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

Archive for June, 2014

The Salutation Inn, Topsham

We had visited the refurbished Salutation Inn a couple of months ago.  It was mad busy, and there was a big wedding on.  I had my favoured River Exe mussels, and Jane had her favourite risotto.  It had all arrived slowly and not all my mussels had opened.  The staff handled it beautifully – removing the cost of the mussels from the bill without telling me.  It seemed such a great place and we loved the new courtyard setting – all glazed – ultra modern against the 16th century building.  So we went back.

It is a bit like you always panic when you recommend a place – just incase someone doesn’t turn in for service, or a supplier doesnt supply, or chef is not on that day or whatever.  We had heard so many great things about The Salutation Inn (click for their web site) that we returned for my birthday lunch.

And – some would say madly – ordered the same light lunch.

Brave or stupid?  Well, it worked.  Just look below:

Don’t need to say much else.  Ambiance – lovely – staff – attentive, smiley, and want to do the job right; wine – available by glass and 500 ml carafe – brilliant in betweeny size. (And bottles of course…).

We have returned – and will again.  The reports are not wrong.  It is an excellent spot, with very special food.  The afternoon teas looked heavenly!

Stunning!

Stunning!

The risotto...

The risotto…

Pan steamed Salmon – another simple pleasure!

“What shall we have to eat tonight – we’ll have to go shopping”

How often does that happen in the mid week in your house?  Well, we remembered having bought 6 salmon fillets but only used 4 of them, so had two left in the freezer.  Not much shopping to do then!

It really was simple.  Boiled a whole gang of new potatoes – which always feels like summer to me.  While they were on the go, and not too soon (after 15 mins to be precise) I started the salmon of in a small frying pan, in some groundnut oil and butter mixed.  I added some extra flavour by putting a few (A large pinch) of fennel seed into the oils.  About 4 minutes, then it’s the turn over time – always tricky with fish – you don’t want it to fall apart! A coupe of scorched fingers later, and we are done.

Simple and fun...

Simple and fun…

I love the way salmon tells you when it is nearly cooked.  The raw look changes colour on the side of the steak until it is uniform.  Isn’t nature wonderful?  At this stage I add a dessert spoon of lemon juice, and squirt some honey on the fish alongside a squirt of balsamic glaze.  Then the pan is covered (tight fitting lid is needed) and heat turned down.  Drained the cooked spuds, added a pat of butter and left them covered to soak up the flavour.  The stir fry mix (we did have to go out for that!) added crunch, colour and yet another flavour – a bit of soy sauce at the end.

20 minutes from cooker on to table.  Hardly time for a G&T!  Keep it simple is never a bad rule in the kitchen.  And this was scrummy!

Simple pleasures – Mushroom Stroganoff

I was eating alone tonight – Janie out – so resisted the temptation of a ready meal for one.  We had loads of mushrooms in – so, one of my few ‘veggie’ evenings began!

Timing is everything in cooking.  Mushroom

Mushroom Stroganoff plus extras

Mushroom Stroganoff plus extras

Stroganoff is almost as delicately balanced as Beef Strog is – except that is a might bit scarier if you have £8 worth of steak going in.  Here’s my order of play:

  • Chop a rather small – or half as you are alone – onion into nice large segments, and get them sweating in oil over a low heat (you want them to caramelize a little, not fry instantly)
  • Get the rice on – using the absorption method 3 fluid ounces rice (it works – rice is almost like a liquid for measuring!), into a solid pan, with a good lid – put the rice into melted butter; swirl it around until all the grains glisten. I add half a teaspoon of ground coriander for two – so 1/4 for just me…then 6 ounces of boiling water – stir all rice back down into the liquid, and get that lid on.  Set timer for 13 minutes
  • Wash and chop your mushrooms – I used 7 medium sized ones for me, and add them to the frying pan – swirl them around a bit.
  • 5 mins to go – add  a small glass of dry white wine (or Manzanilla – very dry – sherry for me – not white open!)
  • 1 minute to settle down – then add two dessertspoons of creme fraiche, and a good grating of nutmeg (just adds so much flavour)
  • I stirred two chopped spring onions into the rice after it cooked – just for colour, taste – and one of my five a day!

OK – yes, it was a bit liquid heavy – but served in pasta bowls, with a few chopped tomatoes on for colour and fun again – it was quite good! (You will have to believe me, as I was the only one there, and it’s all gone now!)

Three favourite pubs

Been away for weekend in Devon.  Some places are favourites – we all have them – and I just wanted to tell you about these three, for you to try, as well as to attempt to work out why we enjoy them so much!

The Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe in the Moor

The Rugglestone Inn, Widecombe in The Moor.

Yes, this is the Uncle Tom Cobbley and all Widecombe that you all will have heard about.  It is such a wonderful old place.  Run for a few years now by Richard and Vicki, it’s an institution both locally and for visitors alike. Why? Food is spectacularly solid English. You won’t need a big dinner after lunch here! And the beers are served straight from the barrel. Tapped while you are watching. And it is an art.  All the beers have different personalities. So, you have to know your beer. And they do!

The Ring o Bells, Chagford, Dartmoor

We had (and have had) many a splendid lunch here. Yesterday we shared scallops as a starter ( just done, not slimy, not rubbery…proper skilled chefs…?) then small plates – great for lunch – fish and chips, and ham egg and chips.  Both small, tasty and perfectly formed.  All beers local, as was the cider.

The Crooked Billet, Little Marlow, Bucks

 

Traditional Country Pub in Bucks - Xmas Pub Lunches Marlow

 

On the way back to the south east, we phoned to book in for Sunday lunch at our local.  Always a joy.  Pint of Brakspears Bitter. Bottle of Cote Du Rhone. Janie had Roast Beef with all the bits.  I had a brilliant old fashioned salad – turkey with a great mixed set of leaves, coleslaw and chips! Yes, CHIPS! Lovely, sort of retro, and such a delight on a warm Sunday. First day of June, my Birthday month ( and 6 in the family – we love it, but the non-June babies have to just grit their teeth!)

Why do these places appeal? All have no music.  All have eaters and drinkers. And all have had the same people running them for some time.  And all have very low staff turnover – we see the same people all the time.

Pubs may be under huge pressure and only us middle aged fogeys love them.  But they can and often are the lynch pin of the community they serve.  And serve it they all do.  Long may it continue?

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