Monday, 27 February 2012

Devon's Healthier Alternative to Olive Oil: Bell & Loxton Rapeseed Oil

I tried to buy a bottle of this Bell & Loxton Rapeseed Oil a couple of weeks ago at Darts Farm, and they were out of stock, so it was just good luck that I happened to meet the growers at a Taste Buds Magazine event a few days later at Twenty Six cafe.  John and Rachel Bell, the producers, are a lovely couple and seem to be passionate about their oil.  They were kind enough to send me a sample to try out.  I warned them that I only tend to blog about things that I genuinely use and like - I'm not in the blogging business to be cynical or untruthful....they were confident enough that I would be won over.
The oil can be bought in glass or aluminium bottles.  The metal ones are rather stylish with a beautiful graphic design on the label.  The gold detail of the label really evokes the glow of the bright yellow crops in the summer.  I'm happier to keep this on the kitchen work surface than my rather boring plastic bottle of Tesco Olive Oil. And interestingly this is where the Bells are pitching their product.  This is a Devon-grown cold-pressed oil that is comparable to a good olive oil, but wait for this, with even more of the right Omega 3,6 and 9 and half the saturated fat of olive oil.

I straight away dipped some sour dough bread in to the oil.  It wasn't overly strong tasting but had a faint nuttiness and sweetness.  Although I'm a die hard butter user for toast, I tend to drizzle olive oil on sandwiches as I feel that butter is wasted in a sandwich.  So, overnight this oil has become my new 'healthy' butter.

It's also good for frying and roasting - the smoking point must be high enough as it coped really well with a delicious (modified from Jamie) tray bake of salmon and 'what ever veg I had in the fridge and freezer'.  I'm not sure if it was the natural sugars from the peas or the cooked lemon zest, but there was a definite overall light sweetness to the finished dish that we all enjoyed. Photo shows it prior to going in the oven.
It's getting to the point where we can almost stock our entire basic kitchen store cupboard with Devon produce.  I wish John and Rachel the best of luck with their top notch Devon product which certainly won me over, and I look forward to trying the new additions to the range later in the year.

Stocked locally at Shaldon Bakery, Powderham Country Store, Ullacombe Farm Shop , Devon branches of Waitrose and at least forty other locations.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Lazy Toad at Brampford Speke nr Exeter: Best Paprika Pork Scratchings Ever!

It was my husband’s birthday so we headed out for lunch.  My dentist (thanks, Kieran!) recommended trying The Lazy Toad for its excellent food.  It’s located in an incredibly peaceful village, Brampford Speke just outside Exeter just a short way along the A377 Crediton road.  It looks like it would be a wonderful spot for a weekend summer lunch – plenty of brightly painted outdoor tables and no passing traffic.
Inside is all slate floors, oak beams, pine tables, a couple of giant lazy toads, a cheeky dog and a wood burner.

First of all we ordered a snack of homemade paprika pork scratchings to nibble with a pint of Lazy Toad  in front of the fire.  Bliss.  This was an incredibly generous portion of salty, lardy, unhealthy and incredibly tasty nibbles that we devoured.
I opted for no main course (er, but remember that half a kilo of pork scratchings...) and just had a starter of Potted Crab with Sourdough and a Crab Cappuccino (£7.95).  The cup of crab bisque was soothing and tasty.  The ramekin of crab was cleverly seasoned with a hint of tarragon, fresh and perfect for lunch.  
Neil went all out for the Calves Liver with Mash and Pancetta (£10.50).  His portion, sorry, the portion was enormous.  Just his idea of a perfect birthday treat.  He enjoyed every last morsel.
For pudding I chose Mulled Wine Poached Pears with Meringue and Creme Anglaise.  I was a bit perplexed to find it brought to the table with no meringue, and a chocolate brownie instead!  The kitchen swiftly apologised and explained that some, but not all, of the menus had a mis-print.  They quickly brought me out a meringue as well.  Result!  Pictured below is the rather good Cinnamon Spiced Pannacotta with Shortbread and Rum Soaked Figs.  The cinnamon worked brilliantly.

I really liked the atmosphere of this pub.  It’s a gastro-pub but without any kind of pretentious attitude or prices.  The food is great, the staff easy-going and friendly.  Apparently, and unsurprisingly, it gets very busy at weekends and you need to book, but for a mid-week lunchtime treat when you want a kind of archetypal Devon pub with gorgeous grub rather than frozen fodder, this is your place.  They even have a wonky fairground mirror outside the ladies loo, which gave us both a giggle.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bristol Lido - A Stolen Day & My New Favourite Place

My husband and I stole a day today.  With children safely at school in South Devon, we headed to Bristol primarily to visit Bristol Lido for lunch, secondarily to stroll around and buy CDs, clothes from Yumi and generally have a day to ourselves.

When you hear lots of good stuff about a place, you just don't want to be disappointed.  A couple of friends had recommended, Tripadvisor has good reviews...I used to go there as a child...we were driving nearly two hours to get there... would it live up to expectations?

The kitchen has an impressive wood-fired oven blazing away, which the chefs really make the most of. 

Our starter was Wood Roast Scallops with Sweet Herb and Garlic Butter.  Mopped up with some hunks of rustic bread - this was heavenly and infused with tarragon.

 My husband had a good dish of tagliatelli with pheasant - very pleasant pheasant, creamy and competent, but he was jealous of my choice for sure. I had Wood Roast Sole with Seville Orange Butter Sauce and Crispy Capers.

 A huge piece of beautifully cooked fish that was crispy, citrusy and had a wonderful and unusual taste - really powerful and not the usual gentle treatment of fish - I loved its boldness.  The waiter was charming and totally on-the-ball.  I asked what the green veg was and they were a form of Italian turnip tops - I had assumed they were sorrel.  They went really well with the fish and capers.  There is an artist at work in this kitchen - they don't just bung things on a plate and hope for the best - they think, taste and actually want the diner to have an 'experience'.  Yes, this is indeed what we want!  I want my tastebuds to tingle and to feel excited by a dish.

I wolfed down the homemade Chocolate and Stout Ice Cream without taking a decent photo - which shows that it was very good.  I couldn't taste the stout - but it was creamy and smooth.

I used to swim here when I was a teenager, OK, I'm not that old, but it did look something like this (only we had colour in the 80s).

The new renovation has made it a wonderful space and the fantastic food is the proverbial 'icing on the cake' - I would  have lurved to have a spa / swim / sauna / massage but that was not on the cards today.  So we had lunch in the upstairs restaurant overlooking the pool.  It's a bit of a voyeuristic experience watching the swimmers.

Now a note on Teignmouth where I live, we have an open air pool and we all call it the Lie-doe, but in Bristol it appears they use the more correct Italian Lee-doe.  Lie-doe, Lee-doe?  Who cares?  The food's amazing, it's a great relaxing space and I can't wait to return.  Very soon. Without the children.

Price-wise: lunch is £15 for two courses and £20 for three, and there is also a scrummy sounding tapas menu.  There are 'deals' that include a swim/sauna/hot tub and meal.

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