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I am struggling. Earlier this year we did a meat-free month (which I know, I don’t think I ever finished blogging about), which was a choice we made to stop over-indulging on meat and remember what we love about vegetables. We chose to do that.
Due to some health issues, I have recently been told I have a sensitivity to dairy (among a long list of other items). So, for a month I am cutting dairy out completely – or almost completely. It has been a week, and I am struggling. I love to torment myself by watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with all the gooey cheese that goes with most things.
By some miracle I resisted a pot of burrata in the mozzarella section at Waitrose yesterday – AND it was discounted! That is a sign that I am truly unwell, or more positively committed to spending a month dairy free to see if I feel better at the end of it. I’ve had a good moan at my husband, so I thought I’d moan to all you lovely lot of grace my blog.
It really is terribly challenging – no milk, no yoghurt, no cheese, no chocolate (although I have found a delicious alternative that has no dairy called raw chocolate and the brand I’ve found is scrummy – but I’ve temporarily run out). I utterly love all things dairy and I try to buy the best quality of all these items – organic milk (or even occasionally organic unpasturised from the farmer’s market), organic yoghurt, artisan cheeses, organic chocolate.
It has been long over due sharing details of this wonderful farm shop – perhaps a big statement to make, but I think St Kew Harvest Farm Shop could be my all time favourite farm shop.
On our last morning in Cornwall we decided to head to the farm shop to stock up on lovely items before we headed north to home. When we arrived the shop was full of the fragrance of warm cakes straight from the oven.
Sat at a little table looking out to the fields beyond, we ate lemon drizzle cake for breakfast and I had a divine cup of hot chocolate.
I don’t really like to share to much of my personal life nor photos of me and my family that often, but today I felt I should.
My little sister, who’s nearly 17, has just started her first week of A-levels. In the five days she’s been back at school, she’s had a miserable time of it with backstabbing friends and boyfriend mishaps. Although the air is starting to clear now, she was very sad at the beginning of the week.
So, I did what every big sister would do. I sent her a confidence-boosting email, reminding her not to get too down because of other people and their hurtful words or actions. I reminded her who she is deep down inside, the confident and happy little four-year old care-free enough to dance on hotel poolsides and at firework parties.
She is pretty and silly and funny and smart and one of the most genuine and nice people I know. It’s hard living so far away from her, I just wanted to be there to give her a hug and sit and watch a girlie film or play Lego Indiana Jones on the X-Box (sounds silly, but we love it!).
Within almost 24 hours they’d delivered her the little gift and she could snuggle up with her luxurious hot chocolate and think of me and how much I believe in her.
If you want to show someone you love them, cheer someone up, or make up for missing their birthday I highly recommend sending them brownies (or other chocolatey gifts) from Cocoa Loco. They make the best organic chocolate brownies and they deliver them by post – what could be better!
Image: Cocoa Loco
To reach Stockley Farm you must go down winding country lanes that seem to lead you nowhere. This added to the mystery of the night – we knew when and where to turn up and that the the dinner would be seasonal, local and mostly organic. Otherwise, we we in the dark.
Dinner was held in a field in a large yurt with a smaller yurt attached at the entrance, it’s outside draped with bunting and inside haybales, piles of cushions, pots of summer flowers and boxes of Riverford veg.
Inside the main yurt there were large ash tables with benches and chairs. In the centre of the yurt was a large wood-burning stove gently heating the room.
We took a cushion to sit on and took our seats at our table, said hello to our fellow diners and supped on our drinks (organic larger for Mr Rigg and a Luscombe Scilian lemonade for me).
And so dinner began.
Starters were platters of homemade dips (one of beetroot, another of courgette, a baba ganoush and a hummous), bowls of crisp vegetables (including khol rabi and purple cauliflower!) and a basket of bread.
The main course was all served at the table ‘family’ style – large platters to pass and share. There was…
- slow-roast lamb and perfectly pink leg of lamb served with Puy lentils
- butternut squash and pecan tart for the veggies
- hispi (pointed) cabbage with runner beans
- broccoli with lemon and chilli
- carrots braised in honey and flecked with cumin seeds
- and a salad of watercress, fennel, orange and olives.
Dessert was also served at the table to dig into yourselves – there was…
- a generous bowl of blueberry and custard Eton Mess
- delicate slithers of pear and almond tart
- and dense chunks of chocolate and walnut brownie (possibly the best brownie ever – moist and cakey, dense and fudgy, deep with dark chocolate with only a hint of sweetness, and an earthiness from the nuts.
I haven’t gone into detail on the tastes and flavours of each item, because truly everything was stunning. Most of the dishes are in the Riverford Farm Cookbook (which I own and adore) but last night we both tried dishes I would normally overlook.
For example, I (usually) deteste the idea of fruit in a salad – so one that combined orange and olives just didn’t appeal to me and so I wouldn’t try making it at home.
But with the dish there for you to have as little or as much as you wish, you think ‘oh well, why not!’ and so I tried it … and I enjoyed it. Oranges and olives do go together in this delicious salad.
Our table was a mixture of young and old: a married couple with children who are Riverford customers, a family spanning the generations, and a younger couple like ourselves who’d booked the night as an anniversary treat.
The staff were friendly and polite, the food was fantastic, and the atmosphere in the yurt was happy, relaxed, and full of chatter.
If only eating out was always this pleasurable.
Sorry – no food pictures, was having too much fun and it was too dark!
Image: herebejames on Flickr
I almost forgot – we have signed up to get milk from our local milkman. I know I’m way behind a lot of people in switching to support my local milkman, but the time has final come and we are really enjoying it.
The milk is even delivered early enough for Mr Rigg to have fresh milk on his cereal (he leaves the house for work at 6.30am!). Who could ask for more?
We are a full fat organic milk family, and I’ve been assured that the milk we get is sourced from within a 60 mile radius, which sounds good enough for me.
There’s something so satisfying about a glass bottle of milk and those silver metal tops that you gently push to release. I also like that it’s reducing the amount of plastic we have at home (although we can recycled plastic milk bottles). Happy days.
Yesterday was lovely. It was one of those days when you feel whole, you feel content, you feel that life is good.
Mr Rigg and I spent the afternoon helping out the stall for our local Low Carbon group at the town’s May Queen Festival. We are both involved in the group, me leading on local food. We spoke to lots of people from our community, handed out information and lots of the ‘really local food’ maps I have produced.
Then we headed up to Abbey Leys to get some eggs and bacon (I’m planning on making a Quiche Lorraine this week). The sun was shining, the sky a dazzling blue. The hedgerows are green and alive with twittering birds. The hens and ducks at Abbey Leys were all down by the pond and sheltering in the shade of the trees.
Outside the farm shop was a bucket of locally grown Sweet Williams, a bunch of which now adorns our living room in an earthenware pot salvaged from the carboot. Inside, Mr Rigg filled up two boxes with freshly laid eggs. I found some outdoor reared Gloucester old spot streaky bacon in the chiller.
We also filled up a bag with the first Cheshire new potatoes, still with earth clinging to them. And then I saw them – a tub of locally grown peas. I adore peas. Peas plucked straight from the plant, popped out of their crisp pods and into my mouth. Nothing is perhaps more delicious.
These were the first local peas I have seen, so we got a full bag. By the time we got home I’d eaten about a quarter of the bag already. Needless to say, they didn’t make it past sundown.
From all this delicious local produce and some from our garden we ate a scrumptious, simple dinner – will post this separately. This is how all days should be. Should make you feel.
Simple but so, so tasty! Part of my attempt to eat as much seasonal asparagus as possible!
Asparagus and scrambled egg on bagel
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and pop in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook for between 7-10 minutes until tender. My asparagus came from Kenyon Hall Farm.
Cook the scrambled eggs your own way, or you could try ‘my perfect scrambled eggs‘ just omit the chives. Be sure to use the best eggs you can get hold of – organic, free range, woodland, home laid – this will make all the difference to the taste of your scrambled eggs. Mine came from Abbey Leys and were corkers!
If your bagel is super fresh from a deli or bakery (mine came from the Barbakan) you could just eat it fresh, sliced in half and lightly buttered. If not, toast it before buttering.
Pop the buttered bagel on a plate. Spoon over the scrambled egg. Top with the grilled asparagus.
Mr Rigg ate his asparagus with a fried egg and crisp streaky bacon instead. So many options! All delicious!
Who could image that just two ingredients – egg and butter – could create such a delicious, moreish meal? N was anti-scrambled egg when I first met him. After finally managing to get him to try a mouthful of my scrambled egg, he can now be heard asking for it without any prompting at all!
Scrambled egg on toast, made with love and care, and not cooked to within an inch of its life, should not be dismissed purely as a side to a fried breakfast. Scrambled egg on toast can make a scrumptious and filling meal all by itself – at least in my opinion.
Using high quality eggs is essential for producing the tastiest scrambled egg possible. Organic, free range, rare breed/heritage or woodland eggs are your best bet. Or if you’re lucky enough to have your own chickens, home produced. We used free range organic eggs from Abbey Leys Farm.
Now I never really understood why recipes call for a ‘heavy based’ pan, but for scrambled egg it really makes a difference. If you use one that has a thin base (like my cheapo supermarket milk pan that I still have from university) then the egg at the bottom cooks too quickly and can burn and stick to the pan. A pan with a thicker base will cook the egg slower and more gently.
So, to make my scrambled egg I melt a good sized knob of butter in a heavy based saucepan. When the butter has melted and starts to gently bubble I crack in my eggs. Please note, I do not whisk up my eggs and pour them into the pan. I simply crack the whole eggs directly into the pan.
Now, the important bit – allow the eggs to cook everso slightly. You can burst the yolks if you like, but try and let the white, well turn white – like when you fry and egg. Now, give it a gentle mix (I used a metal spoon). Then let it cook some more. Then another gentle mix.
By adding the eggs whole to the pan, and gently breaking them up as they cook results in a chunky scrambled egg where some bits are white, some bits are golden, and some are milky yellow combination of the two. I think it makes for a much more interesting scrambled egg rather than one uniform taste and texture.
Have the heat on about a medium, but if the egg starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat briefly and continue mixing. I do this back and forward, on and off the heat until it reaches the texture I like.
I like my scrambled eggs moist but not too runny, and certainly not dried out. The egg should slide off the spoon, not plop off like lumps of jelly. I know everyone has their own preferences, but if you usually cook your scrambled egg a bit longer, just try it more moist, just once. When I first tried cooking scrambled egg like this I couldn’t believe how different it tasted.
Once the egg is cooked, stir in a good grinding of black pepper and salt to taste. As with most food, I tend to be a purist and refuse to add too many embellishments, but yesterday I added some freshly snipped chives from the garden. Chives are an ideal paring for egg and provided an interesting taste addition to our scrambled egg.
Butter some slithers of toast and spoon the scrambled egg over the top.
My perfect scrambled egg
Serves 2 for lunch
A knob of butter
In a heavy based saucepan melt a good sized knob of butter over a medium heat. When it starts to bubble crack the eggs into the pan.
Allow the eggs to cook a little before bursting the yolks and giving them a gentle mix. Leave again to cook a little, and then mix gently. If the egg starts to stick to the bottom, remove from the heat and mix. Keep the egg mixture moving, but do so gently until it reaches a moist sloppy consistency.
Stir in some ground black pepper and salt to taste. If you are using chives, snip into the egg and mix.
Spoon the scrambled egg over a couple of slices of buttered toast.