Recipe: Pan Speziale di Certosino

Pan Speziale di Certosino.  Basically a solid, rich Italian Christmas cake, reputedly originating from the monks of Certosino.  It’s full of delicious stuff and calorie dense with a mix of carbs, fat and protein.  A bonus is it keeps well(allegedly, it’s delicious and moreish) and survives battering in running/climbing/cycling bags. 

An easy bake, so long as the nut/dried fruit/choc are in the same ratio you can use whatever mix you like.  Though dates do not work very well, too mushy.  You could try switching out the water for fruit juice too.

You want the recipe? Oh, go on then. 


125g sugar

150g honey (or your preferred vegan alternative)

1 teaspoon baking powder

200ml warm water

100g currants (or other firm dried fruit in same size pieces)

100g chopped almonds (or other sweet nut)

100g pine nuts (or other chopped bitter nuts; I use hazelnut)

100g chopped mixed peel

100g dark chocolate pieces

1 tablespoon spice of choice; Anis, Ginger, Cardamon, Nutmeg all work well

250g wholemeal flour(spelt + wholemeal works well)

Preheat the oven to 190/200c; 375/400f; gas 4/6 

Line and grease a deep sided 20x20cm baking tray, ideally loose bottomed


Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well

Tip into the tin and smooth down

Bake for around 30-40 minutes

Let it cool a few minutes in the tin, then remove to finish cooling on a wire rack

Chop into matchbox size pieces & wrap in foil

Store in a cake tin

Eat; it’s very good with an espresso or a grand noir.

Spring Dreaming

April, the clocks have shifted.  The weather is warming, feeling a little more friendly.  Buds are bursting and the world is greening.  Time to ramp things up, to remember dreams of long laid plans.  Perhaps finesse them, perhaps make some more.

Time now for long days over the hills; days at a rolling pace to reinforce durability in leg and lung.  Get the hours on the move, get the metres climbed.  Keep the navigation quick and slick.  Time on those lengthening days to rebuild a confidence and self-reliance dented by injury.  There’ll be times to come when that durability and speed and confidence and self-reliance will be needed.  

All the little gear things those long days shake down too.  Where to stash things in my pack, what things actually need to go in my pack?  How do I settle that pack, make it feel nearly weightless?  Do those new chewy bars work?  Is home mixed gorp still better?  Tweaks to sleeves or shoelaces?  Am I really sick of the grips on those superlight poles?  Shake it down, get it all dialled; there’ll be times to come when it will all matter.

Yet above all those things, important though they are, time for revelling in being out in forest or fell.  For the simple joy of moving swiftly and with awareness through these places.  To take time to notice the dipper in a Dark Peak stream; the buzzard over a Cumbrian fell; the eagle in a Cairngorm sky; the play of light and cloud on the land.  To take a pause and sketch or scribble a few lines.  To know that even on long days, there’s time enough.  

To remember why I choose to come into these places. 

And that last?  That always matters.  To that I’ll hold fast. 

Fell Hack – Go Whistle

A literal hack this.  Modern plastic whistles are great; light, loud and kind to your lips in cold weather.  They are however, difficult to keep hold of, and have a bizarrely useless clip on the back. 

Solution?  Chop the clip off, smooth the burr (a flame helps, plastic is difficult to file neatly).  Scratch some light cross-hatching into the slippy plastic with a knife tip too.  You now have a neater whistle, with a thumbstop and roughened surface that makes holding it easier; and to top it off, saved about 1g of weight*.

*no, I’m not actually claiming this as a serious point; though it would mean room for an extra peanut M&M or two …

Recipe: Oat Pancakes

Oat pancakes, flavoured with orange & ginger; served with warmed berries & unsweetened soya yoghurt

It’s pancake day, so here goes with some robust & filling oat pancakes, tasty hot or cold. These are orange & ginger, but it’s a basic mix; have a play.  These are very good with warm fruit & yoghurt.  

Of course, these can be made as savoury pancakes too. You could try experimenting with fennel or maybe sundried tomatoes & chopped olives to eat with sausage & mushrooms. 

The batter keeps well overnight in the fridge, as do the pancakes.  You can freeze them, just let them thaw on a wire rack before reheating. 

You will need

A blender

A heavy frying pan

A small ladle

A little oil

Fish slice or similar


To make about 10-12 pancakes;

150g oats

2 eggs(or your vegan alternative, flax egg is good)

300ml milk(I use oat)

0.5tsp salt

Juice & zest of a small orange

2tsp ginger(or to taste of course)

3tsp baking powder 

To make

Put everything but the baking powder in your blender*

Blend until smooth(ish, you want some texture)

Tip into a bowl or jug

Stir in the baking powder

Leave to stand a few minutes

Warm the frying pan to a medium heat

Very lightly oil it, a non-stick you might not need oil at all

Drop about a tablespoonful of batter into the pan

Leave it alone(or drop a few berries or choc chips in…)

When bubbles cover the surface, & the batter firms up, flip the pancake

Cook until golden



*from experience, from messy explosive experience, stir the baking powder in by hand

REVIEW: Mud Broddler

Not really running kit this, but post-run maintenance kit. 

Weekend.  You’ve been out in forest or fell.  Places deep in mud, glorious mud at this time of year. Inevitably, whatever shoes you use, you’re bringing dollops of that mud back home, stuck in the tread.  Which of course needs removing.  Now, you can use the “clattering against a wall method” – deafeningly ineffective or the “old screwdriver/table knife technique” – risky to soles, fingers(& other body parts) & maybe relationships.  

Or, you could drop in your local diy shop & get one of these paint can openers from Harris.  They’re blunt, so you’ll not stab shoes or paws & that curved end acts like a wee shovel to hoick the mud & stones out.  The shape means it’s easy to hold too, so  mud will more likely get hoiked into the bin, not the carpet.  

Costs a couple of pounds, easy to use & clean, lasts ages(mine’s at least five years old), makes a mucky job easier. Oh, it’s small & safe enough to carry on days where you  might use a cafe or a bus too.  Splendid piece of kit. 

Enjoy your playtimes my dears,

On Reviewing

Doing reviews? Freebie time for me. Ah, yes, well; no.  For now certainly, no freebies. 

Everything I’m currently reviewing here, I’ve bought.  With my own money.  Yes, even that frighteningly expensive vest(that review’s going up later, in spring) and that huge Jean Gaumy book(that review for autumn).  The kit is what I use on solo self-supported wanderings or when making micro-budget films.  The books, they’ll be that mix of art, poetry speculative fiction and travel that overfill my bookshelves. 

So why am I doing these reviews?

A couple of reasons.  As I won’t be first to admit I’m a slow, weak, old punter.  But I’m a punter who’s collected a smidgen or two of experience.  So I figure my take on kit, an ordinary user’s, may have some value.  A look at what things are claimed to do, what they actually do and equally what they don’t do.  As I said, I don’t race, being a mountaineer who runs rather than a runner.  This will clearly colour my reviews; as will my reliance on public transport(if you’ve only a bus every two hours, what you pack is very different than if you have a car waiting). 

The other reason?  The major one?  I’m an enthusiastic nerd.  I’m amazed by the world around me, by things like my entire kit for a day on the hill weighs less than the boots I wore as a teenager.  And that lightweight modern kit is far more comfortable and capable than the old stuff. 

Similarly with books.  I’m dyslexic and struggled to learn to read, my handwriting is still occasionally atrocious.  Once I learned to read though, oh my the worlds it opened up.  If I introduce just one person to the beauty of a Bashō haiku, a Larry Durrell conversation, his brother Gerry’s description of an animal, a Galen Rowell landscape or Tessa de Loo wandering in Byron’s footsteps, I’ll be chuffed to bits. 

So there it is; a rough idea why I’m doing reviews on my blog.  Boils down to me being a curious, enthusiastic nerd really.  And believing there are more like me out there. 

Be well and be wonderful to each other my dears,

As The Driven Snow… a winter run

“The wood, under a winter storm.  A time when all creatures thought of good sense seek shelter of burrow or nest.  There remains though, dancing through the tempest,  a runner, chill of finger, wet of foot, wide of grin.”

Desk work day done.  Storms are building, both ADHD and weather.

So.  Night run.  Winter night run.

Headtorch, leggings and lifa, hardshell and hat.  Lock my door with glove clumsied fingers, quick step up the ginnel.  Grin growing on my face.  Couple of hundred metres of sleet slick pavement ‘twixt house and wood.  Most times a skippy dog walker dodging warmup, tonight it’s a lone stroll, chilling fingers and feet. 

The wood.  My local patch, a bright place of birch and willow and hawthorn hedge. Not this night though. This night it’s a wildwood waiting. Tonight the gate is a liminal space, a creaking transit from blandly civilised suburbia into an older place.  Into a dark wood galethrashed and sleetlashed.

Step through into the wood anyway.  Go, now. Go run.  

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The Winter, A Walker Passes

It is deep winter night in the northern hemisphere.  The long enduring dark winter night of the year’s true turning.  Neither stars nor moon in the sky, but pale, swirling wind borne clouds and a familiar chill, a bone deep rawness.  Toward England’s seaward edge, a silent village nestles upon one of those peculiar fenland rises.  Atop the rise the old church, with the yet older yew is a darker shadow on the village bounds. None now recall why, on this one night of the year, in this rational age, a candle burns in a tiny east window.  The candle is always lit though, as the sunlight leaves the apse.

The parson, secure in her faith, rests in her armchair.  Parsonage curtains drawn tight, doors locked, hallway lit, dry wood stacked beside the burning hearthlog.  A glass of fine whisky waits close to her hand.  In the edge of the empty churchyard, a prunings’ bonfire.  A gathering of yew and ivy, haw and holly lit at duskfall by the silently praying sexton. The dead branches smoulder still, white ash on red embers.


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REVIEW: Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles

Trekking poles, we know they can help whether uphill or down.  We also know they’re often designed by Captain Complex; heavy, bulky and slow to set, or light and beyond flimsy.  All this of course means many of us leave the things in the shop or at home. 

These Trail Blaze poles from Mountain King may just change your mind.  Super light(115-135g), fixed length(110-130cm), anodised alloy body, tungsten carbide tips, folding to about a quarter their open length(pic 1) and quick to rig they’ve got me using poles again.

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