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At school and University I was never any good at writing about things I cared passionately about, I always got lower grades for those essays, and did better in ones where I didn’t feel an emotional investment in what I was writing about. So I fear that as I write now I’m it’s going to all be a bit of mess – so I’ll try and keep it to the point!
I have been eagerly awaiting a box today, a box that contains three litres of real milk. Real milk, raw milk, unpasteurised milk, whatever you want to call it, this milk came straight from John’s Jerseys in Herefordshire without any fuss or tinkering with into a bottle and to my doorstep.
For those of you sweet enough to read what I share regularly, you may recall that I’ve mentioned some health issues I’ve had in the past few months. Whilst I still don’t feel in a position to write about them just yet, they have set me on the most exciting journey to ‘real food’.
I have done so much reading and learning recently and I am thoroughly enjoying it, soaking up everything I can. In my searching I came across a fantastic shop down in Alsager, Cheshire (not to far from us) called The Real Food Company. I took a drive there last week and spent nearly two hours in what is a pretty small shop chatting to one of the shop assistants and coming away with a basketful of goodies.
I am particularly interested (and excited) about raw dairy at the moment. Through a recommendation from some friends at Aspen House B&B I decided to order some raw Jersey milk from John’s Jerseys, and from The Real Food Company I also bought raw butter (imported from France – raw butter, is, to coin a term a friend uses, “as rare as hen’s teeth”) and raw yoghurt.
That raw butter is extraordinarily tasty, especially the salted version which I could quite happily lick off a knife (don’t tell my mum!). I’m also going to try using some of the raw milk to make my own yoghurt, using the raw yoghurt I bought to get me started.
Anyway, I really wanted to share my excited about these new discoveries, and hope to share some of my attempts at making yoghurt (it doesn’t sound too difficult) and other bits and pieces I have in mind to try.
We’ve been eating the raw butter on lightly toasted Biga bread (18 hour fermented from Tortoise Bakery) topped with a smear of amber coloured French honey…
Has anyone else tried raw milk, butter or yoghurt?
Following on from my first post on our June trip to the Dordogne…
Every single morning during the holiday we went to a market to buy ingredients for our meals that day. I know this is probably unsustainable for real everyday life, but gosh I loved it.
I didn’t have to meal plan ahead, I didn’t ever once write a shopping list, we just turned up and made up dinner based on what we fancied. As you will see the first few days of our holiday the weather was minging – so much rain and grey skies!
This (above) was the little market in nearby Chateau l’Eveque, about 3 or 4 stalls, we went to the veg man and bought amongst other things some incredible wrinkly tomatoes (sorry no pictures – was trying to avoid getting soaked – lots more food pictures to come later though I promise!), a punnet of fragrant strawberries and a melon.
I’m not a melon fan, but in France I adore melons they are so much tastier – our experience in the Loire was when you went to buy a melon from a market stall they would ask you if it was to eat today or later, and find you the best one.
We also went to the bakery for breakfast and got croissants (for me) and pain au chocolat (for Mr Rigg) – these rated quite highly in the taste test. We determined to find out the best bakery in the area for breakfast goodies and we found our favourite – details below.
This afternoon I decided to attempt my first homemade soda bread. I am not the bread baker in our little family, it is usually left to Mr Rigg, but with the simplicity of a soda bread recipe (I used Darina Allen’s from her Forgotten Skills of Cooking – perhaps one of my absolute favourite recipe books) I decided I should give it a go.
I was prompted to try it out having defrosted a bottle of buttermilk, purchased previously from our local farmer’s market, which I used a tiny amount of in a coleslaw we had earlier in the week. I still had lots left over, so thought soda bread would be a good way to use it all up. The recipe called for a mixture of white and wholegrain flour, I used a mixture of white and wholegrain spelt flour.
This is what it looked like before it went into the oven…
I had no idea what consistency the dough was supposed to be, but just went with how mine turned out – I used Mr Rigg’s new wooden pizza paddle to get it onto my preheated baking stone and followed the recipe which required it to be cooked for 15 minutes at 230°C, 15 minutes at 200°C and then a further 5 minutes upside down.
Straight from the oven…
It looked pretty good when it came out of the oven, and later when it had cooled and I cut into it I was delighted to find the texture soft and springy. We cut it into slices and had it for dinner spread with cream cheese and smoked trout – but first I had to try a small wedge with farm butter and honey from our allotment (not produced by us). It was scrummy and I’m really pleased with my first attempts.
My homemade soda bread with cream cheese, smoked trout and lemon juice…
A couple of week’s ago I mentioned having one of the best breakfast’s ever at Aspen House B&B in Herefordshire – well, quite by accident Mr Rigg and I ended up back at Aspen House for a night on Saturday. This was Mr Rigg’s first visit but he’d already heard lots about the breakfast and how lovely Sally and Rob were – but going back again so soon has allowed me to remedy the lack of photos of the breakfast from last time.
Sally and Rob are passionate about real food, running their B&B and cottage with green principles at their heart. The bedroom we stayed in is so pretty, painted a lovely dove grey with a soft coloured patchwork quilt on the bed and a big window with built-in seat. But what I’m hear to tell you about in more detail is the breakfast.
A couple of weekends ago Mr Rigg and I, dog-less and fancy-free decided to take a day trip to Erddig house, a National Trust property near Wrexham that is renowned for its portrayal of the upstairs downstairs life. It is a truly fascinating and beautiful place, one that I would recommend for a day out.
As well as the house, there is a lovely garden and stables with working horses, but I wanted to share what I was most interested by, which is the ‘downstairs’ quarters and the plain country living that I think is so beautiful. There was only one ‘upstairs’ room that I liked enough to photograph, and that was the nursery and adjoining (if I remember correctly!) bathroom.
You enter the house through the sculleries and kitchen, which happened to be full of things that I have collected from car boots sales – I should have very much liked to have a ‘supermarket sweep’ if given the opportunity!
Life is running along quickly and already I’m begining to feel like I’m behind with sharing what we’ve been up to lately and more details on our trip to France. I spent last night at Aspen B&B in Herefordshire and ate what can only be described as the best breakfast ever – Rob and Sally who run the B&B and passionate about ‘real food’ and so the breakfast is exquisitely sourced and prepared, plus if you want to talk food then this is somewhere you should book a stay.
What I wanted to share is a delicious meal we cooked last week, a simple vegetable minestrone with ricotta filled ravioli. We have followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his Jamies Does… book which was lovely, but I had spotted this fancy sounding smoky minestrone with tortellini and basil pesto.
My way of cooking is often looking at an image of a plate of food, or reading a recipe, then making my version of it how I would like to make it. So I never follow recipes like this very strictly. We didn’t have bacon or pancetta in the house so I just skipped that, so really ours wasn’t a smoky minestrone, but it was damn delicious.
I softened chopped onion and garlic, then added finely chopped celery, carrots and potato and let it cook a few minutes. I also added some finely chopped red pepper that we had lying around in the fridge. Next I added about a litre of stock (half homemade chicken stock we had left over and half organic Kallo veg stock), and about 5 or 6 vine tomatoes that I’d roughly chopped and a glug of passatta – this was instead of the tinned tomatoes. I also omitted the chickpeas because I didn’t have any.
I brought this to the boil then let it simmer until the veg was pretty much tender. I added two small finely chopped courgettes and gave it a few minutes, before adding the ricotta and spinach ravioli (bought I’m afraid, one day I’ll be able to claim I made it myself…oneday…) and some podded broad beans. The final vegetable I added was finely sliced rainbow chard (rather than kale).
I seasoned with some salt (we are still using up a delicious pot of greyish salt brought back from France) to taste and ate mine with a large dollop of my favourite raw basil pesto. Mr Rigg had his as it was. The simplicity of ingredients seemed to create this incredibly delicate but flavourful taste – one of the best things I’ve made and eaten for a while.