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.

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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.

 

 

 

Kimbers’ Farm Shop – The Real Deal.

It is always good to get out & kick the tyres so to speak…you meet many good folks at the local farmers markets but it is always reassuring to pay them an up close & personal visit to check out what is under the hood. So it was that I’d met Ruth Kimber & family @ the local Frome Farmers Market & on a sunny day (rare in these parts) last week, I dropped into Kimbers’ Farm Shop in Charlton Musgrove, just north of Wincanton.

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Kimber’s Farm Shop – Smack Dab in the Middle of the Farm

Ruth & her husband Paul have been farming since 1973 but the Kimber family farming history stretches back a good 300 or so years. And much of the family is still actively involved with 2 working full time at the farm & many others helping out @ the farm shop or farmers markets.

The Kimbers are proud to tell you (and rightly so) that much of what they sell, whether at the farm shop or farmers markets, comes straight from the farm. In fact, standing in front of the farm shop proper you can see it for yourself as you are standing smack dab in the middle of the farm.

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On site butcher hard @ work; a cornucopia of local products & a full range of Kimber Farm Meats.

The Kimbers sell free range beef, Gloucester Old Spot pork, farm made bacon & sausages (their butcher, also on site, has been with them for more than 10 years), lamb & hogget & mutton, welfare friendly veal, chicken, duck and turkey – phew! And if you happen to be into unpasteurised milk (and you can get pasteurised too) for your yogurt or cheese making (it makes a mean ricotta), you can get that here too.

And I was quite impressed with their charcuterie range…readers of my previous blogs may remember my puzzlement at the scarcity of charcuterie in the UK given the wonderful supply of the key ingredient – excellent meats. Well the Kimbers do it in spades here with a full range on offer from pancetta to bresaola.

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Ruth Kimber

So make an effort folks to catch the Kimbers at one of the local farmers markets (they do Frome, Shaftesbury & Bath) or drop by the farm shop or you can even shop online!

Well I have decided to close this post with one of my fave ‘go to’ recipes that the Kimber’s mixed veal was critically essential:

 Quick & Easy Thai 

600 grams Veal mince (but you can also use Pork mince)
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
100 grams green beans, cut into 2 cm lengths (or you can use carrots in season if the beans are not)
4 red shallots, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon roasted chilli paste (or Sambal Olek)
70 ml fish sauce (5 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons each dark soy sauce & sweet soy sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1 handful roughly chopped coriander leaves or basil or both!
1-2 chillies optional, chopped
This amount makes about 4 portions so if you have more Veal (Pork) then scale up the other ingredients….
1. Heat about 60ml of oil in a decent sized fry pan or wok over medium high heat. Add garlic & pork & stir-fry until beginning to brown – about 4 to 5 minutes & use a wooden spoon to keep breaking up the big bits into smaller & smaller mince sized pieces.
2. Add beans, shallots and chilli paste and stir through until fragrant – about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add fish sauce & soy sauces (I pre-mix them all together in a bowl beforehand to simplify & make for a quick add) and cook until pork is cooked through and liquid reduced by about half (5 – 6 minutes). Season to taste with sugar, fish sauce and/or soy sauces. We tend to find it is just about right as more fish or soy tends to push it over the salty edge.
4. Remove from heat & toss through chopped coriander/basil leaves & serve with rice. And to add just a tad more heat we typically top with a small bit of diced fresh red chilli. Easy peezy…and makes great leftovers for the microwave the next day for lunch….

Long Time, No Post…

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Ahuriri RIver, Otago, New Zealand

…and the reason being I was in New Zealand for 3 months fly fishing for the most wily of trouts they have there…we miss our home as the scenery, even for some jaded Kiwis, is still on the magnificent side. And the fly fishing…well lets just say it is a wee notch or three above the UK. Best thing is once you have paid your $126 NZ season’s license fee, the country’s rivers are your oyster. Next to no ownership of water or fishing clubs controlling water rights or your fishing limited to a couple hundred metres of the right bank. Fishing Freedom – with 2 capital F’s.

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Wily New Zealand Trouts

But glad to be back on the UK home front even if the weather still mostly sucks…Spring seems to have sprung a big leak but I am assured that this is nothing compared to the winter I mostly missed.

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Stourhead Farm Shop – Sweet.

So with a peep or two of sunlight yesterday, I fired up my trusty Series III Land Rover to re-start my local food tiki tours and first on the “drop in” list was the Stourhead Farm Shop at this lovely National Trust property.

And just like the property itself, the farm shop is equally lovely and stuffed with wonderful array of local culinary goodies. The farm shop is run as a separate business by the Harris & Hoare families. Stephen Harris has won awards for his organic beef and the awesome looking venison comes from the Hoare family’s woodlands which is the part of the Stourhead estate they retained. And the lamb and pork are also locally sourced from Richard Hickman’s Sparkford Farm & Mr. Riggs of Shepton respectively.

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Fruit & Veggie Stand

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A Deli of Delights

So it was far too hard to resist pulling the wallet out & these were my goodies of choice – go & check it out & choose your own!

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Sunday’s Roast

 

Road Trip to the Far East…Kent & Sussex.

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Awesome Thai – Old Town, Hastings

The three food hounds took a road trip (sadly, over the recent Bank Holiday – us & 16 million other Brits) to investigate & research possible new abodes for the coming year. Our current town of Seaton, Devon has been glorious over this stunning summer but winter’s nightmares still haunt. So we headed East & based ourselves in Hastings (did not make the grade) at the wonderful Printworks B&B (which mos def made the grade in spades).

The Old Town of Hastings was cool, just not a lot of it to explore & enjoy but a highlight was the Boulevard Bookshop, recommended by the folks @ the Printworks. It is a bookshop by day and the Thai Cafe by night. It was quirky and romantic with tables discretely tucked into various enclaves of book shelves (you are encouraged to browse whilst you wait or eat) and even a table in the kitchen itself. Opened in March 2009 & run by June & Graham, it is excellent, freshly made, cooked to order authentic Thai (June is Thai). It is a simple affair – 13 quid for 2 courses (starter & main) of your choice and only a 2 quid per person corkage fee to bring your own wine – deal to make ya squeal.

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Our starters were SomTum- Ma Mung, a shrimp based fresh & tangy salad and veggie spring rolls – both winners. For our mains we chose Kai-Kra-Paow, a stir fried chicken with tamarind sauce and Panaeng Nau, spicy beef in a red chilli sauce. The mains were offered with the choice of mild, medium or hot heat – we opted for medium which had just the right burn level. And to wash it all down we had reluctantly picked up one of Tesco Express’s Finest – a Côtes Catalanes Grenache, which we thought immensely quaffable, and by pure coincidence, got a rave review in the weekend’s Guardian. 

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Hound #3 happy with anticipation – no Thai in Seaton!

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The Goods Shed – Canterbury

Food halls are an idea or concept that has always been close to our hearts. Of course local farmers markets are most warmly appreciated & attended but many are monthly or even haphazard in their schedule and really do not offer a serious, daily alternative to the huge supermarkets. The convenience of supermarkets is one of their key attractive features – a one stop shop, and in today’s world it has even become one stop-click & shop. In the time deficit world most working people inhabit, there is little tolerance or desire to traipse all over town to shop for the daily or weekly food haul. But food halls are a most viable and appealing alternative to the supermarkets for many, many reasons. They offer the same one stop shopping under one roof but for far better produce and products – offered or made by independent producers & in a much sweeter environment. The producers or store owners who have stalls at the food halls are often there themselves and are most passionate & knowledgeable about what they have to sell & glad to answer questions or offer up a wee bit of produce/product education.

All of which made us slightly delirious to discover The Goods Shed food hall in Canterbury. As the above sign says, it is a 6 day a week farmers market but it is so much more. In addition to the farmers market veggie stand, there is a butcher, a cheesemonger, a baker, a wine stall, a charcuterie stall, a fishmonger and a general store. Plus there is The Goods Shed Restaurant offering up a most tempting array of plates – but unfortunately, Hound #1 was not allowed in so we happily settled for an outdoor table and one of the other food stalls on site – Patrick’s Kitchen.

the-goods-shed-canterbury-7695Patrick’s ingredient sources are more than just local, they’re immediate, as in directly from the the Good Shed food hall itself. After we put in our order for freshly baked Mushroom & Porcini Lasagne (£3.75) with a sharable side of Greek Salad, a wander was required to Andrew Morgan’s the Bottle Shop where wines by the glass (and pairing advice) are available to enhance your meal. We chose a glass of one of our fave tempranillos ( a 2011 Biberius ‘Comenge’, Ribera del Duero) and took a vino punt on a newly arrived (still in the box) Portuguese red whose grape makeup was a mystery – both perfecto.

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Patrick’s Kitchen: Mushroom & Porcini Lasagna & Greek Salad with Vino Tinto

So if you find yourself in Canterbury for any random reason or cause, stick your noggin into the Goods Shed and simply, enjoy….

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Miller’s Farm Shop’s Newest Addition – Lyme Bay Fish Shack

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Fishmonger Dan & Fisherman John @ the Lyme Bay Fish Shack

We have waited with baited breath (pun intended) for the newest addition to our local farm shop (Miller’s – blog post here) to actually open and sell us some fish. We watched as the tradesmen measured, sawed & hammered bits and bobs together and slowly the Lyme Bay Fish Shack began to take shape.

We did an initial trial purchase of some beautiful looking pollack as a test case for a big lunch planned for the parents. The fish passed the taste & fresh test with flying colours! So we headed back the morning of the big day & were lucky enough to not only have Dan the Fishmonger in his usual spot (major design flaw has too tall Dan whacking his head on the ceiling every few minutes), but John the Fisherman who had just delivered his catch. Could not have been any fresher unless we had caught it ourselves which is the next adventure  – to head out for a bass fishing trip with John on his charter boat Outcast IIGame on, John!

So if you have an itch for some fish, make a quick stop @ the Lyme Bay Fish Shack and Dan will sort you out…

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Hound #3 Chats with John The Fisherman

Greendale Farm Shop – Lots of Wow…

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In our never ending farm shop tiki tour, we dropped into the Greendale Farm Shop – this is a seriously good farm shop that is well worth a visit if you be in the area. As we have written before, farm shops run the spectrum from heavily food focused to equal bits kitsch & food and the Greendale Farm Shop is squarely in the good food & plenty of it camp.

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Condiments Alley

The Greendale Farm Shop ticks off most if not all of the necessary or expected farm shop core basics (bread, eggs, cheese, deli goods, condiments, etc…) but it is the fish and meat departments that clearly set this farm shop a rung or three up the farm shop ladder.

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Cheese! Of Course…

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Happy Chooks

The fish department was one of the best we have seen in all of our epicurean foraging adventures. It would be well respected & busy with custom even if it was in London – super selection and fresh as with a plethora of piscine pleasures covering lemon sole & haddock to lobster & crab and even sweet looking white anchovies. Greendale Farm, over the years, has built up its own wee fishing fleet based in Exmouth, which is just 6 miles from the shop. Talk about fresh off the boat! The only negative thing to say is it is a bit of a drive from home…

GDMontageAnd the meat department has real butchers with real beef – back to the seriously good old days with actual carcasses hanging to dry age. All the meat (beef, pork & lamb) is raised on the Greendale Farm, grass fed, as it has been done for generations – no misplaced horse to be found here.

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Hang’n & Hard At Work

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So if you find yourself drifting along the A3052 just out of Exeter, drop into the Greendale Farm Shop & stock up!