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This time last week I was enjoying a morning of venison cookery in the stunning old kitchen at Dunham Massey National Trust. As a volunteer and editor of an internal National Trust newsletter on food I went along to find out what it was all about.
What a wonderful morning. In my opinion there were several things that set this cookery demonstration apart from others:
Firstly, the setting. The event was held in the original old kitchen at Dunham Massey, a room that you would normally wander through on your tour of the house. It is an impressive room, bright with high ceilings, a massive Aga, a beautiful collection of copper pans, and a hefty big wooden workbench.
Secondly, the venison. The meat used in the cookery demonstration came from the deer park – perhaps if you a regular walker at Dunham Massey you might have even passed that same deer that we got to sample.
Of the four items we entered at the produce show (pumpkin, 3 potatoes, raspberry jam, and sloe gin) we won two first prizes! One for our jumbo pumpkin…
And the other for our 3 potatoes – which we were really surprised about and very pleased…
Sadly our sloe gin and raspberry jam didn’t get a prize, but I did make them pretty labels…
And the sloe gin was snaffled up by one of our local councillors…
Last weekend we had some beautiful bright, crisp weather – blue skies, sunshine and lovely autumn colours. Mr Rigg, Buddy and I walked to our local woodland in search of sloes to make sloe gin.
Armed with baskets we headed to the first spot I knew of – however, someone else had thought it was a good day for picking sloes so we carried on to the second patch I knew of and thankfully we found quite a number of them.
Picking sloes is a long slow process. They are small and dotted along branches that are armed with long thorns to prick your fingers. With the weather so lovely we were in no hurry, so pushed our way into the bushes picking off the fruits.
When we had picked what we could we headed into the woods in search of more bushes. We had almost given up when we came across three good bushes where we picked the remainder of our haul.
At home we discovered we had picked 1.6kg of sloes! We had only wanted about 400g…oops! With a couple of bottles of gin and granulated sugar we started to make our sloe gin. Sat in front of the Grand Prix we pricked every sloe multiple times with a pin, then we measured them into bottles and topped up with the sugar and gin.
We followed Darina Allen’s recipe for Sloe Gin from her Forgotten Skills of Cooking – to 700g of sloes use 350g granulated sugar and 1.2 litres of gin. Once bottled, seal tightly and store in a dark place, turning every couple of days to start with, then every couple of months.
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.
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!
Mr Rigg, Buddy and I have been out this past week foraging for wild goodies. We collected a basket of blackberries, cobnuts/hazelnuts and rosehips.
I’m not sure whether we’ve been gathering hazelnuts too early – I must look it up. Our little hazelnut tree/bush in the garden has got a few nuts on it for the first year! My parents have a huge tree which drops loads of nuts – I’m sure in a couple of weeks I’ll come home with lots.
There are quite a good number of blackberries, although they’re all quite small and I have yet to find one which isn’t sour. Ours are destined for apple and blackberry pie with apples from the farmer’s market.
And again with the rosehips, not sure if we’re picked them too early, but I want to try making rosehip syrup to make into cordial…turns out the recipe I have requires 800g! Wish me good luck!
Last week I went to the fishmongers to pick up some fish for tea. I was thinking along the lines of simple baked fish with crushed new potatoes maybe with some softened spring onions mixed through.
There were both gorgeous red fleshed new potatoes and spring onions at Unicorn so this has steered my thoughts. On entering the fishmongers there in the chiller was a box of golden mushrooms. Wild Scottish girolle mushrooms to be exact.
It was one of those moments where you know instantly that you will be eating them for tea. So I carefully picked out enough for myself and Mr Rigg. I also bought a piece of Grouper – never tried it before, looked like a good chunky white fish so I thought I’d give it a go.
The fish was really tasty, with quite a strong flavour. The mushrooms pan fried in hot butter were incredibly moreish. And the crushed potatoes with spring onions – it’s the sort of food you could eat straight from the pan (and do when no one else is looking!).
Wild girolle mushrooms, baked fish and crushed potatoes with spring onions
2 pieces of Grouper (or other white fish)
150g wild girolle mushrooms
New potatoes for 2
2 cloves of garlic
4 spring onions
Lots of butter
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to about 180°C.
Rub the fish in olive oil, place on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for about 15-20 minutes or until done.
Whilst the fish is cooking, boil the new potatoes in plenty of salted water.
Clean the mushrooms (I used a pastry brush to remove any grit) and tear up any large ones. In a frying pan heat a generous knob of butter with a splash of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and fry on a high heat until golden.
Finely chop the garlic and slice the spring onions.
Drain the potatoes. Put the empty potato pan back on the heat and add some butter. Add the garlic and spring onions to the butter and cook until softened – don’t let them burn!
Once they spring onions have softened, return the potatoes to the pan and crush them up with the back of a wooden spoon – you’re not aiming for mash potato, but crushing the potatoes allows all the lovely butter and seasonings to work their way into the hot potato flesh. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
And you’re done – just simply put it all on a plate and eat!
Girl Interrupted Eating is a fantastic food blog and one of my favourites. On discovery it a month ago, I spent all evening reading back through the blog. It’s written by Becky who lives in the East Midlands and she posts some delicious recipes. She’s also often out foraging for wild food – horseradish is her latest find beside the canal!
With summer starting to peak and thoughts of Autumn looming on the horizon, I have been inspired by Becky’s recipe for Blackberry yoghurt cake.
Image: Girl Interrupted Eating
These are the last of the berries from my garden: blackcurrants, raspberries and loganberries. Although there are a few loganberries still ripening, the raspberries and blackcurrants are all but finished.
We’re heading off to Yorkshire this weekend to visit Mr Rigg’s family and be joined by my parents. A restful few days awaits and someone else to do the cooking – and very good cooking it is.
I will pop this small bowlful of berries into the freezer, and cook with them over the coming weeks (at least that’s the plan!).
Whilst picking the berries I was dreaming up different ideas of what I could do with them, and my favourite idea so far is a sort of late summer berry crumble or pie.
I have spotted blackberries turning deep purple in the hedgerows, so think supplemented with a few of these a crumble or pie would be lovely. Plus we have a tub of homemade clotted cream ice cream to finish.
Is anyone else starting to feel that summer is waning and autumn is approaching? Maybe it’s just the warm, wet and windy weather we have had recently in our part of England that has awakened a longing for stews and pies.
Have a lovely weekend and I hope to be back afresh next week to catch up on all that I’ve promised to post – this week has been unnaturally busy and I’ve barely had a chance to breathe.
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.