Exeter Food Festival 2017 starts today!

Today marks the beginning of the Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, taking place in Northernhay Gardens in Exeter.

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This year is chocked full of producers, demos and an appearance from Tom Kerridge too. Have a gander at the programme!

Eating Exeter editor Chris Gower will be appearing in the BBC Radio Devon Q&A Tent tomorrow from 13:15 to 13:45 with the fab Nick Hook and Tara Smith about digital dining and the rise of the food bloggers!

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For more information about the festival, including the fabulous evening events – head to the Exeter Food Festival website and follow on Twitter

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Chorizo Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, Greens and Dirty Rice by Anna May

Our recipe of the week comes courtesy of Anna May from her fantastic blog, Anna May Everyday – All content and images belong to Anna.  It originally appeared on the 28th March 2017. Please subscribe to her excellent blog with some really delicious recipes!

Do you ever wonder what to cook for supper?  Despite spending a considerable number of my waking moments thinking about food I do struggle to come up with new recipes to present to my family.  Just as I get bored of cooking the same things I’m sure they tire of eating they same old same old.  I have never been one for Monday means roast chicken, Tuesday means sausages etc although I’m sure it can make life easier to fall into such a routine.

So I made a list of all the things my lot love, took note of what some of them really don’t like (a list whilst not long, is certainly frustrating) and came up with various new ideas.  These chorizo meatballs are one such.  The whole family love meatballs but I wanted to jazz my usual recipe up and this was the route I took.  The spices add a pleasing warmth and the combination of the greens, pilaff and tomato sauce just work really well.  Blob a little yogurt and chilli sauce over the whole if you like and some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds are another welcome touch.

Make a big pile of this, however much I rustle up, it all goes everytime…

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I stick with the two paprikas in this and add a little chilli sauce separately if the mood takes me but do by all means add some cayenne pepper or similar if your family like heat.  Should you have minced beef and pork left over may I point you in the direction of my Meatloaf, Sliders and Meatballs (November 2015).  You can use all pork mince if that is what you have, just as delicious.  I know this looks like a great long list of ingredients but many will be in your cupboard and remember, it is essentially, four different recipes – just make as many as you want (although the combination of all is fantastic!)

1 tablespoon olive oil plus a little extra
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
50g breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
250g minced beef
250g minced pork

Tomato sauce –

1 tin chopped tomatoes or similar amount of passata
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
Kale or Spring greens finely shredded
Knob of butter
200g rice
400ml chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

Chopped parsley/coriander, yogurt, chilli sauce or toasted seeds to serve (optional)

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and gently cook the onion until soft then add the garlic.  Stir for a couple of minutes but don’t let the garlic colour, tip it all into a bowl along with the breadcrumbs and milk.  Add  the mince, both the paprikas and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and mix well.  Divide into small balls approximately the size of a walnut.  Add a small amount of oil to a large frying pan and cook the meatballs, turning gently to colour all the sides.

Meanwhile for the tomato sauce put the second tablespoon of oil into a small pan with the garlic, heat gently and as soon as it sizzles add the tinned tomatoes, sugar and a good pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for twenty minutes.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the rice, cumin and salt followed by the stock, stir well.  Simmer gently for 4 minutes then remove from the heat, put a tea towel under the lid to absorb the steam and leave for a further 20 minutes then fluff up with a fork and check the seasoning.

Wash the greens and put into a large pan, cover with a lid and cook gently – the water left from rinsing them will be enough for them to cook in.

When you are ready to serve tip the rice into a warm bowl, top with the greens followed by the meatballs, then the tomato sauce.  Finally sprinkle over some parsley or coriander if using and the yogurt and seeds.  Serves 4.

The first Eating Exeter podcast!

This started as an experiment to see if it was possible.  The short answer is that a podcast is possible, and here it is…

https://soundcloud.com/user-454063540/the-eating-exeter-podcast-1

We went to Bierkeller’s Beer and Bratwurst tasting evening a few weeks ago – It was great fun and absolutely fascinating.  We also welcomed in Polpo and grabbed a sneaky interview with Russell Norman, co-founder and driving force behind the vision of Venetian cuisine that is Polpo.

There is much waffling, and there are a whole bunch of things that I will do differently for the next one (it is very much a learning experience!) but it was very enjoyable to do.

If there is anything in particular you think should be in the next Podcast, or if there is any comments or things you have to say, please drop us a line via the contact page!

The music is provided by www.bensound.com

Try Lyme Bay Winery’s Four NEW Wines At Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink

Visitors to this year’s Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink (29th April to 1st May 2017) will be amongst the first to try Lyme Bay Winery’s four new wines.  From their stand (5,08) the innovative Devon winery will be sampling and selling two new still white wines; Lyme Bay Sandbar and Bacchus Block, as well as two new sparkling wines; Lyme Bay Blanc de Noirs and Lyme Bay Sparkling Rosé.

Commenting on the new launches, James Lambert, managing director of Lyme Bay Winery, says: “We are delighted to have these wines available for all to try at such a key food festival in the South West.  Our Head Winemaker, Liam Idzikowski, and the team here have been working hard to produce these delicious new still and sparkling wines.”  James continues: “English wines are increasingly popular and so it’s brilliant that there will be such an exciting range of Devon wines to try at Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink alongside the superb food offering from the county.”

Lyme Bay Sandbar 2015 is a fresh and zesty wine with a range of characteristics including grapefruit, guava, box wood and a hint of blackcurrant.  Light to medium in body, Sandbar has a beautiful balanced acidity with a great affinity to food pairing, particularly light, citrus-led fish or chicken pasta dishes.  It has a RRP of £13.79.

Bacchus Block 2015 is a fresh, clean wine of intense and powerful grapefruit freshness, broad tropical fruit notes and herbal undertones. It has a long citrus-dominated finish with a lovely mouth-feel and a lingering, bold length. The new Lyme Bay Bacchus Block has a RRP of £15.89.
Lyme Bay Sparkling Rosé is a vibrant soft pink wine with notes of wild strawberries, pepper and redcurrant on the nose and a bright, fruit-driven palate with a richness of honey and hits of brioche and almond.

A serious wine which will appeal to the discerning wine audience, Lyme Bay Blanc de Noirs is made using 100% Pinot Noir grapes.  The red fruit characters have a strong presence in this white sparkling wine.  It has a light copper hue in its appearance with fine, consistent bubbles.  On the nose it is rich and earthy with forward strawberry and cherry notes and a delicious richness on the palate is offset by a crisp acidity and a light toast finish.

The new sparkling wines join Lyme Bay’s existing Classic Cuvée and Brut Reserve.  Lyme Bay Sparkling Rosé, Lyme Bay Blanc de Noirs and Classic Cuvée all have a RRP of £24.50.  Lyme Bay Brut Reserve has a RRP of £19.39.

For further information on Lyme Bay Winery please visit www.lymebaywinery.co.uk, email info@lymebaywinery.co.uk or call 01297 551 355.  Follow Lyme Bay on Twitter: @LymeBayWineLtd and ‘Like’ on Facebook.

Lyme Bay wines are available to purchase online at www.lymebaywinery.co.uk and from independent retailers and farm shops, plus bars and restaurants

Win a Family Pass to the River Cottage Spring Food Fair!

Taking place over May Bank Holiday, River Cottage Spring Food Fair is the perfect way to celebrate this season’s foodie delights and activities, surrounded by the gorgeous East Devon countryside. Promised to be packed full of fun for all the family to enjoy, enter our competition and you could win a family pass for Monday 29th May 2017.

 

We’ve rounded up our top 10 things to do at the Spring Food Fair….

  1. Enjoy a cookery masterclass – Get cooking with our adult and child masterclasses and learn the secret behind cookies and doughnuts & pasta and focaccia. If parents want to try their hand at something different then there are a range of other masterclasses to enjoy from Wild Cocktails with John Wright to Outdoor Cookery with Gill Meller
  2. Pottery Workshops – Learn how to make a seedling pot which will be yours to take away at the end of the session
  3. Falconry displays – Marvel at these beautiful birds as they fly around and catch their prey
  4. Food, food and more food! Feast on delicious fare from our local producers, pop up food stalls, try some delicious River Cottage wood fired pizza or dine in our farmhouse pop-up restaurant!
  5. Bee Area – Visit the East Devon Beekeepers and learn all about bees, you will also be able to make and take away your very own candle and take part in a fun bee-related quiz.
  6. Lucet Braiding/Felting workshops – Learn how to make textile jewellery e.g. friendship bracelet using the Lucet & 100% wool fibres or textile waste or you could learn the basic principles of needle-felting to create a delightful bumble bee brooch
  7. Enjoy spectacular large bubble displays/ get face painted
  8. Forest school – Learn how to build a shelter, whittle pegs and light a fire
  9. Animal area – Wonder around the farm and meet the River Cottage animals and other friends. Pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, alpacas, miniature ponies will all be around for you to see.
  10. Natural woodcraft workshops – Use natural resources to make you very own bug box or a beautiful wooden flower

…and if that’s not enough to tempt you, visit the website (www.rivercottage.net) to find out more or buy yourself some tickets.

To be in with the chance of winning a family pass to the Spring Food Fair on Monday 29th May, where you can enjoy all of our favourite spring delights and much more, simply enter the competition below.

Terms & Conditions

  • In order to enter please just retweet the pinned post on Twitter or like, share and comment on the pinned post on Facebook.
  • Closing date Midnight 30.04.2017
  • Prize includes two adult tickets and two child tickets to the River Cottage Spring Food Fair on Monday 29th May 2017
  • Transport is not included
  • Open to residents of the UK aged over 18
  • Prize is non-transferable or amendable
  • No cash alternative
  • Additional costs incurred are payable by the winner

 

*Featured header image courtesy of Nick Hook Photography

Polpo Exeter opening event by Chris Gower

18 Higher Market Guildhall, Queen Street, Exeter – T: @polpo

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Polpo now for, well… months.  We were sad to hear that Grillstock were going to abandon plans to visit Exeter but we knew that in its place would be something exciting.  There was the usual speculation from foodies and news outlets, but to hear that we were getting famed Venetian cuisine restaurant Polpo was a massive plus for foodies in Exeter.  Co-founded and steered by the charismatic writer and restaurateur Russell Norman, we grabbed 10 Questions with Russell soon after it was announced.

If you’ve never heard of Russell before then you might have seen him on telly as The Restaurant Man a few years ago.  If this is still not ringing any bells, take a look at this video.

The Founder. Russell Norman / Polpo restaurant from The Founder on Vimeo.

He is currently writing another book about Venice, having just returned from a 10 day stint.  Polpo even take their staff to Venice to experience the Venetian way of life so they can themselves share that passion with their customers.

Their latest restaurant is Exeter which is now open for business.  We were invited along to sample what makes Polpo special.

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Polpo is the the result of a long love affair that Russell has with Venice and its culture. He is an apostle for the Venetian way of eating and drinking, and a font of knowledge about the subject too.   Just chatting to him casually in the restaurant made us realise that he was passionate about Polpo, the brand, the ethos and its mission to keep things cheap and simple.

Russell was the first person we saw on the door.  I turned to Tori and said in not-so-hushed amazement, “That’s the founder, Russell Norman!” My powers of discretion are terrible.

Taken to our seats by a friendly waitress we were in one of the booth seats by the kitchen, a perfect place to see how the kitchen worked and watch service at work.

The interior of Polpo was as I thought it would be, a well thought out collection of reclaimed features including the floor that was salvaged from an old hospital from The North. Hidden for decades under a modern floor, this addition to the restaurant is one of particular pride, so whatever you do, don’t drop your food on it!   The tiles, fittings and decor gave a feeling of faded elegance, but in such a way that it was clean and well thought out.

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The menu is a simple, cheap and elegant.  There is the option to have a more substantial meal if you wish, or you can nibble on Cichetti, which is a little like Venetian tapas. Venetians often like to partake in a giro d’ombra which is essentially like a pub crawl with lots of little bits of food.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Russell for a mini-interview for the upcoming Eating Exeter podcast (launching soon!) he was absolultely brilliant to talk to, one of the things mentioned was the signature Fritto Misto and Red Chicory which I just had to go for. Both fabulous.

Lauren and Steve had Pizza with Cured Pork Shoulder & Pickled Pepper (jalapeño).  We were introduced to the concept of Braised Cod cheeks with lentils and the brave ones amongst us had Marinated Baby Octopuses… I didn’t because frankly, I am a wuss sometimes.

We were all treated to an Elderflower Martini which was more lime but had a back taste of elderflower which was punchy and refreshing.

There is a lot to say about Polpo.  Tonight was just a taster of what you can expect from this trendy Venetian restaurant.  We loved it.

Get Spun with Easter Sugar Fun – Exeter Cookery School Recipe

Jim Fisher, head chef tutor and co-owner of Exeter Cookery School, shares his fail-safe method for creating show-stopping desserts adorned with spun sugar cages, baskets and springs – or for Easter, why not make an edible nest for mini chocolate eggs!

Spun Sugar Cages, Baskets and Springs

This is something I love teaching on our cooking courses: spinning sweet gossamer threads over the back of a ladle or around a sharpening steel to create a beautiful caramel cage or spring – pure magic!

A word of warning before we get on to the good stuff: caramel gets hot. We’re talking upwards of 185°C here, and, if it gets on your skin it’ll burn deep! So, make sure you have cold running water on standby because, if you do get any caramel on you, you’ll need to have ready access to it (thrust the wound under lots of really cold running water for at least five minutes).

Unusual Ingredients

Making caramel is easy, but, as in all things, you’ll need to prepare by gathering together the equipment mentioned below. Also, try and acquire some Glucose Syrup (sometimes called Liquid Glucose); this sticky clear syrup – obtainable at the chemist and most supermarkets – is actually a form of starch and is really useful for keeping your sugar syrup from re-crystallising.

Storing Caramel Shapes

Caramel doesn’t store well – it’s hygroscopic, meaning it will attract moisture from the air and quickly turn sticky – but it will keep for a few hours under Clingfilm. If you want to keep your work of art for any longer, pop a couple of silica gel sachets (or a small pot of baked and dried salt) in with them and seal tightly.

Makes at least 12 cages or 20 springs

spun sugar

Equipment

  • Heavy-gauge stainless steel (i.e. colourless) medium saucepan
  • Heat-proof pastry brush
  • Sugar thermometer (not essential if you use white sugar and a stainless steel pan as you can judge the temperature by the colour)
  • Bowl of cold water (for cooling base of pan)
  • Several metal dessert spoons (preferably stainless steel)
  • Several sheets of silicon paper or mat
  • Heat-proof pan stand
  • Metal ladle
  • Large round-section sharpening ‘steel’ or similar size metal tubing

Ingredients

100ml cold water 500g caster sugar 1 tbsp glucose syrup

Method

Put all the ingredients into the saucepan and place over a low flame until the sugar has completely dissolved. Don’t stir or shake the pan during this stage as you’ll get sugar crystals forming around the edge of the solution. If this does happen, brush down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

Once everything has completely liquefied, crank the heat up to maximum and boil vigorously until the syrup reaches 185°C on a sugar thermometer or turns a deep golden colour.

Briefly, but gently, plunge the base of the saucepan into a bowl of cold water, stirring with a metal dessert spoon, in order to prevent the caramel from over-cooking.

Place the pan on a heat-proof pan stand and begin making your shapes:

Cages and baskets

Very lightly lubricate the convex side of the ladle with a faint smear of neutral cooking oil such as groundnut or sunflower.

Hold the ladle at arm’s length with the bowl uppermost and upside-down.

Take a spoonful of caramel and tip it until the excess runs back into the pan. As soon as you have a steady stream running off the tip, flick the thread of caramel in different directions over the back of the ladle in a lattice pattern.

Waft the ladle in the air until cool enough to handle, then cup the lattice in the palm of your hand and gently twist it away. Et voila!

sugar cage

Springs

Wait until the caramel is cooler and much thicker than before.

Get a nice thin strand going off the end of your spoon, then, keeping the steel pointing upwards at a constant 45° angle, wind the caramel onto it in a spring shape, but doing most of the work with your spoon hand.

Again, allow the caramel to cool sufficiently, then gently but firmly grasp the spring in the palm of your hand and slide it off the steel.

Practice makes perfect

Both these techniques take time to master, so definitely do not attempt to make them for the very first time the day of your dinner party!

However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll have access to a very impressive arsenal of dinner-party dessert garnishes.

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About Exeter Cookery School

Exeter Cookery Courses for Easter

Polish up your cookery skills over the Easter holidays with Exeter Cookery School’s relaxed half- and one-day cookery courses taking place during the Easter holidays. Head chef and co-owner, Jim Fisher, offers a wealth of top cheffy tips and tricks to make your food look and taste better and ensure consistent results time and time again. He’ll also teach you some simple cook-ahead techniques to take the hassle out of entertaining at home.

All courses are held at a stylishly converted 1830s warehouse on Exeter’s buzzing quayside. It is also a stone’s throw from the Haven Banks Outdoor Activity Centre, so if you have children attending an outdoor activity there over the holidays, why not tie it in with some ‘you time’.

9th April    9.30 – 12pm

Half Day Ice Cream making Workshop

Get your taste buds going with this lip-smackingly good ice cream making workshop. Learn how to make delicious ice cream from scratch with Jim’s simple and quick method and explore a host of flavour sensations – anyone for basil ice cream? Suitable for every level of ability.

9th April    2pm – 4.30pm

Half Day Spun Sugar Workshop

Discover the fine art of spinning wonderful shapes on a half day spun sugar workshop. You will leave knowing how to create baskets, twirls, swirls, baskets and much more. Perfect for transforming desserts into show stoppers in no time.

Wednesday 12th    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Butchery & Meat Cookery Course

This is a comprehensive hands-on butchery and meat cookery course, which will take you through the process of jointing a chicken, preparing and roasting a rack of lamb. Finally, you will learn how to bone a rabbit and create a complex dish that includes the roasted rabbit loin, rabbit leg confit (fall-off-the-bone tender), a rack of tiny rabbit chops, the sautéed kidneys and a liver parfait.

Thursday 13th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Vegetarian / Vegetable Cookery Course

Vegetarian cooking can sometimes lack variety and even taste if not approached in the right way. However, on this one day vegetarian cookery course, vegetables become the star of the show. From a seasonal vegetable salad to filled ravioli or a risotto packed with flavour and the pick of the seasonal larder, your taste buds will be tantalised and you will leave with some sure-fire recipes for cooking for yourself and loved ones.

Friday 14th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One Day Chocolate Cookery

Well, quite frankly, need we say any more? You’ll get a whole day of cooking, and yes eating, chocolate! You’ll discover all about melting and tempering chocolate. And if you can resist a little bit of temptagionu might even come away with a special treat for a loved one for Easter.

Saturday 15th April    9.30am – 4.30pm

One day French Bistro Mains Cookery

Relatively simple to prepare and cook, French Bistro main courses make a great choice for a British dinner party. You’ll learn how to cook some delicious dishes, including classics such as Jim’s flavour-packed French onion soup, Confit d’Canard (duck leg preserved in its own fat), Gigot d’Agneau (leg of lamb) and the hugely popular, Steak Frites.

Or, if you’d rather wait until the children have gone back to school, then why not have a look at Exeter Cookery School’s full calendar of events to see what takes your fancy.

Visit www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk or contact 07415783759 for more information.

 

Salcombe Gin named World’s Best Gin at World Drinks Awards

The results are in! The final achievements of the World Drinks Awards 2017 were announced at a lunch during the Whiskies & Spirits Conference on 30 March 2017 at the Waldorf Hotel in London.  South Devon’s Salcombe Distilling Co. is once again celebrating success with two more impressive wins.

Salcombe Gin_World Gin Awards Certificate

In addition to Gold awarded at the prestigious World Drinks Awards last December, hand distilled ‘Start Point’ Gin scooped a further two awards for World’s Best Gin in the Technical Excellence and Premium Design sub categories. An impressive accolade for this new brand launched in July 2016, in a category against hundreds of other spirits from around the world.

The co-founders of Salcombe Distilling Co. are Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies. Commenting on the award wins, Angus says: “We were delighted at the end of last year when Salcombe Gin was awarded a Gold in the internationally renowned World Drinks Awards.  To then be given these two further awards is beyond brilliant.”  Angus continues: “When we set out to make the world’s best classic London Dry style gin we had no idea that we would start hitting this point in such a short space of time.”

Howard adds: “It is a real testament to our hardworking team in Salcombe and a fantastic reward for all the time, energy and dedication which has gone into creating Salcombe Gin.”

In addition to this award-winning gin, Salcombe Distilling Co. also has a bar overlooking the Salcombe estuary and has recently launched a Gin School where the curious gin lover can develop and distil their very own bottle of gin.

Refreshing, delicious and super smooth Salcombe Gin is hand distilled in South Devon using only the finest hand sourced ingredients. This new gin is produced using thirteen carefully selected botanicals distilled in a beautiful copper pot still with the finest English wheat spirit and blended with pure Dartmoor water to produce a gin of extraordinary quality and elegance with no compromise.
Angus and Howard have an uncompromising approach to quality and an almost obsessive attention to detail which has resulted in this perfectly balanced citrus led, hand crafted gin.

Perfect served on its own over ice or with a premium tonic water accompanied by a slice of ruby red grapefruit to complement the rich and warm citrus notes, Salcombe Gin also makes a cracking dry Martini with a twist of red grapefruit peel.

Inspired by the history of the Salcombe ‘Fruiters’, locally built sailing vessels which imported citrus fruits and spices to England from the Azores, West Indies and Mediterranean in the 19th century, Salcombe Gin is distilled with a precise blend of ruby grapefruit, lemon and lime peels to give their gin a refreshing citrus edge. These citrus fruits are hand peeled every morning immediately prior to distillation for extra freshness to ensure citrus oils are captured at their best. Liquorice adds a touch of sweetness and green cardamom lengthens the finish without ever being overly dominant, whilst chamomile flowers and bay leaf provide a balanced floral note.

These citrus flavours and floral aromas work in harmony with the heady, earthy and resinous pine notes of the finest Macedonian juniper and combine wonderfully with the warming spiced citrus notes from English coriander seeds. Cubeb berries from Java provide fruity peppery heat balanced with warming spice from cinnamon bark.

Of utmost importance and often overlooked in gin distillation is the quality of the water used. Salcombe Gin use some of the purest and softest water in England, originating from high up in the wilds of Dartmoor National Park. This naturally soft water means no water softeners are required at any step of the process, resulting in a stunningly refreshing, yet characteristically smooth gin.

Salcombe Gin ‘Start Point’ 44% 70cl bottle (£37.50) is available to buy nationwide from various retailers including Fortnum & Mason, farm shops, food halls and delicatessens plus from the Salcombe Gin website www.salcombegin.com and can be purchased directly at the distillery.

For those looking for the perfect gift for the gin connoisseur then they need look no further than a beautiful handmade wooden gift box containing a bottle of Salcombe Gin ‘Start Point’ and an elegant pair of engraved Dartington Crystal tumblers for the ‘perfect serve’ of Salcombe Gin (£65).

For more information about Salcombe Gin visit www.salcombegin.com,
email ilovegin@salcombegin.com or call 01548 288180. To keep up to date with the latest news follow @SalcombeGin on Twitter and ‘like’
 SalcombeGin on Facebook. 

Foodie Fundraising Feast by Lauren Heath

Recently the wonderfully charming Andy Cooper, Editor of Devon Life magazine, lost his darling Zena warrior princess to that awful disease Cancer. Obviously nothing can bring her back or heal the wound fully but as in life one must find the good within the bad.

So apart from deciding to run the Taunton half marathon in her honour to raise funds towards his chosen charities, Bowel Cancer UK and St Mary’s Hospice, he also enlisted the help of ex-River Cottage chef and fellow Devonian, Tim Maddams.

It was to be held the same evening of the half marathon in Andy’s local village hall, with 100 seats available. So Andy would have certainly earned a feed! Tim is no stranger to pop up dinners so apart from knowing the food would be great, we thought this seemed a wonderful idea to raise funds through a foodie feast, so Stephanie of Exploring Exeter and I decided this was a worthy ticket to purchase.

There were many wonderful raffle prizes to be won on the evening thanks to many incredible businesses in Devon and Cornwall who gave generously including afternoon tea for 12, jewellery, spa days and so on.

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The hall was filled with locals and business connections, tables of friends and some tables of ‘strangers’, as ours was, but conversation soon flowed. Many of us were armed with a bottle or two of something to celebrate Zena’s memory with Andy as well as his efforts.

It wasn’t just Tim Maddams in the kitchen in the end; Robin Rea of The Rusty Pig was also there to make up a dynamic foodie duo. Not content with exceeding his steps for the day, Andy had his waiter hat on for the evening and served the guests too.

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The menu consisted of:

Starter – root vegetable and wild garlic pottage, nettle and water mint pesto.

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Meat main – slow roasted mutton, smoke rooted loin, spring greens, barley, rooting juices

Vegetarian main – Saffron polenta, purple broccoli, romesco sauce

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Pudding – rhubarb upside down cake, honey and raw milk custard.

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It was just so incredibly delicious, local hearty fare. We had a great evening.

The main reason I am writing this is not to shout about my experience but now that I have your attention, if anyone out there with a few pounds to spare, please can you donate to this very worthy cause.

So don’t delay; visit the #TeamZena fundraising page now. Let’s help stop this awful disease in its tracks or at least help those currently suffering. He has already managed just shy of £6,000!

Well done to everyone involved in #TeamZena’s memory.

The Swan at Bampton – by Lauren Heath

You know those days, between the seasons, where there’s just enough warmth yet still a chill in the air? There’s the lure of a country walk to inhale fresh air and appreciate nature as she removes her winter layer or gets ready to batten down the hatches.

That feeling seems to envoke the need to find a resting place so as to reward yourself for said walk, or cosy up to comfort yourself if the rain fell. A perfect place to fulfil any such  need or even just as an excuse to get out of the house if the walk had not been possible at all, is The Swan at Bampton.

Situated just outside Tiverton, The Swan at Bampton is owned and run by Paul and Donna for what is now their 10th anniversary year, it has been rewarded with many accolades including Top 50 Gastro Pubs and 2 AA Rosettes. The website informs you that ‘The Swan, being the oldest pub in Bampton, was originally lodgings to accommodate the masons and other craftsmen who were hired to enlarge the church in 1450. St Michaels church can be seen from the terrace just behind the pub.’

It still holds a sense of history with its beams and stoney walls, but has had a beautifully tasteful and modern refurbishment, whilst still keeping warmth and charm.

Having engaged with Paul on social media for some time due to my drooling over his food images, I finally found the perfect excuse to visit – Mothers Day. I didn’t want anything fancy, just a blimmin’ good roast and with his ethos of local meat, and comforting yet modern food, I had no doubt it would be good.

After enjoying a stroll in the sunshine along the Tiverton Canal, we arrived at 4:30 so as to enjoy Linner or Lupper (somehow not the same ring to it as brunch…I’ll fetch my coat!) We settled down at a table near the bar. There was evidence it had been very busy but nonetheless we were welcomed with smiles and served with ease, even Paul gets involved in ensuring his customers are happy (both Paul and Donna cook as well).  With no official children’s menu, the younger ones are encouraged to choose from the mains and they are happy to serve a smaller portion ensuring the children eat just as well as their parents and none of this chicken nugget malarkey. (Don’t get me wrong, they have their place..but when you eat out, eat fresh).

So both my hubby and I settled quickly on roast beef and my son wanted the roast pork. There were plenty of main menu items nearly seducing us but I hadn’t had a pub roast in forever, and for once this ensured I didn’t dawdle over my choice.

The pub has its bar placed well in the middle of the ground floor with around 10 tables to the front left and right, fireplaces on either side for those colder days, and a small more cosy dining area set back upstairs with 4 or 5 tables.

Locals surrounded the bar area enjoying a catch up, with roast potatoes on deck for a thirst inducing snack. The bar includes the usual suspects with regards to drinks along with some great local beers and ales. We enjoyed a lager called Curious Brew, brewed using the champange method, it was refreshing and slightly fizzy, a clean and refreshing partner for the impending meat feast.

What arrived was fantastic; beautiful meat, on a bed of crispy roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and a sticky and sweet oven roasted red onion. My son’s child portion arrived looking very similar and he was delighted to see a bit of fat (how he stays skinny, I’ll never know!). What followed was even more pleasing; not just a bountiful offering of vegetables but a jug of meaty gravy and a jug of cheese sauce!  It was all just gorgeous, and these jugs were an extra I wouldn’t expect to receive but it just shows how Paul and The Swan know what their customers want. The veg consisted of leeks, heritage carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and a wonderful pot of sweet potato mash. All this for £11.95, this was a roast with the most and for a greedy gravy guzzler like me, it was nice not to have to ask for more!

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My son completely cleared his plate which was a sure sign of enjoyment as he has a tendency to get distracted, it goes cold and he leaves some aside…but no dithering here. At £6.50 for a child portion, it includes a bowl of ice cream to satisfy the mini-me’s sweet tooth requirements. He gave it a big thumbs up and 100 out of 100!

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For us bigger kids, the normally savoury husband found one of his favourite puds was on the menu, and went for it – treacle tart with vanilla ice cream. I struggled to choose from the great options but the mini egg ice cream that accompanied the chocolate brownie somehow swung it for me…boy it was good. Gooey, cakey, crispy, warm, chocolatey,  bitter chocolate balanced with sweet with honeycomb bits for extra texture….delicious indeed. Hubby was super happy and impressed with his choice – a crisp pastry bottom, with a gooey layer then tasty treacle top, best he has had in a long time.

Well it was time to go, and be drawn out into the evening with the church bells a ringing amid the clear skies.

Want great pub food, that surpasses your expectations but doesn’t break the bank, best flap your wings and swan over to Bampton. If you’re too full to leave, there are some tastefully appointed rooms above to sleep it off.

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The Swan, Station Road, Bampton, Devon EX16 9NG. Telephone: 01398 332248.

Email: info@theswan.co

Web: www.theswan.co

Instagram: theswanbampton

Twitter: @theswanbampton

Facebook: @theswanbampton

*I’d like to add that there is good access and enough room for those with accessibility needs as well as parents with pushchairs.

Tuesday to Saturday
Midday – 2.00 pm
6.00 pm – 9.30 pm

Sunday
Midday – 2.30 pm
6.30 pm – 8.45 pm

Monday – 5.00 pm – 11.00 pm
Tuesday to Thursday
Open all day until 11.00 pm

Friday & Saturday
Midday – Midnight
Sunday – Midday – 10.30 pm

 

 

 

 

Rockfish Exeter: A video update

We are both massive fans of Mitch Tonks and the Rockfish restaurants.  We were invited to the opening of the Exmouth Rockfish and loved it.  Then Mitch goes and announces that they’re going to be opening a Rockfish on The Quay?

Exeter is lacking a really good seafood restaurant, and I believe that this is really going to add to the dining scene here in our city.

Lloyd’s Kitchen: ensuring excellence through a feedback evening

For any restaurant or café, quality of output is incredibly important.  British diners are a very picky lot, and because we’re not very good at complaining restaurants don’t often get to read about a bad burger or an over-cooked steak until they see it on TripAdvisor.

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One of Exeter’s best loved restaurants is Lloyd’s Kitchen in Catherine Street, in the dominating shadow of the House of Fraser building.  We were invited along to one of their feedback evenings which are held before a new menu is rolled out.  At this point, the new menu isn’t completely public and it gives those attending a sneak preview to what the new menu might look like; it gives the chefs a chance to refine, tweak and adjust.

As Lauren and myself were both invited along to this event, we’ll both give our two cents about what we had and the evening itself.

Chris:

Lloyd’s Kitchen is another indie restaurant that has gone from strength to strength on the back of a firm reputation for quality and attention to detail.  There is a strong local ethos with ingredients and an eye for detail with each dish that has seen them excel despite fierce competition from local chain restaurants; despite the devastating fire that ripped the beating heart out of our beloved city taking place just a matter of metres away from their door, they are one of the top names on our dining scene.

This feedback evening was a chance for us to gather together with Lloyd and his family and a few other foodies/bloggers and sample the epic delights of their new menu.

I had opted for a ‘no preference’ option which meant I was going to be treated to some unknown dishes.  The element of surprise was enticing.

Unfortunately the evening seemed to start earlier than planned so I missed the starter.

I was lucky to be sampling the

Chargrilled Lamb Rump – Lamb Kofta, Pomegranate & Mint Cous Cous, Red Pepper Jam, Confit Tomato & Shallot Sauce.

and

White Chocolate & Blueberry Cheesecake

The lamb was beautifully cooked.  I will start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of lamb at the best of times, but I am always impressed at how succulent and tender it can be if it is cooked and treated properly.

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The balance of flavours worked together wonderfully. It felt like a Moroccan inspired dish with a flavour palette that was homely and sensible, the sweetness of the pomegranet and the sharpness of the Red Pepper Jam worked well with the Kofta and the lamb itself.

Then we had the cheesecake.   The cheesecake. Oh my!!

British restaurants are terrible at desserts in my opinion.  Often relying too heavily on pre-packaged stuff out of a freezer, or dressing up ice-cream beyond what it really is. But Lloyd’s Kitchen and their White Chocolate and Blueberry Cheesecake is one thing that would change my mind if every restaurant did something like this.

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Creamy, sour, sweet, colourful and delightful – I was blown away by this dish. My only criticism is that there wasn’t more of it.  I know that is a cliched thing to say but, damn it was good.

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Lauren:

Settling into Lloyd’s for this very organised set-up, I initially felt it a bit staged at first but the family were there as well and were incredibly welcoming. They insisted on wanting honest feedback in order to improve dishes and know what to choose for the upcoming menu change. Lloyd himself, still young in the eyes of restaurant ownership ensured he greeted all his guests and made us comfortable right from the off.

Even with only a dozen of us in the space on this evening, this lovely restaurant did not feel empty and exuded a cosy glow; the lighting and decor is stylish yet warm, hanging lights, white wall tiles for said light to bounce off and even a patio heater to enjoy the glass front area, that can be opened to enable an al fresco option in the summer and allow plenty of people watching!

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So down to business. I had already chosen my food choices earlier in the week to ensure that all the potential menu items were going to be tasted by the group.

Starter:

Tempura Monkfish Cheeks, Mango, Chilli & Avocado, Harissa Sauce – a meaty yet light starter in an even lighter crispy batter!

Main:

Confit Duck Leg & Rare Breast, Potato & Rosemary Rosti, Seasonal Greens, & Honey Grazed Baby Carrots – the meat just pulled away on this dish and as a rosti connoisseur at home I can’t put into words how good theirs was! Seasoned to perfection too.

Pudding:

Lemon Tart with Raspberry Sorbet – a good tart but I tell you that sorbet sang!

The food, overall, was delicious; well balanced in flavours and textures and equally well presented. It’s not flashy; it’s just stylish and comforting – exactly like the decor. My scoring and feedback will remain confidential of course but a few constructive comments were thrown in, otherwise the purpose of the event would not have been fulfilled. Plenty of good comments were given too – they are certainly doing something right as I only ever hear good things about Lloyds Kitchen.

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I found the idea totally refreshing and I look forward to seeing what is chosen for the upcoming menu and how our comments have affected the final product, enabling you – the paying customer – to enjoy your dinner and a positive experience whilst spending your hard earned cash on tasty food in one of Exeter’s great independents.

Recipe: Baked Shellfish with Bucatini, Whole Roasted Garlic and Thyme by Mitch Tonks

The third recipe in a series from Mitch Tonks.

Baked Shellfish with Bucatini, Whole Roasted Garlic and Thyme

 

Serves 3 -4, you will need 

8 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled

100ml olive oil

Salt

A splash of good white wine

A handful of mussels

6 raw shell-on prawns

3-4 langoustines

50g squid

A handful of clams

A handful of cooked bucatini pasta

A pinch of chilli flakes, or 2 very tiny hot red, dried chillies

250ml home-made tomato sauce or passata (use the rustic, chunky variety)

3-4 sprigs thyme

To Make

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.  Put the cloves of garlic into a roasting tray with the olive oil and a pinch of salt, and roast in the preheated oven until softened, about 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Raise the oven temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Lay out a square of tinfoil, large enough to hold all the ingredients and to be folded and sealed tightly into a parcel.  Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the foil and lay it on top so you have a double layer.  Add a splash of wine to the garlic in the roasting tray and add the shellfish, pasta and chillies.  Toss everything together, place in a heap on the baking parchment, pour over the passata or tomato sauce, and lay the thyme sprigs on top.  Fold it up to make a tightly sealed parcel, place on a roasting tray and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

To serve, place the whole thing in the middle of the table, get your noses round the top of the parcel as you open it up, pull the sides of the foil apart, give it a mix around, put a few wedges of lemon ton top and get stuck in.

© Mitch Tonks

bucatini shellfish pete cassidy

 

Dinner and Overnight Stay with John Burton-Race at The Grosvenor, Torquay – by Lauren Heath

Being ex-hospitality, I find it interesting to watch certain reality series like Four in a Bed and Kitchen Nightmares – having been there, done that, you wander how on earth people can get it so wrong. Another entertaining fly-on-the-wall show was The Hotel on Channel 4. The Hotel itself was The Grosvenor in Torquay, which was owned and run by Mark Jenkins – a haphazard yet entertaining guy who, bless him, always tried his very best. But with little money in the pot and micro managing everyone around him including some larger than life characters, this big hotel with even bigger potential just seemed to fall at every hurdle. We had even passed this hotel on a day out, and in sheer nosiness, popped in for a quick browse mid-fame.

Fast forward a couple of years and my, how things have changed. The hotel has since been purchased by the Richardson Hotel Group, a privately owned business with Keith Richardson still very much at the forefront. Along with The Grosvenor, they own 6 seafront hotels in Devon and Cornwall including The Grand in Torquay, and then The Fowey, The Falmouth and The Metropole Hotels in Cornwall.

Since purchasing the hotel, it was recently closed for a short period of time to push its refurbishment plans through as well as completely renovating the kitchen for it’s new michelin starred captain at the helm: John Burton-Race.

Some of you may or may not know who John is but one thing that precedes him is his feisty reputation. Saying that, JBR, who has had recipe books published, cookery tv shows and his own restaurants under his belt has been living a much calmer Devon life for quite a few years and it seems fitting that he is the one bringing order to this once chaotic establishment.

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John Burton-Race – image provided by PR company

Interestingly nearly 9 years to the day, I met John Burton-Race whilst being a guest on set of Market Kitchen in London, where John cooked brown shrimp for us, so I was intrigued by the news of his appointment.

So with this combination of life stories and events, I was delighted to have been invited for an overnight stay to test out the accommodation and food offering in this fairly local seaside town.

The front of the hotel has been treated to a good facelift to freshen things up as has the interior. We were checked in promptly and advised on the location of our room so off we toddled, wheelie bag in hand ready for a proper nosey.

Our room was enormous! Large bed, very high ceilings, tall windows to match. There was plenty of storage for those longer stays, and a nice pair of chairs with coffee table for relaxing. There was even a fridge which was great for a few treats we had brought with, and it wasn’t a noisy ‘buzz all night’ type of fridge. We had seen this room before on the telly, and it was tired and a bit wasted – but now it was fresh and clean. It was not what I would call luxurious – but it didn’t need to be, this is not a boutique hotel – it is comfortable and gives value for money, and they understand the price point of the guests they are likely to welcome here and have not over egged it.

We enjoyed the pool and jacuzzi facilities; a slightly roman-inspired area with its curves and decor. There is also a sauna to use if you wish to sweat anything off. After our relaxation, we then returned to the room to refresh ourselves for dinner.

Prior to dinner, we were sat in the lounge area to peruse the menus – the a la carte menu with individually priced items and the 6 course tasting menu priced at a very affordable £50 per head. If you have booked Dinner, B and B it includes the a la carte and if you really fancy the tasting menu you can pay a small fee to ‘upgrade’. We ordered our drinks with hubby being well advised on a good gin to go for, to fulfill his current drinking fad.

The restaurant tables were well spread out, private enough for your own conversation yet filled enough that there was a lovely buzz in the room from other tables. The lighting was right, the service smooth and effortless and it was non-intrusive. James the maitre’d, really had it; that irish charm goes a long way but he exuded genuine customer care and the right amount of humour. I had my ear out listening to him with other diners and he could certainly read his customer which is a much needed talent amonst a good front of house position.

Dinner really was sublime. I have mentioned before how chef hubby, Steve, is hard to please or impress but he had a wonderful evening, as did I.

It all started with an amouse bouche of seafood raviolo, with crispy fish skin and an asian salad. For starters Steve chose the Salad of Beef Rib served with truffled potato, watercress, hazelnuts, and sour dough crouton. I had my eye on the lobster ravioli in lobster bisque as seen on Twitter and thankfully it was still on the menu. Both starters were just beautiful, each element singing through and packed with flavour. My ravioli was bursting with a hunk of tender and meaty, sweet lobster.

For mains Steve flew for the Roast Devon Quail, herb purée, beetroot, quail jus, and tarragon gnocchi and I leapt at Roast Chump of Lamb, jerusalem artichoke, purple sprouting broccoli & tapenade jus. All the meat was cooked to perfection – juicy, tasty and well taken care of. Steve loved his gnocchi and I must say the Jerusalem artichoke puree was an eye opener for me and a flavour triumph – earthy yet sweet.

For dessert I couldn’t decide (what’s new) but was recommended one and thought why not, sounds interesting. It was Sweetcorn Custard, toffee popcorn, quince sauce, and popcorn ice-cream. It was a set custard, not sweet or savoury – somewhere in between but the accompaniments added the dimension and enhancement.  Being me, I could have done with something sweeter but it was tasty and something I’ve never seen before.

Steve opted for a selection of the cheeses which included Ossau-Iraty, Glastonbury Cheddar, Raclette, Sharpham’s Elmhirst, Crottin de Chevre Melusine, Morbier, Langres, Fourme d’Ambert. He was very impressed that these were stored in the dining room at room temperature, cut to order and was a very satisfied customer once he’d munched his way through.

Pleasantly full we headed back to our room for a good sleep. The bed was very comfortable and the room a good temperature.

Morning came and we ventured for breakfast in the same dining room, only with her morning wear on, with lots of homemade pastries, local yoghurts and such items on the central table with a breakfast menu to choose from as you would expect.

Breakfast was good; the only thing that really let it down was the coffee – or lack there of. It was filter coffee in the coffee plunger but it was either weak coffee granules or whoever is making it doesn’t know how it tastes as a finished product and therefore isn’t spooning enough in – it wasn’t good. I suggest they invest in a filter coffee machine or coffee shop type instrument – perhaps this is on the shopping list, as I really can’t start the day without a good cup of java.

We were sat on the higher glass extension end of the restaurant and so had a view out on to the garden and it was light and bright. I ordered the eggs benedict and Steve ordered the smoked haddock. Both very tasty but the haddock could have been a bit more generous in size or at least with a muffin for sustenance. We saw other diners enjoying the Full English and it looked to be of great quality and a good portion. Overall we were satisfied and the service was very good.

So with full bellies for the second time in just under 12 hours, it was time to venture back out to the real world. The hotel’s refurbishment is stylish and comfortable with many more things to come in the entertainment spaces. There is also an outdoor pool with plenty of potential for the summer months if the weather is kind to Torquay and it’s visitors. The hotel is perfect for families and couples alike, and I think the upcoming refurbishment will include family friendly dining to accompany the Michelin star level offering.

For a stay in Torquay, The Grosvenor is like a caterpillar, finally becoming the butterfly it so deserves to be; perfectly formed for its purpose. As for the restaurant and dining experience, well you need to try it for yourself; a warm glow at the belly of the beast, albeit a much calmer beast, with outstanding dishes showcasing the best the South West has to offer.

To add a bit of adventure to your lunch or dinner outing and allow you to enjoy a tipple from the vast choices on offer, why not catch the train down from Exeter? The hotel is only a 5 minute walk from the train station, and would really add to the whole experience. If you can’t manage a stay, once contently filled with your delicious dinner, perhaps a nap on the train home will have to do.

With John having experienced French living back in the day, I hope the English Riviera will now satisfy, where he can add his je nais se quoi to Torquay and The Grosvenor for the foreseeable future.

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The Grosvenor Hotel, Belgrave Road, Torquay, TQ2 5HG

Website: www.grosvenorhoteltorquay.co.uk

Twitter: @GrosvenorTQ