Friday, 24 December 2010

South West Food Bloggers Exeter Meet Up 8 Jan 2011

A reminder that a group of us are meeting upstairs at Boston Tea Party, Exeter on 8 Jan 2011, shall we say 2pm?  I seem to remember that Choclette, Liz, Matthew, me and one other (can't remember who) are coming....any other takers?  Looking forward to it!

Enjoy the festive period and make sure you eat ten tons of super-scrummy food!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Gingerbread House - From Flat Pack to Luxury Home

We bought a 'flat-pack' gingerbread house from Lori at Shute Fruit (appearing at a Farmers' Market in Devon near you) for a very reasonable £4.  This included a recipe for Royal Icing and a few guidance tips on assembly. This was far easier (and less swearing) than IKEA furniture.  We made sure the icing was pretty sticky and not too drippy and held each wall in place for a few minutes, even though we were extremely eager to get on with the sweet decoration.

We were pretty pleased with the results - this was a joint effort with my 9 and 11 year old kids.

 This one was from 2007, and although adorable, you can see that we weren't master builders at that stage:

I can't resist one more picture of the 2010 effort.  11 year old daughter made the additional gingerbread tree and reindeer.  Sweets from various sweet shops - wish we still had Woolworths Pick and Mix!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

New Teignmouth Cafe - twentysix

We mourned the loss of the Michaelmas Goose cafe in Teignmouth - we loved the Goose's relaxed, bustling vibe with super-cheery waitresses and a couple of sofas and magazines - you felt you could go there on your own and just chill and eat cake.  It closed down in the summer and we now have twentysix in its place.  I am a little cynical about calling a place by a word-number - it's not too snappy and people don't automatically know what you're talking about.  As this is owned and run by a really good chef, Denise Tarriela, I would have preferred it to be called something more personal and showing its high quality home-cooking credentials.  It's also hard to find on the internet - this is their website, but I had to go via Tripadvisor to find it.
That is all the negative stuff I have to say!  
What a lovely place and what attention to detail.  My tea (pear and caramel tea - sounds weird but tasted delicious) arrived with an egg timer and a request to let it brew for three minutes.  I love that kind of gimmick.  The two of us ordered 'Croques' - his was pear and blue cheese on granary bread and mine was brie, crispy bacon with fig relish on white topped with aged Gruyere.  Both were £6.95 which sounds a little high for a sandwich (especially in Teignmouth), but they were full of excellent quality ingredients and presented well with a delicious green salad dressed with lemon oil, proper crisps and aioli.  I enjoyed every mouthful and can highly recommend a visit.  

I gawped at the cakes but didn't have time for one - they are all homemade and look quite incredible - definitely posh restaurant standard and a little bit different: New York baked cheesecake, a beautiful iced blueberry cake and Valrhona chocolate brownies plus the amazing pear, pistachio and creme anglaise cake - I want one of those!

They are open 9-5:30 every day, plus they serve evening meals as special bookable events at weekends - the cafe is holding New Orleans Cuisine and Jazz evenings this weekend )19-21 Nov with delicious items such as Drunken Prawns with Cajun Butter Sauce, Blackened Fillet of Marlin and Chocolate Pecan Pie.  There is also a Thanksgiving meal on 25 Nov, a Local Game evening on 27th Nov and Christmas events too.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Scones for Crohn's - Fundraising for Crohn's and Colitis UK

I have been a supporter of the Crohn's and Colitis UK charity for many years and wanted to help in their 30 year anniversary fund raising drive.  In the advent of other such fund raising titles as 'Jeans for Genes', we decided that 'Scones for Crohn's' had a good ring about it!  I held a tea party for my friends and their kids and asked for donations in return for a feast of home made cakes and cups of tea.  It was a lovely afternoon and we raised £40.  Thank you to everyone who donated!  NB Cakes were made with goose eggs from Tibbs the grocers.

My daughter and her friends wanted to do something themselves, and after a month's planning and a busy weekend of baking, they held a fantastic cake sale at our front door on a Sunday morning (thought we would catch the people on their way to and from church and getting the Sunday papers!).  Passers-by were very generous and the girls did a great job of telling them about the charity and how they baked their wares.  They took an amazing £50 in one hour and sold nearly everything.  Nearly everything, because these girls were hungry by this stage and rewarded themselves with a bit of a cake-fest and wolfed down as many of the remainder as they could!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Chocolate, Rosemary and Olive Oil Cake - The Jury's Out

I cribbed this recipe from this lovely blog:

The full recipe is on her site, and I won't repeat it here.  It's adapted from a recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.

This cake has no butter (or marg), just olive oil and has plenty of chopped nuggets of dark chocolate and a good smattering of finely chopped rosemary.  The top is crisp, crunchy and sugared like a muffin.  I cooked it for a friend who came for lunch and we both loved it, it's unusual but good.  There is a savoury note to the cake (rather like focaccia) but in a good way.

Then I sliced some for my family.  My son refused point blank to have anything to do with a herby cake.  My daughter tried a few tastes and left the rest (it had chocolate in it, for goodness sake, she must have hated it) and my husband's comment was classic.  "It's an anti-cake.  You take a bite of it and it makes you never want to eat any more cake again.  Ever.  It puts you off cake."  Charming!

So, I saved a few slices for myself and gave the rest to my friend and her family - all three of them love it (or are being very polite!).  The jury's out 4 people love it, 3 people loathe it.  What do you think?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Marcus Wareing Blog Controversy - it happens in Devon too!

Well, Marcus Wareing is cross with food bloggers, The Critical Couple who have mildly criticised his talents and establishment as was reported in The Guardian yesterday:

I'm interested to know who reported it to the Guardian - MW or the food bloggers themselves?  Their review was fair, balanced and only a tiny bit negative.  They are entitled to their point of view and have previously given his restaurant two outstanding reviews - surely constructive criticism is a good thing?  Something he can learn from?  It doesn't strike me that they were being in any way malicious.

Well, I was pondering the rights and wrongs of publicly criticising establishments rather than having a 'quiet word' and now I seem to have provoked some outrage myself by voicing my concerns about a Newton Abbot restaurant's 'local food' claims.

I think I should have got my facts straight before I made my queries.  My pondering maybe should have been kept to myself rather than making it public and online - this has antagonised the cafe owner and I shall think twice about posting anything negative or critical in the future as it makes them feel bad and it certainly makes me regret it.  So, can we look forward to lots of over-effusive / bland  advertorials and no personal comment or opinion on food blogs in the future?

I'm torn on this one.  I think my comments in the future are going to be (in the main) positive.  But I will be frank and straight (it's ingrained in my personality).  So if it's on my food blog, I LOVE it unreservedly and can wholeheartedly recommend it, and if it's not on here, it's either because I haven't been there, or I've had a bad experience with that eating establishment / food supplier.  I don't want to get into any tussles, this blog is just a bit of fun, this is a hobby, not a way of life, and not a source of income.  And I appreciate that for the food producers / establishments it is far more than that.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Dartmouth Food Festival - Foodie Heaven

Dartmouth Food Festival was held over the 20th - 24th October. I helped out for a couple of hours, manning an information stall with the lovely Susie Bennett,

Susie runs an amazing B and B overlooking Dartmouth in Kingswear:
She's a charming, funny person and, by the sound of it, her organic breakfasts are out of the world and her house has views 'to die for'.  This is a smart (and really good value) place to stay when visiting Dartmouth.  I look forward to staying there some time.
Our information stand was cunningly placed next to Devonshire Teas who obligingly provided a sample of their wares.  They've been operating since last June and have a huge Twitter presence so it was good to meet them in person.  The tea was refreshing, well-balanced with a good flavour and perked me up on a cold October morning on Dartmouth Embankment.  The tea isn't grown locally, but they've created a 'Devonshire' blend that is perfect to drink whilst in Devon with scones.
I pottered around tasting some fantastically fresh crab and then ended up tasting salt at one my favourite food producers, Cornish Sea Salt.  They've branched out into flavoured salts (Smoked, Chilli, Onion, Garlic and Pepper) - my favourite being the smoked one.  He's a jolly nice chap!
The Luscombe girls were having a good time and I enjoyed their Lime Crush - it had a good kick and not too sweet (as I think some of their drinks like their raspberry lemonade are).
There were loads of top notch food demos going on. 
I watched Miranda Gardiner, author of Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack, making crabcakes and I tasted them at the end.  She seemed a bit nervous, but she needn't have been as her style and cooking are inspiring and natural and the finished product was yummy.  I picked up her book, it looked wonderful (she takes her own photos too), but I'm trying really hard to buy no more cookery books as I have enough to last me a lifetime.  
 Mitch Tonks, now a prominent Dartmouth restauranteur  (I remember him refusing to open some oysters for me in his Bath fish shop, this has coloured my opinion of him!) was promoting his book, the sound quality was pretty bad on the PA system, so I didn't linger but hurried over the road, round the corner, behind the church, to the unpreposessing Flavel Centre.  My one (major) criticism of the Dartmouth Food Festival was that if you're going to spread out over several venues, please advertise the fact and provide plenty of signage.  For me, all the best local food producers were in  here and there were barely any punters to be seen!
One of my highlights in The Flavel Centre was Lahloo Tea:
Kate is passionate about working with small tea producers and creating the perfect blend.  She's based in Bristol and her products are classy and tasty too.  She mentioned that they're gracing the shelves of some high end upmarket retailers and restaurants - I can see why.  Enjoyed chatting to Kate and bought a set of heart shaped tins containing tea, a Tea Tasting Kit for £7,  all for me me me.  Treat.  The two teas I've tried so far have been great.
These were the divine homemade custard creams she was selling:
Next door to Kate was the Totnes-based Bean and Pod - what an awesome display of handmade goodies.  These are chocolates with a difference (Choclette, take note!).  Raw cocoa used (I think I have this right) from a small cocoa farm, sweetened with dates (no refined sugar) and studded with beautiful flowers.  Loved chatting to Lu and think she's doing something really different.
A close-up of one of the beauts:
And from Red Earth Kitchen (based in Kingsbridge) I bought a thick slice of delectable quiche chocka with butternut squash, gorgonzola and sage.  Delicious flavour combination and a very satisfying, good value lunch
Dartmouth Food Festival was a free event and had a lovely atmosphere.  The Exeter one is bigger, better and you have to pay to get in.  This one suited Dartmouth and it was great to meet some new local food producers.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Goose Eggs - Look at the Size of These

I bought some goose eggs at Tibbs, the greengrocers in Teignmouth.  Tibbs is a bit of an institution - a 'proper' greengrocers, none of that fancy organic stuff, just a family run business selling honest fruit and veg at good prices, local where possible.

So, after paying for my veg, I was surprised to be asked if I wanted some goose eggs.  They were enormous.  They were also hidden away behind the scales, and there seemed to be something almost 'under the counter' about the experience.  Oh, definitely yes, but decided to just take three rather than six.  £1.25 for three seems pretty good value as they are the equivalent to 3-4 normal sized hen eggs.  I shall use one in a Victoria Sandwich and the other two as giant fried eggs.  The egg from our chicken looks so teensy in comparison.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Devon Apple Cake - Award Winning Recipe

This is a regular autumnal warmer in our house that is dead simple to make and uses up at least one or two of your surplus cooking apples at this time of year.  I won second prize with this cake in the local Village Show in early September.  Yes, I forgot to take a picture of it when it was whole - too eager to eat it.  It's a basic sponge cake and then has a lovely crumbly sugar and cinnamon topping.


225g cooking apples (peeled, cored and chopped any size)
juice of half a lemon
225g plain flour
7.5ml baking powder
115g butter
165g sugar - I've used caster, soft light or dark brown - all good
1 beaten egg
30-45ml milk
2.5ml ground cinnamon

1 - Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line an 18cm round cake tin. **

2 - Toss the apple with the lemon juice and set aside.  Sift flour and baking powder then rub in butter until it resembles breadcrumbs (I throw this in the food processor)

3 -  Stir in 115g of the brown sugar (keeping 50g aside), the apple and egg and mix well adding enough milk to form a soft dropping consistency.

4 - Transfer batter to tin.  Mix the remaining 50g sugar with cinnamon - sprinkle this over the cake mixture.  Bake for 45- 50 mins until golden.  Leave to cool for 10 mins in the tin before transferring to wire rack and your mouth.

**I love these Lakeland cake tin liners for lining tins:

Surfing at Bantham - We're Here for the Beach

Long may this 'Indian Summer' continue.  I'm back in bare feet and sandals.

This was the view of Burgh Island from Bantham beach two weekends ago.  We went along with our two kids, two nephews and bumped into quite a few other familiar faces.  The summer crowds are long gone, and the waves were perfect for surfers and body boarders alike - the locals were making the most of it. 

Bantham is pretty basic - a large car park full of VW Campers and surfboards on roof racks, a toilet or two, no cafes or ice cream stalls - and that's what makes it special.  People's attitude is: we're here for the beach.

This is a great time of year to be in Devon.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Freeze Garden Herbs Now!

It's time to freeze our green herbs - this is our tea tray covered in a veritable mountain of flat leaf parsley from the garden.  I consulted my herb book which says that green herbs such as parsley, chives, basil, dill and coriander can all be frozen directly in freezer bags without any preparation like blanching or chopping.  Ideal.

I'm aware that frosts are around the corner so these herbs have a death sentence on them at the moment.  So quick, if you have any lovely, lush green herbs in your window box / veg patch, get them in the freezer for use over the cooler months.

My book recommends to freeze them in small batches in freezer bags and then place them in a larger box to prevent crushing.  It'll be interesting to see how intact they are when I use them from frozen, or whether they go khaki and mushy.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Breast Milk Cheese - Trendy Food Fad or Natural Goodness?

A New York City restaurant has controversially started using human breast milk in some of its dishes.  A natural food, I agree, but I was somewhat shocked by this.  I hope some baby isn't being deprived of their nourishment in an attempt to create some publicity....

Thursday, 23 September 2010

UK South West Food Bloggers Network

I have just created a basic group on Facebook for food bloggers, producers and foodies based in the South West of England - a forum for discussion and shameless self-promotion of our blogs and hopefully a place where we can all connect.

Suggestions welcome, this is a rough outline at the moment.

UK-South-West-Food-Bloggers-Network on Facebook

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Foraging for Free Food - The Joys of the Hedgerow

Whilst walking on part of the South West Coastal Path last week we came along a stretch near Dawlish that had a mass of hedgerow berries.  After the walk I consulted the fantastic River Cottage 'Preserves' book and decided to take the family foraging for some free food one warm Sunday afternoon.

For hedgerow jelly, you need a combination of blackberries, crab apples (or cooking apples), haws (from hawthorn), elderberries, rosehips (from wild roses),

sloes (look like hard blueberries with a bit of a bloom on them) and bullaces (a kind of wild plum.) It was a very social occasion as every passer by wanted to know what we were collecting and what we were going to use them for.  Several people turned out to be a mine of information about making sloe gin - seems to interest folks more than the hedgerow jelly....

On a quarter mile stretch of path, we found all that we needed (no bullaces - shame) and filled our pots. The children were fine about the blackberries and apples, but were seriously worried about the potentially poisonous rosehips, haws and sloes.  

I have to say that my natural inclination is that they are possibly inedible unless cooked to a high temperature - but people have been making rosehip cordial, sloe gin and other autumnal treats for years - I think it's part of that worrying tendency that we have in modern days to assume that plasticised shrink-wrapped supermarket food is 'good' for us, whereas there might be something wrong with the real thing that's growing on trees and bushes right under our noses.

Back at home I put 225g sloe berries in the freezer - to be turned into sloe gin or vodka at a later stage - apparently the berries work much more effectively after the first frost - or to improvise, you can just bung them in the freezer for as long as you want before use.

So onto the serious job of Hedgerow Jelly.  I used:
180g sloe,
75g elderberries,
160g rosehips,
90g haw berries
500g blackberries
1kg cooking apples.

I put them in a pan with a 1.2 litres of water and simmered them until tender.

We then rigged up a rather dodgy looking muslin cloth on upturned stool to allow the cooked fruit to drip through.  The following day, I measured the deep purple liquid and added 450g granulated sugar per 600ml liquid and boil it up together until it reaches setting point.....

So far so good...only the blinking jelly didn't set.  So, I emptied it all back in to the pan, washed the jam jars again, sterilised them again  and boiled it all again in a big pan until my thermometer read a definite 105 degrees - allegedly the 'setting point' for jams and jellies.  Doing this whole procedure once is enjoyable - the second time I was cursing.

The jelly still hasn't set; however the thick gloopy liquid is delicious, similar to blackberry and apple but with a more intense berry-ish flavour.  It spreads wonderfully on toast and is really good on vanilla ice cream.

I would love to know if anyone knows about the toxic qualities of haws, sloes and hips and also any advice on how to get jellies to set....

This blog post has been entered in the Simple and in Season Blogging Event:

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Could you 'Eat Local' for an entire week?

The local Transition group has launched a challenge:  can you eat locally produced food for a week?

The week starts this Sat 21 August and there are more details on their website - this is a South Devon challenge at the moment.

It's a really interesting proposition and I'm certainly keen to take the challenge myself, but will be postponing it for a week and doing it the following week.  Looking forward to the fish, meat, cheese, fruit part of it....but am rather worried about missing out on bread and pasta.  I guess it depends how strictly you follow the challenge - should we eat bread that was made in Devon but the wheat came from Canada?  I think the whole idea of the challenge is not to be too dogmatic, but just to really consider where each item comes from and to see what percentage of our normal diet is locally sourced.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Teignmouth Seafood House: Finest Crab, Scallops, Lobster...

It’s worth seeking out the tiny shed that is the Seafood House (newly opened Summer 2010) for the freshest, tastiest seafood in South Devon.

The small stable door, crab tank and chairs and table are between the Newquay Inn and the Ship Inn near the Back Beach and harbour.

They freshly catch and pick the crab to order (we only had one tiny piece of shell in 500g crabmeat which is quite impressive) and together with Nigella’s Forever Summer, I made a damn tasty Crab Linguine: white and brown crabmeat,  a squidge of garlic, some sea salt, a chopped red chilli, some grated lemon zest and juice, plenty of Extra Virgin olive oil and some chopped watercress or rocket, plus a heap of pasta.

Fresh crabmeat is the essence of summer food in Devon.  There are some fishmongers that pasteurise their crabmeat so that it extends the shelf life.  The stuff they sell here is so fresh and sells out so quickly they don't need to!

Place your orders on 07919 566630, or risk turning up Weds – Sun 10-ish till 4-ish.

I shall be trying their hand-dived scallops (95p each) and lobster (£4.50 / pot) on Friday and will report back.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gelato - Italian Rose Petal Ice Cream

Normal transmission will resume in September, focusing on Devon...but in the meantime, I'm just back from two weeks in Tuscany, Italy and have some wondrous delights to share.

The ice creams kept us cool and the kids happy - we averaged one a day from this wonderful Gelateria in Buonconvento, Southern Tuscany.

Favourite flavours?  Kids - Straciatella (see the vanilla and chocolate one above), adults - Pistacchio or Crema (creamy custard).

This was a combo of vanilla and rose petal:

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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Chocolate Profiteroles - So Easy a Child Could Make Them...?

My children surprised me the other day by announcing they were going to make profiteroles.  I've never made them before and have always regarded choux pastry as 'too tricky'.  Plus, I was busying myself with other things, so I agreed, but told them that I wouldn't be able to help.

Surprisingly rapidly, they had summoned up these with the help of the River Cottage Family Cookbook:

They weren't prepared for how much they expand during cooking and the little lumps of pastry mostly merged into one big choux bun.  The pasty doesn't have that much sugar in and when we tasted it, a bit warm from the oven, we all agreed it tasted (and looked) like Yorkshire Pudding - obviously, as the recipe is very similar.  The four profiteroles around the edges of the tin were perfect.

The children still weren't convinced.  

"We've just made Yorkshire Pudding and it's rubbish," they sighed, ready to chuck them away.

After dinner,  I convinced them to make a chocolate sauce regardless and that we could fill the profiteroles and the big blobby one with vanilla ice cream instead of whipped cream.  The results were delicious.  Yorkshire Pud with chocolate sauce and ice cream perhaps, but delicious nevertheless.

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