We have recently returned from Madeira, what a fantastic little island; it has very lush vegetation, fertile soil and unusual fruit and the people are very friendly.

The weather was wonderful along with the hotel we stayed in (Fig 1). We had some great walks along the beaches, Levadas and Funchal is a lovely town, some of the scenery was absolutely stunning (Fig 2, 3 & 4).

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3 Figure 4

The wine and cake of Madeira are well known throughout the world and their cuisine is different enough to hint at being exotic, i.e. Fish with Banana, Beef with Passion Fruit etc. However you all know by now, other than the obvious, what sort of things attract my attention when I am on holiday – Cheese and Allotments.

The Allotments I will talk about in the September update on the 'Grow your Own page'; they were very interesting and impressive.

Sadly, I have to report, I could find little evidence of good Artisan cheese on Madeira; the hotel proudly served up cheese that was 'local', unfortunately, it was little more than a 3 day old cow's cheese straight from the mould and was still releasing some whey.

The hotel cheeseboard had some reasonable tasting, if rubbery, cow's cheese, the goat's cheese on the board was however of an acceptable quality.

We visited the main produce and fish market in Funchal, loads of strange looking fish and some fantastic tuna (fig 5), but not one cheese stall to be found in the whole of the market.

  Figure 5

Whilst touring the island, Jan and I did have a discussion about how the mountainous countryside was well suited to keeping goats, strangely enough we only spotted 4 goats and these were in a garden on the outskirts of Funchal. Whilst out in the countryside we did hear the clanking of bells which were obviously attached to fast moving animals, we can only assume these animals were goats, but, as I say, we were surprised at the lack of evidence of their existence.

One can only assume the cheese for tourists is imported and the locals eat the local cheese – perhaps they keep the good stuff for themselves?

Halfway through our stay, the hotel did a special cider tasting day, I like a drop of cider, so, whilst having dinner that night, decided to try some. I was a little surprised to be asked by the waitress (the staff were terrific by the way), did I want the drink with or without sugar? She must have seen the bemused look on my face as did the German woman sat on the next table; the German lady advised I would need sugar and the waitress said she would bring the cider with sugar for me to add. I thought this may just be a bit of a communication glitch, what the waitress meant was did I want it sweet or dry, but no, it transpired, I was wrong.

This led me into a conversation with the German lady, who advised that in Frankfurt they have a cider festival at which the cider is very similar to that of Madeira and as such, it is swigged with sugar added to taste.

The cider duly arrived, wow, I took one sip, after I had stopped shuddering, had opened my eyes and unpuckered my cheeks, much to the amusement of the German lady and the waitress; I added sachets of sugar one at a time. After 3 sachets, I eventually gave up on the cider, thankfully it was only half a pint, but what I sent back to the kitchen was a quarter pint of sweet apple vinegar.

I was aware that one of the hotel guests from Yorkshire liked a drop of cider so I thought I had better warn him; both him and his buddy just laughed and said they had imbibed drier Cider in Norfolk, can this be so???

One recipe I am determined to put on the baking page is the warm lemon egg custard tartlets we had at breakfast, they were stunning.