Whipped feta & avocado on toast

Whipped feta and avocado dip

This is a recipe I have stolen from my dearest friend and ex-housemate Isabelle – aka my wife. I lived with her longer than any of my previous boyfriends, so feel she deserves ‘wife’ status. She peeled me off the floor when I was drunk, made me many a jacket potato with cheese and beans and hid a small plastic head amongst my possessions on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. (See images below.)
Although our marriage had to end after I met a boy and moved in with him, we did have three wonderful years together in a very awful flat in Camden – the day we moved in, we both cried – good times. Anyway, nowadays you can still find me dossing around her new house in my pyjamas, necking wine and eating everything in her cupboards – some things never change. However, she has started making this rather tasty breakfast for me after heavy nights of horror films and Grease 2 singalongs. This whipped feta and avocado on toast is so delicious, I may have to invite her to come live with us again. The more the merrier ,right? Just me, Jamie, Isabelle and ‘the head’ – which is currently in my possession after she planted it on me during my last visit – watch out Isabelle, he’s coming for you…

Whipped feta and avocado on toast
Serves 2 / Hands on time 5 mins / Total time 5 mins / V Gf*
You’ll need: A food processor
1 ripe avocado, skin and stone removed
100g vegetarain feta
2 sprigs of mint, leaves removed
Salt and pepper
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling
Toast to serve

1. Start by adding the feta to a blender and blitzing until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the mint leaves and blitz again until combined. Finally add the avocado, extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Blitz again until you have a smooth creamy consistency.
2. Serve immediately spread generously on toast and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Breakfast of kings!

Whipped feta and avocado dip

If you’ve had a go at making my whipped feta and avocado on toast or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian.    Gf – Gluten free: Serve with gluten free bread.

Vanilla apple cake

Vanilla apple cake

This was the first recipe I ever blogged, which was a bit of a surprise, as this was supposed to be a dating blog. After two and a half years of dating hell, my disastrous mishaps had become my identity and – in some friendship circles -legendary. My shenanigans were often met with gasps, laughter and even horror, which to me, was preferable to pity. Since when did being thirty and single become such a terrible affliction? So I wrapped myself up in humour and performed my party pieces to crowds of hungry, happily married people, who couldn’t get enough of my hilarious existence.
But when it came to writing it all down, I wasn’t laughing. So I wrote a cake recipe instead; this cake recipe, in fact, and never looked back. This cake is sweet, delicious and handsome, just like my boyfriend Jamie who I met a month later – I got there in the end!

Vanilla apple cake
Serves 8 / Hands on time 25 mins / Total time 1hr 30mins + cooling / V
You’ll need: 20cm cake tin, foil, electric hand whisk or standing mixer
350-400g Brambly apples, peeled, cored and sliced
½ lemon, juiced
250g unsalted butter + extra for greasing
250g caster sugar
3 large eggs
250g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs demerara sugar
1 tbs icing sugar for decoration

1. Preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ 350°F/gas mark 4 and grease your cake tin with butter.
2. Peel, roughly slice and core the apples. Put them in a large bowl, squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and give the apples a good toss – this prevents the apples oxidising and turning brown. Put to one side.
3. In a large bowl or standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until using an ecliptic whisk until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat the eggs in one at a time. If the mixture starts to curdle, simply add a tbs of the self-raising flour and continue to whisk until combined.
4. Sift in the remaining self-raising flour along with the salt and baking powder. Use a wooden spoon to fold in the mixture before giving it another quick whisk until you have a thick, pale batter.
5. Finally fold in the apples and spoon into your prepared tin, using the back of a spoon to push the mixture evenly to the edges (it may seem like there isn’t enough batter to cover the apples but don’t worry, the apples sink to the bottom of the cake during baking). Smooth over the top with a wooden spoon and sprinkle over a tbs of Demerara sugar.
6. Bake in the oven for 45 mins. At this stage the cake will be very brown but don’t worry, it’s not burning. Remove the cake from the oven and swiftly cover the top loosely with foil. Continue to bake for a further 30 mins.
7. Remove from the oven and leave the cake to rest in the tin for 10 mins before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool fully before dusting with icing sugar and serving with clotted cream and a cup of tea.

Vanilla apple cake

If you’ve had a go at making my apple cake or any of my other recipes I’d love to hear about it. @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian
 – This cake is suitable for home freezing once cooled. Wrap well in cling film and freeze fore up to 3 months. Defrost fully before serving.

Broccoli slaw with flaked almonds

Broccoli slaw with flaked almonds

Here’s another one for that barbecue – she says as it pisses down with rain outside. Well, it wouldn’t be a true British barbecue without lashings of rain and lashings of coleslaw, right? Also, have you ever eaten raw broccoli on purpose? It’s actually rather nice so bog off cabbage, there’s a new guy in town and he has a big bushy head and looks a bit like Screech from Saved by the Bell– think he’s in prison now… Anyhoo, let’s rock out with our brocs out (see what I did there) and try my light zesty broccoli slaw with red onion and flaked almonds.

Broccoli slaw with flaked almonds
Serves 6 as a side dish / Hands on time 15 mins / Total time 15 mins / V Gf
1 head of broccoli (around 450g)
150g Greek yogurt
1 tbs Pomora extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, bashed
½  red onion, peeled and finely sliced
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 small handfuls flaked almonds
Pinch chilli flakes
Smoked paprika to serve
Extra virgin olive oil to serve

1. Prepare the broccoli by cutting it into bite-sized florets and discarding the chunky stalk. Pop in a large bowl with the finely sliced red onion and put to one side.
2. In a small frying pan, over a medium heat, infuse the bashed garlic clove in a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil until it starts to sizzle slightly – be careful not to fry it, you just want to infuse the oil with the garlic. Take off the heat, discard the garlic clove and put the oil to one side.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the Greek yogurt, lemon juice, cider vinegar, dijon mustard and warm garlic oil together until combined. Season well with salt and pepper before pouring over the raw broccoli.
4. Mix together along with a couple of handfuls of flaked almonds – feel free to toast the almonds if you have time, although I didn’t.
5. Pour into a bowl and season again with salt and pepper before dusting the top with smoked paprika. Finish with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve as part of a buffet or as a side dish.

Broccoli slaw with flaked almonds

If you’ve had a go at making my broccoli slaw with flaked almonds or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian    Gf – Gluten free

Vegan red lentil bolognese

Vegan red lentil bolognese

It’s official, veganmania is in full swing, and it looks like she’s cool, young and beautiful. Whereas vegetarianism is still an old hippy, who doesn’t wash his hair. Why are we still so uncool? Plant-based burgers, vegan cheese and even vegan Happy Meals are popping up on menus across the land, and I still get risotto?! It’s so unfair! Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciating the ever-expanding vegan menus with offerings that are more exciting and innovative – but where is vegetarian revolution? Stuffed peppers and goat cheese tarts are still thrust upon me at any given moment, as it seems our time in the sun has been eclipsed. Restaurants are killing two birds with one stone, and I don’t blame them, but it would be nice to have some sort of renaissance. Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. Here’s a vegan spaghetti Bolognese, because apparently I’m vegan now.

Vegan red lentil bolognese
Serves 4 (makes enough sauce for 6) / Hands on time 30 mins / Total time 1 hr 20 mins / V Vn Df Gf* 
1 tsp rapeseed oil
1 large white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 can plum tomatoes
250g red lentils
1 tbs tomato purée
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
700ml vegetable stock, I use 1 Knorr stock pots that are gluten free, vegan and dairy free.
3 tbs vegan red wine (optional)
8 cherry tomatoes, sliced in halves
300g wholewheat spaghetti or gluten free alternative
Extra virgin olive oil to serve
Fresh basil leaves to serve (optional)

1. In a large cooking pot, sweat the diced onion, carrots, celery and garlic together in a tsp of oil over a medium heat. Season well with salt, add a dash of water and soften for 20 mins with the lid on, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in the tomato purée and add the tinned plum tomatoes using a wooden spoon to break them up a bit. Pour over the stock, add the lentils, cherry tomatoes and sprinkle over the herbs and ground nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.
3. Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for 40-50 mins with the lid on and stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. After 40 minutes, fill a large saucepan with boiling water and add 300g of wholewheat spaghetti. Season the water well with salt and boil the pasta for 10-12 minutes (or according to the packet instructions).
5. Finally, take the bolognese off the heat and leave to stand for a couple of minutes whilst draining the pasta and dividing into bowls. Top the spaghetti with the bolognese and serve drizzled with olive oil and topped with a good crack of black pepper.

Vegan red lentil bolognese

If you’ve had a go at making my lentil bolognese or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V– Vegetarian    Vn– Vegan    Df– Dairy free
Gf– I use Knorr vegetable stock pots because they are gluten free but other stock pots/cubes may not be. Always check the label. Please substitute wholewheat pasta for a gluten free alternative.
❄ The bolognese sauce is suitable for home freezing once cooled. Consume within 3 months.


Courgette carpaccio

Courgette carpaccio

This week I’ve been galavanting around Menorca with my friend/partner in crime Philippa. We drank all the wine and beer the little island had to offer, until I rather unceremoniously fell down a flight of marble stairs – SPLAT! With severely bruised legs and ego, I shook off the do-gooders attempting to peel me off the floor and hobbled angrily to the bar with my friends laughter still ringing in my ears. I spent the rest of the holiday covered in bags of ice and drinking away my shame – so all in all, a very successful holiday!

Anyhoo, since returning home, I’ve been busy licking my wounds and stuffing shop-bought stuffed-crust pizzas into my mouth to cheer myself up. That was until I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I ate a single vegetable. So yesterday, I ran/hobbled to the shop and bought myself a giant courgette and ate it raw, slathered in olive oil and goats cheese. Fortunately for me, courgettes are high in magnesium, which supposedly helps to heal bruising and inflammation, so I’ll only have to eat a thousand more before my legs start resembling legs again.

Courgette carpaccio with goats cheese
Serves 8 as a side / Hands on time 5 mins / Total time 5 mins / V Gf
2 large courgettes, peeled into ribbons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt flakes
Handful fresh Dill, roughly chopped
70g vegetarian soft goats cheese (optional) –  I used Sainsbury’s Abergavenny goats cheese

1. Using a potato peeler, peel the 2 courgettes into ribbons and put in a large bowl. Squeeze over the lemon, 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle over a large pinch of salt.
2. Add the chopped dill and give it a good mix (being careful not to break up the courgette ribbons). Once everything is nicely dressed, pour out onto a large platter and dot with hunks of goats cheese. Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil and serve.

Courgette carpaccio

If you’ve had a go at making my courgette carpaccio or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian    Gf – Gluten free

Escape to the Atlas Mountains

I didn’t quite realise quite how much I needed to get away from the city until I caught a glimpse of the snow topped Atlas Mountains behind the large head of the camel I was stroking.

Atlas Mountains Kasbah Angour

After politely declining to ride one of the many camels that were walking towards us, we eagerly hop back in the taxi and speed off through the desert towards the beautiful snow caped mountains that fill the horizon. We almost can’t believe it, forty minutes out of Marrakech and here we are, sipping sweet Moroccan mint tea in the foot-hills of the Atlas Mountains surrounded by Kasbah Angour’s beautiful gardens and red sandstone walls.
Perched on a hill-top, this eco-friendl­y hotel offers stunning panoramic views of the highest mountains in Morocco and the surrounding Berber villages. Built eight years ago – partly by his own hands – owner Paul worked closely with local carpenters and craftspeople from the villages below to give guests an authentic taste of Morocco. The décor showcases Moroccan craft at its best, everything has been made either by local tradespeople or produced on site using cedar or walnut wood sourced directly from the Atlas Mountains. The walls have been built using local red sandstone and mud and the floors laid with handmade clay tiles from Meknes. Oh, and there’s also a pool, yes!
After basking in the warm afternoon sun, we pad up to our room and enjoy the same glorious views from our roof terrace. The suite is large and homely; colourful patterned rugs decorate the floors as well as the charmingly uneven tiles that feel warm under foot. The bed is large and comfortable, and the hand crafted wooden furnishings have Berber motifs carved into them giving the room as sense of authenticity and character.

Quiet, peaceful and with nothing but rolling hills surrounding us (seriously not even a shop) we pop our trainers on and scamper off to explore the villages with local guide Abdul. There are a variety of outdoor pursuits that can be arranged such as day trips to Marrakech, donkey treks, 4X4 adventures, camel rides, guided souk visits, rounds of golf, a variety of half or full-day walks and even skiing! But with our salopettes collecting dust back in England we opted for a six-mile, half day ramble around the Berber villages with four other guests – private excursions are also available.

We weave in and out of Abdul’s own village Agadir, before dropping down into the valley and passing through the National Park, all the while entertained by Abdul who stops frequently to fish for scorpions, search for quartz crystals or simply to tell us historical Moroccan stories. It’s brilliant fun and definitely worth my slightly pink shoulders – I really must wear more sun cream. Finally, we pass through Outghal, another local village made up of baked mud huts before heading back up to the hotel for a spot of lunch.
The food offering at The Kasbah is focused on seasonality and good quality produce. Fruit and vegetables are grown on site and the evening menu changes daily depending on what is ready for the eating. In fact, to avoid wastage, the friendly Berber staff offer guests the evening menu in the afternoon leaving time to prepare only what is needed. Healthy, hearty and with Moroccan and Mediterranean influences, you can expect dishes like pumpkin soup with argan oil and toasted corn croutons, coriander and garlic charcoal grilled chicken and, of course, vegetable and lamb tajines with apricots and sautéed potatoes. For dessert I enjoyed a plum tart made with plums from the garden as well as the majority of my boyfriend Jamie’s orange and carrot cake – well I had walked over six miles that day!
After another peaceful night sleep and a delicious breakfast of Berber eggs (eggs cooked in a bed of fried tomatoes) we find ourselves back in a taxi and hurtling towards Marrakech airport. I look out the window and see the camel I met a few days earlier chewing happily on some grass by the roadside. I give him a little wave.
“Who are you waving at?” Jamie asks.
“Oh no one, just a friend” I reply, smiling to myself.

Standard season: 2 people, 2 nights with breakfast from £81 – £217
High season: 2 people, 2 nights with breakfast from £131 – £346
Airport transfer £27

For more information visit www.kasbahangour.com


Strawberry sponge traybake

Strawberry sponge traybake

This week I’ve been craving those little strawberry Tom and Jerry cakes, Remember those? Anyone born before 1984 in Britain should, but if you don’t, allow me to enlighten you. They were small, strawberry flavoured fairy cakes topped with strawberry icing and sugar-paper illustrations of Tom, Jerry and friends. They were deliciously artificial and came in a box ready for you to just add water. Sickly sweet and with a bright pink sponge, these tiny cakes featured in many a party bag in my youth and go hand-in-hand with other ‘wrong’ foods of the ’90s, such as Push Pops, Micro chips and Squeezit’s.
That being said, I’ve had a real hankering for them, so I’ve made a slightly more acceptable ‘grown-up’ version with real strawberry icing. They’re not quite the same, but perhaps that’s no bad thing, as I’m pretty sure the original mix wouldn’t even be classified as food today.

Strawberry sponge traybake
Makes 12 squares / Hands on time / Total time 50 mins + cooling / V
You’ll need: 25cm square cake tin, electric whisk and a food processor
110g soft unsalted butter + extra for greasing
110g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
110g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
Handful fresh strawberries, stalks removed and blended
50g unsalted butter
100g icing sugar
6 fresh strawberries, sliced to decorate

1. Preheat an oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4 and grease a 25cm square tin with butter. Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper and put to one side.
2. Measure out the self-raising flour in a small bowl and put to one side. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Crack in one of the eggs along with 1 tbs spoon of the self-raising flour and mix with a spoon before whisking for a further couple of minutes – adding flour prevents the mixture from curdling and mixing it with a spoon stops flour going everywhere. Once incorporated, add the second egg along with another tbs of the self-raising flour and repeat the process, although this time add the vanilla extract.
3. Add half a tsp of baking powder to the remaining self-raising flour and fold into the mixture using a wooden spoon, being careful not to overwork the batter. Spoon into the tin and spread the mixture out evenly using the back of a spoon to push it to the edges and smooth the surface. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Once baked leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
4. Once the cake has cooled completely, make the icing by blending a handful of strawberries in a blender. In a small bowl whisk the butter until light and fluffy with an electric whisk for a couple of miutes before adding 2 tbs of the pureed strawberries and 100g of icing sugar. Mix carefully with a spoon (to prevent icing flying everywhere) before whisking with an electric whisk until you have a light fluffy icing.
5. Spread the icing over the cake evenly and leave to set for 20 minutes before decorating with slices of fresh strawberries. Cut in to squares and serve immediately.

Strawberry sponge traybake

 If you’ve had a go at making my strawberry sponge traybake or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian

Teriyaki tofu steaks with broccoli

Baked teriyaki tofu with broccoli

I know I should be spending my Sunday writing up this week’s blog, but I’ve fallen into a Backstreet Boys hole and now I can’t climb out of it. I went to see them last week and it has ignited my teenage obsession. I literally can’t stop Wikipedia-ing, YouTubing, Googling and general ogling my ’90s teenage obsession. After two hours of back-to-back hits and two pints of cheap wine (yes, pints), I was transported back to my 16-year-old self’s bedroom, where my Purple Ronnie wallpaper and blow-up chairs witnessed some truly shocking choreography. Without warning, I busted into my old dance routines in the O2 Arena – much to the horror of my male companion and those around me. I waved my arms, thrust my hips and flicked my hair like a deranged Britney Spears tribute act – I don’t get out much.
That being said, I had a blast and have been writing ‘I heart BSB’ on my pencil case ever since – I’m freelance now, thus the need to carry stationary around with me at all times.
Anyhoo, enough about my youth, let’s all just go away and download the Backstreet’s Back album and listen to it as we slice up some fat tofu steaks and whip up my version of this Japanese classic.

Teriyaki tofu steaks with broccoli **new & improved recipe**
Serves 2 / Hands on time 10 mins / Total time 40 mins / V Df
You’ll need: 20cm oven-proof dish
280g firm tofu, drained
200g tender-stem broccoli
4 whole spring onions, outer layer removed and ends trimmed
Black sesame seeds to serve (optional)
Serve with rice or noodles
For the marinade
2 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs sweet chilli sauce
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
1 garlic cloves, crushed
1 knob of ginger, grated

1. Pre-heat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7.
2. Drain the tofu and cut into thick steaks and place in the oven-proof dish before putting to one side.
3. In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients together and pour evenly over the tofu steaks. Bake in an oven for 25-30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, use this time to cook the rice or noodles. Steam the broccoli and the spring onions together 10 mins before the tofu is due to come out.
5. Remove the tofu from the oven, lift the steaks out and place on top either rice or noodles and drizzle with the remaining juices. Serve with the steamed greens and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

Baked teriyaki tofu with broccoli

If you’ve had a go at making my teriyaki tofu or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

V – Vegetarian    Df – Dairy free

Baked tomatoes & feta on toast

Baked tomatoes & feta on toast

I went to an insanely overpriced but beautiful health food shop today in Finsbury Park. Sometimes, I like to swish around this shop and pretend I’m a regular customer. I even put three large avocados in my basket knowing they’re £2.50 each without so much as a small grimace on my face – I’m such a good actress. (I quickly put two back without anyone noticing.)
I spend a good 20 minutes picking items off the shelves, pretending to read the labels before returning them to their place – God, I’m having a great time. I eventually reach the counter with a mere five items in my basket all carefully plucked and examined ready for purchase.
“That will be fifteen pounds and twenty nine pence, please,” says the smug man behind the counter with long greasy hair. Shit – he knows! He knows I think this shop is ridiculously overpriced and that I usually shop at Tesco. The bastard! Two can play at this game. I smile sweetly and tap my bank card on the card reader as if I don’t have a care in the world.
I turn to leave, still smiling like a slightly deranged mental patient.
“Would you like a date?” the greasy haired man calls after me. Feeling slightly flattered, but mostly awkward, I turn to say, “Sorry, I have a boyfr….” when I realise he is elbow deep in a giant glass jar of what looks like crusty old turds. My neck is suddenly very hot as I realise my error.
“Err, yes please,” I say quickly, as he drops a large date into my open palm. I take a bite, thinking I can always chuck it away when I get outside, but to my surprise it’s soft, sweet and delicious. I then burst into tears – it’s been a hard month.

Back home, I spread the expensive bread I just bought with the expensive feta and top with baked expensive tomatoes and you know what? When you feel like utter shit, there’s nothing better than glorified cheese on toast to make everything okay again… That and a big juicy date. So weird.

Baked tomatoes & feta on toast
Serves 2 / Hands on time 10 mins / Total time 25 mins / V
Extra virgin olive oil
4-6 large tomatoes on the vine
Small bunch of thyme
100g feta
1 small garlic clove, peeled
2 large sliced sourdough bread, toasted
Salt and pepper
2 poached eggs to serve eggs (optional) 

1. Preheat an oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F/gas mark 7. Leaving the tomatoes on the vine, place on a non stick baking tray and spear each tomato with a fresh thyme sprig. Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
2. Once the tomatoes are baked, turn the oven off and leave the tomatoes inside to keep warm. Toast the bread and rub each slice with the raw garlic clove. Split the feta between the two slices of toast and squish down using the back of a fork.
3. Remove the warm tomatoes from the oven, discard the thyme sprigs and evenly distribute the tomatoes on top of the feta. Press the tomatoes down using the back of a fork releasing some of the juice. Serve immediately drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, a good crack of salt and pepper and top with a poached egg if you’re feeling frisky.

Baked tomatoes & feta on toast

If you’ve had a go at making my Penne al’arrabiata or any of my other recipes, I’d love to hear about it @corrieheale corrie.heale@gmail.com

– Vegetarian

A spot of luxury in County Durham

To say I fell head over heels for Rockcliffe Hall is pretty accurate. This Victorian/contemporary amalgamation is charming, comfortable and offers five-star luxury along with five-star service, on a beautifully presented plate.

Rockcliffe Hall

A little later than planned, my boyfriend Jamie and I hurriedly enter the grand lobby of this beautiful Victorian pile before I topple over my suitcase and land flat on my face. Slightly pink, I am grateful to be scooped up by the kindly concierge, along with the contents of my handbag. Half an hour later my embarrassment evaporates into contentment as I sink into the steamy open-air hot tub, munching frozen grapes and admiring the view. We spend the next couple of hours slipping back inside to the glass-walled sauna, curling up in front of the firepit and being pummelled by the jacuzzi before accidentally falling asleep on the warm, body-shaped beds in the tepidarium – a kind of low-lit sauna that relaxes the body and mind.

Delicious plates
Set in the quiet village of Hurworth-on-Tees, Rockliffe Hall is a stone’s throw from the North York Moors. There’s a long list of outdoor pursuits on offer, from horse riding to stargazing, but we decide to pad back for some R&R in our spacious room. Contemporary and with views of the grounds, it’s my very definition of luxury. King-sized bed and mood lighting? Check. Dressing room and lounge seating? Check. Marble bathroom with double sink and TV above the bath? Check. So, after yet another bath and an episode of Countryfile, we head to the cellar to sample wines with sommelier Daniel. Speaking as someone who only really knows the difference between red and white wine (the colour being a giveaway), this kind of exercise has been a bit lost on me in the past. But Daniel’s passion and knowledge is so infectious, I leave for dinner rosy-cheeked and with a greater respect for the drink I’ve been quaffing for well over a decade.

Dinner is served in
The Orangery, Rockliffe Hall’s flagship 4AA Rosette restaurant, whose extraordinary tasting menus come with optional wine pairings. We choose the whole shebang and eat our way through 10 delicious plates, including venison with savoury granola and pickled brambles, Landrace pork with charred carrots and marigold, and plum with sheep’s curd and lemon balm. It’s a menu that takes us foraging through the English countryside. By the last course we feel fit to burst but sad it’s coming to an end, as with our time at Rockliffe Hall generally. I have fallen head over heels for this place, literally
as well as metaphorically – I have the bruises to prove it.

Rooms cost from £220 per night, including breakfast and spa access (rockcliffehall.com)

For more information visit rockcliffehall.com and visitwiltshire.co.uk