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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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Paris Le Tire Bouchon creperie

If I don’t hurry up and finish sharing details of my Christmas Paris trip I’m going to have forgotten it all, and there’s a few more lovely places I wanted to share.  In particular I wanted to share this meal with you – our first meal in fact, that we ate in Paris, and probably the nicest for a number of reasons.

Paris Le Tire Bouchon creperie piano player

We had been wandering around the Christmas market up by Sacre Coeur as dusk fell, it was chilly and we’d warmed ourselves on (the best!) hot chocolate from one of the stalls.  I had received a few recommendations on where to eat (thanks Ellen and Brigitte!) but once we got there we were seduced into a rather shabby looking building by a piano player inside.

Paris Montmartre creperie piano player

The red paint was peeling off the brickwork, but this gorgeous tune wafted out and as soon as we entered we received a warm welcome to this tiny place.  All of the walls and ceiling were covered in photos, notes, and drawings from people who had eaten there.  The place was called Le Tire Bouchon and it made crepes.

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Christmas markets at Montmatre Paris

‘The best’ of anything is always subjective, what I think is the best when it comes to food might not be to someone elses taste, but it’s always interesting to get some tips on where to find ‘the best’ of something.

I love hot chocolate.  As a non tea and coffee drinker, hot chocolate is my hot drink of choice, so naturally a trip to Paris at Christmas warranted a search for the tastiest hot chocolate to warm us up.

Paris Christmas lights

Before we went I did some research – the best selection I found for the top places for Parisian hot chocolate was on David Lebovitz’s blog.  This was primarily what I used to guide us once we reached Paris, but also just looking around at what might look good.

I think what I learnt from my search for the best hot chocolate, is that it isn’t just about taste – it’s about where you are, the surroundings and atmosphere.

Christmas at Laduree rue Royale

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Last night we got in the car and headed north up the M6 at rush hour – I thought Mr Rigg had lost the plot, I am not a good passenger in traffic, especially motorway traffic.  I had been told we were going out for dinner, but where we were going I had no clue.  I thought it must be somewhere pretty damned good if Mr Rigg was brave enough to make me sit in motorway traffic for it.

By now it was clear we were going to Liverpool, but I couldn’t think of anywhere there I wanted to go for dinner.  Mr Rigg assured me 2 million percent that I wanted to go to this place – I thought he’d gone mad and clearly mis-heard a restaurant name and we were going to end up at some totally random place.  But 2 million percent is a lot to be sure by.

It turns out we were going to Jamie’s Italian – I must confess I didn’t know there was one in Liverpool – and I didn’t realise where we were going until we turned a corner and there it was.  Mr Rigg came through.

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For our final day at the tipi before the long journey north to Manchester we decided to bike from Wadebridge to Padstow along the Camel Trail.  This is something I have happy memories doing as a child with my family, so it was lovely to go back.

We got up quite early and headed into Wadebridge, not having had any breakfast and not hopeful we’d find anywhere open on a Sunday so early.  It turns out there was a bakery open, and selling one of my favourite things (also from my childhood) – saffron buns.

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We recently spent a long weekend in Cornwall, staying at Cornish Tipi Holidays and finding delicious food to eat nearby.  Cornish Tipi Holidays is a magical site in North Cornwall (not far inland from Port Isaac) where you will find tipis dotted throughout a woodland valley, and at its heart a beautiful lake.

Our tipi was called ‘Overlake’ set in a woodland clearing high above the lake.  We were shown around the site by the welcoming warden, Oggy, before we unpacked the car and settled in.  At University my studies focused on the First Nations of Canada, and as such I have always had a love for their culture and history.  Whilst I primarily studied the North West Coastal nations of Canada, who built houses from cedar planks, it was pretty special to get the chance to stay in a Plains style tipi.

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Last weekend Mr Rigg and I headed to Cornwall for a long weekend.  In order to break up the 5 hour journey we set off after work on Thursday and made a stop-off in Somerset, staying at a beautiful B&B called Farndon Thatch.

Arriving at about 7pm we decided to stop at a local pub for dinner before checking in.  We came across The Crown Inn at Fivehead, where we were met with a warm welcome and a menu prided on being homecooked by the owners Steve and Jacqui.  Mr Rigg couldn’t resist a curry and I went for a slice of homemade venison pie.

And what a slice it was – huge, stuffed full of flavoursome meat, and possibly the best pastry I’ve ever had.  It wasn’t cheffy or fancy food, but just really nice homecooked meals, just what we needed.  We were also entertained by a stunning fish tank with living rocks and a host of unusual creatures.

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Last week we had incredible fish and chips from a place in Didsbury called Frankie’s Fish Bar, but it left me feeling guilty that all I’d eaten for dinner was deep-fried fish and potatoes. 

So I was determined the following night to fill us full of vegetables, and this is what I came up with…

All the vegetables were English, although not grown by me.  There were new potatoes, boiled and tossed in lots of salty butter and black better.  Pink and white radishes sliced in half, asparagus spears and baby carrots blanched and sliced.

Broad beans and fresh peas shelled and briefly cooked in simmering water.  Lots of seasonal salad leaves, crispy bacon shards, and those gorgeous nasturtium flowers (bought from Waitrose, so delighted they’re selling edible flowers).

Not a lot of complicated stuff, just a lot of shelling broad beans and slicing.  But really delicious – I want to eat more of this sort of food over the summer.

During our travels last weekend, we visited Mr Rigg’s granny and went out for lunch with her.  We went to The White Oak in Cookham and ate the most delicious lunch.

Now we’ve been to The White Oak once before, but it was on such a sad occasion following a funeral that I can’t remember the food.  However, this time the food will stick with me for a long time.  It was superb. 

Not only has this pub been lovingly refurbished, but the staff are so friendly and polite and the food utterly scrumptious.  Sadly I have no photos of our meal, but Mr Rigg and his granny ate beer-battered fish and chips which was served on a wooden board, the chips (which were excellent) came in a tiny metal bucket. 

For my meal I choose a vegetarian main of Parmesan gnocchi in a winter vegetable broth.  When it arrived it the portion seemed quite small compared to the hunks of batter fish beside me.  However, it was delicate, delicious, beautifully presented, and incredibly tasty.  Just three homemade Parmesan gnocchi sat upon a heap of tiny cubed vegetables surrounded by a pool of clear broth.  Wow – just excellent food.

It was the kind of food I would like to eat every night of the week, but I’m quite sure it would take me many years to learn how to make gnocchi so soft and melt in the mouth, and a clear broth packed with oodles of flavour.  I guess I had better get started!

Images: The UK Restaurant Guide

There are some fantastic Christmas markets in Manchester at the moment, full of delicious foods.  From Raclette melted over new potatoes and gerkins, to spaetzle and paella there are all kinds of goodies.

One of my favourite things at the Christmas markets is Flammkuchen – a German style pizza topped with a creamy sauce, bacon and onion.  When I cook so much at home, it always feels quite expensive to eat at the markets.  So instead we decided to give it a go at home.

I went in search for a recipe – mind you, it took me a while to get the spelling correct!  I was inspired by this recipe because it used quark – an ingredient I’ve seen before but never known what to do with it.  Here was the perfect opportunity to quell my interest – turns out it’s like cottage cheese without the lumps.  Quite nice!

Flammkuchen

Pizza dough
Creme fraiche
Sour cream
Quark
Pancetta or bacon
Onion
Black pepper

Preheat your oven 220°C.

Roll out the pizza dough as thin as you can.

Finely slice the onion – the thinner the better as the onion isn’t pre-cooked.  I used pancetta rather than bacon and sliced it into lardons.

In a bowl mix equal amounts of creme fraiche, sour cream and quark. 

Spread the creme fraiche mixture over the pizza dough, top with sliced onion and bacon before popping it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes or until it’s golden.

All it needs before eating is a good grind of black pepper…or not if your Mr Rigg.

Any other suggestions on what to do with the remaining quark would be graciously received!

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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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