Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for April, 2011

Bampton North Devon New walk, new pub.

First Saturday of hols.  Weather already global warming hot.  70 f, 21 C.  Forgot hat for this walk – never a good idea if one is follically challenged.  Very farmy walk – well, it is a bit that sort of country.  5 miles set us up well for the lunch at a pub new to us in Bampton. The Swan.  It had been totally refurbished (we found) and chef proprietor Paul (from Manchester, and Leeds United fan) had said on their menu, “Bare (sic!) with us, we are new to food serving here”  (I think he meant Bear with us, not let’s get naked together!).  There was no need to pre-aplogise. I always think it’s best not to – and just get on with it.  Better to ask for forgiveness than permission, in my view!

They did this now fairly common idea of small plates – bigger than starters, smaller than mains.  I like this a lot.  We often share starter or puds.  Sometimes, two or three small plates is all you want – and we get the taste variety too then.  I suppose it’s a nod to the spanish idea of Tapas?  Anyhow, it was a bit worrying, because it was 1 on Saturday lunch, and no one was there!  A lot of competition, but as ever, they were building clients back up after the refurb – and had only re-opened in February.  So, we were a little apprehensive with all this negative vibe.  Then, as ever, the food was excellent.  Chicken Liver Pate (one of my favourites to cook) which was served in a little kilner jar – made it a bit different.  Served with a side salad with great lemon based dressing, and a scrummy plum based chutney.  The other plate was Brixham Crab baguette with chips.  A lot of variety between the two of us. Plenty of food too, and local Otter Ale and Cider to wash it down.  A lot of devon pubs do like to serve locally produced food and drink.  Theres a lot to be said for it – look after your own community and it will look after you.

So, we wanted snack level for evening.  Leftover ham comes to the fore from yesterday now.  Put 175g of pasta spirals on to boil for 13 minutes, broke up the small portion of ham, fried 7 mushrooms in olive oil, , added a tomato and two chopped spring onions near the end, and finished it off with two table spoons of Creme Fraiche, with a spoonful of mustard to give an extra kick.  Fine simple sauce, very tasty and plenty of food to satisfy.

Bampton is pretty level!

Holiday eating – pub and more

First day of holidays was Friday 15th.  We have a fairly standard routine.  Food shopping. Morning ramble / hike.  Pub lunch or snack (and occasionally tea shop).  Afternoon reading, evening meal at home.  The joy of holidays is not doing work like things. Pubs at lunchtime don’t fit into busy days anymore.  And, I don’t know about you, but I always feel really on holiday when you see everyone else go off to work, then you can go off to be free walking the hills of Dartmoor, or a river walk or a coastal hike.  There are far worse places to be on a Friday morning…

I am running in a 5 Mile race on 8th May, so had to do some training runs.  It feels quite balanced to have the extra holiday calories offset by running and walking many miles!

I remember a set of serious runners when I was at University who did something called 100:100.  They ran 100 miles in a week – and drank 100 pints of beer.  That’s a half marathon (and a bit) every day, plus a gallon and a half (and a bit) of beer.  Not the sort of record you will read about in The Guinness book of the same name.  Don’t know what happened to these guys (always men in that group, no women).  I assume they are hyper fit or alcoholics!

We had bought a ham joint called a Slipper Joint for dinner.  It helps deciding what to have for lunch when you know whats in store for later.  Pub in East Devon.  Golden Lion at Tipton St John.  Food sounded great in the Good Pub Guide (every car should have a copy as standard).  Did a short 4 mile walk first, so when the Moules Frite arrived, I felt I had earnt it. Jane had a sort of fish stew (like Boullibase), which was fantastic too.  I can’t resist mussels, especially when you get lovely home-baked bread to dip into the liquor.  The fish stew made us speculate on the chef.  We found out he is from South West France, so no real surprise at the standard of cooking and the style.

When we were leaving, someone shouted “Phil!”…Being on hols, you always assume it is for someone else – but no, a second call revealed Helen and husband – who I hadn’t seen since 2003 when we worked together on a training project for school leavers called “Tune In To Work”.  Great surprise!

We soaked the slipper joint for 3 hours, replaced the water, and boiled it for 45 mins, then roasted for 1 hour.  This meat was only about £3.50, but as you will see, stretched to 3 meals for the two of us.  First day we had it with boiled new potatoes, with Spinach and Beans.  Parsley sauce was out of a packet – I don’t have enough kit to do everything when I am self catering!

I was on TV!

Hi all.  In case you didn’t get to see it, here is a link to my cookery appearance:

This is for Britain’s Best Dish, on ITV 1.  The current series continues next week, at 5 pm.  I did a starter – Orange Infused Chicken Liver Pate with warm Griddle Scones and a crunchy salad.  I managed to win my section of the competition, but only two out of the four winners go through to the next round – and sadly, I was in the wrong 50%!

It was quite an experience.  45 minutes of cooking, but 7 hours in the studios.  It is a bit nerve-wracking cooking in an unfamiliar place, with all your ingredients weighed out and all to hand in little dishes – it really made it harder rather than easier.  And in this show you can hear the judges commenting on what you are doing when you are doing it!  Naturally, they want to be a bit controversial, so when they criticise, they go for it.  As you can imagine, this does not do your confidence a lot of good as you struggle to keep your nerve!


It felt good though.  A bit ‘in my element’ really.

We did have quite a debate about whether men can cook.  The presenter, Mary Nightingale (who is also a newsreader), got quite involved with the two male chef judges, who just asserted that ‘of course we can’.  But as Mary pointed out, the main drudge level of cooking in the UK is done by women – who get heartily fed up of the whole thing.  Men just did the show off stuff, or nothing at all.  As a columnist in The Times said last week  “…and having a husband who thinks he shares the burden 50% because he once microwaved a jacket potato in 1988…” I think Mary may have a point. got 300 times more hits than normal on Thursday.  TV is indeed a powerful force.

(Recipe is on the website as well as on

Meat by e mail?

It still feels a bit strange to me, e mailing an order for beef to a supplier in Scotland, who then sends a huge box of top quality Scottish beef flash frozen to your door.  The freezer is now stocked with en exciting array of treats.


Don’t get me wrong – I still support our local butchers.  As I have blogged before, one had a sign in January that said “A butcher is for life, not just Christmas!”  But the recession has meant this particular supplier was doing an opening offer not to be missed.  Yes, the guilt is there, but I have to say I just couldn’t resist.  (As Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist everything except temptation”)

Bit of a Scottish theme today.  We had Oat Meal Porridge for breakfast, Smoked Salmon and scrambled eggs for lunch.  (J made the eggs – she is expert at keeping them soft and fluffy by making sure she serves them before they look fully cooked.)  Salmon – in its sheets, not cut up small like they sometimes do in restaurants.  Lemon and black pepper.  A real treat.


Tonight’s menu?  The steaks are Fillet.  The potatoes are expensive and new, tiny and gorgeous and waxy.  The spinach is the easy, microwave in the bag type.  We will also have runner beans.  Strawberries and cream for pudding.  Yes, there is a real need to keep things simple, sometimes.  Today feels like one of those days.

Enticing apple sauce

Don’t you just love apple sauce with pork?  Hot with the roast, or cold with the sandwich – mmm!

Apples seem to go well with pork because they go well with the pig when he was alive.  Orchards always used to have pigs wandering around them, rootling around for fallen apples.  Maybe that’s why they complement each other so well on the plate.

This is one of those things I can’t eat out of a jar.  I don’t know what it is, but they are always too sweet for my taste buds.  They also seem to taste a bit preserved?  Maybe they have to be – apples just know how to go brown in an instant.  (Any biochemists reading?  It’s an oxidation process, isn’t it?  Shikimic Acid pathway?  30 years since I wrote that!)  That’s why you see the word ‘antioxidant’ on labels.  Vitamin C is the most commonly used, I think?

Anyway, if you have nothing else to hand, then add some bits to your jar.  Lemon juice adds freshness and reduces the oversweetness.  A pinch of mustard does the same.  Grated nutmeg adds extra zing.


Or you could just add all these and more to your own apple.  Bramley’s are the only ones to use.  Chop them into cubes about the size of a sugar cube.  You need one apple (you did peel it first) for every 6 people.  Put in a saucepan with a dessertspoonful of lemon juice, two teaspoons of sugar a small splash (dessertspoonful) of water or white wine or cider, grated nutmeg, grated lemon rind, a teaspoon of honey, cinnamon and a clove or two if you like them.  It only takes about 5 minutes before you can mash it up a little with a potato masher (works really well) but leave some substance – you don’t want a complete puree.  Just enjoy!

More exciting leftovers – recycling at it’s best

So, it comes to pass that you are at the end of your Sunday Roast dinner.  Funnily enough, we had ours on Saturday this week.  Day before Mothers day, and we had the family over (Sister and brother-in-law, plus Daughter, Man and lovely baby).  They were going away on the Sunday, so we just fast forwarded a bit.  If you have ever done the full roast, you will know it is a bit af a marathon, and the last 10 minutes before serving are just bedlam.  Doing it as a late Saturday lunch is brilliant because then you have all Sunday to yourself – and the leftovers!  I can recommend it.  All day Sunday to recover.  It is quite enticing, isn’t it?

We had roast pork.  Funnily enough, I don’t really like Pork Crackling – but am good at doing it.  Here’s my rules and regulations:

  • Get your butcher to score the surface for you.  Mine used a Stanley knife – be careful, and you could do the same trick.
  • Bring the meat out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature
  • Dry the skin with kitchen towel
  • Put your oven up to very high – gas 9 or 220 degrees C
  • Sprinkle the surface with a mixture of salt and a pinch or two of dried mustard powder
  • Put in the oven at this high temperature for 20 minutes, then lower to your cooking temperature (170C  in my fan powered electric oven)
  • On no account put any fat or oil near the crackling – until you start basting it later

Pork joints have plenty of fat in them already, so no need to add more.

It went so well, we had very little left over.  But it was tasty.  I fried some cooked potatoes and mushrooms (these were not left over), then chopped up all the rest of the cabbage, leeks, crackling, meat pieces, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes plus a carrot or two.  Heated up the homemade apple sauce (see next blog!), and we both had a splendid plate of taste, just before settling down to hard-earned chill in front of the TV

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