.  Living in such a beautiful area we don’t have to travel too far from our home in Vielle-Adour, our first stop was for a walk to Lac d’Oncet which starts from the Col du Tourmalet and is below Pic du Midi.

Pic du Midi towering over Lac d'Oncet

Pic du Midi towering over Lac d’Oncet

Interesting sky looking back down the valley

Interesting sky looking back down the valley

Wild iris give the mountain side a hint of blue

Wild iris give the mountain side a hint of blue

We found a track where we could stop for the night.

Between Col du Tourmalet and Bareges for an overnight stay

Between Col du Tourmalet and Bareges for an overnight stay

Morning cloud in the mountains towards Col du Tourmalet

Morning cloud in the mountains towards Col du Tourmalet

Heavy dew

Heavy dew

Our planned walk was to Lac du Coubous, unfortunately the valley was full of cloud, we did get to the lake but we couldn’t see it!  On a positive note there were delicious wild blueberries to feast on after our picnic.

Lac du Coubous - this was our view of it :(

Lac du Coubous – this was our view of it :(

This was the best view we had all day when the cloud decided to clear briefly

This was the best view we had all day when the cloud decided to clear briefly

After the walk we headed in the direction of Hautacam where we had an overnight stop on the approach road.  The following morning we made our way to the top, conditions didn’t look too bad so we started our walk, unfortunately the cloud came in and we had to turn back due to very poor visibility.  All was not lost though, we disturbed two griffon vultures who were feeding on a sheep carcass, it was incredible to be that close to such two huge creatures (sorry no pictures of them).

Sheep carcass in the clouds on our walk at Hautacam

Sheep carcass in the clouds on our walk at Hautacam

Horses on Hautacam with Argeles Gazost in the valley behind

Horses on Hautacam with Argeles Gazost in the valley behind