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Barbecue at the allotment

We’ve eaten quite a few dinners at the allotment over the past week, much like our anniversary meal they’ve been utterly blissful.

Before we left I made a quinoa salad with cucumber, radish and dill, which was then finished off at the allotment with grilled fennel – I’d seen the recipe here and it was delicious, very refreshing which is just what you need in this weather.

Quinoa, cucumber, radish and fennel salad

Mr Rigg grilled some sausages and chicken, and we ate simply but well.

Allotment barbecue

We drank sparkling elderflower from enamel mugs…

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So I’m lagging behind on updating what we’ve been eating on our meat-free month, so I will speedily try and do some catching up.  On the weekend we had a day at home and a day visiting family.  Visiting family wasn’t a big deal as my parents don’t really eat meat, in fact I’m sure my mother was quite pleased!

On Saturday morning before we headed off to Leicester to see my granny and meet my parents, we whipped up a quick salad from Hugh’s Everyday Veg book to take as our lunch offering (we were each making something).  We also had made a birthday cake as both my parents’ birthdays are in January – pictures of that to follow.

Saturday 14th January

Pearl barley salad with roasted squash and fennel, lemon juice, parsley and cheese.  This is a fresh wintery salad with the roasted squash and fennel tossed through the cooked pearl barley, and the other bits added to taste.  I am neither a huge fan of squash or fennel, but all together it was delicious.  I am learning to trust a few certain chefs to the point where I know I can make most of the recipes, irrespective of whether we think we like the ingredients, and know that we’ll love it.

My mom loved the salad and decided she might give in and buy the book – although she refused to watch anymore of the TV series after Hugh slaughtered a sheep during one episode and didn’t think it was appropriate for a programme encouraging vegetable eating.  I do see her point, although I understand Hugh’s motivations to encourage us to eat meat that is well-cared for.  Mommys.

(Sorry for the measly picture – I forgot to take any photos on Saturday so this is my leftover lunch on Monday)

Sunday 15th January

Broccoli and chilli pasta.  Penne pasta with steamed broccoli that had been tossed in lightly cooked garlic and chilli flakes and a good knob of butter.  I used to eat broccoli pasta all the time at University, but in the past few years haven’t been enamoured by the idea so have been reluctant to make it.  I’m so pleased we did though because there is something very comforting about this combination.  We didn’t follow a recipe we just made it up as we went along – some of the best cooking is done this way I think.

My meat-free month thoughts at the end of week 1

Last night we were chatting about how we were finding our meat-free month so far.  We’ve both had the odd pang for meat, salty crisp bacon in particular.  Bacon, egg and toast even more specifically for me.  But otherwise, I haven’t really had any meal where I’ve missed meat.  Mr Rigg says the one meal we’ve had that he would have enjoyed more with the addition of meat, again bacon, was the colcannon baked potatoes with the poached egg.

I am feeling much more cheerful about what we are cooking and eating, and I am excited about carrying on this way.  It is great to be challenged to come up with interesting and diverse meals that don’t contain meat or fish, and in the process we are discovering some firm new favourites, which we might not otherwise have found.

It also makes me want to carefully look at and work out how much meat we eat in the future – I’m sure somewhere I read guidelines on the suggested weight of meat we should each eat a month, I believe this was from a sustainable point of view, but probably also good for your health.

 

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!

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.

I’m busy getting lost in this great blog from Masterchef finalist Alex and have put his tomato and fennel soup on my list of ‘must cook’.

Meanwhile, we are majoring on spring stew – a meal of my own invention – pearl barley, pancetta and a host of vegetables.  Served for friends on Friday night with poached chicken.  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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