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I’ve spent a lovely day at the Tatton Flower Show with N’s mom.  Tatton is quite near to us, so N’s mom headed over to ours early this morning, then we set off in convoy.  The weather switched between warm sunny spells and sudden downpours – there is a constant eb-and-flow of people rushing into the pavilions as the rain buckets down, then back out into the show ground when the sun reappears.

There were some lovely garden designs this year (my favourites are always the back-to-back gardens as they are small ordinary-sized gardens), although I think there were more I loved last at last year’s show.  One of my favourite garden’s this year was ‘Be Fruitful’ and is the only one I took photographs of. 

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I’m not a huge fruit lover (although raspberries and alpine strawberries go down a treat), but this garden was delightful.  It was an urban fruit orchard, with small espalier apple trees and strawberries in window boxes, interplanted with soft grasses and chocolate brown scabious.

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We discovered these beautiful little tomatoes called red currant.  They produce slender bunches of tiny red tomatoes, much smaller than cherry tomatoes.  We picked up a seed catalogue from the exhibitor and will hopefully buy some seeds next spring to try growing them.

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This exhibitor also had some other fabulous vegetables.  Including these other fabulous varieties of tomatoes…

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And take a look at those onions!

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And here’s something to keep me dreaming – I didn’t ask the price…

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I bought some lovely things including a couple of grasses (including a bunny tails grass! very cute), a pretty new lantern, a cosy waterbottle, a outside light for the front of our house, and some fantastic sounding anti-slug pullets made from wool.  If I get time towards the end of the week I would love to share with you this great product – I put some down straight away when I got home, so we shall see if it helps my slug and snail problem.

If anyone else has been to Tatton today, or is going over the next couple of days, I hope you have a great time!

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The weather in the UK is positively balmy, and what we really want to eat lots of is salad.  Most other food just seems too much in this heat.  So here is a healthy but most importantly delicious salad, with tomatoes, beans and new potatoes and a zingy citrus and chilli dressing.

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Zingy tomato and bean salad

Feeds 2-4 people

1 x tin haricot beans, drained and rinsed
200g new potatoes
200g cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
Bunch of flat leaf parsley
1/2 red chilli
A couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook the new potatoes, drain and cut into chunks.  While the potatoes are cooking, slice up the cherry tomatoes and spring onions.

Mix the potatoes, beans and tomatoes together in a serving bowl.

Roughly chop the parsley and pop into a separate bowl.  Finely chop the chilli and add it to the parsley.  Tip in the sliced spring onions, olive oil, zest and juice of the lemon.  Give it a good mix and add a bit more oil if you want it a bit runnier.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes, beans and tomatoes and mix well.  The potatoes gently start to melt and the dressing will seep into them and the beans and this is just scrumptious.

Eat on its own, or with some grilled chicken or fish. 

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Two summers ago we went to Sweden for a family wedding.  We decided to make it into our summer holiday as it seemed like a long way to go for a wedding.  We travelled by boat to Denmark with our little car, then drove around a large part of the west coast of Sweden.  At the time, it felt exhausting, and by the time we got back we weren’t sure it had felt much like a holiday.

Now as I look back on our time there and the experiences we had, it was actually quite a lovely holiday.  Despite the terrible weather and the hours and hours of driving, we ate some lovely food and saw some fantastic things.  It is an amazing country and somewhere I would definitely like to return to one day.

We sailed from Harwich to Esbjerg in Denmark, then drove along the E20 through Denmark to Copenhagen.  We crossed the huge bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo – our first stop in Sweden.  Our parks conference the February before we went away had included a speaker from Malmo, and it inspired me so much I knew we had to visit. 

the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo

the bridge from Copenhagen to Malmo

Everywhere that we stayed on our journey along the coast was a member of the Bo på lantgård – ‘staying on a farm’ – http://www.bopalantgard.org.  Our first farm was Vragerups Gård (http://www.vragerup.se/) in the countryside outside Malmo.  It was an idyllic farmhouse with beautiful furnishings and we really didn’t want to leave. 

Vragerups Gard, near Lund

Vragerups Gard, near Lund

In terms of eating out our plan was to drive around and see what looked nice, which means on one hand you might find a real gem of a restaurant, but on the other hand it could be dire.  Our first night we found this place…

Kallbadhus in Bjarred

Kallbadhus in Bjarred

It couldn’t have been a more stunning location, and the food was equally nice.  I have managed to find out that the restaurant is called Kallbadhus (this might be the name of the whole complex) or Kalendarium, but it is also Sweden’s longest swimming pier (http://www.kallbadhus.se/).

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Nearby to where we were staying, we discovered this unusual village, which we think it styled on a medieval style town.  It felt like a film set, especially as it was seemingly deserted.

unsual medieval style town

unusual medieval style town

We had a somewhat miserable day out in Malmo as it rained, and rained and rained.  So much for visiting parks – we ended up on a coach tour of the city, which was not quite what we were hoping, but there wasn’t much choice short of getting soaked.  We did also discover a cluster of craft workshops and a quaint sweet shop – perfect for gifts for younger brothers!

 

Malmo before the rain

Malmo before the rain

Our plan the next day, with storm clouds looming, was to head for the sun and blue clouds wherever they were on the horizon.  This worked out quite well, and we came across a little cafe-cum-farm shop.  We sat in a beautiful glasshouse and ate tea and cake under a canopy of kiwi fruit!

canopy of kiwis

canopy of kiwis

That evening, we found a lovely little restaurant in a nearby town and enjoyed a great meal.  That was until the roof above me sprung a leak, which turned into a waterfall, and the whole restaurant was swamped!  We sat in the car wondering what kind of holiday we were on…

rain rain go away

rain rain go away

One thing that Swedish hospitality does well is a fantastic spread for breakfast: cooked meats, jams, compotes, fresh fruit, yoghurt, cheeses, and breads including the dark rye breads.  I fell in love with what I like to call pillow bread, what it’s real name is I’m not sure – but it’s soft, flat, with dimples in it like a sofa.  I ate a lot of it during this holiday, and brought a lot back with us. 

breakfast at Vragerups Gard

breakfast at Vragerups Gard

As we travelled up the coast and slightly inland to our next stop – an incredible looking colonial style house – there was more rain…

rain

rain

Drip, drip, drip, little april showers…

and more rain

and yet more rain

We started to see signs for a vaffle stuga (spelling probably not quite correct) and ended up in a log cabin deep in a huge forest eating waffles!  They were delicious and it was nice to sit inside by a fire while it drizzled outside.  There was a hamlet of houses selling artisan made items and we came away with a lovely rug that now sits in our living room.

the waffle house

the waffle house

Hults Gard (http://www.hultsgard.com/) the next place we stayed, looked beautiful, but our room was small and felt like we were staying in a hostel.  One of the things I enjoyed most about the incredible amounts of driving that we did, was it meant we could watch the landscape change – from the rolling farmland and towns near Malmo, to dark evergreen forests, then through great expanses of farmland with railroads, and finally to the rocky coastal islands with their clapboard fishing villages.

 

Hults Gard

Hults Gard

The wedding was held in a fairytale castle near Gothenburg and was a whole weekend of eating and celebrating.  We were treated to a gourmet meal featuring some delicious Swedish dishes – sadly no pictures.

the wedding castle, near Gothenburg

the wedding castle, near Gothenburg

Our final leg of the journey took us further up the coast and out onto an island.  We were staying at a strawberry farm called Tyfta Ostergård (http://www.lekander.nu/eindex.html) which had the perks of fantastic jams and compotes for breakfast. 

Tyfta Ostergard - the strawberry farm

Tyfta Ostergard - the strawberry farm

It was run by a lovely family with three generations of the family living and working there together.  The guest accommodation including a lovely kitchen and sitting room were decorated with that impeccable Swedish knack for style.

effortless Swedish style at Tyfta Ostergard

effortless Swedish style at Tyfta Ostergard

It was out on these islands that we had our best meals of the holiday.  It was also probably the poshest and most expensive meal that we have ever eaten – but worth every penny.  Situated on the “herring island” of Klädesholmen is Salt & Sill (http://www.saltosill.se), a small restaurant with a stunning view and excellent food. 

the view from our table at Salt & Sill

the view from our table at Salt & Sill

The highlights of this meal by far were the starters.  I wish at the time I had written down exactly what we had eaten, because now I just have the photos as a reminder, but don’t know any of the more interesting details!

Salt & Sill restaurant, Kladesholmen

Salt & Sill restaurant, Kladesholmen

N had a trio of pickled herring, each piece pickled differently, on a different bread or cracker, topped with a different sauce.  Each mouthful was pared with a different shot of snaps. 

trio of herring and snaps

trio of herring and snaps

I chose salmon, which turned out to be THE best salmon dish I’ve ever eaten.  I think that salmon dishes often run the risk of being a bit boring, but this was incredible.  I think it was poached somehow – it was so delicate, and still so pink, and came on a bed of green vegetables with a sauce that I think was broad bean.

THE best salmon

THE best salmon

For mains we had fishcakes and a piece of cod with a foam – sorry I can’t recall the details more accurately.

main courses at Salt & Sill

main courses at Salt & Sill

Desserts were also a highlight.  N had a(nother) trio of handmade truffles with a strawberry coulis. 

trio of handmade truffles

trio of handmade truffles

I had a delicate dish which comprised a miniature panna cotta dusted with vanilla, a chocolate fondue sauce, and a caramelised banana wrapped in filo pastry and finished with a scattering of nuts.  This restaurant would come highly recommended from me to anyone looking to visit this part of Sweden.  It’s not to be missed.

my dessert

my dessert

The island of Tjörn had a wealth of interesting places for ‘foodies’ to visit.  We found a pick-you-own tomato farm!

just a few of the tomato varieties at the pick-your-own farm

just a few of the tomato varieties at the pick-your-own farm

It was run by a lovely couple who showed us around their giant pollytunnel where there were growing unusual organic salads.  I have never seen or heard of some of the incredible vegetables, salads and herbs they were growing, so it was a fantastic experience.  Ever since this experience, I have always loved the idea of setting up a pick-you-own tomatoes, what a fab idea!

salads, herbs and cucumbers

salads, herbs and cucumbers

There was one cafe that I had read about on my internet searches before we left for Sweden that I was determined we would visit.  It is a small cafe-restaurant in the fishing village of Mollösund, which is right on the far tip of an island called Orust.  Café Emma (http://www.cafeemma.com/eng.html) is  a member of the Slow Food movement, and serve homemade food using seasonal and local ingredients. 

Cafe Emma in Mollosund harbour

Cafe Emma in Mollosund harbour

We both had their signature rich fish soup for starters, which is made with saffron, shrimp and two kind of fish.  It was served with bread, aioli and a herb mayonnaise.  I must admit this isn’t the sort of starter I would normally order, but it was incredible. 

fish soup with aioli at Cafe Emma in Mollosund

fish soup with aioli at Cafe Emma in Mollosund

It was a no-brainerwhat N would choose for his main – a homemade burger.  It was served in thin pillow bread, with a fresh tomato salsa and a bean salad.  Who said burgers have to be unhealthy?

homemade beefburger

homemade beefburger

I chose a quinoa salad with asparagus, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, roasted beetroot and micro salad leaves.  This is food to die for.

quinoa salad

quinoa salad

Café Emma serve the kind of food that you never forget.  Food that you dream about.  Food that you spend hours trying to recreate.  These are my food memories.

ingredients for a storecupboard dinner

ingredients for a storecupboard dinner

A storecupboard meal to save you.  On realising that I am 2 ounces short of enough risotto rice to make the planned (and I might add for a number of days…plenty of time to check the jar of risotto rice and buy more) Pea, Mint and Mascarpone Risotto, I had a mild panic and was then saved by a couple of items that have been lounging in the fridge since Christmas.  I like nights like these, when plans go to pot, but in turn make way for a creative meal to be cobbled together. 

Tonight’s meal has been cobbled from: potatoes (delicious golden fleshed potatoes, ashamedly I admit from the supermarket, but grown in Hertfordshire), an onion, chorizo sausage (the cooking type, not the salami), green olives (remnants of the edible Christmas gifts), and a lump of hard Spanish cheese (brought back from Madrid by my dad).

Chop up the potatoes and parboil.  Slice the onion and fry in an ovenproof dish on a medium heat.  Add some sliced chorizo.  And some finely chopped garlic.  A sprinkle of dried herbs.  Ground black pepper.

Add the drained potatoes.  Stir well.  Add half a tin of tomatoes and 200ml of chicken stock (from a cube).  Bung in the oven (180°C).

20 minutes later, remove from the oven.  Sprinkle over the green olives.  Grate on some cheese.  Bung it back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until the cheese is all gooey and golden.  Yum.

time to lay the table

time to lay the table

On this rainy, bitterly cold day I thought I would like to write about some of the vegetable gardens that I have seen on my travels.  I have decided to start in France, more specifically in the Loire Valley region, which is where I have stayed on my last two visits.  We camp at a delightful, intimate campsite run by an expat-English family – we can highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a rustic, relaxing break.  The campsite is called Le Chant D’Oiseau and more info can be found at http://www.loire-gites.com/.

Anyways, back to vegetable gardens.  Our visit at the end of the summer was full of diverting down side streets and peering over walls to see what other people were growing in their gardens.  The hot summer weather in the Loire allows for tomatoes such as these to thrive, which makes me incredibly jealous as I think back to my poor attempts.

big round juicy tomatoes :: Loire Valley, France ::

This small vegetable garden in a small hillside town on the banks of Loire river shows that the smallest of spaces can be productive – look at those squash plants!  I was very curious about the number of plants and herbs that were dug into the ground in pots…any suggestions as to why?

small town garden :: Loire Valley, France ::

We passed the pumpkin below on a scenic (or perhaps slightly lost) route we took through some vineyards, and N was instructed to pull over while I ran back to get a photo.  Consequently, we discovered a beautiful old property opposite the pumpkin patch that we fell in love with and momentarily lost our heads in gidding thoughts of selling up and moving to rural France.  I shall never forget that house with its warm sunbathed courtyard. 

orange pumpkin :: lost in the Loire Valley, France ::

The fantastic weather over the weekend meant a perfect opportunity to enjoy the English countryside.  On Saturday we went for a walk along the canal, and picked a meagre amount of blackberries that are currently in the freezer as I can’t dedice what to make with them yet – blackberry junket or hedgerow crumble?

Sunday heralded a local food festival, held in a nearby town (Altrincham) in their covered market – which with the sun blazing down was more like a greenhouse.  It was great to see so many people out and about, enjoying locally made and produced food, and sampling dishes from local restaurants.  We bought our festival currency and scoffed down a vegetarian curry, a chicken tikka wrap, a glass of Spanish beer and two slices of pizza for lunch on Monday.  Sadly, I forgot my camera and haven’t any pictures to show for the fantastic food on offer.

Our favourite local farmers were there – Sue from Little Heath Farm – a table laden with delicious cuts of beef and pork, and a hamper displaying the local veg they sell in their modest farm shop.  The ‘pie man’ as he’s affectionately known in our house – Neil from The Great North Pie Company – a new addition to the local food scene, hadn as usual sold out an hour into the festival and by the time we arrived all that was left was his empty pie stands and a handful of leaflets.

We sampled some freshly squeezed apple juice from a stand celebrating local allotments, fought over the last few crumbs of one of the best Victoria sponge cakes I’ve ever had – from Hulabaloo Cafe – and went home carrying a treasured bottle of local ‘Discover’ apple juice an an ‘escargot chocolat’ – a French breakfast pastry like a cross between a Danish pastry and a pan au chocolat.  De-lish!

As I haven’t any pictures to show of all this loveliness, I shall post a shot of the weekends harvest from the garden – freshly dug potatoes and a variety of tomatoes.

freshly dug potatoes and homegrown tomatoes

freshly dug potatoes and homegrown tomatoes

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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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