Tuesday, 29 September 2015

A Day at River Cottage

Last Wednesday I was very lucky to get the opportunity to spend a day at the iconic River Cottage in beautiful Axminster, in East Devon. After watching the original TV show originally headlined by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for many years, since the beginning really, to get the chance to spend a day there was really one of those golden ticket moments! I had it penciled in my diary for what seemed months and even more luckily managed to tie it in with a few days holiday with my auntie, so the night before unsurprisingly I didn't sleep very well, think I was a bit too excited perhaps!

The actual River Cottage itself is a 17th century traditional long house, which was somewhat derelict 9 years ago but has been lovingly restored by the team there and the certified organic smallholding farm now has around 16,000 visitors a year! Within its 90,000 acres of land there's a mixture of livestock,fruit and vegetables, plus flowers and herbs, all for use within the farm's employees and visitors. There's now a wind turbine to generate energy and they use well water only, along with some special reed system for waste disposal.. Its all about sustainability, and what they can't produce comes from local farms. There is also now under the River Cottage banner a number of 'canteen's' (I had a rhubarb fumble last year which was quite divine!)  and the on site cookery school and courses which holds a whole host of things to do from foraging to fishy feasts, oh a restaurant for special occasions and you can arrange corporate events. Something for everyone!

I am lucky enough where we are in Surrey to be a little bit rural but part of me does crave the River Cottage, sustainable farming lifestyle, though I am not sure physically my body could manage so much to have my own farm! Despite not living anywhere near Devon, it has always held a very special place in my heart, having been lucky enough to have family in Devon, I have had many a holiday there! I grew up knowing neighbouring farms and opportunities to see happy livestock and it was a joy to see the happy animals at River Cottage, and of course the rather stunning views!

Our day was a mixture of food styling - cooking - eating and a tour of the River Cottage farm. A good day in all! Crop rotation is in full force and I learned why there are flowers tucked in with the veggies -  its all part of the organic pest control, with the flowers attracting the birds n bugs they will hopefully leave the good stuff for us humans to enjoy!

The beautiful grounds and kitchen garden at River Cottage - I so want one of those gorgeous swing seats in a future garden! The gorgeous orange hue of the pumpkins also reminds my halloween is coming around fast - where has this year gone?!

Our Food styling workshop was run by the lovely Lucy from Capture by Lucy - its a new blog for me too devour her beautiful photography and I picked up a lot of tips and advice - hopefully it will improve my own photos, especially with the dreaded winter light coming! I did get a bit concerned over finding out red is hard to photo on white... I may have bought just  the night before a new set of crockery which is er, red and white! We shall see!!

Among the photos below you will spot some rather unusual coloured yellow raspberries - they are known as 'All gold' and as they look 'unripe' the birds leave them alone! They are lovely though and I was glad the birds had left us plenty as my group devoured their fair share of them!

After the tour of the farm and building up a good appetite we enjoyed a lovely, very tasty lunch of Dexter beef ravioli with an end of the summer vegetable stew - the beef was unctuous and so, so tasty! Followed by a heavenly pudding of vanilla icecream with roasted damsons, crmble and fennel infused meringues! Despite really needing a nap after all that lovely food it was time to make my very own soda bread and butter with the group head chef Gill Mellor- I added violets, rosemary and fennel seeds to the butter - it was so easy, if a little joyously messy to make, definitely something to do now I am back home! It was really good to be able to make butter from scratch and use the leftover buttermilk to make the bread! 

Though a slight interval for me ended up getting to ride in HFW's red land rover to go and move my car! I thought the ride down hill in the tractor trailer was kinda fun but the ride up in the land rover holding onto the seat for dear life beat it hands down for saying my prayers!

So after a non stop whirlwind of a day it was time to say a fond farewell - fortunately the sat nav made a smoother journey on the home run compared to the mornings 30 minute detour via Dorset! It really was a thoroughly enjoyable day and despite my shyness I did enjoy meeting and talking to lots of lovely bloggers!

Many thanks to Foodies 100 and River Cottage!

You can check out some other blogs of the day over at:

Disclaimer: I received my ticket free with no obligation to write a positive review

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

River Cottage here I come!

Sorry for a few days absence - this picture explains why I can barely turn on the pc:

Yes I am on holiday at long last! I am staying with wonderful family ahead of a super exciting trip the River Cottage in Devon tomorrow morning! I have insomnia at the best of times so tonight's sleep will be very interesting!! The sat nav after half an hour of downloading and re-downloaded is ready and raring to go, I have the thermos ready to fill at the crack of dawn and off I go!!

Whilst mostly I have been admiring the view, I have been doing some successful cooking too, following last week's digestive issues - I've made a seafood Thai curry, Seabass with tomato and fennel butter which was heavenly and last but not least a batch of Sweet Potato and Spiced rum brownies for my Aunties bake sale for Macmillan - am hoping to take part myself too when I eventually have to return back to normality!

I will report back soon with all the news from River Cottage and hopefully some lovely photos and food to share too!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

This weeks eating and making and shopping!

Sorry I went a bit absent again..my fibromyalgia flared a bit last week following a migraine, resulting in a weekend of exhaustion, along with a hideous bout of heartburn that had me having to fork out £10 for an emergency prescription of my old acid meds.. I bloomin hate taking tablets but I think its been brewing a while despite trying to be super good with my diet and even drinking less wine so maybe they are for the long haul...so as you can have guessed by now not much cooking actually happened or even eating!

Thankfully five days on, the meds have kicked in and I had a cheeky glass of red last night, that didn't seem to cause to many issues! I don't normally choose Pinot Noir but Aldi kindly sent me a bottle and for a change I really liked theirs so much I would buy it again! A convert! Am normally a Shiraz kinda gal so quite a shift for me! Its light, perfectly complemented our dinner and easy enough on its own to drink too.

Despite having a tiny, awful kitchen with 3 cupboards and an overflowing store room I still cannot resist the odd culinary purchase - and after spotting these cute red little ramekins for a mere pound how I could I not purchase them?!

Please excuse the hideous photo but I had to share with you my joy of discovering mini tortilla wraps! I always make such a mess with the regular ones and these mini ones are perfect! We had them stuffed with spicy chicken, peppers and lots of cheese! Should of had guacamole too but the naughty avocadoes which took over a week to ripen, also went black!

They make awesome mini pizzas too!

Last but not least, we had a leaving do in my new office - our lovely manager has gone on maternity leave and we all brought in our favourites - I made sausage rolls, half were lined with English mustard and the other half ploughmans chutney - they vanished in no time and I should have made more in hindsight as they were so tasty!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Ham Hock, Mustard & Macaroni Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Making Macaroni cheese is a regular meal in our house, its easy, delicious and is that all round comfort food I remember fondly growing up - don't tell mum but it was her best dish by far too! What's honestly better than an oozing bowl of golden flecked cheese loaded pasta?! With this particular version I kept it very simple - its cooked all in one pan - always a winner when there is less washing up - and made a few little extra additions in the form of stuffing some gorgeous giant red peppers I had picked up with it, along with adding a packet of ready to use shredded Ham Hock I bought from Aldi! Its the first time I'd picked it up and it was such a handy cheat ingredient!

You might notice the peppers in the photo above are in a loaf tin - its the best way I find of baking stuffed peppers, it keeps them upright and the filling on the inside!

Now I did make a bit of a boo-boo with my grocery shopping - after getting everything ready I went to get some greenery from the fridge and I had completely forgotten to buy any green or similar veggies! My friend C who lives next door also had nothing of use, we tend to go shopping together so had both failed by weird coincidence! After rummaging again through the fridge we quickly discounted the vac-pack beetroot as being a bit odd as a side, same with the sweet potatoes as not really going either and in the end I cooked some part-bake rolls and in fact, they were great as I ended up using them to make a stuffed sandwich with the cut open stuffed pepper. Yes its a bit carb on carb but it was oh so good too!!

This batch of mac n cheese makes quite a lot - I only had two peppers to be stuffed, the rest of the pasta got baked as normal in an oven tray - I reckon it would easily fill at least 6-7 peppers if wished!


1 pint milk
1 pint vegetable stock (I always use Marigold Bouillon)
260g macaroni
110g ready Ham Hock
2+ large red peppers 
1/2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
60g grated extra mature cheddar
35g chopped butter
35g plain flour
20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Spray oil

Pre-heat oven to 180o (Our thermometer is long time not accurate - it should be fairly hot!)

In a large saucepan, bring the milk and vegetable stock to the boil, add the macaroni, cover and simmer for 12 minutes or until packet states.

Turn the heat up slightly, stir in the butter and flour until thickened, then stir in the mustard and ham hock, season to taste, then add 3/4 of the cheese and the parsley.

Meanwhile, carefully remove the lid off the pepper, remove the seeds, return the lid, spray with oil and place inside a loaf tin. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

When the macaroni is ready, carefully stuff the peppers and sprinkle a little extra cheese on top and put the 'lid' back on.

Return to the oven for 25 minutes or until the peppers are cooked through and softened.

Serve with er, greenery. Or go carb on carb with a bread roll!

The best way I found to attack the peppers was halving them then eating in chunks!

Many thanks to Aldi who provided vouchers to cover the cost of my ingredients - the Ham hock is great!

A relatively new linky to me is also #CookBlogShare, this week held on Hijacked By Twins (such a cute blog name I think!)

If you fancy also stuffing some peppers, do check out these delicious links!

Red peppers stuffed with veggie haggis & Mushrooms from Planet Veggie

Or if you have no peppers, how about some chillies why not try these intriguing sounding Chocotos - Chocolate stuffed chillies from Tin and Thyme?

Keeping on the chilli theme you could also try these Creamy stuffed Jalepenos from The Veg Space

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Recent eating In and Out and sandwich trays!

The past few weeks I have not been very good at writing down recipes as I make them up, I am 3 weeks into my new job, which I really enjoy but as I spend most of my day on the computer now, using my own at home is not so tempting! Whilst I have however learned how to make pretty pictures in Visio, its not as so much use to my blog! Do bear with me whilst I get back in the swing of things! I do have a rather lovely stuffed pepper recipe once I find where I wrote it on...

So in turn, for this post I have rounded up what we have been eating both at home and about - me and my niece A had a fun day at the BBC Good Food show last week and when we got home we made this yummy Paella! We did add a little bit too much spice and had to improvise a little but it all got eaten and gave us a few days lunches after!

A few nights before we had a rare treat of Fish Pie - I was super pleased too that I picked up the cod and prawns reduced, and made a delicious sweet potato with white potato topping - I did do battle with a piping bag to make it pretty but it doesn't really show in the picture!

Bargain fishy!

These were a bit of a random purchase - we go up for high tea at my lovely auntie and uncles house every few months and I am insanely jealous of their sandwich trays which are probably older than me and I had been trying to find a similar set for us - in the end I found these cute safari themed ones - I adore Giraffes so that one's for me and B gets the Lion - think it was more manly! They are so handy not just for sandwiches, they fit all sorts of other treats too!

Last but not least was our trip to the BBC Good Food Festival at Hampton Court - what a gorgeous location! Its so close to us and yet embarrassingly we never visit! It was lovely to walk around the beautiful gardens and of course the food stalls!

Very kindly I received the tickets complimentary to get in - including getting to see the lovely Jo Wheatley on stage making some gorgeous Macaron's, compote and pannacotta - It was a good reminder to me as I have not made pannacotta in years, its such a lovely dessert too, and Jo used powdered gelatine - looked much easier than when I use the gel sheet versions and having to soak the slippery sheets!

Beautiful view of Hampton Court Palace, the lake and fountain - oh and the swans!


This was our lunch - I had a artisan sweet chilli sausage roll and a refreshing elderflower drink - though A chose more wisely with her Chorizo laced sausage roll, was far tastier!

Last but not least some of the stalls - we tried lots of lovely liquers but not many food samples, though I did come home with some rather lovely lemon and poppyseed galettes!

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