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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.

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A quick one today as I’m down with my family in Gloucestershire, but these were another delicious discovery from Glebe Farm Shop outside Congleton – pikelets with raisins. 

I remember pikelets as a child, but I’m pretty sure they were supermarket versions which were like flat crumpets.  These pikelets were more like a scotch pancake and studded with raisins.  We just popped them in the toaster and slathered them with salty butter.

Today I went to Biddulph Grange Garden in North Staffordshire – to write up a piece for the sustainable food newsletter I edit in my volunteer role at the National Trust.  I would highly recommend visiting the gardens here if you are in the area or looking for a day out – they are utterly breathtaking. My photos don’t do it justice.

But what I wanted to share was my discovery of Staffordshire oatcakes.  They are a bit like a pancake or crepe, and I tried them for lunch in the National Trust tearoom, rolled up with cheese inside and heated until piping hot.

All the cheese was oozing out the ends – delicious.  They were really quite tasty, especially with all that melted cheese – I must investigate how else you can use them and what other ingredients you can stuff inside them.  I’m assuming most things, but I wonder if there are traditional ways of eating them. 

Luckily I was able to buy myself a packet of Staffordshire oatcakes from Glebe Farm Shop in Astbury.  I was told they were locally made in Congleton, freezeable, and I can’t wait to try them out at home.

Today (unexpectedly!) I am part of a feature in the Independent newspaper on the 50 best farm shops.  I say unexpectedly as it was supposed to be going in next week – but it’s come out a week early.

I just wanted to correct a mistake as well, in the paper it says that this blog, Eat the Earth, is the sustainable food newsletter of the National Trust.  It’s not.  This is my own, personal blog about the food I enjoy growing, eating, cooking, and discovering.

There seems to have been a bit of a muddle and they’ve combined two elements of what I do.  I am a volunteer editor of an internal sustainable food newsletter for the National Trust, but it’s not anything to do with this blog.  I also just write this blog in my free time.  So apologies for any confusion.

Now this is how I like my meat – slow cooked, full of moisture and soft enough you can pull it apart with a fork.  But up until now we haven’t really cooked meat like this, but after spotting a rather good-looking piece of pork belly at Davenports Farm Shop this was the moment.

We followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Pork Belly Roast and it didn’t let us down – not that any Jamie recipe ever has, I don’t think.  On top there was a layer of golden, crispy crackling, and beneath the meat was flavourful and soft.

We ate it drenched in gravy, with a pile of fluffy and super buttery mashed potato, and peas and broad beans.  De-lish!  Definitely one to make for friends.

This is a fantastic new website with a map tool to help you find ‘real bread’ and locally produced flour near you.  Just pop in your postcode and it shows you places nearby that sell high quality bread and local flour. 

Here’s my map (click on it for a larger version):

There’s some places I’ve not heard of before that I’d like to go, and there’s some places that I knew baked their own bread, but I didn’t know how good they were at sourcing local ingredients.  This website gives you a series of ‘ticks’ for most places next to each of their loaves of bread.

The Smokehouse near us looks like this (click on it for a larger version)…

Website: www.realbreadcampaign.org

We are spending the weekend in the Cotswolds with my family, and popped into The Organic Farm Shop.  On the road in there is a wooden area with a lovely family of piggies rooting about beneath the trees.

After calling to them, two little piglets trotted over to investigate – they reminded me of the two pigs in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Pigling Bland

They were so gorgeous with their pink snouts smudged with rust coloured earth, their cheerful grunting and inquisitive eyes.

But they soon got bored and pottered off to find good patches of soil to snuffle in.

These two were sat in a dip, one sprawled out, the other on its haunches, enjoying the afternoon sun and licking each other – how I wish I had a better zoom at times like these!

A last parting picture of one of these lovely piggies…

Perhaps an unconventional Christmas meal, but with only two of us to feed a turkey or goose would be too much, and with some exquisite stewing venison in the freezer from Dunham Massey it seemed only natural to have venison stew.

We bought our venison from Little Heath Farm a few weeks ago when they received a delivery from the National Trust property just down the road.  It is nice to know that the main ingredient in our Christmas meal came from within 5 miles and most likely had a lovely life roaming the parkland at Dunham Massey.

With a large part of my University days spent studying Native Americans both in the UK and Canada, it seemed only apt to follow the recipe for venison stew from Jamie’s America book.  Based on a Navajo stew, this recipe is incredibly delicious and is the second time we’ve made it.

My only addition was to make some parsley and suet dumpling, which I popped into the stew towards the end of cooking.  There is something very moreish about dumplings – I think I could eat a plateful drenched in a couple of spoonfuls of stew liqueur.

Mash potato was made with our allotment grown potatoes, which must be said have been a bit disastrous.  Whether it’s the variety, how we’ve grown them, or how we cook them, but the potatoes just disintegrate into soupy glue if not watched carefully. 

I have learnt that the trick with them is to watch them carefully in the water, looking for the moment when the outside starts to break down, but leaving them long enough to make sure they are almost cooked through. 

This time I put it through my wonderful French mouli that I picked up at the carboot – it was fantastic!  With the help of a little cream (maybe a lot…) and butter, and some seasoning, the mash turned out all right.

What did you eat for Christmas dinner?

If ever there was a winter dish this was it.  I’m pretty sure it must be quite healthy, all those lentils and greens, plus a good dose of garlic.  Anyway…what matters was it tasted fantastic. 

This is one of those meals where the quality of the ingredients really makes the difference.  I used Puy Lentils, organic cavolo nero, and incredible coiled Italian sausages (that I picked up here).

The sausages
These incredible Italian sausages were simply popped under a hot grilled for about 5-6 minutes on each side until they were golden.  I even drained the little amount of amber coloured fat that pooled in the coils into the lentils – waste not want not!

The lentils
The lentils (about 200g for 2) were covered with water, with a bunch of tied parsley stalks, a peeled garlic clove and a bay leaf.  Simmered for about 15-20 minutes until soft, then drained.  I mixed in a splash of sherry vinegar to taste, seasoned well with salt and pepper, and stirred through chopped parsley.  Finally mash the garlic clove and stir in.

The cavolo nero
I’m not a huge cabbage and kale lover, but cavolo nero I have a bit of thing for.  First I chopped it up, popped it into a large pan of salted boiling water and let it cook for 3 minutes before draining.  Cool it immediately with cold water, then squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can.  When you’re ready to eat, gently fry some sliced garlic in oil then add the cavolo nero and stir to warm through.

I am behind on sharing the good meals that we’ve been eating this week – mainly thanks to an inspiration visit to Bath Farmer’s Market last weekend.

This type of meal – nibbly bits, antipasto, food to share – is one of my favourites.  It always starts off feeling like a bit boring, eating up leftovers, making something out of odd bits in the fridge, but then it usually turns out wonderful.

We had melting delicious Coppa, Homewood Old Demdike ewe’s cheese and a candy stripe beetroot salad all from Bath Farmer’s Market.  The beetroot I sliced thinly, spread on a plate and lightly drizzled with olive oil, a spritz of lemon juice and some black pepper.

There was tiny slithers of garlic salami from Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market, and a tomato salad with quick-pickled shallot, black olives and capers.  You can quickly take the tang out of raw onions in a salad, by chopping them finely and soaking them in vinegar for 10-15 minutes before you need to use them.

Accompanied by the flowerpot loaf from Bath Farmer’s Market and some good quality salty butter, it was a quick but tasty dinner.  Not at all boring.

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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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