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With my head full of thoughts of food for the week ahead, I thought I would start with a quick weekend round-up. 

Friday saw more of Mr Rigg’s incredibly good homemade pizza topped with buffalo mozzarella, Serrano ham and rocket.  An unbeatable favourite.

On Saturday we spent lunchtime collecting a HUGE tub of homegrown raspberries at the bottom of the garden.  I am amazed by how many there were – and there are still lots more to come that are ripening.

Mr Rigg and I made some of our delicious homemade granola – I will definitely post more on this as it’s a staple in our house and best enjoyed on a base of plain yoghurt and fruit purée (even the purée was homemade this time!).

Last night we ate an omelette with eggs from Abbey Leys filled with grated yellow courgette, baby plum tomatoes and shredded roast ham.

Packed lunches for this week include bitter lettuce and pea soup – an excellent (if slightly grassy tasting) way to use up the garden lettuce that is beginning to go to flower.   Toasted pitta bread with lashings of goat’s butter is needed in my opinion to help this soup go down…!

Tonight we made a Nigel Slater inspired grilled tomato pasta sauce with roasted tomatoes, garlic and a dash of cream.  He is a genius.

We must also use up the gorgeous local gooseberries we bought to make gooseberry fool.  They are blushed a claret red so should make a deep coloured fool.

And for the week ahead – maybe a chicken tagine with fennel and preserved lemon and homemade blackcurrant cordial.  A plan is needed and some shopping doing.

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Warm Winter Salad

Somehow I think a dish like this for dinner won’t fill us up – certainly not a hungry man.  But it does.  And it’s incredibly satisfying and you’re not left wanting more.

Our winter salad leaves came from the ever wonderful Unicorn Grocery and our eggs were the loveliest organic free range eggs from Abbey Leys’ broody bunch.

Here’s how to make it…

Warm Winter Salad

Warm salad of winter leaves, crispy pancetta and a poached egg

Serves 2 for a scrumptious dinner or a light lunch

Couple of handfuls of winter leaves
6-8 thin slices of pancetta
2 eggs
Half a ciabatta loaf
1 clove of garlic
Squeeze of lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Tear up the ciabatta into bite-sized pieces and spread out on a baking sheet.  Thinly slice the garlic and sprinkle over the ciabatta, along with a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Bung in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the ciabatta starts to go golden.

Whilst the ciabatta is crisping up, put a pan of boiling water on ready to poach your eggs.

Place your salad leaves in a bowl and squeeze over some lemon juice, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil and toss well.  Sprinkle over a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.

Once the 5 minutes is up, quickly remove the baking tray from the oven and lay the slices of pancetta on top of the ciabatta.  Pop back in the oven for about another 5 minutes or until the pancetta is crispy.

Meanwhile, poach the eggs.  This is how I poach eggs:

1) bring a pan of water to a simmer
2) I add a dash of white wine vinegar to help the eggs as I’m never confident without it!
3) carefully crack your egg into a small ramekin so the yolk doesn’t burst
4) using a spoon, I start to rapidly mix the water to create a whirlpool effect in the middle
5) carefully pour the egg into the centre of the pan where the whirlpool is and pray that it holds together! 

Usually I just judge by eye when the egg is how I like it – with a runny golden yolk.  I do one egg at a time.  For a more accurate way to poach eggs I’d suggest Delia.

Whilst your eggs are poaching, start to plate everything else up.

Pop a good handful of dressed winter leaves onto your plate.  Follow this with a scattering of the crunchy, garlicky ciabatta croutons.  Next I lay over the crispy pancetta.

Finally, as the eggs are ready carefully remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain for a moment.  Gently rest the poached egg in the nest of leaves, croutons and pancetta and dust with a little sea salt and black pepper.

Now cut open that beautiful orb encased in its fluffy white cloud to let that silky golden yolk dribble down over the croutons and pancetta.  Yum-ee.

Warm Winter Salad

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Who could image that just two ingredients – egg and butter – could create such a delicious, moreish meal?  N was anti-scrambled egg when I first met him.   After finally managing to get him to try a mouthful of my scrambled egg, he can now be heard asking for it without any prompting at all! 

Scrambled egg on toast, made with love and care, and not cooked to within an inch of its life, should not be dismissed purely as a side to a fried breakfast.  Scrambled egg on toast can make a scrumptious and filling meal all by itself – at least in my opinion.

Using high quality eggs is essential for producing the tastiest scrambled egg possible.  Organic, free range, rare breed/heritage or woodland eggs are your best bet.  Or if you’re lucky enough to have your own chickens, home produced.  We used free range organic eggs from Abbey Leys Farm.

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Now I never really understood why recipes call for a ‘heavy based’ pan, but for scrambled egg it really makes a difference.  If you use one that has a thin base (like my cheapo supermarket milk pan that I still have from university) then the egg at the bottom cooks too quickly and can burn and stick to the pan.  A pan with a thicker base will cook the egg slower and more gently.

So, to make my scrambled egg I melt a good sized knob of butter in a heavy based saucepan.  When the butter has melted and starts to gently bubble I crack in my eggs.  Please note, I do not whisk up my eggs and pour them into the pan.  I simply crack the whole eggs directly into the pan.

Now, the important bit – allow the eggs to cook everso slightly.  You can burst the yolks if you like, but try and let the white, well turn white – like when you fry and egg.  Now, give it a gentle mix (I used a metal spoon).  Then let it cook some more.  Then another gentle mix. 

By adding the eggs whole to the pan, and gently breaking them up as they cook results in a chunky scrambled egg where some bits are white, some bits are golden, and some are milky yellow combination of the two.  I think it makes for a much more interesting scrambled egg rather than one uniform taste and texture.

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Have the heat on about a medium, but if the egg starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat briefly and continue mixing.  I do this back and forward, on and off the heat until it reaches the texture I like. 

I like my scrambled eggs moist but not too runny, and certainly not dried out.  The egg should slide off the spoon, not plop off like lumps of jelly.  I know everyone has their own preferences, but if you usually cook your scrambled egg a bit longer, just try it more moist, just once.  When I first tried cooking scrambled egg like this I couldn’t believe how different it tasted.

Once the egg is cooked, stir in a good grinding of black pepper and salt to taste.  As with most food, I tend to be a purist and refuse to add too many embellishments, but yesterday I added some freshly snipped chives from the garden.  Chives are an ideal paring for egg and provided an interesting taste addition to our scrambled egg.

Butter some slithers of toast and spoon the scrambled egg over the top.

P1130160

My perfect scrambled egg

Serves 2 for lunch

6 eggs
A knob of butter
Salt
Black pepper
Chives (optional)

Buttered toast

In a heavy based saucepan melt a good sized knob of butter over a medium heat.  When it starts to bubble crack the eggs into the pan.

Allow the eggs to cook a little before bursting the yolks and giving them a gentle mix.  Leave again to cook a little, and then mix gently.  If the egg starts to stick to the bottom, remove from the heat and mix.  Keep the egg mixture moving, but do so gently until it reaches a moist sloppy consistency.

Stir in some ground black pepper and salt to taste.  If you are using chives, snip into the egg and mix.

Spoon the scrambled egg over a couple of slices of buttered toast.

Eat immediately!

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Tuesday night was the event that I’ve been working towards for the past year.  The culmination of a year’s volunteering for my local branch of CPRE(Campaign to Protect Rural England), single-handedly running their local food work.  We have been running ‘Buy Local’ Food Awards to celebrate the fantastic work of businesses in Cheshire that grow/sell us great local food. 

The event was a combined effort from myself and Helen Meade, who is the Regional Co-ordinator for the CPRE ‘Mapping Local Food Webs’project which is being rolled out across England.  Helen has been running a pilot project in Knutsford, and with my local food awards coming to an end, it was a perfect opportunity to join forces and put on a lovely event. 

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We have been busy advertising the event through our different networks, but we still didn’t know how many people would turn up – I think we were hopefully for 30 (my secret goal was 50 though).  We had a number of interested businesses who offered to bring along samples of their food, and all five of our award winners were able to come.

So Tuesday evening finally rolled around.  My car was filled with tablecloths, earthenware vases, chalkboards and hedgerow flowers (a mixture of elderflowers, daisies, grasses, and cow parsley).  We had about an hour and a half to set the room up, with the normal hiccups (no glasses or cutlery…aah!). 

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Businesses started arriving and setting up their displays of food, leaflets and samples of food – yumm!  We had Riverford Organic:

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One of our ‘Buy Local’ Food Award winners – Riverside Organic – brought some baskets of the seasonal produce grown on their farm.  We also had sausage rolls from another of our winners H Clewlow Butchers, homemade gooseberry fool (I really want this recipe!) from the Walton Lea Project also an award winner, homemade cakes from Abbey Leys Farm, and chutneys and jams from a lovely company that I don’t know the name of! 

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Over 50 people turned out for the event, which is more than we ever imagined, so are so pleased and hope that people enjoyed the evening.  It was so lovely to see my local food awards come a glorious end with the winners accepting their awards.  I have really enjoyed running the awards but it has been exhausting at times, so I’m looking forward to a month off from volunteering before I start planning my next project.

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There should be some professional photographs available soon as a journalist from the local paper came along to the event.  If and when they are available I will post them or a link to them.

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The asparagus season has started here in England and I have been so looking forward to it.  For that reason, we are feasting on the stuff at any opportunity, and will probably be sick of it by the end of its short season.

This is a simple meal of asparagus, topped with a couple of crispy slices of streaky bacon, accompanied by some toast smothered in butter and a soft boiled egg to dunk the asparagus spears in.  You may see that I slightly over-cooked the egg so there was no dunking for us – not a mistake I will make again!

The asparagus came from Kenyon Hall Farm (also the people who run our box scheme Northern Harvest).  The eggs were from Abbey Leys Farm – I follow Delia’s method for boiling eggs.  The streaky bacon was care of Sue at Little Heath Farm, and the bread from Barbakan.  So all in all a pretty local meal – and a tasty one at that!

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Asparagus with crispy bacon and a soft boiled egg

Serves 2

Bundle of asparagus spears
4 slices streaky bacon
2 eggs
4 pieces of bread
Butter

Prepare the asparagus by gently bending the stems until they naturally snap – discard the woody stem. My preferred method of cooking asparagus is as follows (but feel free to cook them however you choose): Heat a narrow pan of water about half full until simmering. Use an elastic band to gently fasten the bundle of prepared asparagus together and place in the simmering water – the water should come at least half way up the stems. I use another pan of equal size, placed upside down on top of the first pan. This method enables the stems to cook in the water, and the delicate tops to gently steam.

Meanwhile, put your eggs on to boil – I follow Delia’s method for soft boiled eggs.

Cook the streaky bacon in a frying pan until nice and crisp.

When the asparagus is cooked, turn of the heat. Pop the slices of bread into the toaster and lightly toast. Take the cooked eggs out of the water and pop into your favourite egg cup – gently cut the top off to reveal the golden yolk. Butter your toast and pop it on the plate, along with a pile of steaming asparagus and top with the crispy bacon.

Eat immediately!

cheshirefm

I thought it was about time I created a list of the farmer’s markets in Cheshire to share with everyone.  I have only been to a handful of these that are closest to me, but if anyone has any recommendations on others that are worth the drive I would love to know.  If I’ve missed any off, or the details need updating, please let me know.  For a printable version, click here.

~ ABBEY LEYS FARM ~
1st Sunday of the month
9am – 2pm
Abbey Leys Farm, High Legh

~ ALDERLEY EDGE ~
2nd Sunday of the month
10am – 2pm
The Festival Hall, Alderley Edge

~ ALTRINCHAM ~
1st Friday of the month
7am – 2pm
Covered Market, Market Street

~ CHESTER ~
1st Wednesday of the month
10am – 4.30pm
Chester Town Hall Square

~ CLOVER BANK FARM ~
3rd Saturday of the month
8.30am – 12.30pm
Shellow Lane, North Rode, Macclesfield

~ CONGLETON ~
1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month
9am – 2pm
The Bridestones Centre, Congleton

~ CREWE ~
3rd Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
Municipal Square, Crewe

~ CRONTON ~
2nd Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Cronton Nursery, Cronton

~ ELLESMERE PORT ~
4th Saturday of the month
9am – 4pm
adjoining Market Hall, Ellesmere Port

~ GOOSTREY ~
3rd Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Methodist Church Hall, Main Road, Goostrey

~ GROSVENOR GARDEN CENTRE ~
2nd Friday of the month
10am – 3pm
Pulford

~ HALE ~
3rd Sunday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
St Peter’s Assembly Rooms, Cecil Road, Hale

~ KINGSMEAD ~
4th Saturday of the month
10am – 1.30pm
Kingsmead Primary School, Northwich

 ~ KNUTSFORD ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Silk Mill Street, Knutsford

~ MIDDLEWICH ~
1st Saturday of the month
10am – 2pm
Boosey’s Garden Centre

~ MOBBERLEY ~
4th Sunday of the month
10am – 2pm
Mobberley Victory Hall

~ MOLD ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
St Mary’s Church Hall, Mold

~ NANTWICH ~
Last Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
The Square, Nantwich

~ NESTON ~
3rd Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Neston Town Hall

~ NORTHWICH ~
2nd Saturday of the month
9am – 3pm
Market Way, next to Northwich Market

~ POYNTON ~
1st Sunday of the month
9am – 1pm
Poynton Civic Hall, Park Lane

~ RODE HALL ~
1st Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
Scholar Green, Allsager

~ VALE ROYAL ~
3rd Saturday of the month
10am – 2pm
Eddisbury Fruit Farm, Yeld Lane, Kelsall

~ WARRINGTON ~
2nd Sunday of the month
10.30am – 4.30pm
Walton Lea Project, Walton Gardens Heritage Yard

~ WIRRAL ~
2nd Saturday of the month
9am – 2pm
New Ferry Village Hall, Grove Street, New Ferry

~ WOODFORD ~
3rd Sunday of the month
9am – 1pm
Woodford Community Centre, Chester Road

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So…the long promised Mother’s Day lunch.  I think I even managed to scrape by as the serene hostess I was aspiring to – by 10.30am I had prepped ALL my vegetables, the pie was made bar the pastry top, and I was nearly ready to ice my cake.  Things I nearly slipped up on: almost completely forgot about my soup starter (eek!); forgot to take the butter out of the fridge to soften for my icing, so reluctantly had to shove it in the oven on a very low temperature; and we didn’t have any nibbles.  Otherwise, I think it was a success – I was especially pleased with my pie.

For starters we had a bowl of pea soup – which is one of my storecupboard favourites and is dead easy to make.  Simply bung a load of frozen peas (!! I know, frozen, but they taste great and there’s no way I would sacrifice freshly podded peas from the garden to soup, they rarely make it as far as the kitchen anyway) into a saucepan – if you want to measure your peas out, a good way to do this would measure them into your soup bowls to the level you would like the soup.  Crumble an organic chicken stock cube (I know…another cheats item, but this is a storecupboard recipe and sometimes we all need a night off) over the peas and pour over boiling water, just enough to cover the peas.  Bring to the boil, and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Turn the heat off, blitz up the peas – the longer you blitz the smoother the soup (I feel it tastes better as smooth as possible).  Mix a spoonful of natural yohurt in to give a subtly creamy hint and season to taste with salt and pepper.  I served our soup topped with a garnish of sunflower seed sprouts, which was a bit ponsy, and quite difficult to eat.  N’s mom described it as ‘spaghetti’.  Not quite what I was going for…  Next time I would probably opt for some chopped parsley.

pea soup

pea soup

For mains I created a chicken pie.  Pie was perfect as it gave me a better chance to be a more visible hostess, rather than the one previously described waving from the kitchen door as our family arrived.  I had looked at so many chicken pies recipes, but none I really wanted to make.  Menus seem to come upon me, from nowhere, just a lot of thinking and looking at what’s available at the grocers or markets, and then it suddenly all makes sense.  So the ‘spring’ part of this chicken pie came from the vibrant greens that are at my local shops at the moment.  Spring greens, savoy cabbages, leeks, kale, and the first of the French parsley.  What I envisionaged was a chicken pie that was bursting with greeness that is filling the hedgerows and lanes as we progress into Spring.

You can find the recipe for how to make my Spring Chicken Pie here.

honey and walnut cake
honey and walnut cake

And finally, for dessert we had a honey and walnut cake with a lemon frosting.  This was a deep golden coloured cake, that was flecked with walnut.  I changed a recipe for a plain honey cake, initially wanting to add some lavender to it, but discovered that my lavender was out of date and had lost its smell.  Instead I used some walnuts that I chopped up quite finely as N is not a nut fan.  The cake really needs the lemon juice in the frosting otherwise it’s way too sweet – or maybe you have a super sweet tooth and then it would be fine.  But the lemon frosting adds a really nice dimension to the cake.  I decorated our cake with lilac hyacinth flowers and minature daffodil heads.  Sadly they weren’t edible, but soon the viola’s and heartease will be flowering and I can make you a cake with edible flowers, which is truly stunning.  I will post the honey and walnut cake in a future posting, so be sure to check back soon if you fancy making it yourself.

frosty morning

frosty morning

I am terrible at remembering to bring my camera with me when we go out.  This morning we went down to our local farmers market at Abbey Leys Farm (http://www.abbeyleys.co.uk/).  It’s a beautiful day – blue skies, sun shining, the countryside frosted with white icing – but bloody freezing.  All our favourite local producers were there, everybody wrapped up in scarfs, hats and mittens.  And I forgot my camera.  And didn’t even have my phone which takes pretty good photos.  I will learn, I promise – it’s so frustrating to want to share a lovely experience and not have any pictures to show of it.

For now I shall just have to tell you that we came away with a basket of farmhouse butter (from Preston), a string of onions (from Southport), half a dozen organic eggs (Abbey Leys), mini chocolate butter Stollen (from Warrington), a raspberry thickie made from Cheshire yoghurt (Tiresford Farm), and a french country loaf (from Love Bread in Knutsford).  We had a quick chat with Sue at Little Heath Farm and emplored her to start making cocktail-sized sausages over the Christmas period – I have been craving those little sausages you find at Christmas parties that have been baked in the oven with honey and wholegrain mustard – yum!  We also saw the Pie Man (Neil from The Great North Pie Company) who had, as usual, sold out an hour and a half into the market. 

It has been a nice week for local food – the first ever Lymm Farmer’s Market was held at Oughtrington Community Centre to raise funds for their badly needed new boilers.  I went down to volunteer and help out during the morning, and it seemed to be a big hit and a great success. 

There were some of the local food ‘big boys’ like The Great Tasting Meat Company (http://www.greattastingmeat.co.uk/) , who were cooking up sausage and onion buns for chilly customers.

The Great Tasting Meat Company :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

Our local box scheme providers – Northern Harvest (http://www.northernharvest.co.uk/) – were there with some fantastic bundles of cavalo nero, the only kind of kale I seem to manage.  This was later cooked up into a fantastic Italian Bread and Cabbage soup.

Northern Harvest :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

And some businesses from further afield who were new to us, like The Piemill (http://www.piemill.com/) from Cumbria. 

Pies from The Piemill :: Lymm Farmer's Market ::

N is busy in the kitchen whipping up some Smoked Mackerel Pate for lunch.  There was a near disaster when we discovered we were out of lemons, but the pate has been rescused with a few store cupboard staples – a glug of white wine vinegar (to give it a tang) and some lemon flavoured olive oil that we brought back from Croatia.  It tastes almost as good, and is about to go down a treat on the bread from the market…

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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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