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It’s been a busy old few weeks round here, especially the weekends which have been full of sanding and varnishing floorboards and a day-long haul to Ikea where we finally ordered a shiny new kitchen! We’ve been working like the clappers to get everything ready before the cabinets arrive on Friday (Ikea’s lead time is ridiculously quick). Doors have been hung, skirting board painted and worktop samples ordered; my kitchen is finally starting to come together but rather than feeling excited I’ve been immersed in a sense of blind panic. Foreboding questions are doing laps round my mind. What if it turns out I’ve chosen the wrong combination of cabinets? Is the worktop really going to be too low? Where is all the food going to live? How will I ever find a sink I actually like and can afford? Or a tap? When I find it’s all getting a bit too much I head into my temporary kitchen 1) to remind myself that even if the final product’s not perfect, it’s better than what I’ve got at the moment and 2) to get stuck into some baking which, in the most part, is my favourite way to relax.

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Somerset hotpot

Somerset, the county next door (or up North as we say down here in South Devon) is well known for producing excellent cider which is so good it has spawned its own genre of music, Scrumpy and Western, wherein bands sing odes to their favourite drink. Although there are not as many as there once were, apple orchards are a common sight and in a fair few of those you’ll spot pigs merrily roaming under the trees munching up the long grass. Those happy orchard pigs make for super-tasty pork as they fatten up on sweet apples. So it’s no wonder that Somerset is home to many a good recipe combining pork and apples. Continue Reading »

Malty-seed bread

When you have good butter you really need some good bread to enjoy it with. In such cases bread and butter becomes a real treat. When I was little Mum would feed my brother and I bread and butter as a snack if we said we were hungry – it’s good wholesome food for growing kids but not exciting enough that we’d ask for it when we weren’t really hungry. I used to love having a piece of hot buttered toast with a glass of milk before bed and, although I’ve long since given up bedtime snacks, I still enjoy my bread and butter. I spoiled myself to some wonderful raw butter from Isigny-sur-mer, it’s so creamy, almost a little farmy in flavour, and is flecked with big, crunchy grains of sea salt from Guérande. I’ve been happily spreading it on the lowliest of bread including the scraps of crust leftover from my blackberry and sloe gin puddings but I can’t help but feel it deserves something more. Something with a little more sophisticated than a slice of Hovis. Continue Reading »

Hello folks! Just a quick announcement before getting on with this post. Food Magazine‘s 2013 Reader Awards are accepting nominations for your favourite West Country food producers, shops, chefs, cafes and restaurants and, for the first time, bloggers. If you have any favourites that you think deserve some recognition you can vote for them here. And if you’ve enjoyed reading this little blog I would be over the moon if you nominated it. #awkward! Thank you!

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Summer pudding has long been a favourite of mine and it was a staple in the dessert rotation when I was growing up. My parents were keen gardeners and Mum still grows lots of her own fruit and vegetables despite not having much time to devote to the garden. On a Sunday afternoon I would often be dispatched up the garden to pick raspberries, strawberries, tayberries and blackcurrants for one of Mum’s spectacular puddings. I always find it a sad farewell to summer when the berries come to an end. This year, inspired by a Valentine Warner recipe, I decided to extend the Summer pudding into Autumn and make the most of the wild blackberries and the remaining little bit of last year’s sloe gin. I toyed around with calling these Autumn puddings but I like it when the name of the recipes tells you a little about what’s inside, especially when there’s gin involved. Continue Reading »

Creamed squash and corn

At this time of year where late summer drifts into early autumn and warm, sunny afternoons are punctuated by misty mornings and a slight chill in the air I find myself feeling very happy and content with my lot. I’m looking forward to snuggly winter which will bring a family wedding, my birthday and, hopefully, a finished kitchen. But I’m jumping ahead; there’s so much to enjoy in these harvest months. The squirrels I can see from the window are busy scampering about preparing for winter. Veggie boxes are brimming with goodies and the hedgerows are laden with hazelnuts, sloes and blackberries which I need to hurry up and pick before the Devil spits on them on the 29th!

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Croustillant aux pommes

It’s another Avignon-inspired recipe for you today! Going back to Les Halles market – the one to give you foodie dreams for years to come – I mentioned the boulanger who sold apple pie by the slice. His pie/tart was not the usually fancy affair with neatly sliced apples delicately arranged in concentric circles but a handheld, picnic-friendly pud.  A sweet apple compote was sandwiched between two layers of flakey, buttery puff pastry while the top was covered in a crackly layer of golden sugar. Thin squares of pie were sliced up and wrapped in a napkin for eating on the spot. The perfect end to a simple lunch of cheese, bread and tomatoes eaten on a sunny park bench overlooking the Rhone river. Continue Reading »