Autumn Grayling Hunting in Devon, UK

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Home Sweet Home In Search of Autumn Grayling

I had to bring my 1975 Land Rover (Gertie) back to the UK for an MOT – Spanish options looked like the proverbial massive can of worms. So to make it a more pleasurable trip (and weather permitting & it did wonderfully), I set myself up for some autumn fly fishing. Base camp for the duration was the Castle Inn in Lydford – sweet wee place that is perfectly located for many West Country Angling Passport rivers as well as Dartmoor National Park.

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The West Country Angling Passport scheme is awesome – if you do not know about or have not used it please give it a try. The scheme makes loads of UK rivers available to fish at a very affordable price – use or lose it as they say. It needs your support – get going folks!

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Beautiful Waters…River Lyd, Devon

My first day on the water was on one of my faves – the wonderful River Lyd in Sydenham. Flowing though an amazing Elizabethan estate, the river is chocka with fishable varieties of fish – brown trout, grayling, sea trout and even the odd salmon. I hooked & landed 17 brownies and I saw 3 massive sea trout feeding side by side. One leapt clear out of the water to snatch a floating caddis fly and was an easy 6-7 pounds and beautifully coloured,

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River Lyd Brownies…

My second day put me on the River Tamar on the Netherbridge Court beat. I have fished this several times before and it is minutes away from the Ham Mill, Netherbridge and Druxton beats. All are a great day of fishing….

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River Tamar – Netherbridge Court Beat

While getting my Land Rover MOT’d I timed it perfectly with the Frome Farmers Market and picked up some tasty Somerset salami and rich Glastonbury hard goats cheese. A fly fisherman has to eat and this hit the nail on the head.

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Fly Fisherman’s Lunch Supreme

Though I was mostly in search of grayling, my first day was 100% brown trout…second day put me back on track and brought this wee beauty to the net. It is an autumn fish with colours to match.

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River Tamar Grayling – Sweet

My 3rd and final fish was again on the River Tamar but on the Druxton Beat. I have also fished this before and it has some sweet water but a good chunk of it is dead slow pools. Not my cup of tea…that said, it was good for 8 solid fish – 3 grayling with one to 12″ and 5 brownies. A good day had by all…

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River Tamar, Druxton Beat & Grayling to the Net.

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Cornwall Fly Fishing Adventure – and Food Too!

We took a chance and booked a wee cottage (Pixie Cottage) in Crossgate (just outside of Launceston) for a week at the end of September for (a) me to finish out the fly fishing season on the River Tamar; (b) for Hound #2 to hopefully snag some boogie board beach time on the Cornish Coast and (c) Hound #1 (Billie) to have another Billie Holiday.

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By lucky coincidence (ahem!), one of our favourite local independent wine merchants, the Yapp Brothers in Mere, were having their annual Autumn tastings and it was only a modest detour on our way to Pixie Cottage. It has been a while since we have attended a decent vino sampling & this ticked more than the most boxes. The Yapp Brother’s wines on offer were predominately French (their speciality since 1969) and all excellent, with our 2 faves being the Domaine Py AOC Corbières: 3ème Cuvèe Blanc 2012 (white) and the St. Chinian Magali 2010 (red).

Rant break: These small, independent wine stores are such fantastic repositories of wine knowledge and offer up a far more interesting selection of winemakers than the Big Boy Supermarkets, but even as I write this, they are under threat which is very sad news for anyone who gives a hoot about wine. It seems that in a very short time & not too distant future the English retail wine world could very much be like Henry Ford’s Model T – you can have any colour (wine) as long as it’s black (it’s on our supermarket industrial wine stock list). They are Starbuck-ing our wine options. And it’s not like the Big Boy Supermarkets don’t already scarf up a decent chunk of your vinous dollars as they reportedly account for more than 70% of all wine retail spending. Support your local wine shop – fast. Ranting all done…

In addition to the wines on offer, the Yapp Brothers enlisted the help of some of their foodie friends, Godminster Organic Cheddar and Chesil Smokery in Dorset. And if a caffeine hit was required before the drive home, Claude the Butler was on duty. So since we were now all stocked up wine-wise for our week at Pixie Cottage, we needed some lunch…

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On our ‘to do’ board at home we’d pinned an article from one of the weekend rag’s magazines on what to do if you found yourself in the Somerset Levels. Well we were, so we made a zig-zag-backcountry-lane detour to the glowingly written about White Hart Inn in Somerton. Somerton is a sweet village and this pub (and inn) is a perfect match. The White Hart prides itself on being a pub (there is a restaurant too) in all the best senses of that word – welcoming everyone, including dogs, warm atmosphere & affordable food & drink. It takes seriously the mantra of supporting local producers whether you are talking food or drink. After a good scan of the menu (provenance of suppliers are included FYI) we opted for light bites – Hound #2 gravitated to the ham sandwich with chutney (£4.75 – when’s the last time you saw a pub sammie for less than a fiver?) and Hound #3 felt the wood fired pizza would hit the spot (£10.95). Correcto on both accounts…

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Wood fired Pizza

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House Cooked Ham & Chutney Sandwich

Our hunger pangs satiated, we got back on the road to make a pit stop @ the Lifton Farm Shop for some provisions (the sweet corn was the best we have had this summer) before our scheduled arrival time @ Pixie Cottage.

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Crossgate and Netherbridge Pools on the River Tamar & Pixie Cottage

Pixie Cottage was everything we expected and it suited the 3 Hounds to a ‘T’ – Billie absolutely loved the massive lawn to bounce around in and Hound #3 could not believe the River Tamar ran right past the property – score –  with 5 different fly fishing beats on the River Tamar within walking distance of Pixie Cottage and Hound #2 was a hop, skip & a jump to the Cornish Coast! So with the weather more than co-operating, fly rod & boogie board in hands, a bit of river thrashing & wave whacking was in order.

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The Harris Arms has kept coming up in our epicurean readings for not only a great reputation for its food, it is also quite renowned for its wine list – in fact, named the Best Wine Pub in Britain for 2013 we will have you know. We had a fun, down-memory-lane chat with Rowena (owner with partner Andy) who had spent time in our home space of New Zealand learning how to make wine in Gisborne. And more vinous fun was had perusing the multitude of empty, excellent bottles decorating the various nooks & crannies – someone’s had loads of fun.

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Classy Beverages

Hound #2 made an early decision to go a wee bit lighter on her main to leave enough space for something sweet (Baked White Chocolate Cheesecake – £6.95) & picked the Tomato & Basil Soup  (£4.95).

Alex had Soup du Jour - tomato & basil....she was saving room for dessert.

Tomato & Basil Soup

Hound #3 had no such plans for a sweet finish and hesitated not a nano-second for one of his perennial, palate pleasers – Duck Confit (£12.95). The Duck was served with a flavour bursting, awesomely Autumnal accoutrement of Chorizo & Bean Ragout with a side scoop of Mash to soak up the au jus. This was SO GOOD I had to get the recipe…find it below.

So as the UK starts to feel truly autumnal (rain, wind & cold), anymore Cornwall adventures will be put on hold till the weather comes right again….

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Duck Confit with Chorizo & Bean Ragout on Mash

Chorizo & Bean Ragout 

Soak dried Haricot Beans in water (keep in fridge) overnight.

Cook the beans in fresh un-salted water (not the water you’ve soaked them in) until they start to split.  Strain them, refresh in cold water to stop them cooking and then strain them until they are pretty dry – if you have a vac pack machine you can vac pack them, then refrigerate and they’ll keep for a week or so.  If not, keep them in the fridge, in a closed plastic container, for a few days (they will go off quite quickly) but you can cook them the day before you want to make the sauce. 

Dice chorizo (mild or hot to your taste).

Make red wine sauce as follows (this is the simple way to do it without making your own beef stock).

I suggest that you get hold of the stock ingredients from Essential Cuisine they make really great stuff.

1 litre of beef and chicken stock mixed together 50/50 (1/2 tablespoon each of stock powder).

1/2 bottle for strong red wine (Argentinian Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon).

2 x banana shallots skinned, halved and sliced.

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Crushed clove of garlic (skin on).

Put the stock and all the other items into a large pan and reduce by about a third.

Add some Essential Cuisine Concentrated Veal Jus – 1 tablespoon – you will have to stir really well into the simmering liquid as it takes a long time to dissolve.

Reduce by a further 20% approx.

If you make a mix of 1oz butter and 1oz flour in advance (soften the butter so you can mix the flour and then harden in the fridge) you can then dice about half of this and add to your sauce whisking vigorously until it’s dissolved.

Cook the sauce at a simmer for about 10 minutes to cook off the flour – this will, with luck, thickens the sauce.

Taste and season to your taste.

You should then strain through a fine strainer into a plastic storage tub.

To make the Ragout, just bring the sauce up to a gentle boil & add the bean and the chorizo and hey presto you have the red wine sauce with chorizo and haricot bean ragout.

Indian Summer in Cornwall…

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Cornish Indian Summer

The UK’s August weather was more akin to autumn than anything approaching late summer, so when summer made a surprising resurgence in early September, we made a bee-line for the Cornish Coast…and what a damn good decision that was! The kids are all back at school so the beaches & campgrounds were ours and ours alone just about.

CORNNinConstantine Bay is one of our top beaches so we based ourselves in the lovely wee village of St. Merryn, which is just a stone’s throw from Constantine as well as Harlyn Bay. On our previous trip we had tested Nin’s Tea Room out & it ticked all the breakfast boxes so we decided to stick with the tried & true for our first holiday meal.

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Smoked Haddock & Poached Eggs

Hound #2 opted to go the ‘healthy’ route and ordered the Smoked Haddock with Poached Eggs (£7.95) – it was declared estupendo! And almost a meal & a half with the full plate of toast that came with…

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BLT Bap

Hound #3 made a more conventional breakfast choice – a BLT Bap (£4.50 – Nin’s also have a Breakfast Bap) which, again, was almost a meal & a half but a great way to load up on some fuel for the day’s activities.

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Rick Stein’s Pub – The Cornish Arms

Even though St. Merryn’s is tiny, it has 2 pubs: the Farmers Arms which is located smack dab in the village centre and Rick Stein’s place the Cornish Arms which is just a hop, skip & a jump on the way to Padstow. We hit the Farmers Arms for an evening beverage and dropped into the Cornish Arms for a holiday lunch.

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BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad

The Cornish Arm’s menu offers good, solid pub food done to the highest order and is in no way a too fancy joint. We both decided the BBQ Chicken Caesar (£10.95) was what most tickled our fancy and indeed it did the job. It was nice to try some of Rick Stein’s food without partaking of the Rick Stein commercial frenzy you are exposed to in Padstow.

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The Fab Rugglestone Inn in Dartmoor National Park

For our drive back home to Frome, we wanted to cruise via Dartmoor National Park as it is one of our most favourite Devon spaces. Our old Land Rover mechanic Kevin had highly recommend the Rugglestone Inn in the heart of the park @ Widecombe in the Moor so lunch was put on the agenda. And our mate Kevin nailed this one in spades – we loved it so much we forgot to shoot any food pics! But we are planning to return for a long weekend in the autumn & camp out in the cottage & hike the moors.

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A Billie Holiday – Woof! Woof!

And as much as we love & enjoy our holidays, our Jack Russell Billie loves them even more…except when visiting National Trust Estates where he has to be tied up.

Padstow Farm Shop – Top of the Line…

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When we are off wandering the British countryside, we make a concerted effort to check out the local produce. And an excellent way of doing that is to drop into the nearest farm shop. Farm shops are a relatively new phenomenon to the UK having taken wing about 10 or more years ago, and since then they have never looked back. We were fortunate on our West Country Tiki Tour to be in possession of the book “Wild Guide“, which besides pointing us to jaw dropping scenery & beaches or historical sites or places to stay, also listed many of the food stalls along our journey. And it had high praise for the Padstow Farm Shop (founded in 2006).

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When we enter a farm shop we often quickly pick up on a vibe and the vibe here was exceedingly good. Everything just seemed so right – and our intuition was 100% spot on as this place does farm shop in spades. Most of what they sell here comes from their own farm, and if not from their farm, then from farms within Cornwall. Much of the land is farmed under the Countryside Stewardship model – an environmental process where no sprays or fertilisers are employed. And the field margins are left uncultivated which creates a better habitat for rare species of plants & also encourages endangered wildlife such as the corn bunting, barn owl, grey partridge and hare. And to confirm the good vibe feel, Padstow Farm Shop & Farm have been named as South West regional winners in The RSPB Nature of Farming Awards for 2013. And the farm shop gets 100% of its electricity from a wind turbine – phew, what a vibe!

A quick tour… as you walk in through the front doors, you are greeted by a cornucopia of local produce in most excellent shape. Many a meal could be assembled from these baskets swollen with goods.

And just to the left of the veggie section is the Padstow Farm Shop’s own butchery where, again, locally reared meat is on offer where the majority comes from the Watson Smyth family farm (they own the joint).

PFSCheeseMeatAnd if you are looking to put together a summer picnic or host a BBQ for some friends, all the ingredients and top notch choices are found here – from wine to cider to cheese to sweets and crisps.

And a very special mention needs to be made of the Padstow Pasta from Cornwall as it is a unique product to the UK. As the photo below states, this pasta is made from home grown durum wheat which is then traditionally milled at The Cornish Mill & Bakehouse. And a very odd coincidence occurred as we were taking these photos, it suddenly dawned on us that we had actually won a bag of the Padstow Pasta in the Saturday Guardian’s Cook magazine contest. And it worked a treat too for a fine pasta dish….

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So if by luck or chance or planning you happen to be floating around the Padstow region, be sure to pay a visit to the Padstow Farm Shop & stock up…or order online.

 

 

 

Mackerel Sky Cafe – Estupendo!

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Our food adventures were mainly kept on the cheap side while on our West Country Tiki Tour, with mostly pub or cafe lunches and a few dinners thrown in when we were too tired to sort something out. But walking around Penzance, we stumbled across the Mackerel Sky Cafe on a hidden back lane way and it’s menu was so enticing we decided a splurge was in order.

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Though we were impressed by just about everything on the menu, Hound #2 made a bee line for one of here favourite fish (mackerel of course) & selected the Smoked Mackerel Burger. And Hound #3 continued his Cornish theme of looking for dishes with fresh, local crab and that came in the form of Crab Rarebit.

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Local Crab Rarebit…

This dish was, as they say in Spain, estupendo! It had the perfect balance of sweet (the crab meat) with the savoury (mature cheddar cheese) on toasted ciabatta and even included a much loved local ale in the recipe – Doom Bar. And the salad was the perfect complement to complete the meal. Yum.

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Smoked Mackerel Burger…

And the Smoked Mackerel Burger hit all the high spots too – with the sweet beetroot melding perfectly with the fish. Chips were at the top of their game too and vanished by the meal’s end. Our best meal of the trip by far and all washed down with one of our fave, affordable quaffers – Le Petit Chat Rosé (check out their red & white too at Waitrose & Sainsburys).

So if your happen to find yourself wandering the streets of Penzance, be the “very model of a Modern Major-general” & march yourself into the Mackerel Sky Cafe…you will leave happy.

Rick Stein’s Fish & Chips Joint, Padstow, Cornwall

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Rick Stein’s Tres Popular Fish & Chips Shop, Padstow

Whilst on our 10 day West Country Tiki Tour of the north Devon & Cornwall coasts, we decided to have a wee splurge and pop into the heaving fishing village of Padstow to partake of the famous Rick Stein’s Fish & Chip shop. The village of Padstow could easily be renamed “PadStein” as Rick pretty much owns the place with the Fish & Chip Shop, the Fishmonger, a deli, a cafe & patisserie, a gift shop and last but not least, his infamous seafood restaurant. And that’s just what he owns & operates in Padstow proper – phew!

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Fresh Fish Store….

To say Rick Stein’s Fish & Chip shop is very busy would be quite an understatement as the folks are queued up & out the doors. I ordered the bog standard order with the chosen fish of Hake (pictured below) and Hound #2 ordered a side order of fried calamari & 2 grilled sea scallops. And we thought the fish & chips were more than just good, but at £20+ for a 2 person serving plus drinks (a Diet Coke @ £1.30! – that’s highway robbery) they may be should have been exceptional. If we ever told our Kiwi mates they would be paying almost $40 NZ for “fush & chups” they quickly utter the words “Crikey, mate”.

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The Goods….

Enough whinging, as we had a front row harbour seat, perfecto weather and it all tasted great…

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Much Enjoyed Though!