Thursday, 26 May 2011

Devon Book Review: A Taste of the Unexpected by Mark Diacono

Just a quick post to express how much pleasure I got from reading this wonderful book.  The experts on Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4 a few weeks ago were quick to dismiss people's desire to grow 'weird' vegetables - apparently white carrots are tasteless and some of the more extravagantly coloured vegetables often fail to thrive and are generally a waste of time.  So that's that, I thought, don't bother with all that fancy schmancy stuff in my veg patch.  Then...along comes this book by Mark Diacono.  He's one of Hugh's River Cottage experts, runs courses there and grows at Otter Farm near Honiton.

I unreservedly love this book because:

a) there aren't any pictures of the author posing artfully either with cleverly positioned 'mud' on knees or flour on cheek, or smiling winsomely at his prize veg with shabby chic decor in the background and old enamel mug

b) he actually took all the photos of the gardens and veg inside the book (repect!)

c) it also has recipes - some of which are a bit fancy, but some plain and easy

d) he really inspired me to experiment - hell, why not grow apricots, goji berries, szechuan pepper in our back gardens / window boxes

e) only one cute picture of child in a garden (I am really naffed off with cookery / lifestyle writers getting their kids involved in photoshoots)

f) loved his ethos of 'grow expensive/ unbuyable produce' rather than onions, potatoes, carrots type stuff

So, let's grow and eat day lilies - this was a fab bit of advice as I was sat outside next to my sprouting day lilies while I was reading this bit.  I reached over, snapped off a flower bud and it did indeed taste a bit like a French bean but with a slight chilli kick.  How naughty and lovely.  Eating flowers. Nasturtiums are budding so I shall be sprinkling them on my salads, deep frying  day lilies and planning how to fit an apricot into our full-the-brim garden.  And definitely some Egyptian Walking Onions (what a name!).  And possibly some Japanese wineberries just so I can make the delicious sounding Japanese Wineberry Trifle.

He's also got a really good blog.  I have a new foodie hero and, what's more, he's a Devon lad!

And this is our vege patch at the moment- not a gojiberry in sight.

And I had to include a picture of our Angelica (yes that green twiggy crystalline stuff that no-one has put on a cupcake even ironically since the 70s) which has turned into a beanstalk - it was 6ft tall until it keeled over in the wind.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sticky Pecan Big Buns from Cornwall - Hope's Bread

These are worthy of a blog post all to themselves.  I'm not supposed to eat nuts, so I picked them all off and passed them to my other half, so used my imagination to add them to the overall delight of these sticky, enormous, calorific, doughy wonderful delicacies.  Bearing no real resemblance to a French Pain aux Raisins, these little beauties have soft sticky thick toffee sandwiching the soft spiral together and then slightly harder, more toffee-apple crunchy bits in places.  £1 - total bargain - these are big buns! No wonder I put on weight when I visit Cornwall!

We were lucky enough to be in Cornwall at the right time for the Gweek Food and Craft Fair at Easter.  They seem to have one at Easter and one over the August Bank Holiday.  Next one is Bank Holiday Monday 29 August  2011.

 The village hall where it is held may be small, but it's packed with fantastic local food producers like Sargies (puds, meringues and lemon curd); Treveador Farm Dairy, producers of Helford White, possibly my favourite cheese in the world;  and the wonderful Hope's Bread.  Hope's produce can be found at most West Cornwall Farmer's Markets during the week and at other special events - see the website  Here's the lovely Hope of Hope's Bread who makes the splendid sticky cinnamon buns....oh and just a few different types of bread (the lavender and honey bread is yummy as toast, and the olive focaccia was the perfect accompaniment to lunch outside in the sun with a glass of wine):

All the producers were located within a few miles of Gweek, a small creekside village famous for its Seal Sanctuary (Top Tip: Use your Tesco Clubcard vouchers to pay for entry fees) and near the town of Helston.  See you there on August Bank Holiday!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Foodfinder SW - New Mobile App - Out Today 10 May 2011! iPhone Envy...

I would be really excited about this App...if only I had an sounds absolutely ideal for anyone who lives in the South West or travelling around in this beautifully food-rich area.

It does all the hard work for you and finds local, top notch food in the vicinity and will give you directions on how to get there.  It incorporates food producers and sellers who are part of the Taste of the West group - an organisation that is fantastic at promoting our bounteous wares.

It's also FREE!  If only I had an iPhone.  I'm waiting until my current Nokia dies and then maybe....

The App was officially launched today at Darts Farm, near Topsham (one of my favourite foodie places to visit- the Food Hall, Fish Shed and cafe are wonderful, just make sure you've taken a tranquiliser before you enter Fired Earth, or the prices might make you keel over)

For further information (rather than envious lusting), Foodfinder SW App can be downloaded from the iPhone App Store or you can visit 

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