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

Archive for September, 2013

Shop Local

“Use it or lose it”  That’s how I feel about local shops.  Many a village has felt it has lost its heart when the little shop closes.  Everyone complains, even though they had all their food delivered by one of the supermarkets…

As one of our butchers says “Your butcher is not just for Christmas”.

Our local village is Bourne End.  It has  a range of shops, including a real butcher, a really special fruit and veg emporium, and two small Co-op supermarkets.  Why two?  Well, I imagine it was to make sure one of the big guys didn’t sneak in?

We do a proper Saturday morning shop.  Butcher first.  That choice will dictate the types of veg – so it has to be that way.  Chicken?  Small will be 4 1/2 lb. And it will have a big breast and heavy old legs – because it lived free range, and ran and scratched and nibbled and had fun.  Sausages?  Meaty, spicy and you can only eat two.  Shin of beef?  I can already taste the dumplings…

Lovely butchers...

Lovely butchers…

Greengrocer - superb!

Greengrocer – superb!

Over to the greengrocer.  Self serve, about 10 people work there – half to keep refilling the shelves!  Always 5 types of spud to choose from.  Always 5 types of mushroom.  And always packed.  Meat at the butcher is at least the same price as supermarkets.  The fruit and veg is always cheaper and better than any supermarket  And still seasonal.

We often then pop into the Co-op for their great cheeses, the milk and other essentials like beer.  And we will already have been to the newsagent for our paper.


Little Co-op

Little Co-op

Look, I know this all sounds old fashioned.  But you would really miss your local shops when they have gone.  Use them or lose them.  They deserve your help.

Lakes – The last post!

Well, the last post for this year, anyway.  I’ve got a feeling we will return…

We stayed at a splendid but small cottage.  One bed, big bathroom with separate shower, cosy living room, and tiny kitchen.  That’s usually not a problem, of course.  It was well designed from a caravan style point of view, but almost too much kit so storing anything meaningful, or prepping food as well as cooking it – a bit more difficult!

it looks like a wardrobe...

it looks like a wardrobe…

But you do ‘cut your cloth’, don’t you?  We found the local posh supermarket.  You readers in the north of England will know it well.  Booth’s is like a cross between  Waitrose, and the best of The Co-op plus Sainsbury.  We were able to get ready-mades (salad, potato salad with gherkins, home cooked ham and the like) from a section marked ‘local produce’.  It was in the main from very local farms and felt wonderfully amateur.  The labels were done on address labels on a home printer, for example.  We met this again on our travels – ice cream at a National Trust site.  The delivery man asked us if we liked the ice cream.  We wondered why. It was his own – and the best before dates were written in biro on the bottom of the packs!  I like that style – proper local-ism, with excellent food prepared with love and care.  It is a bit like the ‘cheating’ book written by Saint Delia.  There’s a time and a place for full on cooking – but not on holiday.

but it is a kitchen!

but it is a kitchen!

It worked – we ate well both in and out on this holiday.  Our landlady had also left us with some eggs, two cucumbers and some lovely tomatoes from their garden.  You can’t really beat it, can you?

..and here's one of the meals...

..and here’s one of the meals…

Rogan & Co – more Lakes excitement

Rogan & Co, Cartmel, South Lakes

Let’s not beat around the bush.  We just had a fabulous lunch.  It finished at quarter to four.  Sybaritic in the extreme.  And my last blog said I was a bit worried about the whole same old same old in this part of the lakes – and with South East pricing – and now I will take that back.

Let’s start at the end.  We went for a postprandial walk. We went around to the sister restaurant of Rogan & Co – L’Enclume. And today, I see in the news, that The Good Food Guide has named it as restaurant of the year – beating Heston Blomenthal’s Fat Duck into second place!  The chef Simon Rogan is committed to Nature not Science.  This is the top end stuff – 20 course tasting menu and the like.  We saw a delivery in the back of a car.  Went and chatted to the two guys there – and found we were talking to the head of front of house – and the restaurants very own Forager!  (Sorry guys – didn’t write your names down – but you know who you are!)  Just food lovers who were deeply excited by local, excellent ingredients.  They have started their own smallholding (plants only – no animals as yet).  And there was something else special.  They wanted to chat because we were interested in food too.  It was an attitude that everyone could be a potential customer, so why not be nice to everyone?  Many organisations could copy this simple idea.  Anyway, it is a much nicer way to live and be, isn’t it?

Lovely Janie - happy at the end of our meal!

Lovely Janie – happy at the end of our meal!

Foraged food for L'Enclume

Foraged food for L’Enclume

So, Rogan and Co was the place we had our lunch at.  The sister restaurant – not cafe style (Like both Raymond Blanc and Jamie Oliver have done).  It felt more (very high end) table d’hôte, to the L’Enclume’s multi-Michelin starred extravaganza.  Continuing with the backwards theme – we start with the end!

Coffee was silky, strong, not bitter and served with fluffy hot milk – oh, and stunning home made little doughnuts served with apple puree, and a tiny salted caramel chocolate confection.

Puds?  Yes, you had to, even though I know what we had had before. I had a poached pear.  Jane had toffee apple.  Sorry, this undersells both confections.  Just look at the piccies.




And we did have stickies with them – a pudding wine.  We chose one – and were offered another to try (gratis – thank you).  Golden, fragrant beautifully matched to each pud.  Wow.  Jane’s was like gorgeously wet toffee, which just made the apple sing.  And my zesty, lime with lemon driven Chenin Blanc from Thailand (I kid you not) just did the same for my pud.  Look, I know puds are bad, and naughty and and and…but, but, but this was our 29th wedding anniversary – OK?



Mains driven by the meat.  Lakes bred lamb.  Very local pork belly.  Hugely concentrated reductions (Gravy would be madly understating the fragrant sauces – and sauce is still too large a word).  Look, lets just say it went very quiet.  I tried the lamb.  It was a melt in the mouth explosion of powerful flavour that reminded you that that sheep had not lived in vain.  The pork was just as good The sauce, morels, tangy crunchy seasonal veg – were all as good as it.




We started madly with soused herring and duck rillettes.  Again, we had the usual excitement of matching pieces – like meat (or fish) and 7 veg…photos from a phone, but I hope you get a feel for the place.

20130829_134519 20130829_134501

Starters and tasters

Starters and tasters

As you would expect – an amuse bouche to start – a fennel crisp, with a stunning goats cheese quenelle.

We started by feeling a bit apprehensive of a new place, which could have been a bit up itself (the main web site was a bit scary, not enticing to me).  But I hope the style of this review has not been backwards in coming forwards.  This is a place that knows about food and service and people – and it seems to love them all.

Holiday in The Lakes

These photos are from the pubs own website – hope they can like the publicity!

This was our best meal so far…

OK – we are in the Lakes for a week.  And we hear it is not a culinary desert.  We’ve visited before – stayed at The Rothay Manor near Ambleside 25 years ago – and it was exceptional then – and still gets great reports.  But we had noticed a lot of sameness about pub menus.  Lots of the reports on advisor sites seemed to say the same. “It was so good we couldn’t finish it – even had to miss breakfast the next day…”.  This worried us a bit.  Not that we have become soft southerners or anything like that, but we had thought that sort of quantity over quality mentality had gone.  No, the 20 ounce gammon Steak with pineapple or fried egg, or both is alive and well here in the North West.  We despaired and ate in a lot…more of that later!

Serendipity was on our side in gorgeously scrummy Hawkshead.  We had visited Town-end – National Trust farm which one family had lived in for 11 generations (near Troutbeck if you want to visit).  And then The Beatrix Potter Gallery…where you can see what a great artist she was.  (And realise that the National Trust and our great National Parks would not be so central to our British way of doing things without her altruistic interventions).

We then had a British panic.  It was 2.35 pm.  Most pubs and full service restaurants stop serving lunch at 2 or 2.30.  Resigned to a sticky bun, we thought – lets just have a drink in here first…

The Queens Head in Hawkshead serves lunch until 3!  We wanted a light snack, so opted for a starter and side of skinny fires to share.  The home-made fish cake was served on a bed of risotto – creamy, fishy and meltingly mouth filling.  It made the fish cake itself seem even fishier.  And it had proper chef’s touches like pea shoots and other shiny morsels, with their own dressing.

Underneath it all, we had a very posh fish and chip lunch.  Do not be fooled – these people know how to cook.  It was the same price as everywhere else, but in a different class to what we have had up to now.  Some places seem to live on a past reputation or just on their views.  The Queens Head crew are there for the food.  They deserve a visit.

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