Return to River Cottage

At the start of September, I returned to one of my favourite places: River Cottage.

This time round, my sister and I were there for the River Cottage 10th Anniversary Bash and Book Launch – Phew! What a long name, but what a fantastic day. This particular event at River Cottage HQ was to celebrate 10 brilliant years of River Cottage, and to launch the latest cook book that brings together all those years of hard work and culinary expertise.

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One of the greatest draws to this event had to have been the attendance of the fabulous man himself, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. After an hour or so of exploring the Cottage, nibbling on tasty treats and nursing an almost palpable excitement, he appeared.

It was fantastic to watch and listen as he introduced each member of the team who had also contributed to the production of the enormous River Cottage A-Z Guide. He spoke about the book, their hard work and continual efforts.

While we waited for our chance to speak to the team directly, we explored the grounds and tasted the treats. Everywhere we went, we were shown such beauty from the West Country.

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Admiring the freshly picked flowers.

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The Cottage cat, snoozing amidst the excitement.

I was ecstatic to see my jam-making idol again, Pam “The Jam” Corbin. And to meet the gentlemanly head chef, Gill Meller, was also a treat. It was a fantastic opportunity to pick up tips, share excitement and celebrate the years of River Cottage.

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Meeting my culinary idol, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

 

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My sister and I nabbing a quick selfie with Gill Meller.

We had so much delicious and freshly cooked foods to eat, of course. As we continued to explore the Cottage grounds, stations were set up in different corners and enticed you in with such heavenly smells. The chefs themselves stood and prepared a feast before your eyes!

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Divine foods.

Staying until the very last moments, we caught the tractor back up and out of River Cottage. With us in the tractor sat John, Pam and Hugh – I was so nervous with excitement I could barely remember how to form a serious sentence. Everyone was so lovely, so welcoming and I was very sad but content to watch the lights of River Cottage fade away.

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Taking with me my signed copies of their books, and renewed enthusiasm for exploring recipes, I knew I would absolutely be returning again next year.

 

xxx

River Cottage Summer Fair

At this time one week ago, I was packing up a tiny tent in Charmouth, Dorset, with my sister and preparing to travel 200miles back home. It has taken me all this time to get over the post-holiday blues and write down here some of the best parts.

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The trek to Dorset began with too much luggage. A 60L rucksack bursting with clothes and food, a huge hold-all of tent gear and sleeping bags, an extra rucksack with a camping cooker and gas cannisters… add onto that what my sister was carrying and we were like two Buckaroos! When we reached Waterloo station we grabbed two free (but tiny) cans of Coke from a stall in the station centre and just made it in time for to catch our train.
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Unfortunately, we did not have seats for long. As we approached Salisbury the train divided. Georgia, I and about 50 other passengers were crammed together into three small carriages. Yaay for the smell of urine and sweat!

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However unpleasant it was to sit outside the toilets, we did befriend a cute 6 year old girl called Rosy with her father. Feeding her a bag of Magic Stars and playing hide and seek made the journey pass quickly!

Many hours later, we arrived in Axminster and took the bus to the Newlands Holiday Park in Charmouth. The views there are STUNNING.

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We found out very soon that our decision to pitch a tent beneath a tree was very bad. Do earwigs have nests? When the next morning came, we found a few dozen wriggling earwigs poking around our bags. Eek!

But nothing could have dampened down spirits. We were off to visit River Cottage HQ…

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This beautiful pocket of the Dorset countryside is even more beautiful than you can witness on the TV. The purifying taste of the air, the glorious heat of the sun, the sound of sheep and cows from the fields… gorgeous, beyond compare.

We took a tractor ride down to River Cottage, gratefully climbing into the open windowed tractor with outward facing benches.

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It brought us to the sounds of a banjo and the rumble of chatter. Large white tents were scattered across the festival field and were filled with representatives of businesses, farmers, individuals with interesting crafts and foods, stalls for fresh orchard cider, homebaked pastries, handpainted crockery – many exciting and fascinating people to meet. One of whom happened to Tim himself, who kindly signed the book I bought ( Nooo, of course I didn’t just buy the book to talk to him! That would be silly…).

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In the middle of the day we were delighted to have a foraging tour with John Wright. One if the highlights here being the finding of meadowsweet – as a studying pharmacist this coumarin containing plant was fascinating.

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Our lunch was purchased from a stall wafting the delicious aroma of slow roasting pork and apples. It was only after wolfing down the food that we discovered the winner of Masterchef 2014,  Ping Coombes, had cooked it.

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With full bellies and huge smiles my sister and I enrolled on a pickling masterclass -with Pam the Jam! Pam Corbin is an elegant, intelligent lady with a warm aura. She inspired me to learn more about preserves and to begin making jams myself. We made some delicous cucumber pickle and each kept our own, meaning three jars each.

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Our day came to an end, watching the sun set over River Cottage HQ whilst listening to the strange music of Tankus the Henge. There were so many fantastic opportunities, so much we took with us, we will absolutely return there next year.

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Jammin’ in the Kitchen

Yesterday, for the very first time, I made jam. Blackberry and apple jam.

It is a magical process, such a simple recipe and with such delightful results – I’m sure any jam makers reading will agree that the moment of beholding your own jar of jam is very special. I will absolutely be making many more jams!

It all starts with a massive 1.5kg of preserving sugar, 750g of freshly picked and peeled apples, and 1kg of foraged ripe blackberries.

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After softening the fruit for around 30minutes in a large pan (read: cauldron) on medium heat, the sugar can then be dissovled and rapidly brought to a rolling boil.

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All the while stirring continuously, scraping at the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning. This is such a beautiful and mysterious part. It feels a little like potion making.

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Eventually, after another half hour or so, and with careful checking of the bubbling mixture’s temperature, the pot is full of a rich red jam. The setting point should be checked – wrinkle test here! – and the thermometer reading at around 105 degrees Celsius.

Then its time to pot the jam. I used a large ladel and poured the steaming jam into some warmed jars. Although I managed to make an awful mess, it was very exciting.

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The final result was worth it! Some delicious jars of my very own jam…

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Dinner time!

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Preparing a quick, tasty meal of vegetarian bolognaise. For this meal I used the following ingredients:

1 pack of Quorn mince
2 peppers (green and red)
1 can of tomatoes
6 medium chestnut mushrooms
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 fresh tomato (vine ripened for its fragrant aroma)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 pinch of smoked paprika
-served with boiled spaghetti

As I was quite tired, I chose this recipe as it is very quick and easy to make.

1. When all of the vegetables have been chopped, they are all added to the pan to slowly cook amongst the garlic cloves.

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2. The tinned tomatoes are then added and the sauce is left to simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Pour around 2 thirds of the sauce into a separate, deep bowl – careful! Its very hot! – and then blended. The sauce can be as smooth as you prefer.

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4. Pour the blended sauce back into the pot, and then add the Quorn mince. Cook for around 12 minutes.

5. Serve with spaghetti.

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This dish is quick, healthy and delicious. I particularly love a good homemade spaghetti bolognaise shared with my family.

Cook Me Quick: Spicy Prawn Curry

Ingredients:
500g Cooked Prawns – marinate for an hour or more in lemon juice and a little chopped chilli
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 green pepper, sliced into squares
1 red chilli, finely chopped – with seeds if you like it extra hot!
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon tamarind paste (optional)
3cm root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons sweetcorn
400g canned tomatoes
200ml coconut milk

1. In a large, nonstick frying pan heat up the oil and fry on a low heat the chopped onions. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and cook until the onion is nearly see through.

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2. Add the tumeric to the onions, stiring them thoroughly. Then add the tamarind paste – this provides a sweet and tangy flavour to the onions.

3. To the pan, add the chopped green peppers and allow to cook at a medium heat for roughly 5 minutes.

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4. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, sweet corn and then add the curry powder. Simmer for 10 minutes before adding coconut milk.

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5. Add the prawns and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, sprinkle in a little cornflour whilst rapidly stirring.

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Cooked prawns marinating in lemon juice and chilli

6. Serve with freshly boiled rice or warm naan bread.

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Timing : 10mins preparation, 25mins cooking