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Homemade fermented vegetables

I have recently discovered a fantastic food shop a few junctions down the motorway into Cheshire called The Real Food Company, run by husband and wife Nick and Carol and their daughter Silvie.  They are knowledge and friendly and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them, and spending hours chatting whenever I pop down to stock up on great food.

The Art of Fermentation

Through them I have got interested in fermented vegetables, the one that I could most easily identify with when I approached this unknown new world was sauerkraut, not because I’d ever tried it before, but because I’ve heard of it.  Followed by kimchi, primarily because it’s mentioned quite a lot on US street food programmes on the Food Network channel.

Traditonal fermented vegetables

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Abbey Leys Farmers Market

Yesterday was my favourite local farmers market at Abbey Leys so it was a great chance to stock up some lovely food.  On top of this, I braved the icy cold with the other stall holders to promote a website I’ve set up to promote local, seasonal food in my community.  It was so blinking cold in the barn, and although I was so pleased with my display of seasonal vegetables and old-fashioned seed packets on stick, a number of people did mistake me for a grower.  Oh well.

local food

But enough of that and back to the real bread.  For a while now, a fantastic bread lady (officially known at Jane’s Handmade Bread) has been coming to the market.  She makes heavenly real bread.  My favourite is her Miracle Bread which is stuffed full of all kinds of seeds and has a lovely golden brown colour to it.  She never arrives before 10.30am, having been up since 3am baking, but everyone waits and queues for ages just to get their hands on some of her beautiful breads.

Jane's Handmade Bread

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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.

A year ago Buddy came into our lives.  Twelve months ago he was a rather forlorn, sorry-looking thing – skinny, timid and very much alone.

A very skinny looking Buddy March 2010…

He’s now come out of his shell, is bouncy, loving, smart and full of beans.  He may still be a nutcase outside, anxious around other dogs, and occasionally greet us when we get home from work with a can of tinned tomatoes in his mouth…but we love him.

Here he is today, looking handsome, healthy and still pulling that woeful look that I first fell in love with at the dogs home.

Buddy March 2011

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Today we have been trying to finish off our wedding invitations, but we also managed to go for a lovely long walk along the canal and lanes near our house.  It was pretty nippy but beautiful crisp blue skies.

Scenes from our walk…

A gorgeous horse caught in the sunlight…

The canal all frozen over…

A cute tiny cottage…

Seeds in the hedge twinkly with frost…

Now it’s time to huddle up by a cosy log fire and keep warm.  Hope everyone else has had a happy weekend.

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

This afternoon I am heading south into Cheshire to attend a local food meeting at Reaseheath College.  I am going with my local food hat on, representing my local low carbon group.  It will be a chance to network with other likeminded individuals from around Cheshire and Warrington who are running fab local food projects or like me, aspiring to run them. 

Meanwhile, I’ve just spotted a recipe for chocolate doughnut holes…they definitely sound like they should be made…


Image: Smitten Kitchen

I didn’t realise that you could grill smoked mackerel fillets – it turns out you can, and they’re delicious!  This is one of the recipes Heston has done for Waitrose – I tweaked it a little, like substituting red onion for shallots.

It’s basically new potatoes that are tossed in lightly cooked onion, wholegrain mustard, lots of herbs and a dash of wine vinegar.  The lovely tang of the potatoes goes nicely with the strong peppery fish.  Very yummy especially when eaten with crisp garden salad.

The full recipe can be found here – perfect to use the seasonal bounty of locally grown Cheshire new potatoes near us.  Here’s to another day of eating in the garden on a warm June evening…

Here’s the follow up to yesterday’s post – our really local dinner.  Our local ingredients can be substituted with local produce from where you live or from your garden or allotment.

Grilled sausages, buttered new potatoes and a homegrown salad

Feeds 2

7 Locally reared sausages (3 for girls, 4 for boys)
A bag of earth covered Cheshire new potatoes
A bowl full of homegrown salad leaves
Homegrown Rainbow radishes (or normal!)
Local peas from about 20 pods
A giant spring onion (from Unicorn)
A bunch of parsley from the garden
Goat’s butter
Extra virgin olive oil
A dash a white wine vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper

Firstly, finely slice the spring onion and add to a large bowl.  Sprinkle with a dash of white wine vinegar and salt and leave to ‘pickle’ whilst you get everything else ready.

Preheat the grill.  Grill the sausages, turning regularly, until cooked through and a sticky brown colour.

Put a pan of salted water onto boil.  Scrub the new potatoes and boil until cooked.  Drain, add a generous knob of butter to the hot pan, let it melt then slosh the potatoes around until well coated.  Season with salt.

To the spring onion, add finely sliced parsley.  Clean and top and tail the radishes, then slice and add to the onion and parsley.  Pop the peas from their pods and add to the bowl.

When the potatoes and sausages are ready, add the salad leaves to the onion, radishes and peas and toss all the ingredients together with a glug of extra virgin olive oil.

Eat!

Yesterday was lovely.  It was one of those days when you feel whole, you feel content, you feel that life is good.

Mr Rigg and I spent the afternoon helping out the stall for our local Low Carbon group at the town’s May Queen Festival.  We are both involved in the group, me leading on local food.  We spoke to lots of people from our community, handed out information and lots of the ‘really local food’ maps I have produced. 

Then we headed up to Abbey Leys to get some eggs and bacon (I’m planning on making a Quiche Lorraine this week).  The sun was shining, the sky a dazzling blue.  The hedgerows are green and alive with twittering birds.  The hens and ducks at Abbey Leys were all down by the pond and sheltering in the shade of the trees.

Outside the farm shop was a bucket of locally grown Sweet Williams, a bunch of which now adorns our living room in an earthenware pot salvaged from the carboot.  Inside, Mr Rigg filled up two boxes with freshly laid eggs.  I found some outdoor reared Gloucester old spot streaky bacon in the chiller. 

We also filled up a bag with the first Cheshire new potatoes, still with earth clinging to them.  And then I saw them – a tub of locally grown peas.  I adore peas.  Peas plucked straight from the plant, popped out of their crisp pods and into my mouth.  Nothing is perhaps more delicious.

These were the first local peas I have seen, so we got a full bag.  By the time we got home I’d eaten about a quarter of the bag already.  Needless to say, they didn’t make it past sundown. 

From all this delicious local produce and some from our garden we ate a scrumptious, simple dinner – will post this separately.  This is how all days should be.  Should make you feel. 

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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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