Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Ashridge Cider - Devon Blush - Worth £15 a Pop?

I recently attended a really interesting Tasting Panel, hosted by the great magazine that is devoted purely to food and drink from Devon, Taste Buds.  We tried all sorts of Devon produce (ice creams, chutneys and ciders) but for me the stand-out product was the Ashridge Devon Blush Cider.  

It contains a dash of blackberry liqueur - it's presented as a Champagne bottle and is such a summery drink.  The perfect balance of fruitiness and apple and blackberry flavours without being cloying.  I have previously tried Polgoon, a sparkling rose Cornish cider, another premium product, but I definitely preferred the Devon Blush Cider.

 Priced at £30.24 for a double box including delivery - so it's not exactly a cheap alternative to a pint of Strongbow.  But for posh summer drinking (weddings?) it's a beautiful tipple.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Perfect Summer Loaf: Fougasse Made with a Bread Maker

...and I was pretty happy with the results. Delicious served alongside a Tapas-y lunch of olives, ripe summer tomatoes, Serrano ham and some rocket and salty cheese.  This is a traditional 'focaccia' type loaf originally from Provence in the South of France.  I like it's salty soft texture that is rich with olive oil.

I used dried 'Herbes de Provence' from a cloth bag.  They included some delicious sprinkles of fennel and lavender.


475g strong white flour
1.5 teasp salt
3 tbsp fresh chopped herbs / 1.5 teasp dried mixed herbs
1.25 teasp fast-action yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
250 ml water

Place in breadmaker.  Set to basic dough (This takes 2 hours in a Panasonic).
Form into two flat shapes and slit with knife.
Leave to rise for 30 mins.
Bake at 220 degrees Celsius or 8-10 mins.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on sea salt.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Making Strawberry Jam is Easy with the River Cottage Preserves Book by Pam Corbin

We picked a couple of kilos of strawberries at Netherton on the banks of the River Teign in Devon.  Their soft fruit season has been early this year and due to financial pressures, they're closing their Pick Your Own at the end of the season, which could be within a fortnight -so hurry to get your strawberries, tayberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants.

It took four of us about half an hour to pick this lot - I think it was roughly 2kg strawbs and 1kg raspberries and it came to just under £20.

I used my regular River Cottage Preserves book by Pam Corbin (£8.99 from Amazon).  A simple to follow recipe, with a few tried and tested tips e.g. plenty of lemon juice added to the strawberry jam and use of jam sugar (with added pectin to help it set).

I was tired, it was sunny and I wasn't really in the mood for a long-winded jam making session but Pam insisted that fresh fruit are essential.  So I started at 9pm when it got a bit cooler in my sun-baked kitchen.  By 10:30pm I had finished a whole batch of strawberry jam - about 10 jars and a more modest 3 jars of raspberry jam.

Stage 1: just in the pan

Stage 2: bringing to the boil

Stage 3: almost on the boil, starting to break up

Stage 4: Scary hot sugar rolling boil that unexpectedly rises up the pan at an alarming rate - help!

This batch should see us through the year to go with our breakfast scones and toast. I thoroughly recommend 'Pam the Jam's' no-nonsense approach to preserving.  She got me hooked into it (even when over-tired, hot and bothered and not really in the mood.)

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