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For Christmas Eve dinner we like to eat a baked Camembert and nothing else.  It is pure indulgence and feels very wicked, but it is a tradition of our own making and it feels like something special.

We bake the Camembert in its box – just take the lid off and pull open the paper.  This time I scored the cheese with a cross, added a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a garlic clove, sliced in half and wedged into the cut cheese. 

After about 15-20 minutes it comes out as gooey liquid cheese encased in its rind – which is my favourite part of it.  It goes a bit crispy but chewy at the same time.

Usually we just have a bowl of rustic bread, roughly cut into hunks to dip into the cheese.  This year we also opened a jar of Real Ale chutney to go with it. 

Although I can be a purist when it comes to dishes like this, refusing to dilute the taste of hot runny cheese and bread, I must admit a dab of chutney with it was delicious.

We ate it in front of a cosy log fire…

Does anyone else have Christmas traditions they’ve created for themselves?

Christmas Eve lunch – a simple winter salad of warm potatoes, crispy bacon, chopped celery leaves and a dressing of mustard, cider vinegar and shallots. 

This was my first attempt at this delicious sounding salad from Rose Prince’s The New English Table – I tried to follow the amounts for the dressing, but it wasn’t quite how I wanted it, so I just tweaked the ingredients until I was happy. 

Winter potato, bacon and celery leaf salad

Feeds 4

20 new potatoes
6 rashers of streaky bacon
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
175ml olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
Handful of celery leaves
2 shallots
Salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes in salted boiling water until done.  Drain and cut in half or quarters.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crispy.

Mix together the sugar, mustard, olive oil and water – I like to use a jam jar as you can screw on the lid and shake it.  Add the shallots, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pop the cooked potatoes into a bowl.  Tear up (or cut up) the crispy bacon and add to the potatoes.  Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle over chopped celery leaves.  Stir everything together.

Mr Rigg is home from work, we’ve got the Christmas carol’s on, the Camembert is out of the fridge ready for tonight’s baked Camembert cheese fondue, and I am feeling tremendously Christmassy.

Our night before Christmas involves eating a lot of gooey cheese with chunks of sourdough bread and going to midnight mass at our favourite little village church in Dunham Massey.  And we have snow.

Wishing everyone a very happy night before Christmas!

Image: Pretty Little Green Things

If you ignore the peeling paint in the back of the room (our house is still very much a work in progress) our house is looking quite Christmassy. 

I have hung ivy and holly from most of the pictures, the staircase is wrapped in yet more ivy, the tree is decorated and sparkling, and the mantlepiece is twinkling with jam jars of tealights amongst fir branches.

Today I did the first part of my Christmas food shop – my bags were full of goodies…Morecambe Bay potted shrimp…herb encrusted salami…Wensleydale cheese studded with cranberries…and a few things I can’t mention as they’re for Mr Rigg’s stocking..ssh!

I love Christmas.

Sometimes you just need something simple, quick and tasty to eat in front of the telly.  For me this week it was mushrooms on toast.  Made with mushrooms from Unicorn Grocery and bread from Barbakan.

Where has the week gone?  Not much excitement on the food front to report – but tonight Mr Rigg and I have planned out our meals (in theory!) for the next week.  There’s something deeply satisfying about being grown up and able to write a list of all the things you want to eat and being able to go out, buy the ingredients, and come home and eat those things.

As well as food planning, I’m also longing for a weekend of getting the house ready for Christmas – hopefully a tree can be found and a wreath put up.  Is anyone else starting to decorate for Christmas?

So following on from yesterday’s post about my much shortened trip to London, I went to the National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards on Thursday evening.  The awards are given to National Trust farms, orchards or gardens who produce products of the very highest standards – environmental, welfare, and taste.

The awards have been running since 2006 and this year’s panel of judges included Tom Kerridge (winner of the Great British Menu this year) and Henrietta Green (FoodLoversBritain).

There were incredible displays of the winning produce and productscider and apple juice from Barrington Court Estate, golden beetroot from Wimpole Walled Garden, late season honey from Lyveden New Bield, golden hot chilli sauce from Gringley Gringo

steak and ale pie from F Conisbee & Son Farming Partnership, flour from Clyston Mill, hogget lamb from Calke Abbey, and rhubarb jam from the Brockhampton Estate – to name just a few!

We sipped delicious drinks all of which were made from the awards winning products – Apple Bellini’s, incredible apple cocktails some with mint some with cinnamon, cider, ale and beer.  The Apple Bellini (exquisite fresh apple juice with champagne) is one for my wedding drinks list next year I think!

We ate delicious canapes til we could eat no longer – tiny beef pies, mini hamburgers, spoonfuls of golden beetroot and garlic risotto, bite-sized tarts with blue cheese and chutney, rice pudding with honey, and miniature scones with cream and rhubarb jam.

The producers were recognised with a short film and speech from the National Trust and judges, and this year’s Overall Winner – rhubarb jam from Brockhampton Estate – was awarded their prize. 

I watched Richard McGeown (the Executive Head Chef from Couch’s in Polperro, Cornwall) give a demonstration on how to cook the perfect steak.  He had been giving cooking demonstrations throughout the evening, and as I watched I snacked on my first ever piece of hogget lamb. 

Tips I picked up on how to cook the perfect steak? 

  • Make sure the pan is really hot (if you have asbestos fingers like Richard test it with your fingers…!!). 
  • Only add a tiny drop of oil to the pan before adding your steak. 
  • Season with salt but not black pepper at this point – it will burn and taste bitter. 
  • Cook for about 15-20 seconds on each side to seal. 
  • Season with black pepper then finish off in a hot oven (220°C) for about 6 1/2 minutes if you like it rare, 7 minutes for medium rare.

The evening was finished off with more networking and nibbling on delicious canapes, before heading off with a goodie bag

…included was a bag of flour from Clyston Mill, a small bottle of the incredibly fiery Gringley Gringo gold hot chilli sauce, some of the new National Trust ‘Lancashire lemon curd’ biscuits, apple chutney from the Killerton Estate, and a treasured jar of the award winning rhubarb jam.

Friday morning breakfast: a soft chewy slice of Kaiserbrot from Barbakan, spread with goat’s butter and Brockhampton Estate rhubarb jam.  Yum.

Last night I was in London for the National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards 2010.  I had planned my trains to give me an hour wandering the streets of Soho visiting a couple of food places I’d sussed out.  To cut a long story short I missed my train so spent my hour sat at Warrington Station feeling sorry for myself and wishing I was in London.

This is me bored not walking round London…

Gutted.  Anyway, I had just enough time on my way through Soho from the tube to stop in at the Nordic Bakery.  As a former resident – if only for 8 months – of Vancouver an opportunity to gorge myself on cinnamon buns wasn’t to be missed. 

How I miss this time of year in Canada when cream cheese frosted sticky sweet cinnamon buns come into their own.  Gooey, sticky, chewy, sweet, sugary, fragrant, spicy…all of those and more describe the cinnamon buns I found (and lived off) whilst I was studying in Vancouver.

Vancouver style cinnamon buns…


Image: via TravelPod

Back to last night’s story, I found the Nordic Bakery on Golden Square in Soho.  The counter was filled with savouries – thin slices of rye bread topped with smoked salmon, cheese and dill pickles, and something I else I can’t remember.  Then there were the sweets – blueberry buns, oatmeal cookies, tosca cake and…cinnamon buns.

They weren’t quite as I had imagined – basing my vision on those that I ate in Canada.  Rather than a swirl somewhat resembling a Chelsea bun, the cinnamon buns at the Nordic Bakery are a somewhere between a croissant and pain au chocolat shape.  Incredibly sticky and utterly delicious looking.

I bought two cinnamon buns and two blueberry buns, which were boxed up and treasured carefully across Soho, through a night of awards, on the tube, on a train, and all the way home to my little house in Cheshire.  And they made it not too squished.

We ate them for lunch (!!) today warmed a little in the oven.  They were scrumptious, heavily spiced and fragrant with cinnamon and sticky (did I mention they sticky…?) with sugar.

More tomorrow on the Fine Farm Produce Awards.


Image: LondonEats

Still lacking a decent camera so have found some great images of the Nordic Bakery online just as I remember it – check out LondonEats’ review.

Isn’t that what us country folk call it?  Anyway…I’m off to London tomorrow afternoon to the National Trust’s Fine Farm Produce Awards – an event that celebrates the best of the best of National Trust tenant farm produce.

I’m also hoping to visit a couple of interesting foodie places I’ve found online in Soho.  Hopefully I can bring back some interesting tales and photos if the camera/camera phone are behaving!

Image: Izzy Burton Photography

Where has the past week gone?  I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything for a week now – it seems to have flown past.  Mr Rigg and I have just spent the weekend with my family in Gloucestershire, which was lovely. 


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

Although very chilly we had bright blue skies and the autumn colours are started to appear.  On Friday I spent the day working at the National Trust head office in Swindon as part of my volunteer work for them.  I am the Sustainable Food Communication Officer working alongside the Local Food Co-ordinator, and I am really enjoying my work.

So after a great day’s work, my afternoon was made complete by meeting Valentine Warner – who did the fantastic tv show and books called What to Eat Now and What to Eat Now More Please! 

I loved his programmes and the recipe books, so to meet him was just incredible.  He seemed really down-to-earth and interested in the work the National Trust is doing.  What a great man!


Image: Valentine Warner

Saturday morning was spent getting measured for my wedding dress (aah!) which was both exciting and slightly surreal. 

I have already found my wedding dress in a beautiful boutique in Cheltenham but it needs some alterations.  My dress is handmade by an incredible lady who runs the boutique, and is made from 100 year-old handmade lace.  I can’t wait to wear it!


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

In the afternoon my little sister did a photo shoot of Mr Rigg and me picking blackberries – she is going to be taking photographs at our wedding and so she’s practising.  Mr Rigg and I aren’t that comfortable in front of the camera, but she managed to take some lovely shots.


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

Saturday evening we celebrated her 17th birthday with roasted vegetable lasagne and warm apple cake. 

 

Happy Birthday Iz Biz!

The weekend finished with a lovely autumnal walk on Sunday morning with my mom, dad and Alfie the deerhound.  We came across a pear tree that was overhanging the lane, so picked some pears to take home.  Then we discovered a walnut tree! 


Image: Izzy Burton Photography

We gathered pocketfuls of walnuts and once home opened some up to reveal the walnuts inside.  Mom popped one in the oven to roast it slightly and it was delicious!

 

Last night was perhaps one of the loveliest evening’s I can remember for a long time.  We had dinner at Riverford’s Travelling Field Kitchen on Stockley Farm in Cheshire.

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!

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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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All pictures are my own unless stated. I would kindly ask that you don't use them elsewhere unless you ask permission first. Many thanks x

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