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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.

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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!

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

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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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I do quite a bit of volunteering in any free time that I have.  Most of it is to do with local food.  On Tuesday 16th June I am helping to run an event in Knutsford, Cheshire to celebrate the local food grown and produced in our county.  If anyone reading this happens to live near to Knutsford and is interested in local food, we would be delighted if you are able to join us.

There will be a project update on the Mapping Local Food Websproject that has been taking place in Knutsford, which is funded by Making Local Food Work and CPRE.  The ‘Buy Local’ food awards that I have run for CPRE Cheshire over the past year will see the presentation of the awards to the winners – I will add another post in the next day or so to let you know who are winners are.  There will also be local produce to try, and some delicious cakes, tea and coffee.

We’d love to see you there!  For more information contact Helen Meade on 07833 250 134 or leave me a comment.

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snowy wintery garden

snowy wintery garden

I won’t be able to post anything for about a week as I’m off to run a week-long residential conference for green space managers!  Very exciting, done a lot of work leading up to this point, and this is what I love to do – organise events. 

I am leaving N and the bunnies to fend for themselves – N left for work this morning with a sleepy reminder to make himself nice dinners while I was gone.  The Co-op and its frozen pizzas are sometimes a temptation too many for a bloke home alone.  Even still, I am tempted to leave him a list of all the lovely bits and pieces that are lying in the fridge and cupboards, and a reminder that pasta is so versatile.

Will be back in a week with a lovely recipe that I can’t wait to make, using the homemade marmalade that I don’t like on toast.  This recipe, however, from one of my best friends, makes marmalade quite delicious – Maria’s Marmalade Gingerbread.  Yum!

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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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