Monday, 17 December 2012

The Lovely Lido Revisited!

We enjoyed Clifton lido so much in feb 2012 that we went back there in November.  We had lunch downstairs in the tapas bar, rather than upstairs in the restaurant. My personal favourite was the tortilla, Spanish omelette, and my partner was pleased to enjoy the scallops cooked in the wood oven, just like we had last time upstairs. The fresh bread, just still warm was incredible.

We also managed to do a few lengths in the pool, and spent a while in the sauna, steam room, shower and freezingcoldbucket area.

All exceptional!

I even met S. in the sauna who I was about to spend 48 hours with at the Penny Brohn Centre in Ham Green.  True coincidence.

The food was as yummy as I remember and the overall feel of the lido is very relaxed and quite luxurious at the same time.  I really like the new toiletries in the shower areas that are made by the Cowshed people but branded as Lido products. Nice smellies!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Cancer update

An update: I have now have had two operations to remove cancerous brain tumours.  I had an MRI scan yesterday and not yet had the result.  7 weeks of radiotherapy from 8 oct-23 nov to zap it into obliteration I think.  It is not how life was supposed to be but it is how it has turned out.  Shame for my food blogging and food crit as I was really enjoying it.  My poor parents are also having to deal with my brother in law who is worse than me with a similar thing. I would like to thank my husband and two kids for being superstars when life throws such a curve ball at us like this.  Thanks for your well wishes and I shall concentrate on getting better as advised!

18 December 2012
As of mid-December I have had 33 sessions of cranio-spinal radiotherapy and my third 'tumour' has shrunk by half to about 3mm in size and has not spread. All good news. So I am feeling nauseous and wobbly but optimistic. I will need another MRI of my brain and consultant appointment in late jan 2013 and probably will have a whole day of Stereotactic Radiotherapy under general anaesthetic.

How do I feel? Sick, tired and worried. But 10 times as good as I did in August. I wish I just felt completely fine and normal but hey...the photo is of Freya's birthday cake that she made herself as I was too grotty to make one. Another side effect has been totally going off food!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

They operated and removed a tumour.

Well, life's sort of changed really.

They did an emergency op and discovered a tumour, thinking it was a benign cyst.

This was only last week, I knew I had been feeling a bit off my food and a bit heady, putting it down to labyrinthitis.  Anyway, it seems that it seems they're doing the best for me and I'm having lots of care from wonderful people, but it seems to have thrown me off balance a bit.  Just when I thought I'd become a proper foodie.

Well, it's made me enjoy food again but just from a not cooking it perspective.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.  I thought about it all night and decided that although I didn't want to be all confessional, I needed to be honest. I'm having a MRI and spinal tomorrow so will know what radiotherapy I will need and I'll report back.

Lots of love.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Devon Pub Review: Railway Inn, Honiton

The Railway Inn came warmly recommended from fellow Devon food blogger, Countrywoodsmoke.  After dropping off our lovely huge goldfish, Speedy, at his house (to keep as a pet for his kids allegedly....he'd better not end up in the smoker.....) we went to the pub.  

The Railway Inn is just slightly off the beaten track about 5 minutes walk from the main shopping street in Honiton and we had to ask twice for directions (it's not that tricky but the first lady pointed us in the wrong direction!)

It was a fairly busy Saturday lunchtime but the staff were doing an admirable job.  We were presented with a bottle of filtered water and freshly baked olive and herb bread with a bowl of oil and vinegar within a few minutes of arrival - the very soft, warm dough was beautifully squidgy and we were really hungry so it was needed.  All four of us, two adults and two children, had difficulty choosing the food as there was so much on the menu that we fancied.  And that is quite a result for two children who can be a bit choosy when they want to be (one won't eat cheese, the other won't eat potato).

We chose the pate and a bowl of chips to share as a starter for the table.  Aren't we classy?  The chef is French and he puts a French / Mediterranean twist on some great quality Devon and Somerset produce.

 I chose to have two starters as my main as I couldn't decide between the small Fritto Misto –  and the Fragrant chicken Vietnamese Salad -with beansprouts, chinese leaf, carrots, spring onion, mint, toasted almonds, confit ginger & spicy sesame dressing.
This salad was pretty good but the dressing was a bit too sweet and plentiful for my taste.

My 'starter size' fritto misto had a delicious fishcake, whitebait, a small piece of white fish and plenty of squid.  Loved it.

My son went for the Proper Fritto Misto –Trio of Crispy fried sustainable fish with proper chips (£12.95).  The fish were really well cooked and the batter was delicious, my son loved the King Prawn (or was it a langoustine - it was eaten so quickly it was hard to tell) and the white fish but wasn't so keen on the battered mackerel.  This photo makes it look quite small, but it wasn't!
 The other two had the award-winning pizzas (£10.95) and ate every morsel.  Pictured is the beef and chorizo version.
My personal favourites were the pate, the bread, the fried fish and the chips.  My tiny quibble was just that the chicken salad dressing was a bit too sweet and plentiful.
 We were sadly too full up for pudding, but we were given a handful of jelly babies on the saucer with the bill, which was a parting gift to make us all smile.

Great atmosphere, a chef and staff who know what they are doing with some great quality ingredients in a relaxed, family-friendly setting.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Hugh Recipe Booklets Free this Weekend..7-8 July 2012

I am a big fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his commitment to ethical, simple, local food (plus he's based in Devon, just about).  This is a bit of a heads up as there are going to be two free booklets this Sat and Sun (7 and 8 July 2012) with The Telegraph containing 40 recipes from his River Cottage Veg Every Day book.

I have bought the book for my veggie sister but I haven't committed to it myself, possibly due to the fact that my two huge shelves of cookbooks are groaning and it's now a matter of 'one in one out'.  Two small booklets should fit in nicely.

Find out more and preview recipes at

Monday, 25 June 2012

Dartington Ways with Words Festival, 6-16 July 2012

Ways with Words  is a literature festival that is usually just slightly off my radar.  I'm not sure why as I'm a regular visitor to Totnes, the local town next to Dartington.  I spot a leaflet or poster for the event and then forget about it.  This year I've actually got a ticket to see Ziyad Marar in a talk entitled 'Searching for Intimacy' which sounds fascinating.  It probably wouldn't have been my first choice - but so many fantastic speakers coincided with important events at my son's school or doctor's appointments!  I was rather gutted that I couldn't go to see some of the foodie speakers:  Three Hungry Boys, Tom Parker Bowles, Alex James and Monty Halls are all appearing plus Kim Sayer who'll be talking about setting up the Cornworthy allotments in Devon.

So many writers that I would love to go and see: Hilary Mantel, Siri Hustevdt, A C Grayling, Helen Dunmore, Fay Weldon, Jung's amazing how many great people that will be there.

Dartington Hall is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit even when there isn't a literature fest going on.  It's a not-for-profit charitable foundation with an illustrious arty past.  It now has a pub, restaurant and newly renovated hotel rooms (not so glowingly reviewed in last Saturday's Guardian by Sally Shalam.)  I'm a huge fan of the on-site Barn cinema -  small barrel shaped room showing non-Hollywood films. It sometimes turns itself into a music venue - the famous Dartington International Music School and hosted a wondeful gig last year when local band Metronomy played in the Great Hall.  We've even cycled around it with our kids.  The overall feel of the place is a little bit community country manor and a lot Oxford college with quadrangles.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Devon Cafe Review: Cafe Ode, Shaldon - Sustainable & Stunning

Cafe Ode has opened at the top of the car park on the high point in Shaldon, South Devon, known as The Ness.  The man responsible is Tim Bouget, chef-owner of Ode restaurant just down the road in Shaldon village.  His eco-credentials are very high - he won the national award 2012 for Sustainable Restaurant of the Year (runners up River Cottage and Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons!) and has renovated the old stable buildings in a sympathetic yet ultra-modern way.  

 At the moment there are loads of refectory style benches and tables outside and one table inside (very similar to the ones at Eden Project and Town Mill Bakery, Lyme Regis).  Within a month there will be indoor seating and a huge sunshade over part of the terrace.

 The food and drink is very high quality - wonderful ice creams (the raspberry sorbet is heavenly and so is the butterscotch ice cream) in tasty proper wafer cones but the prices are kept low to keep the customers flowing through.  The food kind of 'rolls out' - there's no fixed menu (maybe there will be later?) but there's a chalkboard where specials appear throughout the day, a bacon and chilli jam bap for elevenses with a square of sticky homemade gingercake, and then a couple of hours later a platter of Devon produce or a salmon and potato salad...and proper fish and chips in the early evening.  

 I haven't yet tried the fish and chips, but I saw the fish guy delivering the (line caught in the Lyme Bay) fish and it looked wonderful.

This place has got to be a top priority for summer dining at any time of the day.  Views, great value, lovely staff, beaches on the doorstep and great food.  Simple really.

Open 10am - 7pm.  Closed Tuesdays

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

I Love The Lizard, Cornwall

This is my 100th blog post.  Wow.  I was delighted to write my first piece for the Guardian about great places to eat on a budget in North Devon.  Busy busy.  To celebrate I'm going to indulge in a couple of photos of one of my favourite places in the world: The Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall.  These places are all within about 10 miles of each other.
 This is The Lizard Point, the most southerly part of mainland England.  I met a friendly forager here who tempted us to nibble a couple of the local plants.  From this position there were about seven different wild edible plants within four feet of us.
 This is Mullion harbour


The archetypally Cornish fishing village of Cadgwith.  Beautiful thrift in the foreground.

It is beautiful, rugged, remote and  just a very relaxing place to be.  

I have previously described some of my favourite things to eat there including the sinfully divine Hope's Cinnamon and Pecan Buns, Polpeor Cafe and Ann's Pasties, but actually you can't beat a little rustic picnic featuring Hope's gruyere and cumin bread, spiced pears, Helford Blue cheese (plus Tesco olives, Cornwall haven't got around to producing those....yet)

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Pipers Farm - Ethical, Tasty Mail Order Meat from Devon

I have been hearing a lot about Pipers Farm.  They've been recommended by Rick Stein and won countless awards.  These Devon farmers certainly seem to know what they're talking about.    Everything is slowly matured and hung for a good long time in order to maximise the flavour of the meat, the animal breeds are traditional and the feed, maintenance and slaughtering seem to be above 'Organic' standards.

Their website has an awful lot of stuff on it.  I was a bit confused when I tried to add the 'Easy Selection' Family Survival Pack into my basket and yet when I clicked on the items e.g Streaky bacon or Chicken Korma to select them it returned the message that the item wasn't available.  I'm sure this is just a glitch.  They offer a great service, a money-back guarantee on all their products and next day delivery when ordered before 4pm.  Free delivery once a fortnight to Bristol and free delivery to most of Devon.

I received a package of mixed meat and ready meals to sample and overall I was very impressed.  The packaging took a bit of getting used to.  For instance, the chicken breasts stuffed with pesto had all been 'blast-frozen' (ie frozen immediately) in separate plastic bags and then all placed within one large plastic bag.  My initial reaction that this was a surplus of packaging, but when my son decided he didn't want one, I was able to just take three out of the four out and leave one for another day.  The instructions say that if you don't have time to let the meat defrost naturally, each pack can be placed in a bowl of cool water for half hour and can then be cooked immediately.  I didn't mind trying this for the lamb steaks and beef steaks, but for the chicken I chose to let them defrost completely - I'm too risk-averse!

To cook this tenderloin I used Fay Ripley's Recipe, served alongside chilli spinach - the family loved it

The steak, pork and lamb were excellent: extremely tasty, tender and succulent - certainly no harm done during the freezing process.  I did give them a very thorough dry off with kitchen roll before grilling them as they were a little damp when they came straight from the bag - there's nothing worse than getting your pan sizzling and ending up with a semi-boiled piece of steak that doesn't go properly brown and crusty on the outside.

The pesto chicken was good - not as oily as supermarket pesto - I think it was made with cashews rather than pine nuts which was a nice change.  My daughter preferred it cold in a sandwich. The chicken breasts looked attractive tied up with string with a single herb stem.

It's tricky to make sausages photogenic?!

The pies were pretty good - it may have been my oven setting but when I followed the cooking instructions, the pastry lids were all lifted off a bit and lots of the filling overflowed, but they were tasty and I loathe making pastry so this was a welcome short cut.

My least favourite item was the venison sausages -  but my husband loved them.  There were large pieces of fat speckled throughout the sausage and that's fine in chorizo or salami, but I prefer cooked hot sausages to not have visible lumps of fat.  Luckily my other half is less fussy and was happy to have all the leftovers.

Overall it was interesting to try out some ready meals from a quality producer.  I have always preferred fresh meat from the butcher's rather than the frozen variety but Pipers Farm have won me over

Friday, 4 May 2012

Devon Cafe Review: The Clipper, Shaldon

Several years ago the Clipper Cafe at Shaldon used to be a little bit, shall we say, the wrong side of grotty.  Not shabby or full of character, just a bit past its sell by date.  It closed down a couple of years ago and has just opened after a serious revamp.  Wow.  They have really gone to town.  It is now enormous with outdoor seating on two levels and two really spacious eating areas inside.  So far I've only sampled a cup of tea and delicious home made heart-shaped shortbread, but it's definitely going to become a regular haunt.  I'm dreaming of eating crab sandwiches with a chilled glass of white (yep, they're licensed) in the summer on the patio overlooking the Teign estuary.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Giveaway: A case of Radcliffe's Wines and Ashburton Fish Deli Smoked Fish

I am rather excited about my first ever giveaway on my blog.  It's quite an impressive one too.
One lucky winner will receive: 
a mixed case of white and rosé wines from Radcliffe's Wines (worth £94)
a selection of Devon and Cornish smoked fish from Ashburton Fish Deli (worth approximately £20)
The prize will be delivered to the door of a mainland UK address.

Radcliffe's Wines are an online wine merchant specialising in twelve Old World wines that perfectly complement fine food.  They have specifically chosen a selection of wines that will be very palate-pleasing when quaffed with the smoked fish. Radcliffe’s mission is to share how important it is to experiment with
pairing food and wine and to appreciate that so many wines are simply better when tasted with fabulous dishes.

Ashburton Fish Deli are much more than an award-winning fish and seafood supplier.  They pride themselves on their gourmet selection of fine home-cooked seafood products such as their bouillabaisse and crabcakes that are made on the premises.  The shop is bulging with all sorts of fishy products of which at least 70% is local, often from the South Devon waters. They are based not far from me in South Devon in the beautiful old market town of Ashburton on the edge of Dartmoor.

To win this amazing prize:

1. Essential: Click on the Rafflecopter widget below which will keep a record of your entries and perform the draw.  You can do one or all of these: comment on this blog by telling me what SW food or drink you love, mention this giveaway on Twitter, follow @grazingkate or @radcliffeswines on Twitter, 'Like' Radcliffe's Wines on Facebook.  
3. Each blog comment, tweet or 'like' on Facebook counts as one entry so you can enter multiple times 
3. Closing Date 
7am 30 April 2012 
4. Competition open to all mainland UK residents aged 18 or over

5. Winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Best Seaside Fish and Chips in Devon?

It was a seriously windy, yet sunny day when we visited Slapton.  We haven't been down that way for a couple of years, but it's a wonderful sweep of sand and an incredibly historic site in terms of what happened during Exercise Tiger in the 2nd World War.  There are also great bird watching opportunities at the Slapton Ley end (the largest freshwater lake in the SW!)  Even as amateurs, we spotted quite a few interesting ones (er...their names escape me!) over the course of fifteen minutes.

At the far western end of the beach is the small village of Torcross.  I had asked the gurus of Twitter where to have lunch in that neck of the woods and the resounding answer was to try the fish and chips at the Start Bay Inn, Torcross.

We visited the Sherman tank memorial and then crossed the road to the pub.  You can't make reservations, the tables are quite crammed in and this Sunday lunchtime it was packed and noisy, but felt very friendly and full of good cheer.  Plenty of locals on all sides.  All four of us ordered the fish and chips.  Three of us ordered the 'small' for £5.70 and greedy husband ordered the 'medium' haddock which was about £1 more.  And mushy peas all round.

We were delighted that the 'small' was tremendous value and actually cheaper than a lot of fish and chip take aways.  The chips were 'fine' - sorry that might be a bit mean.  There was nothing wrong with them, but my heart always belongs to proper home made irregular sized slightly overcooked and preferably crinkle cut chips like my Dad makes.  But these were standard pub-type chips that most people seem to be happy with.  The mushy peas were OK- I doubt if they were home made, but they were good accompaniments.  As for the fish: the haddock was fantastic.  Really super fresh white fish, perfectly cooked in a delectably light batter.  The batter was perfectly crispy, tasty and light.  We were in fish and chip heaven.

My verdict:  certainly the best fried fish I've had in Devon, they could do with stocking Heinz ketchup on the tables (rather than those plastic catering packs of vinegary sauce), and if they could rope in my father to make the chips, then it'd be perfect.

Update, Aug 2015 - Finn McCools on Teignmouth sea front do very good fish and chips - you have the option of taking them away and sitting on the sea front or dining in (good for rubbish weather).

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: Hotel Chocolat: Your Eggscellency Extra Thick Easter Egg

Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a Your Eggscellency™ Extra Thick Easter Egg.  

The packaging was beautiful, almost a mini hat box, with a luxury black ribbon tied around it.  I have previously criticised HC for their excessive packaging, but this time I was won over. Not as much plastic as there was last year. A couple of months ago I was seriously underwhelmed by the HC Advent Calendar, but this li'l baby ticked all the boxes.  Exciting packaging, thick chocolate in two colours and inside, 12 liqueur chocs: Champagne truffle was my fave, followed by the Mojito and then the Bison Grass Vodka. 

One side of the shell was half milk and the other half plain chocolate.  I really liked that - I am a fan of both and it was nice to take a bite of each.  It was indeed very thick chocolate that I rather liked.  You could really bite into it and hear it snap - you don't get that with a Cadburys Egg.  

This sizeable egg costs a sizeable £26

Friday, 30 March 2012

Foodie Penpals - The UK Version - My Scrummy Parcel

I heard through the blogging grapevine that Rock Salt was arranging a Foodie Penpals scheme, based on the idea of the US blogger The Lean Green Bean .

Each person is allocated a penpal and sends them a parcel of food based items to the value of about £10 and you get sent one from someone else.

My parcel randomly and bizarrely came from Chilli and Chai.  Now I have to declare an interest....Chilli and Chai is a Devon mate of mine anyway so I felt secretly pleased that she would know the kind of stuff I liked and my hopes were certainly fulfilled.

 What a whole heap of wickedly interesting, quirky and cool food from Devon and beyond she had amassed:

A pat of smoked goats milk butter, goats milk from Pitmans Farm, smoked by Country Wood Smoke

Homemade oatcakes (using the goats butter) - these were fantastic and I was really touched that she had made me something - and a combination of three different Devon foodies' creative endeavours.

Montezuma's chocolate - two bars!

A carton of totally weird soya milk stuff that looks like Ribena but obviously isn't,

Thai soup paste - that'll definitely come in handy

and probably my joint favourite (with the oatcakes) a jar of Bacon Jam - after reading Eat Like a Girl's recipe, I have been very keen to try some of this.

Plus a heap of wild garlic

and to fulfil her 'chilli and chai' legacy:

Some sachets of Pukka Chai tea (ones I hadn't tried before - hoorah)
Some mega scary 1 million scoville chillis - bit worried about them - will I just need one square millimetre for an entire curry?

What an amazing parcel of very thoughtful produce.  Thanks, to my lovely foodie penpal!

I sent this parcel of stuff to Cider with Sophie - I hope she liked it.  I enjoyed putting it together with some of my homemade chutney, lemon curd, muffins, my own blend of Ras-al-hanout spice blend, Lahloo tea, Devon fruit leather, a vinegar 'starter' and other random stuff.

This scheme is becoming a regular event, so go here if you fancy taking part, (whether you have a blog or not) and please leave a comment if you also received a parcel so I can visit and take a look.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Dartmouth Circular Walk + Lunch at Alf Resco

On a recent crisply freezing but bright blue day, we avoided the difficulties in finding parking spaces in Dartmouth by heading to the National Trust owned car park at Little Dartmouth.  You don't really need to consult a map as it's pretty straightforward, but if you did, this is quite useful.

Head straight down to the coastal path and meet that glorious blue sea edged with cliffs and lush pasture.  It's a great walk to do as a family.  There is coastal path, a wooden bridge, a steep hill to run helter-skelter down, optional beaches, a castle and then just as your legs are getting weary and your mouth in need of refreshment, you hit Dartmouth.

 Dartmouth is an upmarket harbour town with lots of shops selling 'gorgeous things, dahling', but it is undeniably picturesque and has some good eateries.We were muddy and in walking boots so not feeling in the mood for anything too snazzy, so we popped into Cafe Alf Resco which fitted the bill nicely.  Inside is very dark and very busy, full of families having late breakfasts / brunches, plenty of sauce bottles on tables and most people indulging in bacon of some variety.  My son and I opted for bacon sarnies which were excellent, large, good fresh bread and plenty of filling.

My daughter had the smoked salmon scrambled eggs which she  thought were fine, but not amazing.

A good re-fuelling stop, but they had committed the cardinal oar facing me with the immortal words 'Live Laugh Love'.  This cliched phrase is like a fingernail going down a blackboard.  It makes me squirm with embarrassment.  If you are also someone who finds this phrase intensely irritating, read this McSweeney's open letter that will make you  'Live, Laugh, Love'  giggle.

We had a quick mooch around the shops (Damn, I could only find about 129 items that had the 'L, L, L' phrase printed on them, but not the perfect one for my bedroom mantelpiece) and then headed back towards the car.

The route is shorter on the way back, but has a bit of an epic hill to climb: be warned if you have whingey kids, you might need a pocket full of sweets for that bit.  The entire circular walk is about 5.5 miles but the half way stop off in Dartmouth makes it seem far shorter.  You could spend a whole day doing this and incorporate a visit to the historic Dartmouth Castle, or pause for a river boat trip.  We managed the whole thing with lunch and shopping in about 4.5 hours.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The New Forge, Chagford: Cafe Review

Chagford, a lovely village on the edge of Dartmoor and home not only to the very upmarket Gidleigh Park Hotel and Restaurant, but to the best hardware shop most people have ever visited, Webber & Sons.  I have previously reviewed Gidleigh Park here, but one day I shall devote a whole month of blog posts to Webber & Sons - there is SO MUCH STUFF in that shop.  Ask the owners for just about anything.  They've got it.  Last time we were there we needed:

1. A new oven lightbulb
2. A cheese board
3. A copy of the Guardian
4. Some socks
5. Some indoor fireworks

Yep.  They had the lot. No problemo.

Once you've spent an hour and a half in Webber & Sons, I can wholeheartedly recommend this Devon cafe, just across The Square is The New Forge.  I love places that serve the kind of food I like to eat, but slightly better than I can (be bothered to) cook it at home.  

Bright, pink walls, huge windows, relaxed atmosphere, friendly service.   

 There are changing daily specials on a blackboard, excellent cappuccinos, a most enormous and lardy and delicious Welsh Rarebit.  On this day, I had the delicious monkfish fishcakes that were enormous and served with South Devon Chilli Farm jam and a good salad.  My folks in the background had a rather rustic chicken and bacon stew that was really tasty and peasanty (in a good way) - and such a generous portion, I don't think they could finish it.
 Another time I have had their Roast Beetroot and Butternut Squash Lasagne which was delicious, fresh and again, very filling.  This is somewhere I'd gladly re-visit as they have some great regular dishes e.g. the lasagne and rarebit, plus interesting Specials, great coffee and cakes that I have never had room for!  Booking advisable - sometimes they are very busy and we have been turned away.  Closed Mon and Tues. Open for breakfasts and lunches.

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