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River Cottage

Living in Cheshire, Devon is a long way away, but the opportunity to meet one of my favourite people and go to River Cottage made the drive worthwhile. We used my parents in the Cotswolds as a base, and travelled down the rest of the way this past Saturday to go to the Autumn Fair held at Park Farm.

River Cottage autumn fair

The whole weekend was scorching hot, both in Devon and the Cotswolds – what a treat!  After parking, we wandered down the track towards River Cottage HQ.  Park Farm is set in the bowl of a very beautiful valley, with rolling hills rising up around it.  A pop-up hotel of bell tents had been set up, and other clusters of cream coloured tipis and tents surrounded the farm house.

River Cottage Devon

Having got up early, not eaten breakfast, and a long drive later (I SO hate those 40mph sections that seem to plague our motorways at the moment!) I was in a bit of “Charlie flap”, as it’s probably known, when we finally arrived.  I am ashamed to admit I’m not that used to, or a huge fan of crowds of people – I live a sheltered life working on my own at home with the dog!  So Mr Rigg quickly steered me towards the BBQ to get something to eat.

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Wow, on typing the blog post title I’ve realised we are 2 weeks into our meat-free month and therefore about half-way through.  It feels like a positive achievement – I never stick to anything like this.  Today’s post sounds like rather a lot of days to cover, but I’m going to miss out day 12 and maybe write a separate post about that experience.

Thursday 19th January

leek and roquefort pizza

Leek and Roquefort pizza (we also made a plain pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella, but for this post I’m focussing on the leek one).  Pizza dough spread with garlic and chilli infused oil, scattered with a mixture of grated mozzarella, Parmesan and herbs, then topped with lightly cooked leeks and blobs of Roquefort.

This pizza is from the Riverford Cookbook but I must say it was a bit much just on its own – and I found the Roquefort quite overpowering.  In the end we shared one leek and Roquefort pizza and one tomato and mozzarella, just to balance it out.  An interesting version though, perhaps one I would tweak to our tastes another time.

Friday 20th January

A post for another day.

Saturday 21st January

mushroom stoup with pearl barley

Mushroom ‘Stoup’ from Hugh’s Everyday Veg – a cross between a soup and a stew.  A soup of onion, celery and carrot all chopped very finely, sliced fresh mushrooms and dried Porchini mushrooms, and a good amount of mushroom stock (I’ve discovered Kallo do a lovely organic mushroom stock, although the only place I’ve seen it is The Organic Farm Shop in Gloucestershire).

Hugh’s recipe serves it with dumplings, which are one of my favourite foods ever – however, we only had meat suet and I couldn’t be bothered to buy a whole box of vegetarian suet just to make a few dumplings.  Instead, we added a couple of handfuls of pearl barley as also recommended in the recipe, and ate it with large hunks of butter bread.  Such a comforting bowl of yumminess, although Mr Rigg felt it was rather ‘mushroomy’.

Sunday 22nd January

raw vegetable rice papper wraps

Raw vegetable and glass noodle wraps with a soy and ginger dipping sauce.  Thinly sliced carrot, cucumber and lettuce (and a few spring onions this time) mixed with glass noodles, coriander and mint.  This mixture is then wrapped up in rice paper wrappers, before dunking in a dipping sauce made with soy sauce, Mirin, rice vinegar, fresh ginger and chopped spring onions.

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Naples vegetable market

On Monday our plan is to embark on a Hugh F-W style meat-free month.  Armed with my trusty River Cottage Everyday Veg and numerous other recipe books and ‘old favourites’ I am quite looking forward to a meat-free month.  I’m not sure the same goes for my husband.

For most of my life I didn’t eat meat – I ate fish, and ate meat politely at other people’s houses, but at home we never had meat.  My mom claims it’s because I refused to eat meat as a child that they stopped eating it, but it’s all I’ve really known.

homegrown vegetables

Pop a steak in front of me and I’m not quite sure what to do with it, nor do I enjoy the taste or texture.  I have always had a weakness for bacon and cured meats like salami.  As a teenager boyfriends were also a sticking point which as a result I began to eat and try more kinds of meat.  I am at an unhappy place recently, however, where I struggle to think or dream up a meal which doesn’t contain a hint of meat, usually crispy bits of bacon.

But I don’t want to be like that, I don’t think I will ever stop eating meat or fish, but I want to eat them in small quantities and of the best quality and provenance when I do.  I certainly don’t want to continue in this default setting of adding a hint of something meaty to most dishes.

winter veg stir fry

So, like a number of people, I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to try and have a meat-free month.  I am really quite excited about it and have been busy tagging recipes we can try.  I also have a number of firm favourites that we have been eating recently, so I will defintiely be eating lots of them.

I am hoping to try hard to document every meal we eat, at least I’m hopefully one meal a day I can capture with a picture and share here.  If anyone else is trying this out (my lovely friend Caroline started at the beginning of January) I’d love to hear how you’re getting on and if you have any recipes to recommend.

mushroom ragout and soft polenta recipe

This weekend it’s been all about Hugh.  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that is.  Hugh has to be up there with one of my favourite cooks, so I’ve been enjoying watching his new Veg Everyday series, albeit it a little slower than everyone else as I’m watching it online when I get a free hour in the evenings.

We made two meals this weekend that he’s made recently and both were delicious – I hope they become part of our cooking repetoir.  The first one I wanted to share was his Mushroom Ragout with Soft Polenta, which we made for tea last night.  I’ve only tried cooking polenta once before and it was a disaster – it didn’t taste of anything and we ended up dumping the lot.

This time the polenta was delicious – I think maybe last time I was too shy with my seasoning – a nice loose texture spiked with chopped rosemary from the garden and finely grated Parmesan.  The mushrooms too were to tasty – I added quite a bit more red wine than the recipe asks for because the liquid kept disappearing (we were doing half the recipe) but it didn’t seem to be a problem!

We ate it with a pile of peashoots and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

hugh fearnley-whittingstall mushroom ragout

Last weekend we celebrated the fine weather with our first barbeque of the season (hopefully not the last!).  We had tiny buffalo koftas from Laverstoke Park Farm, asparagus, new potatoes baked in the embers, and homemade flatbreads.

This was a new adventure for us – attempting to make our own flatbreads - and I was desperately worried they would go all crispy, and not soft and doughy like I was hoping.  If there was anyone I was going to put my trust in, it was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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Tonight we tried one of Hugh’s latest recipes – his version of pot noodle with spicy chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds. 

It’s really simple.  In a bowl you pop dried egg noodles, chopped chorizo, sliced spring onions and crushed fennel seeds.  To make this less pot noodle lunchtime snack and more dinner for two, I lightly fried the chorizo and crushed fennel seeds, and half the spring onions.  Just to soften them a little.

The recipe then tells you to pour enough boiling water over the noodles, and stir in tomato passata that has been well seasoned with salt and pepper.  Then you leave it for 5-6 minutes.  We did this, but found that the noodles didn’t quite cook enough and the sauce was lukewarm by the time we came to eat it.

So we transferred everything to a pan and heated it up.  I added a good-sized spoonful of sundried tomato paste which gave a depth of flavour.  Lastly we stirred through some chopped flat leaf parsley from the garden.

All in all it was a pretty tasty and good dinner with a few little tweaks – really a delicious bowl of soupy noodles, spicy with chorizo and fragrant with fennel.

Spanish style chorizo and spring onion noodles

Feeds 2

2 nests of egg noodles
60g chorizo
8 spring onions
200ml tomato passata
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
salt and pepper
handful of parsley or basil

Chop up the chorizo and spring onions, and crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Heat up a small frying pan and gently fry the chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds for a few minutes.

Mix together the tomato passata, sundried tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a pan, place the egg noodles, chorizo, spring onions, fennel seeds and tomato passata.  Pour over just enough boiling water to cover.  Put over a medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is hot and the noodles are cooked.

Stir through some chopped parsley or basil and eat.

Tuesday was my birthday.  Mr Rigg and I took a day off work and had a lovely relaxing day pottering in Knutsford, drinking thick hot chocolate with a spoon at an Italian cafe, and eating cake for supper.

We also had a delicious lunch at The Victoria pub in Altrincham – but I’m going to save that for a separate post as it was so good!

Mr Rigg made my birthday cake – a Victoria sponge with raspberry jam and butter cream icing.  Yum.  It was our first attempt, we bought new sandwich cake tins in Knutsford and set about making Hugh’s recipe from his Everyday book.  It turned out pretty good.  We certainly aren’t complaining!

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I am a huge fan of River Cottage and really enjoyed watching the summer series – I especially loved their strawberry fayre.  I would love to organise events like that for my living.  Anyway, before I get off topic…Hugh made blackcurrant ice lollies and they looked so tasty I made a mental note to make them before the summer was out.

On a recent trip to the dreaded supermarket to stock up on a few basics, I discovered they were ‘chucking’ tons of fruit away (common sense would tell you none needed to be reduced) that had reached its sell by date.  There were a couple of punnets of organic peaches from Italy, the peaches soft and furry.  I came away with three punnets and an idea to make a peach versions of Hugh’s lollies.

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So here’s my recipe for Peach and Yoghurt Ice Lollies, but really I’m sure it would work with other combinations of fruit and yoghurt, or just pure fruit if you preferred.

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Peach and Yoghurt Ice Lollies

Makes 8 ice lollies with fruit purée leftover

About 10-12 peaches (less if you don’t want leftover purée)
Something to sweeten it with (honey, caster sugar, icing sugar, agave syrup)
Vanilla yoghurt

Start by skinning and pitting all your peaches.  Discard the skin and stones and place the peach flesh into a bowl.

Blitz the peaches up into a smooth purée and add a sweetener if needed.

Take your ice lolly moulds – now, as I see it there are two (main) options when deciding on how to fill your moulds. 

1)  I chose fill 1/3 of the mould with purée before topping it up with yoghurt.  Using a spoon I slightly swirled the peach mixture into the yoghurt which made it look quite pretty!  Of course, this is not necessary!  I then added a final thin layer of peach purée.  These were popped into the freezer.

2)  The other main option would be to mix the peach purée into the yoghurt before filling the moulds, so you have a peach flavoured yoghurt lolly. 

I suppose you could also do multiple layers – peach, yoghurt, peach, yoghurt and so on.  Have fun! 

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On tasting the lollies, I think next time I would try mixing the peach purée into the yoghurt before adding them to the moulds to create a more consistent flavour.  My lollies were lovely, and great if you fancy a bite of icy cold frozen peach, then a refreshing burst of frozen yoghurt.

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It has been months since N baked homemade bread, but last night, prompted by a cube of fresh yeast, he got baking again.  There was a near disaster at first, when the bread didn’t rise.  We think it’s because the recipe we were following (find it here) called for dry yeast and we used fresh.  On searching the internet I found out you need to use a lot more fresh yeast than dried…so while N started a fresh batch, I searched to find out if we could rescue the original batch.  Turns out you can, thanks to those helpful people on the Jamie Oliver forums.

We ended up with two delicious loaves rather than one, neither of which were disastrous, and in fact were probably the best loaves we’ve made.  We followed the recipe, misting the oven with water and the loaves before popping them in to bake.  It produced the most fantastic crust, so we’ll definitely be using that technique again.

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So, there you have it – my favourite meal…ever: still warm homemade bread smeared (generously, of course) with lightly salted farmhouse butter.  Mmmmm mm.

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*Note: we used white bread flour and didn’t follow the rye flour coating.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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