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Allotment barbeque

Yesterday was our first wedding anniversary, and having spent the previous 24 hours tucked away in bliss at the Inn at Whitewell, and with the gorgeous warm weather, we decided last minute to have dinner at the allotment.

Allotment dinner of new potatoes

We boiled up some new potatoes, got a barbeque going to cook the sausages and burgers, and Mr Rigg watered the vegetables.

Watering the allotment

It reminded me of how much I enjoy cooking outside with the challenge of limited gadgets and gismos to help you prepare your meal.  It reminded me of sunny evenings cooking market ingredients in the Loire Valley.

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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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Our first breakfast at Cornish Tipi Holidays consisted of a Cornish cream tea.  I know, it sounds sinful, but really how different is it to eating bread with butter and jam?  Not too different in my mind.  Anyway, all that matters is that we were on holiday and it was delicious.  Gone too quickly for a photo though.

After breakfast we headed down to the lake in search of a canoe or boat.  Unfortunately all of them were out in the lake, but a lovely kid called Dillon handed Nick a rod and some bread and encouraged him to have a go at fishing.  Although neither of us are into fishing, it was quite fun to have a go.

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This past weekend we went to Bath for a weekend away with friends.  On Saturday morning whilst I was waiting for Mr Rigg to arrive by train, I ventured in to the Bath Farmer’s Market – and what treats awaited me!

Incredible veggies – like these pink stripey beetroot and mixed carrots.  I bought a bunch of each.

Wonderful cured meats and sausages – bottom right is pancetta and Coppa, both of which found their way into my shopping bag, along with some Italian pinwheel sausages (back top left). 

Mushrooms of all kinds – I bought a box of those teeny tiny ‘Paris Browns’.

Cheeses of all kinds, including the award winning Bath Soft Cheese – somewhere between a Brie and a Camembert.

This is the lovely oil man, selling rapeseed oil made from his farm’s crops, and also making a selection of delicious dressings.  I usually make all my own salad dressings, but I couldn’t resist a bottle of his creamy Quince and Cider dressing.

The quince lady…well that’s not her real name (a bit more on her soon) selling a selection of beautiful homemade quince products.  Syrups, jellies, sweets and quince paste.

The choice of vegetables available at the farmer’s markets is outstanding.  All farmers markets around the country should have this kind of choice.  Everyone around the country should have access to vegetables like these.  Dark bunches of cavolo nero and pumpkins of all sizes and colours.

The aforementioned flowerpot bread – cheese and herb I think, baked in a terracotta flowerpot to give it that unusual shape.  Also deliciously tasty!

If you ever thought winter vegetables could be boring, here’s a picture to change your mind – amber pumpkins, pinky-purple onions, muddy carrots, fat beetroot, stalks of sprouts, bundles of spinach, dark curly kale, crisp stalks of celery, fresh broccoli, and the wrinkly savoy cabbage or those tinged violet.

And this stall selling their own cheeses, and various cheese products and accompaniments – chutney, cheesecake, soft cheese, and curd tarts.  I bought some of their ewes cheese which was incredibly delicious.

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!

Some lovely friends of ours invited us round for tea last night – a scrumptious Jamie Oliver recipe from his Italy book of Sausages and Green Lentils with Tomato Salsa.  It’s one I’ve been meaning to try for a while…and now we’ve tasted it I’ll definitely be making it myself.

It’s always nice to take a little gift when you go out for dinner, so with the sun shining I headed down the garden to gather a small edible bunch of herbs. 

I collected mint, golden marjoram, rosemary, fennel fronds, flat leaf parsley and some jolly purple chive flowers.  All tied up with some purple raffia it was a simple but pretty gift that not only looked nice but could be used in cooking as well. 

We are off this weekend to visit my family and do some more wedding planning – this weekend ‘food’ is on the agenda.  We want a seasonal May wedding next year so the idea is to go to Stroud Farmer’s Market to see what’s available at the moment and dream up delicious dishes for our wedding feast.

Tonight we enjoyed a picnic dinner at our allotment after an hour or two of raised bed construction.  This is what we managed to achieve – one half of my new herb bed:

We ate Majorcan new potatoes boiled then smothered hot in goat’s butter and lots of salt and pepper … grilled blackened sausages from Little Heath Farm in Dunham Massey dunked in Wilkin & Son’s tomato ketchup …

sliced tomatoes sprinkled liberally with salt and garnished with torn basil leaves (totally unseasonal but irresistable as the weather starts to warm) …

and slices of coffee coloured seeded bread from Red House Farm smeared with Oxford Blue cheese …

Sitting on an old rug looking out over our allotment eating good grub – what a blissful way to spend a weekday evening.  Buddy peered down at us from the boot of the car, his nose twitching as the smell of sausages wafted up his nostrils.

Two little robins hopped around the allotments, perched on the spade…

then a tub of chicken manure pellets…

and finally an orange plastic bottle balanced atop a bamboo cane…

Heavenly.

Today we have been busy at the allotment enjoying this fabulous heatwave.  Covered in suncream we got about moving the ‘shed’ (it’s more storage than shed) forward about a foot so that we can get to the raspberries more easily.

Then we built a compost bin from old gates and a pallet.  We feel like proper allotment owners now.

Here’s the before…

And the after…

We stopped lots to eat delicious chunks of frosting coated chocolate brownie cake.

At lunch we sat on the grass in the shade of the car and devoured hunks of bread smeared with gooey camembert.

We cleared a sizeable patch of the allotment which I’m planning on turning into a herb garden with a small patch of grass where we can sit and picnic during the summer.

Then we filled out new compost bin with bits we had dug up and a well-rotted heap of rabbit droppings.

Our day finished with the first barbeque of the year and dinner outside. 

Sausages (from Little Heath Farm), lettuce, cherry tomatoes with basil and Parmesan, and bread.

It’s been one of the nicest, most relaxing and productive days we’ve had in a long time.  Rosy cheeks all round.

sausage, halloumi and roasted red pepper sandwich

sausage, halloumi and roasted red pepper sandwich

Sandwich…burger…I’m not quite sure what this creation is, but it definitely tastes scrumptious.  This sandwich was devised to get us through Saturday – a dawn til way-past-dusk frenzy of furniture moving, hoovering, dusting, sorting, chucking, and reorganisation.  I must say our house positively gleams now, and looks beautiful.  However, this sandwich was needed to get us through that day. 

It is most definitely worth sharing and I hope you all try it – equally delicious without the sausages for a yummy vegetarian alternative.  The only thing I’d do different next time (there will be a next time I make this sandwich…I’m still thinking about it) is add a smear of sundried tomato paste to the bun before ladling in the other ingredients.

The bread baps and halloumi came from Barkbakan in Chorlton, the sausages from Little Heath Farm, and the roasted red peppers from a jar. The mayonnaise wasn’t homemade, I’m not sure it’s necessary for a dollop in a sandwich like this, but it was good quality organic mayo. I think this recipe would work equally nicely in the summer with a good handful of fresh basil.

a simple, delicious lunch

a simple, delicious lunch

Sausage, Halloumi & Roasted Red Pepper Sandwich

Makes two large sandwiches

2 large baps/buns/bread rolls/slices of bread
6 sausages
6 slices of halloumi
1-2 large roasted red peppers from a jar
3 tbsp semolina flour
salt and pepper
couple of dollops of mayonnaise
thyme
smear of sundried tomato paste

Firstly, turn the grill on and cook the sausages until golden brown and sizzling.

Meanwhile, combine the semolina flour, salt and ground pepper in a bowl. Take the slices of halloumi and coat in the semolina flour – this creates a nice crispy coating when they cook. If the halloumi is quite dry, smear over a little oil to mak the flour stick.

halloumi dusted with semolina flour

halloumi dusted with semolina flour

Heat a large non-stick frying pan with a glug of oil – use a piece of kitchen towel to wipe it evenly around the pan to ensure the cheese doesn’t stick. When the oil it nice and hot, carefully lay the halloumi into the oil and let it cook for a couple of minutes – without moving it – until it is golden. Then flip the halloumi over and fry on the other side until golden.

crispy coated hallmoui for added crunch!

crispy coated halloumi for added crunch!

Slice your baps or bread rolls in half. Roughly slice the roasted red peppers. Smear over some sundried tomato paste and lay the cooked sausages on top (three on each). Next add the golden halloumi and a good handful of roasted peppers. Top with a dollop of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.

yum yum in my tum

yum yum in my tum

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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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