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Minestrone soup with ravioli

Life is running along quickly and already I’m begining to feel like I’m behind with sharing what we’ve been up to lately and more details on our trip to France.  I spent last night at Aspen B&B in Herefordshire and ate what can only be described as the best breakfast ever – Rob and Sally who run the B&B and passionate about ‘real food’ and so the breakfast is exquisitely sourced and prepared, plus if you want to talk food then this is somewhere you should book a stay.

What I wanted to share is a delicious meal we cooked last week, a simple vegetable minestrone with ricotta filled ravioli.  We have followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his Jamies Does… book which was lovely, but I had spotted this fancy sounding smoky minestrone with tortellini and basil pesto.

My way of cooking is often looking at an image of a plate of food, or reading a recipe, then making my version of it how I would like to make it.  So I never follow recipes like this very strictly.  We didn’t have bacon or pancetta in the house so I just skipped that, so really ours wasn’t a smoky minestrone, but it was damn delicious.

Minestrone soup with ravioli

I softened chopped onion and garlic, then added finely chopped celery, carrots and potato and let it cook a few minutes.  I also added some finely chopped red pepper that we had lying around in the fridge.  Next I added about a litre of stock (half homemade chicken stock we had left over and half organic Kallo veg stock), and about 5 or 6 vine tomatoes that I’d roughly chopped and a glug of passatta – this was instead of the tinned tomatoes.  I also omitted the chickpeas because I didn’t have any.

I brought this to the boil then let it simmer until the veg was pretty much tender.  I added two small finely chopped courgettes and gave it a few minutes, before adding the ricotta and spinach ravioli (bought I’m afraid, one day I’ll be able to claim I made it myself…oneday…) and some podded broad beans.  The final vegetable I added was finely sliced rainbow chard (rather than kale).

I seasoned with some salt (we are still using up a delicious pot of greyish salt brought back from France) to taste and ate mine with a large dollop of my favourite raw basil pesto.  Mr Rigg had his as it was.  The simplicity of ingredients seemed to create this incredibly delicate but flavourful taste – one of the best things I’ve made and eaten for a while.

Minestrone soup with raw basil pesto

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After much umming and aahing we finally decided to go crazy and get ourselves a breadmaker.  I have been scouring Amazon reviews and settled on this Panasonic one which we picked up this afternoon from the Trafford Centre.  We’ve never used one before, previously making bread with only pure muscle power and the oven, but have decided to go for a breadmaker for the following reasons:

1) We want to be able to control exactly what goes into our bread.

2) We want to feel less reliant on supermarket/cornershop bread in an emergency – i.e. when we realise there’s no bread for breakfast or sandwiches, we want to know we can set this going before bed and wake up with a warm loaf of wholesome bread.

3) We want to have some fun and try out some interesting bread flours, which ordinarily we might not have done – the breadmaker, in theory, will make it easier to do this.

I’ll keep you posted on our attempts!

Huntstile Organic Farm

For me, Hunstile Organic Farm in Somerset is pretty close to heaven on earth. Not only is it a stunning ancient farmhouse set on organically managed land, not only is surrounded by goats and chickens and pigs and other animals, but it is run by a generous and friendly family.

Huntstile Organic Farm

In my other life running a natural wedding business, I have got to know Lizzie from Hunstile Organic Farm as they host a number of weddings throughout the year and I promote them as one of the wedding venues on my directory.

Mr Rigg and I had a wedding in Cornwall last weekend (more on that to come) and wanted to break up the long journey south – we had tried once before to stay at Hunstile on our way to Cornwall but they were fully booked, this time we were in luck.

Hunstile Farm B&B Somerset

We stayed in the beautiful Panelled Room in a massive bed, so wide that we argued over who had all the duvet because we were so far away from each other.

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Tonight we are attempting to make gnocchi for a Jamie Oliver recipe with a stilton and pear sauce.  Jamie uses bought gnocchi but I’ve never found the supermarket stuff to be very good.  So I thought I’d give it a go – will let you know how it turns out.

Jamie suggests its best eaten in front of a movie, so with the wood burning stove on I think that’s what we’ll do.  Have a lovely evening whatever you’re eating.

meat-free month

Yesterday saw the start of our meat-free month.  I must say it hasn’t felt too momentous a change yet, because on average we eat a few meat-free dishes a week and most meals only have a small amount of meat in them.  But I’m sure it will feel more of a challenge as the weeks go on, like tonight I couldn’t help but think that crispy bacon or pancetta would have been a nice addition – aah!

So here’s the start of our meat-free diary…

Monday 9th January

Winter veg stir-fry.  Egg noodles, carrots, parsnips, mushrooms, and shredded sprouts, all bound together with a delicious sauce of soy sauce, mirin and Chinese five spice.

winter veg stir fry

From River Cottage Everyday Veg

Tuesday 10th January

Cavolo nero pesto pasta.  A homemade pesto made from boiled cavolo nero and garlic, drained and blitzed up, with olive oil, salt, pepper and Parmesan.  Stirred through hot spaghetti and sprinkled with a tiny bit of grated cheese.

cavolo nero pesto

Just made tonight – not yet eaten – a winter root coleslaw with a mustardy dressing.  I used a green kohlrabi, carrots, white cabbage, golden beetroot and Chioggia (pink and white stripe) beetroot.  All raw, just sliced thinly by hand and then cut into strips.

For the dressing I used up some creme fraiche and mixed it up with mayonnaise.  Then I added wholegrain mustard to taste – I wanted it quite tangy as it gets diluted the moment you mix it with the vegetables.  We’re having this for tea with a homemade lasagne – it smells delicious and I can barely wait!

These are just out of the oven, still hot and I can’t wait to get some Devonshire clotted cream onto them when they’re a little cooler and some homemade jam.  We’ve just spent a week in Devon and I only ate ONE cream tea – I’m gutted, it just wasn’t enough.

I’ve got some photos to share from my trip to London (Borough Market and the National Trust Fine Farm Produce Awards) but whilst I sort them all out I thought you might like to see these incredible English muffins.

They were hefty things that were drawing a crowd on their stall at Borough Market, and well I couldn’t resist either.  I had them for breakfast this morning, pulled apart with my fingers (no bread knife involved) and toasted them. 

Then when my thick slabs of salty butter didn’t melt, I bunged them under a hot grill until the butter went all golden.  Topped with some homemade strawberry jam.

I can’t quite believe that my ‘little’ sister – Izzy – turned eighteen today.  Mr Rigg and I spent the weekend in Gloucestershire with my family celebrating her birthday.  My mom and I attempted to take her out on Saturday morning to her favourite local cafe for hot chocolate and brownies, but it was closed so I improvised…

Homemade hot chocolate – made by grating a bar of Cadbury’s into hot milk and topping with whipped cream (double cream whipped up) and mini marshmallows.  And a slice of Rocky Road from a local deli, customised with mini marshmallows – I used a dab of cream to get them to stay in place.

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A quick one today as I’m down with my family in Gloucestershire, but these were another delicious discovery from Glebe Farm Shop outside Congleton – pikelets with raisins. 

I remember pikelets as a child, but I’m pretty sure they were supermarket versions which were like flat crumpets.  These pikelets were more like a scotch pancake and studded with raisins.  We just popped them in the toaster and slathered them with salty butter.

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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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