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Dordogne

And back to France we go – the next instalment of our summer holiday to the Dordogne (you can catch up on part one and two if you like).

We had one proper day trip out, having done some research before we went away on places that looked nice to visit, we decided to head towards Sarlat. I’d heard there was a seriously good market here, and there were a couple of little places along the river that looked nice, so we filled our bellies with sourdough spelt bread spread with honey and strawberries and off we went.

Sarlat

The market at Sarlat did not disappoint.  It was incredible!  I always worry “are we going to find the market?” when we head somewhere new, but you couldn’t miss Sarlat market, even if you weren’t looking for it, you would stumble across it on a wander around the town.  It goes on and on down the narrow winding streets, tumbling out into squares.

Sarlat market

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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

Green soup with edible flowers

We have spent the last week away in the Perigord/Dordogne region of France and had a lovely time, eating lots of good food and visiting a market every day to buy ingredients – I’ll be sharing photos as soon as I can set aside some time to pull them together.

Green soup with edible flowers

Last night we had soup for dinner, which I don’t often think is ‘enough’ to make an evening meal, which is silly really because we always enjoy it and never go hungry.  I made up a soup, knowing that I wanted a big hit of green vegetables, so I gently fried a red onion, two small bulbs of fennel, a couple of garlic cloves and then added chopped courgette.

Green soup with edible flowers

Once this had cooked a little I added 1 litre of vegetable stock and simmered before adding some peas.  Finally I added shredded spring greens and mint from the garden, then blitzed the whole thing before it went from that vibrant green to sludgy green.  We ate it sprinkled with a little finely sliced mint, a blob of herby garlic cheese and decorated with some edible flowers, and a sliced of toasted homemade bread drizzled with olive oil.

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

Naples vegetable market

On Monday our plan is to embark on a Hugh F-W style meat-free month.  Armed with my trusty River Cottage Everyday Veg and numerous other recipe books and ‘old favourites’ I am quite looking forward to a meat-free month.  I’m not sure the same goes for my husband.

For most of my life I didn’t eat meat – I ate fish, and ate meat politely at other people’s houses, but at home we never had meat.  My mom claims it’s because I refused to eat meat as a child that they stopped eating it, but it’s all I’ve really known.

homegrown vegetables

Pop a steak in front of me and I’m not quite sure what to do with it, nor do I enjoy the taste or texture.  I have always had a weakness for bacon and cured meats like salami.  As a teenager boyfriends were also a sticking point which as a result I began to eat and try more kinds of meat.  I am at an unhappy place recently, however, where I struggle to think or dream up a meal which doesn’t contain a hint of meat, usually crispy bits of bacon.

But I don’t want to be like that, I don’t think I will ever stop eating meat or fish, but I want to eat them in small quantities and of the best quality and provenance when I do.  I certainly don’t want to continue in this default setting of adding a hint of something meaty to most dishes.

winter veg stir fry

So, like a number of people, I have been inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to try and have a meat-free month.  I am really quite excited about it and have been busy tagging recipes we can try.  I also have a number of firm favourites that we have been eating recently, so I will defintiely be eating lots of them.

I am hoping to try hard to document every meal we eat, at least I’m hopefully one meal a day I can capture with a picture and share here.  If anyone else is trying this out (my lovely friend Caroline started at the beginning of January) I’d love to hear how you’re getting on and if you have any recipes to recommend.

I was inspired this morning by one of my favourite food blogs Country Woodsmoke to share a snippet of our Christmas feasting – this was our Christmas meal yesterday snapped briefly before it all disappeared.

We had a roasted turkey thigh (perfect for two, and all delicious dark juicy meat), roasted carrots, parsnips and shallots, goose fat potatoes, and finely sliced sprouts tossed with crispy bacon.  I also had a good dollop of homemade bread sauce.

This was by far the tastiest and most enjoyable Christmas dinner we’ve ever made.  Happy Christmas everyone!

I love wandering around our allotments, mainly feeling sad that ours doesn’t quite cut the mustard!  I find it so interesting to see the different ways in which people grow things, how some plots are wild and sprawling, while others are neat with wooden boards and smart sheds.

So here’s a look around our allotments in Partington…

I love the brick path that has been set into the ground…

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Last week we had incredible fish and chips from a place in Didsbury called Frankie’s Fish Bar, but it left me feeling guilty that all I’d eaten for dinner was deep-fried fish and potatoes. 

So I was determined the following night to fill us full of vegetables, and this is what I came up with…

All the vegetables were English, although not grown by me.  There were new potatoes, boiled and tossed in lots of salty butter and black better.  Pink and white radishes sliced in half, asparagus spears and baby carrots blanched and sliced.

Broad beans and fresh peas shelled and briefly cooked in simmering water.  Lots of seasonal salad leaves, crispy bacon shards, and those gorgeous nasturtium flowers (bought from Waitrose, so delighted they’re selling edible flowers).

Not a lot of complicated stuff, just a lot of shelling broad beans and slicing.  But really delicious – I want to eat more of this sort of food over the summer.

I am so happy to be back in my little blog home – it has been far too long and I have missed sharing my food adventures.

Since getting engaged back in September 2009, we have been steadily planning and preparing for our wedding.  As the date drew nearer – 21st May 2011 – I have just had little time to do much else (whilst juggling it along with my job and my website).

Here’s a picture of some of the cakes our family and friends made for our wedding – the big white one in the middle so beautiful decorated was made by my Granny!

To save me rambling on for too long, I’m going to do some bullets of what’s been going on in our lives for the past few months I’ve been missing from here, and then aim to follow with a nice post and recipe for a fab barbecue we had over the weekend:

  • Most importantly – we got married!  On 21st May 2011, I married Mr Rigg in my home village in Gloucestershire – we had a beautiful, rustic country wedding, with a party in my parent’s garden, lots of local cider and perry, AMAZING food (lots of it local) and just an all round fab day.  If you’re at all interested, photos and details will follow on my website.
  • We honeymooned in an incredible Canopy & Star’s hideaway for a week and took Buddy with us (more details and hopefully a couple of foodie posts on this to follow).
  • Sadly, Mr Rigg’s lovely Granny who was always so interested in what we were doing passed away.
  • After spending an exorbitant amount of time and effort getting our allotment covered in manure and getting rid of all the weeds over the winter…we have neglected it and it is now overrun with weeds – we are totally and utterly the worst looking allotment – gutted.
  • Although we haven’t got a lot growing (and the radishes all matured as we headed south for our wedding), we have got a couple of healthy pea plants, some small beetroot seedlings, potatoes growing (only just!) and quite a few courgette, squash and pumpkin plants.

I am just so happy to ‘be back’ and can’t wait to get growing and cooking some decent food – and to share it all!  I’ll leave you with a picture of my overgrown garden…

I’m not doing very well at keeping up with … well … updating!  There’s so much I want to share and yet I must find more time!  And so many promised posts and recipes … I haven’t even finished off my food memories of Italy (part 1 and 2), and that was last September!

Note to self: must try harder.

On a jollier note, we had a scrumptious and so SO simple tea of roasted summer vegetables.  This is my idea of cooking, of eating, of tasting.  And what a Nigel Slater way to eat dinner – just a plate of roasted vegetables and some hunks of good bread to mop up the juices.

In my pan of delicious roasted vegetables were the following: baby orange peppers, red pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, red baby plum tomatoes and homegrown yellow courgette.  All cut into similar sized chunks, drizzled with good olive oil and roasted. 

The added extra that make this dish really simple were liberal dollops of sundried tomato paste, hunks of buffalo mozzarella, finely chopped garlic, a sprinkling of dried herbs, and some good old fashioned seasoning (salt and pepper). 

I also whizzed up lots of fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a good handful of grated Parmesan which was drizzled over everything towards the end of the cooking, and extra served fresh.

All this was munched up with gorgeous foccacia bread from Jane’s Handmade Bread – bought that morning at Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market.

You can’t get better than that!

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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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