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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

 

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!

As I mentioned previously last weekend we headed down south to Hereford for a friend’s wedding.  On our journey home we decided to take a leisurely trip stopping off at food place along the way.  We didn’t really have a plan, just to see what we found.

The first place we came across we whizzed past, which is funny because it’s such a huge blot on the landscape it’s hard to miss!  In the midst of countryside as you head out of Hereford you come across a HUGE ‘barn’, if it can be called that, which reads ‘Oakchurch – farm shop’.

We entered this building with some apprehension and were greeted by what I would describe a confused food-cum-home-cum-DIY-mega….something-or-other!  It’s identity to me was unclear, it was utterly bewildering.  Imagine a farm shop supermarket and that’s part of the way there. 

There was a huge meat section, cheeses and produce – all local the labels told us; there were wines, beers and a selection of local cider and perry; there was a whole section dedicated to homewares (china plates and mugs, jam jars, bread boards, baskets, and every baking item under the sun).

We came away with a small bottle of local perry and a couple of packets of greaseproof bags (ideal for wrapping up edible Christmas goodies).  After visiting a friend of mine we crossed the River Wyre at a toll where the lady collecting money looked like she should have sold us some eggs and home produced honey as well as our crossing! 

From there we travelled via Eardisley and pulled in at the last minute to a natural cider and perry producer called The Orgasmic Cider Company – who couldn’t resist but stop at somewhere with a name like that?!  A friendly man told us about their different types of cider’s and perry’s and we tried some before buying a bottle to take home.

Our next foodie stop was Monkland Cheese Dairy – here we found a small shop and cafe selling homemade cheese, and a selection of preserves, chutney, bread and other local goodies.  We tried some of their different cheese and settled on their Oak Smoked for Mr Rigg and their Garlic & Chive for me.

The last place we visited was the Ludlow Food Centre, the one place I had planned to visit in advance.  The food centre is a large red brick and black timber clad new build that is light and airy inside.  It was bustling with people and on entering we were greeted by buckets of gorgeous locally grown bouquets, and local fruits including Victoria plums.

There was lots of local produce to choose from with pumpkins and squashes, purple beans, and sweetcorn.  There were modest meat, cheese and deli counters.  There were some delicious looking breads (even bread shaped like a tiny teddy bear!) and all the normal store cupboard items. 

We bought some sourdough bread sprinkled with poppy seeds, sweetcorn, Victoria plums, a bunch of local flowers, the first of the Hereford apples, two types of sausage and streaky bacon (at least that’s all I can remember!).

For lunch we ate in their Conservatory Barn Cafe – cheese and chutney sandwiches and a sausage roll for Mr Rigg, and for me roasted red pepper soup.  It was nice if slightly uninspiring food, but it tasted good.  I was very tempted by their ‘award winning’ Victoria sponge cake, but I resisted knowing that we had a tupperware of homemade chocolate cake in the car.

Today as part of our holiday at home, Mr Rigg, Buddy and I drove up into Lancashire for a day of walking and eating.  It was a fantastic sunny day (which is was a welcome surprise!) and we started with a long walk from Hurst Green.  We followed a Tolkien-inspired trail which can be downloaded here.

It was a lovely walk, which took us through lush fields of cows, past the turrets and observatory of Stoneyhurst College, down into damp woods with mossy streams, past fields of sweetcorn and rushing rivers. 

There were lots of cute calves like these ones…

And this sweet one!

Buddy – who it seems has never seen a stream before – slowly built up enough confidence to paddle. 

This walk takes you through a landscape that it said to have inspired Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books and you can definitely seem glimpses as you pass through this countryside.  I am a huge fan of the books so it was exciting to do this walk!

After our long hot walk we rewarded ourselves with lunch at The Three Fishes – one of Nigel Howarth’s country pub’s. 

We have eaten at The Highwayman Inn up near Kirkby Lonsdale which we really enjoyed – I had a ploughman’s platter with scrumptious piccalilli –  so it was easy to decide where to eat on our day out.  Plus there is a huge emphasis on local and seasonal food.

We sat at a table outside so that Buddy could sit with us.  I drank a cool chocolate milkshake and Mr Rigg a pint of ale whilst we waited for our food.  Chocolate milkshake takes me back to my childhood and I still love ordering it now. 

To start Mr Rigg had Three Fishes Fish Soup, Wicked Mayonnaise, Butlers Tasty Lancashire Cheese, and Garlic Croutons.

The soup was rich and fishy with a good kick of spice, the Lancashire cheese was crumbled and served in a tiny terracotta pot, and the ‘wicked mayonnaise’ was blushed red with flecks of fresh chilli.

I chose a dish from their seasonal menu which was a Salad of Cracked Wheat, Sweet & Sour Bank’s Tomatoes, Broad Beans, Garden Peas and a Yoghurt & Cucumber Dressing. 

I wish I could eat this salad everyday for lunch – it was so delicious.  The salad of cracked wheat, broad beans and garden peas was studded with fresh herbs and red onion, and topped with cherry tomatoes that had been cooked just until bursting.  Then drizzled round the edge was this cooling dressing of yoghurt and cucumber.

Mr Rigg’s main was from the seasonal menu – Gazegill Farm Organic Sandy Oxford Black Pork Faggots, Girolle Mushroom Gravy, Mashed Potato, Broad Beans and Garden Peas.

Neither of us had tried faggots before but Mr Rigg enjoyed them and the tiny morsel that I tried was delicious, but probably an acquired taste – very different in texture and flavour to something similar in shape like a meatball or burger.  Mr Rigg said it was coarser and a stronger flavour like that of liver.  It’s always nice to try something a bit different.

And for my main I pigged out with an Elmwood Platter of Local Seafood which included: Port of Lancaster Beech & Juniper Smoked Salmon, Lancaster Smoked Kipper, Hot Smoked Trout, Potted Morecambe Bay Shrimps, Smoked Mackerel Pâté, Picked Cucumber, Beetroot Relish, Horseradish Cream, and Homemade Bread. 

The smoked salmon with speckled with tiny capers and shreds of red onion, the potted shrimp fragrant and warm, the smoked trout went deliciously with the sweet earthy beetroot relish, and the pickled cucumber cut through all those flavours of fish. 

The smoked mackerel pâté was light like a mousse, a tiny mouthful on a toasted circle of bread, topped with micro herbs.

I have never tried kippers before, and although it is a very strong flavour and perhaps not something I would order on its own, as part of a platter like this it was delicious.

We had initially planned to stop eating here…but I was too tempted by Raspberry Jelly with Vanilla Ice Cream

…and Mr Rigg easily gave into the lure of homemade Milk Chocolate Chip and Marshmallow Ice Cream with chocolate sauce.  Not a good shot of the ice cream, Mr Rigg was very protective after I nabbed the first mouthful which got me in a lot of trouble…

Both were absolutely delicious.

Our lunch was finished off with a glimpse of Nigel Haworth himself who arrived at the pub just before we left.  If you’re in Lancashire, do make sure you stop at one of Nigel’s country pubs – we can certainly recommend the food from both The Three Fishes and The Highwayman!

I’m not one for putting photos of myself on here, but I love this picture of Buddy and I out on our walk…

Happy holidays!

This week I am taking a few days off from work and have left Mr Rigg and our menagerie of animals behind in Cheshire.  I am visiting my family in the Cotswolds and trying not to get too hot in this almost unbearable humidity.

My mom’s garden is full of bee’s swarming over her lavender hedges, whilst everything else is looking a little thirsty.  We’ve done a bit of shopping, sat for a while to chat and drink coffee and strawberry lemonade (delicious) in Made By Bob, took Alfie the family deerhound for a walk in search of a little owl that is nesting in an old tree (sadly we didn’t see it), and ate a scrummy courgette risotto.

Tonight we are planning a summer vegetable pasta dish, using vegetables from my mom’s allotment – the last of the broad beans, French beans and an assortment of courgettes.  All mixed together with a health glug of good olive oil and lots of garlic.

We also rescued a rather forlorn butterfly from the village church, who was covered in cobwebs.  We freed him from the dust and webs and set him on a bunch of purple wisteria flowers – he happily tucked into the nectar and I took a few snaps.

Will be back towards the end of the week no doubt with a full round up of making clotted cream ice cream, homemade scones, strawberry jam and other bits and pieces!  But for now, I’m enjoying not being tied to the laptop.

So following on from my weekend (last week) with my family and then the little sister, this is what we got up to when she came to stay…

We made French toast or eggy bread.  The little sister had hers with cinnamon sugar and I added some crushed (and homegrown!) raspberries to mine…

We made ‘cheats’ wraps – seed flecked tortilla wraps filled with Moroccan style hummous, sweet potato falafel and homegrown lettuce.  Sadly only the salad was homegrown…

We also had a delicious girlie lunch at Tampopo (the little sister’s favourite) – we shared Vietnamese goi cuon, she ate yaki udon noodles and I ate pad Thai.  Sadly we ate it all too quickly and there are no photos to show for these delicious dishes.

However, we also grabbed some lunch from Selfridges which I did snap a few quick photos of before we devoured it.  A selection of Indian delights and a pesto, mushroom and cheese pretzel and a mango smoothie to share…

A vegetarian breakfast for a hungry sister – a fried egg, sunny-side up with diced vegetarian sausage…

As part of her final parting dinner we did a baked Camembert eaten with crusty white bread that we picked up at the Abbey Leys farmer’s market.  Recipe for how to bake Camembert (it’s really easy) here.

We also made to-die-for cookies.  These are Hugh’s 10 minute cookies from his River Cottage Everyday recipe book, and they are everything you want from a cookie.  They are moist in places but crispy in others, chewy, sweet, and bittersweet with dark chocolate…

And finally, just before we left to pop her on a train home, we whipped up a quick quesadilla.  Two tortillas pan fried in a little oil with grated cheddar cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes sandwiched in the middle…

I miss you little sister!

At the moment I am down in the Cotswolds with my family.  Today, me and the little sister are heading back north to spend a couple of days together – I can’t wait! 

Last night my mom, the little sister, and me watched a lovely film together – Waitress.  A bittersweet romantic comedy about a waitress who makes pies.  What could be better than a film about pie making and love?  The little sister and I fancy starting a pie shop now… 

She names the pies after the emotions she feels – like “Falling in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie”.  It turns out some fantastic person has written up some of the recipes.  Sadly, I have discovered that the director and co-actor was murdered just days after completing the film. 

My family lived in America for a while when I was 13, in a sleepy little down in Connecticut.  On the weekends we used to travel north to these beautiful lakes, and along the way we would often stop at The American Pie Company (I’m delighted to discover it still exists!).  My memories of eating there are not of pies (sadly), but of the best French onion soup.

I can’t believe that I never finished my food memories of Italy.  Last September we were there!  And now we’re almost into June.  Terrible.  I shall try to pick up where I left off and share more of the lovely food we found and ate in Italy.

After our first night in Naples (see Part 1) we made our way by bus to the Amalfi Coast.  The journey by bus along the coastal roads was hair-raising!  Suddenly we went over the top and there was the sea far far below…

Every journey by bus after this I discovered that I had to eat in order not to feel sick as we wound backwards and forwards along the coast – bags of airy cheesy flavoured Wotsit-type crisps were my life saver.

We stayed at an agriturismo called Sant Alfonso in Furore.  It was all the way at the end of a very long road, down which we dragged our luggage in the heat. 

Our room was cool with a stunning view over the coastal hillsides and sea beyond.  Twice a day, every day, we would hear these bells, gently clanging across the valley.  A herd of goats would head up into the hills and back down again at night.  Blissful.

For breakfast there was a generous spread of pastries and cakes.  I always find breakfast in other countries fascinating and unfamiliar.  I always seem to try to make a familiar breakfast out of what there is available, and sometimes it doesn’t quite work! 

Cute heart-shaped sugared buns.

Over the next few days we often had lunch and dinner at Sant Alfonso.  Dinner I must say was unmemorable and often quite heavy going as we felt we should eat four courses every night – a starter, pasta course, main course and dessert!  Phew!  Whether we were supposed to eat all four courses or whether the Italians thought us all very strange for eating so much I shall never know!

The lunches however, under the shade of the terrace with a cool sea breeze were lovely.  Delicious platters of antipasto – salami, ham, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, grilled artichokes, pasta, melon, bruschetta, and delicious pickled aubergine with olives.

All served with crusty bread.  If only we could eat like this every day.

The farm grew grapes, their vines stretching out along the terraces which were cut into the steep hillside all around.  They also had some friendly goats and a fig tree that dropped sticky ripe fruits everywhere.

We also discovered a number of wild herbs growing naturally.  I think this was thyme sprouting from cracks in a wall…

And wild fennel along the road to the farm – this was used in quite a number of dishes we saw on menus.

And on our first night on the Amalfi Coast, in a quiet corner of the softly lit garden, looking out across the black sea and twinkly lights below, Mr Rigg got down on one knee and asked if I’d marry him.

As I mentioned previously, on Tuesday it was my birthday and Mr Rigg and I had lunch at The Victoria pub in Altrincham.  We have wanted to go and eat there for as long as we’ve known about it, but for whatever reason never been until this week.

We weren’t disappointed.  The pub serves dishes with a strong emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients.  We chose three starters/light dishes and sat listening to the Pipettes

What we ate…

Local Asparagus Muffin ~ grilled Cheshire/Lancashire asparagus served on a toasted muffin, topped with a poached egg and creamy hollandaise sauce.

Gorgeous fluffy muffin, tasty asparagus, a runny golden yolk and buttery hollandaise sauce.  I could have eaten this dish over and over again.

Sarsaparilla Glazed Belly Pork Ribs ~ Meaty pork ribs glazed in an orange and sarsaparilla sauce served with chunks of bread for mopping.

This was more Mr Rigg’s choice than mine – I did try a mouthful and the glaze was delicious.  Any menu that includes ‘bread for mopping’ is five star in my opinion!

Seared Mackerel Pikelet ~ Pan fried mackerel fillet, served on a toasted pikelet with a pickled walnut and rocket salad, with herb dressing.

A real surprise – I wasn’t sure about this dish when I first saw it, but the flavours were heavenly.  A toasted pikelet and soft mackerel with herby dressing and pickled walnuts.  I’d never had pickled walnuts before but they were scrumptious with the rest of this dish.

I was also equally tempted by their battered fish butty with tartare sauce and chunky chips.  We will be going back for one of these.  My only complaint?  Too much parsley.

If you live near to Altrincham or are visiting I would highly recommend a visit to The Victoria.  A lovely atmosphere, delicious and inventive dishes and ‘bread for mopping’!  Oh, and you can’t miss it – the whole building is painted mint green!

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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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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